Earlier this week, Robert Yates Racing announced some personnel changes involving all of its race teams. Todd Parrott will move from crew chief of Elliott Sadler's No. 38 M&M's Taurus to crew chief for Dale Jarrett and the No. 88 UPS ...
Earlier this week, Robert Yates Racing announced some personnel changes involving all of its race teams. Todd Parrott will move from crew chief of Elliott Sadler's No. 38 M&M's Taurus to crew chief for Dale Jarrett and the No. 88 UPS Taurus. Kevin Buskirk will served as interim crew chief for Sadler while Raymond Fox will oversee the team's Busch operation.
All of those men, including team owners Robert Yates and Doug Yates, and general manager Eddie D'Hondt, took part in a Q&A session Friday morning at Dover International Speedway.
"I'd like to welcome everybody this morning. We're here today to discuss the changes within our organization. Before we get started, some of you guys may question why I'm talking. First of all, my role is to oversee the engine shop for Robert and Jack, and that's my primary role, but also this team is very important to me. It's a family business and I want everybody to know that I have the utmost interest in this team and want to make sure that we try to get it like it needs to be. Eddie D'Hondt is the general manager running the day-to-day operations. Robert is there everyday and I just want to have a little bit of input on how we approach things and maybe I can lend a hand on how to go forward, so that's why I'm sitting up here talking.
"As you guys know, we moved Todd Parrott over to the 88 UPS team this week and in doing so we created a vacancy with the 38 crew chief position. In the interim, Kevin Buskirk is going to fill in and Kevin has been a key part of our team. He's an engineer on our team and we feel like he's going to do a good job for us while we search for a new person in that position.
"Why did we do this? Well, to be honest with you, with this new format that NASCAR has the pressure is more than ever to perform. If you're not in the top 10 making the chase, you need to look at your organization and try to make changes to make it stronger for the following year. It almost gives you a format to do that now. If you're outside looking in, you need to look within your organization and try to fix the things that you think need to be fixed and move forward.
"The 38 performance is not exactly where we want it. We want both cars in the top 10, so we were evaluating those changes. The 88 has been lacking some strong leadership. Billy Wilburn did a good job for us in the interim, but we need a strong leader in that position and we all know that Todd Parrott is a strong leader, so we felt like we would move him over and have some races at the end of the year to try to get that situation back where it needs to be.
"This is just part of the changes that we're making here within our organization, but these are the key leadership positions and we'll all see on Sundays the next nine weeks if any of these changes spark some things internally that we need to go forward and, if not, we'll continue to work on this thing until we get it right."
"I think the quality of sponsors we have in M&M's and UPS, we owe it to them to go out and perform at a top 10 level. Let's face it, our organization is one of the top five in all of what we do and we need to keep it there and perform that way. So we've taken a hard look and need to make changes until we get there and we're gonna keep on doing that until we do."
WHAT ABOUT THE AERODYNAMIC ISSUES? "Responding to the aerodynamics. Certainly when your performance is not from where it's been, you pretty much have to point your fingers in every direction and aerodynamics is certainly a beginning. It's been driven by our crew chiefs over the past couple years and really by the wind tunnel - not a professional graduate engineer aerodynamicist, but a guy who has run Lockheed and done a lot of work at Aerodyne and we question that. I'm sure he questions himself, but it's been driven that way.
"I personally started looking at it back in May, and I thought we were in bad shape. We made some changes, we thought, at Charlotte and Dover when we were here that we thought we had fixed everything. I think as the summer went on I realized that we still missed it quite a bit. Do we have it right? No, but we have now engaged Ford. Bernie Marcus is an aerodynamicist. He's looking over our program and he's driving it. He's got some new changes coming for us. We're really in a hustle back at the shop building the stuff, so we've got a professional on board and, hopefully, that part of it will be good. Kevin's program is working on the chassis end of it. There's been a lot of searching for what spring to hit on or which one not to and we've gone down a lot of avenues, but probably our weakest things we've done is we've tried to say, 'OK, let's all do one thing at a time' and it's not quick enough or fast enough, whereas Roush's model is five teams go out, they try to get the beach down every street available and whoever gets their quickest they can all jump on that. So we've really through the years have cowboyed our teams with that and certainly it's turned into an engineering model anymore. That's driven by Doug Yates now. He's laid out a template and I expect to really engineer this thing so all the pressure is not on the crew chiefs. However, with Todd Parrott, I'm gonna put him on there and if he doesn't get it done - I just filed my toenails this morning so his teeth will look good if he doesn't get the job done (laughing)."
CAN THIS WORK WITH DALE AGAIN? "I think so. A lot of things have happened since the past. I came back in 2003 with Elliott and we had a lot of success. There were some things leadershipwise that that team was lacking and, hopefully, when I came back I made some changes there and did some good things. We won some races and had a lot of success. A lot of things have gone on since then. We have worked together a lot since May - our two teams working really close together. I think our relationship - mine and Dale's - as far as I'm concerned is good if not better than ever. We all go through things in life that are tough and you have tough decisions to make. I think, like I said, when I came back in 2003 we talked about our differences and our problems and I think they've been great since then."
"It obviously remains to be seen. This sport, even since our split as far as driver-crew chief, a lot has changed. The way that you go about things. The setups that are run. Todd has an engineer that he hasn't really worked with that much coming on board with him, but he believes in a lot that they can have a lot of success. If the two of them have a lot of success, then I'm gonna have a lot of success or we all are. Hopefully, that can happen. As far as our relationship, that's great. I have a lot of respect for Todd and everything that he's done and accomplished here, so we're in good shape there. Hopefully, in these next nine races we can see some good things that are gonna happen for the entire organization. That's what all of this is done for."
WAS ANY PROGRESS MADE AFTER THE CHANGE EARLIER IN THE YEAR WITH THE 88? "When we made the change with Mike Ford back at the Charlotte race, having a crew chief change in the middle of the season is very difficult. To go out and get a strong leader in the middle of the season is very difficult, so we started putting a strain on some people that are strong in our organization to work with both teams to pull that together. As time went on, we started seeing that strain all over and all the way around and it wasn't fair to either team. A little competition is good and right now we'll actively pursue yet another strong leader for Elliott's team and hopefully that will be the base for us to take off in 2006."
DID YOU MAKE PROGRESS? "We did initially, but what we learned over a period of time was there was too much strain on just one or two guys. A team has to be able to survive on its own. They do have to work together. Not everything is gonna work for each team. As much as our drivers work together very well, there are gonna be times when one guy likes one thing and another guy doesn't like it as much. I think you'll see, like Robert mentioned a minute ago, the Roush model right now seems to be working right now. I'm sure if you asked them today they don't all run the same package. We were floundering so much at that point back at the Charlotte 600 weekend that we needed to go that direction to get some stability and we did. We had a great weekend there. We came back here and ran good here. It just got harder as we went on having, like Robert said, one or two guys cowboy that. It's a lot of strain over a long season."
IS IT HARD TO SEE FIVE ROUSH CARS IN THE CHASE BUT NONE OF THE YATES GUYS? "It is tough for me, but it answers the question that I feel like the engine program is pretty solid and it's always nice when you can take one part out of the equation and say, 'OK, that part is OK right now. Let's go work on the next part.' There's a long list of things that make up a good race team and whenever you can eliminate those variables then it makes it nice. It means the world to me that our two teams - I want to sit at the head table with Elliott Sadler or Dale Jarrett. I want to sit at the head table period, but it means a lot to me that it's our own organization."
WHEN DID YOU THINK ABOUT A CHANGE? "I think back in May we saw that we needed to maybe change up how we did things, but we didn't have the people or the cowboys to do it at the time. We were sitting there third in points with Elliott and we couldn't make a change there. We really couldn't even make hardly an aero change. We felt like we'd tune on it a little bit and if we'd stick with that we'd get in the chase. Then get in the chase and we'll start working on stuff. I tell you what, I like this format but I'd just like to be on the inside of it. One year ago is when our problem started. We started searching too early for '05 and actually our cars, I think, went south as far as performance and that just sort of led us into the year. It takes a long time to respond on getting the things sorted out, so I think we can unload our shoulders now and make changes and put people at it. I think we put too many people on the same base. Sometimes somebody can drop the ball because they thought the other guy was gonna catch it. So the template that Doug has for our race team - his model doesn't allow for two first basemen. So if the first baseman isn't tall enough or can't catch the ball, then we'll work on getting a better first baseman. That's his template and format, and that's an engineering approach. It's totally different than I've raced for years. It's working for his engine shop, we'll see how it works for the race shop."
