Harrison Burton came to Dover International Speedway hoping to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East finale and walk away with the 2017 championship.
He did just that.
The Huntersville, North Carolina, native passed Ruben Garcia, Jr. with just 16 laps to go in the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation 125 and pulled away before a late race caution set up an overtime finish. On the restart, Burton was able to pull away again and score the victory.
By virtue of his win, and mid-race misfortunes of the other title contender, Todd Gilliland, Burton clinched his first NASCAR championship. The NASCAR Next driver became the youngest champion in series history. He broke the record set by current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Joey Logano, who won the 2007 K&N Pro Series East championship at 17 years, 3 months, 28 days.
"What an honor to win both the race and championship at Dover, it’s pretty freaking cool," Burton said. "It’s what I dreamed to do as a kid, win races at tracks like this and win NASCAR championships. To come out and do that is pretty surreal. I’m pretty pumped up about it."
It was the fifth win of the season for Burton, who entered the last race trailing Gilliland by eight points.
"This race kind of caps it all off for this team," Burton remarked. "A bunch of guys who never quit and I’m glad I fit into that system where people that put everything we got into what we’re doing. Now that it’s all come to fruition and we got to bring home two trophies, it’s a big relief and we’re going to go have fun now."
Burton is the first driver to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship and the season finale in the same season since Mike Stefanik wrapped up his 1998 title with a win at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park. Burton is also the first driver to cap his championship season with a win at Dover.
Burton's dad, Jeff, won the Cup race at Dover in 2006.
Gilliland qualified fourth and looked strong early until lap 56 when he blew a tire, sending him into the wall in Turn 2 and ending his day.
"This one is really disappointing," said Gilliland, a fellow NASCAR Next driver who is also leading the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship standings with three races to go. "I felt like we had pretty good control of it going in here. We were just as fast as Burton in the race. Just having a tire go down like that is heartbreaking for sure. I’m really proud of everyone at Bill McAnally Racing. We’ve had the fastest cars here all year, just didn’t have the luck to go along with it."
The misfortune also cost him an opportunity to become the first driver to win two NASCAR championships in one season since Mike Stefanik won two NASCAR North and Modified Tour championships from 1997-1998.
Gilliland finished 13th, giving Burton a final margin of eight points (593-585). Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished third in points, followed by Sunoco Rookie of the Year Chase Purdy and Garcia.
Eddie MacDonald finished second in the race while Tyler Dippel, Sheldon Creed and Jay Beasley rounded out the top five.
Enrique Baca was sixth, followed by Riley Herbst, Collin Cabre, Bassett and Garcia. The complete results can be found below.
1. Harrison Burton2. Eddie MacDonald3. Tyler Dippel4. Sheldon Creed5. Jay Beasley6. Enrique Baca7. Riley Herbst8. Collin Cabre9. Ronnie Bassett, Jr.10. Ruben Garcia Jr.11. Chase Cabre12. Trey Hutchens13. Todd Gilliland14. Dillon Bassett15. Chase Purdy
By Andy Marquis
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