HIGH POINT, NC -- The future is now at Bill Davis Racing. Right now. With the 2000 season entering its final 60 days, initial testing of the first BDR-built Dodge Intrepid this week at Kentucky Speedway dominates the thoughts of the affable Davis,...
HIGH POINT, NC -- The future is now at Bill Davis Racing. Right now. With the 2000 season entering its final 60 days, initial testing of the first BDR-built Dodge Intrepid this week at Kentucky Speedway dominates the thoughts of the affable Davis, one of NASCAR's most intriguing success stories.
Never in his most optimistic dreams did Davis consider breaking through as an owner at the premier level of American motorsports. He never considered the opportunity would exist to align himself with the most auspicious manufacturer roll-out in NASCAR or to position his organization alongside the most storied team in Winston Cup history (Petty Enterprises) in what will surely be the sport's most scrutinized brand debut.
Davis never envisioned himself passing owners such as Bud Moore on NASCAR's all-time career earnings list, as he did this summer. In its simple Arkansas beginning, Davis' dream included one race car, a strong friendship with hometown friend and future driver Mark Martin and a unrestrained drive and vision to reach his life-goals.
When he entered the 1990's as a Busch Series owner with three of NASCAR's brightest future stars (Martin, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte) as his drivers, Davis was one of a handful of junior circuit owners that the sanctioning body hoped would put in time, progress and graduate to the Winston Cup Series as did many of the series' top drivers of the era including Gordon, Labonte, Jeff Burton and his brother Ward, who joins Dave Blaney as Davis' two current Winston Cup drivers.
But while A.G. Dillard, Filbert Martocci and Gary Bechtel are gone from the garage, Davis remains and continues to expand his NASCAR operation, which now includes over 100 employees, 130,000-square feet of shop space and four teams -- the #22 Caterpillar/Polaris and #93 Amoco/Siemens Winston Cup teams and the #20 AT&T and #22 Polaris Busch Series teams.
"When I stop to think about it all, it is still pretty amazing to me because I really don't think I set out with Winston Cup racing as a destination," said Davis as his team prepared for the Dodge test at Kentucky Speedway. "I've always been a goal-setter but when it was just 2-3 of us putting together Mark's first Busch Grand National car in the little shop behind my house (in 1987), it was all about just getting to the track and learning the ropes. That really hasn't been that long ago.
"At that time, I had gotten interested in racing by going with Mark on weekends but I was deep into the growth of Bill Davis Trucking and I probably felt that was still going to be my career path. Then we got into this, had some success pretty early and I realized that this was going to be what I devoted most of my energy to for the rest of my life.
"So much of what has happened to me is also due to my being here during the rapid rise and huge success the sport has enjoyed over the past decade. Ten, five, even two years ago, none of us could have ever dreamed of the big things we have on the table now as a sport -- the unbelievable popularity, the new TV contract, the possibility of racing overseas in the near future. I just can't imagine the growth curve."
Davis and his operation are central players in one of the major developments in the sport's recent history -- the return in 2001 of the Dodge nameplate to the Winston Cup Series after a 23-season absence. The test of the new BDR Dodge this week by Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Blaney and the #93 Amoco/Siemens team marks the start of a trying transition period during which both Pontiacs and Dodges occupy the team's huge new state-of-the-art Winston Cup shops in High Point, N.C.
"We've been involved in every step of the body and motor development of the new Intrepid with Ray (Evernham) and the Pettys but now that we've gotten our own car ready to go, everyone in the shop is really excited about taking this next step," said Davis. In some ways, it's a gamble but Dodge's enormous commitment to reentering stock car racing has given us all the tools and the resources we need to be competitive. In one sense, we're on schedule because the templates and the specs are approved, the car looks good and what we've seen of the motor so far has been good.
"In another respect, it's hard to know if you're on schedule really because we've had to develop a completely new product from ground zero in a real short period of time. This week's test will begin to give us some real answers."
And although the long-term yield with the Dodge decision appears to be exceptional, the short-term unknowns have created questions for two rising Winston Cup programs. Burton and the #22 Cat team have been front-runners throughout the 2000 season and are among six teams jockeying for positions 5-10 in the Winston Cup point standings with seven races remaining. Since the arrival two years ago this week of Crew Chief Tommy Baldwin, Jr., the #22 team has improved 20 positions in the WC standings and has matured into a weekly contender.
Blaney -- in his rookie Winston Cup year and third-ever stock car season -- ranks third in every significant statistic for the talented 2000 rookie class behind Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and -- prior to his jarring accident at Dover last weekend, had completed almost 93% of his overall miles. Since the addition of new Crew Chief Doug Randolph in mid-July, Blaney has show marked improvement after a difficult start to his rookie WC season, which included a complete turnover with his #93 Amoco crew.
"The Amoco team did not start the year like we'd hoped but they're running like we expected over the last ten races -- consistently a top-15 car in terms of the kind of lap-times they're running," said Davis. They'll get even better before the season's over. I've said from the start that Dave Blaney can do this and he's going to do it a pretty high level before he's done. Now that our teams have gotten a better understanding of what working together is all about, he's really benefited and moved closer to the front.
"The #22 team got off to a great start and they're still having a great year, although we've had some bad luck the last two weeks and we made some mental mistakes this summer that cost us some top-five finishes. Before our problem at Dover last weekend, our laps-completed percentage was terrific (only 27.65 unfinished miles in 26 races). A top-five points finish is not out of the question and that's still ultimatey our goal for the #22 over the next two months, although we'll be working on the Dodge project pretty hard from this point on.
"Adding a second Winston Cup program this season has been learning experience for everyone, for sure, and making this Dodge transition so soon after our expansion is ambitious. But our Winston Cup programs are on track and have a good direction and good understanding now of how to move forward -- twice the ideas, twice the test laps, twice the input. I still believe it's the only way to go in this series once the right people are in place. We've got some big projects ahead for us in the next few months but we've come along way at Bill Davis Racing in a relatively short period of time. We're up to the challenge."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT -- BILL ARMOUR (336-887-2222)