Phoenix Crew Chief Club Preview

Crew Chief Club at the Dura-Lube 500 Event: Dura-Lube 500 When: Sun., Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. EST on TNN Where: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval) Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have...

Crew Chief Club at the Dura-Lube 500

Event: Dura-Lube 500 When: Sun., Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. EST on TNN

Where: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)

Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 64 wins, 348 top-five finishes, 556 top-10 finishes and 65 poles prior to this Sunday's Dura-Lube 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Parrott and Dale Jarrett are the defending champions of the Dura-Lube 500. They finished the race in a record setting 2 hours, 48 minutes and 55 seconds with an average speed of 110.824 mph. Their margin of victory over runner-up Rusty Wallace was 2.105 seconds. The Crew Chief Club has three wins and two poles at Phoenix. The wins were provided by Parrott and Jarrett in 1997, McReynolds and Davey Allison in 1992 and 1993. The poles were provided by Makar and Labonte in 1996, and Makar and Rusty Wallace in 1990. In last year's Dura-Lube 500, the Crew Chief Club finished in the following order: Parrott/Jarrett Start: 9th Finish: 1st Status: Running Pemberton/Wallace Start: 3rd Finish: 2nd Status: Running McReynolds/Earnhardt Start: 7th Finish: 5th Status: Running Makar/Labonte Start: 4th Finish: 23rd Status: Running

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO TO SET UP YOUR CAR FOR A FLAT TRACK LIKE PHOENIX?

Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "Well, this year we've started a new direction on our short, flat track program. It seems to be working well for us. We've found some things that work good for us on the flat track and that are good for Bobby. We take it every week and we seem to go back and massage on it a little bit and make it a little bit better. But, we'll just continue that program and hopefully get the car in a position where we can run in the top five and just work real hard at being competitive."

Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "Phoenix is sort of a strange place. You have to be careful not to get loose there. When we get in there and the track's been green, it tends to be a little bit loose. But once we un-tape the front end and the track gets a little bit of rubber on it, the car gets to where it doesn't want to turn in the middle of the corner. The cars that prevail there have figured this out. This is where the (No.) 88 car was so strong last year. He could float that thing down in the corner and it would almost rotate like it had an axis running down through the center of it. It could really come up off the corner good. That's the big secret at Phoenix, getting the car to where it doesn't push. Push is the big word at Phoenix."

Todd Parrott - Ford Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford of Dale Jarrett - "Just like we do at Indianapolis and Pocono. It's a lot similar to those tracks and we ran really well there. We ran well at Phoenix last year, so we're going to have a car that is similar to what we had then."

Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "I think Rusty likes Phoenix. When you enjoy running at a certain race track, you have a tendency to excel there and it's basically a Rusty Wallace track. Going there once a year, it has its ups and its downs, but we qualified well there last year and I think we finished second in the race. So basically a flat track set up is what we'll use."

IS PHOENIX SIMILAR ENOUGH TO OTHER RACE TRACKS THAT YOU COULD USE THE NOTES FROM THEM?

Jimmy Makar: "Yeah, I mean most of these flat tracks that we go to, we're finding out, are very similar. Now that we have something that works well, we can use the same setup at most of these race tracks with a little modification. Loudon, Phoenix, Indy and even places like Homestead and Richmond to a certain extent, all ended up having the same tendency and you need the same kind of handling characteristics. You need to make the car really turn well in the middle of the corner so you don't bog it down and kill the mid-corner speed. That way, you have a good exit speed to get you down the straightaways. All of those race tracks have that same need and that's what we work on."

Larry McReynolds: "Phoenix is a little bit similar to Loudon but it also has some of its own characteristics. It goes through transitions. In turn two it almost seems that the corner runs out before it should end, and that wall creeps up on you. A lot of times they'll go up there and scrape that wall. Just like Loudon and a lot of the other short tracks, a concern is getting the car to turn in the middle, but at Phoenix it will also want to get loose up off the corner. Now that doesn't necessarily happen at Loudon but Loudon, is probably the closest place to how Phoenix is. We're carrying a brand new race car there. We ran awfully good there with Dale last year, qualified seventh and ran fifth in the race. Mike has always run well at Phoenix. His first time in a Winston Cup car there, I think he sat on the outside pole. So he's always run well at Phoenix, especially when he drove the trucks there."

Todd Parrott: "Again, Phoenix is like Indy and Pocono. We may take a look at our notes from there, but we've been successful enough there that we can work from where we left off in 1997."

Robin Pemberton: "Phoenix is like a few of the race tracks or a combination of places that we run at like Loudon and possibly Richmond."

WITH THE COST OF RACING CONTINUING TO CLIMB, HAS THE PURSE MONEY RISEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH THOSE COSTS, AND IF IT HASN'T, WHERE DO YOU THINK IT NEEDS TO BE?

Jimmy Makar: "It's the same old thing, you always want more money and I think it's the same with our race team. If we made more money and had more money, we'd spend more money to go faster. That's just what we do. There's not a limit out here for how much research and development we can do or how many things we can try. If we have the ability, the capability and the money to do it, we're going to test and try new things to be able to be a little bit better than our competitors. Yes the purses have gone up in this sport. Everything has gone up quite a bit. The guys are making more money than they ever have. We're making more money in purses than we ever have. Television money is getting a lot better too. That seems to be where the future of our sport is, in TV packages similar to other professional sports. I think the day is coming where you will see a big package for individual networks that are going to help promote larger purses. I don't know much about how a race track makes it money, where it goes and all that so it's hard for me to say that we're not making enough or getting enough in purse. But I can tell you this, for what it costs us to race, the purse doesn't even come close to covering our expenses. It's costing us $150,000 per race to go to each of these races. Whether it's Martinsville or Daytona, it costs $150,000 to come here for the week and race when you add up all of our expenses. You can just look at your purse structure for all these race tracks and even if you win the race, it's not going to cover your expenses. It would be nice to have more money, and that's where the sponsorships right now are covering all of our costs. At Joe Gibbs Racing, the way we have things set up is that we don't even include purses in our budgeting. When I first set the team up for Joe, I told him to plan on last place money and no kind of plan money. That way you're not going to set yourself up for disappointment. If you figure that you're going to be fifth in points and run fifth every week and then count on that money being there, you're setting yourself up for a big disappointment. So that's what we do. The purse money is just sitting over here, the minimum we can make, and we race off of the guaranteed money which is what we get from our sponsors."

Larry McReynolds: "Some tracks and some events have kept up to some degree with the expenses. I don't know that they could keep up as fast, as expensive as racing is. But some of them have not. NASCAR has certain requirements that they mandate as far as the purses go. Some places stay right on that line and don't go above it one bit. But other events like Las Vegas, the Daytona 500, the Brickyard, the May race in Charlotte, Texas and Fontana are pretty decent paying events. Some races that we go to and still run 500 miles, it's out of proportion to what they pay per mile compared to other race tracks we go to."

Todd Parrott: "I think the purses need to go up like everything else goes up. The price of racing has gone up just like the cost of living has gone up. In order for us to stay competitive and keep this sport exciting, the purses need to increase."

Robin Pemberton: " I don't know if I need to be commenting on that. Based on some conversations we've heard and listened to, I believe that the car owners would say that purse money hasn't increased. A lot of times it's because of the old style contracts. We've added races and some of the sponsorship money hasn't kept up with the races being added. Nowadays when we add races, the expense of going to them is greater. Most of the races we add are on the west coast or take an extra day of travel to get there, it takes more to prepare cars and shops and teams are bigger. I really believe that there's an opportunity for increased purses at these new places that we go to that have 150,000 to 200,000 people attending. They sure do need the increase and not so much for the lion's share of the winners and the people that run in the top-five, but for the people at the lower end of the running order."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , Davey Allison
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing