INDIANAPOLIS — Harrison Burton is elated to be doing exactly what his dad did for a living. His paychecks come from a race team just like his dads did for three decades.
There’s not a lot of race car drivers that follow in the footsteps of their fathers. Yes you have the Allison’s or the Earnhardt’s or the Jarrett’s and a few others, but when you think about how many drivers have actually hopped into a stock car over the decades, how many of them had a son do the same thing in the top level of racing?
There’s not many.
Every dad wants their kids to follow in their foot steps but how many kids want to do the same? When you have the last name of a famous father, one that made a bright career in a certain line of profession, moving into their line or work yourself to earn a living creates more pressure for that next generation as a result.
Their fathers were starting from a blank slate forging their own paths. The only pressure was on their own shoulders. Their children may have a path already formed for them, but are judged by every single right or wrong move and constantly being sized up to their predecessor by the same surname.
Jeff Burton won 21 times in NASCAR’s premiere series. He accumulated 254 top 10s and made 695 starts.
He won the 1994 Rookie of the Year, the Coca-Cola 600 three times. The Southern 500 once.
So when Jeff Burton noticed that his son had a knack and interest for racing, off he went into a race car as a toddler. It led all the way up to the second generation driver being a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series today.
Bold? Daring? All the above. Those are lofty numbers to be judged off of.
Burton though worked his way up through the ranks just as his pops did before and in his 1st Indianapolis Motor Speedway start on Sunday afternoon, he already has a better finish than his dad ever did here too.
Jeff Burton’s best finish in the Brickyard 400 was 5th. That happened a year before Harrison Burton was born.
Harrison Burton’s best finish is his only start so far here?
Burton crossed the Yard of Bricks in Sunday’s Verizon 200 4th but due to Ross Chastain’s penalty in the overtime restart was moved up to 3rd for his best career result in just his 23rd career start.
It wasn’t expected. He felt after early race troubles, a top 20 would have to suffice.
Burton never flinched though. He rebounded from early race troubles as he was 30th at the end of the 2nd stage after getting into Cole Custer early on in that stage.
“No, honestly I did not think we were gonna come back to that,” Burton said of his early race troubles. “I just screwed up. I was trying to get the track position back after staying out for a stage point there (Stage 1). We thought we were gonna get more points and more people stayed out. That surprised us as a group.
“I was trying to go get track position and just made an aggressive move and locked the rear tires up and slid into him. I felt bad for Cole (Custer) because he literally just went straight into the corner and I just came in and hit him backwards. So I was glad we could recover. But yeah, after that, I thought it was gonna be really hard.”
He says that after an up, down and sideways day to where he spun out and didn’t have a clean day, it was more encouraging than anything to come away with a top 5.
“We can finish third on a day that we didn’t execute well just kind of did our job and wait,” he continued. “When it mattered the most got aggressive and ended up working.”
As far as the aggressive manner of the late restarts, Burton notes that you can’t control much other than your positioning on track and to try to make himself not a bat or a ball, but just to put himself in a spot to where he could do neither and and try and get in the middle and if he got hit, he’d get into someone else and not into the grass.
“So that was my plan of attack,” he says. “It’s kind of weird. Normally you fight to go die bomb on the inside of somebody but I was like, I’m just going to move this guy over a little bit like get to the middle and it ended up working out. The last two restarts we ended up getting from 17th to 9th then 9th to 3rd.”
He tells me that when he was 9th on that final restart and knowing anything could happen in front, what was going on in his mind at that point coming to the green?
“I was actually nervous because, you know, we had had a bad day, like I said earlier to start and it’s like man, this is a decent finish and we can stand here I hope I just hope this doesn’t go bad,” he told me. “And we ended up off the track. So it’s really defensive to try and not have that happen. And, you know, that ended up working out for us. So honestly, it was kind of dreading going off into turn one and I’ve thought I was gonna crash a few times. And once I got straightened out, I was like hey, that works out, so you know looked up and only saw three guys in front of us so cool to do that and build off I think we’ve been getting better and better every week. So good the flashing good finish here and go try and run on their next time.
“I’m not the best road racer I’ve worked really hard to try and get better. I felt like these are going to be my weaknesses coming into this year and been working pretty tirelessly on it. So trying to get better and better at it and you know paid off hopefully.”
Ironically enough, just last night, the younger Burton visited an antique shop in Indianapolis. He saw some old vintage Jeff Burton items and had to purchase them. A day later, he’s beating his dads best finish here.
“Any time I can race where my dad race is neat,” he told me. I was actually was at an antique store. It’s kind of weird last night looking at old pictures of him racing and bought a few things. So it’s kind of cool to see.”
As far as if he will use this result to rag on his dad?
“He’ll say how many Cup races have you won?” Burton joked.