Tuesday, April 27, 1999. Winston Teleconference with Kevin Hamlin, crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo. Chevrolet notes and quotes. KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo) ...
Tuesday, April 27, 1999. Winston Teleconference with Kevin Hamlin, crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo. Chevrolet notes and quotes.
KEVIN HAMLIN (Crew chief No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "It was a pretty big deal to win my first race as a Winston Cup crew chief finally (in DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday). We have a tremendous team, and we were in position last season a few times to win races and we just didn't. The whole team is really excited right now. "The media, people in the grandstands, everybody wants to know the answer or wants us to be able to say what's wrong, and there's not anything wrong. Dale has the same desire he's always had to drive and win races. The team is as strong and pumped up as it's ever been. The competition level is just so great now that one minor little thing is a major setback. As we've seen this year already, Jeff Gordon has a tremendous team and they've stumbled a little bit just because they haven't had the luck they've had in the past. A tremendous amount of luck has to go along with it as well as 100 percent preparation and have a perfect day. "Dale comes to the shop maybe once a month or more if needed if we need him to come sit in the seat or discuss something. We do a lot of talking at the track and do a lot of talking over the telephone because he's so active with a lot of other things and busy. He doesn't necessarily have to be at the shop all the time. There's nothing for a driver to necessarily, in his position as a driver anyway, to be at the shop to be hands-on. We have plenty of capable people. If he communicates with me and tells me he would like something or wants something different, then we can work on it without him. I've kind of got, just in the last little bit, a feeling of how to put his seats in the car. We can do that without him now. He just fine tunes on 'em when he gets to the track, which he would do anyway if he came to the shop after he rides in them. He still may want to do a little fine tuning. As far as him being at the shop, it's not a necessity. He likes to stop by and say hey to all of the guys and tell them they're doing a great job, the ones he doesn't see on a weekly basis. As far as working with him, it's been great. When it all came about, it was like, 'this isn't what I want to do Richard (car owner Childress).' I like the low profile thing being with Mike Skinner and starting a team from nothing and working up and hopefully Mike and I would get our first win together. That's how I always envisioned it, and really wanted it to happen. We did get a win in Suzuka, Japan, in an exhibition race. That was really neat for both of us right there. Dale and I have a great working relationship and seem to have a pretty good off-track relationship. "To me, it's no big deal. Larry (crew chief McReynolds) likes to do things a little bit different, and that's fine. That's Larry's way of doing things, and it works pretty good for him. Skinner, when we were down there in the 31 shop, Mike was close enough where he liked coming to the shop once a week if needed, even if not needed, just stop by. He's close enough and his schedule right now at that time wasn't as busy, but it's getting busier and busier all the time now. "I guess you can say everybody has a little more hop in their step or whatever you want to call it there at the shop Monday morning. Everybody was tremendously excited with what happened on Sunday. The thing is, in this sport, you're only as good as your last race, unfortunately. That can only carry through for you for six days right now. We're going to ride that emotion while we can. Still, it is a big boost in the arm. Everybody is very ecstatic at the shop that we finally had a victory come our way. We've been in position to win several races last year, and it just didn't materialize. It gave everybody confidence to know that Dale Earnhardt can still win races and as a team we can still put together things for him to win races. As far as that goes, nothing has really changed but everybody realizes it now for sure. "I don't know if you necessarily put a happy face on everything, but emotions are like riding a roller-coaster. Say Friday, you had a really good day and sat on the pole and your whole team really pushes hard and you're pumped up and wide open on Saturday, which they usually are anyway, it doesn't matter if you sit on the pole or win the race. Everybody in this sport realizes that. It just gives you a little bit extra. Everybody is trying that much harder. Then on Sundays, you sit on the pole and have a terrible day and say you crash in the first five laps. That ruins your whole day Sunday, and like you say, it's an emotional roller-coaster. You've got to kind of keep your emotions on an even keel so you don't see those highs or those lows. You just realize it can go