INDIANAPOLIS — A hallmark of a NASCAR Cup Series veteran is knowing how to take advantage of any opportunity. In his 23rd NASCAR Cup Series start, Harrison Burton took advantage of late-race opportunities in Sunday’s Verizon 200 to score his first top-five finish in Cup competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
After a late debris caution, Burton restarted 17th with three laps to go in the scheduled 82-lap distance. Burton found open race track as Chase Elliot spun from second place and other drivers had incidents. and moved up to 10th place.
NASCAR threw another caution for Austin Dillon’s car in the Turn 4 gravel trap and the field lined up for another restart in NASCAR overtime. Starting ninth, Burton avoided the effects of the Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney and AJ Allmendinger contact. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was now in fourth place.
“I didn’t know where I was going, it was nuts,” Burton said to media on pit road. “But when I kind of finally got the car settled and I looked up and there were only three guys in front of me at that time, I was like, ‘Well hey, that worked out!’ So to go from 17th to ninth then from ninth to third on those last two restarts, I was getting really aggressive and getting after it.”
However, one of those three cars in front wouldn’t finish there. Ross Chastain missed Turn 1, using an access road to re-join the circuit to battle race leader Tyler Reddick. NASCAR penalized Chastain 30 seconds for not slowing down to offset the time gained. That penalty elevated Burton to third behind Reddick and Austin Cindric.
“That last few laps there, I was kind of wanting to go try and charge and catch those three that were out front,” Burton told TobyChristie.com. “And then I kind of thought, my best bet was that they all wipe each other out anyway. So once that restart happened, which is really just chaos and max aggression, once that happened, I was kind of honestly just waiting and trying not to make mistakes. Obviously still driving hard, but just trying not to screw this up at that point.”
Burton started 13th in the 38-car field, running as low as 32nd after an early spin. That situation changed after a Lap 61 pit stop under caution.
“At the end of the day, we weren’t doing our jobs at the start of the race,” Burton said. “We didn’t execute well. I made a mistake, spun out, got into (Cole) Custer there so I was kind of pretty upset midway through the race.
Turn 1 has been the trouble spot all day.
Harrison Burton locks 'em up and gets into Cole Custer. #NASCAR
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 31, 2022
“Then (we) just got our heads down, came in, got tires and started picking guys off. (We) restarted in a good spot and got some more (positions) and it was just exciting. I’m proud of our team to keep persevering through those tough moments.”
Burton’s last NASCAR top-five was a third place at the 2021 Xfinity Series season-ending race at Phoenix.