Sprint Cup - JTG Daugherty Racing Has Confidence Heading Into The 2012 Cup Series
HARRISBURG, January 10 2012: JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter stated that this NASCAR Sprint Cup Series off season was one of his best with the No. 47 Toyota Camry team that recently underwent significant changes.
“As a car owner, I’ve had more fun this winter than I have had in a long time,” Geschickter said.
Some of those changes included the hiring of Todd Berrier as crew chief and general manager along with Laerte Zatta as engineering director. The team added personnel and made pit crew member changes too. Also, former crew chief Frank Kerr moved into the role of shop foreman while the team ventured out on its own moving from Michael Waltrip Racing’s shop into their Harrisburg, N.C. shop. More importantly, sponsors were retained and new sponsors have been signed that will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We have had a lot of changes and added some great people, such as, Todd Berrier for example,” Geschickter said. “He’s an excellent leader and he’s assembled a very talented group of people that are having fun together getting ready for the season. We are excited because it seems like the team is gelling quickly and everyone is really pulling together.”
2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte agrees with Geschickter. The two buzz words about this year that come to his mind when asked about JTG Daugherty Racing are synergy and confidence.
“Talking to my team yesterday, there is synergy and confidence with each other as far as chemistry goes,” Labonte said. “We’re ready to get the season started. I know right now it’s a lot of work for the guys. They are starting off without a lot of inventory in the shop. I think that is going to be remedied pretty soon. I have a lot of confidence in Todd, our engineering department and our pit crew. I think we are going to be better than we were last year on all fronts.”
“We have a solid pit crew in place and I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” pit coach Gary Smith added. “We had a good team last year, but we were trying to tweak the team. We were able to pick up a few pit crew members that have been in the sport for a while, who can really help us out. Everyone has blended in really well and is getting along. We’re looking forward to a new season and also working with Todd.”
Berrier, who has eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career wins as a crew chief and spent nearly two decades at Richard Childress Racing, is proving to be a good fit for Labonte and JTG Daugherty Racing.
“Todd is very direct, which is what I love,” Labonte said. “We have a smaller group this year and Todd’s the driving force behind assembling a cohesive unit. I feel like we will perform better.”
“I agree with Bobby,” added Berrier. “I’m looking forward to this season with JTG Daugherty Racing. I was a part of RCR when it was this size and was a part of its growth to where it is now. I know what it takes to get from here to there competition wise.”
Berrier’s résumé includes some major victories including the 2003 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 2007 Daytona 500 with Kevin Harvick. A Daytona 500 victory is something Berrier’s current driver would like to mark off his bucket list. Ironically, the team is not attending testing at Daytona International Speedway this week in efforts to continue preparations for the season at the shop. However, Labonte states his team will not skip a beat.
“As important as the Daytona test is, we have a lot of time there in February and we’ll get more practice there than anywhere else we go,” Labonte said. “I feel like we will be able to miss the test and still be in pretty good shape when we get down there for the race. Time spent in the shop this week will be more valid for us to prepare cars - - not just Daytona, but several weeks after that.”
“I trust Todd and our leadership group,” Geschickter added. “They feel like races are won at the shop. While we would have liked to have been at the Daytona test, we’re really getting started out in our Harrisburg shop and we have quite a bit of work left to do. When Daytona gets here, we’ll be ready to contend for the win again.”
Labonte came close to winning the Daytona 500 last season pushing Trevor Bayne to victory. Labonte admits Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway last season started out a little slow for the team, but in the end he was a contender for one of the most prestigious races on the 36-race schedule.
“We were in the Bud Shootout last year and was kind of like a lost puppy out there and then we found our way,” Labonte said. “In the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race, we lost the draft near the end. In the Daytona 500, it was a different story. We were able to stay out of trouble and survive the day through a lot of carnage that went on. We kept in contention and when it came down to the end of the race, we were tucked in behind the leader. We came close to winning and ended up with a top-five (fourth-place) finish. If we can be that fortunate this year and put ourselves in position again, anything can happen.”