Ward Burton Darlington II race winners interview

BILL DAVIS (Car owner No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) "We thought we were capable of winning. We had a great car all day. We kept coming. We had great pit stops all day. One wasn't so hot, but we still got back up there. Ward drove...

BILL DAVIS (Car owner No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We thought we were capable of winning. We had a great car all day. We kept coming. We had great pit stops all day. One wasn't so hot, but we still got back up there. Ward drove the wheels off of it. This place is what it is. You never know what's going to happen. We thought we had a car that could win the race. Starting 37th is a big deal, but then again it turned out not to be. He just kept digging, and we had good stops and good pit strategy. It worked. The rain's OK. I don't mind getting wet. It was hot out there. We need to win next week. That's the big one (No Bull Five)."

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It feels great. The thing about Darlington is it's got so much tradition involved. My heroes like Bobby Allison and all those guys that made the sport what it is today. To be able to run and be competitive here and be able to win. The team gave me the best handling race car. All the sponsors, I'm just so happy for them. We've kind of had an up and down season, but it's definitely up for us right now.

"I knew Bobby was going to have a shot at me in one and two. I had Tommy and my dad, my spotter, everybody just telling me to run my line and not overdrive it. Bobby drove me clean. He was under me a little bit but didn't have position. Once we got through there we were OK. I made sure I didn't overdrive it when I went into three. Then something happened with the 12 and we had it sewed up then. They were way behind me, so that definitely took a stress load off.

"We finished second not this year, not last year, the year before to Jeff in this race. Jeff had the better car. I don't know if we could have beat him. Last year at this race, we had the best car and we all saw the black clouds in the back over there. We were leading and came in with not a great distance to go. Where we were pitting at didn't help us. We got beat out of the pits for various reasons. We kind of gave that one away, but that was just the luck of the draw. Mother Nature hasn't been that kind to us when it comes to finishing races.

"That first run when we started 37th and got up to 12th or somewhere when that caution came out, was the better run until the last three sets. We pitted for tires under green and the caution came out, so we had to speed down pit road and went to the tail end of the longest line. That was twice we were all the way in the back and had to take our time and get up there. The last three sets, I felt like after 8-12 laps we had the best car. I just had to be smart with it. Tommy and them had made great adjustment. Darlington is always a compromise, but I didn't have to compromise quite as much as some of the guys in front of me were.

"I was stressed. I had everything cut off in there to make sure it would crank, but I was definitely very nervous. At the same time, I was very happy to have Bobby behind me. I respect Bobby a lot. I feel like I'm going to get drove the way I want to get drove by having the 18 behind me. That calmed me down a little bit, but at the same time he was going to go for it just like I was. I was pretty nervous about it.

"I didn't know what happened, but I knew the 12 car had some trouble somehow or another because of the distance the 12 and the 18 all of a sudden were from me. It was 50 or 100 yards and the next thing I know it was about 300. To be honest with you, it felt really good to see them way back there. I was just listening to the spotter and driving to the checkered flag, actually it was the white flag at that point. I really wasn't sure if I should have kept going, but I saw Buster coming out on the race track.

"I don't know if I'm so good here. I like the place. I feel like a driver can make up a little bit here. You're always having to compromise. That was the word Tommy was using Saturday night. You're always having to look around, trying stuff every lap. I had the best handling race car the two races we won here, and that's what won the race today. Yeah, I like the race track, but I've got to have something to drive, too, and they gave me a hell of a race car there at the end of the race.

"It's been a struggle at times, but everything that possibly could have changed for the 22 team was changed other than people. We changed the aero, we changed the motor and Goodyear made a huge change in the tire design. Every variable that could possibly have been changed, we had to start over with. I think five or six weeks ago we hit on something and we buckled down and really paid attention to the race car. The guys are getting better with the aero all the time. The motor is getting better all the time, and I'm getting the tires figured out better, too. We're heading in the right direction. We just haven't had any luck to prove it at the places we had a shot like Pocono and some of the other races we were running good. We've been wrecked and hit and had bad luck all season.

"My dad parked the Winnebago outside of what was turn one and two. There were a bunch of pine trees out there. Dad said go out there and get some firewood. I commenced to cut down one of these two-foot diameter pine trees and it landed right next to the motorhome. It took awhile to get a fire going with green pine. I don't think someone at the raceway was very happy with me, but we came in on Saturday night and we watched David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison go at it all day long."

"Ward has always run real well at this track. From the first time I saw him run here in a Busch car with him and his dad and their little independent team out of South Boston, whatever year that would have been -- '89 or '90. I don't think they finished the race but he ran real fast while he was running. I just think this is a driver's race track. It takes a real unique feel to get around this place and to stay running good all day long. I think a lot of it lays in the driver's hands."

