Harrison Burton, No. 21 Team 'Still Fighting' After Second Top-10 Result of 2023 at Pocono

The second-year driver picked up an eighth-place finish in Sunday's HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, marking his third-best finish in the NASCAR Cup Series.


hero image for Harrison Burton, No. 21 Team 'Still Fighting' After Second Top-10 Result of 2023 at Pocono

It’s been a difficult season for second-year driver Harrison Burton and Wood Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series this year, currently sitting 29th-place in series point standings, with only five races until the post-season.

In a season where most Ford teams have seen a drop-off in performance, Burton is one of the few whose results have remained relatively consistent, with the Huntersville, North Carolina native’s average finish only dropping 0.09 spots from this point a season ago.

However, an eighth-place run in Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400 at Pocono Raceway could be a sign of stronger runs to come for the organization, which has collected four top-15 results in the opening 21 races of the year, just one fewer than the team’s total from 2022.

Starting from outside the top-25, Burton spent the vast majority of Sunday’s 160-lap contest running in the second half of the pack, attempting to claw his way forward and overcome a massive deficit of track position at a track well-known as being difficult to pass on.

Like several of the drivers running outside the top-10, the 22-year-old driver found himself getting off-strategy, a move by crew chief Brian Wilson to secure the No. 21 DEX Imaging Ford Mustang track position in the late stages of the event.

Pitting under caution with 54 laps to go, Burton would take advantage of slightly fresher tires to gain some track position before the green-flag pit cycle. Though, as the leaders slowly started to peel off to pit road, Burton stayed on track, spending about 12 laps inside the top five before his final stop.

Burton and the No. 21 Ford Mustang elected to take two tires on the final pit stop of the race, which gained them some additional track position. Then, another caution, just five laps after the team’s final pit stop of the afternoon, ensured Wilson had a decision to make.

Staying on the track, Burton would surge into the top-10 by the time the race got back underway with 12 laps to go and would continue to hold serve there throughout several chaotic late-race restarts, getting up to eighth when the checkered flag was displayed.

“It was a good finish for us,” said Burton. “We were mired in traffic all day and that makes it hard, and we struggled for handling but made a few changes at the end and that got the car pretty good right before the long green-flag cycle, and I could kind of run long. A lot of those guys pitted themselves into traffic and we were able to have clean air and click off faster lap times. We pitted and came out in front of a lot of those guys, so that helped us a lot.

“The strategy at Pocono is always fun, so it’s fun to kind of know what’s going on and know that you have to go run fast laps because the guys behind you are trying to do the same. It worked out to where we pitted out in front of them. The guys did a good job on pit road to do that and the last few restarts I just tried to be aggressive and keep moving forward and got a few more spots. It was a decent day for us.”

Despite struggling early in the race with speed, Burton notices a positive trend from him and his Wood Brothers Racing team, having scored back-to-back top-20 finishes (Loudon and Pocono) for the first time since May.

“The last two weekends have been better for us,” Burton explained. “This weekend I was disappointed the first little bit because it wasn’t very good and then found a way to keep digging and claw out of it. Last weekend was the opposite. The first three-quarters of the race was really good and then the end just got cycled back on some restarts.”

“It’s good to finish on the good side of it this weekend and keep fighting throughout the day and not give up on making the race car better. We definitely did that. It’s a good finish for us, like I said, and I’m proud of our guys. There’s not a lot of quit on this race team. We’ve been through hell and high water, but we’re still fighting.”

Burton and Wood Brothers Racing will have five more opportunities to lock themselves into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, which will require a victory in one of the remaining regular-season events at Richmond, Michigan, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Daytona.

With Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Road Course being the site of Burton’s sole top-five result in the NASCAR Cup Series, and Daytona being unpredictable as always with a strong superspeedway program for Ford, you never know, maybe the No. 21 could snipe their way into the playoffs.

Image Credit: Rachel Schuoler, NKP, Courtesy of Ford Performance

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