Elliott, Dodge state Daytona case


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As Bill Elliott headed into the media room after his extraordinary Daytona 500 pole-winning run yesterday, some wise guy commented that those Dodges sure ran faster without the sandbags.

Elliott grinned, and gave one of those answers that really wasn't an answer.

"All of the sand's on the beach," Elliott said. "I left all that sand on the beach."

Regardless of whether Elliott and his fellow Dodge drivers were showing all of their cards in last month's tests at Daytona International Speedway, it is still a remarkable story.

Fewer than 500 days ago, Ray Evernham was charged with bringing Dodge back into Winston Cup racing 16 years after it had run its last race and 24 years removed from its last victory.

Yesterday, Evernham deserved a bonus. A Dodge was on the pole, and it just happened to be one of the two he owns.

Elliott, who last won a pole at Daytona in 1987, drove his No. 9 Evernham Racing Dodge to a lap at 183.565 mph. Rookie Stacy Compton, after a little "officiating," took the other front-row spot, pushing his No. 92 Melling Dodge to a lap of 182.682.

Jerry Nadeau, driving the No. 25 Chevrolet, posted the second-best time, but his run was disallowed when his car failed to pass the post-qualifying inspection. The roof height, according to Winston Cup director Gary Nelson, was a half-inch too low.

Nadeau must make another try in the second round of qualifying tomorrow, and his Hendrick Motorsports team faces the possibility of a penalty. All of the other teams will be moved up one slot in the qualifying order.

NASCAR confiscated the suspension parts it suspected were at fault, Nelson said, but will not announce a penalty, if there is one, until the parts have been studied further.

It was a big day for the Dodge Boys.

Dale Jarrett (Ford), Tony Stewart (Pontiac) and Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) took the next three spots on the speed chart, but Ward Burton and Sterling Marlin were right behind in Dodges, giving the new guys four of the top seven spots.

A pair of Chevrolets driven by Joe Nemechek and Mike Skinner qualified eighth and ninth, and Ricky Craven's Ford rounded out the top 10.

But, counting the cars of Dave Blaney (15th) and John Andretti (17th), Dodge had six of its 10 cars in the top 17 spots.

Lou Patane, Dodge's vice president of motorsports operations, had a smile as wide as Elliott's.

"Getting to this point was a long, hard job, fulfilled by a lot of folks," Patane said. "Including all of the teams. I couldn't be prouder of where all the Dodges placed."

Jarrett, the winner of two of the past three races at Daytona, was impressed, but not surprised by the Dodges' showing.

"We've said all along that if you give Ray and those type of people that long to build a car, and they weren't hollering when they were down here running 180 miles an hour or 179 in the test ... I told my wife and my dad: 'They're going to be in good shape when we get back,' " Jarrett said.

They are, and Evernham spread the credit around.

"I think it says an awful lot about the Dodge program, in general," he said. "When I came to work for them less than 500 days ago, this engine was on a computer screen. There were no hard parts for it."

Qualifying(Car number in parentheses; x-qualified) 1. (9) x-Bill Elliott, Dodge, 183.565 mph.

2. (92) x-Stacy Compton, Dodge, 182.682.

3. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 182.622.

4. (20) Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 182.534.

5. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 182.474.

6. (22) Ward Burton, Dodge, 182.419.

7. (40) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 182.142.

8. (33) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 182.120.

9. (31) Mike Skinner, Chevrolet, 182.116.

10. (32) Ricky Craven, Ford, 182.076.

11. (10) Johnny Benson, Pontiac, 181.991.

12. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 181.811.

13. (15) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 181.693.

14. (93) Dave Blaney, Dodge, 181.660.

15. (55) Bobby Hamilton, Chevrolet, 181.657.

16. (43) John Andretti, Dodge, 181.576.

17. (96) Andy Houston, Ford, 181.565.

18. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 181.503.

19. (4) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 181.335.

20. (28) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 181.192.

21. (18) Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 180.923.

22. (2) Rusty Wallace, Ford, 180.861.

23. (1) Steve Park, Chevrolet, 180.835.

24. (99) Jeff Burton, Ford, 180.752.

25. (19) Casey Atwood, Dodge, 180.730.

26. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 180.705.

27. (3) Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 180.694.

28. (36) Ken Schrader, Pontiac, 180.643.

29. (11) Brett Bodine, Ford, 180.636.

30. (44) Buckshot Jones, Dodge, 180.592.

31. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 180.581.

32. (14) Ron Hornaday Jr., Pontiac, 180.531.

33. (71) Dave Marcis, Chevrolet, 180.386.

34. (21) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 180.364.

35. (26) Jimmy Spencer, Ford, 180.260.

36. (01) Jason Leffler, Dodge, 180.119.

37. (66) Todd Bodine, Ford, 179.989.

38. (27) Kenny Wallace, Pontiac, 179.881.

39. (51) Jeff Purvis, Ford, 179.777.

40. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 179.544.

41. (7) Mike Wallace, Ford, 179.458.

42. (77) Robert Pressley, Ford, 179.329.

43. (90) Hut Stricklin, Ford, 178.990.

44. (50) Rick Mast, Chevrolet, 178.586.

45. (97) Kurt Busch, Ford, 178.511.

46. (12) Jeremy Mayfield, Ford, 178.116.

47. (37) Derrike Cope, Pontiac, 177.291.

48. (84) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 176.301.

49. (85) Carl Long, Ford, 176.284.

50. (80) Morgan Shepherd, Ford, 174.669.

51. (72) Dwayne Leik, Chevrolet, did not start.

52. (25) Jerry Nadeau, Chevrolet, time disallowed.

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