Steve Addington is in his first season atop the pit box for defending Cup champion Tony Stewart. While average people might have crumbled under the pressure, Addington has come out with guns blazing, leading the champ to two wins in the first six races of the year.
He has been a crew chief in the Cup series since 2005 and has called the shots for Bobby Labonte, JJ Yeley, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch. With the two wins Stewart has notched this season, his new crew chief has a total of 18 Cup victories under his belt.
As the Cup Series prepares to head to Texas, Addington shared some views on the team’s prospects for the upcoming weekend and his optimism thanks to his team being part of the Goodyear tire test for the track. He also enlightened us about the knowledge sharing that is going on in the garage over the EFI system and the challenges facing everyone.
Mike Neff, Frontstretch: You’ve had a week off, you won at Vegas, you won at California, both relatively intermediate tracks. You have to feel confident going into the race this weekend but nothing stays static in this sport. Are you standing pat or are you changing more things to try and stay ahead?
Steve Addington: The good thing about it is we did the tire test for Goodyear down there with the car that we won Vegas with, and that is the car that we’re taking back to Texas so we feel pretty good about it. Tony feels good about that car, he won at Texas last year with that car. We’ve got a test under our belt and a race win with that car again, so we’re pretty pumped up to go to Texas.
Neff: Is there anything that has changed since the tire test? You know what to expect from the tires but is there anything else that has advanced that you’ve had to adapt for in the car?
Addington: Yes, it does. We unloaded at Fontana with the new tire out there and it really threw everybody for a loop. We were fortunate enough to be the ones who got on top of it the quickest for race day. So, it was a lot of hard work and we had to change a lot of stuff to get the balance right so that Tony could run and do like he did on Sunday.
I’m pretty happy with the feedback I’m getting out of the driver’s cockpit. He’s bad to the bone on that side of it and all of the guys are really working hard at Stewart-Haas Racing to build us cars like that. So I’m excited about every racetrack, but especially going back to Texas. Have had really good runs there, but have never won there, so it would be really cool to knock that one off of the list.
Neff: On the EFI side of things, we all know you guys had that little problem down at Phoenix. Obviously it is an evolving system where we’re working bugs out of things. How do you test for things like that issue or do you just have to deal with them as they come about?
Addington: I think right now, with the testing that we did last year, we had some EFI tests after races, the day after Charlotte, the day after Martinsville, and things like that. We got it to where we knew what we needed to do to get it to run on the racetrack. It is just the little things that are popping up for everyone and that is something that I think we are not done with.
We caught a fuel pump going bad at Las Vegas actually and that was right after the circuit breaker popped at Phoenix. We don’t know if the two are related yet or not because we haven’t had enough time on that to get through to the system.
Hendrick Motorsports does an awesome job with that package and they are doing a lot of testing, we’re doing a lot of testing, to try and prevent things from happening. You never know with a new package what is going to pop up and bite you. I think everybody is just kind of waiting for the next thing.
The cool thing about it is, throughout the garage area, is everybody has been open about what has happened. If a car has a breaker pop, people find out about it so you know that happened to them. The feedback in the garage, everyone wants to be on top of it.
We’re sharing information of what the issues are so it is helping everybody in the garage area to get on top of it so we’re not having those issues and taking somebody that has a shot at winning a race out of it. It’s fair game so the fastest car wins on Sunday. That’s the cool part about it is everybody is being open, between manufacturers and stuff.
Neff: Running the EFI system out of gas. Have you found out, can you actually run the system completely out of gas or, because you need a certain amount of pressure to make the system function, once you get down to a certain level are you having a problem before you run completely out of gas?
Addington: We did that at the Texas tire test to be exact. We drained the fuel system down to a couple of gallons and Tony went out and ran it. And we know, when he sees the fuel pressure drop, we’ve got three quarters of a lap to get to pit road at a racetrack like Texas.
He knew when it started losing pressure and he felt like he was running out of gas, he went ahead and ran it around and then came onto pit road and let it idle until it finally ran out. We went up and plugged in to see what it would take to refire the car. It refired really quickly once we got the fuel can engaged and the pumps got fuel. It sent the pressure up there and the car refired really quickly. More than what we had with the cable-driven fuel pump.
Stewart is sitting third in the points and experiencing his best start to a Cup season in his 14-year stock car career. Addington is certainly a part of that success and he is feeling very confident that this weekend at Texas is going to be another step towards defending the Cup championship for Stewart. Without a doubt the stars are lined up for the champ to make another strong run in the Lone Star State.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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