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NASCAR/Dodge Weekly News: April 2001

(by Lawrence A. Cole)

Truck news | the main racing page

Contents: Virginia 500 - April 8 | DirectTV 500 - April 2

Virginia 500 (April 8, 2001)

Location: Martinsville Speedway

Track: .526 miles, banking 12 degrees

It was to be the test that the nay-sayers of Dodge looked forward to. Although the Dodge had shown to be competitive, and durable, the doubters all pointed to Martinsville and said "They won't last." Martinsville puts a tremendous burden on an engine. The constant up and down of rpms from 5000 to 9000, low gears, and heat, were all to be the doom of the Dodge engine. Or so it was thought.

The day and track would prove once and for all, that Dodge is back.

Motor vehicle Team Vehicle Crew Photo caption

Once again, Casey Atwood would be Dodge's highest qualifier starting in the 14th position, and Sterling Marlin, who had been the banner man for Dodge all year, was mired back in 31st starting spot. Marlin, who is more known for his superspeedway prowlness rather then his short track racing, was given little chance by the racing "experts". Bill Elliott qualified in 17th as the second highest Dodge entry. And once again, a Dodge failed to qualify when Jason Leffler could not get up to speed. Following the race, Chip Ganassi changed crew chiefs on the 01 Dodge in hopes of finding a better combination to work with young Leffler.

Martinsville is a racetrack where track position is everything, and it was to prove it once again on race day. Passing was difficult at best, and required the drivers to stick the nose of the car into a hole that might not be there, making for a long day for many drivers. The entire Petty fleet would need major repairs before the day was over, with all three cars being involved in various mishaps.

Atwood was running a strong race in 10th, when Dale Jarrett, someone not known for his impatience, ran into the back of Atwood, and virtually ended Atwood's day at that point. Atwood would stumble home in 26th.

Ward Burton continued to struggle, and found himself laps down after being spun from behind. Marlin, on the other hand, was using exceptional fast pit stops and pit strategy, to work his way up front, and took over the lead on lap 182 and held it until lap 201. This made Marlin one of only 2 drivers to lead every race this year. Heat however started to take its toll on Marlin, as his feet and legs were burning up in the car. Bags of ice were being given to Marlin at every stop, and a temporary heat shield was made for his legs and passed onto him during his pit stops. As the laps wore down, Marlin started to drift back, and finished 5th, moving him back into third in the points standing. Bill Elliott brought his Dodge home in 14th, and Stacy Compton continued to improve, finishing 15th.

Overall Weekend Rating: B-

While Dodge never dominated, nor showed any real strength to win, the Dodge engine made a believer out of everyone. The only engine failure occurred on the Kyle Petty machine. With temperatures that made the inside of the cars over 140 degrees, Dodge engines showed once and for all that they could last in any NASCAR race.

Dodge Finishes:

Sterling Marlin, #40Dodge/Coors Light5th31stRunning
Dave Blaney, # 93Dodge/Amoco29th34thRunning
Bill Elliott, # 9Dodge/Dodge Dealers14th17thRunning
Stacy Compton, # 92Dodge/Kodiak/Cougar15th22ndRunning
Ward Burton, #22Dodge/Caterpillar22nd38thRunning
John Andretti, # 43Dodge/Cheerio's35th40thRunning
Buckshot Jones, # 44Dodge/Georgia Pacific38th27thRunning
Casey Atwood, # 19Dodge/Dodge Dealers36th14thRunning
Kyle PettyDodge/Sprint42nd33rdEngine

Failed to Qualify: Jason Leffler, #01, Cingular Dodge

Dodge Laps Led: Marlin - 20

Pit notes:

With the next week off, all eyes turned to Talladega, and the changes made to the Dodge aero package. One driver, Stacy Compton, was very vocal against the rule change, and has expressed his "displeasure" regarding them. Only time will tell if his complaints are founded, or if the rule changes will indeed hurt the Dodge effort.
DirecTV 500, (April 2, 2001)

  • Location: Texas Motor Speedway
  • Track: 1.5 miles, banking 24 degrees

Sir Isaac Newton once said, "What goes up, must come down". After a strong run at Bristol, Dodge teams were flying high. Was it now time for the Dodges to come back down to earth?

When it came to qualifying, it was definitely not a Dodge day. First on the track was Dave Blaney, who had shown the 11th fastest time in practice. His qualifying time would start him 43rd on the field. It could only get better from there, but not much.

The worse event of practice would happen, of course, to a Dodge. John Andretti, who was the fourth fastest in practice, was schedule to make his qualifying run right after the #24 of Jeff Gordon. During Gordon's first lap, as he went through turns 3 and 4, the #24 car dropped a bunch of fluid on the track. NASCAR, not bothering to look at the track, even after Gordon almost lost control of his car in the same corner during the second qualifying lap, asked Gordon if it was just water that came from his car. Gordon, not knowing any better, said he thought so, so NASCAR, in its wisdom, sent out Andretti. Andretti, working up to speed, hit the fluid, and almost put his car into the wall. Aborting his qualifying run, Andretti pulled into the pits, and NASCAR sent its clean up crew to the corner, where it was discovered that it was a mix of water and oil on the track. Then, NASCAR, adding insult to injury, refused to let Andretti change his oil soaked tires, and sent him back out to qualify.

The end result was Andretti pancaking the car, and showing the fans, once again, that NASCAR doesn't care about driver safety.

After qualifying, it was Dodge's turn to complain about the NASCAR rules. "It's pretty obvious we need some changes made," said Dodge driver Stacy Compton. "Four Dodges took provisionals and one of them went home. That tells me we need a little help in some different places."

Who would have thought then, that a Dodge would put on the best show of the race?

The start of the race found Blaney and Andretti quickly moving up. From his 43rd starting spot, Blaney worked his way up to the 19th spot when the first caution flag flew. For Blaney, it was the worst thing that could happen, especially when he got together with another car in the pits, and hurt the handling of the car. After the green dropped, Blaney quickly fell back, and got lapped by the leaders. But Blaney was not done yet. Each pit stop they worked on his car, and once again, he was the fastest car on the track.

Now he needed some help. Each caution that flew would find Blaney on the inside of the race leader, but he couldn't get the run he needed to get ahead of them.

His break came when fellow Dodge driver Sterling Marlin inherited the lead, making him only one of two drivers to lead every race this season (Mark Martin being the other). On the restart, Marlin let Blaney get ahead of him, and now Blaney needed a caution to let him catch back up to the rest of the field. A spin by rookie Andy Houston was just what Blaney needed, and with the race down to that last 125 laps, Blaney was now once again on the lead lap. But trouble would soon strike him again. With the caution flying again, Blaney entered pit road ahead of Rusty Wallace who was pitted directly in front of Blaney. Behind Blaney's pit stall was Sterling Marlin.

As Blaney went to turn into his pit stall, Rusty Wallace decided to dive underneath Blaney to get into his pit stall. The ensuing mess could only be ignored by someone like NASCAR. Wallace, seeing Blaney diving down into his spot, hit the brakes, and turned to the left, straight into two crew members of Marlin, tossing one of them into the air as he came around the front of Marlin's car. Wallace yanked the car back, this time into the Blaney car.

When the mess was all settled, Marlin ended up restarting back in 11th, and Blaney back in 15th. Marlin's crew member was treated for an ankle injury, and would later return to the pits on crutches. Wallace was not penalized for his actions, and would be later a subject of agitation by Marlin.

The restart quickly showed the problem of Marlin's restart position, as he was "punted" by Todd Bodine, who had done the same thing the day before during the Busch race at Texas. Marlin's crash would drop him to a 34th place finish, prompting Marlin to say, "Todd Bodine got me from behind ... then Rusty comes in and knocks out half our pit crew guys and they don't penalize him. It's crazy, but that's what happens when you go up against a bunch of idiots."

With laps winding down, the caution flag would fly for the last time. And Blaney, gambling at his only shot for a win and track position, took on two tires, and restarted fifth. With the green flag waving, Blaney made his move, and worked his way up to third, and challenging for the lead. But his run was to fall short when he had to back off when trying to move to the lead, lost momentum, and the cars with 4 fresh tires got by him, moving Blaney back to a finishing position of sixth. For Dodge fans it was an incredible run, starting 43, falling a lap down, and moving back to the front and making a bid for the lead in the closing laps. It was too bad that Fox never noticed Blaney until the very end, promoting many people to complain to Fox about their race bias during their broadcast.

Overall Weekend Rating: B+

How can you rate this weekend anything less when you have two Dodges with a chance to win, and a run by Blaney that had veteran race people shaking their heads in amazement?

Dodge Finishes:

Dave Blaney, # 93Dodge/Amoco6th 43rdRunning
Bill Elliott, # 9Dodge/Dodge Dealers14th39thRunning
Stacy Compton, # 92Dodge/Kodiak/Cougar15th26thRunning
Jason Leffler, # 01Dodge/Cingular17th29thRunning
Ward Burton, #22Dodge/Caterpillar21st28thRunning
John Andretti, # 43Dodge/Cheerio's31st40thRunning
Buckshot Jones, # 44Dodge/Georgia Pacific33rd24thRunning
Sterling Marlin, #40Dodge/Coors Light34th37thAccident
Casey Atwood, # 19Dodge/Dodge Dealers36th10thRunning

Failed to Qualify: Kyle Petty, #45, Dodge, Sprint, 6th Started
, Started Running
, Started Running

Dodge Laps Led: Marlin - 5

Pit notes (chassis dyno testing):

Several cars were chassis dyno tested by NASCAR following the Texas race. The Blaney engine tested as having more horsepower then the 2 Jack Roush Fords engines, however, the Robert Yates Ford engine, and the Chevrolet engines tested, had greater horsepower than the Dodge.

The results are in from the wind tunnel tests, and showed exactly what most people have thought all along. The Dodge has a downforce problem in the corners. Results of the test were as follows:

Test #1: Tested at inspection height, and with the nose taped off as for qualifying, at 3 degrees of yaw, slightly sideways as in entering a corner:

#18 (Pontiac)-1,344lbs of total downforce
#88 (Ford)-1340lbs
#24 (Chevrolet)-1331lbs
#40 (Dodge)-1325lbs

Test #2:Tested with the nose lowered, in more of a real-race situation:
#88 (Ford)-1521lbs of downforce
#40 (Dodge)-1481lbs
#18 (Pontiac)-1456lbs
#24 (Chevrolet)-1432lbs

Test 3 Drag Comparison - horsepower needed reach 200-mph in the wind tunnel:
#24 (Chevrolet)-505
#88 (Ford)-513
#40 (Dodge)-517
#18 (Pontiac)-538

The contents of this page are copyright © 2001 by Lawrence A. Cole All rights reserved. (The copyright notice following reflects the status of header and footer content).

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