TOMMY BALDWIN (Crew Chief No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"He's always done a good job for us in the 22 car. He learns to adapt here for some reason better than most places. Like Bill said, it's a driving race track. I think when me and Ward had a pretty good talk on Saturday night about the tires and what we needed to accomplish for today and the changes we needed to make, I think Ward's eyes lit up a little bit when we were talking what he really needs to do. He did it today. He overcame a lot of obstacles of what the car was doing all day. He gave good feedback and that allowed us to make changes on the car that were positive to put the car in victory lane."

"I think right before they made the rule change our program started to pick up a little bit. The rule change probably helped us a little bit on our aero balance. Our cars, believe it or not, that we were racing before they changed this rule were probably in their aero balance where we were. We needed to go find a couple of cars in our pile there to equal what aero balance we were running. It took us a couple of weeks after that to find what we needed to run. We brought back our Indy car here because it put us in the balance that I felt Ward needed to be at to give us good feedback. It paid off today.

"Our teammate (Dave Blaney) blew a tire and we were coming in, so we had to get him out of there so he wouldn't lose a lap. They put us at the tail end of the lead lap for speeding.

"I think Tommy and his guys and his support group back there at the shop made a conscious decision. He told me two weeks ago that he was going to start bringing his best race car every week. We're not going to compromise with aero or this or that. I'm going to bring the best I've got. They really felt confident with it the way this car ran at Indy with the aero package the numbers showed in the wind tunnel. I'm glad they did that. If they hadn't, I don't think I would be here today. Their dedication gave us a winning race car.

"We had a green flag stop and we were on pit road and the caution came out. We had to truck down pit road. The penalty was to go to the tail end of the longest line.

"I just thought he (Bobby Allison) was a nice man, a quiet man. He let his actions speak for themselves. He treated people the way he wanted to be treated. He was a fierce competitor at the same time. I had No. 12 on everything from a basketball jersey to a go-kart to a late model stock and actually some Busch cars. Later, he was one of the pioneers of this sport, but obviously there's been a lot of tragedy for him and his wife and family to deal with. He never lost faith in himself and his family, and he's just a special person.

"Hell no, but it'll sink in tomorrow though. I'll wake up with a big ol' headache. I'm so happy for our team. We won here in the spring of 2000 so it's been over a year. We've had some opportunities from the Daytona 500 to the last wreck we had at Pocono. The guys gave me some awesome cars and I couldn't capitalize on it. I'm just so happy for those guys. They work extremely hard and make a lot of sacrifices. Obviously Bill and Gail (Davis) put everything they've got in this team, and all the sponsors, that's what makes it so much fun and so special for me."

"For me, winning the Southern 500 is right up there. It rates with the Daytona 500, maybe right there. I don't know what else I can compare it to.

"This is the granddaddy of all of 'em. This was the first big track. To leave here tonight and know we came down here and won the Southern 500 after we got so close last year and felt like we had the car to beat last year, certainly had the car to beat last year, it's a really big deal. I'm proud of all the guys. Honored to win the Southern 500.

"We've had confidence in our decision (to switch to Dodge) all along, we really have. Even when we thought we were struggling somewhere due to the change or we certainly struggled getting the right handle on the motor and the aero at different places, but we still knew that overall for the long haul for the next five years at Bill Davis Racing, it was the change to make. The Dodge people are great. They give us wonderful support. They're certainly the best manufacturer I've ever worked with. They're the most focused on racing and the task at hand. The resources they pour into our place and make available to us -- maybe some of the other manufacturers do it for other teams, but we never experienced anything like it."

"There's not many race car drivers that win this race. You've got a lot of double, triple, quadruple winners. To win both races now at Darlington kind of puts a cap on our accomplishments at Bill Davis Racing. They're very hard races to win. You need a very focused race car driver here to keep it off the wall, not totally, maybe hit it like seven or eight times, plus qualifying. I'm just proud of everybody that stuck with us. Dodge was pretty excited when they asked us to come aboard. The guys back at the shop have been working their tails off. To put a car in victory lane at this race track is incredible and it's a huge accomplishment.

"Two laps in a row I hit the wall up in three and four, but it was just the back bumper. I knocked the hell out of it qualifying. These other times were just grazing. A little bit off of four one time and then the only time I got in the wall at all through one and two was leading when I was trying to get around the 25 car and got into the side just a little bit off two.

"I have not even picked a phone call up and talked to another team. We've got a three-year deal. This is the second year. There's nothing to talk about. I'm not planning on going anywhere anyway.

"We really worked hard. I felt so guilty about what happened in qualifying. I stood in there and worked with 'em. I actually took a couple of the guys out for supper Friday night. NASCAR let them get in an our early, and we started back working on it about 8 o'clock (Saturday). We finished about 20 minutes before practice. The whole weekend was just a tremendous effort. While we were fixing the car, we had to change the motor to a practice motor and then had to do that again for Happy Hour. The guys just put a tremendous effort into this day. The pit crew definitely paid a part in winning this race also."

-dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Bobby Allison , Dave Blaney , David Pearson
Teams Bill Davis Racing