This Week in Ford Racing October 19, 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Success in racing is the culmination of enormous teamwork that begins weeks, even months before the green flag waves to officially start a race. And by no mistake, the ...
This Week in Ford Racing October 19, 1999
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Success in racing is the culmination of enormous teamwork that begins weeks, even months before the green flag waves to officially start a race. And by no mistake, the #50 Grainger/Roush Racing/Ford team and driver Greg Biffle who have won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) record nine times in 1999, have benefited from this team approach.
Crew Chief Randy Goss helped initiate the truck racing effort at Roush Racing and before joining the truck programs, he worked on Roush's road racing efforts contributing to Sports Car Club of America's (SCCA) Trans-Am superstar Tommy Kendall's championship efforts. Goss is a former world-class motorcycle racer who won the 1980 Winston Pro/Grand National Championship and was one of 24 riders inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Grand National Hall of Fame in 1998. Car Chief Dan Binks, who was Kendall's crew chief from 1986 through 1997, won four Trans-Am championships with Kendall and Roush Racing from 1993 to 1997.
Goss and Binks look ahead to the final NCTS race at Fontana next week, and discuss this attempt for Roush Racing's first NASCAR championship in comparison to the SCCA Trans-Am championship runs of a few years back.
Only 25 points separate the top-three drivers, including point's leader Greg Biffle, heading into the season finale at California Speedway.
WHAT PAST EXPERIENCES WILL YOU REFER TO AS THE TEAM PREPARES FOR THE RUN FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP AT THE SEASON FINALE ? Randy Goss -- "Like we've always done, the biggest thing that we're trying to do is just do what we've been doing all year long. From my standpoint, the guys that have been bolting things together have been doing a great job. I'm going to leave them alone because they have been so good all year. But you can do the extra stuff that sometimes you don't get a chance to do during the season when you might be in the middle of a seven-week run. During that time, you might not look at every mount and every bracket to check them for cracks or whatever. We have a little break here to look things over a little bit harder. It's really tempting to not try and go to the next level. It's tempting not to say 'hey why don't we try this with our aero package or maybe we need a better motor or maybe we should try something different from what we've been doing'. That's the hardest part. You really feel tempted when you're in this position. Right now our plan is to go and just do what we've been doing."
Dan Binks -- "Back in 1994, we were basically in the same situation with Tommy Kendall where we were on the brink of a championship. But unfortunately that year we ended up third. We wrote off our primary car in practice at the last race. We thrashed hard to get the backup car ready, but it turned into a disaster for us. We ended up in third place in the championship race. So our spare (truck) will be much better this time. We knew a few weeks ago at Louisville that our spare was good, but we hadn't had to use one (spare truck), so we didn't know what to expect. It wasn't the quality of spare that we needed that day. So we're not going to let that happen at California. If we do need a spare, it's going to have all the right stuff on it. We'll be taking two good trucks to California. We're taking the truck that we won with at Michigan as our primary and the truck that we ran last weekend at Texas as our backup. As far as our championship effort, we're just trying to get all the pieces and parts in line. We need to make sure the engines, transmissions and all the other parts are just right. Going into Fontana, we're trying to pay really close attention to all the parts that we get and assemble to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks. And that's the same in any type of racing that we do."
WHAT IS THE STRATEGY AND HOW ARE YOU PREPARING FOR CALIFORNIA? Randy Goss -- "My nightmare is that the Chevrolet's are awful slippery at a big track like that and of course the Dodge teams will be tough too. I'm worried about those guys getting away from us and Greg not being able to keep up with them. If we change our strategy now, that would be stupid. Obviously if after the race, we find out that we couldn't keep up with those other teams, we'll think that we should have changed something. I think that the smartest thing that we can do now is to keep going with our same plan by trying to hit our setup, not get too crazy and let Greg (Biffle) go and race. We'll use our Michigan truck as the primary. It's only raced twice this year, at Michigan and Las Vegas. It's a pretty good truck. The one advantage for us about taking a truck that has run well is that you can miss a spring, shock or sway bar; and after the driver comes in and complains, you can usually find the problem pretty quickly. Now if you take an unknown truck and the same thing happens, you find yourself guessing on what the problem might be. When you have a truck that you're familiar with, you can find the problem much quicker and then keep tweaking the stuff that really makes a difference."
