All Access with Couch Crew Chief

 

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Dale Earnhardt Sr. chassis number 32.

My wife and I visited the team in Welcome, NC again this morning. On Tuesday we purchased tickets to do the RCR Museum “All Access Shop Tour.” Normally $45, it is well worth it. The morning started with a tour of the museum from “Chocolate” Myers. We had a small breakfast with drinks and biscuits and stories from the source. Truly a treasure of NASCAR. Seeing the old shop is amazing, from all the historic special scheme cars to many of the original, still dirty cars right from the track.

After the museum tour we walked outside, where chassis number 32 awaited us. This car had been in storage for years. They were cleaning out the building and this beauty fired up. The old SB2 motor sang. It was soon driven off to… who knows where. On the A-post you will see the “NASCAR 2000” decal. After 18 year, hidden away, she is still as beautiful as ever.

 

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Spring 2018 Talladega backup car for Ryan Newman.

 

As we entered the main shop, the 31 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet of Ryan Newman stared us down. The front profile of the ZL1 is very aggressive, and pictures cannot do the hood justice as it has major lines and contour. This mean machine will likely be backup at Talladega.

After we left the main shop we were brought through the body shop, where they hang bodies on chassis. While we were not allowed to take pictures, let me assure you that it is one of the most visually impressive areas. English wheels, sparks, welders, and an internal GPS system that is good down to the thousandth of an inch. This is what it takes to just be competitive in NASCAR today.

 

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“Shadows of Dale.” Cars being prepped. Photo edited to delete chassis parts. (Sensitive media.)

After a trip through the back alleys of RCR and a look inside the media room, we happened back out on the fan walk. There are cars being prepped for racing, the primer car with DOW hood decal is set to go to Michigan for tire test the week of April 23, 2018. The fan walk is open to public all the time and it is beautiful. We met Mike Dillon during the tour, and one can see drivers and crew members from here Monday through Thursday. Photos are welcomed, just don’t try to share chassis pictures, you would be surprised who can decipher what from a single picture.

 

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Texas Spring 2018 was not kind to this girl.

Also from the Fan Walk you will see cars that are staged for, “Rehab” like this poor girl from Texas. She had a rough race and shows it. There are several cars that will be staged here and they will go to the back, stripped down, rebuilt, and repaired. In this fashion a car may see several iterations in it’s life cycle.

After the Cup shop we visited the pit crew department where Will Goodnow from this weekend’s Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff #8 team took time to talk with the group about the new pit stops, the changing of strategies, and the new pit guns. As previously stated, the pit crew has taken the attitude of, “This is what we have to do, so let’s just rock it!” And, they do. The whole pit stop is a challenge in choreography now and is quite amazing.

After the pit crew department we visited the XFINITY shop which is a miniature version of the cup shop. While they worked, Cup practice was on TV so they could keep up with Daniel Hemric who is making his Cup series debut.

 

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ECR Engines ready for delivery.

 

Finally we visited quite possibly, the most anal retentive (I say that in a good way) department known to man. ECR Engines. Every part is checked and rechecked. From electron microscopes to testing what metal each piece is made of. These engines have small QR codes all over them which tell the team everything about it, right down to when the metal was smelted. After everything  is checked, it goes to preassembly, then to final assembly, to the dyno, and lastly, it goes to the engine tuners. The guys at the track put the final touches on and make sure it sings a beautiful 800 horsepower song. The goal of the shop is to have less than a 1% horsepower difference from motor to motor. That is a tight tolerance with very few failures. This same shop boasts many different wins in the IMSA series with the former Corvette DP & current Cadillac DPI chassis.

After over 3 hours you will find yourself back in the RCR Museum and team store where you receive 15% off and you can retour the museum with all the time in the world. Go tell the girls hi and tell them Couch Crew Chief sent you. Hey, they all told me to make sure I send you up there!

All in all, it was a fantastic day. We had breakfast, got to hear stories from the old days, got to see some amazing cars, and maybe even learned a little something. Even if you don’t do the full tour, the museum is well worth the visit. You will see things long lost to legend and you can always catch Chocolate before his show or after. He is the real deal and knows the best places to eat. He is also your one stop shop for local history.

Enjoy your trip.

