Hendrick Motorsports

Podcast: A new outlook on family for crew chief Darian Grubb and his team

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After he won the championship in 2011 with Tony Stewart, Darian Grubb believed he probably would be off the road by 40 to spend more time with family.

But it’s family time that partly has Grubb, 42, returning to being a full-time crew chief for the first time in three years.

Grubb, who is separated and managing custody of two young children, talked about moving from a Hendrick Motorsports executive position to crew chief for rookie William Byron on the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast.

“Actually now at this point in my life, it’s actually given me more time with my kids,” Grubb said of the move. “Before with the management job I was in, I was pretty much doing seven days a week. I was still traveling full time, coming in and running meetings on Mondays and Thursdays. It was all about when I could steal time with my kids as best I could.

“Now at least with the crew chiefing, I can hopefully take off Monday and Thursday with a normal travel day and spend time with them more. Take them to school, drop them off, pick them up. Just the normal dad things and spend time with them and still bring them to the racetrack quite a bit if I can the way the school schedule and things work out.

“For me, it’s actually a good time for me to be able to do that and go back to crew chiefing. It’s all my kids have ever known. (At) 7 weeks old, Gavin was on the road, and (at) 4 weeks old, Gabriella was on the road. This is the stability for them, stability for me.”

Grubb, who had a trial run for his return as Kasey Kahne’s crew chief in the final nine races last year, also is planning to spend less time at the shop during the week.

“Even if I’m home, I’m still working,” he said. “I’ll have my computer up and sending emails. Luckily now with the digital age we can keep up with things just not physically in the office. The more that I’m (at the shop), the more I get drug into meetings. I can actually be more productive to be home and spending time with kids. Having Gavin sit down and do homework while I’m cleaning up emails. It works out really well for me.”

Grubb is hoping it also sets an example for his team members, whose youthful makeup mirrors its 20-year-old driver.

“They see what you do with your family life and your kids, and they feed off that,” he said. If your kid’s got a recital or something they’re doing on a Tuesday afternoon, you better not miss it.

“There’s nothing I’m going to tell you that you have to get done on the push-up rig or the seven-post or anything else that’s more important than that. So as long as your workload is covered and you have the next engineer coming behind you who is smart enough to take care of that, leave at 3 o’clock and be at your kids’ recital. That’s more important in life than being here and getting that done. If you’re not training that next guy in charge to be able to do that, then you’re never going to move on.”

A veteran of 23 Cup victories, Grubb also was driven to return to being a crew chief because “the drive is still there … seeing William come in with new fire, a breath of fresh air and a whole new start.”

Byron made his debut in a Cup car during a test last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, posting some of the fastest laps in each session. The initial goal is finishing in the top 10, but Grubb believes the reigning Xfinity Series champion can win and make the playoffs as a rookie.

“He adapts very quickly,” Grubb said of Byron. “He did an incredible job the entire test. He’s a data-driven individual; he really wanted to see how he compared to Kyle Larson. He was able to adapt his style to others to see if he was better.”

On the podcast, Grubb also discusses:

–His memory of winning in his debut, the 2006 Daytona 500 with Jimmie Johnson;

–The bittersweet run to the championship with Stewart;

–The new inspection process;

–Hendrick Motorsports’ recent competition overhaul.

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts.

 

Podcast: Front Row Motorsports explains how it improves with smaller budget, unique sponsor deals

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Running a Cup Series team is not a cheap endeavor.

One person who knows this is Jerry Freeze, the general manager of Front Row Motorsports.

Owned by Bob Jenkins, the two-car team runs the No. 34 of Michael McDowell and No. 38 of David Ragan and has a technical partnership with Roush Fenway Racing.

Freeze sat down with Nate Ryan on the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss how FRM works with smaller budgets and its unique business-to-business sponsorship deals through Jenkins’ trucking company, MDS Transport, and restaurant business, Charter Foods.

Freeze calls Love’s Travel Shops, which sponsors half the races on McDowell’s car, a “textbook example” of such a deal. Their partnership began in 2013.

“Bob owns a trucking company with about 300 over the road truck on the road,” Freeze said. “They’ve got to get fuel somewhere. That’s kind of how the Love’s Travel Shop deal started for us.”

Freeze describes it as a “slightly smaller scale” version of the relationship between Team Penske and Shell.

Unlike larger teams, Front Row doesn’t yet have an optical scanning station at its shop like the one cars are inspected with at the track.

“We went into it thinking, ‘We’ll never need to have one of those, NASCAR’s got one, we can go over there whenever we want,'” Freeze said.

The team also relies on the scanner located at Roush Fenway Racing. But it’s a challenge to take cars to Roush, with its shop in Concord, North Carolina, about an hour away from Front Row’s in Statesville.

Buying its own scanner is beginning to look like a “necessary evil” for Freeze, who said he’s heard it would cost $300,000.

“I think if you’re really going to try to optimize the car through each step of what you do, that might be the way to go,” Freeze said.

When it comes to becoming more competitive, Freeze and Jenkins have been encouraged to invest more resources and money into the team by moves NASCAR has made to lower costs, including requiring teams to use engines in multiple races, spec radiators and the controversial common pit guns.

“It put it in a place where, yeah, it’s still pretty tough for Front Row to get to, but it’s not as high as it use to be,” Freeze said of the engine rule. “With spec radiators, we were spending $9,000 for radiator in the past. Now a spec radiator is, I don’t know, a third of that.”

Freeze also addressed the future of one of the team’s three charters, which is leased to TriStar Motorsports this season.

“You can’t do that forever with the way the rules are set up,” Freeze said. “We’ll have to make a decision, either we’ve got to operate (it) ourselves or maybe we sell it to TriStar some day, I don’t know. … Even though we weren’t in a position to run three cars and we’re still not today, it’s kind of nice to have in your pocket just in case something came along that was just phenomenal and we needed one.”

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast. It also is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.

August Cup race at Michigan to be called Consumers Energy 400

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The Aug. 12 Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway will be sponsored by Consumers Energy as part of a multi-year deal, the track announced Thursday.

Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest energy provider, providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million of the state’s 10 million residents.

The company takes over for Pure Michigan, which sponsored the race from 2011-17.

“We are excited to expand our collaborative relationship with Consumers Energy,” said track president Rick Brenner in a press release. “We strive to work with Michigan-based companies like Consumers Energy who continue to give back to the community. We are looking forward to working together to provide our guests an awesome experience each August for many years to come.”

Consumers Energy will also sponsor the inaugural MIS Charity Dinner on June 9 and the track’s 50 Years of Racing Exhibit in the fan plaza for both of the track’s race weekends.

The MIS Charity Dinner, which benefits the Henry Ford Allegiance Health Foundation Patient Immediate Needs Fund and the MIS Cares Fund, will feature a strolling dinner, dessert and drink stations, live and silent auctions, music, a photo booth and more. The event will also feature a question and answer session with Dale Inman, Rusty Wallace and Leonard Wood.

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Weekend schedule at Richmond for Cup, Xfinity

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NASCAR heads to its third short-track race of the season this weekend at Richmond Raceway.

Kyle Larson won the Cup race at Richmond last fall and Joey Logano won there last April.

Here is this weekend’s schedule at Richmond:

(All times Eastern)

FRIDAY, APRIL 20

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8 a.m. – 9 p.m. — Cup garage open

8 – 8:45 a.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)

9:40 – 10:25 a.m. — Final Xfinity practice (Fox Sports 1)

11:05 – 11:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

4:05 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (FS1)

5:10 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

5:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (FS1, MRN)

6:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

7 p.m. — ToyotaCare 250 Xfinity race; 250 laps/187.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

SATURDAY, APRIL 21

1 p.m. — Cup garage opens

4:30 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting

5:50 p.m. — Driver introductions

6:30 p.m. — Toyota Owners 400 Cup race; 400 laps/300 miles (Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

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NASCAR America: Short tracks are Clint Bowyer’s favorites

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It was a question that needed to be asked, although the answer was not a surprise to anyone. What is Clint Bowyer’s favorite type of track?

“Short tracks are obviously my favorite,” Bowyer answered. “I think they’re probably everybody’s favorite. That’s what we grew up doing. That’s probably where we feel most comfortable.”

“I love back-to-back short track races because the drivers don’t have time to forget about who they’re mad at,” Steve Letarte interjected.

But Bowyer’s love of short tracks is not limited to Martinsville, where he snapped his long winless streak earlier this year. He is even more excited about coming to Richmond Raceway this week.

“I feel like Richmond is the perfect-sized race track.”

Bowyer went one step further, suggesting there is a way to add more tracks like Richmond to the schedule.

“I feel like, some of these mile-and-a-half tracks, we need to just use as parking lots and build Richmond in the infield,” Bowyer said.

For more of what Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to say about short track racing, watch the video above.