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November 19, 2015

Joe Garone


Q. What led you to sign Martin in the first place? Were you surprised at what he's accomplished?
JOE GARONE: No, not really. To be honest about what led us to Martin is really circumstances. We thought we were set with the driver we had in Kurt. Of course, Martin wasn't available. Martin had a ride.
So because of the circumstances that took place on both of our race teams, that's ultimately what led to it. That's what brought us together, was adversity, both on our team and on his team.
Certainly wouldn't have been talking because we both would have had our deals and kept going on. So in some ways I look at it and I say it was a blessing, the adversity that we both shared by coming together.

Q. Have you been surprised at all by what he's accomplished?
JOE GARONE: Absolutely not. The thing you get with Martin is a history. You can go back and look at his driving history and you certainly can see he's one of the top drivers in NASCAR. While he didn't have a championship under his belt, or anything like that, it's certainly enough to build a team on. What was surprising is the first year how difficult it turned into.

Q. Can you talk about Denver, the locale, the chemistry that's developed there.
JOE GARONE: Yeah, it's different. I can speak to this because I've been on some big teams back in the day, as they say. When I went to Denver, it wasn't about a month into it when I had five late model guys there that I realized there's a special quality about this. What it was is just the focus of the guys.
We don't have any other friends in auto racing on Cup teams. As the team grew, that's different. It's us. It's a family. You go out to lunch, you're not bumping into other guys on other race teams, talking about things that might be a disturbance to you. We have each other's backs because of that.

Q. What does this mean to you and your team?
JOE GARONE: It's really everything. It means the world. It's the biggest thing you could ask for. It brings a legitimacy to the team because we've been a team that's been growing for so long on a pretty linear upward curve. To come to this point in time, it answers a lot of questions.

Q. What was it about Cole?
JOE GARONE: I'm going to take credit for Cole. He's been on our team for a while and we've been through some ups and downs early on. I told Barney this kid could be as good as there is in NASCAR as a crew chief.
The qualities that you see in him, number one, he's driven before. He's a mechanical engineer. He just gets it. He understands processes and procedures, but he also understands when you have to get down in the grease and just flog when you need to get a car done. He understands both sides of it.
He's been around some great people. He spent a lot of years with Todd Berrier, even when Todd was on our team. So he's been learning about this position for a lot of years. I'm just really thrilled to see him take the reins and be able to have success.

Q. (Question about being an underdog.)
JOE GARONE: I don't know how quite where Martin is on that. I'll tell you where I am. I think of the underdog, I like wearing that, I'll take that. I don't feel like we're an underdog at all because we have the resources from our owner to get done what we need to get done to win the championship. We have the driver to do it. I can tell you our owner expects us to.

Q. Martin was saying earlier that if you had asked him at this time last year, based on last year's performance, whether he would be fighting for the championship this year, he would have said, You're crazy. Then he said that as soon as he tested with Cole, he knew something was there. In your view, what is it that flipped that switch?
JOE GARONE: Yeah, it's a matter of history really the way it worked out. We struggled trying to find the feel on the racecars the first three quarters of the season, I believe. We went to a test at California.
Cole was always there. But I think he had a little bit more of the reins. It wasn't necessarily Cole, the person, it was what we had done to the car to get the feel that Martin was looking for.
We went to that test and Cole ran the test. The feel that Martin had been looking for was in the racecars. He left the test and said, This is it, this is what I've been looking for.
It wasn't just Cole, it was the cars too. It was the whole combination.

Q. Driver/crew chief chemistry, how much does that factor into the success?
JOE GARONE: Chemistry, period, is key to all the success, in particular in that position. There's a couple other positions, as well, the race engineer. You have got to have excellent communication in this series.
We don't run data acquisition on the cars during the race where you can set the car up based on what a computer says. It's up to the driver to relay that information. If the people he's relaying it to are not on the same page and their relationship maybe isn't what it needs to be, it can be skewed and send you in a complete path that is wrong.
So it's really critical.

Q. Martin talked about some of the perspective he's gotten regarding Sherry. How have you seen that affect him even as he goes for a championship?
JOE GARONE: You know, Martin was strong through all of that. Our owner had offered to let him get out of the car for the last I think it was about third the season and guaranteed the car would be there for him at Daytona. Martin just wouldn't do it. He wanted to be in the racecar. When I talked to Sherry about that, she wanted him in the racecar, too. I think it was healthy for them together.
What I've seen out of this is Martin being a little bit different of a person. Not just Martin, all of us. What's really special, you know, to you, that it can be taken away from you. He's stronger, for sure. All of us are.

