Harrison Burton records bittersweet best finish of 2021 season at Darlington

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·3 min read
Harrison Burton records bittersweet best finish of 2021 season at Darlington
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DARLINGTON, S.C. — Despite scoring his best finish of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season on Saturday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, Harrison Burton wasn‘t satisfied.

Burton crossed the finish line in second place behind race winner Noah Gragson after an overtime restart in the 152-lap race at the 1.366-mile oval. Burton‘s teammate, Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin, appeared to have a strong grasp on the victory, but a caution on Lap 138 erased his lead over Gragson. Things went from bad to worse when the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Hamlin was penalized for equipment over the wall too soon during the final round of pit stops during the caution period.

RELATED: Official results | Gragson holds on in OT

That gave Burton an opportunity to give Gragson a run, but it ultimately fell short.

“Bittersweet,” Burton said. “It‘s hard to win and whenever you have a chance, it‘s like I gotta take advantage of this. The 54 (Hamlin) had some problems, I don‘t even know what happened, and that kind of opened the door for me and Noah. I just kind of didn‘t walk through it.

“Something about second always sucks worse than anything else because you feel like you‘re one move away or one run away from being in Victory Lane,” Burton added. “I think he (Gragson) was just better than us in (Turns) 1 and 2 and we were really strong through (Turns) 3 and 4. I just had to take some lines that I didn‘t really want to take, just kind of the opposite of what he did to try to get there and loosen him up. Just kind of didn‘t do my job getting up there.”

Before Darlington, Burton had four third-place results this season, coming at Daytona International Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway. It also served as Burton‘s ninth top five of the year.

Although a win slipped away, Burton was still proud of his team for overcoming the absence of crew chief Jason Ratcliff, sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols. The team has now produced four top-five finishes in the last six races with two races remaining in the Xfinity Series regular season.

“… Our whole team did a great job rallying together and everyone kind of pitched in to pick up the slack for Jason who‘s sitting at home,” Burton said. “We‘re all thinking of him and I really wish we could have won for him. Just wanted it real bad. Just frustrated, I guess.”

Burton‘s interim crew chief, Dustin Zacharyasz, echoed his driver‘s feelings about the second-place finish.

“Well, it‘s actually a little disappointing to be right there with the green-white-checkered (finish) and feel like you have a better car and just can‘t get it done is frustrating,” Zacharyasz told NASCAR.com. “I don‘t have this big moral buildup, best finish of the year, I just want to win races. Didn‘t get it done.”

“This team is capable of winning races,” he added. “We won quite a few races last year, so just trying to get back to that.”

With the playoffs in sight, Burton will use the Darlington result as more motivation to break into the win column.

“I just want to get this one back,” Burton said. “Make us work harder and be better.”