Burton Embracing Pressure Of Daytona 500 Week

Harrison Burton during Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday. (Jacob Seelman photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Harrison Burton knows pressure when it comes to racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, by virtue of both his last name and the team that he drives for.

But as he enters his third season at NASCAR’s top level, the 23-year-old son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton and nephew of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton isn’t anxious about stepping back behind the wheel of the famed No. 21 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Wood Brothers Racing.

If anything, the younger Burton is embracing the opportunity that comes with racing for NASCAR’s oldest race team, as well as the chance to write another chapter of his family’s legacy at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

“I just have been ready for it,” tipped Harrison Burton Wednesday morning during Daytona 500 Media Day when asked by Motorsports Hotspot about the pressure he feels entering Speedweeks. “I’ve been racing for so long, I’ve been in a lot of high-pressure situations already in racing, and to me a lot of times the pressure is almost freeing. It’s a freeing feeling to know what’s on the line. That’s what you sign up for as a driver.

“This is a performance-based business, so from day one when you sign up for this job, you know that there’s going to be pressure, and that’s almost kind of fun to me,” Burton added. “I enjoy that feeling and don’t really look at it as too much of a burden, really.”

Last season marked a sophomore slump for Burton that further exacerbated a rough start to his Cup Series career.

Though he earned a pair of top-10 finishes – placing a season-best sixth at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in May and eighth at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway in July – Burton faded from 27th to 31st in the point standings and saw his average finish drop nearly two full positions down to a disappointing 24.7.

Burton hopes to “change the narrative” this year and is encouraged after watching Ford teammate Ryan Blaney race to the Cup Series championship during the 2023 finale at Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway in November.

“You hope it’s a sign that the tide is turning for the Blue Ovals, right?” Burton remarked. “I think we just have to put ourselves in position more often. We’ve had fast race cars before, we’ve run fast laps for solid amounts of time in [various] races, and we’ve had good runs before, but not as consistently as we need to have. So that’s frustrating, almost more so than never doing well at all, because we know that we can do it and that we have the ability to do it. It's just about putting everything together more often.

“I think we found some keys to try and do a better job of [having complete races] during the offseason,” Burton added. “I’m excited to go out and try and put those theories to the test and see if we can improve in some of the areas that we believe we will as an organization.”

Ever since Blaney won in the No. 21 in 2017, co-owners Eddie and Len Wood have been on the hunt for the 100th Cup Series victory for Wood Brothers Racing, and Burton has heard the narrative since first coming to the team in 2022.

Accomplishing the milestone, as well as notching his breakthrough first win at NASCAR’s top level, during the Daytona 500 would be “a massive moment” in Burton’s mind.


Harrison Burton (21) battles Tyler Reddick (45) and Erik Jones during the 2023 Daytona 500 at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (Photo by NKP/NKP photo)

“It would mean everything,” said Burton of winning the Wood Brothers’ first Harley J. Earl Trophy since Trevor Bayne’s shock victory in 2021. “Just to think about it, not only for the Wood Brothers … but for everyone in that shop, I’ve said it before that I think this group of guys is made up of, probably, the coolest people in the whole sport. The whole family is just [made up of] amazing people and people that are down to earth despite the things that they’ve done and the people they’ve worked with. It’s just amazing that they’re still around and working as hard as they are and care about this sport as much as they do.

“When we’re doing pit practice, Eddie Wood’s out there watching us … it’s crazy, really,” Burton added. “They deserve [another win] more than anyone in the garage. And on top of that, to do it on the back of the adversity we’ve had would be really special, I think. Whether it’s here or at any other race, winning would be pretty amazing.”

The pursuit of that goal begins during Sunday’s Great American Race, where Burton said he’s going in with the approach that “every lap matters,” not just at Daytona but throughout the entire season.

“We’re really excited. I think our whole group is fired up, and we believe we have the right group in place to make really, really cool and great things happen,” he noted. “It’s going to be fun to try and accomplish everything we’ve set out to do, and that’s a fun mindset that we’re kind of trying to lean into.”

Coverage of the 66th Daytona 500 begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET, live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.