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NASCAR Cup Watkins Glen

Harrison Burton: Win to make NASCAR playoffs still "feasible"

It may not seem likely, but Harrison Burton believes a win to make the NASCAR Cup playoffs this season remains a possibility.

Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, DEX Imaging Ford Mustang

The 22-year-old son of NASCAR veteran and now TV analyst Jeff Burton is running out of time as only two races remain in the 2023 regular season – Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and the following week at Daytona International Speedway.

The superspeedway races always offer the chance of a surprise winner, particularly because of their unpredictable nature and the penchant for large wrecks that can take out several contenders at a time.

Just last season, then-fellow Cup rookie Austin Cindric won the season-opening Daytona 500 and Austin Dillon won his way into the playoffs with a victory in the second Daytona race.

Burton, who sits 30th in the series standings with his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford team, will need a win in the next two weeks to make the 16-driver field but sees both weekends as potential game-changers.

Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford 20 Year Sr Master Techs Ford Mustang

Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford 20 Year Sr Master Techs Ford Mustang

Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images

 

“You know, I think it’s pretty feasible,” Burton said when asked about his chances specifically at Daytona. “I feel like, honestly, this year we’ve had two legit chances to win. That’s like, honestly and in general, my whole Cup career – I’ve only had two legit chances to win.

“It was this year’s (Daytona) 500, where we were leading with like 12 or 13 (laps) to go. I categorized that as a legit chance to win that race, and I kind of got ping-ponged out of the lead. I think that was a legit chance. We could have had the win.

“Then, Darlington: Those last two restarts. Even with all the chaos, we had a good chance to win. Those two, I think, were good races for us.”

The Cup series does return to Darlington again this year but not until after the playoffs begin, which doesn’t help Burton.

The move by NASCAR to make the summer Daytona race the final one to qualify for the playoffs has already shown the potential for upset winners.

Daniel Suarez, TrackHouse Racing, Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevrolet Camaro, Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, Motorcraft/DEX Imaging Ford Mustang, Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing, HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang

Daniel Suarez, TrackHouse Racing, Tootsies Orchid Lounge Chevrolet Camaro, Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, Motorcraft/DEX Imaging Ford Mustang, Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing, HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

“Daytona is obviously one anyone can win. We’ve obviously seen crazy Daytona 500s, yes, and then the last race trying to get in. It’s always chaos,” Burton said. “So, trying to navigate that and understand that there are going to be a lot of other guys in the same boat.

“I see it as a legit, feasible chance. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t even show up. I feel like it’s part of what makes race car drivers tick.”

Burton, however, isn’t looking past this weekend’s road course at The Glen.

His career-best finish in Cup so far was third on the Indy Road Course last season and he’s already focused efforts on learning from last weekend’s Indy race and preparing for this Sunday.

“I get four hours a week in the Ford simulator, and I’m always in there kind of doing last week’s race track,” he said. “I was in there (Tuesday), and I was able to kind of work on last week and kind of ran Indy some to make that more accurate.

“I also worked a lot on Watkins Glen trying to get the set-up accurate and all that. The better your simulation program is, the more accurate you can touch things up at the race track, fire off the truck and be fast.”

Burton also hopes the recent string of Ford victories in the Cup series – Ford drivers have won three consecutive races at the Richmond, Michigan and Indy Road Course – is a good omen.

Ford only registered one win in the first 13 races this season but now has four in the last 11, including three straight.

“The Fords are capable,” Burton said. “Now, it’s up to our own group to go figure out and try to figure out how to do it and what direction we need to go in to be able to do that. I already feel like we’ve made steps on our oval program.”

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