February 28, 2014

Harrison Burton, 13, is already visiting victory lane in late model ranks

Harrison Burton, son of NASCAR driver and NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton, surprised many in the motorsports community by winning two pro late model races in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway. However, he’s learning lessons off the track as well as on it, donating 30 percent of his winnings to charities supported by his sponsor.

Harrison Burton has barely begun his teenage years, but the 13-year-old Huntersville resident is already grabbing attention in racing’s late model ranks.

With Jeff Burton not competing in this year’s Daytona 500, the family focused on the younger Burton’s inaugural effort in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway. Competing in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Pro Late Model division, Harrison won two of the seven races – including a 100-lap event – and finished second in the division’s overall standings.

“I learned a lot about racing hard (during the New Smyrna week),” said Harrison, whose lone finish outside the top 5 came in the event’s opening race when he placed 22nd due to mechanical problems. “I learned you can race hard and be a clean racer.”

Harrison began racing quarter-midgets at age 5 and eventually competed on a national circuit. At age 11 he moved into a limited late model, a major step for someone his age. Harrison now competes in pro late model and super late model events. In August 2013, at age 12, he won a PASS Pro Late Model race at Dillon (S.C.) Motor Speedway.

“He’s made some history,” Jeff Burton said about his son. “He’s really young, but he’s got a lot of (seat) time. His wins (at New Smyrna) came against some of the best in the business. I’m really happy where he is.”

Jeff says he’s surprised in some ways that his son has matured so quickly in racing, and in other ways he’s not.

“He’s racing against grown men, so it’s hard to know what to expect,” said Jeff, who started racing go-karts at age 7 but didn’t move to cars until he was 16. “I don’t know what I should expect and that’s been difficult because there’s nothing to compare it to. The second race he ever ran in a stock car he set on the pole and he was 11 years old, but that year and the year before that he ran 300 quarter-midget races. So he’s got a lot of seat time.”

Jeff notes his son is passionate about his racing.

“He’s a little more aggressive than I was, (but) he thinks about it,” Jeff continued. “Instead of just using his right foot, he’s using his brain.”

Even though Harrison is from a racing family he has never been pressured to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“He (Jeff) said, ‘You don’t have to do this to make me proud. You do what you want to do,’ which I think has given me a lot of freedom to do whatever I want to do,” said Harrison, a student at Cannon School in Concord. “I decided to take the racing route. It was probably the best decision I’ve made in my life. It’s opened up so many opportunities for me to learn.”

Those opportunities include learning about life off the race track as well. Harrison’s sponsor, DEX Imaging, donates 30 percent of its profits to charity and the young driver is following suit. This year he is giving 30 percent of his winnings to the charity his sponsor supports near the track where he’s competing. After New Smyrna, $1,000 of Harrison’s winnings went to an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility.

“It’s not only an exercise in racing, it’s an exercise in trying to help other people,” Jeff said. “He’s learning a lot. He’s going to see things that he hadn’t seen (before) and he’s going to see another side (of life). I think that will be really good for him. Every DEX office has its own charity, but you never know what it will be. It might be an Armed Forces Foundation thing, a children’s hospital, a rehab center.”

Harrison’s schedule for the 2014 season hasn’t been finalized because Jeff wants him to gain experience on as many different tracks as possible. He believes not focusing on one race track will benefit his son because he’ll learn adaptability. Harrison’s age prevents him from competing at certain tracks, but later this year he plans to make his South Boston (Va.) Speedway debut.

“That will be really cool because that’s where my dad started racing,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s next race is The Rattler at South Alabama Speedway March 14-16. He will compete in both late model divisions that weekend.

Wallace wins title at New Smyrna

Steve Wallace finished fourth in the final race of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway to win the Super Late Model title for the seven-race event. Wallace was tied for the lead in the event standings after the first two races, finishing second in the 35-lap opener and first in the second. He then put together two consecutive third-place finishes and two seconds before taking fourth in the Bruce Gowland Memorial 100 on the final night.

NASCAR Tech Introduces– STEM to students

Mooresville’s NASCAR Technical Institute recently held a Tech On Wheels event for more than 65 high school students from the Carolinas. Students participating in the day-long event were given the opportunity to explore how science, technology, engineering and math principles are applied in the automotive industry. The event included hands-on activities that allowed students to discover the various computer technologies required to solve automotive diagnostics tests.

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