Tim Kohuth started turning wrenches at a very early age. Growing up in Allentown, Penn., Kohuth began to prepare race cars for his friends and family when he was only 12 years old. Although never a driver himself, Kohuth has been perfecting his ...
Tim Kohuth started turning wrenches at a very early age. Growing up in Allentown, Penn., Kohuth began to prepare race cars for his friends and family when he was only 12 years old. Although never a driver himself, Kohuth has been perfecting his craft as a crew chief for over 25 years. Kohuth got started in NASCAR racing working as the only full-time employee at Junie Donlavey Racing with driver Ken Schrader. He later worked for Schrader Racing from 1987 until the end of the 1998 race season. In early 1999, he made the move to Jim Smith's Ultra Motorsports/Team ASE where he is crew chief for Mike Wallace, winner of the Craftsman Truck Series season-opener in Homestead, Fla. Wallace currently sits fifth in the NCTS championship.
Tim Kohuth - Crew Chief - #2 Team ASE Racing Ford F-150 - HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN RACING AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE? "I grew up in Pennsylvania and there was a small race track near my house called Dorney Park Speedway which was right inside an amusement park. I started going to watch races there for as long ago as I can remember. Eventually, I got together with a couple of my buddies and we got our own race cars together and started racing there. I was never a driver but I've always either built race cars or owned race cars. I've pretty much been a crew chief ever since I started in this business."
HOW WERE YOU DISCOVERED BY LONG-TIME NASCAR OWNER JUNIE DONLAVEY? "At the end of 1985, I had a pretty good race team of my own up in Pennsylvania going at the time. We were racing a couple of modifieds and were getting to be pretty big and it just happened that I was in the right place at the right time. I was offered a job to go down south and work on Donlavey's Winston Cup team. I started to think about that really hard and after I decided to go through with it, I packed up everything and made the move. It was a very tough move for me. I was young and that was my first move away from home where I wasn't paying any room or board and I was making good money racing my own stuff. It was a pretty big deal to move away from Pennsylvania to a small apartment in Virginia by myself without knowing anybody. When people heard that I was going Winston Cup racing, everyone thought that I'd be sweeping floors and cleaning lug nuts! But when I walked in to work for Junie's team, I ended up being the team. In 1986, I was the only full-time employee of the team. When the car came back from the track there was very little I didn't do."
IS THIS WHERE YOU MET AND BEGAN WORKING WITH KEN SCHRADER? "Yes, Kenny Schrader was the driver and we ran all of the 1986 season together. We ran 1987 together and hired Bob Johnson to come on as crew chief that year. So we started to build a little team within a team. At the end of 1987, Ken Schrader went to drive for Rick Hendrick. Kenny was moving south and when he decided to go start his own personal race team also, he asked me if I'd come with him and run it."
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE THE MOVE TO TEAM ASE FOR THIS SEASON? "It was pretty big deal (laughing). Kenny is one of my best friends in the world and hopefully he is always going to be. There were no problems there between Kenny and me. I told Kenny when I left that, I couldn't go to him and tell that I'm leaving because he had a bad race team, because if I did, I was the one in charge of this bad team! But at the end of last season, we didn't have a sponsor at Schrader Racing to go truck racing. They do have one now and it didn't really take them that long to get one, but I wanted to be absolutely sure that I could go back truck racing. I love doing this series. I didn't want to go back and do Busch or Winston Cup. I just like the truck series better. It's very enjoyable and for now, this is what I'm going to do. I've always admired Jim (Smith) and think that he is a great guy. Barry (Dodson) was leaving Team ASE and Jim and I just got talking and Jim said that he didn't think that I'd ever leave Kenny Schrader. I told him to wait a minute, it is possible. It was a business decision on my part. I told Jim that this is my first new job in 13 years and this is going to be my last job! I don't want to be one of these cats that is jumping all over the place. It's been a good move."
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE CHALLENGES COMING TO ULTRA MOTORSPORTS/TEAM ASE, YOUR FIRST NEW TEAM IN 13 YEARS? "The biggest challenge is getting to know our trucks in the shop. I don't know what any of these trucks did last year. And every truck has its own performance characteristics. But we are learning very rapidly. I'm going to say that by the middle of the season, we'll have two trucks that will be our favorites just like every other race team has. But we're not to that point yet. The truck that we had at Martinsville seems to be one of our favorites. After having a good qualifying effort, but a tough race outcome, we can learn some things and then carry some of the information over to the second half of the season. That is why we thought that it would be very important to get through the first part of the season with the five race weekends in a row. Now with two weekends off, we can come back to the shop and regroup. We'll get the guys together and go over some things that we need to get better at doing. There are some things that I'm having to learn like how some things operate here at the shop. Everybody thought I just moved over here and took over a race team but there are only two people in this organization that were here last season. When we're at the race track, there is nobody who was with the team last year. So it's a pretty big deal. I look at some of these other teams like (Ron) Hornaday's and (Jack) Sprague's that have most of their team members back from years past. This is basically a whole new race team going to the track. We do have the vehicles from last year, so that helps. But we've got kids that are really young. The team is doing a hell of a job and we're just going to get better and better as the season goes on. If we were going to be weak, I thought it would be in the beginning of the season, but we've rolled out pretty well. My job is to oversee everything that I can and every part of this business. These days, the easy part is going to the track for the race. I'm just keeping everything together. But first of all I had to track down all the people. To see if this is the right person for the right job. There are two guys left from last season. It's taken some time for the team to get used to all the new faces around here."
HAS THE SWITCH TO FORD POWER BEEN CHALLENGING TOO? "Every one of the motors is different, too. We have a chassis dyno at the shop, that the motor builder thinks that I use too much. But that is the only tool that I have to test with before we go to the track. These motors are not all the same. A lot of effort goes into determining what headers or tailpipes go on the truck. It's all about learning what packages we actually want to use. I think that we'll just get better and better and we should get better and better as time goes on."
DID MIKE WALLACE COME OVER AS PART OF A "PACKAGE DEAL"? "Mike and I started talking late last season about the possibility of moving over to Ultra Motorsports. After talking with Jim Smith, Jim had a list of three or four drivers that he might have chosen to replace Mike Bliss. But he had one crew chief, me. I made my deal with Jim and it was a couple of weeks later that we got Mike. I was really hoping that Mike would be the chosen driver because it would be one other familiar piece of the puzzle. I wouldn't have to get used to a new driver and Mike wouldn't have to get used to me. We ran pretty darn good together last year and the second half of the 1997 season after Mike took over the driving. We've gotten along extremely well. I didn't want to have to start building a relationship with someone else. That has worked out rather well. We went to a whole new deal with Ford and that took some getting used to and we rolled out of the box and we're pretty strong."
YOU WEAR BLACK WRISTBANDS ON BOTH WRISTS AT THE RACE TRACK. IS THERE ANY STORY THAT GOES ALONG WITH THE WRISTBANDS? "No, it's just one of those things that I've always done and there is no story that goes along with them. Jack Roush wears his hats, I wear my wristbands. I've been wearing these things for so long that if I didn't have them on, I wouldn't feel right. There are some pretty funny rumors that some people have come up with, but all those stories aren't true."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO AWAY FROM THE RACE TRACK? "I live on a lake, so when it's summertime and we're not at the track, it's not real hard to find me because I'm somewhere out on the lake along with most of the other race people. We're out on our boats enjoying ourselves. Ron (Hornaday) lives close by and we'll get together at one of our houses and watch the Winston Cup races together. In fact, since we're off this weekend, I think we'll watch the Cup race together this Sunday."