Robbie Reiser, crew chief of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, and Ben Leslie, crew chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, share the accomplishment of having the Coca-Cola 600 serve as their first victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series as a...
Robbie Reiser, crew chief of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, and Ben Leslie, crew chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, share the accomplishment of having the Coca-Cola 600 serve as their first victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series as a crew chief.
Reiser helped Matt Kenseth to victory lane in 2000 while Leslie made the calls to get Mark Martin across the finish line first in 2002. Both men shared their thoughts on what that win meant to them and the challenges they face in calling tomorrow's race.
ROBBIE REISER, Crew Chief - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus
IS THIS ONE OF THE MORE CHALLENGING RACES TO CALL?
"It can be because Charlotte is really temperamental when it comes to changing the car out. The track is so heat sensitive that if you start in the middle of the day and work through until the middle of the night, the track changes quite a bit. With the rubber build-up that we're seeing off the tires this year, the track changes even more yet, so you have to build in some type of adjustment into the car. It makes it easier if the car is handling right immediately and then you can keep up with the car all night long. If you've got a handful at the beginning of the race, it's probably gonna be a handful throughout the night because I don't think you can change it enough to get it right. It'll probably be right at times, but it won't be right all night long. Whereas, if you start out a little bit closer, the driver can pretty much dictate what he needs as the night goes on and you can keep up with the car."
DOES THAT FIRST WIN HERE SEEM LIKE YESTERDAY?
"I don't think it was like yesterday (laughing), but you always remember a little of something because whenever you do something well, you remember a little piece of everything you do. Anytime you win your rookie year it should be a surprise because it's such a competitive garage. You come in here trying to fit in first and trying to get top 10s. If you can do that, then you go out and try to win races. I don't think that night we thought we were gonna win. I think that night we tried to work the best we could for the best finish we could get and towards the end of the race, we were just able to get him into position and Matt was able to make the pass on (Bobby) Labonte at the end to win the race."
DOES THIS RACE MEAN A LITTLE MORE?
"They all pay the same amount of points, so you have to look at it that way as far as the championship run, but there are always a couple of races that stick out in your head that you might gamble a little bit more to try to win. The Coca-Cola 600, the Brickyard and the Daytona 500 are probably the races that you look at a little bit differently - not to mention the all-star race."
WAS WINNING LAST WEEK THE COOLEST THING SINCE THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Yeah, it was. The coolest thing I've ever been involved in was Matt's first Busch win at Rockingham. That will probably still be the best win no matter what happens, but last week certainly ranks right up there. It was pretty exciting. For all of the money that was on the line and with the way that event is set up as a sprint race, our team has never been about the sprint it's been about the long haul and trying to win at the end. Watching him go out there and duel like that with Newman was pretty exciting."
BEN LESLIE , Crew Chief - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU WON THE 2002 RACE HERE WITH MARK?
"It was a real honor. This is one of the biggest races we have all year, not to mention it's the longest and it's close to home with most of us living here in Charlotte. There are a lot of things that go into racing here, so the 600 ends up being one of the favorite races you want to win every year. It was just a real honor to be involved with something that worked out that well this close to home in one of the crown jewel races of the season."
WILL YOU EVER FORGET THAT WIN?
"No. Obviously with that being my only win that I have right now it's special, but that's a pretty big deal. Coming here and winning the 600, plus the Winston Million that was offered at the time as well, the whole thing was pretty unique and a pretty cool deal."
IS THIS ONE OF THE MORE CHALLENGING RACES FOR A CREW CHIEF?
"Yeah. It's real challenging on several different levels as far as the length of the race with starting in the afternoon and then running into the night. Charlotte itself is a physically demanding race track. It wears on everything and it wears on you mentally as far as all the obstacles you have to overcome to put together a whole race and win at Charlotte."
WHAT WILL YOU BE LOOKING FOR TOMORROW WITH THE CAR?
"What you work on today is to try and put some adjustability into the car and tomorrow you've got to keep up with the track. We don't have a very good starting spot, so you've got to make sure you're good enough to start with so you don't get lapped, and then you've got to have enough adjustability in the car to where you can get better at night. One of the huge disadvantages to starting so far back in the 600 is that in a lot of instances, if you have a decent starting spot, you can give up the first 50-100 laps of the race because you might be set up more for the night than you are the afternoon. You might not be as fast, but if you have a decent starting spot, you won't be in danger of getting lapped. We don't have that luxury, so we're gonna have to have some sort of adjustability built into the car, where we can move forward at the start and still be able to get it right at the end."