ATLANTA (Mar.10, 2000) Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, will be at the wheel of one of Evernham Motorsports' Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/Ts when Dodge makes its heralded return to the circuit beginning with the 2001 Daytona ...
ATLANTA (Mar.10, 2000) Bill Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, will be at the wheel of one of Evernham Motorsports' Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/Ts when Dodge makes its heralded return to the circuit beginning with the 2001 Daytona 500.
There's a unique twist: Elliott, part of the seven-car Intrepid contingent, will be in familiar car No. 9. It's the same number Elliott drove to the series title, and to most of his 40 career victories and 46 career Bud Poles while competing for Melling Racing from 1982 to '91.
"We're really excited to bring one of the most successful and most popular drivers in NASCAR history to our team," said Ray Evernham, team owner. "He's the perfect guy to be the cornerstone of our new team. First and foremost, he s a great driver.
"He brings a level of experience and winning from the driver's side of things that not too many people in racing have. In addition to being a winner, Bill is the complete package you want in a driver. He's an excellent chassis setup guy. He's very much into making the car handle, and that's something I'm into as well. We'll be able to communicate and hopefully make rapid progress."
"This is another great milestone in the 500-day countdown to our return to NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition," said DaimlerChrysler's Lou Patane, vice president, motorsports operations and Mopar Performance parts. "The uniting of Ray Evernham and Bill Elliott gives us one of the winningest combinations in racing history.
"To bring a driver with the credentials, the history and the immense popularity of Bill Elliott into the Dodge family is a huge bonus for us. For the more than 2,900 Dodge Dealers sponsoring this program and for our associate, sponsor, the UAW National Training Center, both have landed a driver they can identify with, as have the legions of Dodge enthusiasts out there.
"That further builds on the solid foundation on which we look to build another winning Dodge tradition at the highest levels of motorsports competition."
Just last fall, Evernham left behind his role as the successful three-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet team -- to start his career as a NASCAR Winston Cup Series owner and architect of the new Dodge Intrepid program. Elliott will leave his latest venture as team owner/driver of Elliott Racing to be a driver for Evernham Motorsports.
Together, Evernham and Elliott have combined for four NASCAR Winston Cup Series titles, 87 wins, 79 poles and 268 top-5 finishes. They've also combined for four Daytona 500 victories.
Making the move to Evernham Motorsports with Elliott, in addition to his venerable No. 9 -- that comes courtesy of his old teammates at Melling Racing -- will be key members of his current leadership at Elliott Racing, most notably general manager Eddie D'Hondt and car chief Mike Ford.
"I'm truly excited to join the Dodge Winston Cup program and be a part of racing history once again," said Elliott, who recently was voted Most Popular driver for a record 14th time in the National Motorsports Press Association annual fan poll.
"This gives us the opportunity to make a fresh start with a very high-profile program that all eyes in the racing world will be watching. I m especially thankful that the Mellings have let me have my old number back, and also for the chance to bring my key people with me to Evernham Motorsports. I think it s going to be great for everybody involved."
Elliott, who hasn't won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series points race since September of 1994, and finished 21st last year in the standings, is off to a strong start in 2000 with two top-5s in three races. He is currently sixth in the championship chase.
The driver for the second Evernham Motorsports entry -- car No.19 -- will be announced at a later date. The two-car Evernham team will be joined in the Dodge Intrepid camp next season by the two-car effort from Bill Davis Racing, with drivers Ward Burton and Dave Blaney, and the three-car contingent of Petty Enterprises, featuring drivers Kyle Petty, John Andretti and Adam Petty.
Evernham said he expects to begin testing an Intrepid in Homestead, Fla., early in April.
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