Dodge Motorsports Daytona test notes 2003-01-07

Dodge teams kick off 2003 at Daytona test session. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 7, 2003) -- Dodge's "Dirty Dozen" will kick off preseason NASCAR Winston Cup testing today at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the season-opening...

Dodge teams kick off 2003 at Daytona test session.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 7, 2003) -- Dodge's "Dirty Dozen" will kick off preseason NASCAR Winston Cup testing today at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 16 at the 2.5-mile track.

New faces and old faces in different places, plus top-notch drivers getting their first laps in the 2003 Dodge Intrepid R/Ts, will participate in the opening three-day tune up. Other Dodge teams will head to the Sunshine State for the second three-day session beginning on Jan. 14.

Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid R/T, will test for Penske Racing South today, along with rookies Casey Mears in the No. 41 Target Dodge and Jamie McMurray in the No. 42 Havoline Intrepid. Mears and McMurray, along with veteran Sterling Marlin in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge, give Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates a three-car squad in 2003. John Andretti changed test dates with Kyle Petty, and Andretti will pilot the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T today at Daytona.

Other full-time, factory-backed Dodge teams in 2003 include Ryan Newman in the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge; team owner Ray Evernham's 1-2 punch with Bill Elliott in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid and Jeremy Mayfield in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid; defending Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton in the No. 22 Caterpillars Dodge, along with Bill Davis Racing teammate Kenny Wallace in the No. 23 Stacker 2 Dodge; Kyle Petty in the No. 45 Georgia Pacific Dodge; and Jimmy Spencer in the No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Intrepid round out Dodge's 12-driver lineup for 2003.

Ken Schrader, Larry Foyt and Christian Fittipaldi will also drive Dodge Intrepid R/Ts in 2003.

"To call our 2003 lineup 'Dodge's Dirty Dozen' is a little edgy, but that's our motorsports philosophy," said Bob Wildberger, Senior Manager, NASCAR Operations - Dodge Motorsports. "That's what motorsports is all about. You can't be afraid to take it to the limits.

"It's tough to tell how you're going to stack up for the Daytona 500 after testing, but it gives you an early opportunity to tell if you're in the hunt. Some teams will be good right off the bat, and some teams will make big gains later. It depends on what you're working on - durability or qualifying."

John Fernandez, Director, Dodge Motorsports Operations, has plenty of experience behind the wheel of a racecar and knows how testing works on a driver's mind.

"A driver's psyche is delicate, and there's a lot of gamesmanship involved in testing," Fernandez said. "Basically it gives drivers seat time and track time for the cars and crews. As important as Daytona is, it's only one race, and we have only four plate races a year. You've got to take a balanced approach.

"A lot of concentration has to go into the mile-and-a-half tracks. That's what we race on most, but I'm a short track racer at heart. Give me a Bristol, and I'm happy. Give me a dirt Bristol, and I'm even happier."

But if one of Dodge's "Dirty Dozen" wins the Daytona 500 for the second straight season, Fernandez won't mind getting down and dirty in victory lane.

"We won the two biggest races last year, Daytona and The Brickyard," Fernandez said. "We've added some quality teams, and I think we have players who can contend for the championship this season. We need to work on consistency, and I think you'll see more top-10 runs out of the Dodge camp in 2003."

-dodge-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bill Elliott , Jeremy Mayfield , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Jimmy Spencer , Kenny Wallace , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Christian Fittipaldi , Larry Foyt , Jamie McMurray , John Fernandez , Ray Evernham , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske , Bill Davis Racing