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Just a few months into his new role, Harrison Burton is off to a flying start. Named the newest helmsman for the iconic Wood Brothers Racing team in the NASCAR Cup Series, the 21-year-old legacy driver is eager to continue making his own name in the sport.
It’s no secret, the Burton name has a long history in professional stock car racing. Harrison’s father, Jeff, and uncle, Ward, won 26 races together in the Premier Series, while cousin Jeb is successful in the Xfinity Series. But the youngest Burton now has the chance to do what none of them have done before: win a race for NASCAR’s longest-running team.
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“It’s definitely a great opportunity and a big responsibility to continue that legacy and do it the right way,” Burton said. “I didn’t miss that, but I think the most important thing for me is that I’ve always put the same pressure on myself to perform and do well. External pressure doesn’t really change my mindset about things. I think all drivers are the winner We all want to do our best and I think that personality is the same at Wood Brothers and we are all aligned with our goals.”
A win for Burton and Wood Brothers this season would mark two milestones for the newly formed pair: the first top-level win for Burton and the highly anticipated 100th for the Wood Brothers team. And they are all confident that they can make it happen.
“The most important thing is that you have a team that believes in you, that surrounds you and wants to work with you,” said Burton. “I have gained nothing but confidence from the people around me. They believe we can be successful and that goes from the level of our crew, to the people at Ford, to just saying hello to the people in the store. It’s nothing but excitement and that’s cool to see.”
Burton’s exciting career began at a young age, with dominant appearances in several touring series.
He quickly rose through the ranks, culminating in a successful stint of five wins in the K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA Menards Series East) in 2017 and four wins in the Xfinity Series in 2020. At age 21, he becomes the youngest. driver in the world. once ran a full-time season with the organization and the youngest since Ryan Blaney’s full 2016 campaign at age 22.
“It comes back to his behavior and his willingness to learn,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “He just seems to really suit everyone. I think he brings some energy that only the youth can bring. I’ve seen it before and there’s just something special about a 20-year-old kid who’s just starting out and already drives race cars.”
Though experienced, the 2022 season will undoubtedly be one of the biggest shifts in Burton’s career as he joins a new team in a new series as he exits the pipeline of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) where he has spent many years developing switch to Ford.
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“I was very nervous because I was in the Toyota camp for a long time and I got this great opportunity here,” said Burton. “I was nervous about changing everything I’d done and it was a really satisfying change just because of the open arms everyone at Ford and the Wood Brothers and Penske welcomed me with. It was a pretty easy change for me. I feel right at home there and it also helped that the people at TRD were enthusiastic for me.”
In addition to the comfort provided by the family environment in the garage, Wood Brothers’ technical alliance with Team Penske offers Burton the opportunity to develop alongside fellow rookie Austin Cindric. First on the track together for the Next Gen test session at Daytona International Speedway, the young couple started to find their groove and enjoy the experience.
“I think Austin and I are both really trying to get ready for our first season and be as ready as possible,” said Burton. “For me personally, it’s such a cool feeling to roll into Daytona, to see your name on the leaderboard with the guys you’ve always wanted to race against, the guys my dad raced – some of them. I always thought it was the coolest thing they could do and what they did was amazing and now that I look back at how badly I wanted the opportunity I have now, to have it is really neat.”
Despite the bright lights and the biggest phase of his career, Burton remains focused on cashing in on his hard-earned opportunity.
“The most important thing for me is to understand that it’s a huge blessing to be here and an insane opportunity for me to be here and also to understand that I have to make the most of it,” Burton said. “There is a very limited number of seats in this sport and you have to make a living.”
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Burton is scheduled to make his full-time Cup Series debut on Feb. 6 at the Busch Light Clash in Los Angeles, followed by his first points-paying races: the Bluegreens Vacation Duels and Daytona 500. His lone Premier Series start came on last spring. another superspeedway, Talladega, where he finished 20th with Gaunt Brothers Racing.