Harrison Burton almost started his full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series career out with a win Saturday afternoon (Feb. 15) at Daytona International Speedway.
The second-generation driver finished second in the 2020 NASCAR Racing Experience 300 for his career-best finish in 10 NXS starts. But the 19-year-old rookie almost had his number one spot higher on the scoreboard.
Leader Noah Gragson had gotten a big gap ahead, but Burton had Timmy Hill pushing him and the duo had a huge run heading into turn 3 of the final lap. But a caution came out for a big wreck on the backstretch, ending the race under caution and giving Gragson the win.
“Well, I had the No. 66’s [Hill] help, and we were tight, backed up to each other really tight, and he did a good job pushing,” Burton said. “We just needed an extra two corners. I understand the caution had to come out because of safety and all that. That’s fine.”
Still, the result was quite the comeback for Burton and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He was involved in an incident on lap 61 and had a good bit of damage on the car.
“We fought back from a lot of adversity there,” Burton said. “My team did a good job of repairing it. We kind of still couldn’t really poke through the hole like we needed to.”
Despite Burton claiming the car wasn’t as good aerodynamically after the wreck, he still showed plenty of speed.
“I’m just really proud of my guys. We had a tough day,” Burton said. “I think that there was a couple of times where we were really down and out and our guys clawed out.”
Burton also had some luck, and he credited intervention from a fallen friend to help his cause. Dodging several wrecks late in the going, that set him up to sit fourth for the final restart.
“I was just happy to be in that situation, have a run at it and shot at it,” Burton said. “There were a couple times that we about got wrecked and missed it by an inch.
“But my buddy John Andretti had my back out there. It sucks I couldn’t win for him and his family. We were close, but just not quite in all the way.”
The second-place finish positions Burton nicely in his bid to compete for the 2020 NXS championship. Making the playoffs is important to him something he missed out on last year when he ran in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
“We had a lot of good points,” Burton said. “We hopefully don’t have to worry about points if we go next week and win the race. That’s our mindset. If we get good points, that’s good. But we’re here to win races, so I’m bummed out that didn’t happen. But at the end of the day, we can go home, have our car in one piece and be happy about that.”
Something that fuels Burton’s desire to win even more was watching Gragson’s elaborate celebration after scoring his first career win.
“Does he really have to do that?” Burton said as Gragson revved the engine while passing by the No. 20 driver on pit road.
“I wish I could have won it. Hopefully we can put this Supra in victory lane, though and finish the deal.”