Dan Binks -- "We're not going to take any chances on any parts. If it's questionable at all, we'll put a new one or a good used one off of one of the other trucks on there. We won't try to overstep our boundaries trying to use something new and trick because that's what will get us. Jack (Roush) has told us year after year; the guy that is steady and doesn't try anything too crazy is the guy that wins. That's what we're trying to do over the next two weeks. We'll definitely try to get our setup quicker than we did at Texas. We had a good setup at Michigan this year and we ran pretty strong in practice and ran good in the race. Our setup will be the key at California and then staying out of trouble too. The other night (at Texas), there was quite a bit of trouble and I think that the drivers will be running even closer together than they were at Texas. The setups are somewhat close between Michigan Speedway and California Speedway depending on the temperature. I think that we had a really good truck there (California) last year. We finished seventh but we were running better than that during the race. We just got passed in the draft. Greg's experience level in the draft will be much better this year."
IF YOU WERE TOLD AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR THAT YOU'D HAVE NINE WINS AFTER 24 RACES, WOULD YOU HAVE BELIEVED THEM? " Randy Goss -- "No. If we win the championship, I'm going to look at it like we won it twice this year. So you can chalk two up for us! I would have never believed that we would run this well. The thing that people have to remember is even though we might not have had the best truck, Greg (Biffle) hung in there and kept digging. Then we'd work well in the pits and get him out in front. We were just sitting there and we'd win the race. We've been in the right place at the right time a lot this season."
Dan Binks -- "No. I thought that we could realistically win maybe five or six races. Five wins would have realistic. Anything less than five, I might have been disappointed. But to win nine in any year is phenomenal. And to win that many with this level of competition is great. Don't get me wrong, winning 11 of 13 Trans-Am races in one season (1997) was awesome. But the competition there was not what it is here. When I first came to this team, I thought that it would be easier than it's turned out to be."
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE KEYS TO THE TEAM'S SUCCESS THIS SEASON? Randy Goss -- "One of the strengths of our team is all the experience that we have and how well we work together. 'Binkster' (Dan Binks) has been a crew chief and has road-raced cars forever. 'Cowboy' (Kevin Starland) has also been a crew chief and has worked on a lot of short track stuff. So we basically have three crew chiefs working on the truck. You've seen some of the Winston Cup guys saying that if you can get a crew chief who is the next guy down, he will carry the ball in a lot or areas that the crew chief might miss. So basically we have three guys who could be the crew chief if needed. If everyone is working together in the same direction, then you have an advantage over most teams. So we'll put our heads together and execute a lot of stuff very fast and then (Greg) Biffle can tell us what he likes and dislikes. I think that we have some great personnel. That is one of our strengths. Another thing is what the live pit stops have brought to this team and the series. The pit stops have brought so much more pride to the individual guys and the team. Each guy goes out and practices together and that brings the whole team closer together. It gives them each individually a bigger part of the deal because you're making a different kind of commitment to it. People talk about the driver or the crew chief, but when they pull into the pits, every guy is just as important as every other guy. That's what's made us come together so well. We've put the old Jack Roush code-of-pressure on some of the new guys sometimes, but everybody strives on pushing each other to the next level for the common goal."
Dan Binks -- "Its definitely not just Randy (Goss) or myself or Max (Jones - team general manager). It's a whole group of guys that work well together as a team. There are about 20 guys that travel and seven or eight more here at the shop that really get the credit for getting these trucks back to the track every week. The experience level that we have is a great asset to have but we've all pitched in and contributed. This whole group is made up of quality guys. From the people that travel every race weekend to all the people back in the shop from the fabricators, the engine guys to every one at the shop, we really have quality people working with us. We all have our own certain areas that we take care of."
