Tech Talk · Mike Neff · Monday November 12, 2012
Bob Osborne was Carl Edwards crew chief for most of the first seven years of his career, with the exception of a brief stint with Jamie McMurray. He ran the No. 99 for the first 19 races this season before stepping aside due to health concerns. He is still part of the management of Roush Fenway racing and has his finger on the pulse of all of the teams under the Roush banner.
Osborne shared his opinions on setting up for a variable banking track, an oval without a bend in the front straight, the character of Homestead after baking in the Florida sun for a few years and the strategy every team uses when they come to the race track on a race weekend. He also tells FS what he’d like to see out of the tires that are brought to the track every weekend.
Mike Neff: What is your official title these days? Are you a consultant?
Bob Osborne: I don’t know if I have an official title. I’m just part of the management structure at Roush Fenway.
Mike Neff: We’re heading off to Homestead. Homestead is a true oval with no bend in the front straight. Does that present a setup challenge to a crew chief from the other intermediate tracks that have a “curve” in the straight?
Bob Osborne:Actually no, the fact that it is not a D shaped track does not play a big role in setting up for the race. The corners themselves at the end of the day are the determining factor in the setup. Whether it is a D or a true oval or a flat track, you’re setting up for the true corners of the track. The tri-oval sections of a track have very little impact on the performance of the car.
Mike Neff: Homestead was one of the first tracks to put in variable banking. Is that something that you set up for going into the weekend or do you see how the weekend is playing out and then adjust your car for which part you’re working best on?
Bob Osborne: We go into the race weekend knowing that our car has to be able to run at any position on the race track to be successful. With Homestead being multi-angle, multi-banking, you definitely have to focus on having a setup that will run on the low line or up by the wall to be competitive to try and get the win.
Mike Neff: At a track like Homestead where you’re on the gas and then off and then back on, unlike you have at a D-shaped oval where you’re on the gas for a longer period of time, does the mapping in the EFI have to be adjusted to get the power down quicker since you’re coming out of the corner and have to get the power down quickly?
Bob Osborne: Doug Yates and his group really handles all of that for us so we generally come to the race track and have very few issues with the engine mapping. Haven’t had to do any major tuning at the track. Doug and his group have done a phenomenal job prepping for all of the tracks we’ve been to so far and I expect the same thing going to Homestead. Their process relies on historical information and builds the EFI map around that historical information so we rarely have any hiccups with the maps.
Mike Neff: Homestead is a southern track so they don’t go through the weather swings that the Midwestern tracks like Kansas and Chicago. Has the track aged much since they did the reconfiguration and has it added much character since then?
Bob Osborne: It depends on what you consider to be character. The track surface itself, being in that part of the country, the asphalt goes granular and gets very pitty rather quickly. It has gone through that process and is very granular now. I think that makes a really good surface to race on. It goes through the grip levels fairly quickly during a race run so it makes it more interesting for the drivers and crews which, in turn, makes it more interesting for the fans to watch. The driver is actually out there getting the most out of the tires and the car and that holds to the type of track surface that is down there at Homestead, which is what we expect.
One thing I didn’t expect, the track has done a great job of the structure of the surface. We haven’t seen a lot of change in the bumpy characteristics of the track. A lot of the tracks that we go to year after year after year, each time we show up, ‘man that bump has gotten 10 times worse or the cracks in turn whatever are affecting the car even more’. We don’t see that at Homestead. It is fairly settled and we don’t see big changes in the structure of the track, which is great.
Mike Neff: Goodyear tends to bring tires to the track that seem to last longer than a fuel run. Would you like to see tires that wear out right at a fuel run length which would make the drivers have to conserve the tires a little more rather than seeing the engineers control how long the tires last?
Bob Osborne: I would like to see the tires wear out consistently to how much fuel we have in the race cars. However, I don’t want to go to the track having to come up with a pit strategy where the tires won’t last a full fuel run. We’ve been on both sides of that fence where we’ve been caught with tires that won’t last a fuel run. That isn’t racing for anyone. Everybody just rides around hoping to not be the one to bring out the caution. So that isn’t the direction we need to go. If Goodyear has to err on the conservative side so that we can race a full fuel run hard, and the tire is a little bit more durable, then so be it. I’d rather race hard for a full fuel run and then decide what I want to do with tires than be forced to ride around trying to avoid a tire failure.
Mike Neff: When you’re headed into Homestead in contention for a title like you were last year, are the strategy meetings going into it like, “We’re going all out for the win. We’re basing what we do off of what the guy we’re racing does,” or, “We’re going to win it and it doesn’t matter what the other guy does.”
Bob Osborne: You always go to the race track with the intention of winning the race. That is what we’re all here to do. You show up and you realize what level of performance you’re at, whether you’re going to be competitive enough to win the race or not and then you adjust your strategy to try and make the most points you can and get the best possible finish you can. I don’t think anyone here goes for the leap of faith, throwing caution to the wind hoping that everything works out and they win the race. Everyone has the strategy to get the best possible finish they can but we all show up intending to win the race.
Osborne tells Frontstretch that he is feeling much better and he appreciates all of the well wishes of the fans. He doesn’t know what his plans are for the future but he intends to be a part of Roush Fenway going forward.
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