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In the Hot Seat with Bridget Burgess (Part II)

Chiefly, Bridget Burgess cannot wait for the short track races this year. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Chiefly, Bridget Burgess cannot wait for the short track races this year. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

By all means, Bridget Burgess enjoys the thrills of competition in the ARCA Menards West Series. As established in Part I, Burgess recently logged her best ARCA West finish of eighth at Sonoma.

Notably, Bridget Burgess has a very competitive demeanor. Truly, Burgess, while happy about her eighth last Saturday, felt she came short of her goal. At the same time, Burgess continually excels and works ardently with her dreams in stock car racing.

Moreover, Bridget Burgess continues her family’s racing legacy. Indeed, the 19-year-old sophomore sensation continually thrives in the No. 88 HMR Construction Chevrolet nicknamed “Underdog.”

All things considered, Bridget Burgess can be described as a hybrid racer. Certainly, drivers from the past may not post content on social media. Still, Burgess takes her time understand the mechanical nuances of her stock car.

Earlier this week, I caught up with Bridget Burgess for a very in-depth “Hot Seat” interview. In Part II, Burgess discusses mental health, short track racing, refining her confidence and promising times in 2021. Now, without further ado, here’s Part II of “In the Hot Seat with Bridget Burgess” on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : We all have different opinions about social media and how it impacts our mental health and mental well being. It can be quite intense not only with our well being and emotions, but our mental health. From your standpoint, how important has it been for you to be in tune with your mental health in a competitive industry like ARCA and NASCAR?

Understandably, Bridget Burgess balances her social media time by working on her car. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Understandably, Bridget Burgess balances her social media time by working on her car. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Bridget Burgess : I certainly agree with you on social media and mental health. It can definitely a lot of pressure in some ways. Because social media, it’s allowing you to see what your competition is also doing. And you’re just like, “How can I be better?”

It’s constantly getting to you. And I think it’s, just as a driver, I’m not just competitive on track, I’m very competitive off track.

I see everything, almost everything, as competition. For me, I have to work for my sponsorship and keep racing. Therefore, I have it in my head every day, “What can I do better?”

So, mental health is definitely a huge thing for racing. There have been times where I really just need to put my phone aside, work on my car and pretend like social media does not exist today. (chuckles) Like, there’s definitely days like that.

And for me, I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself. Like, you will feel pressure from people around you, or even a close one’s close friends or family. You feel pressure from that. But, the pressure that you put on yourself is where it’s all at.

For example, after my race in Sonoma, I kind of just had to sit down for a second. I’m hearing all these people say, like, “Girl, you wheeled it! That was great.” And just all these amazing compliments.

But to me, in my head, I was so disappointed in myself that I did not reach my end goal of a top five. And, it’s just like, little stuff like that can easily get to me.

But again, it’s just it’s holding that pressure above yourself to be a better person, a better driver, better athlete and you’re just compounding yourself with all these things. And yeah, once in a while, you really have to put everything aside and focus on yourself.

Tiongson : That’s true about life. You bring up a really good point about how the people around us are our support system. I can relate to what you just said, where sometimes it does feel like you have that added pressure. You don’t want to let them down because they’re just so supportive of you. Still, they’ll support you no matter how you do.

Of course, being a human, we always want to do better. Ultimately, the biggest competition we face each day is with ourselves. However, you compete on track for those top five and possible wins. There’s also circumstances that changes things up for that. So you did the best you could.

Overall, I’m really impressed with how you’ve worked so hard. And you don’t let a lot get to you. You have this killer instinct attitude. But you also have a good balance of what you need to do to be the healthiest person can be for a long term career.

Burgess : I appreciate that. I definitely appreciate that.

Tiongson : You’re going to do some great things for sure. Now, I’ve noticed a trend with stock car racing. It’s gravitating towards more road course racing. The Cup cars change to the Next Gen cars next year. Perhaps NASCAR might make it so that it’s more identical to being on the street. When we’re driving our regular cars, we’re not going in an oval. We’re driving left and right, up the hill, down a hill, you know, in the rain…

Meanwhile, Bridget Burgess loves road course racing like at Sonoma. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Meanwhile, Bridget Burgess loves road course racing like at Sonoma. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : This is one of the reasons why I actually love road course. Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, there’s a difference. There’s a huge difference between a good car and an OK car. But a road course, it really helps separate driver talent.

