THOMPSON, Conn. — Harrison Burton has continued to put a disappointing rookie season in his rear-view mirror with a sensational sophomore campaign.
The 16-year-old from Huntersville, N.C. outdueled fellow NASCAR Next driver Todd Gilliland in a thrilling side-by-side battle for the lead, claiming the win in Saturday night’s Busch North Throwback 100 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
It was Burton’s third win in the last four races and fourth win of the year out of eight starts.
Just past halfway through the 2017 schedule, Burton holds a 22-point lead over Gilliland in the championship race.
Burton finished seventh in points last year in his first season, with five top 10s in 14 races and every manner of bad luck. However this year, he has seven top-fives in eight races, and his sixth-place finish last week at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway marked his worst run of the season.
Saturday night marked the K&N East’s return to Thompson for the first time since 2009. The historic Connecticut oval was a staple of the early years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, when it was primarily a New England-based series under the Busch North banner.
Burton added his name to a list of series winners at Thompson that include NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Trevor Bayne, and former Cup driver Ricky Craven.
Joey Kourafas, who won the series’ inaugural championship in 1987, presented Burton with the trophy in victory lane.
To get there, Burton had to fight his way past Gilliland. The two engaged in a door-to-door battle for several laps before Burton took the lead on lap 75 and pulled away. He finished .719 of a second ahead of Gilliland, who led a race-high 58 laps.
Ronnie Bassett Jr. came home third.
Four-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, making his first K&N Pro Series start, finished fourth. Coby has four Whelen Modified Tour wins at Thompson.
Ronnie’s younger brother Dillon Bassett rounded out the top five, ahead of Ryan Preece, Chase Purdy, Ruben Garcia Jr., Jay Beasley and Chase Cabre.
Earlier in the day, Purdy broke Truex’s track record in qualifying en route to collecting his third straight 21 Means 21 Pole Award presented by Coors Light.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…