WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) "Everything looks pretty good right now. It's a little loose on entry, particularly when you get your left front on the part that the banking is counter-banked. It's got pretty good grip, and I...
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Everything looks pretty good right now. It's a little loose on entry, particularly when you get your left front on the part that the banking is counter-banked. It's got pretty good grip, and I think everybody will have a good shot in qualifying today.
"From the middle out last time here it did. Cars that were turning good and handling good could get on the part that's counter-banked and get a good grip off, and then the cars that were in the main groove could stay in the main groove. That's where our car was working really good at last time, from the middle out. It helped us a lot.
"We made three changes during Happy Hour Saturday morning, and the car responded well to those three changes. All three of them complimented the car and allowed me to turn the wheel and get bite on the lower side of the track. Prior to last time I was here, this is probably the worst track record I've got anywhere. The team has worked really hard on our short track program. We've come a long way. Last week, had guys not outdistanced us on fuel, we might have won the race. At Bristol, we were running good. Every short track race we've run, the Cat Dodge has been real competitive. Tommy (crew chief Baldwin) has helped me a lot with my driving style, but we've got the cars a lot better, too. It comes from being together and having time to work on the car and work on some things I can do to help them get the car better.
"That's where the older genes come in. We try to work real hard to be there at the end of the day. We're not running 30-lap street stock races. You have to give and take and have your car in one piece so you can race hard the last two sets of tires or the last hundred miles or hundred laps or whatever it might be. That's when you have good finishes or have an opportunity to win the race. In Winston Cup racing you don't do much riding around. When you feel your car going in a direction, you cannot hustle it as much so it doesn't go in that direction for you as quickly. You still have to drive the cars about everything you can get out of them every lap.
"Today is a race in itself for a starting position, but just about every time here I've been loose for qualifying, so we've got the car a little on the tight side right now. We're trying to learn from our past. Tomorrow we'll start to learn about conditions we'll have on Sunday and try to get the car to the driver's liking and go from there.
"This car has had some great runs. We took it to Richmond and set a track record and had a shot at winning that race and had some mechanical failures. We came here and won the race. We went back to Richmond last week and qualified in the top 10 and finished eighth. I felt like for the most part of the night we had a better car than that. The car adjusts well, and that's what we like about it. I'm able to give good feedback because the car gives me good feedback. I give that feedback back to Tommy and the crew and they're able to make good changes. It's not only changes we can see, but I feel and we can see what those changes do to us on the track. That's what you have to be able to do to get your car dialed in.
"You'll see most of us tomorrow, we'll be running our own little races and our little practice sessions. When you catch somebody you'll try to get around them, but you won't race too hard tomorrow in practice. You don't make but one mistake, but you'd better wait until you need to or when you don't have a choice.
"Tommy (crew chief Baldwin) and I talked a little bit Wednesday. I know that him and the team are negotiating some now. There may be some areas I have to come agreeably to the plate for Tommy, but hopefully we'll get that resolved pretty quickly so it won't be a distraction for any of us. I think that Tommy wants to be with the 22 team and Bill Davis Racing. We've had a lot of good times together, and I'm sure we're going to have a lot of good times in the future.
"I think it's a really good race for the fans, spectators. The enthusiasm in New Hampshire is close to second to none. Everybody you meet when you sign autographs or whatever are really nice folks. This track for being a high speed track, we carry a lot of momentum going in and off the corner, with it being flat, it's such a radius in the corner that there's not enough speed in the middle of the corner to get all that stay-dry, rubber and all the debris up against the wall, so it sits there. It sits and sits and sits and then the next thing you know when you get in it, it's literally like when you hit ice in the winter. Just about every one of us has experienced it. Some of us have hit and some of us have been lucky enough to save it. A lot of times, whether you save it depends on when you get in it and how bad the situation is when you get in it. That's what's created a lot of problems. It's just a narrow racing groove, and you put 43 hard heads out there racing hard, you're going to have some contact.
"I'm not an engineer and I'm not a track designer. If I was going to build a race track, I'd get with the people that run the race tracks, not just the drivers but people who are around them, and get a lot of different input. At the same time, the Bahre family has been nothing but positive for NASCAR racing. I'm not going to sit here and bash them. Obviously they have tried to make some changes. I don't think they or us as competitors have found exactly what we're looking for. At the same time, it wouldn't be fair to sit here and criticize the Bahre. To be honest with you, I don't know enough about the situation to begin with. Everything I hear they're good folks and try awful hard.
"Last time we had a lot of cautions, and when they had a caution, they take advantage and clean it up probably at somebody's hit, but we have that at other tracks. We had a clean up at Darlington quite a few times with the blowers. We had to do it last week at Richmond. It's not the only track we have to spend some extra time cleaning up so if you do get out of the groove, you might have an opportunity to save the race car. It (competition cautions) takes away strategy and the part that makes racing exciting. That's the unknown. Each race is unique. I think if we start having competition throughout the race, it'll take away a lot of the drama.
"For the most part, just about everywhere we go when it gets time to practice, NASCAR gets the little yellow strip and the line and the race fans stay out of the line where the cars are coming in and out of the garage. I think NASCAR does a good job enforcing that. At the same time, when you're coming in and out of the garage, you have to be careful. You can run over someone. Whenever we turn into the situation where we keep the spectators completely out of it, then we're not going to be as close to the people who support our sport. I think we have to be careful trying to balance it out. A lot of people in the garage do have something to do with a team member or somebody in the media or sponsor-wise or something they do and have get in here. I don't think we ought to limit complete access. It's just when we're practicing there needs to be a zone people stay out of so we don't hurt somebody."