Dodge still off the pace; will test at Talladega By Dave Rodman DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2001) -- Ten Dodge teams ended a two-day test session Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway with so many questions and so little speed, they ...
Dodge still off the pace; will test at Talladega
By Dave Rodman
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2001) -- Ten Dodge teams ended a two-day test session Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway with so many questions and so little speed, they immediately planned to reconvene at Talladega Superspeedway in less than 10 days.
With teams battling warmer temperatures than what Ford and General Motors teams experienced at their tests last week, the first en masse session for Dodge's Intrepid R/T ended with the cars still four-tenths of a second -- or 1.5 mph -- off the best laps of the winter by the three other makes.
Stacy Compton was consistent over the two days, electing to use only one of the two Melling Racing cars he had at Daytona. His best lap Wednesday morning and the best of the session for Dodge was 49.773 seconds, 180.821 mph. That placed him unofficially only 14th on the winter's cumulative speed chart behind fast man Matt Kenseth's Roush Racing Ford, which turned a lap in 49.377/182.271 on Jan. 8.
Evernham Motorsports owner Ray Evernham, who could only shake his head and say he wasn't sure exactly where the full Dodge program was on Tuesday, wasn't much clearer on the subject Wednesday.
"We've got to pick up," Evernham said. "We've got work to do and we're going to do it. Like I said yesterday, I've left Daytona before being half a second behind. We just have more work to do."
Part of the reason for the significant lack of speed, according to some in the Dodge camp, is that the Intrepid is an unproven commodity in NASCAR racing. And with the season-opening Daytona 500 looming just a month away, Dodge is running out of chances to prove the Intrepid as a race-worthy vehicle.
"The couple months we've had to work on the speedway program doesn't stack up when you're competing against 10-12 years with a certain model or a certain brand," said Ganassi Racing team manager Andy Graves, who had drivers Jason Leffler and Sterling Marlin mired in 40th and 41st on the overall chart.
Graves, like Evernham, said a Talladega test was in his organization's future as the start of the season draws closer.
"It's tough and we've got the odds stacked against us right now," Graves said. "Where we're at with the program, it looks like everyone is gonna have to do another speedway test. We'll be at Talladega the 30th of this month for a couple days. When we come back in February with the best package we have, we'll see where we're at."
Dodge made it through the test with few engine problems, but John Andretti, who flailed away for two days to reach a 39th best on the list of 50.302/178.919, saw his time cut short when his Petty Enterprises team had to make a change at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon.
"I felt something in the engine," Andretti said, "and we felt like we should make a change so a little problem didn't become a big one."