NASCAR Media Conference
November 15, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's first of two NASCAR teleconferences in advance of this weekend's Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway. We'll be joined today by our championship contending crew chiefs Bob Osborne and Darian Grubb.
We are first joined by Bob Osborne crew chief of the No. 99 Aflac Ford piloted by Carl Edwards. The number the 99 team has a three-point edge over the 14 team and has won the season ending race twice in the past three years.
Carl's three-point lead roughly translates to 13 points under the previous point system. That makes it the closest margin between first and second going into the final race the chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, in its history, and the third closest since the inception of the position based point structure in 1975.
Bob, we'll start with you. Talk a little about your thoughts and your strategy on winning the championship this weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway?
BOB OSBORNE: Well, going into Homestead here, we're really going to stick to what got us in this position in the first place, and that is to try to have the best race car possible and go and run the best race we possibly can and finish as high in the points as we can. Try to beat that 14.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. And we will now go to the media for questions for today's first guest, Bob Osborne.
Q. You guys have been so good at Homestead in recent years. How much of your notes from past races there can you go back to and how much of that stuff is relatable this time around?
BOB OSBORNE: I think all of it is relatable, for sure. Definitely last year's race set-up is going to apply directly to this year for us. We plan on starting right where we left off set-up wise, and trying to improve that set-up for this race at Homestead.
Q. You guys have had a couple times during this chase where the car hasn't been great early, and yet you salvaged something out of it in the end. I would guess this is a case where that can't happen given how close the margin is?
BOB OSBORNE: I would agree with that. I think at the end of the day we have to outrun the 14, and just coming up with a Top 10 or a Top 5 finish is not going to cut it for sure.
Q. Is it any easier approaching this weekend knowing that it may take a win to win this thing, or knowing that you finished tenth you would clinch it or finishing 15th, you would clinch it?
BOB OSBORNE: If we could run top 25 and clinch it, it would definitely be a lot easier weekend knowing that at the end of the day we have to finish in front of the 14, and as well as they've been running, you're right. It probably will come down to winning the race could determine the championship.
So it's definitely a little bit more difficult going into the weekend looking at it that way.
Q. I guess the question is there anything to be said for the fact that there's no reason for you to be playing conservative at all?
BOB OSBORNE: That's correct. We're going to go there and put our best foot forward, for sure, which is what we really do every race, all season long. But we're going to start out by trying to win the pole, and then we're going to start the race with the intent on winning the race for sure.
Q. I have a background question. I read in your bio that you're a Penn State mechanical engineering degree holder. Can you go back? What were your career plans at the time you were studying? Was it NASCAR from the start or did you have other plans and deviated to NASCAR?
BOB OSBORNE: I actually had other plans and I deviated to NASCAR. I had steered my education to work for one of the big three I was shooting for Ford, preferably, of course. But got involved in some other things racing oriented in school, and really fell in love with racing at that point and changed my -- really didn't have to change my curriculum in school, it's still automotive base, but just steered the path I chose after I got out of school.
Q. Elaborate on what one thing changed your course there? Was it a trip to a racetrack or meeting somebody involved or what?
BOB OSBORNE: Well, I got involved in Formula SAE at Penn State there, which is a collegiate program where schools compete building actual race cars and taking them to an event and competing against each other. So that was really what got me tuned into racing and got me charged up on making this a career.
Q. When you look at how you're going to call this race, I know obviously you can have a game plan and things change as the race progresses. Is it easier because are you more focused on what the 14 does or is it more complicated because you have to be worried about the whole field because you've got winning in the back of your mind?
BOB OSBORNE: Honestly, the strategy doesn't change a whole lot for us. We do have to keep an eye on the 14, and the situation will definitely govern a lot of what we do. Push comes to shove, I'm going to make decisions that's going to make our program have the best finish possible. The goal is to win the race, so we're going to do what we feel is best for a strategy to accomplish that goal.
Q. That in mind, how challenging has it been this season? I've heard some crew chiefs talk about it seems like with the way that guys are calling races, it seems like other crew chiefs are throwing Hail Marys. Sometimes you have to respond, sometimes you don't. Certainly we've seen different calls as the season progressed, some have worked, some didn't that in the past might have worked. How challenging has it been on the pit box this year? Is there more of a sense of normal see with the way things are going now as opposed to earlier in the season?
BOB OSBORNE: I don't believe it's changed from earlier in the season. I still feel that there is definitely a lot more risks being taken in the decisions made on pit road and more times than not this year, those decisions have actually worked out.
So you definitely have to keep an open mind to doing something a little more outside of the box than what we would call normal. It's just the way we are racing right now, and we have to respond to it.
Q. When it comes to the race itself, when it comes to Homestead Miami Speedway, you have a great notebook for that racetrack. I guess how do you balance the confidence in knowing that, versus not getting too confident and still trying to stay up on your game?
BOB OSBORNE: The big thing there is actually really using the practice sessions that we have to try to improve the set-up and the book of notes, so to speak. We're not going to go there and just rest on our notebook. We're going to go there and flog the race car to try to improve it and see what we can come out of those practice sessions that is better than where we started.
I think if we hold true to that and really push the race car during the practice sessions, we'll have a better package than when we started and should be a good package for the race doing that procedure.
Q. Just wondering how Carl would be this week. He seems pretty cool throughout this, but now you're down to the final race. It's so close. How much will you guys be in touch before you get to Homestead, and what do you expect from him?
