(From Winston Cup Teleconference 2 May 2000) THOUGHTS FROM WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON HIS TEAN'S SEASON SO FAR) "I'm really proud of that Caterpillar team. We have managed to carry our momentum from the '99...
(From Winston Cup Teleconference 2 May 2000)
THOUGHTS FROM WARD BURTON, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(ON HIS TEAN'S SEASON SO FAR) "I'm really proud of that Caterpillar team. We have managed to carry our momentum from the '99 season into this year. I think we've gotten a lot smarter with what to do with the cars, not only at the shop but at the racetrack. That's showing up on a weekly basis. The team is just really focused all the way from our fab shop, chassis guys, the motor room - just all the guys are really working real good together. That's the key. We've got a good group of guys together. Everybody is really focused on the same goals and just really happy with where we're at right now and think we've got a lot more good things to happen for us."
(ON RICHMOND) "Richmond is a place that we have finished in the top 10 at quite a few times, but it's also been a place we've struggled some in the past, so we're going to really work hard this week, not only at the shop but at the track to try to run a little bit better there."
(ON HOW HE THINKS THE CHAMPIONSHIP WILL BE DETERMINED THIS YEAR) "It's certainly possible for one team to win more races but that doesn't necessarily mean they will win the championship. I think it's neat that NASCAR has got the competition as close as it does so that we've got 10 different winners. I enjoy not only being one of those guys that has won a race, but if I can't win a race, I enjoy seeing somebody new win a race. I think just about everybody in the garage, particularly the car owners and drivers feel that way. But I think the whole key, as it is every year, is consistency. When you're having a bad day, to make the best out of your day and try to get a top 15 if you can, or a top 10 or even a top five. So never giving up and capitalizing on the times when you're really good, and when you're struggling a little bit to try to still have an even keel and be smart and not make it any worse than it has to be."
(ON ENJOYING RACING AT RICHMOND) "Well, I enjoy racing on it when the car works good. My Caterpillar team has gotten the cars a lot better this year on the short tracks. We finished third at Bristol and we finished 11th at Martinsville, so we're starting to get better on one of our weak places, which was the bull rungs. But we're looking forward to going to Richmond. I know we're taking a really good car. I feel like what we've learned in the past couple short track races and what we learned when we tested at Richmond testing a bunch of different chassis components, we're going to be able to apply this weekend. Hopefully we'll get out of there in one piece - that's the main thing - and try to get a top 10 or top five or better out of it."
(ON PARITY IN THE SPORT) "I just think that NASCAR has done an excellent job of having the makes pretty equal. There are some that have got more downforce on there vehicle than others. And just as importantly, the teams have gotten smarter. The teams that have won the races, most of those team have been together for a couple of years now. And it takes some time to really get your communication down and get the right people in place. Just like my Caterpillar team, we knocked on the door in '99 to win and lead some laps. This year, from what we've learned in '99, we're actually able to apply in the year 2000. I think that's what is building our momentum and what is building us a better race team, that we've got more of a database that we can go on."
(ON A DRIVER BEING PENALIZED FOR A TEAM INFRACTION) "A driver is part of a team, more importantly than being the focus point on Sundays. I know with my Caterpillar team, I don't hardly ever say 'I.' I may say 'I' if I made a mistake. But it's always 'we.' We have good day and we have bad days, and we take the consequences of those good and bad days together. The teams that don't do the finger-pointing are the teams that are going to stay together the longest and gel the best. I think what NASCAR did, versus not allowing them (Jeremy Mayfield's team) to compete in a race or in multiple races, is good for (Michael) Kranefuss' team because he is a really good person and he's got a good race team. They are going to still be able to compete. I don't know hardly enough about what kind of additive it was in the fuel to comment, but obviously NASCAR felt that it was severe enough that they had to set some what of an example with them."
(ON LOYALTY) "It's important. I feel like if a team is ever going to reach their potential, they have to keep their key people together. That goes down from the top of the totem pole to the bottom of the totem pole. When you start losing members of your race team, you can replace them, but you can't replace that personality. The more you can keep your team together the better. We see some loyalty in the sport now, but at some times, we see dollar signs draw people away, also. It's a tough deal for crew members, drivers and car owners to stay together. But when you find a happy home it's nice to stay in the same home or same team or what have you. I believe if we keep this team together long enough that we're going to reach the potential we can reach."