 

JL
@lbrady85 on IG (left) & @couchcrewchief (right)

Who knows, like Logan, maybe I’ll see you… in the box.

 

Moves at BJMM

Unlike any other sport, the “Silly Season” of NASCAR never truly ends until the green flag flies at the next race. Leading up to Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona the BJ McLeod Motorsports team has signed driver David Starr, a veteran, to pilot the number 99 Chevrolet Camaro. The move also will result in driver, Clint King, moving from the 99 to the 78 Chevrolet Camaro normally driven by the owner/driver, BJ McLeod. BJ will return for the second race of the year to his 78 car.

BJ McLeod has stepped out for the season’s first race to ensure that the young Development Driver has the largest pool of talent around him to succeed. McLeod is dedicated to helping foster young talent for the series and giving these drivers the much needed experience to be successful in their future.

“[Driver Development] is very important for us as that is the future of our sport.”

The last week has seen a heroic effort by all members of the team, including BJ returning to the wrenches, to prepare the third and final Chevrolet Camaro for past NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, Jeff Green. This will finalize the manufacturer change from a stable of Ford Mustangs to Chevrolet Camaros. The switch comes to provide the best possible equipment on the track each week. This combined with a group of talented mechanics, crew chiefs and drivers, makes for a very promising future.

BJ McLeod Motorsports shows a willingness to change and move to ensure they will be a competitive mainstay within the garage area for years to come. Not only will they strive to provide competitive race cars but also provide a proving ground for young drivers to make their mark. This should bring plenty of excitement to the team and the track every week. You can follow along for all the latest from the team on their Twitter: @teamBJMcLeod as well as on their FaceBook: BJ McLeod Motorsports and their InstaGram: bjmcleodmotorsports

From the press release issued Tuesday:

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B.J. McLeod Motorsports to field three XFINITY Series cars at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To kick off their sophomore season of NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) competition, B.J. McLeod Motorsports (BJMM) will field three cars in Saturday afternoon’s PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

21-year-old Clint King will drive the team’s flagship No. 78 Chevrolet Camaro with sponsorship from Warehouse Design, while 2000 XFINITY Series champion Jeff Green will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro with longtime competitor David Starr rounding out the trio in the No. 99 Striping Technology L.P. Chevrolet Camaro.

“The guys have worked extremely hard, day and night to prepare three cars to go to Daytona, but we’re ready,” said team principal B.J. McLeod. “We have youth and experience representing our team this week, which we hope will provide opportunities to earn some strong finishes and kick off our 2017 XFINITY Series season on the right foot.”

King enters the second week of Speedweeks 2017 with momentum after finishing ninth in the season-opening Lucas Oil Engine Treatment 200 ARCA Racing Series race last Saturday.

Green will make his 24th start at the “World Center of Racing” and look to repeat his seventh place showing last February.

Starr, the Houston, Tex. native is set for his 10th career XFINITY showing at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

For Daytona, B.J. McLeod Motorsports is proud to welcome the support of Carefree Catering, ICE- FROST and @CouchCrewChief who will serve as associate marketing partners for the team’s 34th career XFINITY Series race.

The PowerShares® QQQ 300 (120 laps / 300 miles) is the first of 33 NASCAR XFINITY Series on the 2016 schedule. Practice begins on Fri., Feb. 24 from 12:00 p.m. – 12:55 p.m. A final session is set for 2:00 p.m. – 2:55 p.m. Qualifying is set for race day, Sat., Feb. 25 beginning at 10:30 a.m. The 40-car field will take the green flag shortly after 3:30 p.m. with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, the Motor Racing Network (Radio) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Satellite Radio, Channel 90).

Be sure to follow B.J. McLeod Motorsports on social media; Facebook.com/bjmsinc and on Twitter @TeamBJMcLeod.

About Carefree Catering:

Carefree Catering: Central Florida’s fastest growing full-service caterer! Family owned and operated, their passion for elegant as well as tasteful catering goes back many years. Whether you’re hosting a cocktail party for 20, a 50th Anniversary celebration for 100, or planning a wedding for 250, look to Carefree to make your event a success. We also cater to the Pharmaceutical industry providing delicious luncheons on short notice. Our goal is to have you join our growing list of satisfied clients who rely on us for all of their catering needs.

About ICE-FROST:

ICE-FROST is a combination of environmentally safe minerals that when added to the ice in your cooler, will take the temperature down from 30° (that’s the average ice temperature in a cooler) to a frosty -10°.

Extend the life of your ice. Turn your cooler into a freezer. Made in the USA.
About @CouchCrewChief:

Six years ago, Jonathan Gruenke, started the twitter handle @CouchCrewChief as a fun race day gag. In the following years, it has grown to include in-race updates and a motorsports blog focused on new drivers, new teams, and road crew members who sacrifice to entertain the motorsports fans.

About B. J. McLeod Motorsports:

B.J. McLeod Motorsports (BJMcLeodMotorsports.com) is an American professional stock car racing team that currently competes in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The team is owned by B. J. McLeod and wife Jessica. The team will field three Camaro Chevrolets in the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway with drivers Jeff Green (No. 8), Clint King (No. 78) and David Starr (No. 99).

@CouchCrewChief reaches social media partnership with BJ McLeod Motorsports!

Six years ago, Jonathan Gruenke, started the twitter handle @CouchCrewChief as a fun race day gag. In the following years it has grown to include in-race updates and a motorsports blog focused on new drivers, new teams, and road crew members who sacrifice to entertain the motorsports fans. @CouchCrewChief is excited to have a multi-race partnership with BJ McLeod Motorsports. “Partnering with a team who took a dream and made it reality is a huge honor. The team embodies the spirit of motorsports and shows that with hard work and dedication anyone can achieve their dreams, I am happy to be along for the ride.”

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BJ McLeod Motorsports 2017

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At the age of 33, BJ McLeod is set to start his second full season as a team owner and driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He has amassed a total of 76 career starts in the top 3 touring series, he posted a best finish of 19th on 3 separate occasions last year and finished 20th in overall NASCAR Xfinity Series points.

BJ McLeod has been in and around racing for quite a few years; getting his start by racing ATV’s at the age of 3 and having worked his way through many different series and disciplines of racing. His 4 wheel career took off running Super Late Models and logged over 100 wins! He continued to hone his skills and develop through premiere series including ARCA Racing Series and has taken a ride in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and multiple rides in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. This driver/mechanic put down the wrenches to focus on the duties of owner, driver, and general manager.

“In the past I had to [work on the cars], to get to here. It was just me and 1 or 2 other guys. Any manual labor I do [on the car] now is because I want to. I have 5 or 6 guys that help me.”

In 2016 BJ’s team fielded Ford Mustangs and added a second full time driver to their lineup late in the year, veteran and past Champion, Jeff Green.

“It’s just a good deal for us. He has a ton of experience. When he gets in the car, you know that you’re just working on the machine now. I’ve been asking Jeff’s advice for years. Charlotte 2015, the May race, I had to get a car in on time, we only had 6 laps of practice; I asked him -How far can I get away with driving into the corner? -He said you can run wide open into one turn but will have to lift a little in 3 and 4, but try this.- …and I got in on time easily. He can start you out in the right spot, right off the bat.”

Starting out in the right spot will prove crucial to the team. Not yet having full funding holds the team to a limited amount of time for practice, regardless of the length of the session. Racing against 4 new full-time fully funded teams and multiple fully funded part-time teams, BJ and his team will have an uphill battle.

“If it was just this year over last year, I would expect top 20, a lot. With all the new teams, unless we get a full time sponsor, the reality of the situation is we will be 25th to 30th.”

However, these results will not be for lack of effort and determination. The BJ McLeod Motorsports team has a few changes for 2017. After Daytona they will field all Chevrolet Camaros, Daytona will see Jeff Green pilot a third car, a Ford Mustang.

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BJ McLeod (@bjmcleod78) will pilot the 78, sponsored by Carefree Catering (@CarefreeCater), Ice-Frost (@Ice_Frost__) for #ICEFROSTCOLD beverages, and @CouchCrewChief social media.

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Clint King (@driverClintKing) will also drive a part time schedule for BJ McLeod Motorsports in the 99. Sponsored by Warehouse design (@WDI103), Momo Motorsports (@MomoMotorsport), Safecraft Safety Equipment, and Lira Motorsports (@LiraMotorsports).

