Hello Everyone –
I hope you had a great holiday. Mine was pretty quiet which was good since the NAPA team is back at it this week and going full throttle.
The start of my week consisted of pit practice with the NAPA Know How crew at the 5 Off 5 On facility located down the street from my shop in Mooresville. It was really important for us to get together. For me, I enjoy getting back together with my guys since it’s been over a month since we’ve really spent any time together. It also helps to get the feel of what they are doing and to listen to the air guns to develop a rhythm so I have a good idea of when they are going to drop the jack.
Another important reason we’re all practicing together is we no longer have a catch can man. Both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are using the same refueling system used in the Camping World Truck Series. We’re now using self-venting dump cans which eliminate the need for a catch can man. It’s a good idea since he’s the most exposed crew member on pit road since his back is always facing oncoming traffic.
This new change really impacts the pit crew because our tire guys seem to get done a lot faster now than the gas man. We’re waiting on gas so it’s going to change race strategy a bunch. I expect to see more short pitting so we won’t have to fill the car up with gas at the end of the race to maintain or get even better track position.
I’m currently down in Georgia with Pat, David and all of our key competition personnel participating in the MWR Chase Summit. We’ve gotten together to flush out our strategies for the upcoming season and as you can tell by the summit’s name; our focus is all about qualifying for the Chase.
I’m extremely excited about what we have going on with the NAPA team. A lot of positives came out of our first season together. We made a few little changes to our team in regards to communication during practice and how to work on the car. We implemented them at Phoenix last year and I’ve seen a lot of positives as a result of the changes. Our car showed a ton of speed at Phoenix and Homestead.
When it comes to goals, they haven’t changed much from last year. We want to make the Chase. We want to win races. Those two things will never change. But this year, I really have higher expectations and the pressure is on. We are working very hard. We have a great team. It’s just a matter of us putting all the pieces together and making the right decisions. There is no doubt in my mind that we have the capability to win races. It’s a matter of putting it all together and avoiding bad luck. I know we can do it.
Before I sign off, I want to thank you guys. It’s an honor to represent NAPA AUTO PARTS. You have embraced me and treat me like family. It feels as if I’ve been a part of your team for 20 years. Now I know why Michael has been with you for so long. It’s a great relationship, so thanks again for the opportunity to represent your company. We’re going to have a lot of fun this year. Let’s get ready for a fun ride!