Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, April 20,2004 Martinsville Recap, Talladega Advance LEE McCALL (Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge) COMMENT ON PIT CREW "We spent about two hours yesterday with three different guys auditioning,...
Tuesday, April 20,2004
Martinsville Recap, Talladega Advance
LEE McCALL (Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge)
COMMENT ON PIT CREW
"We spent about two hours yesterday with three different guys auditioning, and we've got three more coming in today. Right now, we're working in the rear area and some tire changing areas. Not that anyone is doing a bad job, we just need to be better. We're working hard on that, and that's our main focus from here on out right now."
WHAT HAS DONNIE WINGO BROUGHT TO THE TABLE?
"Donnie has been around for a long time. He and Jamie have very good chemistry, and the relationship between the three crew chiefs is the best in the garage area. I don't know of any three that get along any better or share more information than we do. Donnie helps me and Jimmy a lot and vice versa. I don't think it's any one thing. I think it's all three of us putting our heads together."
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AT MARTINSVILLE BEFORE OCTOBER RACE?
"I think right now they're going to dig up the pavement between the concrete corners and put new down. I think that's going to help give you grip up off the corners where you fight the forward bite. I don't think the corners need to be changed. They've been there for years and years and years. That's part of the history of Martinsville Speedway. The corners don't bother me a lot, but I think the new asphalt coming off the corners will definitely help some problems that you fight during the race. Those guys are going to work hard to give us a good surface to race on during the fall race, and we may have to save a test to go back there."
WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH TRACK AFTER REPAIRS WERE MADE?
"I was really surprised. I don't think I've ever seen a hole that big come up in the track and replace it. I think they used epoxy and it lasted another 200 laps. I think they did a great job. I'm not so sure some other places might do it in the near future. I think they're looking at that, but they did a great job."
DID YOU CONSIDER NOT PITTING AT MARTINSVILLE FOR TRACK POSITION?
"With the new tire construction, we saw earlier in the week that tires were going to play a big part. Obviously track position is key there. We never thought about staying out. We did think about taking on two at the end, but that was a gamble we didn't take. I wish we had now looking back on the race. With this new tire, the tires play a big part. You used to run on 150 lap tires and take the track position."
HOW IMPORTANT IS PIT SELECTION?
"It's really important. Obviously, the better you qualify the better your chances are on pit road. I think that's something everybody strives for on Friday when they qualify. The pit selection is very, very important. We pick the pits on Saturday after qualifying, and it takes a good hour just because everyone really looks up and down pit road. There are some guys you want to pit around and some guys you don't want to pit around. It really becomes almost like a pit strategy when you pick your pits on Saturday. I'd have to say Martinsville and Bristol (are toughest tracks to select pits). They're short tracks and they only have so much room to put so many cars on pit road. The pit boxes are so much smaller than California or Texas or any of the big tracks. Richmond is also another place, probably more short tracks than anything. There's people you don't want to pit around and there's guys you do. After qualifying, I walk up and down pit road and look at the pits and pit lane and see where our timing marks are. That's a big strategy on Saturday, seeing who you want to pit around and who you don't want to pit around. There's some tracks that still have asphalt pit road. As wear and tear goes on through the course of winter and summer and gas spills onto pit road, there becomes a hole or something wrong with that pit. I walk on 43 pits every weekend and look at them good. If there's one that has a problem we obviously won't pit in that pit box."
WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE FINAL PIT STOPS AT MARTINSVILLE?
"When everyone pitted, I thought that was what everyone would do. I thought more people would take two tires. I think the 12 car may have been the only one that did that. That was something in the back of my mind. I think our car was good enough to put two tires on and to hold our position throughout the race because we really had a good car all day. It's one of those deals where things happen so fast, and you have to make calls within a split second. We took four tires all day long and we just didn't know what our car would do on two. It was the last run in the race and it was kinda hard to do. We have meetings on Saturday and Sunday and we discuss our race strategies from three years back on what we've done and what other people have done. You have to change that around with the new tire and so on and so forth, but we have a book two inches thick on stuff to study for race strategy on Sunday. Each race unfolds differently. You'll see a trend that's happened in previous years that you can kinda go off of and keep that in the back of your mind. I don't really look at it (strategy book) on race day. This tire is wearing a lot more than tires in the past. Tires are worth a lot now. Track position is still important. I think when you have a great pit stop you try to regain track position. We took on two tires the two previous races and made it work to get track position to get in position to win. I think there'll be a few more races down the road and you'll see a lot more of that."
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET A GOOD REAR TIRE CHANGER?
"It's just like any sport. The cost keeps driving up every year, whether it be the cost of building cars or buying a new airplane or whatever the situation might be. To bring these great athletes in to perform great pit stops you have to pay the money for 'em. We have great people here, and we're always open minded about everything. You have to look at your weaknesses and try to better yourself. Right now we think that's one of our weaknesses we need to focus on. We're going to do whatever it takes to make our pit crew the best out on pit road. It's kinda hard to put a number on it. I don't want to throw a number out there to give you false information, but those guys get paid to do their job on Sunday and they do a great job. They're professional athletes. They have a great pit crew for us going over the wall, and I think the company is trying to take care of the guys that go across pit wall and even the guys behind pit wall, just like the guys in the shop. They're a part of the family. Everyone is treated equally."
ARE YOU LOOKING MORE FOR AN OVERALL ATHLETE?
"I think with the way the sport is and how these guys take a beating working a lot of hours at the shop and then traveling on the road, we are looking into the area of professional athletes to be able to pit our racecars. There's a couple of reasons why. Those guys can practice three to five times a week. If we use a road guy right now, he may only get to practice once or twice a week. A lot of teams are doing that, and that's something we're putting a lot of emphasis on. We have a couple of more athletes on our team now. They do a great job. They have other jobs, but they do have a commitment where they can practice up to five times a week if they need to. It's very beneficial to have guys back here at the shop practicing while we're at the race track. We have Mark Jacobs, he's our jackman. He played college football at Kentucky, I think it was. We haven't got the guys in place yet, but we're looking at some other areas in the race team to follow in those footsteps."
DO CREW CHIEFS VIEW TALLADEGA LIKE DRIVERS?
"I think you see both sides of it. Talladega is very suspenseful for myself. You always know in the back of your mind and historically there's always been a big wreck at these places. We were in a big wreck at Daytona and had a great car. You never know what's going to happen and where you're going to be. It's very stressful for a crew chief, especially for myself. I like to go to Talladega, and obviously you want to win, but if you can get out of there with a top 10 finish and not get in a wreck then I think you've had a great day."
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET A REAR TIRE CHANGER?
"We don't want to try to go to a race team and say we want to give you X amount of dollars to come work for us. That's not the way Chip likes to operate his business, but we are looking into some outside areas, and we have had some interest from some guys that want to be in this position. I don't want to make it sound like it's our rear tire changer. We're always looking each and every week to make our race team better whether it be a tire carrier or a jackman or a front tire changer. This sport has become so competitive. I think it's like guys that race motorcycles. You get to a certain age, whether it be 29 or 30, and it's time to retire and get some guys that are fresh and younger. It can be very, very tough on a guy that runs around a race car 10 times a day and bounces on his knees all day long. We don't put our focus on going to steal people from other race teams. If a certain individual shows interest from another race team and isn't under contract with that race team, certainly I think we'll talk to him. We try to keep this business very friendly and not go around trying to steal guys from one team or another. I think everybody in the garage area is pretty much the same way. I think we have a mutual agreement about that. I think everyone does a good job doing that. We're just looking to make a small change. It's not anyone is doing a bad job. I think we need to be better in that area to have a great pit crew. Right now we've got a good pit crew, but we need a great pit crew. So many times the races are won and lost on pit road. I think we definitely had a car that could have contended for the win last weekend and we ended up ninth. That's our major focus right now, to get back where we need to be. I think our performance is back where it needs to be. We're looking into other areas."
DO YOU THINK MARTINSVILLE NEEDS A HARDER TIRE?
"I don't think so. I think Goodyear has done a great job, and they've done their homework very well giving us this new tire. You can't control rubber buildup on the track whether it be a hard tire or a soft tire. If you have a harder tire, you're going to have finer chunks of rubber instead of bigger chunks. They've done a great job. We haven't any had tire issues whatsoever this year. They've done a good job, and I think all the drivers can say the same thing."
TALK ABOUT STERLING'S RECOVERY FROM INJURY
"I think Sterling is the only one to answer that question. From working with Sterling, he was 100 percent last year. We struggled in some areas last year. We had some great runs and were in contention to win three races last year, but we just couldn't finish it off. Sterling Marlin is as good as he's ever been this year, and he was as good as he'd ever been last year. I think right now we have a great group of people working on the 40 car and the biggest thing is we challenged for a championship in 2002. We didn't have that last year and everybody is trying to point fingers why we didn't do that. There were a lot of little things that we can say our performance is down. We've approached those things, and I think our performance this year is back on track where we need to be. I think our performance in the last three races has shown that. I wouldn't give anything in the world for Sterling Marlin. He's like a dad to me, and he's a great racer. He wants to win. We both have the same blood in our bloodstreams."