Car owner Bill Davis continues to see return on long-term investment in NASCAR Busch Series standout Scott Wimmer. HIGH POINT, N.C. -- With his Midwestern roots, his life-long friendship with series graduate Mark Martin, and a direct pipeline of...
Car owner Bill Davis continues to see return on long-term investment in NASCAR Busch Series standout Scott Wimmer.
HIGH POINT, N.C. -- With his Midwestern roots, his life-long friendship with series graduate Mark Martin, and a direct pipeline of good perspective from the American Speed Association (ASA), Bill Davis determined quickly that Scott Wimmer, one of the best of the 2000 ASA rookie class, was a driver worth making a long-term investment in as a future fixture at Bill Davis Racing.
When he was in the throes of a busy expansion period at the turn of the decade, Davis was looking for a young talent to complement veteran Ward Burton and then-BDR NASCAR Busch Series driver Dave Blaney, who was graduating to the Winston Cup Series, as the team moved to a true multi-car status.
In mid-summer, 2000, Davis and BDR General Manager Mike Brown thought so much of Wimmer, just completing his first full season of competition in the talent-rich ASA division, that they made a place for him to run three Busch Series events at season's end in a BDR entry before becoming a full-time series regular in 2001.
In his family-owned American Speed Association (ASA) entry for 2000, Wimmer became only the second ASA rookie in history to win back-to-back races--at Lanier (GA) National Speedway (4/8) and Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway (4/22). WIMMER finished 11th in the overall ASA point standings with five top-10 finishes in 18 starts, including a runner-up effort in the season-finale in St. Louis.
Wimmer was clearly on a quick path to stock-car's highest competitive levels and Davis wanted to bring him along judiciously, as he had Blaney and Jeff Gordon, two of his other non-traditional "finds" for the BDR Busch Series program. And Wimmer has delivered, finishing 11th in the final NASCAR Busch Series standings his rookie year (2001) and continuing to enjoy an outstanding sophomore Busch season.
After last weekend's seventh-place finish at Michigan in the #23 Siemens Pointiac, Wimmer ranks fifth in the current Busch Series standings and trails fourth-place Scott Riggs by only 16 points in the tight battle for positions 4-8 in the NASCAR Busch Series points. Although winless in 2002, Wimmer has come close, including among his nine top-10 efforts finishes of third (Bristol, Milwaukee, Indianapolis), fourth (Nashville, Dover) and fifth (Kentucky).
And as Wimmer makes his third NASCAR Winston Cup attempt of the 2002 season in the #27 Siemens Dodge this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, Brown maintains that Wimmer's projected growth curve within the Bill Davis Racing curve is right on target, especially given the fact that he's not enjoyed the full-sponsorship luxuries of many of the Busch Series championship contenders in either of his first two NASCAR seasons.
"Both this year with Siemens and last year with Jani-King, the sponsorships
for Scott's program have been targeted for about half the races, but Bill Davis--much like we did when we brought Jeff Gordon along a decade ago--made a 100% commitment to Scott from Day One to give him comparable equipment to anyone he was racing against," said Brown, also a member of the #1 BDR/Baby Ruth Ford team with then-NASCAR novice Gordon in 1991.
"It's pretty clear--especially by the way his team has performed during the summer months--that Scott is on the verge of winning in the Busch Series, but we had to make a decision in early June--with Winston Cup as both his goal and our goal for him--as to whether running all the Busch races this season made sense.
"At that time, Scott was at the bottom of the top-ten in the point standings, and the decision was made not to run all the Busch races after the mid-year event at Daytona. We felt that value to Siemens was greater, moving the effort for Scott to a concentrated number of Winston Cup events. But with the pressure of that decision off, the team got hot almost immediately, and has been on a tear through the summer, where now he's only 100 points or so out of third-place. Sponsor interest from other companies picked up dramatically. We had to rethink not staying with it."
But the challenge of double-duty Busch Series/Winston Cup Series is hard for any young team and driver, most recently exemplified by the failure of Greg Biffle--current Busch Series points leader--to make the Winston Cup race at Michigan during a companion weekend for both of NASCAR's top series'.
Wimmer's recent DNQs for Winston Cup races at Chicago and Indianapolis have done little to waved the confidence of both Brown and Davis about Wimmer's Winston Cup future, both in the short-term in the #27 Siemens Dodge, and in the long-term as a member of the growing BDR roster of top-level teams.
"We have put zero pressure on Scott, (Crew Chief) Bootie (Barker) and the Siemens team on the Winston Cup side, for a number of reasons," said Brown. "First, we want them to stay in the hunt for the Busch Series title, and that's a big priority. Second, running Scott in some Winston Cup races has given us a chance to learn more about the cars we run there with the #22 and #23 teams.
"Scott's a tremendously smart racer, maybe as race-wise already as at least 70% of the guys who are out here in the Winston Cup week-to-week. Not to knock (current BDR drivers) Ward (Burton) and Hut (Stricklin), but he may give us better feedback to make necessary changes than they do sometimes. He had a good test last week at Bristol, where he finished third in the spring Busch race, and I think he'll be fine when we go back there this weekend with the Winston Cup car."
His career Busch Series statistics to date show a specific trend toward Wimmer being a much better racer than qualifier. In 59 career NASCAR Busch Series starts, Wimmer has improved on his starting position in 47 of the 50 races he has finished, including all but one race in 2002. Wimmer has also made dramatic improvement from his rookie Busch Series season in every significant statistical category; including average-finish (12.9-16.9) and average-start (23.6-24.4), and has completed almost 97% of his total miles in 23 starts in 2002.
"It's a little unfair to say that Scott's not a good qualifier, because for much of this season in the Busch Series, those guys have spent most of their practice time--including the time before qualifying in race-trim--and that has shown up, both in the way he has qualified mid-pack for a lot of races and the way he's run at the front in most races once they've dropped the flag.
"But making Winston Cup is so tough, and we've thrown a totally different strategy at him in terms of making these shows this fall. We need to get him thinking about running one good qualifying lap so he can then run 500 competitive laps on Sunday in the race.
"He came from a underfunded family-owned operation in Wisconsin where I'm sure not damaging the equipment was critical. That's not always the best mind-set for running a wide-open qualifying lap, and he may still have some of that in his subconscious when he goes out to qualify.
We've kidded him about taking two Winston Cup cars to a track somewhere and just let him dive in off into the corners harder and harder, bang them up if he needs to, and then figure out how far is too far to take one of these cars with a qualifying lap. I'm sure it won't come to that. Scott's adapted to the Busch Series and been successful and he'll do the same in Winston Cup. He's still our investment for the future at Bill Davis Racing."