Highlights of the NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featuring four guests: Driver Jerry Nadeau and crew chief Tony Furr, of the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and Larry McClure, owner of Morgan-McClure Motorsports and Mike Skinner, ...
Highlights of the NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featuring four guests: Driver Jerry Nadeau and crew chief Tony Furr, of the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and Larry McClure, owner of Morgan-McClure Motorsports and Mike Skinner, newly-signed driver of the No. 4 Kodak Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The following are highlights of the Teleconference.
Jerry Nadeau, driver of the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
Heading into Charlotte, will it be nice to be at home for the next 10 days or so? "Yeah, it will. I guess you could say this is everybody's home track. Most of the race teams are located close to the speedway. A lot of people take a lot of pride in that track. A lot of people test there. So we're really looking forward to it. It was one of my first stock car experiences racing at Charlotte when I raced two ARCA races there for Richard Jackson. We led the (Winston Cup) race last year and are looking forward to a good finish - maybe even a win.
Having won Atlanta last year, what are the similarities between that track and Lowe's Motor Speedway? "The configurations of the tracks are close to being the same. Atlanta is probably just a little faster because of the newer asphalt. Charlotte is a tough racetrack. It's more of a handling racetrack because the track gets real slick. You've got to get through the bumps really good. It's more of a driver's racetrack, whereas Atlanta is more of a speed racetrack. It's smooth and you've got to have a good aero package there. A driver can show a lot more at Charlotte."
What track allows you to demonstrate your driving style the best? "A place like Darlington is a very tough racetrack. A guy has to have patience and aggressiveness and has to be able to drive the racetrack. Some of these tracks like Atlanta are fast. They don't have a lot of bumps - more or less seat-of-the-pants kind of racing. You've got to run the car as fast as you can without wrecking. In a place like Charlotte, you've got to have a good handling racecar. You've got to be able to tell your guys (crew) what the car is doing because of the bumps and the turns. A lot of guys get upset because of those bumps. They can't get the car handling right; they don't feel comfortable with it.
"The road courses are more physically demanding because you're using a lot of breaks. You're on the gas, you're shifting a lot, and you're using your arms a lot. Places like that I think the driver shows more."
How do you account for all the cautions last week at Kansas City? "When you go to a new racetrack, you really don't know what to expect with the asphalt. The first day we were there, everybody loved it. There was a lot of grip. But you've got to remember that they were (driving) by themselves getting ready for qualifying. When you go to race mode, you're running two-wide, three-wide; you're losing a lot of air on the car. Sometimes you get guys underneath you and there's no outside groove. So you've got to back out. A lot of guys weren't giving and taking; they were pinching people down. It's just the competitive (nature) of the drivers. They want to do the best they can. They don't want to get stuck on the outside. They will try everything they can to get back in the groove. Sometimes that causes wrecks and unfortunately that's what happened last weekend. The track was unforgiving. Two years down the road, I think it's going to be a great racetrack and you'll see two and three-wide racing."
Do you think that having an older crew chief like Tony Furr can help you get settled down and into the groove faster? "Yeah. A lot of it is that everybody takes care of themselves the best they can. A lot of it is not knowing what to expect at a new racetrack. At Texas a couple of years ago, there was a 10-car pile-up on the first lap. We're all professionals, but we're all competitive, too. We want to win the race. At some of these new racetracks when you only have one groove, the guy on the outside is really screwed. He doesn't have a chance to get back to the bottom because everybody's in line. When you look at the restarts, that's where there were problems. When the cars got spread out, that's when you saw a lot of passing. When you're running two-wide, side by side, 18 rows deep, that's when it gets pretty difficult.
"A crew chief can help a lot. A spotter can help determine what's going on in front of the drivers. But you don't see a lot of these at tracks once we've been two three or four times. It's the new places that give us a hard time."
With your win at Atlanta and strong showings at Charlotte, why do you take so easily to these types of tracks? "I'm not really sure. I don't know if it's just the speed. It's tough to drive on the edge at 180 mph. I enjoy the fast mile and a half racetracks. We're good at them. We were great at Chicago this year. We led some of that race until we had a mechanical problem. We had an awesome run at Charlotte. We won at Atlanta. Texas was a good race until we got into a wreck.
"At Charlotte, I think I'm able to get through some of the bumps and turns better than some of the other guys. I think we've got some great set-ups, some great racecars, a great race team. Over the years, I've learned a lot. I didn't spend a lot of time in Busch. I didn't learn a lot about stock cars until four years ago. I got a late start. But I'm starting to realize now what I need underneath the racecar. This is the second year Tony Furr and I have been together and we're learning more about how to get this stuff done to get as good as we can in the race."
Did you see any signs in the pre-season that the No. 24 car would have the level of success they've had this year? "You can't doubt Jeff Gordon. Last year, his first season with (crew chief) Robbie Loomis, probably wasn't the best season. But they still managed to get somewhere in the top 10 in points. This year, Robby has learned more about what Jeff needs. And Jeff, he's just a great driver. He has a lot of patience. He's a heck of a racer and he's a great teammate. It doesn't surprise me a bit that he's doing as well as he is."
Now that we've entered 'Silly Season', how nice is it to be on the sidelines? "I was part of it for a little while. I'm not sure where the rumors started. But this happens every year. People are starting to shop around to get the best deal they can. This whole sport is not just about the driver, it's about everybody on the team. It's a team effort. If you don't feel like you fit in, you need to move on and find a place where you can do better. It's a great relief for me not to be involved. I know there were a lot of rumors two or three weeks ago that I was leaving or getting replaced. As a driver, you don't really look at that. I've moved around quite a bit and I'm glad I've found myself a home. It's comforting to know you're wanted."
If rumors start up, what do you do about them? "I never had any doubts and I never felt like I had to go to Rick (Hendrick) and ask what was going on. He came to me and told me not to listen to anything that was being said or written in the papers. We've got a two-year extension contract on my previous two years, so I've still got two years to go. I'm very comfortable there."
Looking ahead to this weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway, how does that whole aero and tire situation figure in to things? "Tires are tires. This who year, a lot of guys have been struggling. I know I have. Goodyear came out with a new tire, which is a lot harder and a lot less forgiving. When you start the race on cold tires, that's where you see a lot of mishaps. You saw what happened to Casey Atwood on the first lap at Kansas. Last year, the tires were forgiving. You could drive hard. You'd wear them out and you'd have to come in and put new tires on. At Kansas, I didn't even take tires on and we led 15 laps. We had a great car. I had 80 laps on my car and I was able to hang with the guys with zero laps on their tires. It shows how good the tire is, but it has caused some controversy. It's harder for the drivers when they're racing someone else because there's no forgiveness in the tires."
"As far as the aero package at Charlotte, everybody tries to get as much downforce as they can so they get glued to the racetrack. A place like Atlanta, I think the aero plays more because the track is a lot smoother. You do have to have a good racecar. But at Charlotte, you have to have a better handling racecar because of the bumps and changes in the racetrack."
Because of the aero package, do you have to think about the positioning of your car when you're trying to pass someone? "I think that's normal in every type of racing whether it's Formula One or Indy Cars or NASCAR. There's so much air out there and you want to try to get as much air on the racecar as you can. That's why the guys up front are running are running so much stronger. If a guy is running 20th and gets a chance to run up front, he can run just as fast as the leaders because of the aero. When you're making passes and trying to make up some ground, you've got to position yourself on the racetrack where you can get as much air on the car in front of you so you can pass him - whether it's on the inside or the outside."
In this whole tire/aero debate, is the critical thing the connection between the driver's head and his right foot? And is the driver ultimately responsible for what happens to the racecar? "Yes and no. A lot of times, when you get a guy in front and he's got your line, you can only make so many determinations with your foot or your steering wheel. If there's a guy on the outside of you and that guy takes the air out of in front of you, you're not going to grip with these hard tires. Most likely, you're going to get into the car next to you. So yeah, the driver has to be in control of the racecar at all times. But when you don't have the tires that you've had for 20 years, it makes it difficult. It's a bigger change than most people are used to. When you had those tires that had a lot of grip, you could do a lot of things with the racecar. You could make three-wide passes; you could drive it in there. This year, it's a lot more critical with the harder tires."
Q&A's with Tony Furr, crew chief, No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
From your perspective, what kind of car do you have to give Jerry Nadeau to get around Lowe's Motor Speedway? "You've got to have a car with a lot of downforce and it's got to be a good handling car - especially in the race. You've got to be able to work over the bumps - especially in (turns) three and four."
Has the concern over seatbelts gotten higher recently in the garage area since Jeremy Mayfield's accident at Dover? "I've really put safety first during my whole career. I've been a Winston Cup crew chief now for 12 years and I've raced all my life. I've never had a driver spend the night in the hospital, not one time. And I've worked with quite a few different drivers. My big concern has always been safety - not just since Jeremy."
Do you think that more guys re-evaluating their seatbelt set-ups now? "I sure hope so. There's a lot of talk going around, so I'm sure they are."
How much has qualifying become a race within a race now?) "When I first started in Winston Cup, the series was lucky to have 40 cars at some of the races. So it wasn't too hard to get in the field. But it got harder and harder because there would be 48 to 50 cars trying to make a 43-car field. The sponsors put up a lot of money and they expect to see you in the race on Sunday. That makes it tough. Your first race is on Friday when you get there."
Have you heard anything about rules changes for Talladega? "Yeah, they announced a couple of things at Dover. What they said is that we would have the same rules we've always had, but they're going to do a little tweaking on the Pontiac and the Ford. I think what they're going to do there is on the rear spoiler - it's 59 inches wide - and theirs will probably be trimmed down a little bit. How much, I don't know yet. I do not think they've confirmed that yet."
So they're still going to have the blade on the top of the roof? "Exactly."
Do you think the Talladega and Daytona rules should be different? "We had a NASCAR test a couple of weeks ago and we tried several different configurations on spoilers and stuff. Really, the best thing that can happen is what's going on right now. Whenever you have plate racing, you're always going to have close racing. There's no way of splitting them up that much. The cars have just gotten so competitive and so equal that unless you take the plate off, it's going to always be about the same."
If you need tires with more grip to make better downforce at Charlotte, how do you do that with the tires they give you? "You just try to get the maximum downforce - both front and rear - that you can get. You go from there. Hopefully you get a good set of tires that are really balanced as far as spring rates and get your air pressure right, and that's what you end up with."
Do you have any advice for a young, up and coming crew chief? "If they ask me, I'll shoot them straight or I won't answer them. You've just got to make sure the guy (driver) is comfortable and not put him on the edge too early, too quick."