NASCAR’s Next Generation: Q&A with Harrison Burton

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If your name is Harrison Burton, your racing career can only start one way.

As the 15-year-old driver remembers it, the setting was the infield at one of the many tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.

Burton was 2 at the time, his vehicle was a small, battery-powered car. His race course was a series of cones set up by his father, Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton.

“Even at two years old, I wanted to race,” Harrison Burton told NBC Sports.

A 21-time winner on the Cup circuit and now an analyst for NBC Sports, Jeff Burton was already in teacher mode.

“I guess my dad actually started to take it a little bit more seriously,” Harrison Burton said. “He’d be like ‘You need to be doing this with your line, then doing this.'”

That scene led to one a few months ago with Harrison Burton in his yard playing catch with Pippen, one of his family’s three dogs, when his mother, Kim Burton, came outside to give him the phone. A NASCAR representative called to tell the K&N Pro Series East driver that he was going to be the youngest member of this year’s NASCAR Next class.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What is it like being a 15-year-old driver getting this kind of recognition this early in your career?

Burton: It was awesome. I’m part of a class where I’m the youngest one, but where I feel right at home with all these guys and girls. It’s pretty cool. As for me, racing, my dad made this very evident when I started it, it’s an adult thing to do. As soon as you strap on that helmet, you’re a grownup like everyone else and they’ll treat them the same. For me, it didn’t mean a whole lot as to my age. I think that race car drivers, as soon as you strap that helmet on, you have an even playing field as far as age, sex, height, weight.

NBC Sports: Do you feel like an adult?

Burton: No. Only when I’m in a race car do I feel like an adult. I’m still fairly childish I’d say. My mon can attest to that, I’m sure. I don’t feel like an adult yet. Soon enough, I guess.

NBC Sports: You’ll get to race in the Camping World Truck Series later this year at Martinsville with Kyle Busch Motorsports. How did that deal come together and what are you expecting from that experience?

Burton: My dad is kind of my manager I guess you could say. He hasn’t really told me the full story on how that’s all coming together. I think that’s because I’m a blabber mouth and I might tell people. I do know I’m going to a great organization with guys like William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch that have all shown success in these trucks. They’re proven to be fast. I think it’s a great environment to prove myself.

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 24: Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet, stands with the winners trophy and his wife Kim, daughter Paige, and son Harrison, following the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Dover 400 on September 24, 2006 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Burton poses with his wife Kim, daughter Paige, and son Harrison after winning the Sprint Cup Series Dover 400 on Sept. 24, 2006 at Dover International Speedway. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NBC Sports:  In the K&N series you’ve raced at Bristol, Watkins Glen and Loudon. These are tracks you grew up going to with your dad’s racing career. What’s that been like for you getting to experience these tracks in their truest form after watching from the garage or the RV for so many years?

Burton: It’s different than I expected it to be. I think everyone looks at these faster tracks and gets a little bit nervous about them I guess. I was too, I was nervous about going to Bristol, I was nervous about going to Watkins Glen, especially. But what it comes down to is fundamentals of what you’re doing. If you can make a car go fast, you can make a car go faster. It’s a big challenge to learn the race track and you see how it goes.

NBC Sports: Of those three Cup track you’ve raced at, which one was the most surreal experience for you?

Burton: For me, Bristol. I got to go and see my dad win there (in 2008). My dad won at Loudon as well, but I wasn’t there, I was racing at that point. I was there when my dad won at Bristol.

NBC Sports: This early in your career, what is it that you look for in a race team that isn’t necessarily ‘they’re successful’?

Burton: First off, are you going to have fun? That’s what we’re doing it for. It’s a serious matter, obviously and we take it very seriously, but we’re having fun while doing it. I want to have guys where I can go to the shop and have fun with and be at the race track and have a good time with. Obviously, I want to have fun, but I also want to have intensity during practice and during the race.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first time you told your parents you wanted to pursue a racing career?

