Ahead of the NASCAR Cup championship showdown in Phoenix featuring 2 Hendrick Motorsports Drivers and Two Joe Gibbs Racing Drivers…..an interview with Jeff Andrews from Hendrick Motorsports and Wally Brown from Joe Gibbs Racing
Jeff Andrews – Hendrick Motorsports General Manager
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us.
JEFF ANDREWS: Good afternoon. Thank you for having me.
THE MODERATOR: Before we get started, an incredible season for Hendrick Motorsports. I believe 16 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series between all four drivers. Tell us a little bit what this season has felt like from your position and how you plan to approach this weekend in Phoenix.
JEFF ANDREWS: Yeah, first of all the season to this point has been one of our best on record. We’re Obviously, very proud of the accomplishments of the organization as a whole, but also I think one of the things we’re most proud of is when you look at us as a group, what our four teams have been able to accomplish together as an organization, that’s one of the biggest things that we strive for at the start of any season, but this year in particular as we made some different moves within the company over the last couple years, change some things the way we do work-wise in the shop.
It was very important for us to not only improve or performance as a company but overall how all four of our teams work and collaborate very closely together to try to achieve success like this. It’s really been very broad across the company. That’s one of the things we’re the most proud of in terms of 2021. I think as we approach Phoenix this weekend certainly every team’s goal when they start the season is to be able to get to Phoenix and have a chance.
For us to get to Phoenix and have a chance with two cars just further puts a staple on the success of our season. Certainly the perfect season would be to send all four of them to Phoenix and have all four of them competing for a championship because we feel they’re all worthy. I think we’ve shown that in recent weeks, whether it be road course or intermediate, whatever track that’s been on. We’ve had success really and good performance from all four of our race teams.
We’ll just look to continue that on this weekend in Phoenix. Obviously, a huge effort of cars going into Phoenix here the next couple days. We got to load up pretty quick and get out of here sometime late Tuesday night. We’re looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Related to the Chevrolet winning the manufacturers championship, what does that mean for Hendrick Motorsports to help that become a reality?
JEFF ANDREWS: Yeah, certainly. Obviously, very, very proud of our heritage and our history with Chevrolet and our relationship there. Obviously, it goes even outside of racing, in Mr. Hendrick’s involvement in car dealerships.
Really from our perspective, to represent that brand and that company the way that we have this year, be able to contribute significantly to that manufacturers championship, help them win their 40th manufacturers championship, we’re very proud of that.
Obviously, very proud to have them as one of our partners, a key technical partner for us. Just a tremendous amount put into this through Chevrolet in the recent years of course with the 2020 Camaro that we’ve been racing here recently. Of course the recent announcements by Chevrolet, Mr. Royce, Mr. Campbell, everyone there with a huge commitment real close to our property here with a hundred thousand plus square feet building that will be their new technical center, hopefully online later in summer.
Obviously, to be involved with them and represent them that way, for us to have a big part in bringing them that manufacturers championship for 2021 is very important, very special to us. Of course, we like to say thank you to them for all their support, Mr. Royce and Mr. Campbell, that whole group, for what they do for us to make it possible for us to go to Phoenix.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
What was it about the Cliff Daniels and Kyle Larson that you thought was going to work, why you paired them together?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think it’s interesting. Cliff has been a guy here who Obviously, through his career came up through an engineering role, a lead engineer on a race team through Chad. Cliff carries a lot of those same attributes of Chad. I have a lot of respect for everything that Chad has done for this company as a crew chief and now serving in our role of vice president of competition.
But Cliff, his unique personality and management style, very detailed, very engineering driven person. Holding people very accountable for their positions, demands the best from them, and receives that from them out of respect, which is a very unique talent from a leader not only within our companies but all companies.
I think when we looked at bringing Kyle into our organization, we looked at the youth side, something that was new for us. Certainly Cliff in that role, wanting to kind of take that 48 team and build a new team around Cliff, we supported him in that, getting the right players in place for him.
Obviously, you take the talent of a Kyle Larson and put it in there with that youth, kind of that newness, what Cliff was trying to build there, it just worked. It works great. A ton of respect for those two individuals between each other and ton of admiration from Kyle towards Cliff, what Cliff not only has accomplished but the way he conducts himself and the way he runs his race team and the way his team members respond to him.
What was the point this season when you knew this pairing was going to be what they became, the sky’s the limit?
JEFF ANDREWS: Obviously, they came out of the gate pretty quick there with a win at Las Vegas. I think when you started to get through the year, you could just really start to see as the year went kind of the confidence and trust in each other build, particularly through the early part of the summer I think is really when I noticed it in some of our post-race competition meetings.
Kyle was completely bought into Cliff and his concepts and his beliefs. Really the two of them began. You start to see a confidence in each other as they began to build and kind of roll through the summer. That would be my observation of that.
Going into this year, what would constitute a successful season for them, in your opinion?
JEFF ANDREWS: If you look at probably the history of our company certainly with any of our race teams, a multi-win season would be a success. I don’t think we ever, ever dreamed of sitting here with 16 points wins right now in 2021.
I would have to say if you were to tell them ahead of time they were going to win three to five races as a duo, they would be pretty satisfied with that, right? To be sitting where they currently are today headed into Phoenix with a chance to win their first championship together, Obviously, it’s been an amazing year.
Hey, look, we’re going to go to Phoenix and do our very best, and we’re headed there to win a championship. When we walk away there on Sunday night, whatever the results are, I’m so proud of both of them for the way they’ve come together, what they’ve accomplished this year. It’s just been truly amazing.
How does that team go from not winning a race with Jimmie Johnson to nine wins with Kyle Larson?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think there’s a lot that went on behind the scenes there. I think in fairness to Jimmie, I’m not sure we had everything put together there at that particular time.
It takes a little bit of time to make all those things work. Obviously, Cliff had the advantage of kind of being with his group of guys and being with Jimmie and kind of getting that race team formed, getting it kind of going to his standards.
He still continues to tweak and work on it today, but certainly nothing can be taken away from Jimmie Johnson, our seven-time champion, everything he did for our company. I would have to look back at it on our end and say we just didn’t have things quite together there like we should have for Jimmie in his final year there.
That would be my take on it.
Cliff said that he constantly thought he might not get a chance to work with another driver after not winning with Jimmie. Did you ever consider maybe he just wasn’t going to be the right guy?
JEFF ANDREWS: No, I don’t think so. I think we talked about it for quite a while. We had several of us involved in that decision. Mr. Hendrick, of course, Marshall, Jeff Gordon, myself. There was just kind of an aura and a persona there about Cliff that you kind of know when someone is kind of your people, so to speak.
Obviously, Cliff had spent a lot of time here, come up through our system. We had a lot of belief in him, a lot of confidence in him. We were willing to stand by him for quite some time and make sure that we were giving him the tools and the resources and the people, getting that all in place.
Once we did that and got the right things behind him, insert Kyle Larson, you got some pretty good success there in their first year together.
How has the addition of Chad Knaus to the competition team helped Hendrick Motorsports? What does he bring that may be new or different there?
JEFF ANDREWS: Yeah, so Obviously, Chad brings many, many, many years. The obvious thing’s on top of the pit box. I think one of the most important things that I enjoy about working with Chad is just his passion and racer mentality.
I think for many of us that have been here many years, Chad and I have worked here a long, long time together, a couple things. First of all, there’s a tremendous amount of trust and respect between the two of us kind of in senior competition level positions here at the company. I think we always feel like we have each other’s back. We work well together in the fact that we like to think progressive and aggressively. We both like to push people in our different departments.
Again, he’s got a tremendous passion and he bleeds that passion out into the shop and the folks that he works with and the folks that he touches. He pushes them every day to be better.
Subsequently, that pushes our race cars to be better whether it’s physically putting a vehicle together or some of our more technical folks within our engineering groups and different areas of our company. He’s kind of touching all of those things kind of at his level and putting a passion into those folks, so to speak, to succeed and be better.
It’s been great. Obviously, he’s done a great job. I think our record speaks for that. But away from the records and away from the stats and the numbers, I’ve seen the kind of things that Chad has been doing behind the scenes, am supportive. He comes to me about things, we consult with each other, offer each other some guidance and confidence in each other in the direction we’re going.
You mentioned the record. How much do you think Chad being a part of the competition team now has played a part in the success this season?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think it certainly has had an impact without question. I don’t know how to put a specific number on it. I think if you look back towards the end of 2020, really as a company we started to hit on some things there late summer for our company, started bringing some improved performance through the summer, through the Playoffs, that ultimately culminated in a championship last year with Alan and Chase, the No. 9 NAPA team.
I know we had some things going there last year. The addition of Chad in 2022 Obviously, we were just able to take a lot of those things and keep going with them and take them to another level.
I’m not sure how to assign a specific win number or how many wins would we or would we not have been Chad. I just know that Mr. Hendrick will talk to us and preach to us about two things within our company, it’s about people and it’s about your communication. I think in both of those areas we made an improvement to our company by putting Chad in that position.
You brought in a new driver this year. He started to win everything, even on the team with the reigning champion. Did that create any sort of issues in competition meetings or elsewhere?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think Obviously, success is very motivating. Whether that’s coming from whatever team that’s coming from, I think if we’ve put the right environment together within our company, and we’ve done a good job at promoting all four of our teams, drivers and crew chiefs. We’ve done a good job of giving them all the technical tools they need to go out and run well.
The hope is that all four of those would feed off of each other, and that certainly a certain percentage grade of success in one of the teams does not become a distraction or a hindrance to the other team.
I think the unique thing about the environment that Mr. Hendrick breeds here within this company, it’s been truly something that each one of our teams has fed off of actually, the success of Kyle, Cliff, the No. 5 team, has only enabled our other teams to rise.
Chase and Alan both are both very complimentary about the job that Kyle and Cliff have done with their race team and their season. But at the same point in time they remain focused and engaged on race wins for themselves.
I certainly think there’s plenty of situations we could go back to with the 9 where they were very close to having many more wins notched up for the season. They’re focused forward now on Phoenix. We just ended up with a great competition meeting here about two hours ago talking about Phoenix and length.
I feel like everything that Chase talked about today, Alan talked about today, Cliff and Kyle, we were very engaged with each other. Looking forward. Ultimately we’d like to be racing each other in the closing laps of Phoenix. That’s our goal.
Was that an in-person competition meeting?
JEFF ANDREWS: It was, yep. Everybody was here.
All four teams?
JEFF ANDREWS: All four teams, all four drivers.
Can you talk about Alex Bowman. I imagine you guys like him. Is he a hack?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think Alex has done a great job for us. He’s in the midst of a four-win season. Got a chance in Phoenix to make it a fifth win. By any stature in this sport by any race team, whether you’re in the Championship 4 or not, we are super proud of what Greg and Alex have done this year.
Certainly Denny is a tremendous talent in this sport. Obviously, he is headed off to compete for a championship in Homestead [sic]. That speaks for itself.
I think Alex will tell you he had no intent for what happened yesterday. There were a couple situations earlier when those two were racing each other where he made the right decision. There in the closing laps, it was something similar that we’ve seen before there in the closing laps happen and change the outcome of someone’s race. It’s happened to us. We’ve been on the receiving end of that before.
We’ll go forward. Both of those guys are extremely talented.
To answer your question, no, Alex is not a hack. He’s a tremendous talent in this sport and has done a lot for our company and Ally and Chevrolet. Look forward to see them racing in Phoenix.
I figured he wasn’t a hack considering you kept resigning him.
JEFF ANDREWS: Yes.
You’re an engine guy, that’s your background. How much did it help Hendrick’s turnaround to do the combo engine deal with the ECR engines? We’ve seen the performance pick up in the last year.
JEFF ANDREWS: I think to directly relate that performance, I think most crew chiefs will gladly tell you if you’re going faster down a straightaway, they’ll take that any day in time. We’ll continue to work on that.
In specifics to the relationship, without question combining the development efforts of the ECR and the HMS engine programs, really start to focus our time, our money, our efforts into really some specific areas has had a tremendous impact on the performance.
I commend all the key players involved in both of those relationships for how well that has worked and how well they’ve engaged with each other.
We’ve got some great things that we’re looking at going forward. I really think we just really kind of touched the tip of the iceberg there, so to speak. We’ve got some really good things in the future we’re looking forward to.
Also there’s a third party there, and that’s Chevrolet. This is something that Chevrolet has pushed and has wanted for some time. Along with myself and Richard Gilmore, we’ve talked about it for some time how we could do this, how we could make this work.
I really give Chevrolet a lot of credit for getting us together to say, Hey, folks, we need to be better as an OEM. We want to be the best we can be as an OEM. We have two companies here with a tremendous amount of money and talent and technical tools for Chevrolet and NASCAR, particularly on the power train side. How can we get that together and reap the rewards of those resources and all those technical tools?
I use a quote from Mr. Hendrick. He said, If you can get all the smart people in one room together, get them talking and communicating, you’ll be better for that.
I think that’s what we’ve started to realize and will continue to work on going forward.
On the hack question, do you think there’s a little professional jealousy going on between veterans like Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin when you have the youngest, brightest bulbs in the room as far as talent goes, brightest future, a little professional jealousy going on that your guys are continuing to become targets for some of the veterans in the sport?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think first I would tell you that I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talent of both Denny and Kevin. Was fortunate enough to be close to Kevin and Rodney in that Stewart-Haas team. Fortunate to win a championship with them. I’ve got a ton of respect for Kevin. Never had the opportunity to work with Denny, but his record on the track speaks for itself in terms of what he’s capable of.
I’m not sure how they do or don’t feel about our driver lineup and the youth there. I know here at Hendrick Motorsports we’re extremely happy not only about the youthful aspect of it, but about the talent, and maybe more importantly the camaraderie we have going between those four guys.
I mentioned a while ago our competition meeting. Those have grown into this open collaboration and communication session for not only our crew chiefs and our technical leaders but also our drivers to hear the four of them sitting there across from each other and talking to each other at the level that they are. We’ve never had that before at Hendrick Motorsports. We’re really proud of that. We want to continue to grow and nurture that environment.
I’m sure there will continue to be comments about that youth and that inexperience, but I think all those guys, whether it be Denny or Kevin, whoever that is, have gone through growing phases where they have done things or made mistakes on the track or whatever that’s caused them ultimately to be better race drivers and be the champions and professionals they are today.
Wally gave Hendrick Motorsports the nod, saying you are the favorites because Obviously, you all have been the fastest all year long. Can you handicap the chances for Hendrick this week and the confidence in the 750 package.
JEFF ANDREWS: First, in terms of Wally’s comment, I have a ton of respect for Wally, what that whole Joe Gibbs Racing group has been able to do over there through the years.
As far as us going in with the advantage, personally I don’t see it that way. There may be statistically that you could make that argument. From ourselves and how we’re approaching it, we’re going out there to race with Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the best teams in the history of this sport. Certainly two drivers and race teams and crew chiefs that we compete against today.
Our approach is not having the advantage. Our approach is to go into Phoenix, keep our focus on being better than we were in Martinsville, being better than we were at our last mile track, so to speak, and focus on our race teams, focus on our pit stops, just making sure that we go in and execute and check all the boxes on our end that we’re supposed to do.
So many times as we’ve witnessed before through the years in these championship races that you get there and you have the performance or you had a dominant year, but when it’s time to put everything on the line, there’s some detail that was missed there in some part of the day for us.
This week we’re going to really take our time and make sure we’ve for the all those boxes checked, that we’re going in prepared, that we’ve got folks’ mind in the right spot. We’re beyond proud of what our pit crews have accomplished this year. We’re sitting there overall with the 5 team being first in terms of the average stop time. I think the 9 team is third. We’re really confident in those guys, making sure they’ve got their mind in the right spot.
We got to go out and execute. We know there’s so many things that can happen with tires or cautions falling at the wrong time that can completely just change the outcome of that race.
We’re going to take it one practice session at a time there. I think we’re fortunate enough to have a little track time there on Friday. We’re looking forward to that. Getting on the track Saturday to qualify, and Sunday we’ll come back in there and put it all on the line and do the very best we can. Hopefully we’ve taken all of our experiences and things we’ve done good or bad from the season and we’ve put all that together and we’re prepared as we possibly can be for Sunday.
A year ago Hendrick walked away with the championship. With so much that’s been made about the overall performance this year for all four teams, qualifying, is it safe to say that Hendrick Motorsports is back, back where you should be, amongst the contenders?
JEFF ANDREWS: I think from our perspective, somebody asked me that question late last year after the championship, and I think back for us is consistency and consistently being at the front on a weekly basis, winning races, competing for championships.
Certainly if we can go out there this weekend and win a consecutive championship, second consecutive championship for Mr. Hendrick and our organization, I don’t know that we like to use the word ‘back’ around here because I don’t see us resting on that.
Certainly by our standards the consistency in winning, the consistency of performing at a high level is something that we would consider back where we need to be, back where we’re expected, where Mr. Hendrick expects us to be as a company.
We’re now on the eve of the full transfer from the current car to the NextGen car. As far as infrastructure and personnel, what has the switch-overlooked like so far for your team? How will Hendrick look different as an organization as far as personnel and structure in 2022?
JEFF ANDREWS: That’s a great question and a great point. I’m not sure that a lot of folks realize not only what HMS and Joe Gibbs Racing are going through right now in terms of preparing to go to Phoenix to run for a championship, but in the background, not far from where these two teams on our side are preparing cars to go run for a championship at Phoenix. There’s a whole group of people not too far away working on 2022 and the NextGen car, getting ready for an upcoming test here in Charlotte.
It’s quite an interesting time because parts and pieces for the current Gen-6 car have already started leaving our shops and going into crates and boxes, already started going to warehouses. We’re already starting to make room for the parts and pieces of what we will be racing with in the future.
I think that’s a great perspective to talk about because it is a time when you’re trying to balance two things here. You’re trying to go win a championship in the car in the current configuration in which you raced many, many years, and at the same time we’re trying to get ready for our future and what that holds.
We’re fortunate enough here at Hendrick Motorsports, as I’m sure a lot of race teams are, to be able to have the resources to dedicate a pretty large group of folks to getting that car up and going.
There’s a lot of things that go on in the background versus just buying a car and putting it together and going racing. There’s tools, fixtures, how you hold the car, parts and pieces of the car. There’s an underwing, undertray on the car that’s large in size. How do you roll that around the shop? Just a few of the many, many things that will be different around here in the future.
We’re trying to prepare. We’re trying to do the best we can for all that, and at the same point in time through these upcoming tests through the winter trying to give each one of our race teams a chance to go to the track, be around the car, use the car. Some things on the pit box will need to be different, the way you Jack the car up, the way the car is held up in the air, the way the car comes apart if you wreck the car, have significant work to do on the car. It’s all different and all something that none of us have ever experienced before.
Yeah, there’s kind of two things going on there right now. I think that’s a really good question.
Do you expect a significant reduction in crew members and staff under the NextGen car? If there is someone who feels like their job might be made obsolete by the NextGen car, what would you like to convey to them?
JEFF ANDREWS: Yeah, no, we’re not currently looking at any significant headcount reductions. We will without question have a lot of folks that we’re retasking and repurposing towards some different initiatives around the campus. Really from our perspective we want to go race this car for a year and we really want to understand how to race this car for a year before we make any decisions like that.
We’re looking forward to keeping the great technical group that we have here and the great group of mechanics that we have here working on these cars.
