This past week, we discussed Dodge//SRT’s continued absence from the NASCAR Cup series and with the new “Next Gen” car it might be the perfect time for the brand to return. While the brand has been gone from the Cup series since 2012, Dodge also did something similar in 1977 by withdrawing factory support from NASCAR. It wouldn’t be until 2001 that the brand would return to the pinnacle of stock car racing with the help of three-team NASCAR championship crew chief, Ray Evernham.
In 2000, Evernham bought 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup champion and car owner Bill Elliott’s team from him to form Evernham Motorsports. Evernham Motorsports would be the halo team for Dodge’s return to the Cup series. Evernham tapped Elliott to drive his No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW-sponsored Dodge Intrepid R/T entry, after obtaining the rights to the No. 9 from Melling Racing (another team joining the Dodge Cup effort). Elliott has run that number from 1981 to 1991 in the Cup series and would run that again for Evernham.
After months of engine and aero development in both the North Carolina racing shops and Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the first Dodge was tested at Talladega in October 2000 and ready for speed weeks in February. The team selected a car Elliott had won one of two Daytona 125 Qualifying Races and then finished third in the 2000 Daytona 500 to be the car he would run to represent the return of the Dodge brand.
The chassis was built as a superspeedway car by Laughlin Racing Products and wore the identification code of No. LRP 03 00 0754. Evernham Motorsports then converted the car from a Ford Taurus to a new Dodge Intrepid. The car proved to be fast throughout the week, taking the pole position for the 2001 Daytona 500 and ultimately finishing fifth in the big race.
The car had remained in Ray Evernham’s possession since the race and now he is putting it up for sale at the Mecum Indy event this Friday, May 22nd. The car has been preserved by Evernham in memory of Dodge’s debut. The retains its original racing parts including the drivetrain used by the team including the original 358 cubic-inch Dodge R5-P7 V8 engine, which had been developed directly with input from Dodge’s best platform engineers and refined in the NASCAR truck series.
According to Mecum, the car also still features its Tex Racing T101 4-speed manual transmission, 5-gallon oil system with dry sump, original 9-inch Ford-style NASCAR rear end built by Evernham Motorsports, and a 22-gallon NASCAR fuel cell are all still equipped.
As we hope the Dodge//SRT brand takes into consideration rejoining the Cup series in the near future with all of the exciting new changes in the works to return more to its roots, one collector will be purchasing an important piece of the last resurgence of the brand in the sport.
Bill Elliott’s 2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T NASCAR Cup Car Image Gallery: