Editor’s Note: Today’s Wood Brothers Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2023 Cup Series season, ranked in reverse order of best finish in last year’s owner standings.
WOOD BROTHERS RACING
Driver-crew chief pairings: Harrison Burton-Brian Wilson (No. 21)
Having a rookie adapt to the Next Gen car on top of all the other nuances that come along with a driver’s first year in Cup was never going to be easy for Wood Brothers Racing. Last year can be considered a mulligan for the decorated team while this upcoming season will be the true litmus test of where Wood Brothers stands among the rest. In a technical alliance with the defending championship organization over at Team Penske, expectations should be set higher for the No. 21 Ford team that has proven in recent years that it can deliver in NASCAR’s premier series.
Harrison Burton, No. 21 Ford
Experience: Second full-time season in NASCAR Cup Series.
2022 stats: 27th in final standings; 0 wins, 1 top five, 2 top 10s
2023 championship odds (BetMGM): 350-1
RELATED: More on Harrison Burton
Last season marked the second full-time campaign in a row on the national scene where Burton failed to score a victory. His last NASCAR triumph came in the penultimate race of the 2020 Xfinity Series season at Martinsville in a year where he took home the checkered flag four times. Despite an average finish of 22.8, there were still positives the 22-year-old can take into 2023. In the most recent Daytona 500, Burton showed some assertiveness running up front and leading three laps in the “Great American Race” before getting spun late in Stage 1 by Brad Keselowski and landing on his roof down the backstretch. Burton was saddled with a 39th-place finish that allowed minimal momentum to be built from the start and carried throughout the season. Burton closed 2022 with three consecutive top-20 runs to build a steady foundation for success ahead of February.
Two of the three rookies in the Cup Series last season were on polar opposites of the success spectrum despite having similar Ford equipment. The No. 21 could muster only two top 10s, including a third-place run at the Indianapolis road course, while the defending Daytona 500 champion Austin Cindric reached the Round of 12 in his maiden Cup campaign. If Burton has aspirations of improved results in his sophomore outing, it has to start with a high-quality run in the Daytona 500. It will give the youthful driver confidence that he can compete on the biggest stage in NASCAR and could even propel him to an outside shot at making the postseason.
NASCAR.com 2023 team previews schedule
Jan. 23: Non-chartered and teams outside the top 30
Jan. 24: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 25: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 27: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 30: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 31: RFK Racing
Feb. 1: Legacy Motor Club
Feb. 2: Richard Childress Racing
Feb. 7: 23XI Racing
Feb. 8: Stewart-Haas Racing
Feb. 9: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 10: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 13: Trackhouse Racing
Feb. 14: Team Penske