LOUDON, N.H. — Harrison Burton, like many 16-year-olds, is busy fulfilling the duties of his part-time job. The difference is, he might have the best job a teenager could ask for.
Burton, like his father Jeff before him, is building toward a successful NASCAR career. He’s the current points leader in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and already has experience on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
His future is bright, but athletes rarely get assurances of stardom when they’re teenagers. For now, Burton is just doing his best to juggle his academic, personal and professional lives.
“It’s really hard. You see many athletes kind of struggle with the battle of, ‘How much do I put into my school, how much do I put into my sport, activity or whatever it is you do,’ ” Burton told NESN Fuel at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. “It’s just a battle you’ve got to weigh for yourself. Find what’s most important to you.”
Although Burton’s focus on life outside of racing hasn’t wavered, the talented driver knows what he wants to be when he grows up. Still, he’s fully aware there are no guarantees in his profession.
“For me, I would like to make a career out of racing,” Burton said as he prepared for Saturday’s K&N United Site Services 70. “It’s a very unstable job community, I guess you could say. It’s very cutthroat.
“If you don’t get the job done, then you’re out. … In a way, school kind of ties hand-in-hand with racing — I can go out and try to do these things in racing, as long as I have my back up plan with school.”
To be great in racing, “you have to pour your whole self into it,” Burton said. Fortunately for him, he has parents who know what it takes to succeed in the sport.
“They really try to get me to focus on school as much as I can,” Burton said. “But they also know that racing is where my heart is, that it’s what I’d rather be doing. They’ve been really understanding of my passion and really supportive of it.”
Of course, Burton can’t spend all of his time in the garage or on the track. So what else does he do in his free time?
The answer probably won’t surprise you — and he knows it.
“I love to hunt and fish, which is probably a stereotypical NASCAR driver answer,” Burton said. “But I really do. Actually, this Sunday I’m going fishing with a few buddies out here on Lake Winnipesaukee. … Usually, if you can hop out of a race car one day and hop on the boat the next, that’s getting it done right there.”
Ultimately, Burton has a lot on his plate, and his workload only will increase as he climbs the NASCAR ranks. But like most people his age, he’s just trying to enjoy summer.
Thumbnail photo via Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images