Monday, May 8, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Geico 500 Winning Crew Chief, Brian Pattie

by Stacey Owens

Every driver hopes to start from the front. Likewise, every driver wants to finish at the front. It doesn't happen often, but there are days when the driver who takes the green flag first also takes the checkered one first. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the latest to add his name to the list of those in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series who have done just that.

You've read in this column before that success on Sunday begins on Friday. That's certainly the case this weekend, and crew chief Brian Pattie would be the first one to tell you that, though he was admittedly a little surprised.

"Yeah, obviously Friday was a surprise to all of us, how much speed it had. Yeah, all the four teams got together this morning and talked and came up with a strategy for the first two segments. Most all our four teammates helped us out. Gained some stage points, which is not what we've done the first seven or eight races, so that was nice to finish second. Second one got a little out of control and a little damage. Guys did a nice job fixing it up, and yeah, the last one is just -- you just hope for the best, right? It's just get yourself in position and thank God at the end with the green-white-checker we were in the first two rows, and that's pretty much where you're going to win from," Pattie said.

Though this was the team's first Monster Energy Cup win, the No. 17 team has made great strides since the season began. In 10 races, Stenhouse has an impressive five top 10s, three of which were top fives, including the win at Talladega Superspeedway. To what does Pattie credit the team's success this season? Turns out, it's a few things.

"Just focus. Focus one week at a time, execute, and after the checkered flag falls on a Sunday, we'll regroup on Monday and start over. Just try and not get ahead of ourselves. That's just the biggest part. Obviously, we've got better people and better spots and the cars are faster. That helps tremendously.
           
"Yeah, he drove his tail off. I don't have to question his commitment level, so that's good. It's 110 every lap, probably 10 percent too much most of the time. But you know, the year has gone good so far. We've run well at tracks that he shouldn't run well because he hates it, Martinsville being one of them. So what he likes track-wise and what I like are two different things, and it's made it well, so hopefully, we can continue," Pattie explained.

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How does his driver feel about his team's progress this season?

"Yeah, honestly, I feel God is not going to put you through anything you can't make it through. I believed in all the guys that I had around me and the team that they still wanted the same thing that I wanted, and that was to get back in Victory Lane, to compete, and to know that we're here every weekend like we were in the XFINITY Series. When we were in the XFINITY Series, we showed up every week, and they knew that they were going to have to beat us to win a race, and I want that feeling here. We're not there yet, but they know we're here... There's teams that don't look at us throughout practice yet, but they will. You know, Richmond is one where I thought we were really good in practice, and it paid off in the race. But I think people didn't see it coming.
           
"Hopefully we can continue to change that trend and continue to keep on and plug away. We've got to put weekends together from here on out, just making sure that we're having good Fridays, Saturdays, and turn it into a mistake-free race on Sunday," Stenhouse said.

Looks like this weekend was a pretty good start.

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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; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover.

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