Bill Davis Racing Dodge development, part five

For the past 49 weeks, Dodge has been trumpeting the 2001 revival of its NASCAR presence by insisting "It's Time." On Tuesday, it will in fact "be time" for the crew chiefs, engineers, drivers and owners of the 10 Dodge-branded entries to begin to...

For the past 49 weeks, Dodge has been trumpeting the 2001 revival of its NASCAR presence by insisting "It's Time." On Tuesday, it will in fact "be time" for the crew chiefs, engineers, drivers and owners of the 10 Dodge-branded entries to begin to put their cards on the table when Dodge test sessions begin for the Daytona 500.

As in years past for all competitive brands, newly-designed Dodge Intrepids for the five participating teams (10 cars) will wrap-up the first round of official superspeedway testing after Ford and General Motors teams visited Daytona last week. But unlike previous seasons, the speed chart for the mock qualifying runs during January testing will have virtually no relevance to race-readiness for the February 18th running as NASCAR's most prominent race.

"With the changes made prior to last October's Talladega race to make our superspeedway cars a little 'racier', there will be an even more disproportionate amount of effort getting ready to make that one qualifying lap -- information that we will then pretty much throw out the window," said Doug Randolph, crew chief for Amoco Ultimate Team 93 and second-year driver Dave Blaney. "Qualifying for Daytona is critical for teams in the position we're in -- 31st in the team points -- because we've got to get a good qualifying time to get us through the unusual process they have of setting the field for the 500.

"But the new rules at Talladega showed that where you qualified had no bearing on how you raced or where you finished and the Dodge teams are in an even more difficult situation because we won't really know how our cars will draft with the Fords, Chevys and Pontiacs until mid-week when we start with our race runs.

"All the Dodge teams have done their testing at various tracks -- long-runs, qualifying runs, motor endurance runs -- but there's really no way to duplicate what'd going to happen in the draft during the Daytona 500 until about five days before the race. We've done as much as we can to get ready for this point in time, however, and most of us are anxious to get to the track, see what we've all got and see what work is left to be done."

Unlike some of the other Dodge teams over the past four months, Randolph and his #93 Amoco/Siemens team and fellow BDR Crew Chief Tommy Baldwin, Jr. and the #22 Caterpillar team approached the initial stages of their research-&-development leading up to the start of the 2001 season with a different philosophy.

"Our plan to get up to speed with the entire Intrepid program was apparently a little different than some of the other Dodge teams because we looked a little deeper into the schedule than just Speedweeks," said Baldwin, who led #22 driver Ward Burton to his second straight top-ten finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings in 2000. "We concentrated more on our cars for the downforce tracks than on our superspeedway program, which we knew was real good last year.

"Our plan to get up to speed with the entire Intrepid program was apparently a little different than some of the other Dodge teams because we looked a little deeper into the schedule than just Speedweeks," said Baldwin, who led #22 driver Ward Burton to his second straight top-ten finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings in 2000. "We concentrated more on our cars for the downforce tracks than on our superspeedway program, which we knew was real good last year.

"From what we've done in the wind tunnel with the Dodge, we know our cars are as good or better than what we had a year ago, when we had top-10 finishes with the #22 in all four restrictor-place races. It will all depend on how far we've gotten with the engines.

"We've gotten most of the testing done on the cars for our first five races so we think we're ahead of the game in that area. We have fewer questions about our superspeedway cars and -- because we've had so much more access to wind tunnel time than before -- we've been able to differentiate more clearly between primary and secondary cars and what we need to do to improve them. It's allowed us to go to the Daytona test with a better plan than ever before."

One of the key factors in Bill Davis' decision to make the Dodge transition last January was an improved position in the political order with his manufacturer, a perspective that included increased wind-tunnel time for both his championship-contending #22 team as well as his young, developing #93 Amoco team and Dave Blaney.

"In the past, we had to be real careful when to use our wind tunnel time with GM and which car to take because we knew we had a limited range of opportunities," said Randolph, the Car Chief on the #22 Caterpillar team for two seasons before taking over the top spot with #93 Amoco crew in mid-July, 2000. "The Dodge way of doing things has made all the difference in the world. We've gone to the tunnel more in the last year than we probably went in the three years before that put together.

"Each time we go, we learn something. We have a baseline on every car we have built so we're not left to guess with a few of our cars where we are with the aerodynamics. When we get to the track this year with either team, we'll know that we can concentrate on the other variables that make the car go fast (or slow).

"(Head BDR Engineer) Todd Holbert has done an incredible amount of work on the design of the new Intrepid and we've found an aero percentage and combination that works. When we built new cars, we'll have some better ideas now of where we want to start."

The team's recent two-day test at Las Vegas (NV) Motor Speedway (1/7-8) added to the overall confidence level of the developing Dodge BDR program. Both the #93 Amoco and #22 Caterpillar teams tested cars plus Busch Series rookie Scott Wimmer -- slated to compete for Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year in the #23 BDR entry -- ran over 900 cumulative miles in a Dodge equipped specifically to test motor endurance.

"We lost some test dates at Kentucky Speedway in December to weather and we really needed to get an endurance test in with our open motors," said Baldwin. "It went off without a hitch and we really gave Scott a workout on a track he'd never seen.

"I was listening on the radio at one point when another team was ready to make a qualifying run. The driver asked if the track was clear and they said it was except for the Wimmer kid, who Bill Davis never lets come into the pits. It seemed he came in only for water and a new set of tires but that's what it took.

"Besides what we learned about the engines, it was great for Scott to be able to go to a track sight-unseen in a car he'd never sat in and that wasn't really set up all that well and just drive. Young guys need to learn more how to drive an ill-handling car. I think. He ran all day for almost two days without a problem. He'll be way ahead when he goes back there in March and so will we.

"Overall, our cars were good and we learned a lot about the balance of the new design and what we need to do to go faster when we go back in two months. In a way, feeling like we're ahead will probably make us all a little better going to Daytona for the test because we know we've tried to get ahead as best as we can with a car/engine combination that didn't even exist this time a year ago. I think also we're glad that it's getting time to get on the track for real and do some racing. You can only do so much testing."

-Bill Davis Racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Scott Wimmer , Dave Blaney , Tommy Baldwin
Teams Bill Davis Racing