DARLINGTON, S.C. – It will take more than a crew chief change to make Michael Waltrip Racing’s cars faster, but the personnel switch is a step toward that, Clint Bowyer said during a break in testing at Darlington Raceway.
Wednesday marked Bowyer’s second day with crew chief Billy Scott. MWR announced Tuesday it was swapping Scott and Brian Pattie, who had been Bowyer’s crew chief since 2012. Pattie becomes David Ragan’s crew chief on the No. 55 car.
Bowyer enters this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway 17th in the points – outside a transfer spot to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Twelve races remain until the Chase field is set.
Bowyer and MWR’s No. 55 car – which has had four different drivers this season – have struggled for speed much of the year. Bowyer has three top-10 finishes this season with one coming in the Daytona 500 and the the other two on short tracks. He has not finished better than 20th on a track more than 1 mile long (except for the Daytona 500).
“We’ve got to bring better cars to the racetrack,’’ Bowyer said. “That’s what makes the speed. We need quite a bit right now.’’
Bowyer also said that working with a new crew chief could play a key role in creating those better cars with better communication.
“That communication breeds better communication back to the shop to what they need to build and things like that,’’ Bowyer said. “This whole business … it’s a people business. It always has been. When you get a good group of people around you and they’re all hitting on all eight cylinders and they’re all in the right positions, it’s pretty fun to see it work at its best. Certainly, we weren’t getting the results, and I think this is the first of many changes, hopefully.’’
Scott said he’s not worried about the communication with Bowyer.
“We’ve been in meetings together for 3 1/2 years already, and he’s a pretty easy-going guy,’’ Scott said.
The crew chief swap allowed Scott to begin working with Bowyer at this test and this weekend in Michigan before going into the off weekend. Pattie and Ragan will test next week at Richmond International Raceway.
Scott said the tests will “give everybody a chance to work together and the off week will be a good chance to kind of review that and make some tweaks.’’
Bowyer was among four drivers who took part in the Goodyear tire test on Tuesday. He said they mainly did 25-lap runs Tuesday.
“Let me tell you, it’s back to the old Darlington, slipping and sliding around and … starting to manage your tires and things like we used to on the old surface,’’ Bowyer said. “I really like that. It just blows my mind how this place wears out. It’s back to where it needs to be to put on good racing. I think it will be back to what we’re used to seeing with the old Darlington when we come back here.’’
Wednesday was an open test day with 12 Sprint Cup teams at Darlington. Among the drivers testing were Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch.
The series returns Sept. 6 for the Southern 500 – the first time the race has been run on its traditional Labor Day weekend spot since 2003. NBC will broadcast the race.
Bowyer also confirmed Wednesday that he’s on the drivers council that met with NASCAR officials at Dover. Others on the council are Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, and Tony Stewart.