Roush Fenway Racing announced earlier this week that Drew Blickensderfer was joining the team as crew chief for David Ragan and the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion. Ragan, qualified 30th for tomorrow’s AAA 400, and Blickensderfer spoke about the change prior to Saturday’s practice.
DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS CHANGE? “Anything new is exciting. The relationship that Donnie and I have had has been great. I’m glad that he’s here this weekend helping our team out, but we were to a point where week-in and week-out we were working hard, but we just didn’t see much change.
The way that I look at this thing, and maybe Jack and Drew and Donnie look at it a little different, but I see we have nine races left to basically see how our off-season was going to be. To mix things up like this and bring Drew in, he’s got a different background, he’s worked with some different drivers in our company, so just to see what his opinion is on things, his opinion on me as a driver and what I can do to our race cars, to our team, to our pit crew. It’s just a different perspective. Everybody has a different opinion, so, hopefully, he can shine some light on a few things and it’s important for us to end the season with some good runs and that will certainly carry some momentum through the off-season.”
IS COMMUNICATION GOING TO BE THE FIRST THING TO WORK THROUGH? “Yeah, certainly it’s going to be tough for the first couple of practices, even that first race.
Donnie and I had a pretty good system and it took us a little while to get to know our lingo and understand each other and it’s gonna be like that with Drew, but we didn’t do this for one race, we did this for several, so hopefully over five or six races something will flash to the surface. Obviously, the first race for a new crew chief or a new crew is a learning experience, so we wanted to take Dover, which has been a good track for all the Roush Fenway teams, and come up here and see how we can do, and I’m sure we’ll get better as the weekend goes.”
IS YOUR ROUTINE GOING TO CHANGE AS FAR AS FEEDBACK OR RECOMMENDATIONS YOU MAKE ABOUT ADJUSTMENTS INSIDE THE CAR? “It’s not gonna change a great deal. I don’t sit in on all the meeting and understand the different programs we have to work on our race cars from a setup standpoint. I can offer a few suggestions, now whether they listen or not is one thing (laughing), but it’s just the small things that I can do to be more focused on my car. Maybe during practice I can pay more attention after the fifth or sixth lap of a run versus the first or second, so there are several things I can critique myself on to give better feedback to the crew. Ultimately, how we pay attention to our teammates and what we do with our setup is up to our engineer, our crew chief and me as a group, so we’re the triangle that makes it work. I understand what’s in our car, but as far as suggesting many changes, these practices go by so fast that I don’t even get out of the car, so it’s tough for me to have a notebook in front of my face to make suggestions.”
SO FEEDBACK IS YOUR MAIN CONCERN. “Yeah, and that’s what I can work on – just try to give better feedback and try to drive the car harder and harder until it does something that I don’t like and we’ll go to fix it. I’ve got a lot of confidence in our team to make those good decisions and after practice we can sit down and go through everything. I still need to learn more about our cars and why we do certain things to the setups, but by having Drew in he’ll have a different outlook on things.”
IS THIS A TEMPORARY ARRANGEMENT OR PERMANENT? “Time will tell. It’s for the next nine races and that’s what we’re focused on. We’ve got to take care of what’s in front of us right now before we worry about Daytona of next year. Ultimately, Daytona of next year will be here before we know it, but we’re taking it one race at a time and trying to get all we can out of this year. Hopefully, when we leave Homestead we can say that we ended the season on a good note, we were proud of the direction our team was going in, and we’ll have some momentum for the off-season.”
DREW BLICKENSDERFER, Crew Chief – No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion – HOW DO YOU VIEW THIS OPPORTUNITY? “I view it as an opportunity personally for me to grow and professionally to help Jack and UPS and David hopefully light a spark. It’s not that David can’t do it or the team can’t do it or anything like that. I’ve been inserted to light a spark and maybe look at things that weren’t seen before or look at things through a different set of eyes and turn the corner.”
HOW DO YOU PROVIDE THAT SPARK? THROUGH MOTIVATION, THROUGH ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM? THROUGH TECHINCAL SETUPS? HOW? “I think every situation is different and being three days on the job right now I’m doing more observing right now than anything else and seeing what it’s going to take to help this team. Is it me getting on David? Is it me getting on the car chief? Is it me helping the engineer? Is it me providing energy to the team and painting a blue sky picture for them and getting them through a funk? It’s all of those things and in different circumstances it’s different things.”
CARL SAID YESTERDAY THAT HE WASN’T LOSING YOU AND YOU WERE GOING TO EITHER BE ON THE 60 NATIONWIDE BOX OR THE 6 CUP BOX. HOW DO YOU VIEW THIS SITUATION?
“The same way. I was told to come over here and see if I can help turn this deal around and when Thanksgiving comes, Jack and myself and David and Carl will all sit down and we’ll all talk about it and either say, ‘No, Drew needs to go back to where he was,’ or, ‘Drew, we want you to stay.’ They’ve been very open and willing to work with me on seeing what I thought was the best fit for me, where can I fit in the best to help Jack, UPS, Copart, Fastenal and the 60 car, and what’s best for Drew and Roush Fenway.”
JACK WAS VERY SUPPORTIVE OF YOU WHEN THE CHANGE WAS MADE ON THE 17 EARLIER THIS YEAR. HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL TO KNOW YOU’RE HELD IN SUCH REGARD BY HIM? “You sleep better at night when you know your boss is supporting you and Jack is one of those guys that a lot of times he puts his finger on you and presses you. When he does things like this, it’s instills in the back of your mind that he has confidence in you and that helps you go out and do your job. Everything Jack has ever told me since I started working for him nine years ago, he’s always made good, so he’s definitely someone that when he says something I believe him and I trust that he doesn’t say it to sugarcoat you or to pacify you. He says it because it’s the truth, so knowing that you’re working for a guy that is always gonna be honest with you makes it a lot easier to come to work everyday.”
YOU OBVIOUSLY WANT TO SEE IMPROVEMENT THESE LAST NINE RACES, BUT WHAT’S THE ULTIMATE GOAL? “I think the ultimate goal is to get this group to where it’s not satisfied with wherever they finish. If they finish 25th, that’s not good enough. We need to finish 20th. If we finish 20th, we need to finish 15th. Hopefully, by the end of the nine weeks we’re running inside the top 10 and that’s not good enough, so you go into the off-season preparing to gain on top-10s and when you gain on top-10s good things happen to you. Hopefully, we’ll prepare ourselves for the next six or seven weeks to where the last few races we’re showing that we’re coming to the race track and we can compete and we can run up front and we can battle and qualify and we can battle in the race and we can be one of those group of guys that are running towards the front edge of the field.”
RESPECT THE CHASERS, BUT NOT TOO MUCH BECAUSE YOU GUYS HAVE TO RACE AS WELL, RIGHT? “That’s exactly right. The chasers are racing for a championship. We’re racing to prove that we belong in that group in the future, so it’s just as important for these guys to go out there and run up front as it is for the chase guys. It’s for different reasons, but it’s just as important.”