THE MODERATOR: We are going to start with our ?? I should say continue with our post?race press conference for today’s Ford EcoBoost 300. We are joined by Randall Burnett, the crew chief for the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro driven by Tyler Reddick. Randall, this is your first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. Congratulations.
RANDALL BURNETT: Thank you very much.
When you found out you were getting Tyler Reddick, that he was going to be your driver this year, what was the initial thought that went through your mind? Because you’ve never won a championship, and all this was like so brand new with him coming over after last year being somewhere else.
RANDALL BURNETT: Well, I knew we had a really good team, right. We’ve run well. We’ve performed well, but obviously we had some work to do to get caught up with the Gibbs cars and the Stewart?Haas cars and this, that and the other. To bring in Tyler’s capability and put him into that car and see what we really have been working so hard on was pretty amazing.
You know, it’s big shoes to fill. Like he just won the championship and you’ve got him coming in, and you’re like, okay, well, you know that’s not going to be the problem. You’ve got the guy to do it, right, so it was on us to give him the stuff to perform with.
And I think our group rallied really well, and I think we brought fast race cars all year. We had some insane amount of top 5s, so we were competing for the win all the time. We gave a few away. We won 6 or whatever.
It’s been an incredible year. He’s an incredible talent. He can elevate a car from third or fifth to first pretty easy with a good shot at it, you know.
I’ll ask the obvious first. Has your brother gotten ahold of you already?
RANDALL BURNETT: He’s here, actually. Yeah, they’ve got the whole family here. They came down, which is really cool. They came down yesterday and hung out. That was really cool, and my wife and father?in?law are here. So it’s been pretty cool.
What’s your emotions? Because I know going into this, we knew the driver could do it, but for you being your first championship and your first season with Tyler, I imagine there were ups and downs during the year and maybe times where ?? did you wonder if it was going to happen?
RANDALL BURNETT: Well, no, I mean, I knew if we got to this point and got him to the final four that we were going to have as good a shot as anybody with his capabilities. This being his favorite racetrack is a huge advantage for us coming here because he just gets pumped up about coming to this place.
And you can see it in his driving here when he puts it up on the fence like that, and it’s pretty amazing. He’s so confident in his abilities when he comes here, it makes my job easier. If we could get him to be that confident everywhere, I think we’d have won a lot more races this year.
But he’ll tell you: Man, I’m not very good at Phoenix or I’m not very good at Richmond or whatever. And those are the places we might have struggled, but you get him to a place like this, and he’s like: Oh, yeah, I’ve got it.
It’s just fun to ?? it’s just a fun atmosphere to work on. All of our guys work so hard on these cars, man. They’re great. Like each one of them perform at the top level of their profession, and it shows in the speed that we bring to the cars.
We got five laps on that car this weekend. That says a lot for our group. The other three teams that were in the final four, granted, they didn’t get to test. One of their associate cars did get to test with the rookie testing and all that, so I think it’s pretty phenomenal for us to get five laps and come and win this deal. Like I was really proud of the effort with all of that from the people at the shop to everybody at the track.
I don’t know if it’s going to make next year easier, but we’ll go with that.
Do you get nervous, especially towards the end of the race when he’s inches off the wall, and did it ever cross your mind to tell him to move down just a half a lane or a lane?
RANDALL BURNETT: Yeah, I don’t know if they showed me or not, but I was nervous about 200 laps tonight. No, he ?? like it was nerve?racking. You want to tell him to slow down, but then you’ve got Cole less than a second behind you and he’s not going to slow down, right, so you’re just kind of at the mercy of just going as hard as you can. It’s what he does, man, you just give the right guy the right equipment, and magical things happen.
You guys seemed a little bit nervous there for a while when it was either you or Derek asked him if he still had something left in the tank, and if you can talk about that moment, not that you ever had a doubt, as well as the move that he made with 20 laps to go, 19 laps to go to pass Custer to take the lead and then just sail off to the finish.
RANDALL BURNETT: Yeah, so we were leading at that point, and Christopher was behind us. You know, this particular race has a history of going ?? the last two years it’s went without a caution from the second stage all the way to the end of the race, right. So now every lap you’re, okay, what lap are we going to pit, what lap are we going to make the most efficient amount of time on our tires. Like how are we going to do that, right.
