HARRISON BURTON, No. 21 Motorcraft/DEX Imaging Ford Mustang Dark Horse – IS THIS THE BREAKOUT YEAR? “We hope so. That’s definitely what we’ve been working for. I think all off-season has been really good with our group to kind of build around. We had 10 races together at the end of last year to really go through those. We know each other well and kind of look at things through the mental side of the sport for the last little bit of the off-season and get ready to go for this year. We’re really excited. I think our whole group is fired up and we believe we have the right group to make really, really cool and great things happen and it’s gonna be fun to try and do it.”

HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE PRESSURE THAT COMES WITH BEING AT THIS LEVEL? “I think I just have been ready for it. I don’t know. I’ve been racing for so long. I’ve been in a lot of high-pressure situations in racing and a lot of times the pressure is almost freeing. It’s a freeing feeling to know what’s on the line. That’s what you sign up for. This is a performance-based business and from day one when you sign up for that, you know that there’s gonna be pressure and that’s almost kind of fun. I enjoy that. I don’t really look at it as too much of a burden, really.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE 500 AND GIVE THE WOOD BROTHERS WIN NO. 100? “It would mean everything. Just to think about not only for the Wood Brothers, obviously, they’re sitting on 99 and probably the coolest people in the whole sport. That family is just amazing. They’re amazing people that are down to earth for all the things they’ve done. It’s amazing that they’re still around and working as hard at it as they are and care about it as much as they do. When we’re doing pit practice, Eddie Wood is out there watching us and things like that. It’s crazy. They deserve it more than anyone in the garage and, on top of that, to do it on the other side of the adversity we’ve had would be really special, I think. With this group to go out and make something like that happen here or any other race it would be pretty amazing.”

WHAT DO YOU DO TO CHANGE THAT NARRATIVE? BLANEY WON THE TITLE AND FORD SEEMS TO BE ON AN UPSWING. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO AS A TEAM? “I think we just have to put ourselves in position more often. I feel like we’ve had fast race cars before. We’ve run fast laps for solid amounts of time in races and we’ve had good runs before, but not as consistently as we need to. That’s frustrating almost more so than never doing well at all because you know you can do it. We know that this group can do it and we have the ability to do it, but it’s just about putting it together more often. I think we’ve found some keys to try and do that better this off-season and I’m excited to go out and try to put our theories to the test and see if we can improve on what we think we will.”

WHAT DID YOU SEE AS WEAKNESSES LAST YEAR THAT YOU ARE WORKING ON FOR 2024?  “Racing is really hard because there’s not ever 100 percent this is the smoking gun. There’s always so many variables. What I try to do is just look at myself and the things that I know I can control – decision-making is definitely at the top of that last, where you have to choose to be aggressive at times and choose to not be aggressive at times. I feel like for our team we just need to stay on the offense as much as possible. For us, this whole year is about never settling, never laying down, laying over and that starts with race one lap one and setting the tone for the whole year. Hopefully, in the Duels we go out and run well. Every lap matters and that makes it really easy for me as a driver to know we’re not gonna ride around in the back. There’s none of that. It’s just let’s go racing and that’s a fun kind of mindset that we’re trying to lean into for sure.”

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU NEED TO BE AGGRESSIVE. “I think so. If you’re gonna go down, you might as well go down swinging. That’s our feeling. The worst thing that happens is you end up hopefully running well and crashing. That’s something I can live with. One of my favorite races as a Cup driver is leading the Daytona 500 in my first Daytona 500 and flipping. I mean, I know it didn’t end well, but it was one of my favorites because for our first race as a group, to come out and try to be aggressive and win the stage was cool. That was a good feeling. The flip was obviously not my favorite part, but that mindset is what we need to carry throughout this whole season.”

