Ganassi's contingent of drivers include Sterling Marlin,
Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears.
Photo: Pete McCole
The 2002 UAW-GM Motorsports Tour
hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway continued on Wednesday,
highlighted by visits with three of NASCAR’s Winston Cup
Dodge organizations - Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates,
Bill Davis Racing and Petty Enterprises.
Ganassi Racing with Felix
Sabates led off day three with a breakfast/press conference,
featuring drivers Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray and Casey
For Marlin, the 2002 season
might be remembered for what he didn’t accomplish, rather
than what he did.
Marlin was leading the Daytona
500 when a run in with Jeff Gordon, less than ten laps from
the finish, damaged his right front fender. During an
ensuing red flag, Marlin exited his parked car to pull the
damaged fender away from his right front tire, earning him a
penalty from NASCAR that cost him the win.
After leading the points
standings for 24 consecutive weeks, Marlin and the No. 40
Coor’s Light team ran into a spate of bad luck, finishing
21st or worse in four races last September. Marlin dropped
to fifth in points before a season-ending neck at Kansas
Watching from the sidelines is
not how Marlin wanted his season to end.
“It was really tough for me to
sit out at the end of last season,” said Marlin. “It was
really disappointing, but that’s part of racing. It just
makes me more determined to get back in the car this year.”
Ganassi will field three cars
for the 2003 season. Moving up from the Busch Series to join
Marlin will be the newest young guns, rookies Jamie McMurray
and Casey Mears.
A virtual unknown when it was
announced he would join Ganassi Racing for the 2003 season,
McMurray got a trial by fire when he was tapped to fill in
for the injured Sterling Marlin. McMurray pulled off one of
the greatest upsets in NASCAR history, taking the checkered
flag at Lowe’s Motor Speedway last October in only his
second Winston Cup start.
Despite the victory, McMurray
doesn’t believe he should be judged based on the successes
of last year’s rookie class.
“I think everyone is trying to
compare Casey and I and the other rookies to Ryan (Newman)
and Jimmie (Johnson), and what they did last year,” said
McMurray said, ”I don’t know if that’s a fair way to look at
us. We need to be judged on our own accomplishments.”
Casey Mears, nephew of four-time
Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, joins the likes of other
famous names from the open-wheeled ranks, such as Andretti
and Foyt, who have made the jump to stock cars.
“I’m looking forward to getting
started this year,” said Mears, after just one season in
stock cars driving on the Busch Series. “All of us want to
win races. We all want to sit on poles. We all want to
winchampionships, but being a rookie, we need to find some
A sneak peak inside of the Bill Davis Racing shop.
Photo: Pete McCole
Next stop on the tour was a trip
to High Point, N.C. to the shops of Bill Davis Racing. BDR
went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in 2002
- winning the Daytona 500 and then experiencing a run of bad
luck that dropped them to a 25th-place finish in the
Owner Bill Davis hopes to put
all that behind him this season.
“We had our best year and our
worst year all rolled into one last season,” Davis said. “We
won a couple of big races, but just didn’t put it together
the rest if the year. We were really inconsistent, had
mechanical failures that were very unusual for us, problems
we’ve never really had to face, but hopefully we’re past all
The lead driver at Davis Racing,
Ward Burton, is confident that he can build on the new
foundation laid his car owner, including the addition of new
crew chief, Frank Stoddard.
“I have a really fresh attitude
for this season,” said Burton, when asked if he could bring
anything new to the team in 2003. “I think what Bill and
Gail Davis have brought to the team is a lot more important
than what I can bring. Frankie is a huge addition with the
experience, enthusiasm and focus he brings to the team.”
Kenny Wallace, with sponsor
Stacker 2, will continue to drive the No. 23 Dodge in 2003.
Wallace replaced Hut Stricklin with ten races remaining in
2002 and has high hopes he and crew chief Phillipe Lopez can
capitalize on the time spent getting to know each other last
Richard Petty, Kyle Petty and John Andretti meet the
Photo: Pete McCole
The final stop of the day was a
trip to the hallowed grounds of Petty Enterprises, which has
been operating out of their current race shops since 1952.
Having struggled more than any
of the other Dodge teams, picking up only two top-10
finishes among its three teams in 2002, Petty Enterprises
CEO Kyle Petty believes the team has finally turned things
“We’ve been down, but we’re on
our way back,” said Petty. “We’ve stepped back, regrouped,
and reorganized. We’re not a championship contender, but we
are capable of putting our cars in victory lane. We feel we
can get there and knock on that door. We’ve set goals for
ourselves and we’re going to reach those goals.”
The team parted ways with team
manager Robin Pemberton during the off-season, and pared its
three-car operation down to two, with Georgia-Pacific coming
on board the No. 45 Dodge. The team has also re-signed John
Andretti, who will return for his fifth season as driver of
the #43 Cheerios Dodge.
Petty Enterprises is still
seeking sponsorship that will allow them to enter Christian
Fittipaldi to run several ARCA, Busch, and possibly a few
Winston Cup races this season. Fittipaldi will run the
Daytona 500 as the driver of Andy Petree’s No. 55 Monaco
Coaches Chevrolet, but remains under contract to Petty
Just before the presentation by
Petty Enterprises, MNPA President Kenny Bruce presented a
check for $4,000 to Kyle and Pattie Patty. The money is a
donation to the Victory Junction Camp being built in honor
of Adam Petty. Construction at the camp is going full speed
ahead. The camp is scheduled to open in summer of 2004.
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