Men of Mayhem

    Rob MacCachren, Kyle LeDuc, Carl Renezeder, Casey Currie, Brian Deegan and the other heroes of short-course racing are all household names across the Dirt Sports Nation and for good reason. Again and again, their amazing skills have helped propel them to t

    While the drivers are the stars and the ones doing battle on the track, the crews are just as important.

    Author: Craig Perronne Photos: High Rev Photography/Craig Perronne

    Rob MacCachren, Kyle LeDuc, Carl Renezeder, Casey Currie, Brian Deegan and the other heroes of short-course racing are all household names across the Dirt Sports Nation and for good reason. Again and again, their amazing skills have helped propel them to the top step of the podium bringing countless victories and championships. They have rightfully acquired an almost rock-star like status through lots of hard work and dedication. Any of them will quickly give credit elsewhere though when asked about their success. Every driver worth his salt knows that short-course, and pretty much every other form of racing, is a team sport. Yes, they may ultimately be the ones behind the wheel, but it took a whole group of people to get them there and to prep the machinery they are driving. Without a hard-working crew, there would be no celebrations in the winner’s circle - or even racing. A driver might be the tip of the spear, but it takes lots of very talented people spinning wrenches and inspecting parts to go racing. Often the hard-working crews of short-course are the unsung heroes of the sport. They are never asked to sign an autograph or pose for a picture. Rarely do they get to loft a trophy on a podium, and many people don’t even know their names. Most can easily walk through a paddock without anyone recognizing who they are. For many, this is the way they prefer it, as anything else simply distracts them from the job at hand. Despite a lack of fame, a solid crew is worth its weight in gold. When something goes wrong, they often work well into the night fixing whatever needs repairing. We have watched as crews change out a blown engine with remarkable speed to have the vehicle ready in what seems like only minutes. And, we have walked past pits late at night only to see the bright glow of welding and sparks of grinders flying as a crew feverishly works to get a badly wrecked truck ready for battle the next day. They are often miracle workers. Of course, a crew’s work doesn’t happen just at the track, but in the weeks leading up to race as well. Plenty of prep has to take place before a race vehicle even touches the dirt. Without a knowledgeable crew carefully performing these vitals tasks, a DNF can often be the result. With all of this in mind, we decided to take some time to talk with the crew chiefs of some of the top short-course teams in the country at the LOORRS season opener at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Arizona. Following are their words as they give us insight into their unique jobs, the very cool race vehicles they get to work on and what is involved in a weekend of racing.

    Casey Currie Monster Energy Motorsports CREW CHIEF: Oren Anderson

    Dirt Sports: Any differences between the truck this year and last season? Did anything change in the off season?

    Oren Anderson: After that big crash Casey had last year, we went through and redid the whole back of the truck to make it more toward his liking. The nice part was we were already fast toward the end of the year, so it was fine-tuning as opposed to taking something brand-new and just trying to make it close. Now when we come to a race, it is more just working on getting everything fast. We have nothing but the best stuff in the truck right now, and everything is as nice as we can get it. It is really awesome coming out confident that at the very worst we will be top five. If stuff happens, it happens, but it is nice having that confidence coming into every round.

    DS: Are there any parts that are extremely trick on your truck? You have an extremely tight rules package to work with, so is that even possible?

    OA: No, not really. I would say that the biggest thing that stands out on our truck is that we are doing the most finite and minute changes. There are a lot of guys who come out and their stuff is a lot rougher than ours, but our big advantage is that we have gone through that rough phase and now we are just getting everything as dialed in a possible. There is nothing we can get more out of it because we have already gone through everything and it is nice as we can get it. I would say that is our big edge.

    DS: With the tight rules packages you guys have to work with, what gives you a competitive edge? Is it the amount of tuning you can do with the truck and different setups?

    OA: I would say definitely. We know the truck is already fast, so we can change setups a bit. Casey has great driver feel so we can change things just a fraction and he can tell whether it is good or not. With his confidence and the way the car handles, we can make big changes with small adjustments. We are so close, so it is all minor stuff that can make a big difference now.

    DS: How much prep time goes into the truck before the race and then at the race?

    OA: Casey is a busy guy so we do a lot of different events. We can slam pretty hard and can turn the truck around pretty quick. Last year we raced two series and would turn the truck around in a day if we had to, and still go win races. A good week on the car and we can have everything brand-new and perfect with it. We can get the entire drivetrain in and out of that thing in a day. We made it easy to work on and everything is accessible. Everything is pretty bulletproof in the spec Pro Lite class and everything is easy to work so we are not later than 8 p.m. at the track. It is a surprise if we are there with the lights on.

