WARD BURTON, Driver TOMMY BALDWIN, Crew Chief BILL DAVIS, Owner Part 1 of 2 MODERATOR: I'd like to get started with our post race news conference. Winner - Daytona 500, Ward Burton. This is Ward's first win here at Daytona, and his eighth...
WARD BURTON, Driver
TOMMY BALDWIN, Crew Chief
BILL DAVIS, Owner
Part 1 of 2
MODERATOR: I'd like to get started with our post race news conference. Winner - Daytona 500, Ward Burton. This is Ward's first win here at Daytona, and his eighth start in the Daytona 500. He's the first Virginian to ever win the Daytona 500 in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge. Ward, we'll open it up with a quick question. Could you just talk a little bit about waiting at that red flag, how nerve-wracking did it get? One of the most wildest finishes you had. Take us through it.
WARD BURTON: Well, we had a super car here last year and probably compared to the competition had a stronger car here last year than we did today.
Today we had some luck. We were in the right place at the right time. Actually we had a train going there with the 24 to 40 and myself and the 21, Elliott. Then the 24 and 40 got together, and that made us race to the line there.
I still haven't figured out exactly why the 40 car got put to the tailend of the longest line. That gave us another opportunity. We were just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and were able to capitalize on it.
Just feel really thankful for the guys on the team, have sacrificed so much, their families, worked so hard. Bill Davis Racing and Gail. We've come a long way since '95. It means a lot to be here today.
Q. Tommy, a question for you. Could you talk about the winner, how hard the team worked, you were faster in testing, and this is the same car you guys had last year, right?
TOMMY BALDWIN: Yeah. We had the same car last year, but we wrecked it in the 500, then came back in the 4th of July race and qualified 2nd and finished 7th.
WB: 4th (laughter).
TB: That's the first time he's given me information (laughter).
The last restricted place rate at Talladega, we wrecked it again. This has been a work-in-progress. This car here had a Pontiac body on it, that's how old it is. Thing just likes to run real well. We worked real hard this winter fine-tuning it, getting all our other race cars ready to go.
We started this 2002 season back in September of 2001. I figured we'd get a really good head start. All our work right now today has paid off.
Q. We also have Bill Davis here. Maybe give a quick comment to the building of this team. You and your wife have worked hard on this. The movement to Dodge. All kind of culminates today, this win, doesn't it?
BILL DAVIS: Yeah. Like I said earlier, it doesn't get any better than winning the Daytona 500. This is it. This is what we all work for. When you're a young person and you want to be a racer, and you're a real racer, you dream of not only competing at this level, that's a pretty big honor, but then to win the biggest race that we run. I thought the Southern 500 was about as good as it could get last year, but this is just -- this is unbelievable. I'm just so happy for everybody that supports us, all the people that work at Bill Davis Racing work so hard, dedicate themselves to it. This is just a wonderful thing.
Q. How many disasters did you avoid today? At what point did it hit you that you would inherit the chance to win this race in the way that it all played out? When did it occur to you that you were in the position that you were going to be to win the race?
WB: Well, you know, there were a lot of close calls throughout the course of the event. But our closest was the one that -- the pivotal point was when the 24 and 29 got together. I thought for a bit about trying to get high. Obviously we knew he was going to go back high, turn a hard left, got the car actually sideways. His back or the side of his car went right by the nose of my car. I was lucky to even get control back on it. But that was the big point with us.
The only other real close call we had that was not behind us was when the 24 and 40 got together. You know, when they got together, I went on the outside of the 40 car and we raced back to the line.
What was the other part of the question?
Q. When did you know you were in the position to win the race?
WB: We were running -- there was five-car breakaway, 24 and 40, us. Actually, the 12, us, the 6. We got by the 12. It was four of us in line. We knew we had a shot then.
You never know what will happen here. It's an atmosphere that can play in your hand or play against you, whether you get to push or not. But, you know, we really, really knew that we had a serious shot at it when the 40 car had to go to the tailend of the longest line, that put us in the hot seat.
I really would have rather had 21 behind us, a friend of mine, on and off the track. But 21 got around the 9, and Elliott followed me. We had some good momentum then. Elliott never really got the momentum to make a charge at us. We were racing behind pretty hard. From there all I had to do was steer between the lines. Had a great race car.
Q. When you were getting ready to start this race today, how much of a realistic shot to win the race, considering all the Chevrolets, how strong they were, the Pontiacs, how much of a realistic shot to win the race did you imagine you had? Also, could you have imagined all the craziness that would go on considering we're going back to a set of rules that everybody thought was going to make for a more stable race?
