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In the Hot Seat with Bridget Burgess (Part I)

Certainly, Bridget Burgess means business on the track. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Certainly, Bridget Burgess means business on the track. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Simply put, Bridget Burgess possesses future superstar potential whenever she races on the track. All in all, the 19-year-old Australian, who calls Tooele, Utah her home, gives it her all each race weekend.

Naturally, Bridget Burgess blazes her own trail as she continues her family’s racing legacy. In this case, Burgess’ mother, Sarah, made her presence known as an off road racer.

Presently, Bridget Burgess focuses on racing her way to the NASCAR Cup Series. Presently, she’s locked in a close top 10 points battle after two races in the ARCA Menards West Series.

Without delay, Bridget Burgess makes the most of her weekends with her family operated team. Overall, Burgess, whose No. 88 HMR Construction Chevy team, competes with her car nicknamed “Underdog.”

By all means, the sophomore standout evokes the spirit and will of the late Alan Kulwicki. Certainly, Burgess, like Kulwicki, takes pride in working on her car and understanding the mechanical nuances.

Moreover, Burgess believes in her dreams as Kulwicki did when setting forth on the stock car journey. Definitely, Burgess eats, breathes and lives racing with an authentic drive and passion for motorsports.

Earlier this week, I caught up with Burgess following her impressive eighth place result at Sonoma. In the first part of this “Hot Seat” interview, Burgess talks about her Sonoma weekend, social media and keeping cool.

Without further ado, here’s the first part of “In the Hot Seat with Bridget Burgess” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : Bridget, you had your best ARCA Menards West Series race with an eighth at Sonoma. While there were some tough moments, how excited are you about your strong day at Sonoma? And how excited are you about it possibly carrying over momentum for the rest of the year?

By all means, Bridget Burgess brought her A game at Sonoma. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

By all means, Bridget Burgess brought her A game at Sonoma. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Bridget Burgess : Sonoma was a great experience. It was my first road course race for the ARCA [West] series. I was feeling very confident as I got seat time the weekend beforehand, at the NASA event, which I’m very lucky to have.

So I came into the weekend, very confident and strong with myself, the car and my team. Of course, there’s always going to be challenges.

I do not have top cars. But, I’m always positive with what I have. And I knew that I definitely had a top 10 car.

I was honestly aiming trying to get a top five finish and I certainly tried. And I got up to fifth place. Unfortunately, getting turned (in turn 11) did not help. But I drove back to eighth. It was a great weekend. And I think it’s just a good starting momentum for the season.

I’m looking very forward to a couple of these races. I’m really happy to do the road course in Portland, Oregon. It’s been a while since the series has been back there. So I’m excited to go back to that road course. I’ve studied the track, watched a lot of old races on there.

And I’m also excited for the Bullring [at Las Vegas]. I love the Bullring. So those two tracks. I’m really excited for just the whole season in general. I’m very happy with the car I have. We’re still learning.

So, I actually have an old Cup car, which is exciting. It’s really fun to work on that car. I see a lot of certain Cup names like Roush or Joe Gibbs parts on there. And it’s really cool working on that car.

It’s a family team. And we’re definitely getting stronger at it, smarter at it. I’m looking forward to the season.

Tiongson : It’s certainly showing how much you’re invested with this year. During the first two ARCA West races, you not only competed with your new to you car. Also, you competed against some of today’s young NASCAR stars. When they compete in your races, how much does it inspire you when you battle them on the track?

Burgess: I think it’s really cool for a lot of us young drivers in the series. It’s very interesting to learn how we all are. I think we’re all different and I love it.

For example, at Sonoma, being in fifth place, just a couple places ahead is Chase Briscoe. Moments like that are really cool. And I thought it was really cool to watch his line.

So, being in this series and having different types of drivers is honestly a blessing. I think it’s really fun. It’s also a good challenge because a lot of young drivers are very competitive in certain ways.

Tiongson : It’s like being an XFINITY driver and you get to go race against a Cup driver. That gives lot of them are always looking forward to that challenge. So it’s no different when they’re up in the ARCA West series.

