Dodge: genesis of a racecar

ATLANTA (March 7, 2001) - When legendary stockcar mechanic Ray Fox needed to build a new racecar, he started by going to a showroom. He would buy a new car off the floor and go to work tearing out the interior to reduce weight. Then he welded in...

ATLANTA (March 7, 2001) - When legendary stockcar mechanic Ray Fox needed to build a new racecar, he started by going to a showroom. He would buy a new car off the floor and go to work tearing out the interior to reduce weight. Then he welded in roll bars and heavy-duty brackets for the shock absorbers.

When Dodge decided to return to NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing in 2001, Gary and Kurt Romberg were the first to work on the new Dodge Intrepid R/T. Where did they begin? At the computer, using a couple of state-of-the-art software packages.

A veteran aerodynamicist who helped build some of the most dominating racecars ever produced by Dodge and Plymouth, Gary Romberg is now a senior manager helping to build the Aerodynamic Acoustic Wind Tunnel at the DaimlerChrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills. Kurt Romberg, his son, is head of research and development at Petty Enterprises.

At about the time Dodge was announcing its racing plans and starting the 500-day countdown clock, the Rombergs met quietly at an engineering facility near Auburn Hills to begin putting a racecar together. Kurt brought a computer CD containing a three-dimensional rendering of the Hopkins chassis used in Winston Cup racing. Gary had access to the Chrysler program that displays production vehicles and individual parts. Working together, they "built" the first Dodge Intrepid R/T for NASCAR Winston Cup racing in cyberspace by marrying the parts in the two computer programs.

"Of course, nothing fit at first," says Gary today, chuckling at the thought of that humble beginning.

"We had to manipulate things a lot to make them fit," he continues. "For example, the roof was way too long so we had to cut it back. The hood was too short so we had to extend it. Even the wheelbase of the Dodge Intrepid R/T was different."

Eventually, the Rombergs' manipulations led to a 3/8-scale clay model, which they painted red and decorated with a large number. The motorsports team showed the result to marketing so they could see what a Dodge Intrepid R/T might look like as a NASCAR Winston Cup Series car.

Once the team got marketing's approval to proceed, they made another 3/8-scale model for wind tunnel testing and started "beating on it" - engineering-speak for the early stages of development work.

At about this time last year (right after the spring race in Atlanta), NASCAR furnished a set of Dodge templates. The templates were digitized and worked into the engineering mix with the three-dimensional computer renderings of the chassis and production parts. The goal was to use all the input to develop a car that was acceptable to NASCAR, yet retained the strong Dodge Intrepid R/T styling cues that are important for brand identity.

After several months of additional work with the computer, in wind tunnels and on the test track, Dodge submitted a Dodge Intrepid R/T that received NASCAR approval. The relatively short development time was impressive, given today's standards and the complexity of the work to be done, but it was still a far cry from Ray Fox's record of building a Daytona 500-winner in a week.

This week in Dodge racing history: * 3/10/64 - David Pearson won a 125-mile rain-delayed race at Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds in Richmond, Va., driving a Cotton Owens-owned 1964 Dodge. The first 50 miles were run on Sunday before rain halted competition on the dirt track. The race was finished the following Tuesday and Pearson finished a half a lap ahead of Richard Petty's Plymouth. The top prize was $1,500. * 3/12/72 - Bobby Isaac won the Carolina 500 at Rockingham, N.C., driving a 1972 Dodge sponsored by K&K Insurance. The victory ended a six-month winless streak for Isaac. He finished a little more than a lap ahead of Richard Petty's Plymouth. Attendance was estimated at 42,500. * 3/16/75 - Richard Petty won the Southeastern 500 by a hefty six-lap margin at Bristol International Speedway. Benny Parsons made a valiant effort to stay with Petty's 1974 Dodge but fell behind when a flat tire forced him to stop for repairs. Buddy Baker, who started on the pole and led the early laps, finished third. * 3/13/77 - Richard Petty stayed low and avoided 11 wrecks to win his 181st Grand National Victory at Rockingham, N.C. A new asphalt sealer was blamed for the crash-filled Carolina 500. Petty called the sealer "bear grease" and said he kept his Petty Enterprises Dodge low to avoid the problems other drivers encountered.


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Richard Petty , Benny Parsons , Buddy Baker , David Pearson