NASCAR WCUP: Crew Chief Club at the Winston 500
9 October 1998Event: Winston 500 When: Sun., Oct. 11 at 1:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN
Where: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile tri-oval)
Together, Jimmy Makar, Larry McReynolds, Todd Parrott and Robin Pemberton have led their drivers to 63 wins, 344 top-five finishes, 550 top-10 finishes and 64 poles prior to this Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
In last year's October DieHard 500, Bobby Labonte finished second to older brother Terry under the guidance of Makar.
McReynolds chiefed Davey Allison to a win at Talladega in the 1992 Winston 500.
The Crew Chief Club has four poles at Talladega. These were provided by McReynolds and Ernie Irvan in the 1996 and 1994 Winston Select 500s and by Pemberton and Mark Martin in the 1989 Winston 500 and 1989 DieHard 500.
Crew Chief Club souvenirs and wearables are now available on the Chevrolet and Ford merchandise trailers. Fans can also log-on to the Crew Chief Club at their official website, www.crewchiefclub.com.
WHAT IS YOUR PIT AND RACE STRATEGY GOING TO BE AT TALLADEGA?
Jimmy Makar - Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - "That place is a track position type of racetrack. Tire wear is not an issue, so you'll probably get two tires each time you stop in order to maintain your track position and because the tires don't give out so easily. It will be rights, lefts, rights as you come in for tires. Again, it's a track position race. You want to stay toward the front of the pack and not get to where you've got to run a lot of side by side racing. You really hope for a lot of green flag racing where pit stops could bust the pack up so that you can get with a small group of cars and get in the position to where you can just ride for a while and not race too hard."
Larry McReynolds - Lowe's Home Improvement Chevrolet of Mike Skinner - "At Talladega the strategy hasn't changed too much over the last few years. Track position is so important. Once you get toward the end of the race where you're in your fuel window, which is around 50-55 laps to the end, the tires he has on the car is what he's got to finish the race. Other than a flat tire or something freak happening, you can just about pack your pit equipment up and watch the rest of the race because that's what he has. Tires are not a big issue at Talladega. Just being at the front and being in the right position means a whole lot more than four or two fresh tires there."
Todd Parrott - Ford Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford of Dale Jarrett - "Obviously pit strategy is a real big deal, it's a big racetrack. You need a drafting partner at Talladega so you plan your pit strategy around somebody that you're running with. If you can, try to have the same pit stop as them and get back out. Fuel mileage is a big deal too. It could come down to a fuel mileage race at the end. So you've got to have a car that handles good and gets good fuel mileage."
Robin Pemberton - Miller Lite Ford of Rusty Wallace - "Really, you do things in groups and packs for your pit strategy at Talladega. It really doesn't do you any good to have a lot better fuel mileage than anybody until some freak thing happens at the end of the race where you need to run an extra two or three laps. You have to pit as groups of at least three or four cars together. Teammates and good relationships with other drivers and crew members mean a lot there as far as the race goes."
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FINDING A DRAFTING PARTNER?
Jimmy Makar: "It's good to have a drafting partner, but it's a very hard thing to find. We've been real fortunate. For whatever reason, the last few races Jimmy Spencer and Bobby have been practicing a lot together and we end up around each other a lot during the race. We've been able to work together to get through traffic and help each other out to get to the front. It really helps you because sometimes you really need that little extra bit of help to make a pass and you can't do it yourself. If you find yourself in a position where you need to go and you're not quite sure you can do it yourself, two guys working together can get both of you to the front. Once you're to the front, you're back to every man for himself. But to keep yourself at the front of the pack, it's a real important thing to have."
Larry McReynolds: "They'll search each other out during practice. You've got so many teammates and team cars in this garage area. Certainly all the Roush cars will work together. The Yates cars, the Childress cars, they'll certainly work together. They'll pretty much throw anybody under the bus I think for their teammate. Mike Skinner showed that in Daytona back in February when he gave his teammate a little shove there at the end to help him win his first Daytona 500. You'll search each other out at practice on Saturday and run with different cars and run with different people; you'll swap around and see if you're faster with you out front or him out front; and you'll just build that book of knowledge for Sunday. When it comes down to it, you'll know who can help you the most."
Todd Parrott: "A drafting partner is very important. You've got to have somebody that will follow you and stick with you. If you go high he goes high, if you go low hopefully he'll go low. Once you get to racing, you can't race without a drafting partner. So you've got to make friends and hopefully keep those friends until you get to the end."
Robin Pemberton: "A lot of times it's who you run with. You can make deals all you want during the week but you can never plan the scenarios for the race. When you get there, there's a good opportunity that a certain Ford will run better with a certain Ford or a Pontiac or Chevrolet. There are some times that certain cars run very well together, and that might be the time when you work something out with a particular driver."
