NASCAR CUP SERIES
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 2, 2021
RUDY FUGLE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 LIBERTY UNIVERSITY CAMARO ZL1 1LE, Teleconference Transcript:
WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MOVING FROM A TRUCK SERIES TEAM TO A NASCAR CUP SERIES TEAM?
“There’s a totally different amount of people, like ten times the amount of people, literally, from 60 to 600 people that are trying to help you win. I managed a much smaller amount of people directly on my team in the Truck Series. You only have some much time to work on the truck compared to the car. Details are always different. But overall, all the nuts and bolts are in effect that you need to lead as crew chief and make pit calls and really interact with the driver the right way. It’s a big jump, for sure. It’s hard. It’s definitely not easy. I’m not trying to underplay that. The fact that we had good cars and we had a good team. I didn’t build a team. I came into a team. So, I’m pretty lucky. William (Byron) was ready to go. We know he’s a good driver. He just needs some experience and I think we’re ready to contend more often.”
OFTEN WHEN CREW CHIEF CHANGES ARE MADE IN THIS ERA, IT GOES TO AN ENGINEER. RIGHT NOW, NOT AS MANY TEAMS ARE BRINGING ENGINEERS TO THE TRACK. AS WE SEE MORE CHANGES DOWN THE ROAD IN THE SHORT TERM, WILL THIS LEAD TO CHANGES WITH MORE FOCUS ON MANAGEMENT?
“It could be. But I still think you need the engineering background. I’m a mechanical engineer. I started out as a race engineer for quite a while. So, I have that background; not quite nearly as good as my engineers are on my team. And then you see a lot of teams that take their Cup race engineer, they send them to Xfinity, they do well, and then they move back up. Adam Stevens and Greg Ives are perfect examples of that. So, they get that management experience in a lower level. There’s a lot of little things that you don’t get to do as a race engineer that has to do with not just making the car fast but managing the whole weekend.”
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE OR FEEDBACK HAVE YOU GOTTEN FROM CHAD KNAUS?
“I work with Chad every day. His office is right next to mine. We’re in meetings every day. He leads our company from a competition standpoint. So, I definitely take his input all the time. And then, just the fact that he was the leader of this team, he comes and checks in with his guy, his old guys, and just makes sure that everything is going well. As he said, he’s got a lot of blood in the No. 24 currently (like) guys that he’s hired and helped train. So, I definitely use him up a lot.”
HAS CHAD KNAUS BEEN HANDS-OFF IN LETTING YOU COME IN AND MANAGE THINGS THE WAY YOU WANT TO, OR DOES HE STILL HAVE A VOICE IN THE PROCESS?
“No, when I ask for help or maybe he saw I needed to do something better he’ll say something; but he kind of let me go on my own because I needed to. But I’m always up for suggestions and talking and asking, so I try to take as much input as I can.”
COMING FROM KYLE BUSCH MOTORSPORTS, IS IT A LITTLE BIT OVERWHELMING TO HAVE ALL THESE RESOURCES TO WORK WITH?
“Yeah, the first week was really eye-opening. I really haven’t spent much time here, period. They have a campus. They don’t have a building. And then you’ve got so many different managers that are so intelligent and so experienced to lean on. It’s definitely different. I was kind of the lead at KBM and there were other people that helped me but there are so much more resources at this level. It was a big step to figure out who my go-to people would be. Who do I go to at Chevrolet, at Hendrick Motorsports; who do I talk to for this or that, and over the first few months I’ve just found that everybody has been so super helpful in different ways; so, it’s been great.”
DO YOU BELIEVE THIS TEAM HAS IT ALL IN PLACE, EXCEPT FOR THE EXPERIENCE OF CONSISTENTLY WINNING, TO BE A CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE CONTENDER?
“That’s what we’re going to find out. We have the right race cars. We have the engines. We have the people. And we’re going to put ourselves through the rigors to become a week-in and week-out contender like you see the No. 4 and the No. 18 car and the No. 11 car, the No. 19 car, and the No. 9 car clearly; and you see all those, every single week a contender and you’re surprised when they run 12th. That’s what we have to be. Sometimes that takes training just by putting yourself through the rigors of the season, myself included, in a different series. That’s how I’ve always approached how to win a championship, with lots of different rookie drivers. And that’s how I’ve taken the approach. You go work on how to be a champion and when it comes time to perform, hopefully you’re good enough.”