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Jeff Green (@buckcentral10) will pilot a BJ McLeod Motorsports car for a full season of competition. In addition he will be a valuable asset to help BJ and other development drivers get the most out of each lap.

This year the team will ramp up social media efforts via Twitter @teamBJMcLeod, Instagram bjmcleodmotorsports, and FaceBook BJ McLeod Motorsports @bjmsinc. These will all have updates from the start of the truck weekend in Daytona and go throughout the year, to include in-race updates, practice and qualifying times, tech days, and everything you could ever hope to know or see from the track. If you haven’t followed them in the past, these will be great for all fans of motorsports. There are sure to be some contests and possibly some major giveaways along the way.

“Social media is as big as the TV deal or bigger. It’s non-stop, it doesn’t turn off when the race does. That’s why we are working to get bigger. We want to make sure we are doing right by the sponsor, working to get their name out there and do a good job for them.”

This young team has a big heart, lots of determination, and continue to drive for excellence. They will work day and night to get the best finishes possible. If you would like to speak with someone in regards to sponsorship and publicizing your business with BJ McLeod Motorsports, please email: Nathalie@bjmcleodmotorsports.com for an affordable, customized, and flexible plan to fit your ambitions.

As we inch ever closer to the start of the season, I can only think BJ said it best…

“I’m just ready to get after it man, get down there and race.”

BJ McLeod Motorsports

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Thank you all, your fans in the stands.

So there it is, the end of the season. From Daytona to Homestead. All those miles on the road, all the miles in the air, and all those miles on the track. Coast to coast to coast and there and back again.

Since early in the year I have been blessed to talk with and meet some of the best people on Earth, the RCR teams. Yes, I have spent most of the time talking with the 3 team, yet I am happy to have met and talked to others also. I have tried to encourage and thank as many as I can from the teams but somehow I just can’t do it after the final race. I do not have the words to properly thank everyone who contributed to this amazing year for Richard Childress Racing. However, I thought I might try… with a little help from my friends…

To all of the RCR teams, thanks for all your hard work this season and for making it exciting! 2017 will be the best year yet! Austin, keep the faith! Before you know it the #3 will become familiar in Victory Lane! Rest up during the off season and come back with a roar!
-Georgette Bowers (@FanRCR)

You guys were the best team on the circuit in 2016! I know how much harder you all work versus the other teams! Austin you are pure class! Slugger I can’t thank you enough for trusting me with my weather forecast!
Sincerely,
Steve Monday (@Rowan_County_wx)
Chief Forecaster Rowan County Weather

Was happy for the team in 2016, made alot of strides toward the future of the 3 team. Austin Dillon’s consistency on track with poles this season and good finishes. We the fans of number 3 forever thank Slugger Labbe & the whole team for showing us the 3 can be on top again!
Thank you,
Richard M.

You guys had an awesome year. Really proud of you all for that. Keep up the great work. The 3 team is gonna be a force to be reckoned with very soon. I’m proud to be supporting you, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for next season!
-Caleb Harris (@CalebHx24 on Twitter)

I wanted to say thanks to Austin, Slugger and the entire #3 team. There has been such a turnaround in performance this year and it’s due to all of your hard work and dedication. I can’t wait to see where the team goes in 2017 and congrats on a great 2016 season!
-Jackson Gleason (@CountryJ14)

Thank you to all the guys in the shop, all the guys at ECR engines, the mechanics on the road, all 100 pit crew guys who jump off that wall without a second thought, the guys on the box, Andy, Austin, and everyone throughout the RCR family. Everyone contributed and took ownership and stepped up to the challenges. I am so proud of every person at RCR for bringing it back to glory. I have missed it. You are all special and important to us fans. Thank you.
-Jonathan Gruenke (@couchcrewchief)

Austin, Slugger, Andy, and all the ones who have worked so hard this year on the #3 team. Thank you. I am so damn proud of you guy’s. Every week I look forward not to just watch the race but to log on to the NASCAR Scanner and listen in on the team communication. You guy’s accomplished a lot this year and it was a blast to be apart of the ride. Congratulations on a great year! Enjoy the off-season and I can’t wait to see you guy’s in Daytona for 2017!!
-Jake Finch (@Jak3Finch)

