Ep. 65: Matt McCall (RWP)
Hello everyone. And welcome back to the racing writers podcast on your host Keller. Crandall this episode sixty five my guest this week is Matt McCall who is the Kurci for the Chip Ganassi racing one team with driver Kurt Busch. And that seems off to a great start in two thousand nineteen. So we're going to dig into everything about that. With Matt on this episode. We talk about working with Kurt Busch who joins GR during the off season. What Bush is brought to the team how the two are getting along. Matt is a former well, maybe not former still races once a year races late models. He's got some truck. Xfinity starts to his name. So I was really interested in the dynamic between Kurt who is a racer racer as you would say a knows very much about every inch of the race car and how he wants things to work and occur. Chief like Matt McCall who has an engineering background and a driving background. So we're going to take all into that on this week's episode of very very insightful. This was recorded pre martinsville. So we will see if they're hot start continues and the S T P five hundred after your after you hear. This. You can go back and look at the results and see what happens on the afternoon. So but as of right now, they have four straight top seven finishes. Start the year. They are top ten points. They've got about a nine point two average minute on the season. So everything is going well or as as well as it could be early in the year for this team. And we're gonna talk to Matt McCall about it. So let's get to it. As always thank you for the ratings reviews. The feedback on Twitter. It seems more and more people are discovering the podcast and really enjoying the conversation. So I'm enjoying doing it. And once again, thank you for all of the support. So let's get to it with Matt McCall a really insightful conversation. Let me know what you think here. It is on the racing writers podcast. A little bit of everything on this Wednesday. I what is a Wednesday like here at the shop in the middle of race week try to load on Wednesday most weeks that's not going to happen this week from martinsville. They give us a today show. This weekend's that allows us to have the little more chance to fluff and buff there, but we were had to tear down ten cart NASCAR today. So that takes a little bit of your time as well to home. Wednesdays preps on oh, it's like everyday busy. All right. So as we sit here and talk it's a nine points average on the season. We just got done with the west coast swing as we're talking before. Martinsville. Four straight top sevens to start the season. I imagine that it really cannot be going any better at this point. It's it's a good way hit the ground running for sure I mean, obviously fill like, it's it's interesting. I say this most people are happy. But last week we were actually pissed because we ran six I'm like, this is how it's supposed to be, you know, so, but yeah, we've been able to get to decent starve. A little bit of luck not getting caught up in some random stuff, you know? But so far got to be somewhat happy about two months ago when you guys you and Kurt were here. Chad and Kyle were here, we did a a media mediaeval ability in the one thing that I said to you and Kurt kind of kick it off. I said, okay. So you're both race car guy. So is this going to be like one mind here kinda kinda working? So so what has it been like this early season working with Kurt and kind of getting into a rhythm of new dryer. Yeah. I mean, I would say yes, that's that's accurate. I mean, he is obviously super talented lot of experience less excess. And I think he's probably still tiptoeing in little bit of being like super aggressive everybody yet. It's coming like. But I mean Ellen. Although he is he just racecar driver, you know. And that's that's really the biggest things he has a work on what he can help the most with how are you to bonding ascend? So I know I know that we the media always ask that when new relationships are put together. So what are what have you encouraged onto strengthen this relationship? Yeah. I mean like he's. Bogus part of the west coast wing. He's his usually meme Imos come here on Tuesdays. So that's Mondays dependent. What day of the week? It is someday may Suzy's so many building here at the shop. I'm not really a social guy for me to go out and say, hey, something or something that's not my style. I'd rather work twenty four seven race cars faster. But I mean that's been the biggest thing just building that relationship in the shop at the track we've had some horrific qualifying effort. So that's built pretty quick relationships. Too on how to handle some of those situations. That's a common theme though. For a lot of teams. It's Fridays have really just not been as strong as they normally are for guys that you would expect but then come Sunday. And I think you guys have shown it the longer the race goes on. It's like Kurt find something you guys find something with the car. I think on Tanna was that way by the end of the race. I mean, there's Kurt Busch again in the top ten. Yeah. I