|Saturday, February 3
|Elliott to run Bud Shootout|
Ray Evernham will bring a brand new team and a couple of the new
Dodge Intrepids to the season-opening Daytona 500. Thanks to driver
Bill Elliott, though, he'll get a little head start on some of the
other teams in the Feb. 18 race.
That's because Elliott qualified to run in next Sunday's
Budweiser Shootout -- a made-for-TV race contested among the
previous year's pole-winners and the leaders of second-round
That race is annually the first head-to-head competition of the
stock car season.
"We'll be guaranteed to be the first Dodge team in a
competitive race, and that's a big plus for my guys here,"
Evernham said Saturday in a telephone press conference. "On top of
that, I think we can learn some things about how the Dodge is
actually going to draft and cool and what our horsepower and things
are like. It should, hopefully, get us a little bit of a head start
for the (Twin) 125s (qualifying races) because you're going to run
out a tank of gas.
"It's going to be 70 laps and you're definitely going to have
to pit and change tires. It'll give my pit crews a workout and
it'll get a 150 miles or so on the race car. We have five speedway
cars built. We have two cars for each driver and an overall
Evernham, who built his impeccable reputation by guiding Jeff
Gordon to 48 wins and three Winston Cup championships, walked away
from the elite Hendrick Motorsports team late in the 1999 season to
oversee Dodge's re-entry into NASCAR's top division after a 16-year
He not only has put together his own two-car team - with 1988
champion Elliott and much-anticipated rookie Casey Atwood as his
drivers - but Elliott has been the guiding light in developing both
the Intrepid race car and the Dodge NASCAR V-8 engine.
As Friday's official opening day of practice on Daytona's
2.5-mile oval approaches, Evernham Motorsports has been scrambling
hard to finish its preparations.
"We are just about ready to go to Daytona," Evernham said.
"We have five superspeedway cars sitting here in red. We're
preparing trucks and trailers and pit equipment and things right
now, putting the final decals and touches on."
The team has done a considerable amount of testing, including
runs at both Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, the two longest
and fastest ovals in NASCAR.
"We were faster at Talladega than we were at Daytona and we
feel like we'll be faster again when we return," Evernham said.
"Every day we're hammering a little harder on the cars and our
restrictor-plate program. At the same time, we've recently tested
Rockingham with Casey, and we're working on our open (engine)
Although his main focus now is on his own team, Evernham is
proud of the work he has done in helping the four other Dodge teams
- Petty Enterprises, Bill Davis Racing, Ganassi Racing and Melling
Racing - develop their new equipment.
"I believe Dodge will win," he said. "There's some Dodges
right now that are running good, and that makes me feel good. I
wish my Dodges were going a little faster, but I have the expansion
"We've handed off a really good product to some good race
teams. I really believe the Dodges are going to be competitive."||