There are many things Will Burns loves about racing. Having been in the sport for more than a decade, he considers it a blessing that he knows just about everyone when he goes to the track, he’s made good friends and has people he loves to see whenever he gets into the infield.
But there’s one thing Burns loves about racing more than anything.
"That winning feeling" he said.
"It’s so special every time you go a little streak without a win and then picking up that first one in a while is just such a good feeling."
And winning individual races may be great on their own, but winning championships is even sweeter.
Burns is hoping that, even if he missed out of track championships at Myrtle Beach and Greenville Pickens Speedway this season, he can hold on to a South Carolina state championship in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series. Burns’ three wins and 11 top-five finishes in 13 races this season is enough for 264 points, 50 better than second place in the state.
The 25-year-old has been racing late models since he was 15, getting his start at Greenville Pickens, a NASCAR-sanctioned half-mile, semi-banked asphalt oval track in Greenville, South Carolina. He won a track championship there in 2017.
After spending 2012-2014 travelling around to different tracks in the south, and spending a season at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina, in 2015, Burns returned to his home track of Greenville in 2016, and added Myrtle Beach Speedway to his weekly agenda three years ago.
His team started the 2020 season at Myrtle Beach, and tried hard for a track championship there, but came up just short. While racing each week there, Burns realized that NASCAR would be awarding national and state points championships, despite a delayed start due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"The idea kind of popped in my head," he said. "When that kind of came out that that was going to happen it was like, ‘O.K. maybe running Myrtle Beach this full season is not just about the track championship. Maybe it’s something bigger.’"
Burns finished second in the final race at Myrtle Beach, and promptly moved back to Greenville, where he’s won three times, and has two seconds and a third in six races since.
Greenville has always been that track right down the road that has a special place in Burns’ heart. It was there that he and his older brother’s racing dreams were born.
The Burns family didn’t have any real tie to racing other than just watching on TV. When Burns was little his family was given free tickets and invited to Greenville to watch a race.
"My brother got to kind of thinking to himself, ‘Hey, this is cool. I might want to do this,’" Burns said.
Not long after, Burns’ brother found a car for the lower division at Greenville, and his dad got into the sport as well.
A couple years later, Burns himself was behind the wheel.
"We went out there just to watch that one race," he said. "It was so intriguing that we ended up getting into it."
Burns raced in the lower series at Greenville in 2010, and moved up to a late model at 2011 when he was 15, winning South Carolina rookie of the year.
Burns’s brother doesn’t race as often as he used to, though the duo did race against one another for the final race at Myrtle Beach. The track announced earlier this year it would close permanently following this season.
"Just to get that one last race in there was pretty special," Burns said. "Me and him, we don’t really race in the same race that often anymore so it was kind of cool to be able to do that again too.
"He comes out to the races and supports every now and again and I’m always there whenever he races… We support each other."
Even though Burns is still relatively young, at this point he’s a veteran late model driver, which definitely has its benefits when it comes to racing against other young guns.
"There’s a lot of good talent out there in younger kids that just jump right into a late model and you see them do really well," he said. "I think where the experience really comes in is I can look back to years ago when I was running this race track or that race track and remember things that happened throughout the race.
"And then also just knowing situations to not get yourself in, because I have torn up a lot of race cars and thank goodness I don’t do that very often at all anymore. I don’t even think I’ve replaced a body panel this year. Just having that maturity and knowing those situations is really beneficial."
With maturity comes success and success brings wins, and hopefully championships.
Something Burns knows about, and could learn more about by the end of this season.
"Just being able to win races is really cool," he said. "It’s a super cool thing just to be a part of. The track championship in 2017 was cool, and I feel like this (state championship) even tops that a little bit."