Daytona Dodge notes from final Friday practice

STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T) Compton was fourth fastest in the second practice session at 181.998 mph. He was second fastest in the morning session at 182.127 mph. “A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work...

STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T) Compton was fourth fastest in the second practice session at 181.998 mph. He was second fastest in the morning session at 182.127 mph. “A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to make sure these Dodges are competitive. We came out of the box pretty different. A couple of Dodges are running pretty good out there right now. A lot of people out there right now don’t have their qualifying motors in. Tomorrow is going to be a different story. I think coming out of the box with a new manufacturer, I think they’ve done a good job. Dodge has really worked hard. All the teams have worked well together. I’ve never been as impressed in my life as hard as this Melling Dodge team is working right now. Dodge has worked awful hard as well as all of these teams to make sure Dodge was competitive right out of the box. When we were here testing before, we knew we were legitimate and we were OK. We knew we were. We were sort of curious to see how it was going to shake down when we came back, but it is a load off our minds. If you look at the time sheets, you’re seeing some Dodges and Fords and Chevrolets and Pontiacs up there. Everybody is pretty close. “Ray is going to be just fine when it’s all said and done. We’ve seen how much effort they’ve put into it. When it’s all said and done, Ray’s teams are going to be just fine. Ray did a tremendous job getting the cars developed, getting the cars and motors approved. He had his hands full. He was getting the motorsports program up and running, plus he was building two teams himself. The Pettys and Bill Davis and all of the teams put in a lot of effort. We went to the wind tunnel this year more than we did all of last year. “Everybody is working hard. Our crew chief and the team behind him right now is second to none. He’s turned the team around. Chad is incredibly intelligent. It’s no single person. It’s an entire team, and that’s where that one-team approach comes in. As far as being a jack rabbit, I don’t think so, but it works pretty good for me. There’s a lot of fast cars out there. Dale Jarrett is going to be tough. The line he’s running is not a fast line. Tomorrow is going to be a different look. You’re going to see a lot of fast times in the morning and then in qualifying it’s going to be a few tenths faster. I know the goals we’ve got set. I’m not one of making predictions, but we need a good run. These first four races are crucial for us. We’ve worked awful hard on the four tracks we’re going to first. We’ve been to Las Vegas, we’ve been to Rockingham, but we need to get a good lap in. “We’re working hand in hand with Ganassi’s team. They came over and said we’d like to have the motor out of your car. It’s over at the 01 car right now. That’s part of the one-team concept. If we need some assistance as far as the teams are concerned, they’ll come over and ask. I’m not bashful, I’ll go ask. “Our qualifier and the motor we’ve got right now is real close. Some guys are pulling out some bullets that are probably 10 or 15 horsepower better. Ours is not going to be that much better. It’s a little better, but we’re pretty happy with it so far. We’re in the hunt. We made two runs this afternoon and then everybody got crazy. We weren’t going to learn anything, so we blew off that last run. We’ll look at our notes and be out there in the morning, make one run and get ready for qualifying.”

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) Marlin posted the ninth fastest speed in the second practice session with a lap of 181.521 mph. He was fifth fastest in the first practice at 181.558 mph. “A lot of the cars out there this afternoon got help in the draft, but I think we’ve got a top five car. We’ll see how it shakes out. Everybody was cutting in line and stuff. I think we got a clean lap. We’ve got a little bit left. I think the pole will be about a 48.80 or 48.90. I’d like to run about a 48.50. I don’t know if we can do it or not, but we’re going to try. It depends on how much more our qualifying motor has got. I know we’ve got a good shot to be at least in the top five. The guys have worked real hard, and they deserve it. Three weeks ago when we were here it wasn’t looking too good. My guys went home, busted butt and built two good cars. It paid off.”

LOU PATANE (Vice President -- Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts) “From my perspective, we’re pleased that the vehicles have the capacities by where they are in the field. We’ve got some in the front of the field, some in the middle and some down deeper in the field. From an engineering perspective, we’ve done a reasonably good job for providing the teams the resources to be competitive. What you saw on the track today was what each team did to implement those resources. I think the other thing it proves is that the one team concept that we’re trying to push out there, with Compton’s performance, it shows that the single-car team that doesn’t have the resources of multi-car teams can still take that same amount of input we give to all the teams equally, use it to the way it benefits their program and go out on the race track and do a good job with it. I think that is a tremendous benefit for a team that doesn’t have the depth of resources other teams do. “There was some anxiety coming into today. There was no question about that. We’ve turned a corner to really begin the racing program. For the past 500 days, we’ve been on a developmental phase of that program. Today is the first day we’ve turned the corner and become involved in that racing portion of that program. Now we’ll be working toward doing development to enhance the foundation of what we’ve been doing the last 500 days and go forward into the racing season. There’s a tremendous amount of competitive pressure out there from other manufacturers and teams. It’s a very formidable environment and we take it very seriously. “I wish a month ago we were that good and that smart (to be sandbagging). The way I would describe it, is that when you look at the 500-day quest we’ve been on here and broke it down into 45-day sections, the first 45 days we didn’t learn as much obviously as we did the last 45 days. As you went along in 45-day slices, the last two 45-day segments, we learned absolutely the most we did about the race cars on the race track with the engine combinations in the frame rails than we did even 90 days before that. It’s not that we’re working any harder. We’re learning more at the end of the curve than we were at the beginning or middle. It’s kind of like you’re doing the decorating more on the house rather than just digging the hole for the foundation.”

RAY EVERNHAM (Team owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts.) “Being the crew chief and the team owner is not the same. It’s been difficult to get used to my new role. I don’t really know what to do except stand around and worry. They won’t let me work on the cars anymore, so I might go see if I can work on the IROC cars. I’ve been trying to tell them things to help them without being hands on. I’ve been telling them what to expect with the changes they’ve made and what’s going to happen on the track. My goal is to teach the guys enough so I can go do other things as a team owner. Motivating a young crew after a day like today is tough. We’re a rookie team, and this is our first race. We have to be realistic on our expectations. Tomorrow isn’t the last day. We’ve still got next Thursday to get in the race. I’m happy with the Dodges overall. I feel good about tomorrow. My goal is to get Bill in the top 15 and Casey in the top 25. If we can get drafting and driving good, we’ll be all right.”

TIM CULBERTSON (Program Manager, Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Engineering) “It looks like we’ve got the hardware right. It looks like some teams have learned to make it go fast. Some of the teams are still searching, and I’d tell them to look at the aero and how to take the drag out. They’ll probably get a little more power out of their qualifying motor, and that’ll help some of their speeds. Preparing a car for this race is really a battle of classic horsepower. We’re working to increase the engine horsepower and decrease the vehicle horsepower. It looks like we’ve got a good product that’s equally distributed among the teams.”

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett