RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepids) "We've improved the engine shop, we've improved the body shop and we've improved our pit stops. I believe all that showed up a little bit on Sunday (in Daytona 500). "The template...
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepids)
"We've improved the engine shop, we've improved the body shop and we've improved our pit stops. I believe all that showed up a little bit on Sunday (in Daytona 500).
"The template didn't hurt us as much as the body placement rule. Basically they used our template. They used the Dodge template for the other cars but because they also implemented a body placement rule we had to cut the bodies off just about all the cars we had. We were starting from scratch basically like everybody else building cars, but I feel like we probably knew a little bit more about the basic shape of the car. I think aerodynamically our cars were very good down there at Daytona.
"I was really proud of those guys. We had such high hopes going down there. When we unloaded we weren't as fast as we thought we were going to be, but they worked together all week long and they came up with a good strategy. They got the 19 car performing better and better and better and got it up to a top 10 finish in their debut. That's like making a good showing in the Super Bowl in your first game as a head coach. I was very pleased, not only with the 19 but with the 9 as well and the way the whole organization worked together down there. I felt like we had two cars capable of top 10 if not top five. Bill's car was very strong until the pit road accident. I think that system is going to work well. We'll have bugs with this system just like everybody else does, but in general, I'm very pleased.
"With that many new people you have trouble communicating. What's great about Daytona is also the worst thing about being at Daytona. Everybody complains about being down there for 10 or 11 days. It gives you 10 or 11 days to get into a rhythm so by the time the Daytona 500 comes you've got a lot of those little bugs worked out. It was mostly communication. When you put a group of new people together, there's got to be so much that's second nature. You don't have to think about if this guy is grabbing the tires or whether this guy has got the spring out of the truck or whether the radios are charged up. It took a little bit of time to figure out who was handling what responsibilities. We tried to help the communication between the two teams, and a lot of those small things got us over the hump.
"Quite honestly, I had a system like that. The crew chief is a funny term. That's a big job. I was more or less team manager (with 24 car). I held a lot of responsibility there because I also built the shocks and set up the cars. I had Brian Whitesell, who was our engineer, and I relied on him heavily, and I also had Ed Gusso, who was my lead mechanic. The 24 car really was set up like that.
"The good drivers are going to get to the front. If they use the common template to take downforce away from the car, then the driver is going to become more and more a part of it, which I hope they do. So if you see them start cutting spoilers and air dams, which they don't need to cut a little bit they need to cut a lot, if they do that then the driver will become a bigger part of the equation.
"In order to be involved in the points race, you're going to have to be good at a lot of places. Michael (Waltrip) is going to have to prove he can be as competitive at the Martinsvilles and Michigans and Kansas and Poconos. We only run four plate races a year, and that's really not enough to help you challenge for a championship.
Their engine program is sorted out. I said all week long I'd put my guys in the wind tunnel against anybody. I feel like we've done a good job there. The Daytona 500 and restrictor plate racing was always something that was very close to Dale Sr.'s heart, and they've got some great people over there. I know some of the cylinder head and manifold people they have over there. They're just doing a better job with their whole plate program over there right now. Michael is good at Daytona and Dale Jr. seems to have inheritied some of sixth sense. You have to be careful that you don't throw the rest of the season away worrying about the four plate races. The biggest of the plate races is over. Everybody works for the Daytona 500. I think that other teams are going to have to put some people that don't do anything but plate development. I know some of the big teams do that. If you want to catch up to where DEI and Richard Childress are, then you're going to have to throw resources over there also and that means that one piece of your engine department is going to have to be nothing but restrictor plate. I think you're going to see more people doing things like I'm doing with the 91 car and Rick Hendrick is doing with the 60 car. You're going to have a car that runs some plate races only just trying to do some development.
"The Daytona 500 is big for our sponsors. If you look at Daytona and what it does for the sponsors, it kicks off the year for them in a big way. With everything that's going on in the world and the economy, the sponsors really had a big presence at Daytona this year. It's a kick off for them as much as it is for us. Daytona is big. It's one of those races that you're not going to feel like you've had a complete career until you win the Daytona 500. When you do a good job at the Daytona 500 your sponsors are certainly happy for awhile.
"What's really cool about the first four races, you've got your first race and it's a plate race, the Daytona 500, so you know where you stand on your plate races. Then you go to Rockingham where if you got a zillion horsepower it's not going to show. You've still got to handle there. The body is not going to be the greatest thing. It's really going to come down to shocks and springs. Then you've got Vegas where it's really a lot about body, and then it's on to Atlanta where it's a lot about horsepower. In the first four races, you can pretty much figure out where you're at. I don't think your season really starts until after Atlanta. You're not really going to know where your car and team stacks up until after Atlanta.
"On Tuesday mornings, we have a meeting with everybody at the complex. You come in and talk about all the things all the things you did right and you talk about all the things that could have been better. Again, it was good to be able to pat everybody on the back because they did get a top 10 finish. It was Kenny Francis' first race up there calling the shots, so they did good. We try and keep that momentum going all winter long. We're very realistic about our goals and expectations. I feel like both cars could have probably run better than that had we got the rest of the race in. It's certainly nice to come home with at least one in the top 10. I felt a little bad for Mike Ford and his guys because the 9 car was certainly strong, too. The confidence knowing they can build a car and it was fast, that they could get it better all week long and they did, and the pit stops were good. When you talk about the things people do right it gives them some confidence that they are doing the right things and they can keep the momentum up themselves as long as you keep telling them they've done good."