Jeff Burton was involved in a multi-car accident during Tuesday's practice session in which the sheetmetal on the driver's side was severely damaged. Instead of bringing out the backup, the team opted to repair their primary car and fly down some...
Jeff Burton was involved in a multi-car accident during Tuesday's practice session in which the sheetmetal on the driver's side was severely damaged. Instead of bringing out the backup, the team opted to repair their primary car and fly down some extra crewman from their shop in North Carolina. They worked on the car until midnight and returned at 6 a.m. to finish the job. Jeff Burton and Frank Stoddard spoke about the effort and the decision not to switch cars.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus --
YOU MUST OBVIOUSLY FEEL GOOD TO SEE THE EFFORT BEING PUT IN TO FIX THIS CAR. "That's what I've been telling people for a year now is that we didn't have the best year last year, but it wasn't because we didn't work real hard and didn't try. We looked at all of our options and, short of this being a lot of work, this was our best option. This is our best car. We have all of our eggs in this basket. Our other car is slower than this one and the wreck didn't hurt the hood or the greenhouse or the decklid or the right side, which are the most important parts of the car. We could fix the nose, so this was the best decision. These guys left the shop in North Carolina without any clothes. They fired my airplane up and Frank called them and said, 'Grab some stuff. Get on Jeff's plane and come down.' So my pilot went to the airport and got my plane ready and away they went. Those guys didn't even have a toothbrush or a pair of underwear. Nothing, but here they come. They brought some spare parts and then people from every Roush team stayed and helped last night. Crew chiefs from other teams worked. I had a function last night and I came in about 10 o'clock and they were working. They worked until midnight and then they came in again at six. They would have worked all night, but NASCAR made them leave at midnight. This is just a great effort. This gives us our best chance to succeed and that's what we do. We don't base what we're gonna do on how much work it is, we base what we're gonna do on what we think is the best decision. Nobody complains. If anything, it brings us all closer together. We don't want to do this all the time because that will tear them apart, but every now and then it really reminds them that they are a team.
THE WINSTON AND NOW HERE, YOU GUYS HAVE DONE THIS BEFORE. "Yeah. It's just an attitude. It's kind of like when we qualify badly and everybody says, 'Oh my God, he qualified badly.' We figure, 'Let's go to work and go race and do what we've got to do.' We're a team of hard workers. Sometimes that benefits us and sometimes it doesn't, but we just work really hard. We've worked exceptionally hard this winter and we've got a grueling test schedule coming up between the Cup car and the Busch car. It's gonna be grueling for the first half of the year, but nobody has complained. They're all working really hard and that's how we're trying to make our program better. This is just an example of that. I know some other teams are looking at us thinking we're crazy and that we should just unload our backup, but our backup is just not as good as this car.
I'M SURE YOU'LL HEAR A LOT ABOUT JARRETT DOING THIS SAME THING TWO YEARS AGO AND THEN WINNING THE DAYTONA 500. "I'm hoping to have some practice without getting in a wreck, that's what I'm hoping for. When you watch what Jarrett's team did a few years ago, they had their best car and they did whatever it took to get that car ready again and that's what these guys are doing. That doesn't mean we're gonna win or anything else, but it does mean we're giving ourselves the best chance possible."
FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief --99-- Citgo Taurus -- WHY NOT GO TO A BACKUP CAR? "Anytime you come down to test at Daytona, you come in January and try to bring a couple of cars. You shake both of them out and then pick one of them as your 500 car. This was the one we chose because it was maybe a tenth-and-a-half better than the other car.
"The second thing is that after the test, NASCAR came out with a new template to regulate the back decklid on the Taurus and the other brands, and that required us to do a lot of work. We made a quick fix on the other car, but really put our time into this car because there is only so much time in every day. You still have to get ready to go downforce racing and that's gonna come quick too, so you've got to juggle your schedule around and juggle the people around to do it the best way you think. We put a lot of time into this car and didn't put as much time into the other car. I don't feel the other car is as competitive as this car will be and the accident didn't hurt the frame. It was really just sheet metal damage and when you've got some of the best in the business in the garage area, you fly them on down and now we're ready to roll.
WHAT ABOUT THAT PHONE CALL BACK TO THE SHOP? "I called them at the shop and none of them live real close to the shop, so they didn't have an opportunity to bring anything. They grabbed some shop clothes, but didn't have stuff like toothbrushes. I gave them some money out of my pocket last night and told them to go buy some toothbrushes, but that's what racing is all about. This is why we get into racing. This is why we all love to do it, for times like these. This is the most fun you could have.
YOU DIDN'T SEEM TO GET TOO EXCITED WHEN THIS HAPPENED YESTERDAY. "I've changed a lot the last four or five years. I used to go crazy, but that didn't do me any good. My wife (Heidi) was commenting that she was watching with Bill Davis and she said, 'I think the 99 got in a wreck.' And they looked over on our transporter and I was kind of standing there nonchalant, you couldn't really tell and that's good. I'm glad I'm progressing in that light.
OBVIOUSLY YOU WOULD LIKE THE SAME KIND OF RESULT JARRETT HAD TWO YEARS AGO. "Sure, why not. We could write a much better book that way. The last chapter would be a whole lot better that way, but right now we need to finish that final chapter. We'll see. We've got a long way to go. The other thing is, we still have Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday practices. At the rate we're going, I don't have enough cars to cover all of that so I feel good about fixing this car right here. If we don't get to run this afternoon, we know what we want to do for the 125s and we'll be ready to roll."