looking for it, it came to me.
Q: What does that job entail? A: Basically I’m the team manager of the Cup and Xfinity side of Penske. Whether it’s getting people, pit equipment, cars or transportation, whatever it takes to get the team to the racetrack and be competitive once they’re there. It’s kind of a little bit of everything.
With Austin Cindric driving the Xfinity car, there’s a little bit of emphasis on driver development, where they typically have (more) developed drivers in their Cup and Xfinity stuff. I’d say with my background at Rev from the development side, it was good timing on their part to include me in the program to try to help Austin.
Q: What about on the Cup side?
A: I’ll be heavily involved on the Cup side, but obviously those drivers don’t need any development. They’re already there, very successful. My job is just to keep them that way and make sure they have all the pieces and parts they need.
Q: What are some of the things you’ll do with Austin Cindric you don’t do with the Cup drivers?
A: At all the non-companion races (weekends when Cup and Xfinity cars race at different venues), I’ll go to the Xfinity weekend and spot for Austin so he doesn’t have six different spotters over the course of a year.
It will either be Josh Williams (from Martinsville), who spots for Ryan Blaney, or myself, so Austin won’t have a lot of change. They have a huge (simulation) program at Penske that I’ll attend with Austin every Tuesday.
Q: When you’re part of an organization that has the defending Cup champion (Logano), a former Cup champion (Keselowski) and a guy (Blaney) who might very well have the talent to win a championship, is there a little more feeling of pressure?
A: There’s definitely more pressure. Any time you rise up levels in any sport, there’s more pressure.
Q: Was it tough to leave Rev Racing?
A: I was really happy at Rev and with (team owner) Max Siegel, and I really believe in NASCAR’s diversity program. To have to call Max and put in my resignation was one of the hardest things professionally I’ve ever had to do.
There were very few places, even in the Cup garage, I would’ve left to do that. Penske is at the top of the list. I’ve been doing a lot of spotting for them (Hodges spotted for victorious Keselowski at the Brickyard 400 last summer), so I’ve been a part-time employee at Penske the past three years.
I really got to see how they operated, what they stood for and the integrity that they have. The people and equipment they bring to track is second to none.
It was a tough message to deliver that I was leaving, but the decision was simple.
Q: What’s your impression of legendary owner Roger Penske?
A: He’s been very successful in the sport and he’s been here for a long time, so that’s something you have to admire. His decision process is based on his own reputation and the integrity of his businesses — I really like that.
I like the fact that winning is important, performance is important and they just won a (Cup) championship, but they’re doing things the right way. They’re not out there trying to cheat the system and do things they don’t need to do.
They’re not hiring drivers just because of how much money they can bring in. They’re hiring drivers that deserve an opportunity to have a place in this sport because of their ability to drive.
He was extremely polite and very welcoming, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with him.
Q: Penske employees typically have long careers with the organization. How much did that play into your decision?
A: It played very heavily. The average tenure of an employee at Team Penske is 8½ years.
When you’ve got 400-plus employees, for that to be the average is a really long time.
I don’t want to get back into that rat race of having to find a better job somewhere.
Q: You’re coming into a team with a new car, the Mustang, this season. Sometimes there’s a learning curve. What are your thoughts?
A: I really don’t see where the switch to the Mustang is any kind of negative. It’s known as one of the American hot rods, so it ’s a positive from that aspect.
As far as the body and how it will perform on the track, they’ve changed so many rules with the big spoiler, super-high downforce and taken horsepower away.
That’s going to make a whole lot more impact than the type of car it is.
Q: Have you had time to think about how far you’ve come since crewing for Danny Edwards as a teenager to your new job for Team Penske?
A: I made sure to text Danny that night he won the (2018) championship, and he reached out to me (this week) to congratulate me on this opportunity. It’s been a good relationship and I appreciate the opportunity he gave me.
He was the first person that gave me a chance to come to Langley Speedway and actually work on their car and be a part of their race team.
Growing up around there and watching people race, even back then, it was a huge honor to be able to hang out at the racetrack with him.
When I finally found out I was actually starting to make a difference in the performance he was having on the racetrack, it was an eye-opener for me.
To think I was actually helping someone as successful as Danny Edwards Jr. was a revelation.
Fontana is a long way from Langley Speedway, on the other side of the country, and they have a lot of technology over here at Penske, and the intensity level is definitely ramped up.
But it’s probably not any more intense than in the garage area at Langley Speedway for the Denny Hamlin Showdown, it’s just different. Marty O’Brien, 757-247-4963, mo[email protected]lypress.com, Twitter @MartyOBrienDP