Monday, April 20, 2015

Right Sides Only: Bristol Winning Crew Chief, Jason Ratcliff

After a long, rain-soaked day in Thunder Valley, Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line just ahead of last week's winner, Jimmie Johnson, to win the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer at Bristol Motor Speedway. The win was Kenseth's first of the season, but his fourth win at the track dubbed "The Last Great Coliseum."

Crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, when asked what the win meant to him, said, "I've wanted this worse than any win I've ever gotten."

It was certainly a memorable race. The 500-lap race ended after a grueling 511 laps, following multiple cautions and rain delays and finishing roughly nine hours after it began. Finally ending under a green-white-checkered flag, Kenseth, who led the field to the green flag as the polesitter, headed to Victory Lane to celebrate his 32nd Sprint Cup win.

Starting and stopping the race under the kinds of weather conditions the field faced wasn't something that Ratcliff was necessarily excited about in the hours leading up to the initial start of the race.


Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
"I knew it would be difficult to work on the car if it started and stopped, started and stopped, especially if we got several different rainstorms and washed the rubber off the track. You've kind of got to start over. We anticipated having enough adjustment in our car to start on a green racetrack and then having enough adjustment as the track rubbered up to be able to work on it throughout the night.
            
"So thankfully once we did get going in the later two-thirds part of the race it did go green, I think we were able to make some good adjustments, thought ahead and had what we needed to work on the car. I wish we would have had one more stop. I think we underestimated the track changing there at the end, the last 140 laps."

With the high volume of on-track wrecks, how did Ratcliff manage to make the calls to keep his driver at the front of the field?
 
"Well, it was pretty easy to keep it together from where I was sitting. Matt, when you ask him that same question, he did a phenomenal job, as always, especially here at Bristol. This place is unbelievable. I get out of breath just watching him go around here. Great night, obviously. 

"But with the new format, to get a win under our belt and we can look at the season a little differently now, knowing that we're in the Chase, so I'm really excited. These guys have been working hard. Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing has been working hard, and I think that shows. I think we've turned the corner, and we've got a great season ahead of us."

The No. 20 Dollar General team now has a Chase berth, so yes, they do have a great season ahead of them. As hard as they've been working, perhaps the rest of the field would do well to double their efforts, too. Ratcliff and Kenseth will no doubt strive to win the coveted Sprint Cup again.

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