Auto Club 500 Victory Depends on Team's Expertise Californian Pit Crew Members Look Forward to Trip out West FONTANA, Calif. (April 21, 2004) --- When the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series roars into California Speedway for the Auto Club 500, it will...
Auto Club 500 Victory Depends on Team's Expertise
Californian Pit Crew Members Look Forward to Trip out West
FONTANA, Calif. (April 21, 2004) --- When the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series roars into California Speedway for the Auto Club 500, it will take more than just a talented driver behind the wheel to ensure a trip to Gatorade Victory Lane. California Speedway's 2-mile, D-shaped oval requires a talented pit crew to give speedy pit stops and unique race setups.
"California is one of the smoothest tracks these teams go to," said former crew chief Larry McReynolds in a phone interview earlier this week. "It doesn't have a lot of bumps and that allows teams to get aggressive with their shock package. Teams will get their cars as soft as they can so they're low to the ground.
"With the softer tire that Goodyear has this year," McReynolds, who will call the race for FOX Sports, said. "Teams are going to have to find a fine line between being too aggressive, which will abuse the tire, but still make sure the car gets down on the ground.
"Fuel mileage is always a concern at California Speedway, it's almost as though you're running the race backwards," he said. "If you can pit at lap 50 and then again at 100, you can work the race and even out at the end of the race. Teams cannot start thinking about fuel mileage with 30 to go."
Two teams, the No. 41 Target Dodge and the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet, are preparing for the 500-mile event like all the other teams. The only exception, both teams' shock specialists are originally from Southern California and are happy to make the first of two trips back home in racing fashion in 2004.
"I'm glad we have two races and will be at California twice this year," said Roger Parkinson of the No. 41 team driven by Bakersfield native Casey Mears. "The fans in California are the most devoted than any other fans. They go crazy out there."
A 37-year resident of El Cajon, Calif., Parkinson began his trek to stockcar racing's top series during the mid 70's when he was working in off-road racing. "The weak point of that racing were the shocks, and they were trying to improve them." By the mid 1980's he was working in San Diego manufacturing shocks for Bilstein Revolution. "They threw me on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series [in 1986] and I applied what I learned in off-road to the Cup Series. Within one year, we had every car on shocks." Parkinson then worked for a manufacturer and has spent the last three years with individual teams and currently is with Target Chip Ganassi, where he says it truly is a team effort.
Another California shock specialist is Brian Bass. Born in Yorba Linda and raised in Walnut Creek, Calif., where his mom says he wore the wheels off of everything. He raced pedal cars, won championships in karts and ran enduro-karts at Riverside International Raceway for its last three races.
"After karts I crewed for formula cars," Bass said. He began his NASCAR career in 1992 in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series. As a crew chief for the No. 04 team driven by Jeff Davis, Bass led the team to a fourth in the points season finish in 1992. The team he worked for was bought in 1999 and he moved to Spartenburg, NC, to work on Bud Moore's Cup team and is currently enjoying his first year with the No. 31 team.
"I've done everything from bondo to paint," he said. "I'm a pretty creative person. In NASCAR the only people who get to be creative are those that work on the shocks. It's always been a dream of mine to work on a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team."
Purchase your tickets today to the Auto Club 500. Tickets start at $65 for Sunday. For ticket and event information call 800-944-RACE (7223) or log onto www.californiaspeedway.com.