ALAN, YOUR TEAM WON THE REGULAR-SEASON AND YOU HAVE MOMENTUM HEADING INTO THE PLAYOFFS. HOW DO YOU KEEP THAT MOMENTUM UP? IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT THAT YOU GUYS HAVE PLANNED FOR THE PLAYOFFS?
“You certainly want to keep performing at a high level. You just always try to find a little bit extra in the details when the playoffs come. It’s a long, 10-week push that you just go all in. Just a little bit more effort, a little bit more detail, and a little bit more focus. At least try to save some extra throughout the regular-season so you have that opportunity.
We’re ready to go and we certainly think we’re in a position to do that. But there’s a long way to go and a lot of races left.”
IN PAST YEARS, YOU’D PROBABLY HAVE ALL YOUR CARS SCHEDULED OUT FOR THE PLAYOFFS.. LIKE THIS CAR IS GOING TO THIS RACE TRACK, THIS CAR IS GOING TO THAT TRACK. DO YOU HAVE THAT AT ALL WITH THIS CAR?
“No.. what you’re describing, we typically would have our cars laid out and we would typically try to add some new cars into the fleet. INAUDIBLE..
All of that is kind of gone, really, with inventory and inventory restrictions. Basically schedule the cars so it’s most effective and efficient for shop flow, more so than performance.”
WITH A SEASON YOU’VE HAD, WHERE YOU’VE WON THE MOST RACES AND YOU WON THE REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BY A MARGIN.. IF YOU DON’T GO ON A DEEP PLAYOFF RUN AND MAKE IT TO PHOENIX, DO YOU LOOK IT AS A DISAPPOINTMENT OR DO YOU JUST NOT LOOK AT THAT WITH JUST THE FORMAT AND THAT IT’S UNPREDICTABLE.
“If we don’t make it to Phoenix, I would be disappointed in any circumstances. That’s always the goal and there are steps along the way; things you want to achieve, benchmarks you want to make. Certainly we’ve checked quite a few of those boxes. But ultimately regardless, if we didn’t get bonus points from points positions and only made it in on points, been in Ryan Blaney’s position, Austin Dillon’s or whoever; if we were in that same position, our expectation would be to make it to Phoenix. The position we’re in now, that’s certainly the case.”
I’M DOING A STORY ON THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS’ PIT CREW COMBINE AND HOW THEY PUT THE TEAMS TOGETHER. DO YOU EVER SEE THE COMBINE ITSELF AND WHAT THE CREW GUYS GO THROUGH TO BECOME A PART OF THE PIT CREW AT HMS?
“Yeah, I’ve seen that. Not in a while, but yes. It was kind of revolutionary.. the timeframe is hard for me to think about, but probably 10 years ago or so. We do a lot of recruiting from colleges; bring guys in that have really no car experience or racing experience whatsoever. When I started, everyone on the pit crew worked on the cars and had some shop job or road job. We started transitioning out of that and bringing more dedicated athletes. Kind of moved the opposite direction.. instead of having guys that knew how to work on cars and train them how to pit, we got guys that knew how to pit and trained them how to work on cars.
We’ve got some great pit crew members, team members, out of that program and it’s been pretty successful for us. It’s a good opportunity for people to get involved in the sport.”
THIS WEEK, NASCAR ANNOUCED THE DVP CLOCK IS GOING FROM SIX TO 10 MINUTES. WHAT DOES AN ADDITIONAL FOUR MINUTES MEAN AND WHAT KIND OF AN IMPACT CAN IT OR CAN IT NOT MAKE?
“Yeah, I think Charlotte would be the best example. We had minor damage.. we had a tie rod that was bent. The bolt was twisted in the mount and we didn’t get it out in time. I think in those situations, you’ll have an opportunity to make those repairs at least and be back in the race. I don’t know that, in extreme situations, it’s going to make a big difference, but I do think in some situations. That’s the best example that I have.. you have a car that basically has no damage be out of the race probably isn’t the best thing in the world. That was their point to rectify that. It’s not going to encompass all cases, but it certainly opens up some opportunity.”
A COUPLE THINGS IN REGARDS TO CAR INVENTORY. YOU TALKED ABOUT IT BEING EFFICIENT AND MORE FOR THE SHOP. OBVIOUSLY THIS CAR IS GOING TO GET BEAT UP THIS WEEKEND, BUT IF YOU GET THROUGH IT FINE, HOW QUICKLY COULD THIS CAR GET TURNED AROUND? IS THIS SOMETHING THAT COULD BE USED IN THE SECOND ROUND OR THIS CAR WOULDN’T BE READY UNTIL THE THIRD ROUND?
“It’s just based on your circumstances. If that was the only car we had, we could race it next week. It’s just how deep do you want to go into it, how far do you want to take it apart and what do you want to do. You don’t have to do those things. You could ultimately – if you don’t have damage – you could take it to the car wash, wash it off and race it again. It’s up to you and how deep you want to take it. Ultimately, we could turn it around as quick as we wanted to turn it. To me, we don’t do that because we don’t need to and it would make life more difficult.
I don’t know BJ’s (McLeod) situation, but I’ll just use BJ as an example. If you’re BJ and you probably don’t have the full allotment of inventory, then certainly his circumstances are much different and he’s handling it in different ways. For us and I’m sure every car in the playoffs; they have a full allotment of cars, so there’s really no reason to turn it fast. That’s just going to put more strain on your work load that you really don’t need.
Pick a race and we could have it ready, it’s just do you want to.”
IF YOU HAVE AN ACCIDENT AND YOU LOSE A CAR JUST FROM HAVING TO DO SIGNIFICANT REPAIRS TO A CAR AND IT KIND OF FALLS OUT OF THE ROTATION, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT A TEAM IN THE PLAYOFFS?
“We’re quickly approaching a number that it’s not going to matter because you’re going to have enough cars to make it with running each one of your cars a single race. So I don’t think it’s super significant at all right now. It was really more of a hindrance early in the season when you had less inventory. When you have inventory now, in a few races here, we’ll be able to run every race to the end with the cars we have. I don’t see where anybody should be in a bind. Yeah, if you go on a streak and wreck a car every one of those first three races, then your inventory is probably in trouble, but you’re going to be out anyway.”
YOU’VE ALWAYS HAD A WINNING STRATEGY BEFORE IN THESE PLAYOFFS. HOW DOES THE NEW CAR PLAY INTO THAT STRATEGY? DOES IT CHANGE IT OR DO YOU STILL DRAW ON THINGS THAT WERE SUCCESSFUL LAST TIME?
“I think just the biggest difference is we would always try to line up some technological advancements that made our cars run better or you’d want to unveil some upgrades throughout the playoffs throughout the different rounds so you could continuously get into a better position in comparison to your competition. Now, obviously that’s not happening. It’s still about refining the car to best operate for the track conditions and knowing how to take those same parts and pieces and make them a little better.
The difference now is, instead of coming out with something new or something you’ve evolved to, you’re just trying to find a little bit better way to put it together better than the competitors; try to get the balance of the car just a little better and get better every run.
It’s different, but similar.”
CHASE HAS A LOT MORE EMOTIONS IN THE RACE CAR THAN WE’VE EVER SEEN. HOW HARD DO YOU HAVE TO WORK TO KEEP THOSE IN CHECK OR IS IT A GOOD ENOUGH THING THAT YOU KIND OF LEAVE HIM ALONE?
“Maybe .001 percent of my time goes to trying to regulate him. He’s super easy and he handles himself really well. He’s a human being.. certainly there are things that affect him. As friends, we talk through some of those things; just try to be there either to listen or give my advice. But yeah, he’s by far the easiest driver I’ve ever been around. It’s not even close to comparison.”