Rockingham: Ford - "Bootie" Barker interview

Robert "Bootie" Barker has done in two races what nobody else at Jasper Motorsports had ever been able to do and that's crew chief his driver to a pole in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Barker, who was hired during the off-season after Ryan ...

Robert "Bootie" Barker has done in two races what nobody else at Jasper Motorsports had ever been able to do and that's crew chief his driver to a pole in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Barker, who was hired during the off-season after Ryan Pemberton opted to leave, spoke about his immediate success and how it has opened his eyes to life in NASCAR's top division.

ROBERT "BOOTIE" BARKER, Crew Chief - No. 77 Jasper Engines and Transmission Taurus:

AREN'T YOU A LITTLE BIT SURPRISED TO WIN THE POLE IN ONLY YOUR SECOND RACE? "Yeah, we weren't focused on getting the pole here. We were mostly in race trim yesterday, so, I guess, in that respect is why I was most surprised. But I knew after our first run, our qualifying run in practice, we were pretty good. I told him we had a shot at it, so it wasn't totally unrealistic I guess."

ANYTIME YOU START A NEW JOB YOU WANT TO MAKE AN IMMEDIATE GOOD IMPRESSION. THIS MUST DO A LOT FOR EVERYONE. "I'm sure it does. You're right, you want to start off good but I'm really more concerned about the race. I'm more excited about that because you've got to do it every week. This is just a start."

DID YOU HAVE ANY LINGERING APPREHENSION THAT THIS POLE MAY HAVE TAKEN AWAY? "No, I believed I could do it and I believed they could do it. I'm not saying that in a bad way, it's just that I knew I could and I knew they could. It will take time. To beat these people you have got to hammer 'em all the time and that's what we want to do."

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT? "It's part of the game. You've got to speak well and answer the questions to get the money with the sponsorship and everything, so it's no big deal."

YOU APPEAR UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE ROLE OF ROLE MODEL FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. IS THAT ACCURATE? "Yeah. I don't feel like I am at all."

THE BETTER YOU RUN, THOUGH, THE MORE YOU'RE GOING TO GET ASKED THAT QUESTION. "You know what my answer is going to be too, don't you? No comment. That's it. No comment. I'm gonna stick to it."

YOUR GRANDFATHER HAD A LOYALTY TO FORD. DID THAT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO SWITH YOU TAKING THIS JOB? "No. I've raced every make and they're all hand-built cars. Not that Ford doesn't have an influence, though. I'm glad it's a Ford. Ford's got a great product and I love their engines, but the rules are dictated so much by NASCAR templates and everything, it's not that big of an issue these days."

SO WHAT WAS THE DECIDING FACTOR TO TAKE THIS JOB AS OPPOSED TO SOME OF THE OTHER OPTIONS YOU HAD WITH BIGGER TEAMS? "It really wasn't one thing, it was a lot of things. I had a lot of reasons - some personal, some business, some just competition motivated. I guess the major thing is I wanted to be in Cup, but I wanted to be in Cup with a good team and this was a good opportunity."

IS SOME OF IT THE CHALLENGE OF BEING WITH A SINGLE-CAR TEAM IN A SPORT DOMINATED BY MULTI-CAR OUTFITS? "Yeah, being the underdog is fun. I like that, but even though we're the underdog we've got Penske-Jasper motors and they're as good as anybody's. Everything else I feel you can kind of compensate for, so I feel we're in good shape."

DO YOU LIVE AND BREATHE THIS EVERYDAY. WHEN YOU LEFT THE TRACK YESTERDAY DID YOU ENJOY THAT POLE OR WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT THE RACE RIGHT AWAY? "I'm thinking about the race. I'm happy with won the pole, but the race is what counts so that's what's on my mind - winning the race."

DOES RACING CONSUME YOU 24/7? "Pretty close I suppose. I even dream about it."

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU WERE ASKED TO GO INTO THE MEDIA CENTER FOR THE PRESS CONFERENCE YESTERDAY? "I didn't want to do it because I don't think most crew chiefs go and talk in the media center, so I didn't want to do anything different than a normal crew chief would as far as exposure or anything. You've got your peers to consider and I didn't want to seem pretentious or whatever, but they felt it would be good for Jasper with it being our first pole and all that stuff so I did."

FOR FUTURE REFERENCE, GREG ZIPADELLI DOES THE POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE WHEN TONY STEWART WINS. "Oh, when we win now I'll be there, but not for the pole. Oh yeah, I'll be there with bells on, man. (laughing)"

ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE MEDIA ATTENTION IN WINSTON CUP COMPARED TO BUSCH? "I've had, I've counted them, over 50 voice messages on my phone since last night. So, yeah, I'm surprised. I couldn't get the phone to quit ringing, so, yeah, that has still surprised me with how much more exposure it is."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD AMBITIONS TO DRIVE YOURSELF? "No. I love to drive and I love to drive fast, but this is my end of the gig here."

YOU WORKED WITH DAVE AT BILL DAVIS RACING. IT SEEMS YOU GUYS HAVE HIT IT OFF IMMEDIATELY. "Sure, but Dave is like any other driver. He wants the car right and if it ain't right, he's mad and I don't blame him. It's pretty much that simple, but he's great."

IS HE TOO HARD ON HIMSELF? "Yeah, he's critical of himself, but he holds himself accountable and there are a lot of people that don't. So that's fine with me."

MARK HARRAH SAID YESTERDAY THAT THIS WON'T BE THE ONLY TIME WE SEE YOU GUYS UP FRONT THIS YEAR. DO YOU WELCOME THAT KIND OF EXPECTATION? "Sure, but we have to prove it. Talk is cheap. We'll see, but we're certainly gonna do all we can to be there."

SOME OF THE QUESTIONS YESTERDAY DEALT WITH THE ENGINE SITUATION. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT? "All of our engines from Penske-Jasper, I saw the dyno sheets from last year and they were all good. Honestly, I hate to say this, but let's say we get the third-best motor, it may be the third-best motor in the garage. So it's damn good and I'll take it."

YOU GET THE BEST OF WHAT'S THERE FOR THE FORD STUFF NOW, RIGHT? "Sure, but what I'm saying is that last year their stuff was just as good. It's no different. There's nothing any more special or any less special than what Ryan and Rusty had."

DAVE TALKED ABOUT RUNNING A DIFFERENT TYPE OF CAR THAN IN THE PAST. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT SOME OF THOSE CHANGES ARE? "I brought some things, but I don't want you to think that it's something revolutionary. We just switched to a standard car. We changed the way we hung the bodies. We changed the brakes and control arms. We changed the whole package, but it's nothing trick. It's just putting basic stuff under it, but it is all different and I was apprehensive about some things because we hadn't been on the track. It's different, but I don't want to lead anybody to believe that it's super-special or anything. It's just basic stuff."

WHAT WAS THE FIRST RACE CAR YOU WORKED ON? "The first car I really worked on was Ashton Lewis' car, right across the garage. Mr. Lewis and Ashton are some of my best friends. I was with them in the Busch garage before we got the pole because I was trying to learn some stuff yesterday morning."

HOW DID YOU GET HOOKED UP WITH THEM? "I was going to college and working at South Boston Speedway selling tires and they raced there. Ashton was in class with me, so I asked him and his daddy if I could work on the car and they let me."

-ford racing-

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ashton Lewis