Indianapolis: Ford - Crew chiefs' interview

This Week in Ford Racing July 29, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup When the green flag falls on this Sunday's Brickyard 400, there will be four Ford crew chiefs calling their first race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Robert "Bootie" Barker,...

This Week in Ford Racing
July 29, 2003

NASCAR Winston Cup

When the green flag falls on this Sunday's Brickyard 400, there will be four Ford crew chiefs calling their first race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Robert "Bootie" Barker, Shawn Parker, Raymond Fox and Randy Goss all provided their thoughts on this weekend's race.

ROBERT "BOOTIE" BARKER , Crew Chief - No. 77 Jasper Engines Taurus

WHAT'S IT LIKE PREPARING FOR THE BRICKYARD?

"Well, it's a case where you run the first Pocono and then you go and test Indy, and then you go and run the second Pocono race with a lot of the same stuff. I think we've learned some things from the first Pocono and the Indy test that is going to help us, but so has everybody else. The good thing about having Pocono just before Indy is you can use it as a guideline for what you might want to do the following week."

THE BRICKYARD IS BUILT UP AS ONE OF THE BIGGEST RACES OF THE YEAR, DO YOU SEE IT IS AS BEING MORE IMPORTANT THAN SOME OF THE OTHERS?

"Honestly, it doesn't to me because they all have the same amount of points, but to the owners it's a big deal. The owners and media put more emphasis on it; therefore, they put more pressure on you to do better there as well. There are 185 possible points, they all pay the same, so I pretty much approach that way everywhere we go."

DOES EVERYBODY BRING THEIR VERY BEST STUFF TO THIS RACE?

"Yes, that's true. Like for Bristol or Martinsville, you'll probably bring a car with the worst body - a short track - because your bodies aren't overly important. But for Indy, you're gonna bring your best body, your best body and your best everything, so that's definitely true. Honestly, though, if you look around here every weekend everybody's got nice stuff. I mean, we're doing all we can pretty much all the time."

THIS WILL BE YOUR FIRST TIME AT INDY AS A CREW CHIEF. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

"I hadn't really thought about it much, but that will definitely be a proud moment. I'll be happy to say I've done it. Going down Gasoline Alley as a crew chief, that will mean something, but I feel that way a lot of places I go. I feel fortunate regardless of where we're at."

WHAT'S THE CHALLENGE YOU FACE AT THAT TRACK?

"You get tight in. When you go down in turn one you're going so fast, when you slam it in and you go to turn the wheel, if you lose that front end and that nose slides, you're done - you're not gonna be good. It's the same problem everybody's got. You've got to get the car to work in that middle third of the corner and that's a little different than most tracks. That's the thing I'm worried about. If we can get the car to work there, we'll be OK."

SHAWN PARKER , Crew Chief - No. 88 UPS Taurus

DOES INDY RANK SECOND TO DAYTONA AS FAR AS IMPORTANCE TO TEAMS?

"They're all important right now, but, yeah, Indy stands out as one of the premier races that you'd like to win. There's just a lot of prestige that goes into that place. When you go through the tunnel the place just gives you chills because you realize it's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and there have been a lot of great drivers who have won there. I'm really excited about going there with Dale Jarrett. He's won two races there, so I think our chances will be pretty good."

THE FACT HE'S ALWAYS DONE WELL THERE, DOES THAT PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOU?

"Not really. We just go to each race track trying to win, whether he's won at that race track or not. It's bragging rights to say that you've won Indianapolis. I was there in '94 when Jeff Gordon won the race. I was a tire changer and a mechanic on that team back then and it means a lot just to win at Indianapolis. I think it would be pretty neat if we could go there and get this whole season turned around."

YOUR TEAM ACTUALLY WENT TO INDY BUT DIDN'T TEST. HAVE YOU FOUND A CAR THAT YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT?

"I think we learned a lot last weekend at Pocono and the 38 had a really good test up there. Hopefully, we can apply a lot of the stuff that they learned to our car. Dale has run so good there that we felt like we needed to test somewhere else other than Indianapolis because he runs so good there. Hopefully, all of those factors will play into our favor and then we can go somewhere else to test and return the favor to them."

EVEN THOUGH YOU'VE BEEN TO THE TRACK BEFORE, THIS WILL BE YOUR FIRST TIME AS A CREW CHIEF. DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY DIFFERENCE?

