CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 17, 2001) - Dodge toasted its success in the winner's circle nine times at Charlotte Motor Speedway from 1966 to 1977, but a drought so far in its return 2001 season has left the manufacturer thirsty for victory at the...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 17, 2001) - Dodge toasted its success in the winner's circle nine times at Charlotte Motor Speedway from 1966 to 1977, but a drought so far in its return 2001 season has left the manufacturer thirsty for victory at the Coca-Cola 600.
Dodge Motorsports and its 10 teams have taken two poles, six top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes through 11 races this season. Its drivers have led 448 laps: Sterling Marlin led 246 laps, Dave Blaney led 70 laps, Ward Burton led 57 laps, John Andretti led 51 laps, Bill Elliott led 14 laps, Stacy Compton led eight laps, and Buckshot Jones and Jason Leffler each led one lap Two drivers are in the top 15 in the Winston Cup points - Sterling Marlin is at fifth and Bill Elliott is at 14th.
But Dodge engineers are hopeful their luck will turn in Charlotte, and believe the Dodge Intrepid R/T has the right combination of power, torque and durability.
"The Coca-Cola 600 is a tough test for the engine, the car and the driver," said Ted Flack, Manager, NASCAR Engine Programs, Dodge Engineering. "As far as the engine is concerned, we are pretty comfortable with the performance we have had at similar tracks like Atlanta, Texas and Las Vegas. We've had some good cars and great chances to win, but luck hasn't been with us.
"In The Winston, we certainly have a couple of guys that could win, so I have pretty high hopes," said Tim Culbertson, Program Manager, Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Engineering. "The Winston is a sprint race, and the crews will be concentrating on 'short run' set-ups. The unique qualifying format will allow our teams to profile their pit skills. Although the race format makes it hard to predict a winner, I feel our teams are ready to put on a good show."
"The Charlotte 600 is one of the biggest races on the calendar, and it would be great to see a Dodge win," added Culbertson. "Our expectations are high since the Dodges seem to run well at tracks like Lowe's Motor Speedway. Both Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott raced to the lead at Vegas, Blaney had a good run at Atlanta until he had his hub problem, and Blaney and the two Evernham cars looked good at Texas. We're hoping to race out of the slump we've been in over the last two events at the Coca-Cola 600."
The Dodge teams have spent a good deal of time testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway to prepare for The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600. Teams including the No. 40, the No. 93, the No. 22, the No. 9 and the No. 19 did laps at the Speedway to work on engine performance and setup.
"Now that we are into the season and have had a chance to catch up on engine builds, the teams are starting to have some time to do development work on power and durability," noted Flack. "Hopefully we will be better because of that. The development process is never really done but we have certainly covered the steep part of the learning curve. Charlotte was a popular test track during our development program, and a number of teams have tested there."
While Ward Burton, in the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid, and Bill Elliott, in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T, are the only two Dodge race cars exempt for The Winston, the remaining eight teams will compete for spots through The Winston Open.