Green's team turning the corner on the season
David Green's victory last Saturday in the Busch Series race at Pikes Peak may have surprised a lot of people – just not Green and crew chief Stewart Cooper.
A change in race-day strategy initiated earlier in the month finally seemed to pay off.
On race day, Cooper's duties previously included changing the rear tires. Green felt that he should focus his energies more on race strategy and let someone else change tires.
Cooper started spending his race days on the pit box and a new attitude began emerging from the team. Although results weren't immediate, Green definitely felt a shift in momentum for the team.
"It seemed like we kept missing out on the top-10s," Green said. "If you look, we had a whole lot of top-11, 12 and 13s. A lot of top-13s.
"I really thought we would have a few top-five finishes before we could warrant a win."
The win came anyway.
After the race, a frustrated Clint Bowyer, who was passed by Green with two laps remaining, couldn't prevent the veteran driver from moving under him.
"I knew [David Green] was coming, but I didn't have any idea he was coming that fast," said Bowyer, who led 152 of the race's 250 laps. "I was pushing hard to get away, but I was fading pretty quick.
"I didn't do a very good job of keeping up with the track, and it seemed like the track tightened up at the end. This is a tough one to swallow. You live and learn."
It had been quite awhile since Green last tasted victory (Kansas, October 2003) and for the entire Brewco Motorsports team, this win was especially satisfying.
"I think this means more for the guys than it does for me," Green said. "We've had some tough racing luck this year.
"But as I say that, it's hard to top how I felt."
Green is the most experienced driver in the Brewco stable of three drivers, a powerhouse combination that features Green, who was the winner of the 1994 Busch Series title and voted most popular driver in that series in 1996, along with 2002 Busch Series champion and current Nextel Cup driver Greg Biffle and up-and-coming Busch driver Aaron Fike.
With this, his ninth career win, Green moves into the top 10 in points for the first time this season. It also marks Green's first top-five finish in 2005.
He expects the momentum from last weekend's victory to carry over into this weekend's Wallace Family Tribute 250 at Gateway International Speedway in St. Louis.
Gateway's egg-shaped oval had the Busch drivers shifting to get them through the tightly configured Turns 1 and 2, but this year, NASCAR's new mandated gearing rule change affects how the team approaches its setup.
"Those turns are some of the toughest we run all year," Green said. "If we can get our car to handle correctly in those turns, we should do well. The problem everyone is going to have is that when you get the car handling great in Turns 1 and 2, you're usually a little loose or free through Turns 3 and 4."
In five starts at Gateway, Green has two top-10 finishes. He started second in last year's race.
Saturday night's race will feature several Nextel Cup regulars in the field, among them the brothers Wallace – Rusty, Mike and Kenny – as well as Carl Edwards, Sterling Marlin (who takes over the reins of the No. 12 Dodge) and Jason Leffler in the No. 32 Chevrolet.
Green, who spent several frustrating years in the Nextel Cup Series (in 1997 he finished second in Cup Rookie of the Year honors), welcomes the Cup drivers – "Buschwackers" – when they pay a visit.
"I've always been very, very excited racing with those guys and beating those guys," he said.
But does he miss the Cup side?
"There's the personal satisfaction of knowing that I always could do Cup racing and I still think that," he said. "It would be very satisfying to go back there and do it week in and week out and be competitive.
"Every athlete will tell you that the reason they compete is to beat the other guy. There's that fire you have in your belly, and no matter where you compete you always want to be at the top of the ladder and you want to be a part of the big show."
But he adds, "To compete at the Busch level and to win races at the Busch level takes just as much talent [as the Cup Series], and I have a son who's just turned 4 and a family. There is a satisfaction knowing that you're home on the weekends."
When his long career in NASCAR is over ("Not too soon," he jokes), Green looks forward to teaching young drivers. With a conservative but aggressive driving style and a sponsor-friendly personality, Green brings strong assets to any young driver.
"I've been labeled as being a non-aggressive driver," Green said. "I really don't think that the roughest and toughest guy wins all of the races.
"I want to be remembered when the day comes that 'He was clean, competitive and aggressive when he needed to be and never tore his equipment up. The owners liked him, the sponsors liked him and the competitors liked him because they knew they could race clean with him.'"
Perhaps Green represents the "kinder, gentler" NASCAR driver – that might be a part of NASCAR's past.
Not if he can help it.
"I think maybe it's an ego thing from a driver's viewpoint and from the fan's perspective if somebody wants to bully everybody around. I don't think that's an automatic ingredient for winning."
Paul Menard has re-emerged in the top 10 (in 10th) for the first time since Las Vegas, when he was ninth. Since then, he has battled back from 18th following the second race at Nashville.
FitzBradshaw Racing announced this week that Tim Fedewa has been relieved of his duties driving the No. 12 Dodge effective immediately. Sterling Marlin will drive the No. 12 this weekend at Gateway and also is scheduled to compete in the car at Michigan in three weeks. Additionally, the team announced that director of competition Scott Eggleston will take over as crew chief, replacing Mike Greci.
Those who tuned in on TNT to watch David Green's win at Pikes Peak last Saturday contributed to increased households and viewers compared to the same event one year ago on TNT. Households were up 31 percent over last year (from 1,134,000 to 1,481,000) while viewers increased 23 percent (from 1,575,000 to 1,923,000).
Martin Truex Jr. is the lone former race winner entered in the field. He won the event last year.
Two-time NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Northwest Series champion Kevin Hamlin again will drive the No. 4 Dodge. He finished 17th in his debut for Biagi Bros. Racing at Pikes Peak.
The Busch Series stays in the Midwest region next Saturday night, Aug. 6, with a trip to Indianapolis Raceway Park's 3/8-mile bullring.