Phil Allaway · Wednesday July 17, 2013
For David Stremme, his career has seen plenty of ups and downs. He’s gone from racing in ASA to being a top prospect and development racer for Chip Ganassi. Once he got to Cup in 2006, Stremme struggled after taking over for Sterling Marlin. 2007 was better, but not good enough to keep his ride after Coors and Lone Star Steakhouses left the team.
For 2008, Stremme took a step back to the Nationwide Series, driving the No. 64 Chevrolet for Rusty Wallace. Stremme stood out there as one of the best Nationwide-only regulars during a time in which the Sprint Cup stars were slowly taking over the series. After Ryan Newman left Penske Racing to go to Stewart-Haas Racing, Stremme was tapped to replace him. However, due to issues with the equipment, bad luck, and an ongoing conflict between sponsor Verizon Wireless, Sprint and NASCAR (the team was disallowed from having Verizon Wireless logos on the car due to Sprint’s series sponsorship and the exclusivity therein), Stremme struggled. He was replaced by Brad Keselowski with three races left in the season.
Since then, Stremme has bounced around. He drove nearly half of 2010 for Bill Jenkins’ Latitude 43 Motorsports, a very small team that seemed to have issues paying its employees. Multiple people that have worked for the team, including driver Boris Said, sued Jenkins for non-payment. He also drove a partial season for ML Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. Finally, with the help of investors, Stremme launched Inception Motorsports in the spring of 2011. The team ran a part-time schedule starting at Richmond before attempting most of the schedule last year as a start-and-park team.
Now, with new ownership/backing from Brandon Davis (Swan Energy) and Bill Romanowski (Nutrition53/Lean1) in place, the newly rechristened Swan Racing is a full-service race team for the first time. However, it’s been a fairly tough go of it so far. Through 19 races, Stremme is currently 34th in driver points, while Swan Racing is 33rd in owners’ points, 52 points out of the top 30. Stremme recently took some time from his schedule to sit down with our Phil Allaway in Daytona to discuss the race team, the 2013 season, and the future.
Allaway: Steven Lane’s been with the team since April. The two of you have worked together previously at Ganassi. First off, how well do the two of you work together, and how easy was it to recapture the chemistry that you had?
Stremme: Oh yeah. I think it was December that Steven parted ways. Sometimes, you just gotta separate and come back and I feel like we’re stronger. We had a big realignment with the team and a lot of different things going on. Tony Jr. moved into a little different role with the team.
We don’t really look at job titles, we just say “Hey, we want to get better.” We’re a small team. We went from six people at the end of last year, and I think right now, there’s still three of them still here. I think we’re up to 28 people now. [Lane’s] done pretty well and our chemistry is fine. I told him that it’s like he’s married to me. He can’t go nowhere.
Allaway: Last year, you were more or less running the day-to-day operations of Inception Motorsports. Now that Brandon Davis is onboard, you still have a fairly substantial role at the shop. What kind of work do you do there?
Stremme: Earlier in the year, we were doing quite a bit more, but I’m still involved with everything, directing the team. We watch the money being spent. As a group, we all make decisions. So, there’s multiple things going on. The other day, we needed some guys, so I went and picked up a car from the paint shop. [I help out] with whatever needs to get done. The summertime’s a little busier. I’m going to run my late model car Monday and Tuesday up in Milwaukee (Note: This was in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150), so I won’t be in the shop. We’re a small team with what I like to call a grassroots, old-school mentality where we all dig in and get done what we need to.
Allaway: I’ve watched some of the Swan Racing TV videos on YouTube. Seems like your team is a fairly laid back bunch, but still hard working.
Stremme: Oh yes. We’re old school, and I guess you could say that we’re like a little family. We’re up against a lot of battles and we’re… trying to build momentum. Them guys, they work their butts off. We’ve got a really good, hardcore group of guys. We’ll keep building on it. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor was Hendrick or Childress or any of those organizations. This is the first year of Swan Racing, and we’ve had some really good runs. We’ll see if we can come out of here Saturday with another one.
Allaway: How big of a role does Brandon Davis have with the team? How visible is he?
Stremme: We couldn’t do a lot of this without him. He’s really brought the team to the next level. He’s got a great vision of the team’s future. He’s a racer himself and he’s played a huge part. He’s a racer at heart and maybe he doesn’t have a lot of experience on this level, but he’s still very sharp. He’s been able to give us really good direction on the team and it’s going very well.
Allaway: At Kentucky, last month you had one of your best runs on an intermediate track. You were in the top 20 most of the race before slipping out of the groove late and dropping back. Did someone knock you out of the groove?
Stremme: Yeah, we about wrecked. It was just hard racing. We got real sideways and about backed in the fence. We ended up 25th. Our intermediate program has been pretty strong, but we’ve had obstacles get in the way, loose wheels, we had a wheel bearing fail, a fitting fail. I could go on with a list.
