Rookies sometimes have to learn the hard way, but that is perfectly fine with Harrison Burton.

The driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford Mustang is one-third of the way through his first season in the Cup Series, and is still searching for his first top-ten finish. Burton crashed out of the first two races at Daytona and Fontana, but it certainly was no wrong-doing on his part.

Burton actually was one of the strongest contenders in the Daytona 500, leading laps and running at the front of the field after a strong showing during speedweeks. The single-car team has struggled to find the right qualifying setup for the 21-year old but he has performed admirably on race days.

Last weekend the team earned their best finish of the season, a 14th place result at Darlington. It might not sound like a great accomplishment, but considering their situation and the challenging track that is "Too Tough to Tame", it was a much-needed morale boost.

"I think the speed we had in that race," Burton pointed out. "There was a part of that race where we came out after a pit stop and hadn’t been really good to start the race, and then the car woke up. We made the right changes on pit road. Logano and Hamlin were second and third, and I ran them down and caught them. I caught them and was like, okay, now we’re rolling."

"Looking at the lap time data, that was our strongest race for sure compared to the leaders, and in that particular segment, we matched the leader’s lap time. So we’re going in the right direction. We have the speed at times to be a top-five car, we just have to go and execute a whole race now."

After a dozen races, Burton is getting a handle on the highs and lows of being a driver in the Cup Series. He has made mistakes behind the wheel, the team has made mistakes on pit road, and they have been caught up in a handful of incidents out of their control. It can be a roller coaster of emotions, but every week is another opportunity to learn and grow.

"I told (crew chief) Brian Wilson when we had that run at Darlington that I felt comfortable," Burton said. "That was the first time where I wasn’t uncomfortable in this race car, which is pretty wild when you think about it. We have some notes to build off of now of things that I like, especially based off that run. Some changes I like. Hopefully that can carry over. For me, it was like, I can finally go be aggressive with this car. I hadn’t felt that, and now I feel like we’ll be able to replicate that and go get after it more."

When it was announced that Burton would be taking over the seat, he knew immediately that there would be expectations. He has made a conscious effort to not allow the pressure to get to him. That is easier said than done, but the young driver has done a tremendous job of that so far.

"External pressure doesn’t really change my mentality about things," Burton said. "I think all drivers want to be the winner. We all want to do the best we can and I think that personality is the same with Wood Brothers and we’re all aligned with our goals. We just have to work really hard to go accomplish them."

Some of that pressure comes from what this team could accomplish this season. The next win for the Wood Brothers would be their 100th in the sport, and it would be the first for Burton.

"Being here is awesome, being in this opportunity is awesome, but I don’t think anybody is really just satisfied with just being here. It’s cool but you also have to go to work and take advantage of the opportunity that you have at hand." While Burton understands his position, he also knows how much work he and the team will have to put in over the course of the season.

Despite the steep learning curve, Burton is steadfast in his belief that things will keep improving. "I won’t quit," he said. "I will never quit. I think some of the good things about this start is you build confidence in your work ethic and desire. When things are bad, that’s when you find out who you are. You go through adversity in life. Everyone has it, and I feel like it makes you better."

Burton has completed 91 percent of the laps this season, but he has only finished on the lead lap four times in 12 races. "There's no hiding it," Burton said of his rough start. "I think there’s been some growing pains there, but I feel like now we’re getting rolling in the right direction."

Harrison's 24.65 average running position has him ranked 30th, ahead of only Corey LaJoie and Cody Ware of the 32 drivers who have competed in every race. His father, Hall of Famer Jeff Burton, had a 25.44 average finish after his first 12 races in his 1994 rookie season.

"The sport is so hard," Burton admitted. "It's going to stress you and put you in spots that are really uncomfortable, and I think that's what separates the guys who stick around a long time and the guys who don't. You can either fall into that trap and get caught up in that stuff, or you can be yourself and maintain your composure. Through my career, that's helped me a lot."