Bill Davis Quotes: Progress Report After First Third Of 2001 Nascar Winston Cup Series Season ** ...
Bill Davis Quotes: Progress Report After First Third Of 2001 Nascar Winston Cup Series Season
**#93 Amoco Ultimate/BP/Siemens Dodge Intrepid - Dave Blaney
**#22 Caterpillar/Polaris Dodge Intrepid - Ward Burton
**#23 Jani-King Pontiac - Scott Wimmer (NASCAR Busch Series)
With very little effort, Bill Davis can visualize his NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams in a much different light than in the respective positions they are in just prior to this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C.
The fledgling reentry effort by Dodge into NASCAR has wobbled at times during the 2001 season. But Davis can take heart in the fact that - while the #22 Caterpillar team and Ward Burton (19th in the WC points) and the #93 Amoco Ultimate-BP/Siemens team and second-year driver Dave Blaney (28th) have each underachieved - the teams rank third and fourth among the 10 Dodge teams - who average 26.5 in their overall point standings entering the Charlotte race weekend.
* PERFORMANCE - "In term of where our two Winston Cup teams are in the points, we're certainly not satisfied with where either team is. But the other side of that - and it doesn't take much of a stretch to say this - give them back some of the bad luck each team has had and erase a couple of mistakes and they'd both be right where we thought they'd be - the Ward and #22 in the top-10 and Dave and the #93 in the middle of the top-20.
"Our cars could have easily won two of the first four races. Ward led the most laps (54) and was the dominant car in the Daytona 500 before getting swept up in the big wreck with 25 to go. The #93 team made a mistake that cost them the race in Atlanta but Dave led the most laps (70) and looked like the best car there before the problems. With a few more laps, he could have won the Texas race, even though he started last. We've had our moments. Still, we've got a first-year developmental program with a brand new car and motor and some of that has shown."
* DODGE TEAMS' PROGRESS - "Honestly, we've run enough races now where we can say we know what we have - where the positive points are and where the shortcomings are. As a group, the Dodges have now been very good as a group. We don't have as many top-5s (six) and top-10s (13 in 101 starts) as we would have liked, haven't led as many laps and obviously are still looking for that first win. They've had more than their fair share of mechanical problems, although thankfully we've not had many except for the freak motor failure on the #93 at Daytona.
"But for a first-year program, we knew the change would be a challenge. As far as our cars are concerned, we've been fairly happy with the performance of both cars at the two restrictor-plate races. Ward was a dominant car at Daytona and ran well at Talladega and Dave ran into to the top-five for a good while in both races. Both cars were pretty fast last weekend (during The Winston events) and the way the #93 ran at Texas and Atlanta and the #22 at California makes me think that both Ward and Dave have been good in the Dodges this year at the tracks where they've been good before in the Pontiacs.
"The flat tracks seem to have been the problem with the Dodges so far and that's why we planned a test at Richmond (rained out this week) so soon after racing there (three weeks ago). We know the tire and the conditions will be consistent if we go back now, but we need to know if we have an aero problem, a problem with the way we built these cars or something in the engine combination for these tracks.
"Of the ten Dodge cars at Richmond, five didn't make the top-36 in qualifying, all were below 25th in our happy-hour practice and that's about where they raced. Casey Atwood, who was good there in the Busch Series cars and raced well there in his Winston Cup debut, finished a weak 12th and then we had eight cars between 21st and 37th. It was certainly the worst race of the season so we needed to find out why.
"These are the kinds of problem areas you just can't react to overnight. If we need to change our direction, we need to build in the time before we get to the next flat-track type race, which is probably Loudon, NH in July. For instance, (Head Engine Builder) Terry Elledge needs good, hard data before he makes changes as well time to order parts and do the proper testing. We just wanted to get ahead of all of that and we will."
* EARLY SUCCESS of #40 DODGE TEAM(Sterling Marlin is the top-ranked Dodge (5th) - "No question that they've done a great job with a brand new program. (Car Owner) Chip Ganassi is tremendously competitive and has an unbelievable record with his CART teams so the level of organization and discipline he's brought to SABCO is not surprising. He's given them the right tools to go race. Ernie Elliott has always generated big horsepower with his engines and his group has done the same with this new Dodge engine. And (Team Manager) Andy Graves has gotten them refocused on racing and their priority and not some of the other things that seemed to distract them at times.
"And it may have actually helped them that they were the last Dodge team (among the 10) to join up because they didn't have to go through all that the three original teams (BDR, Petty Enterprises, Evernham Motorsports) did with the research-and-development process. They got their templates, their parts and pieces and went to work. But they've been far and away the best of the Dodge teams week-in-and-week-out (three of the six top-five finishes; six of the 13 top-ten finishes)."
* 2001 TELEVISION PACKAGE - "I was certainly one of the ones that was skeptical and had some questions about the big jump in cost for sponsors and some other areas with the new TV contract. But I need to back up and give credit where credit is due. Everyone else should, too. They have delivered and delivered and delivered85for everyone involved. The projected numbers for the teams up-front like the #88 and #24 are huge and should be unbelievable by year's end.
"The ones that may get the biggest benefit are probably the mid-pack teams, like our #93 Amoco team, which has run at the front some this season but is still a developing young team. Their overall value for the car this season is already almost four million dollars more than their entire value for last year and projects out to almost eight times their 2000 value.
"Over the past 3-4 years, the rising cost of doing business as a NASCAR owner has been my number-one concern. But when we have to go to a sponsor and defend what is being spent to race and be competitive in the new century, we can now show them some pretty startling major-league type TV numbers which a vice-president of marketing can show his people and easily defend what sponsors are spending in our sport. Fox has done a great on-air job and I'm sure NBC will go to school on the first half of the season and be even better."
* COST-CUTTING AREAS - "I've always been a proponent of fewer days at the track and I still think that's an area we need to look more closely at, for a lot of reasons including the wear-and-tear on the crew members that you can't put a price on. I do think that NASCAR is looking in some of the right areas, especially the one-engine rule (for the entire weekend) for some of the short-tracks. That's something that would work from a budget standpoint immediately and something that we should and could try right now.
"There's been a lot of talk about eliminating lightweight engine parts as a cost-cutting area. I don't think we need to rush to a decision there and eliminate a whole warehouse of parts just like that. Let some of these teams run an engine for practice, qualifying, happy hour and the race and the lightweight issue will take care of itself. That won't affect us because we're using very few lightweight elements right now. We just don't want to take a chance on blowing up so we've always taken a conservative route in that area."
* BUSCH SERIES ROOKIE SCOTT WIMMER - "It might be easy to get impatient about Scott and the #23 team but they've had some really great moments already this season. He's adapted to everything so quickly and so easily that I need to keep reminding myself that this weekend will be only his 17th Busch Series start after only one full ASA season (in 2000).
"When you look at the kind of season Greg Biffle is having as a rookie, you want to compare what each has done. But last week's race at Nazareth is a good example of why that's not fair to (Crew Chief) Bootie (Barker) and Scott and their team. That was Biffle's fourth start at Nazareth (three in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series) and his second win (one in each) and he's got a lot of laps at a lot of places most of the other Busch Series rookie like Scott , Tom Sauter and Jamie McMurray just don't have. And he stepped into the best Busch Series operation out there, the one in which Mark (Martin) set records for wins and poles and winnings.
"We still try to measure Scott on terms that we know are right for that team, much the way we did when Dave (Blaney) came over from sprint cars (in 1998) and had zero stock-car experience anywhere on any level. Scott has led some races, held his own and doesn't make mistakes or force the issue on the track. He was in the He's making laps and learning, which is putting him in position to take the next step - qualifying and running in the top-ten every week.
"Scott was in the top-ten in the points until last weekend's problem (blown tire) at Nazareth moved him down two spots. It won't surprise me if they win a race before the season's out. And the top-ten in the point is a good goal for them right now. Since the start of the Busch Series (1982) 20 years ago, only nine rookie have finished in the top-ten in the Busch Series points, including three in the 2000 season.**Jeff Gordon (11th) didn't when he was here in our Busch Series car. He's making the kind of progress we'd expected, given the fact that they're still running a GM product and we've switched the rest of the operation to Dodge. He's only going to get better."
** NOTE--Busch Series rookies in the top-ten since 1982 include Phil Parsons (5th-1982); Kenny Wallace (6th-1989); Hermie Sadler (10th-1993); Johnny Benson (6th-1994); Jeff Fuller (10th-1995); Steve Park (3rd-1997); Kevin Harvick (3rd-2000); Ron Hornaday (5th-2000); Jimmy Johnson (10th-2000).