I am a long time NASCAR fan, but I always wondered....If Jeff Gordon were to ever get ill (like Tony stewart at Daytona in summer 2008, who is Jeff's back-up/relief driver?
One more thing, can you, the crew chief, or Rick Hendrick (the owner) ever drive the 24 in a race, or a sanctioned test?
Arif, I can assure you that neither Rick nor myself would ever drive the 24 car. Rick is actually a decent driver, and he has a lot of toys he plays with. But me? My problem is I know how a car is supposed to be driven but I cannot tell my hands and feet to do it! I'm very frustrated whenever I get behind the wheel.
In fact, there is no particular driver slated, but we'd definitely look at one of our feeder series drivers; we have a technical agreement with both Stewart-Haas and JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. So this year, Brad Keselowski would be a great option. Next year, I'm not sure who's driving the Nationwide car. I hear rumors that it would be Kelly Bires, but whoever it is, they would be our first choice, and then there are some veteran drivers available out there, so if it had to be for several races, I'm sure Mr. Hendrick could get hold of someone and put the best we can find in the car.
As far as an actual midrace relief driver, I have to say Jeff's a tough guy. Since 1995, I've seen him get extremely ill in the car and he's never asked for a relief driver yet.On top of the pitbox, who else is with you and what are they doing to aid your decision-making? Who is the car 24 braintrust?
I'm almost afraid to answer this, Anthony, because every time I tell someone how good my employees are, I seem to lose them! But I chose this as one of the questions to answer on the basis of giving credit where it's due.
I have two engineers up there with me – Kevin Meendering and Justin Alexander. One runs our simulation program team, and the other is more of a race engineer who helps me with day-to-day decisions such as shocks and car setup. Both have their jobs on the day: one runs fuel mileage and race strategy, and the other is running simulation during the race, giving us ideas on what adjustments might help us on the next pit stop – tire pressures, crossweight, or trackbar alterations, for example.
Usually there's a fourth guy up there in a DuPont uniform, and that's my car chief, Jason Burdett: he's raced a long time, he's been a crew chief, he has a lot of experience and has suggestions and support if we need it. And then I usually have the excitement of having my boss on the pitbox with me each race. Ken Howes is vice president of competition here at Hendrick Motorsports, and he has experience in both Formula 1 and IMSA GTP, and he has unbelievable knowledge of racing and he's a great guy to bounce ideas off, especially when things aren't going right. When you have a hare-brained idea to run a completely different pit stop strategy, Ken is a tried and true guy to ask, and usually I can tell just by his facial expressions how the idea sounds…
Well, thanks to all who sent in questions and sorry I couldn't answer all of them. Our schedule's a tight one, as you'll have noticed… But anything you want to ask regarding NASCAR, just e-mail your questions to email@example.com. Hopefully I've now shown I'm happy to cover all sorts of topics, general or specific. I hope the next four weeks brings in a similarly diverse batch, and I'll answer as many as I can here on RACER.com.
By then, of course, I hope we'll have Jeff leading the Chase…