No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry: Harrison Burton Talladega Advance

Gaunt Brothers Racing

● Harrison Burton, the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year, will make a historic NASCAR Cup Series debut when he gets behind the wheel of the No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) during Sunday’s GEICO 500at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The 20-year-old Burton will become the first driver born in the 2000s to take part in a Cup Series race. He was born on Oct. 9, 2000.

● The son of 21-time Cup Series winner Jeff Burton will take the reins of the No. 96 Toyota for the part-time team’s fourth event of 2021. GBR competed with veteran driver Ty Dillon at its previous three events, most recently at the Food City Dirt Race on the half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval four weekends ago.

● Burton is in his second year as driver of the No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, in which he will be making his milestone 50th career start during Saturday’s Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega. Last year, he posted four wins, 15 top-fives, 22 top-10s and led 291 laps led en route to earning top rookie honors. Through the first seven Xfinity Series races this year, he has best finishes of third at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, and has led 84 laps.

● Not only will Burton become the first driver born in the 2000s to pilot a Cup Series car on Sunday, he’ll become the youngest to drive the No. 96 GBR Toyota. Jesse Little, previously the youngest, was 21 years of age when he drove it at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race at Bristol.

● Sunday’s race will be Burton’s eighth stock car start on a superspeedway and fourth at Talladega. His best Xfinity Series finish at the mammoth 2.66-mile oval was 23rd last October. He finished 11th in the 2019 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega, driving the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra. On Talladega’s sister track at Daytona, Burton scored a victory in the 2019 ARCA Menards Series season opener, leading a race-high 48 laps behind the wheel of the No. 20 Venturini Motorsports Toyota and edging runner-up Todd Gilliland by .112 of a second. He also has top-five finishes in all three of his previous Xfinity Series outings at Daytona, including a runner-up finish in the 2020 season opener to Noah Gragson, and a third-place finish in this year’s season opener.

● Despite Harrison’s youth, the second-generation driver has been racing for 16 years. He started in Quarter Midgets at age 4, eventually winning three national championships (2009, 2011 and 2012). By 11, he was also racing Late Model stock cars, winning his first pole in 2011 at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, North Carolina, and earning his first win in 2012 at Dillon (S.C.) Motor Speedway.

● Burton has been climbing the racing ladder ever since, winning his first Pro Late Modeldivision race in February 2014 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway to become the youngest Division I winner in the history of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. When Burton made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West debut in October 2015 at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, he became the youngest driver to compete in that series at just 15 years, eight days old.

● Burton has raced and won at nearly every level he has competed, with victories in Super Late Models, the K&N Pro Series, the ARCA Menards Series and the Xfinity Series. Along the way, Burton won the 2017 K&N Pro Series East championship and some of the biggest Late Model races in the country, including the 2017 World Series of Asphalt Championship at New Smyrna, the 2017 ARCA/CRA Super Late Model Series Speedfest at Crisp Motorsports Park in Cordele, Georgia, the 2018 Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway in Kinston, and the 2018 World Series 100 at New Smyrna.

● The No. 96 DEX Imaging Toyota Camry will be making GBR’s 76th start since joining the Cup Series as a part-time team in 2017. Team owner Marty Gaunt’s almost two-decades-long relationship with Toyota dates back to his ownership of the Toyota-powered Clean Line Racing team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which became Red Horse Racing, as well as his executive role in the formation of the Red Bull’s nascent Toyota-powered Cup Series team. Gaunt’s Toyota ties strengthened after the 2008 season when he purchased Triad Racing Development, which leased Toyota engines across NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and Truck series and continues to be NASCAR’s exclusive distributor of Toyota parts as Triad Racing. Gaunt founded GBR in 2010, with his eponymous team starting out in the Canada-based NASCAR Pinty’s Series and the U.S.-based NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Its first driver, Jason Bowles, scored GBR’s maiden victory in the 2011 Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in California, with the precursor to that win being the pole position in track-record time at the 2011 Streets of Toronto 100. After seven years competing in NASCAR’s development divisions, Gaunt stepped up to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. His team contested the full Cup Series schedule with Daniel Suárez in 2020, but scaled back its focus in 2021 to the superspeedway and road-course races with an eye toward the introduction of NASCAR’s Next Gen Cup Series car in 2022.

● Supporting Burton throughout his rise to the NASCAR Cup Series is DEX Imaging, the nation’s largest independent dealer of imaging equipment. DEX Imaging is the digital document imaging division of Staples, the world’s largest business solutions provider. Founded by the father-and-son team of industry innovators Dan Doyle and Dan Doyle Jr.DEX Imaging sells and services the broadest selection of copiers, printers and data management solutions in the industry, such as Konica Minolta, Canon, Kyocera and HP. The family-based company is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and has more than 50 locations in the eastern United States.

