Monday, April 30, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Geico 500 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon

by Stacey Owens

Some people don't put much stock in momentum. Of course, those are usually the people who don't have any momentum. As of this weekend, crew chief Todd Gordon and the No. 22 team have that momentum into which other teams are currently not putting much stock.

Gordon talked about that momentum after the win.

"It's a great momentum builder. I think as the season's gone on, we've worked on trying to make ourselves better. It's very well-documented. We had a very difficult struggle through the year last year. We ended the year with a little momentum and a direction. I think everybody dug in in the off-season to figure out where we needed to go.

"We've been doing that. Haven't gotten quite to this position. But we came to a racetrack where Joey Logano is one of the best plate racers. Brad is as well. And they work off each other.

"It's a great accomplishment to get ourselves Playoff eligible and carry this momentum forward because it's the next step from what we've had with several top-10 finishes this year," Gordon explained.

Before the win, however, the team had to get through a difficult first stage. Gordon discussed the difference between practice and the race itself as well as the changes he had to make to the car to make it more stable for the remainder of the race.

"There's a couple things that happen here. Obviously the new ride height package, I don't know if it's as visible to you guys, it totally changed speedway racing for us. We're able to keep the cars lower, get the cars faster. There's a lot more you can play of speed versus handling, where before when we had the package we had last year, where the rear shocks and the rear springs were issued, heights were kind of set, there was less of a box to work within.

"With the change we had with speedway racing this year, now teams get to play how much handling, how much speed do I want to trade off.

"I think you saw that with a lot of cars. We saw it at Daytona, as well. Everybody came here thinking Talladega has not been a handling race. With this new drop package, where we could go with it, you could get yourself where you couldn't handle.

"I think we did a good job as a team at Daytona to understand what we needed to work on and what made a significant difference. We worked through that with practice with a couple drafting runs we had. You can't really tell, you don't see the real picture until you have 40 cars out there. We can try to draft with five or six, but when you stand in line, you have decent air on the car, you don't know how bad the car is going to get.

"Having an experienced drafter like Joey, he's aware during practice of what we need to work on. We made some changes coming into the race. I thought we had good stability. I thought we made a good adjustment on the first stop to add some more stability to our car without taking a lot of speed away.  From that point, we strategized where we kept our track position with tires and fuel," Gordon said.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Following the inevitable "Big One" at Talladega Superspeedway, Gordon had to keep his driver focused.

"You look at it, and I would say outside of the direct teammates, if you look through history here and rewatch the end of races here, Joey and Kevin Harvick find each other. That's been something, even when Kevin was in a Chevrolet, I think they see things a lot the same. They tend to find each other and work together.

"To look at it and say you've got four teammates with all the same powerplants that Roush-Yates provides, it put us in a situation where we try to keep a relationship with those guys and work as one Ford.

"I think you do what you can within that. We're going to race 'em at the end, but it's easier to race with Kevin and Kurt than it would be to race with the Hendrick guys for us.

"We had good speed. I think all of us had good speed. Kudos to the Roush-Yates guys. I think with two to go we had the top five spots with Fords. It's a pseudo teammate. It's not what our teammates were. It's a relationship that we continue to try to build because I think together we can all be successful," Gordon explained.

Gordon talked about the team's relationship with other Ford teams.

"When you look at these speedway races, you got to be in a position. You can't do anything on your own. When you look at the draft, I mean, it's seconds that you give up if you're by yourself. Even to the point, you know, four is borderline working. Within Team Penske we can control a lot of things.  You have to look at attrition and what happens.

"You try to find those guys that have common interests. I would say our relationship with Stewart-Haas and with Roush Fenway, we have a common goal:  we want Ford to be in Victory Lane. We want our own Ford to be in Victory Lane, but we all want Ford to be there.

"You look to work with the guys that you know have similar stuff to you and have similar interests.  That's a relationship that, as Ford brought Stewart-Haas into the mix, they continue to push us to make our stuff better. We see that. When Kevin outruns us, there's no excuses. Same motor, same body spec. We have work to do.

"It's a great relationship where we can push each other to be better," Gordon said.

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

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