B.W.: How can you mention the great racing heritage of Dodge without uttering the word Petty? The reuniting of the two [Dodge and Petty] seven years ago in the Craftsman Truck Series was a key moment in our return to Winston Cup. Richard came up to Detroit, and he and I talked and then shook hands. We agreed to move forward on the truck deal. I'll still never forget what happened next. We were sitting in a little boardroom with some other people. At the end of the meeting, he stood up, pointed his finger at me like he does, and said, "You know, you say you're not going cup racing, but you are going cup racing someday, and I want to be there when you do!" That was neat. I still look back to that moment and smile. Sure enough, here we are.
When we first started the Winston Cup program, the Pettys were as much a part of making the One Team concept work [as anyone]. When we first started the Winston Cup program, we set up the development team with groups of people from Dodge and the founding teams to work on engines, chassis, and aerodynamics. At that time, we had just brought Ray Evernham on board. He was spearheading the aerodynamic development effort. At that time, he had no team, no facilities, no drivers, nothing.
We needed to get the program rolling, so Richard provided us with the facilities needed to build the first test car. He and Kyle had an extra building on their property that became kind of a skunkworks shop. It was off limits to the rest of his organization. Ray, along with some of his new guys, Bill Davis, and the Pettys, also provided us with some of their talent. That was how that first development car that we saw at Homestead in May 2000 got built. We couldn't have gotten this program off the ground so quickly without Richard and Kyle's help. Plus, their return to Dodge has produced a huge renaissance in the Petty organization. If you go back three years ago, just before this program began, they made huge investments in machinery, personnel, and a research and development department.
It's just a matter of time before the Pettys are back to their former championship caliber. Kyle has brought back Robin Pemberton-a winning veteran crew chief of Winston Cup racing for over 15 years-as vice president and general manager. He returned to Petty Enterprises in 2002 with a proven track record of building winners, with the determination to make this organization a dynasty like it was when he first arrived in the late-'70s.
The Pettys are becoming more competitive with each race. Sometimes the rebuilding process takes more time and is harder than starting over fresh. I can't say enough about the work that Kyle (president and CEO of Petty Enterprises) has done rebuilding this team. This sport has gotten so big that the owner-driver role is almost impossible to accomplish. He's done a great job at leading the organization by delegating much of the day-to-day responsibility, and he has been able to focus on the team's overall future and his driving.
In short, Petty Enterprises has done great things in the past for and with Dodge, and we expect them to do the same in the near future.
Well, there you have it, Mopar fans, a deep inside look at how your favorite Dodge Winston Cup teams came to join the factory effort. But wait-there's more.
Beginning in 2003, Penske Racing switched to Dodge Intrepid R/Ts. That means '89 Winston Cup Champion Rusty Wallace and rookie sensation Ryan Newman will be behind the wheels of Dodge Intrepids as soon as the '03 Daytona 500, so stay tuned.