TONY GLOVER (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) Glover serves as team manager along with Andy Graves for Dodge Intrepid R/T drivers Sterling Marlin and rookie Jason Leffler. Marlin drives the No. 40 Coors Light Intrepid...
TONY GLOVER (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)
Glover serves as team manager along with Andy Graves for Dodge Intrepid R/T drivers Sterling Marlin and rookie Jason Leffler. Marlin drives the No. 40 Coors Light Intrepid and is the only driver to score top-10 finishes in all three races this season. He's finished seventh, eighth and third and leads the series standings by 35 points over three-time champion Jeff Gordon. Marlin has 10 poles and six victories in 506 career starts on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. His best finish in the points came in 1995 when he won the Daytona 500 for the second straight year and finished third behind Gordon and Dale Earnhardt after 31 races. Glover talks about Marlin, Ganassi's first season as a NASCAR Winston Cup car owner and the team's first season with Dodge.
"The 40 team is a better team than it was last year," Glover said. "We have more resources. We have a better deal with Dodge than prior manufacturers, and we just have more resources to pool from. There's more talent on the team. There's a mixture of new people and people who've worked on Sterling's team before. Lee McCall is our new crew chief, and he's doing a great job. Ray Hall is the car chief, Darren Wolfe came over from the 28 car and Todd Osborne joined us from the sprint car ranks as a chassis guy. Nate Kennon helps with the engines and does a little bit of everything, and Mike Motil is our tire guy. The shock specialist, Derek Stamets, came off the 01 team last year. We've got a good group of guys. They're really close knit and they get along well. Plus, the 40 team has had so much bad luck in the past, maybe it's time for it to change.
"The car is a big percentage better than it was last year, but the team is a bigger percentage better. I think we're much stronger as a team. The Dodge deal is a brand new deal, but we've already got more cars built than we had combined last year.
"We've got nine cars per team ready to go. Last year, for the whole year, we only had four downforce cars per team and we've already got five downforce cars per team this year. Strictly going by the car count, we're better off than we've ever been. We're building our cars in house, and we have some guys who do an excellent job hanging the sheetmetal.
"We've researched the new tires, just like everybody else, and we've worked hard. I don't think we've got anything figured out that others might not have. Maybe the tires are just playing into Sterling's driving style. Sterling and I talked at the beginning of the season, and we set some goals. He's focused, but he's always been focused. I think the difference with Sterling this year is that he's more confident with the team and with his equipment.
"Chip Ganassi has been around a fair amount, but what he's really done is loaded our tool box with a lot of good tools. That's one of Chip's favorite sayings, and he's lived up to his commitment. I don't think we've been turned down for anything we've asked for. Ernie Elliott, Tony Santanicola and Bob Fisher are doing a great job with the engines. We haven't had any engine problems yet.
"It sure would be awful hard for us to keep this up, but you've got to start somewhere in the points. I'd rather be first right now than 15th or 30th trying to catch up. I'm really not worried about it now. We're going to approach every race like we did Daytona. We went down there and tried to win the race. If we couldn't win, we wanted to finish second because second pays a lot of money and points. That's what we want to do every week.
"We've had a good shot to win two of the first three races, and I think we had a top-three car at Rockingham. We could have been a contender there, but we had a brake problem. We stayed out too long on one green-flag run and lost track position. If a caution had come out, we would have been in great shape, but it didn't. We came in the pits third and came out 12th.
"I think we're going to be OK at Atlanta. I don't see any good tracks or bad tracks for Sterling. If you've got a good car with a good setup and a good driver, you're going to do good no matter what kind of track you're on. Sterling has sure proved he can win on a superspeedway. He's won on intermediate tracks, and he's had some good runs on the short tracks. He finished second last year at Sears Point behind Jeff Gordon, so I would say he can win on any kind of track.
"People are already talking about championship, but I'd say that's some pretty big expectations. This is basically a first-year team with a first-year owner. Dodge is a first-year manufacturer with a first-year engine. We just want to be competitive every week and let the points take care of themselves.
"Dodge has a very good plan in place. They're on the top of their game, and they didn't come into this sport to play around. They came in to win. I've always been intrigued by a new car. When Chevrolet came out with the new Monte Carlo in 1994, Sterling won the Daytona 500 the first time out with it. That was exciting to me, and I'm really extremely excited about being part of the new Dodge team. If we can help them win some races and contend for the championship, that would be great.
"I really don't have a title with this team. I guess in the PR books, I'm team manager, but Andy and I just sort of look after both teams. We have crew chiefs for both teams, and Andy and I just sort of look over the race operations at the track. We stay in constant communication. Andy and I get along perfect. We look after each other and try to help each other. If one of us stumbles, the other is there to prod him in the back to go for more.
"This is the best team I've ever been a part of. I'm real excited about having the opportunity to be a part of building this team. We're real excited about our rookie team, too. With a veteran like Sterling, Jason has the opportunity to learn a lot. As he gets more experience, I think you're going to hear a lot from him. We'll just see how everything works out. We'll keep digging and learning and doing the best we can and see where we stack up as the season goes along."
LEE McCALL (Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've got some good chemistry right now on the 40 car. I'd say we've reached about 75 percent of our goals right now, and when we get the other 25 percent we'll set some more goals. I think we're going to be in pretty good shape for Atlanta. We just got our Las Vegas Dodge turned around, and we're going to run the same one at Atlanta. That'll be the first time this year that we've run the same chassis. We've had brand new stuff every week, and that says a lot about this team.
"We know what this car likes, and I think we'll be a little ahead when we unload at Atlanta. I was the chief mechanic for the No. 12 team last year. I'd been there since 1994. I've always wanted to be a crew chief. I eat, sleep and breath racing. I guess we've got to knock on wood, but we've hit on a few things in the first three races and we've had some good finishes.
"I suppose there's going to come a point in the road where we struggle, and that's when I've got to be strong. There's a lot of talent on this team, and that includes Sterling. I knew all along he could drive a race car. It just depends on what you put under him. We've got a great car, a great motor, we've got the total package right now.
"I'd say the first four races of the season set the tone for the year. We've got a jump on 'em now, so we've just got to try to stay on top. At the first of the season, my goal was to finish in the top 10 in points. Anything above and beyond that would have been great. I think now we're going to shoot for the top five. If we can stay on top of our game like we are right now, we might be a contender for the title before it's all said and done, but we've got a long way to go."