    DS: What is the biggest challenge for you as a crew chief? Is it the time aspect?

    OA: The time isn’t so bad, but it is just managing all the people who are involved. You have to keep track of who is touching what. It is hard, because you want people to help you because you don’t want to be here all night, but at the same time you have to watch every single person and make sure nothing is overlooked or put on incorrectly. That can be the frustrating part sometimes, but we have a pretty good system of working hard and fast and getting things done.

    Brian Deegan Metal Mulisha Racing CREW CHIEF: Jeff Frana

    Dirt Sports: Are there any changes you made this season coming into the opener?

    Jeff Frana: Really we tried to refine and simplify his Pro Lite. We made it simpler, easy to work on, made it bulletproof, made it reliable and something he can count on. We went through a lot of changes with it last year with the four-cylinder to the V8. Some different chassis and cooling changes were done, so we have that all ironed out now and it has been fantastic. For the Pro 2 we have been testing a couple new experimental pieces and as well as the new Mickey Thompson tires. He is very fast in it and trying to get back in the groove with the Pro 2. He actually has a lot more seat time with the Pro Lite than the Pro 2, and it is just getting his confidence up to run it super hard. DS: What can you do to with a strict rule set in the Pro Lite class to give you a competitive edge?

    JF: It is really where the refinement comes in, with every little shock change, tire groove change, gear change and things like that it’s even more critical than a Pro 2 or Pro 4 because you have less power. Everything has got to be perfect prep-wise and setup-wise for him to qualify up front like he did yesterday because it is a very competitive class. If you are not out front, you sometimes wind up in that demolition derby in the middle of the pack.

    DS: What would you say is the trickest part on the Pro Lite or Pro 2?

    JF: Honestly it is the team. We have a fantastic team that is the best group of guys to put under one tent in short-course racing.

    DS: How many changes do you make when going from track to track?

    JF: I am finding in the last couple of years, we are doing more changes. We used to be able to have a setup that worked pretty good everywhere. Now we are changing it and part of it is that the tracks are always different. Like today it is really hot and dry, so if the track is hot and dry it is a totally different animal than when it is wet or tacky or sloppy or whatever. I feel it changes more throughout the weekend depending on how they prep it. It is watching that, predicting that and staying on top of that so you don’t get caught out.

    DS: How hard is it to tune around a new-to-the team tire? Is it harder because you are starting without data with the Mickey Thompson tire?

    JF: We have done a lot of testing with the new tires and its behavior on the Pro 2 is fairly similar to our testing, so we haven’t done a lot of setup change with the Pro 2 because of the tires. On the Pro Lite we are doing some minor setup changes just because the rear tire does act a little different than our previous ones and for the better, I feel, because we have had great luck with it and won the opener.

    DS: What takes more time more prep time, the Pro Lite or the Pro 2?

    JF: The Pro 2 takes a little more prep time because everything is more highly stressed because the engines are so high strung. You are just putting more power through the entire drivetrain, and they are heavier so they take more of a pounding. You can’t ignore either one, but with the Pro Lite the V8 and the automatic can go several races or even a whole season, so that is less maintenance, but we do a similar amount of maintenance on both trucks to make sure they are properly prepped.

    Marty Hart Ready Lift Suspension Racing CREW CHIEF: Jimbo Zinn

    Dirt Sports: How much prep time does it take to get to the track? You just started a month ago so I imagine it has been pretty busy for you?

    Jimbo Zinn: Yes, I just came over from Menzies Motorsports to work for the Marty Hart Racing/ReadyLIFT Suspension Pro 2 and Pro Lite team. It has been a long haul putting the shop together from scratch over at the ReadyLIFT warehouse over in Henderson, Nevada. We got a Pro Lite that was supposed to be turn-key for the regional race for his son Kyle, but it was more of a basket case. We had to put some attention on it and that took a bit of attention of away from the Pro 2, which is the main priority of this team. Needless to say, I have had my head down all month long and haven’t had a day off in over 30 days, but this weekend makes it all worthwhile. Marty is a hell of a driver and could probably win out there in a wheelbarrow. It is a great family and I consider it to be the top privateer team. I go back with Marty quite a ways to the three-wheeler days, we both used to race them and have a lot of the same friends in the sport. I have always been a fan of Marty’s, but it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Menzies Motorsports. It is going to be a long year. This is only the first race of the season, but we are coming out of here with the point lead. We still have a lot of homework to do; we are not completely on top of our game yet. I have been doing this a long time, but I finally got the opportunity to step up and be more hands-on than just a guy bolting stuff on a car. I’ve got a lot to learn, and Marty is a great guy to learn from. I am looking forward to a lot of years racing with him and his son Kyle. DS: How much work does actually go on at the track?

