DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 18, 2001 - Dodge is back in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. An absence of more than 15 years ended today as 10 Dodge Intrepid R/Ts competed in the series' premier event, the Daytona 500. Not only was Dodge in the ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 18, 2001 - Dodge is back in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. An absence of more than 15 years ended today as 10 Dodge Intrepid R/Ts competed in the series' premier event, the Daytona 500.
Not only was Dodge in the race, but Dodge drivers set the pace for much of the afternoon as Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin and Ward Burton led 90 of the race's 200 laps. Burton, with 53 laps at the front, and Marlin with 36, each led more laps than any other driver.
When the checkered flag few and the dust settled after the race's two major wrecks, Dodge drivers had captured three spots in the top 10. Pole winner Elliott finished 5th in his Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T, third-place starter Marlin was 7th, in his Coors Light Intrepid R/T, and outside-pole winner Stacy Compton was10th in his Kodiak Dodge Intrepid R/T.
The other Dodge drivers and their unofficial finishing positions were:
16. Kyle Petty (No. 45), Sprint PCS Dodge Intrepid R/T, started 28th
20. Casey Atwood (No. 19), Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T, started 21st
29. Buckshot Jones (No. 44), Georgia-Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T, started 29th
34. Jason Lefler (No. 01), Cingular Wireless Dodge Intrepid R/T, started 15th
35. Ward Burton (No. 22), Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T, started 10th
39. John Andretti (No. 43), Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T, started 35th
42. Dave Blaney (No. 93), Amoco Dodge Intrepid R/T, started 20th
"We came out unscathed, and I was tickled," said Elliott. "We had a good day. Fifth ain't nothing to go out of Daytona and hang your head about.
"I'm pleased with the Dodge, especially for the first race," continued Elliott. "A couple of Dodges had a good shot at winning today. I'm not real sure what happened, but we got three of 'em in the top 10, and I guess I ended up with the best Dodge finish. That was quite a surprise."
"We know we had a good race car, but there were four or five Chevys out there, and I knew I was in trouble (at the end)," said Marlin. "I couldn't get any help. Ken Schrader helped us a lot, but with Michael Waltrip blocking, Earnhardt blocking and Earnhardt Jr. blocking, well, that's what you're supposed to do, and there just wasn't much I could do.
"We had a good car today," continued Marlin. "We got lucky and got our lap back, and we led a lot of the race. I knew I had a car that was capable of winning, but that's the way it goes. It was a good start for Dodge. I wish we could have won it for 'em. That would have been the way to start, but we've got 35 more chances."
"The car got better and better all day long," added Compton. "The first time out with a new manufacturer, we weren't sure what they were going to need. It was a good day for the Kodiak Melling Dodge.
"To come down here, my second time here, to run the Daytona 500 with basically a new team and a new crew chief, new team members, new manufacturer, to come out and qualify and run the way we ran, we're pretty happy with it."
"We grew up a lot this week," said Tim Culbertson, program manager for Dodge NASCAR Winston Cup Engineering. "From being an infant program, the first time out, taking a pole, winning a 125, having a legitimate shot at winning the Daytona 500, leading nearly half of the race, I think we went from being one year old to about 21 this week. It's (the results) a real tribute to the one-team concept and the engineering effort."
Regrettably, today's race was also marred by the death of one of stock car racing's most popular drivers, Dale Earnhardt. The seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Champion was killed in a crash on the last lap of the race.
The next race on the schedule for the Dodge Intrepid R/T is Sunday, Feb. 25, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. The race will be broadcast at 1 p.m. (Eastern) on FOX.