Jimmy Makar, Crew Chief, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix: HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE CHANGING FOR NEXT YEAR...WILL IT BE A 'WORK IN PROGRESS?' "Yeah, I really do. That's a good way to put it because we really don't know what I'm...
Jimmy Makar, Crew Chief, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix:
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR ROLE CHANGING FOR NEXT YEAR...WILL IT BE A 'WORK IN PROGRESS?'
"Yeah, I really do. That's a good way to put it because we really don't know what I'm going to be doing on a day-to-day basis. We know there are a lot of areas here inside the shop that need attention, that need somebody to really care for them and take them to the level we need them to be to go race every weekend better. We don't have anybody in that spot right now and it seems kind of a natural for me to just migrate into that area."
WILL YOU BE INVOLVED IN ANY DECISION-MAKING AT THE TRACK?
"I don't know that I'm going to have the final say-so on any decisions at the racetracks. I think that should be left up to the crew chiefs. I think what will happen at the racetracks is that I'll be there, kind of as a go-between between the two crew chiefs and the two teams, helping to make sure both cars are on the same page, that they each know what each other is doing, what works, what's working that weekend, what's not and obviously to give my opinion. But, that is probably as far as it's going to go. It will still be up to each individual crew chief to make the final call on their particular car."
WHAT WILL THE OFF-SEASON BE LIKE FOR THE '18' CAR?
"It's definitely going to be a rebuilding off-season for the '18' car. We've replaced a few people on the road crew over the last few years and now with the crew chief change, it's going to be a big undertaking. But, I think the key is going to be the key to be smart and communicate well with the people that we're talking to and the guys in the shop and keep everybody on the same page. I think we can make it a smooth transition with the right guy coming into place. That's going to be key to how well we can weather the winter and then come out racing well in Daytona."
WHAT KIND OF A CREW CHIEF DOES BOBBY NEED?
"I think what Bobby is going to need is somebody with some experience and somebody that he can have a lot of confidence in, right from the beginning. I think he needs someone he can rely, that he can depend on, that he is not going to have to question in the back of his mind whether it is the right guy or not. I think we need to put somebody in there that can get the job done and that there's no question in the world in anybody's mind that he can get the job done."
HAS IT GOTTEN TO THE POINT WHERE BEING A CREW CHIEF IS AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB?
"I think the face of a race team has changed a lot in the last five, six, seven years in such a way that the crew chief, who used to be the guy that did it all - could do it all, did do a lot of it - our sport has gotten so competitive and there is so much more involved in a race team today compared to what it was years ago that I think the whole infrastructure of the personnel side of the race team has changed. That crew chief now is becoming the person that becomes the technical director. Your crew chief is a guy that goes to the racetrack every week and works on the race car, tunes the race cars, calls the shots on top of the pit box and is sort of developing a little bit different of a personality that it used to be. I see the role that I'm going to be doing at Joe Gibbs Racing is something that was part of crew chiefing years ago. But, because of the intensity level racing week-in and week-out, having to be able to be one step ahead of everyone week-in and week-out, that it's very hard for a crew chief to be able to do that. He has to depend on somebody else to feed him that information that he can use on the weekend."
IS PIT STRATEGY MORE IMPORTANT AT A PLACE LIKE MARTINSVILLE?
"Obviously, it's critical everywhere. But, I think it gets to be more so important as the track gets smaller. It gets even more difficult to pass and I think it does increase at places like Martinsville, Loudon, Richmond, Bristol - tracks of that nature - just because it does get that much harder. There isn't that extra groove out there. The cars don't string out quite as much as they do at the bigger tracks, so I think it is more important at our shorter tracks."
WHAT TYPE OF CONCERNS DO YOU HAVE AT MARTINSVILLE THIS WEEK, SINCE SOME GRINDING HAS BEEN DONE TO SMOOTH OUT THE LOWER GROOVE?
"Obviously, it'll change the shock setup a little bit. We know what the characteristics of that racetrack are - how it is with no rubber on it, how it rubbers up during the race - everything you know that commonly happen during the race are going to be an unknown this time. We don't know how the rubber is going to adhere to the new ground surface. I'm understanding there are some grooves there that weren't there before. Will he rubber stick to the grooves? Will it build up quicker, more, less? That's a big question in the back of everybody's mind. Exactly what happens as the race progresses is going to be a big issue."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT JOE GIBBS RACING HAS ACCOMPLISHED IN ITS HISTORY?
"Yes and no. Obviously, when we started this race team that was the goal - to win races and to win a championship. When we started the second team, the goal was to start a team that was as equal to the '18' car as we could make it, to be able to push each other to be more competitive. That goals seems to be being met right now.
"I'm not really surprised because those were the goals we set and that's what we worked towards. I'm really proud of the race team more than anything. I know a lot of people work a lot of years and never do get the chance to attain championships and win races on a consistent basis. You can't take that for granted. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of good people. We've been real fortunate to be able to assemble that type of a situation here at Joe Gibbs Racing."
HAS THIS BECOME A 'PIT STRATEGY' SPORT?) "I think if we had had this conversation last year we would have said that pit strategy was becoming a huge part of the racing and certainly it has continued on this year. I think until we change a few things in our series, as far as the way we compete on the racetrack, you're going to continue to see the pit strategy be a major player in how things happen and who wins races. As I said earlier, the competition is so close these days with the rules the way they are and the availability of technology, money and good personnel, every race team has got a lot of the same things at their fingertips to work with. If you slip just a little bit now with your race car or you get off a little bit with your setup, you're a 25th place race car, instead of a fifth to 10th place race car. It doesn't take much today to not look very good. The other part of that is the way the tires have been developed and the situation we're in with tires right now. Everybody runs the same speed. There is not very much to be gained with tires. The tires are good. They're not a bad tire, but it creates a situation where you can run your first lap and last lap of a set of tires just as hard at most of the racetracks we go to and some places, run almost as fast. We don't have any give-up, no fall-off, so the drivers don't have to do as much as far as taking care of their tires and making them last for a whole run like we used to have to do. You used to have certain race car drivers that would be known as a guy that goes out there and runs very fast for a short period of time. Then, you had another guy that would take care of their tires and would come on later in the race and it made for an exciting situation where you had a guy with his car going away - his tires giving up -- and another guy pacing himself and catching the other guy. You don't have that anymore with the situation we're in now, so I think we need to get back to having a tire that gives up that the driver has to take care of, so you can have a choice of just how hard you want to run and you can hurt it. That makes for an interesting mix on the racetrack. Those type of things we need to bring back.
"Aerodynamics - we need to take that out of the picture a little bit more. What happens now is you get a guy - I'll be you hear it every week, 'Clean air, clean air.' We build these cars in the wind tunnel to run in clean air to make our aerodynamic balance perfect on the race car. When you have that the car is very stable and fast. If you don't have it it makes it very difficult to drive your race car because we depend on it so much now. Therefore, the guys running third, fourth, fifth on back into the field have the dirty air, have the air that doesn't work well with their car, so they have nothing to help the car stick to the racetrack a little bit better like the leader does.
"Everything lends itself to being out front right now on the racetrack. Any chance you can get to get your driver up front - you can take a 15th place car at one point in the race and lead the race and win the race with that same race car because you're out in clean air and nobody can get to you.
"We need to make a couple changes in the series and I know NASCAR is talking about it. They are looking at taking some downforce away and changing tires around a little bit, so that we can have a little more racing on the racetrack and have to depend less on the pit stops."