Looking back on his NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Martinsville Speedway last fall, Harrison Burton has fond memories, but knows he has to continuously make improvements if he wants to add to his grandfather clock collection.
Burton will race in Friday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway, and will also compete in the races Dash 4 Cash, which awards $100,000 to the driver among Burton, Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, and Noah Gragson who finishes the highest.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver spoke with the Bulletin on Wednesday about this week’s race and his thoughts on Martinsville Speedway.
Martinsville Bulletin: Are you ready for this weekend?
Burton: Yea, I’m excited. Martinsville is probably one of my favorite tracks, so I’m always ready to go there.
How does it feel to come back this weekend, too, as the defending Xfinity Series race winner?
Burton: It’s always a confidence booster, right? You go and you win and you feel like you’ve done the job well and that’s always something that is a confidence booster and something that lifts you up and makes you feel like you’re one of the guys to beat this weekend. Whenever you roll into a racetrack with confidence I think that’s a good thing.
Are there any memories from that race last year that stand out to you?
Burton: Yea... where my family grew up racing is not far from there and with family being restricted and being kind of like in a bubble on pit road I haven’t been able to be with my family after I win that much. But my dad was actually on the broadcast and was able to radio in to me after I won. That was pretty special. That’s something that when you sit back and think about all the things that have to line up for something like that to happen after you win, to have your dad surprise you on the radio after you win is pretty special. So that was definitely up there, for sure.
Coming into this year’s race, especially considering this is just the second Xfinity Series race anyone in the field has driven at Martinsville, is there anything from that race you’ll take into Friday night?
Burton: I think the biggest thing is that everyone is going to get better. When you win a race, everyone around you is not going to sit around and come back with the same stuff. They’re going to try to get better, they’re going to try to come back to beat you. So my takeaway is, how to do be better than I was that day? What can I do to be a better driver, to be more consistent? Do what I have to do to keep that leg up. Everyone is always improving in this sport and kind of keeping up with the curve and staying in front of it is a challenge. That’s why being a repeat winner is so special because everyone else got better and it means you got better too. So being in that position is a fun one to be in but it’s a tough one for sure.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve been working on this week to prepare for Martinsville?
Burton: I think the biggest thing is just watching race film. Picking around where guys that were fast last year were fast and obviously where I was fast last year and what made me fast. And looking at different cars and where they’re better and lookin at the data we have with some of the programs on the computer we can run. Just trying to judge where, if anyone is going to make a leap to be better where they’re going to be better and how to counter that in the racecar as a driver.
So for me it’s working on that, studying the game and all that. And on top of that, one of the weaknesses for me that weekend was restarts. We changed our program there a little bit. I think we’ve gotten better at launching the restart zone as a company and I’m excited to go and try to prove that. But we’ll see. I think there’s a lot of driver behind that obviously and I think we’ll be pretty good there, so we’ll see. I think those are the two main things but the list can go on and on.
Did you do any of the Dash 4 Cash races last year?
Burton: I got to be in one of them. I came up short for the cash prize, which is a bummer... That’s always exciting. Just an extra little goal. The amount of support we have as a race series from Xfinity and things like that to make things kind of interesting for the fans to watch and see who’s going to take home the money. And makes us very interested in that money because there’s a lot of things you can really do with that money to change a lot of people’s days and lives so it’s pretty neat. I’m excited to try to go out and get it.
So it is pressure to be in the Dash 4 Cash or is it fun, or a little of both?
Burton: A little of both. The way I am, I always recognize that I’m just a cog in the wheel and kind of part of the machine that makes Joe Gibbs Racing win races, and I take pride in that and I want to try to take home that money to kind of give some to the company and to my guys that work on the car and the people that make it happen. That makes it a little bit more pressure, but selfishly it’s like, ‘Dang, I want to get me some of that money too.’ So try to get that and get after it.
So what are you most looking forward to Friday night?
Burton: I think the most thing I’m looking forward to, and this is strange I guess, is racing at night at Martinsville. It’s one of those places that already has an awesome atmosphere and the late model guys have raced there at night before and the Cup guys have as well, and I’ve always wanted to do that. I thought that was so neat when they added the lights. I thought that was a cool deal.
The biggest thing obviously is my family is going to be in the stands. I’ve got some tickets and they’re going to have seats and I’m going to be able to wave at them through the fence. But as a racecar driver I’m excited to go there and try to race at night there. Its going to be pretty interesting.
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at email@example.com