Monday, May 1, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota Owners 400 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon

by Stacey Owens

If you asked crew chief Todd Gordon how Joey Logano won the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, he might just tell you it was all in the timing.

Logano, in his 300th start, had to start from the rear of the field after Gordon made a transmission change. After calculated pit stops that allowed the No. 22 to gain positions, his crew chief still said that it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Gordon was asked about the team's progress from last to first.

"Yeah, it's a pretty awesome day. Obviously, we had to start at the back, we had a transmission change that we had to make, found some debris in it, and it was pretty substantial, so it was a pretty easy call for myself. But great effort by everybody. Pit crew gained us spots on pit road early in the race and kept fighting us forward, and Joey did a great job of being disciplined on not abusing his car and just doing what he needed to maximize what we had on the first two stages. I think we got to 10th in the first stage. I think we were 10th in the second stage. But just -- it's a hot, slick racetrack, and nobody's car was good. Our car just got in the right spot at the right time. Pretty proud of everybody's effort," Gordon said.

Maybe timing wasn't the only factor at play. A short-pit with 60 laps to go may have had something to do with it.

"Well, we jumped the pit cycle. I looked at it, and if you looked at it when we went green, we had a -- you looked at it, and when we had the last caution, I think we had 144 to go I think when we took it.  We jumped ahead of the cycle. I think everybody felt the cycle would be at 320. It was actually I guess at 315. We came to pit road and started the short-pit cycle. That bought us a little track position, and then obviously we -- I was looking at it saying that we typically have cautions at the end, so our split there didn't need to be 72 to split 144, it would have needed to be splitting up about 110, because I thought we'd see a caution with 35 to go. Somewhere 25 to 35 to go seems to be where we see cautions here, and we had multiples," Gordon explained.

Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
Starting at the back of field would be a catastrophe for some teams. It wasn't a problem for Gordon or his team.

"I think it's just we looked at it -- mindset. I was hoping for another caution to take advantage of getting off strategy with the rest of them, and it came at lap 7. That was perfect. Actually, Winston Kelly asked me before the race, he said, so what are you looking for today. I said a caution at Lap 8 because the field won't come and we will. It came, I think, at 6 or 7, maybe a lap or two early. But that got us an opportunity to put tires on and get ourselves where we were in a better position and something we could drive some track position forward.

"You know, you look at it and you say it's a setback, but we've had setbacks, and the great part is that Joey doesn't ever get his head down. We as a team always look forward, and it's like, it's a situation where I texted him before he went on the broadcast yesterday and said we're going to have to go to the back for a transmission change, there's debris in it, and it's something we've never -- I can't think of the last time we ever saw one of those as a team. We build great stuff at the shop. We'll figure it out when we get back.
           
"But it wasn't, 'Oh, boy, our day is done.'  It's like, 'Okay, what do we got to do, what's our strategy going to be,' so it's focus forward.  When you focus forward, you can focus on what you're going to make the best out of," Gordon explained.

Overcoming issues has become a hallmark of the No. 22 team and they certainly showcased that in Richmond.

"I think that's one thing that this team does a phenomenal job is continuing to focus forward and battling through situations. A racetrack that we don't always feel like we've got the greatest grasp on how to race well here, but we've won a couple times. Good execution, I think Joey gave good feedback, engineers did a great job of trying to put together a race, and I thought we made our car faster during the race, and I thought we put ourselves in a position where we could take advantage of the short-run speed," Gordon said.

From short-run speed to a superspeedway, Gordon will attempt to give his driver the tools he needs to win again next week when the series travels to Talladega for restrictor-plate racing.
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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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