By T.J. Buffenbarger
Knoxville, IA — (August 8, 2013) — Daryn Pittman and Brian Brown were the featured drivers at the 2013 media luncheon on Thursday at the Dyer Hudson Hall at the Marion County Fairgrounds. After hearing from general manager Brian Stickel and Brian Cater from the World Racing Group Pittman and Brown took questions from the media during a 21 minute interview session.
Most of the conversation was centered on the Knoxville Nationals and Knoxville Raceway itself. Daryn Pittman got up to sixth in points after not transferring through his heat race and charging from 24th starting position to fifth in Wednesday night’s feature.
“I didn’t have a choice and had to go forward,” said Pittman. “I thought our Nationals was buried, but for us to time trial ninth I knew we would be in a tough spot if we didn’t’ transfer in the heat. Starting fifth in the B, I knew we had to get out of that and top 10 in the A to salvage a decent point night. It was the most fun a-main I have ever run at Knoxville. I’ve struggled in the past. So I just tried to go top and bottom, wherever people were not.”
Pittman reiterated how tough Knoxville Raceway is from his perspective of not having as many times to compete at the facility each season.
“Knoxville is one of the few places where a starting spot is truly just that and you can move up. You don’t fake your way around here. If you are not good you are going to the back, and if you are one of the good cars you are going to the front. You can’t block and hold guys back here. There is ways to get around people. “
Even though Pittman was able to move up to the feature he still feels compared to most drivers his lack of laps around Knoxville and only getting to run there a couple of times per season during his career.
“This place is the most technical place to run. I don’t have a lot of experience here. Most years I would race here three to four times per year, some years only once. Some people pick it up quick and its really technical where when you make a mistake you pay for it for a whole lap and lose a couple of spots go by before you recover from it. I don’t have a great feel for what I needed to tell the crew guys to change on the car, it’s something where I watch guys run the bottom a certain way and I’m not sure how they do it. I just don’t know. We are getting there. Last night is the best I’ve ever been running the bottom, but running around the top is a lot easier. This place is tricky and when you make a mistake you pay.”
Brown, who races in tonight’s preliminary program, has grown up around Knoxville Raceway as a small child and wants nothing more than to win the biggest sprint car race in the world at what he considers to be his home race track.
“I don’t know, I can’t really answer it because I don’t know what it’s like. I have an idea; it would probably be the best day of my entire life. I used to sit in section G and leave two laps before the races were over, run to turn four, run to the gate, and I could get there before the victory lane photo and sometimes get in the photo. That’s how long I’ve been here and why it would mean so much for me. I think it would mean more to me than anyone else in in the history of the deal. If it never happens, I’ll be the happiest second place finisher in the Nationals.”
Brown also offered some insight on how he approaches the preliminary night now with more experience under his belt.
“One thing though is you cannot win it on qualifying night can’t win it, but lose it. We want to put ourselves in a good r position for Saturday night, because you are not going to win it from the D-Main. As a group we are really excited. If it wasn’t for super clean of FVP I wouldn’t have Casey’s and having them as a presenting sponsor is more pressure, but we look forward to it.”
Brown is in the unique position of being the second place driver in the closest finish in Knoxville Nationals history to Donny Schatz. Brown reflected on that moment and how he feels about almost winning the Nationals one season ago.
“Last year was the closest finish in history, come back this year, and I think we are running better now this year than in last year Nationals. As a team we are probably more excited. For 360 some days we have thought on how we could get better for the Knoxville Nationals. Motor, wing, tire, all of the work has been about how we can get better for the Knoxville Nationals. We wake up in the morning and dream of winning this race as drivers.”
Pittman also reflected on the great start to his first season with Kasey Kahne Racing in the Great Clips sponsored car. When asked about why the team clicked so fast Pittman did not have a definitive answer, but was quick to credit the people on his race team and why some drivers are quick to blame the mandated change to Hoosier Racing Tires for their woes. Pittman also credited his shock program, which where some of the biggest technology changes with the cars have taken place over the past 10 years.
“We didn’t even think about (the tires). All we heard was the first couple of months we could not figure out the tires and there wasn’t a discussion about a tire for our team. We unloaded quick and went down a certain path and that is a credit to my team and what they build during the off season. No different when people would struggle on the Good year’s and you need to blame something. I am the same driver, surrounded with a lot better people. Kale Kahne with the car, and Willie Kahne with the shocks, Willie with all of his experience being on the road and now focusing on shocks in California is a huge advantage. So it was good from the beginning.”
One popular topic with Brown is how he has built his own race team from a single car and engine into one of the top sprint car teams in the country with innovative marketing programs, intelligent scheduling to keep sponsors happy, and general hard work to keep his partners with the race team happy.
“In 2003 when I got fired from the Casey’s ride I went from 360’s to an World of Outlaws ride and thought it was going to be easy, I thought I would be in NASCAR next year. Getting fired brought be down a little and realized I just didn’t want to be a driver, because the easiest four bolts to change is the driver’s seat. I wanted to have my own team and control my destiny. Super Clean was a presenting sponsor of this race and Joel Quetschenbach from FVP was in a tent, so I walked over and introduced myself and thanked him for their support of the Nationals and asked why they never sponsored a car. We talked for 15-20 minutes, became good friends, sat down a month later and came up with a plan on how we would represent Super Clean. Once we got him on board Casey’s came back with us last year. Not just one thing, but these added up. I am proud that our team can unload and race at Chico, California or Knoxville Nationals and be competitive.”
One question posed to Pittman was a reference to an article by Jeremy Elliott in Pennlive.com about how Donny Schatz feels there is a divide between the teams and World Racing Group management. Pittman had an opposite outlook on Schatz and is very happy to be back on the road with the World of Outlaws, but has been in a position where the road starts to take its toll.
“Being off the road for four years I am the happiest guy out there right now. I did it 10 years straight before I went to Pennsylvania. The longer you do it the grumpier you get. The guys that have done it a long time that is there attitude and it’s a grueling schedule. Having fun racing and enjoying with I’m at, the team I’m running with.”
With recent events safety questions were also asked of Pittman and Brown. Both drivers addressed how they approach the safety items they can control and how they approach it getting into the race car each night.
“We always are looking at what we should do to make the car safer,” said Pittman. “When the, Tyler Wolfe when that happened last year first driver had lost in a while. Staggered me on within the past year or year in a half until we had a fatality. Not sure what has changed, circumstance, that’s the only way we can wrap our head around it as a driver is it was circumstances and if it happens it happens. You can always look at your car and see what you can do to make them safer. After all, the driver will run harder if they have a good, safe car.”
Brown had a little different approach to the safety issue saying he does not run a HANS device or a containment seat because he wants to be comfortable in the car.
“As a driver you have to think that is bad luck or it can happen to us or to you walking across main street. We know the risk in when we got in a car. Each time we step in the car and it is the life we have chosen and I don’t think any of us would do anything different.”
Brown was also questioned on when his team would make the move up to the World of Outlaws. While that is an eventual goal for his race team, Brown indicated it has to be a gradual process with buy in from his partners.
“It takes a lot of money and budget (to race with the World of Outlaws). The key is you can’t say you are going to go out there and run the Outlaws next year year and go to beat them. Schatz has been out here for 15-16 years, you heard Daryn say he had done it for 10, its a process that you have to have commitment with your sponsors for four or five years. We run well sometimes, but more than not we struggle because we get our head kicked in for eight to ten races then we come back and get better. Instead of just staying here every week we choose to travel in June/July and run Kings Royal and other race. Local speed versus Outlaw speed, you have to be on Outlaw speed. School of hard knocks a man out of you real quick or get a real job.”
Pittman on if there has been any changes since returning to the World of Outlaws tour: “Not much honestly, I don’t know much of a difference. Only 1-2 tracks I haven’t been too. I just think sometimes stepping in a different direction and coming back gives you a better mindset. I’ve been there when you get grouchy on the road and complain about stuff that is not that big of a deal. Happy to be on the road with this team, not a lot has changed. “
Brown “We all as driver you have to think that is bad luck or it can happen to us or to you walking across main street. We know the risk in when we got in a car. Brown does not run a containment seat or hans device, not comfortable in the car, but would rather be comfortable in the car with perferal vision and what not. Each time we step in the car and it is the life we have chosen and I don’t think any of us would do anything different.
Brown on running the outlaws: “A lot of money and budget to do this. Key is you can’t say you are going to go out there and run WoO nexzt year and go to beat them. Schatz 15-16 years, daryn 10, it sa process that you have to commit with your sponsors to 5-6 years. We run well sometimes, but more than not we struggle because we get our head kicke din 8-10 races then we come back and get better. Instead of just staying here every week we choose to travel in June/July and run Kings Royal and other race. Local speed versus Outlaw speed, you havet o be on Outlaw speed. School of hard knocks a man out of you real quick or get a real job.