ERNIE ELLIOTT (Ernie Elliott, Inc., engine builder for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Melling Racing) NOTE: Elliott's restrictor-plate Dodge engine qualified second for the Daytona 500 in February, won the pole for the Talladega 500...
ERNIE ELLIOTT (Ernie Elliott, Inc., engine builder for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Melling Racing)
NOTE: Elliott's restrictor-plate Dodge engine qualified second for the Daytona 500 in February, won the pole for the Talladega 500 and the Pepsi 400. Sterling Marlin's No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T used an Elliott powerplant to win last Sunday's Pepsi 400 presented by Meijer at Michigan International Speedway.
"I'd say we got a little lucky winning at Michigan, but the turkey is on Chip Ganassi's table," Ernie Elliott said. "It might have been a different story if the 2 and 28 hadn't broke. Legitimately, I think Sterling had a second or third-place car at Michigan, but in the past Michigan race he had the best car and didn't win. He had the best car in the Brickyard 400, too, and he didn't win that, either. So it all evens out.
"I'd say the Fords still have us beat on the chassis dyno a little bit. Those two Fords (2 and 28) were really good Sunday, so it's hard to say what would have happened if they had been able to stay in the race. Sterling had a good car, and he did a good job driving it. Everything was good, but probably without a couple of circumstances happening, he wouldn't have won the race. Richard Petty told me a long time ago that it was better to be lucky than good, and Sterling had luck on his side for a change Sunday.
"There's been a few times this season that Sterling's Dodge was the best car on the track and it didn't win, but that's just part of racing. I'm happy that he won. I'm happy with our engine program in a way, and in a way, I'm not happy with it.
"In certain situations, we're getting beat on horsepower. When you get down to the best cars, we're still down to some of them on horsepower. Our goal is to produce more horsepower. The Fords have been developing their cylinder heads for about 10 years. The SB-2 (GM Engine) has been out since the mid 90s, and we've got about eight months of racing development with the Dodge engine.
"I think we're getting a little better, and most of the Dodge teams have seemed to be a little more competitive lately. I'd say the Dodge teams are reasonably equal on horsepower among themselves. This is one week that all that won't matter a whole lot. You've got to be extremely lucky to do well at Bristol. If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, you're in trouble. Bristol is not a horsepower track. It's a handling track. I think Sterling will have a good handle on the car at Bristol, and the Ganassi team will have a good handle on the aero.
"It's anybody's guess who's going to have the handle on luck. If you're lucky and don't get caught up in an accident, you're going to have a good finish. It's a unique place. There can be an accident in turns one and two and you can be in three and four when it happens and still be in it. It's the ultimate Saturday night race. There's so much going on there, that I usually don't watch it at the track. I usually watch on TV so I can see everything that's going on.
"I'd say last week's win should give Sterling's team some momentum, but I'm not sure if they needed it or not. We've produced motors all season that are capable of winning, and the team has produced cars that are capable of winning. The win just now came, but we all had extreme confidence in what we were doing. Sterling had done everything but win, and he just hadn't been able to follow through. The fact that he hadn't won didn't diminish my confidence, and I don't think it hurt his confidence, either.
"Still, that was a big win for Sterling and Dodge at Michigan. It couldn't do anything but help the momentum. It never hurts to have some positive effort or results in your corner. With momentum on your side, it's got to help the next week."
WERE YOU HOPING IT WOULD COME DOWN BETWEEN STERLING AND YOUR BROTHER BILL AT MICHIGAN?
"It didn't matter to me at that point. My allegiance is with Chip Ganassi and Mark Melling. I look after the motors for their three cars and two teams and whatever it takes to win for them is my job. It's nice the victory finally happened and took the load off. The load wasn't put there by Dodge or anyone else. I put it on myself. Winning is what it's all about. It ain't about going there to qualify and then getting a good finish. As far as I'm concerned, I'm there to win. There's one winner and 42 losers every weekend, and last week was the first time I'd been a winner in a long time.
"Can Sterling go on from here and contend for the championship? I'm not sure. To be realistic, the caliber of team he's up against is pretty strong. Unless that Hendrick team makes a big mistake, it'll be real difficult. It's not impossible, but from a mathematic and statistical point of view, with 13 races left, it'd be real tough.
"Jeff Gordon has momentum on his side, and if he doesn't mess up, it's going to be hard for anyone to catch him. I'd really, really, really like to win another championship. I've been fortunate enough to win one with Ford, and now I'd like to win one with Dodge."
TED FLACK (Manager, Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Engine Development)
COMMENTS ON ERNIE ELLIOTT
"Ernie Elliott has been a big part of our program. He's been helpful, has good suggestions, listens and asks questions. The whole engine group works well with him. It's been a real pleasure and an honor to work with him. He's got more championship rings than I do.
"He's good because he's been doing it for 25 years. He knows the proper sequence of steps in developing a brand new engine, which is different than if you refine an existing package. He came to this program a little late, but he was still here in time to be a great contributor. He's a wealth of knowledge for us to gain from.
"This has been a whole new challenge for him and he really seemed to embrace it. He adds stability to our program with his years of experience. He brought Tony Santanicola and Bob Fisher with him to the program, and they have been a big help.
"They always call Michigan a horsepower track, and to do good at Michigan you have to have a good engine. Ernie must have given him a great one that day. Ernie definitely doesn't like to rest on his laurels, and he still brings a lot on intensity to the program. He's been really focused on winning from the day he joined the program. But, he's already working on Bristol and the rest of the season, not savoring his victory."