MIKE ACCAVITTI (Director Dodge Motorsports Operations and SRT Planning) OPENING REMARKS "We're very happy that Dodge is the only manufacturer entering the 2007 season with the same driver lineup that exited in 2006. In a sport where consistency...
MIKE ACCAVITTI (Director Dodge Motorsports Operations and SRT Planning)
OPENING REMARKS "We're very happy that Dodge is the only manufacturer entering the 2007 season with the same driver lineup that exited in 2006. In a sport where consistency is key, we feel this is going to be a competitive advantage.
"I was reading the USA TODAY the other day and a high-ranking NASCAR official was asked about manufacturers leaving the sport. The two manufacturers they asked about were not DaimlerChrysler. I'm very proud that our message is sinking in that we're here to stay. Our momentum continues to build since we started our racing effort and in 2007 we expect some great things. We're going to see more consistency in 2007, more wins, more top fives, more top 10s. Our teams and drivers are extremely competitive, and I know every weekend when they go out to win a race.
"I want to make it a little bit more interesting, so for the Daytona 500, the Dodge driver that wins that race, I'm going to give him his choice of a brand new SRT vehicle. SRT is our street and racing technology brand. It's the other half of my job, and as a car guy I can tell you they're some of the best driving vehicles on the road and the most fun driving vehicles we make. One of our lucky drivers is going to get his choice of an SRT-10 Viper, an SRT-8 Charger, an SRT-8 Magnum or an SRT-8 Chrysler 300 or even an SRT-8 Jeep Grand Cherokee."
COMMENT ON TOYOTA "We've been fighting with Toyota in the market place for 30 years. It's not new to me. I've been with our company for a long time, and it's been a harsh reality that we've had to deal with the financial strengths of a lot of manufacturers. Toyota right now is in the catbird seat. I've been with Chrysler for 30 years this month and our corporate philosophy has always been if we want to get in a money burning contest we're going to lose every time.
"We never have enough money as the other guys. I hate to use the analogy, but it's we have to work smarter. We have to figure out a way in our business every day on how to outmaneuver the competition. That's what's going to have to happen with the race teams. It can no longer be we'll just throw more money at the problem and it'll go away. The money is going to be fixed, and the teams are just going to have to figure out how to make the cars go faster and how to employ technologies to achieve better results with the same resources. Here again, this is what we do every day in the car business."
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
"The Dodge Avenger reminds me of six or seven years ago when we did this with the Intrepid. We had 500 days to develop the car and motor and things like that. I think everybody knows we had about 460 days, so we had 40 days in the bank. We don't really need to use those 40 days in the bank with Dodge engineering and all the teams working together to develop this car. We were able to do it a lot faster than we did the other one, and we did it with teamwork. We were also pretty proud of our technology at that time.
"If you're not committed and constantly focused as a team looking at the future -- six, 12 months, even years ahead to gain that advantage you're going to be left behind. At Evernham Motorsports we're starting to see the investment we made in people, engineering and technology pay off. We've made a significant investment in that technology. Every year that technology budget doesn't go up by hundreds of thousands, sometimes it goes up by millions. When you look across the board, most big companies spend two-three percent on research and development. That tells you what direction racing is going.
"We've grown as an organization since those early days. Right now Evernham Motorsports has 330 employees and more than 50 people are dedicated to engineering and design. We also introduced a unique team structure for the 2006 season with a team director, car director and an engineer. I know some of the folks in this room didn't think that would work, to make decisions by committee. I think that some of our performance last year proved them wrong. We've still got to continue to tweak and work on it, but again, I believe that's going to be the way of racing in the future.
"2006 was the best performance year ever for Evernham Motorsports. Every year since 2001, we've won poles and visited victory lane. For the last four years we've wrapped up the season with a driver in the top 10 in points, and we're proud of that. This year we went to victory lane six times with the Cup car, two times with the Busch car and that was a record for us. We also won eight Cup poles, a couple of Busch poles, 13 top fives, 29 top 10s and I want to congratulate our drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and Scott Riggs, along with our team directors -- Kenny Francis for the No. 9, Josh Browne for the No. 19, and Rodney Childers for the No. 10 and our new team director for the Busch Series, Mike Shiplette.
