DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (July 2, 2001) - Entering the halfway point of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season at the July 7 Pepsi 400, the fleet of 10 Dodge Intrepid R/T teams are still seeking their first points' victory. Chances are pretty good...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (July 2, 2001) - Entering the halfway point of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season at the July 7 Pepsi 400, the fleet of 10 Dodge Intrepid R/T teams are still seeking their first points' victory.
Chances are pretty good that elusive first victory could come at Daytona International Speedway in the mid-summer classic. Dodge has flexed its muscles in its previous two restrictor-plate races in February at Daytona and April at Talladega.
Making its return to NASCAR's big-league stock car series during Speedweeks in February, Dodge had an impressive outing, claiming the front row for the Daytona 500 with Bill Elliott and Stacy Compton and winning its first race - a Gatorade 125-mile qualifier with Sterling Marlin.
In the Daytona 500, Dodge placed three Intrepid R/Ts in the top 10: Elliott (fifth), Marlin (seventh) and Compton (10th). Kyle Petty (16th) and rookie Casey Atwood (20th) finished in the top 20, while the final five Dodge entries finished no better than 29th.
At the April 22 Talladega 500, Compton claimed the pole, Marlin the outside pole and Elliott snagged the third starting position, but Dodge came up short in the race.
Returning for the Pepsi 400, Ray Evernham, the lead developer of the Intrepid and the owner of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge driven by Bill Elliott and the No. 19 Dodge of Casey Atwood, is optimistic.
"It will be nice to be back at Daytona," Evernham said. "I'm looking forward to the weekend. I hope to see some success there. But unfortunately our notes won't be the same because NASCAR changed the rules from the first Daytona. We'll just have to go see what these Dodge Intrepids can do.
"We'll actually take more from Talladega. We have new aero rules. Our engines are improving. We have six more months together since Daytona. So hopefully we've learned something at every race that will translate to Daytona."
Compton, driver of the No. 92 Dodge Intrepid R/T for Melling Racing, is anxious for this weekend's nighttime race.
"We certainly learned some stuff that when we go back, I feel like we could be a lot better," Compton said. "I'm looking forward from mid-season on probably as much as I have any season we have ever had. We're learning so much every week that these cars need and learning how we can be better that next time around. Plus, it's always cool going to Daytona at night."
Dodge has five victories in the Pepsi 400: 1964, A.J. Foyt; 1966, Sam McQuagg; 1971, Bobby Isaac; 1975, Richard Petty and 1977, Richard Petty. Dodge has captured four poles: 1966, LeeRoy Yarbrough; 1968, Charlie Glotzbach; 1972, Bobby Isaac and 1977, Neil Bonnett.
Besides Elliott, Dodge has a couple of previous Pepsi 400 winners on its squad of teams. John Andretti, driver of the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid, won the 1997 Pepsi 400 in Cale Yarborough's Ford and two-time Daytona 500 champion Marlin, driver of the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid, won the 1996 Pepsi 400.
"I think we've had some good restrictor-plate races and we're getting better and better on the other tracks," said Elliott, who won the Pepsi 400 in 1988 and 1991. "I feel like we'd have a good shot. (Crew chief) Mike Ford is a great speedway guy and has given me some great cars for speedway racing."
Said Ford: "I think the experience of Talladega and Daytona will both be helpful. Our notes will be a little off because of the rules change, but we've definitely learned a lot about this Dodge race car, this engine and what this car needs to run in the draft."
Fans can see how Dodge does in the 43rd annual Pepsi 400 on July 7 by purchasing tickets online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-RACE (7223).