HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Mike Brown likes to observe that his journey to a key management role with one of NASCAR's top multi-car Winston Cup Series teams was probably a more circuitous, unexpected route than any other general manager in the ...
HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Mike Brown likes to observe that his journey to a key management role with one of NASCAR's top multi-car Winston Cup Series teams was probably a more circuitous, unexpected route than any other general manager in the sport.=20
And while fundamentally accurate, Brown has also benefited from the cumulative knowledge gained at every stop along the way -- from weekend tire-changer for Bill Elliott to computer programmer to GM for the growing NASCAR presence at Bill Davis Racing and its pending switch for the 2001 season from Pontiac to the Dodge Intrepid.
Brown's primary in-shop responsibilities center in overseeing operations for the #22 Caterpillar/Polaris and #93 Amoco/Siemens NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams for drivers Ward Burton and Dave Blaney, respectively, as well as the full-time #20 AT&T Busch Series team and part-time #22 Polaris Busch program at BDR.=20
On weekends, Brown serves as a member of the Burton's over-the-wall crew, a practice spotter for all the BDR teams as well pit-box strategist for #22 Crew Chief Tommy Baldwin, Jr. And for the Busch Series event at Michigan last weekend, Brown also was forced into duty as de-facto crew chief for Tom Hubert and the #20 AT&T BGN team currently filling that vacated role.=20
But it's his long-term friendship with car owners Bill and Gail Davis -- dating back to his days as a "weekend warrior" for then-NASCAR rookie Jeff Gordon and the BDR #1 Busch Series team -- that positioned Brown for filling the GM position he's now held for almost four seasons and produced the trust inherent in the wide-ranging demands of his current job-description.
"When Bill asked me to take this job, I wondered about how it would affect our friendship," said Brown as the Bill Davis Racing teams prepared for this weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series events at Bristol Motor Speedway. "In the past, we had seen each other only on weekends and had 4-5 days in between to let things settle and sink in. Sometimes, it's easier to communicate that way instead of day-to-day. But four years later, I can say we're just as good friends and we've sure covered a lot of ground.
"Looking back on making the decision, I'm glad it happened when it did because knowing where it all started for Bill and Gail and actually being a part of this kind of progress has been more gratifying for me than just joining in at this point. We talk about what 'success' means and I don't think it fits the description of the way we're portrayed in some of the stories these days. When people are still outrunning you, you haven't gotten where you want to go yet. I believe that continues to drive us all here at Bill Davis Racing."
The satisfaction of Burton's breakthrough season in 2000 has been tempered for both Brown and Davis by the early-season struggles of both the #93 Amoco/Siemens and #20 AT&T teams as well as the heightened work-load in the BDR shops of integrating the incoming Dodge program while maintaining the performance levels of the operation at-track.
"Having seen it all develop with Ward and the #22 team from where it was until now tells me that -- even when we were struggling a little bit -- we felt we had the right equipment, the right facility, the right elements," said Brown, who's racing interest began at the side of his father, J.C., a long-time Late Model Stock car owner in his native Georgia and in South Carolina. "It came down to people and finding the right chemistry, as is the case in most businesses. We've got that now and it shows.=20
"It's probably what was missing early on with the Amoco team and also with the AT&T team in the Busch Series. We've made great strides in that area with Dave's team this summer and we're looking to do the same with the #20 team. Yogi Berra said that '90% of getting the job done is half-mental' and that applies to our sport, too. It's a tough business. Positive attitude can take you a long way to making this all work.
"I think that's something that people have missed about the Dodge plans we have here and everything we've been doing to get ready. Contrary to what's been out there lately -- that the progress of #22 may have slowed a bit this summer because of what we're doing to get ready for 2001 -- I believe the anticipation of all the possibilities that the Dodge program brings to our race team has kept all our people excited and looking forward to mid-September, when we really will get started with the actual hands-on part of the development.=20
"Our time will begin to get divided somewhat in about 30 days but we've got a plan in place and hopefully are going to be ready for that challenge. The things that have happened to the #22 team this summer -- terrible luck at both Pocono races and some things we brought upon ourselves at some other races -- had almost nothing to do with our plans to transition to Dodge next season."=20
And selfless management decisions by Brown, Davis and Cat team Crew Chief Tommy Baldwin to move #22 Car Chief Doug Randolph and Shock Specialist Eric Slade to the #93 Amoco program to help the first-year development of Blaney and his young team perhaps produced short-term setbacks for Burton's #22 team but long-term gains for the overall progress of Davis' new multi-team Winston Cup Series operation.=20
And with all the growth and demands at BDR swirling around him, Brown seldom has time these days to reflect on how far he's progressed in his chosen sport over the past decade. He also rarely thinks about the variety of hats he wears as part of his broad weekly regimen or the increasingly rare opportunities he has to step back from the daily pace, survey the ground covered so far with Davis and enjoy the moment.
"It seems like now, more than ever, the few moments Bill and I have to settle in and talk, we're talking about business-related things instead of the things we used to -- family, sports, real-world issues," said Brown. "I guess we don't get the chances to enjoy each other's company the way we did in the past. But then, before I moved to North Carolina and into this job, I lived in Georgia and we'd spend an hour or two each time we got together just catching up. Now we know what's happening in each other's lives every single minute.
I'm sure somewhere down the road, we'll get our chance to reflect in the right way."