YOU ALSO HAVE THE FUSION NEXT YEAR. HOW MUCH TIME WILL BE SPENT ON THIS YEAR AND HOW MUCH LOOKING TO NEXT? "Last year we had, 'Oh my goodness, they're gonna take an inch of spoiler away.' We crossed the cars up so badly that maybe, possibly, certainly I questioned it, that we were in such a hurry to get ready for '06 that we missed the last of '05. The model change that we have coming next year is an inlet for the grille - no fenders, no headlights. The tail has got the same real estate. It's a little bit further back and will reduce the drag and put a little more downforce on it. It's just a given. It's just a few counts of that. If we get our cars right for this year, right down to the last race, we can plug that other in and I don't think aerodynamically it's gonna make anything but just a little bit of positive for Daytona. Probably everywhere we race just a little bit positive."
KASEY KAHNE REFERENCED YOU LAST WEEK ABOUT HOW YOU HANDLED YOUR SITUATION WITH RYAN NEWMAN. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUNG DRIVERS LOOKING UP TO YOU IN THAT WAY? "I hadn't really heard that. I really appreciate Kasey doing that for me (laughing). I think there are certainly issues out there and I'm not gonna get in this. I didn't get into it then and I'm not going to now. Until you sit in our seat you have no idea what goes on. Until you've been where Elliott and myself and Kasey and Michael Waltrip and everybody, where we've been frustrated, you have no idea. You see time and again people run over people for no reason. I can't say for no reason. Obviously they're racing and that's been a part of the sport, but you find yourself in that position time and again and you don't see anything happening there. I mean, how many times have seen it go on and the guy runs in the top five? I guess you feel like sometimes you take matters into your own hands. Everybody is gonna be different in the way that they handle things. There's not a good solution to this whole thing. NASCAR is in a very difficult position, but it's a competitive sport. As far as what Kasey said, I guess that's not exactly what I want guys looking up to me for. I'd appreciate it if they'd take some of the other qualities, maybe I don't have any other qualities they want to look to, but I don't have a good response to that."
BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU FEEL IN THE SEAT. "Yeah, you have no idea. The question was posed to me this week, 'Well, the guys up front like Tony and Ryan raced clean last week.' Those guys were up front because their race cars are driving good, so you can race side by side. Where a lot of this stuff is happening is in the back. We're late in the season and a lot of things happen here, so I don't for any means think that the close and hard racing is over. I think you're gonna see a lot of it."
IS IT A CASE WHERE THESE YOUNG DRIVERS CAN ADJUST TO THE CHANGES QUICKER BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO HISTORY TO BASE IT OFF OF? "Yeah, I think we've said that for a number of years now that these guys come in and are put in a lot of times with crew chiefs and engineers that really haven't made their mark in the sport yet, so they're willing to try a lot of things. They don't know what we did in the past to be successful. They don't have any idea how Todd and I won twenty-some races together and the setups that used. If they looked at it, they'd laugh probably because it's so totally different. They don't have that mindset. All they want is to know what makes the car go fast and then they'll try to get a feel for what that is. We've had a more difficult time in making a transition to that. It's like at times we get right to that edge, or maybe it's a crossroads more than the edge, but we get there and then we're not exactly sure if we're supposed to go left or right from that point. Unfortunately, we've made the wrong decision more times than we've made the right decision on which way to turn. So we're still searching for that, but these guys don't have all of that old stuff to go off of. They don't know what the old tires did and they don't care what those did, and their crew chiefs and their engineers don't know about that, so it gives them kind of an open and clean book there to kind of make their mark and do the things that they want to do and they do a very good job of it." ON LAST WEEK? "Every situation is done and viewed differently as to what happened. NASCAR did what they thought they needed to do with mine. They did what they needed to do with Kasey and all the others. It's for somebody else to come up with a solution and decide what needs to be done. As far as what goes on inside the race car, we're just very competitive individuals here. The same thing that got us in this position as far as getting us to be part of the 43 inside here are the same things that work against us in difficult situations. Most of the time - 98 percent of the time - we handle it very professionally and then that other two percent, yeah, we get a little out of control, but that's also what fills these stands up, too. So don't think that they're totally upset about everything going on out there."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CREW CHANGES? "We're just competitive and we have a great relationship. We don't care if you turn our cars upside-down and we have to put M&M's and UPS on the bottom of them to make them run good. We don't care how this mix goes. We have a great organization and Eddie and Robert do a good job of keeping good people in there that we need to make this work. We just want to run good, I think."
"I agree with Dale. We are two of thirty something teams that are very frustrated after Richmond of not making the chase and we're all team players and we all want to run good. We feel that we should run good. To drive for Robert Yates is a great honor and he's been a winner and a champion and we all think we need to do that each and every year or have a shot at it. Whatever we have to do to make things run. We don't care whose idea it is. We don't care who gets the credit for it, we just think the 38 and the 88 deserve to run good and I think this is a great change for the whole organization. We're still gonna work very close, but I'm actually anxious to see how it all works out and, hopefully, gets us going in a right step. We have nine races to see if this is getting us in the right direction. We're coming up to some good tracks for us and, hopefully, we can put what we've learned into play and we'll just see how it all plays out."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHAT YOU'RE LEFT WITH RIGHT NOW? "I am happy with what, I'm not gonna put it like you said it, because I've worked with Kevin the last two years with Todd and Kevin is a big part of our team and has been there and has really helped bring our team a long way. He's pretty much probably one of the best-kept secrets we've got in the Robert Yates organization. I just think Todd and Dale had a lot of magic years ago and won a lot of races and ran good and can really maybe fill each others void that they've been missing the last year or so. And I think Kevin and I give ourselves a great opportunity to work together, too. As far as from an engineering side, I am very anxious in learning that part of the sport because I think that's the direction it's going in. I actually am pretty pumped up for the next nine races. I can't wait because I think Todd is definitely gonna get the 88 running better than its run this summer. I think we're gonna continue to on the pace that we're running on and I think that with them being that much better we can kind of leapfrog each other and kind of make our teams better. Instead of just kind of one team going in a direction and the other following, I think now we can go our separate ways, learn some things, put it together and make both teams stronger. I really believe that."
"I understand that everybody doesn't know who I am. I'm just a racer that races 24 hours everyday. I feel like I understand what the race cars do and I've driven for thirtysome years in a lot of capacities, so sometimes Elliott and I can talk a language that isn't necessarily understood by everyone. So I'm just here on a temporary basis. I hope I can keep everybody going in the same way and the 88 can learn from us and we can learn from them, hopefully, and we'll gain back some of the momentum that we lost. When they find somebody that's a strong leader, I hope that person wants me to stand behind them the way Todd did."
"Just for your information, Kevin was voted at Robert Yates Racing in 2004 as the employee of the year by everyone there. So that will tell you. You all might not know who he is, but at Robert Yates Racing we sure know who he is. He's a very strong leader."
DO YOU HAVE A CREW CHIEF WISH LIST? "Santa has my wish list and that's between me and him. I don't know, I want somebody that's gonna come in - I think I've got one of the best teams in racing as far as my whole team and depth. With Raymond Fox and Kevin and Dave Smith and Ryan McCray and Mike Lingerfelt - the names go on and on that have been a part of this sport for a long, long time. I want a leader that's gonna come in and be able to work with Todd and work with the guys. I could really care less how the crew chief gets along with me as long as he can get along with those guys. He works with them seven days a week. They have to work together. They have to keep ideas going, so that's what I'm looking for - somebody who can sit down and work with Robert and Todd and everybody else involved in that race team to do a good job. Somebody who is not afraid of ideas, not afraid if we have to turn the car upside-down to make it work because sometimes I like doing stuff like that - especially with Talladega coming next week (laughter). Anybody that's open to ideas like that is great. As far as the wish list, we've all sat down and thought of a couple names that we would love to go out and talk to, so we'll see what happens. We think a crew chief would love to come work in this situation because Eddie does a great job of running the business and Robert does a good job of keeping his door open all the time as far as access to him, and everything in the motor shop through Doug. Really, they just come in and they've got the whole group set around them where they can just jump right in and start working hard on as far as the cars are concerned. So I think it's a perfect situation for any crew chief that wants to come in."
WAS FATBACK MCSWAIN AT THE RACE SHOP THIS WEEK? "No."