Grissom confident in 1998 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 1998) If you see driver Steve Grissom and the entire Larry Hedrick Motorsports team striding through the garage area with more confidence this year, there's an obvious reason. They are...
Grissom confident in 1998
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 1998) If you see driver Steve Grissom and the entire Larry Hedrick Motorsports team striding through the garage area with more confidence this year, there's an obvious reason. They are more relaxed and sure of themselves because they are together again for a second year and setting their goals high for the 1998 campaign, beginning with the Feb. 15 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
Grissom's particularly excited because he sat on the front row for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' biggest event one year ago in his debut race in the No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet.
"This is the first time in my Winston Cup career that I've had the same crew chief from one year to the next," Grissom said. "That in itself is a reason to be excited about the new year. Over last year Charley (Pressley, crew chief) and I learned to communicate a lot better. During practice sessions I can tell him what the car is doing and maybe what it needs, and he understands me a lot better and can suggest changes to the set-up that will help.
"It took us a while last year to get that kind of communication going, but it got better and better as the year went along, and that was reflected in our continued improvement in the second half of the season. We expect that improvement trend in all aspects of the team to continue to rise in 1998 and maybe even climb a little faster.
"I learned more as a driver last season than in any year of my Winston Cup career. With that, I feel more relaxed this year, more comfortable. I think the team feels that way, too. Don't get me wrong. We're still very focused and working hard to do our best. It's just that the whole team attitude seems to be more relaxed, and at the same time positive and confident. You can kind of feel it at the shop and around the track.
"That's why we feel so good entering this season. It's a quiet confidence, knowing we have the potential to make steady progress and be a factor in every race."
Grissom and the Kodiak team finished 21st in the standings in 1997, posting three top-five finishes and six top-10s in their first season together. All three top-fives and five of the top-10s came in the second half.
Kodiak team manager Mike Hill echoed Grissom's thoughts, saying, "It's a shame the season ended when it did. We were really on a roll in the second half, getting better and better at each race track, and that's what we want to continue to do this year.
"We have to set our goals high. We want to do the best we can possibly do week in and week out, and hopefully that will push us to attain some of the things we're trying to achieve.
"Steve matured as a driver a lot last year. You could see that as the year progressed. I believe he came to rely on us more, and to believe in what we were trying to accomplish. He got a lot more comfortable with the race cars and the tracks, and he saw the commitment and dedication the members on this team have.
"That's why he's got a lot more confidence this time. I think he lacked some of that confidence early last year, just because he was with a new team, didn't really know what to expect, especially after being bounced around some in his first years at the Winston Cup level, through no fault of his own.
"Without a doubt, we can win a race in 1998. We could easily have had a couple of wins last year. Steve was in a good position to get a victory at New Hampshire both times and at Bristol. The racing circumstances just didn't work out for us in those races.
"When a team works hard, and the driver sees the effort being put forth, usually the driver produces out on the track, and that's what we're looking for this year.
"There's no doubt that this Kodiak Team can be in the top-10 in points at the end of the season. We're very capable of that. This team has a lot of experienced people, and they're getting better and better at what they do. What we have to strive for is to provide Steve with strong race cars and reliable, powerful engines that will result in consistently high performances every race.
"Steve can drive a race car. He's very smart about when to be aggressive and when to be a little more patient during a race. He knows how to look for the advantages when they arise. He's championship material. He proved that when he won the championship in the Busch Series. He's been in the thick of a run for a title, and we think that's an advantage for us.
"Steve grabbed the outside pole for the Daytona 500 last year, his first event with Larry Hedrick Motorsports, and that meant a lot. Whether he can do that again, or even earn the Daytona 500 pole is anybody's guess. We're trying hard to give him a car and a power plant that will make that happen. We'll just have to see.
"We were encouraged with our tests at Daytona in January. We're still not where we want to be, of course. No one is. But we're working, adjusting, doing everything we can to give Steve a powerful, reliable Chevrolet Monte Carlo for the season opener.
"We just don't know right now how we stack up against the competition, especially that new (Ford) Taurus, and we won't find that out until we see what the Taurus will do at Daytona and elsewhere. From their test speeds, the Taurus doesn't look as bad as the Ford camp would have you believe."
Hill said consistency is the Kodiak team's biggest goal this season.
"To get to the top in this sport, you have to finish in the top-five or top-10 just about every week," Hill said. "That's what we're shooting for, being very competitive and gaining a lot more consistency every race. It starts with confidence in what you're doing, and Steve and this Kodiak Team are not only confident, but ready for the challenge in 1998."
Source: NASCAR Online