UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour - Day 1
by Pete McCole

January 21, 2003

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Ray Evernham likened the quest for Winston Cup success to that of a Rubik's Cube.
Photo: Pete McCole

The UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway began its 20th year on Monday, kicking off four days of press conferences and media events featuring NASCAR’s top teams.

Evernham Motorsports started off the Day One activities on Monday. Team owner Ray Evernham, along with his drivers Bill Elliott, driver of the #9 Dodge, and Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the #19 Dodge were on hand to talk to the assembled media.

Evernham Motorsports continues to spearhead Dodge’s Winston Cup effort, in keeping with the “team” concept adopted by all the Dodge teams when the nameplate returned to Winston Cup in 2001. All 12 Dodge teams share information and recourses, taking advantage of Dodge’s new state-of-the-art research facility located near the Evernham Motorsports shops in Statesville, N.C.

“From the business side, we made good progress (in 2002),” said Evernham. “Performance-wise, we missed some of our goals. We failed to put a (Dodge) driver in the top ten in points. We didn’t get the #19 into victory lane.”

Evernham used a Rubik’s Cube to help demonstrate what his team needs to do to find success in the coming year.

“You take all these little squares with color on them and you have to keep twisting it and turning it until you these colors to line up,” Evernham said. “Everything you need to win the game is right there on the cube, but it’s up to you to make the right moves to get the colors to line up.”

“We’ve made some right moves, we’ve made some not so right moves, but we’re still turning and we’re getting closer to get our colors to line up.”

Evernham then took a moment for a tongue-in-cheek jab at the many rules changes NASCAR has made in the past season.

“And just when you make the right moves, the Rubik’s Cube officials come along and change the sides, colors, and shapes of the cube.”

Elliott, entering his 27th Winston Cup season, won back-to-back races at Pocono and Indianapolis, but four straight finishes of 30th or worse in five of the last six races of the season dropped him to a 15th-place showing in the final standings.

“Today is a whole different world,” Elliott said. “You’re looking for any little edge you can possibly get. That’s different from 20 years ago. In ’85, there were 11 of us (in the shop) and we ran ourselves to death. From where it was back then to where it is today is pretty unreal.”

Mayfield continued to struggle for much of the 2003 season, notching only two top-5’s and four top-10’s.

“A year ago, I didn’t know what to expect.” Mayfield said of signing on with Evernham for 2002. “There were many things I wasn’t sure about. I was confident, but I wasn’t as confident as I am now.

“I know Ray, I know what direction he’s going in, and I know we can win races, and I know we have the people to do it. There are no excuses this year.”

Evernham announced he’d be stepping back to work closely with Dodge engineers in motor development, turning more of the daily operations to technical director Dr. Eric Warren.

Members of the media lined up to tour the RYR shop.
Photo: Pete McCole

Next on the tour schedule was a trip to Robert Yates Racing at the new shop in Mooresville, N.C., which now houses the #38 M&M’s team as well as the #88 UPS team.

“(The idea) was to get both teams back under one roof,” said RYR General Manager Doug Yates. “We’ve made quite a few changes with the new shop and new structure. We have a new car and new sponsor with Elliott Sadler and M&Ms. One of our goals is to give M&Ms its first win in the Winston Cup Series. We want to take them to Victory Lane.”

Sadler’s youth and driving style reminded Doug Yates of another legendary young driver.

“Elliott’s ready to take on this role.” Yates said, “We see a lot of things in Elliott that we saw in D.J. and Davey Allison.”

Elliott Sadler comes over from the Wood Brothers team, essentially swapping rides with Ricky Rudd, who left Yates at the end of last season. The new M&M’s sponsored Taurus will sport the #38 this season, marking the first time since 1989 RYR will not field a #28 car

“I just as happy as a kid in a candy store.” Sadler said, with a subtle nod to his sponsor. “I think the way Robert Yates Racing is structured this year is going to bring us great success. We have two young, hungry crew chiefs in Raymond Fox and Brad Parrott, and a great leader in (director of competition) Todd Parrott. I’ll take that setup over anything anybody else has in Winston Cup racing.”

Sadler has set his sights high for the 2003 season.

“I want to win the Winston Cup Championship,” said Sadler. “I want to win it this year I don’t want to wait. If I can’t win it, I want to do everything I can as a teammate so the 88 team can win it.”

For the second time in two years, Jarrett has a new crew chief, with Brad Parrott replacing Jimmy Elledge. Jarrett hopes the change will lead to more consistent finishes in the upcoming season

“We need to be more consistent, cut down on our mistakes, that will allow is to be a better race team.” Yates said, “We had mistakes in all facets of our business last year, from the driver making mistakes, to uncharacteristic mistakes by our engine shops, so we’ve got to cut down on those. That would give us more chances to challenge for a championship.”

UPS announced it has signed a contract extension with Robert Yates Racing, continuing to sponsor the #88 team through 2006. Yates also announced they have signed a new five-year deal with Ford Motor Company and Ford Credit.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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