WB: Well, we saw in the 125s people could still pass. Both races were good races.
You never know exactly what your involvement is going to be until you get all 43 of us together. But I think that it was a better change. It was a change in a positive way than what we had last year. Last year was three abreast all day long. We had some three abreast today, but mainly two abreast.
You know, I really wasn't sure starting off this morning whether we had a shot to win the race, but I was very determined to try to be there at the end of the race. You know, we've learned that you have to finish first, and that's what our goal was to be there at the end of the race, and maybe we'd have a shot at it. We had some luck to do that.
You know, at one time, Tommy had told me and when he told me, I started paying attention, it was the 24, the 40 and the 22, and everybody else was Dodges -- excuse me, Fords in the Top 10. It looked like pretty good even parity between all the makes.
Some of the strongest cars that showed in the 125s had trouble during the course of the race. They really wasn't contenders.
Q. Last year you guys were dominant before you got caught up in the big wreck. How much do you feel a feeling of redemption this year? You weren't that dominant, but you ended up winning the race.
WB: You know, my teammates were really confident -- Tommy and all the guys working on the car the last two weeks, Terry Ellis, his support group, everybody kept saying, "This car is going to stay at Daytona." You know, I laugh at them and say, "Yeah, yeah, that would be great." But they were very confident that this car was going to stay in USA, Daytona over here.
It does feel special. But, you know, we felt like that was a race that was kind of stolen from us - not that we had it won, but we had a real legitimate shot at it.
These races, you know, the nature of them, is one that's such you never know what's going to happen till the race is over.
Q. Bill, could you address that, too.
BD: Well, we were so disappointed last year because we come down here with such an unknown, we didn't know what we had. We tested poorly in January, and went home and worked real hard, went to Talladega, tested, came back down here and just, man, had an awesome car, led all those laps.
You try not to let yourself get too carried away in the course of a race, especially one of these. But we got to thinking, "Man, we could win this race."
One year ago, when it all happened, I couldn't have been any more disappointed in the way it ended up. So to come back and, you know, have the chance to get this one, it does make you feel a lot better about it.
TB: Our biggest thing I tried to implement with the team over the winter was that preparation was going to be the key this year to get off to a good start. We have the first six races of cars sitting there ready to go. We fine-tuned all of them.
This winter, I think, since this is the first time in my career at Winston Cup that I didn't have to be part of rebuilding a team; finally we just got to refine a team. And I think that was the big plus this winter, just keeping -- Bill has done an awesome job the last couple years supplying us with the tools and the people we've needed to move forward.
This winter was pretty mellow, a lot more mellow than what it used to be. We were just pretty confident with this car. It's been a good race car for us throughout probably the last three or four years now. It's always run well.
I knew if we just stuck to the basics and did everything that we know how to do, don't make any dumb changes to the car all week long. You know, Ward was getting a little worried during the week, what was going on. I just swore to myself I was going to stick to the basics this week, and the next three or four weeks, and that's what we're going to do.
Q. When you're sitting over there in the backstretch parked right behind Sterling, you see the window net come down from his car, he comes out, what did you think at that point? Did you realize that he had committed a critical mistake at that point?
WB: I wasn't really sure at that moment how big a mistake it was. I didn't see him mess with the fender. Bill told me on the radio that there had been an adjustment made or something.
Sterling was just caught up in the moment. You know, he was anxious to see whether his car was okay or not. Might have done the same thing in the same scenario. There's times that we all make mistakes in the heat of the moment. You know, obviously if he could go back and rethink that, at least, you know, look at it instead of making a change to it, if that's what he did, obviously, he would.
But Sterling is truly a class act. We always enjoyed racing hard with him at these places. He's been a good partner with.
Q. Would you have preferred to race him for the lead?
WB: No, I would have definitely rather been in the lead (laughter).
Q. Do you feel kind of sort of a revenge after the struggles you had earlier in the decade?
BD: Well, yeah, I guess so. I've struggled a lot with wanting to understand what it took to earn respect in this garage and maybe to be taken seriously, if you will.
I just think I've always tried to work really hard, grow my deal, get in position to win races like this, in the Southern 500.
But you still don't -- or I don't feel like maybe we've always gotten the respect that we should. You know, we've struggled a lot with sponsorships. You know, I don't know. Yeah, I got a lot of revenge. I feel pretty good right now (smiling).