I personally want to thank the entire RCR 3 team for an amazing season. It truly has been fun to watch and listen to every race knowing that we were always in the hunt. Looking forward to 2017 and all the “W’s” that are going to start coming our way… Enjoy the off-season and get some well-deserved time off with your families.
Happy Holidays!
-Tina Labbe Provost

To: Slugger Labbe- Thank you so much for coming onto this team and breathing new life and energy into it. From track position risks to pit strategies, you have been able to bring excitement to this team. I know Austin appreciates your leadership as do we the fans. Looking forward to some wins really soon.
To: Andy Houston- Thank you for your candor and honesty on the radio. I don’t think I’ve ever shook my head and laughed as much as I did this year listening to the #3 radio. You’re the eyes for this team and it’s obvious how imperative you are to this team’s success.
To: Whitney Ward- I’m happy you’re a huge part of Austin’s life now and it’s beyond obvious that Austin knows he’s the lucky one. Austin seems more level headed and sincere than ever before and it’s because he has someone to balance his competitive nature out. Beyond your relationship with him, it’s great that we now have one more outlet to take a look into our favorite racers lives. When you cheer for a driver and a team, you really start to feel like you’re part of that team. Good luck with your upcoming marriage! We all wish you guys the best!
To: Austin Dillon- When I roll into NASCAR tailgate lots I see flags flying everywhere. 48, 18, 24, 20, 11, 22….etc. I have my own flag as well. I set up the tent, the flag pole, and rope up the flag. #3. Not Dale Earnhardt. Not just the #3. But an Austin Dillon DOW #3 flag. And when I see that flag fly amidst the other flags at that tailgate I know for a fact I’m a little more proud than the rest of those fans. Sure, they have storied drivers, wins, championships….but from when did they begin that fan hood? I believe in your team, your driving abilities, your competitiveness and your will to win. I’ve seen the 25th place finishes, the unlucky spins, the poles, the #3 Dillon DOW leading the pack. But by God I’ll see those WINS very, very soon. It’s gonna taste that much better knowing where you and this team have come from. Go Panthers, Go America, Go 3. Can’t wait for 2017!!
-@wesmesss on Twitter

Congratulations Team 3 for a very successful season! You have definitely proven to your predecessors that you are definitely there competition! I’d like to say a BIG thank you to Mr Richard Childress for bringing back the number 3! This team has definitely proven themselves this season and I’m sure Dale would approve of them as well! I’d like to say a HUGE congratulations to Austin! You have been a breath of fresh air on the track! Watching you mature and seeing you discipline yourself even when the chips were down! AWESOME job! Thanks to Slugger for making some tough decisions and some great decisions! Your definitely an asset to this team! Thanks to the engine man, tire man, jack man, all the pit crew guys, and Andy Houston for helping-being the eye in the sky! You all have a heart of a team like none other! Congratulations to you all on a successful season! I know next year you will be back bigger and better than ever! You’ve all been a joy to watch and cheer for! Thank you for all that each and every one of you do! And being a spoke in a wheel! We need you all! Thanks again!
Sincerely,
Tim Wheaton (@Tpwheaton1Tim)
Soddy Daisy TN
Whitney Ward’s Great Uncle.

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We want to thank all of you men and women for all you have done. For the photos and autographs, for the likes and retweets, for the time taken out of your day to make our day. When we are sick and sore and tired, when the car isn’t running right and the bills are tight, when life gets so busy that we just need a break… You’re there. What you do isn’t just a job, it’s a diversion for us fans. It gives us hope and gives us something positive to think about. It isn’t just Austin and Andy and Slugger, it is every person at RCR and ECR. From bottom to top each of you helps give us that break from reality that we need. We thank you for it. People on every team say, “Thank you for your support.” No team means it more than each of you at RCR & on the 3 team. This is our way of saying, “Thank you for being there for us.”
Sincerely,
Your friends and fans in the stands.

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“My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose-somehow we win out.”

-Ronald Reagan-

…remember the wins…

 

Overly Opinionated: @JHNemechek/@ColeCuster00

What a weekend in racing! We had NHRA in Indy, F1 at Monza, IndyCar at Watkins Glen, Xfinity and Cup at Darlington; yet all overshadowed by the events of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish in Canada. A few have asked my thoughts on it, surprisingly… I am 180 degrees from most opinions on it.

