| ||CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ray Evernham's new team might be on track sooner than expected, although it won't be with the new Dodge Intrepid R/T Winston Cup car.
Evernham, meeting Wednesday with the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway, said his team, which is in the early stages of developing the new Dodge stock car for competition in 2001, likely will get on-track experience this year by entering some NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events.
The truck series is the only division in which Dodge is currently entered.|
"We're going to take a look at the truck series so we can run a Dodge," Evernham said.
Evernham, who guided Jeff Gordon to 47 race wins and three Winston Cup championships, left Hendrick Motorsports last fall to head Dodge's re-entry into NASCAR's top series after a 15-year absence.
"I don't know how many races we'll run or where we'll run, but the main reason for running a truck is to give the team, particularly the pit crew, some race day experience," Evernham said.
The former crew chief plans to debut two of the new Intrepids, sponsored by the Dodge Dealers and the UAW, in the 2001 Daytona 500. Until then, the work will be nonstop.
"Our management structure is firmly in place with people who have been on championship teams," Evernham said. "We have a lead engine builder, lead car builders, and the rest of the team is coming together.
"We're further ahead than a lot of people expected. The key to success of this project was having a solid plan on paper before we ever got it rolling."
Evernham's management group at Evernham Motorsports includes vice president and general manager Ed Guzzo, former chief mechanic for Gordon; chief engine builder Ron Vicarro, who helped the late Alan Kulwicki win a Winston Cup title; lead fabricator Bill Dees; chassis shop foreman Butch Lameroux; and Chad Knaus, who will be the car chief for Evernham's test program. Dees, Lameroux and Knaus all were part of Gordon's Rainbow Warriors crew.
Dodge introduced a prototype of the race car Tuesday at the Detroit Auto Show, but Evernham said his team currently is working with wind tunnel models and plans to have a car ready for on-track testing by the end of March or early April.
The finished product will have to be approved by NASCAR before it is allowed to compete.
"We're working with NASCAR on this project," Evernham said. "We're sending them an outline of what we're doing before we go to the wind tunnel and we're sending them the numbers when we get back.
"We'll keep them informed of every step because we can't afford to put in all this time, money and work and not come up with a finished product that is approved."
Evernham said that hiring drivers is a long way off.
|The Dodge Intrepid R/T was unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show at Detroit's Cobo Center.