The idiom goes, ‘To be the man, you have to beat the man.’
Jeff and Harrison Burton want to see their No. 12 Super Late Model team eventually become “The Man” in Short Track Racing. However, it was clear that changes were necessary following a challenging start to the season.
Everything started well enough when the 14-year-old Burton went to Victory Lane twice in the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway in February. A month later, he finished seventh against a stacked field in the Rattler 250 and it seemed as though the second generation driver was poised to build on that momentum.
Instead, his team took a noticeable step backwards when Burton struggled to crack the top-10 in star-studded races like the CARS Tour debut at Southern National and the Southern Super Series return to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in March and April respectively.
“We’ve been horrible in these CARS Tour races,” Jeff Burton said over the weekend. “We came here in the first race and we got lapped and we were just horrendous.”
To right the ship, the Burtons decided to start over.
They sold each of their Hamke Race Cars and replaced them with newer model frames. The decision to start from scratch led to a mutual parting from veteran crew chief Freddie Query and the hiring of Midwestern short track ace Chris Wimmer to replace him.
Not even Jeff and Harrison expected the changes to pay off this quickly as their No. 12 has been transformed overnight back into a contender, winning the SSS event at Mobile two weeks ago and finishing third this past weekend in the CARS return to Southern National.
Given their mighty struggles at Lucama in March, the younger Burton was more than pleased with the results — even though he wasn’t able to post back-to-back victories.
“It felt really good to get a top-3 at Southern National,” Harrison said. “We struggled really bad there. We struggled everywhere for a little bit, really. We got Chris Wimmer now and he’s getting our stuff right and that was just our third race together.
“There’s a lot more to come from us and I’m excited about it.”
Harrison was quick to praise his crew, who tirelessly worked several long weeks in order to have his cars ready within a month of the reset — even making this bold statement about the quality of the people at Jeff Burton Autosport.
“They are working hard and I wouldn’t have any other crew,” Harrison said. “If someone offered me a Hendrick Motorsports crew, I wouldn’t take them. That’s how hard our guys work. We definitely have more to come.”
His dad agrees, saying there was no shame in being beat by Kyle Busch Motorsports and Cole Timm on Saturday night in Lucama. He conceded that he still has a lot to learn about preparing the cars and mentoring his son, while Harrison also has a lot to learn as a driver despite his advanced skillset.
“We got beat by the best Super Late Model team in the country and that’s okay,” Jeff said. “But we want to be the best Super Late Model team. We still have a little bit more work to do if we are going to get there.”
Next up for the Burtons is the debut Southern Super Series race at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Georgia on Saturday night. Chase Elliott has also entered the race, providing the Burtons yet another shot at beating one of the best teams and drivers in the industry.
Race22.com Editor Andy Marquis contributed to this story.