RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) NOTE: Ray Evernham and Bob Wildberger were Saturday morning's guests at the Winston Breakfast Club. "I feel like that Dodge as an overall program deserves high marks.
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
NOTE: Ray Evernham and Bob Wildberger were Saturday morning's guests at the Winston Breakfast Club. "I feel like that Dodge as an overall program deserves high marks. We're proud to be back at Homestead. It dawned on me yesterday that this is the place we actually put the first Dodge on the race track after 20 odd years of absence. We came here for our first test, so it's good to be back. Overall, the Dodge program still amazes me. The one team concept, the engineering that went behind the car and the motor to be finishing races, to have one car in the top 10 in the points and another car close to the top 15. We've won some races and sat on some poles and plenty of front rows. I give Dodge's program some high marks. Every team that has joined the Dodge program, and my teams are new teams so they didn't exist, but if you look at the performance of every other team, their performance is I think comparable or better than last year, so I give Dodge high marks on its first year in Winston Cup. "The one-team approach can only help develop equipment, the aerodynamics, the horsepower. We do good at sharing that stuff. Obviously, the closer we get to being competitive, everybody wants to win the race. The truth is we really have worked together to help all the Dodges. When my cars haven't run good at places, or Kyle or Petty Enterprises people have offered and lend Kyle motors and cars and aerodynamic advice. One thing you can't put a figure on is people. It takes time to gel. Kyle has been building a lot of his organization and it just takes time to build people and skills. I think you'd be surprised, but not really surprised, because if you look at the chassis dyno numbers from Phoenix, the 44 and 19 were very close. I think across the board, the Dodge equipment is very close. It's just a matter of putting the finishing touches on it and getting the right team to gel. "One of the goals as a car owner, I never really expected it this fast. When I looked at the 66 and 26 on the pole at Kansas City or Chicago, I thought what an awesome feeling this must be for Travis Carter. Yesterday, you look at all the highlights of my career in Winston Cup, whether it be crew chief or mechanic or whatever, yesterday was a big day for me. I think it was a big day for Dodge, and Dodge Dealers, my sponsors. It was a big thrill there. We've learned how to make our cars go faster. Now we've got to learn how to race. I think the cars will be OK tomorrow. We've got to not make any mistakes. We're a little bit worried about the weather now. Sun to clouds, I don't think anyone is going to get a real good handle on what the setup is going to be today. If the sun comes out tomorrow, this place is going to be different. We learned some things we got burned on at a couple of places. Hopefully that will help us. I'm going to be in the 19 pit tomorrow where I normally am working with those guys. Bill is pumped up. Casey is pumped up. I told 'em I don't care what they do, just don't wreck going in the first turn on the first lap. Hopefully they'll get in line and behave themselves. "Taking on an engine program and starting an engine shop and trying to start the two teams and doing the development for Dodge, it was a big job. My goal all through this is to build a championship organization one step at a time. I couldn't see working really hard to put the proper people and cars together and getting close to a championship and then have something out of my control, like an engine program. I feel if you're going to have a championship program, you've got to bite the bullet and start with the foundation and the engine program is part of that. I'm very proud of my guys at the engine shop. They're certainly doing a good job. Their stuff is getting better and better. Again, it's something new for me. I'm not an engine guy. I was always the crew chief who said I needed more horsepower. I beat on my guys pretty hard for horsepower, and I know they're working on it. Ted Flack and the people from Dodge have worked really hard with us and sent engineers down to my facility to work with my guys, to help us with cylinder head development and manifolds and camshafts and doing the right things. I'd like to sit here and take a large part of the credit for our engine program, but really, Ted Flack and the people at Dodge have made a huge difference the last six months in that engine program. "I play to win, but you've also got to be realistic. I'm not sick enough over it where I'm going to go stick my head in the sand. You've got to look at everything realistically. A year ago I basically had nothing. On Dec. 10, we had two Dodges and had taken over Bill Elliott's facility. I see forward progress. I see our cars getting competitive. I see our pit stops doing really good. I see all the things taking place that will get us to victory lane. As long as I continue to see that, I can deal with it. If I was sitting here and we hadn't make any forward progress, I would probably be pulling my hair out. I know if we continue to work hard and do the things we're doing, it will come. "I don't think I'd be mad (if I were a Pontiac car owner). Didn't Pontiac win the Winston Cup championship last year. I don't know, don't care. I'm a Dodge team owner and damn happy. "I get confused when they talk about all that. What brand of car won Phoenix? (Ford). What brand is leading the Winston Cup points championship? (Chevrolet). What's in second place? (Ford) What's in third and fourth place? (Pontiac and Ford). Where is the first Dodge? (Fifth). Every car has characteristics at different race tracks, period. You go to some of the race tracks and the Fords are going to run good, the Chevys are going to run good. For some reason the Dodges are a little bit better on the flat tracks. I think it's got something to do with the engine combination, it could be aerodynamics. The point is, we've worked really hard on the flat track program. That's just something that Dodge has worked on. Going back to aerodynamic development, a