Frankie Stoddard, says Wimmer,...
Frankie Stoddard, says Wimmer, is helping with the adjustment to the Cuplevel.
SCR: After it was announced last season that Ward Burton was leaving the team and that you were going to get his seat and move to Nextel Cup this season, how much of a benefit was it to get in the car with four races remaining to get acquainted with the team heading into 2004?
WIMMER: It was real important. Ward Burton is a great driver and he was at Bill Davis Racing when I first got there. Ward helped me out a lot with my career. Things just weren't quite the way they wanted them to go with him so he stepped aside and that really gave me the chance to get in the car early. Ward didn't have to do that but he did just to help both of us out. It was a chance for me to get started working with my new Cup team and the team he is driving for this year. It was exciting to me because I knew this was a great group of guys that I knew but had never got the chance to work with them before. I can't tell you how excited I was to sit behind the seat of the No. 22 car for the first time.
SCR: You obviously got the season started off in a pretty big way with a third-place finish in the Daytona 500. How much did that mean to you personally and to your entire team?
WIMMER: It obviously felt real good to me, especially because I went through a lot of personal issues during the off-season. To rebound from that and have a good run at Daytona and then leave Rockingham in fourth place in points meant a lot because I've worked real hard to get to this level. It felt good to get the season started off like we did. Now we have to continue that through the rest of the year.
SCR: Was that third-place finish the best race of your career even though you didn't win?
WIMMER: It definitely was. That was one tough race. I was driving my heart out every lap. I was up there running with some of the best restrictor plate racers in the business. We didn't have the best test session leading into the race, but to end up third in the Daytona 500 was a great accomplishment.
SCR: What were your thoughts in the closing laps when you were following two of the sport's biggest superstars in Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart in the biggest NASCAR race?
WIMMER: That was very special. We went into the race with a game plan and I was more concerned about finishing the race than winning. Then as the race went on, we were in a position to where we actually started to think about winning. When I was leading with about 20 laps to go, there were a lot of emotions running through my head. I ended up getting passed by Tony Stewart and Dale Jr., but I was still doing everything I could to get back around those guys. I knew if they would have had a little bad luck or gotten together, I would have had the chance to win the Daytona 500 in my first try. Even after I got passed, I just never gave up.
SCR: You had a tremendous amount of success in the Busch Series with crew chief Robert "Bootie" Barker, and won four races during the 2002 season. How big of a loss was it when he announced that he was leaving the team last season?
WIMMER: It was a huge blow because Bootie and I worked together for two years and finally started to get each other figured out. When I came into the Busch Series, he was a rookie crew chief and I was a rookie driver. We had our struggles at first, but in our second year we really started to gel, win races and do some great things together. What it all boiled down to was Bootie had some other avenues he wanted to pursue and I don't blame him for doing what he needed to do because it was a great opportunity. It was probably something I would have liked to have done with him. If we could have moved up to Nextel Cup together, I think we could have run real well and been strong. I learned a lot from Bootie and he is a great individual. He's a very smart man that is going to be in this business for a long time.