Unfortunately, a wreck took...
Unfortunately, a wreck took Grimes and the Dodge out of contention in the third qualifying race for the Taco Bell 300, cutting short the Petty's opportunity to test the new Dodge engine against some of the best Late Model Stock competition in the country.
Grimes, who raced Chevrolets for years before switching over to the Ram, says making the switch didn't give him much trouble, either from the driver's seat or with the wrenches. "It wasn't a lot of trouble switching over," he says. "The clutches are the same; you run the same transmission. So, literally everything connecting the car to the motor is the same. The water system is plumbed the same. We are running the same radiator we used in our Chevrolets, and the oil system we treated just like we did with our Chevrolet back when we ran an oil cooler. We didn't run an oil cooler on the Chevrolet the last few motors we got, but we chose to go back to that system for this motor because it's a new combination and we don't want to take chances with it. So far, though, the temperatures are very similar to a Chevrolet. The motor runs fairly cool, and the oil temp has been outstanding. It doesn't seem to lose any power during the race and stays good and snappy the whole time.
"I think a driver can get out of his Late Model and get into a Dodge without any problems," Grimes continues. "I treat this car just like every other car I've driven. It gets up off the corner real well, and holds its power real well. We haven't raced it a lot yet, but so far it has been pretty dependable. As far as your (setup) packages go, we're running almost the same shock and spring package that we ran on the Chevrolet. We're just doing a little fine tuning. The engine is a little heavier, but with the extra setback it's not much of a problem. The motor also takes about the same gear as a Chevrolet would want. I think the Fords like a little more gear, so that might be something those guys would want to be aware of."
On Track At Taco Bell 300
Qualifying for the Taco Bell 300 was particularly tight. Grimes circled the 11/42-mile track in 21.900 seconds, which was only 0.350 off the pole-sitter's fast lap (21.550). Unfortunately, the competition was so tight among the 150-plus cars attempting to make the race that the extra third of a second put Grimes 56th fastest overall. That placed him ninth in the third of four qualifying races. Note: The top 20 times make the race, the final 20 cars for the main event are pulled from the top five finishers in each of the four qualifying races.
In the first six laps of his heat Grimes moved from ninth to fifth and was looking to advance further but got tangled with another car and spun. Damage to the front end of the car relegated him to the back of the pack, where he finished the race.
"We're disappointed we didn't get to see how the car would perform in the main event against some of the best drivers and cars you are going to find anywhere," said Mark Petty after the race. "Fifth is a dangerous spot to sit in the qualifying races, and Stephen was trying to move up a few more spots. Unfortunately, the car he was trying to pass came down on him and spun both of 'em out. It happens.
"From what we've seen though, we are pretty happy with the motor," Petty continues. "It's competitive, but it isn't a distinct advantage over the Chevrolets and Fords, which should make NASCAR happy. We've only been working on this engine for eight months, so we still have a lot to learn, but our goal all along was to give racers another legitimate option and I think we've done that. I think racers will be pretty happy with it too."