NOTE: Frankie Stoddard, former crew chief for Jeff Burton, takes over as crew chief for Ward Burton and the Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T team this weekend at Talladega. Stoddard, Burton and Davis talk about Stoddard's new job. BILL...
NOTE: Frankie Stoddard, former crew chief for Jeff Burton, takes over as crew chief for Ward Burton and the Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T team this weekend at Talladega. Stoddard, Burton and Davis talk about Stoddard's new job.
BILL DAVIS (Car Owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"We'd already been talking to Frankie (Stoddard) about coming to work for us in some capacity. We weren't sure if he would help develop Scott Wimmer or serve as a type of technical director or work on engine projects. We saw an opportunity to get somebody who's real smart at help us, but the discussions never were about being the crew chief of the 22. We had no idea that was an option. Frankie has agreed to come in and finish out the season as crew chief on an interim basis. We'll reevaluate then. We'll know more after today, but what can you say? We would expect to have a decent car. We normally do at these places. We really don't have a clue. We could be first or 41st with the same piece. It just depends on how things shake out. It's not a race. You can't call it a race. It's a crapshoot. You let 'em roll and hope you bring it back in one piece. If you leave here with a car and driver in one piece, you've had a successful day. We'll figure out how many laps we can run with the fuel cell. I really don't know how much we've accomplished with the fuel cell. We're going to be getting off and on pit road all day long, and that's hard to do."
FRANKIE STODDARD (Crew chief No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"This weekend I'm just trying to survive. Obviously the speedway program is something you've got to have prepared way in advance. The guys at the shop have done a good job with this car. Tommy Baldwin has always done a great job with the speedway program. I'm really just here to kind of guide a little bit and call the race this weekend. We'll get to Charlotte and that's a place where the setups will matter a little more. I'll try to get a feel for Ward and what he needs in the car, and that will be more of a barometer than Talladega.
"Ward is a great guy. I'm not going to get into comparing those two (Ward and Jeff). It'll be a long time before I make a judgment on Ward. He's very professional about what he goes about doing, and I look forward to the challenge. I've never worked with Ward, but I've worked with him and I know he's a tenacious racer. He's always on the wheel. If you can get the car fast for him, he'll drive it fast or faster than anybody in the garage area. That's what we've got to do. We've got to get a fast car for him.
"Bill and I have had an acquaintance over the last year and a half. I'd been talking to him since the deal folded up with Jack Roush. I'd talked to him about going up there and doing something. He's got a lot of things in the works. It wasn't anything specifically we had in mind, and it certainly wasn't anything with the 22 car. That was the last thing on the docket. It wasn't even under discussion. I actually talked to Tommy on Monday night and tried to get him to patch things up with Bill and come back and do this deal. I would have looked forward to working with him, not without him here. I told Bill when this opportunity did come up, I'd give it a try for seven races and see what happens. I think we can do some good things together, but you just never know. We'll give it a try and hopefully it'll build into something we can go down the road with next year.
"I think it's going to be an interesting race. There's going to be a lot of different things to look for. To be honest, I'm going to say what those things are until after the race on Sunday. I feel like I've got a pretty good idea of what to be looking for, so we'll see what everybody else does. We've been fortunate over the years. We've fallen into some good calls or made some good calls on fuel mileage. You have to have some luck on your side as well. Not every call is a great call. A lot of 'em something has to happen just right for it to go that way, and I've been blessed with things going the right way at times."
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Tommy was like a family member and all of a sudden he's gone. It really surprised me that he left. Change presents opportunity, and that's the way we've got to look at it I guess. Frankie has been working with Jeff, but Jeff and I have different strengths and weaknesses. Growing up, my dad made it available to him to do nothing but race. He spent a lot of time with folks that knew a lot about racing. I was out there digging ditches and busting concrete. I didn't get to the race shop that was in the basement behind our construction site. When we got there, we were trying to get ready to go to the race track. Jeff knows a little bit more about the chassis than I do. It didn't enable Jeff to outdrive me. We've just got to work hard and get the car where I need it so we can keep making the progress that I feel like we started to make the last two months. Obviously the last couple of weeks we haven't shown it, but we haven't been able to run more than 40 laps before getting knocked out. We'll get by that and hopefully we're over our mechanical woes. I'm excited about working with Frankie. He's got a lot of wins under his belt, and they were obviously doing a lot of things right.
"We had a real good, productive meeting Tuesday with part of the team. I would have never in my wildest imagination seen any of it coming the way it's come. What's the song The Dance say? If I had only known how it would end. Particularly with Tommy, I would have had no idea. We've been together since 1998 as crew chief and driver. We probably had one of the longest running deals, and we had talked about that. I think with the sport as success driven as it is, you're going to see changes. As time goes on, we're going to see more and more changes in time frames a lot shorter than we've seen before just because it's so driven by so many different aspects that support that car.
"I'm a Tommy Baldwin supporter from the beginning to the end and still am, but there's nothing I can do about that. The situation between him and the team, particularly the car owner, is none of my business. Whether that was going to get worked out or not, I thought it was. Maybe that's what Tommy wanted. Maybe that's what Bill needed. I don't know. They know those answers. I don't. It's done now. My job is to make the 22 car successful. That's what I'm focused on. I think Frankie can help me do that. I guess I need to go write Jeff a thank you note. It's a weird situation. I've talked to Jeff and Frankie. They've got a little unsettled past from the way it ended, but I don't want that to affect Jeff's and my relationship. What's in the past, just like my relationship with Tommy, is in the past. There's nothing I can do about what happened, but there's no need to let something like that eat at you. We need to go on. That's what Jeff and Roush thought they needed to do, but maybe this is a better opportunity for Frankie. It presented an opportunity for us. There'll be an opportunity presented for Tommy. It'll all work out."