You’re going to be making history this weekend as the first driver born in the 2000s to start a NASCAR Cup Series race. What does that mean to you?

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity. It’s a dream come true, and it’s pretty neat to think back on all the days that I spent working and taking my parents’ time away and travelling all over the country with them trying to race. And everyone in NASCAR along the way, whether it’s KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) or Joe Gibbs Racing who have helped me be a better racecar driver and get to where I am now, it’s nuts. It’s something I’ll never forget. I’m excited to be here, but I’m a competitive guy, so just being there isn’t enough. I’m really looking forward to working hard and trying to get a really good run out of it.”

Your sponsor DEX Imaging has been with you since you were 13 years old and is joining you for your first Cup Series start. That has to be something special.

“It’s crazy. DEX Imaging, when we first started our partnership, it was a company I hadn’t really seen or heard of. When I met the people there, they became like family very quickly. Being that young and having someone believe in you is crazy. And they obviously are happy to be participating in NASCAR. They’re on (Ryan) Blaney’s car in Cup, they’re on my Xfinity car, and now on my Cup car. It seems like every sporting event I’m watching, they’re on the board. I’m watching the (NBA’s Charlotte) Hornets game the other day and I see DEX Imaging scrolling across the screen, and I thought, ‘Gosh, that’s so cool.’ To think about them taking a flier on me when I was 13 and growing from Late Models to K&N to Trucks to Xfinity and now to Cup is pretty wild. It’s something that not a lot of people have had happen to them.”

What was your dad’s reaction when you introduced the idea of wanting to be a racecar driver when you were younger?

“Dad kind of felt the need to put me through the wringer to find out. Hey, it’s a fun hobby if you’re a young kid to go Quarter Midget racing, but there’s a difference between wanting to do it for a living as a kid and having to feed your family driving a racecar and the amount of commitment that it takes when you’re older. He ran me through the wringer, working every day after school. Whenever we were testing, it was long hours and he didn’t let me get out of the car, made me stay in there. I think those are the moments that made me who I am today and I’m really thankful for it. Those were the moments when you really had to dig deep and realize you really did want to do this because quitting was never an option.”

How do you feel about Talladega being the track where you’re making your Cup Series debut?

“Talladega’s a tough track, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on and there’s a high attrition rate. You want to find a way to learn and be aggressive, but also not crash, so there’s a lot going on there. In this sport, you’ve got to be versatile. Jon Gruden (head coach of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders) has a football saying that goes something like, ‘The best ability is availability.’ So, I’m ready to go do it and ready to take it on. Superspeedway racing is a part of our sport that is very important. Our biggest race of the year is held at a superspeedway. So I’ll be trying to figure that out, trying to learn, and be the best I can be for hopefully more opportunities down the line, and I think it’ll make me a better Xfinity driver, as well. I think, gosh, I’ve made the right decision and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Superspeedway racing is all about working how you work with teammates and other drivers. You’re literally going to be the new kid on the block this weekend. How do you plan to work with other drivers?

“Every time I’ve made a jump into the next series, you always look at the veterans you’re racing around and you think, ‘Oh, man, I know that guy and it’s pretty cool,’ so I think there will be some of that. But I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of those guys ever since I was a little kid and they know me. Somebody who’s been helping me, recently, has been Denny Hamlin. I’ve been wearing him out on the phone trying to get better. I asked him for some pointers when this Cup deal was announced and he was happy to help and I appreciate that. I think a lot of the veterans are more than happy to help. It’s just a matter of reaching out and asking for it.”

Do you feel like your performance this weekend can and will lead to other Cup Series opportunities?

“That’s what I want, I want to be a Cup driver one day. This race is about trying to learn a lot, obviously really quickly, with no practice and no qualifying and just getting in there and going. It’s trying to learn a lot and trying to do the best I can, and if that opens more doors, it’ll open more doors, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. For me, it’s a great experience to be even talked about to run more Cup races, or even a Cup race. I’m just focused on the moment right now. The best thing I can do as a driver is focus on the next weekend and trying to be the best I can be then, and hopefully the chips will fall where they will.”

What kinds of things have you been doing to prepare for this weekend?

“For me, preparing has helped me a lot recently to be better. I think the way I’ve prepared has changed a little bit. I’ve got some great people with me who are helping me with that. For me, preparation has been key, watching a lot of race film. The simulator is great for tracks where you’re not running single file like you do at Talladega. You can’t really simulate the draft and what’s going to happen in there. So it’s kind of tough to prepare for this one because there’s no real, accurate way to do sim for it. There’s no real, accurate way to feel anything other than just watching and kind of imagining what it will feel like and trying to prepare yourself the best you can that way. But I’ve been doing everything I can and making the notes I can and, when the time comes, I’ll attack it.”

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