"Our goals for 2007 are going to be simple. We want to see all three of our NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars in victory lane. The No. 9 is a proven winner and we want to continue to improve on that, and I believe the No. 10 and No. 19 have amazing, incredible potential. It's our goal to make sure Scott Riggs and Elliott Sadler reach that potential. We want to have all three of our teams finish in the top 15 in points with two of them in The Chase.
"We want to improve our consistency across the board from pit stops and engine reliability to driver performance. We want to do that from our plate races to our road races. We feel like our plate program and our road racing program have been two of our Achilles Heels. We also had some DNFs last year with crashes and blown engines that kept our cars from being higher in points. We also want to be the first team to put the Avenger in victory lane."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
WHICH DODGE WILL YOU PICK AFTER WINNING THE DAYTONA 500? "I would take the SRT-8 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I've already got the Viper. They gave me one for winning the most races last year."
WITH 12 TEAMS IN THE CHASE HOW MANY TEAMS WILL REALISTICALLY BE GOING FOR THOSE 12 SPOTS? "I'd say right around 12. I would say going into Richmond you're not going to have the closeness we had last year. That's my personal opinion. The last few years I don't remember more than 12, maybe 13. Last year it was more like 11. The drama is going to be in The Chase this year, not getting to The Chase."
COMMENT ON ROAD COURSES "The road courses are definitely my weakest link. Last year we qualified fifth and second at the road courses. It's not about making a lap. It's not about making a lap. I can make a lap around them. It's just about putting the full race together and just being able to go fast the entire race. It's something we need to figure out as a team. We're going to test more on road courses this year. We're going to try to be more prepared when we go to Sears Point and Watkins Glen."
COMMENT ON SHORT TRACKS "I think (short tracks) were a struggle at the start because the cars were so heavy and so much different from anything I've ever driven. We haven't won at any short tracks, but the last two year we've run up front at a lot of them. I'm getting better setups now for the short tracks. I don't think the car of tomorrow will be a huge deal at Martinsville. It's a pretty short track. "
COMMENT ON POINTS SYSTEM "It would have been a big benefit for us last year. I think it's a neat rule. It's fine. It's something different. It puts a little more on winning and the consistency isn't quite as big a deal, but it's still going to be huge. Consistency is going to be a big part of winning the championship, but also winning races is going to be a little bit bigger, too."
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOU DON'T LOSE YOUR EDGE ON THE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS? "We definitely don't want to lose anything on my best tracks. I've always been better on those types of race tracks. It's a momentum type track. The goal would be to do the same amount of testing on the mile and a half tracks and do more testing on the road courses and short tracks. We've already started that, so hopefully that's the key to having a better season and finishing better in the points."
COMMENT ON COT "Personally I like the car we drive now, but we have a new car and that's the way it is. We've done some short track testing with it. I haven't done anything over a mile yet. On the short tracks it was fine. I think it's going to be just fine at Martinsville and Bristol. We'll figure out the rest as we go. I think it's a safer car and it's the car of the future. We'll just have to like it and get used to it if we want to run well in Nextel Cup."
WILL YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY CAREFUL NOT TO WRECK THE COT IN THE FIRST FEW RACES? "You could really get behind in a hurry, and the thing of it is the car of tomorrow isn't even done yet. We don't even have templates to know what we're supposed to run. Teams are limited for sure. You crash one at Bristol, you'll have another one so you'll run that at Martinsville and hope you don't crash one there in practice because you'd probably be out. The teams have to build them under a lot of rules and not know all the rules. It's a tough spot. Hopefully they'll figure out exactly what they want and what they want the car to look like soon so the teams can finish these things up and be prepared. We've got a really big test coming up and we don't have the car ready yet."
SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger)
WHICH DODGE WILL YOU PICK WHEN YOU WIN THE DAYTONA 500? "I don't know. I'm a family man, so I'll have to pick something that's big enough to hold the whole family. I'd probably pick the SRT-8 Magnum. When Mike announced that, Jim Rocco from Valvoline said he was going to take the car home. As long as I got the trophy and picture, I might let him."
HOW MANY TEAMS WILL REALISTICALLY BE GOING AFTER THE 12 CHASE SPOTS? "I think 16 or 17 teams are capable of being a Chase contender. Just because they went from 10 to 12 doesn't mean all of our good teams are going to be in now. I think a lot of good teams will emerge this year. Even with those 12 spots, I think someone who was in that top 10 last year won't be in the top 12. It's just too competitive with too many good teams."
COMMENT ON TOYOTA "I want to outrun everyone, and when it comes to the last lap I want to outrun everybody even if they're in a Dodge. I want to win races. I don't think a different manufacturer will create any more competitiveness among the drivers. I think NASCAR does a good job of making sure anyone can't come in and just out dollar any other manufacturer or team. It takes so many people working together as a team to be competitive at this level. I don't think a manufacturer coming in with a lot of money is something that's going to dominate our sport. NASCAR's rules and restrictions are going to prevent that."
HOW TO YOU TEST THE COT WITHOUT TIRES? "We've been testing older tires for a long time. As long as you go out there and get a baseline and you make changes and go faster it's an improvement. You can't compare yourself with what someone else did last week at the same track, but you can learn."
WILL YOU HAVE TO DRIVE THE COT DIFFERENTLY? "When you have a car with such a different shape than we've had in the past, it's still going to be the same thing. You're still going to try to get maximum downforce with as little drag as you can and you're going to try to push the car to the earth as much as you can and get as much grip out of the tires as you can. If they make us run wooden wheels and wagons, we'll still work as hard as we can to make it work. You're still going to be racing. It's going to be a lot different behind and around other COTs than the cars we have right now. I think the COT cars are going to make us all work in different areas that we're not used to working in. It's going to be different geometry starting off from scratch. We're more or less traveling the cars like we used to -- not very far. We can't travel the car because of the splitter. The wing on the back is going to be the entire downforce adjustment instead of going back building a car with different downforce and sideforces. You'll be able to adjust it right there at the racetrack. In some aspects it'll be easier to work on, but it's still different so that'll make it more difficult."
WILL THE COT BE HARDER TO REPAIR DURING THE RACE? "We're going to have to work in areas and put more time and emphasis on repairing our cars and how the car is actually going to be bolted together better than our other cars. It's easy to put piece of valance across the front or a blade on the back for a spoiler. Now you've got a wing you've got to bolt on and a splitter that's got to bolt on. We're going to have to have our cars like Legos almost where you can actually bolt on an entire front bumper. You're going to have to have some way where you can bolt on an entire deck lid along with a wing at a fast race. It just puts more emphasis on engineering to figure out ways to do things like repair cars. I'm hoping not to knock off a wing, but if I knock off a wing, I hope our guys at Evernham Motorsports have figured out a good way to put it back on quick."
WILL YOU HAVE TO RACE THE CAR BEFORE SOME QUESTIONS CAN BE ANSWERED? "You're going to do a lot of monkey see-monkey do. If somebody comes out with a new idea and you see it and you think it's better than your idea you're going to put it on your cars. We're all going to be learning. We're all learning as much as we can by ourselves testing. When you get to a race situation that's where you're going to be able to bank on a lot of ideas and a lot of different thoughts will start coming into play. We've got to run it, so let's start thinking about what we need to do to race it. OK, it's ugly and we don't like it, but like a wooden wagon, but it's 'what can we do to make it go fast?' Automatically your competitive nature comes out and you start thinking about it. If they came up tomorrow and said they were not going to run the COT anymore, I don't think anybody would be crying about it because we love it so much."
ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
WHICH DODGE SRT ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE WHEN YOU WIN THE DAYTONA 500? "I don't know. That's pretty cool. Mike Accavitti was nice enough to give me a 500-horsepower signing bonus when I signed with Evernham. He gave me an SRT-10 truck. I like the Viper. If he's willing to stick a Viper out there, that's a little extra incentive. I might have to make sure that Josh (Team Director Browne) and the guys put a little extra bumper in front of this thing. That's cool that Dodge will reward their drivers that much. They definitely create a team atmosphere and support their team owners and drivers a lot. I've been very impressed with that since I've been over here. To put something like that on the line, that's pretty amazing. They want to win the Daytona 500 pretty bad. I did not know about it until you guys just heard about it. That's pretty cool."
WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT THE EVERNHAM OPERATION? "The different things I see at Evernham Motorsports is Ray has a lot of fire and a lot of intensity. I think he stays ahead of the learning curve better than anybody I've ever been around. I think he showed it when he was crew chief with Jeff Gordon. He was very innovative and he shows that in his race team. The biggest difference I saw when I walked into Evernham Motorsports was these guys were prepared for the future. They're not going to let anything slip through the cracks. They're going to get every ounce of engineering help and speed out of their car every week. These guys are ahead of the learning curve. Not only are they preparing for the races three weeks from now, they're preparing for things happening a couple of years from now."
COMMENT ON YOUR NEW ATTITUDE "I wear my feelings right here on my sleeve just like a lot of people do. I'm not ashamed to show you what my real attitude is sometimes, but I have a different sway about me this year. I'm very happy. My personal life is the best it's ever been. I'm very happy with my family and the stuff that's going on around me back home. I really think I've got a great support group around me. I've got great teammates. Ray just wants to win. He's got the same attitude I have about it. Second is no good. Losing is no good. If we're not in The Chase we've pretty much had a terrible season. That's the attitude he's had, and that's the attitude I have. I'm not a field filler, and I don't want to be one. I don't want to ride around and finish 20th and go home. I love having that attitude right across the desk from me. It's made me happy, and I can't wait to go to the racetrack. I would be very nervous telling you guys all this stuff if I thought I couldn't back it up. I'm pretty relaxed and happy about it. I honestly think we're going to be in The Chase. I don't think it's going to be a big feat for us. I think it's going to happen, and I think we're going to win some races. I think we're going to run up front, and I've got a good feeling about it. You've got to feel like you're coming to a gunfight with a gun. That makes a big difference, too. It's a big learning curve to go from one organization to another. I'm glad we got to go through that last year. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the team. We went out the first time at Michigan and qualified second and finished 10th. That to me eased the pain right there. The learning period was not that long of a time, and that meant a lot to all of us. The best day in Elliott Sadler's life last year was when I went to Michigan and qualified second and ran in the top 10. I've got a lot of great things going on in my life right now, and I think it's reflecting. Life is great right now. I think for the first time I see the glass as half full instead of half empty. I'm a very pessimistic person, a realist is what I call it, but sometimes it's pessimistic. This year I've just got one of those crazy feelings. I'm pretty close to becoming domesticated. It's something that hits you like a ton of bricks and it's definitely hit me. I've definitely found someone I want to settle down with and raise a family. I think that has a lot to do with the attitude I have right now. She's shown me the brighter side of life and what life's all about. It's gonna happen pretty quick. I'm definitely off the market."
HOW MANY TEAMS DO YOU THINK WILL SERIOUSLY COMPETE FOR THOSE 12 CHASE SPOTS? "I'd say 16 or 17 spots with teams legitimately chasing that dream. I can sit here right now and name off a lot of teams that can be racing for it. I'm glad they made it 12 spots. It was a shame last year that Tony Stewart missed it. He was deserving pf a spot. I think 12 is a good number. I don't want to add any more to that. I don't want to dilute. We're going to race as hard as we can. I don't care what you put in front of us. If it's a 12-ounce ribeye, we're going to race as hard as we can. I don't think you can create harder racing, but I am glad to see them rewarding winning more than they do. Stick and ball sports are one winner and one loser. Racing is one winner and 42 losers. If you can beat 42 guys you deserve a bigger reward than everybody else."
-credit: dodge motorsports