ELLIOTTâ€™S DAYTONA 500 POLE WAS THE FIRST FOR DODGE SINCE APRIL 1, 1978 WITH NEIL BONNETT AT BRISTOL, TENN. ITâ€™S THE 166TH CAREER POLE FOR DODGE AND ELLIOTTâ€™S FOURTH DAYTONA 500 POLE. HE ALSO CAPTURED THE NO. 1 STARTING SPOT FOR THE...
ELLIOTT’S DAYTONA 500 POLE WAS THE FIRST FOR DODGE SINCE APRIL 1, 1978 WITH NEIL BONNETT AT BRISTOL, TENN. IT’S THE 166TH CAREER POLE FOR DODGE AND ELLIOTT’S FOURTH DAYTONA 500 POLE. HE ALSO CAPTURED THE NO. 1 STARTING SPOT FOR THE DAYTONA 500 IN ‘85, ‘86 AND ‘87.
LOU PATANE (Vice President -- Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts) “I walked over to the winner’s circle and Bill and Ray Evernham were there being interviewed. The first thought that came into my mind was the last time I was here at Daytona, was about a year ago with another Red Dodge and I was over there in the winner’s circle at the end of the 24 Hours of Daytona. For us, it’s been a 500-day quest to get here, to get to the next phase of Dodge’s page in Winston Cup history. Getting to this point was a long, hard job, fulfilled by a lot of folks, including all of the teams. I couldn’t be prouder of where all of the Dodges are placed. “My first objective clearly for the whole program was to get all 10 Dodges qualified. We can’t expect to do well in the race unless we begin the race. This is about all 10 Dodges being involved in the program, two of them happen to be sponsored by the Dodge Dealers and the UAW National Training Center and others, but the reality was this is a one-team concept, and I think Stacy Compton’s performance this weekend clearly shows that a one-team approach to this project pays benefits to those in that process.”
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) “This is a little more special (than the other three poles). Each year you come back and achieve a new goal and it’s a little more special about how things happen. When I got hooked up with (crew chief) Mike Ford last year, we went to Talladega and tested in January and we were the worst car there. We went back and they swept the floor at the shop and did everything they had to do and we came down here and qualified for the Daytona 500 last year and qualified third. We really went through a lot of hurdles to do that. Now to continue on, Mike’s speedway program, we came here and ran good in both races. We finished third (in 2000 Daytona 500) and we were running good in July and ran pretty good at Talladega. To come back here and sit on the pole, I think it’s more deserving for these guys than it ever was for me. They’re the ones that have put in the dedication and effort week in and week out that’s made all this program happen. Ray coming in and supplying and believing in us. The next step is all a part of making this a stronger, more organized race team and that’s what it’s going to be all about.
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) “This one is really gratifying. This is my first one as a car owner. The other one was a crew chief. It’s Mike’s first as a crew chief, so I think it’s different for both of us. To come this far in 500 days was a lot of work for a lot of people. We were lucky enough to get Bill and Mike together as a package that’s certainly already a good speedway program and helped us get ahead of probably where we would have been without them. I think it says an “awful lot about the Dodge program in general. When I came for work for the less than 500 days ago, this engine was on a computer screen. There were no hard parts for it. A lot of people in Dodge engineering and a lot of Dodge teams worked hard to make this a reality. Our own people worked hard with the engine shop running 24 hours a day. The car shop, 18 or 20 hours a day. Mike stayed on top of detail and the guys at the shop supported him and it paid off today.”
MIKE FORD (Crew chief No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) “Definitely, we were a little surprised. In practice yesterday we weren’t where we needed to be. The guys dug down hard and came up with some good ideas. We tried some things to where we were making changes all the way up to qualifying. I’m definitely surprised.”
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) “I was thinking about it earlier this morning when I ran 210 here. Of all the things that impressed myself, I think that did more than anything else I did, to run 210 here in ‘87. To me, that was the most impressive thing I ever did because of how well I know this race track and how hard it is to get around. The thing about when I ran 210 in ‘87, when you left pit road, you didn’t know if you were coming back. Now, you’ve got an idea you’re coming back. It’s just how long is it going to take you to get around to get back. You do try to hang these cars out, whether it’s 180 or 210 or whatever, you try to get ‘em pinned down, to get them to run as fast on the stopwatch. It may be uncomfortable, but that’s part of this business. You sit out there and hold them wide open and it skips across the race track or whatever you’ve got to do to run 180 or 190 or whatever. That’s what you’ve got to do. When you ran 210 around this place, you had to be able to drive the race car or you would never make it back. Back then, we ran bias ply tires. They had more roll resistance than the radials have today. Those things, you were really hanging on with them.”
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) “I accused Mike and Bill of that (sandbagging). The thing is, when you’ve got a lot of room to make up, you make up by digging in and working hard. I can tell you, this group of new people I have working for me is the best group getting along and working without complaining. Mike does not stop. He goes, goes, goes. We’ve had to make him go home at night with bondo dust all over him. He’s there in the morning. He works hard, and he’s been that way since he’s gotten to the race track. Having Bill Elliott drive your car at Daytona is not the worst thing in the world. I think he always holds a little bit. We had some to gain, and they’ve worked hard. The engine shop has been running 24-hour a day shifts. We just got our qualifiers in time to put in the cars, and they’re back there right now working on race stuff.”
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) “Bill is a very critical part of putting this together, Mike and Bill as a package and Mike has built a great team of other people that he’s worked with before. Hopefully, the 9 team will be on auto pilot. I just try to stay out of their way and they can go on and win races. Again, that’s one of the reasons we took Casey (Atwood) and Patrick (crew chief Donahue) and a complete rookie team so that we could focus on one team winning races and the other team learning how to race.”
MIKE FORD (Crew chief No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) “There’s definitely a comfort level there. You have someone you can rely on that has the experience Bill has, and now Ray is in that fold. To be a new crew chief in this sport and have that talent around you to lean on is definitely making this a little more comfortable.
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) “It’s just like any other team in here. I’ve built a comfort level with Mike over the last year, knowing we’re going to have a good race car when it goes out on the race track. That’s 90 percent of this game. If you can get through that hurdle, the rest of it comes more easily. With Mike, he and I have had a good knack of being able to communicate well together. Mike is kind of a quiet type, he don’t say a lot, he’s kind of like me in a lot of ways. He’s able to pick a lot of information out of me that other people haven’t been able to do. I think the only other person that’s been able to read me as well is Ernie (Elliott) when Ernie and I were so successful together. There was a type of bond there that we could go to a race track and Ernie could look at what was going on without me saying anything and know what to do with the race car. I think that’s the way Mike and I are starting to come across. He reads me, the way I come in after a practice session or whatever and say what the car is doing. We go through a process. That’s what this business is all about, being able to read people and understand and knowing we need a little something here or a little something there. Even the best of us get confused about the direction we need to go in sometimes. If you can just get in the right direction and get enough people to make real good decisions around you and know a good direction to go in, or at least a good start, that’s a good percentage of the game. “I’ve always said in the past if you come to Daytona and get out here and run well, you don’t necessarily have to win the race, but if you get out of here and run well, and run competitively, it can set the stage for the rest of the season. This is one hurdle of what we needed to make to the next step. Last year we came down here and qualified third, and I felt like we won it. We were disappointed we missed it, but we didn’t miss it by much. Still, as hard as we worked from where we came from, it was the next step. That’s the same process this is going to be. We’re just going to have to keep chipping away a step at a time, regardless of what happens tomorrow and in the 125s and in the 500. We need to continue to think past the Daytona 500, going to Rockingham and Vegas and Atlanta, Darlington and places on from that standpoint on and keep working and focusing on week in and week out to stay competitive and stay strong where we’re in the hunt week in and week out. “This stuff can consume you week in and week out from the car owner’s side. I look back on my career, and my career has consisted of a lot of inconsistencies. Starting out, the years with Melling when there was a group of 10 or 12 of us, working in the 80s where it continued to grow and you had to have more people, Harry Melling was deciding whether he was going to be in or out of racing throughout the last couple of years. Then Coors decided they were going to go away at the end of ‘91 and me deciding to go to Junior (Johnson). I had some instability at the end of that deal. There was a lot of indecisions there, trying to find the right crew chief that would come to Dawsonville, so on and so forth. I went to Junior’s the first year we were very successful. Junior turns around and tears the team apart and changes things around. It took us a couple of years to build that back, and then in ‘95 I went to do my own deal. I started at Dawsonville, and I moved it to North Carolina, and I did this and I did that. Finally, by ‘97 and ‘98, I got some stability in it. We came down here in ‘97 and finished fourth and had a good opportunity to win the Daytona 500 again then. We had some awful strong runs throughout those times. We were just so inconsistent. It seemed like everything around me was inconsistent. Now, that’s what we’re trying to do, and I think that’s what I’m trying to say and focus on. If we get some consistency in what we’re trying to do, that will be more important than anything. If you look at the teams that are competing well week in and week out, they are on a consistent playing field, day in and day out, between the Yates deal and the Hendrick deal. You look at those guys and find out when there is some problems it’s usually when there is some inconsistency. That’s what we’re trying to build. If you can put yourself in a competitive mode week in and week out you’re going to have an opportunity to win a race.” RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) “I think it (Budweiser Shootout) puts us on the same level with the other people that have run before with this new blade configuration. There were no Dodges at Talladega. The other manufacturers have got experience running with this blade. I don’t know if it’s going to give us an advantage or just put us on equal ground and let us find out what the car is going to race like with that blade on the roof. “We’re certainly going to help and keep working on Casey. That deal is a complete rookie deal. There’s a rookie crew chief, a rookie driver, several people on that team are rookies. With speedway racing, restrictor-plate racing, little things make a difference. It’s just going to take those guys a little while. We might take the motor out of Bill’s car and put it in Casey’s car, but there’s only so much you can do. Those guys have got to learn and grow on their own. I think they had a pretty respectable day. That’s the fastest lap they’ve run since they’ve been here. I think they ended up 26th. We were shooting for the top 25, but we’re probably going to work and see if we can get that car to go a few tenths of a second faster and give him a little bit more comfort as we start these 125s.”
- Dodge Motorsport