BROOKLYN, Mich., June 9, 2000 - Dodge today announced that Melling Racing has joined the select list of teams that will enter the Dodge Intrepid R/T in next year's NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Melling becomes the fourth team in the Dodge lineup...
BROOKLYN, Mich., June 9, 2000 - Dodge today announced that Melling Racing has joined the select list of teams that will enter the Dodge Intrepid R/T in next year's NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Melling becomes the fourth team in the Dodge lineup when the manufacturer returns to Winston Cup racing beginning with the Daytona 500 in February 2001. The other teams are Evernham Motorsports, Bill Davis Racing and Petty Enterprises.
"Melling Racing is a great addition to the Dodge program," said Lou Patane, Vice President, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts. "Melling has a long and successful history in NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing. We are pleased to have Melling contribute to our development effort this year and we will be proud to see them racing with Dodge next season."
Patane and team owner Mark Melling unveiled a prototype Dodge Intrepid R/T racecar today featuring Kodiak as the primary sponsor and bearing the No. 92, a new number for Melling Racing beginning in 2001. Earlier this year, Melling agreed to release its No. 9 to Evernham Motorsports for the car to be driven next year by Bill Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup Series champion. Elliott achieved his early NASCAR Winston Cup success driving the No. 9 for Melling Racing.
"The move to Dodge positions the Melling team nicely to excel and continue for the long term," said Melling. "This change demonstrates that we are working hard to improve our performance and get the team positioned for the future. The Melling team is building. As Dodge comes in and brings their resources to the table for us to lean on, it's going to accelerate our program that much faster.
"We're growing our program and Dodge is growing their program. It makes sense for us to grow together. For us to become a top-10 team in a year or two is not out of the question," he explained.
Driver Stacy Compton shares the team owner's enthusiasm for the move to Dodge, a company he got to know well during his three years in the Craftsman Truck Series. Last year in 25 truck races with Dodge, Compton won a record six poles and finished fourth in the championship standings.
"It's not going to be just Melling Racing anymore," said Compton. "We're going to be getting support from Dodge, as well as from Petty Enterprises, Evernham Motorsports and Bill Davis Racing. "While we may be a single-car effort, being part of the Dodge team is the equivalent of being part of a much larger program."
While some people question whether all these teams can really work together in the highly competitive world of NASCAR Winston Cup racing, Compton is a believer. He said he has seen it happen in the Craftsman Truck Series.
"We had conference calls every Tuesday and every Dodge team talked about what they had learned that weekend," explained Compton. "It certainly helped us.
"In the first year we got involved with Dodge, we did more testing over the winter than I had ever tested in my entire life, and the performance showed. When we came out of the box at the start of the season, we ran awfully well. And you have to feel that when Dodge comes out of the box next year at Daytona, they're going to be strong.
"The Dodge engine program in the truck series right now is second to none, and I feel it will certainly be like that when Dodge comes to Winston Cup racing," he continued. "I'm just excited to be part of it. I'm glad to be part of the Dodge family again."
Ray Evernham, owner of Evernham Motorsports and lead development partner for the Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup program, is also excited about having Melling join the Dodge team. Evernham will field two Winston Cup cars next season - one driven by rookie Casey Atwood and the other by veteran Bill Elliott.
"Melling Racing has had a long-standing relationship with Bill Elliott," said Evernham. "Bill was driving for Mark's dad Harry Melling when Bill won the Winston Cup championship in 1988. They have a great history together and we're proud to have Melling Racing a part of the Dodge team to help continue the success of the No. 9 car."
Melling said releasing the No. 9 to Evernham and Elliott was the right thing to do.
"From my perspective, the No. 9 was my Dad's number and Bill's number," he explained. "After Dad passed away last year, it made sense to release it to Bill. I'm sure I'll be a little melancholy when I see the No. 9 go by and it's not on our car anymore, but we're starting a new era and we're excited about that. We'll have a new number and we're going to be building something ourselves. That gets me really excited about next year."
Jim Julow summed up today's announcement as another important milestone in the Dodge return to NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing.
"We said from the beginning we want to have between seven and 10 cars on the track next season - some single-car teams and some multiple-car teams," he said. "We're right on plan and right on schedule."
"Dodge 500" Countdown to 2001 Daytona 500:
254 days, 3 hours, 15 minutes