Daytona 500: The winning team press conference, Part II

WARD BURTON, Driver TOMMY BALDWIN, Crew Chief BILL DAVIS, Owner Part 2 of 2 Q. Tommy, there was so much talk about the spoiler heights going into this race, the Dodges getting the quarter inch on Friday, the Fords with the three cuts and so...


Part 2 of 2

Q. Tommy, there was so much talk about the spoiler heights going into this race, the Dodges getting the quarter inch on Friday, the Fords with the three cuts and so forth, how much -- with all the talk of rule changes, what did it mean today for you all, Tommy?

TOMMY BALDWIN: Basically, to put us back in business. You know, after the wind tunnel results, you know, we're an industry, we know what everybody has. We're in the top bunch of the group of race teams, that we know what we're racing against. Once they cut the Fords a half inch, we already knew the Chevrolets had an advantage on us at quarter inch. It showed up Thursday on the 125s. We went from a chance to win the Daytona 500 to luckily finishing in the 15th spot.

We fought real hard to get at least a quarter inch.  Finally NASCAR agreed.
That just put us back equal.  We knew us being equal, we could win the
Daytona 500.  That's how confident I am in our race team and Ward Burton.

It definitely put us back giving us a chance to win the Daytona 500.

Q. Did you feel like you might be racing for the win when you were racing with Sterling back to the caution?

WARD BURTON: Yeah, definitely so. You know, we've seen in the past, there's been some pretty terrific wrecks when you have a couple laps to go, here and Talladega, a little bit antsy about that. Actually, I complained about it sitting on the backstretch. I'm remembering that now. Kind of fell in our hand.

But, yeah, we were definitely racing back. Sterling beat me by a couple feet.

Q.  You talked about learning how to finish your races.  How have you
learned to drive this place?  What was it like on the victory lap?

WB: You know, Tommy and Bill Davis Racing, all the guys, Terry Ellis, they've given me some good race cars. We have to finish first. To finish first, we have to give and take.

A couple instances out there that I could have hit somebody, wrecked them. I'm sure there was more than one instance they could have done the same to me. But I tried to drive the way you want to be driven. Last year it feels like we had more of our knocks than we should have because we try to drive people clean. Actually took away some opportunities that we possibly could have had.

But it really feels great. Because all those guys have worked so hard on, you know, not only our team, but all of Bill Davis Racing team, every one of them were part of us being there today.

Q. What did it feel like on the victory lap?

WB: Had a bunch of tears in my eyes. I had to make one extra lap to get my composure.

Q. Can you talk about the history of winning this event? Did this race remind you at all of anything you grew up with?

WB: All of us started in the Weekly Racing Series, wherever we started at, always took the Sunday off to watch the Daytona 500. It means a lot. You know, I'm sure these guys are heroes and my hero, Bobby Allison, all the guys that made the sport what it is today, watched them be successful here and to win this race here, truly I can't think of anything more special.

You know, everybody on our team is healthy. We just had one of our guys, he just had a newborn son. You know, we're a real family back there. We don't have any quarrelling. Everybody is on the same page. You know, we work together for our goals. It's our goals, not just Bill's or Tommy's goal. It's just all of us working for the same goal, is what makes it so special really.

Q. Does it remind you of watching....?

WB: Nothing ever I've done before reminds me of this. Watching on TV, No. Being a part of it, being in that victory circle, actually being able to make that lap, getting high-fived by all our different team members, coming down and joining our team in victory circle, there's nothing that you could experience that's going to top that.

Q. You've never been accused of being flamboyant. The next few days are going to be a bit of a whirlwind. Are you ready for that? Are you prepared for that?

WB: Well, we're going to do what NASCAR wants us to do. But I fit in better in the little hills in Virginia (smiling).

We're going to New York. We'll try to fit in there. We'll have a lot of fun doing it. You know, NASCAR has done such a wonderful job making this sport what it is. When people will have us in places and take our team and the winner and our sponsors to a place like New York, it's awful special for all of us.

Q. Nearly all the wrecks were caused by swerving, blocking, running into each other. Did you almost have to develop a short-track mentality to keep all the fenders on the car and get to the end?

WB: You know, it's the difference of staying your line and actually blocking. It's a difference between somebody's got a little momentum and somebody's got a lot of steam. I think ever since we got away, most of the races were called by blocking. We got passed as many times today as we passed. We really didn't start concentrating or trying to get in the right line, try to be in the right line, till 34 to go.

We have to give-and-take.  A lot of guys had a lot more steam than I did,
and they passed me.  Our car in the long run was actually better in 30 laps
of time to get fuel.  That's when our car would get back in the Top 10.

We just had to bide our time and wait for when our handling came around to us, and with the momentum of our gear selection came to us. We're certainly not going to do it if we jump in somebody's groove that's got a lot of momentum and getting knocked around. That's where a lot of what I saw today happened.

Q. What was the most bizarre thing that you saw happen out there today?

WB: I don't know. You don't want to pinpoint anything. I guess I don't really know exactly what happened with 29, 24, but I know there was some blocking going on.

But obviously I knew that 29 was going up a track. Had just a moment to decide what to do. Either way, it was going to be awful close. Tried to stay low and cut the wheel hard to the left. Actually got sideways and it couldn't have been more than a foot or two in front of my nose when I went by. That was pretty much the pivotal point of us being here today, missing that wreck.

Q. Is blocking a fact of life here now?

WB: Well, maintaining your groove, protecting your track position is one thing. But when you can see from your depth perception in your rearview mirror, when a guy gets a lot of steam going, and you pull in his tracks, you're doing what you need to do in a way, but at the same time you're putting yourself at the mercy of that guy behind you either to back off or to try to find somewheres to go. You keep going back and forth, sometimes there is nowhere to go. He's got that momentum. So we chose -- I chose not to put myself in that situation.

Now, at the last couple of laps, obviously I would have tried to follow Elliott's tire tracks, the way he was going, but at the same time I'm not going to wreck the car to win the race because it doesn't do me or Elliott or anybody else any good.

So we try to be smart. We try to drive everybody the way we want to be driven. At the same time, just like Tommy always said, we try to drive it like we stole it (laughter).

Q. If you could talk what it means to you to become the first Winston Cup driver to win a Winston Cup race from Virginia.

WB: Well, I didn't know that. That feels great. I tell you what, I had a Virginian that had something to do with that today, that was my friend on and off the track, fellow Virginian, Elliott Sadler. He definitely had a part of us winning this race. We worked together well in the July race, we finished third, he finished fourth. He was ecstatic that day, we were too. I think that we both are really happy that it was one of us two today. I'm just happy for our team. It's really not about me. It's about being a part of this team. Watching where we've come and to where we're at now. Like Tommy said, this is the first year that I've been with Bill Davis Racing that we haven't made huge building steps in one fashion or another. I've been saying that all winter. We've been strengthening our weaknesses, strengthening our support group, and dealing with some of the strengths that we already had to make them stronger.

So, like Tommy said, we got the next six races, all those cars are sitting right there ready to rock. This time last year, even the year before, we wasn't like that. So even coming into Speedweeks, if we finished poorly today, I still would feel positive about the year.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about going to Rockingham this next week, which is a track you won at before?

WB:  We're excited about Rockingham.  We finished sixth there last
time.  That was with a couple of guys that didn't pit, we had a caution.  We
felt like we had one of the cars to beat.  So we're excited about that.

Tommy and the guys, all the crew, we've learned a lot. I had to adjust a lot with the new Goodyear tire. We felt like the latter part of the year we started running like we needed to. Hey, we're excited about going to Rockingham. So hopefully we're going to get Tommy Baldwin back there so he can work on the Rockingham car before we get to Rockingham.

Q. I know you talked about you already know what the Daytona 500 means to you, but how long do you think it will take to sink in to what this actually means, not just to yourself but in Winston Cup as well?

WB: It's going to take a while. You know, winning a race, even when we won last year, that was a big race for us, it took a day or two for that feeling to sink in of gratitude and accomplishment, feeling so good all the people that have helped you get to where you are.

We've had so many people help us over the years. Me personally, Bill getting to where he's at. You know, what makes it so fun, all of us have done it together. We've all come from different backgrounds, but we all are like family, through the good and through the bad. We see the worst of each other and the best of each other. And that's what makes it so much -- that's what makes it so enjoyable for us.

Q. With this win today, Ward, have you thought about your place in racing history? You now have won two NASCAR signature events, the Southern 500 at Darlington, now the Daytona 500?

WB:  Not really.  You know, we feel like if we do what we're
capable of doing, we can be there at the end of the year.  We want to get
more consistent than we were last year, keep building on last year.  Get back
in the Top 10, hopefully Top  5, have a shot at winning more races.

I feel like we're still growing, but we got the ingredients we need now to be a legitimate shot week-in and week-out.

At the same time I'd be the first to say that there are some areas I need to improve on so we can be more consistent. But that's one of the areas that we'll keep working on.

Q.  Tommy, a couple of folks have heard that Valentine's Day was pretty
special to you.  This might make a great engagement present today.

TB: Yeah. You know, this whole week was pretty special. Bill Davis has given me the freedom to build my own dream, so to speak, with putting together a Busch team, brought a brand-new car down here, with David Green driving, qualified on the outside pole, run up front for most of the race, got caught up in a wreck.

Thursday, I asked Beth Bruce, a former Miss Winston  '91, to be my wife.
Then we won the Daytona 500.  It's been a pretty exciting week, pretty
fast-paced week.  I need to keep digging here (laughter).

MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.

WB: Thank you.

-dodge motorsports-

Part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Bobby Allison , Elliott Sadler , Tommy Baldwin
Teams Bill Davis Racing