Rockingham II: Pontiac - McSwain, Makar interview

Joe Gibbs Racing announced this week that Michael McSwain will take over as crew chief for Bobby Labonte's No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix, beginning in 2003. McSwain, formerly with Robert Yates Racing, replaces Jimmy Makar, who...

Joe Gibbs Racing announced this week that Michael McSwain will take over as crew chief for Bobby Labonte's No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix, beginning in 2003.

McSwain, formerly with Robert Yates Racing, replaces Jimmy Makar, who has been elevated into a team management position and will work with McSwain and Joe Gibbs Racing's other crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, who calls the shot for the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac, driven by Tony Stewart.

McSwain joined the team this week and will work closely with Makar and Labonte during the final three races of this season.

MICHAEL McSWAIN, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR NEW POSITION?

"It's a real good feeling. It's a new deal. I've got to learn everything - got to learn everybody's name - but, I'm really, really excited.

"Reality never sets in, maybe, because of the grind of our sport, but I feel real fortunate. I've been lucky. I've worked with some really smart people. I've worked with some great people in our sport. I just spent three years with probably the greatest engine builder in our sport - Robert Yates - and one of the greatest teams in the business - Robert Yates Racing.

"I've been lucky along the way to work with some great people. Now, I've got an opportunity to work with Jimmy Makar. For me, that is just another step of education I can get, and as long as I'm learning I'll hopefully just keep getting better."

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THIS WORKED OUT SO WELL, IN THE SENSE THAT YOU HAVE THREE RACES THIS SEASON TO LEARN THE TEAM, INSTEAD OF HAVING TO START COLD AT DAYTONA IN FEBRUARY?

"Yeah, originally I didn't feel like it would happ en that way. But, I think it's going to be beneficial because when I finally do become the crew chief, I'll already know everybody's names, I'll already know everybody's attitudes, I'll already know how the operation works and it should make for a smoother transition going into next year."

WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE TOUGHEST THING IN FRONT OF YOU?

"Probably learning Bobby - learning what his quirks are, what makes him tick, what makes his aggravated. And, that's true with anybody and everybody. But, it's especially true with him because he is the key to the whole deal."

BOBBY IS KNOWN FOR BEING VERY RESERVED AND QUIET; YOU HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO SHOW SOME EMOTION...IS THAT A GOOD MIX OF PERSONALITIES?

"I don't know. You never know. I might rub off on him a little bit. I'm just real emotional about what I do. I'm really serious about what I do and I get a little emotional sometimes. But, it's because I care about it and it's something that is real important to me."

WHAT WILL YOU AND JIMMY BE TRYING TO DO OVER THE NEXT THREE RACES IN PREPARATION FOR THE TRANSITION?

"Really, all I'm doing now is sitting back, watching and seeing how he's doing things now. I'm making little notes on things - I might have a question about this or a question about that.

"Sometimes when you bring an outside person in who is new and fresh and he'll see things that you don't see when you're in a day-to-day grind or a week-to-week grind. I just want to contribute as much as I can to the whole organization, have fun and win races."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GO FROM ONE CHAMPIONSHIP-LEVEL OPERATION TO ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP-LEVEL ORGANIZATION?

"I thing that was the one big thing that swung my decision. It's hard to be at one of the greatest operations in the world and even think about going anywhere else. But, then when an opportunity came up from the other 'greatest operation in the world,' I just looked at my future and looked at how fast can I win a championship.

"Bobby won a championship just a couple years ago and he's young. We're about the same age. I know he wants some more [championship] rings and right now I don't have any. It's all about rings; it's all about trophies. That's what made me make my decision."

JIMMY MAKAR, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

IS IT A RELIEF TO HAVE THIS POSITION FILLED?

"I'm very relieved to get a guy the caliber of Mike on board, to have it all said-and-done, and put to bed. It's one less thing you have to worry about. Now, you can go back to concentrating on the race car and the last three races.

"I'm relieved, but excited. I feel like we've got a good guy here that is going to enhance our program. Now, we've able to concentrate on our next three races with a little extra bonus that we get to have him here at the racetrack to kind of observe and be around and get a little acclimated to the '18' car and the guys around on the team before we get to Daytona, come February."

WHAT THINGS WILL YOU, MICHAEL AND BOBBY TRY TO ACCOMPLISH DURING THESE NEXT THREE WEEKS?

"The main thing is just to get him familiar with our procedures - how we go about doing things, give him a chance to listen to Bobby explain the race car, to start to understand his terminology and the way Bobby expresses different things he feels with the car, to learn each individual guy on the team - his job function, his personality, the dynamics of the group, in general - and just to help out where he might could help out with his experience in the past and giving his opinions of what might help us."

HOW HARD IS IT GOING TO BE FOR YOU TO HAND THE REIGNS OF THE '18' CAR OVER TO SOMEONE ELSE?

"Not having done it yet, it's probably going to be a little difficult. It's probably going to be a little strange to not be the one making the final decisions, making the calls. It's something I've done for 12 years now. I don't know what will happen, but I'm sure it's going to feel weird for a while.

"I'm still excited about the idea of working with both the '18' car and the '20' car, more than I have in the past. I'm looking forward to that.

"I'm really hoping that with Michael over here that the '18' car is going to be able to keep on being as competitive as it's always been and that things won't change that much, as far as what people see visually. It will just be a few different faces, but they'll be able to have continued success.

"That's still part of my job - to make sure that the '18' car is successful, helping make the transformation work, making sure they've got everything they need to go racing and run well, along with helping the '20' out a lot more than I have done in the past."

-pontiac racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Robert Yates
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Yates Racing