MALVERN, Ark. – Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for RCO and National Speed Sport News — Burlison Racing photo —
Noah Burlison is a prime example of a teenager with a dream.
The difference between he and many of the others, though, is that he’s gone out and personally seized his opportunities by the horns.
Burlison, a 600cc micro sprint racer out of the Razorback State of Arkansas, was told at the end of 2011 that his family didn’t have the funding to be able to continue supporting his pursuit of a racing career without help – either from a sponsor or by other means.
Not one to give up, the young gun went out and found a sponsor. The lucky company?
Burlison, now 16, started his own pressure-washing business to make up the difference in funding needed to race on the weekends, and three years after the original idea, the pipe dream has become a thriving reality – one that has ultimately not just made up the difference in money, but turned into the main source of income for the team.
“What most people don’t know about me is that the person that 100 percent funds this racing team is me,” Burlison explained. “At 16 years old I own a pressure washing business and I work every single weekend that we’re not out racing the car.”
And though now, the high school student is again working on a promising career – the comeback almost never happened.
“That’s really what got me back into racing,” the young gun said. “At the end of 2011, my dad had said, ‘If we’re going to do this, you’re going to help us,’ because my family isn’t financially able to support a race team on their own. And at that point I almost was out of it because I didn’t see what my options were. I didn’t think at first it was going to be possible.”
“But, I said ‘Okay, I’m willing to’, and it’s been the work that I’ve been able to do that’s put us in the situation that we’re in now with the equipment that we have.”
Burlison has launched his career forward over the last 18 months, winning the Rookie of the Year award in the micro sprint class at his home track, I-30 (Ark.) Speedway, in 2013 and roaring to the track championship last year by 30 points over Jason Hall in a banner campaign for the rising star.
“We had no intention of actually running [for] a points championship [this early on in my career],” Burlison said of his 2014 season, “so to win one (last year at I-30 Speedway) in just my second full year of micro sprints was really a special moment for all of us.”
Now Burlison hopes to use lessons learned from last season to go after a second-straight track title – he sits third in points through the season’s opening race at I-30 on April 11, nearly winning the event before being passed by Dusty Young late in the going.
“We took the lead on the opening lap and led it until two to go, when Dusty just blew by me,” Burlison laughed. “He was good. But to have been as off as we were on the car to start the day and finish third – I was really happy with that.”
“Experience is something you can get beat by, though – and it’s still something I’m working on,” the teenager said of advancing his learning curve enough to go back-to-back at I-30. “I love racing with Dusty, but if there’s anyone I want to beat right now, it’s him. He’s been so involved with the Hyper chassis that I think he knows it better than anyone else does. That’s what’s been beating us really, is just the motor and car setup on such a big track – it’ll pull the little motor that we ran last year in a heartbeat.”
At the end of it, however, Burlison was simply happy to have finally raced – after being rained out at the fast quarter-mile for a month trying to get the originally-scheduled March season-opener in the books.
“We were supposed to start [racing] the first weekend of March and I didn’t even get to turn my first laps in the car until [April 4]. It’s not the tracks that have been raining us out, but the pits [at I-30] just won’t hold all the water we’ve had, so it’s been a struggle.”
However, Burlison hopes that with the help of new team owner Tim McKenzie, he will be able to find the success he has worked so hard to build. Burlison is driving McKenzie’s micro sprint but he and his family are doing the majority of the maintenance on the machine this season.
“Back when we first got into the micro class, one of the very first guys I met was Tim Mackenzie. In the 2013 season he actually helped me change a motor and get it ready for one of our big races – the Fall Nationals at Riverside (Ark.) International Speedway – and then we went over to the same chassis as he was running last season, so it just made sense when he finally came to me and said ‘Drive my car’, for us to make the move,” Burlison explained.
“We love the team, we love the family and I feel like it’s an all-around good environment for me to be in as a driver right now.”
With the new situation comes new goals as well – and Burlison has big aspirations for the remainder of his season.
“After we get a few races under our belt with this new car, we plan to do some traveling and hit some places like Port City (Okla.) Raceway, I-44 (Okla.) Speedway Riverside in Oklahoma City, and some of these places where we can run with some of the bigger guys [and series] instead of using up the nights on our motor at easier tracks with less competition.”
But through it all, the fiery red-head has remained grounded and in touch with his family and friends while pursuing his dream. Asked if he missed having a social life, Burlison laughed before responding.
“Every Friday night, every Saturday, and you know – I get offers to go hang out with friends and stuff on the weekends and I’m just like, ‘I can’t. I have to make the money in order to race.’ That’s what priorities and what I really want to do comes down to is that choice,” Burlison said. “Do I want to hang out with friends and blow the money that way or work and blow the money doing something I really love?”
“[But] I do still have a social life, it’s just where when it comes down to where I have to work and everything that it gets put to the side a little bit. And my friends completely understand. It’s just one of those balances that I’ve had to work on a lot over the last couple years.”
“My biggest hope is that my friends can see some of my success this year, because [myself and McKenzie Motorsports] plan on sitting in Victory Lane [this season.] That’s the goal for us as a team.”
Listen in as Motorsports Madness on the Performance Motorsports Network caught up with Burlison during the show’s April 6 airing: