Categories
Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Although the racing was a little more spread out than you’d expect for the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, the same result was seen when the checkered flag was flown in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Everybody knows the joy that Kyle Busch gets from winning, and the disappointment he feels with defeat – just look at the frustration in several interviews over the years. So it’s no surprise to see him with a big smile in his face as he celebrated with his own team.

While it’s fun to pad his record book with a career 53rd career victory, there’s actually a method to the madness.

Rudy Fugle told Fox Sports 1 that putting Busch behind the wheel of his own trucks is all about improving them to the program stronger so their young drivers can contend for victories and the championship, making reference to Christian Eckes jumping behind the wheel later this year. While many believe they are where they should be, Fugle reference more work needing to be done to get there. The victory was nice, but Busch fought a tight truck through the night and the team was unable to win the title last year with Noah Gragson.

It goes back to last week, and the expectations that Busch has for the program. When he places a driver in the truck, he expects them to perform. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you may be replaced by the next person in line for the job. Just look at what he said in reference to Todd Gilliland last week.

“Todd (Gilliland) we certainly have to work with him and continue to bring him up and get him filled in on what it takes to be fast at these places,” Busch said. “We’ll hopefully be able to get him places because you know his career is on the line. You don’t get very many chances at this and I’m sure that we’ll hopefully be able to get him going better. He should have run two races last year, no question about it, but obviously it just didn’t happen. He’s got to show up this year and make it happen.

“There were times last year where Todd wrecked every week and we were like dude you got to just slow down, you’ve got to figure out how to finish. To finish first, first you must finish, right?”

Some people may say it is cruel and certainly Busch was criticized for his comments, but it is the nature of business. Sponsors are only going to pay for those who succeed and money is necessary to pay the bills and perform. 

Thus far, both Harrison Burton and Gilliland have scored top-10’s in the last two races, with Burton running as high as second in the late stages last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Though when the action picks back up for the series at Martinsville Speedway, those aren’t the results that KBM is looking for, but rather checkered flags.

Late race heartbreak could be used to describe the nights for small fries Ross Chastain and Jordan Anderson. Both of them were set for respectable finishes given the equipment they were running until running into mechanical issues late. As a result, Chastain failed to finish in the top-10 for the first time this year, while Anderson placed 21st.

Anderson spoke highly of his program entering the year, banking on experience and the alliance with GMS Racing to bring him further up the grid to a solid top-20, possible top-10 performer. He was able to finish 19th at Atlanta last weekend after getting crashed out at Daytona. 

If you’re looking for an underdog to follow this year, the No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado is exactly that as Anderson is impressing as he enters his second season of doing things on his own, and slowly building his team. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Xfinity Series-Gander Outdoor Truck Series Double Header

Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the best tracks for any of NASCAR’s three divisions to race at, and they doubled the fans pleasure on Saturday with back-to-back events.

While known for it’s three-wide, across the whole surface racing, both the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Ultimate Tailgating 200 were dominated by a single driver. However, it was not simple for either to reach victory lane, though.

Christopher Bell was quick from the drop of the green flag in the Rinnai 250, taking the lead early and not ready to look back. Though after dominating the first two stages, a hang-up with the right rear on pit road under green would cause him to lose valuable track position. It didn’t deter the sophomore driver, as he quickly rallied and made the pass three-wide to ultimately put himself back on top. A quick restart at the end, and he took the Toyota Supera to victory lane for the first time.

It’s no secret the level of talent that Bell has behind the wheel, as many believe it’s just a matter of time before we see him in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Actually, it’s really about waiting for a seat to open up for him. Though after leading the Xfinity series in victories last year, he failed to win the championship. Given his chase for perfection, that’s certainly fueling him to perform this year.

His determination, though, can sometimes shine a negative light. While you’re expecting a driver to purely happy in victory lane, Bell is the type to look at what he did wrong right in that moment. At the Chili Bowl after winning on preliminary night, he critiqued his restarts; on Saturday, he spoke of how he wasn’t able to run the bottom line like he should have. Although some may be confused by hearing these types of comments on a celebratory moment, it showcases the desire, and how badly he wants to make it to the top – a fire that honestly could be something of admiration.

