DONNIE WINGO (Crew Chief No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) NOTE: Wingo discusses yesterday's announcement that Casey Mears will not return to the 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger team next season. Last season Wingo had a similar experience...
DONNIE WINGO (Crew Chief No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Wingo discusses yesterday's announcement that Casey Mears will not return to the 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger team next season. Last season Wingo had a similar experience with Jamie McMurray.
WHAT DOES AN ANNOUNCEMENT LIKE YESTERDAY'S DO TO TEAM MORALE? 'If we hadn't been through it the past two years it would be pretty tough. All the guys on this team have been racing a long time and they've been through it at some point in their career. Bottom line, you come here to race every week and you've got to put aside all this other stuff that goes on and just go do your job. That's what we seem to be able to do. It's tough. When you go home and sit down and think about it, you get pretty (upset), but there's really nothing else you can do about it."
YOU'VE BEEN SO CLOSE TO MAKING THE CHASE THE PAST TWO YEARS AND YOU'RE KNOCKING ON THE DOOR AGAIN THIS SEASON "We've been 11th going into the 26th race at Richmond the past two years within 15-30 points. It's been tough. We've got a good race team. We're not where we need to be. We're not where some of these other guys are. It's not the fault of the guys at the shop. They work as hard as anybody here. We just haven't been able to get there. I don't know what the deal is. We're not going to give up. I think we've got a top 10 race team. We've been on the verge of it year after year."
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THE REST OF THIS SEASON? "I'm not sure. We've been through it before, but you never know what to expect. It happened last year in July, so we're a month earlier this time. It's just one of those deals. You've still got to come here and do your job. We're all racers, and we just want to win races. It's tough on everybody."
DO YOU ASK YOURSELF 'WHY ME AGAIN?' "Yes, and all the guys have asked, too. Why does it keep happening to us? It's not the race team's fault drivers are leaving, but I don't know what's going on. We just do what we can do. Chip (Ganassi) and I have talked about it. There's nothing we can do now. We've just got to go forward and find the best replacement we can for next year."
WILL YOU GO FOR A YOUNG DRIVER OR A VETERAN? "I really don't have a clue what we're going to do. All this just came about this week and nobody really expected it. It was there because Casey was one of the only drivers available for all these new race teams coming in. We were worried about it, but in the back or our mind we were kind of hoping it wasn't going to happen. You've got to look at your options and what you can do to keep the team progressing. We've got two other young drivers there. Do you want to put another young driver in with these young drivers? I don't know. Do we take a veteran for a few years and try to help these young guys develop?"
IS THERE A DRIVER SHORTAGE? "I think it's getting to a point where it is. With all these new teams coming in as far as experienced drivers or drivers with a year or two experience, I just don't think there's that many out there right now. That's something we're going to have to take a hard look at and take our best step forward. This crop of rookies that came in this year I think really surprised everybody. All those guys have done a real good job. It makes it a little tougher, but I've worked with a lot of different drivers. It doesn't take long to catch on to the driver's tendencies and do what we need to do for 'em."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE REST OF THE SEASON? "I'm not concerned about Casey giving 100 percent the rest of the season. It's just like last year with Jamie. I wasn't really worried about that. These guys are racers like the rest of us. They don't have anything to gain by laying down and not doing their job. We're not even thinking about that."
IS IT HARD NOT TO TAKE IT PERSONAL? "It is. It's really hard. I was with Jamie for three years, and that's probably the toughest thing I went through last year. With Casey it's the same way. I've been around him just as long and we've developed a relationship. I've watch him grow, watched him develop and now I've got to watch him leave. That's pretty hard."
YOU ALMOST WON THE DAYTONA 500 AND STARTED THE SEASON WITH THREE TOP 10S. WHAT HAPPENED? "I don't know. We had some trouble at Martinsville and we had trouble a couple of other races. We just missed it at Atlanta. We were running third at Charlotte and had a problem. We went from 34th to eighth on the racetrack at Dover. The guys did a good job, but we wound up 21st. I think we've got a good car this week. It's the same car we had at Charlotte."
IT'S COLD AND WINDY THIS MORNING. RACE TIME CONDITIONS PROBABLY WON'T BE LIKE THIS, SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR TODAY'S PRACTICE? "I think we'll be able to see which way it's going to go and we can make adjustments accordingly. We haven't run this tire here before, so we need to see what it's going to do. I think it's going to be OK. We made some race runs yesterday. We were a little disappointed with the way we qualified. We had been better than that in practice."
CAN THIS TEAM STILL MAKE THE CHASE? "I think this team can make the top 10 for sure. We've got to get back on track and get back to running in the top 10 and running in the top five. We've got good tracks coming up. This will be a good race for us. We've had success at Michigan and Sonoma, and then we go back to Daytona, so we're looking forward to the summer stretch."
HOW CAN YOU PICK IT UP? "We've got to pick it up. We've just got to run better and finish better. We've got to beat the guys in front of us. What kept us up there was those top 10s in the first three races. That really helped out, but now we've got to get down and grind and make those points back up to get back in the top 10."
DO YOU EVER GET DISCOURAGED AND THINK ABOUT DOING SOMETHING ELSE? "I've probably thought about it, but what else am I going to do? I don't know what else to do. I've never done anything else. I've been a crew chief since 1988. Is it as fun as it used to be? No. Going through what we're going through right now is no fun. It's a struggle for everybody. It drains you so bad mentally it wears you out thinking about what's going on. I really don't know what would make it fun again. I don't know if it could ever be as much fun as it used to be. There's so much involved with it now, so many people, so much money. It's always been work, but going through this with the drivers year in and year out is a struggle. Really, we don't have anybody to blame but ourselves. We haven't performed like we needed to. Whether it's been all our fault, I can't say that because I don't think is has been."