Toyota Racing – Harrison Burton
NASCAR Xfinity Series Quotes
AVONDALE, Arizona (March 6, 2020) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Harrison Burton was made available to media at Phoenix Raceway after qualifying was cancelled:
HARRISON BURTON, No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Did you expect to get your first win so early?
“Yes and no, like I knew we could, but I didn’t want to put a timeline on it because you never know in this sport especially. If you put together a great football team, you’re probably going to win a lot of games. You put together a great baseball team, you’re probably going to win a lot of games. There’s a lot – your A variables are controllable, and your B are uncontrollable – there’s a lot of Bs in racing. You have something happen that is out of your control and can take it away from you. I never wanted to put a time on it, but I knew we were capable of winning any weekend.”
Does winning take some pressure off?
“It takes a little pressure off, right. You’re locked into the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop working. I think we have an opportunity to do a lot of great stuff in the regular season that can help us in the playoffs and we saw last year with the 20 (Christopher Bell), 00 (Cole Custer) and 2 (Tyler Reddick), they were able to make it through the first round relatively easy because they had so many wins, so many playoff points. That matters. That gives you another weekend to learn and not be so stressed out and be getting better than your opponents who are having to work super hard on trying to get their stuff to win that weekend. Now, we’re going to go to every weekend with the opportunity to win and try to win because in this sport now, especially if you win, it makes your life a lot easier. We have an opportunity here to do a lot of great things that can help us later in the year as well.”
Do you feel there was pressure to perform based on the success this team has had before?
“Yeah, absolutely. That’s all right, that’s a good pressure to have. That means you’re in good equipment. It was my first full-time year in a NASCAR national series last year and we struggled a little bit at the time. I felt like at the end of the year we were not very good, we needed to keep fighting and work harder to get better and those steps didn’t happen in the truck, I think. It wasn’t a lack of effort. Sometimes you have seasons that are just bad. You can work as hard as you can and for whatever reason it just doesn’t click. This year, I have a different feeling about it. Obviously, we came out of the gate really strong with top-fives and a win and it’s been a good year so far. We just have to keep up that intensity and go out on the race track and try to prove something.”
How big of a chip did you have on your shoulder entering this season?
“The biggest one in my career. I’ve never gone a year where I didn’t win. I won last year, right, but in an ARCA car. I’ve never I don’t think in my life – well yeah, in K&N my first season I didn’t win, but I won late model races, I won a lot that year. I won races that kind of made me still know I could do it and be confident in myself. At the time, that was probably the roughest year, but last year was probably the roughest I’ve had in my entire career. There’s a huge chip on your shoulder to come out and be better, win races and prove to yourself and others you can do it. I always believed in myself that I could do it, but it’s hard to say that when you’ve not won yet. Getting that win, now it was only a season, but it felt like forever for me. Getting that win definitely made me feel a lot better.”
Is there anything you’d change from last year?
“I love the guys that I had there. I went every day and weekend excited to work with those guys because I had a great relationship with them. I feel like the biggest thing I needed to do last year and being a rookie in your first national touring series, it’s hard to be the team leader, right. You’re 18 years old, coming out of K&N, ARCA and you have to step up and be a leader as the driver of the race car – the quarterback. You have to rally the troops, you have to bring your guys up. I feel like I needed to do a better job of being a leader last year, and I needed experience. I was limited in mile-and-a-half experience, I was limited experience in trucks in general and I needed more experience and now I have experience on bigger tracks, and I have experience doing this and that. I feel like it comes easier for me now. Going to a new race track like last week, it’s the first time I ever raced at California. But going to that is less daunting than it used to be because I felt like I’m more prepared because I went through that learning experience last year. I feel like if I could change anything, I could have stepped up to be a better team leader and maybe that would have helped, maybe it wouldn’t. I felt like that’s where I needed to be better and I worked on that during this off-season quite a bit.”
Do you feel more comfortable now after winning?
“As a driver, you’re obviously not telling your guys to change this, change that. They know more about engineering, they know more about that stuff than you would, especially as a young guy. Kyle Busch might do that still, but as a young guy learning, you’re not doing that. Your job is to be more of a team leader, the guy that pumps everyone up to rally the troops. I’m way more comfortable doing that now. I’ve been given a setting where I’m able to do that now. Gibbs is a place they believe in you 100%, if they bring you in the building, the think you can win. That’s cool to be a part of an organization that believes in you and me and my team, I have a great crew chief and all my guys on the team down to the PR people – everyone believes in us and knows we can do it. That’s a fun place to be.”
Do you feel you’re earning the respect of guys who have been doing this a long time?
“That’s part of it. That’s something that gets over thought a lot. Trying to earn respect from the veterans is a thing that comes when you race people the way you want to be raced and you perform well and do your job, win races. They don’t like it when you win races, but it shows you belong at least. I think I have a great relationship with guys like Justin Allgaier who is a veteran. I’ve asked him for help before and he’s helped me out, especially my first races last year. Especially when I wasn’t competing with him for a championship, right. Now it’s fun to compete against those guys and try to get an edge. What’s so hard as a rookie, you’re going to places you’ve never been. You’re going against guys who have been there 20 times and you have to find a way to beat them. That comes with preparation, hard work, finding any advantage you can. I think it’s another thing I learned last year, is where can I be better than the next guy. It’s not do what the next guy does and try and copy that, it’s how do I be better.”
What are your impressions on this track?
“This track is unique. The dog leg presents a lot of challenges on restarts where you can put yourself in bad positions, but you can gain 10 spots if you have a really good restart and you’re at the back of the field. You can gain a whole lot of spots. There’s opportunities to gain and lose here on restarts especially. This track in turns three and four now, drives like a short track where you are on the brakes pretty hard and you have to hit the yellow line, but then you go into one and two and it drives like a mile-and-a-half because aero is really important. It can go all the way up to the PJ1, I saw guys running last year, especially the 00 (Cole Custer) ran up there in the Xfinity race last year. You’re able to kind of have more. Tools over there versus almost a short track where you get to the bottom, you have to be more discipline than that guy with a low straight exit and then set him up to pass in the dog leg. Then, you go into one and two and it opens up and it’s a whole other ball game. It’s a challenging place for sure.”
What was going through your mind in the closing laps last weekend?
“I was very focused on driving and just doing my job. I worked with a sports psychologist who is a guy who helps you get in that zone and focus. When I get in the car now, I notice that I’m able to focus better. That’s another step I took last year, or this off-season to get better, was working with a sports psychologist and how to have confidence and go to be able to 100% focus, not be thinking about what if I win, but think about I have to hit this corner right. That mindset change has helped me out. I was more worried about when to move to the top because it’s a risk every time you run up to the wall, so if you’re leading by two seconds, it’s hard to risk running by the fence, right. I’m thinking about that and then I have lapped cars and got held up a little bit and then it was just time to go up top and run as fast as you could. That’s when me and the 18 (Riley Herbst) kind of evened back out with a clean track and I had an aero advantage and I could go on the top. I was really, really focused on playing that card right and take the air away from my teammate Riley. I wasn’t really thinking about winning at that point, just trying to do my job.”
What makes Kyle Busch so good?
“What makes Kyle (Busch) good is precession but still being fast. He’s able to hit his marks and do his job really well and hardly makes mistakes. But he’s still doing that while being very fast. There’s guys who are super-fast all the time, but they sometimes slip up and miss parts and you can take advantage of that. Then there’s guys who are so worried about hitting their marks that they are not quite as fast on a lap time. Kyle is a mix of both. He’s someone that is going to hit his marks and be fast and he doesn’t make mistakes that he used to. He cannot make mistakes that he used to. What makes him good is experience I think as well. He’s got a leg up as well on me in that department for sure. I think he’s naturally talented and when you combine that with the work ethic and experience, then you get good results.”
Are there things you can pick up and learn from Kyle?
“Kyle (Busch) is obviously very good. Our goal is to be in front of him and to win. His goal is to be in front of us. Kyle is someone you can always watch and learn from. He drives so hard sometimes I think he is just going and if he gets out, I don’t know if he can tell you he’s fast. He just is. That’s someone that is just naturally talented.”
Did Kyle Busch text or call you after your win?
“So, I had 376 text messages. I went through as many as I could, and I feel bad I missed some. He might have been in there that I missed, but I still have unread text messages that you get wrapped up in the day to day deal. I try to call everyone back that texted me. Kyle (Busch) is always happy for especially ex-KBM guys. He’s normally pretty happy for them. He’s definitely a good guy to have around and learn from.”
What are you looking forward to at Atlanta?
“I have some experience at Atlanta. I’ve ran the trucks there, ran really good last year in the truck. I think I was running second most of the race to Kyle (Busch). I felt like I was a 10th faster than the field and he was a 10.5 faster than me. That was a good race for us. I finished eighth or so, had a bad restart. Ran up front all day. I have some experience at Atlanta. My teammate Riley (Herbst) tested there, which I think went really well for him. We can pick notes off him. I have a teammate Brandon Jones I can pick notes off of. He’s been in the series for five years now. A lot of experience in Atlanta between the three of us now. Honestly, the way I approach things now is I only look at race tracks that week. I haven’t done any Atlanta work yet, I’ve only done Phoenix work. As soon as I get home, that’s when Atlanta work starts. Monday morning I’ll be working out and we have our meetings, our pre-race meeting with my crew chief, my driver coach. We’re ready to go for Atlanta and ready to go any weekend.”
What is the mindset of a rookie after winning?
“It’s not pressures off. The goal is to win a lot of races. The goal is to win the championship. The goal is to be the best in the garage when you show up. We did our job that weekend. We did a good job that weekend. I was looking back whether or not we made right calls here or there and, in the end, it worked out because we won. That isn’t always going to be the case. There’s still things to learn, things to be better. We have a good result this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. We have to work harder to follow it up. We know we can do it, we know that we can contend and it’s our turn to adapt.”
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