GREG ZIPADELLI, crew chief, No.20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Are you bringing momentum from 2010 into this season? "I hoped that we would pick up somewhere that we left off the last 15 or so races. We're continually making progress. So far down here at Daytona, I feel like our car had speed, it was pretty good and we made gains all day. It doesn't mean a whole lot right now. Encouraged by all the work that everybody has done back at the shop. We were kind of hoping to get in some drafting practice today just to see how our car ran there. As a corporation we're working hard, working together and trying to get all three cars in the Chase next year. I don't know if you guys know, but I'm not really sure what it's going to take to get in the Chase and I'm not sure that we know that. We're looking forward to this year. I feel like we ended the season pretty good. I think we learned a lot and most importantly we all built some confidence in each other that we are capable of running top-10, top-five every week and now we just need to take that next step. Get in the top-five, leading laps and figure out how to lose a couple races so we can figure out how to win some. You know how that goes. That will come in time. I think Joey's (Logano) pretty excited about the year. I think he's built a lot of confidence in himself that he can do this. He figured a lot of things out towards the end of the year. Honestly, I don't think we're anywhere near close to where we could be. That's encouraging and that's the exciting part for myself and my guys is I don't feel like we're really close to being as good as we're going to be. I think we're 50 or 60 percent there. That part's encouraging to all of us. We're looking forward to it."
Is confidence the biggest difference you saw in Joey Logano last season? "Confidence and experience, they kind of go hand in hand for him (Joey Logano). He's going back to these places a second, third, fourth time. First couple times, it was just figuring it out and trying to stay out of trouble and trying to run the whole day. Now it's progressing, the pressure is on him to try to go out and run in the top-10 and he's been able to do that a bunch more the second half of the year. I think they kind of have helped each other, they work hand in hand."
Do you remember the talks you had with Joey Logano to help him turn things around? "Yeah, we've always had those at times. That's where it will stay, we're not going to get into that. Him (Joey Logano) and I needed to work closer together. I needed to change a little bit in what I was doing and how I was dealing with him because he was not the person that I had dealt with for 10 years prior to that and the same for him. I don't think he quite understood, bringing him in at such a young age and so little experience, I don't think he knew the responsibility that as a driver over here, you have. It's not just show up -- its show up, do your job, understand what it is and how to do it and give good feedback. We did mid- season have some opportunities to spend some time together and trying to do more of that as people spending time together. It's been fun. It certainly helped us and he's responded well to his responsibilities here the second half of last year here."
How have Joey Logano's actions with other drivers helped him establish his place in the garage? "I think it's all back to confidence. That's all a little bit of confidence and it's all part of it. It's all him (Joey Logano) earning his spot. Let's face it, he came in here at 19 years old and he got put in a car, arguably one of the best drivers the sport has seen. He had huge shoes to fill in a lot of ways. From Tony's (Stewart) performance on the race track to his spirit off the race track. There was a lot of different things that he got thrown to the wolves. I think it took him the first year just to get through that and see who he was going to be here. I remember Texas the first year and media was asking and he wasn't going to be in the car and who's going to be in it and that kid was just crushed at that point that that could possibly happen to him. I think we got through all that stuff at the end of the first year and was able to put that behind us and make some gains last year and him kind of make his mark or scratch off his territory and let a lot of these people know that he is here. You can't go out and do some of the incidents until you do what he did. Pocono, he ran top-five all day, he earned it, he raced well all day and somebody took it away. Hats off to him, he should be mad. If he wasn't mad, I would have a bigger problem with finishing like we did. The Ryan Newman incident -- that was a racing deal. That's not the only time that's going to happen. We've talked about it, aired it out, he's not going to run off. That's all part of growing up, it's all part of taking the responsibility for your actions in the car and the people around you and learning how to race each individual differently, each race track differently. That goes back to confidence, but most importantly it goes back to experience. You're going back to some of these places, you're racing these guys. The better we run, the better he runs, the harder it is for him because he's racing people. Nobody wants to give up a top-five, you have to race them. Certainly so, you shouldn't. You're racing for top-fives in order to make the Chase. You have to have that consistency factor. I think he's done a good job of learning those things, but like I said earlier, I don't think we're to where we should be, can be or I think we will be."
How has Joey Logano fit in with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing? "They've all got different personalities. They all kind of do their own thing, but when they need each other, they can lean on each other. They all do well in our meetings together explaining what they're doing. As far as that goes, I think we've got a great mix of drivers and personalities. There's competition, but every one of them has a different role because of their personalities and things. As far as that goes, that's been really good and just has happened. Joe (Gibbs, team owner) and J.D. (Gibbs, team president) have done a good job with trying to keep the communication open amongst those drivers and encourage them to lean on each other to kind of figure out what each one is doing differently. That certainly helps us."
How much of a difference will the new nose make? "Obviously, it's a little bit of an aero change, not significant. I think the biggest thing is us figuring out when we get to California and Vegas and places like that, the aero trends that we see from the wind tunnel and our studies, are they real? How sensitive is it? Is it going to make it better in traffic? Is it going to make it worse? I think those are the things that we don't know now. I said yesterday, I wish we were at a place like Vegas or California or had that opportunity to go and work on that. Just because I'm kind of curious just to see what it is. I think it's better. My heart tells me it's better. It certainly looks better. It looks more efficient, it is more efficient. To me, that leads to everything being better. Are we going to see a big, huge change in the racing? I don't know. We won't know until we get 43 of them and we drop the green flag and everybody is in a big group to see how they really talk about their cars. I don't think it's going to be a monumental change, but I do believe it's in the right direction."
What were your thoughts of the Toyotas in the two-car drafts yesterday? "I'll be honest with you, I didn't pay much attention to it. We did all single-car run stuff yesterday. We had a pretty big list of stuff that I wanted to get through. I was happy with our Toyota and our speed off the truck, which was very respectable. Hopefully we can get on the race track today and kind of see where we stack up in drafting practice and pushing and things of that nature. I heard a lot of chatter on the radio, but honestly I did not watch or see any of them pushing each other. Was it just the Toyotas that did it? It looked like a lot of GM camps never even went."
Will the two-car push still work at Daytona? "I think it will. I don't know that it will be as good as it is at Talladega. When you're racing in a group and there's more cars around, I think the turning radius here is a little different. I think it will make it a little easier to get people in trouble than it is at Talladega. That will be yet to be seen. Maybe this afternoon we will be able to get a big group of people out there and really kind of see what we have here."
Were teams not drafting yesterday in order to protect their race cars? "I agree. We talked about it and I didn't want to be in there early. This is my 500 car and when we planned and put the schedule out, it wasn't necessarily going to be, but as it turned out, it seems to be my best car right now. I certainly don't want to take a chance of wrecking a car. It doesn't give us time to go home. If you tear it up a little bit, a quarter panel is one thing, but it's so easy just to destroy a car, throw it out and go home and have to build a new one. Not that we couldn't do it in the next couple weeks, but it would certainly take away from our downforce and our other things that we're working hard on for Phoenix and Vegas races, California that are coming up here. That's important that we keep everybody at home on track."
Do you feel like this team has to make the Chase this year? "I think we do. Honestly. Us and 25 other guys out here too. Our sponsor has been very patient with us as far as growing and they jumped on board with this and starting this program over. Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs) have been, but I think honestly, it's not been said, but I think we all feel exactly that sentiment that we need to make the Chase. We need to learn, we need to get there and then we need to learn what it is and what it's about. It's something he's (Joey Logano) never experienced. This is a whole new deal again. What I do like about him is he doesn't make a lot of mistakes so I think when he figures out his own like he did the second half of last year, that's what's going to make him a good racer on the week to week basis. If you look back the first year, he didn't tear nearly the amount of stuff up that a lot of people do. He'll run to his comfort zone and when he figures it out, he'll take the next step and when he figures it out, he'll take that next step. When the points system is like it is and it's about consistency and you go back and look at who's the best at that -- Matt Kenseth. He kind of reminds me of that a little bit with a little more fire. He's very smart, very aware of what's going on, where he is, what he needs to do and I think all that is going to get better with time."
