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'T-Rex' travels to London's Goodwood Festival of Speed

 

CONCORD, N.C. (July 2, 2009) – Starting Friday, Hendrick Motorsports’ famed “T-Rex” Monte Carlo will make its first exhibition run at the Festival of Speed at Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, England.

The No. 24 Chevrolet—easily recognizable by its Jurassic Park paint scheme—is one of just four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars making the trek to the international festival that runs through Sunday. Hundreds of different vehicles will be on hand for the event, which involves a 1.16-mile hillclimb. Drivers sign up to complete either a timed run or an exhibition one.

T-Rex, which last competed in 1997, will make six demo runs this weekend. Jim Long, who oversees testing for Hendrick Motorsports’ research and development department, made the trip along with colleague Herb Handy.

“It’s an honor to represent Hendrick Motorsports and go over there and show the world what we’re about,” Long said. “I think that’s kind of neat.”

T-Rex gets its name from more than just the Tyrannosaurus on its hood. In reality, the car owes its moniker more to chief designer Rex Stump, the Hendrick engineer who spearheaded its revolutionary chassis.

In the months leading up to The Winston, then-No. 24 crew chief Ray Evernham asked Stump, a former Corvette engineer with General Motors, to build a new car, throwing out traditional chassis designs. The only requirement was to stay within NASCAR’s rulebook.

Along with a number of contributing team members including Handy, Stump engineered a lightning-fast car like no other before it. Within the bounds of NASCAR rules, the radical chassis innovations put the Chevy in a league of its own, and Gordon used it to dominate the 1997 all-star race.

Following a thorough post-race inspection, NASCAR officials noted the car’s compliance with the rules, but asked that the team not bring it back to the track. Stump recalls, “It was just a car ahead of its time.”

“It’s got a great batting average,” Long said about T-Rex’s on-track success.” It’s 100 percent. So I thought it was kind of cool it was picked (for Goodwood).”

But getting “T-Rex” ready for the international voyage wasn’t easy.  The car, previously showcased in Hendrick Motorsports’ museum, had to be stripped down. A new engine was needed, among other major changes.

“It’s been sitting around for 12 years,” Long said. “The tail pipes were rusted through from just sitting there. And the engine that was in it was a show car model. We took that motor out, rebuilt all the suspension and put a motor representative of the day in there from the motor room and built new tail pipes. We did a lot of work to that car.”

The R&D department also put a road-course setup in the Monte Carlo so driver Landon Cassill could negotiate the hill during the weekend’s festivities.

But Long doesn’t expect the drivers will be satisfied by simple yet crowd-pleasing exhibition runs.

“I know drivers,” said Long, who was the crew chief for Terry Labonte from 2001-2004. “By run No. 3, we’ll be working on this thing to make it faster.

“This is going to turn into a race before the weekend is over.”

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