Darlington: Ford - Jeff Burton/Bob Osborne interview

Roush Racing announced earlier this week that Bob Osborne will be taking over as crew chief for Jeff Burton and the No. 99 Hot Wheels Taurus. Burton and Osborne spoke about the change prior to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice on Friday morning...

Roush Racing announced earlier this week that Bob Osborne will be taking over as crew chief for Jeff Burton and the No. 99 Hot Wheels Taurus. Burton and Osborne spoke about the change prior to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice on Friday morning at Darlington Raceway.

JEFF BURTON - No. 99 Hot Wheels Taurus

Bob is an engineer by trade and he's been with the company since '99, specifically he was the 6 car engineer and more recently he was the head of engineering. He brings a lot of technical strength with him. We just need some speed. It looked like from the technical side of things we needed to be better and Bob brings that."

IT SEEMS TO BE A TREND TO HAVE ENGINEERS AS CREW CHIEFS. "I certainly think that's the way it's going. That's not to say that you can't win with any kind of crew chief. Whatever team you drive for has to have everything if you're gonna win and however you do that, whether your crew chief is an engineer or a good all-around guy, you've just got to put the right mix of people together to make it work. You don't have to have an engineer to be successful, but you have to have engineering support at the very least."

CAN HE STEP RIGHT IN SINCE HE'S BEEN WITH THE TEAM? "Oh yeah. He's been a really big part of our team as far as the building processes. He's our chief engineer, so he doesn't have a whole big learning curve that he has to go through and that's something we wanted to avoid. We didn't want to have to bring somebody in and have to learn how Roush Racing works. Bob already knows how it works. He knows how to get stuff done. He knows what our cars are and he has definite opinions already on what we need to do based on the fact that he knows what's going on. Bob's capable. He was ready, it was just a matter of how we would get Bob a crew chief position at Roush. Unfortunately, we needed to do something different with the 99. It's not all Paul's fault. I want to be clear about that. Paul worked his butt off. He tried extremely hard. We didn't give Paul the things he needed to be successful. It was as much our fault as it was Paul's fault. You have to do the things around the people that you have to be successful and we didn't do that. We had to make a change to try to get better results quicker. Our results for the first three races weren't indicative of how we ran. In Atlanta, we just didn't run good and at Vegas we finished 14th and didn't run well. We didn't feel like we were learning a whole lot. Paul would agree with that. It's not all Paul's fault, it's everybody's fault. We just needed to do something different."

WHO DECIDES A CHANGE LIKE THAT NEEDS TO BE MADE? "I don't think there's a typical way these things happen. It really depends on the situation. In this case, it was a realization. Paul understood that something needed to change. I understood that something needed to change. Jack understood that something needed to change. I'm sure Paul would and I don't blame him for disagreeing that he was the one that needed to change. I don't blame him for feeling that way. In this case, it was just a realization by all of us that we needed to do something different."

SOME SAY THIS TEAM HAS LOST A SPARK. WILL THIS HELP? "It's hard to have a spark, it's hard to walk with your shoulders up high in the air when you're not doing well. But our team has lacked a lot of enthusiasm and those kind of things, and, hopefully, this will help that. Heart and enthusiasm have a lot to do with your level of success. You can't be in professional athletics and not have a tremendous amount of heart and a tremendous amount of want in you. Sometimes we've got to bring those out, so maybe this will help that too."

DOES THAT RUB OFF ON YOU? Oh, definitely. The most fun I ever had driving was when I was working with Buddy Parrott. Even when things were bad, he had a way of keeping you up. When things were good, he had a way of keeping you down. For a young driver, Buddy Parrott was the best. As we've progressed it's turned into a situation where I'm kind of the leader on how people feel and I need some help with that. It's good to have a coach. It's good to have somebody above the driver that can help motivate the driver and help keep the driver up and keep the driver down.

"Those are good things and I'm looking for that a little bit. I enjoy being a senior guy and a guy that's been around and can take advantage of my experience, but I also like to be able to lean on somebody. Bob wants me to do that. Bob wants to take this team over. One of the things we've suffered from is not being quite strong enough, so Paul and I were trying to do it together. That's not Paul's fault. That's as much my fault as anybody's. Bob wants to do it. Hey said, 'Look man, go and do what all the other drivers do. Go play golf. Go do what other drivers do. Come in once a week and do the deal like that. Go on vacation. I'm gonna take a lot off of you. I'm gonna run with it. I want to take control of it. I want to be responsible for it. You're a driver. Everybody in the garage knows you can drive. We're not even worried about that. We've just got to get you stuff that can run, so let me get you stuff that can run. Go play golf. Go and do whatever you want to do.' I respect that a tremendous amount. He just wants to take full responsibility and wants to take full control and I'm excited about that."

WILL THAT HELP YOUR DRIVING TO JUST CONCENTRATE ON THAT? "I hope so. I need to be part of and I think one of the things I've done really well in the past was help control the team and help direct the team into the direction it needed to go in. I don't think that's the way you need to do it today and I've been saying that for three years. The driver needs to be a race car driver. He needs to participate in the team. He is the computer. He is the guy that relays information and he's also the guy that needs to head the team in the right direction on what changes need to be made. But the driver needs to be focused on driving and focused on the job that he's hired to do. I need to do better at that, so in order to do that we've got to change our structure that allows me to come in and just be a driver and allows me to pay attention to the things I want to pay attention to. That's not all the little bitty stuff in the shop. The only thing I want to worry about is how fast these cars go. That's the only thing I want to worry about and that's what Bob wants me to worry about. I'm not saying that's not what Paul wanted to do, but the way Bob wants to lay everything out is different than the way we were doing it and he wants me to step back and just be a driver. He says the best part about me is my ability to drive and my ability to relate at what the car is doing and that's what he wants me to do. He wants me to focus on what I do the best and I'm excited about the opportunity to do that."

BOB OSBORNE - Crew Chief - No. 99 Hot Wheels Taurus

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF? "I'm a degreed engineer from Penn State and I've worked with Roush for five years now. I started out as an at-shop R&D engineer and then took on a testing role with the 6 team for quite a few years and then took on the director of engineering position at Roush. With that, they thought I had the ability to start managing a team and that's where we're at now."

WHAT'S YOUR VISION FOR GETTING A SPARK BACK IN THIS TEAM? "It's all about speed. That's our latest motto. We haven't been as fast as we would have liked to have been in the past when Jeff was running extremely well. Most of that has been coming off the truck. We've been running OK off the truck and then slowing down, so we're gonna try to reverse that. We're going to keep in mind that it's all about speed and everything will go better from there."

WILL YOUR ROLE CHANGE DRASTICALLY FROM WHAT IT WAS BEFORE? "From a technical standpoint, the role doesn't really change. You have to have a strong technical background to do either position. The crew chief position takes on quite a bit more management responsibility for the day-to-day interactions of the race team. The engineering manager is managing the team engineers and R&D projects and whatever else is going on in the engineering group. You don't have to interact with the fabricators and the body hangers and the shop foremen and things like that as much as the crew chief does, so there's a heavier management responsibility."

WHAT ABOUT ENGINEERS BECOMING CREW CHIEFS? "There's a balance there. You can't just have any engineer do it. I believe any engineer could do it, but they've got to be brought along in a certain way so they're exposed to certain things and are capable of handling the management side and the communication side."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RACEDAY DECISIONS? "Cautiously (laughing). When I was working with Ben Leslie, we conferred a lot on race day about what we were gonna do during the race with the 6 car. It's not 100 percent new thing for me to work on strategy and work on the changes we're gonna make on a timely fashion during a pit stop. It's not new, but it still is different because it's basically my head on the line, so to speak, instead of Ben's when it was the other situation. But it's gonna be a challenge for sure."

JEFF SAID YOU WANT THAT RESPONSIBILITY ON YOU. "Yeah, I want Jeff to be able to drive and I want Jeff to be able to diagnose and give feedback. I'll take on everything else."

IS THIS A JOB THAT JUST KIND OF COMES ABOUT? "When I first started in this business I had no intention or no desire to be a crew chief. I actually started as a tire specialist for the 96 Winston Cup car in '98 and at that time I had no desire to be a crew chief. When I moved on to the actual engineering position to use my education, I still had no desire. Once I moved up into the engineering position as a manager and interacted with the crew chiefs more closely, I felt that it might be a good challenge for me to try that role."

HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING PIT ROAD CALLS IN YOUR HEAD ALL ALONG. WILL IT BE THAT MUCH DIFFERENT? "I think everybody on pit road does that. I don't think I would have been unique if I was the only one doing that. Sure, I do. It's gonna be a challenge to be the guy that makes the split-decision, that's for sure. Hopefully, from the experience I have from listening and watching and being up there in the team engineer position it will come naturally."

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW JEFF? "Ever since I've been here, Jeff and I have always interacted. My first at-track test was with Jeff, when Frankie (Stoddard) was here, so he's the first guy I ever went testing with."

DO HAVE SOME CHANGES IN MIND RIGHT AWAY THAT WILL GET YOU THE SPEED YOU'RE LOOKING FOR? "There are things I want to change, but we've decided to take the stance that we're gonna take a step back. Leave the vehicles the way they are right now and evaluate the program. From there we'll make changes, but there are some things I want to do different."

IS THERE A LOT? "Just some little things. I would say there are a lot, but a few little things."

WHEN DO YOU ANTICIPATE WORKING THESE CHANGES IN? "There won't be a lot of chassis changes. There will be some suspension changes within the next week or so. We've got Darlington and then we're testing at Texas, so after that the evaluation period is over and it's time to go."

-ford-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton
Teams CIP