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March 27, 2014

From The Pit Box: No. 31 Crew Chief Luke Lambert

We sat down with Lambert to discuss what it takes to prepare the Quicken Loans Chevrolet for Ryan Newman, who won at the half-mile track in 2012.

HHP/RCR HHP/RCR

From The Pit Box: Luke Lambert

Martinsville Speedway

In 2005, Richard Childress Racing crew chief Luke Lambert was finishing up his mechanical engineering degree at North Carolina State University by completing a senior design project sponsored by Caterpillar. His design for a granular materials spreader for a Cat Skid Steer Loader impressed the Cat project manager from Clayton, N.C. so much that he offered Lambert a job. Lambert was grateful, but chose another career path … NASCAR. Now 13 years later, including six seasons with the No. 31 team, Lambert is reunited with Caterpillar via the company’s partnership with RCR.
 
This weekend, Lambert and the No. 31 team will take Chassis No. 435 to Martinsville Speedway. We sat down with Lambert to discuss what it takes to prepare the Quicken Loans Chevrolet for driver Ryan Newman, who won at the half-mile track in 2012.
 
Lambert resides in Clemmons, N.C. with his wife Jamie and his sons, Waylon and Cade. You can follow Lambert on Twitter at @LukeLambertCC.
 
How do you set up the No. 31 Chevrolet SS for Ryan Newman at Martinsville Speedway? 
“The key is to set up the Quicken Loans Chevrolet to turn in the center and have good forward bite up off the corner. I like our chances in being able to do that because the feedback Ryan gives us is very clear and concise. He’s got a really good idea about what he needs based on the experience he has at Martinsville Speedway and what has worked in the past. His feedback on adjustments that need to be made are usually simple and clear. It’s easy for us to respond to and provide for him.”
 
How does the track change during the race?
“It depends a lot on the temperatures. If it is really cool, it seems like it takes forever for the track to take on rubber. The track has to get about 70 degrees before it will ever start accepting rubber. What that means is a lot of times when we start out, the car will be really loose and kind of all over the place on the green track. As it continues to not take rubber, you’ll wear the left-side tires, particularly the left-rear tire out. It will make it hard to get drive up off the corner. As the track begins to take rubber over the course of a weekend and during the race, the car will start getting tight. Towards the middle and end of the race, it will be about getting the car to turn in the center and still keeping that forward bite on exit.”
 
Does this RCR team have added confidence heading into Martinsville with a driver that has won at the track?
“For sure. I think Ryan is one of the very best at Martinsville. It suits him and he is really good at all of the short tracks on the circuit. He excels at the flatter, low-load tracks. His really smooth throttle application suits him really well at any of those driver-style tracks. He does great and I think that our team has decent success there as well so our notebook combined with his experience and ability is a good combination.”
 
What are your impressions of Ryan Newman after running several races and ranking eighth in the championship standings at this point in the season?
“I think he is an amazing driver, first of all. I think he races as hard as anyone, if not harder. He has an amazing grasp of what he wants out of a race car. He makes it very clear and simple. If I had to grade the team right now, I would give us an A-minus. We just haven’t won a race yet.”
  
What is your most memorable racing moment?
“Winning my second race as a crew chief at Bristol Motor Speedway. My family was there and was able to take in the moment with me.”
 
How did you get into racing?
“I grew up going to the races with my Dad. He’s my biggest supporter and he comes to the tracks whenever he can. So far this year, he’s come to Daytona International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s great to have him at the track and it’s amazing to think how far we have come from watching the race in the stands to watching from the No. 31 pit box for RCR.”
 
If you could pick a song to be introduced to at a racetrack, what would it be?
“The Ballad of Dukes of Hazard, Waylon Jennings.”

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