Dodge Prepares for Daytona

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Jan.17, 2000: The thunder of five Dodge factory-backed teams can be heard as they prepare for the Feb. 18 kick-off of the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. ...

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Jan.17, 2000: The thunder of five Dodge factory-backed teams can be heard as they prepare for the Feb. 18 kick-off of the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. "Our race teams and our Dodge engineers worked diligently during the off-season in testing and development," said Ray Richard, Program Manager NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, DaimlerChrysler-Dodge Motorsports. "We are optimistic about the new year, coming off of our most successful season in 1999. We feel we have the right people and equipment in place to make a run at the 2000 NCTS championship." "We've been able to test several elements, including aerodynamics, engines and chassis during testing," said John Wehrly, Lead Engineer, Dodge Motorsports. "We've worked very hard to make Dodge a contender at every type of race track." Dennis Setzer, driver of the #1 Mopar Dodge was the fourth fastest in Daytona, running an average lap of 49 seconds at 184 mph. "We're happy with the early test sessions, but we know there's still work to do before race day in Daytona," said Setzer. Randy Tolsma, driver of the #25 Supergard Dodge, sat on the pole at the first race of the 1999 season with his brand new race team. Tolsma returns in 2000 with the same team and a focus on more top-fives and race wins, starting with Daytona. "It would mean a lot to win at Daytona with the history that surrounds that race track," said Tolsma.

"The draft is crucial at Daytona and the Supergard Dodge has been competitive with all of the other trucks within the draft." Joe Ruttman, driver of the #18 Dana Dodge, has raced in the Daytona 500 and come within hundredths of seconds of winning. Ruttman was in the top-ten at both test sessions at Daytona, and used the draft to his advantage. "One of my biggest memories about Daytona is that on two occasions I could have won the Daytona 500 if I would have made a different move on the last lap," said Ruttman. "So I'd like to get even and win this race in February." Steve Grissom joins the ranks of the NCTS in 2000 driving the #43 Dodge By Petty. Grissom, a Winston Cup veteran with 136 starts, had a busy winter testing. "We've been to about five or six tracks, with the most notable one being Daytona," said Grissom. "The main thing, since I'm new to the truck series and new to Petty Enterprises, is for us all to get used to each other and build a solid relationship and good lines of communication." Mike Cope gave up his "blue oval" to become the new driver of the #86 RC Cola Dodge and has proven to be a great addition. Cope had the fastest time at Daytona during the first session of the season, turning a 48-second lap at 187 mph. "At the first Daytona test we made a lot of gains. We found everything: drafting, tire wear, aero package, gas mileage," said Cope. "We were able to run with Setzer and get a quick lap. The draft will be the key factor at Daytona." In 1999, NASCAR Dodge Rams posted four wins, ten pole positions, 36 top-five finishes and 77 top-ten finishes. Three Dodge trucks finished in the top-ten in championship points: Setzer (third), Stacy Compton (fourth) and Jimmy Hensley (10th).

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Stacy Compton , Dennis Setzer , Joe Ruttman , Randy Tolsma , Jimmy Hensley , Steve Grissom