Monday, March 26, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the STP 500 Winning Crew Chief, Mike Bugarewicz

by Stacey Owens


Dry spells aren't fun. Long dry spells can be downright depressing, so it's always nice to see one come to an end. Clint Bowyer's dry spell had to wait an extra day... because of snow at Martinsville Speedway.

Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz talked about his expectations throughout the race, which had been postponed from Sunday and was run as the second race of a Monday double-header.

"Yeah, in my 10 years so far in this sport, I've learned that you don't expect anything in the last few laps; it could come down to the last one. You could have led all the laps all day long, and it may not work out for you in the end," Bugarewicz said.

Bowyer led more laps in the STP 500 than he's led in the last three years. More importantly, he led the last one.

Bugarewicz discussed the team's focus, which ultimately helped Bowyer grab his first win in almost 200 races.

"We just stayed focused, kept digging until the end of the race, and for him to have that winless streak of 190 races, I'm so happy for him to finally get another one, get a picture with his son. I know he's been wanting that for a long, long time, and I really liked it for this team. It's not always seen because we're not always up there leading all the laps in every race, but these guys work just as hard as any team out there. We're a really tight-knit group, and well deserving for this whole team and whole company who's really dug hard all winter long," Bugarewicz explained.


Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

The win marked the fourth victory for Stewart-Haas Racing this season. When asked what the win means to him personally, Bugarewicz talked more about what this win means for everyone on the SHR team.

"Yeah, that's a pretty easy one for me to answer. You know, I'm always most happy for all the guys and Clint driving our car and all the people back at SHR. In all honesty, I don't really even think about myself in the equation. I know it takes a lot more than one or two people to make this happen.  It takes everybody, every single person that touches the car or a part or anything on this thing.

"It's a team win. It's a company win is the best way to describe it in my opinion. Everybody has worked so hard, so I'm most proud for them," Bugarewicz said.

During the off-season, SHR moved Tony Gibson off the pit box into the production chief role. Gibson is ultimately responsible for providing highly functioning race cars to each of the teams in the SHR stable. Bugarewicz talked about his role as crew chief versus what Gibson does for the No. 14 team. 

"I think two things that come to mind in general is, one, the load that he's taken off of me. A lot of little things that I had to worry about and spend half my week that I am in the shop, wondering if it's right, if it's the way I want it to be, this and that. It's handled, it's taken care of.

"So that lets me focus on other areas to prepare for the race. The other side of it... is when you show up to the track and you're closer on speed, you're more in the ballpark, you're already top 5, top 10 speed-wise, you kind of can relax a little bit in the sense of now, 'Okay, we can just focus on how do we make this comfortable for the driver to race,' where at times even last year, I felt like you're trying to fix balance issues, but you're also trying to find speed.

"Well, a lot of times they don't go hand-in-hand. A lot of times what you're doing to make speed out of the car doesn't necessarily make it drive better. You're trying to find that balance, and you get yourself stuck in the middle, and then when you're trying to race in traffic or all these other things, it just becomes that much more difficult on the driver. So those two big things come to mind," Bugarewicz explained.

It's evident that Bugarewicz is happy in his job right now.

"I believe in this company. I love working here, and it's the best place I've ever worked, and these people are going to keep digging hard," Bugarewicz said. 

With four wins in six races, Stewart-Haas is proving to be the team that's digging deeper than any other in the garage.




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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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

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