Burton: The thing I do remember the most was … in quarter midgets, which was where I started, there is this national touring series that you can go run. We’re out of North Carolina, but the first race is in Phoenix and it’s (places like) San Antonio. It’s pretty crazy. We’ve got 11 year olds traveling to Phoenix to race. At that point, I was just running at a local race track as much as possible. I went and I asked my mom, I didn’t ask my dad because I felt he would have been harder to ask. It was really hard, because she had to give up so much. That was really the point where she sacrificed time for me so I could go and race and get better with all the best drivers that were in quarter midgets. I remember, I sat there and we all started crying, I don’t know why, it was really emotional. She ended up saying yes and we didn’t look back.

NBC Sports: What do you consider your theme song?

Burton: Me and my mom used to sing this song while going down the road, it’s “House of the Rising Sun.” That’s a good song. We used to sign that and still do whenever it comes on. Not for any particular reason for the meaning of the song, just because me and my mom listened to it.

NBC Sports: What’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed?

Burton: We were about to do the announcement for NASCAR Next, I’m kind of going to throw Todd Gilliland under the bus here, but Todd was absolutely shaking. He was so nervous to go onto Race Hub and everyone was making fun of him for it. That was probably one of the hardest times I’ve ever laughed, watching Todd sit there and shake getting ready to go on TV.

NBC Sports: What was your favorite paint scheme that your dad drove?

Burton: When I was a kid I really loved the purple Prilosec car that had lightning bolts all over it. Prilosec OTC, No. 31. That thing was definitely my favorite, I guess the lighting bolts did the trick for me as a kid.

Glow in the dark: Cup cars get new look for All-Star Race

All-Star Race
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Wednesday’s NASCAR All-Star Race will be a little brighter than expected.

NASCAR announced Thursday that the exhibition night race at Bristol Motor Speedway will see certain competitors racing with underglow lights on their cars.

Cars that have automatically qualified for the event will have the lights.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

The light placement was first seen on Chip Ganassi Racing cars at Champion’s Week 2019 in Nashville during a burnout competition.

The best looking NASCAR burnout you'll ever see.

This might be the best looking NASCAR burnout you’ll ever see. 💨Monster Energy | Kurt Busch

Posted by Chip Ganassi Racing on Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The lights are the latest change NASCAR has made for the event, which will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time.

The race will feature the introduction of the choose rule. The rule designates a spot on the track where a driver must select if they wish to restart on the inside lane or outside lane.

Cars will also have special paint schemes that shift the numbers on the side of the cars over for sponsor placement.

Here is what upcoming NASCAR Cup races fans can attend

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Wednesday saw NASCAR announce the remaining regular season schedule for all three national series, including six Cup Series races.

In total, 10 Cup points races and the All-Star Race remain in the regular season, beginning with Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not all tracks are allowing fans to attend.

Here are the fan policies for the remainder of the Cup Series regular season.

Kentucky Speedway (Sunday)

Fans will not be allowed to attend.

 

All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (July 15)

Up to 30,000 fans will be allowed to attend the race.

 

Texas Motor Speedway (July 19)

Fans making up to 50% of the track’s capacity will be allowed to attend.

 

Kansas Speedway (July 23)

Fans will not be able to attend.

 

New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Aug. 2)

Roughly 19,000 fans will be able to attend.

 

Michigan International Speedway (Aug. 8-9)

Fans will not be able to attend.

 

Daytona International Speedway (Aug. 16 and Aug. 29)

“We’re working towards having fans and hopefully we’ll have some news on when we’re going to go on sale in the next couple of days,” said track president Chip Wile Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

 

Dover International Speedway (Aug. 22 – 23)

Speedway officials remain in consultation with local, state and federal health officials, as well as Delaware Gov. John Carney, on whether fans will be allowed in the stands with appropriate social distancing for the August events.

Weekend schedule for Kentucky Speedway

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NASCAR heads to the Bluegrass State this week for four days of racing at Kentucky Speedway.

All three national series will be in action, plus the ARCA Menards Series, for five races. The Xfinity Series will hold two races for its second doubleheader of the season.

