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VOL. 132 | NO. 98 | Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Harrison Burton, 16, Heads Memphis 125 Field

By Don Wade

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On Monday, May 15, at Memphis International Raceway, 16-year-old Harrison Burton made a testing run on the track that on June 3 will be the site of the Memphis 125.

Harrison Burton, 16, will be one of the favorites to win the Memphis 125 on June 3 at Memphis International Raceway in Millington.

(AP Photo/NKP, Logan Whitton)

“NASCAR has not been here since 2009,” said MIR president and general manager Pam Kendrick. “This is the start of a new era.”

In 2009 Ron Hornaday Jr. won the NASCAR Truck Series race at the track and Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race there. NASCAR drove off after that, but returns in a few weeks.

Burton comes into the June 3 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race as the season points leader (215) over second-place Todd Gilliland (197). Three other drivers are also within 40 points.

Harrison’s father, Jeff Burton, was a 21-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and now works as an NBC sports analyst. So Harrison was wired for this.

“It’s a lot of young guys trying to work their way into the highest form of racing,” Jeff Burton said. “They race really hard. It’s NASCAR racing at its core. Really good teams, really good young drivers. You’re not gonna come out here and watch follow the leader. I don’t know why they don’t fight more than they do.”

Harrison Burton is part of the NASCAR Next Program, a diverse group of up-and-coming drivers. More than a dozen graduates of the program are now racing in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup and Xfinity Series.

Burton won a K&N Pro Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and last week won at South Boston (Va.). Harrison had a positive impression of the MIR track and believes it sets up for an aggressive race day.

“Whole lot of places where you make passes happen,” he said. “I think you’ll see a lot of action out there.”

Although he’s leading the points race, he says he is pushing thoughts of winning the season’s points race away. At least for now.

“It’s been a really good year so far,” he said. “We don’t look at points totals yet. That’s in the last race.”

Jeff Burton says watching his son race now is actually easier than when he was little and running quarter-midgets and other parents, those who had never been behind the wheel of a race car, were at the fence and shouting criticisms at their kids.

“It looks so easy, but it’s not easy,” Jeff Burton said. “You want to say (to those parents), ‘Well, you get in the damn thing.’”

Harrison, by the way, only recently got a street driver’s license. No matter that he has been racing since he was 5 years old.

“He can’t drive after 9, though,” his father said.

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