Ward Burton Preseason Thunder - GM interview

WARD BURTON, NO. 4 STATE WATER HEATERS MONTE CARLO SS YOU ARE BACK AT DAYTONA FOR THE FIRST FULL TIME SEASON SINCE 2004, TALK ABOUT THE 2007 SEASON "We're excited about being with Morgan-McClure Motorsports and State Water Heaters. We've got an...

WARD BURTON, NO. 4 STATE WATER HEATERS MONTE CARLO SS

YOU ARE BACK AT DAYTONA FOR THE FIRST FULL TIME SEASON SINCE 2004, TALK ABOUT THE 2007 SEASON "We're excited about being with Morgan-McClure Motorsports and State Water Heaters. We've got an uphill battle ahead of us. The guys have been working really hard and hopefully their hard work is going to pay off. It certainly is somewhat of a mountain to climb. But as I walked into the speedway this morning, it has so much history to it. I can remember the first time being here as a child and now back here again. It's a little bit familiar territory and somewhat unfamiliar. It's exciting. It's such a challenge. The scenery has changed a bunch with all the uplifting of the infield here. It's neat to be back in the game."

WHEN YOU WERE AWAY, YOUR FANS WONDERED WHEN YOU WOULD COME BACK AND LOBBIED FOR YOU. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT YOU? "I'm not sure. But it's always made me feel awful good. I always felt like I was lucky to be a race car driver. I never thought I was any better or any more special than anybody else and I've treated everybody according to that demeanor that I have. In life we have some things that happen to us that we can control, and some that we can't. And I've been very fortunate in a lot of different areas to have some of the opportunities that I've had. So whether I'm deserving of that support or not, I don't know. I'm certainly not perfect in any way. But I've noticed it and appreciate it and I relish it a lot."

TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF COMPETING ON '07 IN A SINGLE-CAR TEAM PARTICULARLY WITH THE LOCKED-IN TOP 35, WHICH IS NEW FOR YOU SINCE RUNNING FULL-TIME IN THE SERIES "The locked-in 35 is the biggest issue. My rookie year, we had a wreck at the start / finish line in the first 125's and that was the only (Daytona) 500 I wasn't able to make. When we came back here in '95, we had to finish 15th or better to make the 125 and we finished 11th that year. I remember Ben Blake was the first reporter I saw after the 125. and I felt like I already knew what it was to win the 500 because we made that race. I think right now, with the few spots - which is basically seven spots available - if we can make that race that same feeling is going to be there again with the State Water Heater effort. I think it's going to be tougher and there are a lot of things against us. The thing that is for us is that we've both done it before.

But I certainly would like for our team to have had another month to prepare for this day and for the coming Speedweeks because we are a little bit behind. But it is what it is and we're working hard. Hopefully that hard work will be seen in the qualifying efforts in the 125. I think the qualifying effort is probably more important than the actual 125 itself."

WHAT PART OF RACING HAVE YOU MISSED THE MOST? DO DRIVERS EVER GET RUSTY? "Shoot, I guess we all can get rusty in some way or another. When I got back in the car the first time it was a lot of fun at first. My first instinct was, 'Where in the hell have I been?' because it just felt that natural. I think the sport changed, but it's still driving. What has changed is the amount of support that the driver needs. It used to be that you could have good equipment with a chemistry between a crew chief and a driver and if the driver could tell the crew chief what it was doing and the crew chief could change it, you could make the cars fast with that ingredient. Those days are about gone. Now we have multiple engineers and the aerodynamics that are so important. As an example, the day that we were in the car and you increased the right rear spring rate and it tightened the car up, that was tightening an aero change up. Someone like me sitting in the car will not know that. So it took a lot of time to learn that, but it used to always free the car up. So the technology and the little things that make these cars go and that make all race cars go today just takes a lot of different types of support. So the grass roots efforts that got us here for the most part have ceased to exist."

ON THE BUMP STOPS / COIL BINDING SPRINGS, IS IT A COMFORTABLE FEELING OR WILL IT SOON BE LAST YEAR'S NEWS? "I think it's just an evolution that we learned a couple of years ago, even before my absence, that getting the nose down helped the aero. We were doing the bump stops a lot before NASCAR stopped us from doing it. To me, it's what allowed the inexperienced to still be competitive. It used to be that drivers with experience were going to beat drivers that didn't have experience. When you started getting the coil binding involved and aero dependence involved, it allowed people that had driving talent to still be able to run fast. When coil binding is right, it's a lot easier to drive. These cars, you're not driving them the way we used to drive them out of shape and all. The cars are pretty much stuck. From there, it's just the balance. I don't see anything that's going to change that quickly. It is what every team has moved to and is continuing to move to."

HOW HAS DRAFTED CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED RACING AT DAYTONA? BUMP-DRAFTING WASN'T AN ISSUE IN THE EARLY DAYS "It's just gotten more competitive. There are more cars. They're in a tighter bunch. I was thinking about that last week and remembering the first Busch race I had with Earnhardt and Gant. There was five or six that kind of broke away from the pack and we did that all day. Those days are gone. I think I could have my kid and 25 of his buddies that race each other in go-karts and they'd be bumper to bumper. Where 20 years ago they wouldn't. So it's just the competition has closed up. It has gotten tighter and there are a lot more solid teams than there used to be."

CAN YOU TALK US THROUGH HOW YOU CAME TO JOIN THIS TEAM? "I got here by someone on the radio, I think her first name is Clare (B. Lang, XM Satellite Radio) and she kept worrying the dickens out of me to get back in a car with all the other people she was talking to (laughs). Larry (McClure) called me one day and I was kind of itching to get back behind the wheel and that was two weeks before Martinsville. And I said, 'Heck yeah, I'm ready.' From there we've been trying to get suits hemmed up and helmets and the car ready and that was pretty much it. They got State Water Heaters and wanted me to drive this year. From what we experienced last year, we knew that the team's got a long way to go and I'm willing to hopefully help them in their stride to get back to where they were. And that's pretty much it."

HOW IMPORTANT IS CONFIDENCE IN PERFORMING WELL? "I think it's real important to feel confidence in yourself. But just as importantly, that confidence that inner peace comes from and seeing a lot of light in the tunnel and seeing all the support that's going around your efforts. There is a difference between having day-to-day confidence in what you're doing and in your efforts in life versus efforts around racing. Blocks can kind of get taken out over the course of weeks. When I first got into this, and a bad week would happen - something would happen whether it was in my control or not, on a Sunday and it would affect me until about Wednesday. And I'd just be in a down mood and be a little bit aggressively angry. And it really wasn't about confidence, but about the way you were handling not defeat, but disappointment. So it is something you have to work on really hard. It's not something that always comes easy. A lot of it is what you're surrounded with. If you're surrounded with people who are negative, it's going to rub off on you. If you're surrounded with people who are positive, it's going to rub off on you too."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Ward Burton