Monday, May 2, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from the GEICO 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe

by Stacey Owens

It's often been said that only two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Race fans may want to add "wrecking at Talladega," because that's also a sure thing.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe credits the No. 2's win to staying out of the fray.

"Yeah, it seemed like a bit of survival at points," Wolfe said. "I think the key today for us was, first off, having a pretty fast Miller Lite Ford, and qualifying well, getting a good pit stall. From there, it was about keeping the track position.
"We kept the track position, were able to stay out of the wrecks. There was a lot of good cars that got caught up in that. As I talked to Brad in the closing laps, there was a lot of cars in the top 10 that we hadn't seen all day because so many good cars had gotten caught up in the wreck.
"From there, a lot of it came down to the spotter and the driver and their communication of getting the lead and managing the lead. I think they did a great job of doing that today and found ourselves in Victory Lane.

"Like I said, it did seem like somewhat of a survival race, as we saw a lot of what I would consider some of the top cars or faster cars get caught up in wrecks."

Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images
With the "win and you're in" mentality, drivers know that victories are worth far more than mere trophies. Wins guarantee drivers an opportunity to race for a championship. To secure those wins, drivers are more apt to take risks on-track.
"It just seems like everyone is very aggressive. I think there's opportunity for a lot of cars to win races. The key to that for us today was just keeping the track position, like I said," Wolfe said.
"... I think a little bit of it can start in qualifying with pit selection, having a good day on pit road. I think I saw the 11 car get knocked around on pit road a couple times as an example of how pit road can go the other way.
"We had a good pit stall. The guys did a good job on the pit stops. We were able to hold track position when we had to pit."
If a driver can stay out of the way of "The Big One" at Talladega Superspeedway, then the crew chief is tasked with making the best decisions he can on pit road. Paul Wolfe made exceptional decisions for the win.
"With tire wear not being big here, the fuel dictates whether we're going to do two tires, four tires, or as we saw at the end, a lot of cars do fuel only, to show how important that track position was.
"Track position was huge. I don't think we ever fell out of the top 10 at all today. I think that's the first time we ever did that here and at Daytona. I think that was key to getting the win," Wolfe explained.
The No. 2 team won earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so Wolfe and Keselowski have concentrated their efforts on making overall improvements to their 1.5-mile program.

"After Vegas, it seemed like we weren't exactly where we wanted to be on the intermediate style tracks. We had a great car at Martinsville, felt like we could contend for a win there.
"I think as a whole, if you look at the tracks we've run so far, we know we need to be better on the mile-and-a-half style racetracks," Wolfe said.
"So getting the win here obviously doesn't mean a whole lot as we go to Kansas, other than it's kind of a shot in the arm and a little momentum. A lot of times in this sport, that's worth something.
"So even though it will be totally different style racecars heading into Kansas, with a win this week, it will be huge. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going."
If you're keeping track (no pun intended), Keselowski joins Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards as drivers with two wins this season. Will another previous winner join this elite club or will a winless driver step up next week in Kansas? I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out.


   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.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves 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.


Post a Comment