Melling Makes Four For Dodge

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Perhaps the writing was on the wall when Melling Racing allowed driver Bill Elliott to have the No. 9 for the Dodge Intrepid R/T.

Whether that’s the case or not, the Dodge stable continues to fill.

Melling Racing announced Friday its intention to switch from Ford to Dodge beginning in 2001. It is the fourth team, along with Evernham Motorsports, Petty Enterprises and Bill Davis Racing, to field the Dodge Intrepid R/T.

The Intrepid, which will be driven by Stacy Compton, will sport the No. 92 and will be sponsored by Kodiak.

Compton drove a Dodge Ram Truck during his final season in the Craftsman Truck Series during 1999, captured a record six poles and finished fourth in the point standings. The team is the first single-car operation to join the Dodge ranks.

"Being a single-car operation, we keep talking about that. We can pool so many more resources now -- we aren’t a single-car operation -- we’re a seven- or eight-car operation," the Winston Cup rookie said. "That’s huge. It’s big for Melling; it’s big for Dodge, and it’s big for everyone in the garage.

"We certainly looked at the Dodge program when I made a move from the Truck Series. We felt we had a shot at the truck championship this year. We also knew that it was going to be awfully tough with Dodge being in Winston Cup racing in 2001 to step into the Dodge program without some experience. Mark Melling gave me an opportunity to come out and get some experience."

Although Melling Racing will follow through with its commitment to Ford through the end of this season, members of the team are preparing equipment for 2001. Team owner Mark Melling said he will remain understated about his Dodge relationship for the remainder of this season.

"Ford has been really good to the team over the years, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. They’ve been very kind allowing us to do this. We’re hoping to get Stacy a win in a Ford this year," Melling said.

The decision to switch to Dodge was an easy one for Melling, whose father, Harry, started the team with driver Bill Elliott in 1982.

"I think for Melling Racing it was a very easy decision as a single-car team," Mark Melling said. "If it was a Melling Racing two-car team with a lot of resources and a lot of good things going on right now, it would have been a very, very hard decision. So, right now with Melling Racing as a single-car team and getting the help that we need it was a no-brainer."

Dodge began discussions with the team after the announcement of the manufacturer’s return to Winston Cup in Daytona, but Melling said negotiations sped up when Elliott joined Evernham Motorsports in March.

"Well, we really didn’t start discussing that probably until end of the season last year," Melling said. "I knew that he had some good ties with Dodge, and with the way we were running and the things we’ve been doing lately, it was interesting to me that Dodge and Ford both really wanted him into the car, and so it was something we chatted about really briefly.

"Probably, (talks) really started getting heated after they had done their Daytona announcement and we were talking with the No. 9 with Ray and that bunch."

Ray Evernham, a two-car team owner with drivers Elliott and Casey Atwood, is pleased with the addition.

"I’m really happy for Mark and his group. Certainly, sentimentally they’ve been a big part of Bill’s career, so it ended up being a perfect combination for them to be on board with the Dodges and be a part of the Dodge team. I’ve recently gotten a chance to know Mark Melling, and his people and I’m looking forward to working with them quite a bit," Evernham said.

Evernham went on to explain that he plans on to present his final Dodge Intrepid R/T prototype to NASCAR officials for final approval sometime in August.

"Our initial track testing went very well. we’ve got a new track schedule being put together; we’ve done an extensive amount of dyno testing and wind tunnel testing, and we’re looking forward to getting a solid schedule for the testing for the rest of the year."

Optimism and strong performances are what Compton is seeking.

"It’s more of a morale booster, more of a momentum thing than anything else. We’re looking at the future, and this is so big for us and so big for Melling Racing, all that it is going to do is give us momentum for next year," he added. "We’re glad to get it out in the open now so we can go ahead and get started and get some cars built and be ready for 2001."

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