Behind The Best Podcast

Hosted ByDr. Jay Cavanaugh

The Behind The Best Podcast is a behind-the-scenes look at the people, mindset, and secrets behind the best athletes in the world.

NASCAR Xfinity Crew Chief Patrick Donahue Tells All


 Drivers are always looking for comfort. It almost seems like it’s a pre-requisite for them to perform their best. How do you, Patrick, manage the relationship between what you can do as a crew chief and what a driver needs when it comes to comfort?

Well, for us, we start in the shop with Parker. Um, from the time we mount the seat to we pour a seat insert the seatbelts, the steering wheel shifter, all that goes into, that’s his office every Saturday afternoon.

So we try to make that as best we can. So he’s most, um, you know, his helmet, the thickness of the padding of the headrest and Pedal location and all that, um, we, we make the same week in and week out. And, uh, and if he’s, if he can sit in there and be comfortable, not get leg cramps and his bag doesn’t bother him.

And, uh, you know, he’s, he’s, he’s more capable of, of driving at a hundred percent for three hours at a time. Uh, you know, we race at Texas Motor Speedway sometimes, and it’s been 140 degrees or more in the car. And, but, uh, what we have is we have, uh, AC units that blow cool air on his helmet. We have cool shirts that.

Cycle cooler. It’s not ice cold, but cooler water through his chest to try to help with all that. And the only way that we can optimize the performance is to is to have the driver at 100 percent for 300 miles on the Saturday afternoon. So that’s what we do. Um, it all the little details try toe. We add those up and we try to make it is so he can just sit in there and focus on the performance of the race car.

Once He’s able to do that. Then he can tell us, Hey, is the car too tight? Is it too loose? I like it like this. And all that goes into being comfortable. So that’s what we do.

I love it guys. We’re here with Patrick Donahue, um, with almost 30 years of, uh, experience under the hood, uh, with racing and competing in four wheels and auto racing.

Um, Patrick’s. career started professionally just two days after his high school graduation. He didn’t wait long, uh, when he earned a job with Hendrick Motorsports as a mechanic and tire specialist for the number 24 Dupont Chevrolet driven by Jeff Gordon. None other than Jeff Gordon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

And, um, not only that, but you earned what I thought was a pretty cool award was the crew chief on. And if I had to list all the amazing teams that you’ve been a part of, um, it would be a heck of a list. And what’s more important or more challenging and more rewarding is the fact that you’ve competed against some of the best.

I mean, whether it’s Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, JR Motorsports, um, You’ve had quite an impressive career. Anything I left out you wanted to add? Oh

lord, I’ve actually started racing when I was eight years old and I’ve honestly never had another job other than racing. So I’ve been very fortunate, yes, um, to, uh, to work with a lot of great teams and a lot of great drivers and learn so much, uh, over the years.

Um, yeah, I’ve, I’m very, very fortunate.

Now, I wanted to kind of bring it back to the topic of comfort because, um, you know, what you said really resonated with me. But what’s what’s also interesting and I wanted to explore a little bit is how do you know when the comfort of a driver is something that needs to be solved by you recommending changes to the car itself?

Uh, the tires, the chassis, what have you? How do you know when it’s that versus is. Hey, as a mental performance coach, I hear people saying they’re uncomfortable all the time. And oftentimes it’s not the vehicle. It’s them. How do you differentiate between the two?

Well, I’m a backup just a little bit. When, when I was at the 24 car, racing was a lot different back then.

Technology wasn’t what it is today. And, um, we, we learned, um, as we, as we went through those years that with Jeff, uh, Ray was super smart and we had great people that I. again, I was very young and they were the leaders. But what we learned was, is like, okay, he really liked this car, but didn’t like this car so much.

And well, when it got down to it, it wasn’t always the race car. The seat was mounted a little bit different or their pedals were in a different location. So. When we started focusing on some of that stuff with Jeff and really, uh, detailing and blueprinting, Hey, he likes this car. Like we had this car, uh, black or 24 11.

You can look it up at one, a lot of races that year. And, uh, and that was the favorite car that, and we blueprinted that car, the angle of the seat and the pedals and the steering wheel location. And so every car after that was built off of. those specs. And what we learned was, is that, oh, ergonomics were just as important as the race car and the driver, you know, in couple running 5 600 miles.

So Jeff was working out, he was getting in better shape, um, and following some other drivers like Mark Martin was really big into working out that time. Well, all of a sudden He’s, he’s more comfortable. He’s he’s operating a hundred percent. He could get out after 500 miles of Dover and, and, uh, stand there in victory lane and be like, I could go do another 500 miles.

So as a team, we, we really focused on that stuff and, and, uh, along with a lot of other things, but that was one of the, uh, one of the areas that I was. lucky enough to be around, but we, we, we built on that. And as time went on, we had carbon monoxide filters in the A. C. And see, you know, fans blowing on their backs and you just kept trying to improve all that stuff to help the performance of the driver because You know, again, 500 miles is a long ways of 600 miles.

You know, at the time of Charlotte, we’d, they’d be in the car five hours, five and a half hours. And, uh, you know, they can’t exactly stretch your legs out and stretch your back and, and, uh, move around. So, you know, we’re trying to, we were trying to, to optimize that. And we did a lot of that success, um, was from just being comfortable and not wearing the driver out.

Now, when you reflect back on the early days of Jeff Gordon, Um, obviously there were things that contributed to his success. Um, we’d love to hear not just what did you recognize in him at the time as a driver that you feel contributed to a success, but obviously you’ve been in the sport for a long time.

You’ve been able to see his progression, maybe not. Following him, you know, to the detail, but you’ve at least been aware of his progression and probably have got some insights as to what you think early day Jeff changed to get to him in his success maybe later in his career. So we’d love to hear what you saw early in his career and what you think he worked on to become one of the best athletes in the sport.

