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NASCAR: How do you Prepare your Race Car for 300 Laps at New Hampshire?

10 July 1998

Crew Chief Club at the Jiffy Lube 300
Event: Jiffy Lube 300

When: Sun., July 12 at 1:15 p.m. EDT on TNN

Where: New Hampshire International Speedway (1.058-mile oval)
Larry McReynolds

Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 63 wins, 327 top-five finishes, 521 top-10 finishes and 61 poles prior to this Sunday's Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon.

McReynolds has a win and a pole at New Hampshire with driver Ernie Irvan. The pole was scored in 1994 at the Slick 50 300 and the win came two years later in the 1996 Jiffy Lube 300.

All four crew chiefs will be signing autographs on Sat., July 11 an hour and a half after the conclusion of happy hour. 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 now available on both trailers.

HOW DO YOU PREPARE YOUR RACE CAR FOR 300 LAPS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE?

Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "If our race team were to have a weak point, it would be our flat track program. We've been working very hard on it and trying to improve upon it. We've made some gains. At Richmond and Martinsville, we were pretty pleased with our performance. We were not so pleased with our Pocono performance, which is another flat track. We're cautiously optimistic that we can head up to Loudon and run well. We need to work hard on getting the car to turn through the corners. We've typically had a problem with our cars handling-wise on the flat tracks. The car has got to turn well through the center of the corner and still be tight up off the corner. We're going to be working really hard on that so we can get a good qualifying lap that will let Bobby start up front. That always helps in planning your race day strategy. You don't have to worry about the leaders lapping you as you can actually see the leader. You're able to tweak on your car to get it to where you want it, and it's easier on your driver too, as there's less of a chance of him getting caught up in a wreck of some sort. We've had some success there in the past, but it's one of those up-and-down types of race tracks for us. If we go up there and do everything we're capable of doing, we'll be okay."

Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "Loudon is a different world. It's got a lot of different characteristics. It's a short track, yet it's a mile in length so it has some speedway characteristics to it. You need to have a really good engine at Loudon to pull you up off those corners and get you down those long straightaways. Handling is obviously a really big issue too. The car has got to handle well through the middle of the corner. It has to turn well. Track position is incredibly important at Loudon, maybe more so than at any other track we go to. It just seems like it's so hard to pass at Loudon. That's why, in the last 100 laps, you'll see cars not pitting, or taking gas only, or taking on just two tires. Loudon is a place where changing two tires instead of four and gaining track position is worth a whole lot more than what you'd get if you had four fresh tires. There's a little bit of crossover between Loudon and Phoenix because they're both mile- long race tracks. Getting the car to turn through the middle of the corner at Phoenix is real important. As a matter of fact, we'll take the same car we run at New Hampshire to Phoenix. We'll pit as close as possible to the end of our last pit window so that we won't have to pit with only 20 laps to go just to put fuel in the car. With about 70 or 80 laps to go, you want to put on four fresh tires and get that thing full of gas so you can go the distance. Should a caution come with 20 laps to go, you don't have to give up your track position by coming into the pits. If you give up track position with 20 to go, you can forget about winning the race. We won the race with Ernie Irvan two years ago. It came down to a battle between two teammates - Ernie and Dale Jarrett in the 88 car. Both cars were pretty even, but Ernie had gotten some track position on the 88 car earlier in the race. Both Ernie and Dale came in with about 40 laps to go and took on two tires and fuel. Both teams had good pit stops, but Ernie ended up winning the race because he had better track position than Dale coming into the pits. Qualifying well at Loudon also means a bunch because of the typically long green flag runs. Last year we qualified 26th with Dale in July. Jeff Burton qualified substantially better (15th). I think our car was just as good as Jeff's, but because of the long green flag runs, we could never actually get to him. It's just so hard to pass, and lapped traffic really kills you on restarts."

HOW WILL THE POSTPONEMENT OF THE PEPSI 400 AT DAYTONA (FLA.) INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY TO OCT. 17 EFFECT YOUR RACE TEAM?

Jimmy Makar: "The postponement of the Pepsi 400 does impact us more than normal because we're going to two restrictor plate races back-to-back. Most people don't have two restrictor plate cars. We're fortunate enough to have three, but one's an older car that's really not capable of qualifying with the things we do today. It does put us in a little bit of a bind, because if something should happen at Talladega where you lose a car in a crash or lose two cars, say one in practice and one in the race, then you're really in a bind to have a primary and a backup car ready for Daytona. I think you'll see quite a few people building another superspeedway car before that race just to be safe. We were in the process of building another car anyway for our deal next year with Tony Stewart in a second team. We've got cars being built right now and one of them happens to be a Daytona car. We'll probably just push that car a little bit harder to be done so that it's ready for Daytona. That way, should something happen at Talladega, we'll still have two good cars ready to go back to Daytona. Not only are cars a factor, but engines are a big deal because most people only have a few restrictor plate engines. To be able to come home and turn them around in a day or two and get back to Daytona on Thursday is going to be tough. So, we'll be putting together a couple more engines. You know, we've still got our deal next year with Tony, so things will be on fast forward. It's still a possibility that we'll run Tony in a few Cup races this year. We never really settled on any particular dates. We've talked about some races toward the end of the year. A lot will depend on sponsor obligations to Shell and the Busch Series and whether we can trade out some Busch races for some Cup races. The races we've talked about the most would be Charlotte, Rockingham and possibly Richmond. Those are still races we are looking at, but nothing is set in stone."

Larry McReynolds: "That's something we need to sit down and talk about very shortly. But another advantage of being part of a multi-car team is that the 3 and the 31 team can have a backup car ready. You know, one car for both teams if one of the teams needed it. Now, God forbid, they wreck together, which the last race at Talladega, both of them did end up in the same wreck. If that were to happen again, then that would put us in a real predicament. Still, I can't foresee us both building a superspeedway car between now and October. We both have decent backup cars; both having a car either team can fall back on is something we're going to need to look into. It also effects our engine guys. Each team and their engine department has one really good restrictor plate engine, and I know in talking with the guys over on the 18 car that they also have one really super, double throw-down restrictor plate engine. The engine guys are going to be sitting on pins and needles knowing that they're going to have to get back to the shop as quick as they can Monday morning or even Sunday night, because not only do we run back-to-back superspeedway races, but it's a short week the next week. We've got to be in Daytona that Thursday. It's the only choice NASCAR had. We only had two more off weekends between now and the end of the season. I don't think it would have made much sense to go there between Atlanta and Japan or to try to go there in two weeks - the fires probably won't be out of there then. I think NASCAR made the only choice they really had. The biggest thing I stress is that we think it's a problem for us to have to run back-to-back restrictor plate races and 15 races in a row. But when you look at what the people in Florida have been through, we really haven't got any problems. Our problems aren't problems."

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article are available for larger viewing in The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery.