Zipadelli and team plan to battle through distractions Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Greg Zipadelli will take on the challenge of mentoring rookie Joey Logano next season in the Sprint Cup Series, but for now he is trying to focus on getting the No. 20 Toyota currently driven by Tony Stewart performing better.
Stewart has yet to win this year. While the two-time Cup champion sits sixth in points and would need a couple of disastrous races to fall out of the Chase, he hasn’t come close to teammate Kyle Busch’s eight wins.
Stewart is ending a 10-year relationship with JGR and Zipadelli, while Busch is in his first year after coming from Hendrick Motorsports.
So, what is the No. 18 team of Busch doing that the No. 20 team isn’t?
“We don’t necessarily run everything that they do and vice versa,” Zipadelli said. “But I think the biggest thing is you have a driver over there that’s going to prove to the world that he is better than who they’ve put in his car [at Hendrick].
“You’ve got a team that has been through hell for four or five years. They are all working well together. They all want to be together, and that’s a big thing. They’re not sitting there talking about contracts, they’re not talking about this and that. They’ve got all their stuff done. They’re racing together and moving forward. There’s no distractions with a lot to prove over there, and that’s a great recipe for success.”
Zipadelli said he is still trying to figure out which changes work and which ones don’t on NASCAR’s new car.
“I’m still learning stuff about the [car of tomorrow],” Zipadelli said. “It just continuously changes week after week. You don’t do necessarily the same thing you did last week. You’re just always trying to make things better. Some days it’s frustrating. Some days it’s exciting because it’s challenging.”
The exciting days have come more often as Stewart has had several decent performances in the last couple of months.
“Fortunately, the last six weeks or so, we’ve been OK,” Zipadelli said following the announcement that Logano would drive the No. 20 car next year. “I think we’ve been getting better. The good news is we’ve got room to improve, but we’ve been pretty consistent the last six or eight weeks, and that’s the important part.”
Zipadelli can only hope what works well with Stewart will also work well with Logano. He is excited about Logano’s potential, considering his performance in testing and his limited Nationwide appearances, but the crew chief can’t expect Logano to be a Stewart clone.
“Tony’s just amazing at being aware of his surroundings, moving around on the race track, making stuff happen,” Zipadelli said. “His instincts are phenomenal. That’s what makes him what he his.
“Driving up on a guy on a restart or five laps into it and there are two people two-wide and he has the opportunity to fill the hole and take the place, he doesn’t think about it. It just happens.”
Can Logano do that?
“I don’t know – he seems to be when I was watching him the other night,” Zipadelli said about Logano’s performance in the Nationwide Series race at Bristol. “He got in a car that didn’t have any laps, got it tore up and still did a good job and did things that I thought were fairly impressive.”
Zipadelli’s entire crew returns for 2009.
“It was hard not to go and work with Tony some more, but when you really look at it, this is an opportunity for me,” Ziapdelli said. “It’s still hard to think about where you should be, what’s right, what’s wrong.
“But I’m excited about what we have. I’m excited about the rest of the year." Scenedaily.com
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