The 2002 season saw driver Dave Blaney and the Jasper Motorsports team post their best finishes in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings (19th). As the team begins testing at Daytona in preparation for next month's Daytona 500, Blaney and new...
The 2002 season saw driver Dave Blaney and the Jasper Motorsports team post their best finishes in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings (19th). As the team begins testing at Daytona in preparation for next month's Daytona 500, Blaney and new crew chief Robert "Bootie" Barker spoke about improving on last season.
DAVE BLANEY - No. 77 Jasper Engines Taurus
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT BE SURPRISED TO SEE YOU BACK HERE WITH THIS TEAM BECAUSE YOU WERE MENTIONED A LOT IN THE RUMOR MILL FOR SOME OTHER RIDES AT THE END OF LAST SEASON? "I feel like this team has just a huge up side. Doug Bawel, Mark Wallace and Mark Harrah (team owners) have gone above and beyond during the off season. Our engine program is super, but we also went and strengthened our team with some different people. I'm excited about Bootie Barker as crew chief and having Pat Marshall back in the shop, plus all the new guys we've got going over the wall. So the combination of adding that group and keeping most of the people we had, we've strengthened ourselves everywhere. I'm going to be real surprised if we don't run a lot better."
WAS IT A CASE OF BEING LOYAL TO THIS TEAM? "Yeah, sure it was. They made a commitment and we had a contract. I guess a lot of times that doesn't mean much anymore (laughing), but I knew they weren't gonna sit pat and were gonna do whatever they felt it was gonna take to improve and they did that. I just wanted to stay. When Ryan left he took a couple of guys with him, but the core group stayed and I'm happy about that."
BOOTIE WAS YOUR CHOICE TO REPLACE RYAN? "Yeah. The owners and I talked and Bootie was on the top of my list. They didn't know much about him at that point, but I did from working with him at Bill Davis' a little bit, so they spent a month or longer just watching and listening to him on the radio at the Busch races. Once they finally met him face to face they were very impressed and it was a no-brainer."
WHAT DOES HE BRING TO THIS TEAM? "I think Bootie's strong points are in the suspension side of things - the front suspension mostly. That's where a lot of it is at these days. The aero stuff is becoming so tight from make to make and car to car because the templates have everything narrowed down. From the worst car to the best car on the track there's not much difference, so it's coming down to suspension stuff. The tires are not much of a variable anymore. They go and go and go, so you have to get that thing handling right and at the right attitude and I feel that's his strong point and that's what's going to take us forward."
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO TEST AND WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION? "No, we haven't. We've tried to go to Kentucky three different times and the weather hasn't cooperated, so this is our first test together. We're gonna try to do as much as we can in January with Kentucky and some other things, but we'll do all we can do."
LAST YEAR WAS THE BEST YEAR FOR YOU AND THIS TEAM. WHAT ABOUT THIS SEASON? "We want to land in the top 15 in the points for sure. We weren't that far away from that last year, but I honestly think we can pop up and win a race. Do I think we can run in the top five every week? Probably not, but we're gaining towards that. We want to stack up as many top 10s as we can and when you can consistently do that, then you can work forward."
YOU WERE AMONG THE LEADERS IN LAPS COMPLETED LAST YEAR SO YOU HAVE PROVEN YOU CAN FINISH RACES. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO POST MORE TOP 10s? "We just have to be faster from start to finish. There were a lot of races where we would be as fast as the leader for 100 or 200 miles, but it was only for that segment. Overall, we weren't good enough for the entire race and it doesn't take much. Being off just a little bit here and there will put you 15th, so we just have to be better from start to finish."
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THIS TEST TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE THINGS ARE OFF TO A GOOD START? "Whatever happens here I'm going to feel good about it. All we're trying to do is make gains and learn. We're going to find out what we can and can't do with these cars so when we come back here in February, we'll have as much information as possible."
ROBERT "BOOTIE" BARKER, Crew Chief - No. 77 Jasper Engines Taurus
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN DAVE CALLED AND SAID HE WANTED YOU TO BE HIS NEW CREW CHIEF? "I had mixed emotions. I was so happy that Dave called me, but it was tough to leave. This is what I want to do, though, and this is such a great opportunity that Mark (Harrah), Mark (Wallace) and Doug (Bawel) have given me that I couldn't turn it down."