Q. I talked to you five years ago at Watkins Glen. At that time you stressed upon the fact there are some aspects that your team actually insists on using, maybe not state‑of‑the‑art stuff, but older things that you know work. Can you give examples of where that might still be the case today.
JOE GARONE: It's probably not the case today. We're at a place now where we're on the leading edge of really everything in the car on technology and constantly stuff that is in the cars, when there's new stuff, new materials, new pieces, new procedures, we're on it almost immediately. So we're constantly looking for that.
But when you're in a building process, like we were five years ago, it's a different kind of a place than we are right now, yeah.

Q. (Question about getting the hauler to Homestead with the snow.)
JOE GARONE: It ended up not being an issue, honestly. But it was scary for a while, I can tell you. You get a blizzard coming in town, we all know how hard the weather is to predict anyway, so you're just not sure what's going to happen.
It could end up the two main arteries going into Denver end up closed and you could be stuck at home or, worse yet, wrecked on the side of the road.
It ended up playing out. Everything was fine. But it is something you have to take serious and look at, yeah.

Q. (No microphone.)
JOE GARONE: First of all, the alliance has been terrific. It's been handled very well over all the years right from the top, from Richard down to all his employees. We've worked really close together.
But we're a little bit of a different race team. When people hear we have an alliance, it's like we lean heavily on our partner. It really isn't that way completely. It is when it has to be. But for the most part, short of getting the bare chassis from RCR, building the cars on our platform, we stand alone in a lot of areas.
But it sure is nice when we need them. They're there. It's been a good relationship.

Q. You're the second team going for the title in the last few years that's switching manufacturers. What do you think about that decision now?
JOE GARONE: It's a move we had to make. It wasn't an option for us. To expand the team from a business perspective, and competitively, be in the sport for a long time, we really needed to move ourselves into a better position.
That is nothing against Chevrolet at all. It's just they have all the teams. It's hard to be one of the top teams when they have all these other spots filled. It really goes to the structure.
I heard Jim Campbell on the radio the other day explaining it. He did a good job of it. There just isn't room for us. Toyota opened their arms for us. I think we're going to be able to do some great things.

Q. Does that free you up financially at all at the end of this year being able to think more long‑term for investments in the cars?
JOE GARONE: It's really about, at the end of the day, competition, the communication between the manufacturer, our partner in JGR, and ourselves, being at the top level, being included in that relationship, being able to get the best out of our guys, and also contribute our success back into the mother ship, so to call it.
Toyota truly approaches it has a partnership, not a sponsorship. So it really is about working together and growing together.

Q. Now that you're transitioning away from Chevy, you can empty the chamber as far as throwing everything into this car and making it go. What is the mindset for you as far as getting up for this race?
JOE GARONE: Well, Homestead, we've been working on the car for quite a while. Really it's not just our team, it's all of them. It's the accumulation of all the information you've been gathering all year.
When you're loading up to go to Homestead, everybody in the shop, in our world anyway, is working on that one car, which is different. Normally they've got the cars for the following week and the following week.
Every person in Furniture Row Racing is working on the Homestead car. It has the best of everything that we can bring to the track. We'll just see how that works out.

Q. In terms of data, how much can you take from how well Ryan did here last year?
JOE GARONE: We don't really look at it as an individual just this race. That relationship's been going on all year. Ryan and Martin are real good friends anyway. So that's been a really good relationship. I think it's always a help to have somebody like that, that a driver can fall back on. Although we're a single‑car team, we have partners. Martin does have drivers he can talk to and it helps.

Q. (Question regarding relying on RCR.)
JOE GARONE: I absolutely do not expect it. I'm not saying it won't happen, but it's not an expectation. I would hope if we got in a situation, that there could be some help there. But I really don't expect it at all.

Q. Running a team that is based out of Denver, that is a single‑car team, to be in the final race, that's counterintuitive. Tell me about the challenge it is to run a team basically away from everyone on your own. How is that different than what everyone else does running out of Charlotte?
JOE GARONE: A lot of it's just communication and getting processes and procedures in place so that you can have good communication. We're still tethered to North Carolina. We're still tethered to RCR. Those lines of communication have got to be open.
The rest of it's just truly getting logistics worked out, systems worked out, how to get engines to the shop in time, all of those kinds of things.
As far as technology goes, to travel to the wind tunnel, we have to go across the country. To have a car inspected at the R&D center, we have to go across the country. Again, it becomes logistics. It's not anything more than that in that particular case. I think we've done a good job of figuring that out years ago.

Q. The fact you're pulling it off now, do you think that will signal to others that if they choose they could potentially do it as well?
JOE GARONE: You know, if you look at the success that we've had, being out of that market, I think you can look at it and say, Hey, this can be done, for sure. There's some huge benefits to being in Colorado or any market outside of that area. One of the biggest is we're growing fans.
The truth is, we're in a market where the rest of the teams aren't, and there's a lot of race fans out in that part of the country. They can come to a shop that's out there. They may never make it to North Carolina.
It's different. It's a different dynamic. I think that could be interesting to other teams.

Q. Your driver is a south Jersey guy. When you look at him and his drive and determination, he willfully took a backseat, Jeff Gordon running for his final title, Kevin Harvick going back‑to‑back, tell me about this guy's drive and intensity that you get to see.
JOE GARONE: Martin in some cases reminds me of our owner. Our owner is the same way. They don't necessarily wear it on their sleeves, but once you get to know them you find out that they are ultra‑competitive. At the end of the day, just put it out there to win races or to win, no matter what they're competing in.
But you don't get that straight up and in your face with Martin. It's something that took some time to learn with him. It's part of the excitement going into this weekend is to see that in him.
The other thing that's real strong is he doesn't seem to go over the line either. When he has to be careful and back it down, he's a smart driver. He really is.

Q. Do you feel confident?
JOE GARONE: I do feel confident. We're coming into this on the offense.

Q. How did all this come together? Did you have a master plan several years ago?
JOE GARONE: No, that's not how it came together at all actually. This was a progression of our owner getting his feet wet and gradually understanding more and more about NASCAR.
And there was a point in time a couple years into it, when we tried our first Cup race that he saw, it was at Dover, Delaware, I think they filled the place back then, I'm not sure, 170,000 or something. I think that day he realized it shifted from having some fun to business because his company sponsored the car and he wanted his companies out in front of the public.

Q. In terms of strategy, to do what you've done incrementally getting better and better, what was the catalyst? How do you go from where you were a season ago to now?
JOE GARONE: It still goes back to our owner. Our owner constantly is looking for the next best whatever, whether it's equipment, personnel, anything. And he has never held us back.
So our conversations, we're constantly scrutinizing ourselves and looking and saying, What can we do better next? What's the next thing after that?
Because it's coming from the top, and it's small, he's right there in our shop at times, it keeps pushing it forward. The plan is really coming from him hands on. He's never lifted. It's always been going to the next level.

Q. How would you describe Martin to somebody that doesn't know him? The other three guys are better known than Martin.
JOE GARONE: Describe him as being very humble, real quiet, genuine person. Take the time to speak with you and talk to you. I don't know what else to describe about him.
As far as once he's in the racecar and on the track, everybody sees. That's the behind‑the‑scenes Martin.

Q. How would you describe his style on the track?
JOE GARONE: Martin, when he needs to go over the line, you see it on restarts, he'll take some incredible chances. Part of what's gotten us to where we are right now is him being a smart racecar driver and keeping his emotions in check and strategically planning moves rather than just taking chances when he doesn't have to. That's the Martin that I see in our car.

Q. Did you know what you had in him?
JOE GARONE: The thing with Martin obviously is, being a veteran, there's a history with him. What we knew was his past. When we had that first year and we struggled so much, in some ways it kind of brought us closer together because you start really looking at his driving style, looking into who he is, looking at our cars, looking at ourselves. You learn a lot about each other.
Shortly before the end of the season we went to a test in California, and we finally hit on the feel of what he was looking for in the racecar. I can tell you for me personally, that day he made a comment to me, he said, We found it, this is it. I came back and told our owner, Hey, we got something special now.

Q. When was that?
JOE GARONE: I don't know the day. It was at the end of the year, a California test that NASCAR had. We had tried the new rules package last year, the end of the season last year, yeah. So that carried us into the off‑season with some pep in our step because we were excited. The shop was excited.

Q. Could you feel it when you walk in?
JOE GARONE: It's different. Absolutely. Everything is about people. So when there's an energy in the shop, you can absolutely feel it.

Q. You don't want to take any credit for being the mastermind? It's cool to see a one‑car team, driver from New Jersey, coming to fruition here.
JOE GARONE: I would love to take credit, but that's not how it happened. Honestly, the truth is, our owner, he just keeps pushing. We support that. When he has these conversations and he wants to go to the next step and level, we're right there. He gives us the ability to do what we do.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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