Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001. Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Notes and Quotes. Highlights of Ward Burton-Tommy Baldwin teleconference and other advance Dodge material for Richmond. WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Burton recorded...
Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001. Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Notes and Quotes. Highlights of Ward Burton-Tommy Baldwin teleconference and other advance Dodge material for Richmond.
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Burton recorded his third career victory in career start No. 239 on Sunday at Darlington in the Mountain Dew Southern 500. He ranks 17th in the series standings with 11 races remaining, and he's going for a shot at a million dollar Saturday night at Richmond in the Winston No Bull 5 competition. Burton made his first Cup start at Richmond in 1994.
"I started with Alan Dillard and that team out of Charlottesville. They put forth a huge effort. I was released from that ride for a number of different reasons, mainly sponsorship woes that Alan Dillard was having to deal with at the time. That's when I got hooked up with Bill Davis, and we've had a lot of good times and some times we don't want to remember. For the most part, it's been all positive and it's been great to be involved with someone of Bill's caliber.
"Dove season came in in Virginia Saturday. Jeb (nine-year-old son) wasn't at the race this weekend. Sarah (15-year-old daughter) was off to school, so yesterday we went off and got five or six doves and cooked them for supper. We had a good time spending Labor Day with our children. My son Jeb had a friend with him. I can let him go out with a little 410 if I'm with him every moment, so I just let him take his BB gun, so I was doing the shooting yesterday.
"I don't think I would change anything (about current points system). There's no need to try to fix something that isn't broke. It's working well. The people that run up front and are consistent through the year are rewarded at the end of the year through points, so it seems to me like it's doing fine like it is. I'm sure there's all kind of different opinions. There's always a bunch of different ways to do it, but I'm not sure of how long this point system has been in effect, but I have to go back where it awards consistency and to finish second at a Winston Cup race should be rewarded also. I don't really think so (points for pole). The event is around Sunday, not Saturday. If they did some of that, I don't think it would create a problem, but the big picture is Sunday or Saturday night. It just seems like it's working pretty well now.
"Jeff (younger brother Burton) I think has made it something that he's put forth a lot of energy toward and something he saw that he could make some difference in. I think all of us applaud his efforts and his insight and all the people, including NASCAR, that are looking into all the different possibilities where we can make the cars a little bit safer. I guess it's kind of new as much as he's brought it in the forefront. Jeff took a really hard hit one time at Orange County Speedway and that was back when we were running Late Model Stocks. He actually broke his back. I know at that time he was even contemplating whether he would even race any more. I think probably from that point on whether he was talking about it or not, he was always interested in it.
"When I go to Darlington, I look at it as a real challenge. It's a challenge not only physically but also extremely mentally, too. It's also a place like all of our race tracks that's extremely important to get the car to handle well and get the car balanced so it doesn't wear out one tire quicker than the other. That balance at the end of the race, particularly the last 70 or 80 miles was the reason we were able to win the race. I know my team at that point when I needed it gave me the best race car.
"We made it on second round (first Cup race at Richmond in 1994). That was pretty lucky because we were the only ones to make it on second round. We were actually moving up through the field before the motor expired. It was a pretty trying time at that moment, during that season. We really didn't have any experience. We had taken our Busch crew up to the Winston Cup level and Mr. Dillard was struggling with having the proper funding. There were times during the year when we showed some real promise. We set a track record at Charlotte and finished second at Pocono. Those two things kind of stand out in my mind, but it was obviously a big beginning of starting to get some experience at this level. It's important to start at the bottom. You've got to be completely focused and willing to give up your social life and just about everything else. I didn't have a family when I started racing. I started kind of late in stock cars, but once I got into the first real race car here at South Boston, everything else in my life came second. The dedication and focus on what you have at hand and doing the best with what you've got is most important.
