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November 15, 2016

Jimmy Makar

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of Joe Gibbs Racing. Joe Gibbs Racing is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. How special has this season been, and how excited is everyone to field two cars in the Championship Four?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, it has been a spectacular year for our 25th anniversary to have the amount of wins that we've had with all four cars and to place all four cars into the Chase. You know, and now to have two of them advance to the Final Four has been a dream come true. I mean, obviously our long‑term goal from the beginning of the year was to get all four cars into the end, but you've got to set goals high, and that's what we had for the goal.
Two is really spectacular. It's a dream come true for us, and it's something that nobody has been able to do yet, so we're really proud of that.

Q. It's Tony Stewart's last Cup race. You've raced with a lot of really great drivers over the years at Joe Gibbs Racing. Where does Tony rank among that group, and how much did he elevate Joe Gibbs Racing as a company?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, I think it's pretty obvious to everybody how great a race car driver Tony Stewart was, is and has been. You know, when he first came here, we all knew of his legacy in open wheel cars and all of the forms of racing, and stock cars was sort of a new game for him. Being able to work himself into driving these cars competitively and winning the amount of races and championships that he's done over the years just goes to show you the kind of talent he is.
I heard somebody mention the other day that he was the AJ Foyt of our era, and I think that's a very good statement. That's kind of the way I look at Tony. If it's got four wheels, he's going to get in it and drive it, and it's always been the way he's done things.
So I just think as a race car driver, not necessarily a stock car driver, he's one of the best that's been.

Q. I was curious if the bulletin that went out last week on truck trailing arms and the mounting slugs, if that had any impact on the cars you had prepared for Homestead, and did you have to make any sort of changes on those?
JIMMY MAKAR: Yeah, no, it doesn't affect us. My guess is obviously somebody saw something that was a little questionable on someone's car, and that rule came out last week. But it did not affect us in any way. We're going to Homestead with our cars just as we had prepared them to start with.

Q. How beneficial will it be for teams such as Joe Gibbs Racing that are so competitive in Cup and XFINITY to have the XFINITY chassis be closer to the Cup chassis next season?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, I think it's going to be a good thing for us. We currently do move our chassis down to the XFINITY Series with guys anyway with modifications, obviously, to make them apply in that series. It'll just make it a lot easier for us where we won't have to make quite as many modifications to the chassis to apply to their rules.
I think it'll be good from a work standpoint, or less work for us as an organization. I think it'll be good as far as technology, being able to transfer a little bit more between the Cup and the XFINITY guys. We do share a lot with those guys as is, but with the cars being a little more similar, some more of that technology will apply to them, so it'll make it a little bit better for those guys.

Q. I was also told that engineers like when you have engineers that are crew chiefs in training or what have you, what they learn along the way from an XFINITY side could transfer over with their knowledge, kind of like a learning situation to take that if and when they move up the ladder. Would you agree with that assessment? Is it also a cost‑saving measure?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, yeah, that certainly applies, also. A lot of the guys that we send down, or send over to the XFINITY group, either to crew chief or who we bring along to engineer, you know, right now have a little dissimilar program over there than the Cup side. This will make it much more similar, so a lot of the things they learn, a lot of the tools they use and the way they go about tuning race cars will apply a little bit better to when they do come up to the Cup side. So it will benefit the guys that are moving from the XFINITY to Cup a little bit, also. That's true.

Q. I want to ask you about the aggressiveness of the drivers that race this form of a championship. They're all in one sense aggressive. Are they all equally aggressive within this format, that they have it within them to be the same style racing?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, I think when you get down to the four guys, winner‑take‑all format, you have to be aggressive. I don't think you're going to be able to sit back and ride, as it may be, to deserve points or something of that nature. I think we've watched these championships lately come down to you've got to go win the race, and in order to do that, you've got three other guys in this championship hunt that are in all different levels, but various levels of aggressiveness in their driving style, and they're all hungry, and then you've got to throw in the guys that aren't in the Chase that also are trying to win a race here. You've got several young guys that are trying to make a mark in the sport that have been very, very close here lately. They're going to be tough to beat, also.
You're not going to be able to not be aggressive and win this championship I don't think.

Q. Do you think we'll see something we haven't seen from Jimmie Johnson? He's a pretty aggressive driver, but you think of a Kyle Busch and the chances that he takes and Joey Logano. Do you think we may see things that we haven't seen yet?
JIMMY MAKAR: You know, the potential is there. I guess it depends on how the race unfolds and what goes on there. You look at the way this past weekend unfolded and the way guys had to race, you had to be trying to win that race to make it to the Chase. The three guys to make it on a win and only one on points, I think we saw that Denny Hamlin averaged the third best average of points for this last Chase segment and is on the outside looking in.
You're going to have to be on your A game, and you're going to have to compete with a lot of guys to win this thing, and I think as far as seeing something new, something different, I think every year the Chase provides us a new something that nobody saw coming into the race.

Q. After the organization won 11 of the first 26 races of the season, I think there was the expectation of almost seeing that type of domination or success in the Chase. Obviously only one win so far in the Chase, but I know Kyle has got one of the best average finishes throughout the Chase, like what you mentioned with Denny. Despite that, do you feel like a gap has closed on where you guys were ahead of teams earlier this season, or does it seem that way just because you guys have raced the early part of the Chase a little differently?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, I think you hit it right on the head there. This sport is so competitive, and we came out of the box this year on our A game. We obviously look like we've had a few advantages maybe some other teams didn't, but you don't hold those advantages very long in this sport. You've got to keep digging and looking forward. I certainly think some of the other organizations worked hard over the course of the year and closed the gap up, and you would expect that to happen with anyone that's got a little advantage at the beginning of the year.
This sport has got just too many good race teams in it for you to be able to stay dominating the way we were earlier in the season for very long. I'm not surprised by that at all. I still think we are as competitive week in and week out, even though, like you said, we've only won one of the Chase races, we've been in the hunt for most of them, had an opportunity to win most of them, but it's down to I think now this last race. The guy that more than likely is going to win the championship is going to be the guy that wins the race.

Q. And also this weekend at Homestead is the tire that was used at both Texas races and Chicago. Obviously you guys won both Texas races with two of your drivers. How much‑‑ when you have the tire codes ahead of time, you know what tires are going to be at what tracks as you plan ahead, how much focus was put on this effort, this tire and this combination, and how much has that been as much a part of the success you've had in the two Texas races?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, we definitely look at things that apply to the Homestead race during the course of the year. Obviously the goal was to get to Homestead and to be prepared there, and anything that we can learn, as you said, from either a tire combinations or tracks that are similar that take the same type of setups are important to try to learn something to get to Homestead and have the best advantage you can.
Yeah, we've had a lot of focus on Homestead, either on tires and setups and the different things, but I think everybody is in that same boat. Everybody has that same information and is probably doing the same things we are to get there.

Q. You mentioned before that this is the first time that any organization has had two cars in the finals at Homestead, and that has its own issues, too. From a management standpoint, could you talk about how the organization allocates resources and basically concentrates on two cars other than one and being able to focus on one effort?
JIMMY MAKAR: That's a really good question, because going into Phoenix last week, we were actually having to prepare for the possibility of having three cars in at Homestead, which obviously puts a huge strain on an organization, to have to put an effort forward that is equal for all three teams versus two or one.
Yeah, it's definitely harder to do, but you know, it's a great position to be in to have to do this extra work, so we actually were able to reorganize on Sunday night. The guys were actually back here at the shop Sunday evening after the race in Phoenix, the guys here at the shop, juggling cars around for primaries and backup cars for all four teams to make sure we had the best cars for the two guys running for the Chase, and everything fell in a pecking order of the big picture in mind.

Q. Kyle Busch is the only one of the Championship Four who has been there, done that, won the championship race and taken the title. How valuable is his input just in terms of getting ready for the whole organization down in Homestead?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, experience is a huge asset, and you know, Kyle has been really good with sharing what his knowledge base is and what he feels, thinks and does, along with the other three guys. We've had a really good group. I know y'all have seen some issues we've had on track, but that's to be expected when you have four guys that are capable of winning races and really terrific competitors.
These guys have really‑‑ I've admired the way they've been able to handle that situation when they come up and still been able to help each other out to make us better as a whole. I expect Kyle will be in the same kind of frame of mind going into this race, but when it comes down to it, each one of these guys are going to want to win this championship, so they're going to do what they have to do.

Q. I just wanted to check on something you were just talking about, when you talked about kind of juggling the cars around for Homestead Sunday night. Does that mean that Carl or Kyle, that they'll actually be driving a car that one of their teammates drove earlier this season or something like that, or are these just brand new cars, or could you kind of clarify that? You kind of confused me a little bit there.
JIMMY MAKAR: Yeah, the way we work here at Joe Gibbs Racing is all the cars are in a pool. They're not necessarily a team's cars. So we're working on cars constantly all throughout the year and trying to have the best of our cars for all four teams. A car may go back into the pool to get some updates done to it during the course of the year, and then come back out and turn out to be another guy's car because it's time for that guy to have the next latest, greatest updated car.
You know, we don't necessarily‑‑ all of our cars can go from one team to the next with a change of the seat and some minor things, be a different team's car. That's kind of how we look at it. We're going to have the best bullets, so to speak, for the two guys that are in the Chase. That was our‑‑ the way we were looking at it coming into the Chase to start with.

Q. And so does that mean that these are brand new cars or were these cars that raced at Texas, for example?
JIMMY MAKAR: Yeah, there's a couple of new cars mixed in here, and all four of our guys‑‑ and some old cars that have been run. One would have been at Texas. But yeah, there's a mixture.

Q. And is Carl running the Texas car that he ran with, or does he have a different car then this weekend?
JIMMY MAKAR: Nope, that's the backup car.

Q. The Texas car that he won with is his backup car this weekend?
JIMMY MAKAR: Yes, sir.

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