WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T) 2002 Daytona 500 Champion reflects on Sunday's race prior to putting the winning Dodge Intrepid R/T on display at Daytona USA. "It's been an exciting 24 hours. It really hasn't been 24 hours...
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
2002 Daytona 500 Champion reflects on Sunday's race prior to putting the winning Dodge Intrepid R/T on display at Daytona USA.
"It's been an exciting 24 hours. It really hasn't been 24 hours yet. To win NASCAR's biggest race is a real accomplishment for Bill Davis Racing. Looking over the tapes of the pioneers of the sport, Bobby Allison and Richard Petty and David Pearson and Cale Yarborough, they've made it into something that is big for us.
"The next race that we're getting ready to go to, Rockingham, is a big event to win, too. Any Winston Cup race is, but to be a part of history, what the veterans consider the Super Bowl of racing is special. We haven't been able to build a car quite as good as that one. We've had that car for quite a few years. It's seen its ups and downs, but it saw its highest up here yesterday. I haven't talked to Jeff (brother Burton).
"This is the first year since I've been with Bill Davis Racing that we haven't made some huge step in catching up with the top teams, whether it was switching shocks or switching personnel, switching to Dodge, it's always something Bill has been doing to strengthen the support group. This year all we've done is strengthen what we've already got and address areas that need to be addressed that will make our group stronger. No matter what had happened yesterday, I feel real positive that we are in the right position and we're ready to capitalize on the growth of our team.
"When you've got somebody coming up behind you five mph faster, you can't block. It looked like to me that every wreck I was around or that I saw was about blocking. This atmosphere, you have to do some of that. Blocking a little momentum is one thing, but blocking a train pulling momentum is another. It puts you in a position that you're completely at mercy of the guy behind you. Is he going to back off or is he going to hit you? We chose yesterday to drive our race. We got passed a lot. Our car didn't really come on until after about 30 laps (into a green flag run). We just try to keep our nose clean. Even doing that doesn't mean it's going to happen, but the team did a great job and they had some good strategy and we were lucky to stay out of trouble.
"Every time there was a chance for me to go somewhere else, there was going to be somebody hurt, whether Bill could possibly be hurt of some of our teammates wouldn't have jobs or whatever. At the same time, I always saw the potential there. The light might not have been shining real brightly, but the light was still there. The big change Bill made was when he brought Tommy (crew chief Baldwin) on board. Not that the other crew chief couldn't get the job done, but my relationship with him was to the point where it wasn't going to go anywhere. Once Tommy came on board, we've brought the best and worst out of each other, but we both believe in each other. Tommy knows if he gets the car I can win with that I might be capable of winning. At the same time there was some areas last year, like the new Goodyear tire, that he had to pound in me. I had to change my driving style and it took me a month or two to learn to do that. I had to do it. I believe in him, too. Giving him the ingredients that we can have a competitive team and at the same time give him the leeway to make decisions, whether it's hiring, firing or what we're going to do to the race cars. That's a big part of it. The reason I'm there is because I always thought we could be right here.
"We're excited about going to New York. It just shows how big the sport has come. We win a NASCAR race and we're heading to the most populace city in the country. I was thinking about it a little last night. With the tragedies from what those cowards did in New York, that's a fitting place for us to go today. I think I'll be more comfortable there than I would be in the hills of Virginia just because it's a good place to be right now. All Americans have been thinking about New York City.
"Under the circumstances from 911, we're willing to go there any time. Had that not happened, I don't know.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet, but I heard it was on the front page of the newspaper. Once I see it, it'll probably sink in. I didn't get much sleep last night. We didn't get back to the room until about 12. I'm a little drained. I stayed in that wet suit for about five hours. I didn't get out of that wet suit until about 9:15. It's an awesome feeling, the accomplishment of the race team. Those guys kept telling me back at the shop that I wasn't going to be able to bring the car back home. They were right. Everything that needed to fall our way yesterday fell our way. We had some luck for a change. We didn't have any bad luck.
"Everything has got to happen exactly right. Last year we had a lot more dominant car than we did this year. Last year we didn't have any luck. We got hit on the back stretch and that was our day. Yesterday, the last 40 laps, everything just bam, bam, bam, the three steps it took for us to win the race, all happened in our favor.
"Tommy and them were talking to be this morning. They said not to worry about leading all those laps, just worry about leading the right lap. We were lucky to do that.
"We both get excited in the heat of the battle, but at the same time, we know each other's personality. He (Tommy Baldwin) has got a high A personality when he's in that uniform, and I do when I'm sitting in that car. We both are working real hard for the common goal. Sometimes we might yell a little bit or sometimes we might laugh a little bit, but at the end of the day, it's still about togetherness and about two guys working real hard to achieve what we need to achieve.
"I would be home today (if I hadn't won the Daytona 500) and I'd go to my office a little while. I'd go to one of the farms my wildlife foundation owns. We actually are getting ready to build a nine to 11-acre pond that's going to be a fishery for some children, a shelter for waterfowl. I've got to go out and do some work on that, but I'm not going to be able to get out there this week. I'll go next week, but that's where I go to relax. That's me. I might get on my tractor a little bit, or I might work on some equipment. I've got to do some prescribed burning. People who are going to help me, I've got to lead them in the right direction or get on my tractor and do it myself if I've got the time."