Burgess : Yeah, it is really cool. I just remember like driving behind Chase Briscoe. Just watching how he throws the car and the amount of control he has. And it’s really cool because it’s like, you see that and you’re like, “Yeah. That’s right. That’s why they drive a Cup or an Xfinity and they’re in a higher level.” It’s just learning from those drivers, what to do and how they handle the car.

Although I have to remember, there’s two different budgets of cars. So I definitely have to work with what I have. My car handled, like in a fair amount at Sonoma, very well. My car was struggling in the few areas. But again, it’s just working through it, managing it. And working with what I actually have. So I enjoyed that.

Tiongson : You did a really stellar job out there. On a really up and down day, getting an eighth, no matter what car you’re in, at Sonoma is no easy feat. There’s a lot to be proud about for sure. In the past, we’ve talked about the risks involved in motorsports.

Much like life, racing can have its heated moments. How do you get past those moments where a driver has wronged you?

Overall, Bridget Burgess appreciates her support system. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Overall, Bridget Burgess appreciates her support system. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : Yeah, that’s a really good question. I’m very thankful to have my dad is my spotter. Or just [having] a really good spotter in general. They just calm me down.

As a driver, you really need to keep your head straight. When I was turned in turn 11, I was just getting spun out there. I was frustrated [because] I was in fifth place.

It’s the highest place I’ve been in yet. And it’s just one of those things where it’s like, if you stay frustrated from that moment, you will just kill your tires. You’re willing it more than you should.

And you know, you want to keep your head focused. So you get your lines, right. And you don’t make any more mistakes yourself.

I was very frustrated. But I knew I also had a halfway caution coming out. So I was just like, “Okay, well, I have X amount of laps left. I’ll work with what I have. And I know that when I get a new set of tires, I know what number of cars I can easily pass due to lap times.”

I really just stay focused. But my parents were pretty impressive with that because they knew I was not happy about getting turned. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “It is what it is.” Like I say that almost every day when something happens. And like you know, “It is what it is. I’ll just work with it and move on and just do better.”

Tiongson : That’s true. Sometimes in life, you have to dust it off that day. Roll with it. Now, at Sonoma, it had an awesome turnout with fans back in the grandstands. I know how much you love interacting with those fans. As a driver, when you raced in front of the fans at Sonoma’s grandstands, how was it like?

Burgess : I honestly had a blast. It’s definitely like my second favorite part of a race weekend. Just being there for the fans and making smalls. And to me, as soon as I got out of the car and drinking water, I noticed all these fans that were like very close to my car and the grandstands.

They can’t walk through a hot pit like they usually would. And for me, I just wanted to be there for them. Unfortunately, it’s not like we had an autograph session where we were able to interact with the fans like usual.

But I still wanted to be that driver and take the time in the day. They came out there. A lot of them have driven so far just to watch us race. And I think us drivers owe our fans a lot for that.

So therefore, every time I was out of the car, I was signing stuff, I was signing other people’s helmets. So there were a couple of people that brought a helmet for me to sign. I just thought that was so cool.

Signing hats and taking pictures with people, I walked through the grandstand area. And I just interacted with them. I don’t know if any other drivers did that. I noticed I was the only one that was doing that.

But I love doing that and making other people smile. I was so happy to see that. And I hope I see more of that this year.

Tiongson : I hope so too. When things eventually get to where they can be in the garage and pits, I can imagine you and your competitors will be so excited to talk to them. Even if they’re not a fan of yours, getting to have that little interaction with them makes all the difference.

Indeed, Burgess enjoys interacting with race fans. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Indeed, Burgess enjoys interacting with race fans. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : I have a small stack of hero cards left. And I asked my parents, “Should I take them?” They’re like, “Well, yes, if there’s gonna be an autograph session.”

And apparently, they said, “No, there wasn’t.” I kind of just assumed, “Maybe the drivers won’t actually be allowed to interact with the fans.” It’s funny, because as soon as I interacted with a couple of them, I knew I should have brought my hero cards. And I was kind of mad.

But still, being able to sign their hat, or whatever they brought, and take pictures with them. I think it’s also big on social media. And I want people to know that if they’re at a racetrack, and they would like to meet me, I am available to them.

Just being there, because it’s like, again, they come out there to watch me race. And I think I should give them the time of day as well.

Tiongson : That’s what makes racing unique compared to other sports out there. Of course, people will still love the big four here in the US. With auto racing, there’s such a great level of intimacy that fans can have with the people in the series.

Now, I feel racers like you have to be their best hype person or salesperson with fans and sponsors. In recent years, social media has been the best way to connect with them. You’ve got TikTok, Instagram and all those other platforms. With how savvy you are with social media, how much of it has paid dividends for you with gaining attention with your career and getting new fans?

Burgess : Yeah, I definitely had to push my social media during COVID. Because I was like, “Dang! I can’t see any people in person.” And, you know, I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a huge fan of social media. I’m not a huge camera person, I guess.

Recently, I’ve pushed myself a lot to do more for social media and connect with the fans because it is important.

The fans weren’t able to come to the races [last year]. It was just one of the things. That’s really the only way to connect to them. So I’ll do more on it.

But I’ve definitely been trying to grow my social media and trying to TikTok. (chuckles) It’s…it’s a learning experience.

Also, you’re constantly trying to adapt to the new trend and connect yourself with new people. You’re trying to reach out to different generations, male or female. And trying to also get into each of their interests.

So for me, I love NASCAR. The thing is, I also put my interest in a couple of things just for my fans. I’ll use the example of drifting.

I have a little drift car. The reason why I use a drift car is because you have more car control. You learn more car control of having a loose car. And the thing is the audience for drifting might be a little different from NASCAR.

But being able to combine those two is something that I’m interested in. And yeah, just reaching out to different people, and try and get them more involved in NASCAR.

So, I think it’s really cool. It’s a learning experience. And I’m doing better at it. So, social media is definitely bigger. (chuckles)

Tiongson : You could’ve fooled me when you said it’s not your favorite thing. You’re really good about it with your short videos, the IG and TikTok stories. It shows a little bit of your personality. You can poke fun at yourself. Fans can watch and see your content.

How can you not feel better? It’s so fun. And it’s so light hearted.

Burgess : Yeah, I definitely keep all my social media positive as much as they can. The thing is, even after a bad day at the track or just like a tough race, it’s one of those things where I know that I am doing what I love.

I’m doing what I’m passionate about. And, you know, it’s just, I’m at a racetrack and I should be happy.

I spent the whole week at Sonoma Raceway. And like literally, I slept at the track the whole time. I enjoyed it so much like waking up there. It was so cool. Watching the sunrise, the sunset.

So it was just one of those things where it’s like, “How could I not be happy?” And even during the flight coming back home to Utah, I was like, “Well, that was a great week. Like it was tough. It was great.” (chuckles)

I know that not many people that were able to go to that race. They also had a 30% capacity. So with that being said, I wanted to make sure my followers felt like they’re almost there just by watching each moment that I had. So I definitely like to make people smile, even through social media as much as I can.

Tiongson : You made it feel like we were at the racetrack. Like you said, you documented as much as you could during the race week. And that’s really you spent all day and night at Sonoma. Unless you’re in an RV, I can’t think of many drivers who do that. That shows to me, right there, you really love racing.

Given these points, Bridget Burgess' passion for motorsports proves quite impressive. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Given these points, Bridget Burgess’ passion for motorsports proves quite impressive. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : Yeah, I mean, yeah, we could have got a hotel. For us, we had our toterhome and our double stacker trailer. And a toterhome, it’s kind of like RV, but it’s much smaller. It was just me and my parents.

My parents are just as passionate about racing. So we’re happy to be there. And the staff at the racetrack…they were so nice. Everything there was still enjoyable.

I’m just trying to have fun with social media and I try to do a bit more on TikTok. But I’m still trying to figure that out. (laughs) Yeah, it’s just making other people follow you on social media.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Bridget Burgess for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. You can keep track of Bridget Burgess on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, her official website and here on TPF! Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow!

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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