Harrison Burton relishes an ambitious schedule of several teams, series and voices in 2017

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Harrison Burton will have many voices in his ear this season.

Competing in four series with three teams in more than 30 races across NASCAR, ARCA and Super Late Models, a trio of crew chiefs will be guiding Burton as he attempts to rebound from a disappointing 2016 season.

It might seem overwhelming and perhaps discombobulating to have so many feedback echoes as the 16-year-old makes the leap into a partial schedule in the Camping World Truck Series.

But the son of NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton takes the opposite tack.

“It’s going to be an advantage,” Burton told NBC Sports. “I get to learn from so many different people. As a young driver, it’s good to have a broad base that you can get tons of knowledge from, that’s not even from my house.

“My dad obviously knows a lot about racing, and he’s been doing it for many years, but nobody knows everything, so it’s always good to have second opinions. In this case, I have third and fourth opinions, which is really good. I think the more knowledge I can soak up the better.”

After announcing a six-race schedule with Kyle Busch Motorsports last month, Burton revealed Wednesday he also will compete for a championship in the NASCAR K&N East Series while running selected ARCA and Late Model races. He will drive for MDM Motorsports in ARCA/K&N and for Fury Racing in SLM.

Burton will be carrying six sponsors (Dex Imaging, Toyota, Morton Buildings, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Rheem) across the series, which he will be balancing while carrying a full course load as a high school sophomore slated to graduate in 2019.

He concedes the racing career is a difficult balancing act with being a teenager. He attended a high school basketball game Tuesday night to be in the social routine and routinely stays two to three hours after school to make up for the many Fridays he will miss during the season.

“It’s really, really tough to balance it,” he said. “It’s hard to differentiate which is more important, right? Because I want to be racing all the time. And my parents, which they’re probably right, want me to be in school and be focused on that as well. So it’s a hard balance for me, but I’m starting to figure it out as the years go on.”

Burton also will be learning on the job in the truck series this year, though he has experience at some tracks he will race (Iowa Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Dover International Speedway). He is optimistic about taking a KBM truck to victory lane as a rookie and plans to compete for a championship in K&N.

“My expectations are the sky’s the limit, every aspect that I’m racing in, I have a great team around me,” he said. “We had a lot of misfortune and bad luck out of our hands (in 2016), and I also made some mistakes. To look back at last year, it was probably one of the toughest years of my racing career, if not the toughest year.

“It seemed like every week something would go wrong. I got to know how much I wanted to do well in this sport. I think we’re going to be really competitive this year in everything I race in. I’m not nervous about saying that. I’m really confident in my guys and myself.”

The low point of last season was the final race. Burton had a parts failure while contending for a victory in the prestigious Snowball Derby, which has catapulted other prospects such as Erik Jones to high-profile opportunities.

“That was definitely hard on me,” he said. “I’m motivated to get back out there and prove what I can do. I’m very results driven. I want to be bringing home trophies. Last year was really tough. I’m ready to turn that around.”

 

Matt Kenseth wrecks out of Auto Club 400 on late restart

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Matt Kenseth crashed out of the Auto Club 400 on a restart with 16 laps remaining in the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Kenseth had restarted fourth following a caution for an incident involving Gray Gaulding.

Kenseth was in the middle groove exiting Turn 2 when he was tapped from behind by Martin Truex Jr. and slid toward the inside wall, which his No. 20 Toyota hit hard. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was cleared and released from the infield care center.

It is Kenseth’s third DNF in the first five races of the season and his second in as many races. He had four in all of 2016.

Kenseth entered the race 20th in the point standings.

Martin Truex Jr. has commanding performance in Stage 2 win at Fontana

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Martin Truex Jr. has taken over as the most dominating driver in today’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

After pole-sitter Kyle Larson won the first 60-lap stage, Truex won Stage 2. During the session, Truex’s car showed supremacy with nearly a seven-second lead in the closing laps of the stage.

Truex has now won three of the last six stages, having captured both stages two weeks ago en route to his overall race win at Las Vegas.

Larson is in second place, followed by Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

There has been just two cautions in the race – both coming in Stage 1.

We now move to the final stage, an 80-lap shootout to determine the race winner.

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Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Auto Club 400 at Fontana

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Pole-sitter Kyle Larson is almost one-third of the way to winning Sunday’s Auto Club 400. The California native won Stage 1 of the race at his home-state Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

Larson (43 laps) and Martin Truex Jr. (12 laps) have led the majority of the laps during the opening 60-lap segment. That segment will be followed by another 60-lap segment, and then an 80-lap final section for 200 laps (400 miles) around the 2-mile low-banked track.

It was Larson’s first stage win of the 2017 season under the new enhanced scoring format in the NASCAR Cup Series. Larson has finished runner-up in each of the last three races and four of the last five (dating back to the 2016 season finale). He has just one career Cup win, last year at Michigan.

Truex is running second, followed by Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch.

Sixth through 10th are Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin.

Each of the top 10 finishers in Stage 1 will earn stage points in the NASCAR Cup standings.

Two incidents of note occurred early in the race, both involving Brad Keselowski:

* On the first lap, Keselowski’s car suffered left rear damage when several cars were involved in an accordion-like wreck. Others involved included Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, but there was no caution called.

* Keselowski continued on without repairing the damage and was spun out on Lap 3 when he was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson, causing further damage to Keselowski’s Ford Fusion. The caution came out for Laps 5 through 7. Johnson claimed there was little or no damage over his team radio, but Johnson has continued to have struggles this weekend. He’s running 32nd, one lap down.

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Bad race start results in damaged cars for Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick

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A bad start by the inside lane at the beginning of the Auto Club 400 resulted in damage to the cars of Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.

Denny Hamlin struggled to get to speed at the drop of the green flag, causing the first few rows of cars to bunch up. It resulted in Newman making contact with Keselowski’s left rear and causing damage. Harvick then ran into Newman as the inside bottlenecked.

On Lap 4, after falling back to 17th, Keselowski was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson on the front stretch, which sent the No. 2 car spinning through the infield grass. Keselowski, the Atlanta winner, was 19th and the first car a lap down when the first stage ended.

During pit stops in the resulting caution, large amounts of tape were put on the front bumper and grille of Harvick’s car and the right-front fender of Newman’s.

With 35 laps left in the first 60-lap stage, Harvick was forced to pit for a flat right-rear tire. He now runs in 28th, a lap down. Newman, who won last week at Phoenix, a lap down in 22nd.

Johnson, a six-time Auto Club winner and the defending winner, was told his No. 48 had damage that could easily be fixed in the pits.  He runs in 20th a lap down. Johnson is winless this season.