Sunday, September 13, 2015

Right Sides Only: Notes from Federated Auto Parts 400 Winning Crew Chief, Jason Ratcliff

As drivers on the bubble fought for every square inch of real estate they could find on the 3/4-mile Richmond track, the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers continued their domination in the final race of the regular season. With Matt Kenseth leading 352 of 400 laps, including the final 18 when he took the lead from teammate, Kyle Busch, JGR picked up its eighth win in the last 10 races.

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs  
The win was Kenseth's fourth of the season, tying him for the top seed heading into the opening round of the Chase next week at Chicagoland Speedway. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff talked about the team's spectacular car.

"I felt like a few months ago when we were here, we had a really good car. We've made a lot of headway since then," Ratcliff said.

That headway allows Kenseth to share the lead on the Chase Grid with Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson as the final 10 races of the season kick off next weekend. 

"I felt good coming into this weekend. When you go to set a game plan for the season, you want that momentum going into the Chase. To come into Richmond, have a really good weekend, have a victory, go into the Chase with a tie for the points lead, I can't think of a better way to plan it," Ratcliff explained. 

Joe Gibbs was thrilled with the win and the performance of all four teams.

"I think it's a total team. Everybody back at the race shop, J.D., all of our team," Gibbs said. "I feel bad for everybody there because they can't celebrate with us. They're not in the winner's circle. As Jason will tell you, we have so many people working in the different departments there. It's really their victory.
            
"I'm always thrilled with our sport, you have a sponsor that goes with you. Dollar General, they're in the sport. They are there for three and a half hours tonight on the racetrack. That's the thing that's different about our sport, which I love.
            
"So they're right there with us. Rick, Todd, all the guys at Dollar General. It's a thrill for us, along with Toyota, our partner, to have all those guys go with you on a victory. That's really special.
Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
            
"Obviously we're thrilled. Todd Meredith runs our operations. Everybody over there has worked so hard. We got people working overtime trying to get caught up after last year. It's been a lot of hard work, but I'm thrilled where we are," Gibbs explained. 

Ratcliff couldn't have agreed more but realizes that the celebration doesn't last long.

"Our group's doing a spectacular job. We saw four teams up there nose to tail at one point tonight. Really excited about going to Chicago next week. We'll celebrate this for a few hours and then get our game face on and get ready for Chicago," Ratcliff said.  

If the last 10 races are any indication of how the next 10 races will go, then 12 of the Chase drivers have their work cut out for them.

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   Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    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.

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