BOB OSBORNE: First of all, how you doing, Bill, it's been a little while since I've spoken with you. He's been doing very well. He's very calm. He's taken everything in stride. He's excited about the situation that we're in. He definitely enjoys the situation we're in.
This is what, in his mind, best scenario, this is what he wants to see. He's a competitor. He wants to go out there and race for it, and really show our business and do our stuff out there on the racetrack.
He's enjoying the situation that we're in, and we'll speak every day up until the race, for sure.
Q. Bob, how would you compare this chase to the previous ones you and Carl have been part of as it has it seemed different in any way? Have you approached it differently?
BOB OSBORNE: Well, for the majority of the chases that we've been in, we haven't been this close. So that is a key factor right there. But we really haven't approached this chase any differently than any other one we've been involved in. The goal for us, for all the Chases is to perform the best that we possibly can and accumulate the most points we possibly can. It's going well for us this season for sure.
Q. Have you thought about what it would be like to finally win that title?
BOB OSBORNE: Yeah, every day, I guess. That is the goal for all of us in this sport is to be a champion and to be a Sprint Cup holder, so to speak. You know, it's what we're trying to achieve. Hopefully we get to that point so I can really know for sure what it feels like.
Q. I'm wondering how Carl might be different from the guy who has run for these championships before? Is he more mature? More level-headed? You talked about him being calm. I just wonder how different he is from the guy who has run it before?
BOB OSBORNE: Are you referring to the past opportunities we had in Carl's position?
Q. Yeah, yeah. And I'm not saying he was immature and not able to win, but I'm wondering if there was anything different from the time he's come close or anything maybe he learned from those times that you see coming out in this?
BOB OSBORNE: I think any time, any opportunity you have gaining experience makes you better at what you're doing. I don't know the statistics the handful of times we've been the chase, I think he's definitely better at it than this time the last opportunity we had, and the time before that and so on and so forth.
I think just the experience going through the process and going through the procedures that we have to go through race week after week in high-pressure situations gives him just a little bit of added edge for the next year that we have to do it.
Q. I guess I'm wondering in what way? How is he better? What specifically can you point to?
BOB OSBORNE: Yeah, I don't know that there is one specific thing that I can point to. When you can say maturity, you can say experience, you can call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day to me, it's experience. There is really no one particular trait that I would point out.
Q. I wondered if you can expand on that a little bit. Talk about your first impressions of Carl back when you first got hooked up with him and how he was then versus maybe how he is now? Also, when you guys got -- when Jack kind of decided to go in a different direction for a year there, could you talk a little bit about that and what you guys do differently now that maybe you didn't do before the first time you were hooked up?
BOB OSBORNE: Well, obviously Carl's experience level has increased a great deal. I think the one thing, one of the biggest things that's changed quite a bit from when Carl and I started working together, regardless of both of our experience, because we were both very inexperienced when we got hooked up together originally, but Carl really understands how to race a race.
You know, he knows when the right time is to really push the race car, and really push the limits. He also knows when the right time is to save the equipment and to save tires and to, you know, save all of the facets that need to be managed of the race car during the race.
His gauging of a race and when to really go and when not to go have improved quite a bit over the years and he's exceptional at it now, I believe.
As far as when we got separated in 2006, we here at Roush Fenway felt like the 2005 season for the 99 was a great year. We felt like we had a great program going there. What we were trying to do there is basically improve some of the other programs at Roush Fenway at the time by basically setting up the same structure in that 26 program that I had on the 99 program.
So we felt like the 99 program would be incredibly strong still, then trying to improve the 26 program along the way with that. So it was an opportunity to expand the technology, let's say, or the performance level of the company in general without hurting the 99 program overall.
We didn't get as much out of it as we had hoped, for sure. And we decided to go the other way, and Carl and I got the opportunity to work together again which has been great ever since.
Q. I have three questions, two are serious, one is not so serious. My first one is how are you able to keep your team focused and together when Carl was exploring his options, and not quite sure if he was going to be back with the 99 or not? And the second one is how has Carl been able to tune out Tony's sort of mind games and trash talking?
BOB OSBORNE: As far as the team goes during that time this year when Carl was exploring it, I was just straightforward with him. Told him that Carl was just out there looking to see what's going on and not to let it bother him.
They have a job to do and they signed up to do whether it be tire changing or whether it be an underneath mechanic, that's what they signed up to do, and they would be really doing an injustice to themselves and to the program at its current state if they didn't stay focused, and they all understood that.
They knew that at the end of the day if they did their jobs well, Carl would be ecstatic to see how well that the program was running, and it would be a factor that would weigh in his mind during the decision.
So them doing a better job or as good a job as they could and not get distracted really, really helped Carl make the decision to stay, so to speak.
Q. The way that Tony sort of the last month has tried to get into Carl's head, what has he done or why has he been good at being able to tune that out?
BOB OSBORNE: I don't know if Tony has really tried a whole lot to get into his head. I think both of them are having fun with the situation that they're in and understanding that it's really just fun has been Carl's key. He knows that Tony's having fun, and Carl's having fun back with Tony too when he gets the opportunity.
I think just keeping everything in perspective is really the key there.
Q. Why are you always the first crew chief at the driver meeting?
BOB OSBORNE: Well, that's turned into kind of a race for a few of us to see who can get there first, but not be there too early, so to speak. Really, it's an opportunity for me to sit down and focus my thoughts and not have a whole lot of people around interacting with me.
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