Atlanta: Childress, Hamlin interview 2002-03-05

This week's NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featured Richard Childress Racing (RCR) owner, Richard Childress, and Kevin Hamlin, crew chief for the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Kevin Harvick. Harvick is the ...

This week's NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference featured Richard Childress Racing (RCR) owner, Richard Childress, and Kevin Hamlin, crew chief for the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Kevin Harvick.

Harvick is the defending race winner for this weekend's MBNA America 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS), which also marked his first Winston Cup career victory (Cracker Barrel 500 3/11/01). Hayrick's .006-second margin of victory over four time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was the closest win of any race since July 1993 at Talladega. Jerry Nadeau crossed the stripe in third to give Chevrolet the top three spots on the podium. Harvick returned in the fall to capture a third place finishing position in the NAPA 500.

In addition to Harvick, the RCR stable of drivers features the No. 30 Chevrolet driven by Jeff Green and the No. 31 Monte Carlo driven by Robby Gordon.

Chevrolet, the most successful manufacturer in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, has scored 26 Modern Era victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ford has 15, Pontiac has six, and Dodge has four.

The following are highlights of the Media Q&A's with Richard Childress and Kevin Hamlin:

Comments by Richard Childress:

With 72 wins as a NASCAR Team owner and a trio of young drivers housed this year at RCR, what has been your approach this season? "We're basically trying to have one team with three drivers. So far, the unity is good. The drivers have worked real well together. The crew chiefs are going to all be in once office together. We're building a bigger facility to house all three teams in one building. We're excited about it."

What does it take to be successful as a multi-team owner these days? "The biggest thing is the people. You've got to have great race drivers and good people behind you. You've got to have everyone dedicated for the cause. Communication is a huge thing that we've learned about over the past few years as a two-car team with our Busch cars. With the way they worked together, it told us it would work great (on the Winston Cup side)."

Do you think Robby Gordon has a different approach now than he has in the past? "He's got a totally different approach. He's dedicated to doing stock car racing and is still going to try to do some other forms of racing. We've got a lot of confidence in him. The team has confidence in him. The other drivers feel comfortable working with him."

What kind of advice have you given him? "We don't have the time it would take (to answer the question). When I went to Indy last year and did the deal with AJ (Foyt), I watched a different Robby Gordon than I saw five years ago and even when he was here with the other teams. I watched how he and AJ worked with each other and they have a lot of respect for each other. I've seen how he handles the media and the race fans and I think he's going to be great for Winston Cup racing. He's been competitive this year. We've had a couple of little problems, but we're going to have that. He's running at a different level than he's ever ran at in Winston Cup before."

When you were a driver, do you wish you had a guy like Richard Childress to come along to guide you? "Yeah, if I would have had somebody to sit me down and tell me what would happen and what could happen, and also the things that I would have needed to do to be successful, I would probably have had a totally different approach to my driving."

Would that have delayed your entry into team ownership? "It could have if I would have had a ride. But basically, I drove for myself the whole time. I could see the writing on the wall with all those new owners coming in, I knew it was time for me to move on if I didn't get one of those rides."

On the number of crashes Robby Gordon has had "I think Robby knows his mistakes. For example, at the end of the day at Rockingham, we were running seventh. We discussed what we could do there. Robby is a bright young man and he knows when he makes a mistake or when he should wait. He's at a different level in Winston Cup. He's a bright enough young man that he will be able to adjust to where we having him running this year."

On the multiple personalities of the three drivers "If we're winning races, I can handle the personalities. They're dedicated to winning. When you've got drivers like Green and Harvick and Gordon that are that dedicated, they have to have a personality. You can't just take a nice guy and a guy that's happy-go-lucky and win races every day with him."

Is the one-engine rule having any affect on the teams at RCR? "I think we're kind of limiting ourselves to a little less practice than what we normally would practice if we had a practice we could run. NASCAR's done a great thing. I think it's going to save money for the car owners and sponsors and everybody at the end of the day. But we need to have a practice engine. (As I see it), you'd qualify with your race engine and you pull it out and put it back in on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. If we had a practice engine, we would have run it at Rockingham and Las Vegas and then at Atlanta, we would have torn it down and build it back again. With qualifying engines, we'd run them 25 miles at Rockingham for instance, and you'd have to come back and throw have the engine away. A practice engine would be a tremendous savings for car owners."

