This Week in Ford Racing March 7, 2006 NASCAR Busch Series Full-time Nextel Cup competitors have won the first three races of the Busch Series season, and for the Ford-backed organizations like Team Rensi and Brewco that only run in the...
This Week in Ford Racing
March 7, 2006
NASCAR Busch Series
Full-time Nextel Cup competitors have won the first three races of the Busch Series season, and for the Ford-backed organizations like Team Rensi and Brewco that only run in the Busch Series, questions of fairness abound. David Green, driver of the No. 27 Brewco Ford, and Team Rensi teammates Ashton Lewis, Jr. and Regan Smith shared their thoughts on the start of the season the impact of having Nextel Cup drivers competing in the Busch Series.
DAVID GREEN--27--Kleenex Ford Fusion
THE FIRST THREE RACES OF THE SEASON ARE AT THREE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT VENUES -- A SUPERSPEEDWAY, AN INTERMEDIATE TRACK AND A ROAD COURSE. HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT FOR THE DRIVERS AND TEAMS? "Once we've experienced them all and look back at it, it's very difficult. I think over the wintertime you're pumped up and ready to get to the race track and you get blinded on where you're going; you're just excited to be going again. Looking back at it from my end of it, it's challenging because you have to knock all the rust off of everything. From the team's aspect, if the road-course race was run toward the end of the year, that would relieve two cars that have to be prepared in the off-season like we had to do it. You have to build two speedways cars, four downforce cars and two road-course cars before the season even starts. It's very difficult on the team. I wish we could tweak that schedule a little bit."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO START THE SEASON AT THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRACKS WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO SECURE A SPOT IN THE TOP 30 IN OWNER POINTS? "The road course is a scenario that there's so many opportunities for things to go wrong, and it's very challenging for the teams that are trying to get in top 30 and try to stay in it. I don't know if when they laid it out if they ever really looked at it and asked, 'How can we make it easier on the teams?' I don't think that was ever an issue. I wish we could point it out to them and tweak it a little bit."
WITH THE NUMBER OF CUP ORGANIZATIONS ADDING BUSCH TEAMS, DO YOU HAVE TO READJUST YOUR GOALS AS A DRIVER AND TEAM? "I look back at '03 and feel very fortunate that we were able to battle the Hendrick bunch. It's not that you want to change your priorities and not talk about a win, but California last week, the first Busch regular was 12th and really the first Busch guy was still driving for a Cup organization. I dare don't say we're shooting for a top-15, but in practicality, would that be first place in the Busch garage? Yeah, I think it's getting to that point. Why is it growing that far away? I think there's one thing that happened in the off-season that exploded the situation -- the testing policy. Disallowing testing in Busch is a good thing. Now, a young guy, that's going to hurt him a little bit, but nobody else is getting to test. We're changing the tire policy too, and more than anything it's going to save us a lot of money. What they should have done is kept allowing Cup guys to test. Now what happens, all of the Cup owners that were spending all this money testing can't use that money, so they start a Busch team with that money. Now they just use the Busch Series as test session. That's really been the big tidal wave that's hitting us now. I don't know if we can stop it, but it needs to stop somehow for the sake of the Busch Series."
WHEN DO YOU FEEL THAT IT WILL REACH CRITICAL MASS? "I think 2006 is the year. I think at the end of the year, if it still keeps taking the climb that it's taken over the last two or three years, next year it will be tough to find a true Busch Series team like Brewco and Rensi inside in the top 10 in the final points, or even the top 15. To me, that's what was kinda cool last year, we finished eighth in points and won a race, and I think it's getting tougher and tougher to accomplish that, and this year is the telling point. With the lack of testing and with the Cup guys coming here testing, until they make a rule to get that straightened out, it's murder."
DO TEAMS LIKE BREWCO HAVE TO FOLLOW THE LEAD OF AN ORGANIZATION LIKE ST MOTORSPORTS, WHICH MERGED WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS THIS PAST OFF-SEASON? "I've talked with Clarence several times over the last three or four years to try to move either part of our team to Charlotte and piggyback with a Cup team. I can understand his concerns in not wanting to do that, but I think Tad Geschickter and what ST has done is a prime example of what maybe we as Busch Series teams are going to have to do. Tad may not have seen the total impact of it yet, but I think in due time those guys are going to show that that's been a positive move."
DO YOU THINK IT MAKES THE TRUCK SERIES MORE APPEALING TO THOSE TEAMS BECAUSE THERE ARE LESS CUP-AFFILIATED TEAMS THERE? "The drawback with that is, and I'm sure it's for Clarence as an owner as it is with me, you always want to be making a move up. Not that the trucks are down, but you always want to feel like you're progressing instead of backing up and saying, 'I've been dealt this situation and so I have to back up and punt.' You don't ever want to punt and you want to be throwing first downs. It's going to drive the owners that way to do that. Can you blame them? No. There you're going to be on equal footing on your experience. That's an alternative, but I don't think NASCAR wants that to happen, and I don't think we as competitors want that to happen. Until they change, something has got to happen. I heard couple of Cup drivers talk about the Toyota deal and a lot of the comments that they were saying struck a chord with me because it's the same feeling we have when they come and invade our territory every Saturday. Those guys are crying like no tomorrow, and what I'm thinking is, 'This is exactly what we have to deal with every Saturday when you come and run with us.'
Here in Mexico is the perfect example. Are all of these fans here because Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip are here? No, I don't think so. Now at Vegas, there will probably be a small percent that will come Saturday because the Cup guys are running, but not enough. I would rather sacrifice having a few more empty seats in the grandstands, but yet compete on an equal playing field. NASCAR has always been known for an equal playing field, and I still agree that we're all equal when it comes to the templates of our cars, but it stops there. It's not equal with what they have.
Let the ones run Busch that need to get to be a better Cup driver and further their learning process. I guarantee you we would see some empty seats in the grandstand, but you give it the course of a couple of months and let the cycle run through, and we would see a lot more and maybe new race fans showing up. I agree that we have to go to California and the big tracks for our purses, but when we got off base was when we lost a lot of the little tracks. The families could come there and watch a race for a cheaper ticket. Yeah, we ran for less money, but we didn't spend as much to get there. And you know what, the racing was better. If you eliminated the front trio of cars that stunk the race up at California, would it become a better race if the camera focused back in the mid-pack? I would have to believe it would and I think you would entice a lot of new fans and create a lot of new excitement in the grandstands to watch a race that's not filled with all the Cup superstars."
REGAN SMITH--35--McDonald's Ford Fusion
TALK ABOUT THE START OF YOUR FIRST FULL-TIME SEASON IN THE BUSCH SERIES. "I think rhythm-wise, we've had a couple of bad luck races here so far. California was our own fault; we just struggled all weekend. Daytona, we had a good car and had bad luck, and in Mexico we got taken out in the closing laps while running in the top 15. We're looking to try to start getting in a rhythm here and getting consistent top 15s and getting back in the points where we need to be and slowly work our way back up again. It definitely helps being on track very week. It's not like you race one week and take five off and forget what you were doing. From a driver's standpoint, it's way better for me to be able to do that."
HAS DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO COME INTO THIS YEAR AND START THE SEASON AT THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RACE TRACKS? "It's been fun. Of the first five races, Mexico City was the one I was most concerned about. I was pretty comfortable on the race track and I made 500 laps on my simulator. I had the shifting and stuff down by the time I got there. I like switching it up each week. I don't like going to the same size race track or the same type of race track. If we left Mexico and went to Martinsville, I'd be cool with that."
WHAT KIND OF SIMULATOR DO YOU HAVE, AND WHAT GAME DO YOU PLAY? "I've got a setup with an actual driver seat and a full-size steering wheel; it's the real deal. I play NASCAR 2003, the same one everyone does."
ASHTON LEWIS, JR.--25--Team Marines Ford Fusion
TALK ABOUT THE START TO YOUR SEASON. "I think the way we ran at Daytona was a positive for us. We went to California with what I felt like was a very good race car. We were our own worst enemy there and ended up not finishing well, but we had a lot of momentum going into it. Then going to Mexico, and my background in road racing, I felt very comfortable going there. I always had this circled on the calendar as my first big test with my foot, and it was good."
YOU RECENTLY TESTED AT LAS VEGAS. WERE YOU ABLE TO APPLY WHAT YOU LEARNED THERE TO CALIFORNIA, AND WILL THAT HELP YOU THIS WEEKEND? "We actually took it one step more. We took what we learned in Vegas, applied it to try to be a little bit better at California, and we felt like we really made improvements there at California. But, we learned our limits too, so we went back and we're going to use the same car we had at California for Las Vegas and just do the updates to it that we need to do, and hopefully we'll unload very well at Las Vegas."
YOU RACED THE TAURUS LAST YEAR. HOW DOES THE FUSION RATE SO FAR? "So far, like at the superspeedways, our car was a whole lot better. I thought it raced so much better as far as sucking up to other cars. I think we were a lot more competitive there with the Fusion. And also California, I think we learned a lot from a race team standpoint to make our setups better, but I think as far as the Fusion is concerned, and it showed up at the wind tunnel as well, it's a better car than the Taurus was."
YOU DRIVE FOR A BUSCH-ONLY ORGANIZATION. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO COMPETE WITH THE CUP-BACKED ORGANIZATIONS NOWADAYS? "I think as a team we're definitely growing, and your growth curve has to accelerate a lot. We've had to fight real hard to get top-15s now. To get a top-10, you've done a great job. If you look at California, the top 11 were Cup guys, but I felt like with as good as our car was at California, we had a chance to go and race with those guys. Going back to when we had Lewis Motorsports, the day you go out there and do that and know the resources that you have, it's a very successful day. Yeah, the media may not pick up on it, but we as competitors, and I think the Cup guys as competitors, they realize what you're doing out there and it's very satisfying."
HAVE YOU HAD TO REASSESS YOUR GOALS TO COMPENSATE FOR THE INCREASE OF CUP-BACKED BUSCH TEAMS? "To be realistic, you have to be happy with top-15s, where before you could choose your goal for top-10s and top-fives. A really good day is going there and being to battle with them. Where we struggle, not only the technology standpoint of it, but the pit crews and the whole team aspect in general is not having all the resources. The NASCAR schedule, the way it is, you go to Daytona, you go to California and you go to Mexico. You have superspeedway cars, you've got your downforce cars, you've got your road-course cars and then you go back to Vegas with another downforce car. The guys in the shop, they come here and they're going to be prepared as you'd like to be, but that's where we as a small Busch Series team gets hurt the most."