Michael "Fatback" McSwain made his return to the race track Friday morning as crew chief for Ricky Rudd and the No. 21 Keep it Genuine/Motorcraft Ford Taurus. McSwain spoke about joining forces with Rudd for a third time and his plan for getting...
Michael "Fatback" McSwain made his return to the race track Friday morning as crew chief for Ricky Rudd and the No. 21 Keep it Genuine/Motorcraft Ford Taurus. McSwain spoke about joining forces with Rudd for a third time and his plan for getting the Wood Brothers back to victory lane.
MICHAEL "FATBACK" MCSWAIN , Crew Chief - No. 21 Keep it Genuine/Motorcraft Taurus
DO YOU FEEL THIS IS THE RIGHT THING FOR YOU?
"I think it is right now. You have to kind of look at things and add up all the situations and all the pieces and parts. Out of 100 parts this had more pieces that were right than wrong, so I'm excited about being with the Wood Brothers and Ford. How much closer can you be to Ford than be the Motorcraft car? And to be back with Ricky because maybe I can have a little fun again."
HOW DID YOU SPLIT WITH RICKY? ON GOOD TERMS?
"Ricky was going to a new race team and I wasn't comfortable with the situation I was gonna be presented with the next year, so I chose to do something different myself."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE FUN WITH THIS JOB OR HAVE YOU CHANGED?
"No, I don't think so. You learn things from every situation you're in in life. I'm not a corporate person. I'm just a plain old redneck from the hills of North Carolina and I enjoy life and I like to have fun in life. I'm not saying my situation was bad, I'm just not a suit and tie kind of guy."
YOU HAD A SHOT AT THE TITLE WITH RICKY AND WERE IN POSITION THIS YEAR.
"It's a heartbreak. Those situations come up few and far between. To legitimately have a shot and then have it not be there is definitely heartbreaking."
SO WHAT DO YOU WANT OUT OF THIS SITUATION? WHAT CAN THIS TEAM ACHIEVE?
"I think we can do anything we're willing to do. I think most anybody's success with anything they do in life has got to have that mindset. We can relax and stay where we are or we can bust our humps and make all these guys have bad race days next year."
IS THE ROLE OF CREW CHIEF CHANGING?
"I don't know. It's no different than any other business. You can go after it any way you want to. You can go after it the 'new way' or you can go after it the 'old way' or mix it up in-between. I don't think it really matters. I don't think there's any relevance in it as long as in the end you get the job done."
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF THIS TEAM?
"I think there are a lot of strengths and there's a lot of hunger. You've got a lot of people who work just as hard as anybody else in this garage area, but they just haven't seen the success. I think there's a lot of talent here that people don't know about and that I didn't know about. My job is gonna be to take all of that talent and corral it up together to get everybody pointed in the right direction."
WHAT ABOUT THE TRACKS COMING UP THE REST OF THE YEAR?
"I think when Ricky's mind is right and when the cars are right that he can run good anywhere. We proved that in 2000, 2001 and 2002. We won at a short track, the biggest track we run at and a road course, so that there alone pretty much says that he can get it done anywhere. As long as we get our pieces and parts together, I think our strengths could be everywhere."
WHAT KIND OF DISCUSSIONS HAVE YOU HAD WITH RICKY?
"We had some discussions going in and then he came by the shop the other day and we just kind of talked a little bit, and then he went through and saw all the guys. But, to be honest with you, for the past six days I've had my head under a race car and haven't had many conversations with anybody."
RICKY WANTED YOU, RIGHT?
"I think everybody wanted everybody."
THIS IS THE THIRD TIME YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN TOGETHER. WHY?
"It just works. Why analyze it?"
WITH THIS BEING A SINGLE CAR TEAM WILL YOU HAVE TO WORK LATER TO FIND THOSE ADVANTAGES THAT MAYBE SOME OF THE MULTI-CAR TEAMS HAVE?
"I think that's true with any team. You can substitute some of that with the amount of people and cut back those hours, but I think it's true with any race team - you're gonna get out of it what you put into it. The harder you work at it and the more effort you put into it - the more heart and soul you put into it - the more you're gonna get out of it. That's the bottom line on any race team and any sport."
WHAT DO YOU ADD TO THIS TEAM?
"We're gonna work hard and we're gonna have some fun and we're gonna win some races. That's what it's all about."
DRIVERS TALK ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO WATCH A RACE ON TV WHEN THEY FEEL THEY SHOULD BE IN IT. WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU?
"I didn't watch any races. Why? I wasn't a part of it. It didn't have anything to do with me. I was home working or went to the mountains with my folks. I was doing things that other people do. There is another world out there, we just don't realize it."
DID YOU MISS IT?
"I missed the people and the relationships. It's a lifestyle we lead and this is your second family so to speak. So, yeah, you miss it. It's no different than anything else, you miss some of it and you don't miss some of it. It was definitely an enjoyable five weeks."
SO IT WASN'T STRESSFUL? YOUR PHONE WAS PROBABLY RINGING QUITE A BIT.
"It was less stressful, plus I changed my number so it didn't really matter."
DID YOU HAVE FUN IN YOUR LAST JOB OR WAS IT MORE WORK?
"That's a trick question. It was different. It was a more corporate type of deal. I'm not saying that's wrong. Whoever goes there has success and we had success over there, so you can't say it's wrong or it ain't right, it's just not for me."
YOU'RE KNOWN AS A TASKMASTER.
"I don't ask for anything out of anyone that I wouldn't do. I was the first one at the shop all week and I was usually the last one to leave. I was there last Saturday morning when everybody else was at the race track. I was there at 5:30 working on the Bristol car. I demand a lot out of my people, but I also expect them to have a lot of fun. We're gonna kid around and we're gonna work hard. If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times -- we're gonna work our guts out but we're gonna have fun. If you can't get up everyday and look forward to going to work, then you're not gonna do good at what you do. I don't care what it is. If it's a reporter, or if it's a TV analyst, or if it's a crew chief, or if it's a guy who builds shocks. You have to get up in the morning and say, 'Hey, I'm looking forward to going to work.'"
CAN YOU CREATE CHEMISTRY HERE?
"I think it comes from what I just said. When you've got a group of people that are looking forward to going to work, the chemistry will naturally take care of itself. If you've got one or two guys looking forward to going to work and 10 who just wish they were somewhere else every morning, then there isn't gonna be any chemistry. I think that and performance will shape that up."
WHAT ABOUT THE CARS?
"The cars are just a little different. Everyone does their cars differently and they do things differently, but that doesn't mean they're right or wrong. So I felt like I needed a few days to get accustomed to the cars and accustomed to the way they do things. There are 10 different ways to do things. That doesn't mean they're all right or wrong, so you just look at it and analyze it and give your opinion on it. You might only change it a little bit or you might change it wholeheartedly. So I felt like I needed some time to get used to those guys in the shop and then what that gave me was Monday morning, when all the road guys came back in, that gave me all week with them. Those extra couple of days gave me time to get to know some of the other people."
YOUR ENGINES SHOULD BE GOOD AND YOU'LL PROBABLY HAVE ACCESS TO A LOT OF THINGS FROM ROUSH, CORRECT? "These guys have a good relationship with Roush Racing. They're a sixth team, so to speak, but I think it's like anything else - we've got to be able to perform good enough where we can give and not just take. The more you give, the more they'll give. So as long as we can do our part and be a part of the system, then I think they'll be more glad to have us."
WHAT ABOUT TESTING?
"We've got one-and-a-half left or something. We're in the middle of the season and this is pretty much a crunch time right here. You do a Saturday night at Bristol and then turn around and go to California and then turn right around and do a Saturday night at Richmond. After that we're gonna try to get suited up for some of the short tracks other than Richmond. Those come up pretty fast. Ricky always runs good there and we've had some success there (at Richmond), so we'll just try to concentrate on that. We'll probably do a test at Homestead. I like that place and me and Ricky ran good there together with Yates and we ran good there last year (with Gibbs). So we'll do that test and then we've got one more little one. I'm not sure where we're gonna go yet. We'll see how things shape up."
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET USED TO THIS TEAM?
"I don't know. I would be a genius if I could predict that. You wish for it to be immediate, but I don't know. It could be two weeks, three weeks or two months, three months. I don't know. I haven't worked with Ricky in a couple of years. I think I know him, but that doesn't necessarily mean I do. People change and people change the way they see things and think about things, so it'll be a step-by-step process. We just have to kind of take our lumps as we get 'em. It's really, really hard to predict."