I really agree with Edd Galloway's earlier comments regarding the frustration of watching the No. 48 consistently beat the No. 24. If you say your team works on consistency, why is it that the No. 48 has more points at the end of the season leading into the Chase and more points to start the Chase because of his wins? It appears to me that they are more aggressive with their changes toward the end of the race and that gets them in a spot to win.
I have watched No. 24 for countless years, and if my memory serves me correctly, past experiences have proven that Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team can be consistent and make the necessary changes throughout a race to consistently finish in the top 12 time and again. As a true No. 24 fan, I would really like to see your team become more aggressive and go for the wins! Just win, baby!
OK, this is a very valid point, James. The No. 24 has traditionally been a very consistent team over the 36-race haul, which is why we were strong in the old points system. I do feel we need to be more aggressive in the Chase, but at the same time, you've seen people make mistakes in the Chase and that's our fear. We have tried, but at the same time everyone is stubborn in this world, and it's very hard for us to change our ways. While it's disappointing that we haven't won more, we've put ourselves in position to win races and put ourselves in position to win the championship. We have had eight second-place finishes, and though without doubt I'd prefer some of them to be wins, I don't believe it shows a lack of aggression.
I understand why the fans are frustrated: I fight that same frustration, but we don't want to panic and eliminate ourselves from the championship hunt. And every time we finish second, it still means we've done a better job than 41 cars, and there is a lot of very strong teams out there. It's just frustrating when the car that beats you is the same one time after time!
I firmly believe that if you run in the top five, week on week, then you will get your share of wins. This year has been hard for my stomach because we've had eight second places, which goes against my theory, but I've seen the theory work for a lot of years and I don't think I'm ready to change it yet.
After watching Jeff, Jimmy and Mark this year, I am amazed at how poorly Dale Jr. has been driving. Is there, in your opinion, any difference in equipment, talent, crews, crew chiefs or intangibles that has kept him from running in the same zip code as the other Hendrick teams? I know Junior has the talent, but it makes me wonder if there is a something that is keeping him from showing what he is capable of. Please be as honest as you can because his fans would like to know.
- James Young, a life long Junior and Senior fa
I can honestly say that I know Dale has the same equipment as everyone else at the company. As far as talent, crew, crew chiefs and intangibles are concerned, those are things that are all managed within the team and I would be making stories up if I thought I knew what they were lacking. I can only say that last year we were lacking too, and we didn't change as much as people think we changed, and we've now had success.
I think the No. 88's situation is like quicksand – once you step in, it's very hard to get out, and Lance McGrew has done a good job and I think Tony Eury Jr. did a good job, too, but sometimes change is necessary. And for whatever reason, it seems when it rains it pours for that team. I think they did a good job at Loudon, but Dale got caught up in an accident that I don't feel was his fault. They also had a good car in Fontana but again got involved in a wreck. Somehow we have to have a breakthrough to get those guys going in the right direction, and I wish I knew what it was that was needed.
I feel they have all the items to go out and run well – but I know I can't give a straight answer to how we improved from 2008, so it's next to impossible for me to say how to help the No. 88. I promise you if I had the answer, I'd raise my hand and speak up, although it's also tough for the other Hendrick crews because we have to concentrate on our own cars. What I can promise you is that the 88 isn't running bad because the people involved don't care about it: everyone does, from Rick Hendrick and Dale Jr. all the way down.
During a race, we'll often hear that the car is good on long runs or short runs. Do you actually set the car up for long or short runs or is it just how it is? Also, if you can set the car up for long or short runs, why aren't all cars set for short runs at the ends of races now that the double-file restarts are in play and you know that there will be cautions? One last thing: what is the difference between a short- or long-run setup?
It's very difficult to switch back and forth during the race, Dan. On Fridays and Saturdays during practice, you can put certain shocks and springs on your car that you know will be faster on a short or long run, but air pressures are about the only thing you can change once the race starts. And air pressures are more like a crutch for if you've not got the ideal setup already.
You'd think it would be obvious that a car needed to be fast on a short run at the end, but I've had cars that are good on short runs but we'll be a lap down because we've had two green flag stints, so that's not quite so clear cut. Whenever you see cars coming in on the final pit stop and it's going to be a shorter run to the end, there are changes being made. At Charlotte the other night, the No. 24 car was too free to get going, so on the last pit stop we tightened it up because we couldn't be loose for the final restart. It hurt us a little, because we got too tight over the last 20 laps, but I don't think we'd have finished as high as fourth if we hadn't have been good on the restart.
So there's not as much you can do once the race starts, but there are things you can do to prepare and make allowances. At Martinsville, you will probably stay on your last set of tires for 80-100 laps, so you have to ask yourself if that's going to be 80-100 laps of green or broken down into 10-lap stints. What can you do to give your driver the best opportunity? Another important factor is driver feedback. A driver might say the car's loose at the start of the run, 10 laps later he'll say it's OK, then 20 laps in it will be tight, 40 laps in it could be tighter still. If you don't get information from him over the course of a run, then you can't step back and take a 50-lap picture of the car, so you might end up misadjusting it. If he screams “Loose!” at the beginning and you don't ask him how it is at lap 25, you might tighten the car up when it needed to be freer on old tires.
Regarding the double-file restarts, it seems like we've had a lot of races end with short runs, so yeah, we're leaning toward those in the Chase.