lot of stuff we did in the wind tunnel; it's a lot more than just making the shape on the bodies. Do we have an advantage here? I don't know. Maybe, but it's certainly one we've worked at. When we go to Dover or Martinsville and places like that, are we at a disadvantage? Yeah, probably, but that's just the name of the game. Not everybody is going to be equal all the time. It's just the nature of the beast. Those guys are doing their job. If they're unhappy and they feel we've got an advantage, then they'll talk about it. When we go to places, we'll talk about it. As long as the cars are different and there is no common template and there's going to be different teams, everybody is going to have to complain every once in awhile. It's just a part of the sport. "Look at the new tracks they're building and the venues we're going to. Kansas City, Chicago, Vegas, here -- relatively flat. In the future, I don't think they're going to be building banked tracks. We've got to get the speed out of these cars somehow and get to racing better. It's my personal opinion the cars are way too aerodynamic, not just our cars, everybody's cars. They're too dependent on aerodynamics. We need to take some of the banking away and give racing back to the guys who know how to sling springs and shocks and swaybars. "You'd have to be an idiot to not want Jeff Gordon in your car. Period. I miss him as a friend. You'd have to be a plain idiot not to want Jeff Gordon in your car. That's all I can tell you. "There's still some pretty big holes in our program. We're still putting people in the right places. We've learned how to make the cars go fast at a couple of places, but not consistently everywhere. Our pit crews are getting strong. Our engines are getting strong, but I still feel like we've got a way to go before we're a weekly top 10 contender. I can't put a time limit on that. I don't know what it is. Something like that just starts clicking. It's a matter of getting people going or getting your skills going, but there's still some pretty big holes in our program. We seem to struggle at the banked tracks, the places I used to be really good at, the Atlanta, Charlottes, places like that. That bothers me, but again, those are things we've got to work on and I can't put a time limit on it. We're far from target, but we are making progress. "I had to stop and realize I had the wrong target. You can't start something from scratch with nothing and go, 'we're going to win our first year, we're going to do this and we're going to do that.' The targets I needed to be working on were making sure I had my aerodynamic program in place, making sure my engine is strong, making sure my pit crews are strong, making sure the crews are communicating and I've got the right engineering support. When I readjusted my goals, I feel now we're on our targets. You can't just say I'm going to win five races next year. My targets now as car owner is making sure that my part of the equation -- engineering, engine, pit crew, cars, those things are in line. "After we got our first round of cars built, we built 14 cars in 15 weeks. We were wiped out. April was just a killer month, and I realized I had to concentrate on just getting things done. You can't even think about winning races until you get your program in order. We're worried about winning races and we didn't even have a car built for that race track. I started to realize I had to put my targets on the foundation and the worry about your performance. "This is not a sport for weak people. When you take on the deal I took on, you'd better be tough. I'm going to stick it out and we're going to get there. You've got two choices in life. You make it or you don't. I just don't look at not making it. It might take me 20 years to get back to where I want to be. I'm doing it. I'm not going to whine and cry and say I used to win 10 races a year. It doesn't seem like anybody is winning 10 races a year now. I know if I do the things I do, we'll get there. You've got to be tough."
BOB WILDBERGER (Senior Manager, NASCAR Operations -- Dodge Motorsports)
"I think we all share a lot of apprehension. We worked very hard using the one team concept we believed in. We learned that from our truck program. As we got into the year and we started off with the first race and got the pole position the very first race we entered at Daytona. I think immediately expectations went up from being competitive to 'OK, where's that first win?' Of course we achieved that benchmark later in the year at Michigan. Then came a second and a third. To give ourselves a report card for a launch year, we couldn't be more pleased. We have an attitude for a one-team approach and to convince a lot of big teams to change over to Dodge for 2001. "It wasn't real difficult to get our teams to work together for the first race this year. We knew the key would be to get everyone to work together after we started racing. I think Kyle Petty said it best. He said, 'if we can be one team for six days of the week and race on the seventh, then that makes good sense and we'll be able to continue to grow and become better if we do that.' "When you get into individual teams, performance won't be the same for every team every week. The fact is, a lot of knowledge is being shared. People are working together to make us better as we continue to grow in the sport. "We're happy with our performance here yesterday at Homestead. We're still growing. There's a lot to learn. We don't do that at every track. A lot of extra notice is being taken because this is our first year back in the program. All eyes are on us to see how we do. You look back at other tracks. You're sitting in the same seat we're sitting in. We'd like to be here more often. "The biggest key to the success of our program is we look at this thing differently. We partnered with our 3,000 Dodge Dealers, so this is not a matter of somebody in one location deciding we wanted to go racing. This is a matter of teamwork with our network and all recognizing the value of NASCAR to market our products. It's that type of marketing effort that's going to help us increase sales and go forward. We're getting full support from management and all the plans are to go forward for the long haul. This is a multi-year program."