Two weeks after his first-ever physical altercation, Harrison Burton is able to joke about the incident.
Burton, 19, and Noah Gragson, 22, got into a post-race fight at Kentucky Speedway on July 10. The two NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers each put hands on each other and had to be separated when things escalated. The fire has since simmered out, though.
“You have to enjoy it,” Burton said Wednesday on a Zoom teleconference. “I saw some fans put some funny things on Twitter. Things like that, back a couple of years ago or maybe even last year, would’ve probably bothered me, but now I just laugh it off.
“It’s a hard place to be when you’re kind of in the center of conflict. It always seems like it grows after the event. You feel like, all right, me and Noah fought, we’re done, that’s it. We’re going to move on and we’re going to be all right. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that it’s a lot bigger than that.”
An on-track incident initially sparked the drama. With 13 laps to go in the 200-lap race, Gragson’s No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet got into the rear of Burton’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Both cars ended up hitting the outside wall because of the contact.
Gragson finished seventh. Burton came in 12th.
“The hardest thing about that is you both have an understanding of where the other person is coming from, right?” Burton said. “But you both feel like you’re right, you both feel like you’re in the right.”
The two were having a heated conversation afterward in the garage. Burton pushed Gragson twice before Gragson threw the first punch.
“Moving on, I don’t expect to race Noah any differently than anyone else just because I race everyone as hard as I can,” Burton said. “I’m trying to just race everyone the same and hopefully I get that same respect back. I felt like I didn’t in that certain instance, so that’s why I was frustrated and why I was mad.”
There weren’t any issues last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, where Burton placed fourth and Gragson was 30th. Burton thought he and Gragson raced around each other just fine. If anything, maybe there’s an issue between Gragson and Burton’s JGR teammate, Riley Herbst, who wound up 36th after an early run-in with Gragson.
The whole Kentucky ordeal is in the past now and just considered a learning experience — at least for one of the two drivers involved.
“I was on SportsCenter for not the reason I want to be on SportsCenter,” Burton said. “So there are a couple of things I think maybe I would have done differently, but I’m still really proud of how I stood up for myself and I’m proud of how my team had my back in that situation.”