KYLE BUSCH AND KYLE LARSON AND OTHERS ARE RACING IN THE MODIFIED RACE THE WEEK BEFORE BRISTOL. IS THAT A GOOD IDEA? WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE WILLIAM TO DO THAT TO GET THE EXPERIENCE?
“With eight or so years of experience at Eldora, what I know is that the tire we race on in the stock car or truck or whatever, is nothing like anything else. They handle really poorly. They’re slow. The tire doesn’t have a ton of grip. So, any type of experience in different types and forms of racing doesn’t really, really help when it comes to getting better in a Cup car around Bristol I don’t think. But obviously there are things to gain just on what the track is like and what the track does and being there and seeing it. Of course, if Larson is going to run something, he’s going to go in, right? It’s just fun for him. He can hop out and to that and it never hurts when you’re that good at dirt to do stuff like that.”
HOW WAS IT TO WALK IN THE BUILDING AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ON MONDAY AS A WINNING CREW CHIEF?
“Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I started and walked through each building and thanked everybody and told them good job and congrats and I just hope to be able to do that more often.”
WHAT ARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES RELATED TO NASCAR? WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED OUT, WHAT DID YOU VIEW AS BEING YOUR ULTIMATE CAREER GOAL?
“I was a NASCAR fan as a young kid. I think I was at a NASCAR race when I was a couple of years old. And then it was the thing for my Dad and me to maybe be my birthday present to go to a race a year, so I’ve definitely been a race fan for life. And then you grow up and I worked in a salvage yard with my family and realized that was pretty hard work and I wanted to get a degree and try to not have to work that hard every day. That led me to mechanical engineering and trying to get on a race team and you always have a goal of being a Cup crew chief. That’s it. You want to be Chad Knaus. And then different paths and different jobs and climates of how NASCAR has gone up and down in the past 15 years has been pretty volatile. So, you have really good jobs; and you think you’re on the way up and then that race team is not in business anymore and you have to find another job; but just keep working and working. So, this was a pretty fast find to get this opportunity and then be able to succeed so far. I have bigger goals. Hopefully we can succeed at those later on in the year.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING THE CREW CHIEF ON THE NO. 24 CAR
“Yeah, it’s special. It’s an historic number. Hendrick Motorsports is an historic place with great sponsors and to just be able to succeed is amazing. I definitely took a chance to be able to come over here and try to prove to myself, most importantly, that I could. And to have a win early is pretty awesome.”
GOING TO LAS VEGAS, WHAT’S THE KEY FOR WILLIAM BYRON TO DO WELL AT THAT TRACK?
“This Vegas race especially, is kind of different. There are cooler temperatures. And with this 550-hp package, there’s some drafting and definitely the way the drag versus downforce, so we’re trying to get that figured out where we have enough speed in the car, but also have the handling. The restarts at Las Vegas are as intense as anywhere. If you go back through the races there’s a lot of side-drafting, side-by-side pushing, wrecks early and late on the restarts. We’re just going to see how that goes.”
DOES HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS STILL DO THE VICTORY BELL CELEBRATION? IF SO, WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE TO RING THAT BELL FOR THE FIRST TIME?
“I’m just finding out that we haven’t done it with COVID-19. All that stuff is new to me. I haven’t been here for that. So, hopefully we get through this stuff and we keep winning and be able to do it for real. That would be pretty cool.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN AGAIN WITH WILLIAM BYRON NOW ON THE BIG STAGE?
“It’s great. That’s the reason I came over here is to be able to work with William. I believe in him. He believes in me. I’ve believed in him since day one in the Trucks and to be able to realize not only our dreams but our goal as well to be able to compete at this level and win and to be able to do it together. When somebody believes in you like he does in me and I do in him, it’s fun to be successful.”
YOU MENTIONED HENDRICK MOTORSPORT BEING A CAMPUS INSTEAD OF A BUILDING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WELCOME STORIES TO SHARE? DO YOU GET LOST IN THE HALLS?
“I get lost in the halls in pretty much every building. I got lost coming up to this conference room. So, it’s definitely way different to try to figure out where you’re supposed to be. I know my area pretty well, but that’s about it.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
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