"It's been an up and down track for us. We've run well there (Richmond) in the past and we've run poorly in the past. I think we're slowly but surely getting our cars better, our motors better. At the same time, Richmond is of course like all of our tracks, it's very important to have a good chassis package on it. We're actually heading to Concord, N.C., today to shake down a couple of cars and pick one of them. We've done that in the past and it's helped, so we're going to do that again this afternoon.
"We haven't had any good luck. Every time we've had a shot that we felt like to win the race, starting at the Daytona 500, we had somebody take us out or something happen mechanically. Tommy and I had a long talk about two weeks ago and we just made a conscious effort to say, 'we're going to take the best car we've got in the stable every week until we can get a track record of consistent finishes from particular cars.' I think that was a big turning point for us.
"I didn't know when it would come, but I knew from some of the prior races, whether it was Daytona, Pocono, California, I can go on and on where we had shots at it but had bad luck. At any given race, we may hit on it, but going to Darlington I get really excited and my team does, too. They put forth a huge amount of effort for me this weekend. The whole support group at Bill Davis Racing has been working extremely hard, particularly because of the switch to Dodge, and it's real gratifying to see all their hard work pay off.
"It's nice to have places where you can run both grooves. I just think it makes for better racing. Somewhere like New Hampshire has always been tough to make outside passes. There's really only one groove there. Some of the tracks are just shaped different than others. These three races (Bristol, Darlington and Richmond) are pretty exciting, but you know we've got a lot of good race tracks on the Winston Cup circuit. There's a lot of good race tracks that we run on where guys can come from the back and win the race. There's 15-20 cars on any given weekend that can win the race. NASCAR has done a real good job on the parity of all these cars and it's proof by having so many different winners this year.
"It'd be pretty challenging (Darlington under the lights). I think if anything it would be real challenging to get the shadows off the wall. Some of the best lit race tracks have shadows right next to the wall. I can tell you from experience, you wouldn't want to have any shadows at Darlington because you have to run so close to the wall when your car is hooked up.
"It's a huge morale booster for everybody at Bill Davis Racing and our race team. It makes a lot of difference. Hopefully that will prove to some folks we're talking to or may talk to in the future that we can get the job done. It takes some pressure off because we're one of the teams that have won a race and have capitalized on having a great car. My team has worked extremely hard this year. We've almost started all over from going to Dodge. It's been a good decision, and it's a decision in the long run that's really going to pay off for us, but there's been a lot of effort put into it because of having to build new cars and new motors and everything.
"I was definitely nervous (starting 37th at Darlington) because the further back you are the greater the chances of getting in an accident of not your own making but something happening in front of you. I was really conscious that I felt like I let the team down on Friday (qualifying). I wanted to make it up to them on Sunday.
"It goes without saying, but at the same time it doesn't hurt to tell people how much you appreciate what they're doing for you. They'd do the same for me, and I know I'm very aware of not only the sacrifices they (crew) make but also the sacrifices their families make. We're all in this together. We're all fighting for the same common goal. Any time you've got this many people working as a team, there's a lot of different personalities and people have a lot of things going on in their life that's trying for you and at the same time we've got the schedule we have. It's pretty grueling, but we try to always pick each other up."
TOMMY BALDWIN (Crew chief No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've had to come together more this year because it's been a trying year for us more than ever. We had pretty much success right off the bat when we first got together and came out the '99 season real strong and finished in the top 10 in the points and came out in 2000 real strong and got a win and also finished in the top 10 in points. This year, we had everything we thought put together real well. We came out in the Daytona 500 and I think we were pretty much the whole week and during the race. We got wrecked during the race. We've had some really good runs this year. We just haven't had an opportunity to put a stamp on it and finally on Sunday we put a stamp on it. That was pretty gratifying for the whole team.
"I think it's awesome. I think we should race under the lights every where we go and every Saturday night. It's pretty intense for the drivers and also the teams and fans. I definitely think it's the way to go, hopefully for the future to do all that type of racing. Not to take away from what we accomplished in the Southern 500 on Sunday afternoon, but there's nothing that beats Saturday night racing. A lot of us are brought up around that, and I love it.
