Daytona - Dodge joins the starting grid

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 8, 2001) - After a scant 490 days, more than one million man-hours of work and seemingly endless planning and testing, the day has nearly arrived. Almost two dozen Dodge Intrepid R/T NASCAR Winston Cup stock cars, ...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 8, 2001) - After a scant 490 days, more than one million man-hours of work and seemingly endless planning and testing, the day has nearly arrived. Almost two dozen Dodge Intrepid R/T NASCAR Winston Cup stock cars, fielded by five teams for their 10 drivers have made their way to the Daytona International Speedway and are ready to race. It has been 18 years since Rick Baldwin drove the last Dodge at the Daytona 500 - in 1983. On Friday, February 9, Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood, Kyle Petty, John Andretti, Buckshot Jones, Ward Burton, Dave Blaney, Stacy Compton, Sterling Marlin and Jason Leffler will make history as they lead Dodge's long-awaited return to the Daytona 500. "Our outlook going into Daytona is really two phased," said Lou Patane, Vice President of Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts. "Our first objective is to get all 10 of the Dodge Intrepid R/Ts qualified. The second is to ensure competitiveness during the race. Each individual team's strategy prior and during the race will dictate their on-track performance, which stems directly from the one-team approach we established in the beginning." On October 14, 1999, Dodge announced its return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing. In the course of the 500 some days that followed, the manufacturer named a roster of teams and drivers, created a race car from the ground up, built a new engine and developed the organizational structure needed to manage a groundbreaking new type of NASCAR Winston Cup program. Five competitive teams have pooled their collective knowledge and experience and joined the Dodge one-team approach including Evernham Motorsports, Bill Davis Racing, Petty Enterprises, Melling Racing, and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, all of which have added to the program's overall potential for success.

"We've got a lot of great new resources for building this program," said Ray Evernham, President and Team Owner of Evernham Motorsports, who was named early on to be Dodge's development partner and Dodge dealer-sponsored two-car team. "I've never worked with a company this big, and I'm impressed that they are really putting the whole car company behind the effort. Not only do we have engineering support, we're getting the moral support of the executive team. That really helps reinforce our commitment to Dodge and the one-team approach." The first Dodge Intrepid R/T race car officially took the track at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on May 8, 2000. Less than nine months later, hundreds of laps have been turned at some of the most influential race tracks on the circuit including Homestead-Miami Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Kentucky Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway, North Carolina Speedway, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, all in search for the collective data to make the Dodge Intrepid R/T a competitive race car. "It was an emotional day in Homestead when the first Dodge Intrepid R/T took the track," said Bob Wildberger, Senior Manager, NASCAR Operations, Dodge Motorsports. "All of the preparation and hard work materialized in front of our eyes, and the vision of making it to the 2001 Daytona 500 became that much closer." Dodge's return to NASCAR Winston Cup is expected to reach fans and customers through one of the biggest promotions in the sporting world, focusing a substantial portion of the brand's communications on one of America's most popular sports. "Racing is an established brand-building tool that, in the case of NASCAR's Winston Cup Series, helps position Dodge as our company's performance brand in North America," said Jim Julow, Vice President, Dodge Global Brand Center. "But we wouldn't be here if we didn't think we could use the marketing leverage that NASCAR racing provides better than our competitors. In a word, Dodge will be 'different'." More than 60 coordinated elements will comprise the Dodge NASCAR marketing assault, and be delivered in three separate waves. Dodge's different approach will be highlighted in dealer promotions, national advertising and track and fan events including the introduction of Dodge City, the interactive fan exhibition that will be unveiled at Daytona.

The anticipation runs high, and all eyes will be on Dodge as they return home to their old stomping grounds at the 2001 Daytona 500. "We are extremely excited about coming back to NASCAR Winston Cup," said Patane. "This has been a long time coming. But it's time. Without the one-team approach and the great minds involved in the program, we couldn't have made it to the starting grid at the Daytona 500." "Our thanks go to the five race teams and the engineering staff who have all made this possible. We would also like to thank all of the fans that have been waiting for our return. It has been a long time since they have seen a Dodge race in Winston Cup. There will be a lot of emotion in the stands on race day, and we're not going to let them down," said Patane.

"Dodge 500"Countdown to 2001 Daytona 500: 10 Days, 2 hours, 30 minutes

-Dave Elshoff

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jason Leffler , Kyle Petty , Sterling Marlin , Buckshot Jones , Casey Atwood , Stacy Compton , Chip Ganassi , Dave Blaney
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Bill Davis Racing