Well, I mean, again, I went there in 93 again. We wrecked a lot as he learned as, uh, the team learned how to, uh, Winston cup race, uh, cup race as it is at the time. And, um, You know, Ray was really pushing the envelope and, and, uh, wanting to do things his way and that the people that were there, we were, I mean, we were just soldiers and we were, whatever Ray said, we, we did, and we, we trusted a hundred percent and, and we knew that what Ray said was.

Was going to be better. And, uh, and, and like I said, we, we did wreck a lot the first year and then we’d learn Jeff, learn Ray, learn the team, learn, and we just kept building better race cars. And we, and with that, Jeff got more comfortable. The talent was always there. Um, I, we probably as a, as an organization, as a group, we just got a whole lot better and, uh, and then, you know, Ray was super focused on the details and, um, and, and that just led to the rest, everybody else that was there.

Um, just pushing us. You don’t know it then, but you, I mean, I can look at it now, 30 years later and say, wow, you know, what we thought was a really hardworking environment. Wasn’t a hardworking fund. He was just pushing us out of our comfort zone. Like we all were. Well, this is how they used to do it. Well, no, that’s not how that doesn’t mean we can’t do it differently.

It can’t be done better. So as a group, we just kept working on every minute of the day at the shop or the track, maximizing our practice time, uh, maximizing how we got through tech, maximizing our races and, uh, and Ray was really, uh, you know, pit crews. And we just, he, he was super focused on the details.

And like I said, I was super lucky. I didn’t realize it then I was just working and paying attention and trying to take it all in. But, you know, we were really on the forefront of moving the sport forward on, on some of the details and how the cars were built. And, um, it was, it was, it’s kind of neat to look back now and, and, uh, and see how that all went.

But, you know, Jeff just matured like everybody else does, right. He came in and, and, and we got enough time to put it all together and, and go out there and dominate. So it was, it was hard work. It wasn’t always enjoyable. Like we, if we didn’t win, it was, uh, it was a quiet ride home and there was some, some hard meetings on Tuesday night around the picnic table and the shop.

And, and, um, and we, but we learned from it and we, if. If we didn’t win, we had made a mistake. Basically somebody, you know, somebody made a mistake or something happened. That’s just how it was. And, and, uh, so we, we focused on that and, and made, uh, plans or, uh, whatever to, to make sure that that stuff didn’t, didn’t happen again.

And that’s how we progressed and, uh, and Jeff did the same thing. So it was, it was a group. Uh, and, and it was really, I think it caught a lot of people off guard because we just, we just changed so much stuff in two or three years of the sport. So, but again, I was super lucky to, to be a part of it and, and, uh, and, and witness it.

So, yeah, I mean,

you know, there’s so many moving parts, right? Uh, you’ve got obviously parts, physical parts in the car, but would love to hear, you know, how do you manage the relationships? Because It seems like there’s a couple things that are important and one of the things I wanted to talk about Is you as a crew chief?

How does your relationship work when it comes to, you know, and this is how I envision things is obviously you have a team owner and that team owner has certain goals, certain desires. Obviously it’s probably to win every every damn race. Um, however, how do you manage that relationship? But then also you’ve got a whole team of people, you know, underneath you, you’ve got a car chief, you got spotter, you’ve got mechanics, you got a tiger guy.

Um, we’d love to hear you maybe talk about one. How do you manage those relationships? Because obviously the relationship you have with the team owner, he’s got a certain personality in the set of expectations. The car chief has a certain personality and way of communicating and expectations, as does the driver, the spotter.

So how do you manage all that? What’s been like the one thing you’ve learned over the years to best manage that communication?

Well, A very wise man, actually Jeff Gordon’s stepdad, uh, John Bickford told me, he said, uh, and I’ll never forget this. When I got my first crew chief job, when I got Ray and, and, uh, Jeff put that Pepsi Busch car together and they’re, they asked me to go do it.

And, uh, John, John Bickford told me, he said, he said, you, you’ll never be, they’ll never trust you as a leader until you have gray hair. And, and, and I was, so I was, uh, Was I 25 years old at the time? And, and, uh, and I was like, okay. And John’s super smart. Like he’s one of the smartest people I know. And, um, and lo and behold, he was a hundred percent correct.

But over the years, um, you just learn, um, you know, I, I wish, I wish I’d had kids when I was 25 years old, because I, my patients get better when you have kids. Right. So it took me a long time. Um, but, uh, a couple of things that. I learned, you know, everybody’s a hundred percent is different. And if an employee is giving you a hundred percent that you hired him to do, then, then, then you accept that, you know, if you hire a guy and he’s not giving a hundred percent and you know, he can do more, well then that’s where I, you know, it starts to bother me.

And, and so back to the, how do we, how do we manage all this? So everybody’s goals and agendas. is is different. So I have this 12 of us that work at big machine racing and and I’ve learned that each Over the years, it doesn’t matter where you’re at. Everybody’s goals and agenda, like you said, are different.

So what makes this person tick? What’s important to them this week? What’s important to them in their home life, shop life, uh, how does everybody integrate? And, and so I, the way I work at it is. I tell the people, I said, I don’t, I don’t need everybody to be best friends and go over each other’s house and barbecue.

What I need you to do is be a team here at the shop. And, and when we go on the road and act like a, uh, a professional, uh, race team and, and, you know, not everybody’s personalities gel, but everybody has a purpose there. And, and so, I learned that I learned that earlier. I learned that at the 24 car, I didn’t know it then after the fact, I learned that how lucky we were to have that group.

And then you build a nucleus, you build your, uh, your core people and you build the, what, what is our, um, you know, what. What makes you tick? How does, are we a laugh and joke and still, you know, or does, you know, can, can we not do that? So you go down the line and you kind of figure out what is, what makes everybody tick.

And, and again, what’s important to me on a Monday is not always important to what my suspension guy or my tire guy or my truck driver. So it took me a long time to learn that and, and have, um, uh, a little bit, um, a bigger. window of, I don’t want to say caring, but just understanding of Um, hey, just because what’s best for the shop doesn’t always fit with what this guy’s got to do this week.

He might have soccer kids, or he might have a doctor’s appointment. So I try and I’ve learned that, that you try to work with these guys. Look, we race 33 weekends a year and we were gone two or three days a week. And so I. You got to be a little bit flexible. Can’t lose the side of what’s important to the organization.

Now, back to your first question. My owner, Scott Bochetta from Nashville, um, he owns Spike Coolers and Spike Vodka. And, uh, and, and we put this, um, team together three years ago. And the goal was, is, was to go race, right? So just get to the track. And then it was like, okay, how are we going to run? then we started running top 15.

And then how are we going to run top 10? And then you, you know, and so, um, and then, then we, we won a race last year with Tyler Reddick and, uh, and, and that was way sooner than I thought we were going to, uh, uh, achieve that goal on, you know, only really our second season. And then, uh, and then this year. So, you know, we, we got Parker and so over my years, I’ve, I’ve very seldom have, I had the same driver year after year.

I worked for race teams that they paid drivers came and, and a lot of them weren’t there two years in a row. They, they only had money to be one year there and then they went on or they, um, they, they went someplace else, um, or, you know, just, just how it was, it’s how I made my living. And so you learn every as.

Again, a different, um, personality, a different way that they want their car set up, um, you know, how they interact with the team, how they interact with the engineer and, um, and then what, what are they, their, their personal life, right? Some people I’ve had drivers that are at the shop every day, and then I’ve had drivers that they don’t want to be around the shop.

So early on, you got to kind of figure that out and figure out, you know, Okay. Well, I’m almost 50 years old and they’re 19. So our music is not going to be the same. And, and what’s important to them, you know, is not important to me. And I got a family and two kids and they’re, they’re single and live in an apartment, you know, like they, they don’t have a lot.

So you learn that early on and then you, you kind of figure out the boundaries or what, what makes everybody happy. So, you know, um, you know, we, that’s, that’s how I made my living. So, you know, I don’t, I don’t go into a season, uh, with, uh, this is the way it’s going to be with this driver. And that’s it because that’s just not going to work.

Um, and, and everybody, you kind of figure that out. And as this year went on, you know, I didn’t know Parker at all before last year, he drove my car one time. Um, at Talladega and I joined him and he was nice to my guys and, and, uh, and did a great job. And that was, uh, uh, it was one of the, the, the reasons he got the job full time this year, but as far as being around him and knowing what makes him tick or even where he lived, I had no idea, um, what his background really was, but, um, you know, as the year goes on, you learn, hey.

He’s at the shop one day a week doing his sim work. He works out every day. Okay, this is what makes, this is what’s important to him. So, you know, he’s an adult and that’s kind of what I wanted in our race team is, is, uh, he’s, he shows up for work every day. He does his job, you know, we don’t have to tell him to go to the gym and, and be eaten right.

He does all that. So, um, those are the things that it changes year after year for most people. Again, I’m lucky. Parker’s coming back and we don’t have to, we don’t have to learn that. And, uh, and I think as our year went on this year, it showed like, okay, you kind of find the balance as to how everybody, um, uh, operates or, um, you know, like, I’ll tell you, like.

I yelled at Parker one time during the season and he’s like, Hey, you don’t have to yell, okay. So, you know, I didn’t want to upset him during the race. So I, you know, I learned not to yell at him, you know, I, those are just, there’s some drivers, you hear them that they scream at each other all race long and it works for them and they can go win.

Some people it doesn’t work for, you know, so I didn’t do it intentionally to Parker was just venting. Um, but it was, you just learn, you know, like, Hey, this is, this is how we’re going to get through this race. But yeah, I mean, everybody has just. ways that they get through it, you know, but I’m very fortunate.

I’ve got a good group of guys and again, I work hard at trying to learn each each person individually and then what makes them tick today. And that’s just how it is. I mean, I’m very fortunate. I’ve been given enough time to get a group of people together that work together. Every morning at seven o’clock, they come in for the betterment of the 48 car.

And then that’s, that’s again, whether they go race go karts at night or they go home and watch Netflix, whatever, it doesn’t matter to me, but when they’re there, they’re going to do a job and they’re going to do the best of their ability. And, uh, and, and so it’s my job to extract that from them and maybe push them sometimes just like I was.

Outside their comfort zone and, uh, and, and grow. The only way you’re going to grow is to, is to move along and do it sometimes differently than the way you’ve ever done it. So, um, that’s the other challenge. Okay. What are we going to do today to be better? Yes. We almost won. Um, Texas, but okay, but we gotta be better.

What can we do to go back to Texas next year or we’ll go to Kansas or go to Portland and be better. So, you know, you gotta push everybody and, and put a goal out there and make it look real so that they can achieve it. And, uh, and so that’s, that’s the other side of my job, you know, and, and, uh,

and I love it.

And it’s fascinating to me how your response to that question rattled off. so easily. But yet it was like a master class and leadership, team leadership. Because, you know, that’s a skill that I think a lot of drivers need to adopt is they need to to be leaders and they need to understand leadership. You know, like I have athletes that I work with as a mental performance coach in motor sports and in the off season.

I find myself working on two things. One, how does my, how do I help my athletes become leaders and be at one with the team? Get everyone on the same page. Um, to your point, understand the personalities, what works for one person doesn’t work for another. There might be the one person that needs to be like, Hey man, like, let’s go, let’s go.

And that motivates them. Then there might be another person on the team where you say that they’re going to be like, Hey man, don’t tell me what to do. You know, I know what to do. I don’t need you on my back. You’re breathing down my neck, but yet you could, you could use the exact same phrase that both of those two people, but yet it’s received differently.

Right? And so I love how you highlighted that. And I think it’s an important thing. And you know, what I’m curious to hear from you is, I feel that one of the most underrated things in motor sports and in all sports, truthfully, is the relationship and the level of respect a team has for a driver. Because, you know, the thing is, is that when it when it comes to race time or it comes to any of these events, a lot of times what we find is that it’s the the athlete is getting all the glamour.

They’re the ones that often are going to be the first one to get interviewed. They’re the ones that cute, pretty cool looking suit. They’re the ones that on social media, you know, everyone wants to follow. But yet if with the, they didn’t have the team behind them in the car behind them and the support they have behind them, they’re nothing.

How, what kind of advice do you give? either drivers or even just athletes in general to kind of, you know, form the most meaningful and most well respected bond with their team because it does seem like it’s two different groups of people coming together as one.

Yeah. Uh, let’s see. So if you go back to like Tom Brady, Tom Brady was the leader of that team, obviously.

Um, I mean, he was the smartest guy. on the field and wasn’t necessarily the most athletic guy. So if you, if you go that route and put that to motor sports, you say, okay. In today’s time, the driver has a lot of tools to work with. There’s, we have data to look at, we have simulation we can look at, we have driver notes, we have past races we can look at, and then you have, you have personal experience.

So as far as, as preparing, the driver has a lot of tools. Now, integrating with My race team so that my race team was already, it’s, it’s, it was already built, Parker stepped into it and, and we had our ways of doing things in the, in, in, uh, you know, our kind of our culture is the word that I’m looking for.

This is, this is how we operated and we’d had some success with that. And, uh, and so. When he comes in, how does he fit into, to our group, our culture, you know, and then, um, and then we go from there and say, okay, again, I’m going to go back and, and you, you spend time together. We’re on the road, whether we’re on the airplane, uh, you know, or sitting in the hauler or we’re at dinner, um, we’re at the shop, you know, you, it, it can’t be forced, it has to be time.

Again, if we go to the simulator and we work for three hours, things happen. And you, you communicate that way and you just build, um, your bond and your, uh, your, your connection there. And, and then as time goes on, you’re at the racetrack and things happen and, uh, and we, we, we just continue to build that relationship week after week.

It’s not one brick or 50 bricks. It’s one little piece at a time. We go around and we say, Oh, okay, this, this. You know, we, we don’t, we don’t like it when we do this. You know, when we, when we, um, when we get there and we have troubles and, and our practice doesn’t go right, you know, does it throw us off and just ruin our whole day?

Or, Hey, can we overcome it? Can we keep cool minds and, and trust that we have the ability and the knowledge to fix it and that it’s going to be all right when we leave the racetrack. So that comes with trust. It comes with. Uh, past experience and it comes with the relationship and, and, and it does not happen overnight and, um, and you think it does, you think that when we went to Daytona last year, like, oh, it’s gonna, you know, it’s gonna be great.

And we know each other. No, you get going and you, you talked on the radio and, and like I said, you, you. One person you can raise your voice to and the next person you can’t, or, hey, he gets, you know, this affects the driver, this, this sets him off, or, or, hey, he, he can have an incident, you know, where somebody runs into him and the guy and loses his mind and it ruins your day or the driver’s real level headed.

So. You know, again, Parker’s real, I mean, for the most part, he’s, he stays level headed and things don’t bother him and is able to, to work through those challenges, whether they’re on the racetrack or on pit road. So. You know, again, time is the only thing that, and I think you see it in a lot of sports as the season goes on the, the, the trust and the, and, and everybody’s, uh, cohesive working together, um, gets better.

And, and that comes from practice and it comes from days on the road or, Hey, just sitting there after in the trailer and, and, and watching, uh, F1 practice or watching something else that, you know, and, and just learning what each other likes and dislikes. And, and, uh, it just is just, it’s just time. You can’t, you can’t, can’t force it.

It just has to come with, uh, with experience. So, you know, we, we, as our year went on, we. We got better. We felt like we were in a really good spot there at the end of the year. So, um, you know, we were, but again, I’ve used my past experience of, of dealing with money, many different drivers that you just, I just, just let it flow.

Like you can’t, we can’t force this, you know, I can’t, I can’t go out to dinner with Parker seven nights a week. It’s just not going to, it’s not going to make it go any quicker because we have years of. of individuality that is just, just not, it’s just not gonna change overnight. So, um, you know, we, we, that’s how, that’s how I approach it.

That’s how, um, the guys approach it in the shop. And, um, you know, we, I think we did a good job of it this year. Yeah. And I

mean, to go back and just highlight, I mean, you created a team or you built a team or part of a team that within one year, uh, one at Texas motor speedway. And it’s just. It’s insane to me that a team could come on to a series or into a series and within one year, um, get their first win.

Um, we’d love to kind of hear how the word patience, you would, you would highlight the word patience, uh, a few moments ago. And I think that what’s interesting is that in a world where it’s all about speed and going as fast as you can around the track and lap times in tens of seconds. It’s interesting to me that patients is valuable.

Patients could almost arguably be as important as speed, right? You kind of need to oscillate between both. No different than you need to oscillate between maybe the break and the gas. And so when let’s shift gears into like a race day. So imagine this. It’s race day. Um, you guys are in the mix. Qualifying times are good.

Vibes are good. Temperature is perfect, sun shining bright. You’re on the track. Your athlete is competing and maybe you have an opportunity to get on the headset or maybe even talk to the spotter. How do you guide an athlete on or driver on how to manage patients? Because we’ve got tire degradation. Uh, we’ve got a whole bunch of laps we’ve got to run.

You’re not going to win the race in the first five laps. How does patience come into play?

When we go into, uh, uh, practices, we always have a plan and then, and then practice says, okay, we’re, we’re this fast, our cars, this competitive, and then we’ve got to qualify and, and we can back that up and then, okay, then we sit back and we say, oh, this is our day.

This is where we have a K a car capable of winning, or we have a car capable of running 10th. It’s, it’s very, uh, it’s, it’s cut and dry. Like, you know, how fast your equipment is. So then we sit down and we say, okay, these are realistic goals. We need to fix the car to be better. And we work on that. So then in the race, we set goals.

This is where we want to be at stage one. Obviously we want to be in the top 10 to get stage points this way. We want to be in stage two, again, in the top 10, and then we set ourselves up for the final stage of the race. And again, some drivers, they can’t manage that. Some drivers, Parker does a great job at it.

