Burton and Cindric enjoy busy offseason of cars, a dog and traveling while team building

Burton Cindric offseason

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Amid a whirlwind of cross-country flights and nonstop testing (with some racing), Harrison Burton still wanted a dog heading into his rookie season in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“It’s an interesting experience, and I always was like, ‘Oh it won’t be that hard,’ ” Burton said about Remy, his new Golden Retriever puppy, during a break from the cockpit of a Mustang GT4 at Daytona International Speedway last week. “It’s pretty hard! And (Chase) Briscoe’s got like a kid, and I’m like, ‘Holy cow, that must be really hard!’ You can’t just leave your kid in the pen. I can do that with my puppy, she’ll be all right for a few hours. He must have some serious stuff going on.”

Burton, who turned 21 last October, has a lot going on himself, having barely spent any time at home during the last two weeks of January. The new driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford went directly from a Next Gen test at Daytona to NASCAR Production Days in Charlotte to a Next Gen test in Phoenix Raceway.

CLASH AT THE COLISEUMA viewer’s guide to this weekend’s racing

He then caught a redeye to Orlando, so he could practice and qualify for the Michelin Pilot Challenge race last weekend at Daytona. This week, he headed back to the West Coast for the Clash at the Coliseum but with a few more stops on the way this week.

“It’s not overwhelming,” he said. “It’s been really easy just because I’ve got a lot of good people around me. With the puppy at home, I dumped her off with my parents and girlfriend and sister. Everyone helps me so I can do my racing deal. My support system is great. I’ve got a lot of great people around me to help on that side. Obviously, it’s busy.”

Last weekend at Daytona actually offered a slight respite in that he co-drove the Mustang with fellow Cup rookie Austin Cindric, finishing ninth in a four-race at Daytona (which Briscoe also ran with Hailie Deegan).

“It was good to get my mind off everything and focus on being a race car driver and enjoying that,” Burton said. “It’s been fun.”

Cindric, who also raced in the Rolex 24 at Daytona before heading to consecutive Team Penske production days Monday and Tuesday, has been just as busy but also seemed to be holding up well.

“It’s been pretty awesome,” he said after completing his first two stints of the Rolex 24. “I can’t really complain too much. My food intake has replaced my sleep intake. That’ll definitely catch up with me at Penske production day. It’s been a lot of fun, and I don’t think anyone would look at me straight if I complained about the week I’ve had. I wouldn’t trade it.”

The offseason laps have been beneficial for Burton and Cindric as they get acclimated to the Next Gen but also to each other (they actually attended the same high school in the Charlotte area, two years apart).

With Wood Brothers Racing and Team Penske closely aligned for team debriefs and sharing information, Burton also has worked to build a working relationship with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, whom he said have “really welcomed me with open arms.”

Sharing the sports car with Cindric and practicing the technique of in-race driver changes also helped improve their rapport.

“Just driving the same car and hearing (Austin) talk about how it drives,” Burton said. “Driver swaps have been a new thing for me. He taught me how to do all that. Stuff like that when you’re kind of forced to learn and talk and work with each other for getting to know him and him getting to know me well.

“Anytime you’re new to a team, getting to know the people you work with is a big deal and being able to use those people as a resource. You get a new colleague, it’s always what does this person do well, how can we help each other be better. That’s been a good thing for sure.”

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.