Monday, June 19, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Firekeepers Casino 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chad Johnston

by Stacey Owens

Crew chief Chad Johnston understands that he and his pit crew can't make a car fast at the track; it has to be fast when it gets to the track.

"We're building really fast cars at the shop. You unload with speed, it makes the weekend go a lot faster. Got to tune it to the comfort of him [Kyle Larson], whatever conditions we have on the track. You know, most of that goes back to the shop. You don't make a car fast when it comes here; you build cars fast at the shop," Johnston said.

That's exactly what the guys back at the shop did for race winner Larson who led 96 laps before taking the checkered flag at Michigan International Speedway. The Chip Ganassi Racing employees in the No. 42 garage have consistently been building fast cars for Larson, now a two-time winner this season. Johnston talked about the improvements the race team has been making since last year and how tracks like Michigan suit Larson's driving style.

"I feel like our mile-and-a-half program has been pretty good since the early part of last year, around Charlotte or Dover time. I think we make our cars better every time we come. I think it suits Kyle fairly well. He's real good about moving around and finding grip, doing the things he needs to do to get the car to do what he wants it to do. I feel we have a pretty good handle on where our balance needs to be," Johnston explained.
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Larson also discussed his affinity for two-mile tracks like Michigan.

"Yeah, our racecars are fast at them. Michigan and Fontana are, you know, very, very similar in shape and size. But the racing surface is way different. Fontana's rough and bumpy. It's a worn-out surface. You have to take care of your tires, move around, find different lanes that work. Here at Michigan, your tires don't wear out nearly as bad. Your line doesn't move around a ton. Really fast, lot of grip.


"They're both fun, because we seem to have good racecars, especially when we come here. Seems like since my rookie season, we've always had fast cars here at Michigan" Larson said.

Both of the cars fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing are top 10 in points. Larson sits atop the leaderboard while teammate Jamie McMurray is seventh. Over the weekend, Larson was asked about why their cars have been so fast this season, and he said his crew chief would be the better person to ask.

"Yeah, I mean, Chad I guess would be the guy to answer that question on why he thinks we're a lot faster. He's at the shop at 7 a.m. or earlier every day working. I think all the hundreds of people that work there kind of came together and put all their ideas into one, just built on everything.

"We had a great off-season. Since I've been in Cup, we haven't had a good off-season. We always start the year off worse than where we ended it. This year was opposite. We ended last year pretty good, but we started this year even better. I think it's everybody working together really hard, getting along good. We have a fun team, a fun race shop," Larson explained.

If this team continues to work well together, just think about how much fun they'll have if they win the championship this fall.

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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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