WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) "I'm back. I really never left. Caterpillar in their haste, when time was right to get everything done, got their deal with Bill done. The way it had always been before, we kind of knew where...
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I'm back. I really never left. Caterpillar in their haste, when time was right to get everything done, got their deal with Bill done. The way it had always been before, we kind of knew where each other was going and worked it that way. I just wanted in my own mind first of all that that was what everybody wanted to do. Secondly, that it was the best thing for everybody to do. We have broke stuff that we haven't broke in the last four years on our cars, and we've had a dismal season since we left here. Had things not broke like at Richmond, Michigan and Sears Point, we wouldn't be in the shape we are. The sport has grown a lot. This one engine rule has made people push stuff to the limit. There's some areas as a team where we've just got to step up. I don't think it's ironic we've had these problems. We've got to step up and meet some of these challenges. We've got great people. We've just got to add some support to our group.
"I've been with Bill Davis, and I've been with the 22 team for quite a while now. I view myself as a part of that. I think I've had a part of the growth from where it was to where it is now, and I think I've got to play an important part for it to even grow more to get back to where we need to be. It would have been mentally and physically something for me to get used to to make a change, but if that's what I have to do for the best of everybody and myself, I will do it.
"I'm not a quitter. The other day my little boy got behind in a basketball game we were playing. He threw the ball down and then after about two or three minutes of me keep shooting he came back and we finished the game. He ended up winning it, but we finished the game. I've never quit. I've never been a quitter. My mom and dad have fought for everything they've got. I don't know why, but it just seems that some areas in my life, this being one of them right now, that I have to fight for every little piece of real estate or every thing good that happens to us. At the same time, I know that we can get this thing turned around. If we can turn it around from '97 to where we were at the end of this past year, we can definitely turn it around now. We've got good people. We've got to build the race team and get some more support there. Hopefully with the new funding we're going to get from Caterpillar, it will help build. We've got to get both teams to work close together and reinforce each other. We've never had that. If anything, the added extra team has been nothing but a distraction. They have the potential to help us. We've just got to make all this stuff happen, but it's not going to happen overnight. I do have complete faith that myself and the 22 Caterpillar car can be successful and get back on track.
"You're going to have to get that (more engineering help) and we're going to have to get Terry Elledge more help and get Tommy more help. The funding is obviously an issue, so we're going to have to get help on that. We're going to have to step up. We're not going to be able to do it the way we are now.
"I'm done. I'm ready to rock. Caterpillar has signed for five years. A lot changes in the sport and I wasn't willing to sign a five-year deal (Burton signed for two more years, taking him through the 2004 season). We never even talked about it because I told Cat when we talked that five years is a long time. A lot can change in five years. Three years is a long time in this business. Five years is just too far to look down the future. I don't even know for me physically to sign a five-year deal if I would even be up for it. I do want options, and I feel like they need to have options. I'm going to give it 100 percent, and I'm sure they will, too.
"I just want to make things work. The part I'm going to play in making it work is very much worthwhile the effort. We've just got to make it work. I believed in it enough to sign away another two and a half years of my life. We've got to make it work.
"We were late (going through inspection). When you're 25th in points you're one of the last ones through inspection and that doesn't help a lot. We haven't made a lap in practice, and that's probably not going to help us. Maybe it won't hurt us at all. We qualified fifth or sixth down here in February, so we'll see what happens."