Quick refresh, coming to the checkers Nemechek took three swipes at Custer before turning into him and riding him into the wall and under the flagstand to win. Exciting and controversial finish. Exactly what we like, right? Apparently not! Who wants something to talk about anyway?

Let’s just start by saying that anyone who has ever played a racing video game has done the exact same thing. Don’t get high and mighty here, to us at home it is the same thing. It didn’t take any money out of our pocket and it gave us an ending worth talking about. Is it really shocking that a young man who probably has raced a ton online made that move? A few years back Carl Edwards even tried a similar move by driving way too deep into a corner and hoping his momentum and speed would get him the pass for the win even if it meant slamming the wall.

Picture yourself in Nemechek’s shoes, just for a moment. He has a win in the series already which puts him in the Chase. He drives for his family team, he doesn’t have a sponsor, so every race he needs to get every inch he can. Not just to impress sponsors but for the prize money. Any team operating on a small budget and going into the Chase needs every penny. Does it make it right? No. However, it is something to think about.

Cole Custer drives for JR Motorsports. How many are fans of Custer because of Junior? I’d guess a large portion. He doesn’t have all the worries of a small team, he does have sponsors he has to answer to and they got a lot of play this weekend because of the incident, more than if he had won without any of the controversial events.

Think about the biggest finishes, the ones we treasure the most. 1979 Daytona 500 Yarborough/Allison. 2003 Darlington Craven/Busch. Bristol with Labonte/Earnhardt, twice. These are defining moments in NASCAR history. Two that looked similar to the Nemechek and Custer finish and one where Dale Earnhardt Sr. flat out wrecked Labonte after he “just rattled his cage.” So let me ask you this, what is the difference?

Nemechek did no wrong in the eyes of NASCAR, Brian Framce has stated that this is a full contact sport. NASCAR gave them fenders, go use them up. NASCAR said, “Boys have at it.” Go fight nice. We haven’t seen a driver sent to the back of the field in years for rough driving, so what’s the deterrent?

What we have is two young men fighting it out for a WIN!  We should be excited that we can possibly look forward to years of a great rivalry. Imagine when these guys get to Cup with the other young talent. It will be a class of drivers not seen since the early 80’s.

Now, I understand that many call it dirty racing, it may be. Yet, don’t play this out in public. Let these guys work it out. Custer already tackled John Hunter after the race, will it end there? Likely not! Let them deal with it, either Custer will turn him and they will call it even or Nemechek will go right back after him and build the rivalry and keep it moving forward. That is up to them. As for us the fans, just watch and wait and enjoy.

I don’t know either of these guys and I’m not here to judge them, I have no dog in the fight. What I did see is a young man who wanted this win, who would do anything for the win. As Dale Earnhardt, Sr. said, “It pays more to win.”

Thats just my opinion. Feel free to debate and enjoy! Find me on Twitter: @couchcrewchief and let’s talk. Til next time, see you in the box.

Road America: the Xfinity setup

Welcome to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Nestled in the Kettle Moraine State Forest and home of Road America. This 4.05 mile, 14 turn facility sees a total elevation change of 176 feet from the crest of turn one to the depth of turn twelve, also known as Canada Corner. Opened in 1955, NASCAR’s first race at the historic facility was held in 1956 which saw Tim Flock win the day. While the track hosted many SCCA events, Grand Am, ALMS, IMSA, IRL, CART, AMA Superbikes, and many other series events it did not see NASCAR return to the circuit until 2010 for the Bucyrus 200. Originally hosted in June, the event has been moved to August and shortened from 200 miles to 180 miles.

Turner Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing have each won the event twice, both back to back while Roush-Fenway and Penske have each prevailed once. Last year saw Wisconsin native, Paul Menard, win while the prior year it was Las Vegas’ Brendan Gaughan. Three of the six years the race has been extended into overtime and the track often sees a combination of strategies, including fuel mileage, which has bit competitors multiple times.

A typical trip around the track will start on the Road America straight, over a half mile (3,025′) uphill to turn 1, a near 90 degree right hand turn onto the short chute through the gentle right of turn 2 over the Briggs & Straton bridge. After a small downhill turn 3 is another right hand turn, tighter than 90 degrees and launches you down the third longest straight into the bends of turn 4. The Moraine Sweep is a gentle downhill bend to driver’s right that comes back on itself down into a fan favorite turn 5, a slow speed 90 degree left under heavy braking which often sees cars in the gravel and a prime passing opportunity. After making the hard left drivers charge uphill a short distance into turn 6, another heavy braking left 90 degree turn. Drivers work their way up through the gears through the 45 degree right of turn 7 into the “Hurry Downs” a near quarter mile downhill run into turn 8, yet another 90 degree left under heavy braking. Another fan favorite passing zone characterized by a large asphalt runoff and a pea gravel pit. Following the hard left drivers see a short run into the sweeping right turns 9 & 10, also known as the carousel. The Carousel features a 30′ drop, under throttle, and directs the cars into the Kink and Kettle Bottoms (the second longest “straight”), turns 11, 11A, and 11B… this section features a medium right turn, into a right-left-left-right bend into the famous turn 12, Canada Corner and into the eyes of MRN’s Tony Rizzuti. This 90 degree turn will see cars under heavy breaking from 180 mph to 60 mph and into one of the last and possibly the best passing zone with multiple lines through the turn. As drivers up shift and run into turn 13, Bill Mitchell bend, they will climb 35′ and take a short sweeping right-left hook and into the final 90 degree right of turn 14. Then it’s up the 100′ hill and back under the flag stand.

Pit Road starts to driver’s right on the uphill and runs three quarters of the distance of the front stretch. Wednesday night I had the pleasure to sit down with Tyler Rader, gasman for Austin Dillon in the Sprint Cup Series number 3 Dow Chemical Chevrolet SS and the Xfinity number 2 Rheem Chevrolet Camaro to talk about Road America’s unique pits.

CCC: What are the unique challenges of Road America’s pit road and how does it compare to others on the circuit?

Rader: The challenges are its the only week where Xfinity is doing backwards pit stops and we gotta go to Michigan and do straight up normal pit stops. As far as that goes we don’t focus too much on the Xfinity backwards stops because Michigan is such a pit friendly race track that there are gonna be some awesome times laid down by pit crews so you know we try to get ready and go for it at the Michigan Cup race and we kind of rely on our experiences and from 3 weeks ago when we were at Watkins Glen to make this stop happen.

CCC: At Road America you can’t see much, if any, of the race from the pits. Does this affect you & the team in any way?

Rader: It kinda sucks because it’s such an awesome racetrack and you know it’s really racey and they get after it. It’s high speeds but like you said, the only thing we see is them coming down the straightaway. As far as where you’re pitted, when they crest that hill you can’t see much at all there either. I wish you could see more of the racetrack from the pits; it would be a lot cooler.

CCC: Yeah, least year when I was in the pits I noticed everyone was watching the big board in turn 1...

Rader: Yeah, we rely a lot on spotters as far as cars on track and all of that.

CCC: I can only imagine in the headset it’s pretty crazy at Road America…

Rader: It was really cool when Brendan Gaughan won a few years ago on the rain tires & everything, that was a real exciting one to listen to.

CCC: I know the teams practice stops for road courses, with the car being “backwards” in the box, does this throw crews off anymore or is it really just a formality these days?

Rader: I think nowadays with the amount of veterans that are on pit road it’s kind of normal. Like I said we didn’t focus too much on it, we talked about it, in practices certain teams wanted to do a stop or two, they could if they wanted to but we’re trying to go to Michigan, trying to get in the Chase. That has to be our main focus.

CCC: Is there anything special you look forward to on the Wisconsin trip?

Rader: Man we always stop off at this beef jerky place and we get beef jerky and cheese curds, that’s the thing. The hauler drivers always have to get cheese curds. I’m from West Virginia, I’m new to them but they are good, I like them.

CCC: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Rader: As far as pit stops go, pit stops are slower at road courses, you’re waiting on fuel anyway… Road America you can make it on one stop? I’m not sure, but a lot of the road courses we go to you can make it on one stop in the Xfinity race, if you play your fuel strategy right. So a lot of times they might bust off a 13 second stop but you’re waiting on fuel for 14. So you just tell those guys lets get 5 lugs tight and wheels and race it out on the racetrack.

