NASCAR WCUP: Crew Chief Club at the Pepsi Southern 500
4 September 1998Event: Pepsi Southern 500
When: Sun., Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. EDT on ESPN
Where: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.366-mile oval)
Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 63 wins, 341 top-five finishes, 542 top-10 finishes and 62 poles prior to the Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
In qualifying for the last two Southern 500s, two members of the Crew Chief Club have provided their drivers with a fast car to set fast time. Parrott and Dale Jarrett took the pole in 1996, while Makar and Bobby Labonte took the pole in last year's event. In fact, Jarrett's lap of 170.934 mph on Aug. 30, 1996 is an event record for the Pepsi Southern 500.
All four members of the Crew Chief Club will be signing autographs on Sat., Sept. 5 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. Fans can also log-on to the Crew Chief Club at their official website, www.crewchiefclub.com.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE YOUR RACE CAR FOR 500 MILES AT DARLINGTON?
Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "Darlington is a tough track that's quite unique. While we've had good luck there in the past, as of late we haven't run as well as we'd like to. Our cars just haven't been as strong as they need to be the last couple of times we've been there. So, we went back and tested last week for two and a half days, working a lot on our race setup. The biggest thing is getting a hold of the racetrack - getting grip in the race car. The track was paved three or four years ago, and it's already gotten back to the old Darlington. It's slick, it's hard to grip and the tires go away really fast. So, we try to get the car to where it can keep its grip on the long runs. That's the main thing." ONCE AGAIN, YOU'RE IN CONTENTION TO COLLECT A MILLION DOLLARS FROM WINSTON BY WINNING A NO BULL FIVE EVENT. ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR TO RUN SO WELL IN THE NO BULL FIVE RACES? "I think we're just fortunate. The races that make up the No Bull Five have been at tracks where we typically run well. So, we're just fortunate. I don't think there's any science to doing it, you just have a good race. We're really excited about it. It's a unique program, and of course we'd like to have won it by now just one time, but the fact that we've been involved in it and have had the opportunity to be involved in it has been real encouraging to us. That's one of the other reasons we went to Darlington to test this week. We've got another shot at a million bucks, and we felt that we were a little off on our Darlington program when we were there back in March. We'll just go out and try to give it our best shot."
Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "The biggest thing is that, yeah, it's 500 miles, but it'll probably be in the 90s down there. So, it'll be hot on everybody -fans, drivers, crews, and it'll be hard on equipment. The track will get awfully slick. We saw that down there testing last week. We ran almost 300 laps in two days and the track just got slicker and slicker. The car that wins the race there is the car that will slide around the least amount for a long run. And a long run at Darlington is not a very long run on tires. You can run probably 65 laps on fuel, but you need tires after about 20 laps. But you still need to be able to make your car run 40 or 50 laps on a set of tires. Going down there and qualifying well is key. Darlington has pits on the frontstretch and on the backstretch, and pitting on the frontstretch is essential. What we worked on at our two-day test was long green flag runs - long runs with the front end open trying to get the car balanced-out under race conditions. We feel that if we got all that worked out pretty well, we could go down there and put a good package under the car and have a solid qualifying effort. Mike told me before going down there to test that Darlington is one of the places he hasn't totally quite figured out yet. But I tell you, we felt pretty good after our two-day test. We were keeping the same tempo as the cars that normally run pretty well at Darlington." THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME WITH SKINNER THAT YOU'RE COMPETING FOR THE NO BULL FIVE. IS IT ADDED PRESSURE, ADDED INCENTIVE OR BOTH? "I'd be kidding you if I didn't tell you it was a little more pressure and a little more incentive. I went there in '92 with Davey Allison and we had a chance to win the Winston Million. We had a shot at it again with Dale Jarrett in '96. But the thing you've got to acclimate yourself, your driver and your team, is that while it may not seem like just another race, it is. We've got to go in there and try to make sure nothing falls off the car, try to get our car driving as good as we can, and if we do our job and win the race, then voila, the Winston No Bull Five Million comes with it. It's not like you've got to figure out something extra to do, you've just got to go down there and do what you did last week at Loudon, this week at Darlington and the next week at Richmond - try to win the race."
Todd Parrott - Ford Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford of Dale Jarrett - "One thing for sure is that Dale Jarrett likes Darlington and he enjoys the challenge and tradition of Darlington. As a team, we've run well since we first started going there. I've got a lot of experience at Darlington in working with Rusty Wallace as far as setup and stuff goes. So, we've got a good baseline, a good setup and the engine room has put out great engines. So, we're really looking forward to going there."
Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "Darlington is one of those places that's real abusive on tires. Setups have to be as soft as you can make them, and shock work is important to get as long of a run as you can. Tire management there is not necessarily like other race tracks. Over the course of 70 or 80 laps at Darlington, your tires are still performing, but actually they're wore out to the cord. So, it's really important to get your car to where you can run it for a fair amount of time on new tires." LOOKING AT THE NASCAR BUSCH AND TRUCK SERIES, WHO WOULD YOU SAY ARE RISING STARS THAT WILL EVENTUALLY MAKE IT TO THE WINSTON CUP RANKS?
Jimmy Makar: "Looking at the Busch Series, I think it's pretty obvious who's there. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Matt Kenseth are people that look like they've got what it takes to make it to the Cup ranks. I really haven't paid much attention to anybody outside of the Busch Series. Obviously, we went and did a lot of looking last year as we were getting ready to set up our second team, and everybody knows by now who we chose - Tony Stewart. So, I feel that Tony's going to be a star in future Winston Cup races."
Larry McReynolds: "Well, obviously Dale Jr. would go straight to the top of the charts, and I don't think there's any question about that. When he comes to Cup he'll be a force to be reckoned with. The biggest thing that I have to say about young drivers in the Busch and Truck series is to make sure that someone doesn't come along and push them too fast. I think that's a mistake that a lot of young drivers and young teams make. Boom, they have one good season in Busch or Truck and they're ready to go to Winston Cup. They need more time than that. Look at Jeff Gordon. He spent two or three solid seasons in the Busch Series. He became a consistent winner every week and I think it paid dividends when he got to Winston Cup. I think Matt Kenseth is one that shines awfully strong in the Busch Series too. When I look toward the Truck Series, Stacy Compton looks awfully good, so does Greg Biffle. I'm sure that I'm overlooking some, but those are some drivers that have certainly caught my eye, especially while commentating for some of those races."
Todd Parrott: "Obviously, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one. Right now, he's got an awesome Busch career going. It's a little tougher up here on the Winston Cup side than it is over on the Busch side. In the trucks, I guess Stacy Compton. He's doing a real good job in that series, and that new guy who's won a couple races, Terry Cook, he's done well too. I think the truck series has got a lot more talent in it right now than the Busch Series does."
Robin Pemberton: "It's hard to say. A lot of guys have tried to come over to the Busch Series, and unless they get in a good car, it's hard to really take a good look at them. For sure we know that Dale Jr. is probably one of the up and coming stars, and there's a few more in the Busch Series that are probably going to make the grade in the next two to three years. Other than that, it's really hard to pick one out."