It sounds a long way off, but the clock is ticking.

February 2001 and the Daytona 500 are just over a year away, and while that time continuum seems ample for most efforts, the work that Ray Evernham has before him is daunting even to this modern-day Winston Cup talent.

Obviously, the powers that be at Dodge saw the potential of Ray Evernham, and on a list of potential team owners/managers, the 20-year-veteran of NASCAR competition headed the short list-that's if a list was ever made.

But behind Evernham's goal of fielding a two-car effort at Daytona in 2001 are Your Friendly Dodge Dealers. The dollars behind the effort come from 39 individual dealer advertising associations. Jim Julow, Vice President-Dodge Division, said in his address to the media at Talladega, "The dealer association presidents had an important job to do. They had to go back to 39 individual dealer advertising association boards and get their buy-in. It wasn't immediate and in some cases, it wasn't easy, but I am proud to say that in less than two months we had all 39 associations supporting Dodge's return to the sport. That unanimous agreement is what led us here today and with our partners, the dealers, we think we can really leverage this initiative when we are finally on the track to race."

Ask anyone in Winston Cup racing about the daunting efforts and money will always come to the forefront. We must assume that the dollars necessary to assemble a winning team are there. But there is one thing that money can't buy-time.

Evernham would drive that point home throughout the October 15 press conference. While most of the media in attendance were more interested in who would drive, specifically what kind of driver he was looking for-an experienced veteran or young talent-Ray Evernham made his intentions clear, but quickly refocused. He said, "You'd love to have a 21- or 22-year-old driver with experience. That would be the ultimate. Right now my focus is going to be on building a competitive car and building a competitive race team. If we can prove that we are doing that, that will create a high degree of interest from drivers."

Evernham continued, "We are going to focus on a competitive car and team. Like the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. If we do that, a driver who wants to win [will come]. The best drivers will race you as hard for $1 as they will for a million dollars. The guys that want to win and be competitive and get with a group of people who are committed and passionate about winning will be interested in this program with Dodge."

Evernham also spoke of the time line. He noted an Intrepid show car will be displayed at the January North America International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, in January 2000, with hopes to begin testing an actual car soon after. In order for that to happen, Dodge hopes to work very closely with NASCAR to make the process of approving a car as smooth as possible.

Currently, development is taking place temporarily at Evernham's Busch Grand National shop. Other forms of racing development are taking place in satellite offices. A permanent shop is hoped to be found in the Mooresville/Concord, North Carolina area.

Because we have speculated in Mopar Muscle about the engine that will power the WC Intrepids, we asked Mopar Performance's Lou Patane if David Rampy's Competition Eliminator small-block-with a sprint car block and NHRA Pro Stock heads-was potentially the package that will be the basis for the Winston Cup Dodge engine. Patane noted that there are several engine programs in place that are working on this effort, however, no one builder has been singled out and no engine has been formally presented for approval to NASCAR.