This Week in Ford Racing November 2, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Jimmy Fennig has been a crew chief in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series since 1986 when Mark Martin competed in five races. His first full season came one year later with Bobby ...
This Week in Ford Racing
November 2, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Jimmy Fennig has been a crew chief in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series since 1986 when Mark Martin competed in five races. His first full season came one year later with Bobby Allison and he has been with the circuit ever since, winning 27 races with three different drivers (Allison, 2; Martin, 14; Kurt Busch, 11). Fennig, who is in the midst of yet another championship run, hasn't won a championship since helping Martin capture the American Speed Association title in '86.
Despite all of his success, Fennig likes to stay behind the scenes. He doesn't do many interviews and even stays away from the media center after winning a race, preferring to stay with his car and crew for post-race inspection.
So what makes him one of the top crew chiefs in the garage area?
Car owner Jack Roush and Busch gave their thoughts on that topic while Fennig spoke about his philosophy over the final month of the season.
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner -- No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
WHO IS JIMMY FENNIG?
"Jimmy Fennig is an example of what a rabid dog crew chief would be if he stayed at his business for a long time and didn't get caught up in political ambitions or didn't let his head swell. Jimmy Fennig is the consummate crew chief. He's dedicated to his work. He's not distracted by things going on around him. He focuses on his driver and on his car and he's extraordinarily dogmatic."
YOU NEVER SEE HIM IN THE MEDIA CENTER AFTER WINNING A RACE. HE DOESN'T DO A TON OF INTERVIEWS. IS HE REALLY A MAN OF FEW WORDS?
"He's a man of few words. They did that recent TV advertisement with him where he played the part of a psychologist who was checking out a driver and what was going on in his head and that was uncharacteristic for Jimmy to be in the public light like that. He's very good at it, but it wasn't something he wanted to do, I'm sure."
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS HIS LEADERSHIP STYLE?
"He's very demanding of his guys. He expects a high level of commitment and performance and effectiveness. He's a good teacher and he sets an example for not asking somebody else to do something that he either couldn't or wouldn't do himself if he had the time."
KURT BUSCH -- No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
WHAT MAKES JIMMY FENNIG SO GOOD?
"His ability to adapt to a changing race track for the day. You show up with your notebook and it might say run x, and if he says the track is too hot and the aerodynamics have changed too greatly, he'll throw it away and adjust for that day. Years of experience will teach you that and that's one thing he definitely has on every other crew chief in this garage area."
HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE IS IT TO HAVE A GUY LIKE JIMMY FENNIG AS A CREW CHIEF. HE PROBABLY DOESN'T LET YOU GET TOO FAR AHEAD OF YOURSELF AS FAR AS THIS CHASE GOES AND WHAT MIGHT LIE AHEAD.
"This is his deal. This is his program and he's the veteran crew chief that I have to listen to, but any idea that I bring up, he's willing to listen to me as well. It takes that good team communication to know what it's gonna take to build these cars, what it's gonna take to race them, and the mindset going into each race. We can't get ahead of ourselves because we still have four to go."
JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief -- No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
HOW HAVE YOU APPROACHED THIS CHASE?
"Right now we're just staying focused one race at a time. We got into each race trying to get a good finish and win it if the opportunity presents itself. We're really just trying to focus each week on each race track."
DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP SOME OF THESE GUYS FROM THINKING TOO FAR AHEAD ABOUT WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Not really, because our goal all year long was to go to each race and try to run in the top 10. If we're there at the end, then we go ahead and try winning it. That's the way our motto is around the shop and we're gonna keep that going. We're not points racing right now. I mean, we've got to use our heads and we've got to do things smart, but these other guys are so close to us that they're gonna race and race so we have to race to stay where we're at."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM PREVIOUS CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLES THAT YOU'RE ABLE TO USE THIS TIME AROUND?
"In the past we were always chasing somebody else. We were running second and going for it, so we had to go race. There was no holding back or anything like that because you had to go race, but you also had to make sure you didn't fall out of races. You have to race smart, like Kurt at Martinsville. He drove an awesome race and a very smart race. We did everything we could do to try winning that race, but the track got away from us and we couldn't get it back. The key was that we got a decent finish, otherwise, you just have to make sure that nothing falls off the car and you don't make any mistakes in the pits -- stuff like that -- and you just go on."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE HUNTED NOW INSTEAD OF THE HUNTER?
"This top 10 is a different deal. To me, you've got to go race in these final 10. If you sit back with the way the competition is, they're gonna pass you really fast."
WILL YOU REMIND KURT OR ASK HIM TO BE MORE CONSCIOUS OF WHERE GORDON AND EARNHARDT ARE ON THE TRACK?
"Right now we are racing them and at Martinsville I did let him know what was happening with the 8 and where the 24 was. Kurt is smart enough and knows what's going on, too. He'll see them on the track, but he also knows that if we can't get them on that given day or that give race, the key is to finish that race. If they're gonna win that race and we're gonna finish third, you better accept that and go on. You don't want to push the car where you end up finishing 43rd."
WHAT WOULD A CHAMPIONSHIP MEAN FOR YOU PERSONALLY?
"That's everybody's goal is to win the championship. If we win it, that's great. If we don't, in my career I enjoyed it and I won a lot of races. I've sat on some poles and had good runs while working with a lot of excellent drivers. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, you know what I mean? There are a lot of coaches in the NFL that never won a Super Bowl, so I guess I look at it differently than a lot of people. The way I look at it is that I'm fortunate to be a crew chief in contention to win a championship."
YOU'RE A MAN OF FEW WORDS. YOU NEVER GO THE PRESS ROOM AFTER WINNING A RACE. YOU SEEM TO JUST STAY IN THE BACKGROUND. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
"What got me here was Saturday night racing. I'm not saying that these guys aren't racers, but I enjoy being around that race car and working on that race car. I've got nothing against the media, but I enjoy working on that race car, being around that race car, and making sure that once we win a race I can help the guys with anything during post-race inspection."