Much like many teams competing on the NHRA sportsman circuit, the Burton Racing Team from Kirkland, Washington consists of more than one generation of drivers. Father Scott and son Brad, not only compete at NHRA National and Divisional events together, but sometimes against each other in the very competitive Stock Eliminator class. Both with successes under their belts, during the 52nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals it would be the younger Burton claiming the Stock Wally and setting 2012 up to be another exciting season for the father-son duo.
2012 NHRA Winternationals Stock Eliminator Champion Brad Burton
Stock Eliminator 1972 Formula Firebird
Burton qualified his K&N equipped 455ci 1972 Formula Firebird, that he has been racing for the last five years, all the way up at number five in a stout field of seventy-two entries.
"Typical Pomona, you looked at the weather on Wednesday and when they are calling for a zero chance of rain for the entire weekend and at that point, you like your odds," he reflected on the changes to the weekend. "So we get in all our passes [qualifying sessions] on Thursday and we didn't get to run first round until Friday evening or so, and I knew I was going to have a heads up race. But my dad builds really good motors, so I felt good about the match up."
Burton easily quashed any hopes his competitor, Steve Kathary, may have had of getting by the E/SA heads up race in round one when he flat outran Kathary's 1972 Mustang by over a whopping two tenths of a second and on to round two.
The zero chance of rain, so many had looked forward to, quickly became a one-hundred percent chance as weather conditions over the southern California track took a turn from mild, sunny and dry to the polar opposite, causing numerous schedule changes for the remainder of the event. Burton would not get back to the action with his K&N Firebird until almost forty-eight hours later, approximately 5:40pm, Sunday evening.
"It was all kind of iffy for me," he said of running round two. "I work and have a brand new job, so I had planned on leaving Sunday night. It started getting down to the crunch time, while I hate to have that attitude, but you think, well that's great if I win second round, but then I will have to be here tomorrow. If I lose, OK I guess I get to go home and go back to work on-time and not have to play hooky."
"I don't know what it is, but sometimes I almost do better when I have that 'don't care' attitude," he continued. "You just go up there and perform and don't think about it. It probably wasn't until after third round on Monday that I told myself, ok I needed to start to get into the other attitude."
After waiting even more to get on-track activities started on Monday, due to some additional on-and-off showers, just as the first pair of Stock Eliminator made their way down the track to get things back underway, the rain came again. Burton and Kyle Rizzoli were next pair up, but would have to wait nearly two and a half hours before they could get on the track to determine their fate.
"Kyle is a tough competitor and he's beat me before," said Burton. "So when I pushed through that round I started feeling pretty confident in both the car and my driving. Now I knew we should be able to start getting our rounds much closer together, unlike the last few when if you got by the round, you pretty much had to throw out all your data and start all over again by the time you ran one or two days later."
"I was certainly starting to look ahead at the rest of the ladder," he admitted. "You may have an idea of how [upcoming racer matchups] go about things and because of that, possibility change the way you prepare for different opponents. I'm always watching the ladder and even as early as round one, I had already noticed the opportunity to have a bye into the final on my side. I'm not focusing that far ahead, just subconsciously keeping an eye out on it."
It would be another two hours before round four and the weather was really making it interesting, for racers still in competition, deciding what number to put on their windshields. "The wind was just gusting up and down and it's just no fun getting down there and not being able to run your number," noted Burton. "So I was doing a lot of holding and just playing with the brake and the throttle, all while hoping that I had the light to be able to get it done."
Burton and his fourth round opponent, John Gray left with almost identical reaction times, but it would be Burton who would come out on top in a very close race, just .01 margin at the finish line, setting the Washington resident up for a shot at the bye into the final, that he had been eyeing since eliminations first started late on Friday.
You've got to go green if you want to move on and while in Burton's case, it may have been a little greener than he had been shooting for with his .054 reaction time in the quarterfinals, he was quickly shown the win light in his lane, after Bobby DeArmond turned it just .001 red, and giving Burton a free pass into the Stock Eliminator championship round. "It was just a great feeling to look up shortly after launching and see that win light all the way down the track," he said. "Knowing right there I was going to the final, well it was really an unbelievable feeling."
Burton took his earned competition single in the semifinals and ran it through just enough to get his thousand foot numbers, not only saving wear on the car but also keeping what he could really run flat-out, a closely guarded secret.
"I pretty much stuck with what I had been doing on all the earlier rounds and had been dialing off my thousand foot numbers and there was no reason to give anyone any more data than they needed," explained Burton. "I wanted to make sure I could get there in the final, and the wind went from again, being calm to picking up and I think that's what hurt Don [Keen] in the final."
Dialing his K&N 1972 Firebird lower than he had all weekend, Burton took a slight starting line advantage over Keen and turned it into a .0088 margin of victory, to become the 2012 NHRA Winternationals Stock Eliminator Champion.
With just a couple of days to regroup, after the late Monday event finish, the newly minted National Event Champ and his father have a quick turnaround to get to the next event on their 2012 schedule, the NHRA Arizona Nationals, just outside of Phoenix. Burton notes that using the K&N products that they do on both team cars, really cuts down on the amount of between event maintenance because they know how much protection the K&N air and oil filters are providing for their sensitive naturally aspirated combinations.
"You know, over the years we had run other brands of oil filters, for example," he eagerly pointed out. "Once we switched the cars over to the K&N Wrench-Off filters, wow first of all, they by far the sturdiest oil filters we have ever seen. They are easy to take off, where other filters many times would just collapse and then you have a mess, Just in my car after adding the K&N air filter, I found that my car has been more consistent, like it took care of air turbulence and not only straightened out the air, but I also picked up E.T. All that, plus I have to mention, K&N is really protecting our engines, because when we took them apart over the winter, everything just looked superb."
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