Where does the dirty air start? "I think it just progressively gets worse. If you run in the top-five or you run first, second or third and you see it at California, you see the first three guys, they just take off. All of the sudden on the next pit stop, somebody else will be there and it's like, he fixed his car. No, he put it where he needed to be. Then I think you get fifth to 10th and it gets a little worse and then from that point back it gets pretty bad. I think each race track is a little different too."
Do you think Joey Logano is better equipped with confidence now to get through the year? "Obviously you go back and look and hope that the two years that he's had with all of those ups and downs and the emotional roller coaster will make him (Joey Logano) stronger for the future. I think from dealing with him and some of our talks and conversations and things of that nature, he has matured and has much thicker skin than he did two years ago. I think that's all part of it and it's all that maturing process. There's obviously room to grow, but he's very mature for his age."
How long did it take Joey Logano to consider this his crew and his car? "I think the first year he (Joey Logano) certainly battled that. I think last year as the year went, he earned that. I think he earned that through the garage and he's certainly, by what he did last year, his attitude and his efforts, I think the second half of the year, he did it with our guys. He did it with our people in the shop. You could just see the shift in momentum and attitudes and spirit towards us. Those things take time. Just because we had a good second half of the year doesn't mean, everybody knows how tough this sport is and we have to work at it. It's not going to just happen. Everybody else around you is working to be better. We have to continue to do that. Like I said, the good news is that we probably have more room to grow than the guys to the left of us and the guys to the right of us here just because we're still new at it."
Does the new fuel can worry you at all? "I think their going to mix up a few things. How much fuel did you get in it? Are you full? Are you not? How much did you spill? There's definitely a little bit of worries there. As a team we've worked and still are working very hard to try to answer some of those questions. We have done more pit stops and live pit stops with fuel at the shop and things of that nature with the guys than we've ever done in our life just to be sure that we're not one of the ones that have the problem. I think that if you go back and you look at when they changed the stud rule, there was a lot of loose wheels if you look back a year or so ago. It took a little bit of time, but it took care of itself and I think you'll see some of this with the fuel mileage. You'll see that it's going to be a little bit harder to predict and make sure that your numbers are where you think you're at. There was a couple of checks before. You had a catch can, you had a guy that saw the fuel, you had the catch can that you could weigh and dump the fuel out and see what was there. There's a lot of those little things that we're going to have to work through the first eight, 10, 15 races."
Does the car get fueled at the same speed? "No, it appears to be a little bit slower right now. We've made some gains with just a lot of practice and things. Right now, it's still a little bit slower than what we were last year. Somewhere between a half a second depending on who you've got doing it. The other thing is that your tire carrier or your fuel guy, depending on what it is, is now going to have to make the adjustments that our catch can guy did. You can say we're a second slower because he had to do a track bar and a wedge change. But it's only a half a second if we're not making changes and we're just doing air pressure. I think we're trying to work through a little bit of that right now and refine that to try to give us the best opportunity for solid pit stops every time. Honestly, there's just been tons and tons of stops, doing things different, each person trying to do things. I think it depends on the people that you have on your team. For us, it may be really good because we've got a tall rear tire carrier, for him to make the adjustment. For other teams, that may not be the case, they may elect to do something different with their people so it may change how they do things. I don't know that it's going to be like it was last year or more of a blueprint of that this is the best way to do it and the fastest, most efficient way to do it. I think this year it will be how your group and the group of people that you have and how they're able to adapt to things."
Will the speed of stops matter with everyone in similar circumstances? "You still want to be faster than the people you're racing. I think it's almost more important now. You've got an opportunity to gain or lose. I think that there's -- without the extra guy and rolling the tires and some of the things that we're all trying to carry the tires -- both to the front or all these other things. I believe there's a little more potential for disaster on every stop than there was. The team that does a good, solid job of not making mistakes, making sure that the details are detailed will certainly start out the year and everybody else will progress six, eight, 10 races into it."
-source: toyota motorsports