Most of the Christmas decorations are tucked away for another year and 2001 toasted in with cheer. Oops, must have watched too much Dr. Suess over the holidays. However it is said, the time is here to go racing again.

Morgan-McClure Motorsports is gearing up for the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season with a flurry of activity. The team will test during the latter part of this week, then move on to the GM test session at Daytona International Speedway, January 11 and 12. The No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Monte Carlo will continue its Florida trip with a test session at Lakeland, Fla. and end up in Rockingham, NC on January 18 and 19.

Larry McClure, car owner:
"We are looking forward to good test sessions in the upcoming weeks. Our schedule got a little off before the holidays because of inclement weather.

"Daytona will be more of a chassis test for us. Handling is more of a factor at Daytona than it is at Talladega. Morgan-McClure certainly is placing emphasis on the Daytona 500. This team has three victories in the 500. We have five wins overall at Daytona. We had miserable finishes in both Daytona races last year.

"We are looking towards a better beginning to the season in 2001. The 500 is the first race of the year and it is our biggest race of the year. If we can unload fast, we will be in good shape. Morgan-McClure will be putting more concentration on Daytona, our Superbowl of racing, and the points standings.

"We will begin the season in 32nd position, a place in which we are not accustomed. Our overall strategy might have to change. We might not be able to take it to the edge for the first few races, because it will be important to excel in the points. It will be tougher now to make races with the new qualifying rules. Being aware of this, we will focus on moving up in points.

"The shop is busier now than ever before. It is a really hot time for this team. I am exciting about David Ifft. He is going to do a great job. His positive attitude lifts up everyone in the shop.

"Anytime a new driver, with limited race schedule experience, is brought in to a team, they take on a rookie-type status. Robby Gordon has never run a full Winston Cup schedule. He will be stepping into a fast car and will want to gas-it-up hard. Ifft's job, along with the team, is to hold him back. Don't get me wrong, we want Robby to go fast, but we also need to finish races. We don't want to make enemies in the garage along the way, either. We will be looking to some of our competitors for help."

David Ifft, crew chief, quotes
"I am confident this team is going to Daytona better prepared than it has been in several years. The cars look good in the wind tunnel. Motors that have been put on the dyno look strong. We have test cars prepared and ready to load.

"Morgan-McClure has tremendous talent in the shop. These guys are filled with ideas. I tell all of them to go home and think about what we are doing each day. Then if they have suggestions or ideas or changes, write them down. They bring their lists in and we have brainstorming sessions. Everyone comes up with some really good ideas. We might try some of them. If it works then we stick to it. The business of racing is an ongoing learning process. Learning begins with ideas.

"We will go to Daytona, which is a handling track, and run qualifying stuff the first day. The second day of the test will be set aside to try race setups. I think we are more organized with our plans now. Organization can make racing a whole lot simpler.

"Daytona is an important test to us. Because Morgan-McClure has five wins there, more pressure is put on us to perform well. Everyone looks at the No.4 team as a superspeedway bunch. When a team performs well at certain tracks, they are labeled such. For instance, Bobby Labonte runs good at Atlanta, so everyone expects that team to win when we go there. It is a pressure deal.

"Honestly, we are going to the first four races of the season to finish good. If the opportunity is there to win, then we will take it, but our main priority will be to finish each race as high up as possible. The one round qualifying rule will make it imperative to run good. No second chances complicates matters. It will be critical to be dialed-in when the car is unloaded, especially at Daytona.

"Once Robby and I gain complete confidence in one another, performance will step up. I will talk to him on the radio a bunch. We have already discussed this. I think we can be a positive factor for each other. Communication, before, during and after a race, will be a key element to this race team.

"I made a chart and hung it on the wall in the shop. We will keep up with team progress during the year. Every guy on here wants to look up and see those blocks show improvement.

"Another one of my main objectives is for television, radio and print media to notice a drastic turnaround in this team by midseason. I want them to say, 'The combination of Gordon, Ifft and the team is really working. Morgan-McClure Motorsports has progressed and they are on their way back to where they should be.' In other words, I want to be in a position for everyone to take notice to the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Chevy again.

"Team morale took a beating last season. It began with Daytona. That is coming around. Whether we win the upcoming 500 or not, we will do everything within our power not to finish last. This is a good bunch of people. We will work our way back to the front. In the meantime, we will look towards learning from our upcoming test sessions."

Morgan-McClure Motorsports employees pool money each year to buy the team owners a nice Christmas present. They also exchange gifts with each other. This year, the team decided to put the money to a good cause. They adopted a family in their community. A father, who was injured in a fall and unable to work, and his two young daughters received gifts of jackets, hats, clothes, personal hygiene items and toys. A sum of $400 remained. So the gracious employees went shopping for toys. They bought as many for under $10.00 each as they could. The toys were taken to a local soup kitchen, which provides assistance to any denomination of people throughout the year, and distributed as Christmas gifts.

-Lisa Shealy