W. Burton Atlanta inverview

Tuesday, March 6, 2001. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Dodge driver Ward Burton and car owner Bill Davis. WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) "To size it up for three races, the Cat Team gave me an awesome...

Tuesday, March 6, 2001. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Dodge driver Ward Burton and car owner Bill Davis.

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"To size it up for three races, the Cat Team gave me an awesome car at Daytona. One little tap from behind ended that day, but we really wish we could have seen the end result there, but that's what they say, that's racing. The last two weeks, Rockingham and Vegas, we've just missed the setup completely. It's not one thing we can put our finger on, but we're talking and the guys are still working hard. We hope to have some better results this weekend.

"I don't really think it's so much the change of the car. It's just the setups have changed with the tires. We are just not on top of the changes that some of the other guys are doing. The folks we've raced the last two weeks, normally we're putting a lap on them. We've just got to get a little bit better with what we need to do with the race cars. Obviously some of that responsibility lies on my shoulder, too. We just haven't found it the last two weeks."

WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON ONE-DAY QUALIFYING?
"There's some pluses and minuses. The pluses it gives the team and everybody more time at the shop and more time at home. The minuses are, in the past, particularly when I started racing, I made three or four shows my rookie year by picking up speed on the second round, the second day. Had that opportunity not been there, I wouldn't have been racing. In light of the added races and everything else, the sanctioning body will hopefully do everything they can to give the teams more family time. It's awful hard on members that go to the race track and work at the shop also. They have awful tough responsibility to the team and their family also.

"We're trying and getting ready to have some way to give the road crew a day and a half to two days off during the week. That's going to be a must for them to maintain their responsibilities at home. You have to have more people to take their place when they're not here, so the amount of support we get from sponsors with the added races and all kind of trickles down all the way from the top of the totem pole to the bottom."

WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF THE HANS?
"I did look at Jeff Gordon's head rest on the right-hand side. I'm going to ask him more questions about it this weekend, how they came up with developing that, who's helping them. I'm going to implement something similar to that on my car, but the HANS device is just something you've got to work with. I put one on at Atlanta before it started raining on us (testing) the other day, and it didn't really seem like it was that awkward. I don't think I'm going to have to alter my seat. What I did have to do was get one formed a little better to my body shape. It didn't really feel like it was something that was going to be a huge amount of changing, but there again, for the sake of making a change just to be making a change, I'm still looking to get more information. I'm talking to folks every day. If you do go to the HANS device and you do add six-way belt straps or go to a stronger head rest, you're doing something that's proven to be better instead of just making a change for the sake of making a change.

"I've actually been waiting for the HANS to come. They told me it would be there last Friday and it hasn't shown up. I've been waiting for Simpson. They need to alter the six-way point belts for me a little bit, and have not gotten that either. I'm waiting for two different safety groups to get product to me."

ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH THE SPEEDS AT ATLANTA?
"We definitely don't want to see another restrictor plate. I'm not really concerned about Atlanta. I don't think that speed is the problem. The problem is at Daytona and Talladega we run three or four wide all day. Let's say you took all the media folks and put them on bicycles and ran you three abreast. Ya'll would eventually wreck. That's what happens when we get restrictor plates. I'm not pointing the finger at NASCAR because NASCAR has tried all sorts of things to solve the problem of fans safety first and competitors safety also. It's still kind of the nature of the beast at those places. Everybody is kind of waiting on pins and needles for it to happen, but I don't think Atlanta needs any change. Atlanta has got some short track characteristics to it where the car needs to handle going into the corner and then turn the nose right before the center. Atlanta used to be where you ran on the bottom of the track. Now the groove has moved up pretty close to the wall. The good thing about Atlanta is you have the option of running both. We had a real good setup down there last time. We're hoping we can make a few changes with the Dodge and new tires and have a good setup this coming week."