"You kind of know what it's like. These days you have to take the race for what it is that weekend. You have to forget about what happened last year or two years ago. You've got so many variables that take place. Track time is one thing, but the body location issue, I think, has thrown a lot of people off. I wish we would have had more tests than the five we've been limited to, but we've got to make the best of it and keep working hard at it. We're gonna show up to Indy like we do every other weekend, with a positive outlook, and hopefully things will go our way."

SO DID YOU GET TO KISS THE BRICKS IN '94?

"No, we actually didn't do it back then. We just got to go to victory lane and we got to touch the brick trophy, but we never got to kiss the bricks. That's something I'm looking forward to doing."

RAYMOND FOX , Crew Chief - No. 38 M&M's Taurus

WILL IT BE A THRILL FOR YOU TO CREW CHIEF AT THE BRICKYARD?

"Yeah. I guess it would probably be different if I had never been there before, but this will be something special going there as a first-time crew chief. It'll be even more special if we can go there and run well. After it was all said and done, we had a really good test there and learned a lot of stuff. We tried some new things that we planned on trying and I think we ran pretty good."

WHAT IS THE KEY TO THAT TRACK?

"The big thing is getting it to go through the corner as fast as the driver can take it without using the brakes. When we first started going there with Ernie (Irvan), we weren't running very well and then one time he went out and picked up something like seven tenths. We asked him what he did different and he said that he didn't use as much brake, so you just try to stay on the driver about that and try to get him as comfortable as you can so he's able to do that."

HOW BIG IS THIS RACE?

"Indy is getting closer and closer to Daytona. You always leave a test available just to go there because it is so big. It's Indianapolis. It's a pretty big deal."

ROBERT YATES FLEW SOME OF THE FABRICATORS UP FROM CHARLOTTE ONE DAY DURING YOUR TEST. IS THAT AN INDICATION OF HOW IMPORTANT THIS RACE IS?

"Yeah, Robert is sort of our body guy now. He's into that pretty hard. We were hitting both fenders (the front tires were rubbing against the top of the fenders), so he flew some guys up to cut 'em off and raise 'em up. It takes things like that to make you better and, fortunately, once those changes were made we got a lot better at the end of the day. That wouldn't happen at every test, but it shows how big this race has become. This race keeps getting bigger and bigger. I don't think it will ever top the Daytona 500 in my heart, but it's getting closer. After all, everybody wants to kiss the bricks."

RANDY GOSS , Crew Chief - No. 16 Grainger Taurus

THE ONLY TIME YOU'VE BEEN TO THE BRICKYARD WAS FOR YOUR TEST A FEW WEEKS AGO, CORRECT?

"Yeah, being the first time there it's a lot different because the car has to handle and it's got to go down the straightaway. The first day was difficult for us because we didn't know what adjustments to do. We went with the 6 car so they could help us, but after about two hours of testing I was ready to go back to IRP. It's a little bit easier at IRP because you qualify your race setup, so that means it's all about the driver in qualifying because you've got your race setup on it. You maybe do a little tire pressure and a little bit of tape and then they qualify, so they're all pretty even there. I don't know. I think we had a good test. Sometimes nowadays it's hard to tell. Every time you come home and say you had a good test you run bad, but I'm optimistic going back."

YOU WON AT DAYTONA, WHICH IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS TRACKS. WOULD THIS ONE BE NEXT AS FAR AS PRESTIGE?

"Yeah, I'd have to say it would be something else to win there. Realistically, I think we're leaving home with a different feeling. When we were in trucks and Busch, we never left home not thinking we could win, but we're leaving home now with more of a feeling that we're gonna be competitive this weekend. Once you get competitive everything else comes to you, so we've got a better feeling when we leave home than we had earlier in the season."

WHEN YOU WON AT DAYTONA IT WAS UNEXPECTED. IS THAT HOW YOU APPROACH THIS WEEKEND WITH MANAGED EXPECTATIONS?

"That's right, yeah. We feel like if we can run good and be in the top 10 or the top 15 that means you're in contention. You never know with the fuel mileage nowadays of what's going on. You've got to be up on the edge watching every minute knowing when to come in and top off and you have to be aware of what's going on out there. You never know what's gonna happen, but we're gonna be alright."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Shawn Parker
Teams CIP