Jeff Burton's accomplishments in the NASCAR Cup Series have made him a multi-time nominee in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He was the 1994 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year, and, during his 20 full seasons as a Cup driver, he raced to 21 wins and 254 top-10 finishes. Still, Burton is not a NASCAR Hall of Famer. He never won a Cup title. He never won a Daytona 500. Those glaring omissions on Burton's resume are partly due to a guy named Jimmie Johnson, only one of the greatest to ever step foot inside a stock car. During the bulk of Burton's career, Johnson was dominating the Cup Series, winning two Daytona 500s and seven Cup championships. You better believe that Burton has never forgotten what it was like to compete against the most dominant driver of NASCAR's modern era.
Today, the 55-year-old Burton is an analyst for NBC Sports and one of the new co-owners of the CARS TOUR, while his his 22-year-old Harrison is about to kick off his second full-time season in the Cup Series. Heading into this year's season, Harrison finds himself in an exciting position: he may actually get the chance to take on Johnson in the Daytona 500. Making his limited return to the Cup Series after his retirement in 2020, Johnson is a qualifying run away from securing a spot in the "Great American Race." If there's one guy rooting for Jimmie to get the job done, it's Harrison Burton.
"I always hated Jimmie Johnson when I was a little kid because he would win all the races I wanted my dad to win and win the championships that, my dad, I wanted him to win," Burton told NBC Sports.
"So, I have to beat him to avenge my dad, right?"
Obviously, Harrison doesn't have any sort of deep-seated blood feud against Jimmie Johnson, and his desire to beat the seven-time champ is probably more of a back-of-the-mind goal then something he's been planning for years and years. Like all of the young Cup drivers who have never competed professionally against Johnson (and there are only a few), Burton is probably more excited about the prospect of getting to face off against a NASCAR legend than exacting cold, calculating revenge.
"It's really cool for a young guy like me to race someone that has won seven championships in our sport," Burton said. "When you first get into Cup, that's not even like a thought in your brain that I want to win seven championships one day. You just want to win your first race."
Now, competing against fathers and their sons is nothing new for Johnson. Over the years, he's actually competed against 10 sets of them, including Bill and Chase Elliott, Kerry and Jeffrey Earnhardt, and Dale and Jason Jarrett. If he successfully qualifies for the 2023 Daytona 500, he'll add two more to the list: Todd and Gilliland and, of course, Harrison and Jeff Burton. Harrison, who drives the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, is no doubt eager for the chance to be part of that club.
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