DAYTONA BEACH, FL., February 17, 2001 - Ray Evernham ended Dodge's 500-day countdown in its return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing a day early, smashing the countdown clock for a crowd of onlookers some 29 hours before the start of the race. "I've...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL., February 17, 2001 - Ray Evernham ended Dodge's 500-day countdown in its return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing a day early, smashing the countdown clock for a crowd of onlookers some 29 hours before the start of the race.
"I've waited to do this for a long time," said Ray Evernham, team owner for Evernham Motorsports, who decimated the clock using a sledgehammer autographed by all the members of Evernham Motorsports before they left the Statesville, N.C.-based race shop. "I've watched the days tick down day after day, reminding me of how little time we had to build this program. I'm glad we're finally ready to go racing." Evernham's outlook for the 2001 Daytona 500 has to be positive. His veteran driver, Bill Elliott, in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T, is sitting on the pole, a position he won twice - in 1985 and 1987. Rookie Casey Atwood, who gambled by standing on his initial qualifying time, finished 10th in the Gatorade 125s, giving him the 21st starting position. "I feel good about Sunday," said Bill Elliott, a two-time winner of the Daytona 500. "I've got a good car and a good team, and we'll see what happens. Daytona has been good to me through the years, and win, lose or draw on Sunday, if we can come out of here with a good finish it'll set the tempo for the rest of the season, and that's what we need to strive for at this point. Everyone will need to use their heads Sunday. The new aero package NASCAR has implemented is quite a bit different. We'll have our work cut out for us Sunday, but I think we've got a good car and it'll run competitively all afternoon."
"Practice today was ok, I thought we ran a little better yesterday, we changed the gears after our first time out and that seemed to help," said Casey Atwood, driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T. "The wind really picked up at the end of the day, I could really feel it in the backstretch.
"I'm pretty calm right now, but it might be a tough night, tomorrow is the biggest day of my life. I might not sleep tonight. My main concern was getting in the 500. Now that we're there it's a relief. We've got a really good car, and the guys have been working hard getting it ready for tomorrow." Both Evernham drivers said their Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/Ts are really good in the draft. "They don't have to even get against you to feel the pickup in the race car," said Elliott. "Once they get within five or six feet behind you, you can feel the acceleration from them actually helping take the air off your rear spoiler for the car to accelerate. It depends on how well your car accelerates through certain parts of the track. Certain cars will help my car better than other cars. Depending on who you're around and what circumstances you're in, it dictates how you're going to run."
"I led a couple laps and the car felt really good out there," said Atwood after Friday's practice. "I ran real good with the Dodges, and with the Chevys and Fords. Hopefully I'll get a little help from my teammate out there tomorrow."