RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) "From the Dodge technology and Dodge support side of things, I think everything we planned from Dodge Motorsports is right on track, bringing the motor along, the cars,...
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"From the Dodge technology and Dodge support side of things, I think everything we planned from Dodge Motorsports is right on track, bringing the motor along, the cars, the way the teams are working together. The technology support. With their scheduling, we actually hit all our targets with the 500-day countdown. From the Evernham Motorsports side of things, I probably underestimated the amount of work we had to do and the amount of time we had to do it. As Bill said, we're just now getting to the point where we've got some consistency in our cars, some consistency with the guys on our race team. I not only had to go to a new role, from a crew chief to a car owner, and not living with that car everyday. I had to learn a lot of new personalities, too. Bill and I had only worked together a little bit in IROC and things like that. Mike Ford and Sammy Johns coming along with the 19 car has settled that team down quite a bit. I feel like now we're to the point where we pick the car and copying it. The 9 and 19 are consistently being built the same way with the same body package and we can just now start to repeat. We're looking forward to going into the second half of the season with some of the information we have. I feel like we're now turning the corner where we can field top 10 competitive cars week to week.
"I don't know if you lose the information by not being in the garage, but I used to be hands on with the car. I had to learn what it takes to be a good car owner. To be a good car owner, I've got to make sure that I'm letting my crew chiefs have the same space it took to do my job. The personal Ray Evernham touch is not on either race car, but I've got enough confidence in the two guys I have. We share a lot of the same philosophies. I feel like I've taught them some things, but I feel like they've taught me some things, too. Sometimes when you take a step back, it can be better in the long run. The hardest thing I think we've had to deal with is that we couldn't get what we wanted as quick. I really feel like we've turned the corner now. The same philosophy and the same way I did things is starting to take shape, maybe with a little different twist on it. Mike Ford and Sammy Johns are both very smart guys. I was running around the world for 10 years and you just get a little tired of doing that. If you can just take a few of the things I learned and I think Mike's 30 and Sammy is 33 or 34, those guys could bring it to a new level and maybe I could spend a little more time on the bus.
"We really didn't have a baseline to go from (with new Goodyear tires). We started on this new tire with the Dodge. We run a Ronnie Hopkins chassis, it's pretty much a stock Hopkins chassis. We are gearing up to build our own chassis someday. That's something that's coming in the future. We are preparing to build right now a 42,000 square foot facility right next to the one we have. Construction on that will probably start in the next 60 to 90 days. We really didn't have anything to base our changes against other than Bill's notes from last year. The Ford and Dodge body are a lot alike, of course the motors are different and the combinations are different. The changes to the actual chassis have been minor because Bill ran some Hopkins cars last year, but the changes to the chassis setups have been pretty major compared to what they ran last year.
"I feel like anything that's got to do with safety, they need to make a rule change as soon as they need to make it. I agree with that part of it. I believe if you're given a set of rules at the beginning of the year and you build your cars and motors and set your schedules up around that, you need to stick with ^Ñem. Racing is racing, and I don't always agree with the sanctioning body makes it a level playing field. Sports are sports. If one football team or baseball team started to win all the games, they wouldn't have to play with one less man or give the other team something. I've been beat by better equipment and hopefully some day we'll win again with better equipment, but I don't agree with changing the rules. The one thing I don't agree with sometimes is that when we make a rule change we don't do the proper diligence to find what it's going to affect. That rule change we made on the blades of those cars absolutely killed us at Daytona handling. Casey drove Bill's car from February with the same setup in it. Now Bill drove a new car and we experimented with some things, so you might have an explanation there, but Casey's car was almost the same way Bill ran it in February and he couldn't even hang on to it. I've got the man sitting next to me (Elliott) who has been around Daytona at 210 mph. You've got a car running around there 180 mph sideways, so I imagine no matter what setup in it, he could have gotten around there. We were so aero loose at Daytona that the rear wheels were off the ground in traffic, as I think most of the other Dodges were, too.
"Pressure is pressure. You're looking at a race team now that's doing the best they can to run good no matter where we go. It's nice to come to a nice facility like this where Dodge is so involved, but no matter where we are our focus is on running better every week, everywhere.
"It's hard to pace yourself when you're a competitive person. You do whatever it takes to win. I'm fortunate to have some good guys on both teams that really don't care about how much they're working. They just want to win. That's my challenge. I've got to find a way to force those guys to take some time off. I keep telling Mike and Sammy and some of the young guys they're going to burn themselves out if we don't get a handle on this. I know a lot of teams have gone to giving everybody two days off a week. Right now, just about everybody except some of my key people like crew chiefs and key chassis people and some key fabricators are getting a day off. Car owners don't get many days off. I've got to find a way to get enough people so my guys can do this successfully and have a life, too. I think the way that's going to be done is to have some inhouse training programs to bring some young guys in and set up actual educational or internships to where you can get some good smart young people and teach them. You're going to have to have a road crew and shop crew, but there's going to have to be some overlaps so the road crew guys communicate with the shop guys. As the schedule does increase, you're not going to keep the good people in this business. It comes a point when they do reach a level of success, they win a lot of races and they win championships and it's not a lot of fun anymore, they're going to go do something else. I want to make sure when I can get my guys to that level, they're having a good time, too.