either way easy. Without even being able to control it yourself, really. Several of them got caught up in accidents Sunday and they had no control over that whatsoever besides being caught up in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Ernie (Irvan) was one of those. He's had a strong car all season and things haven't gone their way necessarily. That's just part of this sport. "It's a brand new chassis for us this year. We've built two new cars and they were of a different chassis type that I wanted to run. We were real successful with one last year. We probably ran it in 12 races at the end of the year and had a real good feel for it. It was a new piece. It had a really good body on it at the time. We ran it this year, and we ended up wrecking it at Atlanta. We had another one we ran at Darlington and Vegas. We took it to Martinsville and tested with it. To say it was the car, I don't know. You can have a good car and have the wrong spring and shock combination in it and make you have a terrible day. Not being sure if you've got a good piece, you can wonder if it was the body or the chassis or your setup or exactly what happened. This is a brand new Hopkins car, pretty much what a lot of teams are running right now, but it has some of the new body development that the RAD program Richard Childress, Andy and Dale put together and are working hard with in the wind tunnel study. Hopefully, we've got some of those aerodynamic things built in the body and it'll hopefully be a good car for us. "Everybody pretty much sets up these Winston Cup cars the same. There's not much difference. I might line up the front and rear wheels a little different than somebody else or leave the wheel base just a little bit difference. A lot of it is just driver preference, so it isn't what I have to do anyway, it's what I figure out what Dale needs. We're still searching for some of that. As the rules change, the feel of the car actually changes a little bit with the rear spoiler and front valence. We're still searching a little bit there for a comfortable, safe feel and the fastest feel. As far as actually this is the way Dale has done things in the past, there hasn't necessarily been any of that. There's nothing like experience. You just can't replace it. When Dale has a feel for the car he's raced at some of these places, say we're racing at Charlotte and we go out there in the last practice, Dale has an idea of what the track is going to do on Sunday. That way, as far as experience goes, he has a better idea of what he's going to look for in his car on Sunday on Saturday afternoon. Where Mike (Skinner) was still gaining that experience. I can push him in one direction or Larry can push him in one direction but there's nothing like him knowing where that fine line is on being too tight or too loose. We still miss. Everybody misses every once in awhile, but there's nothing like experience to help you draw it in a little bit closer. "They certainly challenge us at times and other times, I think we kind of push for this rule change, the drivers, crew chiefs and car owners. We thought we were going to have better racing where we weren't riding around quite as much and having a little more downforce where the cars can race side by side. I think it's proven to be a good thing this year to go back to more like the rules we had in '97. So far it's been a positive for everybody. It changes your setup a little bit. It's been a challenge which is good. "Sometimes it is better to have an older car, one that you're familiar with and you know what it responds to. Last year, when we built that first new chassis when I came up the hill there, what I call up the hill. The 31 shop is down in the valley like and the 3 shop is up on top. We call it up the hill and down the hill. When I came to the 3 shop, I was working on a different kind of chassis down at the 31 that we were going to try to run. Dale was receptive to going on and trying to run it, Larry wasn't that interested in it. We brought that car up there and painted it black. We took it to Indy and tested it. It's good to take it and test it and make sure you have the piece you think you have. We tested it against another proven car we had and we were real happy with it. Then we went to Pocono and raced the second Pocono race with the same car we had at the first one and had another pretty good run. Dale and I talked and he wanted to bring the new car to Indy. Indy is a big race and I had a good feeling about the car we raced at Pocono. I told him I wanted to take the Pocono car to Indy. You do get comfortable with old cars. We finally pulled the new car off the truck as a backup car at New Hampshire and it ran well. We were forced into running it and we ran it for several races because we had a good feel for it. I believe every time it ran, it finished in the top 10 last year. I know Rusty had a car that repeated itself over and over again. You run the heck out of it because you feel good about it sometimes."
Kevin Hamlin Crew Chief of the No 3 Chevrolet
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