Rockingham: PPI Motorsports, McCauley interview

Roy McCauley, team engineer for Ricky Craven and the No. 32 Tide Taurus, has been with Cal Wells since he started his NASCAR Winston Cup operation in 2000. McCauley, a native of Greenbelt, Md., gained much of his experience in the CART Fed Ex ...

Roy McCauley, team engineer for Ricky Craven and the No. 32 Tide Taurus, has been with Cal Wells since he started his NASCAR Winston Cup operation in 2000. McCauley, a native of Greenbelt, Md., gained much of his experience in the CART Fed Ex Championship Series with Patrick Racing and Pac West. During that time he worked with Scott Pruett during and when Wells hired Pruett to be his driver in Winston Cup, McCauley eventually followed. McCauley is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in mechanical engineering.

ROY McCAULEY, Engineer --32-- Tide Taurus

YOU'VE BEEN HERE FROM DAY ONE AND NOW YOU'RE STARTING TO SEE SOME RESULTS. HOW HAS IT BEEN THROUGH THIS PROCESS? "I actually started in late 1993 or early 1994 with Pat Patrick in Indy cars. He was re-forming his team, so it was a pretty small organization. The one thing about a small organization is that you learn how to grow it and you learn how to make good use of your money. I had to be efficient. I probably learned more from Pat Patrick about how to race with less money and less people, and still be competitive and win races which we did. I was pretty young when I started with him. I was about 23 years old and it was a big education, but I liken that situation to here because we were forming a new team. When you form a new team, you've got nothing. You don't even have the first tool to set a car up. When we started, we did things differently. We took more of an engineering approach where our philosophy was 'the numbers will dictate what we do.' We were definitely different as far as how we even aligned the car. Now, I think, as you form a team it's all about people. As you keep those people together longer and longer, you start to see more and more results. We had a great driver in 2000 in Scott Pruett and that was a learning year. That's all there was too it. Cal decided he had to make a change for 2001 and Ricky brought a lot of experience. I think what you're seeing now is the fruits of the labor that Scott Pruett actually started as far as the techniques we use for setting the cars up and a lot of things. We have experience on our side now with this being the second year of Ricky Craven and the third year of the way we do business. I think we're coming up on a great time in Ricky's career, but I also think it's a great time for our engineering program, the shop-based assembly team and our fab shop. You're starting to see a lot of things all starting to come to a head and, boy, it's gonna be fun."

WHAT WAS YOUR LEARNING CURVE LIKE FOR YOU AS FAR AS COMING FROM INDY CARS TO STOCK CARS? "I think the biggest thing you've got to keep in mind is that it's still just four tires on the road. When you reduce it down to that, everything else is just an input to those four tires. With an Indy car, you had 5000 pounds of downforce. With these things you've got 1100 or 1200 depending on what configuration you're in, but it still ends up being input to the tires. When you reduce it down that far, you're really reducing it down to the basic level and then you just work backwards. That's essentially how I approached it. I had to learn a little more about the logistics of the series. It was like, 'Hey, we don't have time to realign the rear-end after practice because you've only got 30 minutes. The learning curve for me was more based around creating a relationship with Goodyear, but also about the timeframe you had to achieve things. That was more of a learning curve because a lot of engineering programs can chew up a lot of time. Like with your shop-based engineering programs, you've really got to pare them down to where they're efficient and you can get things done quickly and react to things quickly."

WHEN YOU CAME IN, THOUGH, YOU GUYS HAD ALL THESE COMPUTERS AND ANTENNAS FOR TESTING THAT NOBODY ELSE WAS USING. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BROKE NEW GROUND FROM A TECHNOLOGY STANDPOINT? "Without question. I see things happening in the garage now that wasn't happening three years ago and I know that we were the first to do it. I'm very proud of that, but I'm also cognizant of the fact that if they're looking at it and getting good direction, they're gonna figure out something better as well. So, we have to stay ahead of the game and try to stay ahead of everybody else, but we certainly broke some new ground."

HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING THAT TIME BECAUSE THERE WERE A LOT OF RAISED EYEBROWS? "I'm a firm believer in the engineering approach and the way we do things -- believing in the numbers that you use for correlations and things like that. Sure, you felt like the red-headed step-child, but you had to have faith and confidence in everyone's ability and just continue on. That faith and confidence has been tested time and time again, but now I think with Ricky literally driving the wheels off the thing, it's starting to prove that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the train, it's something else."

BUT WOULD YOU HAVE GUYS FROM OTHER TEAMS COME UP TO YOU AND SAY, 'WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING?' "Oh yeah. I mean, some of the way we tested involving telemetry and our pi system has been available to all NASCAR teams for the last five or six years. I think we were the first to use it because it was something that I had always been using when I was in CHAMP cars. The aspect of telemetry is that you can't use it on race weekends, but when you can during tests it allows you to make decisions quicker. It allows you to get a feel for things a lot quicker and when you have that ability, you can really make your tests efficient. A lot of what we do just goes back to efficiency -- not wasting time and not wasting money. There's no point in going to a test if we're not gonna believe what we do when we come out of it."

IS THERE ANYWAY YOU CAN COMPARE WHERE YOU ARE NOW TO WHERE YOU WERE ON DAY ONE? "(Laughter) It's a lot more solid now. Our direction is in concrete now rather than on gravel and that's probably the biggest thing. Now I have so much faith in what we do and I have just blind faith in Ricky's ability. I believe he's the most talented driver in the garage area and it's not what I see like yesterday (winning the pole), it's because of what I see at things like tests. His ability to drive, I think, is unparalleled. Combine that with a program that finally has some concrete under its feet, things are gonna be good."

ARE YOU HAVING FUN? "Now I am, but there were times these past three years where my patience was stretched. It was tough at times to stay with it in 2000 and the early part of 2001, but I felt that last July we were coming around and it's fun now. I also think it's gonna be a lot more fun as time goes on."

CAL WELLS, Car Owner --32-- Tide Taurus

WHAT MADE YOU FEEL ROY WAS THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB? "His methodologies are the same. We have enough factual discussion to come up with good ideas. He has enough factual discussions with Mike (Beam) to come up with good ideas. We don't all agree all the time, but it's very constructive how we interact. The reason I like Roy so much, and the reason why he's really the cornerstone of our effort here, is that he has been brought up around the same types of styles of things that I have so he gets it. He understands the difference between understeer and oversteer versus tight and loose or wedge versus cross weight. He can relate to the driver and what the driver is talking about, and he can also relate very well with Mike Beam and myself. He can run the engineering department competently because he has that broad and vast experience."

ROY HAS BEEN THE ONE CONSISTENT SINCE THIS TEAM WAS FORMED. WHAT HAS THAT MEANT AS FAR AS BEING WHERE YOU'RE AT RIGHT NOW? "Continuity is critical and it was also critical in his training. He got a great opportunity to learn by doing. I think the transition was made tougher because of our driver, Scott Pruett. They were personal friends and Scott is a very good race car driver, but Scott's feedback for the first year was hard to decipher. There was a lot of feedback, but it was hard to figure out what he needed out of the car and that made the challenge even steeper for Roy. When we hired Ricky Craven, it was like turning a light bulb on for Roy as well as the rest of us. It was like, 'Okay, now I get it,' and it helped in his continued education. He's learned so much about these cars and these tracks and what they like, and it's been phenomenal for us. Hopefully, Roy will be a long-term player for us for the next 20 years."

RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus

WHY ARE YOU SO SOLD ON ROY MCCAULEY? "I'm sold on him because I've got a good relationship with him and I've got a good relationship with Mike Beam and Cal Wells. It's the first time in a long time that I've had this kind of relationship with the team. That's all personal and that's nice. Nick Harvey is doing a wonderful job. It's countless how many people have made contributions to this Tide team, but, beyond that, they're very talented. In this world that we live in, how you discover that is by results. I think in 13 months, we've put up some pretty good numbers. I'm just the pilot of the Tide Ford and I'm the product of what they give me. Because of people like Roy McCauley, last year was the most fun I've ever had and the next three are gonna be even better."

WHAT DOES HE BRING TO YOU AND THIS TEAM? "Again, from a personal standpoint I like Roy's enthusiasm and his intensity. He's younger than I am, so I can say that enthusiasm and that intensity may have gotten me in trouble as a driver, but it's exactly how you want your engineer to be. As I've gotten older I think I've learned the things I did or didn't do so well. I look at Roy and I really admire how well he handles himself for his age, particularly when you consider his responsibility. I look at Roy and Mike and Cal and myself, along with all of these other people, if you take one piece out of the equation it might not be as nice a recipe. But, my goodness, each of those parts working together make for a great recipe and Roy is an essential part of that. Roy is the intensity and the enthusiasm. I think we all have the enthusiasm, but he's a very determined engineer and I think that's just a great balance for Mike and the rest of the team. There isn't a team here that will find success individually, it just won't happen. But, as a group, you can do great things and I really believe that's what we're about to do."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Scott Pruett , Ricky Craven