Dodge Motorsports Daytona test notes 2003-01-14

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid) "It feels real good now. It felt real good then, a year ago. We had a great car this time last year. Two years ago we even had a better car and got caught up in an accident on the backstretch....

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid)

"It feels real good now. It felt real good then, a year ago. We had a great car this time last year. Two years ago we even had a better car and got caught up in an accident on the backstretch. Coming into this race, everybody puts so much preparation into it. Months, even in some development a year or more going into this one event. With all that being said and with all that preparation being done, it's still a race that 35 cars out there are going to be able to win. You're going to have to have some luck and not have any bad luck and be at the right place at the right time to go to racing those last 50 laps.

"Always the key is to keep your fenders on and to stay out of trouble, whether you're at Daytona or Rockingham the week after Daytona. We were really fortunate all four restrictor-plate races last year not to get in any trouble. That allowed us to finish first here in the first race, ninth in the second race. We didn't run that well in the first race at Talladega, but we finished 10th in the last Talladega, so missing the wrecks is the main thing.

"With the smaller fuel cell, if Talladega is any indication of what we're going to see here, we're going to be pitting a lot more. I don't have any reason to believe... in some cases it makes more people have a little more patience because they know they're going to be coming in for service in 35 laps versus 50 laps. I don't know if it will be 35 laps or what. I don't know if they've decided what size it's going to be, but somewhere in that neighborhood - 35-40. In some cases, I think that makes everybody be a little more level-headed, take your time and look at the big picture. Then what that's going to do is make pit stop strategy and fuel mileage very important. Fuel mileage could dictate who wins the race.

"Some of the problems we couldn't fix last year. We had a bunch of mechanical trouble the first half of the season that got us behind in points. The last part of the season, it seemed like every time somebody was spinning out or wrecking or something, I was right there. We got caught up in a lot of accidents. Between the first and second that killed us points wise and killed our consistency. What I'm hoping to do this year is just smooth out the peaks and valleys, be more consistent like we were in 1999 and 2000 and certainly if we do that we'll have some days we can hopefully take some opportunities to win some races.

"Frankie (crew chief Stoddard) is working very hard, and he's very focused. He's thinking about one thing and that's the 22 car and Bill Davis Racing. Everybody is getting along well. You can't help but get along with Kenny (Wallace). The good thing is it's not just whether myself, Scott and Kenny get along, but the team is getting along.

Everybody is working as one. Right now, I think they're doing that better than ever before. Frankie has got a lot of experience he brings to the plate. At the same time, Philippe does in a lot of cases, too. They're sharing more information than we ever have, and they're working together more instead of sometimes in the past what we had was one person making all the decisions. In today's environment one person can't make decisions for aero, shocks, chassis and everything else. That's pretty tough.

"Wimmer is a heck of a talent. Obviously he had some struggling days, but like most of us, when you found what Wimmer wanted in the car he was able to go to the front and stay there. Bill has always done a good job of finding young talent, but at the same time being loyal to them and giving them the opportunity to find what they needed in a car and what they need with people so they can be prepared.

"It (pit road) can shake up a lot of things. You know how it is coming down here, particularly if you've got a big pack and we will be in a big pack at times. The whole race can be decided coming in the pits. We've seen more times than not, people get out in the grass. We've seen one group come in at lap 40 and then here comes another group in the next time, and the guys leaving and somebody else pulling in, we've seen accidents that way. You're going to have to really be on your toes, be thinking, let your spotter help you and listen to your crew chief, have your communication really down good and have your strategy really down good so hopefully you know going in what your strategy is going to be. It's going to definitely change the race a lot. We've been used to making green-flag stops but not that frequently. At this race track, it's going to do a lot of things. You're not only going to stop more, but you're not going to be dealing with your tires wearing out after lap 50 like we used to. The cars are going to handle better during the duration of that fuel run. That's also going to make people take on two tires, no tires, it's going to be a lot different mix than we've ever seen here before.

"I don't think there's any question the tire is too hard. It's made where the aero in the car is more important a lot of times than the driver. I think that not in all cases, but in some cases, the car is 60 percent or more. I don't think it used to be that way. I think you used to be able to make up more with a car than you can now. I think the tires is what's done it. I don't really know about the downforce. I'm not an engineer. We've got a lot of downforce now. We didn't have that much three or four years ago. We all know the tires have gotten harder and harder and harder, particularly the last few years. It's changed a lot. It's made it so that people who have no experience can come into this sport and get with the right team and right car and win races. You never saw that before in the history of NASCAR and those tires are what's done it.

"When you talk about the 40 car that's just an awesome race team. Sterling proved that all year long until he got hurt. You take another driver from another series, and I'm not taking anything away from him. He's obviously a great driver, but to get in that car that quickly and win a race shows you how good that car is. What has happened, you just can't make up as much as you used to. You can't thread the needle as much as you used to. When you go in a little bit harder than you should, the car won't let you get away with it. You're either going to deal with the front or the rear. You're not used to it being that temperamental or that sensitive. The cars are more sensitive today than they've ever been, and it's not the aero that's doing it. It's the grip we've got on the race track. I don't know how you can weigh it, but we can see it through performance. It's just like my team last year. My team last year had the best short track program it's ever had. Our short track program used to be what we were working on. The places we ran 140-190 mph, the Rockinghams and Atlantas were our strong suits. Last year those were the places that were our weakest. That's where we need to work the most, the Rockinghams, Atlantas, Darlingtons, New Hampshires, Vegas. That's where we're struggling and it's because we haven't figured out the combination to get that tire to work there. I haven't gotten any better on the short tracks. The car is just a heck of a lot better. You're always trying to adjust the team and the driver is always trying to keep up with the sport. I'm not bashing Goodyear tires. They're great. We very rarely blow tires. It's just made the cars so temperamental that the best car that day is going to be up front, and in some cases a long way, versus the driver having a little bit of say so in the seat with what he can feel in his britches.

"My little boy and I were being lazy Sunday. We were watching one of the Main A events in the sprint cars, and it was interesting. He was making comments about the cars being sideways when they go in and when they come out. We don't watch a lot of TV at home. We stay outside most of the time. That was fun doing that. The next thing we knew we were watching an NFL football game.

"I don't have any ready to get going again. I think that after (20) weeks straight the last part of the season, once the leaves start changing I'm ready for racing to end and get out in the woods and enjoy some relaxation."

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid)

NOTE: Newman turned in the second fastest lap on the first day of the second NASCAR Winston Cup test session at Daytona on Tuesday with a speed of 183.408 mph.

"I'm really proud of the team and the switch that was made and the effort to go from Ford to Dodge. It seems like we've got a pretty good product right off the shelf and hopefully we can continue the next couple days of testing and better it and have an excellent piece when we come back for the Daytona 500. Rusty and I talked a little after he tested here last week. You can carry some ideas over, but it's hard when you're bringing two separate cars and two separate engines into a day that's got a different environment. We'll just have to see how things work and hopefully we can learn a lot from each other and be the team to beat here in February.

"We're just working on going faster. All you can do is hold the pedal down and watch the clock. That's a lot of what testing is here, but the real test is finding the logic behind the things that make the car go faster. It hasn't been a big adjustment for the driver making the switch, not here anyway, and I don't foresee that big of an adjustment making the switch with the performance difference between the two. We should be good.

"The off season has been good so far. I'm real impressed to come here and unload and do as well as we did the first day of testing. Hopefully we can back it up the next couple of days. We're just going to try to go faster."


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Series NASCAR Cup