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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

Boys, Start Yer Dodges!

Like my ‘ol pal Bugs Bunny says, “On with the show, this is it!” The lineup for the 2008 Team Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is set and ready to take off at Daytona. And ya know, this is as good a time as any to stand up on my hind legs and say this is the best Dodge has looked going into a new season in about three-four years. No more multiple parts to chase, no more this body or that body. And with the usual driver, crew chief and key personnel game of musical chairs all done, it’s time to put up or shut up. Step up or step aside. Get the picture?

The starting lineup for the 2008 Dodge Chargers.

#2 Kurt Busch, Miller Lite Dodge Charger from Penske Racing
#9 Kasey Kahne, Budweiser Dodge Charger from Gillette Evernham Racing
#10 Patrick Carpentier, Valvoline Dodge Charger from Gillette Evernham Racing
#12 Ryan Newman, Alltel Dodge Charger from Penske Racing
#19 Elliott Sadler, Best Buy/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger from Gillette Evernham Racing
#40 Dario Franchitti, Dodge Charger from Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing
#41 Reed Sorenson, Target Dodge Charger from Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing
#42 Juan Pablo Montoya, Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger from Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing
#43 Bobby Labonte, Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger from Petty Enterprises
#45 Kyle Petty, Wells Fargo/Marathon Dodge Charger from Petty Enterprises
#49 John Andretti, Sponsor TBA, Dodge Charger from BAM Racing
#77 Sam Hornish, Jr., Mobile 1 Dodge Charger from Penske Racing

At first look, we see the usual suspects driving their usual Mopars. But there are three newbies in there that even with my second grade math skills make up a quarter of this gang. Those would be the three guys that came over from open wheel, Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish, Jr. Now, we ain’t countin’ Montoya cuz he already done finished his first year and did pretty good. Yeah, he annoyed enough folks that some called him Juan ‘Problem’ Montoya, but overall, he done right well. Our read on him is he’s a real racer. When he couldn’t get up on his steering wheel, he was pissed. That’s the sign of a real racer in our book. But these new cats with the Indy 500 rings are in for a hell of a time and that brings up a few questions.

With all the teams reunited - so to speak – around their new Charger, one would think they should be all Team Dodge oriented, right? The main idea is to not only stay ahead of Toyota but maybe get back to beating down some Chevys and Fords, right? But I got to thinking (yeah, that can’t be good) that some of the ‘regulars’ might actually be less than happy with this current lineup. They might be thinking those new guys may not be able to contribute to the overall team effort and the regulars have to make up the slack. It’s kinda like my old work picnic when we played tug ‘o war. Now, us guys in the shop had Tiny to help us win. Those guys in the office didn’t have anyone near the size of Tiny. So, we had to ‘spot’ em another half a dozen guys to equal out for ‘ol Tiny. So are some of the Dodge drivers gonna have to ‘spot’ the effort ‘cuz of the new guys? And what happens when a new guy gets put into a bad situation and starts a crash that takes out one of the regulars? How many times is that regular gonna be able to look into a TV camera and say, “That’s racing,” without clenching his teeth and having flames come outta his ears?

Fact: Today’s NASCAR racing is important in EVERY single race. You got to get through this race and grab your points to go on to the next and then get to the Chase and the big bucks. When you’re working on a good finish, much less a win, it’s gotta be a stone cold bitch when someone crashes you out or you’re all caught up in one. Imagine how much worse it is when your factory teammate causes it. Or worse yet, when the wreck is caused by the guy from the other side of your shop. I figure you can only take so many of those before going postal like Uncle Ed – poor guy.  

Dodge teamwork is just as important. You think those cats that now own Dodge are here for fun and games? You think those other companies are? No sirree! They are all here to strut their stuff on Sunday and sell their stuff on Monday just like they been doing for almost 60 years now. They don’t want their effort diluted one single bit. They’re putting MILLIONS into racing, and like any business, they damn well expect a return on their investment. Some of their stockholders are always grinding their butts about how this racing stuff doesn’t sell cars and are looking to axe the racing programs. So teamwork has gotta work!

Now, so’s I don’t sound like the ex, bitchin’ for the sake of bitchin’, Team Dodge actually does have quite a bit going for it this year. First is the new body or, more accurately, the fact that they’re using just one this year. Then comes a renewed interest from the fans in both the new car and even those new drivers. And I’m guessing the new Dodge company sure would like to show off their Sunday best. All this means Dodge is poised to make another comeback from the dead – okay, maybe not dead but certainly the wounded. And time heals all wounds don’t it? It’s time to get racing!

Note: We’re writing this before we head on down to Lowes Motor Speedway for the annual NASCAR Media Tour. We’ll give you a full report on that next month. 

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