Dodge teleconference with Ray Evernham and Lou Patane

Saturday, Feb. 3, 2001. Highlights of Dodge Motorsports Teleconference with Evernham Motorsports President and CEO Ray Evernham and Lou Patane, Vice President, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts. RAY EVERNHAM (Team Owner Nos.

Saturday, Feb. 3, 2001. Highlights of Dodge Motorsports Teleconference with Evernham Motorsports President and CEO Ray Evernham and Lou Patane, Vice President, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts.

RAY EVERNHAM (Team Owner Nos. 9 and 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/Ts) “We are just about ready to go to Daytona. We have five superspeedway cars sitting here in red. We’re preparing trucks and trailers and pit equipment and things right now, putting the final decals and touches on. We will be competing in the Bud Shootout, so we’ve been working very hard on that car also. We did test at Daytona and Talladega, did not get to the speeds we wanted to, but we were faster at Talladega than we were at Daytona and we feel like we’ll be faster again when we return. Every day we’re hammering a little harder on the cars and our restrictor-plate program. At the same time, we’ve recently tested Rockingham with Casey (Atwood), and we’re working on our open program also.”

HOW WILL SPEED MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE DAYTONA 500? “I really think speed will make the biggest difference on who gets in the Daytona 500. I think with the blades and spoilers and things like that, it’s going to keep the field pretty even. I really believe the cars are going to have to handle a little bit better at Daytona, as they normally do, than they did at Talladega. In that draft, you’re not going to be able to have that three and four-wide all day at Daytona unless your car is handling. The biggest thing with the speed is going to determine who gets in the Daytona 500. We don’t want to use that (provisional) route. It would be very big for me to get both of my cars in on speed. I don’t want to have to rely on provisionals. Yes, Bill (Elliott) does have a provisional as a champion. Being Bill is a partner in the No. 9 car we still retain the points from the 94 team of last year. “From what I’m seeing, I’m not really good at mph stuff, but I believe the pole is probably going to be somewhere around, if they stay with the 15/16th-inch plate because I’ve been hearing rumors we’re going to a one-inch plate. I’ve just been hearing those rumors, but based on everything we tested, I believe that pole is going to be about a 48.60 to a 48.80 and you’re going to have to probably be a 49.20 to make the show.”

DISCUSS OPPORTUNITY PRESENTED BY RUNNING BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT “I think it’s great to carry the Dodge banner. We’ll be guaranteed to be the first Dodge team (Bill Elliott’s No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid) in a competitive race, and that’s a big plus for my guys here, being we are the Dodge Dealers-sponsored car, and it’s just a great feeling for this team. On top of that, I think we can learn some things about how the Dodge is actually going to draft and cool and what our horsepower and things are like. It should, hopefully, get us a little bit of a head start for the (Twin) 125s because you’re going to run out a tank of gas. It’s going to be 70 laps and you’re definitely going to have to pit and change tires. You have to do that anyway, but you can’t run 70 laps at Daytona. It’ll give my pit crews a workout and it’ll get a 150 miles or so on the race car. We have five speedway cars built. We have two cars for each driver and an overall spare.”

COMPARE WHERE YOU ARE NOW WITH WHEN YOU AND JEFF GORDON STARTED “We started a lot later with this, believe it or not. I didn’t really start my race teams until November when I took over Bill Elliott’s operation, so I started a lot later. Hendrick Motorsports already had their car building facilities and engine building facilities in order, so I came into a place that was up and running. Here, I did a lot of development last year and we did some minor things, but we certainly got a much later start on our race teams per se. Basically in 2000 my lead job was to work on the development of the race car for Dodge and do the testing. We’re probably a little bit behind of where we were then, but we’ve got some good partners with Dodge and UAW and we’ve got more experience, so we’ll just have to get it done quicker.”

DISCUSS DODGE ENGINE DURABILITY “With any new program, you’re always going to be concerned about durability. We don’t have enough history on the engine yet, but I don’t think we’re going to be any more concerned than a lot of the other people. I look back. Rockingham is a good one to pick. When I was with Chevrolet teams, we blew up four times at Rockingham. We’re going to be in the same boat as everybody else. Even though Dodge is a completely new motor, are we probably more liable to have problems? Yeah. That doesn’t mean the guys developing Fords and Chevys are going to be problem-free either. Whenever you’re pushing 358 cubic inches to get up over 700 horsepower, you’re asking an awful lot out of a motor. From what I see right now, I don’t expect any more of a reliability problem than you would have if you were running another brand of engine.”

