Shane Wilson and Brendan Gaughan haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. In fact, they still don’t. However, they have learned that you don’t have to think exactly the same to be a successful race team. With Gaughan back in the fold at RCR and Wilson back in the Truck series, the results are quickly starting to come around. A rough start to the season has turned into three finishes in the top four, including a runner-up at Charlotte over All-Star weekend. Those finishes have propelled Gaughan and Wilson into the top 5 in points with more than ¾ of the season ahead of them.
Wilson took some time away from running his Truck team and helping out with Nationwide efforts at RCR as well, to talk with Frontstretch about the upcoming race at Dover. He touches on tires, suspension, the racing surface and the season to date.
Mike Neff: Looking back at Charlotte, that was a pretty good run for you guys.
Shane Wilson: We’re excited about it. We’re starting to get in our groove. It probably took me a little bit to get used to Truck racing again. I feel like I’m getting it figured out a little bit. We have a really good team. We’re getting Brendan back going again racing in a series. Everything is starting to come together. We felt like we would be competitive and a championship contender and we’re starting to show that we will be.
Neff: RCR is looking pretty strong at the beginning of the season here. Ty is in third and you guys are in fifth. Are the three teams working well together?
Wilson: Oh yeah. We wrecked in Daytona and Ty had a couple of tough races and really just got back on track at Charlotte. We’ve had some issues. I’m not saying we were the fastest by any stretch but we had some issues where we could have ground out a better finish than we did. The 62, other than wrecking at Daytona and neither Truck had a good Martinsville. After that we kind of got everything rolling and now we’re just racing. The Truck series is very competitive and you have to do everything right. You have to pit at the right time and have good restarts and some good races and we’ll hopefully come out on the better end of some of these races.
Neff: We’re headed to Dover now. Racing on concrete vs. asphalt. Just at the initial blush, what are the challenges that face you heading into the Monster Mile?
Wilson: The biggest thing at Dover is the banking and the concrete. It is just a different kind of surface. Asphalt you have bumps created by winter and weather. Concrete you have bumps we call high speed bumps. They are more ripples than the bumps you get with asphalt. It is definitely a different shock package. Dover is its own little beast and is very fun to race at. Since we go out so early we experience some severe tire wear. By Friday afternoon, after Cup practice, there is rubber on the track and then it isn’t a problem. The track goes through a big change for us in the Truck series. We’re looking forward to it. I’ve run well there in the past but have never won there. We’ve had a lot of close calls, so we’ll see.
Neff: You mentioned the banking at Dover and the way you drop into and jump out of it. Does that put more stress on the shocks and the front steering components than any other track?
Wilson: I don’t know, it is close. You aren’t going as fast as at places like Charlotte so the loads aren’t as high, but it is pretty close. The challenges are the abruptness of how far you drop down. When you talk to the driver it is like dropping into a hole and when you come out the left rear tire wants to come off of the ground. It takes a little different shock package to make that all work. If you get that right the rest of it will come together.
Neff: You talked about getting the rubber down on the track. Concrete takes rubber, or doesn’t take rubber, the way asphalt does. With the tire they’re bringing for the Trucks, is it known to put the rubber down into the track or does it sit on top?
Wilson: The tire that they’re bringing for the Trucks is a proven tire there. At least the left side is and I believe we’ve run the right side there too. Definitely a proven tire that ensures some rubber will be put down and we won’t burn them off to the cords in the first 15 laps of practice. We’re running a little different tire than the Cup series but it is a old compound that we’ve run in the past and it has been proven at Dover. It is really hard for Goodyear to do much for us because it just takes a while to get the rubber down, even with the Cup cars on Friday you almost always cord a tire. Once you get the Cup practice done then things are fine. We never really experience any issues by late Friday or Saturday.
Neff: We’ve seen it at Martinsville and Dover in the last few years where, under caution, the hot tires will peel the rubber off of the track. Is that something you have to plan for?
Wilson: Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t do it 100%. As Goodyear changes their compounds we don’t always know what to expect. The older tires didn’t seem to do that as badly and that may be why Goodyear is bringing this proven tire back for this weekend to make sure we get a little bit more rubber down there. I don’t remember them doing that as much in the past. Goodyear has been trying to run a greener, more environmentally friendly compound and whenever they change it is hard because you don’t have any data. It is just hard for Goodyear to get it all figured out for everybody. They’re doing their best and that is probably why they are bringing a proven tire for us.
Neff: With the sporadic schedule, as you guys are heading into your sixth race of the season, once you have all of your trucks ready for the foreseeable future, what else do you work on? Do you work with your Nationwide and Cup teams?
Wilson: Yeah, that is what we do. We’ve done a couple of Nationwide races already. Our Truck shop helps support about eight Nationwide races. Myself and Marcus Richmond the other crew chief kind of split it up. The 3 and the 62 teams split it up so that we run a few more races than the average Truck team. I think that helps us in the off-season. Like the 62, we supported Dakota Armstrong at Charlotte in his Nationwide race. We had a good time and got to do a little racing. We’re going to run four weeks in a row here and that will be good for us. That keeps us fresh.
Neff: You’re running at Dover with the Cup guys. RCR’s Cup teams are doing okay. How much data are you able to glean from the Cup cars rather than them giving data to you?
Wilson: How bigger teams work and how we benefit from being on a bigger team, is we have a good standing with GM and we get to use wind tunnel time quite a bit. Also our facilities and utilizing the facilities, we have our own seven-post and a lot of cool things. We can sneak into the wind tunnel more than your average Truck team. Just different things like that is where we get the benefit. It helps us do more things in a cost efficient manner. That is our big advantage over our competitors, the resources that we are able to use. The data transfer really doesn’t pertain. Some stuff possibly but the Trucks are so much different than the new Gen-6 car.
Neff: What did you do for Memorial Day?
Wilson: My folks came down, which has become an annual thing. Spent some time with them and worked on the farm for a little while this weekend. Enjoyed it and had a good Memorial Day. I’ve been enjoying my time off with the Trucks and I’m all set to go to Dover.
Wilson and his driver Brendan Gaughan are going to be competitive on mile and a half tracks because that is where Gaughan has always shined. Heading to Dover is a little different element but Wilson and Gaughan are riding a wave of momentum that could very well bring them their first win of the season. One thing is for sure, Gaughan and Wilson will have a good time trying to chase that win.
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