New car plus driver, crew changes lead to frantic offseason for NASCAR, Jeff Hammond writes.
By Jeff HammondFoxSports
The season may be over on the track, but that doesn't mean the work has ended.
With the 2013 new car on the horizon, and several teams making adjustments in driver and crew-chief lineups, that just puts you back into a full-blown work mode without having a lot of time off. That’s the hardest thing — this season has just ended, but if you are a crew chief or a team manager of one of these teams, you’re full bore on 2013 right now.
As tired as you are, as worn out as you may be, you’re already thinking about, “Well, it will be better next year.” Or if it was good this year, “Well, we want to do it again next year.” Even that thought takes a little something out of you.
This is a very demanding season as far as any sport goes. With new drivers and new teammates and new engineers and whatever is new just besides the new car alone, it will be added work, added adjustment and a challenge to try to mesh all the pieces up and make them work together smoothly.
I think that’s the thing a lot of people lose sight of: Just because you get a new driver doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to fix your problems. You still have to understand his needs, his wants, his desires, and you’ve got to develop a line of communication.
Moving to a new team, it’s the same thing.
You’ve got different guys, they work differently, they want different things. I talked to Carl Edwards, and he and new crew chief Jimmy Fennig are starting to develop a rapport about what Jimmy expects out of him and what Carl is wanting out of Jimmy. So the next couple of months, that’s what they’ll be doing so that when they get to Daytona, it’s supposed to work.
Every team out there right now is doing that, and they’re also looking at people who are retiring, whether they’re pit-crew members or in another role. We’ve got several pit-crew members right now on different teams who are coming off the road and have been mainstays who have to be replaced by younger people.
It’s an ever-changing environment that we work in. The season may be done based off the schedule, but the next season is already in full force and the people and organizations are getting prepared.
Even a team such as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, which basically was nonexistent in 2012, is trying to figure out, "What can we do to get back to a level of respectability and competitiveness." It’s an ongoing, never-ending challenge.
Penske Racing, for example, is wide open getting ready to make a huge switchover as far as manufacturer is concerned and it will be a lot of opportunity for this organization to stub their toe as we go into 2013.
I don’t think they’re behind, but it’s just that they have to learn some different things.
Right now, it’s time to go back to school. This new car is going to make everybody go back to school, and anybody you speak with, whether they’re a mainstay Ford team or a mainstay Chevrolet team, with this new car it’s a brand-new day and whole new learning curve on what it’s going to take to get these guys happy based off all the changes that NASCAR has thrown at these guys.
It’s like starting over — it is truly starting over.
You throw some new people in the mix, you throw a new crew chief or a new driver or whatever, and it just compounds the problem. I was one of those crew chiefs, and I’d want to go beat my head up against the wall because I knew I couldn’t afford to take very much time off — even during a holiday.
There is so much work that you have to make sure it’s being done. It’s overwhelming.
You’ve just come out of a battle and you’re getting ready to start another battle. That’s what NASCAR is: It’s a continuous war.