DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If not for a final-lap incident on the backstretch at the end of Saturday’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300, Harrison Burton might have been the one celebrating in victory lane.
After all, he had drafting help from Toyota teammate Timmy Hill and was coming through turns three and four with a full head of steam with the No. 20 DEX Imaging Supra.
However behind Burton, a tip from Brandon Brown sent Michael Annett’s Chevrolet hard into the outside wall at the middle of the backstretch and forced the yellow lights on, freezing the field and preventing Burton from making a run at leader Noah Gragson to steal the victory.
The 19-year-old Huntersville, N.C., native and son of former NASCAR Cup Series regular Jeff Burton ended his Saturday as the runner-up, kicking off his full-time campaign in the Xfinity Series with a solid points day, but admitted afterward without the caution he truly believed he had a shot at the win.
“I thought we could,” Burton said of potentially passing Gragson. “I was just happy to be in that position to have a run and have a shot at it. There were a couple times that we about got wrecked and we missed it by an inch. My buddy John Andretti had my back out there. That was cool. It sucks that I couldn’t win for him and his family. We were close, but not quite all the way.
“I had the 66 (Hill) for help, and he was backed up to me pretty tight,” Burton noted. “He did a good job pushing me; we just needed those extra two corners. I understand the caution had to come out for safety and all that – that’s fine – and I was happy to hear that everyone was alright from that wreck.
“It’s just plate racing. We needed that last corner and didn’t get it.”
Still, however, it was a solid comeback effort for Burton and his crew, after the No. 20 received some minor damage in a multi-car accident that ended the second stage under caution at lap 60.
“We had a good day. We fought back from a lot of adversity,” Burton relayed. “We got damage. My team did a good job repairing it. We kind of still couldn’t poke through the hole like we needed to, but the 66 (Timmy Hill) got lined up behind me. Noah (Gragson) got out front about a car and a half and I thought ‘He might be in trouble here’, but then the caution came out.
“I’m just really proud of our guys. We had a tough day,” he added. “I think that there were a couple times in the race that we were down and out, and our guys clawed it out. I was proud of that effort.”
Burton leaves Daytona third in the early Xfinity Series standings, 11 back of race winner and point leader Noah Gragson.
But just like Saturday’s race is already in his rear-view mirror, Burton’s focus is fully forward and not on points racing, but trophy hunting.
“We had a lot of good points today, but we hopefully don’t have to worry about points if we go out next week and win the race, so that’s our mindset,” Burton said. “We’re here to win races. I’m bummed out that didn’t happen today, but we get to go home with our car in one piece, so I’m happy about that.”
The NASCAR Xfinity Series season continues Feb. 22 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.