I don’t see it.
Media writers and broadcasters have gone on record in 2011 to boast of Red Bull Racing’s expected rise in competitive nature. I am going against the grain and saying they won’t rise very far into the 20-something ranked teams.
I used to work there.
Don’t expect a disgruntled, ex-employer-bashing rant based on spite here. But I have an honest assessment of the race team from my time spent and it is negative.
I have worked for plenty of race teams in my life, seen many different ways of doing things and dealt with countless unique personalities. But Red Bull Racing was the worst managed team I have been involved with. That includes the street stock and modified teams I volunteered on years ago.
The team is engineering driven. Meaning what an engineer says, goes.
When executed, experienced racer’s ideas were being ignored. Young men and women with no racing experience whatsoever and fresh out of school, were calling the shots because they possessed a college degree. A piece of paper that claimed the engineer knew what they were talking about trumped a mechanic with a high school education but 20 years of stock car racing to his credit.
Fresh-faced graduates that didn’t even know what a mini-stock was, much less lowered themselves to work on one, found their way to a position of decision-making power on a race team in the highest series in the United States. Other sports have players that work their way up through talent, not NASCAR. Knowing the correct person could pave a career path.
Last year Scott Speed and a rotating cast of mid-packers featuring Casey Mears and Reed Sorensen piloted the Red Bull fleet. This year Brian Vickers returns following an extended absence for health issues. Kasey Kahne makes a one-year stop prior to his Hendrick Motorsports move in 2012.
Talented drivers cannot take inferior machines to the front. Red Bull racing is assisted by the fact Cup racing is so close to a spec series.
But good drivers do make a difference. J.J. Yeley steered the 18 before Kyle Busch. Jason Leffler did likewise in the 11 car before Denny Hamlin. With the former drivers the only instances either team got TV airtime was on the accident reply. Now look how competitive both cars are by only changing the seats. Vickers and Kahne are a huge improvement for Red Bull compared to 2010’s lineup.
Red Bull Racing entered full time Cup competition in 2007 building all new cars from scratch when the COT and the former chassis split the schedule. If the decision were made to wait until 2008 to debut, only one type of chassis would have needed to be constructed. Therefore saving them millions of dollars.
A.J. Allmendinger was brought on by the team to be developed. When he had learned and was ready to shine, he was let go.
The first season’s general manager did not even know what Charlotte’s All-Star Weekend was. That’s right, he managed a Cup team and was puzzled when the All Star Race was mentioned. I am not kidding.
The list of poor decisions goes on and on.
Reliable but unconfirmed statements came from co-workers that Red Bull started with a budget of $25 million per season, per car. Money was not a concern.
I honestly do wish Kahne and Vickers well. More so I wish my former co-workers success. In spite of having their hands tied by upper management, there are knowledgeable, good racers with dirt under their fingernail bolting cars together.
Media members picking this team for a breakout 2011 don’t have the view I once did. From inside the shop working with my tools and building cars. And having repeated conversations with the guys alongside me with the same basic theme, “What the heck are we doing here?”
For the sake of my friends who are still on board I hope I am wrong.
But until the basic thinking changes that Red Bull Racing is an actual racing team and not an engineering team, their performance will be handicapped. If the same attitudes still exist with the decision-makers, then at best look for a top-twenty championship finish.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
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