Fontana: Roush Fenway Racing - Ford Friday interview

Roush Fenway Racing announced yesterday that Todd Parrott will be the new crew chief for Matt Kenseth, in the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Parrott, Kenseth and car owner Jack Roush appeared together...

Roush Fenway Racing announced yesterday that Todd Parrott will be the new crew chief for Matt Kenseth, in the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Parrott, Kenseth and car owner Jack Roush appeared together at a press conference to discuss the move.

YOU'VE GOT TO BE EXCITED ABOUT HAVING TODD PARROTT ON THE BOX WITH MATT.

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion: "Yeah, we're real excited about that. I'm gonna go off message here for just a minute and do what Paul Harvey did and give you the rest of the story on things before I start and before we really get going. I'm really conflicted about what we're doing here. This is a performance business. We've all got to do what we have to do out there on the firing line to meet the expectations of our fans, to satisfy our sponsors and the other partners we've got, and we have to do the right human things as well. That's where my point of conflict comes with the changes we're making here. The person that's not in the room that's affected by this is Drew Blickensderfer. I want to start and talk about Drew just a little bit. Drew was my choice, he was Matt's choice a year and a half ago to lead this 17 team. He has done everything that we asked him to do. He is a person that is extraordinarily talented and able. He comes from a strong sports and competitive background. His father is a coach and I'm sure was a good role model for him. Drew will be in the Roush Fenway organization, hopefully for a long time, and he will be a factor in Sprint Cup racing in the future on one of our teams. For the time being, Todd's position is interim on the 17 team with an expectation that we can get a formula here that will work better than what we've had just recently. Todd and Drew are switching places. We had a great Daytona run with what Robbie did in the shop and what Todd did behind the scenes making sure that all of our Roush Fenway built cars -- we're doing those for all the Richard Petty Motorsports entrants as well as the 26 car driven by Boris -- those were all cars that were on the same page and Todd put those cars on the same page. We've never had a better field of cars that we've taken to Daytona, so we're not anxious to give that up. The short term, interim arrangement we've got is that Todd and Drew are changing places, but I just want to make sure that everybody felt my passion, my empathy, my support and my belief in Drew Blickensderfer before we started. I know that as much conflicted as I am, Matt is equally conflicted. Drew and Matt won races together in Nationwide, they had great rapport, and as we looked at what was next for the 17 a year and a half ago, it was the obvious thing we needed. We're a promote from within company. Matt feels that being a pillar that he is and we are and continue to try to do the right thing with regard to making career opportunities for people that deserve to be in this business, that are able and talented and motivated and resourceful. Drew is all of those things. The thing about putting our teams together is if you looked at the arithmetic sum of what a person's skill sets were or what people's skills sets are -- what their ambitions are and their motivations and talent is for doing their job -- having the arithmetic sum work out right is not enough. You've got to have chemistry. You've got to have people that start a sentence on one side of the room that would finish it on the other side, and at the same time you have to challenge one another. If all you do is run the same Do Loops and all you do is have the same exact thoughts all the time, then you're limited in your perspective. Drew has got the capability to do all those things. It's unfortunate that with where the mature 17 team was at this time, under Robbie's tutelage and under Matt's tutelage for so many years, that in the necessary time we weren't able to get the chemistry to work as it needed to and that's my failing and one of the reasons I insisted on Robbie coming today. I feel that it's his failing and at some point, maybe as clean up here, I'm gonna want him to comment on that even though he doesn't have a formal place on the program.

"But, anyway, I wanted to make sure that everybody feels that Drew Blickensderfer didn't get fired and that we're really concerned about his success and his state of mind as we move forward. At the same time, by putting Matt and Todd together at this time, we're putting together champions in this field. Todd has had success, not only with speedway racing, which had not been one of my strong suits in spite of the fact that we won what would seem to be our share of the races, and maybe not as many at Daytona as we should after 23 years we'd only won one time, but we've won at Talladega numerous times and we've won the July race numerous times. But Todd has always set a standard that was very high for that, and he's also not only been on a championship team with Robert Yates, he's also won at Indianapolis, which has been one of my nemesis. I think it may be the only place I've never won as a team owner in Sprint Cup, so he brings great strength to the 17 team. He's got the presence and the wherewithal and the experience to manage this band of pirates that Robbie Reiser has assembled over there that may be too much for a young man or may be too much for me. I was asked earlier if Robbie Reiser had been a consideration and the fact is and the truth is that he was consideration as we looked at putting this thing back together and making sure that we didn't waste races as get ready for a championship run for the 17 team in 2010, but with Robbie there's been a resurgence and he's certainly put Roush Fenway on a level that we've never been on with regard to our quality, our consistency, our manufacturing prowess and all those other things that attracted Boris and Richard Petty and the other folks that are our customers for our cars. So Robbie has done a great job there, and he breathed life into the 16 team with pit stops and with the organization of the people, and the same thing with the 99 as we looked at how to make those teams stronger over the last 18 months. But he pretty much left untouched the 17 team because he had his fingerprints all over them and he wanted those guys to excel. As we sit here today, unfortunately, we've found that as a team they haven't excelled. Matt Kenseth is as good a driver as anybody in this business has ever been or will be, and it's my failing that I haven't put him in a situation yet where he can demonstrate that to all. We've got to get Todd back to the race car because he doesn't want to take a Greyhound Bus home this weekend, so he wants to get that car right."

TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief -- No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion: "First of all, thanks to Jack I'm really excited about the opportunity to work with Matt and the entire 17 Crown Royal Ford team. It's no secret that Matt has a lot of talent. I think he showed that last weekend at Daytona. He had a car that rode around 25th all day long and finished eighth. The guys did a great job and he's got a lot of talent. It's a great bunch of guys and, like Jack said, Robbie has assembled an awesome team over there and what's neat is we tell stories all the time about how we raced each other so hard in the garage, and now coming on the plane last night we were telling stories with Matt about the past and a little bit of my history. Now to be associated with him and teamed up with him, and working with Robbie, has been a really nice with the way everything goes. The job Robbie does, like Jack said, in the shop preparing the cars and with all the teams, he's got a great leadership role and I hope that I can continue on and get the 17 car back where it belongs in Victory Lane and build on that with my experience. I'm really looking forward to working with Matt."

HOW SIMILAR ARE ROBBIE AND TODD?

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion: "Honestly, that's hard to say. I've worked with Robbie for what seemed like an eternity, but it was 14 years or 13 years -- something like that -- and I've worked with Todd here for about 13 hours, so it's gonna take a little while to really be able to compare those guys and how they do things. I've been a fan of Todd's. I've watched him race for a long time with a lot of different drivers, especially Dale Jarrett and the success they had, and how he did things at the track from afar, but I've never had the opportunity to work with him, so, really, that's gonna be hard for me to compare until I get that chance."

WHAT DID YOU MISS AND NOT MISS ABOUT BEING A CREW CHIEF?

TODD PARROTT: "What I did miss is getting in here and digging with these guys. The competition side of it and fighting tooth and nail to strive to be the best team in racing and to win races and championships. It just didn't work out the last few years, but the role that I was put in being the head of the superspeedway program and stuff like that, I had similar satisfaction that I had when I was a crew chief because I felt like I was helping all the teams. They didn't have to worry about their program because I took care of it, so, personally, I felt a lot of good things about that and the things that came out of it. Obviously, the speedway cars were successful and ran well, so, hopefully, I can pick up where I left off with that on the 17 team."

DOES THE FACT A SPONSOR WON'T WAIT FOR A YOUNG CREW CHIEF TO DEVELOP PLAY A ROLE IN THIS AT ALL?

JACK ROUSH: "We were under zero sponsor pressure to make a move. Before we had our meeting on Tuesday, where we came to this determination, Robbie had a concern, Matt had a concern, Chris Andrews had a concern, I had a concern and it all came together. Everybody thought Jack was working underground on things trying to get people revved up to do something, but that wasn't the case. I came to it about the same time in my mind's eye that we needed to do something, but the sponsor is very much in support of what we do and I think that they were not insistent on a change at this time. Matt had some thoughts that I would enjoy hearing what he has to say about things."

MATT KENSETH: "Jack pretty much said it all about Drew, but Drew and I are really good friends and I think we'll continue to be really good friends. We had a lot of fun working together and, honestly, as much as Jack talked about how he failed, I feel like I've failed in a way to help him enough. He did a real good job on the Nationwide car, obviously, and with Carl. I mean, they almost came back and won a championship from a huge deficit when he went over there, so Drew has what it takes to be a successful crew chief. It really wasn't a change that was about me and Drew, to be honest with you. We always talk about it being a team sport, but it really is and that's where I found we needed some help somehow was team wide. They were used to an experienced, strong leader like Robbie. When Todd first comes in here and talks his voice kind of thunders through the room, and it's really hard to explain, but we were just missing something on the team. I didn't feel like the way we operated at Daytona that we could win races and win championships. I didn't feel like that for whatever reason, and it just felt like a change needed to be made. It's not really a Drew thing or a Drew and me not being able to work together well because we really did, but it was just the whole dynamic of the team. We needed something to try and get the whole group elevated."

THE TIMING WAS A SURPRISE BECAUSE THE OFF-SEASON JUST CONCLUDED. WAS IT JUST SOMETHING THAT YOU REALIZED A CHANGE NEEDED TO BE MADE AT DAYTONA?

