As NASCAR Speedweeks at Daytona begins this weekend, the coverage on-air and online will focus primarily on the drivers and, to a lesser extent, the owners of the teams that take part in the events leading up to, and including, the Great American Race. One part of the picture that isn't always covered is the members of the race teams who keep the racing machines in tip top shape before, during, and after the event; the pit crew.
Recently, the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner had the opportunity to interview a member of the No. 4 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet over-the-wall team, James Davis.
1. What are your feelings about the 2013 season as a whole, as well as your hopes for the 2014 Sprint Cup season? Nationwide season?
"Last year was a great year for our sport, I think the Camping World Truck Series was a huge success seeing many of our sports bright young talent succeed and get some wins for the young drivers including Bubba Wallace's historic win at Martinsville. Jeb Burton's win at Texas was an awesome experience and I was happy to be a part of that along with the seven poles we won last year. As far as the Sprint Cup cars I think the new designed Gen 6 cars were a huge success and brought back some excitement even though it was the same old Jimmy Johnson show in the chase, those guys just know when to crank it up. The Nationwide Series crowned another young talent in Austin Dillon but I couldn't help feel bad for Sam Hornish Jr. He has come a long ways since he first started and wish him great success with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. My favorite moment of the Nationwide schedule was A.J. Allmendinger's win at Road America this year pretty cool."
2. How do you feel about the Gen 6 car, as opposed to the COT?
"The Gen 6 car is a great move by NASCAR, not only does it look good but I feel in another year or two when teams really figure out what it needs the competition will heat up again and it just won't be a run away race by the big teams. The COT was always ugly to me and the racing was mediocre."
3. As you prepare for the 2014 NASCAR season, how do you feel your team's chances are for the rest of the "regular season"?
"I work in the truck series so I can't really answer this question since we have no playoff and my recent layoff leaves me unemployed at the moment. The playoff style new chase scenario puts to much emphasize on Homestead in my opinion but I do think it will be interesting."
4. Who are the drivers to watch out for in 2014?
"Justin Allgaier will be one to watch with the new team of Harry Scott formerly Phoenix racing, Harry is very passionate about racing and will do a good job leading that team and giving them what they need to step up their game. I'm interested as well in Ricky Stenhouse with his old crew chief from the Nationwide Series moving up, they had huge success together. I think Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch will both be huge and thinking that Brad Keselowski will rebound as well. Personal reasons I'll be watching Michael Annett, I worked with him in the past and he is a good kid. The Rookie of the year battle should be good."
5. Do you follow the Grand Am series at all? If so, what is your opinion of the reunification of sportscar racing in 2014?
"I do follow a little but not enough to comment, I do think the Rolex 24 was a disaster with the penalties then non penalty in the GT class."
6. What is your favorite racetrack?
"My favorite track of all time is Dover, I just love the way the cars drop down in the corners and come up off, the unloading and loading of the front end is amazing to watch from the horse track infield. If you ever get the chance watch from the gravel horse track in the infield coming off corner 2 is simply amazing to watch the cars react to the massive loads on the concrete monster."
7. With NASCAR seeming to favor more strict enforcement of the rulebook, and imposing stricter penalties, do you think that this effort will stifle competition?
"It won't take away competition on the track but it does take the creativity away from crew members and crew chiefs will be reluctant to step out of line. Some of the best cheaters are the guys in the shop and on the road crew, we come up with the best ways to cheat not the brainiacs in the engineers office. Basically NASCAR is taking all the fun away from the mechanics and making us assembly line workers."
8. What is your average day like, both at and away from the track?
"At home we would be working from 7-4:30 in the shop sometimes later when it close to loading the truck, Monday normally are tear down from the weekends race and downloading some info from crew chiefs, car chiefs and engineers along with collecting data from that weeks truck or car. The rest of the week at the shop is cleaning up the track tool box and restocking supplies for both the pit box and tool box as well as preparing the vehicle for the next week. Rebuilding and servicing suspension such as wheel hubs and brake calipers along with replacing worn out rotors and brake pads. Once you get to the track the schedule varies but mostly you hang out going through tech inspection work like a dog during practice, jam out to some music while final checklisting before qualifying then hopefully qualify top of the sheet. Once the race starts that's when all the hard work pays off and it can be the best part of the weekend or the worse."
9. I recently completed the Competition 101 Racing School, driving 20 laps in a former NASCAR stockcar. Do you think that programs like this are important to help fans understand the sport more?
"I think it puts you in the minds of the drivers more than anything about how hard it really is and how physically fit you really need to be, now imagine doing that for about 200-400 laps."
10. How was your off season?
"My off season was good completed my second full marathon as a runner took the family on vacation and faced a lot of uncertainty about the 2014 season. We started January with the hopes of winning the Truck championship with Jeb Burton only to have the carpet pulled out from under our feet two weeks ago due to the sponsor not paying for the contract that is owed to us. So I go laid off and currently unemployed and unsure if I will even be in Daytona next week."
Jeb Burton will return to Daytona International Speedway for the NextEra Energy Resources 250, but this year he will be with a new team. Burton, who competed last year in the No. 4 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, will now be driving the No. 13 Toyota entry for Thorsport Racing. Burton qualified seventh and finished fifth in his first start at Daytona last year.
Over the next couple weeks, this column will strive to provide full coverage of the events leading up to the Great American Race at the end of February. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes to the track in the NEXTERA ENERGY RESOURCES 250 in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Friday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. The cars will also be on track throughout the "SpeedWeeks" leading up to the "Great American Race," including the Budweiser Duels qualifying races, which will be televised live on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
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