ARE YOU KIND OF THE EPITOMY OF CLIMBING THE LADDER. YOU WERE A SHOCK SPECIALIST AT HENDRICK AND THEN MOVED UP TO A BUSCH CREW CHIEF WITH BILL DAVIS AND NOW A CREW CHIEF IN WINSTON CUP? "Yeah, I guess so. I feel very fortunate to be here. This is the top. It would be insulting somebody's intelligence to say that, 'Yeah, I hadn't progressed.' I have and I'm happy to be where I'm at."
IS THIS A GOOD YEAR TO COME IN AS A NEW CREW CHIEF BECAUSE ALL OF THE TEAMS HAD TO CUT THEIR BODIES OFF AND PRETTY MUCH START FRESH? "I hadn't thought about it that way, but that's a good point. I would say it's a good time, but what I would say is an even bigger advantage for me as far as timing is that this team finished 19th last year and I feel like they have even more potential. What I'm trying to say is that I think this is just the cusp or the beginning. I feel like I'm coming in at the right time. We've got great motors, a great driver and we've improved all of the areas in which we were weak, so I think it's really gonna seem like we did a lot when, in truth, we didn't - it was all there and it's just being in the right place at the right time. That's what I hope happens anyway."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOU BRING TO THIS TEAM THAT MAKES THEM BETTER THAN LAST YEAR? "We'll see. The proof is in the pudding. We've got to race good, so we'll see. I hope I'm as good as they are. I'm shooting to be as good as they are, so we'll see."
YOU'VE WORKED WITH THE CHEVROLET AT HENDRICK AND THE PONTIAC AND DODGE AT BILL DAVIS. IS THERE ANY LEARNING CURVE WITH THE FORD? "Different drivers, different chassis, different rules. Man, this stuff here, in my opinion, changes every day. You have to stay with it all the time anyway, so I don't know how much I'm helped or how much I'm hurt."
A LOT WAS MADE LAST YEAR ABOUT GUYS LIKE MATT BORLAND AND RYAN NEWMAN WITH COLLEGE ENGINEERING DEGREES. YOU HAVE ONE AS WELL FROM OLD DOMINION. IS THIS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE IN WINSTON CUP RACING? "Man, I don't know. In one way I think it's over-rated. Having a degree, all it does in my opinion is it tells people that are hiring you that you have the mental capacity to learn. Having that piece of paper says, 'Yeah, I am smart enough to do something.' Now, is it applicable here? I don't know. Naturally, you've got to be a smart guy or be somewhat smart to get a degree is hard. To get an engineering degree is difficult, but what I'm trying to say is that there are other smart men out here without degrees that could do just as well. I'm not saying it's necessary, it's all the perception of the owners. I had to get a degree to get into business, so that's why I got it."
YOU'VE BEEN AT MULTI-CAR OPERATIONS AND NOW YOU'RE WITH A SINGLE-CAR OUTFIT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? "Somebody who hears this is gonna say, 'Well, he has to say this because he's on a single-car team,' but I think the multi-car team thing is overrated. What the multi-car team does is it allows you to work more efficiently. Let's say each team gets a 10 million dollar sponsorship, that's 30 million. Well, you can have a centralized chassis shop and your money is placed more efficiently to distribute. I feel like every team then learns off of each other, but they still do their same thing. I'll bet you Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, they'll have different setups. I'm not saying this for sure, but I'll bet you that with these multi-car teams, their cars aren't exactly alike. The advantage a multi-car team does give you, of course, are more resources as far as money. But we have a great sponsor in Jasper and we have enough money. Another big deal is people. Having good people is the main thing and we have hired and been fortunate to get a lot more good people, so I think that's gonna show up more than anything. Mark, Mark and Doug have stepped up and spent a lot of money to get good people and I think that's the most important thing."
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS TEST? "Nobody is gonna show their complete hand down here, don't be fooled. But all of us probably hold back about the same degree, so you need to be somewhat in the ballpark timewise against these other people in that respect. The main thing we're doing is we're starting with a baseline and we're trying to make our cars better. That's what I'm hoping to do - make the car better. A lot of times you come down here and you will work for two days and you won't go any faster, but that's just the nature of the beast here. I'm not knocking it, but there are times when you can find stuff. I'm just hoping we can find things."