Will some people be doing the exact same thing they did this year? No. We’re creating opportunities within areas of this car where we think we need to be strong and where we think we need some attention, then let’s just go race it. Let’s understand what it takes to turn this car around between races, what it takes to race the car on the racetrack.
What you see with teams, personnel, people, early conversations with NASCAR, I think we’ll be very close to the same amount of people at the track. That’s our stance going forward.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Wally Drown – Joe Gibbs Racing Competition Director
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate you spending a few minutes. Congratulations on having two cars from Joe Gibbs Racing headed to the Championship 4 this weekend in Phoenix.
Tell us a little bit from your position on how you guys will approach this week in the shop.
WALLY BROWN: Well, I mean, this week is kind of pretty much over actually already. The haulers leave tomorrow. Most of the preparation has been going on for weeks now. Just hoping to at least get one car in the Final 4. We’ve been preparing for probably five, six weeks.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll now go to questions.
Wally, Obviously, Martin won this race in the spring. Would you say the cars are fairly similar to what you brought in the spring or have things even developed this year that they’re not that similar?
WALLY BROWN: Yeah, I mean, you know how this sport works. You’re always working to get better. To say the cars are the same is not true. We’ve learned things. There’s been other rule updates. We’ve had to make soft changes and things like that.
They’re never the exact same.
Do you think having won there in the spring gives you an advantage at all?
WALLY BROWN: I don’t know if necessarily an advantage. I think we do have some good notes and we do feel good about it. I feel like we made a good point to do a lot of work after that first race, prepare for some things for the fall to be prepared.
I feel good about it, but also I felt good about this race last year heading into it, and we didn’t fare out too well (smiling).
Joe Gibbs Racing has had multiple cars in the Final 4 many years now. I think this is the third time. You’re going against Hendrick Motorsports. First time they’ve had multiple cars in this round. Does that give you any advantage how to manage this with two cars competing for the championship at the same time?
WALLY BROWN: Yeah, I think experience is always good, right? Someone told me today JGR is the only team to actually make it to the Final 4 like every year or something like that. That’s pretty cool to hear.
I think every year we go through this process, we learn a little bit. In some ways having multiple cars is good, but in some ways it’s bad, right? You only have so many resources. You can only put those to so much use. If you had four cars in there, you’re going to dilute your resources.
It’s got its pluses and minuses.
With the 18 not making it to this round, do you anticipate any changes with the pit crews or anything, taking somebody off that team and moving it to one of the Final 4 teams?
WALLY BROWN: No, I don’t anticipate any changes for this weekend, no.
Specific to Denny, he’s been in this position before both in this format and then in 2010 in a different format. Why do you think he can’t get that next level?
WALLY BROWN: Obviously, there’s a lot of circumstances that led up to winning a championship, right? He’s been in the position a bunch of times, like you said. I think everything just has to click on that day.
I think there’s things that are up to him, things up to the team, the pit crew. There’s so many variables. You just have to have that day for it to all work out.
I don’t necessarily think it’s a Denny thing, I think it’s a team thing.
What can the team do to be all around come Sunday?
WALLY BROWN: I mean, number one, learn from your mistakes, right? We’ve tried to evaluate all the mistakes we’ve made in the past, try not to repeat those. That’s step one. Everyone just work as hard as they can, try to put the best foot forward.
I think we’re prepared. They’re still working on the cars a little bit now, but I think we’ll be ready this weekend for sure.
He’s a team owner now. Has that changed anything as it applies to Denny as a Joe Gibbs Racing driver either good or bad? Maybe he brings a different perspective to the table.
WALLY BROWN: I think, if anything, it’s been a positive this year. I think that he gets to see both sides. When you’re just a driver, you just kind of know what you’re dealing with that week, what you have against you. When you’re a team owner, I think he realizes the amount of work and effort.
Not that you don’t necessarily appreciate your team, but I think he realizes, like, these guys, they’re after it, they’re working all the time. I think he stepped it up, as well. If they’re going to put that much effort in, I’m going to as well. I think that has really shown on the track. He’s been really consistent and really fast every week. So I think it’s been good.
Going to Phoenix, 750. Denny last year made clear it was a tall task with that package, you were better at 550. This year he said it’s reversed. Do you feel more confident that you’ll have something to contend with at Phoenix?
WALLY BROWN: Yeah, definitely. Like he said, I think we got beat so bad at Phoenix last year, we put all our focus on that for this year. As a result, we’re not as good on the 550s. That just shows how competitive this is. If you don’t work on one aspect of your racing game, you’re going to fall behind.
Luckily we were able to get two cars in, so I think that extra effort hopefully will pay off this weekend.
When you think about Joe Gibbs Racing versus Hendrick Motorsports, how do you handicap it? What’s the strength of you guys and them? What’s the flip side of that, the weaknesses, if there are any?
WALLY BROWN: It’s kind of interesting. Usually a lot of times JGR might be the favorite going into a championship race. I think we’re definitely the underdogs. We have to beat the guy, Kyle Larson, that has won so many races, been so dominant this year. Then you have Chase, the reigning champion at this track. We’re definitely the underdog.
From our perspective, to answer your question I guess, we just don’t have the raw speed they’ve had this year, to be honest. We’re trying to figure that out. They’ve just beaten us, just faster everywhere.
I think for us, we’re going to have to be able to do our best job, run a very clean race, have good pit stops, execute well. Hopefully we can run with them.
You referenced the focus on the 750 tracks this season. Was that easier to do this year because of the parts freeze, last year of the car? Did that allow you to be able to focus more on the 750 and maybe not lose as much as what you would have lost in a typical year on the 550s?
WALLY BROWN: I think that’s a fair statement to make. At the same time even with the rule freeze and things like that, you’re always trying to find every little advantage. It might be a setup, a little gain in the wind tunnel or whatever it maybe.
Certainly you’re not making radical changes. I think as the field closes up, everybody is so close, it just takes a little bit to get that edge.
What have been the challenges in maximizing the car, going for a championship with multiple vehicles, but preparing for the NextGen?
WALLY BROWN: I mean, that’s a great question. We talk about that a lot because you have your long-term objectives and your short-term. In my position I’ve always worked with the race teams. We’ve just kind of focused on the week-to-week stuff, the next race or the next races three weeks out.
Fortunately we have a great engineering staff. Our production staff, they’re kind of more focused on the long-term.
I think you do have to split up those resources. It’s a balance game, right? You don’t want to put all effort into this, then really struggle with the new car.
I think we’re kind of mixed. I think we might be a little behind on our work with the new car, but hopefully we can win the championship and then catch up.
You were talking about comparing the drivers. Hendrick has everything going for them right now, two really young drivers. On the other side of that, would you put up the veteran experience against the young guns?
WALLY BROWN: Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question as well. I feel like if we weren’t going to have practice and everything else this weekend, maybe it might give us a little bit of an edge. But I think with the practice session, qualifying, I think it’s going to be kind of back — I think everyone is going to get their fair chance to work their cars out, get the setup the way they want it.
I think it’s going to be pretty fair that way.
Do you think there’s going to be any team orders going on with the two other drivers for each of the organizations, a Chevy situation ganging up against the Toyotas on Sunday?
WALLY BROWN: Yeah, I mean, I don’t really think so. I think that’s something we pretty much stayed away from. I know NASCAR in the past has talked to us about that. It’s not a speedway race. I just think that typically what you see in this race is the fastest cars are at the front. They kind of migrate there. It’s one of those tracks where the cream will rise to the top.
I don’t see that being any kind of issue.
Are you spread a little more thin? Hendrick doesn’t have to worry about the Xfinity championship, you guys do.
WALLY BROWN: Yeah, I mean, I think we have enough staffing that it’s a separate issue. There’s no negatives to that. In some ways it’s a positive because we’ll learn from their race, be able to debrief with those guys. If anything, it helps us a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Wally, thank you so much for your time. Good luck this weekend in Phoenix.
WALLY BROWN: Thanks, appreciate it.