NASCAR WCUP: Crew Chief Club at the DieHard 500

22 April 1999

Event: DieHard 500 When: Sun., April 25 at 1 p.m. EDT on ABC

Where: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval)

Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 66 wins, 364 top-five finishes, 582 top-10 finishes and 68 poles prior to this Sunday's DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Makar and Bobby Labonte swept last year's DieHard 500 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Labonte captured the 1998 Bud Pole Award with a time of 48.925 seconds at an average speed of 195.728 mph. They finished the race in 3 hours, 30 minutes and 40 seconds with an average speed of 142.428 mph enroute to the win. Their margin of victory over runner- up Jimmy Spencer was .167 seconds.

The Crew Chief Club has two wins and four poles in the DieHard 500. The wins were provided by Makar and Labonte in 1998 and McReynolds and Davey Allison in 1992. The poles were provided by Makar and Bobby Labonte in 1998, McReynolds and Ernie Irvan in 1996 and 1994, and Pemberton and Mark Martin in 1989.

In last year's DieHard 500, the Crew Chief Club finished in the following order:

Makar/Labonte Start: 1st Finish: 1st
Status: Running
Parrott/Jarrett Start: 9th
Finish: 3rd Status: Running
Pemberton/Wallace Start: 23rd Finish: 12th
Status: Running
McReynolds/Earnhardt Start: 2nd Finish: 36th
Status: Accident

All four members of the Crew Chief Club will be signing autographs on Sat., April 24, after the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division race. Jimmy Makar and Larry McReynolds will be on the Chevrolet souvenir trailer, while Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton will be on the Ford souvenir trailer. Crew Chief Club souvenirs and wearables are available on the Chevrolet and Ford souvenir trailers.

AERODYNAMICS, SHOCKS AND A STRONG ENGINE SEEM TO BE THE THREE KEY ELEMENTS FOR TALLADEGA. HOW DO YOU GET THEM ALL WORKING TOGETHER?

Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "One of the toughest things to do is to get your aerodynamics and shock packages to work together. Though it's a pretty simple philosophy - the lower you can get the car to the ground, the faster it goes. To have better aerodynamics, you have to get the back of the car as low to the ground as possible, which helps hide the spoiler from the air. That means getting the car to scrape the bottom of race track. That happens with shocks and soft springs. But you still need a good, slick body on the car. Then the only thing left is to get as much horsepower as possible. The guys work constantly to get one or two more horsepower. At a place like Talladega, where you have the restrictor plate, every one or two horsepower can translate into speed on the race track, unlike other places where one or two horsepower doesn't make much difference in your speed or lap time."

Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "The biggest thing at Talladega is getting the car to drive decent. But at Talladega more so than Daytona, the driving part isn't quite an issue. At Daytona, you're trying to get the car on the ground and running fast. Talladega doesn't seem to be quite as much of a problem when it comes to handling. You can get by with more aggressive stuff. Softer springs in the front and more rebound in the shocks can work because handling isn't a big issue. You have to tell your driver it won't be the best ride in the world, because the better ride you make, the slower it's going to be. There are no free lunches. Tell your driver to hang on, make sure the car drives well, and we'll get it hunkered down to the ground with shocks and springs."

Todd Parrott - Ford Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford of Dale Jarrett - "Testing helps in finding the right balance of those three elements. We tested at Talladega a few weeks ago and worked on all three of them. At the end of the test, we put the total package together and feel like we came up with a pretty good answer. Aerodynamics plays a big role at Talladega because of drag. The least amount of drag at Talladega helps because of the restrictor plate. You're limited on horsepower, so the slicker your car is, the faster it will go. You also have to have a good shock package to get over the bumps. That way it doesn't upset the car, and the driver can drive it as fast as it will go."

Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "Those are the three crucial parts of the race car that are more important at Talladega than any other place we go - as far as all parts working right and at the same time. Hopefully, your engine group has been working on their program since the last time you were at a restrictor plate race. But, everybody's been testing down there to get things up to speed. Basically you just divide things into three groups, and let the three groups work on the aerodynamics program, the shock program, and the engine program. Then, you put it all together. It's just a big effort. Talladega is one of the places that you can overcome a deficit with one strength of the three groups. They just all have to be hitting at the top at the same time."

HOW MUCH EFFORT IS PUT INTO YOUR RESTRICTOR PLATE PROGRAM?

Jimmy Makar: "I would say 10-20 percent of our time is spent exclusively on our restrictor plate program because there are only four races on the schedule. The biggest point we focus on is the engine development, because it is so different than the places we run each week. We have a couple guys dedicated to the engine program full-time throughout the year trying to pick up horsepower on our engines. The cars don't get quite as much development time simply because we don't have as many races."

Larry McReynolds: "We probably put ten times the amount of effort for our other programs into our restrictor plate program. It hard to put a specific dollar or time figure on it. But at Richard Childress Racing, with two teams, there are a couple of guys who, 12 months out of the year, work specifically on restrictor plate engines. That's because the engines are so important. Power and engines mean a lot everywhere we go from Martinsville (Va.) to Fort Worth (Texas). But at Daytona and Talladega, you have to have your car to the ground, you have to have the car to where you can't go any softer on the setup, and you have to have the spoiler tapped out, basically everything maxed out."

Todd Parrott: "Tons of hours and thousands of dollars are put into restrictor plate racing. Robert Yates Racing has always had a fantastic restrictor plate program. It's something they want to be the best at because they are considered to have one of the best engine programs in racing. So, they spend a lot of money on research and development and on parts and pieces. Obviously, there's a lot of money spent on wind tunnel time for the speedway cars because of the drag issue. I'd say that we spend about two times the amount of money on our restrictor plate program than on our short track and intermediate programs."

Robin Pemberton: "I think everybody works as hard or harder on the four restrictor plate races than they do on all other races combined. I think there's a lot of emphasis put on those races because most other places we go to are so much alike. The cars are basically the same for short and intermediate tracks with minor changes to setup. So, there's a lot of emphasis on the plate races."

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot photos and racing art, please visit The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery

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