Great Parting Gift = A Championship

Andrew FletcherCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2008

“Checkered flag is up and Ward Burton is going to win the 44th Daytona 500,” said race commentator Allen Bestwick.

Those were the glory days. The days were wins seemed to be possible and closing up shop was nowhere in sight.

Fast-forward six-and-a-half years and Burton’s 2002 Daytona 500 winning racing team has folded.

Bill Davis Racing (BDR) announced they would be closing shop and selling off their shares on Dec. 22nd.

Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney has also been released from his contract and is currently looking for other options.

Unable to compete for wins or sponsors with the big three teams of Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, Davis was forced to sell his single car operation.

BDR first came on the Cup Series Scene in 1993 with Bobby Labonte.

Midway through their second season in competition, they hired Burton who won the team’s first career race at the North Carolina Raceway after starting third. Burton would also be the most successful driver to compete for BDR on the Cup level winning all five of their wins.

The highlight for the team’s career had to be the 2002 Daytona 500. After Sterling Marlin was penalized for tugging on a fender during a red flag, it promoted Burton’s No. 22 dodge to the front.

He never looked back, holding off Elliot Sadler in the Wood Brother’s 21 Ford for the victory.

Caterpillar signed on as a sponsor for BDR in 1999 and stayed on with the team until the end of the 2008 season, where they switched to Jeff Burton’s No. 31 Chevy.

Along with the Cup Series, BDR posted wins in the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series.

Success came quickly in the Craftsman Truck Series as 1995 Champion Mike Skinner posted two wins in 2005. This was followed up by six wins between Skinner and Johnny Benson during the 2006 season followed by a championship runner-up finish in by Skinner in 2006.

In total Skinner would amass nine career wins for BDR as 1995 Busch Series Champ, Benson had 14. Also 2008 rookie, Scott Speed would win at Dover leading to a grand total of 24 wins for BDR.

The best parting gift for BDR in 2008 was from Benson.

He drove hard all season, clinching the 2008 drivers’ championship by seven points over three-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr.

The new stockholders of BDR have planned to continue the Sprint Cup program for the number 22 team, but it remains to be seen if they will compete full-time in the 2009 championship.