mean, that's we have milk at the right balance for the intermediates on Friday, and then trying to go on a pack, and we haven't really practice in a pack so curly and had. Had the confidence in the car to go out there with twenty more cars and call on lap. So I don't really know what their approach is going to be different for Texas. As far as changing, I tried to squeeze it information earlier and didn't get anything. So they know yet probably probably truth. Yes. I still think we got we got plenty gains to make enough right for sure. So going back to this whole car guy mentality with with you and Kurt. How does that make the communication is it unique then between between you two because I'm I'm assuming and please correct me if I'm wrong, he's probably getting out of the car and knows exactly maybe like how he wants to nitpick something or diagnose something. Are you easy to understand that? Or is it completely different where he's just telling you? Hey, this is what I'm feeling and you go about doing what you feel needs to be done. What's the communication plays both sides? He will tell you what it's doing. And if you don't fix try to help, you fix it. You know? So it's good this combination. He is is Phil is is really good. You know? So that helps and it's interesting because I think sort of the social thing the interaction verbally is usually pretty low. During the last couple questions, and I'll start working with engineers and brainstorming, you know. And I think he's sometimes you looking for a little more chatting, and we're not there yet. You know, what I mean, we're in some of the Fridays have been so bad. So it's not really only have time to talk with the moment has anything. Matt surprised you about him. I'm sure when he was signed. And you hear you're going to be working with Kurt Busch. I mean, he has a reputation that precedes him. Right. So so he you probably come in thinking, maybe one thing has anything surprised you so far this early on working with him either things that he's brought or done or not done. Maybe his view on things. Maybe just his talent. General now that you get to see it. This the the one thing for sure when you've always known good when you have to work with them. He's really good. The other thing is the persona of how how his approach is each weekend is way way off in the media my opinion, I keep just passionate. He wants to run good. He wants to win. And I think that's that's perceived incorrectly. My opinion from outside looking in obviously, we only run races this year. But you know, pass couple years at you hear this here that I've not seen that for. I'm curious this whole the team off such a great start. I mean, probably on pace to surpass the top ten top fives that you and Jamie had last year this this resurgence in a sense has it been just the right time with new driver. But also new package, you guys have really kind of been able to reset in a sense. Is it a little bit of everything? That's that's led to this for sure. I mean, the the package definitely helped drag just new to everyone incurred a debt really quick. So I think that's that's been one of our. Wrong suits for. Sure. And I mean, fortunately all the guys on our team. They have the most detail they can put in a car each week, and they're still doing that. So it's it's nice to be able to see that your hard work is somewhat equal results turnover with your team, or is it all the same guys. So it's just again, it's just that reset. Okay. We're starting over to new package we're going to plug a new driver in. And it's exactly what you guys of needed in a sense. Correct. What about the the work? I know we touched about this again a little bit two months ago, the work in general here at C to to keep getting this company going in the right direction. Kyle's carry the banner for for a large majority of what's been the biggest focuses here in terms of. Okay. These are the things we know we ought to do. And we're going to will get to where we want to be type thing has there been one specific thing. I think just the to adapt each week, you know for the distract package. We really struggled trying to pass cars the first couple weeks fun time, we tried some different stuff and make a little more. He he was happy. Way and traffic as far as it's not great still, but he pass a couple here and there, but as far as company why I think it's just allowed us to Kurt's a pusher. And he'll push both teams, you know. And I think he's trying to push out at the same time. So I think that's that's one thing. That's definitely different for sure. So you mentioned tile there. And I was gonna say so Kirk comes in, and you talk about sometimes he'll tell you what he wants to fix and how to do it. Kyle shows up. He's the opposite. Right. He just wants to drive the race car. He doesn't wanna know the the engineering side. How did these two teams mesh Howard? How are things going now with a with a new face in Kurt working with Kyle? And you and the one in forty two team working together everyone's working together. I mean, I think we have unique situation we have all about the same