Tha Sports Junkies 101

Chase Team Principle Interviews


On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, interviews were held with the team principals of the three Sprint Cup Series teams that take up the four Chase spots in this year’s Championship Race.
Of the three, the first to be interviewed was Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt. Right off the bat, Duchardt was asked about the significance of Jimmie Johnson making it to the round of four to have the opportunity to win a record tying seventh championship, and just how the feat would compare to when Dale Earnhardt Sr. did it. Duchardt did not attempt to downplay the opportunity that faces the organization saying “Well, obviously any time you can win a championship, it’s special for the team, but winning a seventh championship would be extra special”. In terms of being asked about how it would compare to when Dale Sr. did it, it was more about the eras that the drivers were in and the points systems they were under saying they both excelled at the particular format in which they were so successful under. Duchardt summed this topic by saying “I think they’ve done it each in their own era, and I think if Jimmie could do it this weekend I think it would be unique in that he’s done it with different point systems to get his seventh”. Doug was also asked about Jimmie’s demeanor and if he has seemed any different and he gave a simple answer saying “Jimmie is just the kid from El Cajon that’s California cool. I never see him flustered in these situations. He embraces it”.

Next up to be interviewed was Jimmy Makar, Senior Vice President of Joe Gibbs Racing. Makar started with an opening statement saying “Well, it has been a spectacular year for our 25th anniversary to have the amount of wins we’ve had with all four cars and to place all four cars into the Chase.” Makar did go on to mention how having four cars in the final round of the Chase was their goal in the beginning of the season but having two is truly spectacular as they are the first team to do it. Much of what was asked about the Joe Gibbs Racing Organization had to do with how the team is dealing with having to prepare for two cars instead of one and splitting the resources. Makar said, “Yeah, it’s definitely harder to do, but you know, it’s a great position to be in to have to do this extra work”. Going on to say “The guys were actually back here at the shop Sunday evening after the race in Phoenix”, this, of course, was to make sure the four best cars in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable went to Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, as they are the two competing for the Championship. Makar was also asked about the tire combination that is being used this weekend, as it was used in both Texas races this season, which were won by the two drivers remaining in the Chase for JGR. In terms of having an advantage because of this Makar wasn’t convinced as he said: “everybody has that same information and is probably doing the same things we are to get there”. Before his time was up he went on to say that Carl Edwards Texas car that he won with two races ago will actually be his backup car this weekend at Homestead.

To end the interview session Travis Geisler competition director for Team Penske was interviewed. In Geisler’s opening statement he said “Winning the championship is a goal every year, but this year something we’ve been extra focused on, and fortunately the IndyCar was able to accomplish those goals, and now we’re poised to kind of do the same thing on the Cup side as well as maybe an unprecedented fourth owners title in a row on the Xfinity side”. Also mentioning that there is no added pressure just because this is the team’s 50th anniversary. Geisler was also asked if the win at Phoenix brings any momentum into Homestead for Joey. Geisler responded in saying “Yeah, unquestionably. I think that he was really fired up after that win”. Going on to say “He knows coming in that he’s led the bracket, I guess, for the last three. He’s certainly planning on his name being in the last box”. At the end of his interview, he went on to say that Todd and Joey push each other and that’s what makes their relationship work.

While most questions differed there were a couple common questions that were asked to all of the teams. One was on how aggressive they expect everyone to be and there was a common answer each time with all three saying that they expect it to be high as this is the last race and it is for the championship. Also, all three teams were asked about last week’s bulletin regarding truck trailing arms and mounting slugs and if it at all affected the cars that they were planning to bring this weekend. Once again all gave common answers in quickly dismissing this and saying that it has affected them in no way.