IS INFORMATION TRANSFERRING FROM THE PONTIAC TO THE DODGE?
"Nothing has worked the last two weeks, old setups or new setups. We've just got to work real hard to figure out a better package that suits me as a driver and compliments the chassis and car."

HOW HAS DALE EARNHARDT'S DEATH AFFECTED YOU AS A DRIVER?
"Obviously a lot of emotions went through all of our minds. The toughest part is I've got two children and a lovely wife, and we've had quite a few sit down discussions where the children ask questions. They were voicing concerns. My wife said when you get ready to quit that's fine with us. We support you. This is what I've always wanted to do. I'm awful fortunate to be able to do it. I know there's an element of danger to it before I even put on a helmet the first time. At the same time, I think we've all become a lot more conscious of groups that have done a lot of test studies over the last two years and are going to start implementing their knowledge into our cocoon as has been said, or our cockpit, so we'll minimize the chance of a serious accident again hopefully. At the same time, there's nothing we or NASCAR can do to take all the element of danger out of it because obviously we're pushing a 3,500-pound vehicle to the limit at pretty high speeds. I don't think it's got anything to do with speed. You can get hurt at 60 as well as you can 160."

WHAT ARE DRIVERS' WIVES SAYING TO THEIR HUSBANDS?
"MRO has been such a supportive group to the wives. They actually had an individual speak to them at Rockingham about the tragedy that happened at Daytona. I believe they're have another get together this coming weekend. I think they're all very concerned because they've seen so much of it the last eight or nine months. I think it makes them very conscious of the fact that we need to put everything we can in place if something does happen so they'll be taken care of. At the same time, it makes it very difficult for them to explain to the children that their daddy is off doing something he loves to do. At the same time, the big picture is, we want to be a father, too. I think the wives having a support group there being able to pull on each other... At the same time I know my wife and probably all the other wives are asking a lot of questions now that didn't use to get asked about what we're doing to make ourselves safe in our environment in our race car."

ANY UPDATE ON SAFETY FRONT FROM NASCAR?
"I think NASCAR is listening to everyone, and Mike Helton and his group still have an open door policy. If they could come up with a fix, I think they'd fix it. The only thing I did say to Gary Nelson, one thing that we know is not a gray area is a full face helmet. We know the full face is without the shadow of a doubt in any instance is most likely safer than an open face. If they're going to implement rules that competitors need to abide by, that would be the first one.

"The problem I'm having, just like today when I talked to my friend, Jimmy Rollins, he takes care of what I call my creature comforts in the race car. I'm hearing so many different things from this group and that group. I'm not sure what direction to go in to make my seat better. I haven't been involved in this testing that has been going on the last three or four years until we had these tragedies that makes us all start looking more closely at what we're doing. I need direction, and somehow there needs to be one group that can give that direction. I hear one thing from the Simpson group, I hear another thing from HANS, I hear something from Butler, I hear something from other seat makers, and it's confusing to me. I don't want to change something for the sake of changing it. I want to know this is better and have it planned out that this is what I need to do inside my cockpit. It's difficult for me to get a clear direction. I guess that's the thing that's frustrating. I've got to go on my own and try to start to make something better when there's information out there and I've got to go search and gather it."

ARE YOU CONFIDENT GOING TO ATLANTA?
"I'm very confident with my race team. Every time we go to the race track, I feel like we have a chance to win the race. This sport has got a way of making you humble sometimes. You can be on top of the world and the next thing you know you're scratching your head wondering where you missed it at. We left Atlanta last time and we finished third. We had an eight-second lead with 12 laps to go. I think Pruett wrecked on the backstretch and probably cost us that one, but we didn't run at the two places these past two weekends that we have run well at. We're going to have to have an open mind and be willing to make some substantial changes. Hopefully, we can find something that's going to be comfortable. I don't see any reason why we can't be very competitive at Atlanta."

TALK ABOUT THE NEW AERO PACKAGE
"The new aero package made the car punch a bigger hole in the air. Consequently, the car behind the car that's doing the punching through the air has got cleaner air to suck up to. That makes everybody suck up better. I think from watching the tape, it was really amazing. Forty cars were literally running within 200 yards of each other a good part of the day. To be honest with you, it's fun racing. I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to pass, to come back from leading the race to 14th or 15th and going back to the front. At the same time, the danger element is just not worth the consequences that can possibly happen. The problem is, when you put that many guys in that atmosphere for that long, the chances for something happening are pretty high. The aero package, the biggest difference is it just made the car suck up a lot better. I don't know what I'm in favor of at Talladega. I'm really not sure. I don't think going back to the way we were is the answer. I don't have the answer. Somehow or another, we've got to get the cars to handle poorly and that makes the teams that get the cars to handle the best for the driver the ones that will run up front. Just like we did this past weekend. As long as you bunch cars up and run side by side for that long, something is going to happen. Probably the easiest way to fix that is take some banking out of Talladega and Daytona. As much as I wouldn't like to see that, because I like those tracks, that way we could take the restrictor plates off. The driver is going to have to lift when he goes in the corner. When you have to lift when you go in the corner, that's when your chassis comes into play and the better teams will shine. I don't see any other way you can fix it other than that."

DOES THE DRAFT COME INTO PLAY AT ATLANTA MORE THAN DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA?
"No it doesn't. Obviously there's a little drafting going on, but everything is about handling there. You're having to let off going into the corner. There's a car in front of you, it's either doing worse or better or the same. If he can't get on the throttle as quick as I can, I can pull out of line and pass him. At Daytona, that's a hard chore to do. The draft is nowhere near as important at Atlanta as it is at Daytona."

HAS THERE BEEN A SAFETY COMMITTEE PROPOSED?
"There has been some talk about getting different groups together with NASCAR and drivers, some different safety people to form some kind of open door policy. Whether you call it a safety committee or just an open forum where different groups can come in there and communicate about different things they've found. It could be helpful. I think everyone is looking for something in that direction. To my knowledge, there hasn't been something worked out completely, but I think there will be some things that come out from groups that have been formed. It'll help educate everyone on things we can do for safety, and hopefully what we can learn in our class will trickle down to guys starting out at short tracks around the country, too."

BILL DAVIS (Car owner Bill Davis Racing Dodge Intrepid R/Ts with drivers Ward Burton and Dave Blaney's No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge)
"We ran great at Daytona and thought we had a legitimate shot to win the race. We got caught up in a big wreck, and that happens. That was a big, big disappointment. You don't get many opportunities to be in a position to win the Daytona 500. Very few people can say that about their careers. To dominate the race made us feel good. Then we came off and ran not very well at Rockingham and very poorly at Las Vegas. We're pretty disappointed and scratching our heads around here. We've got to get a handle on our handling package."

DISCUSS YOUR TWO-CAR TEAM
"We're similar to what Ray (Evernham) did with Casey (Atwood) and Bill (Elliott). That probably makes a lot of sense. You get that veteran experience there and it gives you stability. At the same time you bring on a rookie or younger driver and build with that program. In our case, it just kind of worked out. We'd watched Dave (Blaney). He didn't have a lot of stock car experience, but he was a little more mature and had won championships and had won races. We liked that. Agewise, Dave probably had the maturity and experience but was a rookie in stock cars. We like the way that's worked out."

TALK ABOUT ADJUSTING TO RUNNING DODGE
Obviously, Sterling's got it going on. I'm proud of those guys. They've done a great job. They run well each and every week. Our hat's off to them. We had expected, if not to run as well, at least a little closer to 'em. We tested well at Vegas. We thought we were going to go back and have a great race package. Saturday, in Happy Hour or Happy Hour and a half, we didn't think we had a race-winning car, but we didn't think we were going to get beat like a drum, either. We've got a lot to learn about the car.

-Mopar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Mike Helton , Dave Blaney
Teams Bill Davis Racing