Davis Racing reaps benefit of motor additions HIGH POINT, N.C. (Nov. 4, 1998) Terry Elledge and Brad Thrower, while both veterans of NASCAR Winston Cup Series power battles, each began the 1998 season in their respective roles with Bill Davis...
Davis Racing reaps benefit of motor additions
HIGH POINT, N.C. (Nov. 4, 1998) Terry Elledge and Brad Thrower, while both veterans of NASCAR Winston Cup Series power battles, each began the 1998 season in their respective roles with Bill Davis Racing in decidedly unfamiliar territory, which is not the best of circumstances in an increasingly close and competitive sport where a deficit of five horsepower is often fatal to a team's chances.
Elledge, after serving as engine department manager for Richard Childress Racing and driver Dale Earnhardt for the past five seasons, moved to BDR last December in time to pair with since-departed Frank Leisson on the team's new SB2 motor program for driver Ward Burton's MBNA America Pontiacs.
As head engine builder for Amoco Ultimate Team 93 and novice stock car driver Dave Blaney, Thrower faced even deeper uncharted waters as he applied his NASCAR Winston Cup Series engine knowledge to the foreign 9-to-1 compression engines used in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division events in which Blaney's first-year team would compete.
The results for both Burton and Blaney have been strong, often surprising runs for each in their respective starts heading into this weekend's events at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Entering this weekend's NAPA 500 season finale, Burton has won two Bud Poles (Michigan in June and Pocono in July), had started in the top-five seven times (including outside poles at Charlotte in May and Darlington in September), started out of the top-25 only four times (in 32 races) and had finished a team-record 98 percent of miles in 1998, sixth-best among all teams.
And since new crew chief Tom Baldwin Jr. joined the team in September, Burton and the crew have shown a strong resurgence, ranking fifth in points over the past six races behind only champion Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace, four of the top-five in the overall point standings.
In only 18 starts during his rookie season, Blaney, the 1995 Skoal bandit World of Outlaws champion, has qualified in the top-12 for 10 different races, including the Bud Pole in only his 23rd stock car start at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and the outside pole the following race at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis. And after a rocky start to his rookie season, Blaney has been solid since Labor Day, finishing in the top-10 three times in six events, including career-best sixths at Dover and St. Louis.
In overall points since Darlington, Blaney trails only point leaders Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth and tour veteran Todd Bodine and has averaged a 12th-place finish over his last six starts, due largely to Blaney's acclimation to stock cars, a maturing crew and Thrower's improving power plants. At North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham last weekend, Blaney finished 20th but after several early-race front-runners were caught two laps down by an ill-timed caution during green-flag pit stops. Testimony to the strength of his Pontiac, Blaney passed 15 cars for position in the race's final 48 laps as well as race-winner Elliott Sadler and each of the other seven cars on the lead lap.
"A lot of people overlooked the fact that, while Dave was learning these cars, I was getting up to speed with a new type of motor and (crew chief) Gil Martin was grooming a pretty young, first-year team," said Thrower, who was an integral part of Rusty Wallace's motor programs at Cliff Stewart Racing (1985-86) and Blue Max Racing (1987-90) before serving as head engine builder for Richard Jackson's Precision Products Racing prior to joining BDR in late 1997. "For a guy as new to these cars as Dave is to win a pole like Charlotte was pretty exciting for everyone in the motor room, not just me. I'm the one putting the Busch Series motors together but we're all working all the time to find the improvement we need with both teams' engines."
Elledge directs the efforts of Thrower and a 14-man staff but has had little time to revel in Blaney's considerable progress. In addition to overseeing the improvement of Burton's fast qualifying efforts and reliable race engines, Elledge has been making plans for the increased volume of motors when Blaney and the No. 93 Amoco team join the No. 22 team, which will be sponsored by Caterpillar/Siemens in 1999, on a part-time basis next year and full-time in the year 2000.
"Obviously it will be simpler when we get to the point where NASCAR Winston Cup motors are all we're doing but everything we're learning with the Busch Series motors is applied knowledge," said Elledge, whose 20-plus seasons in racing include stints for drivers who have collectively won 16 NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships including Richard Petty, Wallace and Benny Parsons as well as Earnhardt. "We've put together a great group of people in our organization but all our motor guys were on a steep learning curve at the start of the year. And I was new to the situation at Bill Davis Racing so the progress we've been able to make is gratifying.
"The poles and great qualifying runs have been good for us all and I think we'll do well this weekend in Atlanta. But the reliability is really what we've been after for both drivers and teams. Ward has only fallen out of one points race (Michigan in August) with motor problems and Dave's only motor failure of the season came with 10 miles to go at Bristol in the spring. Going fast is great and starting as far to the front as you can is essential for a lot of reasons but you have to finish. Sounds simple, but it's hard to do. And we feel we've made big progress in my first year here and now we can work hard on some other areas. It takes time."
Source: NASCAR Online