Monday, June 13, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from Firekeepers Casino 400 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon

by Stacey Owens

Ever heard the expression, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades?" The No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford team led by Joey Logano and his crew chief, Todd Gordon, finally wrapped the horseshoe around the stake. 

After weeks of finishing near the top of the leaderboard, the team, which earned six wins during the 2015 season, won their first victory of 2016, which was an incredibly hard-fought battle at Michigan International Speedway.

Logano had such a strong 2015 season that many fans find themselves wondering why they haven't had the same success this year. Could the new aero package have anything to do with the team's "delay" in finding Victory Lane?

Gordon had some thoughts on that very subject.

"You know, it's a different package, which brings opportunity, and I think when we've had different packages and new packages, our whole Team Penske operation has done a great job of getting us prepared to come to the racetrack and have an idea what we need to work on," Gordon said.

"We showed up with all right speed and had a bullet list of things to work through, executed on Friday with -- pretty proud of everybody executing there, and that really gets the weekend off to a kick. And then we kind of hammered through practice yesterday and knew what we needed to put together for today, and I think from the drop of the green flag Joey was pretty happy with where we were."

As a result of the new package, corner speeds for the race were predicted to be down by roughly 10 miles per hour. Gordon told reporters following the race that he doesn't get any information on lap times during the race, so he couldn't speak for mid-corner speeds. However, he noticed a difference in watching the broadcast. 

"I would say that given lap time and what we saw in practice that we did lose center corner speed, picked up on the straightaway speed a little bit," he said. "I know in talking to Joey after practice, definitely felt the speed loss, the transition. I think when I was re-watching the broadcast, we saw like 40 miles an hour from top speed to mid-corner minimum speed deviation, which is huge compared to what we've been in the past.
            
"Definitely made the guys lift a lot, which I think is good for racing," he said.
            
"And to the question of the no skew piece, I think when we get new packages that ... we've got at Team Penske and especially the Shell-Pennzoil team, they're pretty diligent in understanding what we need to do to come to the track and have speed. We did that at the All-Star Race, and I think we performed that again this weekend," Gordon explained.


Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
The crew chief doesn't reveal all his cards, though. When asked about a statement he made during the broadcast about a mistake on the Lap 117 restart and how the team corrected it, Gordon was more reserved with his comments.

"We can't answer all those questions. Yeah, we know where that went, and we'll talk about that internally. But that's the great thing about Joey and restarts; he's a master of it. I'd put him against anybody in this field, and I think we kind of shuffled things around, and you could see that the 24 and 42 could definitely work together on restarts, and we put them in a position there. I'm not going to speak for the rest of it, though," Gordon said.

Whatever the mistake, the team and its crew chief have learned that the key to success is to keep those mistakes to a minimum.

"... a word we talk about a lot is execution, and I think you've got 40 race teams that all have the ability to be very successful. It's how you execute against each other. You can't make mistakes. We aren't good enough to -- the field is so strong, you can't make mistakes and be successful," Gordon said.
            
"I think execution and having a game plan and understanding what you need, and yeah, we've had opportunities that we've been strong with that just haven't come all the way through, but not getting down over those pieces and knowing that we're continuing to build speed and work forward I think got us to the point where we were today. We're not in any anxiety at this point. We had a terrible month of May with accidents that really weren't of our cause and were just victims of. The great part is this whole team doesn't -- they don't ever give up. I used to talk about that, never give up was the hashtag that they had a couple years ago. They're still that way. We've got a bunch of level-headed people that aren't totally emotionally driven, and they see the big picture -- that we've got speed, we just need to keep doing the things that we do and execute, not make mistakes, and we can be successful, no differently than last year. I think we did an awesome job of that through the whole year last year, and we're getting back to that point," Gordon explained.

Their game plan allows them to join the Chase field with teammate, Brad Keselowski. As the summer heats up, it's a safe bet that this team will keep their big picture in focus -- namely, winning their first Sprint Cup championship.
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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.
    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

 

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