With your young drivers, is having more practice time important to you? "It would be better to be able to run a lot of long runs and to know exactly the direction your car is going. It's hard to go out there and make two 50-lap runs plus at each Happy Hour plus qualifying and practice. First thing you know you've got 200 miles on it. We try to only put 100 miles on a race motor - maximum."

On Kevin Harvick for 2002 "Everything is great with Kevin Harvick. We had great Daytona 500 other than the crash, and I feel that was out of his control. At Rockingham, we were a little too loose at qualifying and got behind early in the race. Once we got in a (better) position, we had a second or third-place car all day. It was similar situation out at Las Vegas (last weekend). We pitted and two laps later the caution came out. It's very competitive right now. It's tough - especially with the Chevrolet."

Comments by Kevin Hamlin: Do you think NASCAR should establish a consistent rule for the red or yellow flag in the late laps? "We try to base some of our decisions on NASCAR being consistent. Going back to Rockingham, I don't know why they weren't consistent then. They didn't think they had enough time to get the race organized to finish the way they wanted to finish. It would be great if they'd put something in black and white so we actually knew what would happen if there were a 10 or 20 or 25 restart. It would make the crew chief's job a lot easier when deciding whether to pit or not pit."

Short of going to a common template, is there a way to stop all the griping and complaining about which manufacturers get rules changes? "Over the last few years it's definitely changed. Everybody looks to their manufacturer to get things taken care of for them. The smarter we get, the harder it is for NASCAR to make the rules even. Aerodynamics is a big part of this sport now. In the early '90's it wasn't as big an issue is it is now. Everybody knows it and the public knows it. There are a lot of little things that they check on our cars that the public doesn't see or understand. Maybe they say they'll give the Chevrolets two and a half inches of kickout and the Dodges get an inch, but they don't understand what that inch means from where they're measuring it and total length and all. Some of those numbers are deceiving to the public.

"To have somewhat of a common template might make the job easier for NASCAR. It's a tough job that they have right now in trying to balance this thing out every time somebody seems to think the scales are unbalanced. Last year, everything seemed like it was pretty good and the Dodges had a brand new car that they were working with, and they gave them something on the nose that really picked it up and made it good. Well then, Ford thought they wanted that and now Chevrolet thinks they need to balance that back out a little bit to make things more even."

On the new safety measures for 2002? "Everybody is always concerned about safety, but obviously after last February (Earnhardt's accident) it made everybody more aware. Every time something unfortunate happens, it would be stupid on our part not to learn and try to make things better. And that will be an ongoing thing - just like it is with the racecar. If you can't take what you learn to the next level, you're probably not doing your job."

What has the sport gained on the use of the black boxes? "That's an ongoing information gathering thing. If we had had it last year with some of the accidents, we would have more data right now to look at. Now, after some of the crashes we had at Daytona, they can try to review and make sense of everything that happened. They can try to make decisions on what they need to do to make these things to where they could hit the wall and still absorb the impact and make it safer for the drivers."

Do you believe in disadvantages and if so, were the Chevrolets at a disadvantage at Las Vegas? "I hate when people whine about the rules. But as far as the race, sometimes we miss the set-up a little bit and it's even harder for NASCAR to make a decision on what's right or what's wrong. The No. 31 (Robby Gordon) ran pretty good at the beginning of the race and they got their front fender tore up. The No. 48 car (Jimmie Johnson) ran pretty good. They were pretty much the best running Chevrolets.

"But now with track position as important as it is, and the way aerodynamics play into today's racing, maybe the whole aerodynamic thing needs to be reevaluated for everybody - not just one make - to try to make the race better. But I do feel that Chevrolet is at a big of a disadvantage aerodynamically right now."

Would a new nose be something that could help you short-term rather than having a complete re-design of the vehicle? "Without actually putting that thing on the car and going to the track and trying to run it and evaluate is hard to say. Going to the wind tunnel doesn't always tell you the true story. You almost have to put that thing in traffic and be around other cars to tell what's really happening. There is a possibility that it could help balance things out, yes."

On protecting the pit crew during close calls on pit stops "It's always been that way. We've taking steps to try to protect these guys with helmets. Hopefully that's going to help with head injuries. Pit road speeds have made it a lot safer. It's always been real close on pit road and always will be. The drivers do their best to miss these guys. Some of the racetracks where the pit stalls are a little bit smaller and pit road is a bit narrower, it just becomes another hazard."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Jeff Green , Robby Gordon , Jerry Nadeau , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Hamlin