TweetNASCAR Crew Chief "Bootie" Barker Confident In His Car At Phoenix, But With The Car of Tomorrow...Not So Much
Trackside Reports Live from Phoenix International Raceway · Becca Gladden · Saturday April 21, 2007
Frontstretch Senior Staff Writer Becca Gladden spoke exclusively with Bootie Barker, crew chief for the No. 70 Haas Racing car driven by Johnny Sauter, prior to today’s Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Bootie Barker has been known as one of the top crew chiefs in the Nextel Cup garage area for several years, and this year has been no different, with the head wrench continuing to work magic with a new team and a new attitude. Teaming up with Johnny Sauter to head up the new second team of Haas CNC Racing, the No. 70 car has overachieved, collecting two Top 20 finishes this season. The team started off the year on a positive note with a strong 16th-place showing in the Daytona 500 and hasn’t let up since, qualifying for seven of the first eight races en route to some surprising performances.
When approached about the race at Phoenix, Barker immediately noted that weather conditions may be a factor in today’s race, with cooler temperatures and higher humidity than teams experienced at qualifying on Thursday. Although it rained in Avondale overnight, the track is dry and skies were clearing by mid-afternoon. “(The weather) is actually going to be more consistent, because we’ve been overcast when we practiced the last couple of times,” Barker said. “The race is going to be at night, so it ought to be more similar.”
The No. 70 car is currently 35th in points, the last car to be locked into today’s race. Using an owner’s provisional to make the field, Johnny Sauter will start from the rear of the field in 42nd spot. Despite the poor qualifying effort, Barker was very pleased with the car’s handling in practice, and is anticipating a good run today. “It’s a good car, a very good car,” he said. “It handled well and everything looks alright.”
Although looking forward to the race itself, Barker readily admits he is no fan of the Car of Tomorrow. “It sucks,” he said frankly. “Anything that’s bigger, heavier, taller, wider in a race car, that just doesn’t add up.” Barker does not anticipate learning to love the car any time soon, but added, “we’ve got to deal with the thing.”
Why such animosity towards the CoT? Well, one of NASCAR’s main reasons for developing the CoT was to improve driver safety, and Barker doesn’t believe the trade-off was necessary in terms of safety versus the overall raciness of the new car. “I didn’t see anybody getting hurt in the other car,” he pointed out, disappointed in the evidence used to make the change.
Saturday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 is the first night race of the 2007 season and the third appearance of the Car of Tomorrow. Its first two runs were on the short tracks of Bristol and Martinsville, half-mile ovals where beating and banging on each other take precedence above all else. Phoenix is a whole different story, though; Bootie expects to learn much more about the CoT on the one-mile tri-oval. “It’s a faster track, and the aero effect will probably be greater than what we’ve dealt with before,” he said.
Although Bootie and his team like the track at PIR, he does have a few reservations. “I’m not sure why it deserves two races and some others don’t, and I think the race is too short,” he explained. “But I like the track.”
Asked whether he thought that all of NASCAR’s racing venues would have an easier time selling out if limited to one race a year, Bootie was equivocal in his response. “It could be. I’m not sure about the demographics of who comes to each race and whether it’s the same people each time, or if they get a different audience.”
Tonight, Barker hopes Sauter will lead that audience to its feet, working hard to get the No. 70 headed towards its best finish of what’s been a promising season.
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