To any NASCAR Winston Cup fan, there is a solid familiarity with a particular green and white No. 27 stock car. It is none other than the famous Kodiak Pontiac Grand Prix that took Rusty Wallace to the 1989 Winston Cup title. It doesn't look that old, but can you believe it was over 10 years ago that Wallace drove this car for the Blue Max Racing Team, owned by former drag racer Raymond Beadle.
The familiarity of the car certainly goes back to the sheetmetal, but there are also two former crew members on that team who are still standing tall in NASCAR. The former Kodiak crew chief was the talented Barry Dodson, now involved in several projects, while one of the crew members was Jimmy Makar, 2000 Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte's current crew chief. Both have lots of talent and are highly respected members of the Winston Cup family to be sure.
That long-ago championship season seems like it was yesterday according to Dodson. He recalls that all the cars had names. This particular car was named after his own daughter, Tia. In fact, the name can be found stenciled on many parts and pieces throughout the car.
"We named all the cars because we wanted to be sure each car got the correct parts back after a rebuild," Dodson recalls. "Some of the other cars were named Buckwheat, Whitney, Katie (named after Wallace's daughter), Glenda and Sampson. They were all good cars, and we were a threat to win every time out."
When talking to Dodson, it was obvious there are some sweet memories from the Pontiac operation.
Makar, who was a Kodiak chassis specialist and right-front tire changer, recalls the closeness of the team and states it was certainly one of the reasons for its success.
"A lot of the guys on that team, who have gone many directions, are all still friends," Makar says.
Makar also noted that because most of the team had been together from 1984 through 1990, it was a cohesive effort.
Both Makar and Dodson commented on the changes cars have gone through during the decade-plus that has passed since the Kodiak car earned its title.
"The radial tires have been one of the biggest changes. They really picked up the corner speeds," says Dodson.
"The chassis haven't changed that much, but the radial tires and better aerodynamics are large improvements. The current shocks have also come a long way too," adds Makar.
The title came after a tough battle with Dale Earnhardt, winning by a razor-thin 12-point margin, 4,176-4,164 points. The victories came at Michigan, Rockingham, Watkins Glen, two at Richmond and at Bristol.
The team disbanded after the 1990 season, with Wallace starting his long relationship with Roger Penske. But the car is still around, and it brings back many good memories to all that see it today and recall its glory days.