Bob Wildberger (B.W.): There are many benefits in this program for Dodge. Sure, we want to sell cars; I'd be a liar if I said we didn't, but it goes much deeper than that. There's a great deal of corporate pride in this company. We're going through some very difficult business times right now. September 11 was something that no one expected, or dreamed of, that was a big blow not only to business, but also to everyone's reality in this country. The one big thing this program has done for us at Dodge is give our employees something to be proud of. They helped build and support this effort. We get the same reaction from our dealer network. They're part owners in this effort. A week doesn't go by that I don't get a call from one of them asking how we are doing and what they can do to help. The pride runs deep with the dealers and their employees. The fans were the ultimate reason both Dodge and their dealers' network had to get back into Winston Cup racing.
Ultimately, this whole program will help us sell more cars, but it's the fans that want to see Dodge racing against the other manufacturers. For us, the investment has already started to pay off-we've gotten advertising exposure worth much more than our investment in the program, plus our sales are picking up, so it's a win-win situation.
Getting The Teams Together
MM: The Mopar fans all wonder how Dodge came up with the mix of teams campaigning the Intrepid R/Ts and what strengths they bring to the program.
B.W.: In no particular order, let's begin with Ray Evernham. Ray was the first individual we approached to help us get this program off the ground, for obvious reasons. Ray is a winner-nothing will stand in this man's way. He has the highest of standards, be it work ethic, honesty, intelligence, he and his guys stand for everything you could possibly want in a race team. Ray has gone from nothing-no shops, no team, no cars, and no drivers-to winning his first race in his first year of operation. If you go back in the history books, you won't find many people that have done that. Ray's biggest strength is knowing how to bring out the best in people. Look at Bill Elliott, for instance. When Ray signed him, a lot of people wondered why. His win at Homestead at the end of last season quieted a lot of folks. The One Team approach that we at Dodge speak so highly of is what Ray's organization is built on. The only way they came from nothing to being one of the best teams in the Dodge camp-not to mention the entire Winston Cup Series-has been by using what Ray calls their collective IQ, the One Team approach. To sum it up, Ray Evernham is a great organizer and leader, not only to his own people, but he's been an inspiration to everyone in the Dodge camp.
Bill Davis Racing
When you mention Bill Davis to the sports insiders, the first thing that comes to mind is an exceptional eye for talent. Do the names Mark Martin, Ray Evernham, Bobby Labonte (2000 Winston Cup Champion), Ward Burton ('02 Daytona 500 winner), and some other guy named Jeff Gordon (four-time Winston Cup Champion), ring any bells? We'll let Bob Wildberger explain how Dodge snagged Bill Davis Racing:
B.W.: Bill Davis Racing was one of the first teams we sought to bring on board. Bill has a remarkable eye for finding talent: He's discovered many sports greats-he was the guy who first put Ray Evernham and Jeff Gordon together. He also does a great job of not only finding good talent, but also giving them the tools they need to win. He then steps back and lets them get the job done. You can walk through his shop on any given day and see that philosophy at work. As I recall, Bill and I signed the deal on New Year's Eve of 2000, and since then, the growth within his organization has been phenomenal-not only by adding new personnel. They were literally breaking ground for new buildings as we signed the contracts. They've doubled the size of their facilities in less than a year and a half. Both Bill and Gail Davis are a class act, winning the Daytona 500 this past February was a deserved reward for what they've done, not only for racing in general, but for Dodge.