TOLEDO, Ohio — Sixteen-year-old Harrison Burton took his first laps at Toledo Speedway on Wednesday, while his father Jeff Burton looked on.
Both father and son saw the half-mile short track for the very first time, with Harrison testing in preparation for the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care on May 21.
“(Toledo’s) a lot of fun. … It’s a high speed track with some wear on the tires once you get into a long run, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to play out the strategy,” said Harrison. “It’s pretty different than a lot of places.”
The younger Burton compared Toledo to another track he’s already raced at.
“One place (similar to Toledo) would be (Five Flags Speedway in) Pensacola. It’s a race track similar in size. Pensacola’s a lot of fun and I have a lot of laps there, so that really helped me when I unloaded here.”
Burton, who drives for MDM Motorsports, has been on a roll over the last couple weeks, winning NASCAR K&N Pro East Series races at both Bristol Motor Speedway and South Boston Speedway over the last two weeks.
The victory at South Boston, on the heels of MDM’s same-day ARCA win at Talladega, was especially gratifying for the entire Burton family, considering they hail from South Boston, Virginia.
“My whole family lives in South Boston. It’s really cool when we go back up there…instead of staying in a hotel, we get to stay at my grandma’s house. When I won the race I got to go around the track backwards, and got to stop on the backstretch where all my family was, so it was a really cool moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
If it was a big moment for Harrison, it was also “pretty cool” for his parents.
“It was a hometown race, being from South Boston, Virginia,” said Jeff. “I won races there … Ward won races there … Jeb won races there, and now Harrison’s won a race there. That’s pretty cool.”
Since retiring from his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, Burton is a color commentator for NBC and keeps close eyes on his kids as they come up through the ranks.
“I think any parent wants what’s best for their children. If your children can make a living doing what they have a passion for, that’s all you can ask. Harrison’s only 16 … he’s got a few years to make a living doing this, but the opportunity … even being there for both of my children to do what they love to do is a blessing.”
Burton also liked what he saw at Toledo Speedway.
“It’s very unique,” Jeff continued. “It’s a really cool race track. It’s fast … has a lot of banking. Both ends are different … three and four are different than one and two. Track has a lot of character to it. Looks like it’s fun to drive. It’ll be a challenge to keep tires on it, keep the car turning and keep rear grip. Going to be an interesting race. I’ve watched races (on TV) from here for sure, but my first time in person. Really nice track.”
Burton also says he’s backed off a bit when it comes to giving his son advice.
“As he’s matured, my advice becomes less, and it becomes more specific. Today … he and I talked only a few times about something he and I saw on the race track when we rode around it together. As he’s gotten older and more mature, he doesn’t need my advice as much.”
For Harrison, it will be all about getting back to Toledo and applying what he learned Wednesday when he returns for 200 laps of racing at the end of the month.
“I’m really excited to get back here and get to racing because when you unload fast at a test, it means good things to come,” he explained. “Now you can fine-tune it and get your car really good.”
“The place that we need to work on a little bit is the exit to two … we get a little tight there, but other than that, we had a smooth day.”
Harrison has one career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards start, finishing third at Iowa Speedway last summer for MDM Motorsports.
CREDIT: ARCA Communications