Harrison Burton is striving to do what it takes to make a name for himself as a NASCAR Cup driver

Anyone who chooses to pursue the same profession as their father understands all too well the challenges that come with it. The weight of an individual’s last name, the expectations that come with it, and the added burden of proving you got it. Having to work alongside the same people who only once knew you as a child at your father’s knee, and trying to make them see you as a man. The undercurrent of others’ concern thatYou will become just like your father.

At 21 years old, this is the path Harrison Burton has taken. The son of longtime NASCAR star Jeff Burton arrived at the end of his rookie season as a Cup driver, a season that featured a full gauntlet of ups and downs that ranged from finishing third at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to going upside down during the Challenge. Leading the Daytona 500.

The title of Rookie of the Year isn’t in Burton’s cards—that honor would go to Austin Cindric, who essentially finished that race with a Daytona 500 win on his way to the playoffs. But recent weeks have seen Burton and his Wood Brothers Racing team start to solidify their foundations for 2023. He’s led a season-high 15 laps in Texas, has two top-10 qualifying attempts in the last three races, and enjoyed a solid weekend at Martinsville that saw him finish 11th after That started in tenth place.

“I really feel like I’m starting to get to know the car in the last half of the season here. And I feel like we’re getting better,” Burton told CBS Sports in Martinsville. “It’s a different car to drive than other cars, and everyone has had that experience. But for whatever reason, it took me a bit to get a feel for what I was looking for.

“I’m starting to feel it now, I’m starting to qualify a lot better, which is really important. Trying to get to the next round and qualifying in the top 10 makes the weekend a lot better. For us it’s just about making every stage of the weekend “The weekend is better and trying to find more pace. And we’ve been discovering pace recently, now we just need to work on execution in the race. With pace, this becomes a lot easier. This is for sure.”

Growing up in a racing family, there was a time when racing was something Burton did just for fun and just to experience what his dad did for a living. After starting out winning late models while barely out of his teens, Burton ended up on the fast track for racing at NASCAR’s highest level—a place where he’s sometimes known as the son of Jeff Burton first and Harrison Burton second.

This is something that everyone who follows a parent in the line of work deals with differently. Some are sensitive to what the perception is about them, and they can be desperate to separate themselves and prove that they are a different person from their parent.

But Burton is proud of who his father is, and believes the 21-time Cup Series winner has set a fine example of hard work he seeks to emulate—even if the generational difference dictates that Harrison isn’t a carbon copy of the racer his old man was.

“I feel like I love the sport for different reasons than he does,” Burton said. “He always liked trying to come up with a setup that was better than anyone else and helping the crew chief build a setup on the race car. And in the early part of his career, that was what he really focused on. Then later in his career he kind of became more towards the world of The engineering is where we are now where the people who create the settings and the aerial platforms and all this stuff are way smarter than we are just for teaching them.And they’re just the really smart people.

“For me, I can work on a late model and I can use wrenches on cars, but I can’t keep up with a world-class race engineer, right? No way. So I kind of shifted focus in, as a race car driver I guess I’d say, I’ve I focused on being a race car driver and–obviously I know what’s going on under the car–but not necessarily making that my main job. My main job is to be the best driver I can be by watching data and watching movies. So as drivers, that’s kind of What sets us apart.”

As far as Harrison separates the man from Geoff the man, the younger Burton acknowledges that he doesn’t yet know for sure who he is as a person, since he’s still 21 and trying to figure out who his ideal self is and what that person looks like. What Burton has done with this endeavor is that he’s very secure about his identity — the “son of Jeff Burton” label doesn’t bother him.

“I’m my dad’s son. I’m proud of that. But I think the disconnect comes with winning races and winning championships and doing things you need to do to stay long in the sport — that’s all you have to do and win,” said Burton. “You look at Chase Elliott—you don’t really hear ‘That’s Bill Elliott’s son’ anymore, do you? You’re used to that. All he heard when he was little… I’m sure he still hears it, but now it’s just Chase Elliott.” And that comes with him being his own person, but it also comes with him winning races. Or Ryan Blaney. Same thing. He started winning a lot of races and got really fast, and now all of a sudden it’s just Ryan Blaney.

“So the effort to separate yourself isn’t necessarily an intentional effort. I think it’s just the effort that comes with success and makes your name through the only thing that matters in this sport, which is winning races. At the end of the day, you can talk all you want about doing this or being done.” So to be different and blah blah. But it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters, and will continue to matter in this sport, are the results. And they’re good. That’s how it should be.”

Results, whether in late models, in ARCA or in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, are what saw Harrison Burton complete his first full Cup season six years after he made his Truck Series debut. And the results—rather than being Jeff’s son or even just a member of the Burton racing family—is what Burton knows will ensure he has a future as a NASCAR driver. Or you will at least let him be satisfied no matter what the next six years as a race car driver have to offer him.

“I know I have the work ethic to succeed in this sport, I know I work at work and I can sleep every night and I know I do the best I can and I try to win as fast and as hard as I can,” said Burton. Otherwise, whatever happens.

“You just have to put in the effort, and then see what happens. My perfect world I could paint a million different ways, but really in six years time — if I’m still in the sport or if I’m out of the sport — I want to know I’ve done everything I can to win. It’s very easy to control, so I’ll just try to control that.”

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