Ward Burton, driver of the No.
22 Caterpillar Dodge, looks to the Pepsi 400 and the second
half of the 2002 NASCAR Season to get things back to the
winning ways he and the CAT team experienced in the Daytona
“I think it will be exciting for us as a team to go back to
the place where the season began and where we last visited
victory lane,” said Burton. “It really is an awesome feeling
winning a race, but there is a special feeling that goes
along with winning the Daytona 500.”
Burton capitalized on a late-race caution that put him into
the lead after Sterling Marlin was sent to pit road for a
stop-and-go penalty after working on the fender of his
racecar during red-flag conditions.
“We’ve had a lot of late-race cautions at plate races and
that is not exactly what the drivers like to see. That is
almost always a recipe for disaster because drivers know it
is their last shot at winning the race and you can pull off
a win from a few rows back at the plate races. We’ve had the
late cautions help us win and help us lose. It all worked
out for us at the Daytona 500, and actually, last July we
were able to pull off a fourth-place finish because of a
late caution. But, we’ve also been the big loser in some of
those restarts too. I know we’ve wrecked in the July race
under a green-white-checker. It’s just a crap shoot.”
The restrictor-plate program at Bill Davis Racing has become
a force to be reckoned with. Over the years, Davis has put
an enormous effort into the development of his engine
program under the tutelage of Terry Elledge and he has put
an equal emphasis on the development of his engineering
department with Todd Holbert at the helm.
“We’ve really put a lot of emphasis on the development of
many programs at Bill Davis Racing, but the restrictor-plate
races have been our most noticeable improvement,” said
Davis. “Ward’s had one of the better cars at Daytona for the
past couple of years and I look for this weekend to follow
that pattern. Tommy and Ward work very well together to get
a great set up at Daytona and Terry and Todd have worked
long hours on the development of the motor and body.”
“We have gotten better and better at Daytona over the past
couple years,” said Burton. “We’re always excited to go back
there and hope that we’re one of the better cars there and
that we can be competitive.”
Things will be a little different for Burton and the
Caterpillar team when they return to Daytona. The race is
400 miles versus 500 and the race is run under the lights as
opposed to during the daylight.
“The handling is a little more critical in the day, but the
track can still get very tight under the lights just like it
did for us last year. We had a hard time getting our car to
turn. It’s a handling track at Daytona, but it’s also a
place where you need the total package too. The driver is
important, but the car is just as critical.”
Racing under the lights at Daytona is something many of us
never thought we’d see, but the change to night racing in
July has been welcomed by many.
“The first night race at the Pepsi 400 was the most
memorable for me," said Davis. “We’d never seen restrictor
plate racing under the lights before and when it happened
for the first time, no one knew what to expect. Seeing those
cars go around that track at night was absolutely awesome.
It produces some of the most spectacular racing for the
fans. They get the thrill of a plate race under the lights
and then the speedway puts on an awesome fireworks display.”
Burton is hoping that this race under the lights gives the
CAT team a much- needed boost to a season with some extreme
highs and extreme lows. They are looking for something to
get there season back on track.
“We’re heading into this weekend without another break until
the season ends and I hope this race can give us a good
start to that long stretch of races. We can turn things
around this weekend and get back to being competitive.
Baldwin shares Burton’s optimism.
“I think this can be the race to get our confidence back and
get us heading in the right direction,” said Tommy Baldwin.
“We’ve been working as hard as ever and we’ve been plagued
by a lot of misfortune. I hope Daytona will give us a good
finish and we can take that finish and build some momentum
to head into the final stretch of the 2002 season.”
One hurdle has finally been cleared – both Burton and
sponsor Caterpillar have re-signed with Bill Davis Racing,
putting an end to many rumors about Burton’s future.
Burton’s new deal is for two years, taking him through 2004,
while Caterpillar has signed a new five-year deal.
"I'm done. I'm ready to rock.” Burton said, “Caterpillar has
signed for five years. A lot changes in the sport and I
wasn't willing to sign a five-year deal. We never even
talked about it because I told Caterpillar when we talked
that five years is a long time. A lot can change in five
“Three years is a long time in this business. Five years is
just too far to look down the future. I don't even know for
me physically to sign a five-year deal if I would even be up
for it. I do want options, and I feel like they need to have
options. I'm going to give it 100 percent, and I'm sure they
”I just want to make things work. The part I'm going to play
in making it work is very much worthwhile the effort. We've
just got to make it work. I believed in it enough to sign
away another two and a half years of my life. We've got to
make it work."
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