"When Joe Montana was quarterback of the 49ers, he won Super Bowls. He left and then Steve Young won Super Bowls with the 49ers. Does that mean Joe Montana wasn't a good quarterback or the 49ers weren't a good football team? I did my job good. Jeff (Gordon) did his job great. I think I was a good crew chief. I was a part of that, but I was only a part of it, just like everybody else over there. Jeff is the biggest part of it, and sometimes he doesn't give himself enough credit. I did my job, and I feel proud of that. Now, I've got to make sure I do my job as a car owner. Sometimes the media runs out a little bit and doesn't look at the whole picture. Why did it have to be one or the other? Couldn't it just have been a good team. I like to think that's what it was. Jeff is the best race car driver that's come along in a long time, and people don't give him enough credit. On the other hand, there's a lot of good people on that team. The more I become a car owner, and the more things I have to do to make my teams successful, I realize how good Rick Hendrick is at what he does, just keeping his people together. That's 75 percent of your responsibility as a car owner, keeping your people together, giving them what they need to do their jobs. Jeff and Rick and Ray and the rest of the team is just a great team, and they're certainly on their way to doing that again.
"Probably I've made the mistake of meddling sometimes when I shouldn't have, and it's hard. The first thing you want to do when you're not running where you think you should be running is jump back in to where you had a comfort level, and that's not really the right thing to do. To be a good crew chief, you've got to be 100 percent with that car. Period. You can't jump in and out. When I made my mind up that I wasn't going to do that any more, I need to stand back and put as much effort into being a car owner as I did in becoming a crew chief. I had to work very hard to become a good crew chief. At that time I had a lot of support to help me learn. What I've got to do now, is concentrate on the things that are going to make me a good car owner and hang out with the people... I used to hang out with the Jimmy Fennigs and Tony Glovers and Andy Petrees, those are the people who helped me become a good crew chief. Now I need to start hanging out with the Richard Childresses and Rick Hendrickses and people like that and figure out how to become a good car owner.
"I think my situation is unique. I guess Andy Petree's deal is close. Everybody wants to see me, and I still actually manage the race teams. I'm at the shop everyday and bounce between the engine shop and deal with all my employees. I can't keep doing all the things I'm doing. That won't work."
BOB WILDBERGER (Senior Manager, NASCAR Operations -- Dodge Motorsports)
"The truth of the matter is, going back to the beginning of the program, when we made the agreements and presentations to our dealers, it began in March 1999. We proposed having two red Dodges, we didn't know who the owner would be, and several other Dodges that would be supported by other primary sponsors. The dealers and the corporation joined together to fund the program and support the program and they adopted that presentation and properly funded everything. I can't be more proud of how jointly we've supported the entire program and we'll continue to. I can assure you that all of the programs we have going with our Dodge teams are long term, multi-year agreements that our dealers and corporation have mutually signed up to. We're very proud to have the two red Dodges, and they're here to stay. But, if McDonald's or someone wants to support another Dodge, they'd be welcome. They'd be a good partner.
"It would be nice to have other teams change over to Dodge. That's the ultimate compliment on the type of job our current teams have done and the type of job we've done. If our report card in eyes of other sponsors and team owners is good enough that they'll change over to a Dodge, that'd be great. We'd love to see that field change over to Dodge. That's the mark of success. Quite frankly, it gives us a way to work with other new partners as we're working with current partners and leverage the program. Everyone reaps the benefits of that when we can partner with other sponsors.
"I won't pretend there hasn't been questions raised. We've got a big job to do right now. We've got a big elephant here, and we need to take a bite at a time. We need to focus on that win as opposed to other areas right now, but other sponsors and team owners, it would be a compliment if they would change.
"The rule changes seem to have done something to the Dodge. If you're not in clean air, you can't run up there like you'd like to or should be able to. We need to do some more work and figure that out. We're not satisfied with it by any means. We don't have the exact answer right now. The team owners and drivers all came back and told us what they felt in traffic. We need to make a change there somewhere.
"It's exciting. This is a huge program. Anyone who thinks any manufacturer is going to jump in this thing and I think it was hopeful to be competitive out of the box. We were and still are. To think we were going to start winning right out of the box with a new motor, new car, new teams, new manufacturer, new engineering organization behind it would be silly. You can't ask for more than to be competitive. Now that we're about at the midway point, I can tell you the pressure is on to get that first win. The moment we get that, the pressure will be on to get the second win. That's racing. We're doing everything we can to secure that first win right now."