says this all of this living together grucci ration- juniors. And it's the same way at the track. We are on topic be. Be. But the the Kurt interaction he had been around Chad before it's too hot. So there's a little relationship there far as knowing each other. So that that definitely helps well getting back to your team specifically here Kurt mates. Great comments. I felt like after Fontana first off he said he's having a ball. So that's a good thing. But the second thing he said is, you know, when he got up there the top five, and he can see his brother, and he saw the Penske cars, I think Harvick was was up in the mix. And he's he got a little over anxious. I wanted to be there. But I, but I knew I couldn't. And he said there's still a couple things. What are those couple things that you guys know you have to work on early in the season that you're to to get better than you already are them into the one thing we had going for this year's our fall off was really good in which sort a hurt that at fun Tanna. So I think we got a little bit of room to work on fall off enough. We can keep driving somewhat okay? In traffic and other things just get more potential in your car just working trying to trying to make more downforce and h miss working Motors. I mean, that's really what it boils down to key. Keeping track position. I'm sure when saying that check. Check this package has this package in playing out kind of house, you expect it I know the teams you guys are going to keep working on it massaging to make your own things will probably change week to week. But I guess maybe one one this package was introduced again, you're probably think in one thing hasn't been playing out as you expected or is it is it a really learning curve every weekend every weekend. But we did the the first Atlanta test. It wasn't the first to Charlotte for that. But the Atlanta tests with real chef. And that sorta gave us somewhat of a picture what it may look like now twenty four cars, but it's I don't know if it's really differed much from that really, you know, land a way different track to try to to give a judgment call and how the package or whatever. But so I feel like not a ton different than what perception was what is the limit for. Maybe not limit is the right word. But with how with how well things are going where can this team go by the end of the year? I'm assuming. Got to be pretty confident right now. I mean, Kurt seems pretty confident, but he says we haven't plateaued yet. So so where can this team get to as the season goes on a we're gonna keep working try to eighteen speak is he's the in the Barbara weaking? We just got little stuff gotta clean up some stuff on pit road some calls here. And there the cars faster. But I feel like that the end goal is to let him out run the eighteen that'd be nice. Right. Get that little brother rivalry. I think everybody really wants to see they've played too. Nice. We need we need to get fired up Kirk back again, and let them go after rather good fired up Kurt. Let's let's switch gears for a little bit. I wanna talk about 'cause 'cause you are a racer yourself. I have brought that up many times I feel like you're kind of one of those hidden jewels in the garage type of things he started as an engineer now as chief, but you still race a little bit on the side. But I believe now you're only doing it once a year zooming is just because the schedule's a little bit crazy now that your crew chief have two kids. So I try to. Say hey, believed, the wife and kids home I'm going racing again. But myself this time, so no I still like love late model stock rations what I grew up doing. So if I can go run a race. That's what I try to do racing in your family man, is that something that you've always been around. And that's how you got pine the wheel or tell me a little bit about how you got started. No, my my family was just selling boats and fighting headed karate school, and it was a mechanic at my dad's book shop that I think I was seven and he's like, hey, you want to go kart racing. Yeah. Guess I don't even know what that is. And then it was scary. How quick we started going every week after that? So explain to people where the low like there's such a love for short tracks around this country. And I know that a lot of NASCAR fans always hear a lot of people talk about we need more short track short tracks. Great from your perspective. Explain why they're such a love of short track late model racing. And why that is a type of racing that people really enjoy in this country. I think is the interaction that you get at the track. You know what I mean like? I used to raise hickory week and you go into stands hold your helmet. I sound autograph way more. It's not. They don't have interaction two Cup races or extended whatever it is. But like the fan base is way more personal with the drivers there. And then I feel like you have way more. It's not like this now, but when I late models. It was way more people that revolving tearing their time, and I feel like that makes a better package when people doing some out of passion and not out of