Right Sides Only: Notes from the Pennzoil 400 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon

by Stacey Owens

For the second consecutive week, Roger Penske ended the race weekend with one of his cars in Victory Lane. Despite the win, crew chief Todd Gordon still believes he has work to do.

"Well, I think the biggest thing with this year with the new aero package and where it moves around, every week is a new learning curve, so I think the win is awesome. I think it's basically guaranteed into the Playoffs, and I don't think that I'll do things differently, the only thing is it allows you to be a little more aggressive. That's how you call a race or some of the things you do. You can be a little bit more aggressive to try to go get wins. Those things you'll still do, but we're still trying to learn what we've got to do to race this package, and where we go, I think we've done a great job like Roger talked about.
"I think Ford did a great job with the car. I think our shop has done a great job in giving us pieces that are competitive. We've just got to continue to push forward because everybody is going to learn this package, and we've got to stay ahead of it," Gordon explained.

Of course, if the winning crew chief still thinks he has some things to learn, what does that say for the rest of the field as the season progresses?

"I think we all -- if you ever quit learning, you'd better quit because you're going to get passed. It's a new package. It's something new that we've all got to kind to grasp around. I think you see comers and goers and we're all trying to sort it out. It's a unique situation because we've got a new package that we don't know what we've really needed out of it, and we're going to the West Coast Swing where you've got to build your cars ahead of time. It's something we've got to continue to learn on, and we'll learn as we get to different racetracks because this is a racetrack that doesn't have a lot of fall off. Atlanta did have a lot, and California is going to be its own creature. Every racetrack we go to has got a new learning curve," Gordon said.

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One of the elements of race preparation that Gordon still wishes to improve is qualifying. The No. 22 team started the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the 10th position, but Gordon believes they can do better.

"Yeah, I mean, we just missed the last -- we missed the call on the last sequence, and that's something you've just got to learn. We went out and we got ahead of most everybody. We were third in line when we left pit road, and you've got to draft. I mean, with qualifying, with these cars, with this place, and this is different than what probably Atlanta was because Atlanta we're still kind of having to lift, but when you put tape on these things and tape them all up, they make a lot of downforce, and you can run flat out around here. 
"We qualified tenth, but we didn't get as good a lap in the last run as we could. I think we could have qualified fifth or sixth, and honestly, I think to be better than that, we're probably going to sacrifice some race stuff.
"We're looking pretty hard at what we have to do to be better on qualifying, but I think a lot of -- we were tenth, and I think a lot of our lack was execution in the final round.  It's something that we've all talked about, T.J. and myself and Joey, about how we can do that better going forward, and it'll be a different race next week at Phoenix because we've got downforce and power and you've got a lot of lifting there, so we'll be back to kind of single car rides," Gordon explained.

On the other hand, starting from the 10th position isn't a bad thing, and Logano's crew chief was quick to commend the guys in the shop for giving his driver such a great car.

"Yeah, I think the shop did an awesome job of giving us race cars that had long run speed, and that's part of if you look back to Friday we qualified tenth. We didn't have the speed some of those guys did, but I think we had race ability in our race cars, and on the long run we kept that speed with us, and Joey did a great job of it but everybody at Team Penske did a great job of giving us pieces we can work with," Gordon said.

Gordon talked briefly about the on-track action.

"I think it's just a learning process as to what we've got. But what phenomenal racing. Raced the 18 pretty hard, swapped the lead with him, raced the 4 pretty hard, and even our teammate, and just -- kudos to the aero package and where it's gone. I think the racetrack got really wide today, something that's really cool because you see cars going all over the place. It made the end of the race pretty exciting, and how we handled lap traffic, it's still -- it's what you've got to look forward to. Joey did a great job of keeping eyes forward and what lane guys were running and where he could go with it.  Something that -- it's part of the racing deal," Gordon explained.

Joey Logano is keeping his eyes forward. The current series champion has his eyes on the prize again this year, and that should make every other team shudder just a bit.

  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.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Pennzoil 400 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon Right Sides Only: Notes from the Pennzoil 400 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, March 04, 2019 Rating: 5