WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) "I actually didn't get out of my uniform until about 9:30 Sunday night after all the activities at the speedway. We went to a Dodge dinner after that. That morning, we had the induction of the...
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I actually didn't get out of my uniform until about 9:30 Sunday night after all the activities at the speedway. We went to a Dodge dinner after that. That morning, we had the induction of the car at Daytona USA and then headed off to New York. We got back from all those activities a little after dark on Tuesday night. Thursday morning we headed back to Detroit to see our friends at Dodge Headquarters. Then last night I went to a banquet with the Wild Turkey Federation.
"There's been a lot of sacrifices made by a lot of different people. Not only our race team but all of us personally. We couldn't have done it without a lot of people helping us over the years. The support of Caterpillar and Dodge and all our other sponsors. Without all their support we wouldn't have had a shot to do that.
"Elliott (Sadler) came along after I had moved up (at South Boston Speedway). The people I was racing at South Boston Speedway and Orange County Speedway were Maurice Hill, David Blankenship, Wayne Patterson, Barry Begley, Bugs Hairfield, guys that were the best in Late Model Stock in the country. Any time these guys went to the Winston Racing Series, anywhere in the east, those guys were the ones to beat. I learned a few lessons the hard way, and it took awhile but got the respect from those guys and learned a lot about racing from them and that was learning on and off the track.
"I'll be honest with you. To me, it's more important for my race team. It's more important for the people who have helped us and are continuing to help us. Down the road, when you have time to reflect, whether it's a month or year down the road, it will be really special to me, but right now, it's going to help our race team so much that's the main priority in my mind.
"Tuesday we were still in New York. Woke up Tuesday morning real early and went and did Fox and Friends. I did a couple of other live interviews and then we made our way to Regis and Kelly. That was pretty neat. From there, we actually went to Ground Zero and that was an emotional moment. I was really happy to have all my children there so they could see that. From there, I pretty much let the kids go out and we bought them a couple of toys. My daughter went to those nice shops she always talks about where girls when they are 15 years old they're supposed to be wearing this type of clothes. Of course, I've never heard of it, but she went and got her a couple of outfits. Then we flew home and that was really the first moment I had to relax and be in my own environment and where my roots are at. We did Eli Gold's show and a couple more shows after that, so it's really been a whirlwind the whole week.
"Which shows were we not on Monday? We went in one room and did a satellite media tour of the top 20 markets. That went on for an hour or two. It was a lot of fun, a lot of repetitious questions, but a lot of fun doing that for the top media. That exposure helps so much and helps build a race team.
"It means a lot (winning Daytona 500) because it's going to help us renegotiate with Caterpillar. That's coming up shortly. It's going to help us secure other associates we need to be able to get our funding up where some of the top teams are. So much has changed in the last 14 months or less. It's going to help us so much on that. Team morale and the amount of positive feelings our employees have. It's going to help so much on that. I was real positive about the whole year before we went to Daytona. Obviously we had some luck. We dodged a bullet when we missed Harvick blocking the 24 car. Had we got in that wreck, I would still be just as positive about the whole year right now. At the same time, it feels a lot better to start off in a positive way, but it doesn't mean it'll make or break our season.
"We're real excited about coming here. Last year we finished sixth in the fall race. We don't give a lot of account to what we did the first of the season last year because it was such a building year from switching manufacturers as well as Goodyear coming out with a new tire. It took us awhile, just about the first 15 or 20 races to get me adjusted to the new tire and get the chassis adjusted to the new tire. The last part of the season we started coming on. We started to prove we were getting our act together. One of the places we ran a lot better from the spring to the fall was here. There was a caution that put everyone down but a few cars. We were one of the cars that got our lap back. We ran in front of the leader the rest of the time. I feel real positive about being here at Rockingham. I feel like we've got a great piece.
"It's going to help our team a lot. It'll probably help my wildlife foundation a lot. People will probably look at me differently, but I don't look at myself any differently (after winning Daytona 500).
"We can't block at Rockingham. We can't block at Martinsville. When a guy gets under you or he gets above you, you've got to drive people the way you want to be driven. If you cut people off, eventually somebody is going to wreck you, and that's what I saw going on at Daytona.
"If somebody's got a little momentum coming on you and you can see that coming on and that happens at all race tracks, it's one thing to hold your line. A lot of times my spotter will say clear, but I can see the guy behind me and I'm not talking about Daytona. I'm talking about anywhere. I can see the guy behind me, and I might be clear for just a second but the next second, because he's coming on so quick, I'm not going to be clear. I want to move down or I want to move up. At the same time, some of the moves that were being made as the guys watching the guys momentum so he goes up and down. That's OK to a point, but there were a couple of instances where that momentum, the position had already been taken, and when they came down and went up, they made contact because the nose of the car behind was already there. We can't get away with that anywhere, so that's when you're taking it too far. At the same time, the guys behind have to give and take, too, and all of us have made mistakes and run into people sometimes, but it's got to be a give and take by both parties. If a guy keeps on trying to take, take, take, he's going to eventually get what he's asking for.
"I like the rules better than I did last time. You sucked up. You were able to pass, but it wasn't sucking up so quickly. We could have some lines get away from other lines. The thing I like the best, and I wish we could get more of it, but I'm not sure how, is after about 30 laps, the handling would come into effect, so the cars would get strung out more. The better handling cars would get to the front, and that's what we want. That's what we're going to have here and that's what we're going to have everywhere except Talladega.
"We'll get back to reality today and get focused on doing a good job this weekend. Last weekend was a great weekend for us, but that was last weekend. We've got a long season in Winston Cup Racing, and what happens last weekend is not going to do any good this weekend. We need to work hard. My Caterpillar team will do everything it can, and I'll do everything I can to have a successful weekend.
"I wore the same underwear for three or four days. Actually, my wife threw a couple of things together. That's one reason why I wore that leather jacket all the time so no one could see my wrinkled shirt. It was fun. It was exciting. It was hectic. I actually had my plane go to two different airports because I got involved to pick up my daughter here and my wife had told my daughter to go somewhere else. It was a little hectic there that first day on Monday.
"It'll be interesting to see how the one motor rule plays into the strategy and into the atmosphere of this whole year. Terry Elledge and his guys have worked really hard. They've done all the homework they could possibly do with the time they've had. It'll be interesting to see, but it's going to be something we're all definitely focused on.
"I had the governor of Virginia call, the governor of Alabama, I'm going to be going to the General Assembly of Virginia. For my hometown and Halifax County, it's been a lot of fun. There's nothing like going home. It's like Bill going to his shop, which is his home. When I go to my home and see that kind of support it makes you feel good."
BILL DAVIS (Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts with drivers Ward Burton and Hut Stricklin)
"I probably had some pretty tough times, self doubts maybe if we were capable of doing this. I don't think I ever really considered quitting. I'm not much of a quitter. I've been doing this my entire life since I was a little boy. I don't think I ever really considered giving up, but it's been hard. It's still hard. These people are knocking off some really big bucks sponsorship wise. It's hard for a small team to keep up.
"It's tough. We're leading the points (with Ward Burton) and we're in last place in points (with Hut Stricklin). It was real hard for us. We just didn't go down there and realize that could happen to us. We thought the 23 would run a lap and it didn't. Hindsight is great. We probably should have requalified Monday and tried to put up a time. We knew the car would race well and didn't think we'd have problems on Thursday. I hate it for Hills Bros. We don't make promises to sponsors, but we certainly indicated that something like this wouldn't have happened. We've got to regroup with those g uys. Their season starts this weekend. They were real positive. Hills Bros came to the shop on Wednesday and fed everybody lunch. They wanted to tell everybody they're behind the team 100 percent and still believe in 'em and know this is the place for 'em. We'd certainly demonstrated we have good cars, and I really appreciate that. I thought that was a real classy move by Hills Bros to do that. We'll still put together a good season for Hills Bros. I can promise you that.
"I went to New York with Ward and didn't get back until Tuesday afternoon. They said the place was mobbed Monday and Tuesday. I know they all went out Sunday night on my credit card, so I don't know how much that cost. Surely we won enough to cover it, but they said the shop was mobbed all day Monday and Tuesday from people on their way home from Daytona. The flowers and the cards and hundreds of emails and faxes. We heard from people we haven't heard from in years. Other teams sent beautiful arrangements and stuff. It was real satisfying. People sent banners to put up. It was a real cool thing. I walked in this morning and people were going out of their way to congratulate us. They genuinely seemed to appreciate what happened. It makes you feel real good."