Bill Davis Racing WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid) NOTE: Burton is the defending Daytona 500 champion. He took the lead with five laps remaining and held on for a .193-second victory over Elliott Sadler. Burton will be making...
Bill Davis Racing
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid)
NOTE: Burton is the defending Daytona 500 champion. He took the lead with five laps remaining and held on for a .193-second victory over Elliott Sadler. Burton will be making his 287th career start in Sunday's 45th annual Daytona 500. He has 17 career starts at Daytona with two top fives and eight top-10 finishes.
"A lot of dreams have come true at Daytona for a lot of people and a lot of dreams have been broken and lost. I don't think there's a single event that we run during the course of the year that has more attention or media following. At the same time, winning any Winston Cup race is an accomplishment. We get these little trophies when we win at some tracks. They should be as big as the car because that's how hard it is to win one of these races.
"Looking back at winning last year's Daytona 500, it becomes even more special as time goes by. To be honest with you, I enjoyed all the stuff we did last year after the race on Sunday evening. I was really pumped up, but I was ready to go home. I wanted to be in my environment, go out in the woods, do a little work with the Wildlife Foundation. Our sport has outgrown that. It was actually two weeks before I got to go out in the forest. The sport has grown to a point where people will do a live interview with someone who wins this race for weeks. To go to New York and be greeted like I was there, I needed to be there. I had a lot of fun up there. It was a great experience.
"Sterling getting out of his car last year made it a little more bizarre, but I think the rest of it was all normal. The racing was so close that we saw a lot of blocking. We learned a lot from that race that carried over to the next three restrictor-plate races. Blocking in a lot of cases is going to cause trouble and NASCAR started getting on people about it. The one thing about the Daytona 500 that we know is that it's going to be one of the most unpredictable events of the whole year. I don't see a lot of difference this year.
"I don't feel like I've changed because I won the race. The excitement of the fans that followed us and the excitement it gave our race team, particularly what it gave our sponsors like Cat as a marketing tool. I felt the change with all of that and the business opportunities it brought to us. It was more than just general greetings from race fans.
"The rules have changed so much. Every time we come to Daytona... You could have had an outstanding vehicle here last year and come back this year and be struggling. When we were down here testing I was happy with the way the car drafted. I was not happy in qualifying mode, so we basically rebuilt the race car. Of our three restrictor plate cars, the Bud Shootout car is the worse one of the three. The Daytona 500 car is the best one, and the one sitting on the truck is the Daytona 500 backup and it's the second best. The main thing is like any race. You've got to be there at the end of the race.
"We missed that wreck last year by probably about six inches. When the Cat Dodge went through all that smoke, you couldn't even see how close it was. That was the pivotal moment for us. I've got to keep the car out of trouble and hopefully not be in the wrong place at the wrong time like we were a lot of times last year and then race like hell the last 25 or 30 laps. That's when you win the race -- no time before that.
"You're trained to do that. You've got to run the 500 miles, so I don't really have any problem being patient, but it seems like I get caught up in stuff when people aren't patient.
"The smaller fuel cell is very likely going to change the strategy for the whole weekend. We're not going to be able to go the distance in the Gatorade 125s like we used to. We'll probably be able to go somewhere between 34 and 40 laps. You're going to pit and get serviced quicker, but drivers should also be more patient. You're not going to get into those last 15 or 20 laps when your car starts having handling problems. Last year that's when our car started really coming on. Then you're going to have tire strategy. Do you take two or four? It could also come down to a fuel mileage race also.
"We had some up and down times last year. It wasn't all frustrating. We had some good times as well as bad times. We won two races, and a lot of guys didn't do that. We just went through a time when we had mechanical trouble and it seemed like every time a wreck happened I was slap dab in the middle of it. We've got to get more consistent.
"I'm looking forward to going to Daytona USA and seeing that car one more time. I think I'm going to take my whole family and get a picture of my family there with the car. That's a pretty neat deal. Everybody has that optimism when they're at Daytona and even when they leave if they don't have a good run. We just went through some mechanical problems early in the year we didn't know how to fix. We broke more last year than we did in the previous four years combined. It was an up and down season. Hopefully this year we can smooth out the peaks and valleys and be a little more consistent.
"I think Frankie Stoddard brings a lot of stability to the team, but I can't depend on Frankie to fix it all. If we start seeing we're missing in an area, we've got special team members trained to fix the problem. I've got a lot of confidence in my team. They've made a lot of good, positive changes. We had a problem with our jackman. He developed some weird heart problem and we've been scrambling to replace him, but all in all I think all the changes are positive and we're moving ahead.
"Kenny Wallace brings a lot of enthusiasm to our team. I know he's always joking, but him and Philippe have shown a lot of promise. We're hoping the two teams can start using each other more. We weren't structured for that to happen last year. It's up to us to make that happen this year. I'm real excited. I still don't know exactly where we stack up, but we're gaining on it every day."
KENNY WALLACE (No. 23 Stacker2 Dodge Intrepid)
"I think Bill Davis Racing is a great organization, but I didn't realize that Bill feels like the NASCAR community doesn't give him any respect. I didn't realize that until I start driving for Bill. In my little world, I always thought Bill had a great organization. When I got there, it is a great organization. Ward has been a mainstay there since 1995. He's won the Daytona 500, the Southern 500, Loudon. I really think when you're off the beaten bath like that geography-wise, maybe just because he's not in the Charlotte area he feels he doesn't get any respect. I definitely give that team all the respect in the world.
"Some people think that Bill doesn't get all the quality people, but I don't see that. My pit stops have been right there with everybody. We've got Phillipe and he's a great crew chief. Terry Elledge is a magic motor man. I'm real happy with all the people. I'm always a positive person.
"I'm comfortable with it all. I think it's up to the individual team now to take care of their own equipment. The cars are all pretty much the same now. Any complaining will have to be about small situations. I'm thrilled to death with my organization. How much more can you do? The body location is mandated. All the downforce numbers are close. The cars we tested in Vegas were close to each other. I can't ask anything more out of Dodge. They rolled out the red carpet. It's up to us now to make it work."