CCC: So it’s on your shoulders then to make sure fuel gets in as quick as possible?

Rader: Yeah, me and the jackman [Sam Abney] have to check off on each other.

CCC: Cause then typically the driver leaves on the jack, correct?

Rader: Yep. With the veterans we are going with, like Michael McDowell, a lot of these guys know that they can make it up on the track, anything we lose in the pit. We aren’t going in there to lose any time in the pits but they know that tank has to be full of fuel and lugs have to be tight.

(I want to take just a moment and say one last time, thank you to Ray Wright for setting this interview up and thank you to Tyler Rader for taking the time and allowing me this amazing interview. I would feel bad if I didn’t mention the charity these guys are so invested with, Pitstops For Hope. Check them out at http://www.pitstopsforhope.org  which is by far, my favorite charity. I look forward to meeting the crews this weekend. They really are amazing guys.)

On pit road the over the wall guys shine and there’s so many good crews that can gain positions in the pits and help their driver make up valuable seconds on the track.

Some notable drivers to watch for this weekend are the one-off road course racers, Alex Tagliani (22), Alon Day(13), and Owen Kelly(18). With backgrounds rooted in technical road courses these drivers look to upset the field as Tagliani nearly did (coming in second by only 0.82 seconds after marching forward from 25th) in 2014 when Brendan Gaughan won on rain tires.

Ty Dillon enters the race 4th overall in the points and looks to cement his place in the Xfinity series Chase with a win. With a 15th position average at Road America and 11th position career average at road courses I think Ty could easily come home top 10 given the history of RCR at Road America and the experience he has gained every week.

Michael McDowell will pilot the number 2 Rheem Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and will be the only driver doing double duty at Michigan and Road America this weekend. McDowell nearly had the race won years ago until running out of fuel. With his background in road racing, McDowell could easily pilot the number 2 into Victory Lane with the help of his pit crew that also has to “do the double” at Michigan as Tyler Rader spoke about.

Ryan Sieg and Justin Marks both have had solid finishes at the 4 mile circuit and Marks comes off his win at Mid-Ohio just a few weeks ago. These drivers look to make their presence known and will likely be near the front sometime during the race.

Another of the young independents to watch for at Road America this year will be Jeremy Clements, driver of the number 51 Repairable Vehicles Chevrolet Camaro. Coming off a 6th place finish at Bristol, Jeremy holds a 23rd place average in all his starts at Road America and a 17th place average over the last 2 years. With his history of finishing races, Jeremy could easily see another top 20 this weekend, if he manages to stay out of trouble he could achieve a top 15 with the attrition wars throughout the race.

Finally, Wisconsin’s own, Paige Decker is entered in the 97 Vroom Brands Obaika Racing Chevy Camaro. Having finished 31st at Iowa, she looks to post a new career best this weekend. Having made a start in the Mid-American Stock Car Series in 2010 at Road America she has experience at the track. Decker could easily see top 30 or better if she is able to avoid incidents.

I will be in attendance with Derrike Cope Racing throughout the weekend, I look forward to the experience as Timmy Hill will pilot the number 70. I will try to update from the track, if there is anything you wish to see or know, feel free to send me a tweet @couchcrewchief and I will try to help! My father and I have camped at the track since NASCAR started visiting, we will be down in the carousel for camping and in Turn 12, Canada Corner, for the races. Also running this weekend is the SCCA Trans Am Pro series which always results in an amazing series of races. Ty Dillon has driven in the series in a Camaro and savvy Twitter followers may have noticed Brendan Gaughan talking about the possibility of competing this year.

Best place for food will be “The Gear Box” in the paddock and St. John the Baptist located by the pedestrian tunnel in the garage area, they have the biggest and best ice cream cones. Turn 8/carousel has a great stand with full food and also has the best showers around.

The forecast for the weekend has looked good, however recent developments are showing possible rain (20% chance as of the writing of this article) on Saturday for the race. We could see another deluge like Mid-Ohio or a light mist like a few years ago or even a downpour of sunshine. One thing is for sure, we will race on Saturday. I will be cheering on Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Michael McDowell, Brandon Jones, and Timmy Hill in hopes that one can bring home the checkers.

I hope to see you there in the box!