It seems like a no-brainer that NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton's 10-year-old son Harrison would fall in love with racing, spending all his spare time with his race car. That is, to everyone except maybe his mama.
"I was hoping he'd be a lawyer and I could hang out at the country club," Kim Burton said laughing. "It's hard watching your baby out there, but he loves it."
Harrison Burton races quarter midgets with the United States Auto Club (USAC) in an all-oval series for 5-16 year-olds. He currently leads the points in several divisions, including Light World Formula and Senior Animal.
Outfitted in a smaller version of his dad's yellow-and-black CAT firesuit Sunday in the Atlanta Motor Speedway media center, Harrison looks and sounds the part of racer-in-training. His big brown eyes light up as he talks about his favorite aspects of racing, and his still slightly pudgy cheeks bulge even more as a grin takes over his face and a giggle escapes his lips after he loses his train of thought in front of a media center full of eyes expectantly trained on him.
"It's been really fun to go out and race," Harrison said. "My favorite track was probably a banked track. It was really fun to race on that completely sideways track because it's really good racing, and everybody was passing each other really often."
For Jeff, racing with his son is a natural way to spend time together and bond. But he stresses that Harrison isn't racing because daddy wants him to. Harrison is racing because Harrison wants to.
"I have a passion for racing, and I love it, but he doesn't have to," Jeff said. "If he ever wants to quit, we quit. If he wants to play lacrosse, we play lacrosse."
Jeff said he never pushed either of his kids into racing; daughter Paige is 16 and an equestrian who never showed an interested in riding anything with wheels. But from the beginning, Harrison has always been interested in race cars. And when Jeff saw USAC's quarter midget series, with its full roll cage, 5-point harnesses and soft walls, he was sold.
"Quarter midget racing is really a cool way to spend time with your son or daughter," Jeff said. "It's a safe, reasonably inexpensive way to get kids into auto racing. (The kids) are out there helping you work on the race car and see what it takes to be good at it, and I think there's a lesson in life about that."
LIGHTS DISPLAY AT AMS
For the first time, Atlanta Motor Speedway will be lit up this holiday season with the glow of more than a million LED lights and hundreds of animated Christmas displays around the speedway for "The Gift of Lights."
The lights display will be open Nov. 18 through Jan. 1, and will cost $15 per vehicle. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Speedway Children's Charities. Hours of operation are 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
"We want to make this a big event for Atlanta," said Mike Miller, president of 3 Dudes Productions, the company that will be coordinating efforts for the winter light show. "This is very different than NASCAR racing, but we have a great venue, and we're going to bring a great event here."