Dodge Daytona 125's notes

CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) "This car is better than anything I've ever driven before. We came here ready. I'm glad a Dodge won the first 125. It's been a great week for Dodge with the front row and Bill...

CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"This car is better than anything I've ever driven before. We came here ready. I'm glad a Dodge won the first 125. It's been a great week for Dodge with the front row and Bill getting the pole. It's been a good week for Evernham Motorsports. Maybe we can put one of these Dodges in victory lane for the Daytona 500. Yesterday in practice the track got really slick. I thought we were going to see more single-file racing today, but it was two or three wide the whole race. It was fun. A couple of times I thought I was going to get shifted to the rear, but we were able to come back to 10th and get a good starting spot for the Daytona 500. I feel good about the 500. This was our true test. The practice sessions weren't quite as real as this. We saw a few little things we're going to change for the 500 and make the car better."

BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"You battle as hard as you can, and I thought I got a good enough run there on Dale Jarrett. It was my fault. I got in the back of him, and there was no excuse. I hate it happened. I thought at the end we were going to be pretty good. That last set of tires was real good for us. I don't know about that last restart. I don't know if Kenny missed a shift or I just took off a little early. I got into the back of him. I tried to go low and some of the cars didn't go. Luckily we got in with the last spot. Those last couple of laps were real hair-raising. This is awesome. I thought at the start of the race we were all right. We came in and put the second set of tires on and the car was awful. It wouldn't turn. Even when we were by ourselves, it was tight. We came in and put that last set on the car, and it ran really good for us. I thought we had a pretty good shot. We were just trying to get as close to the front as we could. This is pretty awesome. This is the second time I've tried to do it. To do it with a whole new team is pretty neat.

"Our car wasn't too good on restarts. It just wouldn't come up to speed for some reason, and that's what I was worried about there at the end. We're going to have to change a few things for the 500. I was real nervous about that last deal, but it all worked out."

JASON LEFFLER (No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I got in behind Sterling and I should have gone with him and Nadeau on the last lap when they passed Earnhardt, but I got behind Earnhardt and lost some spots because he was going backwards. It was a good race for us. I'm glad to get the Cingular Dodge in the race, and I'm looking forward to the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Our car is really good. If they had a more experienced driver, they probably could have won it. It's going to take me a few seasons and eventually we'll get up front and contend for the wins. I guess about the third or fourth lap I got behind Earnhardt and just stayed there as long as I could before he shook me loose just to see what he was doing. Those guys up front know what they're doing. They've got the momentum game down. It's just something you've got to learn. It's going to take awhile. I feel real good. I just wish I had played that last lap a little better. I could have finished somewhere in the top five, but that's the way it goes."

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"All in all it turned out well today. We'll take the information and get ready for Sunday. I don't know if I feel better or worse about Sunday. It'll depend on how hot or cold it is Sunday. We got through today, and now I want the 500 on Sunday. There was no need getting stupid out there today. Right now, you've got to look at the big picture. We've got to race on Sunday. That's why we're here. I feel pretty good about the run. The rest is just circumstances."

MIKE FORD (Crew chief No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We took a little bit of a conservative route. The best thing he could have done was sit back a little bit and not take a chance of tearing up the car. The No. 1 priority was to not tear up the race car, so we consider it a good day. We'll work with it a little bit."

STACY COMPTON (No. 92 Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T)


"We've got a good race car and we've got two more days to tune on it. We're going to be OK. These guys have worked hard to get us here, and we're going to be fine when Sunday rolls around. We've got a little work to do. We're not where we need to be. I feel like we had a top 10 car today, but top 10 isn't going to do us a lot of good. We could be like the 21 car ended up. At this point, that wouldn't do us a bit of good. We did what we needed to do. I think Bill (Elliott) did exactly the same thing. We learned a lot today. We wanted to see how the air pressure was going to build, and we wanted to see how the car was going to work. We weren't off too bad. We ran back there. We didn't want to lose the draft, so we just hung back far enough where if a wreck did happen we could avoid it. We learned what we needed to learn on transmissions on the initial start. We have a good transmission package. We were able to get away from them on the start. We've got a good race car. We've just got to fine tune on it a little bit and get it better on older tires, and we'll be OK. I didn't get to see Sterling win the first race. I was already in my car, but it was good that a Dodge won it. We knew we had a good car. We needed to finish the race today. We want to start on the outside pole Sunday. We learned a lot today. We learned where we need to be better. We learned where we might be a little better than some other cars, and that's what we needed to do."

WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've still got a problem with the motors. It's still got way too much temperature in it. I don't know what's wrong there, but all-in-all, the Cat car ran great. I just didn't get a push when I needed it. I felt like we could have won the race pretty easily. At one time when the 31 and 8 were side by side, I had enough momentum to go between them, but I ran a little bit defensive. I just decided to stay where I was at. The car has run good ever since we've been down here. The guys have worked hard. We keep have a lot of motor temperature, and we've got to fix that. Everything else, I feel real good about. When you run so close for so long, something like happened down the backstretch is bound to happen, so a lot of how your week is going to go is whether or not you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. I just didn't get the run when I needed it. The car handled better than it did yesterday in practice, so we've definitely made some improvement in that. The motor just got hot and it started bogging down those last 10 or 15 laps. We had 280 water temperature, and that's not good. I don't feel good at all about that. We need to get that fixed. I know they're putting 100 percent to it."

KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"It was a team deal. The guys worked on this car all week long so we could get it where it would run wide open all the way around the track. We learned some stuff from Buckshot's car in the first race, how to tape up the Dodges. John Andretti and I worked close together today, and I owe a lot of this to John. He let me in when I needed in line. He pushed me when I needed a push. He knew he was in safe on speed. Everybody back at the shop worked hard, and we've worked hard since we've been here. It paid off today."

DAVE BLANEY (No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge Intrepid R/T)


"We had a good car early on. I made a couple of mistakes and got tossed out of the draft. Then we got real tight, but a bunch of 'em did. I lost the lead pack and thought we were in big trouble. Once we got fresh tires on, I knew we could squeak back up there. We got back to ninth. I wish we could have got back a little closer to the front, but that was it. We've got to work on the handling a little bit. I saw a lot of them out there pushing just as bad as me. We just need to fine tune it a little bit, but we're in pretty good shape. I'm excited."

JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We didn't go fast enough. We've got to work on it and get some speed out of it. I don't know what we're going to do, but obviously it's something we need to look at under the hood and figure out what we're going to do there. I know the engine room has worked hard, and hopefully we can find some more stuff for the 500. Dodge won the first race and there's one sitting up there in fourth place in the second race, so it's not Dodge related. We could get up there. We just couldn't stay up there. I know what it takes to run up front, and it's under the hood."

RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepids) COMMENT ON ALL 10 DODGES QUALIFYING FOR DAYTONA 500
"I'm happy for Dodge. That just says a lot about the commitment that the people at Dodge have made to this program and the way the people have worked together as a team. It's great to come to the first race and have everybody in it. When somebody comes and makes a commitment like that and stays behind it, it was great. It was great to see Sterling win. I wish our car could have been up there fighting, but they've both in the show. All 10 Dodges came down here and all 10 of them are in the show, and that really makes me happy. We never really expected anything other than just work hard and see what happens. We kept telling one another that we couldn't worry if we weren't fast enough or whatever. We've just got to go down there (Daytona) and do the best we can. Good things will happen for us, and good things did happen.

"Those Chevys looked pretty fast today, and a couple of those Fords drove by us. I think it's about the most level the playing field has been in a long time. If they mess with it, they might not have good races like they had today."

