2004 All HammerDown! Team Member
Wilke-PAK Motorsports' Ray Is No Rookie Team Mopar Adds to Program Depth with New Addition - By Misha Geisert , Center Line, Mich.- 03/11/04 - Wilke-PAK Motorsports had a big decision to make at the beginning of the 2004 racing season. The team had a vacant seat, and with the reputation as a formidable force in the USAC Midget Series, they had to pick a driver that could continue the team's progress and add to the further development of Mopar's open-wheel stable. For co-owners Greg Wilke, Mark Wilke and Kevin Schuele, there was only one driver who met those criteria, and they named Davey Ray their new hotshoe.
The 2004 racing season won't be the first venture for Ray and Wilke-PAK Motorsports, as Ray competed for the Ra-Jo/Wilke-PAK team throughout 2003. Co-owned by Joe Vukelich and team patriarch Ralph Wilke, the Wilke-PAK satellite team took the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association (BMARA) Series by storm. Under the watchful eye of the elder Wilke, Ray honed his dirt track prowess and earned the 2003 BMARA Series title outright. The maturity and professionalism Ray demonstrated earned the young driver the nod for the seat vacated by fellow Team Mopar driver Tracy Hines.
"Shortly after the Chili Bowl in January, Hines announced his plans to run the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, leaving a seat open on the Wilke-PAK team. I talked with the team owners and let them know I was interested in driving for them," Ray said. "I was thrilled when Greg [Wilke] told me their plans for 2004. They have afforded me the opportunity to run the complete USAC dirt schedule and some pavement events. I'm looking forward to getting the season started."
Ray's determination to succeed, as well as his ability to communicate with the team, didn't escape team co-owner Mark Wilke. They expect him to adapt to his new role quite easily. "Davey is determined, confident and very skilled, and these characteristics, combined with his youth, offer Wilke-PAK Motorsports and Team Mopar a very promising future," Mark Wilke said. "We worked with Davey in 2003, as he drove for our satellite team Ra-Jo/Wilke-PAK. He hasn't shown any problems in dealing with pressure, as he won six BMARA feature events and the series championship. We believe that the 2004 season will be a promising one for our team."
By taking over the No. 11 seat, Ray will compete as a part of Team Mopar in 2004. The 25-year-old is no stranger to the Mopar powerplant, as he has several years of experience with the brand. In May of 2001, Ray won the Angell Park Speedway "Memorial 50" event, the first midget car race ever won with a Mopar powerplant. As the engine program has continued to evolve, Ray and the Wilke-PAK team are looking forward to building on their already successful racing program. "We're certainly excited about being a part of Team Mopar," Ray said. "The Mopar engines are the most powerful in the midget division, and the broad power that they produce will most definitely be an advantage for us this season. We're also excited about the effort that Mopar has put behind their program, from driver development to the engine program. It's great to be a part of such a well-organized program."
Ray's enthusiasm for the Mopar racing program is shared by his team owners. "Wilke-PAK Motorsports is very fortunate to be a part of the Mopar engine program," Mark Wilke said. "We've been racing midgets for over 25 years and have found that the Mopar powerplant is second to none. The Mopar engine has the horsepower, torque and reliability that car owners look for when choosing an engine. Mopar's success is due to hard work and strong commitments to open wheel racing, as well as working with teams that are just as committed to success."
The Copper World Classic, to be held at the Phoenix International Raceway March 19-20, will mark Ray's official debut with Wilke-PAK and Team Mopar. In addition to running the full USAC National Midget Series dirt schedule, Ray will compete in approximately six pavement events in the series. Though the young race driver has limited pavement experience, both driver and owners are confident that their strong team communication skills will contribute to a successful transition. "Davey is a quick learner, and we believe that he will have little trouble adapting to pavement racing," Mark Wilke said.
Ray will be relying on the guidance of his team owners, as well as the advice of teammate Hines in his transition to pavement racing. Though Hines will be running a full NCTS schedule, he will wear Mopar colors in selected pavement events for Wilke-PAK's USAC Midget team. "I will have to adapt their [Wilke-PAK] knowledge to my driving style to help me get a feel for pavement racing," Ray said. "I will certainly benefit from Tracy's [Hines] experience on the pavement, and as a teammate I'm going to have to listen to his advice."
Make no mistake, though, as Ray is no stranger to tough competition. While he will have to incorporate pavement racing into his arsenal of skills, Ray has high expectations of himself and his team for the 2004 season. "We have a great combination for this season, especially on the dirt. Greg [Wilke] and I work well together, and we look at every race as an opportunity to win," Ray said. "I would like to make a good showing on the pavement this year for the team, and we hope to win at least one pavement race."
As Ray pushes off for the start of the Copper World Classic, he'll have years of experience on his side. A Mopar power plant under his right foot, an experienced race team, and his own skill and determination to succeed will be with him as he circles the one-mile track. With that combination, the Wilke-PAK/Mopar team will continue to build on its first-class reputation.
For more information regarding Mopar or Davey Ray, log on to www.mopar.com, www.moparspeed.com or www.daveyray.com. Mopar is based in Center Line, Mich., and is the exclusive original equipment supplier of parts and accessories for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep® vehicles.