    JZ: We like to come to the track fully prepared and tuned to the track. We don’t like to prep at the track, but we were a little behind so we had to do a little of prepping and finishing of the truck here at the track. Next race we will be ready and ahead of the game and can just come to the track and tune. We can go out there and give it our best shot and let the trucks fall where they fall, especially in Las Vegas.

    DS: You have rules to play by, but what do you do to give your truck a competitive advantage over the others?

    JZ: What gives us a competitive advantage is Marty Hart, Fox Shox, our Maxxis tires, the Pro Power engine and all of our sponsors and their products on the truck. The crew is a big part of it too.

    DS: How important is horsepower in Pro 2? Is there a point where there is too much?

    JZ: You can have all the horsepower you want, but you have to put it to the ground and use it wisely. It works both ways, some tracks you have to detune a little bit to put it to ground, and some tracks you have to lay it down and run it full bore. It changes from a track-to-track basis and every track is a little different.

    DS: What changes on the truck from track to track?

    JZ: I am not going to tell you any of that stuff (laughs). We do our homework and have a baseline that we start with at every track and then tune to the conditions of the track, what the truck is doing and even the weather.

    DS: Is there a part on this truck that is pretty unique or trick?

    JZ: Oh yes we have a hell of super trick part on that truck and that part hangs out in Louisiana. The trickest part on the truck is what sits in the driver’s seat behind the wheel. He hangs out in Louisiana and gets away from everything for a while. I think he has something going on with those Duck Dynasty guys maybe, but then he comes back ready to win. He is our secret weapon.

    Rob MacCachren Rockstar Energy Racing CREW CHIEF: Jim Blackmore

    Dirt Sports: How does the new Pro 4 compare to the Pro 2 you have been running?

    Jim Blackmore: There is a lot more stuff to a Pro 4 than a Pro 2. There is a lot more stuff going on with the front drive and a lot more moving parts. It is a lot harder to keep the thing together, and you have to pay attention to a lot more parts. It has a lot different characteristics with the front wheels driving, the steering and the setup of the vehicle. The Pro 2 is totally different animal in terms of setup. We are new with the Pro 4 and haven’t run Pro 4 for a long time. Basically we just needed to decide on what we needed for a drivetrain, get the thing together and get it out there so we could start trying things.

    DS: How hard is it to start with a new truck that you have no baseline with?

    JB: Yes, it is tough and it is nerve racking. We all want to win, and Rob has always won and he has high expectations. All of our sponsors and everyone else has high expectations too. None of us want to go out there and look bad, so it is pretty tough. We are all trying hard and I think that with what we had and with the time we had coming out here, everyone did really well. Everything that we’ve tried has made the truck better every time it has gone out on the track, so we just need to keep working hard like we have been and we will get it together.

    DS: How busy do you keep as a crew chief because you have these two trucks, but also the Trophy-Truck effort as well?

    JB: I have a lot of good guys working for me, and we have people assigned to each truck. I hop around and just try to oversee to make sure everything gets done the way I want it done. We all work together as a team and everything is gelling so far. It is really not that big a headache when you have everyone who cooperates and is a hard worker. DS: How much labor actually goes into making a truck ready for this race?

    JB: We work on these trucks all the time. They are never done. We are always trying new things or doing something to them. We don’t just go back and work on them for a week and then they are done and sit there. We are always changing something, building something new, cutting something off and doing it different. We are always thinking about things that happened at the race and things we can build different to make it work better. We try not to work too many weekends, but sometimes we have to. We do whatever it takes to make it happen, so we are number one when we get to the track.

    DS: What can you do within the rules to give you a competitive edge over other Pro 4s?

    JB: We basically make the truck work good and feel comfortable for Rob. He is a very talented driver and gives us lots of feedback. If we can give him the truck that he wants, we should have the advantage. He helps us do our job and we help him do his job, so it is a big team effort as far as making the thing go fast.