When No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Martin Truex Jr. pulls into the garage after each practice during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, he knows he'll have someone on his crew who understands his feedback and has the ability to make his Toyota go faster.
That's because his crew chief Chad Johnston is a racer himself.
The 31-year Johnston grew up racing on the paved and dirt short tacks in Indiana driving open wheel midget cars. That driving experience serves as an advantage in gleaning the most information out of his driver.
Listen to any successful driver and crew chief combination in NASCAR and they will attribute most of their success to one thing: communication.
Truex and Johnston are a step ahead on the communication curve.
"Martin and I share a lot of interests both here at the track and away from the track," said Johnston who joined the No. 56 team midway through last season.
"We like all kinds of racing and we fool around with remote controlled cars and boats. We also like to hunt and fish so it's not uncommon for us to be hanging out after hours doing something like fishing or working on an R/C boat. Regardless of what we are doing, we somehow end up talking about the race car and how we can make it better. It's funny how that works sometimes."
Johnston became Truex's crew chief in June overseeing the No. 56 for Michael Waltrip Racing. It was quite a step up for the man who entered NASCAR in 2004 and has worked with drivers Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Elliott Sadler, Scott Riggs and Dennis Setzer.
"This is a good opportunity for me since this is the direction I have always wanted to go in my NASCAR career," said Johnston whose interest in racing began as a child when his father took him to drag races in Indiana.
"Michael Waltrip Racing is a good organization to work with as we have assembled a strong NAPA Racing team and a more-than-capable driver. My goal is the same goal that this team set at the start of 2011 and that's to win races and try to get in the top 10 in points."
Johnston has the faith of his driver who is quick to mention the importance of communication.
"Chad's been a great addition to the NAPA team ever since he joined us last season. He jumped in and really helped with the preparation of our cars. He's shown a lot of leadership in his position and has shown me he really understands a race car," said Truex.
"He also understands all of the tools at his disposal here at Michael Waltrip Racing since he's an engineer. His personality and mine mesh really well. We get along great and he really understands what I am saying. He is extremely good at pulling more information from me to get the answers to questions he has when setting up the car. The communication between he and I is impressive and we just click. I'm looking forward to what all we can accomplish together as a team."
There isn't a lengthy job description for either Johnston or Truex. Car owner Waltrip has made the team goals rather simple.
"We have to win," said two-time Daytona 500 winner Waltrip. "The NAPA car has to go back to victory lane. I am very confident that under Chad's direction that's where we will end up."
Both Truex and Johnston know the goal and have no doubt about their ability to become a frequent visitor to victory lane. If they do, listen to their post-race interview and count the times the pair mention their favorite word: communication.