And I think it definitely equals out the track or the field. One of the reasons I truly love road courses is that there will always be a challenge. Like you’ll always find your weakest point, your strongest point on track.

And you can find that on an oval too. But you’re only going to find it on four Corners. When it comes to road courses, you’re messing around with eight to 12 corners depending on what track you’re on. And I, as weird as this might sound like, love up shifting and down shifting gears. It’s adding more to your driving.

I love road courses. I’m looking forward to Portland. And honestly, if I can fit it into my budget this year, I’m also trying to do Watkins Glen. So that will be exciting as well, if I can manage to make an extra budget for it.

And so, I’m looking forward if I can go to Watkins Glen. But yeah, one of the reasons I love the Bullring, I think it’s an exciting environment to be in Vegas. And the Bullring track, I just think of how smooth it is. It’s kind of like Irwindale. But like, the corners are slightly different. And I don’t know. Something about the Bullring that I just enjoy.

Tiongson : There’s a lot of history with that track even though it’s such a young track, Well, not really young anymore. But anything from the late 90s is young to me at this point. Come on, it’s not going to be old ever in my life. (laughs) It’s a track that’s built a lot of now current NASCAR drivers. Obviously, the Busch brothers cut their teeth there. And they often talk about how it taught them the fundamental fundamentals of racing.

You’ve talked about why you love road course racing. It challenges a driver all around. And it does kind of even the playing field a little bit.

The Bullring at Las Vegas, you could probably attest to this, doesn’t just teach you the fundamentals of oval racing. But it also kind of gives you that mindset of decompartmentalizing the tough moments on the track. It teaches you to get tenacious and grab the steering wheel a little bit harder. And overall, what it means to be a stock car driver.

Formerly, Burgess piloted the "old blue" No. 88 ride. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Formerly, Burgess piloted the “old blue” No. 88 ride. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : Yeah, I think a fun thing about short track racing, also, short ovals, such as the Bullring or All American Speedway, is everything is down to the 10th of a second. You cannot be off by a second or else it’s a guaranteed you’re going to get lapped somewhere in the race.

Last year, in the old blue car, it was definitely like that. And it was really frustrating, definitely, with the confidence level. After driving the blue car and then buying the car I have now.

When we bought the car and were heading off Phoenix, I was just like, you know, this car is kind of going to show where I am. Just going to Phoenix. even though I had the fuel problem, I was still pretty happy with the car I had. And how I was driving it, I think went well.

Then going to Sonoma and like, being able to go to fifth place, it shows. But yes, there’s a love. Every track has something that I love, even though I might have a weak spot at it. It’s a fun challenge.

Tiongson : And I think you’re responding very well to the challenge. You’re answering the bell like I tweeted on Saturday. When I watched you last year and obviously, I’ve always felt you’ve been so talented. But this year, I feel like you’re showing your your talent. And you’ve got the car underneath you so you can showcase your abilities. Having the equipment and that confidence, it certainly has to pay dividends for sure.

Markedly, Burgess enjoys racing with "Underdog" this season. (Photo: Ethan Smith)

Markedly, Burgess enjoys racing with “Underdog” this season. (Photo: Ethan Smith)

Burgess : Trust me, after turning a couple laps during the race at Phoenix, I was just feeling really good about myself. And fun fact about that race in Phoenix just before I had my fuel problem. The fuel problem kind of started to pick up during a caution. Just before I lost fuel pressure, I was actually about to go on the radio. And thank my team and tell them how happy I am with the car. And how I think we’re we’re gonna have a good season with this car.

Unfortunately, that’s when I lost feel pressure. But last year, it was a learning experience. I was, I thought, as positive as I could with the car I had.

But of course, just constantly getting a similar finish in that car kind of killed my confidence in some ways. I got stronger and I learned that car was a bit of a struggle.

It was funny. When my dad and I rebuilt the engine, we saw certain parts inside the engine. Usually a lot of things that will have a date on it. And there’s, there’s something from like, 2009 2010, sounds like, oh my gosh. (laughs) Now there’s there’s these parts in the engine that were made when I was like eight years old. (laughs) And I was racing with it!

Yes, it was very interesting about last year. And the thing for this year, the engine I have right now, the engine I actually used for Sonoma and Phoenix, that engine is not new. It’s not very, it’s not super used. But the parts in the engine, they’re kind of old. And I definitely noticed that in Sonoma.

