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August 7, 2013

From the Pit Box - Luke Lambert on Watkins Glen International

No. 31 team crew chief Luke Lambert discusses road-course racing at WGI.

RCR/HHP Photo RCR/HHP Photo

30-year-old Luke Lambert returned to the No. 31 team in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after spending four years as team engineer, working alongside crew chiefs Todd Berrier and Scott Miller. The No. 31 team scored three wins, 27 top-five and 61 top-10 finishes during the four-year stretch and made three appearances in the prestigious Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In 2011, Lambert earned two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 17 Sprint Cup Series races as interim crew chief of the No. 31 team, making his debut on top of the pit box at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 2005 North Carolina State University mechanical engineering graduate served as crew chief on the No. 2 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series during the 2012 season, leading driver Elliott Sadler to four wins, four pole awards, 15 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes en route to a second-place finish in driver championship point standings.

Since taking over as the No. 31 Caterpillar/Cheerios Chevrolet SS crew chief for driver Jeff Burton, the team has scored two top-five and four top-10 finishes and sits 20th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.

Lambert joined Richard Childress Racing shortly after college as an engineer in September 2005.

Q: How do you setup the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for Watkins Glen International?
A:
“Watkins Glen International is a high-speed road course, so the car will need to make both left and right turns. Due to the high speed nature of the road course, you will put more emphasis on the downforce in the platform of the race car and focus on lateral grip. Braking is also very important so we’ll put a lot of emphasis on making sure the braking system is optimized. Other than that, our main goal is grip and downforce in the car and left and right cornering ability.”

Q: How do the Watkins Glen International track conditions change during the race?
A:
“The track changes at Watkins Glen International are dependent on the weather. It can be a fairly quick race depending how many cautions there are. There usually aren’t too many changes in the track conditions unless severe weather is involved. If it does get hot during the race, you will start to see the driver lose grip and cars tend to get looser as the race progresses.”

Q: What are the keys to success at Watkins Glen International?
A:
“Pit strategy is very important at Watkins Glen International. You have to make sure that your fuel mileage calculations are correct and tire management will also be an integral part of the strategy. Our strategy will mostly be based on practice results from Friday and Saturday.”

Q: Do you have a favorite race memory at Watkins Glen International in your young career?
A:
“It was probably in the 2011 Watkins Glen International race after I took over as interim crew chief for the No. 31 team halfway through the season. That race was my first-career top-10 finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Jeff Burton. We finished in the ninth position. At the time, that was a fairly big deal because the team was in a slump during that part of the season, so we needed a boost.”

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