Transcripts: Phil Surgen – Nashville Superspeedway

HE MODERATOR: We’ll start with our post-race press conference here in Nashville. We’ve been joined by Phil Surgen, who is the race-winning crew chief for the No. 1 car with Ross Chastain.

Phil, huge congratulations to your team. Pretty dominant performance from you tonight. Talk a little bit about winning with Ross, your first win of the season, but also talk about winning in Nashville in Justin’s backyard.

PHIL SURGEN: Yeah, it feels great to finally break the winless streak. I think it was all starting to creep into everybody’s mind. We’ve had the performance all year. Tonight we were able to put it together. It was really a good weekend all around. The car had good pace in practice. Qualifying obviously went well.

Throughout the whole race it had a lot of speed in it. We had to adjust on it a little bit to get it good on the long run and at the end. Everybody at Team Trackhouse did a fantastic job. Built a great car. Pit stops were great tonight. Road crew did excellent practice this weekend. Expectation, all that.

Obviously Justin’s backyard. It means a lot to him and a lot to the team to be able to win in Nashville. This is our first downforce oval win, as well.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. There was a lot of talk about a new Ross Chastain, something different about him in this race. From your perspective, what you saw on the racetrack today, was that any different than the driver that you’ve known and worked with?

PHIL SURGEN: No, that’s the same Ross that I know, the same Ross that I know. Nothing any different. I think a lot of people want to make a mountain out of a molehill a lot of time.

Today there was plenty of opportunities that everybody needed to be aggressive. We saw the three-wide for four laps towards the middle of the race.

Everybody is always learning. Everybody is always refining their craft. He’s in the same boat. I am. Everybody is. He’s made some small adjustments. Obviously when it comes to needing to be aggressive, he’s well capable and he showed it earlier today.

Q. Back to the race two years ago when you were at Chip Ganassi. Ross was running third. You called him down to pit road on what turned out to be the last caution. I remember Ross saying he questioned the call, wasn’t sure about it, but the rest of the race ran green and you finished second. Now that you’ve reached this point, how pivotal do you think that race was in fostering the level of trust that you two have?

PHIL SURGEN: Yeah, it certainly had an impact. How big or small, it’s hard to quantify.

Early in that season we struggled. Nashville was a second-place finish for us. It was the best finish for us that season. Obviously there was a little questioning in the race. It worked out in that instance.

Over the course of that season, we did a lot of building together, building as a team. Certainly weren’t as successful as we thought we should have been or thought we were capable of being. Obviously the beginning of the next season, last season, we were able to put it together.

In retrospect, that probably was a pivotal moment because it was one of our better performances in ’21 together. When you have good performance, everybody builds confidence in each other: him and me and me and him.

Q. How much of the old 42 team is on the 1 team now?

PHIL SURGEN: Pretty much the whole 42 team. We’ve since added a couple extra members with the reorganization going to Trackhouse. We added a couple additional crew members to what’s now the 1 team. All the existing 42 guys are with us.

Q. Since Darlington, what has it been like for you, the fallout and everything?

PHIL SURGEN: Yeah, obviously since Darlington, we haven’t gotten the finishes we felt like we deserved since Darlington for a variety of reasons.

I think a lot of people were questioning what happened at Darlington, trying to make a reason why that turned into poor finishes the following weeks.

From my perspective, we focus car performance, execution, pit road performance. We’ve done a good job of bringing fast cars to the racetrack since then. We just hang our hat on that. If we keep bringing fast cars and we keep having fast pit stops, work through the strategy correctly, we’ll be successful.

Q. What was your message to Ross coming out of Darlington with all of the backlash he was getting?

PHIL SURGEN: More than anything, the team, we have his back. He just needs to know that we support him. Anything that we can do to help in those moments is critical.

More or less he just needs to know that we have confidence in him and we’re there to support him.

Q. A lot of fast cars in the last year and a half, but haven’t won a race in over a year. Has it been frustrating to see the speed not turn into wins?

PHIL SURGEN: Certainly. There’s been a handful of races where we had really good performance and haven’t been able to turn it into a win for various reasons. That’s certainly frustrating.

We really look at honestly how good was our performance, where can we improve. Everybody has kept their head down and stayed focused, identified those areas and worked on them. I think we’re seeing the fruits of that labor.

Q. Ross said earlier this week he kind of struggles with helping you getting the car better when it’s a good weekend. He described it almost as complacent because I’m not sure what to tell them. What happened tonight or what worked well that when you had a good car there wasn’t that complacency, or was the car just good from lap one?

PHIL SURGEN: We made an adjustment all but one stop during the race. I would tend to disagree with him. He gave us good feedback the whole race, kept us up to date from what he was feeling from the driver’s seat.

We have the data. We can validate what he’s saying in the data. Tonight everything made sense. What he’s saying, we’re seeing in the data. There’s never a reason to question it in those moments.

Q. You get the win now, 11th different winner in 17 races. How wide open is this thing? Is it going to be back to another year of 16 different winners to get into the Playoffs?

PHIL SURGEN: I could certainly see a couple few more winners in the next nine weeks. Maybe it won’t be to the level of last year. Obviously we’ve seen the last couple of months, the points gap from the leader back to fifth is really close.

The battle is still on for regular-season points. Obviously that turns into Playoff points. Everybody’s doing everything they can.

Q. On to Chicago. From a crew chief’s perspective, the unknowns? How much do you pull your hair out? What is it like getting ready for that? Should I just let you enjoy the moment right now?

PHIL SURGEN: You said it: unknowns. Everybody in the industry is kind of in the same boat. We just don’t know what to expect. As much communication and reconnaissance that you can do, nobody knows exactly what it’s going to be like until the cars hit the track in another week.

We’re doing the best we can to mine any bit of information that can help us. Obviously we’re spending some time in the simulators, working through desktop simulations, talking to anybody that could possibly have some feedback for us on street racing.

Yeah, a lot of unknowns.

Q. This race last year was ran at night. How much were you able to take from last year to help you with tonight?

PHIL SURGEN: There was a good bit of the notes from last year that pertained to this year. The Next Gen was developing really quickly at this point last year. We had saw the biggest lump of that development probably in the springtime. By Nashville time we had settled on a package that was reasonably similar to what we continued to run throughout the rest of the season.

Those notes did apply for us, particularly day to night. Regardless of the package, that stays pretty common.

THE MODERATOR: Phil, congratulations on that win. We wish you best of luck next week in Chicago.

PHIL SURGEN: Thank you.