ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards rookie Harrison Burton looked more like a veteran in his career-first superspeedway start, handily winning the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 Friday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.
Burton, in the No. 12 DEX Imaging-MDM Motorsports Toyota, drove away from his teammates over the final 10 laps to earn his second career ARCA victory in his fifth series start.
“That was awesome,” said Burton. “It’s my first superspeedway race, but it doesn’t matter to us. I have the best team behind me. This win is for John Andretti. Their family is going through a lot right now. He’s the toughest guy on the planet. If anyone can do it, he can.”
Burton struggled in the open test Wednesday, had a mechanical issue in practice, but put it all together in time to go to Victory Lane.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night, but it was all worth it. All that matters is family in this world and I got a great one behind me. This is so cool.”
Burton took the lead for good on lap 72 of the 80-lap/200-mile race, increasing his advantage by four-and-a-half seconds over his teammates Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith, who finished second and third respectively.
“That first three or four laps we got really loose,” said Creed, driver of the No. 12 United Rentals Toyota. “I couldn’t get in the gas in turn one. Turn three…we were junk. But the team just kept making great adjustments and it got a lot better. We had some great restarts, but the 12 was just too fast. I was driving hard and he still drove away.”
Smith, in the No. 41 LaPaz Margarita Mix-ICON Vehicle Dynamics Toyota, trailed in third.
“We started off really good in the beginning, but after our first pit stop, we got wreckin’-loose,” said Smith. “Then the car really came to me. With six laps to go it really hooked up and we were able to run down those two in front us.”
Travis Braden, in the No. 27 MatrixCare-Consonus Healthcare-Liberty Village Ford, finished fourth, a career-best superspeedway finish for the Wheeling, West Va. driver.
Riley Herbst drove the No. 18 NOS Energy-ORCA-Advance Auto Parts Toyota home in fifth.
Gus Dean made a nice recovery from a mid-race spin to finish sixth in the No. 32 GREE Cooling-Baker Distributing Chevrolet. Joe Graf, Jr. steered the No. 77 Big Tine Ford to the finish in seventh. Brennan Poole, who relieved Natalie Decker, finished eighth in the No. 25 N29 Capital Partners Toyota. Chase Purdy finished ninth in the No. 8 Bama Buggies Toyota. Noah Gragson was 10th in the No. 54 Switch Toyota.
Gragson, the General Tire Pole winner, dominated early on, leading 37 laps before he was penalized for a loose wheel in the pit box, which prompted ARCA officials to send him to the tail-end of the field. From there, Gragson never regained the momentum he had in the first half.
Other lap leaders included Creed, Smith and Herbst. Burton, who also recorded the fastest lap of the race, led 24 laps overall.
“The race felt so long, especially when I got out front,” Burton said. “Once you’re out front, you want that race to end so fast. I’m really proud of my guys. They really helped me with my handicap, which is my inexperience. It’s really cool to come out and win in my first superspeedway race. My crew chief Shane Huffman hit it right on the head…he just nailed it. It’s not what you do right or wrong; it’s the whole picture you have to paint.”
Burton’s mom, Kim Burton, joined her son in the media center after the race.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without my mom and dad. When my dad was off racing when I was really little, my mom was with me everywhere when I was racing. When I came across the line, I looked up at the big screen, and there she was. Family is everything.”