Robbie Reiser -- who has been the crew chief of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion since the team originated in 1999 --earlier this week was named General Manager of Roush Fenway Racing's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team operations. Matt Kenseth, driver of the...
Robbie Reiser -- who has been the crew chief of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion since the team originated in 1999 --earlier this week was named General Manager of Roush Fenway Racing's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team operations. Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17, was the series' rookie of the year in 2000 and series champion in 2003. Reiser met with the media following Saturday's first practice session.
ON HIS NEW JOB. "It's really not that different than what I've been doing. The office is only going to be about 40 feet from where I've been the last few years, so I really don't look at as that big of a change for what we're doing. Obviously, I'll be involved with the five teams, but what I do on a daily basis, it'll change a little bit because the guys on the 17 will be off on their own, but it's really not that big of a thing."
MARK MARTIN WAS VERY COMPLIMENTARY OF YOU, AND THAT YOU WILL GO GET IT DONE -- EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU WON'T GET PERMISSION. "I'm sure Jack's a little bit nervous because I do go out on a limb once in a while with some of the stuff I do, but it's all about racing and doing the best we can so we can come out here and compete and win races and championships and whatever we have to do. So, this is the next step, and I've been doing the crew-chief job for a lot of years so this is what he's got in line for me."
WAS IT TIME FOR A CHANGE FOR YOU? "I don't know. The contract I have at Roush Racing was to get 2009 in, and I was really committed to do that. And every year for the last couple of years, this has always come up -- and it just seems like the right time, I guess, if you look at it. I'm concerned at the direction we're going with the COT and how that's going to change the way we build cars and what we're doing. Also, the direction our company with, you know, selling cars to other teams and other team owners is going to change some of our direction, so to be a part of that -- I don't want to be a part of that two years down the road when we're already committed to go a direction, I'd like to get in front of that and help our teams as we build on that."
HOW WILL THE CAR OF TOMORROW CHANGE THINGS FOR AN ORGANZIATION LIKE THIS ONE? "I think, probably, in all the organizations that you've got the engineering direction that most of these teams are going, and then the Car of Tomorrow builds a manufacturing type of car now, where you have to kind of production-build the thing in a lot of ways. So, I don't want to lose what that is. I want to be able to bring the engineering side of our company to that car and also be able to manufacture at the point where we can get cars built for everybody."
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HOW THIS MIGHT AFFECT MATT KENSETH? "This ain't affecting the 17 team. What's the difference if you're a GM or a crew chief on the 17? You're still involved in the 17, you're still working with it on a day-to-day basis. Maybe if you're doing the daily decisions on everything they've got going on, but it's driven by Roush Fenway, and what they do there is really no different. I don't really know what to say. The 17 has been together so long that all the guys are pretty much at the point where they're full-grown, they can go do what they want to do on this team. So by me coming out of the mold and allowing everybody else to step up a little bit -- they've all been doing the same job for a long time, too -- so it's their opportunity to do a little something different that will make it exciting for them. But, like I say, I'm just in front of the building right now, so you can come up and talk to me or do whatever you want. So that's why I don't really think it's all that different than what we've been doing."
WILL YOU MISS THE INTERACTION WITH JUST THE ONE TEAM? "There's a lot of things I'm going to miss. There's also a lot of things that I'll have a little more control over than what I've had in this role. So, anytime you've done something for so long, you're going to miss a little something -- I'm going to miss being here every weekend, paying attention to what he's doing and having a good time with it. But, this is part of racing, it's part of getting older, it's part of growth of the company, it's part of growth in the organization, it's change in NASCAR -- all of that stuff makes a difference."
WILL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO SEE ANY CHANGES IN ROUSH FENWAY RACING NEXT YEAR? "Well, I'm sure there will be some things that are different, otherwise they wouldn't ask me to do it. What that's going to be -- I haven't even taken the job yet so you're asking me a question that I don't really know on that."
BUT YOU'VE BEEN THERE A LONG TIME... "We've got some things we want to change, but, really, if you look at our company right now, the 48's killing us every weekend, but other than that Roush Fenway, with the cars that we've got going right now is just as strong as anybody in the garage. So, to say, hey, we're going to make 1,000 changes? No, we're not going to change a bunch of stuff. We'll work on some stuff internally that we do on a day-to-day basis, the way we prepare for a race, but that's about it."
WHAT ABOUT THE CAR OF TOMORROW AND HOW TO HENDRICK GET SO FAR AHEAD? NEXT YEAR, WILL WE SEE OTHER TEAMS CATCHING UP? "The Car of Tomorrow is total focus next year and everybody is working on the stuff. You're going to see everybody pick up their game and go after that car a lot harder than they have this season. The way Jack approached this season was to maybe not take a 100-percent look at the thing -- and we scrambled there at the beginning of the season, but I think if you look at what we've done the last three or four months with the COT, we've been pretty darned competitive with it compared to where we started out the year; we really struggled. Take that project as an example. We had trouble with it, we grabbed a group of people and we went to work on it, it got a lot better by the end of the season. So, that probably will be the direction for that car for us for next year."
PEOPLE WONDER HOW TEAMS COULD NOT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY AND HAVE TO SCRAMBLE AT THE END. "The preparation from other teams on the COT was probably at a better focus than what we had to start the year. I don't think we have that right now. I think the last few races, we've actually won a couple and all of our cars have been up in the front, so I think that part of it we're gaining ground on. Everybody sets up their companies whatever way they want -- this year being unique because we had the two cars, and you had to pay attention to that. And there's a lot of things going on and you just have to line your time up and do the best you can. And, obviously, like I say, Jack decided not to take a 100-percent look at that car and leave it to the side a little bit -- well, we paid the price a little bit at the end. So, we had to go put an R&D team together and put some things together and obviously in three months we turned that thing right around. So, I'm pretty impressed with our whole group doing that."
DO YOU SEE YOUR NEW JOB AS BEING HIGHLY ADMINISTRATIVE, OR WILL YOU STILL GRAB A WRENCH AND JUMP RIGHT IN THERE? "I'm going to do it from the technical side way more than I'm going to do it from the administration side. The thing that you guys got to realize is one guy doesn't run these companies. There are departments involved in these companies. When you start talking 400 or 500 employees, one guy doesn't run this. I mean, we've got departments -- all I'm going to do is pay attention to what we're doing more globally and more from an outside look, and try to pay attention to what we're doing and try to give it some structure from my vantage point, I guess.
"But when you sit down and really look at what all's going on -- you've got chassis departments, engine departments, body-hanging departments, travel department, truck-driving department, DOT, all of that stuff is built in this company. And then obviously there's some administration role that we'll have some help with. I won't be doing that on a full-time basis. So, when you look at it like that, I'm just doing a job, just like cashier at the local grocery store gets moved up to a service manager. That's kind of what I'm doing."
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW CREW CHIEF FOR THE 17, CHIP BOLIN? WHAT'S HE LIKE? "Chip, he's been a part of this team since we started. He's a great guy. Very technical on the cars. Helped me a tremendous amount. I think we've helped each other, because when Chip came in, he was real young and just out school and didn't really understand the cars, and we put 'em together and we built the team together and done a lot of things as group. Chip deserves this opportunity."
WHAT ABOUT THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES REGARDING YATES RACING? "Yates Racing is separate from us. When it comes to your cars, we'll be building them and working for them in a way to prepare their cars for them, but they're a separate race team and a separate unit, and Max Jones is going to go over and do that, and they've got their own stuff to work on."
WILL BE THERE BE ANY ECONOMIES OF SCALE OR PERFORMANCE ADVANTAGES IN BUILDING SIX OR SEVEN CARS INSTEAD OF FOUR OR FIVE CARS? "No question. The Car of Tomorrow has definitely put us in a position where we're production-building some of the equipment. So, the way we go about manufacturing it, being it's a larger number, will change how we will go about doing it."
-credit: ford racing