Pace quickens as Dodge team prepares for return

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Preparations for the Dodge return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing have been moving at a steady pace since the news was announced some 10 months ago. But with fewer than 200 days left in Dodge's...

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Preparations for the Dodge return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing have been moving at a steady pace since the news was announced some 10 months ago. But with fewer than 200 days left in Dodge's 500-day "countdown to Daytona," activities are taking place at a noticeably faster rate.

During the past 100 days, the Dodge team has:

* Logged more than 1,600 miles in high-speed testing at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., Atlanta Motor Speeday in Atlanta, GA, and Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C. A total of six drivers have participated in the tests -- Bill Elliott, Casey Atwood, Kyle Petty, Steve Grissom, Stacy Compton and Setzer.

* Continued 3/8- and full-scale wind tunnel testing, and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) work to fine-tune body panels for the racecar. Particular attention was paid to developing an exterior with the Dodge Intrepid R/T styling cues that are essential for brand identity.

* Tested various body panel sets in Kentucky and South Carolina. Several alternate nose and tail sections were tested and data gathered for evaluation at the race shops and by Dodge engineers.

* Tested preliminary chassis setups on the track at the same time body panels were being checked. A variety of spring, shock, tire and anti- roll bar combinations were tested and performance data gathered for analysis.

* Presented the Dodge Intrepid R/T racecar to NASCAR for certification. The car included Intrepid R/T body panels. The three-phase certification process included static, wind-tunnel and on-track evaluations.

* Hired more than 45 people for the Evernham Motorsports race shops. By early next year, there will be 90 to 100 people working at Evernham Motorsports on the two-car Dodge team fielded by Ray Evernham.

* Added two more teams for 2001 -- Melling Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

* Introduced the second driver for Evernham Motorsports, Casey Atwood.

* Established a trackside trailer featuring Dodge and Evernham Motorsports merchandise to help fans prepare for next year.

* Created a Dodge Garage motorsports section on its www.4aDodge Web site to help fans track team progress.

Next 100 Days

* The Dodge team will continue on-track testing of its engine, chassis and aerodynamics. The team plans to run immediately after a few Winston Cup races to test under race conditions. It also will test restrictor plate engines in a few locations.

* Evernham Motorsport's Casey Atwood may make his Winston Cup debut this fall in one of Bill Elliott's cars.

* The Dodge team will continue to work with NASCAR on the certification of its car and engine.

* An expanded offering of Dodge licensed apparel and merchandise will go on sale.

Leading the development program for the Dodge Intrepid R/T is Ray Evernham, champion crew chief and race team owner. Working closely with Evernham and Dodge are another two teams that will race with Dodge in 2001 -- Bill Davis Racing and Petty Enterprises. "We continue to make steady progress toward our goal of racing with Dodge in the next Daytona 500," said Ray Evernham. "The whole Dodge development team has worked really hard and the results show it. We are where we need to be at this point and with much of our basic infrastructure in place, we are picking up the pace of our activities and working together as a team." Lou Patane, Dodge Vice President for Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts, is also pleased with the preparations for NASCAR Winston Cup racing. "It's really gratifying to see this all come together," said Patane. "When Dodge decided to return to Winston Cup racing, it was almost overwhelming to think about all the work that had to be done to make it happen. Now that we are 60 percent of the way there, I can see lots of tangible results and the whole program is becoming more and more exciting." Patane conceded out that getting ready for NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing involves more than building racecars. Marketing and publicity plans must also be developed and put in place to help Dodge dealers capitalize on the investment. "The amount of work we have left to do is daunting," admitted Patane. "What our own people and the race teams have already done gives me confidence that we will meet our goal and have a very competitive and beneficial racing program in 2001. The program has drawn on all the talent and experience we have in racing and building vehicles for consumers. It's also giving our young people an experience that will change them forever and make then even more valuable as they focus their talents on making better production cars and trucks."

"Dodge 500" Countdown to 2001 Daytona 500:
185 days, 4 hours, 30 minutes

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Kyle Petty , Casey Atwood , Stacy Compton , Steve Grissom , Ray Evernham , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates
Teams Bill Davis Racing