You know, we, we, uh, you have to, the word patience comes from not tearing the nose off the race car in the first stage, keeping the right front fender on it, you know, not bouncing it off the fence, um, and in the first. in the first 40 laps of the race, because then you’re, you’re definitely out of business.

You know, yeah, you’re going to still run, but these cars are, they’re very aerodynamic. Sorry. And then you start knocking the body panels off. I mean, it’s going to slow down. It just does. And so to, to go and run all day patience is, Hey, I’m not good enough to run fifth, but I’m going to run seventh. And I’m going to get the thing into, to the, to the stage, let these guys work on it.

And then, and then we’re going to go work race again. And, and as long as, as long as we do that, the, it’s some people call it patience. Some people call it the big picture. Oh, we’re looking at the big picture. Well, it’s kind of the same thing. Like the big picture is to get to the checker flag, right? So for me, patience is, is like, sometimes the owner doesn’t give the team enough time to, for it to build itself up, get the right people, get the right equipment, um, in the building just to be competitive.

This is a very expensive sport. That’s no secret. So if you’re spending the money that it takes to run up front and it doesn’t happen overnight, you gotta, you gotta hope that the owner has enough patience to say, Hey, I understand where you’re at and we are building this and we’ll get there, you know, lucky for me.

I was able to get the equipment in, in a short amount of time with the help from, from RCR and, and, uh, we, we built really good race cars and put really good motors in them. And we went, went to the racetrack and we’ve been able to produce in a short amount of time. And, and I was again, I was smart enough to not try to reinvent the wheel and just say, Hey, look, the RCR equipment is super fast.

Let’s just go do it their way and we’ll figure it out later. And, uh, and so Scott’s been very patient and, and, uh, we were lucky to, to, to get going in a short amount of time and put the thing up front. But, um, you know, in today’s time, you have to be patient because I’ll tell you. I’m, I’m waiting on parts I ordered over a year ago, um, and I still haven’t got them and, uh, and, and it’s their performance parts.

It’s not something so to, uh, to sit there and, you know, it, it’s not just on the racetrack. It’s, it’s patients waiting to get the equipment to do it better, you know, and, and, uh, so. But I’ve learned that and, and, uh, and it’s just the way it is. Uh, sometimes you, you do have to be patient. You got to understand everybody’s trying to do their, their best.

Again, I’m going to go back to, are they doing their a hundred percent or are they not, you know, and if everybody’s, um, those suppliers are operating the best they can at a hundred percent, then that’s all I can do. I can’t, I can’t push them anymore. So it’s on and off the track. Both sides have to, I have to be patient with.

technology or parts and pieces, or, you know, just because I want a new race car, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes. you know, six weeks to get a new car built. So we, we, uh, again, 25 year old Patrick versus 50 year old Patrick is much different. So I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m in a better place for that.

I love it now.

One of the things that drivers are always looking to do is to move up, right? So if you’ve got a driver in, let’s say the cup series, or I’m sorry, the, uh, truck series or the Arca series, they want to move to Xfinity. Um, then there may be a driver who’s an Xfinity that might move, want to move to cup, right?

Um, how, what do you see as the commonality or the common trait or what have you that that seems to be what propels people from one level up because you’re going to have one group of people that’s like well you know that guy’s got all the money or this person’s got this big sponsor or this one’s dad’s a multi millionaire and sure maybe maybe that’s the truth and maybe that’s why they moved up.

But then you’ve got some people, you know, like Parker’s got a great reputation, reputation for being the one who, who always shows up, you know, Amber Balkin, who’s one of my athletes, um, so that he’s actually one of the people that she looks up. Cause he always shows up and he’s kind of like the underdog.

That’s, that’s always there. He’s always in the mix. He’s going to do whatever he can. And he’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He’s all racing, you know, whether it’s a podcast or competing or, you know, what have you. So there’s a lot of respect for Parker. So you’ve got. One group of people that are doing it based on, on grit, some are doing it just based on pure ability.

Some are doing it based on a bank account. What do you see in the mix as like the perfect secret sauce? If there even is one, we know the word perfection doesn’t truly exist, but what, what have you seen over the years that gets someone from these different levels and to continue up the ladder?

Well, obviously, obviously there is no magic bullet that says, Oh, this guy can do it.

You know, um, over the years, if somebody goes and they win five or six truck races, they’re like, Oh, that guy, you know, he’s in really good equipment. You know, he’s in better equipment than the field. He should win. Or you got a guy that’s he’s in okay equipment and he goes and wins a few races. And you’re like, Oh, wait a minute.

That guy, he’s got a lot of talent, you know? And, but if you, if you go, I look at racetracks, right? If you go and you say, okay, this, this young driver, male or female, doesn’t matter. And they’re at Darlington and you’re like, they’re up against the fence and they’re passing cars and, and just digging like, like they’ve been there for 20 years, you’re like, well, wait a minute, you know, that’s, there’s something there, they’re special.

Okay. There’s racetracks where, um, they, that it just takes talent. And, and so I look at that sometimes and, and then. Uh, obviously just winning, winning fixes everything. And if. If you go and, and you’re winning again, a guy like Noah Gregson wins all the races that he could there, uh, two years ago, he’d had been in Xfinity like three years and yeah, he, he deserved the next shot into a cup car.

Um, he’ll get another shot at it because he’s still, he’s still super fast. If a guy is. At the top of the board and practice and on the top of the board and in qualifying and he’s running up front, he can go fast every week, he’s going to get a shot. And now sometimes money gets in the way. Um, obviously that’s, that’s the driving factor.

Um, hopefully that changes in the next few years for, for the, the, the owners that they’re able to, to, uh, to put talent in their cars and instead of having to have a big check. Um, but if. At the end of the day, winning is. Is everything. And then speed again, like I said, if, if they’re weekend and week out up in the, up in the front, you know, they got it, you know, there’s, there’s just, um, I talk about a window of their operating window of, of set up and what their comfort level is.