FORDS HAVE BEEN REALLY GOOD ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS. DO YOU HAVE ANY FEEL FOR HOW THIS NEW CAR IS GOING TO DO HERE? “I think it’ll be good. I don’t see that it would be worse in any way. I’m excited to try and get out there. It’s all numbers for now. Even in the tests and things like that I’ve done, I haven’t driven it. Everyone else has had the tests, so other than the Clash, which is not really a good aero feeling race obviously, this is my first time putting it in the wind I guess you could say. I think it’ll be good. I’m excited to see how we qualify. I think that’ll be interesting. I know that some guys are gonna go for trying to get the pole and see where we are, so it’s gonna be fun to see where we stack up for sure.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TWO SUPERSPEEDWAY RACES TO OPEN THE YEAR WITH DAYTONA AND ATLANTA? “It’s gonna be interesting. You could find yourself in a pretty big hole if you get in two wrecks that you didn’t cause. That would be frustrating, but on the other side of that it’s very interesting to fire off for the first few races as a driver and know you’re superspeedway racing, but they’re very different places and the styles are very different and how you pass and how you maintain track position is very different. Honestly, it’s not like you can just prepare for Daytona and be prepared for Atlanta. It’s kind of still two very separate types of racing and it doesn’t seem too weird to me because of that. If we went to Daytona twice in a row or maybe Daytona and Talladega it would feel very odd, but, to me, going to Atlanta makes sense just because it’s a very different style of racing still and it’s kind of a strange hybrid and then we go to normal racing after that. I think it makes sense. I think it’ll be a good show and the fans will get a lot of action out of the gates and it should be a lot of fun.”

THE DAYTONA 500 CAN BE A BIG MENTAL DRAIN AND WITH ATLANTA AFTERWARDS IT WILL BE TOUGH.  “Yeah, for sure. You’ll be ready to go and be tired for sure on the plane ride home. From the Daytona 500 I remember last year how taxing it is just kind of mentally when you’re thinking through the end of those races and it’s high stress scenarios. We were leading fairly late, I think with 14 laps to go or so, and you’re just thinking through every decision so much and it happens so fast. It’s really a fun place to be because literally nothing else in the world even matters at all to you. It’s just racing and it takes your whole concentration, so it’s really fun and definitely after the race you feel it. I’m gonna be asleep on the plane ride home for sure.”

YOU ARE GOOD AT SUPERSPEEDWAY RACING. DO YOU FEEL HAVING TWO RACES TO START THE YEAR PLAYS TO YOUR STRENGTHS? “Yes and no. I feel like yes we’ve put ourselves in position to win before, but also I’ve wrecked almost every time. I feel confident in the decisions I’ve made to be up front late. I feel like that’s honestly always my goal at these races is just do what you have to do to be up front late and have a chance late because at the end of the race you can make every right decision and win, make every wrong decision and win, and so the way some of these things play out, obviously, you have to get really, really lucky if you make the wrong decisions to win, and normally if you make the right decisions you win, so it’s interesting to watch some of these races. I’ve watched a lot of Daytona 500s play out and there’s never a textbook guide on how to manage the last lap or manage the last two laps because you have so many variables on what others are gonna do. So, yes, it plays to your strengths, but also everyone feels somewhat nervous about the end of these races knowing there’s not a whole lot you can predict and control. You have to just more so react.”

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CALLED INTO THE NASCAR HAULER?  “Yeah, when me and Noah fought we both got called into the hauler. That was interesting. Wayne is like the sheriff of the Xfinity Series. I love Wayne Auton, but I was expecting we were gonna get yelled at and be in trouble and he was like, ‘Just don’t do it again, boys,’ and then walked away. I was like, ‘OK, cool.’ And now obviously me and Noah are buddies again, so it’s not really a big deal anymore, but back then it was the only time I’ve been called in the NASCAR hauler. That could be a good goal for this year, try to get called in. All the good guys get called in. You think about Harvick of those guys that are always on the edge. You’ve got to go over it sometimes, I guess, so that’s a good goal for me. I’ll put that on the white board.”

WAYNE HAS A REPUTATION OF BEING THE PRINCIPAL. “I felt like I was in high school and just got in a fight and the principal is gonna be mad at me. Me and Austin Cindric joke all the time that Wayne is the ‘not in my series guy.’ He’s awesome. The way that he’s managed that series is great and he’s just one of those guys that calls you every holiday still and checks in on you and he’s just a stand-up dude. We all love Wayne, but for those few moments I was really scared of Wayne, that’s for sure.”

Ford Performance PR