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Jonathan Hassler Coca-Cola 600 Media Availability

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series
Coca-Cola 600 Advance | Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Jonathan Hassler, crew chief for Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang Dark Horse in the NASCAR Cup Series, registered his first victory as a crew chief in last year’s Coca-Cola 600. He answered questions from the media earlier today as the series prepares for its annual Memorial Day Weekend event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

JONATHAN HASSLER, Crew Chief, No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang Dark Horse – HOW DO APPROACH THIS YEAR’S 600 AFTER WINNING A YEAR AGO? “It’s certainly exciting to be going back to Charlotte. I think it’s an interesting scenario being one of the few tracks that we only race once a year and having so many other mile-and-a-half tracks in between to try and learn. You’re kind of stuck in a scenario trying to recreate maybe what you had, but certainly know that you’ve learned a lot since then and trying to make those decisions.”

PENALTIES FOR THE INCIDENT AFTER THE ALL-STAR RACE CAME OUT TODAY. A COUPLE CREW MEMBERS WERE SUSPENDED AND AS THE CREW CHIEF HOW DO YOU ADDRESS A SITUATION LIKE THAT WITH YOUR TEAM? “We’ve definitely tried to talk through the scenarios here at Team Penske globally and not just for the 12 team. Our position tends to be that we’ll protect our ground and our driver around our car and our hauler, but we’re certainly not gonna be the ones to initiate any sort of action.”

DOES THIS SERVE AS A REMINDER FOR THE TEAM? “Yeah, every time those things happen, good or bad, we watch all of the things going on in our sport and try to learn from them and make sure that if the same thing comes up for us that we handle it for what we think is appropriate.”

HOW MUCH DOES WINNING MAKE A DIFFERENCE FROM A MOMENTUM ASPECT AND WHAT DID IT DO FOR YOU LAST YEAR BY WINNING THE 600? “Winning the 600 last year, honestly, I think it just gave us a little bit of freedom to go out and experiment with some different setups and different concepts in the last half of the regular season last year. A lot of it was trial by error. There were things that didn’t work. We were able to hit on a couple things that did and put all of that together as the playoffs came around and really made sure that we were at our best. I think without that win, you’re stuck at times being a little conservative trying to go get a bit of a base hit, if you will. Getting that win just really opens up your box.”

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A WIN AND IT’S GETTING LATER, WHY NOT DO THAT TRIAL AND ERROR AND BE MORE AGGRESSIVE? “As you get further out of that points picture and more desperate I think you definitely have to be willing to try things that will close the gap in a hurry.”

THIS WEEK IS EXTRA SPECIAL BECAUSE IT’S A HOME RACE FOR MOST OF THE TEAMS. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU NOTICE WITH YOUR CREW MEMBERS AS FAR AS EMBRACING THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE EXTRA TIME AT HOME? “Yeah, it’s a good thing. I definitely enjoy the extra little bit of time with my family as well, but it’s a little bit of a challenge as the leader because guys have routines week in and week out and certainly that routine is a little different when you’re at home, so you have to balance the good with the bad and make sure that the job gets done as well.”

IS THERE EXTRA EMPHASIS ON THIS WEEKEND WITH GUYS WANTING TO WIN IN FRONT OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY? “No. We really approach each and every week the same, trying to put our best foot forward and be as competitive as we can be. We just try to keep a consistent approach from week to week, regular season race to playoff race, from the start of the year to the end of the year.”

YOU HAVE A NEWBORN, SO HOW ARE THINGS GOING AROUND THE HOUSE. ALL GOOD? “Things are really good. Our baby girl is very healthy and growing and more awake each and every day. It’s been a lot of fun.”

WHAT SKILLS DID YOU LEARN AT PURDUE THAT HAS HELPED YOU AS A CREW CHIEF AND WHAT SHOULD BE TAUGHT? “I would just say that general problem solving and data analysis is probably the biggest tool that I use probably day to day, just to make decisions and continue to try to lead the 12 team and the Penske organization in a positive direction. I try to reach out. I have a lot of college students that will reach out to me through the year and I try to field as many of those questions as I can and the one thing I tell a lot of those people is to take any and every opportunity to get your hands dirty and get in the middle of it. More than just analyzing data, get in there and do the physical work and get that appreciation for the sport.”

WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THE TIRE SITUATION LAST WEEKEND WITH THE OPTION TIRE? “I talked to somebody last week about how I thought it was gonna go and, honestly, I think it played out kind of similar. I really compared it to how the PJ1 works. You see at some tracks they’ll put the PJ1 down and treat the track and we’ll have this one period of the race where you’ve got two equal lanes, but then the slightest change will shift the primary groove to one specific lane. Similarly, we had the track rubber up, cool down and it was just enough of a shift that in practice it looked like you were gonna have a ton of passing and there was gonna be this trade off period where the red tires were gonna fall off and the yellow tires were gonna probably be stronger on a long run, but, like I said, the slightest change in conditions and that changed in the race to where the red tires were just pretty much good from start to finish.”

DID WINNING LAST YEAR FEEL DIFFERENT SINCE IT WAS A HOME RACE IN CHARLOTTE COMPARED TO ANOTHER TRACK? “I think each and every win you’re thankful for, and I think you try to embrace them for what they are. To say it felt different, it was different in that it wasn’t a playoff race and it changed what we could do, like I said, through the rest of the year and our approach. What was also different was that it was on a Monday. With it being on a Monday, we were right back up to work bright and early the next Tuesday and focused on the next week. I think it took us a little bit of time as a group to be able to pencil some time in to celebrate it, but we definitely did that and I’m thankful for the way it all turned out.”

HOW DO YOU PROCESS INFORMATION FROM YOUR COMMAND CENTER AND POTENTIALLY MAKE A CALL THAT GOES AGAINST WHAT MIGHT BE SUGGESTED? “I think the best way I would describe that command center is just a lot of eyes and ears trying to watch each and everything that’s going on in the race, and kind of having an open dialogue and line of communication between all of the different teams as well as that command center of how we think things are changing and what we might do to react to that. The All-Star Race is a great example. That first caution came out and we all discussed that we were pretty sure there were gonna be a lot of guys that came in and took yellows. That instance with us pretty much running last it was an easy decision to stay out and try to gain. We counted the positions that we’d gain. We were gonna gain 12 and we thought that was a risk worth taking. We go out and run 100 laps and kind of maintained our track position and as we’re getting closer to that mandatory caution, there was a lot of discussion among all the boxes and within that war room of what we needed to do next. At first, you talk through the ideas and how you think it’s gonna play out. Certainly, some idea sound more far-fetched originally, but there are some that are far-fetched, but as you talk through them they start to make a little more sense.”

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH MAKING THOSE DECISIONS WITH SO MANY EYES AND EARS ON YOU? “I think the key to that is we try to think through and talk through the scenarios before the race and have some idea of how things are gonna play out and then when those conversations arise during the race, they are there for good reason. Most likely it’s not something off the wall that’s not gonna happen or doesn’t make sense, so you’ve got a lot of good people here at Team Penske and it’s certainly worth listening to those people and trying to understand their position on everything. As far as how long it took me to get used to the number of voices in my ear, it’s definitely taken some time, but I’ve certainly gotten used to it.”

HAS THERE BEEN MORE DISCUSSION BETWEEN CREW CHIEFS AND THE R&D CENTER ABOUT WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE SHORT TRACK PACKAGE? “I wouldn’t say that I’ve actively, as a crew chief, been involved in what changes we need to make to the short track package. I will say there were certainly some positives to take away from North Wilkesboro. I think that combination and what they did with the track there was really good. I don’t think the softer tire was negative by any means. I think at times the cars ran a little bit closer, so there’s definitely things we can continue to do and I think we’ll continue to work as a sport to try and make it better.”

DO YOU HAVE A WAY TO TELL IF THE TIRE ON THE NEXT GEN CAR IS MORE TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE THAN THE TIRES ON THE GEN 6 MODEL? “I think tires being temperature dependent is something that you’re probably not ever going to escape. It’s more or less the physics of the whole scenario, so I think just understanding it better. I think Bristol is a great example to talk back through. We go to Bristol and this year we have a race in the coolest conditions. I think we probably missed maybe as a sport by bringing the tire that was brought, and I think that responsibility falls on everybody, so we just need to understand that is a big driver. The conditions are a huge factor for the tire and just have to stay on top of that.”

BUT DO YOU HAVE A FEELING FOR WHETHER THE TIRE ON THE NEXT GEN CAR IS MORE SENSITIVE TO TEMPERATURE THAN THE PREVIOUS SITUATION? “I think that’s always been something that we’ve had and something that you’re always gonna have.”

SO YOU’RE SAYING THEY’RE COMPARABLE FROM A DEGREE STANDPOINT? “Yeah, I think it’s comparable. I think you’ve had similar scenarios in the past.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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