I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Dodges and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC
Dang, ‘Nother Dodge Rebuilding Year!
OK, it’s time to do like Granddaddy always said and ‘Grab the bull by the tail and face the situation.’ Ready? Here we go!
Right now in NASCAR, Dodge can’t find its butt with both hands.
Ouch, that hurt. Yep, this past sorry season can be chalked up as a rebuilding year for Dodge. Isn’t that what they say in those stick and ball sports when teams bite the big one?
What a shame. Let’s see how we done got to this dismal point. Back when Dodge returned to NASCAR, they came in like gangbusters. They smartly snatched up Ray Evernham to run the point. They built whatever they needed to get the job done. And more importantly, they kept on doing what they needed to get better.
An example of that is the first gen Dodge R5-P7 motor. We never did find out the actual number, but those first motors done weighed 30 to 60 lbs more than the Chevys or Fords. You might be thinking, ‘so what, all the cars weigh the same’ and you’d be right. But that extra, let’s just say, 45 lbs was in the already-heavy front of the car and up around the centerline of the wheels. That means all those top secret chassis set-ups teams had from racing those other cars were about as useful as celebrity rehab. Well, they did lose all that weight and, shazam, that’s when they started winning in year one and two.
Along came a new season and a new body and then, the new Charger. Well, that stopped those Dodges quicker than a cute hitchhiker in shorts. By the time they got regrouped, some of the Dodge teams went all Civil War on us and ran the old body instead of the new one. Of course, that didn’t make for a very good united team front, with everybody going in different directions. So Chevy and Ford picked ‘em clean with the classic divide and conquer technique. Racing rule; wasted time and effort doesn’t just slow you down, it makes you go backwards – and damn fast!
Lemme tell you a NASCAR fact. It’s the team that can think forward that wins. That means you’ve got to have all of today’s ‘stuff’ in the bag before you can start looking on down the road, dig? So, I’m guessing the Dodge kids got all bogged down with the Intrepid (some said Insipid) and then the Charger (some called it the Barger). Now add in that nose that caught more hot dog wrappers than checkered flags and you got yourself a big ‘ol honkin’ fire in the barn. So Dodge politics NASCAR for a new nose but NASCAR says sumptin’ like “Naw, that’s the one you wanted. You gotta use it.’”
That’s how Dodge got to where they are today, fussing with all those different body pieces. Hell, it’s kinda like one great big jigsaw puzzle. By the time they figured out one body, they’d start using another. And then, they’d change the nose or sumptin’ else like going back to the old body. And before they knew one piece wasn’t gettin’ the job done, they’d already be down a bunch of laps. Then NASCAR throws the Car Of Tomorrow (COT) at ‘em and they got another body to figure out. Well, all of this was like trying to just drain the swamp and finding yourself up to your ass in alligators.
Now, I’m not talking outta school here. Every Dodge stud in the garage knows where they are today. And they know where they’ve got to go to get outta Dodge, as it were. Kasey Kahne said, “It’s been a long year. It’s been a disappointing year. It’s over and now we go to work on 2008, preparing for Daytona and the new season. We only have one car to work with next year. He also said, “…As far as next year goes, that’s up (to) the guys. It’s up to the guys building the cars, engineers and the people at Gillett Evernham. If they want to get things turned around and figure it out it’s up to them.” Man, can you see the frustration just dripping offa that statement?
Kasey got specific about ’07 and said, “Just that we were slow. I mean nothing else. We didn’t really crash too much or do too many things that weren’t smart. At the end of the day we were just slow.” Ouch again.
Elliott Sadler, another Dodge guy who always speaks his mind, summed it up with, “It’s been a long season for everyone and not the kind of season we expected when we went to Daytona in February. We have work to do this winter. We just have to put this year behind us and get to work on 2008.”
But there’s hope. Sadler (among others) thinks the COT will be the answer and maybe even Dodge’s salvation when he says, “We have to figure out these COT cars. We have just fallen behind on that a little bit. With the COT car the driver is really taken out of the equation. You can’t manhandle the thing. What you got is what you got. That’s why the drivers don’t like them very much. They drive you instead of you driving them. So we just have to get our stuff a little better and that is going to take a lot of testing, a lot of time on the track this winter. Once we get that figured out I think we’ll have a better idea.”
So it sounds like the COT might just put all those Dodge problems out of their misery. With that Pentagon-like inventory of body pieces now obsolete, they can focus on just one body and maybe get back to winning. More importantly, the guys all know what the problem is. They just need to do it. Ain’t that halfway up the road to fixin’ it?
Oh well, at least the Dodges ran better than those Tie-Yoda’s…