When are you going to retire so the No. 24 car can start winning more races and get more championships? You're not getting the job done. One win in three years – that's pretty sad. A change is in order.
Well, nice question to get started with! Frank, I appreciate your support of the 24 team if you think that my retirement would help them out that much, and I'm disappointed that you disagree with how I run the team. I agree our performance hasn't been up to par the last three years, but we've had a substantial improvement this season, and although we're substantially behind in the win column, I feel in 2010 we've had cars capable enough and pit decisions smart enough to win. In a sport as competitive as the NASCAR Sprint Cup, giving yourself a car good enough to win as frequently as we've managed this season is all you can ask for. However, I agree that it's time we broke through and got to Victory Lane.
Ray Evernham stated in an interview following the race in Texas that the communication between you and Jeff is at 95 percent; he asserted that you may feel too intimidated to tell Jeff the obvious such as, “Don't speed on pit road; don't spin your tires on the restart; be patient with this traffic, don't be hasty and save your tires.” He also stated that because of the daunting task of working with a four-time champion that you do not hold your ground on certain decisions. Are these claims true? Do you feel intimidated into not telling Jeff the obvious?
Personally, Steve, I feel that you are the smartest crew chief in the sport, I can tell that there are times that you have the lap times and, based on your data, you do not want to adjust the car, but I observe that you change your mind when Jeff suggests an adjustment. He may know the feel of the car, but lap times are what count; when you have the data saying that the car is quick, don't back down Steve, and don't second-guess yourself. This CoT has a fickle chassis, so if you don't need to adjust it, DON'T!
Brian, I think that Ray has raised a very good point – he's a good friend and a remarkable talent in the sport, and I do think looking back on some of the races, I could have given Jeff more detail about the car. Jeff and I are close friends and I don't find him very intimidating at all, to be honest. It's just that sometimes I assume a veteran – and a massively successful one – doesn't need reminding of the small stuff, although yeah, it probably is my duty to do so.
The second half of the question is more about the redirection of the team. For a lot of years, Jeff's opinion was the No. 1 thing that counted because he had such a remarkable feel, and I agree that with the CoT we do need to put a little less value on Jeff's opinion and a little more value on the speed of the car. That's what you're seeing so far this year, and Richmond was a great example. Jeff was complaining as if he had a 20th-place car – and we were leading the race!
Brian, I appreciate your input, and I think you're spot on: as the season goes on, you'll see that the car adjustments might reflect more of the timing and scoring and a little less of the driver input.
Obviously Jeff and Jimmie have had their run-ins at a couple of recent races. What was the atmosphere like between you and Chad Knaus? And what about the crews?
First, I'd like to say that by no means do we want to take the fire out of our drivers. We like the intensity. We would prefer it wasn't always dealt one to the other, but I'd rather we had that than none at all. I think it got a little out of proportion through the media because we're a front-running team, but Chad and I are great friends, although we're very competitive and want to beat each other but we also know very, very clearly that the strength of one of our teams owes a lot to the other. The 48 team wouldn't be as strong without the 24 team, and vice versa. It's very important that we keep the shop karma – the crew guys are very professional and don't pick sides. They intermingle very well and I think we'll move past this and continue to win in the future.
I couldn't believe how it all turned on its head for 24 at Talladega. Is there anything more you could have done or will that pack racing always be a crap shoot?
Good luck. You boys really deserve it after the season you've had.
Well, welcome to Talladega, Ray! There's nothing you can do to change the outcome of those races. We ride around in the back if we get shuffled there, but at some point it's time to go, and I think Jeff chose his timing very well. Jimmie did what any driver would have done, which is trying to get in front of a train that was coming. That put us on the apron, we got shuffled to the back and then our luck was very poor: the 31 car had its accident on the tri-oval part, we had nowhere to go and that kinda ended our day. But I can't argue both sides of the story: I can't pretend I wanted the cars all strung out just because I want the team to be a success. I'm a race fan: I like side-by-side action, it's wonderful to watch, and I hope the fans really enjoyed Talladega being exciting again in a way that last November's race wasn't. In sum, the competitor in me isn't a fan of Talladega-style racing, but our job is to entertain the fans and I think they got entertainment in Talladega last month.