DOUG DUCHARDT , VICE PRESIDENT OF DEVELOPMENT, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS MEDIA Q & A HIGHLIGHTS: (HOW DID THE OPPORTUNITY COME ABOUT TO LEAVE GM AND JOIN HMS?) Well, I really enjoyed my job at General Motors. Being the director of GM Racing is a...
, VICE PRESIDENT OF DEVELOPMENT, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
MEDIA Q & A HIGHLIGHTS:
(HOW DID THE OPPORTUNITY COME ABOUT TO LEAVE GM AND JOIN HMS?)
Well, I really enjoyed my job at General Motors. Being the director of GM Racing is a special opportunity and it was a job I worked for my entire career there. Rick approached me and asked me to help him and we talked it through. I just weighed out the opportunity from a professional and personal standpoint and just felt like it was the right thing for me and hopefully, for Hendrick Motorsports. I think one of the things that I liked about my old job were the programs that we had more control over, like the Corvette and Cadillac programs. Those are ones that we would kind of call 'company cars,' where you could help on the technology, the driver selection, the tire selection--all those types of things. Being closer to the racing was something that I was enjoying and I think that opportunity's here at Hendrick. It's a wonderful organization and obviously talented and I just hope I don't screw it up."
(WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT HENDRICK?)
"Ken Howes and I are working together to manage the competition side. I guess, simply, I'm working on engineering, chassis and body and Ken is working with the crews. The key is that, with me being new, Ken and I are in lockstep together; working to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Obviously, Ken's been there, shouldering a lot of the load and it's mainly Ken teaching me right now. Of course, Jeff Andrews and Jim Wall have been running the engine shop since October and doing a good job of that."
(WHAT DO YOU NEED TO LEARN COMING INTO THIS POSITION?)
"In my position at GM, I understood a lot of things but I wasn't in the nitty gritty of how a car gets built. When I say that, I mean what kind of inputs come into the chassis shop and the body shop to build a car, etc. A lot of it is understanding the processes they use to do that. It's the same way on the engine side. I wasn't specifically working with Randy Dorton on what cams and heads and whatever; it was more big picture stuff. I am getting some of those details and drinking from the fire hose right now, trying to figure out how everything works out. I think we'll get our legs under us really quickly and be able to address issues."
(WILL YOU DO R&D OR IS THAT FOR KEN HOWES?)
"Really, they interact because a lot of the R&D is driven from ideas from the teams. But they've got to race 36 weeks a year so how do you go execute those new ideas? That's what Ken and I have to work closely on. Those guys are giving a lot of ideas, we have people there to execute those and test those and that's what we're going to do. So, that's how Ken and I are working together."
(WILL YOU GO TO ALL THE RACES?)
"In the short term, I'm going to continue to work back at the shop and understand Hendrick Motorsports as best as I can. Ken's been handling the race track for a long time. I imagine about mid-season I'll be showing up frequently. But right now until June I'll probably be infrequent."
(HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GM THAT YOU'RE WITH A TOP FLIGHT TEAM?)
"In my move, I tried to be as open with General Motors as I could. Just to reiterate, there is no ill will there. I was not dissatisfied with my job. I loved my job. The point is that GM looked it as they were happy I was going to a Chevrolet team, I don't think they had any team that they wanted me specifically to go to. I'm staying in the family--in the extended family--and I've been a GM guy my whole career. And I'm proud we won the Daytona 500 for Chevrolet. Hopefully we can win a bunch more for them."
(COULD YOU IMAGINE GOING TO ANY OTHER GM TEAM IN THE PADDOCK?)
"I never imagined I would get this opportunity. You get offers throughout your career and you evaluate each one of those as they occur. Obviously, if I had my druthers, Rick would not have needed to call me. I would have continued on with my old job and been happy with that. But that's not how it happened, so Rick called me and we talked and I weighed it from a professional and personal standpoint. And here I am."
(YOU HAVE A UNIQUE SKILL SET THAT IS RARE. HENDRICK NEEDED SOME KEY PEOPLE AND YOUR SEEMED LIKE THE PERFECT FIT)
"I tell everyone about my job and the thing I say is: do no harm. This is a team that won 13 races last year. They powered 14 winners, counting Nemechek. You know, we had two guys that went down to the last lap at the last race for the championship. This is a very capable race team. They don't need a whole lot of fixing. So my goal is to understand everything first. It's continuous improvement and that's what this garage has always been about. We're hoping that we can continue to ride this cycle where we think we've been pretty competitive. I think that there is a hugely talented core there that just needs a little bit of help."
(IT SEEMS LIKE THERE STILL REMAINS A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF DEPTH AND PERSONNEL AT HENDRICK)
"And that's the credit to Jeff Turner and Randy Dorton and John Hendrick that they had that vision that knew they needed to have those backups. Out of all the discussions about how we need to improve at Hendrick, the one thing that never comes up is that we need different personnel. It's really interesting and it's very exciting. We have two excellent veteran drivers and we have two young drivers that really, I think, are on the cusp of doing a phenomenal job. We're focused on, and Rick is focused on, getting those other two cars up there. And we stand there with Terry Labonte running this week and he had an excellent test out here so I can't wait to see how it goes with him. I know it's early in the season and obviously after winning the Daytona 500 we feel good, but there's a lot of enthusiasm."
(SO, ARE YOU OVERSEEING MORE OF THE NO. 5 AND NO. 25 TEAMS?)
"No, those crews will continue to report into Ken. I think the key is that with Brian Whitesell over there--and that was a great decision made before I got there--is that you have a conduit between the #5 and #25 and the #24 and #48. The processes and the knowledge -- all that is going back and forth. Obviously, on the engine systems, those are all of the same bullets going into all those cars. On the chassis and body side, there are good processes in place to gain learnings as we build each car. So, I feel confident that the cars we have here are very close and we have processes in place. It's just started. We have one race here with Brian as sort of the head of the #5 and #25. As we go on this year, I think we will see more strength from those guys."