Things got a little sticky for several drivers at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including race winner Carl Edwards. While others were spinning out and making contact with SAFER barriers, Edwards was literally sticky. His crew chief, Darian Grubb, explained more during the post-race press conference.
"Yeah, the sticky feet, that's just a property of exactly what we were setting on pit road prior to the race. The way the pre-race ceremonies are set up here, to have all the military out there, which was an awesome show - it's awesome to have all those soldiers out there with the big American flag - but you're actually backing the cars into the pit stalls, and that's been an age-old secret that everybody in the garage does is they spray their pit box down. The only thing that's legal now is Coke syrup, so it's fitting for the Coke 600 that the teams spray Coke syrup on the pit box. Carl had stepped in a nice big puddle of it evidently, and got in the car and didn't realize it. So he got it all over his shoe and the pedals and everything else, too. So we handed him a rag later on to clean it off and some baby powder to tone it down, and it seemed to help a little bit, but it was still sticky."
If the stickiness had been the only problem for the No. 19 team for Joe Gibbs Racing, then the night might have been a bit more textbook, but that wasn't the case.
"It was honestly a struggle of a day for us. We qualified pretty well, started up front, and just started falling back. We lost two or three positions on every run, just kind of going backwards, didn't have quite the speed we wanted to have. We got way too tight, especially when the sun went down, but we started making our way back up through. We did make a couple of adjustments that finally seemed to start helping," Grubb explained.
Those adjustments worked.
|Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs|
Was Grubb concerned about the race ending on a fuel mileage strategy?
"I actually wasn't that concerned about it. That was really our only play at that point. We knew we had to have tires to be able to try to compete with those guys, so we were going to come pit anyway. We had tried to stay out before and it just didn't work with three laps on tires, and that was four. Coming in to pit really was a no-brainer for us. And then like I said before, I was really surprised that more people did not pit at that point, but I guess our fuel mileage was better than most to where we could make it from that point on, and everything just worked out in our favor."
As the post-race media event continued, Grubb let the crew chief in him out as he discussed everything from tires to Toyota teams catching up with the Chevy teams.
"This used to be one of the tracks we'd come to and we'd be really nervous, especially if the rain came or something, the track got green. There's no way you can make a fuel run on the first set [of tires] or two. You'd end up with cords on the outside and the inside of the tire. Now that they've gone to the dual zone the inside shoulder is not an issue, and now I think it's just some of the XFINITY cars showed a little issue on the outside of the right front, but with the Cup cars we haven't had any issues with that. Didn't see any blistering or any cords or anything through the entire weekend so I think they've got the combination right for durability. It does give up a little bit of grip versus what the old tire did, but we'll pay that price to have some consistency and durability.
|Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs|
Though this is the first season that Grubb and Edwards have worked together, it isn't the first time that they've gone to the finish line together... sort of. In 2011, Grubb, then crew chief for Tony Stewart, beat Edwards for the championship on fuel mileage. Did Grubb find it ironic that having gone the distance with Edwards in 2011 for the championship that he would find victory with him years later? Not so much.
"It might be a fuel-mileage win but it's also whoever gets from the start-finish line to the start-finish line after 600 miles the fastest. It doesn't really matter how you get there. We came out in front. In Homestead, beating him for the championship, we played our cards right there. It was weather, fuel mileage and speed. All around it was whoever came out of the pits the last time with the lead, and that ended up being us. Now we've got a win together, so I guess we can wipe the slate clean and go on and win championships together," Grubb said.
Edwards feels the same way.
"I didn't think of it as ironic, but yeah, I'm grateful that Darian - as a competitor, he beat me a number of times, I guess, he beat a lot of people just with the ability to look at the race from a bunch of different angles and not always win just because the car is the fastest, and that's really tough to do, I think. I know it would be tough for me as a crew chief to do, so to see that Darian, he truly has that ability. He's put me in some positions that I don't think a lot of folks have noticed, but during the year so far we've been in a bad spot or I've had a bad restart and we've fallen back, and he's done some things strategy-wise that will always put us up front. He's very good at that."
Will this pairing continue to use strategy to win races this season and perhaps put themselves in a place to find a championship together this November? It's certainly a possibility.
The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.