Harrison Burton crowned 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro East champion
Harrison Burton was looking for one trophy but two will do just fine.
Burton, the 16-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Jeff Burton, went winless last year in his first full-time season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
On Friday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, his victory in the season finale also came with his first series championship.
Burton ended his second full season with five victories, 12 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes and one pole in 14 races. Last year, he was seventh in the series standings with one top-five and five top-10s.
“What an honor to win at Dover and win a championship at Dover. It’s pretty freakin’ cool,” Burton said. “It’s what you dream about as a kid – win races at tracks like this and NASCAR championships.
“To come out and do that is pretty surreal. I remember last year watching my teammate Justin Haley win the championship and I finished about seventh. Now, I get to be that guy.”
Burton entered Friday’s season finale trailing series leader Todd Gilliland by eight points. Gilliland was running third when he wrecked on Lap 56 of 125 and was forced to retire from the race.
Gilliland’s 13th place finish meant Burton had to finish fourth or higher to claim the championship.
But a victory would secure the title regardless and that’s exactly what Burton did.
Late in the race, Burton caught leader Ruben Garcia Jr. and the two fought side-by-side for several laps before Burton emerged with the lead with 12 laps remaining.
A red-flag was displayed with one lap remaining to clean the track of debris but Burton easily held off Riley Herbst in overtime to claim the win and the championship.
Asked why he pushed the issue racing for the lead, Burton said, “I’m a racer and the goal the whole weekend is to bring home a trophy and if there are two trophies on the line, go and try to win two trophies.
“As a racer I think it’s my job to do the best I can no matter what the scenario is. I’m going to be a smart racer and look at the big picture. I know Ruben is a really clean racer and we have raced side-by-side before with no contact.”
Gilliland, the reigning West series champion, was attempting to become the first driver to win K&N Pro Series titles in both the East and West in the same season. He also leads the West series standings with three races remaining, including Saturday’s race in Idaho.
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