Scott Wimmer heard the questions. In fact, he had some of his own.
“Did he have what it took to win races?”
“Should he stay at Bill Davis Racing?”
Or even, “Does Bill Davis want to keep him around?”
For several months last season those questions and more surrounded Wimmer’s Bill Davis-owned NASCAR Busch series team as Wimmer struggled to get his first series win and sponsorship dollars started to dry up.
Davis considered shutting the team down. Wimmer considered offers from other car owners.
But the faith Davis and Wimmer placed in the team finally paid off when Wimmer burst into Victory Lane Sept. 21 at Dover, Del. And the Victory Lane faucet couldn’t be shut off.
He won three more times before the season ended – a total of four wins in the series’ final eight events – and ended the year third in points.
Now, with renewed confidence, a renewed commitment from BDR and a sponsor, Wimmer has established himself as a favorite to win the 2003 Busch series title. He starts 23rd in Saturday’s Koolerz 300 season opener at Daytona International Speedway (1 p.m. Eastern, Fox).
“Bill was sinking a lot of money in our team to keep it running and we weren’t really performing that great,” Wimmer, 27, said. “We’d have a good finish and then we’d have a bad one.
“It’s hard to keep a team running when you’re not making any money.”
Wimmer had shown a lot of promise early in his career.
He was the 1997 Hooters Pro Cup series rookie of the year and while running in the American Speed Association full time in 2000, he won two races – in his second and third career starts.
Davis entered him in three Busch races in 2000 and late in the year, when rain canceled qualifying and forced him out of a planned Automobile Racing Club of America race at Atlanta, he moved over to the Cup garage and made the field for the Cup race.
By then, Wimmer and Davis had already started talking about working together and Wimmer moved full time to Busch in 2001. He finished 11th in points with two top-fives.
Expectations were high entering last season, but Wimmer’s performance slipped. He struggled early and by July, with no wins and without a sponsor, Davis considered shutting down the team.
“I really don’t have anything else to fall back on other than driving a race car. It’s how I make my living and I need to be in a race car to make a living,” Wimmer said. “I was getting kind of concerned Bill wasn’t going to stick with the team.”
Wimmer said he and his team promised a stronger effort in the second half of the season and Davis agreed to continue.
“Bill came to me and said, ‘We’re going to run another year and I would like to move you up to Winston Cup in my program,’ ” Wimmer said. “We got everything worked out and I’m glad I’m going to be here at BDR for probably quite a while.”
Ending the season with four wins in eight starts quickly eliminated those who doubted Wimmer could win races. The strong finish also helped BDR acquire a sponsor in the off-season.
“Once we got past that first win the team knew we could do this,” Wimmer said. “When you’re down, it’s so hard to get out of that. But when you’re on a high, it’s so much easier to keep that momentum.
“We need to perform. I have no problem with that because I know Bill has given me everything this year to compete for the championship.”