There is only ONE Oklahoma

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Witch Hunt begins

Photoshop courtesy of Plaid19 Inc.

I made mention of 'For Sale' the other day (and was recently emailed this pic of how this reference ruffled a few feathers from the Tartan Clad and their 'driver'. Frankly, I have little beef with them other than they maybe a bit short sited if they cannot see the re-occurring theme from year after year. ( they should get over it in time though and may learn, but that is not the point of this blog) Many 19 fans are now on what seems to be a witch hunt to find the cause of a couple of good qualifying runs, only to see the 19 car fall to clinging to the lead lap at the end of the race.

This witch hunt has now been directed to the current crew chief (aka team director) of the 19, Josh Brown, and lets give credit where credit is due for the pic above, for not only being posted on the SFC forum but the 'Pride of Evernham' message board and Plaid 19 Inc as well.

But before passing judgment and burning Brown at the stake, lets take a look at a few things and some history. This 'problem' didn't happen over night.

*The "Southern Gentleman" enter his Cup career in 1999 with a very proven crew chief, Mike Beam. Beam, in 1999 became the first ever crew chief for the Wood Brothers who didn't have the last name that bares the team. But his resume was very deep and successful at that time and continued after, amassing a career record of three Cup victories, 16 poles, 55 top-five and 137 top-10 finishes and before crew chiefing the "Southern Gentleman" had a record of 2 wins, 13 poles, and 77 top-10 finishes . By SFC/Plaid19 standards, thats a pretty impressive career record anyway one looks at it.

Beam lasted two full seasons

*In 2001, enter Pat Tryson coming over from the Roush Racing empire where he CCed the 97 team the two previous years. His career record as a CC includes 62 top 10’s, 34 top five’s, two victories, a win in the 2005 Nextel All-Star and a pole in 264 starts as a Nextel Cup crew chief. Most notably the first career win for ESad at Bristol in 2001.

Tryson also lasted only two years and then went on after ESad left the Wood Brothers for his 'dream job' to a very successful job CCing Mark Martin to two consecutive 'chase' finishes.

*pre-2003 (side bar)
Micheal 'Fatback' McSwain
Some think Nascar Columnist Lee Spencer is either one of the most credible journalist in the business or the opposite, so take this story for what it is worth.

Sources close to Robert Yates Racing say crew chief Michael McSwain's decision to begin a job search came after he tested with 2003 driver Elliott Sadler recently at Kentucky Speedway. Sadler, who was endorsed by McSwain to replace Ricky Rudd, ran four-tenths of a second slower than Rudd ran in a similar test earlier at the track. Sadler says McSwain told him things weren't going to work out. "I was surprised more than anything, but if his heart isn't in it, then he needs to go somewhere else," Sadler says. (Sporting News)(10-28-2002)

So after one test did 'Fatback' saw (or more importantly hear) something that he did not want to be a part of? Who knows, but it is worth mentioning.

*Beginning in the 2003 season RYR the experiment of 'co-crew chiefs' of Raymond Fox and Shawn Parker arrive on the scene. While this short lived experiment was seemingly successful, Robert Yates pulled the trigger very fast when the opportunity to re-hire Todd Parrott.

Fox and Parker lasted about 25 races.

*August of 2003 showed the arrival of maybe the first CC that the 'Southern Gentleman' actually respected. This was also the first CC that ESad really ever 'butted heads' with. It was also the first CC that I ever heard tell the "Southern Gentleman" to quite whining and "shut the F*** up and just drive the car". And lastly, it was also the only CC that ESad ever had, that he as a driver ever really showed the potential and hype he had been given since arriving at the Cup level in 1999.

But mid season in 2005 there seem to be a change. It was at Chicago where ESad had piloted the 38 much of the day in the top 5 only to make the claim in the final portion of the race to have a 'tire going down' and pitted under green. To this day I still remember Parrott's words over the scanner as the 38 left pit road, instructing the crew to 'check the pressures in all those tires'. He was accustom to the very common (almost weekly) 'bad set of tires' excuse, that seem to come out of the "Southern Gentleman's" mic, and this time, it sounds like he wasn't buying it. History records that the tire pressures were at the level they were supposed to be.

Flash forward a month and once again, ESad make a similar claim of a 'tire going down', and Parrott instructed the 38 to 'just stay out and do the best you can, the pit window is in about 20 laps'. 12 or so laps later the 38 blows a tire, and the day has ended, but the "Southern Gentleman" had one last jab of 'I told you so".

flipping a coin would get similar results.

*Exit Todd Parrott mid season and enter 'band aid' CC Kevin Buskirk. Since this truly was a band aid, there is really not much to say. Both the driver and the CC made the best the situation.

*2006 another 'strong willed' CC comes into play in Tommy Baldwin. Now understand this was the CC that RYR had courted for at least 4 previous years and finally got their wish. There were deja vu driver and CC clashes from the past years and even a 'shut the F*** up and drive, we are doing our job' claim heard from the past could be heard.

That 'wish' for RYR lasted less than 7 months when both driver and CC parted ways from the owner.

*Then 'new life' and a sense of rebirth hit the "Southern Gentleman' with the move the Evernham Motorsports. Enter Josh Brown. The last dozen or so races last year were what I would call a 'free pass' as driver/CC/team and even owner were given time to become accustom to one another. This 'free pass' was very important to the expectations of this season, and if there truly was a crew chief problem, there was ample time to identify them. (after all, there has only been four race this season, and only 2 of them the 19 team was 'intact' and not under penalty.)

Does anyone see the problem here yet? After four (really 2) races, there is a contingent of 'paying' SFC fans and also another group of 'tartan clad' fans who feel that the problem lies solely on the CC? Maybe these same fans should stop, look and listen' of the past 8 or so years. I followed those years, and the problem may not be the CC, it just very be well the driver's ability/inability to communicate the car handling to his CC and maybe more importantly, prioritizing the problems. The final two pits stops at Atlanta, and the feedback the the 'Southern Gentleman" gave may have been a clue. He wanted 'to fix a little bit of the two all day problems with the car that the 19 team had not been successful in getting right the past 425 miles, instead of making a call to 'fix the problem that was the biggest'. After listening to teams like the 48 , 20, 24 and a couple of others, its not hard to see and hear that those drivers understand this concept. But then again, they all have more skins on the wall.

In 9 years of being a fan, I have yet to see this and after today's run with the C.O.T. debut I fully expect them to point the finger wrongfully at someone else.

There is no I in the word team. yep I said it. The 19 team is just a micro away of putting the pieces together for the start of a CHASE run. Five races is much too short to point fingers now. But then again we are dealing with people who are publishing cookbooks. (now thats a new concept)

Can't wait to get the emails from this week's near miss, but then again, someone had to tell the CC to only take on one side of tires after the first 'vibration', when the safe play would be to take four tires. (I guess the CC 'listened' this time? funny how that works) After all, that would have only been an extra half a lap (8 seconds) and going out two laps down instead of four. But I am sure that doesn't count. 'Team'....a novel thing

It is audit week once again, so I maybe in the weeds for a few days, but there might be some really fun stuff coming up this weekend. Hope to have some YouTube stuff from it.

Have a good week!

No comments: