Phoenix: Ward Burton Breakfast Club interview

Ward Burton, driver of the No. 0 NetZero Pontiac, was the guest at today's Winston Breakfast Club. Burton will be making his second start in the NetZero Pontiac this weekend. The following are hightlights of the Q&A',s with the media: TALK...

Ward Burton, driver of the No. 0 NetZero Pontiac, was the guest at today's Winston Breakfast Club. Burton will be making his second start in the NetZero Pontiac this weekend. The following are hightlights of the Q&A',s with the media:

TALK ABOUT THE NEW WARD BURTON THAT ENJOYS BEING AT THE TRACK AND THE NEW TEAM HE IS WITH

"I'm pumped up when I wake up in the morning. Not to bring up anything negative, but my brother (Jeff Burton) made a comment to me this morning that made things stick. He said, 'You know, you might not have known at the time, but Bill Davis did you a favor'. There were a lot of times, and still in some ways don't feel exactly like that. But with what's been going on in my life and with the NetZero team, I just feel completely rejuvenated. The relationship with Tony Furr (crew chief) is great and I don't feel like that's going to change. His racing career has been somewhat like mine. We're both at the age that when some little things that rip a relationship apart, I don't think that's going to happen here. Gene Haas (team owner) is committed. I'm really excited."

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU CRASHED ON THE SECOND LAP OF QUALIFYING YESTERDAY?

"It's been so long since I had a car turn the way that I've had the last two weeks, that now I've got to build a harness to speed a little bit. I've got the speed, but I've got to be able to harness it. Some of that's communication with Tony. Some of that is using my head and not always the right foot. But I've got the speed. Now I've just got to tone it down a little bit and get it under control. That part is exciting because I can do that. I'm pumped up about Happy Hour. To be honest with you, the last two or three times here I dreaded Happy Hour at this track because I wasn't running well. When I got here yesterday, we were in the top five right off the truck. The changes that Tony made were all geometry changes in the front of that car and I haven't had anybody make those kinds of changes for me in a long time and they were all working. Not that we won't have our times of struggle, but I just feel real excited about where we're going with this program."

ON THAT SECOND LAP, WERE YOU TRYING TO GIVE THAT TEAM JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE?

"Some of it was because the chassis are so new and because the feel of the motors is so new, I didn't feel like I had proper speed on the first lap. But actually we were a tenth and a half better than any other first lap we had had. Had I known that, I would have settled down a little bit. We actually got on the throttle probably three or four car lengths quicker than anybody down there in Turn 1 and I didn't have a car tight enough in the rear. But the nose turned so good and I had it so pointed so early I could go the throttle. That's something that I could fix. Trying to find speed is the tough part. Harnessing it is the easy part."

COMPARED TO LAST WEEKEND IN ATLANTA, HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH THE TEAM AND HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TONY FURR CHANGED?

"I was comfortable with it last week. We went down too much on the rear springs to get grip during the day. And the track fooled both of us a little bit when it cooled down so much. During practice when we crashed in Happy Hour, the right front dipped down. There were reports of debris. I don't know whether I just lost it or whether we cut a tire but that was kind of weird. During the course of the race, there were times when the car was real edgy. But I think we passed more cars than anybody all day. We came from dead last up to 12th under green. We got a lap down. We came back to 13th and would have finished a little bit better than that if we wouldn't have had the last four or five laps under caution. So I was really pleased with out first time effort last week."

DO YOU HAVE TO GO SWITCH TO ANOTHER TEAM IN ORDER TO LOOK BACK AND SEE WHAT THE RELATIONSHIP REALLY WAS OR HOW IT HAD DETERIORATED?

"Today or 10 years from now I will always believe that that performance at BDR (Bill Davis Racing) in the last year or so could have been fixed. When I brought up certain areas, that's when the conflict started and they were not willing to change it for me so it was basically time to move on. It's been refreshing to be around some new faces. But there was nothing wrong with the faces I was involved with it was just the willingness to work together."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MANUFACTURER SWITCH AND WHAT THE TEAM HAS BEEN TOLD?

"It's been one of those years. We obviously know what happened with the Dodge relationship. And then Pontiac pulls out right when I got back with them. That was ironic. I'm happy to be back with GM. I feel like moving to Chevrolet is not going to be a hindrance, but a positive because of all the technical support that we're developing with Hendricks, and have with Hendricks, it'll make everything be exactly the same now. There will be no single variable that'll be different."

WHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TONY FURR SO GOOD?

"I believe in him and he believes in me. His knowledge of the race car is phenomenal. Yesterday, we worked on the front geometry of the car the entire time. And besides one other small change, that was it. It picked us up almost half a second. We had talked a month or month and a half before we actually had our contracts done, but I just think that the opportunities that have come his way and not panned out are the same for me. Now maybe we can do it together."

AS A SEASONED DRIVER, DO YOU HAVE TO ADAPT TO THE NEW TECHNOLOGY THAT'S OUT THERE ON THE ENGINEERING SIDE?

"I think we're always adapting. It's easy to have habits that are sometimes hard to get away from. The sport has changed so quickly that you're not going to be competitive without that technical help. It's just not going to happen. Whereas, increasing spring rate in the right front used to always tighten the car up. In a lot of places now, it'll make the car turn better. You've got to have the simulation processes and the shakers and all the technical help to be able to have that knowledge because we certainly can't test every single day at every race track."

IS IT HARD TO CHANGE YOUR MINDSET TO ALLOW THE CREW CHIEF TO DO WHAT HE WANTS AND FOR YOU TO JUST DRIVE THE CAR?

"I don't have any problem with that. He can put the right front spring in the right rear for all I care. At the same time, the younger guys have some edges and the older guys have some edges. Everybody has different characteristics. But also, we need to look at the teams these younger guys are getting with. When Jeff (Burton) and I were coming around, that wasn't available. With the exception of Jeff Gordon, we all were in start-up teams. It took years to develop them and years to get with a team that had this kind of support. The days of just the crew chief and driver taking a car and running up front without all the technical support are gone."

ARE YOU GIVING MORE INPUT TO THE NETZERO TEAM AND DID YOU BACK-OFF FROM BEING MORE INVOLVED WITH BDR BECAUSE YOU FELT IT WASN'T WANTED?

"Yeah, some of that. When Tommy Baldwin was there, we worked hand-in-hand a lot. When Tommy left, that chemistry left. And some of the willingness of people wanting me to give input left also. Tony and I talk every day either at the shop or on the phone about who we're interviewing and what positions we need to fill and about the cars and about what we're doing to get ready for Daytona and on and on. I do have a lot more hands-on. And that input is wanted more. Not that I have all the answers, but certainly it's everything in my life. And so I want to be an asset, not a hindrance."

ARE THE CORE INGREDIENTS IN PLACE, AND WHAT DOES THIS TEAM HOPE TO ADD FOR NEXT YEAR?

"We've got to add some structure and depth to the team with personnel. We're interviewing a lot of interesting people. I have noticed that it is a little bit easier and we're interviewing a lot more people being in the Charlotte area versus being elsewhere. That's where all the talent is. I do know that's a plus. We've got a challenge in front of us. I've got to get a little more accustomed to the Hendricks feel of the cars and be able to give good input to Randy Dorton and those guys. I feel like it's going to take a little time, but we're a lot further ahead than I thought we would be by the time we're at the second race. Even with me spinning out the second lap here at Phoenix, it's probably the best I've qualified here in four years. I know the second lap would have easily been a top 10 lap. That part's got me pretty pumped up."

HOW IS YOUR WILDLIFE FOUNDATION GOING?

"It's going really good. We just got a very large federal grant approved this last week. We've got three other fund-raising projects going on that should secure all the land acquisition by next June. By August we'll be building a welcome center and educational facility for the children. I'm really excited about it. It looks like we're going to be making a difference very shortly."

WHAT'S THE FUND-RAISER YOU'VE GOT COMING UP AT ROCKINGHAM NEXT WEEK?

"That's a joint fundraiser with DU (Ducks Unlimited)."

HAVING WON AT TOUGH TRACKS LIKE DAYTONA AND DARLINGTON, WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU NEED TO IMPROVE?

"All the tracks are a challenge. As of Darlington, there was a two or three year span when every time I went there I had a shot to win. This past year, the No. 22 was not in contention. It was like I couldn't drive the track. The nose of the car just wasn't turning for me and you know what the back would do then. What I'm starting to see is that I have to re-think every track we go to with a Hendricks car verses a Hopkins, with the motor combination being different, and the body combination being different. I will find the speed but I've got to harness it to where it's a little more controllable. And that's a good thing."

"We've gotten better on the short tracks. It's the mile and a half tracks - Atlanta, Charlotte, Darlington, Michigan, Chicago, and Kansas - that used to be my strong suit two or three years ago. I lost grip and the ability to go fast there by not having cars that allow me to with my driving style and being able to tell the team what we needed to do. Last week in Atlanta, we came from the tail end of the longest line to 13th Tony had some cars I could drive again. I feel like those tracks that come up again this next year will be a strong suit."

WHEN DID YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DRIVE THE NO. 25 CHEVROLET AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?

"It was quite a few times. Rick was always good to me with the choices I made. I really felt if I'd made a move I'd be hurting people. I didn't make a selfish move on it. Not that I'm an angel, but that was the reason I didn't make some of the moves before because I felt in doing so it was going to be harmful to a sponsor, team owner, team members, or what have you."

HOW IS YOUR COMMUNICATION NOW WITH TONY FURR? HOW WAS IT LAST WEEK IN ATLANTA?

"Very good. Very refreshing. I feel like I just grew some wings or something. I feel light-footed in the morning and I'm ready to go. I woke up this morning geared up to get to the race track and excited to get to Happy Hour."

DID YOU EVER DREADED COMING TO THE RACE TRACK?

"Oh, yeah. Again, I'm not the only one in that boat. All of us that are in this mode of making things happen performance-wise can get up really easy and can get down really easy. It's hard to emotionally keep a balance. I've had to work on that a lot the last year or so. I try not to get too down or too up. All of us go through it. We all get pumped up when things around us are positive and we feel like we have a chance at a race track and it's hard to stay that way when you don't have that support and you know there's a good chance you'll be struggling."

WHAT ARE YOU AND TONY FURR GOING TO WORK ON DURING HAPPY HOUR?

"We need to tighten the car up a little bit probably (laughs). Tony is just going on his past notes. But we're just going to get the car comfortable. We obviously need to keep it between the fences for a change. We'd like to get it close enough so we can make a long run so we'll have some good feedback for tomorrow. This is challenging, but it's definitely a turn for the positive for me."

DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'LL BE DRIVING NEXT YEAR?

"Chevrolet."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tommy Baldwin
Teams Bill Davis Racing