Dodge teleconference with Rusty Wallace and Larry Carter LARRY CARTER (Crew Chief No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR WORKING WITH RUSTY? "Our track performance has gone maybe a little better than I anticipated. The driver...
Dodge teleconference with Rusty Wallace and Larry Carter
LARRY CARTER (Crew Chief No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR WORKING WITH RUSTY?
"Our track performance has gone maybe a little better than I anticipated. The driver and crew chief communication part has gone really well. Rusty and I hit it off pretty good, and things are going well on that end. We've had a little trouble getting it done on pit road and we're working on that. Hopefully we can get that issue solved and we'll be in good shape."
ARE YOU MORE IMPATIENT THAN RUSTY?
"I think we both are impatient. Unfortunately for Rusty, he wants it done and he deserves to have things. Rusty Wallace has won races, and he's capable of winning races today. Last week, he was capable of getting the job done, but we haven't been getting it done on pit road for him. I know that's very frustrating for him to have a car that's capable of winning and just not getting it done on pit road. I've been doing this a long time, and putting a good pit crew together is not something that generally happens in three days. We've struggled with it. We've changed a lot and we're really just one position away from having a real good crew. Hopefully we'll get that nailed down in the near future."
DID PRESSURE FACTOR IN TO YOUR DECISION TO TAKE JOB?
"There's really no more pressure than what you put on yourself. I guess this organization has had a lot of success so there are some expectations here for Rusty to win. I know he can. I'm confident we'll win some races this year. We've just got to do our job and we'll get that done. Really, there was no hesitation on my part. I don't want to get old one day and say, 'well Penske called me and that's probably one of the top organizations in racing today and I said, no.' I don't think that's something you really could turn down. I felt pretty confident that I could come in here and do a good job. This organization is not self-supporting, but they have a good infrastructure. The engineers and crew chiefs and drivers really... This train is on course, and I just kinda help round it all up together. If I can help do that, that's the area I can help them in a little bit."
ANY PROBLEMS WORKING WITH RUSTY?
"No, not really. He's very assertive in what he feels like he needs in the car, and I think that's really served him well over the years. If he's feeling he needs to go one way, we might present options to him and give him some other things he might want to think about. He'll say 'yeah, that's a good idea.' Or he'll say, 'I'm not really feeling that.' He gives real good feedback. There are no real surprises. He's a very competitive person. All the drivers are, and most of us on pit road are, too. He wants to do good. When he goes out there and runs practice you think he's going to war there. He's all about getting his car right. That part of it has really been a good thing. In the past I've worked with drivers who maybe didn't see the value of putting in some good practice time, but he's all about getting out there and getting his car good."
ARE YOU CONFIDENT YOU CAN GET THINGS TURNED AROUND?
"I wouldn't say turn it around would be right. I feel like we've had competitive cars in every race we've been to this year. We've had cars that have been capable of running in the top 10. If we'd had cars that went to the track that we felt like were 30th place cars every week, then I'd say we've got to turn things around, but we've had real competitive cars. A few times we just haven't had the finishes to show for it. I believe if we just keep going to the racetrack like we have in the first five races the points and finishes will come."
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU NOTICED AT PENSKE'S?
"They have a lot of things here which is pretty nice. Probably the hardest thing is there are 100 something names to learn, and I don't know if I'll ever get that done. That's a lot of people. As far as the day to day racing business, it hasn't changed. It's still the same goal and you go about it in some of the same ways. Learning to adapt to it, it's more of an engineer-driven organization than I've been with in the past where the crew chief had to kinda figure it all out for himself. There's a lot of people here to help you. In some ways it makes the job a whole lot easier. In other ways, when you have to sift through and decide what's good information and what's bad information, it makes it a little bit more difficult because at times you're overwhelmed with the amount of information. That's a little bit of a change I guess."
IS THERE SOMEONE THERE TO HELP YOU ADJUST?