We’ve run fairly well on the [intermediate] program and I think we’ll continue that. We’ve gotta work on our short track stuff a little bit, but we’re just taking one step at a time. Plate racing, it is what it is. I feel like I’m a pretty good plate racer. But, our intermediate stuff is what I’m really proud of the team for. I felt like we should have ended up with a better result [at Kentucky], but 25th was still pretty good.
Allaway: We’ve got half of the year remaining. What kind of goals do you think the team can accomplish in the second half of the year?
Stremme: Well, there’s a lot. We’re going to be going back to tracks for a second time, which is crucial for us. We can get better finishes, but really, consistency is more important. We’ve had really strong cars, but I feel like we haven’t gotten the finishes that we really deserve. So, that’s what we’re looking at more than anything. Let’s capitalize on that run, not have as many mistakes and be there [at the end]. That’ll improve us.
Allaway: Earlier in the [Daytona] weekend, we had the roof flap issues. What’s your thoughts on that?
Stremme: I think that [the teams] look at weight. These cars are a little heavy, so everybody’s looking for a little advantage. I think this was more of a safety issue than anything else. I don’t know if they could have failed to allow the roof flaps to do what they were meant to do. Obviously, it wasn’t just one team, but it was a lot of them doing it, nearly half the field. There’s a lot of people doing some stuff there.
Allaway: I’ve never heard of a bust this big of any one particular part. Obviously, with the Nationwide teams, NASCAR just decided to run everyone else through.
Stremme: I think what happened based on what I heard was that they found it on one of the cars. It was just a piece of tubing that was hollowed out. The official found it, then they started checking all of the cars. That was when they found all the other stuff. It’s probably something that people have been doing all year, but somebody slipped up and [NASCAR] saw it. The rules are there for a reason. I don’t think any of those parts are supposed to be altered with, and obviously, it’s a safety issue with the flaps to keep us on the ground.
Allaway: This is the 20th year that we’ve been running roof flaps in this series.
Stremme: Yep, but this is all new. These cars are real heavy and we’re trying to cut down weight and do things. A lot of people are pushing the limits.
Allaway: And a bunch of them got caught.
Allaway: When you’re not here at the track or at the shop, what do you like to do to unwind?
Stremme: Heck, I just try to catch up on things. I know we’re going racing Monday with my short track asphalt car. I like running my dirt car, when I get time.
Allaway: A dirt late model?
Stremme: I’ve got a dirt Modified, a UMP Modified.
Allaway: I’m not really familiar with that type of Modified. They don’t race them in the Northeast.
Stremme: Kenny Wallace and Ken Schrader also race them. It’s not like a Big Block Modified where you’re from. I’ve got a 900 horsepower motor in it. It’s a little different. I like to have fun with that. I’m kinda new with the dirt, but I enjoy it. I like [also] shooting a gun and just messing around outdoors.
It should be noted that not all Northeast Modifieds are Big Blocks. Only some tracks have them as the top class. Others have Small Block Modifieds as their top class/draw.
In Daytona, Stremme ran strongly in the draft for much of the race. However, with 33 laps to go, there was contact between Stremme and Marcos Ambrose exiting Turn 4. Stremme tried to save the car, but the Lean1 Toyota broadsided the wall hard. After rolling down the track, Stremme got in the tri-oval grass and ripped the splitter off of his car.
The damage to the No. 30 was terminal. Stremme and the Swan Racing straggled out of Daytona with a 37th-place finish. Stremme described the experience, thusly.
“My car was really good and I raced my way up to 10th-15th place group for most of the night,” Stremme said on his blog at Swan Racing’s website. “I knew our biggest challenge was avoiding the big wreck and making it to the end. I was able to stay out of the big one, but it was the small one that I was avoiding that ended my night. On lap 128, as several cars began to spin, I found myself aimed at the grass of the tri-oval. At first I thought things were going to be ok until I apparently hit a drainage grate that shredded my car and I was just along for the ride after that. I was able to limp back to the garage to the attention of my crew, but the damage was too severe to repair to be able to continue. The nose of my car, as well as the track bar mount had been ripped off my car, as well as damage to much of the suspension. My Lean1 crew did what they could, but in the end, it was time to call it a night and load up what remained of my car.”
“Overall, it was a good weekend,” Stremme continued. “We were competitive and I raced in the top 15 for most of the night. I’m proud of my team for the gains we have made and the cars we are bringing to the track.”
Stremme backed up the good run (prior to the crash) at Daytona with a lead-lap, 20th-place finish Sunday in New Hampshire. This was done despite hitting the wall in qualifying, where the contact made Stremme’s car nearly undrivable. He attempted to restart his qualifying lap, but simply could not drive the car. As a result, Stremme qualified 43rd (which became 42nd after Jimmie Johnson’s time was disallowed).
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