You know, some people have a, a mail stamp size operating window, and some people have a garage door size operating window, you know, if, if a car is in a driver at weekend, a week out, or are able to, to run a front, it’s mathematically impossible to nail a setup every single week, you know, there’s, if, if the car is a little off.

Which all these race cars are none of them drive perfect if they’re operating and running up front and extracting the speed out of it, even when it’s a little off than they and they have the ability to go do the next level. Doesn’t mean they’re going to be successful up there. Absolutely not. But. At a certain point, they earn the right to go try.

And, uh, and that’s, that’s what’s important. That’s a big step. A lot of people don’t understand. Even the guy running 36 and cup is a really good race car driver in there. And, and. You know, they’re, they’re, they’re better than most. And a lot of people don’t understand that. That’s rude. This is really, really hard.

And, uh, and once they go, they realize, Holy cow, you know, they, they, they’re not, they’re not terrible. So it’s, um, but, and then, you know, metal side, you take a guy that has one and run a front for 30 weeks in a row and he goes cup racing and he struggles to run 25th. Well, he’s gonna, he’s gonna have a hard time keeping his head straight and not getting down on himself, questioning his ability.

Then they got to come back and have a good support group and, and understand that, well, I’m running 25th, but my team race running 30th, uh, you know, every week I’m, I’m out running him in the same equipment. So, you know, or vice versa, if your teammates running 15th and you’re running 30th, well, then you’re, you’re going to have some work to do.

And, uh, and that’s, that’s. That’s the reality. Everybody sees that a team is, you know, drivers really can only go as fast as his equipment sometimes. But if you’re gauging yourself off your teammate, well, again, if you’re faster than your teammate, well, then you’re, you’re, you’re probably okay. But like. If you’re not, that’s when your head’s probably going to start getting a little questioning and, and, uh, and how are you going to pull yourself out of it?

And, and again, it goes back to, you know, who’s your, who’s your support group? Who, you know, who do you lean on? Who do you, who do you talk to on a Sunday night when, when you just had one of the worst races of the season and, uh, and, and you, you haven’t run a front in 20 weeks, you’re like, oh, I’m going to get fired, you know, all that goes into it.

But, um, you know, yes, I mean, everybody wants to race on Sundays. Um, that’s, that’s the goal, right? Um, but it’s, it’s a big, it’s, it’s like going from college football to NFL. There’s a, there’s a, all, all the players on the field are really good, not just some of them. You know, so it’s, uh, that, that’s where the challenge comes in.

Yeah, I love that

you highlighted that because I, I do think it’s something that a lot of people don’t talk about because they’re just so used to winning and they don’t understand if you’re used to anything. You know, if you’re used to living in a nice house. And now all of a sudden you lose your job and you’re not living in such a nice house anymore, there’s an adjustment.

There’s, and you should be aware that there’s going to be adjustment and maybe even proactively be thinking about it. You know, I mean, if, if I was working with an athlete that is, you know, moving up from a lower series to a higher, who maybe was a winning rider, winning athlete. You know, these are conversations that need to be proactively had not reactively.

And I think a lot of us all tend to be a little bit more reactive instead of proactive when there’s a big opportunity for us to be prepared, not just From the car standpoint, not from just the previous data from the years that you’ve had on a car set up or a track. But, you know, you also have to prepare mentally for what may or may not happen.

You know, if everyone always is trying to win, but it’s like, okay, if you, if you do expect to be in top 10 and you’re in 21st. And you’re giving you’re giving everything you’ve got. You got to have a strategy to be in 21st to and be aware of that. So it doesn’t kind of hit you out of left field. So I love that you have

well to that expectation or expectations.

Dictate some of that, uh, misconceptions or, you know, so if, if, for us, if, if a driver moves up and that driver gets into a car that’s run 30th every week, and it doesn’t have all the new tires or doesn’t have a fresh motor or have a good pit crew, or it doesn’t have the parts and pieces and their budget is 1 10th of what the people in front of them are spending.

Well, then the expectation can’t be there to go run 10th, you know, it’s not going to happen. And so it’s important when people go do that to say, okay, what is the realistic expectations for today for the year, we do not have X, Y, Z to go run or win races, or Hey, we have ABCD to go win races. So you got to make sure that the expectation.

Meets the goal and meets the equipment that you’re in. And, and a lot of people, they miss that, you know, they’re like, Oh, you know, we’re going to go truck racing because we were in Arca racing. And, and, uh, but wait a minute, we’re not getting in the best. race car. Maybe we can’t afford it. Maybe that opportunity is not there for us.

Doesn’t make it wrong. Know what the expectation is so that when you walk out the gate on saturday night or sunday night, you know that, hey, I met or achieved, you know, my expectations. That’s the only thing you can do. Because if you, if you go in thinking, oh, you know what, I, uh, I just, I’m gonna go out there and I’m gonna run 10th in this car that that barely makes the race every week.

No, no. The goal is, is to make the race. If that car hasn’t been making the race, you make the race in it. Well, I, I did better than what it’s been doing or Hey, this car runs 20th every week and no matter who drives it and you go and you run 21st. It’s not the end of the world. That’s where the car has been running.

You, you’ve done what you, uh, what the, the equipment’s in nine times out of 10, people miss the expectations and then, and then they get, they get down on themselves until you say, wait a minute, you shouldn’t, you, you, you weren’t even Set up to, to achieve that goal. And, and that’s that again, I’m going to go back tomorrow.

We’re going to watch football and they’re going to blame a quarterback when a, when a receiver drops the ball and he, he throws it right in his hands. We see it every Sunday, right? Well, at a professional level, those guys are expected to catch the ball. That’s not the quarterback’s fault, right? So if a driver gets in the car and, and he comes down and have a bad pitch stop and the right front tire falls off, well, that’s not the driver’s fault.

you know, like that’s, they can’t, they can’t beat themselves over that. Now, if they go down there and they do something crazy and they, they back the thing in the fence, well then that’s the driver, you know, the driver has a little bit to fall back on, but meet meeting expectations, what are the expectations for this week, for next week, for the year though, that has to be set early on based on.

the tools that you have, whether that’s a teammate or motor or tires or whatever, make sure that the expectations are being met.

