Robbie Reiser, crew chief of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is making his return to the race track after serving a four-week NASCAR suspension for a rules violation at Daytona. Reiser spoke about his time away and his hopes for this ...
Robbie Reiser, crew chief of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is making his return to the race track after serving a four-week NASCAR suspension for a rules violation at Daytona. Reiser spoke about his time away and his hopes for this weekend.
ROBBIE REISER, Crew Chief -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK? "Just great."
DID IT HELP FOR THIS WEEKEND TO BE BACK AT THE SHOP WORKING ON THIS FUSION FOR BRISTOL? "There's no question. Anytime you get to stay back and work on stuff and you've got more time, you can be a little bit more prepared. But with NASCAR changing the rules every three minutes and not knowing what to expect, I don't really know if it helped us that much."
WAS IT HARD TO WATCH THE RACES ON TV? "No, not at hard at all. I've got a great race team and a lot of good guys and they're able to do this. One guy doesn't make a race team, so it wasn't that hard at all."
DO YOU FEEL PROUD TO SEE HOW WELL THE TEAM DID IN YOUR ABSENCE? "You stand back and watch this whole thing and, obviously, like I say this is a team effort and not just one person. For them to go off and win races and run as competitive as they have just shows that this team doesn't miss a beat when somebody is missing. We've had an injury to Russ Strupp, who has been out with a knee, and our pit stops have been stellar with Dan Zelinsky stepping in, and with me missing, the rest of the guys all stepped up and made it work. So to stand by and watch it shows you that you've got a team that's been around a long time and they're able to do it without you."
SO YOUR JOB IS TO COME BACK AND NOT SCREW IT UP (JOKING). "Yeah, pretty much. Races aren't won here at the race track, they're won in getting yourself prepared in the off-season and getting yourself ready to go to the races and that's what you do week to week. For them to come out here and do the job just shows they know what they're doing."
MATT SAID LAST WEEK THAT ONE OF YOUR STRENGTHS IS THE ABILITY TO MAKE IMPROVEMENTS DURING THE WINTER MONTHS. WHAT ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? DO YOU FEEL PREPARED WITH THIS NEW FUSION? "Yeah, actually we do. I wouldn't say that we're ahead of anybody and I don't think we're behind anybody. I think we're coming here with the same expectations everybody else has to get a good look at this thing and sit back and watch and learn and try to gather information so we can be better down the road."
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING BY WATCHING THE RACES ON TV AS FAR AS HAVING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE? "I think I have a different perspective of a few things. Sitting back and watching it is way different than being a part of it. It's very hard to do because I'm the type of person where I'm either playing it or I'm not involved in it. I stepped back and looked at some things that I saw differently. I was able to come back to the shop and have team meetings that were from a perspective of watching it, plus to sit and listen to what they saw and what they did at the race track, so I think it helped us. I don't think it really hurt us any. I think we can only gain from what was going on there."
THE 9 TEAM GOT A 50-POINT PENALTY AND HAS HAD SOME TROUBLE SINCE THEN WHILE YOU GUYS HAVE BOUNCED BACK AND ARE IN THE TOP 10. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOT BEING IN A PRECARIOUS SITUATION GOING INTO NEXT WEEK? "To be honest, I would be really disappointed if it wouldn't have operated the way it was and the way we've run in the past. I'd be really disappointed if we would have fallen apart because that isn't how this team is structured. It's built around racing and you show up and do the best you can. Like I say, one guy doesn't make a difference and if it does, then we've got the team set up wrong."
DID YOU WATCH THE DIRECTV STUFF? "In all honesty, I went to the work on Friday at the shop and went to work at the shop on Saturday and really didn't have a lot of involvement. I talked to Chip (Bolin) two or three times during the weekend on very small matters. He's more than capable of running this team and he's proved that. There's no reason for me to get in their way. They've been prepared. They know what their jobs are and for me to sit back and try to talk to them after they're doing it would have just only hindered him. I think it was better to do the things we needed to do during the week, send them off to the race track as prepared as we possibly could and let them go race. That seemed to work the best for us."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE INSPECTION PROCESS YESTERDAY AND DID YOU LEARN A LOT AS FAR AS HOW THAT WILL GO? "I don't know. I've been doing this a long time. In the Busch Series we come in on Thursday and inspect the cars and go race on Friday, so, really, when you look at the inspection it's the same one from that vantage point. Yeah, we've got some different templates and a different way of doing things, but to be quite honest with you, the inspection process is you put your car up on jack stands, they check the motor, they check underneath, you roll over and go through the tent, they put all the templates on and other than a few new templates and the tolerances being tighter, it really ain't that different. It's still a stock car. It's still racing."
