TRACK: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa. 'FRESH START FOR ALL OF US' Current circumstances presented the opportunity, and Red Bull Racing Team acted Tuesday with an experimental approach, swapping crew chiefs and support personnel for this ...
TRACK: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa.
'FRESH START FOR ALL OF US'
Current circumstances presented the opportunity, and Red Bull Racing Team acted Tuesday with an experimental approach, swapping crew chiefs and support personnel for this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway and beyond.
No. 82 driver Scott Speed is paired with crew chief Ryan Pemberton, and Jimmy Elledge now calls the shots for a familiar face, No. 83 driver Casey Mears. The swap also included car chiefs, race and sim engineers, and tire and shock specialists.
"The crew chief and team member swap will be good for all of us," Speed said. "We started the year strong, but have seem to hit a patch of bad luck for whatever reason. We've all had some success, and we're having a hard time finding it again. Maybe this is the key. It's created a lot of new energy and drive. I think the change will be a fresh start for all of us."
While Speed and Pemberton will work together for the first time, Mears and Elledge have a history.
An open-wheel driver by trade, Mears broke into the Cup level in 2003 with Chip Ganassi Racing. The crew chief on the No. 41 car was Elledge, who guided Mears through a tough rookie season. But success soon followed as Mears earned the first top-10 finish of his career only three races into the 2004 season. Later that same year, the driver-crew chief tandem won back-to-back poles at Pocono and Indianapolis to go along with nine top 10s.
The next season was "when Jimmy and I really started to click." Together, they led 122 laps in the second half of 2005 and totaled three top fives and nine top 10s.
"It does make some sense if you look at it from Jimmy and I having already worked together. It's going to speed up that process," Mears said. "It'll be strictly what can we do to get this car to go faster, instead of trying to learn how to work with each other. This weekend is going to be a refresher course, for sure. Just trying to get caught up to speed. It does cut out a lot of the middle stuff that you have to go through with a new driver-crew chief relationship, weed out a lot of those unknowns from the start."
PROVEN TRACK RECORD AT POCONO
Pocono Raceway's been kind to Red Bull Racing Team over the years. Our second-best combined finish came in the June 2008 race at the tricky, triangular-shaped track. That day, Brian Vickers finished second. Not far behind was then-No. 84 driver AJ Allmendinger, who finished 12th. Total: 14.
82. SCOTT SPEED
SLIP AND SLIDE: In one word loose. Speed fell a lap down before the first round of green-flag pit stops as the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota lacked overall grip on the temperature-sensitive surface that is Charlotte Motor Speedway. For the next hour, Speed fought to stay in free-pass position until he lost another lap. At that point, the lead lap and the fight for position were out of reach. He ended up five laps down in 30th.
IMPROVEMENT EACH TIME: In Pocono's two ARCA races in 2008, Speed won the pole and finished second both times. Then came his first crack in a Cup car. Last June in the No. 82, Speed started 37th after a rained-out qualifying session and finished 32nd. Two months later, he again started 37th because of rain. But this time he finished 23rd, driving into the top 20 and finding himself restarting second on pit strategy with 30 laps to go.
VITAL SIGNS: Ranks 26th in the driver standings 113 points from 20th.
QUOTE: "Passing is not the easiest thing to do at Pocono. But there are these long straightaways that create braking zones that you don't normally have."
STAT THAT MATTERS: Comparing the first thirds of Speed's rookie season of 2009 and this year: Points position (+9), total points (+341), average start (+1.8), average finish (+6.7), laps led (+8), lead-lap finishes (+3), laps completed (+1,100).
83. CASEY MEARS
TIGHT UNDERSTATEMENT: In one word tight. From the first run to the checkered flag more than four hours later, Mears wrestled a tight- handling No. 83 Red Bull Toyota. "The car just will not turn" and "we're missing something in the front end" were phrases often heard during the 400-lap race. In the end, Mears finished four laps down in 29th.
NEWLYWEDS IN THE POCONOS: Mears and the No. 83 make for a nice couple at Pocono. The driver has a pole (August 2004), three top 10s and six top 20s with a best finish of fourth (June 2007). The car has qualified 15th or better four times, and with Brian Vickers at the wheel finished second (June 2008) and sixth (August 2009).
VITAL SIGNS: The No. 83 slipped to 23rd in owner points after Charlotte.
THREE TURNS, NONE THE SAME: "It's just a really unique track. It has three very distinct corners. (Turn) one has a fair amount of banking with a lot of big bumps in it. Then you have the tunnel turn real fast and flat. Then turn three is really long and flat. There's always a compromise at Pocono. I tend to give up a little in turn one because it does have the banking and it's a little more forgiving. Turn three is probably the most important corner to get off of because you have such a long straightaway."
STAT THAT MATTERS: NASCAR's loop data statistics rank Mears as Pocono's third-rated "closer," which means the number of positions improved in the final 10 percent of the laps in each race. In the past 10 Pocono events, Mears has gained 34 total positions in the closing laps an average of 3.4 spots in roughly the final 20 laps. He's also executed the 10th-most green-flag passes (778) in that 10-race span.
FIELD TRIP TO THE BRONX
For the third consecutive year, Red Bull Racing Team's on-the-road personnel will pay a visit to Yankee Stadium. After an early flight Thursday morning, we'll make our annual trek into the Bronx for the 1:05 p.m. ET game between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. Then it's back to Pocono that night.