Column By: REID SPENCER & HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – When Martin Truex Jr. started working with engineer James Small at Furniture Row Racing, the biggest obstacle to their communication might well have been Small’s Australian accent.
When Truex transitioned to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018, Small came with him. Last year the Aussie served as lead engineer on a No. 19 team that won seven races, tops in the NASCAR Cup Series.
With the departure of crew chief Cole Pearn during the offseason, Small has assumed that role on Truex’s team. So far, the transition has been comfortable, as far as the driver is concerned
“So far it’s been good,” Truex said on Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day interviews. “I think James has been right there on the front lines with us the past few seasons, and obviously he wasn’t out in the spotlight, because he was an engineer and not a crew chief.
“But I feel like he’s really doing the same things as before, and our communication really hasn’t changed a whole lot. I just feel like it’s business as usual. From that standpoint, it feels comfortable, and he’s done a good job of just keeping things the way we’ve always done them. Not trying to change, not trying to be somebody… change the team up to be the way he wants it.
“He knows what we have works, and his approach is so similar to Cole’s that it’s really been seamless so far. Hopefully, that continues to be the case.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI IS TIGHT-LIPPED ABOUT DISCUSSION WITH JOEY LOGANO
Brad Keselowski’s feelings about blocking in restrictor-plate races are well-known, and the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford didn’t hold back after teammate Joey Logano threw a block on Kyle Busch in Turn 4 during last Sunday’s Busch Clash at Daytona.
Contact from Busch’s Toyota turned Logano sideways and ignited a six-car wreck that eliminated Keselowski, an innocent victim of the melee. Keselowski subsequently characterized Logano’s block as “dumb” and didn’t walk back his opinion during Wednesday’s Daytona 500 media day interviews, even though he and Logano discussed the incident after the fact.
“I think I’ve been pretty consistent and verbal about the blocking on the race track, so I don’t really have anything that I feel differently about with respect to that,” Keselowski said on Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day at Daytona International Speedway. “As far as the comments specific to Joey, I’ll keep those between him and I.”
Keselowski is in a contract year at Team Penske, and he enters the season with new crew chief Jeremy Bullins after a personnel shakeup within the organization. From Keselowski’s point of view, those issues haven’t elevated the stress level to an appreciable degree.
What grated on the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion was having a car wrecked in a race he thought he could win.
“I’m probably a little bit stuck in the forest to see it from the trees, but with respect to that, I hate losing races that I feel like we were in position to win, so I hope that never changes regardless of team dynamics, contract dynamics and so forth,” Keselowski said.
“I think most people would tell you that’s a good thing that you want to win and you hate losing, so certainly we were in position to win that race, and I’m proud of that and we weren’t able to capitalize on it through no fault of our own, which is frustrating—whether it’s here or anywhere else.”