Kyle Busch dominated the Ultimate Tailgating 200, but wasn’t able to just hang in the top-five and have fun all day long. A vibration brought forth an unscheduled pit stop, sending him back to 24th in the running order. Busch did not waste time making his way back to the front, returning to the lead before the stage’s conclusion. He then held off Johnny Sauter‘s charge on a late-race restart to take the victory, a record 52nd in the series.

Although criticized by many for his attitude at times, there is denying Busch’s talent, or the fact that he will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame one day.

Sauter, meanwhile, may feel the wrath of fans given his comments post-race in how he was trying to wreck Busch on the ensuing final restart.

“Honestly, I was kind of trying to wreck him,” Sauter said. “I just couldn’t get there. I was locked on to him and I was hoping he would spin out but he did a great job of blocking.” 

Sauter is known for his no brash attitude, and it’s certainly created a divide in the stands. Given the fact he was almost without a ride for this season, you have to wonder if comments like these are really necessary. Thank you for the honesty, though. 

The double header proved successful for Atlanta Motor Speedway as both races were great to watch from the seats.

Although at times it seemed the Xfinity Series was spread out in parts, there was always a battle somewhere to watch throughout the field, with multiple cars mixing it up at a time. Whether you chose to run the high lane, the middle, or conserve your tires with the low line, you never totally felt bored. The joy of worn out tracks with multiple grooves.

The Gander Outdoor Truck Series is known for their jaw-dropping intermediate action, with the runs that they’re able to get on each other with the current aero package. Saturday was no exception, with drivers battling throughout the whole night as evidenced by a three-wide battle for the lead at one point, along with Busch and Sauter swapping back and forth through the middle of the race.

If there’s any negative to say about the track, you could say that restarts can be torture if you start in the outside lane. No matter who seems to start second, they spin the tires and lose track position to those on the inside. Harrison Burton felt that in the truck race, going from second to seventh on the final restart. But Atlanta isn’t the only track with this problem, and if that’s the only downfall, then we can live with that. Once again, please don’t repave this track.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway

The first race of Daytona Speedweeks is officially in the books, and you could say it went as typically as you would predict.

The ARCA Menards Series event at Daytona has been about watching the future stars of NASCAR get behind the wheel of top-notch equipment, and show their experience. Ideally, it gets those entered in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series event some extra seat time. They certainly proved their worth on Saturday, with several at the top of the running order.

With a mix of different experience levels thrown together, restrictor plate races for ARCA can either be really exciting, or just plain out boring. Last year’s Lucas Oil 200 featured five straight green-white-checkered restarts due to ARCA’s “no race ends under the yellow flag rule,” prompting a rule change to have only one attempt for 2019 restrictor plate events.  On the flip side, the Talladega race saw them simply cruise to the finish.

As the laps began to trickle down in the Lucas Oil 200, it appeared as though we were going to watch them cruise single-file to the checkered flag as the top-seven rode in line together. With many lacking experience on the superspeedways, combined with drivers just wanting to come out with a car in one piece, you don’t see the big moves like we’ve become used to in other series.

However, an incident further back changed the complexion with a late-race caution.

While Harrison Burton controlled the restart ahead of Christian Eckes, it was Todd Gilliland making the move with Brandon McReynolds. Using his experience in bump drafting, Gilliland was set to push McReynolds up the high line to the front and challenge for the win. It would’ve been interesting to see whether the charge actually worked out, and the high line was viable. However, instead, a bump the wrong way and McReynolds went spinning across the backstretch. As we said – inexperience vs. experience; this was a lesson of how to make sure bumpers are aligned when drafting.

Placing both Burton and Gilliland on the bottom together for the restart was all she wrote, as Gilliland easily pushed Burton out and away from the other challengers. Although a charge was mounted coming off turn four by Gilliland, it proved to not be enough to power by Burton.

Beginning Friday, Burton and Gilliland will begin their full truck series campaign as teammates for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Earning experience with their first laps on the 2.5-mile oval, it should help boost confidence for them to hang with series veterans.

Although the Lucas Oil 150 may not have started off in the most exciting fashion for ARCA, it shouldn’t diminish the future for the series this year. With a couple new tracks to their already diverse schedule, combined with a variety of talent, it’s going to be another great year of competition.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Harrison Burton Wins ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona

Harrison Burton (No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota) drove to victory in Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona International Speedway. It was Burton’s first start of any type at Daytona.

Burton held off Todd Gilliland (No. 4 Frontline Enterprises Toyota) on a one-lap overtime dash to the checkered.

“It means so much to come here and win at a track my dad won at before me,” Burton said. “I can’t thank my guys at Venturini Motorsports enough, they busted their butts on this car for the last month to get it so we can come here and compete to win.

“We had some debris on the grille over the last run and I think it actually helped. The temperatures went up but they weren’t too high. I got the jump on the restart and I knew Todd was on a run. We were up high next to the wall and I looked up and saw no one had a run. I knew that any time something bad could happen, and I was just waiting for it. It never did and then when I crossed the line I started screaming my head off.”

“I could go wherever I wanted with this car,” Gilliland said. “No matter what line I was in, we could go to the front and help the whole line. It was a shame I couldn’t get up there and beat my Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate for the win, but we learned a lot for next week.

Gilliland planned on riding at the back in the early stages of the race then charging to the front at the end. He was able to team up with Brandon McReynolds (No. 28 US Work Boats Toyota) but McReyolds was involved in a crash that sent the race into overtime. From there, it was a one lap dash to the finish, and Gilliland tried to outduel Burton, but couldn’t make it stick on the final lap around.

“There’s still a lot to be learned,” Gilliland said. “I think I learned a lot for next week. It would have been great to get up there and race Harrison tonight but I think what I learned will be a huge help when we get back here in the Truck next week.”

Grant Quinlan (No. 30 Jones Demolition & Abatement Ford) finished third. Quinlan’s team owner, Terry Jones, finished second here in 2017, and Quinlan, a former ARCA/CRA Super Series late model champion also capitalized in a rare superspeedway start.

“I don’t do a lot of superspeedway racing,” he said. “It’s a lot different than what I am used to. We hooked up with Todd (Gilliland) and went to the front late in the race. We had some debris on the grille and had to make a second pit stop but thankfully he was back there too and we could work our way up to the front together.”

Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), the General Tire Pole Award winner, lined up second on the final restart and ended up fourth.

“I thought we had a little bit better car than Harrison did but that’s speedway racing,” Eckes said. “We just weren’t in the right line on the restart. As far as the points are concerned it was a good day. It would have been good to win here but we’re happy to get a good start on the championship.”

There were five cautions for incidents which consumed 30 laps, the final one of which sent the race into overtime. The first accident of the night involved defending race winner Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) and last year’s runner-up finisher Willie Mullins (No. 3 County Waste Systems Ford) tangled on the back stretch, cutting their day short.

Other incidents involved Eric Caudell (No. 2 Caudell Consulting & Marketing Ford), Thad Moffitt (No. 46 Performance Plus Oil Chevrolet), Paul Williamson (No. 36 Vizion Motorsports Toyota), J.J. Pack (No. 61 IceBoxx Customs Toyota), Brandon McReynolds, and Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet). There were no injuries in any of the incidents.

Burton led three times for 48 laps. Other leaders included Eckes, who led 9 laps from pole, Gus Dean (No. 32 CAB Installers Chevrolet), who led 29 laps. There were five lead changes among three drivers.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the ARCA Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway, scheduled for Saturday, March 9. The race will be live on MAVTV at 8 pm ET; ARCARacing.com will have live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates free for registered users.

Categories
Trucks

Rookie Outlook: Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Since 2010, five of the nine drivers that have won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Rookie of the Year have gone on to secure full-time rides in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The most recent of which being William Byron, who now drives the famed No. 24 for Hendrick Motorsports.

With that being said, the award clearly introduces fans to drivers that will likely be on the rise in the next couple of years. In 2019, the series will once again have quite the class.

Harrison Burton

The most recognizable name on the list, and arguably the favorite for not only the Rookie of the Years honors, but the championship as well.

The son of Jeff Burton will be making his first full-time effort with Kyle Busch Motorsports after making 15 starts with the team over the last three years. He will be competing in the No. 18, replacing 2018 series runner-up, Noah Gragson.

The expectations will be high for the 18-year-old and, it will be interesting to see if he can carry his previous success in the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N East Series into a series where he does have experience.

In 15 starts (all coming with KBM), Burton has posted four top-five’s and seven top-10’s, with his best finish of third coming at Iowa and Phoenix last year.

Sheldon Creed

Someone who may be overlooked heading into Daytona, but it may not stay that way for long.

Creed has proven himself a capable competitor in the past, winning four races in the ARCA Series a year ago in route to a championship. The 21-year-old will align himself with GMS Racing and will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Like Burton, he has had opportunities in the series before, making seven starts with a top-five and two top-10’s to show for it.

Gus Dean

Another ARCA winner makes the move up, as Dean joins Young’s Motorsports to drive the No. 12 Chevrolet.

Unlike Burton and Creed though, he has zero starts in a truck; so this year may serve as a learning curve for the 24-year-old.

Tyler Ankrum

After winning four races and a championship in the K&N East Series, Ankrum looks to continue his winning ways as he continues to climb the NASCAR ladder driving the No. 17 Toyota for DGR-Crosley.

The 17-year-old will have his work cut for him early though, as his season will not start until March 23rd at Martinsville Speedway, after which he will be 18 and face no age restrictions. In the process, Ankrum will miss three races, which was enough to keep Todd Gilliland from winning the Rookie of the Year last year.

Part-Timers

Ankrum won’t be the only rookie getting a ride from DGR this season as both Natalie Decker and Anthony Alfredo will share the No. 54 Toyota.

Decker made headlines last year in ARCA, where she was able to win the pole at Daytona International Speedway and score nine top-10’s throughout the season.

Alfredo comes from a season in the K&N East Series where he won one race and finished fifth in the points standings.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

ASHLEY ASKS…… Harrison Burton

Earlier this week, Harrison Burton announced that he will run the full 2019 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Prior to the news being dropped, POPULAR SPEED caught up with the 18-year-old to get his thoughts entering this weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and more.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into Homestead?

HARRISON BURTON: I’m really excited to go to Homestead. I know that it’s a crazy race track, everyone runs right around the top which will be really fun. I’m excited to try that out, and just ready to give it a shot. The biggest word I can think of would be excitement. You got a chance to go out there and win, and make something happen on Championship weekend – not much more you can ask for.

PS: What are your thoughts looking back on ISM Raceway

HARRISON: Well, it went good. I was happy with how we ran. We showed a lot of good speed. We won a stage; I think that’s the first stage that I’ve won. So we’re taking steps towards the first win. We had a chance; we were three-wide and I was on the bottom for the lead at the end there. I just didn’t make it work, but that’s part of it sometimes and I’m proud of our effort, but we always want more than that. I’ll go out there and try to get a win next time.

PS: How would you rate your season to date?

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

HARRISON: It’s gone pretty well, as far as the truck season goes. I’m fairly happy with it. I’m happy with my team’s progression and growth together. I feel almost more comfortable in the trucks than I do in the some of the lower series that I run. I’m really happy with where we are, and hopefully we can keep that group together going into next year if everything works out like I want it too. But you never know so you have to put in a last good job application and see what we got.

PS: What is one thing that you feel you and your team could do even better to run stronger?

HARRISON: I think the one thing that we’ve done well so far is prepare, so I think the biggest thing is just stick to our preparation. I think we get to the race track and maybe change our plans a little too much – or just stuff like that. It’s not a huge thing that we can do at this point. I spend more time preparing than I have ever before, and I have a great team around me to do that. I obviously have a great boss, Kyle Busch, who can help us with that. At the end of the day, it just comes down to execution when we get to the track, sticking to our plan, and doing our thing and being happy with how we did because we’ve done everything we could.

PS: You’ve kept a busy schedule racing a bit of everything. Is it tough going from one to the other?

HARRISON: It’s definitely a challenge but I think it makes me a better racecar driver because of it. I know that it’s hard to get into a rhythm from trucks to K&N to ARCA and super late models, and hop into each car or truck and be fast right off the truck; it’s a challenge. But I think having to do that, it helps me for situations where I may go to a new race track and pick it up real quick, for example this weekend at Homestead. So I think it definitely helps me, but it’s a challenge for sure.

PS: Speaking of late models, what are your thoughts going into the Snowball Derby in December?

HARRISON: I’m really excited for the Derby. It’s a race that’s on most every racer’s bucket list, I’d think, and if it’s not, it should be. It’s an awesome race track and a place that has a lot of history. You see guys like Erik Jones go there and win, and that made his whole career when you think back on it. If he hadn’t won that race, would he had made it is a question that you can ask. So definitely an important race for every racer in it, and a prestigious race. I’m just excited to go out and give it my all.

PS: There’s been lots of career highlights for you already, but what’s been the most memorable?

HARRISON: I think the biggest thing hasn’t necessarily been the wins. I think the biggest things are steps that I take as a driver to get better. That’s what this year has been about, really, trying to run all these different series and learn as a racecar driver how to do that. This year has been about me getting better and having fun while doing it. I think the little moments where you see yourself improving. You go out for your first time on a mile and a half, and improve and get faster – just stuff like that which has added up to good finishes and feeling more confident when you get to the track.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

Harrison Burton Returns to KBM

Harrison Burton will continue his development as a driver, as he will return to Kyle Busch Motorsports. The son of former NASCAR driver Jeff Burton will run nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series behind the wheel of the No. 51 Tundra, beginning with Martinsville Speedway on March 24.

“Harrison made great strides as a driver in 2017 and we look forward to being a part of his continued development by expanding his schedule at KBM in 2018,” Kyle Busch said. “He proved capable of winning races in a variety of series last year and with each Truck Series start you could see his confidence grow and his performance improve. We’re confident that his first Truck Series win is just around the corner.”

Over the past two years, the 2017 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Champion has made seven truck starts, following his debut at Martinsville in October 2006. Last year, he posted an average finish of 12.3 and career-best fourth at Martinsville in October in six events.

“Returning to KBM and knowing that they had the confidence in me to add races to my schedule for this year is a huge honor,” Burton said. “KBM has a developed a culture of winning races and I’m confident that everything I learned throughout my six-race schedule last year has helped me be prepared to carry on the winning tradition this year.”

Burton’s schedule will be made up of both races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway as well as Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Iowa Speedway in Newton, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., the November race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway and the season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.

KBM stated sponsor and crew chief announcements will be forth coming.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

Categories
Home Tracks News

Intensity Level Rising in K&N Title Fight

HAMPTON, VA – Two of NASCAR racing’s hottest prospects are locked in a tight championship battle in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in what could be a preview of future title fights in NASCAR’s upper echelons.

After picking up a win at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Monday, 16-year-old Todd Gilliland took over the K&N East points lead. Gilliland has a six marker advantage over his main championship rival, 15-year-old Harrison Burton, and both drivers have been relatively evenly matched.

On Monday, Gilliland, the son of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor David Gilliland, made a late race pass on Dillon Bassett and pulled away from the Chase Purdy in the final laps to score his fourth K&N East victory of the year – tying Burton in number of wins in the eastern tour.

“This is a crucial part of the season overall,” Gilliland said afterward. “With there only being 14 races, all of them are very important. This one is huge for us, taking the lead. We had some bad luck to start the year off but, man, we’ve come on strong in these summer months. We’ve just got two more races to go get it.”

While Gilliland lavished in victory lane, Burton languished.

Burton, son of NBC Sports broadcaster and former MENCS racer Jeff Burton, struggled throughout much of the day. During the race, Burton fought valiantly, but was only able to come away with a seventh place finish and, as a result, watched his four point lead become a six point deficit.

“It was a tough race for us,” Burton remarked. “We didn’t have the handle on the car all week. We’ve got to win the next two, that’s what we have to do. It’s something we’re really capable of. We’ve got to go to the road course and win and I know I’m capable of it. I believe in my team, and we’re going to have a great car. Then we’ve got to go to Dover and take care of business there.”

With two races remaining, the K&N Series standouts will now turn their attention to the 2.25-mile road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 16th, and both drivers are confident entering the event.

Todd Gilliland has fared well at the road courses so far in 2017. In the most recent road course race at Watkins Glen International, Gilliland finished second to Will Rodgers. Heading to New Jersey, Gilliland is already looking to gain an advantage.

