Harrison Burton and the No. 21 DEX Imaging team are off to Watkins Glen for Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen, a 221-mile race over the 2.454-mile, 11-turn race at the historic track in New York’s Finger Lakes region.
Burton, speaking this week on a teleconference hosted by Ford, said he’s encouraged by the results of the past three Cup races, which were won by Mustang drivers Chris Buescher, at Richmond and Michigan, and Michael McDowell on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The Fords are capable,” Burton said. “Now it’s up to our own group to go figure out and try to figure out how to do it and what direction we need to go in to be able to do that. I already feel like we’ve made steps on our oval program.”
A big part of Burton’s pre-race preparation each week is spending time in the simulator provided by Ford Performance.
“I get four hours a week in the Ford simulator, and I’m always in there kind of doing last week’s race track,” he said, adding that he usually divides his time between laps on the most recent track and on the upcoming venue. “I was in there 7-11 a.m. [Tuesday], and I was able to kind of work on last week and kind of ran Indy some to make that more accurate.
“[I] also worked a lot on Watkins Glen trying to get the setup accurate and all that. That process gets kind of ‘rinse-and-repeated’ for me throughout the whole year.”
Time in the simulator is especially important for a younger driver like Burton.
“The better your simulation program is, the more accurate you can touch things up at the race track, fire off the truck and be fast,” he said. “With 20 minutes of practice and right into qualifying… the changes you can make are very limited….
“It’s really, really important to show up with your stuff sorted out the way it needs to be. For us, the only way we can do that is with the simulator, in our eyes, so we try to really focus on that every weekend.”
Burton said one area of focus for Watkins Glen is maximizing his performance in the bus stop, the chicane at the end of the backstretch.
“I think the bus stop is probably the most important lap-time corner at Watkins Glen,” he said. “It’s where you’re going to kind of make your most or lose your most laptime, well at least for me in the past.”
Crew chief Brian Wilson said he’s tuning the DEX Mustang to give Burton what he needs at the bus stop and other similar spots on the track at Watkins Glen.
“Last week was a step forward in our road-course program in terms of the braking zones,” Wilson said. “We look to continue that at Watkins Glen and give Harrison a little more turn mid corner.”
Burton said that overall, he, Wilson and the entire DEX Imaging team have high hopes for this weekend’s road-course run.
“I think we made some gains,” he said. “We didn’t put the whole picture together last weekend, but with the knowledge we gained from last weekend, I think we have a good chance to have a good set-up and run really well.”
Practice for the Go Bowling at the Glen is set for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and will be immediately followed by qualifying.
Sunday’s 90-lap race is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m.
Stage breaks are planned for Laps 20 and 40. USA Network will carry the live TV coverage all weekend.