MATT KENSETH: "To be honest with you, whenever you're not running good, I will say that Jack has never put pressure on me to really do anything. I think he knows I put enough pressure on myself and I'm always doing the best I can, but he expects us to perform. I expect us to perform. Our sponsors do, our fans do, everybody does and we didn't perform very well last year and, really, the timing of the change is probably 100 percent my fault. I know that I've been asked by Jack several times if there's anything he can do for me, if there's anything we need to change on the team, if there's anything he can do better on equipment. He's never told me 'no' to anything that's reasonable and gives us whatever we need to be competitive, so I would say that's 100 percent my fault. Jack talked to me in November and asked if we thought we were OK with everything we had going on, and I really did. I really felt like we needed to give Drew a full year and a full off-season. We knew there were some things to work on and he was working on some things to try and make it better, so it's really hard to explain the timing of the change. It doesn't make any sense. It's not really good for anybody, but it's just kind of the way it went down. I thought instead of dragging it out it was just something that needed to be done. We're only one race in and we've got a lot of racing yet to do this year, and to get Todd in there and get him acclimated with the guys to get a headstart on this thing, instead of waiting until we're halfway into the season and it's too late to dig ourselves out."

WHAT SPECIFICALLY GAVE THE FEELING A CHANGE NEEDED TO BE MADE?

MATT KENSETH: "Who knows if it's even the right change. That's really hard to say. It's just the whole dynamic of my team. I feel like I've been very fortunate because Robbie has done a lot of work, Jack has done a lot of work, and everybody has done a lot of work to make sure that we have all the best people in the right places, and I really feel like we do have a great group of people in all the right places, but it's just hard to explain. You just didn't feel it there. You didn't feel like everybody came in the truck fired up to go win races. It's probably not the case, but you almost felt like they'd come in and they were just kind of going through the motions. I was like 'We need to get some spark into the group somehow and get everybody back to what this is about.' I'm a big football fan, so watching Drew Brees fire up his guys before the game with all his chants and his singing, and you see Ray Lewis firing up the defense and then see those guys ready to go out and do the best they can. I'm not a very good leader. I'll admit that I'm probably not the guy to do that, and I just felt like there was something that needed to be changed, and, unfortunately, it usually starts with the driver or the crew chief and I just felt like we needed something to change to see if it's different or better and to get everybody on the same page and really lead the group."

WAS THERE A SENSE THAT THE TEAM DIDN'T THINK IT COULD WIN?

MATT KENSETH: "No, I don't think there was a sense that we didn't think we could win. It's just kind of a hard one to explain. You guys say I don't show emotion sometimes and I kind of felt the whole group was sort of like that. I just feel like we needed something to throw a spark in the thing and get the guys back to remembering what this is all about and how lucky we are to do this. We're racing at the top level and it takes a lot of work and enthusiasm and attitude to be successful, and I just wasn't feeling that vibe. I don't know that it will be different this week, but that's just what we're trying to fix."

WILL ROBBIE BE ON THE BOX THIS WEEK, AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PERFORMANCE ASPECTS OF THE PROGRAM GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND?

JACK ROUSH: "This is a command appearance for Robbie. He was happier to stay home and work on the manufacturing things and to let us go do this here, and I asked him to come out and give us a hand, so he is here. He will be on the pit box with the 17. This is all-hands on deck trying to launch this thing and that's Robbie's role this weekend. As far as the RPM arrangement, Chrysler and Ray Evernham made a lot of investment in that program. It was on its back with regard to operational efficiency and Chrysler pulling out certainly left a big void in their income, and with the way Robbie embraced and I've embraced Richard Petty Motorsports to go forward -- Ford has come online, so that's given them the financial support they needed and given them a chance to quickly get up to speed with a Ford. It's given us a chance to look at some science projects that we either didn't choose to fund or didn't feel that we could fund that were more generously funded by Chrysler and by the vision of Ray Evernham. So it's been interesting to put the two technologies together. If I were to say, 'How does this work in comparison to something else I've done?' I would look at it from a technological point of view very much like what I did with Robert Yates a few years ago putting the engine program together. There has been a list of things that were strengths in both programs that have come to light and Robbie and Chris Andrews and Chip Bolin and Greg Erwin and Bob Osborne have all sat on that, and they've put the best of both programs together technically. That's gonna result in a little bump in the step of both programs initially. Ford Motor Company stands strongly behind it and they've turned their program up from an engineering support point of view over the winter as well, and the prospects for us this year are much improved over what they were for 2009, just with the additional energy and with the understanding of what left us in the doldrums and unhappy circumstance of not being dominant at as many race tracks in 2009 as we were in 2008.

-source: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Richard Petty , Ray Evernham , Jack Roush , Robert Yates , Greg Erwin
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing