Craig Nagler - Tri-Point Engineering - Trackbytes Q&A By John Thawley John Thawley: Craig, thanks for taking time to chat with us. Tri- Point is among the premier teams in World Challenge and I know people are anxious to hear about the team's...
Craig Nagler - Tri-Point Engineering - Trackbytes Q&A
By John Thawley
John Thawley: Craig, thanks for taking time to chat with us. Tri- Point is among the premier teams in World Challenge and I know people are anxious to hear about the team's 2006 plans.
JT: First, let me congratulate you on the outstanding job you do with the team. It's always amazing to see your operation in the paddock and you always present truly well turned out cars to the grid. Who makes that happen? Is this part of your team's winning philosophy?
Craig: As we get more seasons under our belt, we have been able to get the right people to get the job done better and better. I pretty much guide everything, But my partner, Mark Shuler, and all of our crew, Andris Laivins, Chris degioanni, Jason Sandstedt, Duane Wickham have a major part in how we look and perform at the track. Without them it would not happen. The same goes for Steve Sanders and everyone else at Mazda NA. The cleaner and better everything looks, makes it easier to focus on the performance of the cars. you just feel better about things.
JT: Tell us about the development process of the Mazda 6. I know you guys worked really hard in 2004 when Altenburg picked up that first win with the car at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The must have been a big relief ending the year that way?
Craig: The new car programs are always tough. Most of are issues were with the stock gear box. The gear box is designed for a 165 HP and we are trying to put 270 + HP through it. Getting the first Mazda 6 win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a great way to end the season. Its makes it season not seem so tuff.
JT: We recently spoke with John Doonan from Mazda. How does this relationship work? I'm sure they're as impressed as we are with your team's professionalism and first class presentation, but how are they on the development end?
Craig: The relationship is growing stronger every day. We try to watch what they are doing, just as they probably watch us. The goal is to get Mazda as many wins, championships and PR as possible to help sell cars. Because we have different programs, it's difficult to keep up on development changes. As these programs go a long all this is getting better. I know John is working hard to help all the Mazda teams.
JT: Who will be driving for you this year?
Craig: We are going to have the same driver line. Jeff Altenburg, Randy Pobst and Dino Crescentinni. We are very excited about this. All three have an opportunity to win races and work very well together. This is very important at this level.
JT: You seem to place a lot of value on driver line-up. What do you look for in a driver... other than the ability to win? There must be more to it when you have a multi-car team.
Craig: It is every important. All of our drivers have had some sort of connection in working together somewhere along the line. I have known Jeff from our Auto Crossing days and Randy through some road racing efforts with TC kline. We met Dino through the guys at Stop Tech Brakes. Racing is a small world. Everyone can have their own set- up, but if one gets off track our drivers are ready to help out and get the other one up to speed. All the cars are exactly the same, so it makes it easier to be consistent. It is truly a team effort. One of the more important things is being able to learn what the driver wants or needs. this takes time.
JT: I want to stick with the drivers for a minute. Last year you had three guys all capable of winning... and, more importantly... three guys who thrive on winning. Randy, as we know is fairly excitable... and Altenburg seems to love coming from behind. How do you keep a handle on these guys with respect to working as a team? I mean... it's got to be tough. These guys really want to win.
Craig: Well.... we do not have any issues with that. Everyone is a professional. They can all run together. They know they have the same equipment. Obviously they all want to win. They know when they did not get it done or the car was off. We have confidence in each other, so we just keeping working on it until its right.
JT: Continuing on the line of driver management, do you set cars up differently for each or do you try to find the best set-up for a particular track and let the driver deal with that set-up? Of, do their driving styles dictate you make certain personalization to each car?
Craig: It depends. half the time we will time we will try three different set-ups at the start of a test day. We usually end up with the cars fairly close by qualifying. It does help to find our way with three good drivers. They do like things a little different, but a good car is a good car.
JT: It's no secret you've got a formidable opponent with the RealTime Acura boys. Cunningham, both as a driver and team owner, seems to have winning built into his personal DNA. What do you have for them in 2006?
Craig: We felt we had enough last season to get the job done. We had a couple of things not go our way and it cost us. Peter had a great season. We will keep getting better, just like I expect they will too.
JT: So... what are the team goals for 2006. I know the easy answer would be to sweep the Touring Car class.. but realistically, where do you see the Mazda 6 in its third full year?
Craig: We need to minimize mistakes and mechanical issues. We have to be perfect, if that's possible. The other teams are too good. We believe the Mazda 6 will have the speed. If these two things fall in place, we'll be there at the end.
JT: Craig... thanks again for taking time to chat. I know you're pretty slammed getting ready for Sebring. We do appreciate all you guys do.
Craig: Thank you, John.
Editor's Note: John Thawley, owner and editor of Trackbytes.com allowed Motorsport.com his exlclusive interview with Craig Nagler.