money. So I think that that's one of the trek racing is normally usually pretty good. So correct me if I'm wrong, you're only doing about one race a year and for the last two years, you're you've won the thanksgiving. Classic. So I believe said the the ojectives is hey, just shelf and win right? Once a year, and I'm fortunate I have a couple of buddies models every single week. So that helps me somewhat understand what's going on with stuff changing here and there so, but I I don't know how does racing when I go there. I mean, I think people were laughing when I'm I'm just going to win. Then we're really mad so been pretty fortunate past couple years, it's almost like an inch to scratch, right? Like, you don't you love what you're doing the NASCAR side. But it's like you you're racer to like you wanna go scratch that it's when you can correct enough think it's given a bad picture to my children. They think they're supposed to do that might take another hobby and the health season. Maybe I don't know. Are they starting to get into it? Now is that what you mean? Or what's going on my son's only three and a half? But like he has this little kid carte thing. He ran he's like daddy. I wanna race on race. And Mallory she's has the no fear in her. But she hasn't figured it out yet to radio, try anything. She is over year and a half twenty some months. No, fear. Oh, no. Just get up and go, correct elbows. Yeah. You might be in trouble. Correct. You might be in trouble the more. They see this. Tell me about the decision. Of course, so growing up racing. But tell me about the the decision to go from our right? I'm going to step out of driver seat and just focus on working on on race cars instead of drive and making a career out of driving. Yeah. So obviously, I was lucky spot. My parents businesses in Denver North Carolina, which is close to mooresville so had relationship a lot of people in racing as far as trucks Bush at that point time in Cup in so around that I don't know eighteen years old high school finishing up like, well, probably better get an education because apparently spent almost every dime the have. So I don't think they're going to continue to do that my partner here and there and so I set a goal with point in time. Go to school, get engineering degree and thirty those racecar driver. I was going to go work for a living and lose some of the fun. But my working for pretty fun, though it worked out so you. You ended up as an engineer over at Richard Childress before becoming recruit. All right. Tell me tell me break it down for me, the duties of an engineer, and what you're responsible for and how that changes once you're the the big guy on top of the pillbox as crew chief? So I started actually truck racing are CR with herald Holly. So that was had a lot of experience that was good to to go in with the guy will around like that to sort of see how because truck rations different corporation, right? You have one race engineer and your lot more hands on. But once you become a rations near to Cup level, the hands owner still there, but it's it's way more computer based relation. And so it's one of those things that you start to get that issue. Like, I think I would like to be a crew chief, but I tell all my rations near speak here for what you ask for. It's not not what it looks like from the outside in like when I first came here. I was drinking water fountain trying to keep up. But like, I'm like, I don't know how these people survive. I was still trying to do what I consideration here. And what the crew chief position was you? You know? And it's like there's not enough hours in a day to do that. You know? So the biggest transition Romy was its way we're management of people than actually get into type on the computer and work on simulated and not and stuff like that. Yes. I'm it sounds like as an engineer focused on just the race car. That's your main focus numbers what the car is doing. And then as a crew chief suddenly responsible for everything caressing be the biggest adjustment. Yes. It is. I mean, like, it's. And you don't realize that until you move over one seat on the pit box in. You're like are you pitting? Are you staying at like, oh, I I guess we're going to pit. Yes. Correct. So it's definitely different for sure. Oh my goodness. All right. I'll wrap it up with one question. We going back to the one team great star. Of course. So at if I was to come back to you at the end of the year. Matt what would you want to have happened between now and November to where you can say we had a successful season. What's what's on the checklist that you incur are still looking to accomplish before this year's over? I think obviously winning if you raise his definitely top list get in the playoffs and trying to to keep advancing. Think is the next goal. I think it's pretty straightforward. Every year goals are pretty similar, but I would say if that isn't happening the year be definitely disappointing start, Matt. Thank you so much. This was I hope you enjoyed it. This was very insightful. And I'll let you get back to your busy wet stay here. Thank you.