I had pretty good torque off the corners. But down the straights, I was lacking a little bit of horsepower. The reason I managed to pass certain people was just because I was really good about my corners. I was braking deep.

The thing is, is the 16 (Jesse Love), actually started in front of me. He qualified in front of me. And I remember how this happened. I braked much deeper into turn seven. And I passed him without touching him.

I had a good run off. I knew that at some point, he was going to catch me. And this is what actually got me frustrated. I had passed him cleanly. And he did not do the same in return.

So as a driver, that’s something that really got to me. But again, just keeping my head focused on race, focusing on my lines and saving my tires. That car is so far, I’m pretty sure, the best race car I have ever owned. Maybe not driven, but ever owned. (laughs) It’s really a great car for us. As a family, we’re very happy with that buy.

Tiongson : It’s like having a good set of new shoes and your feet are quite happy. I know you love doing your runs at 5:30 in the morning. It’s like you have the perfect set of shoes. It doesn’t matter how you feel. You can get a little bit further than if you had an old set of shoes.

Burgess : Absolutely, that’s literally how it feels. That’s a perfect way to describe it. (chuckles)

Tiongson : I always say that about when people get like a new set of General Tires or Goodyear tires. Often, I’ll say to myself, “They just got a new set of shoes. I hope they take care of them.” (laughs)

As can be seen, Burgess might agree with a unique take on fresh and scuff tires. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

As can be seen, Burgess might agree with a unique take on fresh and scuff tires. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : (laughs) You know, it’s funny you say that. At Sonoma, that was the one track where your car could feel super loose when you put those new set of shoes on. And then all of a sudden it’s tight.

When your car is tight, and it has this new set of tires, you don’t want to be too aggressive because you instantly kill them. But you’re just trying to drive a tight car around. And you’re just waiting for the tires to get right.

Sometimes having a new set of tires does not feel as good as a set of tires that have five laps on it. (chuckles) It’s really hard to explain to someone who’s probably never driven that. But it’s, you know, the new tires, they’re good. Like the perfect warm set that have five laps on it are a little bit better. (chuckles)

Tiongson : I’ll say this. Maybe this will help these these race fans understand that. It’s like getting store bought cookies or baking cookies in the oven.

Burgess : (laughs) Oh yeah, that’s a really good way to explain it. Yea, perfect way.

Tiongson : I never thought I’d mix up my favorite dessert with racing. But here we are, talking about cookies during an interview. Oh my goodness.

Burgess : Yeah, I honestly don’t even know how to respond with but that is definitely a perfect way to explain it. (laughter)

Tiongson : (laughs) Well, hopefully no one steals that one from us. Because I think that should be your little code on the radio.

Burgess : Yeah, I got the perfect set of cookies on the car. (laughs)

Tiongson : Oh, goodness gracious. We’ve talked about you working here with your way up the racing ladder. What would you say have been some of your “Welcome to ARCA” moments that make you smile or laugh?

In short, Bridget Burgess loves her "Underdog" ARCA West car. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

In short, Bridget Burgess loves her “Underdog” ARCA West car. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : Oh, I really don’t know how to answer. I think something that you can do in an ARCA or like a NASCAR that you can’t really do on the sports car, like a Porsche is literally hit those curves.

I’ve driven a fair amount of Porsches on track. You have to drive those with so much care. The way I drove that ARCA car on track, I was in those curves like nothing. It was so fun.

I actually found a video that someone had tagged me in of me hitting the certain curb. And I had to screen record it and take it all though in Snapchat and slow down the video. I just wanted to see myself in slow motion. (chuckles) I really just wanted to see that.

But you know, that was so much fun. And when I was practicing at Utah Motorsports Campus, we have this section on the east track. Mind you, each side of track is 2.2 miles, and the full track is 4.4 miles.

I was just practicing on the east track for one session. There’s a certain part of the track called on the “Attitude Section.” You have this sharp left to right, and then back to a left. Each side has these huge curves. They’re smooth but you can feel them.

And you know, it was so fun hitting those. I can’t do that in like a Porsche or a Ferrari or even like a Miata. You can’t really treat those cars the same as an ARCA car.

Tiongson : I think the ARCA car is more like it’s a rough and tumble type of car. Whereas those those flashy sports car, they’re probably going to want a little bit more finesse on those corners. But the way you describe that, I almost feel like I can see what you’re doing.

Burgess : Yeah, you know, it’s funny is like, when people come to the track, we’ll have a track day. Everyone knows I’m there. And it’s always like, “Oh, hey, do you want to drive my car?”

So there’s a lot of pretty cars here in Utah. Driving a McLaren, Ferrari, or Porsche, they’re fun cars. There’s no doubt about it. But when they go ahead and ask me like, “What makes you choose a NASCAR?”

And to me, it’s like, it’s a challenge. Like you’re driving, you get into these exotic cars. And they basically drive themselves. I have so much fun with an ARCA car because, you know, there’s no ABS or traction control. It’s all you! (laughs)

You’re just wheeling it as much as you can on these huge tires. I think this is so much fun. I love a good challenge. It’s definitely like, I did a good 200 laps at Utah Motorsports Campus before I went to Sonoma in the ARCA car.

I actually drove it for the NASA event. People were having so much fun because they’re out there in their street car. Whether it’s a Mustang or Camaro. And then they have this ARCA car just flying past and just sending it into the corner and hitting these curves. To them, they have fun watching it.

And I have fun going up against them. Yeah, that’s definitely one of those things where I’m like, “Yep, nothing compares to a NASCAR.” (chuckles)

Tiongson : I’m sure you’d feel that way once you work up the ladder. Hopefully you’ll race at the Circuit of the Americas. I imagine you’ll have a blast just driving at this huge road course.

Burgess : Yeah, I definitely do want to try and test out these other road courses across the country. So far, I’ve only driven Utah Motorsports Campus and Sonoma. And I definitely want to try Watkins Glen, VIR and Laguna Seca. I always hear about that track and I so want to go there.

Tiongson : That is the ultimate racer’s challenge. Very hard sightlines, the corkscrew…

Burgess : Whenever someone tells me it’s a hard track, it’s just so exciting!

Tiongson : Well, there you go. I’m motivating you to try that racetrack one of these days!

Make no mistake, Burgess loves a good challenge! (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Make no mistake, Burgess loves a good challenge! (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : Oh yeah! I’ve talked about doing a track day there with my sponsor, HMH Construction. Unfortunately, it’s the same day I race at Colorado. But yea, I’m sure there’s going to be another opportunity sometime this year. And I’ll definitely take it. I’ll definitely find my way out to these other road course tracks.

Tiongson : As you continue your family’s legacy in racing, what’s it mean to you to forge your own path and empower others around you with what you do?

Burgess : For me, I have interests in all sorts of racing. I’m 100% into NASCAR. I definitely want to encourage people to follow what they love.

And I think something to help other people realize is if you really want to get into it and get serious, the number one thing you have to learn is how to prioritize your money, how to save and what to spend. But I definitely love all sorts of racing.

With my mom being in off road and myself getting into off road, off road is very fun and exciting. There’s lots of contact because it’s always a short course for off road series.

And going from off road to asphalt modifieds, building my license and then going into K&N West, I definitely feel very honored to call myself a stock car driver. It’s funny because when my parents and I were going into Sonoma Raceway on the first day, out of all the times that we’ve watched the races at Sonoma and been there, not once did my parents ever think that their own daughter would be racing there. And not once did I ever think that. I’ve been so blessed to have the life that I do. But yea, it’s definitely a special feeling.

Tiongson : While I’m not a parent yet, I’m an uncle so I can somewhat understand. There’s nothing better to see kids finding their own interests. I’m sure that’s the same joy your parents feel. And you are a stock car driver.

What are some things you look forward to doing that you missed out on last year?

In due time, Bridget Burgess looks forward to brighter times ahead. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

In due time, Bridget Burgess looks forward to brighter times ahead. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Burgess : For me, I’m a huge summer person. I’m definitely someone that likes to go to the lake and hang out with really good people. That’s something I’m excited for and making memories.

Going to the races and being with the fans. That’s something I missed from 2019 was the autograph sessions and meeting all these little kids that want to get into racing. And all the young adults who want to get into racing. Meeting them and connecting with them. That’s something I’m looking forward to. I hope it goes back to normal this year.

I do believe also that it’s going to take time. And we’re just going to have to be patient about it. I’m thinking very positive about this year with everything. Not just with my racing but life in general. I think it’s going to very great!

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! Lastly, for the audio version of “Hot Seat” with Bridget Burgess, please check out the player below.

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He 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, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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