NASCAR: Crew Chief Club, The Bud at The Glen
6 August 1998Event: The Bud at The Glen When: Sun., Aug. 9 at 1:10 p.m. EDT on ESPN
Where: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International (2.45-mile road course)
Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 63 wins, 333 top-five finishes, 530 top-10 finishes and 61 poles prior to The Bud at The Glen on Sun., Aug. 9 at Watkins Glen International.
Two of the four members of the Crew Chief Club have victories at The Glen. McReynolds scored a win with Ricky Rudd when the two were with the Kenny Bernstein-owned King Racing operation in 1988, and Pemberton notched a victory with Kyle Petty when they were with Felix Sabates' Team SABCO outfit in 1992.
Altogether, the members of the Crew Chief Club have collected 10 top-five finishes in The Bud at The Glen.
All four members of the Crew Chief Club will be signing autographs on Sat., Aug. 8 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.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO SET YOUR CAR UP FOR WATKINS GLEN, AND HOW DID YOU PREPARE IT FOR THE POSSIBILTY OF RACING IN THE RAIN?
Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "We're taking the same car we had up there last year. We're really pleased with the way our road course program is progressing. Bobby hasn't been driving on road courses until the last couple of years, and lately he's come around quite a bit. Every time we go to a road course it seems like we run just a little bit better and get a little bit farther towards the front. We're encouraged by that and we look forward to getting up there.
"Well, NASCAR has made it known that if it does rain at Watkins Glen we need to be prepared to race in the rain. We outfitted the car with a windshield wiper, a brake light, defoggers for the windshield, things to keep the ignition system from getting wet - just a lot of little things."
Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "I'm still trying to get my feet wetter and wetter with Mike. I was able to go to Sears Point with him, and I worked closely with the 31 team last year as we prepared to go to Watkins Glen. But I tell you, Mike is really a good road racer. He always ran well at road courses when he was in the truck series and he seems to get better and better on the road courses with a Winston Cup car. We're taking the same car that we had at Sears Point. Even though we struggled a bit out there until qualifying, we finally got it going for the race. I think we'll be okay at the Glen and I'm sure the same old bunch will be tough - Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon - the same old group you've got to contend with each time you go up there. We'll just try to get a good, solid qualifying run and get ready to race.
"There are a few teams who have a little bit of an advantage because they were part of the qualifying session in the rain at Suzuka (Japan) last year. It was really a lot of fun. I think the drivers enjoyed it. It was a little bit of extra work and a little bit of hassle, but it's something different and something new. The thing that we're doing is, of course, installing windshield wipers. We went through a learning curve with those. We learned that you have to mount them down at the bottom and not at the top because at the speeds we run - the first couple laps we ran with Dale (Earnhardt) with the wipers mounted at the top, he came down the frontstretch looking like he had a radio antenna sticking up in the air. We have a brake light up in the back window that works just like a passenger car brake light. The biggest thing we had to work on in Suzuka was keeping the inside of the windows defogged. There's so much heat in these race cars that keeping the windows defogged is a priority. We're using a solution on the windows similar to what the road racers use, kind of like a gel coat, as well as some blowers mounted inside just under the windows. I know when Dale qualified at Suzuka, by the time he was done qualifying he had a hole in the windshield about the size of your fist that he could see out of."
DO THE WIPERS, FANS AND BRAKE LIGHTS PUT A LOT OF STRESS ON THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM?
"No, not really. We go to places like Martinsville and we'll run two rear-end coolers, six brake blowers and a fan for the driver. The alternators and electrical systems are pretty strong on these cars."
Todd Parrott - Ford Credit/Ford Quality Care Ford of Dale Jarrett - "It's real similar to Sears Point. In the last two years at Watkins Glen, we've had a really good car. We're taking a different car there this year, but it's the same car we ran at Sears Point. He qualified well with it and we feel really good about it. You turn more to the right than you do to the left, so you've got to have a car that's opposite of everywhere else you take it.
"We didn't have any problems in getting our car ready to race in the rain. We grabbed a windshield wiper motor and installed it, built a pretty neat defogger device that the guys came up with at the shop and put a brake light on it. So, we're good to go. I'm really excited about racing in the rain."
Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "Watkins Glen is very similar to Sears Point with the exception that it's more of a braking race track than Sears Point. You get three good shots at passing under braking, whereas at Sears Point you only get one. That's pretty much the most important part of setting up for the course.
"We've installed windshield wipers, brake lights and we're working on a defogger system for the windows in case we have to race in the rain. That's about it. We had a system in place when we went to Japan two years ago, so we didn't have any problems in getting ready for Watkins Glen."
IS RUNNING AT WATKINS GLEN SPECIAL BECAUSE IT'S IN YOUR HOME STATE?
"New York is a big state and it's a few hours away (from Ballston Spa, N.Y.), but there will still be people that stop by and visit that I either went to high school with or know someone that I know. Upstate New York is a beautiful part of the country anyway, so I really enjoy going up there."
FROM A SAFETY STANDPOINT, DO YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY TO THE DRIVER'S COCKPIT THAN WHAT SOME OF THE OTHER TEAMS DO?
Jimmy Makar: "We do lots of little things. I'm not sure if other teams do the same things we do. But we take the driver's cockpit area very seriously. We make sure that there aren't any objects or areas where he can hit his arms or legs and cause fractures, cuts or bruises - things of that nature. We try to keep the car cool for him by minimizing the heat that's under his seat and the floorboard. We keep fresh air coming to him so that the carbon monoxide levels are kept at a minimum. We build our cars with the door bars a little different on the left side. We put an extra door bar on the left side and they're made out of a little extra heavier material because we can't afford for it to crush on an impact with the driver's side. What we're always doing is trying to think of 'what ifs.' That way, we're as prepared as we can be for a worst-case scenario."
Larry McReynolds: "We've got a seat for Mike that's made out of a heavy gel material that conforms to his body. The only downfall is that it's heavy. But if it keeps him safe and out of trouble in an accident, it's worth every pound that it adds to the car. You know, Mike's taken a lot of precautions himself. He wears the neck brace now all the time - practice, qualifying and in the race. He's getting healthier every week and every race, but we need to keep him away from crashes for more weeks to come."
Todd Parrott: "I think a lot of the guys are doing a lot of the same things from a safety standpoint. Some guys have taken some hard licks in some hard wrecks, and we look awfully hard at how they've had their seats mounted, where their belts are placed and the roll bar padding around them. We learn from each other, but what we do is no different than any other team."
Robin Pemberton: "Basically, everybody's doing the same thing nowadays. The inside of the car is really padded up - the most that you can get. If you do see someone doing a better job of taking care of the driver's seat, you just adapt what they're doing to your car. If we're doing something to our car, we'll share it with other teams. Safety is the most important thing."