Friday, March 30, 2012
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Travis Geisler Open Interview
Travis Geisler (Director of Competition, Penske Racing) “I think Martinsville is what it is. We all know it to be a really challenging racetrack from a lot of different perspectives. I think if you look at the brake systems, certainly you’ve got to have everything pretty much perfect for this weekend. You’ve got to make sure that all your systems are as perfect as you can make ‘em. Certainly, the stuff has come a long way and is a lot better than what it used to be where the drivers would really have to baby it throughout the race to make sure that you had it at the end. Now, I’d say it’s getting pretty close to where guys can run about as hard as they want to run for the majority of the race. I think tire beads have become a major concern here and I think a lot of that is because of better brake cooling. The guys can push everything harder, but that heat still has to go somewhere. You’ve got all your fans and everything pushing air through the brakes right next to the bead, so all you’re going to do is heat up your beads. Guys are taking some extra measures there to try to protect from the right-front failure that you see here. Intermittently, you’ll see guys pop ‘em and that’s a heat-related issue.
You look at your drivetrain and certainly the gear and transmission are big concerns. You’ll see guys change gears, axles, drive plates, all those piece before the race to try to have the freshest stuff in there because there isn’t really anywhere, other than a road course, that puts this kind of abuse on the drivetrain. A lot of the intermediate tracks have gotten pretty easy on ‘em, where you have a lot of constant speed. Here, it’s just start and stop. They advertise that’s hard on your street car; it’s hard on your race car, too.
Otherwise, it’s the same ol’ Martinsville. It’s tough racing, guys getting into each other. It seems like this one has become rougher than Bristol. I think you come out of Bristol now with better looking cars than you do out of here. A lot of that’s just guys feeling comfortable rubbing on each other here. This is still really one groove and it’s the only way you pass sometimes. Hot dogs are still red and we’re still here and the weather is a heck of a lot nicer than I can ever remember for the spring race.”
WHEN YOU ARE BUILDING A DODGE CHARGER FOR MARTINSVILLE, DO YOU TRY TO REINFORCE CERTAIN AREAS OF THE CAR BECAUSE OF THE CONTACT? “I think a lot of it goes with the weight concern. This is such a flat racetrack that where your CG (Center of Gravity) is has a major, major influence. If you’re looking at building a car, the weight almost becomes a bigger concern than anything else because you’re really not worried if the body gets torn up here. It doesn’t really hurt you from an aero perspective. You’ve got to keep it together enough that you don’t get black flagged, but past that you need everything as light as possible. I’d say that’s really what we’re focused on now when we build a Martinsville car. What do you do to take some weight out of the system and make your car go through a hairpin turn every quarter of a mile faster?”
PENSKE RACING HAS HAD A GOOD START TO THE SEASON, BUT THERE HAS BEEN SOME FRUSTRATIONS. “I think we’re still waiting for a little bit of everything to stabilize. This is a pretty good push here at the beginning of the season. It’s kind of crazy. You spend a couple weeks down in Daytona and then you’re out to Phoenix, out to Las Vegas, back to Bristol, back to Fontana, back to Martinsville. It’s kind of like nobody can really get into a rhythm because we’re kind of all over the place. You know I think things will definitely settle in here. I think the 2 car guys have picked up where they’ve left off and have had really good speed everywhere we’ve been. Obviously Daytona was a little bit disappointing for us. We felt like we certainly could have had better finishes there. You go to Bristol and have a great race there. A.J. missed the pole by a thousandth of a second and Brad was able to come away with a win, so I think we’re in a good spot. You know, obviously, we’d rather be first and second in points right now, but I think this point in the season last year, we were much farther behind than what we are now, maybe not from a point’s position as much as overall performance position.”
DOES IS JUST TAKE TIME FOR A NEW DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF COMBINATION TO GEL? “I think it definitely takes some time. We’ve got to figure out what A.J. wants and needs throughout the race and, the same way, he’s got to figure out how our cars are different. Even the engines drive differently. You’ve got different power bands, different torque curves between different manufacturers. You know that’s something he’s got to get used to. It’s a lot of things like that that you’ve got to get flushed out of the system. This is the highest level of motorsports in the country at least. It’s not an easy thing to step into and have great performance right out of the box. I think the good thing is they’ve had some really good speed and as long as you can find speed, you’ll smooth out getting through the races and getting things ironed out to where you don’t have issues. I’m not really too concerned there yet. Obviously, we’re excited about what they’ve been able to show at times. Now, we just need it all the way to the checkered flag.”
IS IT EASIER TO HAVE PATIENCE BECAUSE OF HOW BRAD WAS ABLE TO RALLY AND QUALIFY FOR THE CHASE? “The way the points system is now, it gives you a little bit of calmness. It’s still very difficult to make the Chase, but I do feel like that if you come out and you really put your act together, you will make the Chase even if you don’t have a perfect season. Used to take a really, really good, solid, perfect season to get in that thing and now with the Wild Card thing that Brad used last year to get in, there’s a good chance that if you really just get on a hot streak, you can get yourself into it. Obviously, we’d rather make it on points so that you get your bonus points for the wins that you have and be able to be in a better spot. That’s something that we felt hurt the 2 car last year. Going in with three wins, we would have been in a really nice spot, bonus spot wise. There’s always pressure. There’s pressure every week, but it’s not panic, though.”
WHAT ARE THE TEAM’S PLANS FOR THE OPEN WEEKEND? “We’ve got a test at Michigan next week with the 2 car. They’ll be up there for two days for a tire test. That’s a good opportunity for us to get to a track that’s been repaved and start to work out what that’s going to entails. Otherwise, we’ll be giving the guys a breather. We’ve got a couple more tire tests coming up, Dover and Pocono at the end of the month. We’ve got a busy month in April for sure and we’ll try to get the guys a couple days of rest and relief. We’ll get ‘em back in the front lines starting right after that. Everybody is doing a good job. We’ve got such a great support network back at the shop, all the guys that prepare this stuff for us every week. It’s just really an awesome organization to be a part of because, when you do have tough times, there are plenty of people there to support you and to get you through that.”