Both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have their crew chiefs back, Paul Wolfe and Todd Gordon respectively. And all impacted by the Penske suspension could not be happier to be back on track.
“For me, personally it was tough,” Wolfe, crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite for Penske Racing said. “It was tougher to deal with then what I thought it would be.”
The three week suspension was also tough for Todd Gordon, crew chief for the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford.
“It was difficult,” Gordon said. “It was tough to sit there and not see it.”
“There was definitely a disconnect,” Gordon continued. “That is why NASCAR implements the penalties they do, to make sure there is a penalty to it.”
Both crew chiefs described the biggest challenge as being unable to use their sensory input to help the cars and drivers, in addition to all the other data collected.
“I am a hands on kind of guy and for me to be able to watch the car in practice and see how it runs around other cars is important for me,” Wolfe said. “Visually, to see that and to make decisions on what changes to make is important.”
“It obviously was not the same.”
Gordon echoed Wolfe’s sentiments, describing how important physically being at the track really is for a crew chief.
“I would say the biggest thing is being able to actually touch it, feel it, smell it and see it,” Gordon said. “All the sensory stuff you don’t get from pictures and radios as you are listening to scanners and things like that.”
“You can’t see the splitter and how hard you are wearing on it and what the wear pattern looks like,” Gordon continued. “You can’t see tires.”
“There is so much of that information that I have lost the last three weeks that it will be good to be back and get that info.”
The Penske teams, however, have had very different experiences at track without their crew chiefs. The Blue Deuce has struggled without crew chief Wolfe while Logano and company have done quite well even with Gordon away from the top of the box.
“Absolutely, it has been hard to watch the team struggle,” Wolfe said. “We have lost a lot of points over the last month and it started a little earlier than before I was gone.”
“We had some issues at Richmond with some engine issues and lost points there,” Wolfe continued. “At Darlington, we felt like we had a competitive car but we had issues there with a loose wheel and getting caught up in a wreck.”
Gordon, on the other hand, has witnessed his team perform well in spite of the suspension.
“I think it is just a testament that everybody here steps up when they need to,” Gordon said. “It has gone well.”
“We had good plans going into the race weekends and we implemented them well.”
The two crew chiefs also got to play armchair quarterbacks and reflect on what they would have been differently if they had been at the track and in charge.
“I can’t say there was anything I would have done different,” Wolfe said. “Obviously I guided a lot of the changes and what we did.”
“Maybe I would have made different decision if I was there than what I did from being afar,” Wolfe continued. “Overall, it wasn’t like these guys went on their own agenda and did things that we wouldn’t have done.”
“It was guided by me.”
“Obviously you are still connected,” Gordon said. “You are still involved with how the race call goes and everything else.”
“There were a couple things that I look back and say I wish I had more information quicker and could have piped in more to what was going on,” Gordon continued. “The guys we brought in did well and I would say for what we had I think guys did a phenomenal job.”
The two crew chiefs also agreed that their drivers not only did a good job surviving the penalty period but are both in good places in spite of it all.
“Brad and I spoke for awhile last night and he seems to be strong and in a good place right now,” Keselowski’s crew chief Wolfe said. “Obviously he seemed a little frustrated last weekend with that car and rightfully so.”
“But he is in a good spot and is motivated.”
“I think the greatest thing is Joey’s ability to stay focused, get involved, and stay working,” Logano’s crew chief Gordon said. “He hasn’t gotten frustrated with situations and has always continued to give good feedback and give good effort.”
“It is easy to give up when things are frustrating but I think Joey’s mental endurance has been spot on.”
While both crew chiefs accepted being in the penalty box and away from the track, they are especially grateful that the penalties were reduced.
“I think we had a fair appeal process,” Wolfe said. “Our penalties were reduced some and we feel good about that.”
“I don’t think they were necessarily picking on us,” Wolfe continued. “They just happened to find where we were working and didn’t agree with it.”
Needless to say, Wolfe and Gordon are most looking forward to putting the whole penalty situation behind them, taking whatever lessons learned from the penalty, and moving on to some tough racing at the Monster Mile.
“We are putting it in the rear-view mirror and taking it as a learning experience,” Wolfe said. “It isn’t a situation you want to be in but me personally, and I think as a company in general, we learned from that and we are looking forward.”
“I definitely that this will make us stronger,” Gordon said. “I think it has allowed some people to see the different jobs of what has to happen.”
“Everybody stepped up and it allowed everyone to be a little stronger player in the program,” Gordon continued. “It will be a good thing for us in the long run.”
“You have to take bad situations and find the good in them.”