Slowing them down by giving them less grip, I'd say the car we have now would be far and above better than the old car, because this car has a higher center of gravity, less mechanical grip and less overall downforce, period, compared to the old one. But that wouldn't improve the racing. Slowing them down would not be a way to improve the racing, because the more tools the teams have to adjust their cars, the more opportunities the teams have to make their cars very good or very bad, and the problem I see in racing now – not just NASCAR, but also Formula 1, sprint cars, IndyCars – is that the window between a good car and a bad car is now so very small that it is not enough for a good car to pass the slow car. If you're only 0.15 or 0.2sec per lap faster than the car you're trying to overtake, that is not enough to get out of your preferred line and make the pass. You'll lose at least that much time getting out of your chosen groove, so you're automatically reduced to the same speed as the car in front. There is less and less passing the closer teams get to one another.
On each race day, I love to listen to the driver channels. I really enjoy you and Jeff interacting. How do you stay so calm and focused when Jeff sometimes is clearly upset about, for example, a really loose car or when another driver has done something to him on the track?
A tricky one to explain, this, but I'll have a go. The No. 1 thing I have to remember is my position in this scenario. I have the chance to walk down to the cooler to get a bottle of water, to walk around the pits, to sit up on the pitbox – I'm not strapped in, and not getting myself mentally overloaded. That's what happens to drivers: they're so focused, and all their senses are going a million miles an hour. They're feeling the car, they're listening to the engine, they're watching the track in front, watching the mirrors, and so on. Their senses are full and don't have time to rationalize or calmly explain a situation. (By the way, the more Jeff might get upset, in a way, the happier I am, because I know he's right there with us. It bothers you if a driver is running 25th and he calmly tells you that his car isn't driving well. That frustrates me, because it's as if he doesn't care. When I hear Jeff get emotional, I know he cares, he's disappointed, and he will do everything in his power to fix it.)
So, anyway, I stay calm, because if I get animated and raise my voice too much, that's just one more thing that detracts from his senses, that distracts him, and will probably slow him down. Luckily, Jeff's a great driver. Some drivers, if they get talking, they'll slow down, or if they get angry, they start overdriving. But Jeff can be upset, and he still won't do anything crazy, and he's always been that way. I've worked with him for so long: for 15 years, he's been the only guy I've had on the radio, and we spend so much time together. So I know him almost like I know a family member, and I can usually tell from his voice what is a normal operating range of passion, and what is a little over the top. Very rarely, I might have to tell him, “Take a deep breath, calm down, go back to what you're doing, we'll be fine”, and that's if I feel we might be having a bad effect on our own performance.
Why do you nearly always pick a pit stall past the start/finish line?
Another question that requires a slightly intricate answer, but here goes. The field is frozen – with the exception of those involved in the accident – from the moment a caution comes out, the only exception to that being if you're on pit road. If you're on pit road, your duty is to beat the race leader to either the start-finish line or the pit-out line. So the option would be to pit as close to the pit-out line as you could or right behind the start-finish line. The negative to right behind the start-finish line is that these pit stalls are very narrow – a lot of guys' days can be ruined on pit road. With the wave-by, the double-file restart and the lucky dog pass, more and more cars are finishing on the lead lap, which generates a much, much busier pit road. So, Jeff and I like to pit as close to the pit exit as possible to try and reduce the possibility of accidents on pit road, and a clean in and out will make up a lot of time.What does it mean when you say "pull lefts" on a pit stop? Does it have to do with who pulls the left tires off? Is it faster than the regular way of doing it? Or does it mean pull the left fenders out?
Chris, your first suggestion is correct. Everything on a pit stop is determined by the amount of fuel you're going to take, and we realize how fast we dump a gallon of fuel. We know that if we only have to take seven or eight gallons of fuel, you can dump that in about five or six seconds. So our catch-can man and our fuel man will be freed up, so when the tire changers come around to the left side to take the lug-nuts off, instead of them needing to set their gun down and take the tire off themselves, the fuel guy and catch-can guy can take the tires off for them. This can save five to seven tenths of a second, because the wheel gun guy no longer has to put the gun down. Later in the race, like at Richmond this last weekend, once we're good on fuel and we don't want the weight in the back of the car, you'll hear us say, “Pull four tires” and that's exactly how it sounds. Those two fuel guys will pull both right sides and both left sides, so the tire-changer keeps the gun in his hand longer.For anything you want to ask regarding NASCAR, just email your questions to email@example.com. Hopefully I've now shown I'm happy to cover all sorts of topics, general or specific. -Steve