Atlanta Crew Chief Preview

Crew Chief Club at the NAPA 500 Event: NAPA 500 When: Sun., Nov. 8 at 12:40 p.m. EST on ESPN Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile quad-oval) Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton...

Crew Chief Club at the NAPA 500

Event:  NAPA 500        When:  Sun., Nov. 8 at 12:40 p.m. EST on ESPN
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, 351 top-five finishes, 559 top-10 finishes and 65 poles prior to this Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Makar and Bobby Labonte are the two-time defending champions of the NAPA 500. They finished the 1997 race in 3 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds with an average speed of 159.904 mph. Their margin of victory over runner-up Dale Jarrett was 3.801 seconds.

The Crew Chief Club has three wins and two poles in the fall Atlanta race. The wins were provided by Makar and Labonte in 1997 and 1996, and Pemberton and Mark Martin in 1991. The poles were provided by Makar and Labonte in 1996, and Makar and Rusty Wallace in 1990. In last year's NAPA 500, the Crew Chief Club finished in the following order: Makar/Labonte Start: 21st Finish: 1st Status: Running Parrott/Jarrett Start: 3rd Finish: 2nd Status: Running McReynolds/Earnhardt Start: 6th Finish: 16th Status: Running Pemberton/Wallace Start: 33rd Finish: 32nd Status: Running

WHAT IS YOUR RACE AND PIT STRATEGY FOR ATLANTA?

Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "Strategy-wise it could be a fuel mileage race. We don't tend to get a lot of cautions. You have to do green flag pit stops typically there, so fuel mileage is important and getting a good stop on the green flag stops. Typically, you'll have a guy or two that sits out there and runs really good throughout the race, and puts a lot of cars a lap down. You don't want to get caught in that position where you're in danger of going a lap down during a long stretch of green flag racing. They key is to keep the leader in sight, stay on the lead lap, adjust your car as the race goes on and have good stops."

Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "Well, you're racing the race track and you're racing the tire situation with what we've seen the past two races there. I know that Goodyear has done some extensive tire testing in Atlanta, and is trying to get the wear of those tires a lot better. We can get these tires to go a full fuel stop without the drivers and the crew worrying about it, once we get down there and get some rubber on the race track. Hopefully, it won't rain there to where the rain is washing the rubber off that we put back down. The two races we've run since the re-configuration, it's like we're not racing another competitor, we're just racing the race track, and trying to keep the tires on it and not blow a tire and hit the wall. Certainly Mike took a horrendous crash there from blowing a tire in March and is still working to recover from both that and the Texas hit. Hopefully, we won't have to do that, we can worry about racing this time. I've heard that NASCAR is going to give us more downforce in both ends for all three makes before we go there and that is going to help the tire wear, there's no question about that in my mind. Because, when you take downforce away, the car is not down in the race track, it's sliding, and I think that has magnified the tire wear."

Todd Parrott - Ford Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford of Dale Jarrett - "It's a fast race track, a lot of things happen real quick. Race strategy is to have a good handling car. Fuel mileage will come into effect there too. Other than that, we've run well there. We finished second the past two races since they re-paved the track. We're looking forward to going back to Atlanta. We just hope that our driver is healed up enough to make the whole 500 miles."

Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "Atlanta is going to be real hard on tires. Strategy is to do what the leaders do, or hopefully you can force the issue. Goodyear, I'm sure, will bring a good tire there so you run as long as you can on your tires. It will probably be a four tire race track."

SINCE THEY RE-CONFIGURED ATLANTA, THE CARS SEEM TO BE GOING A LOT FASTER. EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE RACE CARS AND ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FAST, DO YOU THINK THE CARS ARE GOING TOO FAST?

Jimmy Makar: "You're not going too fast until you hit something. The drivers are comfortable in the cars. It's not like it's a scary deal where they're on the edge of crashing or wrecking or losing control of the race cars. Everybody knows how fast that is, and they know if they get into trouble it's going to be a hard hit. I don't think it's too fast for the race track or what the cars are capable of doing. You just don't want to get in trouble at that speed."

Larry McReynolds: "I think it's too fast and I've been very vocal, like Dale and Mike both. They took an awfully good race track, where we've had some of the better racing over the years, and turned it into one that's not. I'm not saying that it won't end up being a good race track, but at the old Atlanta, the mile-and-a-half oval with long sweeping corners, we've had some awfully good races. Yeah, the speeds are fast, but that was NASCAR's goal in taking downforce away, to slow them down. Hopefully we've all learned, after a season of not having a lot of good racing side-by-side, that taking downforce away was not the answer."

Todd Parrott: "It's hard to say. If you say that's too fast than obviously Daytona and Talladega are way too fast. I think the cars are as safe as anything you can race, especially in Atlanta. They're safer than the Indy Racing League cars that were there a few weeks ago. I think the speeds won't be as fast as the first race. The track is getting older, so the speeds will slow down a little bit."

Robin Pemberton: "I don't think so. I think for most of the drivers the speeds are an OK thing. Qualifying is really the only big issue. For the race it should be fine."

WITH ALL OF THE FAN AND MEDIA ATTENTION SURROUNDING ATLANTA, DOES IT MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO DO YOUR JOB IN THE PIT AREA AND TO KEEP YOUR GUYS FOCUSED ON WHAT THEY NEED TO DO WITH THE CAR?

Jimmy Makar: "Not really. You run into that throughout the year at a lot of different races and race tracks. If you happen to be in the championship hunt, it's a constant thing. If you're a favorite to win a race, it's something that's hanging over your head at a race track. But you learn to deal with that. We're in front of hundreds of thousands of people live every weekend and a television audience, so you sort of put that all behind you and you just don't pay attention to it. You get used to it." Larry McReynolds: "I don't think so. Maybe if we were in the championship hunt coming down to the wire things would be a little different. This (No.) 31 team's goal is to try and sit on the pole or win the race for Lowe's. Most importantly, we want to build some momentum that we can keep corralled and harnessed as we go into the 1999 season when everybody in the garage is back to ground zero and even."

Todd Parrott: "Not really, our guys know what their job is. I think it's more of a relief than anything, especially for us this year. Last year we were racing hard for the championship, we didn't have anything to lose, everything to gain. This year is going to be a little more easier, even though we have a big race for third in the points. Obviously, we're going to try hard to stay there."

Robin Pemberton: "It can. It's a very exciting day, the last race of the season. Everybody is interested in what everybody else is doing. There will be a lot of points races decided up and down pit road for the top 10 or 15 in points. It can be distracting only if you let it be."

Be part of something big

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