Tuesday, April 1, 2003. Dodge This Teleconference Texas recap, Talladega advance MATT BORLAND (Crew Chief No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid) "It feels really good. It was a good day for us. The car ran good all day and Ryan did a good job and the...
Tuesday, April 1, 2003.
Dodge This Teleconference
Texas recap, Talladega advance
MATT BORLAND (Crew Chief No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Intrepid)
"It feels really good. It was a good day for us. The car ran good all day and Ryan did a good job and the guys did good in the pits. We pretty much have those plans in place before we get started, but it solidifies what we're going to do for California as far as car schedules. We're bringing that same car back to California now.
"Lakeland for sure is useful for short track testing or Greenville-Pickens. Nashville, the first time we went was this year and that was pretty helpful sorting out cars. With the switch over to Dodge, we had to go through all our cars and figure out what was going to work and what wasn't going to work. The speedway stuff, there's not a lot of places you can go to test those besides Daytona and Talladega. We went to Texas World this year. It wasn't too bad. It works OK for getting engine durability and getting a lot of miles on a car. Lakeland you can do more setup work at and a lot more work toward Richmond. Greenville is a lot more like Martinsville. You do a lot of brake testing there, a lot of heavy brake application, whereas Lakeland is a little more like Richmond. You're braking a lot, but you've got to be able to arc the car in the corner at the same time you're braking.
"I wish they just allowed us to test anywhere we wanted to as often as possible, but I don't think that necessarily circumvents the rules, but I think if they want to keep costs down the biggest thing would be just keeping the rules constant. I think the most expensive part of the series is just keeping up with the rule changes. It makes you have to go back and retest everything again. I think that's what hurts the teams with less funding more than the teams that have the funding.
"I think a lot of that is just the people. The guys on the team work hard. They do on other teams as well, I don't mean it that way, but these guys have really been dedicated to trying to make these cars as good as the ones we had last year. There's a lot of motivation that comes with that to get back to that level, and it seems to be working out for us so far this year. We've struggled at a few tracks, probably worst than a lot of Dodge teams, but we've had a few good races, too.
"We kinda both thought a lot of teams would be taking two tires and we'd be on two tires with everybody else. For sure, that would be the right call. When a lot of people took four tires, I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to hold the cars off at the beginning, but we knew our car was going to be good on the long run. The tire was really durable. It kept getting faster and faster the longer you ran on it. We thought we'd be OK in that case. It's one of those situations when you come in in the lead. If we were running third and knew the leader was taking two tires, we'd take four. If we knew he was taking four, we'd take two. You're stuck either way when you're leading the race at that point.
"I worked at Pac West as a race engineer there, but the team engineers called the race in the IndyCar Series. I did a lot of fuel mileage calls, but not as far as the way it works in NASCAR. It's a little different. It's a big learning curve. You have to make mistakes like everybody else does and learn as quickly as you can from the mistakes. Hopefully you can make the right pit calls. You make so many of those calls that sometimes you're going to be wrong. You just have to accept that and go with it and hopefully bat better than 50 percent. During the week, not a whole lot, but mainly on Saturday after practice is done (you think about pit calls). You spend most of the week worrying about how to build the car and what setups to run and things like that. Once practice is over and you've kinda made the decision on setups then we'll start talking about if the yellow comes out at this time, what do we want to do and if this happens at this time, what do you do? We kinda go through all that on Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday morning.
"I watched the replay (of last Saturday's Busch race) for the first time yesterday. I think Brian (Vickers) did the right thing. I'd hate for Ryan to cause a big accident by checking up on the restart. If you hit the brakes, you're going to cause a major pileup. I think what Brian did, he avoided the wreck in front of him and he also didn't pass the car until he got to the start-finish line. You could see the momentum of the car slow back down. Once he got to the start-finish line he took off again. I don't really see where he did anything wrong. I would hope Ryan would do the same thing at that point. Obviously it's NASCAR's call if they want to penalize you at that point, and they chose to penalize Brian. I would still take that everytime and avoid wrecking the whole field and take the penalty if it does happen.
"I don't think we might ever see them changing the way they review it. It took them so long to blackflag him because they were reviewing it. They're in a situation where they've got to make a call there, and they're not going to be right 100 percent of the time, either, just like anyone else. At the end of the day, it's their call that matters, and that's what they determined and that's the way it played out. You see it in any sport. Whether an umpire calls a ball or strike, that could cause someone the game or whether he got to the base before the ball got there. It's always a judgment call. In that case, I think it hurt Brian. Hopefully there will be other times it will help him.
"I think at the end of the day, you've got to let timing and scoring decide who took the lead at that point. At that point, Jeff had gotten ahead of Matt to take over the lead. I don't think that was the right thing for him to do, but at the end of the day he was ahead of Matt at the start-finish line. Every driver knows when they slow down to let lapped down cars go there's that possibility, and everybody understands it and upholds it in the gentleman's agreement. Why Jeff didn't, I don't know. There could be something more to it that I can't really comment on, but at the end of the day whoever crossed the start-finish line first is technically the person who's in the lead.
"The cars, although they've very different, you're still trying to accomplish the same thing which is to make all four tires work as best you can. From that aspect, it's pretty similar. A lot of the strategy part if pretty different. In Indy cars you just keep trying to run as long as you can on fuel because the cars get faster on long runs. With these cars, you continually get slower on long runs. You have to think kinda opposite from what you grew up doing. You get more involved in the car building process in NASCAR, whereas in CART you buy the chassis from Reynard or another supplier. You pretty much just run the car, but here you're pretty much building the car and motor from the ground up and racing the car.
"(Hands on mechanic?) That part of it is a whole lot funner. With that comes a lot more hours and a lot more decisions that were kind of made for you in the IndyCar Series. We both have kind of the same thinking, kind of the same thought process, and I think that helps you the most. We kinda know what each other is thinking all the time, and we can kinda bounce ideas off each other and help each other figure things out to make the situation better.
"The common templates are somewhat common. There's still some differences between the makes. For us it was totally different this year, mainly because we switched from Fords to Dodges. The aero part of the cars, pretty much at Daytona and Talladega, you're got aero and horsepower. That's about it. We're learning a lot with the Dodges on how to make the templates work and how to compete with the other cars. I think we're making some headway in that department, as well as the motors. Hopefully at Talladega we'll have a lot better showing and hopefully at Daytona we'll make even more improvements. Every template has tolerances, and you try to take the tolerances in the right area to make the car better. Obviously NASCAR has tightened it up this year, so the areas you can work in are a lot tighter and a lot less advantageous. At the end of the day, everyone has got roughly the same templates. You just try to be a little bit better than everybody else. If they give you a green tolerance to say half an inch, you take that full half inch one direction so you can move everything that's related to it half an inch as well even though you might be red on another tolerance. That red will be half inch different from where it would be if you went the other direction.
"The 17 guys have definitely kinda set the mark for everybody here the last couple of years. They seem to be the most consistent on pit road every week. We definitely try to strive to be even better than that. That's why the guys practice so hard every week and try to get better and better to try and beat those guys. The 17, 2, 24, the guys you see running good a lot of that reason is because the pit crews are good.
"All the guys on our team are as competitive as can be. No one likes to get beat week in and week out, so that drives you to be better. The Earnhardts have been really strong on the speedways, and that motivates everybody else to beat those guys and work on their cars to make them better and knock those guys off the block. Obviously, they're doing the same thing. They want to stay in that position, so they work as hard as they can to keep that.
"I'd say he (Ryan Newman) has got more potential probably than anybody. Last year there were some tracks that we'd been at for the first time - Watkins Glen, Martinsville, California. I think at two of those three he got the pole, ran really good in the race. He almost won Watkins Glen. He can adapt to any race track and figure out the fastest way around the track, and I think that ability lends itself to pick up all these tracks quickly. That helps us, if he knows the best way to get around the track, we can set up the car to make it work the best we can for the way he wants to drive the track. I think that's a huge plus.
"I'd say every driver is tough to please. I don't know a driver who's happy if they're not winning, but he always wants to get better, which makes him good, and it makes it hard to live up to that expectation. At the same point, he doesn't fly off the handle like a lot of drivers. He doesn't lose his composure, and that allows us to work through any issues we might have and come up with constructive ways to make things better.
"All the guys really look up to him. He hangs out at the shop a lot, pretty much every day. A lot of the guys pretty much look up to him not just for his driving talent, but he's a good all-around guy and that does a lot for motivation for the guys here in the shop working long hours. They do it because they know he appreciates the work they're putting in.
"Things change so quickly in the points right now, you can't get really focused on that. The biggest thing you focus on right now is to make sure the cars you're building are competitive and that they are capable of winning and the things you're doing on the team allow you to be capable of winning and the results that happen aren't necessarily that important right now as much as knowing the directions you're going are right, especially when you make the changeover over the winter like we did. We're just trying to see if everything we're doing is correct, and it seems like most of the stuff we're doing is working pretty good. There are some areas we need to improve upon, but I think we're learning a lot about the new cars.
"We knew it was going to be a pretty big challenge, and it definitely has been, but now that we've done it the cars are competitive. We're getting a lot of poles. We're qualifying better than we did last year, and our qualifying effort was pretty good last year. The Dodge cars have been awesome for us as far as performance wise. Hopefully we can keep getting top five finishes and some more wins and poles. It should be a good year."