DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. The development of the 2004 racing model of the Ford Taurus not only represents a collective effort, it might prove to be the blueprint for the rest of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
The new version, which has a different front and rear bumper area from last year's model, was developed with input by every Ford team, said Robin Pemberton, the car company's field manager. And now that every Ford engine will be built at Robert Yates Racing, the collaborative effort might become standard.
''A lot of times you can build a car that just suits one team's purpose,'' Pemberton said. ''I think the last couple times we had Penske doing one version, Yates doing one and Roush doing one. During that ('98) project (when Yates helped design a new car), NASCAR would cut templates off of cars and they were different cars that were constructed in different ways and not all the templates fit all the cars at the same time. It was almost impossible.''
The Wood Brothers were asked to turn all of the collective ideas into a car that would be submitted to NASCAR for approval.
''I've never been involved in one of these before and we didn't know how the process went,'' Eddie Wood said. ''It was a much more detailed process than I ever imagined as far as what NASCAR required. They designated where to put the nose, the roof and the deck. It wasn't like you just built it like you wanted it. You've got to build it like they want it built.
''You don't want to build it and have to build it again. You wanted people to say this is the way they wanted it as it went along. It's kind of like building a house. When you get the walls up, come look at it. When you get the roof up, come look at it. When you get the plumbing in, come look at it. So it was kind of a stepped process that went pretty well."
MARCHING ORDERS: The way Joe Nemechek sees it, if soldiers are putting their lives on the line, the least he can do for his sponsor, the U.S. Army, is put his Chevrolet in Victory Lane.
''When I first started with the (MB2) team last year, Lt. Gen. (Dennis) Cavin told me, 'We don't get points for finishing second in the U.S. Army.' That was a short and powerful message that pretty much simplified our point system. The message has stuck with me and that will be our approach in 2004.''
PIT STOPS: Whoopi Goldberg will be the honorary starter for the Daytona 500. Ben Affleck is the grand marshal and will give the command to start engines, while Goldberg will wave the green flag. ... The purse for the Daytona 500 grew by nearly $2 million to $15,972,313. The winner is guaranteed at least $1,391,730.
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