WITH BACK TO BACK SUPERSPEEDWAY RACES COMING UP, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO PREPARE YOUR TEAM IN CASE SOMETHING GOES WRONG?
Jimmy Makar: "We've been in pretty good shape with our superspeedway program. We've got three cars that we've had all year that are good race cars. So we feel like we're in real good shape as far as the amount of cars we have. We're building two brand new cars right now for next year, but we've sped the process up on one of them just in case something should happen really weird this coming weekend. If we need an extra car, it will be in the stage that we could rush it together and finish it up if we had to in order to go to Daytona. The motor room is working a little bit of overtime right now. We don't have a lot of motors, so we're going to have to turn a lot of restrictor plate motors around between the two races. So they're gearing up to do a quick turn-around on the motors after Talladega to get to Daytona."
Larry McReynolds: "It was a combination effort. Both teams joined in and we built a fifth speedway car. The (No.) 3 team went and tested it a few weeks ago. It's going to be sitting there in primer, and if the good Lord's willing, neither one of us will need it. Should one of the teams crash at Talladega, it would become the primary car for that team. Now if we both end up wrecking, which did happen in May, then we've got another problem. But we'll at least have a good speedway car for one team plus a couple of good back-ups."
Todd Parrott: "We built a brand new speedway car for one thing. We plan to race that at Talladega. We've got three speedway cars, so hopefully we'll only need one of them. But if something does happen at Talladega, and we have to be in Daytona four days later, it's going to be a tough week for all the race teams."
Robin Pemberton: "We've got two good superspeedway cars. Our spare car is the one we won the Bud Shootout with, so it's not a bad car by any means. Our number one car is the car we've run all year long. We've got a third car that's still in the process, but we also have a teammate. The (No.) 12 car has two cars and a third car that they've built. So, between the two teams we've got five and a half speedway cars ready to go."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NASCAR LIMITING THE AMOUNT OF CREW MEMBERS THAT YOU CAN HAVE ON RACE DAY?
Jimmy Makar: "I have mixed emotions on that. Obviously we've gotten used to a certain system, a certain way of doing things and having different job responsibilities for everybody. We don't really see a mess with that necessarily. I can understand the idea of getting less people involved on race day trying to help save the cars, somebody having less employees. When it's all said and done, whether you've got five guys or 25 guys working on the pit crew on Sunday, as long as it's the same for everybody it shouldn't be an issue. It will make the value of each of those guys go up a little bit because they'll be doing more things on race day. It will help in a lot of respects but it will make our job a little harder in a lot of respects in having to change our system and figure out the most efficient way of using a limited number of people. Right now, we use about 15 people on race day to do all the jobs on pit road, spotting, scoring, behind the wall, etc. Anytime you start taking away from that, you're going to have to start doubling up duties for people, or thinking of different ways of performing a pit stop. It'll put us to work just to think about it."
Larry McReynolds: "I've been asked that a lot this week, but I'd like to see a full set of guidelines before I make a concrete comment on it. I think the initial thought is great. I'm looking at maybe becoming an owner in the year 2000 and the cost of this sport has gone berserk. And a big part of that is because the races they keep adding, they're not just down the street at someplace like North Wilkesboro (N.C.) or down in South Carolina, they're a long way away. So the cost of travel just keeps getting greater and greater. The garage areas and pit road are just way too crowded. I think the biggest thing that NASCAR is going to have to figure out is how to limit it and how to enforce it. That's going to be the key. They can make all the rules in the world. But one thing they do a good job at is not making a rule until they feel like they've got it covered and they can enforce it. I think it's something we need to look at. The NBA does it, the NFL does it, Major League Baseball does it. They say here's the amount of players you can have on your roster and on the sidelines or in the dugout - no more, no less. You could have less, but I'm sure you wouldn't want that. But they don't have to deal with race cars and some of the elements that we have to deal with. I still think for a race team to bring 35 people in here on Sunday morning is pretty absurd. I think it's just something that needs to be done; somebody's going to get hurt in this garage area. I looked at Martinsville and you could not even walk from the truck to the car without almost walking like you were in downtown New York City during rush hour. Something's got to break before it's too late, before somebody gets run over or something. I applaud them looking at it. I hope they do it, but I hope they do it in the right way and I'm sure they will."
Todd Parrott: "I think it's great for the car owners that can't afford to bring in guys that don't do anything but just pit the car. The way this sport has always been is the guys working on the cars are the guys that go over the wall and pit the cars. The more people you have, the tougher it makes things on travel, hotels and everything; so the expenses get awfully high."
Robin Pemberton: "I'm not really much in favor of that. We're already putting so much burden on certain individuals and people during the week. We bring in crew members, but they're people that work at our shop full-time, to pit the car and we're already asking a lot out of these guys. Sometimes during the year they'll work 100-125 days without a day off. If all of a sudden we're asking them to do more than what they're already doing, then I think it's a shame for all concerned."