By Adam Carabine & Logan Morris
This year, in preparation for the 2024 NASCAR season, we present our Team Previews Series. Each day until the end of January, a new Team Preview will be live on our website. Check back every day to see what we have to say about your favourite team!
Adam Carabine: We’re back with another team preview. Today we’re looking at Wood Brothers Racing. Their lone entry in the NASCAR Cup Series is the 21 Ford Mustang, being piloted again by Harrison Burton. Were you surprised to see him back for a third year, Logan?
Logan Morris: Honestly, yes. During another era Burton getting a third season wouldn’t be a surprise, but as things stand now it’s a very do-or-die sport. So far, Burton hasn’t impressed. The Wood Bros are still looking for that historic, albeit elusive 100th victory in the Cup Series. This season feels pivotal for Burton if he wants to be in the iconic 21 car long-term.
AC: I remember when Matt DiBenedetto was searching for that 100th win for the Wood Bros. That feels like a lifetime ago. Part of me is surprised as well, but another part of me appreciates that the team is letting Harrison Burton grow into the role of Cup Series driver. The best development is to race against better drivers and learn from them, right? Maybe they’ve seen enough improvement year-to-year to justify taking a chance on him. I do agree, though, I imagine the leash is short this year. He’s going to need to take a big step to stay there long-term. They do have an alignment with Team Penske, does Penske have any openings coming up any time soon?
LM: The Wood Bros caught plenty of flack for choosing Burton to replace DiBenedetto and at this juncture it feels warranted. However, Burton has youth on his side. As far as Team Penske goes, we will go in-depth regarding them in the future, but, in short, I think it’s a huge year for Austin Cindric. The good news for both Burton and Cindric is no one in the Ford camp is lighting the world on fire to the point they can’t be ignored for a Cup opportunity.
AC: That’s fair. We’ll leave Penske for another day. Burton finished 2023 just outside of the Top 30 in the standings, is there any way he can break into the Top 25?
LM: The easiest way for him to do that would be to get that 100th win for the Wood Bros. We now have six wild card races on the schedule and he’s shown ability on the Superspeedways, so I think it’s possible. As matter of fact, I’ll give you a “Loganity” take Burton will win in 2024.
AC: Whew, that’s a little too rich for my blood. Two years ago Burton finished 3rd at Indianapolis. Not only is that his only career Top 5, it came at a track that’s no longer on the schedule! Indianapolis reverts back to the oval this season. For me, a successful season for him is less reflected in the standings, and more in his equipment. He had six DNFs in ‘23, and if he can limit that to four, I’ll count that as a win for him and the team.
LM: The Indy oval ran much like a Superspeedway in the past, so that may be good news yet. I genuinely believe it’s win or bust for Burton this season. If contending for the occasional win wasn’t good enough for his predecessor, then 2024 is a must-win for him at least as far as staying with the Wood Bros is concerned.
AC: I think you may be right. We shall see as the season plays out. Stay tuned for our next team preview, where we analyze Spire Motorsports!