(ON HIS TEAM BECOMING SMARTER WITH THEIR CARS) "Mistakes that we had made in '99 from lack of experience in different areas, now we have some experience, from the changes that we make on the race car at the track, or the way we hang the body or build a car at the shop. They've learned from working with me long enough what I like in a car. We've learned from going to the same tracks in '99 what worked, what didn't work, probably where the track is heading with the way the car is going to be handling. I think Tommy and Doug and all our guys have just gotten smarter, which now enables me to go faster, not only for a short run but a long run. I just think that I'm real focused on finishing the races and all the guys are real focused on having a mechanically sound car. The more that you can keep the same group together the smarter that we're going to get, not only with our communication but with all the aspects of the race car, too."
(ON ADDED PRESSURE BEING RANKED HIGH IN THE POINT STANDINGS) "When I get in the race car it's no different than it was last year. We were very focused on finishing all the races and staying out of trouble. My mental image is my car running 500 miles or 500 laps or whatever the length is first. Then, of course, we try to have a competitive finish second. But I have to concentrate hard that if it takes me a lap and a half to pass somebody versus one corner, that's what I have to do. The same for the team. We have to be focused on finishing the races and being consistent. If you do what you are capable of - and I know this is the case with my Caterpillar team - if we do what we're capable of, we'll be happy with ourselves at the end of the season, and wherever the points fall, they'll fall."
(ON TIRES THIS SEASON) "Goodyear has done an excellent job. As an example, with Texas we had some tire failures there in '99 and then this past year we didn't have any. Goodyear is doing a real good job with the tires. A lot of times we can put on two tires sometimes and the cars still work just as good. We're going quite a distance on the tires just about every track, so they've done a really good job."
(ON WHETHER OR NOT RICHMOND IS AS WIDE-OPEN TO A NEW WINNER AS OTHER TRACKS) "I don't think you're going to see it as wide open as we have at some of the other tracks. Some of the other tracks we've got more capabilities of running higher and lower. We've got more grooves. Richmond obviously has two grooves, but they are pretty narrow. We know that there are some guys that their cup of tea is the short tracks, like Rusty (Wallace), and they've done a lot of homework. Most of those team that run that good on those small tracks have been together for quite a while. My team, with Tommy Baldwin, we've got a third and an 11th on two short tracks this year. That's better than we did in '99, so we're gaining on that area."
(ON DAVE BLANEY) "Dave has helped us a lot and his team has helped us a lot, particularly in the area of the restrictor plate races. Any time you can have another team out there testing motor set-ups as well as chassis set-ups, particularly at those tracks, it will pay dividends for us. At the same time, it gives Tommy and the '93' crew chief, Gil Martin, available time to not only spend together at the shop, but at the racetrack to compare notes and communicate some. I know they are struggling a little bit now, but in due time, I'm sure they are going to be up there running with us."
(ON WHETHER OR NOT THE NEW TIRE CONSTRUCTION IS THE REASON FOR MORE "SECOND GROOVE DEVELOPMENT" AT SOME TRACKS THIS YEAR) "It is certainly playing a part in it. I think the main thing is the teams have gotten a lot better, too. But the tires give us some pretty good grip. It's just sometimes difficult to figure out what you need to be good on a short run, as well as a long run."
THOUGHTS FROM TOMMY BALDWIN, CREW CHIEF, NO. 22 CATERPILLAR PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(ON LOYALTY) "It's a pretty important part of a team being so strong. Between myself and Ward staying together and then the rest of the guys staying together over the winter has really propelled this team to the level where we need to be of fighting for the championship."
(ON TECH INSPECTIONS GETTING TOUGHER) "I don't think they're getting any tougher. I just think from the media standpoint, they are focusing on it a little bit more than they have in the past. NASCAR right now is under a lot of pressure on what's going to happen in the future with all the makes and models of the cars. We all try to push the limit with all these templates right now to get as much speed as we can, and NASCAR knows that . They are doing a real good job of keeping everything fair from a competitive standpoint from team-to-team to make the cars as level as they can when we get out there on Sundays."
(ON HOW A NEW TIRE AFFECTS PREVIOUS CHASSIS SET-UP NOTES) "Since they cam out with this new tire construction at the end of last year it has pretty much changes our set-up on the race cars as far as race mode goes. Qualifying mode it hasn't really changes anything. It's been pretty evil for us to try to figure out what the car is doing with the new tire construction. Goodyear did it to put more safety for the drivers because of all the problems they had last year, and the accomplished that. Some teams have figured it out completely, some teams have half-figured it out and a lot teams haven't figured it out at all, yet. I think we've got a pretty good handle on it right now. I don't know think we're where we should be. We have a lot more work to do. But we have found a lot of things that this tire likes and that's obviously helping us this year."