HOW IS IT WORKING OUT WITH BILL AND CASEY? “So far, so good. Really, being so far from different ends of the spectrum, the one thing we got clear going in, and I think that this is something that’s important with a two-car team, Bill is No. 1 and Casey is No. 2. That doesn’t mean that Casey gets anything less than Bill. It’s no different than anybody else. There’s no conflict. I won’t have a competition between Bill and Casey. Bill knows he’s got to help Casey in his rookie of the year battle, and Casey knows he’s got to do whatever he can to make sure Bill wins a race. Bill was the perfect choice for doing this. Everybody says, ‘why didn’t you get Gordon or Stewart?’ Bill was the perfect choice for this deal. His program was ending with McDonald’s and his own team. He was a veteran. I know there are wins and championships left in Bill Elliott, and he was the perfect guy to fit this program.”

DID YOU WORK ON BODIES AFTER DAYTONA TEST? “I’ve actually been in the body shop quite a bit myself. When I say faster (at Talladega) we got to judge against some of the other cars that we had been running against, so we gained on them. Our engine shop is running 24 hours a day, and we’re on double shifts right here in the car shop. You’ve got to keep hammering until it’s time to go to find some speed. We’ve worked on bodies, we’ve worked on engines, just putting systems together. Sometimes it’s a lot of little things. Just guys working together get better. When you go to Daytona for the first time, you’re normally a little bit behind and it gets everybody back in the speedway mode. You can start thinking about speedway stuff. Then you go to Talladega and lights go off again. Then you come back home and work some more. Right now, we’re to the point where we’re just assembling them, painting them and putting them together.”

EXPECTATIONS WITH DODGE THIS SEASON “I believe Dodge will win. There’s some Dodges right now that are running good, and that makes me feel good. I wish my Dodges were going a little faster, but I have the expansion team. We’ve handed off a really good product to some good race teams. I really believe the Dodges are going to be competitive.”

WHAT’S THE FOCUS OF ATTENTION AT THE SHOP UNTIL DAYTONA? “I wish I could focus on one area. We can’t afford to focus on one area. I’ve got certain people in certain places focusing on one area, but right now, we’re hammering hard on aerodynamics, both drag and downforce because Rockingham is still just a few days after Daytona, so we’re working on Rockingham cars also. Engine department is hammering hard. We’ve got two different things working right now. We’re getting ready to go racing, but we’re still building a lot of brand new cars. We’ll have built 31 brand new cars this year by the time we’re through. I’ve got pit practice every day and pit training, so we’ve got all the areas we can work on making better, we’re making better, making sure our travel is sorted out for our guys. We’re going through the whole uniform thing, making sure the uniforms and what not are here, pit equipment. Every area of getting ready for a race right now, we’re working hard. If you’re going to be a good competitor and hopefully eventually a champion, you’ve got to do that on an average basis. You can’t just be good in one area. It would be no good to have really fast cars in the Daytona 500 and have really bad pit crews or vice versa, so we’re trying to work on all those areas as an average.”

HOW DO YOU ADDRESS POSSIBLE CHANGE IN SIZE OF RESTRICTOR PLATE? “The same way those guys addressed going to a 15/16th-plate at Talladega. You just put it on and hope for the best. I believe that’s what NASCAR would do. If they said for sure what they were going to do right now, everybody would go to work on a one-inch plate and you’d be changing manifolds and do whatever. I think they’re going to get down there and see how fast we are Friday and if everybody is just terribly slow, I’ll bet you we end up with a one-inch plate on.”

DISAPPOINTED YOUR TEAMS ARE A LITTLE SLOWER THAN YOU’D HOPED? “Yeah. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t. I’ve got to be realistic about things. I’m just that type of a person. I had a conversation about that with a friend of mine last night. My problem is I’ve just never been able to accept the average, no matter what we’ve done, it’s just not good enough. In a way, that’s a good thing. In another way, I can’t go jump off the hotel at Daytona if we’re just not fast enough. We’ve come a long way. I’ve got a good program. It’s been a big job, and as long as it keeps going forward every day, which it is, then I’ve just got to accept. I’ve won that race twice. No matter what I’ve said all year, you still want to go there and win it immediately. Maybe that’s not realistic, but it’s that kind of competitiveness that drives me. “No matter what happens here, I’ve got guys here working and going down there, whether they’re five mph slower or five mph faster, I’ve got guys in the shop that believe they’re going down there to win the Daytona 500. That’s what it’s going to take. Whether or not they’re going to win it, who knows? The point is, they’re working believing they can. Sooner or later, they’re going to start to win.”

DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT OF DODGE ENGINE “We didn’t find it at Talladega. What was found was found in the engine shop. Developed process in the engine was led largely by the Dodge people and Dodge engineering, Lou Patane, Ted Flack. We developed that engine as a team and certainly still developing and working together on it. We started a new engine shop this year, and Ron Vacarro did a great job helping me put that together. As we got closer to getting ready to race, Ron and I decided together that it would be best to make a change. Ron is going to be opening up his own business down in Georgia. We’re going to go off in our own direction. Starting an engine shop and people say why do you want to start a team and you’re going to do two teams and do development for Dodge and start an engine shop, too. I felt the only way to build a program that would be on a solid foundation two to three years from now or five years from now, if you don’t do your own engines, sooner or later you’re going to have to stop and do them. We decided to bite the bullet now and start our own engine program, knowing we’d have to fight hard and we are. I’ve got to tell you honestly, I’m very, very proud of the people that are over there doing that program. They have done a great, great job. They’ve not only done a great job getting plenty of engines done for us, they’ve done a great job making parts and pieces. You’ll see a lot of Evernham Performance parts and pieces on other peoples engines, so I’m very proud of them. I feel like the job Dodge paid us to do last year was help develop a car and an engine where for all of their teams, and I feel like we’ve done that. If we go to Daytona and there are other Dodge teams that are faster than mine, I think that proves that. “Actually it was a mutual parting of the ways, and that happened about two or three weeks ago. We haven’t actually replaced him (Vaccaro) yet. I think Bill Davis’ group is looking really good. I’m very proud of them. They’ve been very strong, and they’ve done a great job.”

HOW DID YOU CHOOSE PIT CREW? “I did something different this time. I have a friend of mine (Terra Flynn) who I went to high school with. He’s a retired Navy Seal. He was a Navy Seal for 21 years. We used a lot of the 94 guys from last year. We recruited a lot of guys throughout 2000 through the Motorola program. I have a lot of new people on that Motorola program, and what I’ve done, I hired my friend to come and handle the training. I also have an assistant for him, who has some pit crew experience and is the jackman on the No. 19 car. His name is Ed Watkins. It’s kind of a neat deal. The 19 pit crew has its own sponsor. They’re going to be the Dew Crew and be sponsored by Mountain Dew, so I think that’ll be something that’ll be new in the sport. That has helped me be able to afford things like extra people to help man and train this thing. You need to see Terra Flynn run pit crew practice. It’s like being down in Paris Island or something.”

DISCUSS BEING CREW CHIEF FOR ONLY CAR THAT COULD BEAT FORD “When I was the crew chief on the 24 car, I was so involved in that and all I concentrated on was that. I didn’t know whether the Tauruses were good or not good or what all the battles were they were fighting. This has been a totally new experience for me. I think I can speak for Lou Patane and some of the other people at Dodge. If we were finishing 2-10 and Jeff Gordon was beating us, I think we’d still be pretty happy.”

WILL NO SECOND-ROUND QUALIFYING POSE A PROBLEM? “I took Casey to three races last year, and he qualified first round in all three races. He didn’t qualify first round at Richmond, but we stood on our time and made the race. We’re going to have to work hard. Casey Atwood is a very talented young man. He got better every time he was in the car last year. He actually qualified fifth and finished 10th at Homestead. We’re just going to have to go and take our best shot. If you look most of the time, nobody makes it in second-round qualifying. It’s just something we’re going to have to suck up and get done.”

DOES BILL ELLIOTT HELP SET UP CAR? “I don’t argue with the driver about stuff like that. Ultimately, they have the final say. Right now, I think we have enough respect for one another that if he has a suggestion I’m going to listen to him. If I’ve got a suggestion, he’s going to listen to me. I think he respects my ability to set a race car up, and I certainly respect his ability to drive one. A lot of that is going to be Mike Ford’s problem. I’m not going to be Bill’s crew chief.”

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH OFF-TRACK MANUFACTURER’S NEWS? “As long as my checks keep coming, and they have, I haven’t had to stop and ask. They gave me a job to do and nobody has told me to do anything different. I’m going to do the very best I can to do that job for them until somebody tells me not to do that anymore.”

LOU PATANE (Vice President, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts)

DISCUSS DAIMLERCHRYSLER’S RECENT BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS AND HOW THEY RELATE TO ITS WINSTON CUP PROGRAM “The financial situation at the company, the division of the company that is North American based organization is in a restructuring mode right now, but when it comes to the motorsports organization, I can say that when the company took a long path to make the decision to go into Winston Cup it was for a greatest return on investment, if you will, from a strategic standpoint to fulfill the brand strategy of Dodge. As the company goes forward through its restructuring and definitions of what the strongest position is for the brand, all the reasons we made the decisions to go into Winston Cup racing are still there. The company’s core direction obviously is to se

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Casey Atwood , Ray Evernham
Teams Hendrick Motorsports