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
C’mon, Dodge Boys. Settle Down
Let’s talk peeps. With the elimination of seemingly countless Dodge body parts by the use of the NASCAR Car Of Tomorrow, (now the ONLY car) it’s time to look at Dodge’s other most important asset of their racing program. That would be your peeps, people or personnel. Unfortunately, that situation has been as messed up as the choice of body panels (see last month).
It’s time to settle down, boys. Any good racer knows you don’t get no winnin’ results when you’re changing around your team members ever other week. Folks need time to get used to their jobs; not as much how to do it, but how to work in a team and its members, dig? If you’re Billy Bob and you’re a tire changer, the only diff you’ll see when working for a new team are the colors of the fender, wheels and the sleeves of your new uniform. But back at the shop, ya gotta learn where your locker is, where the can is, and what your boss wants you to do that day. Even those overpaid guys in stick and ball sports will tell you any team has to GEL. We didn’t say CHILL, we mean GEL. Everybody’s got to get used to everybody else and learn how to work together before the train can get to moving, ya know? Hell, it’s no more complicated than getting all the pistons moving at the right time.
If you look at the traffic pattern around the Dodge teams the last two years, it looks like lab mice on diet pills. They was running from one shop to another and back again to the first shop. It didn’t seem to matter if it was a crew chief or shock guy, a driver or another engineer. Speaking of that, you’d think Ray Evernham’s team (now officially called Gillette Evernham) was NASA of North Carolina with all the engineers they keep hiring. Maybe they got enough now and can get back to winning.
The same holds true for another big ‘ol Dodge team; Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates and their ‘revolving door.’ I can remember when it was a big deal Felix started the year with all the same studs he had on the team the year before. Now it seems like one of these days, Ol Chip Ganassi is gonna drive to work, sit down with his cup of Joe and fire himself. It’s only a matter of time, ya know.
What we’re trying to say here is: settle down, kids, and get back to racing. Whatever happened to run what you brung? That can include people, too, ya know. Let the Sharpie ink on their locker dry before running ‘em off and bringing in another warm body. All you have to do is look over at that #48 team and see the same old faces wining the same old championship. Why do you think Rick Hendrick wants to sign Jimmie Johnson to a lifetime contract just like he done with Jeffy Gordon? Can you name a Dodge driver with one of those? Nope, neither can I.
Consistency is SUCH a big player in our sport and it’s on all levels. You need a consistent driver to drive consistently built and prepared cars with consistently performing motors. Do you think the old saying, ‘Ya gotta finish the race to win the damn thing’ was said by a crew chief that was happy his car was on the wrong side of the tow hook? No sir!
And as for all those new drivers coming from open wheel, (Hey, how DID they all end up in Dodges anyway??? What the hell happened there???) don’t you think they’re gonna need some time to learn this here stock car thing? Lemme see. I’m driving a car that weighs a tad over 1500 lbs and has 650 horsepower and I switch to one that weighs 3800 lbs and 900 horsepower. You think those power-to-weight ratios are the same as me switching from my John Deere to the boss’s V-10 Viper? We’ll spare you the math and tell you those power ratios are more than double. Damn! Then I go from running road courses to high banked coffee cups like Bristol with not 19 cars around me but 42! And these guys are beating and banging on each other like it’s nickel shot night at Archie’s Bar. Talk about your culture shock.
Yeah, those boys are some of the best in the business but they ain’t gonna set the world on fire come Daytona no matter how many testing miles they done got under their butts. They’re gonna have to learn, just like everyone else. And that means they’ll likely go through some inventory and some people will get impatient waiting on them to go on up there and race. And, like other sports, sacrifices will be made, heads will roll and somebody ends up cleaning out their desk. Ya see how it works?
Anyway, here’s to the Dodges developing the consistency they so sorely need. And it would most likely help if all those owners out there would think twice about keeping their people long enough to learn the job AND do it before they blow ‘em outta there, huh? I mean, things were bad enough last year to begin with. At Daytona, Evernham Motorsports (Dodges 9, 10 and 19) started the season with negative points after being slapped with penalties from NASCAR. We wonder if anyone swung for that or is it still considered a badge of courage to get spanked by NASCAR at Daytona? Chad Knaus has been put on double secret probation more times than John Belushi in Animal House reruns. But Chad also has TWO championships on his resume. Come to think of it, didn’t Chad originally come from Evernham? Hmmm….