“We’re driving all night after this race to go test at New Jersey,” Gilliland said. “We’re going to try to give ourselves the best chance we’ve got. That’s all we can do.”

Harrison Burton, who finished third at Watkins Glen, is equally optimistic about the New Jersey race.

“That’s my best road course I run at,” Burton remarked. “Really excited to get going to New Jersey. It’s a great racetrack, a lot of fun. We get tires at the halfway break, so that plays into my favor. I’ve never been too good at saving tires. I like going 100 percent, but, we’ve got to go and do what we’ve got to do.”

Both drivers come from NASCAR pedigree and have had plenty of success in short track racing – Burton in Super Late Models and Gilliland in Late Model Stock Cars.

Burton recently won the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt championship as well as the Speedfest 200 Super Late Model race in Georgia.  Gilliland, who won last year’s K&N West championship and is poised to defend that title, won the inaugural race for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour in North Carolina back in 2015 before moving up the ladder and into the K&N Series. Both drivers have also made starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and are members of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Trucks

NASCAR Next Drivers Gilliland, Burton Already Making Big Moves

One of the most exciting aspects of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the huge influx of new talent coming into the series.

Young drivers like Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson — all of whom are less than 25 years old — are filling the void created when established stars such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and, soon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. step away from the cockpit.

But the young guns of the Cup series are hardly alone.

There is an entire new wave of even younger drivers coming up through the ranks and they are in a hurry to get there.

In exclusive interviews with PopularSpeed.com, drivers Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton talked about the challenges and opportunities ahead of them.

Gilliland, 17, and Burton, 16, are two of the nine drivers in the NASCAR Next program for upcoming racers, and despite their young ages, the two already have impressive records.

After nine races this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Burton has four victories and leads the points in that division.

In the K&N Pro Series West, Gilliland is the defending champion and the current point leader with four victories in eight races. In his career dating back to 2015, Gilliland has 11 victories in just 23 West starts. And he’s also racing in the K&N Pro Series East, where he has a pair of victories and is second to Burton in points.

As if that wasn’t enough, both Burton and Gilliland are racing limited schedules in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Heady stuff, for a couple of guys who aren’t even old enough to vote yet.

Of course, it helps that the two grew up with fathers who were NASCAR racers, Harrison being the son of Jeff Burton and Todd the son of David Gilliland. Still, these two are getting it done in a big way at a young age.

For his part, Gilliland gives a lot of the credit for his success to the Bill McAnally Racing team that he drives for.

“No driver can do it without a great team and great equipment,” Gilliland told PopularSpeed.com. “They definitely give me the cars I need to be able to win. And from there, it’s just learning for myself. The races we finish second in or don’t win, it’s about learning how to get myself to the race-winning caliber that my cars are.”

As for the best advice Gilliland has gotten from his father, it’s this: “Just stay humble and patient.”

That’s a sound strategy. The opportunities certainly will be there for Gilliland in the future, although like Burton he’s still finalizing his 2018 plans.

“Being 17 years old, there’s really no rush,” said Gilliland. “It’s really about taking your time and making sure you’re 100 percent ready for every opportunity when it presents itself.”

Burton, on the other hand, sounds a little more impatient.

“It’s been a great advantage having my dad in the sport, but I’m ready to make my own name,” Burton said. “Everyone knows me as Jeff Burton’s son. If you Google my name, it comes up as ‘Jeff Burton’s son.’ I’m ready to make my own name and add to my stature.”

For both drivers, racing in the Truck Series this year has been a positive experience.

“It’s been huge,” says Burton, who has two more races in the trucks this year. “I’ve been able to learn from one of the best in the sport in Kyle Busch. And having the experience of racing with the truck guys is huge. It’s a big deal. I’ve been blessed to run with KBM and have some good finishes, but I’m looking for better ones. We haven’t really finished as good as we’ve run.”

Gilliland said he’s enjoyed racing with the Truck Series regulars.

“It’s really cool to be able to gain their respect,” said Gilliland, who has four more Truck Series starts scheduled in 2017.

For now, both Gilliland and Burton are concentrating on running for K&N Pro Series championships and learning what they can in the Truck Series. But it likely won’t be long before they both move up the NASCAR ladder. And they will be fun to watch along the way.

Categories
Home Tracks News

ASHLEY ASKS…… Harrison Burton

16-year-old Harrison Burton is off to a strong start in his sophomore NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season, leading the points standings by 28 markers after scoring three victories and six top-five’s in six races.

The MDM Motorsports driver took some time to speak with Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his thoughts on the year so far, and more. 

Popular Speed: How would you characterize your season so far?

Harrison Burton: It’s been a really good season, so far. We’ve had speed everywhere we’ve went. We’ve been able to come out of the truck fast, and perform well. But, we’re still looking for more. At Memphis, we were fast, but I don’t think we were quite good enough. Even though we won the race, we weren’t quite good enough to have the short run speed that we needed. We just played out cards right and ended up winning the race, still. I think we need to go to work a little bit, but I’m still really proud of my guys. They’ve put a great effort into the car, and we show up at the track with a good car. Really excited to be apart of MDM Motorsports. They’re on a little win streak here. Hopefully we can keep it alive.

PS: What’s a key difference you’ve found with the style of racing between the late model to the K&N car?

HB: I think it’s aggressiveness. The series is really aggressive as a whole. There’s a lot of drivers that work hard for every position, and there’s a lot of beating and banging going on in the field. I think I need to adjust a little bit to that, whereas in the late model it’s not like that as much due to how the bodies line-up. If you touch someone in a late model, you’ll end up wrecking them. I think there’s just being a little bit aggressive.

PS: You’ve raced a variety of series this year, including a truck for Kyle Busch. How had that experience been for you?

HB: It’s been really fun. All of the guys at KBM always bring me good trucks and I’m trying to learn as fast as I can there. It’s a different volume. Really, how the trucks drive vs. the K&N cars vs. the super late models vs. ARCA cars – everything is all over the place, it seems. So it’s a little bit hard to get a handle on it, but we had really good speed at Dover and we’re running top-five all day, just caught off-sequence on pit road. One of those deals that we couldn’t do much about it, but really excited to get back in it at Iowa. Hopefully I can continue the good runs like we’ve been having in K&N and in the trucks, as well.

PS: You’re part of an elite group of drivers in the NASCAR Next program. How have you benefited most from it?

HB: Well, the NASCAR Next program is huge for a number of reasons. First off, it’s huge because you’re one of nine drivers selected by executives, drivers, crew chiefs, people in the sport that recognize the work that you do, and to see that is gratifying. Then as far as the aspect of NASCAR Next, they help you a ton. They help you so much with media training, and things like that, but at the end of the day, they help you a long with notoriety. They get your name out there, which is really cool.

You know, when we released it last year and this year, both times it got a huge response on social media and everyone got a huge boost of followers. It teaches a lot, gives you notoriety, and it’s a lot of fun to be apart of. It’s cool because the group gets along well; we haven’t wrecked each other, yet. I guess when we do, it may be a little awkward, but no, I’m  really excited to be in it.

PS: Of course your dad (Jeff Burton) has been influential in your development. What’s the best advice he has given you so far?

HB: Just to be yourself. It’s a sport where I have people pull me in one direction or another direction – you end up having to stay true to your own path. You have people wanting you to be like Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Larson, or someone that’s made it. At the end of the day, you’re not those people. You may be a talented racecar driver, but you don’t need to act like Jimmie Johnson does. I think the biggest thing is to be yourself and have fun. If you do that and do your job, you’ll go a long way just off of making everything fun.

PS: It’s natural for second generation drivers to sometimes feel they’re being measured. Do you feel any extra pressure at all to perform better as a result of that?

HB: I don’t really feel any extra pressure. I feel like I have – something you see a lot is we put on our team shirts that we have something to prove. I feel I have something to prove every time I am at a race track because a lot of people say that I get the opportunity that I have because of my dad. I want to go out every week and prove those people wrong, and prove to them that I’ve worked my butt off to get to where I am. I think I believe that I have the talent to get it done. I think that it doesn’t put any pressure on me, but rather a motivation factor actually, to have people that don’t believe you can do it, and to go out and prove them wrong makes it a lot of fun, that’s for sure. 

Burton will look to win the inaugural K&N Pro Series East event at Berlin Raceway on July 1.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.