Gil Martin, crew chief for Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy, met with the media to discuss hsi team's approach to this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup showdown at Homestead.
Gil, could you talk about your team strategy and outlook this weekend for the season finale?
GIL MARTIN: Basically we're bringing a brand-new racecar to Homestead. We've put everything into it that I think we've learned through the course of the season. The engine shop, ACR, has built us one of the best engines I think that they've produced all year long and got it in the car, so feel really good about the piece that we're taking. We're nice and prepared and going to load the car up tonight, the team is leaving in the morning at 9:00 to go deep sea fishing on Wednesday in Key West for a little team building, and we'll be ready to go on Friday morning.
A lot of times crew chiefs and drivers talk about getting two people to race each other so that the third guy might take advantage of it. Are you watching with some amusement the war of words that's gone on the past two weeks between the 11 and 48? With the 29 team having stayed out of that, do you think that there could be some advantage to them smack-talking each other so much?
GIL MARTIN: Well, I mean, I guess there's a two-part answer to that. One, I'm surprised that we have stayed out of it because we're usually in the middle of most of this kind of stuff! But secondly, I think it's kind of a waste of time to do a lot of smack talking with the 48. They have been in this position many times. They haven't been trailing going into Homestead, but a team of that caliber, you're not going to do a lot of smack talking and bother them a whole lot. They're going to go down there focused with a mission, and I think a lot of that will – has the potential of backfiring on you.
We know the job that we have at hand, and we're going with our best piece, and I think our driver is ready and psyched up about it after our meeting this morning, and just looking forward to it.
If you had to look at all three drivers, what do you think your driver does best, and what are some things that the other two drivers have that you wish your driver was equal or better at?
GIL MARTIN: Well, the one thing that I think our driver does the best, I think he works his best under these kind of conditions I think that we're going to be under because of the fact of head games will not bother him because he's one of the best that there is at playing head games to start with. I'm very, very happy that we have a driver with that strong of a mental aspect about him going into this race.
The other thing that I guess I wish that we had would be the four rings that Jimmie Johnson has because that means we would have done the things we needed to have done the past four years.
Do you think teammates will play a part in Sunday's race at all for any of the three guys?
GIL MARTIN: I certainly think so. I think it's going to be a big factor – meaning that I don't think anybody is going to go out and intentionally wreck anybody, but I don't think anybody is going to particularly do anybody any favors on the racetrack when it comes down to just pure racing as far as moving over and letting a guy go. I think they're going to try to impede their process as much as they can on the racetrack.
You never know how things play out on the track. There's a lot of favors that go on throughout the garage, whether it's engine programs, tires, whatever happens. So I don't think you'll see anybody intentionally wrecking, but I don't think that you'll see a lot of favors being done, or maybe there will be some favors that will be paid back at the end of this race, too.
Considering how this Chase has gone so far, how many of the turning points, so to speak, have come with drivers winning the actual Chase races, if you had to guess, do you think that this year we might see the champion actually winning the last race of the season?
GIL MARTIN: I hope so. I hope we do win the last race. I mean, that's a good track for Kevin, as we know. I mean, the stats that these guys are putting up right now, the average finish for all these guys being they're all in the sixes, six-point-something, it's pretty incredible what's going on with that. But I really do think that one of these guys will end up winning the race.
And considering how close all three of you guys are...the stats are, is it almost a toss-up if someone is looking from the outside in, being close and how good they are at the track?
GIL MARTIN: I think so. I think that it's not just the drivers that you're looking at being close. You're looking at three of the best organizations in the business with all the resources that are available to all of them and the key people they have in the shop who are – who can use the resources they have available.
And I think that that's what you're seeing go on right now is you're seeing just the magnitude of 400-plus employees at each business who are at the top of their game, and that's what's making these finishes so close every week.
Are you offended that lots of people seem to be talking like this is a two-man deal, two-race-team deal?
GIL MARTIN: No, I'm not offended at all because of where we were last year at this time. We didn't know what we would be doing for a living last year at this time. So being in the position that we're in right now and to lead the points most of the year, and if you go back to traditional points we've got over a 300-something-point lead, which goes to show what caliber of a season we've had.
That doesn't bother me at all – it bothers me that we're down 46 points, don't get me wrong. But if they're not talking about us constantly, if we win the championship, everybody will have a lot to talk about.
Can you talk about your decision to go with a new car for this weekend as opposed to maybe one in your stable that's had success? And, secondly, I know with your experience atop the pit box that if there's something going on with the car, you kind of have an automatic idea of what to make a change and adjustment to. But how often atop the pit box do you make something that's more of a gut instinct as opposed to the program decision, and is that something you're more open to this weekend?
GIL MARTIN: We've got some planned plays that we do throughout the race and we do a lot of statistical analysis on things that have happened in past races. But there's also a lot of times that you've got to make a gut decision based on what you think not only your competition is going to do, and when I say that, I mean the 11 and the 48, but you've got to make some decisions based off of what you think the back half of the field may do to trap you on the racetrack. Sometimes you just have to go with a gut feeling of how the race is progressing and do what you've got to do.
As far as bringing a new car, I'm plenty comfortable with it. We took our car we ran in Michigan and the car we ran at Charlotte all in the wind tunnel two weeks ago, and this car had the best numbers. And that's one of the things I have to give a lot of props to our chassis shop and our fab shop. They've been able to reproduce the same product several times over this year to where that's been one of our strong points, that we haven't had to worry about racing the same racecar each week and turning it around and getting tired. That's one of the things we've done as a company much better this year is being able to produce a good product and do it week after week. I feel real comfortable with the car we're taking.
Kevin said yesterday on Twitter he didn't think he personally had received the kind of accolades that he thought he would get from the type of run that he had had. Can you just speak a little bit about Kevin, because the two of you had won the Busch Series title before, and why do you think that Kevin doesn't get the type of credit he deserves?
GIL MARTIN: I can't explain to you why he doesn't, but I can talk to you about why he should. I mean, you just go back and look. Again, I know it doesn't matter to nothing, but everybody talks about stats all week long. That's all you see all week long. When you go back and look where we would be in traditional points, where we are on top 10s, where we are on points gained, where we are on top 5s, I think if you go back and look, it's almost been one of the best seasons that RCR has ever had in its history.
Obviously, if we don't win the championship, it's not going to be where we want to be, but it's a championship run that we've had all year long. And in order for that to have happened, he had to do a lot of things right this year, and I think a lot of those things have gone a little bit unnoticed because a lot of emphasis has been put on that we haven't qualified very well. But because we haven't qualified very well, the number of cars that we've passed this year coming from I'll say not even mid-pack, three-quarter pack, through most of the season, I don't know the number of those cars, and I'm sure y'all have the stats on that, but the amount of cars that we've passed this season is probably astronomical compared to a lot of them.
And it's a shame that we had the little problem we did in the pits this weekend because I really think when we were running third and had to come back in, if we would have gotten to see some clean air, our car was going to be very fast out front or in the top two or three this weekend.
But he's done a great job, and I think he deserves a lot more credit probably than he is getting.
Can you talk about strategy for the race versus strategy competing against the two other guys? If you're in a certain position near the end of the race, will you base all your strategy on where Denny and Jimmie are?
: We obviously will have to have a running tally of where the points are throughout the whole race, and that's something that we're working on, because if we're running 12th, we need to know where they are, or if we're leading or whatever the scenario may come down to. We're going to have to base our whole race on that solely. And we'll have to adjust accordingly because that's what it's going to come down to. It won't do us any good to run third if they're running ninth or something. So we're going to have to do whatever it takes to make the mathematics of the whole day work out. So yeah, we'll spend a lot of time looking at that throughout the course of the day.
And when you're making adjustments, are you basing stuff on what you know from Homestead in the last couple years with the new car, or have things changed so much, do you base it more on the other mile and a halfs that you've raced at this year?
GIL MARTIN: Well, we had a great run at Homestead last year, but that was also with the wing car. But I think the progression of our mile-and-a-half program has changed a great deal this year through just how we've run at Michigan and some of the other places that we've run.
So, what we'll do is we've gone back and we've done a lot of simulation through tracks that are as similar to Homestead as we can get, and we've got a couple of mile-and-a-half packages that we'll try to incorporate those into the weekend because I really think that the program we had last year is not going to be good enough to do what we need to do this time.