Conover, NC (April 25, 2000) - Wes Ward, crew chief for the Rayovac Maximum Racing team, will not be making the trip for Saturday's running of the Auto Club 300 at California Speedway. Ward's shop chief, Ricky Bowman, will take up the on-track...
Conover, NC (April 25, 2000) - Wes Ward, crew chief for the Rayovac Maximum Racing team, will not be making the trip for Saturday's running of the Auto Club 300 at California Speedway. Ward's shop chief, Ricky Bowman, will take up the on-track role for driver Jason Jarrett, who is running his first full season of Busch Series competition. It's not the first time Bowman's been atop the box for Jarrett. Bowman was at the helm for a pair of partial Busch seasons for Dale Jarrett in 1997 and '98, the latter including 10 Busch starts for the 24-year old racer.
Ward, 37, has battled Sleep Apnea for a number of years, and underwent surgery to cure the problem last week, missing the team's two-day testing session in Richmond. Ward, Bowman and Jarrett share in the decision-making process for the #11 team, and made the call Monday night for Ward to stay in Hickory. "From what I've gathered from Wes and a little research on the Internet, it's a major operation," Jarrett said. "They removed Wes' tonsils and his adenoids, cleared out his sinus cavities and did some work on his palette as well; it's pretty painful. When I spoke with Wes, he said that the back of his throat looks like the stitching on a baseball."
To date Bowman has held down the shop foreman role in a three-pronged management structure that allows each to specialize. "As a team with a young driver, our goal has been to give Jason the input necessary to build the team around him, while allowing him to focus on driving the car," Bowman said. "When this team is at the track, they belong to Wes," he said, "but when they get back here, they're mine.
"It's my job to make sure everything is solid when these guys go back out to race, and it's a pretty complicated job," he added. "By specializing like we do, we make sure that there's never a situation where Wes or I have more than we can do, and do well."
Fortunately for Bowman, Ward's surgery over the off-week put him in charge during Jarrett's two-day test in Richmond, which gave him the opportunity to ease back into racing mode. "My role started to change when I went to do the Richmond test," Bowman said. "Having not been to the track all year, it helped me get back into the groove of things by returning to the racetrack.
"Not being at the track, you lose touch with procedures and the flow of things in a race setting," he said. "The test in Richmond went very well, and I'm glad I went, based on how this all worked out, because the two days there helped me as much as anyone else."
Although Bowman admits he's a little apprehensive about the race in California, he's excited about the prospect of managing the team at this juncture. "Naturally, we'd all rather Wes be there," he said. "But, at the same time, I'm honored that this team has the same level of confidence in me."
While an ego might be cause for heroics in some, Ward is not burdened with that problem, and doesn't mind relinquishing the reins for a week. "Sure I want to be there," Ward said. "We've just come through a tough stretch, and everyone on this team knows that we're one race from busting out and contending for one of these runs.
"The key to our success is that this team communicates so well, and has a such a high level of confidence in each other," he added. "Ricky is going to do some things different, I'm sure. But, we're still going to operate off the same agenda no matter who is in charge. As for me, I hope they go out there and knock out a top-5," Ward said. "Our goal is to get this team back to being competitive, and we're headed in the right direction. I told these guys to go to California with the idea that we might hit on something positive. It's the end result that counts."
As for Jarrett, he's been anxiously awaiting his return trip to California Speedway since his first visit here last season. Not that the venue holds fond memories for the third-generation racer; last season Jarrett slapped the driver's side of his car into the Turn 1 wall. The accident left him with a concussion and marked the end of his 1999 Busch Series ride.
"I've been looking forward to going back to California since last season," Jarrett said, "and I am going out there with redemption on my mind. It's a wide, smooth, fast racetrack that should play to the strengths we showed in Las Vegas. It's a horsepower track, and Team Amick Motorsports has seen to it that we have no shortage there this season.
"Whether Wes is there or not, our game plan won't change," he said. "We want to be fast right off the hauler on the first day like we were in Vegas, work on our race set-up and running the right line all day Friday, then race up front away from the hazards of the pack to a good finish."
Ward is steadily improving and expects to be behind the wall after California for Jarrett's run under the lights in Richmond.