COMPARE TOMMY KENDALL TO GREG BIFFLE. Randy Goss -- "I don't even try to compare those two. Road racers are so much different than short-track guys. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but there is something different about how a good circle track driver drives and how he makes things work. It would be really tough to compare those two. When you compare Greg (Biffle) to other short-track drivers, I see him doing things that other people just can't do. For example, you'll see him fighting with a group of guys on the track and he's right on the ragged edge. Even when a guy is on his inside, Greg will keep fighting for his spot, which might seem stupid at the time. But the next thing you know, he's up with the next pack of trucks that were in front of him and the other pack is not with him anymore! It's hard to find those kind of drivers. Greg has taken us to the next level of setup. If you give him a multiple-choice question like, 'do you want to change a track bar, wedge or spring rate?', he will take you in the right direction. His patience on the track and his driving savvy have improved so much. He's learning fast."
Dan Binks -- "(Tommy) Kendall was pretty intelligent as far as knowing what the car needed to feel like and didn't miss too often. When he told us what needed to happen, we usually agreed on the changes and made them. The car was really close all the time. Sometimes I wish that Tommy had driven a little more aggressively. And sometimes he would. Out of the blue he might get too aggressive depending on who he was racing against. He had a habit of not being aggressive enough against some guys, like (Scott) Pruett. But then when he ran against some guys like Ron Fellows, Tommy had his number so he would race much more aggressive against Fellows than he would against guys like Pruett, who's number he might not of had. But all in all with Tommy, when you went the racetrack, you just knew that you had a very good chance of winning every week. I'm not sure how many total Trans-Am races we won together, but it was a pretty big number. As far as (Greg) Biffle goes, the guy has awesome talent as far as being able to 'save it'. In a road-race car, a save is correcting a mistake in a (slower speed) corner. Well with Greg, he's able to save the truck at places like Michigan Speedway, which is a huge deal. It's not like correcting yourself at turn 5 at Road America. What Greg does is a big deal that requires a lot of skill. For him to be able to bring the truck back and allow us to work on the same truck and not have to pull the secondary truck out is huge. As far as that, Greg is incredible. His feedback to the crew has been getting better and better. Greg is also open-minded enough now to make changes on the truck so that he'll have a winning truck at the end of the race. In probably half the races that we've won this year, the truck wasn't good enough when we started the race. But obviously it was good enough at the end of the race."
YOU HELPED JACK ROUSH LAUNCH HIS TRUCK RACING OPERATION. TALK ABOUT HOW THAT CAME ABOUT? Randy Goss -- "Well there were some rumors going around that Jack (Roush) was going to start a truck team. At the time, I was working for 'Binkster' (Dan Binks) on Kendall's Trans-Am car. But I was working after hours on a kid's motorcycle and was taking him dirt track racing on my off weekends. So I was basically working to around 11 p.m. every night. I'd come to work and then go home and work on the bike 'til late. On weekends, my wife and I would take the kid racing and would spend my own money doing it. So when the rumors were going around, I told Max (Jones - Roush Racing general manager) that I would quit working on bikes at night and if they brought the truck team here, I would help work on it in any of my spare time. The very next day, Jack (Roush) told me to get my stuff together because I was going down south with him. One day I said one sentence about truck racing and one day later I was doing something else. So you want to be careful about what you say to Jack! He just might take you seriously. So we built the truck down in Liberty (NC) and dragged it back up here and we were on our own after that. That's where it all started. We've come a long way from buying our chassis and then working up to building our own chassis and hanging our own bodies to where we are now doing all of our own stuff in-house. The advantage to building your own stuff is that if you bend something or wreck it, we put it on the plate here and check it out ourselves. The crew chief can see if the clip is straight and the bolts slide in. He doesn't have to take someone's word for it. He can walk back there and look for himself. We don't have to send it out to somebody down south. That's the advantage of doing it all ourselves."