Right Sides Only: Notes from the Fanshield 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe

by Stacey Owens

Paul Wolfe is beating himself up just a little bit. Of the four races that Cup series drivers have run this season, Wolfe and his driver, Joey Logano, have won half of them. According to Wolfe, however, "it hasn't been a perfect year for us so far."

Despite their two wins, Wolfe is "embarrassed" about the team's less-than-stellar performance in California where they finished outside the top 10. 

"We started the race well, but finished 12th. When you have one of our team cars contending for a win, it means we missed it as a group, communication, trying to understand where we needed to be.  That was frustrating.

"I knew coming back to Phoenix this weekend we really needed to get back and run in the top five where we should be. But there's definitely learning curve there. I think where we raced today is a lot of what we've been able to build the setup over the years with Brad here. Really the 2 and the 22 were very close on their setups today. As you could see, both cars ran up front, led laps, were contending for a win. It says a lot about what we've been able to do as a company and how well we work together.

"We need to obviously continue to do that as we move forward," Wolfe explained.

The team had some issues to overcome throughout the afternoon. Wolfe discussed the problem his pit crew had with the jack.

"The guys did recover well. Not sure exactly what the issue is. Obviously just went to jack it up and it wouldn't jack. Trying to understand what failed or why it didn't is one problem. The recovery was key. There was a second jack right there on the other side of the wall. He was quick to remember that.

"I mean, it was one jack right to the next, didn't miss a beat. That was good to see. Obviously we don't want to have those issues and we'll need to go back and understand exactly what happened," Wolfe said.

As most fans know, the season-ending finale for 2020 will take place at Phoenix Raceway, not Homestead-Miami Speedway. Teams were, no doubt, gathering as much data as they could to take with them when they return to Arizona in November. Part of that data will include the new tire compound that Goodyear introduced for this race and that all teams used at the short track.

"I think we saw you could definitely tell the difference in grip, how the balance of the car would change. I think you would see speed out of the tire faster right away, where in the past with the old tire sometimes it would take 10 laps to run your fastest lap, where with this tire having more grip, you would get speed right away.

"You definitely had to manage the tire more. Like I said, as you would put cycles on the tires, it would change the balance of the car a good bit. It made the need for new tires worth more. As you saw guys would pit for tires quite often where we would never see that in the past,"  Wolfe explained.

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Apart from the tires, Wolfe talked about whether the package they ran will be much different when they get to the finale later this year.

"It's very encouraging the racing we saw today. I don't know if it's the right, but it was a step in the right direction for sure. Like I said, there's multiple things involved there. One was the lower downforce, which I think was obviously good. The tire was part of it. Then the PJ1, how that was applied and used, made for multiple grooves. Like I said, the strategy, if you look back at the last few years here, it was single file racing, track position, track position. 

"Today I wasn't scared to come down pit road and put tires on it. Unfortunately we had a couple issues on pit road, one with the jack, then one with the penalty. We were able to recover from both of those with a good racecar. It says a lot about the racetrack and the racing.

"Definitely you feel a lot better coming back here in November knowing the fastest cars still kind of find their way to the front. Maybe the way things were the last couple years, that wouldn't necessarily be the case. I think it's good for November," Wolfe said.

Maybe now that Wolfe has found something that will work for the final playoff race, he can relax a bit and enjoy his team's second win of the year. Maybe.

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; stand-up comedy, though she bumbles almost every joke she attempts to tell; 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 Fanshield 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe Right Sides Only: Notes from the Fanshield 500 Winning Crew Chief, Paul Wolfe Reviewed by Stacey Owens on Monday, March 09, 2020 Rating: 5