SPARTA, Ky., July 11, 2000 - The skies and the cars were gray and black but the garage area at Kentucky Speedway was a blur of red shirts today as the Dodge development team conducted on-track testing to prepare for the Dodge return to NASCAR...
SPARTA, Ky., July 11, 2000 - The skies and the cars were gray and black but the garage area at Kentucky Speedway was a blur of red shirts today as the Dodge development team conducted on-track testing to prepare for the Dodge return to NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing in 2001.
The Dodge development team - led by veteran crew-chief-turned-team-owner Ray Evernham - tested two engines in two Dodge Intrepid R/T test cars during the rain shortened event.
"This is the most extensive on-track testing we've done to date," said Evernham. "We are focused on the engine and the aerodynamic package. One car has our second phase developmental engine so we can study the engine performance on a high-speed track. The other car has the Dodge Craftsman truck engine so we can focus on the aerodynamic performance. Having the variety of equipment and drivers here will help us collect a lot of good information and data we can use to prepare our cars for presentation to NASCAR later this summer."
Drivers participating in today's test include:
* Casey Atwood, a current NASCAR Busch Series competitor who will drive the number 19 Dodge Intrepid R/T prepared by Evernham Motorsports.
* Steve Grissom, a current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor who has driven in Winston Cup events and serves as a test driver for Petty Enterprises.
In May, Grissom participated in the first on-track test for Dodge at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, and last month both Atwood and Grissom drove the Dodge Intrepid R/T in tests at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.
Today, Atwood drove the test car with the second-phase developmental engine being prepared by Dodge for the Winston Cup Series. He completed a series of five-lap runs followed by reviews of downloaded test data and conversations with factory and team engineers about the feel of the car and engine on the track.
"The car is really handling great," said Atwood. "It feels really good out there but we are paying attention to how the motor performs. There's a whole lot more motor under the hood than I am used to in my Busch series car."
Atwood added that the Kentucky Speedway is a great new track. "It's a little like Las Vegas, but it has more banking. It is a fun track to drive."
Steve Grissom, driver of the number 43 Dodge Ram prepared by Petty Enterprises for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, already had some experience at the new facility. Grissom participated in an initial tire testing session at the facility in May, then he returned in June to compete in the truck series race. Today, Grissom turned several dozen laps to test the aerodynamics package on the car.
Evernham said they chose the Kentucky Speedway for several reasons. "One, it's a high-speed track that allows us to really test the engine and aero in a way you really can't on a smaller track. Second, we are able to test a number of different options here. And third, it doesn't count as one of our NASCAR tests, so we'll probably be back."
Although Kentucky Speedway is not currently used for NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing, the 1.5-mile tri-oval is similar to tracks used by the series in Las Vegas and Texas. The smooth asphalt surface has 14 degree banking in the corners. Built at a cost of more than $150 million, the facility opened for testing in May and held its inaugural races in mid-June.
As the first day of the three-day test session concluded, Evernham declared the event a success.
"We continue to make great progress with our 500-day countdown to Daytona," said Evernham. "We are gathering some great information on the motor and body of this race car. While you are never where you want to be in a huge effort like this, we are where we need to be, according to our schedule." When the Dodge Test Cars are put back in the hauler Thursday afternoon, there will be 220 days left to prepare for the Daytona 500 in 2001.