NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 Talladega Superspeedway


RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF NO. 07 JACK DANIEL’S IMPALA SS, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL IMPALA SS, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR IMPALA SS AND NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway to discuss the recent the decision to swap the crew chiefs and crews of the No. 07 and No. 29 teams.

THIS SWAP ON YOUR CREWS, IS THIS MORE A SENSE OF URGENCY ON YOUR PART OR WAS IT PRESSURE MAYBE A LITTLE BIT BY THE SPONSORS? “I think it’s the whole sport itself. In today’s environment you can’t wait sometime half-way through the season. With the point structure like it is you’ve got to make changes to make the Chase. We only have so many races before the Chase. I originally started looking at Bristol where we were at with our race teams. Four of our best race tracks were Bristol, Texas, Martinsville and Phoenix. When I went to Montana I made up my mind out there that right after Texas I was coming back and making the changes and we started the motion right after Texas and it took some time. Mike Dillon and Will Lind both worked through this with me and we made a decision of what we were going to do. We owe it to our sponsors and our fans to run better than we are and I felt these were the two teams right now that were the weakest. They’re great race teams. Both of them are great race teams. The No. 07 with Gil Martin and those guys have finished in the top-five two years in a row in the points. Kevin (Harvick) finished fourth last year with his team in the points. Sometimes a little chemistry or sometimes a little change makes a big difference. I’m not only doing it for these two race teams, we’re doing it to help RCR (Richard Childress Racing) as a whole.”

KEVIN AND TODD (BERRIER) HAVE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL TOGETHER WHEN DID IT STOP WORKING WITH THAT COMBINATION? “I don’t know. I don’t know that it has really. We just need to fix all of our race teams and this is the first step. I’m not above making more changes if that’s what it takes. I’m going to be looking hard at everything. We don’t have a choice. We have to be competitive.”

WHY DO YOU THINK THIS WILL WORK? “You know sometimes it’s kind of like a divorce, when a man and woman are getting a divorce and they think they’re both giving 100 percent then the first thing she wants to do is get in the tanning bed and lose 30 pounds. He goes and gets rid of his gut and a sports car. Maybe the change it’s always worked for us in the past and hopefully this will make it work.”

WHAT IF IT DOESN’T? “We don’t have an option. It has to work. There’s no option.”

WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF CHANGING EVERYTHING RATHER THAN JUST THE CREW CHIEF? “Because of the relationship and the strength of both of these race teams is very strong, the engineering relationship and the pit crew relationship with the crew chiefs and everything. Each one of them has their own team and they’re both very successful race teams so you don’t need to break the racing teams up. We just needed to make the change and we’re
not doing it just to make a change, we have a lot of other things. This isn’t the only change at RCR we’re making right now. We’re making a lot of other changes as well.”

DID THE DRIVERS HAVE ANY INPUT IN THE DECISION? “I told them what we were basically going to do.”

DID IT JUST COME DOWN TO THE CREW AND THE DRIVER AS TO WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING AT TO JUST CHANGE THE CREW? “That and communication. I think that could be a lot of it. A lot of the communication between the driver and the crew chief and sometime if they get a little bit off you want to make a change.”

ITS ONLY EIGHT RACES INTO THE SEASON AND YOU’RE MAKING THIS CHANGE, CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHY YOU CAN’T WAIT? “Like I said earlier a lot of it is driven by our points system. To make the Chase, we’re not that far away if you really get to looking at how many more races, we’re a third of the way there. It will probably take two or three races to get this thing really working and you can’t afford to lose 50, 75, 100 points each race. So that’s the biggest reason we’re doing it when we’re doing it.”

WHAT WAS THE REACTION OF THE DRIVER’S AND THE CREW CHIEFS? “Like I say when I was in Montana sitting on the mountain out there I just decided this was the best for our organization and all of them wants what’s best for RCR. That was the comments I got back from the crew chiefs, the drivers and everything. Whatever is going to be best for RCR we’re willing to do it. And we’ve got Jeff Burton’s and Clint Bowyer’s support of this too.”

SEVERAL YEARS AGO YOU SWAPPED THE TEAMS AND CREW CHIEF’S WITH THE NO. 31 AND NO. 3, HOW DID THAT HELP THAT SITUATION AND DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO SEE THAT AGAIN? “Well if history repeats itself it should help both of these race teams. Like I said it may take two or three races before it will work but we can’t wait eight or ten races and see if it works. When you see it doesn’t then you’re out of time to make the Chase.”

HOW DID THAT HELP? “We’ve made a crew chief change in the past and each time it’s always seemed to be successful. You just can’t sit here and accept running like we’ve ran in the last four races. I’m just making the statement that we’re not going to do it.”

WHY THE NO. 29 AND NOT THE NO. 31? “The No. 31 has been performing well. He’s been one of our better cars these last few weeks and that deal is working well. The No. 33 is working well. These two teams right here, looking back and looking at what’s happened at the race tracks that a lot of people may not see that I’m on the radios, I’m watching and watching what’s happening and listening, I felt these were the two that needed the changes.”

YOU TALK ABOUT THE RADIO, OBVIOUSLY KEVIN CAN BE ANIMATED ON THE RADIO, DID THAT PLAY A PART WHEN YOU HEAR HIS FRUSTRATION THAT MAYBE IT WAS TIME FOR NEW CHEMISTRY THERE? “If you were listening I said I started this right after Bristol and he was fine on the radio up there. Sometimes you hear me and I get a little excited on the radio as well. That doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT GIL MARTIN HAD WORKED WITH KEVIN BEFORE, DID THAT HAVE ANY IMPACT IN THIS DECISION? “Yeah, that was one other reason. Those guys already had a relationship and I felt that was going to be our best opportunity to do better. Gil and Todd both will be working close together on making sure both of these teams get better.”

HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS WITH THIS BECAUSE A LOT OF TIMES WITH CREW CHIEF CHANGES THERE’S A SPIKE IN PERFORMANCE THE NEXT FOUR OR FIVE RACES THEN A LOT OF TIMES AFTER THAT IT JUST GOES BACK TO WHERE IT WAS, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT THAT ESPECIALLY IN THIS TIME TABLE TRYING TO GET INTO THE CHASE? “Well what I did is I had a meeting with our whole organization. Everybody that works on the four race teams and explained to them that we would make more changes if we had to and we were going to do what it took to make these cars competitive. I’ll be watching it and I’ll be monitoring it. I was supposed to have been turkey hunting for the last three days and I’ve been working. I came back with an attitude that we knew we had to make changes.”

WHY HAS THE NO. 33 WORKED SO WELL SO QUICKLY? “I think the key there again is what I’m looking at here. Something else I’ve looked at real hard is that’s a race team, most of those guys came up with Clint that ran the Nationwide Series and Shane’s (Wilson) is a great crew chief and he had worked with Clint a couple of other times so I thought that would work. I think that’s been one of the successful reasons for that race team.”

GIL (MARTIN) WORKED WITH KEVIN BEFORE, WHY IS IT GOING TO WORK THIS TIME BECAUSE DIDN’T (TODD) BERRIER REPLACE HIM BECAUSE THINGS DIDN’T WORK OUT BETWEEN THEM? “It wasn’t clicking at that time. It did, it did for a while. If you look back through the history, Kevin had a pretty hard wreck at Darlington when Kyle Petty blew that engine and I think he was a little bit off at the time and with the frustration and everything it was time for a change. This sport isn’t no different than football or baseball. When things aren’t working tough decisions sometimes have to come from the coach or the owner’s or whatever and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make those work. If you sit there and let things stay still too long it will hurt your whole organization.”

ANYBODY TRY TO TALK YOU OUT OF IT? “I think after Bristol we had some conversations and we were going to look at it and after Martinsville I wasn’t happy with the performance there.
I walked right out of the race track at Texas after our performance there and knew I was going to make the change I just needed to know what change I was going to make and sitting over there in the mountains I had time to clear my head and say this is what I think is going to be good for all of our sponsors involved, for our drivers and crews.”

WHAT ABOUT CASEY MEARS AND HIS POTENTIAL WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION? “Casey has really ran good. We seem like we get a lap down, once we get up there he’s a top-five, top-10 car so I’ve still got a lot of confidence in what Casey can do.”

SO YOU’RE MAKING OTHER CHANGES? “Made a lot of engineering changes and a lot of stuff inside our company that just goes really deep. I’ve decided that some things we needed to make changes in so we made several of those changes as well. It may take a couple of weeks to show but I think you’re going to see a difference. Hopefully we’re going to be real competitive here and with the changes that we’re working on by Richmond.” 

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