Right Sides Only: Notes from the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe

by Stacey Owens

Crew chiefs can only do so much to put their drivers in position to win. The drivers have to give their all once that green flag drops. Paul Wolfe set up an incredibly fast car for Brad Keselowski, but his driver almost didn't make it to the car. After battling a stomach flu that was bad enough that he lost almost six pounds in roughly 10 hours, Keselowski praised the care center for their taking such good care of him. Then he strapped into the Mustang that Ford drivers are wheeling this year and drove to his second Atlanta win and his 60th win across all series.

Wolfe, for his part, talked about his set up for Keselowski.

"Yeah, I think we're excited about the new Mustang. Obviously it's shown some good strength I think not only at the speedways last week at Daytona but as we came here this weekend and saw how fast the Stewart-Haas cars were in qualifying, and then we were able to follow that up with some really strong cars today.
"There's still a lot to be learned. The Mustang is a little different for us, and we're trying to figure that out, but with that being said, the rules change for this year and the new package is as much of a change.
"We're excited about it. I think there's still a lot to be learned, and any time there's a massive rules change like this, like Brad talked about earlier, there's a lot of opportunity there, and we take a lot of pride in being able to get a head start on everyone, and it was good to see all the Team Penske cars lead laps today and run as strong as they did.
"There's still a lot to learn. I think you'll see some different things at some different tracks as we move through the beginning part of the season here, but today was a good start for us for sure," Wolfe said.
Some fans who are new to the sport may not be aware that drivers don't have the same setup for the race that they ran during their qualifying laps. Wolfe talked about the differences in those setups in the new cars. 
"... the thing about the new package that we see so far, what we saw this week in Atlanta, I think there's potential to see a bigger difference from a qualifying setup to a race setup. You know, there was always differences in the past, but with this package -- especially at places like Atlanta, like Brad said, there's a lot of tire wear and things like that where you get in the race and you're lifting, you're getting out of the gas. For qualifying, you're running wide-open laps with this new package.
"I think there's going to be a big changeover from qualifying to race, and we're still trying to figure that out, and we definitely missed it on Friday in qualifying with that. But as you saw, our cars were very good in race trim. All of our cars led laps and were strong. It just shows you the big difference between qualifying and racing. There's a lot of opportunity. There's still a lot to be learned, and I think you'll see it change as we go to these first few racetracks and everyone trying to figure it out.
"But overall, as I said, the Mustangs have been good. It was good to see Stewart-Haas cars had good speed on Friday, and we were able to follow that up with good speed with the Mustangs in race trim.  So I know there's potential there in this car, and we've got to just do a little bit better job next week at Las Vegas at getting cars closer to the front," Wolfe explained.
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Getting over an illness wasn't the No. 2 team's only obstacle of the afternoon in Atlanta. Wolfe also had to deal with an overheating engine caused by debris. Close to the window of green flag stops in the final stage, Keselowski was already on pit road when a caution occurred, putting him in the Lucky Dog position to get a lap back. Wolfe talked about the incident.

"Yeah, well, the debris seemed to be a tear-off or something, and it blocked -- it pretty much blocked the whole grille off. It wasn't on there long, but when you take all the air away, it only takes a lap and you're going to have your temps well over where they should be.
"To your conversation about Doug and this package, it's similar to a -- it's closer to what we do at Daytona and Talladega where you're on the throttle all the time. You're close to running -- there's a lot of load on the engines, although there may not be as much power, you're in the gas more. So that throttle time keeps a lot of heat in the engines, and we weren't -- I wasn't excited to see us overheating because these engines have to be used multiple times now, and it's very critical. Talking to those guys before the weekend started of being mindful of those temperatures. We're always trying to push, push the temperature limits and run that tape because it's so important for aerodynamics, but with the way the -- having to use the engines twice and now with a lot of wide-open throttle time, it's hard on those engines.

"It was definitely a concern. Fortunately we were able to make it through that, and we'll have to see how that engine plays out for us as we move forward because this engine was slated to run another race, and the rules are a little funny there. I'm not sure exactly what we'll be able to do, if we'll be able to check this engine out before we run it again," Wolfe explained.
After overcoming a number of issues that could have sidelined most teams, Wolfe and Keselowski showed why they're a championship-level team. With this win, they may get the chance to take the Cup back later this year.

  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 playfola 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.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe Right Sides Only: Notes from the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Winning Crew Chief,  Paul Wolfe Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, February 25, 2019 Rating: 5