As the old saying goes, you can’t win a championship in the first three races of the season, but you certainly can lose one.
Or can you?
If there is any sportsman racer in the entire NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series who is suited to putting that theory to the test, it’s Brad Burton.
Already a two-time Stock eliminator world champ, Burton is among the early season favorites to capture the title in Super Stock following his recent win at the NHRA Four Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. That win comes on the heels of Burton’s win a few weeks earlier at the Arizona Nationals.
After four races, Burton has two wins and a runner-up at the Division 7 Lucas Oil Series event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix. The only blemish on his record, if you can even call it that, is a round two loss in the second half of the Phoenix D7 double-header.
“It’s definitely premature to start thinking about a championship. I’m just happy to get a couple of wins to start the season,” said Burton, who is now an impressive 11-4 in national event finals. “Look what happened to me last year in Stock. I got off to a great start, was in the same position with a nice lead, and finished with a No. 2 on the window. The lesson I’ve learned is that you just need to keep winning rounds and let the points take care of themselves.”
Historically, Burton has become synonymous with the bright red Firebird that he races in Stock. That’s the same car that carried him to Stock world titles in 2010 and 2012. He continues to race that car, but his recent success comes in Super Stock behind the wheel of the family’s GT/FA Firebird. The plain white Pontiac hardly draws more than a passing glance in the pit area, but on track, it’s a fan favorite thanks to sky high wheelstands on almost every run. Burton hasn’t been too inclined to tame the car since it’s been incredibly consistent.
“We bought this car about seven or eight years ago and the original plan was for me to drive it,” said Burton. “Since then, I’ve had limited success, to put it nicely, so my dad [Scott] drives it most of the time. Normally, he’s been in a position to finish in the Top 10 so he sticks with it. This time, we decided to switch and so far it’s working well.
“The car is probably the best it’s ever been,” Burton said. “Dad built a fresh [engine] and all of that helps. I think any driver will tell you that when they have confidence in the car, it makes the job so much less difficult. I’m at a place right now where my confidence is at an all-time high. I’’ve been decent on the starting line and making the right decisions at finish line, and for whatever reason luck has turned my way.”
Luck may or may not have played a part in Burton’s first win in Phoenix. Racing equally hot Kyle Rizzoli in the final, Burton was perfect in almost every way with a .000 light and a 9.332 on his 9.33 dial that left his opponent with no options.
“I wasn’t trying to be .000 there; I typically set up to be .015-020,” said Burton. “Then again, I think that’s part of the reason why I have a halfway decent record in final rounds [11-4] because I tend to swing for the fences a little bit. I know Kyle well and obviously he’s hot right now. I’d shoot myself if I was .050 on the Tree cause you’re not getting away with it.”
The Las Vegas final presented a few challenges of its own. Burton was paired with up-and-coming Trey Vetter, who was driving the same quick SS/BM Cobalt that Justin Lamb has used to dominate previous Las Vegas races. Burton was solid again with a .020 light, but Vetter was quicker with a .015. At the finish line, Burton made the bold decision to drop, and sent Vetter to a .01-second breakout.
“That was a tough decision to make but sometimes you just do what you think is right and live or die with the results,” Burton said. “I watched the Stock final ahead of me and it was a double-breakout and I watched the wind so it just seemed to make sense.
Burton will return to Las Vegas this weekend for the Division 7 double-header and that could go a long way towards determining his championship. Racing out of the Pacific Northwest, he will likely have to wait until the final events of the season to determine his fate.
“I’d like to have a season like 2012, where I had it wrapped up by August, but I don’t’ see that happening,” Burton said. “I’m just grateful to be able to do this and have the support of my family. The Vegas win was special because it was the first for my daughter, Lily.”
In addition to his daughter, Burton also counts on the support of his parents, Scott and Diane, his wife, Brooke, as well as Dave Barcelon, Goodyear Tires, and Renegade Fuels.