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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Ward Burton
Ricky Craven
Jeff Green
January 18, 2003


Q. We have Ward Burton with us. Ward, there is a lot of great drivers, drivers that have won NASCAR Winston Cup Championships that have not won the Daytona 500. Repeating the Daytona 500 is tough. You have to go to Daytona and say, wait a minute I've won this thing...

WARD BURTON: Daytona definitely is a place that knew it before we won that dreams can come true there and dreams can be broken there as well. But the more time that goes by, the more meaningful it is; the more special it is for my family and I and my race team currently and sponsors currently and all the people that helped us get there over the years, just a phenomenal moment for us.

JEFF GREEN: A lot of changes under our whole roof; not just my team but all of them with Mike Beam coming from Ricky to our team - bringing the experience. There were a few races last year that we showed quality and hoped to have a chance to win the race. Didn't get it done at the end of the day. So Michael will be able to bring us that experience to get us over the hump and get us wins and ultimately get a Winston Cup Championship in the future.

Q. The first one is the toughest, Ricky, I'm sure you expected more wins. This year I know you feel the same way. Is this the year things come together and you go into the season and see how many we can win?

RICKY CRAVEN: It certainly has potential. With the change comes opportunity. There is a certain amount of risk that's involved with that. We wouldn't change if we didn't think we were doing it to get better. Last year we expected to win. Statistically it was our best year ever, finished top 15 in points. But these guys will tell you, it's really about winning. You either do or you don't. Ward didn't have the best year points-wise but he had a great year because he won twice. There isn't anybody out there that wouldn't change positions with him, even one of those wins, I think that's the way we are programmed. It's all about winning.

Q. Ward, you were just talking, just reflecting back a year later with winning Daytona, what are those things that are more special, more meaningful now several months later since you had that time to reflect?

WARD BURTON: When you are in the middle of the game it's hard to sit back and kind of sit up under the oak tree and think of what things mean and the people that helped you get there. We won that race; not that it wasn't exciting. It was an exciting day of my life, but the meaning of it, and the part of history that will forever remain you can have time to reflect on it later down the month. I'm actually still trying to find the photographer who took this one picture with the graffiti and all of this flying and you can see my wife and son, my son's eyes are this big and I got out and high-fived him. I saw it once that I signed in an autograph session. I can't find the picture to get it blown up so I can put it in the house somewhere. All of those type of things; that is something to keep that memory going for my children and myself. When you are right in the middle of the game, hell, I was at New York for two days, I came home and had a half day; then we went to Rockingham, so it wasn't really a time to enjoy it as much down the road.

Q. This is for Ward and Ricky. Ricky you mentioned winning is the ultimate goal. Should more emphasis in the points be placed on winning?

RICKY CRAVEN: Personally I think the system is pretty good. And my argument would be that how could you be disappointed with the season coming down to four or five, six drivers battling for the Winston Cup Championship. I think that's the problem that was created last year and that's all part of the system. I think it would be -- in the past there probably could be that argument. There was a year when Bill Elliot won ten races and didn't win the Championship. There was another year where there were a few drivers that had that type of season and didn't win the Championship, you can say, well, maybe we got an issue here. In the last few years that's disappeared because there is so much parity in racing and these teams are all so good and the drivers are all very equal, and I think it's probably not broken.

WARD BURTON: I think it's good and it works out well with everything Ricky said. I do think that the trophy ought to be the same damn size of the cars because that's how big a deal it is to win a race. You get these little trophies. Hell, I got a flower vase, the thing broke, we superglued it at home. It looked like something you ought to put flowers in. They ought to give you a big trophy because it is a big day. Man, it's a big day, it's a big deal for us, teams and sponsors. I never have understood that.

JEFF GREEN: Ward is right. I think all three of us -- most of them in the garage area don't race for money. We race for those trophies. To be able to bring one of those trophies home is pretty awesome. They are far and few between, but the points last year, Matt won five races and finished 7th or 8th in the points. So it doesn't really pay to win, but we are all going to try to do it as much as we can. It's not about finishing second. It's about winning. NASCAR has a great program. The point system has been with it since day one. You can't argue that. Just like Ricky said, you have four or five going for us there with three or four races to go, it doesn't get more exciting than that.

Q. Who is going to write about the trophy? Jeff, can you talk about how frustrating things were for you and RCR last year and what have you done to get back on track for this season?

JEFF GREEN: Everybody says it's frustrating. We had a decent year. Kevin should have done better because he had a little bit more experience and probably a little more experienced race team. Robby and myself first year in that organization, we did pretty decent. We didn't win. We were competitive in a lot of the races. We need to be competitive in every race. That's what we are trying to do. The changes in the organization, just move some people around. Some of the guys that changed tires and did the pit stops, they are singling them out. They are coming in on Sunday to keep them fresh. Most of them win on Thursday. I was there all weekend. Things like that, having a fresh pit crew on Sunday, those guys getting better. People like Mike Beam, organizing our stuff better, knowing what he wants in a race car when we get there; not having to get there to figure it out. Things like that will make RCR better as a whole.

Q. Can you address NASCAR's new autograph policy and limiting fans in the garage at certain times?

WARD BURTON: I think that we need to keep the garages opened for us to entertain our sponsors, our potential sponsors, occasionally family members. We use that area as a business area. We bring in paper at least every three or four races, if not every race, to try to get involved in the sport because that's where the action is. At the same time, my car or these guys cars are cruising through that area. There were a lot of times this year, hell, even at Daytona this week, I had to stop because a guy walked right in front of the car. There needs to be an area when we are practicing so we don't hurt someone. It could be a little child that is not seen. That would be horrible. So there are times that the garage can be dangerous. But we still need to have access to the right kind of people to use it.

RICK CRAVEN: I think we all have similar stories. I will share mine with you. Last year we were in Dover, practicing, got two hours, hop out of the car, go to crew chief and engineer and as I'm trying to describe what's going on a fan came in and wiggled in between us he says, hey, can I get all three of you guys to sign this while you are together? What other business would allow that type of disruption. So I'm encouraged by it. Those are two critical hours where we are judged on how well we perform and we have to be allowed to do that. On the flipside I wouldn't want that misinterpreted as not having allegiance to the fans because how I can balance that the same way I have the last couple of years. At each of the events with the exception of two events last year, 34 times we were at our souvenir trailer signing autographs on Saturday. So we are going to make up for it and do what we have to do to show appreciation to the fans. But there is a time and place for everything.

JEFF GREEN: I would say the same thing these guys did. Kevin and myself were the first ones to get out to go to the second practice Saturday morning and we literally had to clear the fans out with our front bumpers to get out on the racetrack. Like Ricky said, we don't want to run over anybody, but if a 5- or 6-year-old kid got away from his mom that was in the garage area, even one of these guy's kids or something, we don't want anything like that to happen. You have to remember the fan. This is the only sport that you can get autographs from the players basically. We can't get away from that either.

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