So then you’re looking at the gap, and being the leader it kind of lets you control that a little bit. But if somebody is too close to you, then you’ve got to worry about them ducking off right behind you and then you losing some time trying to get back to pit road. So it’s a real chess match.
That’s kind of why I was like, when the caution came out, I was like, hey, were you saving anything there, because we were just kind of like maintaining the gap, where I was like, at that point I was ?? if that caution on whatever lap, 123 or whatever, it had come out, I was like, man, we probably need to get a little gap; that way, if something happens on pit road, you drop a lug nut or get a tire caught up or something, you’ve got a little more cushion at that point.
That’s kind of why I was asking him about it to see what he had left, if he was just kind of managing that gap, if he was going as hard as he could and all that. That’s why I was kind of questioning him about that.
RANDALL BURNETT: That was incredible. He ran right up on Cole, and Cole was doing everything he could. He took his line away, he was right on the fence and running really fast laps up there, and forced Tyler to do something out of ?? he wasn’t going to give it to him on top. He knew if he gave him the top line that Tyler was going to take advantage of it.
So it forced Tyler to be aggressive and make that move, and Cole tried to cross him over. And just great racing, man, both of them racing as hard as they could, and we were fortunate enough to come out on top of the deal.
I’ll expand on what I meant earlier. Does the fact that you get to keep this guy going into next year, keep Derek, the band is basically staying together as you guys go up to the Cup Series, is that at least ?? do you feel like that’s going to take the communication part of it, make it easier or make it one less thing to worry about?
RANDALL BURNETT: Well, it’ll certainly be one less thing to worry about because obviously the three of us work together well. I’ve had a history of working with Derek before, so I’ve known Derek for ten years, nine years, something like that now, and he’s phenomenal. And we’re really fortunate to have him coming with Tyler. I know Tyler has got a ton of confidence in him. He does a great job.
For that aspect of it, yeah, going to the Cup side with those two, that makes it that much easier of a transition. It’s certainly not going to be an easy transition, but what I mean is, like you’re saying, the communication and stuff, I have to worry less about that. It’s not like developing a new relationship there.
We’ve got that going for us for sure.
What are your expectations for next year?
RANDALL BURNETT: Well, we’re going to discuss that on Monday. We’re going to wait and get through this weekend and then sit down and talk about all that after this mess.
RANDALL BURNETT: Well, that we’ve got to sort out, too. I think we have got to get all of us in the same room and figure it out because we’re all in different directions right now.
Myself, we’re staying down anyways. We were going to stay for the Cup race and hang out and just kind of ?? it’s back to work tomorrow, right, like kind of get an eye on everything and start working towards next year. And then Tyler was staying, too.
I’m sure we’ll find something to do this evening that might involve a drink or two.
What does this do for you and your career? It seems like all the crew chiefs of these big three guys have Cup experience, come and work with young guys in Xfinity and now going back to Cup, or at least two of you going back to Cup.
RANDALL BURNETT: Yeah, no, it’s phenomenal. Like when I moved to crew chiefing in Cup Series, I probably wasn’t as ready as I thought I was to be crew chiefing in the Cup Series, but I had a great year with A.J. that first year in ’16 with him for where we were at and everything, and I got a lot of really good experience.
When I came to work at RCR and went to work on Xfinity cars, honestly I had never really worked on an Xfinity car; I’d been working on Cup cars all my life. I had to learn that part of it, and it took me a little bit to get the lay of the land. I had Danny Stockman and Nick Harrison and all them guys to lean on at that point, and they really helped me on the Xfinity side and helped me get to where I’m at right now, and I’ve got to thank those guys for that.
But I’ve gained a lot of great experience. There’s no slouches in this ?? you’re running against Jason Ratcliff, which is a however many time Cup winner, Xfinity champion. Mike Shiplett is a phenomenal crew chief, as well. You’ve got Jason Burdett. The list goes on of the talent in this series, and it makes you work hard, just like you do on the Cup side.
It’s just fun. Like I love this series. I think the Xfinity Series is a great series, and there’s a lot to learn here.
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