This Week in Ford Racing September 21, 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Four of Carl Edwards' six Craftsman Truck Series wins have come after starting at the rear of the field, which not only speaks to the driver's talents but also the...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 21, 2004
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Four of Carl Edwards' six Craftsman Truck Series wins have come after starting at the rear of the field, which not only speaks to the driver's talents but also the trucks that he drives. Much of that success can be traced to his truck series crew chief, Kevin "Cowboy" Starland. Starland, who joined Roush Racing in 1998, was car chief during Greg Biffle's championship seasons in 2000 (Craftsman Truck) and 2002 (Busch). Starland returned to the truck series in 2003 with then-rookie Edwards and has been the crew chief for all six of Edwards' victories. Starland spoke about his role in developing Roush Racing's up-and-coming drivers and his outlook on the truck series championship chase.
KEVIN STARLAND, Crew Chief-No. 99-Superchips Ford F-150
YOUR TEAM HAS MADE GREAT STRIDES IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS AFTER A LULL AT THE MIDPOINT OF THE SEASON. WHAT FACTORS HAVE RESULTED IN THE TEAM'S TURNAROUND IN PERFORMANCE?
"At the start of the season, the changes to our Fords were real similar to last year compared to some of the other manufacturers. In the beginning of the year, I think we might have had a little bit of an edge on them because we knew what the truck wanted, and the other makes, it was like a brand-new truck to them so we might have had a little bit of an advantage there. And then, I think those guys did more homework than we did and caught up with us. We stumbled a little bit just running our same stuff, and then we tested Memphis in late August with Jon Wood and he drove both trucks while Carl tested Richmond in the Cup car. We worked on bunch of stuff at Memphis that really helped us the last few races. Plus, with Carl getting more laps in the Busch car at Bristol and the last few Cup races, it's been a real positive for us. We've just had to hunker down a little more to work around his schedule, and a little more testing and research to get our stuff going again."
AS A CREW CHIEF, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FOR YOU WHEN THE DRIVER IS BEING PULLED IN TWO DIRECTIONS?
"It's not bad. Actually, I think it's a plus for us. We get some information that he might find running the Cup car and that can help us, or we can help them. I think it's a plus both ways. It's not hurting any part of our program, and it's one factor on why he's been successful in both series here lately."
HAVE CARL'S CUP DUTIES BEEN AN ADDED BONUS IN YOUR QUEST FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I think it's a plus for us, but I don't think it was planned that way. It just worked that way and we'll just take advantage of what we can."
WAS THERE ONE SPECIFIC MOMENT WHERE YOU NOTICED THE TEAM WAS SLIPPING IN ITS PERFORMANCE?
"We came off of Nashville with probably our worst race we've had all year long. The truck just didn't handle right and we missed the setup. We were completely off our game at Nashville, so we came back and the guys dug in and I dug in with Carl to see where we were missing stuff and what we needed to work on. We went to Bristol and that's a driver's track. It takes the aero out of play and nobody has an aero advantage; it's just getting the truck to hunker down on the bottom. We had a real good truck there and won that race and built some good momentum. Then we had the Memphis test and worked on a lot of front-end geometry stuff and tried to get our trucks to turn better. Jon Wood is really the one who helped us out there to turn our flat-track program around. Those were a couple of things that really helped us, but probably the biggest thing was getting the wake-up call at Nashville."
CARL COMMENTED LAST WEEK THAT HE HAS WORKED ON BEING MORE PATIENT AT THE START OF THE RACES THIS SEASON. HAVE YOU NOTICED A CHANGE IN HIS DRIVING STYLE THIS YEAR?
"I've been on him hard this year about having trucks at the end of the race that don't have fenders knocked in and haven't slapped the wall. We had a few races this year where he was too impatient. At Milwaukee, he had a real good truck and were running second and running the leader down and he got way too impatient and smacked the wall and ended up 20-something. Gateway was the same thing. We had a real good truck and he got way too impatient and tried to pass way too early, spun out, flatted spotted the tires and ended the day in 18th. Those were two races that he was not being patient, and when you only have 25 races in a season you can't afford those kinds of mistakes. We kept showing him the trucks when we got back to the shop that looked like they should have finished last and he drove in the top five and just tried to convince him how much better we'd be if we didn't have the fenders knocked in and holes in the nose. He's finally, and I don't know what part of it sunk in, but the last five races we've brought trucks back that I can turn around and race the next week."
IS HIS NEWFOUND PATIENCE A BYPRODUCT OF HIM RACING IN THE CUP SERIES?
"I think it really started before he got the Cup ride. Bobby Hudson, who's the shop foreman, used to be our spotter but he couldn't spot anymore because it was too many days out of the shop on a truck deal, is back to being Carl's spotter on the Cup side. He's one of the best spotters out there and he's good at keeping Carl calm. I lost him after the first five races and it took a while for our new spotter (Jason Hedlesky) to get trained on what we need from Carl. Finally, our new spotter is getting more like Bobby Hudson and that's a big part of keeping Carl calm."
YOU'VE WORKED IN THE BUSCH SERIES AND HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO MOVE WITH GREG BIFFLE TO THE CUP SERIES, BUT CHOSE TO RETURN TO THE TRUCK SERIES. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE BEING IN THE TRUCK SERIES FOR THE LONG TERM?
"I enjoy the trucks a lot. The racing is great and there's probably just as much competition in the truck series as there is in the Busch Series. We have some of the best racing out there. I leave it up to Jack's hands. Whatever Jack has planned for me, I'll do. If he keeps me in the truck series to bring another guy up through the ranks, I'll be happy doing that. I leave it up to Jack because he'll be better at deciding what I need to do."
IS IT TOUGH TO SEE CARL MOVING UP THE RANKS WITHOUT YOU AFTER THE TIME AND EFFORT YOU SPENT DEVELOPING HIS TALENTS?
"It's rewarding. We've put all this time and effort into a guy like Carl and he goes in the Cup car and runs outstanding. We take a little pride in that seeing we maybe had something to do with it."