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. He held his weekly Q&A session prior to Friday's practice.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF SUCCESS RECENTLY HERE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS FOR THIS WEEKEND? "I always enjoy coming here, for sure, but it's a different weekend than we've ever had before with the car of tomorrow, or the car of today I guess, so we have a little bit of an unknown there. I don't really know what to expect or what that car is gonna be like, and I'm looking forward to running my Busch Series car, too. So I always look forward to coming here. It's always exciting. You don't always have the outcome here that you want, but it's always an exciting track and it's always very challenging to get your car to work enough to be able to pass cars without hitting them and do it the right way. It's always a lot of work to do that, but when you can get your car to handle as good as we have the last couple of years, the track is a lot of fun."
WHY HAVE YOU BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL HERE? "It's kind of the same as any other track, it's having a good car and a good team and doing good on pit road. It starts with a good handling car, just like every weekend. You can't run good at any track without your car handling good. If your car isn't handling good, you're not gonna run good no matter where you're at, so we've had a car that's run really good for us here the last few years, which we obviously can't use, so it's kind of like everybody is starting from scratch with this new car. We've never raced these cars yet. We really don't have a favorite car or a car we dislike or anything because we haven't really run them, so it's kind of a new ballgame. Any advantage that we had is definitely gone."
HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING THIS WEEKEND? "You approach it like any other weekend. That car obviously has different rules and they're gonna have a different attitude and different things you've got to do to set them up and make them work, but, other than that, I think for the drivers you still show up and the goal is still the same -- you still try to do everything the same. You're still in a race car and you try to figure out how to get around there quicker than anybody else, so all that's the same. I think there's been a big deal made about it, obviously with the media, and it is a big deal. It's a different car than we've ever ran before. It looks a lot different and I think it's gonna drive a lot different too. It's definitely a different weekend. We're kind of like the fans and you guys, we're kind of anxious to see what it's gonna bring and what it's gonna be like, too."
HOW HAS IT BEEN TO HAVE ROBBIE BACK THIS MORNING? "I've only seen him for about 10 minutes and it was fine. I went up and asked who the new guy was and he said that was a dumb joke, he's already heard it 15 times, so that was about our whole conversation so far."
HAS BEING AWAY MADE HIM RECONSIDER DOING THIS LONGER AS A CREW CHIEF? "It's probably one of those watch what you wish for type of things. I think when you've done the job as long as he's done it and you're on the road as long as he's done it, and he's got his family at home and all that stuff. I think Robbie has always given 100 percent and always worked as hard as he could, but I think the last few years in the back of his mind he's thought, 'Oh man, I need to get off the road. This is a grind. The schedule is too long. I'd like to have a couple more off weekends.' You start thinking like that and then I think once you're stuck at home for four weeks and you can't get to the track, you're like, 'Man, that's really what I love to do. That's what I've always done. That's what I know how to do. I don't really know how to act right now being home for an extra four weeks,' so I think being away made him appreciate being here more. I think it made him want to be back here more. I think it kind of gave him more of an appreciation for what we get to do and being able to do what he loves for a living and for a career. Certainly I have no indication that he liked being at home more than he likes being at the race track and he wants to stay there. I certainly can tell that he couldn't wait to get back to the track."
HOW MUCH DID YOU GAIN FROM TESTING? "It's the same for everybody. We were actually all here together and they had a certain amount of cars on the track at a time. You try to do most of the runs by yourself, but, certainly, it's not a test where you get an advantage on everybody else because every team was here. So it was almost just like we had two extra days of practice, basically, for the race. The test helps us all know a little bit about what adjustments we can make. What helps the car and what hurts the car -- some things like that -- because we've never really worked with these things before. So that was just a little bit of a head start, so hopefully we know how to adjust the car and make them drive better and, hopefully, put on a better race."
IS THIS FIRST RACE A MAJOR MILESTONE AND WOULD IT BE A BIG DEAL TO WIN IT? "I think Tony answered it right last week, it's not a big thing on my to-do list. I don't say, 'Man, I'd love to win the first race with them cars.' That doesn't matter to me. You want to win every race. It's really cool to win at Bristol whenever you can do it. Obviously, you'd like to get the car figured out before the rest of the teams because that's gonna help you. I don't know how many of these races are in the chase, but I think there are four or five of them, and we've got to race them a bunch more this year to get into the chase first of all. So we certainly want to come out of the box and be strong with them, but to win the first race in this car, to me, is not a big deal. I think it's somewhat of a milestone for NASCAR, but yet through the years there has been a lot of other big changes. When they first went to common templates a while back, I think, was a big change -- making all the cars look the same. There have been a lot of transitions that the car has gone through, but this one is pretty big."
JEFF BYRD SAID HE CALLED YOU ABOUT REPAVING THE TRACK. WHAT DID YOU TELL HIM AND WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF A NEW CONCRETE SURFACE? "I was actually calling him about something else and he was just sort of telling me about it. But, I don't know. That's a tough question to answer because whenever you re-do something, how do you know it's gonna be better? I like the track the way it is. I think the track, if it was like this but they could figure out how to put down asphalt instead of concrete and make it stay down, I think it would be awesome. It would be like in the old days where you could run the top or the bottom. You used to see them up against the wall here and it would be like that again with the black top, but concrete it's just difficult to do that with. So I think if the shape was exactly the same and they just re-did it and tried to make it a little smoother and could put black top down and make it stay down, that's what I would like to see. I think it would be perfect then.
"The compound bank and all that, it's worked at Homestead and places like that, but this place is so narrow that I'm just not sure how that would work. Certainly it's real rough and really unique right now and it would be hard to mess it up where it drives worse than it drives now, but I like that it drives bad. It's a challenge. To race at all these tracks that are super smooth, you run around the white line and all that stuff, it's fun but it's not as much fun to come to a track like this or Atlanta or Rockingham or somewhere where it gets slick and the car is bouncing around and you have to work hard to control your car and find the right line. Those kind of race tracks are fun as a driver because they're more challenging."
IS NASCAR TRYING TOO HARD TO PUT YOU GUYS ALL IN THE SAME BOX? "It's getting obviously closer to that every day and with these cars it's a huge step closer than anything we've ever done before to being the same. Is that good or bad? I don't know. We'll all be able to watch and see, I guess. I'm not really sure. The racer part of me, everybody got here a different way, but I always enjoyed as much or more than the driver, I first learned how to work on the cars and build them and set them up and do all that before I ever learned how to drive them and I loved that part. I loved running my late model and sitting at home and trying to figure out something to be innovative and figure out how to make my car better than the next guy's car because more times than not the fastest car wins -- not the best driver, but the fastest car. Whoever gets their car driving the fastest is gonna have the best chance at winning because all of these guys our here are capable of winning if they get the right stuff. So I always liked that part of it. Certainly that has taken away more of that. It's making the cars more and more the same all the time and I honestly don't know if that's gonna make the racing good or bad. I guess it depends what you're looking for and we'll have to wait and see what these things are like. I don't think you can totally judge these cars here or Martinsville, but probably after Darlington we'll probably get a good idea. You'll be able to look at a high-banked short track, a flat short track and then kind of a speedway and see what they drive like."
YOU CAN'T PREDICT WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN, BUT DO YOU THINK WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT THE BEATING AND BANGING THAT GOES ON HERE OR THE CAR? "I don't know. Like you say, you can't really predict what happens here. You usually can't. There are races here that have been pretty darn clean, and then there are races here you've seen that aren't so clean. I really don't know. You'll probably be talking about both, but, like I was just saying, I don't think you can totally judge -- no matter what happens with the car of tomorrow -- off this race because this is a very unique race track and there's a lot of different stuff. Then we go to flat short track next week and then by the time we get to Darlington and probably Dover, when we get to those kind of tracks, we'll probably have a better idea of what we're up against. That's a pretty good mixture of tracks to kind of look at the car and kind of grade it and see where we're at."
-credit: ford racing