Monday, November 13, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Can-Am 500 Winning Crew Chief, Jason Ratcliff

by Stacey Owens

If you ever see a NASCAR team get emotional, it's usually in Victory Lane. And for the record, that emotion is almost always expressed in happy tears. For some who celebrated with Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff following their win in the desert, those tears may have been a mix of happy tears and a little sadness.

Unless you've been living under one of those rocks in the desert, you're aware that Kenseth has decided to step away from NASCAR at the end of this season, so the win at Phoenix International Raceway was bittersweet. Jason Ratcliff talked about what the win meant to him.

"Well, I mean, it means the world to me. I think for us, we've been really close this season, and just hadn't quite been able to put it all together and close the deal, and you know, knowing that the situation where Matt is going to go into a different season in his life maybe in a few weeks, we were hoping that, hey, if we could get back to Victory Lane, that would be awesome. To be able to come here, especially to Phoenix, which is, I think, one of Matt's favorite tracks as well as mine, we've always performed well here, so to come here and get a win, you know, tops it off, kind of puts an exclamation point on the season for us," Ratcliff said.

It may have been an exclamation point for the team, but for Ratcliff, it's more of a comma. The veteran crew chief isn't leaving the sport like his driver is, but he hasn't yet revealed his plans for 2018.

"I can't tell you, but I do know. I think you'll know in a few days. Yes, it's very emotional. I thought -- I told someone earlier, we left here last year, it was probably the lowest point in my career knowing that if we could have just finished the race, obviously won it, we would have been one of the four going to Homestead, and then 365 days later, come back and maybe create probably I would say for sure the highlight of my career to this point," Ratcliff explained.
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 Like his driver, though, Ratcliff was emotional about the spoiler win.


"It's a very emotional win to be able -- the last five years have been just spectacular. We've had some really good wins, some great seasons, a lot of highlight reels, but I think this one tops it for sure," Ratcliff explained.

On their way to their last potential win as driver and crew chief for the No. 20 team, how much work did Ratcliff need to do on the car to help get Kenseth to Victory Lane?

"Matt said it's a secret; I can't tell you.

"You know, occasionally over the last five years we'll have a Saturday practice like the one we had yesterday where Matt comes in--he never even uses the word perfect--but occasionally he'll say, 'Man' -- he'll go, 'Okay, thanks. Man, the entry is pretty good, it turns pretty good, the exit' -- he almost said "perfect" yesterday.' Occasionally you'll get one of those. So I knew when we left here last night, we came in this morning, we didn't do anything really to speak of, and throughout the race, the pit box was -- we were pretty much spectators. We didn't do much. The pit crew did a great job all day. We adjusted on air pressure a little bit, put a quarter round in the right rear twice. That was about it. It was a good car start to finish," Ratcliff said.

And what a finish it was.
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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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