"Most everything I've learned, I learned from doing it. When I started working with Travis (Carter) years ago, he said, 'you're going to be the tire guy because you've got to learn tires first.' I was the tire guy. Then they started having to take apart shocks and he told me to learn how to build shocks. Then they came out with data acquisition, so I've done that. I'm familiar with all the things in the industry, but Roy McCauley is our lead engineer here, and he probably has had a lot to do with our cars running as well as they do. The hardest thing is not knowing what to do, but knowing what to do to a Penske car. These cars are just different than what I've been accustomed to working on. Instead of me having to come in here and be hard-headed, and say, 'I know how to run a race team, and I know how to set up a race car and this is how we're going to set it up.' Roy can say, 'here's how we have run these cars and here's how they have been successful.' That's the approach we've been taking. Roy has had a big hand in getting our cars set up and helping us understand changes we need to make at the racetrack. I've kinda let if flow, and it's worked real good so far. Obviously I have ideas and we interject those. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. That's no different than any other race team. The engineering side has really helped me understand how to work on these cars."
TALK ABOUT PIT CREW SWITCH DURING DARLINGTON RACE
"We have struggled on pit road this year. We felt like all along we were one position away. We just need to find us one good tire changer. We've had four different tire changers in five races this year. Cole came in, and what a super guy. It's hard enough when guys are getting swapped around every week, and then you call a guy in and ask him to help. He said he'd help. He said he wasn't the fastest guy on pit road but he was pretty solid and consistent. He was all of those things. He was a little bit slower than what we needed on Sunday. During the race Rusty made the comment, can we get some help or do we need some help. So I took that as hey let's see what I can do. We had talked about moving some people around. Looking at it from the Penske organization, the more we can operate as a team, the more success we can have. I told the guys Sunday I'd be tickled to death if we could finish 1-2-3 every week and I'd be tickled to death to take my share of thirds. The 77 car has a really solid pit crew. They've been together almost two years. I know the rear tire changer. He's a real good guy, and he's really fast. They were in a position where it would be pretty tough to get their lap back, so John Erickson, the general manager and myself were talking back and forth and said why don't we give this a try and see what it looks like. We did it more or less to see if it would help the 2 crew feel better and let Rusty know we're trying to help. We made a switch and the next two stops were real good. We did that as a one-time time deal to maybe give us a little direction for the future."
HOW WILL YOU GET PIT CREW SETTLED DOWN?
"Obviously, we would never do anything to disrupt the 77 and 12 and vice versa. At the same time, if the 12 car is running in the top five and the 2 and 77 are 10 laps down and their tire changer breaks an ankle or something, I'll be the first one to step up and say, 'hey, why don't you take my guy up there and go win this race.' That's what we're here for. I don't' think it's really an issue of disrupting any of the teams. The guys on the 2 crew have probably been a little shook up. I think Rusty wanted some changes. The last two years he hasn't had the pit stops he's been accustomed to. When you've got a guy that you look back three or four years ago probably had the best crew on pit road for several years. Not having that has made it very difficult for him. That's what we're trying to get. We're trying to get Rusty Wallace the best or one of the best pit crews on pit road. Sometimes you have some guys that maybe don't want the pressure or have somebody say what happened. I can't think of one time this year that Rusty came on the radio and say one thing that was offensive or hurt anybody's feelings. He's come on and said what happened. That's not an unusual request. The way we've performed on pit road, if I was him, I'd be livid a couple of times. He's tried to do his part to support the team. At the same time, we know we've got to make some changes. We got a late start making changes with me coming on late. It's not going to happen overnight, but I think we're headed in a good direction now."
WHERE DOES TALENT POOL COME FOR PIT CREW?
"There's definitely an opportunity for an unknown to come in if he can get the job done. At the same time, there's phone calls, the word gets out. When the word goes down pit road, regardless of what it is, it might take an hour and every team knows it. I think the problem is right now there's not a lot of good tire changers. When you've got teams busting off 13 flats on race day... A lot of guys can go behind the shop and do it, but when it's time to do it on Sunday, you're going to lose a little time. Some guys are getting it done. They're the guys keeping their cars out front and winning races, and that's where we've got to get to. We've been interviewing. We try out. We have at least one person come through here every day trying out. We film it, break it down and look at it. It's an on-going process trying to find somebody. We've had 20 or 25 guys come through here. We probably took three of those to the track and so far none of those have worked out. I've looked across the racing field and there's 10 or 15 real good drivers. The other guys are learning or on their way out or whatever. Maybe there's 30 good tire changers on pit road today and there needs to be 80. There's just not a lot of them out there."