WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: This year's Daytona 500 winner and his car owner, Bill Davis, talk about racing at Talladega on Sunday with a smaller fuel cell. "It'll help if we have green-flag stops. The last couple...
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: This year's Daytona 500 winner and his car owner, Bill Davis, talk about racing at Talladega on Sunday with a smaller fuel cell.
"It'll help if we have green-flag stops. The last couple of times there, everybody has been real patient, give and take until the last 30 laps or less. That's when we've had the problems. NASCAR knows that, so what they're thinking is if we can get to that point and we should be three-four green-flag stops then we won't have 30 cars bunched up and if something happens it won't be as dramatic.
"We don't get good gas mileage, so that will come into play. We're going to see two-tire stops, maybe rights, maybe lefts. It'll depend on what the Goodyear tire is doing for us. It's going to be interesting. A lot of it will be in the hands of strategy. I'm sure there's a number we need to go to to be able to make the least amount of stops possible. If you can't make that you'll have to make an extra one and you'll go a lap down. One of the things we're going to be learning on Saturday is fuel mileage. You can bet on that. I'm sure we'll all try to run 'em out on Saturday to see how far we can go. You'll be close with 20 or 25 laps. I think it's going to be a good thing. The only problem it's going to put us in and we've seen it a lot of times. We do have accidents pitting under green. Sometimes it's because it's not the proper hand signals or one guy will see another guy jumping in and he decides to jump in. Ten more will jump in, so you have to be on your toes, too. It's going to be a damn crap shoot. It always is. We need an answer to the problem of restrictor plates and NASCAR is still searching. Making a move like this is certainly not hurting anything They're betting we have green-flag stops. If we have green-flag stops, it's going to be good.
"Unless we have a caution late and we're all in that window, it's going to help. It still should have some cars a lap down. With more stops you're going to have more people making mistakes. I've done that and got a lap down from overshooting the pit or whatever. It should make the show really interesting. It's going to be good for the race fans.
"We had a good car down there at Talladega. Our restrictor-plate cars have not been as good as the 38 which is in Daytona USA. We tested a new car last week. We finished in the top 10 at Daytona last time, but we couldn't suck up and keep up. Hopefully we'll be able to suck up better this time. We missed the big wreck last time at Talladega. We had a mid-pack car and that's all I could do with it until we missed the big wreck last time. We got a big run and went to the outside and nobody went with me and we fell back. That was a little embarrassing, but I wasn't going for a top 10. I was trying to win the race. I don't know why my little brother wouldn't go with me. Sterling and I worked well together, but it's difficult right then to make a decision on whether you should be aggressive or defensive. I made a decision. Nobody went with me, and I just paid the price. That's the way it goes in that type of race. We were trying to win the race.
"We have been better at Daytona than we have at Talladega, and I think it's because of handling. We've got the cars to handle better at Daytona. Talladega hasn't been a handling track for a couple of years now. There's room to adjust to there. If the car is real tight, I can run low or high to help it. At Talladega, we just don't have it there. That's why you see some of the same cars stay up front pretty much all day. I hope we've got a car that can run with the DEI cars when we get there because they've been kicking everybody's butt all year in the plate races. They've done their homework. They're doing some R&D stuff and they've learned how to get the data and make the cars better. They've just got what it takes right now.
"Qualifying doesn't mean anything. You've got to get in the race, but other than that it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't matter if you start 36th or first. To be honest with you, it's just about that way at all these races. We've had some of our best races starting in provisional land. Then we go somewhere like Richmond and sit on the pole. That Dodge was awesome up there, and then we break so it didn't make any difference. If you get the car handling good enough and if you don't have something unfortunate happen, you've got plenty of time to get the job done. I think the times we have gotten in trouble I believe some of the guys believe we're running 30-lap street stock races. That's what I've been dealing with the last three weeks.
"It'd be nice to go to Talladega and lead the whole race. We almost did that with the car we had at Daytona in February last year. That baby was awesome. That's the car that's in the museum down there right now. It wasn't as good this past race, but it's still a good race car. I don't expect to go to Talladega and dominate. I just hope the car will suck up and not have the drag problems we've had before. I'm not sure if it's drag or lack of cowl pressure around our competitors, but it's one of the two.
"It has been a crazy season, but I think we're about to be able to point our finger at why. Some of it is aero. We know that from some of the tests we've done the last couple of weeks. Some of the things we've worked really hard at makes the window of whether we're right or wrong very small. We've got to undo some of the things we've worked very hard at. Terry and the motor guys have done a good job of getting the motor combinations better so we can turn some rpm's. We broke 11 times in the first 16 races. That's unlike our Cat team. We haven't broke that much since '99, but we can't undo that. I've got in some wrecks, most of them not of my doing, but a wreck is a wreck. We're using the rest of this year to get geared up for next year."
BILL DAVIS (Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"The fuel cell will be almost half the size it normally is, so there should be twice as many pit stops and NASCAR thinks that's going to string the field out more. You're going to stop a lot. If there is a caution, everybody is going to stop and get bunched up and that's when we have our problems. Plus, we're getting on and off pit road twice as often in theory, and that's certainly always a potential for problems. In theory it's great. If it does what NASCAR intends for it to do and spreads everybody out, it'll be good.
"We drove up to third in the last race at Talladega and got shuffled out with about two laps to go. We ended up 16th. Since Terry Elledge joined us and started building the restrictor-plate motors, we've run awfully well at the superspeedways. We dominated last year at Daytona, led the most laps. We could go to the front any time we wanted to. We've never run as well at Talladega as we have at Daytona. I guess it's a handling deal. You can make your car drive better and handle better at Daytona versus just the brut speed of Talladega. We have a much better track record at Daytona than we do at Talladega. There's a lot of luck involved at Talladega.
"I think our motors are pretty good for the plate races. Terry puts a lot of emphasis on it. He was part of all those great plate motors at Richard Childress'. He's been part of winning a lot of plate races.
"Kenny Wallace won't be driving the No. 23 Hills Bros Dodge. He already shot a commercial for Petree and the 33. Scott Wimmer will be in the 23 for us at Talladega. He struggles a little qualifying, but he's a great racer. Qualifying shouldn't be a problem for Scott at Talladega. He got the win at Dover (in Busch Series) and that's been great for his confidence. It's always nice to get that first win behind you. They've been right there in the top three or four with a few laps to go and never closed the deal. He got awful close at Bristol. He had Milwaukee going his way and had a late caution.
"All you've got to do is look at the record right now. These other manufacturers have been helped and helped and helped, and we haven't. I think we've gotten way behind. I think you've got to look at the concessions the other makes were given. They just made their cars better and we stayed the same. I think we'll have a little more level playing field than we do right now next year. We'll have the same bodies we've worked on with just a few tweaks and GM will have brand new bodies, so it'll be interesting to see how everybody takes off running.
"It's similar to what happened to Dodge over on the truck side. They've worked really, really hard and got the best stuff going over there. The other manufacturers backed off , so Dodge is getting penalized and the other manufacturers are getting concessions to keep up. It's like we're not getting rewarded for working hard and making the commitment and doing all the things you need to do. You're at the mercy of how NASCAR views the competition and how they adjust on it. I don't think they have to justify it. They look at it and it's their show. The rest of us are just getting to play in it.
"There's no reason to think the Dodges won't be very competitive at Talladega. Things will be a little more even down there."