Monday, July 24, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Records Brickyard 400 Winning Crew Chief, Keith Rodden

by Stacey Owens

Every victory means something to a race team. But according to crew chief, Keith Rodden, for the No. 5 Farmers Insurance team led by driver Kasey Kahne, the Brickyard 400 win is a bit of a moral victory.

"I think it's probably one of the sweetest races you can win. Obviously Indianapolis is a huge racetrack, ton of history here. Every time you turn in, get to the museum, you're like, 'Oh, man.' Just so cool to be here and be able to experience it.
           
"Obviously it's a huge, huge win for us. It's not just about the 5 team.  I mean, it's a huge win for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Incredibly proud of all the men and women there, whether it's the chassis shop, engine shop, everyone is working together closer than they ever have.
           
"It's all about coming together and making it where we all run first through fourth every week. We all know that's idealistic and it might not always happen, but that's our goal.

"I think it's a huge moral victory for him [Kahne] and everyone on our team.  He does an incredible job. I don't think he gets near the credit that he deserves," Rodden said.

Rodden talked about how his crew and driver worked well throughout the long afternoon.

"Today was a big day. We always talk about how much bad luck we have really as a company, but definitely on the 5 car.  Sometimes you make your own luck, sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control. Today was one of those things where we made a decision to alter our pit strategy a little bit.
           
"When it was time to pit, they all wrecked, all four. Thankfully everyone is okay. But that led to us being able to leave pit road with four fresh tires and enough fuel. When everyone pitted in front of us, we took the lead, were able to control the series of the restarts that started happening. Really good day for everybody. Super proud of everybody," Rodden explained.

Rodden is obviously a big fan of his driver and continued to defend Kahne's talent.

"I think today we caught a break. At the same time, he had to defend everyone else that was left in the race and have really good restarts three times in a row. Ultimately, restarted second and won the race.  I think that says a lot to his talent and his ability. I was really glad that happened...honestly, I feel like he comes to the track prepared every week. First practice here on Saturday morning, we were the fastest car -- we weren't the fastest car on the long run, but we were the fastest car taking off in race trim. We ran some really good laps. We were definitely a top-five car right off the truck in race trim," Rodden said.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
As Silly Season keeps rolling along, much speculation has been made about the status of the No. 5 team as part of the Hendrick Motorsports stable. Has Rodden discussed with team owner Rick Hendrick who his driver will be for the 2018 season?

"I don't worry about any of that. All I worry about is our race team, keeping all the guys focused and ready, frankly, for an opportunity like this to present itself, right? You can't take one minute off, can't take one second off, can't lose focus at all.
           
"Through our career, there's always been a lot of speculation. For me, working at Team Hendrick, it's been very stable. It's really nice. But when you're not winning races, not getting the job done, I think you have your own answer.
            
"I don't really worry about it. All I keep worrying about is keeping the guys focused and motivated each week, and have it where they show up ready to do their jobs. Our road crew works so, so hard.  Everybody knows about the 16-and-a-half-hour day yesterday. They just killed it, did an incredible job. They all have great, great attitudes. Our pit crew is really, really good. They're super strong.
           
"I can't wait to start running up front more and more and more, and let those guys show off their ability, as well," Rodden explained.

The win, the team's first in 102 races, came after an incredibly long afternoon and evening. Rodden discussed the day's events in the post-race media conference.

"We had a race a few years ago at Daytona that kind of started and stopped, restarted later.
           
"But there's lots of twists. Like I said, we just had to try to figure out a way to do something different and try to end up in front, and that's what we did. We definitely turned the luck around a little bit.  We still had to win the race, and Kasey did that. So did a great job. 

"One thing that did keep happening, it seemed like every time we would pit and put on sticker tires, the caution would come out. It's like you had like a little mini heat cycle in the tires. We just run stickers here for our car this weekend, we were freer.
           
"It's kind of hard because you don't know how to adjust. You're staying out for track position. Really to me the heat cycles on the tires over and over, some of those runs, kind of gave us a little bit of a bad idea on what the car was doing.
         
"But otherwise, just getting the track position and getting up front. I mean, you're just so, so much faster. That was probably the best thing that helped our car," Rodden explained.

Though the No. 5 team has run well in recent races, they haven't had the finishes they probably deserved. Rodden talked about how they've handled the rough patches.

"Yeah, we've had a little bit of a rough stretch. You just have to keep communicating, whether it's me and Kasey or everybody on the team, keep everyone prepared. I don't want to keep repeating the same stuff, but that's really the thing. That's my job. My job is to lead the team, keep them ready, understand at any moment this sport is crazy and anything can happen to put you into position to win. There we were on the biggest stage, executed and got the job done.
           
"As far as his passion, he's really quiet. Just because you're quiet doesn't mean you don't want it. You don't need to scream and shout and stuff either. I think channeling your emotions correctly.
           
"I was giving our spotter a little bit of advice on the last restart, like, 'Don't yell at him, he knows what he needs to do.' We'd look at some stuff a lot, we know a lot about one another, we know what motivates each other. Yelling at him, telling him, 'C'mon, let's do it, get a good one,' that's not going to work.
           
"I think we did all the right stuff. He executed an incredible restart at the end, so..."

Doing all the right stuff has earned Kahne a spot in the playoffs. Will it be enough, though, to maintain his spot in the No. 5 car for next season?

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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.



            

4 comments :

  1. Thank you for this article. It is the most informative NASCAR related article that I have read in years - literally. It is the first time I have heard Keith Rodden's perspective. Thanks again!

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  2. Thanks for your kind comment and thanks for reading Skirts and Scuffs. Please come back every week for more RIGHT SIDES ONLY. It's the only place to get the winning crew chief's perspective.

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