Late-Race Accident Leaves Harrison Burton with 18th-Place Finish in Truck Series Opener
Harrison Burton had an eventful start to his first full-time campaign in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. After posting the eighth fastest time early in the opening practice session at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday afternoon, Burton and the No. 18 Safelite team experienced a motor failure late in the session and were forced to put in the backup motor. Per the rule book, that meant even though they posted the fourth fastest time in Friday afternoon's qualifying session, they were forced to start at the back of the field for Friday night's season opening NextEra Energy 250.
Burton's misfortunes continued during the race when he experienced a flat tire early in the race and went a lap down. After receiving the Lucky Dog and getting back on the lead lap, he experienced a pit-road penalty and lost another lap, but received another Lucky Dog and returned back to the lead lap once again. It appeared as though the resiliency of the Safelite team was going to pay off as the talented youngster was running inside the top five with just over 10 laps to go as he waited to make his move to bring home the victory.
With his KBM teammate Todd Gilliland behind him, Burton had a strong run and maneuvered to the high side of the track attempting to make his way into the top three, but Gilliland's push from behind came at the wrong angle and resulted in the two trucks caroming into the outside wall. The Safelite Tundra would be able to drive around the track and down pit road, but the damage was to severe to continue and the team was left with a disappointing 18th-place finish.
Stage One Recap:
- Burton was officially credited with starting the race from the fourth position, but went to the back of the 32-truck field for the start of the race due to the engine change. He had advanced to the 23rd position when the first caution of the race occurred on lap four.
- Crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. played the strategy card for the first time of the race when he summoned his young driver to pit road for a fuel-only stop. As Burton was exiting his pit stall, the team noticed a flat left-front tire and unfortunately the Safelite Tundra would have to return to pit road just as the field was getting ready to take the green flag to restart the race.
- After getting fresh left-side tires, the North Carolina native returned to the track but was all by himself and shortly after would go a lap down after getting passed by all of the trucks in the draft as they approached him.
- Fortunately, he was the only driver one lap down and would receive the lucky dog at the completion of the first stage. Burton was scored in the 28th position to end the stage.
Stage Two Recap:
- When pit road opened, Hillman Jr. summoned the Safelite Tundra to pit road for four fresh tires, a full tank of fuel, a chassis adjustment and with no spots to lose the team examined the left side of the truck to check for a steering issue that their young driver was reporting.
- Burton was scored in the 28th position when Stage Two went green on lap 26. He would slowly maneuver his way toward the front of the field during the stage, making it to the 13th position on lap 35 and had advanced to the ninth position when the stage ended on lap 40.
Final Stage Recap:
- Hillman Jr. played the strategy card again, calling for a fuel-only stop between stages. Burton would return to the track scored in the third position when the Final Stage went green on lap 46.
- The 18-year-old was scored in the second spot behind veteran driver David Gilliland when the fifth caution of the race occurred on lap 56. Burton tucked in close behind Gilliland as they hit pit road for another fuel-only stop. Misfortune struck again when both drivers were ruled by NASCAR to have advanced past the pace vehicle and were issued a one-lap penalty.
- After serving the penalty, the No. 18 Toyota returned to the track and fortunately received another Lucky Dog when a caution occurred on lap 65.
- When pit road opened, Burton brought the Safelite Tundra to the attention of his over-the-wall crew who administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their young driver to the track scored in the 15th position for the lap-67 restart.
- When the seventh caution of the night occurred on lap 78, the second-generation driver was scored in the eighth position. After going back green, Burton found himself with Gilliland running behind him.
- For the next 10 laps, the duo raced in the outside line of the field near the fifth-place position. With 11 laps remaining, Burton got a strong run and went to maneuver around a damaged truck in front of him that was holding up the line. As he moved to make it three-wide, Gilliland also had a strong run and attempted to give a bump to help his teammate work his way to the front of the field. Unfortunately, the bump resulted in the Safelite Tundra getting loose and shooting up the track into the outside wall. Gilliland also got collected and they would finish the race prematurely in the 18th and 19th positions, respectively.
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