Yeah, and I think one of the places that I see a lot of athletes making a mistake is, um, you know, we, the reason, in my opinion, why we have expectations is Uh, goes back like 100, 200, 300, 000 years where, um, we needed to know what to expect because we were, we had to have an addiction to prediction.

We had to be able to predict if we go north, are we going to find warmth or food? If we go to the east, are we going to find water? If we go, you know, if you make a wrong decision back then, you could end up, you know, not surviving and maybe even possibly the whole tribe dying. So I think we’ve got this genetic desire to always be having this addiction to prediction and setting expectations.

But where the opportunity lies, in my opinion, is that I used to coach that, hey, set low expectations or don’t have any expectations. And I, and I actually realized that that based on my knowledge at the time, sure. But now the modern day version of me, kind of like you said, the 25 version of you and now the 50 same thing with me, the older version of me as a, as a more seasoned coach knows that You’re gonna want to set expectations no matter what.

So I can’t fight that. You know, darkness is gonna come tonight. The sun’s gonna rise tomorrow. I can’t fight that. However, um, the way to kind of massage it in and let you have that satisfaction of setting expectations can be offered by Changing the type of expectation you have. And so you have your process based expectations, which are, you know, how well are we going to execute?

What are we going to focus on? Things that are obviously within your control of your effort, your attitude, managing your emotions. There’s a, there’s a huge list of things that are within your control. However, once you move to results, If you’ve got 30 something cars on the track, um, there are so many variables that are out of your control.

The last thing you want to do is, is try to make predictions or set expectations based on outcomes or results, because that’s where you start to lose control and you start to enter that danger zone where you put yourself at risk for coming up short. And I think a lot of people make that mistake of not knowing that there needs to be an expectation, but it has to be delineated as to what type it’s

going to be.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I don’t, I don’t, I hope I didn’t come across as setting a lower expectation, but if you, if you look across the board and, and say, Whoa, there’s a, there’s 15 fully funded race cars that roll through the gate on a, on a, on a Friday and the Xfinity, you know, I say they are all 15 of them could go win a race.

They have everything they need to go win a race. Well, that, that next group of cars, now, are they a 15th or 20th place group of cars? If that’s the group that you’re racing, then, hey, we beat our group. You know, this guy has this, this, and this. He, he has leased motors, and he has a really good pit crew, and got a good, good leader.

Well, I took this car that never runs 18th or 16th and I’ve, I’ve, I finished 16th with it three weeks in a row. The thing finished 25th. Well, guess what you did better than that than expected, right? You, you can physically look back and say, Hey, history has shown that this race car has not run this good, or, Hey, this team wasn’t as good until I got in the goal and I stopped the puck, you know, like you can do that and, and you can do that.

without getting yourself down or, or shooting lower, you just have to say, Hey, I want to do better than what this, this equipment has, has provided in the past. If you do that, well, then people will take notice that I don’t care who you are. You see, Oh, man, that, that, that car ran better than it did last week or did, but you know, last time it was here.

So, you know, uh, I think keep that in mind. Always, always, always.

Yeah, for sure. And, um, One thing that we haven’t talked about yet that I really am curious to hear what your thoughts on is, you know, data is a big thing, right? And so we have this data, we have this information, but just like a book, you know, you can have all the information in a book, but until you do anything with it or turn it into action, it’s just pure entertainment, you know?

And so I think the same thing holds true with data. You know, we can acquire data on all kinds of metrics, whether it’s tire data, suspension, speed, drag, all these different variables. Talk to me a little bit about data. What, how do you, first of all, what data points do you value the most? And how do you turn that data into meaningful actions?

So, you’re right on. So, we can, we can tell Parker, Oh, it’s gonna do this, this, and this. Or, this is what the car did last year. Until he goes and drives it and puts a, uh, a reference to what Parker feels it’s irrelevant. We can look at all the numbers on the screen and all the video, but until you actually go and do it, it, you have no reference and, and that’s, that’s why, as our season went on, we got better because, hey.

When Parker got in the car, he knew, oh, it’s going to feel like this. Or when we were on a simulator and we’re doing this, yes, it correlated. No, it didn’t. I like it feeling like this. It needs to feel like this on, on Monday afternoon on the simulator or Hey, I’m looking at Speed traces, uh, breaking, you know, uh, corner speed, um, minimum speed.

I’m looking at, um, where they restart and all that until you do all that. And it means something to you. Everybody’s one to 10 is different. So until you do it. Yourself, you can’t quantify that. It just, you just can’t, it’s not wrong. Nobody can do it. And until, you know, we, we can put the same setup in there that went and won Texas two years ago.

It’s not going to always have the same result because everybody has a different feel. And, and, uh, so I even tell my son just started driving, um, uh, race cars. And, and I tell him. You can go talk to all the people you want of how it’s supposed to feel and this, but until you do it and you feel what your butt is telling you, it, you can’t put a, you can’t put anything to that.

So, um, as all these drivers do it, that’s why Justin Allgaier and Noah Gregson, and these guys that have a lot of races under their belt, they’re really good. They’re good anyways, but they have the experience to know, this is how it felt. This is how I wanted to feel. This is how it. It felt when I was in the simulator.

Um, so you, until you do it multiple times, um, you know, it just doesn’t mean anything to you. You can look at all the data you want, but until there’s a race car in front of you or a race car on you, but beating on your back bumper, going in the corner at Martinsville for 200 laps. Now, now your blood pressure goes up, you’re, you’re mad because the guy’s trying to wreck you, and you’re trying to pass the guy in front of you, and you got me yelling at you, and the spotter’s telling you three wide, you know, now the processor in your brain has to, it’s going, you know, wait a minute.

Do I have a Texas instrument processor? Do I get the latest Intel 12 or whatever? You know, like there’s, they’re all, you know, I, I joke because like, there’s reasons that some people are drummers, right? Cause their hands can go both directions and their feet can go and they can sing and they can do all this stuff.

I can’t do that. That my processor doesn’t allow me to do that. I, I used to drive. When I was a kid and, and, uh, I know what they’re going through. I know what some people, it takes all of their energy just to drive around the racetrack. There’s some, when you turn the TV on, these guys can talk on the radio.

They don’t lose any lap time. And it’s like, no, no, no issue tool. They’re like, it’s driving. It’s. It’s just natural. Then they can, then they can use their brain. Okay. What am I feeling? What is it? What, you know, like, I think we just, we’re Charles LaClerc was racing there, uh, last week. And he’s asking the team, Hey, what about this?

What about this? Do I slow down? He’s out there running math in his head while operating one of the most sophisticated race cars in the world. Right? So his processor is. He’s super fast, right? So, you know, again, doesn’t make it wrong. Everybody just operates at different levels. And, uh, and that’s why again, that’s why some people race on some Sundays and some people race on Friday nights.

You know, but, um, for the most part, you got to be able to operate and, and learn, okay, my race car did this in the spring. It’s going to do this in the fall. You know what? Oh, wait, wait a minute. We raced Phoenix in February. We raced Phoenix in November. What was the, what was different? Well, it’s a little bit warmer, you know, we’ve updated the car.

We’ve, we’ve done all this stuff. You’ve gotten, you’ve learned different things to do with the race car. Um, so all of that is. Once, once you can put real, uh, personal, uh, numbers to, to, to the data, then, okay, I drove into the corner to this point. Well, um, Sam Mayer drove in the corner here. Why is he able to do that?

Okay. So then you turn around and then you can say. Hey guys, I need you to fix this because I want to do what he does or hey, I’m able to do this better than this guy does keep, keep doing that. So that that’s where the magic comes in as, as a, as a group, when you’re working on it, it’s all that, um, uh, you know, it’s just, it’s experience, right?

Like you can call it, but. You have to, you get the experience and then you can, a lot of times you go back on Monday and you look at the data and say, Oh, well, no wonder we didn’t run good, you know, X, Y, and Z wasn’t what we normally run, you know, and you’re like, well, we didn’t know that Thursday. We didn’t know that Friday night.

We, right. It’s easy on Monday, but. But then you turn around and you say, okay, let’s not do that again. But, um, you know, we, Parker’s very, very studious. I call it, you know, he works nonstop on that and, and we work real hard on the simulator and, and, uh, and try to give them all the info and, and, uh, and, uh, we, we spent more time on the simulator RCR than anybody else.

Um, just again, working, work, work, work, work, trying stuff. Um. You know, sometimes it, it did, um, produce on the track and sometimes it didn’t, but you know, we, we run our lap and then, oh, that was a really good lap and then, okay, pull that data up. Okay. I use this much brake pressure. I was on the throttle here.

I put this much steering in, you know, and, and, uh, I like that. Now let’s, let’s, let’s try to duplicate that over and over. So, uh, and, and Parker’s super good at that. So I don’t, I don’t have to, I don’t have to push him and sit there and, and, uh, and try to, um, you know, show him or, but, but he’s, all these drivers have to be good at it now, really.

Yeah, it seems like,

you know, even back in the day, you know, it’s, it’s almost fascinating to think that there was a time where there was no data and you were just trusting, trusting your butt and your gut and just trying to figure it out. And, you know, sometimes you made some decisions that your gut or was wrong.

Sometimes you made it that were right. But, you know, I think nowadays with data, obviously it increases. evidence to support either making decision A or decision B. And so it can certainly, you know, minimize the mistakes and optimize your confidence. And, you know, it definitely is underrated, almost seems like a data analysis or a data guy to have on on your team.

Uh, it’s not such a bad idea, you know, um,

well, so the difference is 30 years ago, we could go testing, we go practice three days a week if we wanted to, if you couldn’t afford the tires and had the manpower to do it and. No, we didn’t have data. We didn’t have, we had, we had data acquisition and, and, uh, and it was all available to us and you took it, but you went testing, you tested and tested and tested.

And, and then you, you created a notebook of yes, the driver liked this or no, the driver didn’t. And then you, then you’d kind of back door engineer it. Well, okay. Why did he like it? And so now, as costs have gone up and track time has decreased, now the data tells us what we need to be doing, and then the driver has to figure out if he likes it or not.

And then, and we still kind of go back and say, wait a minute. We did, we, we raised the splitter up a 16th of an inch and, and Parker liked it right now during practice. Let’s not worry about why, what he liked about it. Let’s just continue on. And then we’ll sit down afterwards and then, excuse me, understand why he liked it.

So sometimes we, we reverse engineer it. And then a lot of times. Um, Hey, this is what we’re going to do. You got to figure out how to drive it, you know? And, and so again, I’ve done it both ways. I’ve done it with a notebook and in a tape measure and to where now we have lasers and computers and, and, uh, and we, we practice for 20 minutes.

So I’ve been on both sides of it and, and, uh, there’s good and bad of both of it. Um, I miss practicing sometimes and sometimes I don’t, so.

Wow, I love it. And Patrick, as we wrap things up, you know, I think about we’ve covered leadership, we’ve covered communication, we’ve covered data, we’ve covered driver team relations.

Um, it’s wild to think that we covered so much ground in just an hour and tapped into. Is what is probably not even a percent, 1 percent of all the knowledge you’ve acquired over the past almost 30 years. And I just wanted to thank you for coming on to the podcast, the behind the best podcast today, your knowledge and the detail, the attention to detail, just in how you answer questions, I’m sure translates.

into how you do your job as a crew chief. And I just want to say, I can’t thank you enough for your time and sharing so many golden

nuggets. Yeah. Thanks for reaching out and, uh, I’ve enjoyed that doing this. So thanks for having me.