Right Sides Only: Notes from the Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe

by Stacey Owens

New team. Same results.

As many NASCAR fans know, teams often play "Fruit Basket Turnover" with their personnel during the off-season, shifting crew members from one team to another to maximize wins. Team Penske dumped their basket out completely and put teams back together with new crew chiefs for each driver.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski since 2010, which was the longest active driver/crew chief duo, was paired with Joey Logano for the 2020 season. Wolfe may be with a different driver, but he's already propelling his new driver to Victory Lane.

Logano is so comfortable with Wolfe at the helm that he's just letting him do what he does best. Does that confidence from Logano, though, make Wolfe's job easier?

" I don't know if it makes it any easier. It's pretty hard at this level to win races. Put a lot of pressure on myself. Obviously it's good to have the confidence in the driver. He believes in his team and what we can do. 

"Obviously we've both been successful prior to this year, and we have certain things that's helped us get to where we're at, things that have worked for us in the past, so kind of like call it your comfort zone, if you will, but what we've really tried to do in the offseason is communicate a lot and try to understand kind of the strengths and weaknesses of each of our programs in the past maybe, and just try to mesh it all together and just make ourselves stronger and win more races than we have with our teams prior. 

"Obviously it's early. This was kind of the first test. I mean, obviously Speedweeks is kind of its own deal. We had good cars, and I thought it all went fairly smooth. Obviously we didn't get the results we were hoping for, but I knew coming out on the West Coast Swing was really going to be where we were going to learn and try to understand what we need to do. 

"I thought practice went well on Friday. I wasn't quite as pleased obviously with how the car was in the race. I thought we'd be a little stronger. We fought through it all day. Obviously Joey did a good job keeping us up front, keeping our track position, and obviously in these races that's what it comes down to. 

"If you keep yourself in the top 5, you've put yourself in position, depending upon what happens, how it plays out. I've lost plenty of them being the best car. It just kind of all goes full circle. He drove a great race, and we kind of had a plan... coming into the race. 

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"Like him, I try to communicate with him thoughts and get his ideas, and kind of have a plan, sometimes you have to change and adapt, but he stuck to what we had talked about, and obviously it paid off," Wolfe explained.

One of the things that Wolfe does best is make decisions that benefit his driver. With Blaney in the lead, Wolfe made the decision to keep his driver on the racetrack, putting him the position to win.

" It's really about the clean air. If you can get clean air, it's worth so much. The tires obviously were wearing some. Obviously that's why we saw a lot of guys pit, obviously, from the lead.  It seemed like it was  the left side wear was more accelerated than what we've seen in the past, and I think that was making guys favor wanting tires. 

"But really still the falloff, if you look at the start of our run to the end, it wasn't extreme, and we  in practice we were out there on older tires. When they have a chance to cool down, seemed to refire and have decent speed.

"It's kind of what we had talked about. If you can get to the front row and get that clean air, then it's worth the gamble. 

"Obviously we had a lot of cars behind us. At that point I felt pretty good as long as he executed the restart, the guys on tires weren't going to catch you in two laps. Just not enough time," Wolfe said.

Next week, teams travel to California on the second stop of the West Coast Swing. Will Logano and Wolfe continue to be one of the teams to beat? Obviously.


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 UT college football every fall.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe Right Sides Only: Notes from the Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, February 24, 2020 Rating: 5