(Aug. 2, 1999) -- Barry Dodson was aching to turn a wrench or two in his first day as the new crew chief on the Jimmy Dean Racing team, but his hands could rarely steer clear of the telephone. "The phone is just ringing off the hook and the fax...
(Aug. 2, 1999) -- Barry Dodson was aching to turn a wrench or two in his first day as the new crew chief on the Jimmy Dean Racing team, but his hands could rarely steer clear of the telephone.
"The phone is just ringing off the hook and the fax machine is printing out the resumes," Dodson said during his first day as crew chief for the newly formed Bahari'-Eel River Racing team. Last Wednesday, Chuck Rider sold Bahari' Racing to Jack Birmingham, a Boston businessman who immediately renamed the team. One of Birmingham's first moves was to hire Dodson, who led Rusty Wallace to the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup championship as his crew chief. Now Dodson is busy assembling a new team to get Jimmy Dean Pontiac driver Derrike Cope back on track.
Dodson was Cope's crew chief at Whitcomb Racing in 1992 before the operation shut down. It's that history that has Dodson hopeful of returning Cope to competitive form.
"Working with Derrike is not like working with a driver than I have to relearn," Dodson said. "That's a plus for us right now. Derrike's pumped up and excited. You're going to see the best of Derrike Cope. We're just going to have to get the equipment to his level. Derrike was in here today helping and working. If anybody wants to get this thing turned around, he does."
Dodson hasn't served as a Winston Cup crew chief since 1995, but he has 19 career wins in NASCAR's big leagues and his drivers have won more than $8 million.
"The thing that interested me about this job is that it is a lot like having my own program," Dodson said. "I'm being able to hand pick the people we hire. That is the beauty of it. I'm not walking into a situation where the players are already set. I can orchestrate what we're trying to do here. I'm bringing in people with whom I have worked with in the past to help solidify the program. I think that in time we'll be happy with what we're putting together."
Hot on Dodson's agenda is Saturday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Making the starting field is crucial to a good start for him at Bahari'-Eel River Racing. Dodson likes his chances with the Jimmy Dean Pontiac.
"I like the Pontiac and it has been very good to me in the past," Dodson said. "The Grand Prix seems to be a competitive car right now with the package it has. The Pontiacs could very well shine at Indianapolis."
Although his first race with the team is just five days away, Dodson is not going to rush to stock Bahari'-Eel River Racing with just any crewmen. The tough task at hand demands he get the very best employees who are ready for the challenge.
"It needs to be quick process, but it also needs to be a gradual process because I want to hand pick the people," Dodson said. "We have to be very, very selective because we're in a jam right now and just throwing bodies in here is not going to be the cure. We just need to make gradual improvement and not panic. It's a big, big challenge. Fortunately, I like challenges and so do the people we're bringing on board."