Monday, March 6, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe


by Stacey Owens

What's that we hear from race analysts all the time? Yeah. You don't have to lead all the laps; you just have to lead the last one. Kevin Harvick was definitely the class of the field in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, but leading the most laps just doesn't count if you don't lead the last one... like Brad Keselowski did.

The crew chief for the Blue Deuce, which was not blue but a sunny shade of orange on Sunday afternoon, talked about the team's win.

"Yeah, well, it was definitely a long day, and we had our fair share of issues and adversity we had to overcome with the tire trouble there mid-part of the race with the right front coming apart, and then we had to come back down at one point for some lug nuts on the left rear. But Brad just drove a smart race."

"I mean, it's all about managing your tires and taking care of your car. It's such a long race here, and it's easy to get down when we have issues like we did, but he stayed focused all day and was able to get us back in position there at the end, and the 4 was definitely strong, but we felt like we weren't far behind, and when he had his issue there at the end, we were able to capitalize on it."

"It's just a perfect example of never give up, and we didn't do that today, and this team deserves the victory," Wolfe explained.

Their win was a long way from a forgone conclusion midway through the race. Wolfe talked about how difficult it can be to keep the team inspired and focused.

"Well, it can be tough. It can be frustrating at times for sure, and I think that's where when we get in a race like we were today, that's where Brad really shines, when he's got to be a leader and keep everyone focused and not get down on anyone, and he did that. He kept the guys motivated and showed that he wasn't going to give up on it. You know, the guys didn't either towards the end as we had plenty more pit stops after that. The guys did a great job, just a solid team effort, and you know, it's all about staying focused."

One of the team's problems stemmed from a loose lug nut issue. Did Wolfe call his driver to pit road to tighten all five or just one?

"... we felt like we weren't confident that there was more than one loose. Our pit department does a great job of trying to monitor that and all the teams have these great cameras these days. You can see when these guys are hitting lug nuts, and we try to do the best we can to understand if someone has missed lug nuts, we have an idea of what we feel like we need to be tight, to not have a loose wheel, and we were in a point where we felt like it was best just to come down and make sure they were tight, and we felt like there was still enough time to recover and give us our best finish," Wolfe explained.

An issue that plagued other teams, and the No. 2 team managed to avoid, was speeding on pit road. Was the team more conservative on pit road than other teams were?

"Honestly, we played it like we normally do. You know, the timing segments any more are really short. I don't know if that catches guys off because you don't have a lot of time to give back, I guess, if you will, with the short segments. So I don't know if it was related to that or guys have just -- trying to step it up a little bit. But we definitely saw a lot of them, but we kind of ran our numbers what we felt, and we didn't have an issue. So I'm not really 100 percent sure on that," Wolfe said.

For more on Keselowski's thoughts on speeding issues, read Katy Lindamood's article from the track.

On the last couple of laps, Keselowski actually had a tire issue with the right front. Wolfe made the conscious decision not to tell his driver about it. Keeping it to himself helped his driver stay focused instead of concerned.

Sometimes being a great crew chief means keeping the worries to yourself and letting the driver do what he can behind the wheel. That approach certainly worked well for Wolfe and Keselowski in Atlanta. Will they roll the dice again next week in Vegas? Stay tuned.

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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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