What’s Happening?

Harrison Burton may be on the hottest of hot seats in 2024. He returns to The Wood Brothers for his third season, but, he failed to show much improvement in 2023. With this being a high-pressure year for Burton, what does he have to prove in 2024?

  • Harrison Burton had only 2 top-10s and 25 laps led with a 24.7 average finish in 2023. He finished a disappointing 31st in the standings as a result, four spots worse than 2022. He also had 6 DNFs, which was a slight improvement on 7 DNFs in 2023.
  • The Wood Brothers are one of NASCAR’s oldest and most historic race teams. They have won 99 races in their history with iconic drivers such as David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, and A.J. Foyt driving for them.
  • Fans are skeptical if Burton can make the jump in 2024. Fans don’t necessarily hate him, but, they are unsure about what his potential truly is.

Can He Show Genuine Improvement?

Burton needs to show legitimate, genuine improvement. This doesn’t mean getting 1 top-5 and 3 top-10s and finishing 26th in points. He needs to show that he is taking actual steps forward and consistently running in the top 15 or top 20.

He showed regression in 2022. He was worse in almost every statistical category including top-5s, laps led, points finish, average start, average finish, and lead-lap finishes. One of the only statistics he improved upon was DNFs, and he still had 6 of those.

Given that both of his seasons in the 21-car have been underwhelming, it’s legitimate to ask whether or not Burton can consistently compete near the front in the NASCAR Cup Series. He’s not proven he can do it with a race team that made the Playoffs just two seasons before Burton arriving. This team also has an alliance with Team Penske, which is one of the top race teams in the sport.

Speaking of which, Burton needs to prove that he can be a part of Penske’s future. No longer does Team Penske have an Xfinity Series team, so, if Burton does not pan out, they have an incentive to move off of him for another young driver. If Burton does not show improvement, his future becomes very murky.

Can He Keep His Car on the Track??

The biggest issue with Burton is his DNFs. He has 13 DNFs over two seasons, with 12 of those being incident-related. Team owners can live with a DNF here and there, provided the driver wins races. Kyle Larson, for example, had 8 DNFs in 2023, but, he had 4 wins and made the Championship 4.

The more a driver fails to finish races, the more bad finishes pile up, which hurts the average finish and points position. The easiest way for Burton to improve some of those underwhelming statistics is to keep his car on the race track more often. It doesn’t solve all of his problems, but, it can certainly help.

Keeping his car on the track will not only improve his finishes in races, but it will also give him more experience on the race track. As he gains more experience, he should gradually get better and better, along with being able to try more interesting strategies.

Now, staying on the track does not solve every problem. Burton had only 9 top-20 finishes in 2023, so, he needs to gain more overall speed while doing so, but, about a quarter of those finished outside of the top 20 are DNFs. It will do nothing but help, but, it’s not all he needs.

Will Harrison Burton find a way off of the hot seat in 2024? He has to make some big leaps if he wants to do so.