BOB WILDBERGER (Senior Manager, NASCAR Operations -- Dodge Motorsports)
"I'm black and blue in some places from pinching myself. It's phenomenal. That was our first challenge -- to get the Dodge 10 into the race. That's another benchmark along the way. Sunday will be another deal because that's 500 miles and that will be a test of durability. What a great tribute to the one-team approach. Sterling just flat out knows how to drive at this track. Some of the competing teams have told me he's really up right now. To see him come out of that car in victory circle, he was on cloud nine. I think we've got a real winner there. Every one of the teams have done their homework. They've worked hard to get here, and they deserve it."

STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) Winner's comments from first race.
"I think Dale kind of brake checked everybody. We got a good restart and got with Michael. I pulled on the outside of Michael and Gordon pulled up there in front of me. They all followed me. We came off two, and I guess Dale didn't know where the line went. He was still out on the outside wall and here we come. We were running six or eight mph faster than he was. He was trying to cut us off, but we were coming too fast.

"I think with the new package, I wouldn't want to be leading with two to go in the Daytona 500. They're going to lay back on you and the third place guy is going to lay back. When the pack starts coming, it stirs a lot of air up. You can get a good jump from four or five car lengths out and you're a sitting duck. It's like when I went to take the lead from Bill (Elliott). I had a real good run and the next lap I think I was running 20th. We had to keep working our way back to the front. The guys had a real good stop on the last pit stop and got us out. The car got a little tight on me, but we got it freed up. Other than that, it was good for us.

"I laid back trying to figure out what was going to go on (on final restart). I think Michael Waltrip laid back. Everybody was laying back a little bit. Dale really slowed it down. It was a slow restart. When it did it, I thought we were done because we needed to change the ratios in our transmission and it really got us bogged down. I guess they bogged down, too. We took off. I think Dale let off real early and brake checked and got too big a lead. You're just a sitting duck when you get a four or five car length lead. There's nothing you can do about it. In the old days, he would have won the race without the new aero package. The way it is now, you never know what's going to happen.

"I had the whole line following me. If the line had followed him (Earnhardt) like they used to do, he would have won the race. They stayed with me. I got too big of a lead, and the pack was coming so fast they were going to pass me.

"I just told myself to be patient. (Tony) Glover told me to be patient. We were loose yesterday and it was tight this morning. We got it too tight. We stopped and adjusted the car. Once we got it freed up we could come back up through the pack pretty good. You just have to be patient. You know with the aero package how everything works. Within 10 laps you're going to be back leading. It was early in the race, and there wasn't any sense making a big deal out of it. Things worked out for us. On a long green flag run, we got back to third or fourth. I knew we had a good car. We just took our time and worked it out.

"I really still enjoy driving a race car, and being with Chip Ganassi this year with Felix being on board, I think we've got a real good shot. Andy Graves and Tony have assembled a good bunch of people, and Coors Light stuck with us, giving us all we need to run good. I feel like I'm 25. We're looking good this year. We had some real good tests and we're looking for good things this year.

"I don't know what it is about Daytona. My dad always came down here and ran. Looking back over the years, him coming down here in the 60s and 70s for an occupation, I always asked how he did that. Come to Daytona and race cars.

"He was a racer. This is his favorite place to run. He loved to come here and run it. The first time I raced here I ran second in a sportsman race, and I love the place, too. It's just like a second home to me.

"As far as Felix and Chip, Felix is Felix. Ya'll know Felix. Chip is a real serious racer. He makes his living racing. Me and him sat down and talked when we first met, and he started racing when he was about 15. I've been racing since I was about 15 or 16, working on my dad's cars. We kind of come from the same mold. He's been real good for the team. Dodge came in with us, and everything has been good for us. Felix is one of the greatest guys in the world. He'd spend money, but he never could get it all together with the right people. Chip came in, Andy Graves came in and Tony Glover is still there and they've really put a lot of good people together with this race team. I think you're going to see some good things happen to us.

"When we came down here and tested, January 17 and 18, I thought we were going to qualify about 30th. We left here and went home and I called Andy Graves the next morning. I asked him what we were going to do and he said, 'right now, we've got two new cars in the body hanging shop and we're going to do what it takes.

-Dodge Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Chip Ganassi