Dodge Daytona race notes

[These notes were done before the announcement by NASCAR of the death of Dale Earnhardt.] WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) "It's frustrating. I think you can take the top 15 guys or more and we can sit there and run...

[These notes were done before the announcement by NASCAR of the death of Dale Earnhardt.]

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It's frustrating. I think you can take the top 15 guys or more and we can sit there and run three abreast just about all day. The problem with this kind of racing, all of these guys are great racing, but some of them just don't look at the big picture, and the big picture is getting experience, not mixing it up to the point where we get in the wall. This racing is just the nature of the beast. The closer you get to the finish, the wilder it gets. We had some people up there that had no business being up there and there was the wreck. Robby had a run on me. We had a run on people all day, but you've got to get off the throttle. You can't run into the back of them. He hit me when my wheels were turning. I knew the Cat Dodge could have won the race. Where we would have ended up, who knows? We went to the front and went back to the rear in those last few laps. It was just unfortunate. The guys have worked so hard, and I feel bad for them and the sponsor. It's just about being at the wrong place at the wrong time. If I had been one car length ahead, maybe Robby would have hit somebody else.

"You can't do it when you've got idiots out there. The car handled good all day. That was a big key. The Dodge was strong. The team gave me a good car, but the car was handling. I could run lower than anybody else out there, and I could pull it down more than anybody else out there. The car was handling, that was the key. If we didn't have the strongest car out there today, we definitely had one of them.

"I'm fine. I'm just disappointed. We all get runs on each other with aero package out there. I had a big run on the guys in front of me, but I was going to stay in line. I guess from what I'm being told the 4 car hit me. Somebody hit me and didn't use their head. The closer we get to the start/finish line at the end of the race, the wilder it gets. How many restrictor plate races do we go to and run three and four wide all day long and not have an incident? We all just catch our breath when we do get away and not have something like this happen. I'm just a statistic today. I've caused one at Talladega one other time. It's some tough racing. All it takes is one guy to hit you and move you into somebody else. You just need a track about 100 yards wide. Tony and I were fine. We were just in line and I got hit from the rear. When I got hit from the rear, I came into Tony."

JASON LEFFLER (No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I had nowhere to go. I think I hit the back of the 99, and I hit him pretty hard. That's how fast it happened. I got hit three or four time after that. The car was good. There's no need to run three wide for the whole race. I knew Stewart was good, but he was lagging back. Dale Jarrett and all those guys, I had a pretty good idea they were just going to wait until the end of the race. We went right up there. It's a shame, but it's a part of learning."

DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"The engine broke. We were good on new tires. We pushed on old tires and slid back a little bit. We just wanted to get the car good for that last 50-lap run and go. We could get up there and get after it on new tires. If we could have got the car better, we could have raced for it on the last 50 laps. We just didn't make it."

JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"The 20 car was upside down when I went through. It was impossible to slow down. I got hit from behind, and guys just kept spinning. You don't hit just one guy. You hit three or four of them. I couldn't see where I was going, and the 24 couldn't see where he was going.

"You run close. Restrictor plate racing has always been close racing. It's so exciting. We were getting close to the end of the Daytona 500, and everybody wants to win it. It's just like any other race, but this was a big one. Unfortunately a big one was created in the process of that. When somebody's willing to check up early in the race, that might not have been the case near the end. That starts everything. For me, dumb luck. I don't know about anybody else. I couldn't see the front of it. It was just unfortunate. It's one of those deals where you can be the culprit as well. I'm not going to pick anybody out. I've been in the front of it, too. It's unfortunate, but our Dodge was running good."

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We came out unscathed, and I was tickled. We had a good day. Fifth ain't nothing to go out of Daytona and hang your head about. I'm ready to get out of Daytona. It's pretty fun, but it looked like Martinsville out there most of the day. The Chevys have good a pretty good motor advantage I feel like, and I just didn't have anything for 'em. Wrecking is just part of it. That's what they expect. You put rules like this together, and you're going to have that. I'm pleased with the Dodge, especially for the first race. A couple of Dodges had a good shot at winning today. I'm not real sure what happened, but we got three of 'em in the top 10, and I guess I ended up with the best Dodge finish. That was quite a surprise.

"The Dodges ran good. Dodge led a lot of the race. It's just unfortunate what happened. We were the top finishing Dodge. We came out of here fifth, and I ought to be tickled to death. I guess I'm just glad I've got a steering wheel left.

"The car was tight early, and I didn't want to mix it up. I was afraid I might push out and get somebody. Casey ran good, but when it got time to go, they worked on him pretty good. He had a little problem with his car, but that's what these Daytonas are all about. It gets harder and harder every year. You've got to be smart and you've got to be good. I don't know if I was either today, but I came home fifth."

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We know we had a good race car, but there were four or five Chevys out there, and I knew I was in trouble. I couldn't get any help. Ken Schrader helped us a lot, but with Michael Waltrip blocking, Earnhardt blocking and Earnhardt Jr. blocking, well, that's what you're supposed to do, and there just wasn't much I could do. We had a good car today. We got lucky and got our lap back, and we led a lot of the race. I knew I had a car that was capable of winning, but that's the way it goes. It was a good start for Dodge. I wish we could have won it for 'em. That would have been the way to start, but we've got 35 more chances. We'll be ready to go next week at Rockingham."

CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I couldn't believe all the red Dodge hats on the backstretch when I started the race. Everybody had a red hat on. We got to the front twice, and I'm really happy about things and how they went today. A right front shock broke halfway through the race, which put me behind. The guys worked really hard, but we're a rookie team and there's always room for improvement. It was definitely an exciting race. If we hadn't broken that shock, we probably would have been in that big wreck. We found some things to improve on, but we're looking forward to Rockingham next weekend. I'm really glad that the race is over. I'm going to have to take a few days and relax."

STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Congratulations to Michael Waltrip. They worked hard. He's been around a long time, and they deserved to win it. If you look at the scoreboard, you see Chevrolets up front, you see Dodges up front, you see Fords up front. It goes the same way. If you've got some good cars out there, they're going to run up front. You've got some cars that get up there sometimes and won't stay. I don't think anybody can complain. Seeing what we saw today and the race on Thursday, I don't think anybody can complain. It was pretty good racing until the big wreck."

WHAT DID YOU SEE DURING THE WRECK?
"Dirt. Smoke. Dust. I don't know what happened. I was about five cars behind where it started, and I saw the smoke. I got to the infield. My spotter hollered go low, and I got to the infield. When I looked up, I saw cars flipping. It was pretty bad. It's just tough racing. When you're racing four wide for 500 miles you know it's going to happen. I saw Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte racing back there in the back the majority of the day. I feel like they were sitting in the back trying to avoid the big wreck. It's pretty tough. The fans get their money's worth, but it's some awful tough racing out there when you're four wide for 500 miles."

DID YOU EVER GET THE CAR LIKE YOU WANTED IT?
"That last run, we had the car the best it's been all day. When we got in that big wreck on the back straightaway, we knocked the nose in, we knocked the valence in, we got some holes in the nose and we never could get any runs on the guys. We felt like we had a legitimate shot at winning it after that big wreck. We just never could pull up. The guys worked good today. Chad (crew chief Knaus) made some good calls in the pits. The car got better and better all day long. The first time out with a new manufacturer, we weren't sure what they were going to need. It was a good day for the Kodiak Melling Dodge

"To come down here, the second time down here to run the Daytona 500 with basically a new team and a new crew chief, new team members, new manufacturer, to come out and qualify and run the way we ran, we're pretty happy with it. I'm ready to go to Rockingham now."

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"That was a pretty good finish considering everything that happened today. We didn't have the 16th best car here, but we hung in there and got a good finish, and that's what it's all about. The Dodge is a good race car. John had a good car today, but he wasn't as lucky as we were, I don't guess. We'll get ready and go to Rockingham next week and try to get better."

BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It's tough racing out there, but we had some fun today, and it was definitely a learning experience. Congratulations to Michael Waltrip. He's been trying a long time, and it finally paid off. We're going to keep working hard. It'll be a learning experience for us the first half of the season, but we'll keep digging and do the best we can. I'm excited to be with Dodge. It's a great car, and it's just going to get better."

TIM CULBERTSON (Program Manager, Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Engineering)
"We grew up a lot this week. From being an infant program, the first time out, taking a pole, winning a 125, having a legitimate shot at winning the Daytona 500, leading I think the most laps of any manufacturer. I think we went from being one year old to about 21 this week. It's a real tribute to the one-team concept and the engineering effort. Ted Flack (Manager, NASCAR Engine Programs -- Dodge Engineering) and his people, the engines were pretty good. I think we had one problem. Sandy Winestein did a nice job with the aero program. I think we have a slick body. We're just getting going on the chassis stuff. We grew up a lot this past week. I almost feel like we're a part of the fraternity.

"Sterling's problem, from what I saw, he tried to work the outside groove, and that looked it wasn't the groove to take. Everybody looked like they were protecting the bottom. That was the place to be. Sterling had to go back to get to the bottom, and then it was a little too late to get to the front. It was the wrong groove, and that happens. It'll change during the race. I think Sterling showed he had a legitimate chance to win the race. He made up a lap, and that slowed him down. Ward Burton had a car to win. I think we had two legitimate cars to win. I don't know that Elliott ever showed his hand. We never saw him much at the front, but he was there at the end. I don't know if he had anything for 'em, but he was good enough for a top-five finish. The one word I would say from this deal is maturity. We really matured this week."

RAY EVERNHAM (Team Owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"I'm real pleased with all the Dodges. It's not a bad day. We finished strong. Thank God my cars weren't in the big accidents in the backstretch. Bill and Casey ran good. Bill just didn't get in position at the end. I'm ecstatic. It goes to show you that we can come here with brand new cars and be competitive and run 500 miles. Our finishes (fifth and 20th) is more than we could have hoped for. We've got to go back and do some work to get ready for Rockingham. We've got four or five more days to get ready. It's one day at a time. It's a good all-around day for Dodge. It says an awful lot about the guys and the work they've done to come back. You know we would love to have had Victory Lane, but we're happy with where we are. It gives us good momentum for Dodge and Evernham Motorsports going into Rockingham." -TEAM Mopar

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Ken Schrader