Jeff mentioned something at the end of the Richmond race about having the best car on the long runs, but not on the shorter ones. I guess this makes it tough under green-white-checker rules. So is it possible to have a car that's good for both? Have you noticed any other cars that are good for both?
We do have an opportunity to have a car that's good for both. What we are looking for, though, is when you know you're going to have a short run and you come and get that last set of tires. Then you'll change your air pressures around to make sure the car is good for a short run. Our problem at Richmond was that our last stop was under green with roughly 35 laps to go. So we altered our air pressures a little, but not enough for a two- or three-lap run; we were still hoping for a 20-lap run. But what made us feel good about ourselves was that we asked Jeff about this on the phone conference this week and he said we had it right. When we left pit road under green, he says the car was doing everything he wanted it to do. It couldn't have been better. That gives us confidence that we made the adjustment that was needed, but the problem is that, in the whole track-position game, we couldn't pit and take tires yet again and for that reason we were stuck with the air pressures we had and they weren't quite good enough for a five-lap shootout.
So you can have it good, but not as perfect as you'd like to have it. As dominant as our 24 car was on the long runs in the second half of that race, I'll take that any day, and acknowledge that we'll just have to do our best in the event of a green-white-checker finish. We still had the 31 [Jeff Burton] and 29 [Kevin Harvick] cars beat on a short run. The only one we couldn't beat on the short run was the 18 of Kyle Busch, and, unfortunately, he was the guy lined up next to us on that final run.
What's worse: missing Victory Lane because your car sucked, or missing Victory Lane because you got unlucky with a mechanical/crash/tire when you had the car to beat?
Personally, I cannot stand having a non-competitive car. When you have a car that doesn't stand a chance of winning the race, there's nothing that frustrates me more because I know we have all the tools and all the talent at Hendrick Motorsports to go and lead every single race. So without a doubt, being short on speed is the most frustrating feeling you can have. Having said that, when you have a car that could have won a race but it has a mechanical, it just eats at your stomach because you wonder when you will next have a car that is so good. What made Vegas so disappointing in the spring, when we took right-side tires only and needed to take four, wasn't so much that we lost but we wondered, “When will be that good again?” So to rebound at Texas and have a car that dominant again really helped us put Vegas behind us and we really cannot wait to get to these other 1.5-mile tracks.
But, of course, we've led 599 laps and not gotten a win yet. We've led 599 of the wrong laps!
I am a huge fan of Jeff Gordon's and of Hendrick Motorsports and have been for many years. I have seen many crew chiefs come and go with Jeff and was happy to see you become his crew chief. I think you are doing a fantastic job and hope the great work continues. My question is, when you first started you were heavier but every week you seem to be getting thinner and I was wondering what your secret is as far as diet, exercise, etc. Keep up the good work personally and professionally.
I'd like to say it's stress, but actually, like racing, there is no secret. The 24 pit crew last year was good, but not as good as it could be, so I spent all winter long working out with my pit crew, getting to know them, and I now think they're as good as anyone on pit road this year. So I've been eating better, working out much more, and spending quality time with my pit crew. I'll be honest: Our team always struggles in the second half of the year and I wanted to make sure that my physical fitness wasn't going to contribute to that, so I made a commitment to get in shape to make sure I was energized and ready to go throughout the long NASCAR season. I've lost 58lbs, so I hope RACER finds a portrait of the new skinny me to go with this column…Thanks for all your questions and keep them coming! Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.