Driver-crew chief communication: Critical to success

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Folks, I just wrote a story about how testing at Daytona isn't important, but I would always prefer to have my driver there. If, for some reason, he can't be, I'm OK with that. But, by the same token, I like to get rid of what few cobwebs there are, get the line of communication going and get back in gear.
SPEED Channel testing recap shows
  • Jan. 9, 7 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 10, 7 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 11, 7 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 15, 7 p.m. ET: Craftsman Truck testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 16, 7 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 17, 6:30 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 18, 6:30 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
  • Jan. 22, 7 p.m. ET: Busch testing from Daytona
  • Feb. 1, 7 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Las Vegas
  • It's very important for a driver and a crew chief to understand each other, especially the new combinations for 2006, whether it's Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Sterling Marlin, Michael or any of the other drivers in new cars. I've been thinking about how critical communication is going to be. The first time I went to Daytona with Barry Dodson in 1993, we crashed in practice, and I cracked a couple of ribs. I was in a lot of pain when I started the 500. Halfway through the race, I was really hurtin'. I called into the pits. "Barry, I need some help, buddy. You're going to have to give me some Goody's or something." Not knowing me because we had never worked together before, Dodson didn't know what I was talking about. He turned around to the crew and said, "Look, I don't know what kind of goodies you all give him, but whatever you all give him, go get some and hurry up." One of the crew guys ran to the truck and got a Pop Tart. When I came in the pits, they put a Pop Tart on the pole that they stick in the window to give me water and a wet towel. I looked at it, looked at them and I said, "Have you all lost your mind? Are you all crazy?" I just threw down the Pop Tart and drove off. "I thought you needed some goodies," Dodson said. "Yeah, dude, Goody's Headache Powder," I said. "I need something for pain, man, not something for hunger." Everybody just cracked up because Dodson thought I wanted some "goodies" like a Snickers, Milky Way, Reese's or a little snack. It's just another example of how driver-crew chief communication is important to having success.
    Daytona testing: Jan. 9-11
  • Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
  • Scott Wimmer, No. 4 Auto-Exhaust Chevrolet
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet
  • Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge
  • Ryan Newman, No. 12 Alltel Dodge
  • Greg Sacks, No. 13 Dodge
  • Matt Kenseth, No. 17 DeWalt Ford
  • Jeremy Mayfield, No. 19 Dodge
  • Mike McLaughlin, No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet
  • Ken Schrader, No. 21 Motorcraft/Air Force Ford
  • Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet
  • Jeff Burton, No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet
  • Bill Elliott, No. 36 MB2 Motorsports Chevrolet
  • Elliott Sadler, No. 38 M&M's Ford
  • David Stremme, No. 40 Coors Light Dodge
  • Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Target Dodge
  • Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Cheerios Dodge
  • Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet
  • When crew chief Mike Ford and Bill Elliott were working together, they were running awful in one race. The car was terrible. Ford asked, "Bill, what's wrong with the car?" "Well, it's running like a three-legged dog," Elliott said. Mike turned around, and everybody in the pits was shrugging his shoulders. No one knew what he was talking about. Elliott didn't say anything else. The crew made some adjustments on the car. Later on in the race, Bill started running really well. Ford asked, "Bill, how's the car now?" "Well, you know that three-legged dog? It found it's other leg." It was hilarious. The guys in the pits were just cracking up.
    Daytona testing: Jan. 16-18
  • Jeff Green, No. 0 NetZero Chevrolet
  • Joe Nemechek, No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet
  • Clint Bowyer, No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet
  • Mike Wallace, No. 09 Miccosukee Gaming & Resorts Dodge
  • Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
  • Kyle Busch, No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet
  • Mark Martin, No. 6 AAA Ford
  • Robby Gordon, No. 7 Jim Beam Chevrolet
  • Scott Riggs, No. 10 Valvoline Dodge
  • Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet
  • Sterling Marlin, No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet
  • Greg Biffle, No. 16 National Guard Ford
  • J.J. Yeley, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet
  • Dave Blaney, No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge
  • Brian Vickers, No. 25 Chevrolet
  • Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Sharpie Ford
  • Kevin Harvick, No. 29 GM Goodwrench/Reese's Chevrolet
  • Travis Kvapil, No. 32 Tide Chevrolet
  • Casey Mears, No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge
  • Kyle Petty, No. 45 Dodge
  • Brent Sherman, No. 49 Schwan's Dodge
  • Michael Waltrip, No. 55 NAPA Chevrolet
  • Dale Jarrett, No. 88 UPS Ford
  • Carl Edwards, No. 99 Office Depot Ford
  • Every driver has an expression of some kind. Sterling Marlin is a classic example. I can't imagine him driving this year without Tony Glover to talk to because he and Glover have been working together for years. No matter what Marlin says, Glover knows what he's talking about so somebody's going to be in for a real experience when they start trying to communicate with Marlin. I'll give you a good example. A transmission blew up or some kind of mechanical problem happened to Marlin's car. Glove asked, "Sterling, what happened to the car?" Sterling said, "Well, it felt like I got a stick in the spoke." How do you explain that? It felt like I got a stick in the spoke. The first time I went to work for Junior Johnson, I was eager and wanted to show my new boss how appreciative and excited I was about being there. We were getting ready to run a test at North Wilkesboro. There were 40 tires outside the building, and the team was getting ready to put them on the truck. I asked, "Junior, what can I do to help out?" "Well, boy, why don't you go out there and bounce them tires." When the tires are aired up, crew members will bounce the tires to push the bead against the side of the wheel so you've got a good seal because we don't run tubes in short-track tires. My first thought was Johnson wanted me to bounce those tires and be sure they're all sealed on the wheels. So I started bouncing tires, and they were going everywhere. They went down hill and out in the yard. They were hitting cars.
    Ask DW
    Johnson walked outside and said, "Boy, what the heck are you doing?" "Well, June," I said, "I'm bouncing these tires like you told me to." "Quit messing around and acting like a big fool. Get them tires over there, put them on that bubble bouncer and get them bounced." So communication is the key to success. You've got to be able to understand what the people around you are trying to say, and they've got to understand what you're trying to say. If you don't, who knows? You might have a yard full of tires bounced all over the place.

    Oh, by the way

    I was in Indy this past week on some business. There's a rumor going around that some big NASCAR team was thinking about moving to Indianapolis, and I was talking to some folks who may have given me an inside track on who it might be. It's a guy that's got three cars and no crew chiefs, if that helps you any.
    Tagged: Kurt Busch

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