According to wunderground.com, the forecast for the start of each race is:

Thursday Xfinity race: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees and a 20% chance of rain.

Friday Xfinity race: Scattered thunderstorms, 80 degrees and 37% chance of rain.

Saturday Truck Series race: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees and 0% chance of rain.

Sunday Cup race: Scattered thunderstorms, 84 degrees, 40% chance of rain.

Here is the full weekend schedule for Kentucky Speedway.

(All times are Eastern)

Wednesday, July 8

3:30 p.m. – Xfinity rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Driver motorhome parking (screening in progress)

Thursday, July 9

11 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Xfinity haulers enter (screening in progress)

1 – 10:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage access (screening in progress)

6 – 7:30 p.m. – Xfinity engine prime and final adjustments (pit road)

7:50 p.m. – Xfinity drivers report to cars

8 p.m. – Xfinity race No. 1; 134 laps/201 miles (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Friday, July 10

10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage access (screening in progress)

Noon – ARCA driver/crew chief/spotter meeting (electronic communication)

12:30 p.m. – ARCA rookie meeting (teleconference)

1 p.m. – ARCA crew chief meeting (teleconference)

4 – 5 p.m. – ARCA haulers enter (screening in progress)

5 – 5:30 p.m. – Truck Series rookie meeting (teleconference)

5:30 p.m. – Trucks driver/crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

6 – 7:30 p.m. – Xfinity engine prime and final adjustments (pit road)

7:50 – Xfinity drivers report to cars

8 p.m. – Xfinity race No. 2; 200 laps/300 miles (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday, July 11

7 a.m. – 2 p.m. – ARCA garage access (screening in progress)

8 – 10 a.m. – Truck series haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Truck garage access (screening in progress)

Noon – 1 p.m. – ARCA practice

2:20 p.m. – ARCA drivers report to cars

2:30 p.m. – ARCA race; 100 laps/150 miles (FS1)

4 – 5:30 p.m. – Trucks engine prime and final adjustments (garage area)

4:40 – 5:30 p.m. – ARCA haulers exit

5 p.m. – Cup driver/crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m. – Cup rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:50 p.m. – Truck drivers report to vehicles

6 p.m. – Truck race; 150 laps/225 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

6:30 – 8:30 p.m. – Cup haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

8:30 p.m. – Truck haulers exit

Sunday, July 12

7:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Cup garage access (screening in progress)

12:30 – 2 p.m. – Engine prime and final adjustments on pit road

2:20 p.m. – Cup drivers report to cars

2:30 p.m. – Quaker State 400; 267 laps/400.5 miles (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

6:30 p.m. – Cup haulers exit

Thursday night’s Xfinity race at Kentucky: Start time, forecast and more

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A stretch of five races in four days at Kentucky Speedway begins Thursday night with the first of two Xfinity Series races.

It will mark the second doubleheader of the year for the Xfinity Series.

Can Chase Briscoe keep up a winning pace that’s seen him win three times in the last four races (and five overall thus far in the season’s first 13 races)?

Here’s all the info you need for Thursday night’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be at 8:13 p.m by Shady Rays CEO Chris Ratterman. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:24 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments are at 6 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 8:05 p.m by Jason Romano. The national anthem will be performed at 8:06 p.m. by Matthew Grant.

DISTANCE: The race is 134 laps (201 miles) around the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 60.

INSPECTION: Ronnie Bassett Jr.‘s car failed inspection twice. He loses pit selection for Friday’s race.

TO THE REAR: Mason Massey and Bayley Currey (unapproved adjustments)

PACE LAPS: At the direction of race control, the entire field will go down pit road during a pace lap for pit road speed verification. If a driver stops in the pit box for any reason, pull over or slow down, they will start at the rear of the field.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, a high of 86 degrees and a 24% chance of rain predicted at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe defeated Justin Haley and Noah Gragson to win on the Indianapolis road course.

LAST RACE AT KENTUCKY: Cole Custer beat Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for lineup