Dodge This Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2003 Lee McCall (Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid) WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND 2002? "Last year we got off to such a great start and we had basically no problems for 15...
Dodge This Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2003
Lee McCall (Crew chief No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid)
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND 2002?
"Last year we got off to such a great start and we had basically no problems for 15 or 20 races. We did everything right in the pits. Sterling did everything right on the racetrack. We had great racecars. This year the new body changes with the templates, we struggled a little bit at the beginning of the year. It took us a little bit to get that figured out, but we've made some mistakes, whether it be in the pits or missing a shift at Michigan. This day and time you've got to have all the luck and basically make no mistakes on race day, but we've had great racecars and Sterling's done a great job for us this year. We just hadn't had the results to show for it."
HOW DO YOU PLAN RACE STRATEGY?
"We start Saturday with a debriefing and we do one of Sunday before the race. We're at a disadvantage with the fuel mileage. The Dodge doesn't get great fuel mileage, but we're working on that real hard. I hate to see the races come down to fuel mileage every week. You really have to be on top of your game, but I really think it takes away from racing for the guys that are in the pits and the racecar drivers."
IS PART OF YOUR JOB KEEPING THE TEAM MOTIVATED?
"Obviously, that goes along with having a good year. When we have the year we've had this year compared to the previous two years, yeah, it's my job to keep my guys motivated and level headed and to keep Sterling pumped up. He's done a great job this year doing that. We've had some mechanical failures this year that we have never had. At the end of the day when we have a 10th or 15th place car and come back with a car wrecked, then it's my job to keep him focused. Again, he's done a great job and my guys are holding up good. We're really looking forward to going to Michigan this week to get our season turned around."
DO YOU HAVE MORE GRAY HAIR BECAUSE OF ALL THE STRATEGY THAT'S COME INTO PLAY THIS SEASON?
"It makes the job real stressful, not only to try to beat 42 other competitors but to try to beat the fuel mileage race. That's something we're working awful hard on to get better. If your car only gets X amount of gallons per lap and the next car is getting 5 more laps per gallon, you're at a disadvantage before starting on Sunday. You have to try to figure ways to get around that. With the races like they are now, it's hard to do. At the end of the day, it's our job to try to make our fuel mileage the best, to try to make our cars the best without getting outside the rules. That's part of our job. When you have such a good car and you've dominated all day long and then you come down and have to pit with two or three laps to go and everyone else doesn't, then I think that takes away from racing. I'd like to see 'em make it where you only go 75 miles instead of 100 miles on fuel, but that's our job to try to get the best we can get and we've got to work hard to do that. I like good racing and letting the drivers sort it out on the racetrack and at the end of the day let the best car win, but unfortunately we can't do that. We had to strive hard on the other things than can make success on the race team, whether that be the pit crew or fuel mileage or better bodies. That's part of our job to be able to come in Monday morning and say, 'OK guys, this is what we're going to concentrate on.' I don't see anything changing for a long time."
DO YOU WATCH LAST YEAR'S RACE TO HELP WITH STRATEGY?
"We record previous races and watch them back to two years ago. We keep really good notes, go back and watch the tapes. It doesn't always pan out, but at least it gives us an idea of how many cautions to expect the last 50 laps of the race. Part of our strategy at Watkins Glen worked out previous races, so we paid close attention to that and apply it to the upcoming race. With the fuel mileage the way it is and the tires not being such an issue nowadays, it's hard to play the whole race back. You have to take one step at a time rather than try to play out the whole race."
DO YOU THINK SPOILER REDUCTION IS LIKELY FOR NEXT YEAR?
"I know they're looking at taking a little spoiler away, but the cars are actually pretty close looking at the cars they did take (to wind tunnel tests). I think if they do take some spoiler away, obviously they're going to have to do something with the tire compound to try to get that balance back that the drivers are feeling. It's not going to be a deal where they take away the spoiler and that's what you've got. We're going to have to work in some other areas to give the drivers the balance they need because these things are a handful as it is. We have to keep 'em on the edge all the time to try to keep up with the competitors. If they take an inch off the spoiler, obviously we're going to have to go to work in some areas we haven't ventured in to that point to try to get that balance back. I'm not sure you'll ever get to that point, but it's our job to try to achieve that. I'm sure that they have some pretty good plans in place to overcome that with some tires. It's been one of the things we've discussed, to get some grip back in the tires, so they're working hard on that. I don't know if you'll see it in 2004 or not, but I know that's something they've talked about."
IS FUEL MILEAGE JUST PART OF THE TOTAL PACKAGE?
"It starts with the guys at the shop. Obviously you want to have as much downforce as possible and not have a ton of drag on the car. We work really hard on a high downforce car but not with a ton of drag, so that's stage one. Then the motor guys at the shop, they're always searching. Whether it be carburetors or intakes or whatever they do to get the distribution right in the fuel. With the drivers and setups, if you have a tight setup you're going to use much more fuel than you would if you had a neutral setup. All those elements combined, you can have poor fuel mileage or really good fuel mileage. We're looking at all those areas to try to better ourselves. I think NASCAR has done a great job with the templates this year. You really haven't heard of a lot of drivers getting the big aero push like we had before. I commend them on that. There's just a few little areas we have to tweak in. We kind of more or less call it dirty air right now. That's not that big aero push. It's just a deal when you get right behind a car, you can almost make the pass. You don't lose the front end, you just get in that dirty air. I know they're still working in some areas to try to make that better. Racing has been much better this year than in the past. We've seen Dodges win, Chevrolets win, Fords win and the Pontiac. The competition has been very close. No one has really complained about one manufacturer having a big advantage. You haven't had the drivers saying, 'man I had this huge aero push today.' They've done a great job. I know they're working in some areas to try to better than next year. We'll see how it goes over the winter and go from there."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
"I like the challenge. Everyday when I come into work there's a new challenge for me. It starts on Monday morning when I wake up and ends on Sunday night when I go to bed. There's something new everyday and on Sunday when it's time to make split-second decisions, that's a challenge. Meeting all the people in the garage and having relationships with Sterling and Chip and everybody involved, I love it. I've always loved racing. To be able to be successful in this sport, you have to eat, breathe and sleep it, and that's what I do."
WHY DON'T DODGES GET GOOD FUEL MILEAGE?
"There's a couple of areas we're working in to better our fuel mileage. We know it's an issue, and we have to be able to push the envelop with our cars and motors to step it up. I think in the past we've been conservative, wanting to finish races. Now, everybody is on edge with their setups and tuning motors or whatever. We're working in areas to step it up a level, and we're working hard on that. We take a little bit from each end, and at the end of the day it adds up. At Watkins Glen we had really great fuel mileage. That's something we haven't had before, and it's just a credit to everybody involved."
WHAT HAPPENED TO STERLING'S ENGINE ON SUNDAY?
"I'm not sure. I know we broke an exhaust value, and I'm not sure we didn't have a problem at the end of Happy Hour (on Saturday), something internally we couldn't see. Everything was fine Sunday morning, and it made half a lap and blew up. We have it back in the engine shop trying to figure out what happened. There was no clue to us. We had some value springs that didn't look as good as they should. We've had that in the past. To be able to change motors you have to have something wrong with your motor and I know three or four cars that did replace their motors. Obviously there was something wrong with them. NASCAR policies that pretty good."