Atlanta Crew Chief Club at the Cracker Barrel 500

Crew Chief Club at the Cracker Barrel 500 Event: Cracker Barrel 500 When: Sun., March 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST on ABC Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile quad-oval) * Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and ...

Crew Chief Club at the Cracker Barrel 500

Event:  Cracker Barrel 500           
When:  Sun., March 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST on ABC
Where:  Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile quad-oval)

* Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 65 wins, 355 top-five finishes, 569 top-10 finishes and 66 poles prior to this Sunday's Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

* Makar and Bobby Labonte are the defending winners of the spring Atlanta race. They finished the race in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 16 seconds with an average speed of 139.501 mph.

* The Crew Chief Club has three wins in the spring event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The wins were provided by Makar and Labonte in 1998, Parrott and Dale Jarrett in 1997, and McReynolds and Ernie Irvan in 1994.

* In last year's Primestar 500, the Crew Chief Club finished in the following order:

Makar/Labonte Start: 14th Finish: 1st Status: Running Parrott/Jarrett Start: 4th Finish: 2nd Status: Running Pemberton/Wallace Start: 22nd Finish: 4th Status: Running McReynolds/Earnhardt Start: 30th Finish: 13th Status: Running

* Crew Chief Club souvenirs and wearables are available on the Chevrolet and Ford merchandise trailers. Fans can also log-on to the Crew Chief Club at their official website, www.crewchiefclub.com.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS IN YOUR PREPARATIONS FOR ATLANTA?

Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "The first thing you have to do when you get to Atlanta is you have to get ready to qualify. It's a unique place in that it's so fast right now. We're running as fast there as we do at Daytona just about. It takes a lot of preparation mentally and with the car to go out and run a lap like that, especially for the drivers. We really work hard on trying to get a good qualifying lap, because the first four or five cars usually take off and run away from the field in the early part of the race. So it's real important to get a good qualifying lap. Now, the last three or four times we were down there, we've had weather create a problem with practice time. It will be real important for us to utilize practice time to the max. The key to Atlanta is not to get your car too tight. If you get too tight, it kills your speed off the corner, your lap times and you just can't go anywhere."

Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "This is the fourth or fifth race at Atlanta since the place has been reconstructed. Based on what happened there in November, with NASCAR going back to more spoiler and more front air dam, the tire situation was a lot better than the first few races there. The first few times down there, these guys didn't race each other, they raced the situation making sure that they didn't blow a tire. Now, it looks like the downforce rules have covered that. The key to Atlanta is getting your car to where your driver can stay on the throttle as much as possible. They run around that track almost wide open during qualifying, but that goes away as you're getting ready to race. You have to have your car to where it works well in traffic, because other cars can certainly make you loose and push off the corner. So, your car has to work well in traffic and be able to stay on the throttle through a long green run - keeping the tires on it to have a good run at Atlanta."

Todd Parrott - Ford Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford of Dale Jarrett - "Our plan for Atlanta is to make our car a little bit better at the end of the race. We had a great car in November and finished second, but the car got tight there at the end. One of the things we need to do is make our car to where it's not so tight at the end of a fuel stop. We've got some ideas as to what we need to do and we've worked on our car since. We're taking the same car we had in November and hopefully we can reel it in."

Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "Atlanta is truly one of the high-speed race tracks that we go to. The car is going through the most loads and abuse of any race track for 500 miles, high speed corners and all. Basically, it's one of those places where when you try to qualify, you try to run wide open in the corners. It's also one of the few race tracks where we try to do that, other than Daytona and Talladega. As far as preparing, you've got to mentally prepare for it as much as anything to get the speed out of the car. It's hard to make your driver do that."

WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE POTENTIAL INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO AT MID-SEASON?

Jimmy Makar: "Right now things are on a pretty level playing field as far as manufacturers are concerned. I don't think Ford has anything over Chevrolet or that they have anything over Pontiac right now. I think things are as equal as they can be judging by the competition level and the talk around the garage area. Obviously, if Chevrolet gets something better than what Ford and Pontiac have now, both will be hollering for changes. Right now, I'm not looking for any concessions for us, it just depends on what NASCAR allows the Chevrolet guys to get in this new car. From what I understand, they're doing a lot of testing at the wind tunnel and different tracks as they get ready to complete the design and build it. NASCAR is playing a more integral role in the development of race cars today than they were five or six years ago. They know that every time a manufacturer comes out with a new car, they could have a better race car than they did before. And if that happens, NASCAR will turn around and start levying rules to get the competition level back down to where it's supposed to be."

Larry McReynolds: "The new Monte Carlo will definitely not debut in Charlotte as originally anticipated. NASCAR has played things safely. I think they got a little snookered on the introduction of the Taurus, and they're going to make sure that this car won't leapfrog what's out there. The competition is pretty tight right now and we're excited about it being a better car. Sure, we built the downforce car and spent countless hours in the wind tunnel with it, but it's a combination of making everybody happy at one time: the teams, Chevrolet and NASCAR. If it's going to be better, we want it. If it's not going to be better, then let's just wait until the year 2000. Don't put our teams through changing automobiles going into the last 11 races of the schedule. You can take one step forward and two steps back if you're not careful. But, it's going to be a better car. It's probably going to suffer some of the symptoms the Ford Taurus suffered, but it's going to run well at all the race tracks from the start. We're excited about it. We know Chevrolet's got to do it because what they do in this garage area is about selling cars to the public. They don't need to be selling one car and us racing another. But, at the same time if it's not going to be a big gain right now, then let's just wait until the year 2000."

Todd Parrott: "If the new Chevrolet is anything like the Taurus was when it was introduced, it could be a disadvantage to our teams. The Taurus was good out of the box and nobody knew that until they saw it on the race track. The new Monte Carlo could come out of the box and be better than what they have now. So honestly, I don't think we'll be able to tell much of anything until we see the car hit the race track."

Robin Pemberton: "I think all Ford teams hope that the introduction of the new Monte Carlo during the middle of the year will probably dilute some of their efforts for a championship. But the cars that will probably be running for the championship are so highly funded that it won't matter. They've been working on that car for two years, the Taurus was built in six months. So, I think the teams that switch at mid-season won't stumble at all."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner