Daytona 500: Dodge - Bill Davis interview

BILL DAVIS (Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) NOTE: Driver Ward Burton joined Bill Davis Racing in 1995 and finished ninth and 10th in the series standings in 1999 and 2000, respectively. He finished 14th last year in his first ...

BILL DAVIS (Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)

NOTE: Driver Ward Burton joined Bill Davis Racing in 1995 and finished ninth and 10th in the series standings in 1999 and 2000, respectively. He finished 14th last year in his first season in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T. Veteran Hut Stricklin joins Bill Davis Racing this season as driver of the No. 23 Hills Bros Coffee Dodge Intrepid R/T. Davis talks about Daytona, his drivers and outlook for the season.

"I looked at that first practice sheet Monday. Here's all the Roush Fords in the top 18 in practice without the change. They didn't qualify that great, but so what? We're all talking about the race here. Then they're talking about making another adjustment after the 125s. Wait a minute. That might be a little bit late. We've got some Dodges that might go home. If we have a common template, which we do with the Fords, we should get everything they do. The data is there. We should have every consideration they get. I guess we can't cry as loud as they can. I've never heard anything like it. Let's just work hard and race hard. How can they make those changes before they go to the wind tunnel. What were those changes based on? Where's the data?

"Sterling, because he's a hell of a drafter and they had a hell of a pit stop, managed to work his way up to the lead pack in the Budweiser Shootout. He couldn't do anything with them on the race track. It was publically stated when Ford said they were going to build a downforce car and be able to race wherever they went and just suffer in the four restrictor-plate races. OK. Now, they're getting this kind of break on the speedways. I don't understand.

"We were disappointed the lap the 23 ran in qualifying, but Hut drafted good in practice Monday and he's getting more comfortable in the car. Maybe we can get past Thursday, get in the race and get to racing. I really like Philipe Lopez (crew chief). I like the way he handles himself and the way he handles his guys. He certainly knows cars and understands cars. He's been around this deal for a long time. I think for the first time we're going to have that cooperation and communication that we've looked for so long between the two teams. Philipe did a great job those last four or five races last year with Dave Blaney. That 93 car was bad fast.

"We're expecting the 22 to get back on that top 10 level. We knew last year could be a struggle getting used to the Dodge and getting built up and understanding the body. We got caught up in an awful lot of wrecks of other peoples makings. If we had a few of them back, we could be back up in the top 10. If everything goes like it should, the 22 should be a threat to win two or three races this year. I think Hut and Philipe are going to surprise some people. I think they showed it the last race of the year at Atlanta. They qualified 11th and finished 11th and ran in the top 10 a good part of the day. I think that's what you can expect out of them.

"I think there's certainly 20 teams capable of being top 10 teams out here right now. It's a bigger challenge to get in the top 10 now than it was five years ago. I think the Dodge program is where it needs to be. We needed the nose kickout last year. That was fair, but I still think we can work around that. I think we'll have a good, solid season with the Dodge teams. Ganassi's bunch has a year under their belt. We understand what needs to be done with the Dodges now. Ray had the task of building a team and getting everything in place last year. That was a huge task, and he did very well. Hopefully with a little bit of time, the motor program will be what it needs to be. I think across the board, you're going to see all the Dodge teams pick it up a notch.

"The Dodge people deserve a lot of credit to accomplish what they did with this program in a year's time. The Dodge engineers probably learned as much as they taught. They were the first ones to admit they wanted us to tell them what they needed to do and what kind of help we needed. You've got to admire that. That's Dodge Different. Look at what Dodge did in the truck series after they got their feet wet over there.

"I would certainly hope that Hut and his team is a top 20 team and breaks go their way. If things go their way, they might can do better than that. That car had some flashes of brillance last year. They had a lot of trouble closing the deal. With the exception of Hut and Philipe, nothing much changed with that team. It was just a second-year team last year changing bodies and motor combinations. That's a lot to expect. We're going into our third year as a two-car team. We understand more of what it's going to take to make the two-car concept work, to utilize all of our assets.

"We had some races we should have won last year with the 93, both Atlantas for sure. They beat themselves. At best we made a lateral move. We lost a young crew chief and brought a veteran in with years of experience. The same with the driver.

"The Ganassi team got together with Dodge, Sterling and Tony Glover last year and clicked. They exceeded their expectations. I think it's going to be the normal cast of characters at the top again this year. The 18 will probably get a little better. Kevin Harvick could be a top five car. If there's question marks in the top five from last year, it's probably Rudd and Sterling. Was Rudd running on adrenaline? He's certainly a solid driver.

"I think the 22 could be a top five, but I won't say it's going to be. Looking at our DNFs last year, he was running in the top 10 when he got run over.

"I think Tommy Baldwin (crew chief for 22 team) is a top 10 crew chief. He's matured. He's learned a lot. He's got a lot cooler head on his shoulders. He's better able to step back and look at the big picture. He'll deal with things rather than flying off the handle and making rash decisions. He's still got plenty of that in him, too. You like to see that sometimes. He's still going to change tires for Ward on pit stops. It fuels that competitive fire. It fuels that ego. We can't find anybody to replace him. He's a hell of a tire changer. Our general manager who's in charge of the who le place goes over the wall and carries the rear tires. We couldn't find anybody to replace him, either. We've auditioned people in practice time and time again, and can't find anyone better, so I don't see that as a problem. If you've got a cool head on top of the box covering the situation, I really don't see a problem. I sit on top of the 22 box during the race.

"Philipe and Hut have been together. They've got confidence in each other. We've got our best engine tuner in the garage over there. Jimmy Penland, our car chief with the 22 last year, understands our system and how we do things. We put him with the 23. I really think the 23 will be a much stronger team. There's more experience and more depth over there than there's ever been.

"I'd like to win more than our one race a year this season. There's a lot of teams in here that would give anything to get one a year. I'm a realist about that. I'd like to see us pick up some, and I think we will. We had the Dodge deal and the tire deal last year. The tires threw us a curve. We suffered just like a lot of people did, but the last 12 races we ran well. We had a lot going on the second half of the season. I don't think there's any reason the 22 won't get back on form this year and win some races and finish in the top 10 in the points."

DAVIS' REACTION TO A NEGATIVE PUBLISHED ARTICLE ABOUT HIS TEAMS

"You can bet this clip will be posted in large letters in the shop. Every Monday morning everybody is going to read it and every Friday morning everybody is going to read it. I just read it Monday. If that's the guy's opinion, that's great, but I can't believe it. That's real good for me. That's all it takes for somebody to print something like that about me. Early in my trucking career, I'd go and try to finance some trucks or something. I'd get turned down because I was too young. I'd hear 'you're only 22 years old.' I can name 'em all. I personally proved to that person that I made it without them helping me in the trucking business, so I've got my inspiration for the year."

-dodge-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Kevin Harvick , Hut Stricklin , Dave Blaney , Tommy Baldwin
Teams Bill Davis Racing