"Our teammate, Dave Blaney in the No. 93 Amoco Dodge, is going to be testing there (Kansas) next week, so hopefully we'll get some information out of that. We heard some cars have already tested there and they felt it was pretty similar to Chicago. We'll get more information when the 93 goes next week.
"It's taken us all some time to figure out the balance in the cars, what the driver likes. The balance numbers from the Pontiac to the Dodge are completely different for what Ward liked, and it took us a little longer than we thought to have it figured out. I think we're rockin' and rollin' right now. We've got a couple of cars in our stable that suits Ward's needs and we're ready to go.
"We started to get our act together right before the rule change. They changed the rule on us and it knocked a couple of more cars that we thought were pretty good out of the picture because it changed the balance so much on 'em. I guess the easiest thing would be to just not put the rule change in effect and keep those cars, but I don't think we'd be as competitive as we are now. We've gone back to the drawing board once again. I think we've cut up four cars in the last three weeks and trying to get some new bodies on 'em and get to the wind tunnel and try some new things. These cars are pretty finicky. There's a lot of competition out there and you've got to be pretty much right on to win these races on Saturday night or Sunday. I think we've got a couple of good cars right now, and the 93 has got a couple of good cars right now that are capable of winning races.
"We won Sunday with pretty much the same basic suspension package that we won a year ago in March but with a totally different race car body on it and with totally different balances, aero front to rear balance. Goodyear changed that tire on us, and it kind of threw us in the loop again. We had just got th e old tire figured out from when they changed it last year. We've had to compromise a lot with the car and what we needed to do. Believe it or not, once we got our balance back with the bodies, we've now gone back to our old setups and they're starting to work again.
"A couple of weeks prior to Pocono, we felt like we'd found something that Ward really liked. The Pocono race and the race before that, we started picking up the performance a little bit. We took that car back and found a couple of differences compared to all the other cars we had in our fleet. Then when NASCAR made that rule change, we brought a car that was similar and it was horrible at Michigan and that was the same car we could have finished in the top five in the first race (at Michigan). We had a hole in the radiator and it burned the motor up. That really raised our eyes and we took notice that we needed to really pay attention to that balance more than ever. We've got to be really close with what we've got to bring with these Dodges. Actually, we brought the car we ran real good at Indy with. We brought it to Darlington and it paid off.
"We have a brand new car that we're going to go test with. Hopefully it'll work out (for Richmond). If not, we'll bring the car that we ran the past New Hampshire with.
"I think it threw a lot of teams out of whack, not just the Dodges. What it did, it piled one more thing on us. Once we seem to get adapted to something, we've always got to deal with the change. Once Ward gets down to what he's working with and something throws him for a loop, it takes us a little while to get back in our game, just because of the frustration level that builds up in him. Dealing with a brand new body, a brand new engine, brand new race cars, brand new tire, we had to change a lot of stuff. It's been eight or nine months working with this Dodge, I think we've figured it out.
"We did the test (at Talladega) About 17 or 18 cars were out there testing and there were a lot of differences to the changes that NASCAR had us do. I think they came out with a couple of decent scenarios. The package we have now is definitely up on top of list. One other package they did the drivers felt was pretty good. All it did was change the handling for all the different makes and models. The Chevrolet people aren't too happy with a rule change. They want to keep it the way it is. Pontiac people want the rule change. Ford people definitely want the rule change. The Dodge people are mixed. Some of us like it the way it is and others it changed their cars to handle better. NASCAR has a pretty tough decision, and nobody likes changes when NASCAR does it. After they do it and we do it, it always seems like they've made the right decision because we've learned to adapt. I think no matter what decision they make, you're going to see a good race at Talladega. Daytona is the beast that we have to worry about. I think it would be a really good idea that all of us get together and go back to Daytona and do all this testing and really see where we're at."