WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Burton clocked the fastest lap in the afternoon practice session with a speed of 184.961 mph. "It was pretty clean. It wasn't perfect. I didn't have anybody right in front of me, but...
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Burton clocked the fastest lap in the afternoon practice session with a speed of 184.961 mph.
"It was pretty clean. It wasn't perfect. I didn't have anybody right in front of me, but when I exited turn two there was a small pack going into turn three. It could have been a little bit of help, but we had run some 48.80s before then. I'm real proud of the team. I think we gained on it.
"I ran the other car in the draft, and it felt like track position is going to be pretty important.
"Sometimes I think we overlook the momentum we started building in the last 10 or 12 races last year. We were really making some progress. I feel like we can carry that progress into this year real quick.
"Night and day. Last year was almost like starting a formula one team. It wasn't reinventing the wheel, but at the same time, once we got into the season and left Daytona, we realized the Goodyear tire was night and day to the way we had learned to get the car to handle from years prior. We learned we needed to get our motor combination to do a little something different. We had good downforce cars, but we learned there was some areas we needed to improve on that. Everything we could possibly change except people had changed on us. It really took us a half year to overcome all that. With a lot of hard work from all the guys, we've come a long way.
"Sometimes it looks like when you get in the draft you pick up a lot and then other times it doesn't look like you pick up that much. We saw the same thing with one of our cars. We had run a 48.73 and then in the draft we ran a 48.78, so it was pretty much identical times.
"I'd say it's headed that way (follow the leader) a little bit. The thing is, I don't think the other scenario is a safe scenario. I don't think this scenario we're going into is that safe either. Not that anything you do about Daytona is going to make it safe. We knew that going into it. There's not but so much NASCAR can do. The other scenario, with the way we were sucking up to each other and the way it was creating three abreast all day long, just seemed to invite a big mess. It was a recipe for something to happen. Who knows what's going to happen now, but even then track position was important. Before we got in a wreck on the backstretch, it was me and Gordon. We were on the low side. Sterling and a couple of other guys were on the outside. We ran like that for probably 15 or 20 laps. I think we'll see a lot of the same when we get back here. You're still going to have to handle.
"I think my team has learned a lot in the last couple of years about restrictor plate racing. I think Terry Elledge has learned equally as much and was already one of the masters at it. Those two combinations of us getting our race teams better and Terry getting his support group better around him and more organized, I think it's just starting to show. It's exciting to me, and I think we can be a force to be reckoned with. I don't think it's a reflection on me. I think it's a reflection on all of Bill Davis Racing. I think we're headed down the right path. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel that seems a little bit brighter than it's ever been before, and it's not just about this test. I was that way before the test."