Friday, June 22, 2018

INTERVIEW: "Hollywood" Tomy Drissi looks to close the gap in Sonoma return

Drissi's StarCom Racing entry in inspection at Sonoma
PHOTO: Brock Beard
After speaking with StarCom Racing team owner Derrike Cope this morning, we caught up with the team's driver Tomy Drissi after the first two practice sessions. While he ranked last in both sessions, the driver said he was closing the gap in final practice, and is ready for the next step in his first Toyota / Save Mart 350 since 2014.

HOW DID IT GO OUT THERE TODAY?
DRISSI: “You know, getting back in one of these cars after years like this, it’s a change, you know? We were in a Trans-Am car here a couple weeks ago here and Indy last weekend, and you know, we’re real fast, a 2nd and a 3rd, you know, now you come out here and it’s, you know, four, 500 pounds of weight, half the size of the tire, and you know, don’t have the brakes that those other cars have, so I thought I’d already be ready for that in my head and obviously, these guys are all amazing. Everyone – all [38] cars here won a championship in everything, in something, including me, but I did it in sports cars. These guys did it in these big cars. So, just trying to figure out what to do.”

“Also, I’m not the best communicator when it comes to these cars, so we may have come out of the trailer decent and I may have talked myself into a slower car, you know? But that’s the only way to learn is to make some changes. So, you know, Derrike (Cope), Alicia, and all the boys and girls on this team, they’re working their heart off, just working so hard, trying to get me a fast car. And I think I just told them, you know, I can find another second, but they need to find me a little bit more of a comfortable car. It seems a little loose on the high speed stuff and over here, man, those Esses and that last corner is pretty quick. That second-to-the-last corner is pretty quick. And it’s just a little unnerving when that back end steps out like that. So, I’m just honored to be here with the best drivers and best teams in the world.”

CAN YOU COMMENT MORE ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CUP AND TRANS-AM?
DRISSI: “I mean, when you talk about a Trans-Am car, it’s probably one of the best road course cars in the world without driver aid. So, what I mean by driver aid is like NASCAR – no traction control, no ABS brakes, not that much downforce. But those are silhouette-bodied pretty much prototypes, you know? And they’re some of the most amazing cars to drive. And so are these, you know, I mean these things you’ve gotta hang on to the wheel, you’ve gotta muscle it around, and you know, I think we maybe we might – we went on a couple, we went on a sticker run, and I think that, and me not knowing the cars very well, I may not be good for those first two, three laps. And that’s where you’re seeing these good times come. But they looked at the times after a lot of the drivers got to Lap 10 to 15 and I really closed-up the gap a lot there, so that might be my road course experience to be able to run with older tires better. And anybody who knows racing, you’re only on good tires for two laps, you’re on old tires for the rest of the stint, which is about another 28 laps.”

TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE GOSHARE SPONSORSHIP; WE’RE USED TO SEEING YOU PROMOTE MOVIES ON YOUR CARS.
DRISSI: “Yeah, we almost had a big movie on here, but GoShare, they’ve been taking care of me in Trans-Am. The owner of the Trans-Am team I drive for, he’s a partner in GoShare, and it’s a great company – it’s Uber for trucks. You know, so trucks, moving, and all that stuff. When I heard about it – sometimes you take your little Mini Cooper to a Home Depot, or what’s Jimmie Johnson a plug here (looks over at 48 pit) Lowe’s, and you bring your little Camaro or Corvette to one of those places and you just buy too much – well, you can’t stuff everything in the car. So, you can call GoShare, they’ll come over right there like an Uber, pick up your stuff, and take you home.”

WHAT MOVIE WERE YOU ABOUT TO PROMOTE BEFORE GOSHARE STEPPED UP?
DRISSI: “I’m in negotiations with a couple of movies coming – coming soon. So, a couple big blockbusters coming, so I’ll have a few big movies on my cars this year. I can’t say which ones yet because I don’t want to jinx it, but thanks for remembering. You know, all the boys and girls in Hollywood, they’ve supported me in racing for a long time. I mean, we had Wolverine here, we’ve had the Ice Age car, that was great, we had Hercules. We’ve had a lot of great movies. We had Spongebob Squarepants. I think somebody called me and said they want me in the Guinness Book of Records because I think they said I marketed over 80 movies on race cars and they say that’s more than any other team, movies, combined since the history of racing (laughs). So, hey, you know what? Thanks to all the fans, you know, I got a lot of support here, a lot of guys saying hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You coming over here to say hello, I appreciate it.”

INTERVIEW: Parker Kligerman averts near-disaster at the end of final practice at Sonoma

Parker Kligerman had never before seen the Sonoma Raceway before he stopped at the track on his way to the hotel Thursday night. This Sunday, he'll make his first Toyota / Save Mart 350 driving the #96 Toyota fielded by Gaunt Brothers Racing. In the closing stages of Friday's second practice session, Kligerman's car unexpectedly stopped near pit entrance, and Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Cole Whitt narrowly avoided a collision. We caught up with Kligerman after that session.

WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU AND THE NO. 34 AT THE END OF HAPPY HOUR?
KLIGERMAN: “Dude, I was coasting around and I didn’t hear anything about him really coming, I looked up in my mirror and saw him coming – I was coasting because we were on a mock run, it was 280 degrees so I was trying to keep the engine cool – and he’s just suddenly in my mirror so I darted to the inside to get out of his way and I guess I hurt his lap. He shoved me all the way to the right and I looked in the mirror and see it’s pretty clear so I just darted left, but the engine didn’t re-fire at the same time. Yeah, it was a bit of a calamity, and I’m just glad nobody got messed-up. Probably my fault entirely, like every facet of it, but it was just a comedy of errors that happens when you’re trying to get out of the way on a hot race track and, you know, I didn’t have any info he was coming, so I just kind of had to react, so I did.”

OTHER THAN THAT, HOW DID PRACTICE GO TODAY?
KLIGERMAN: “Solid. I felt we could’ve been – man, I just didn’t get everything on our mock run which was on new tires, and I only got one new tire run. So, I felt like I left easy like almost half a second on the track, and I confirmed it because I was on old tires at the end and on two-lap tires I was able to go the same speed. So, you’ve gotta think that’s at least half a second in just tires because they fall off so quickly. So, good speed and race runs we were decent, we’ll look at the averages now and see where we stack up. But, you know, for this team, young team, myself never being here – I’ve never even seen this place – we’re doing good things. We didn’t put up the big number on the board there, but they pay more tomorrow and obviously on Sunday. And I think obviously there’s a lot for me to learn – I’m just doing the best that I can as quickly as possible so I can learn it.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR QUALIFYING AND THE RACE?
KLIGERMAN: “You know, I would love us to be Top 25. You know, if we could do that, we’re killing it, and we’d be beating some solid cars. And, you know, first practice we were like 28th, 29th, and we beat some good cars and I think some guys who’ve been here or at least are running the K&N race and I’m not getting any of that. So, I was pretty pumped about that. And then we got into this practice and I just didn’t get it all on that mock run and we fell back a little bit. But we get Top 25 and then run there in the race, I’d be really happy.

ANY OTHER PLANS TO RUN WITH THE GAUNT BROTHERS LATER THIS YEAR?
KLIGERMAN: “Yeah, you know, I thank everyone here at Gaunt Brothers Racing for giving me these opportunities these last two weeks. You know, it’s funny because, you know, doing the truck stuff part-time (for Henderson Motorsports) is going so well and obviously winning the race and running up front, and I think we can win a lot more races up there in that 75 truck, and probably should’ve won Dover this year. And I’ve come over here and it’s like starting back at square one (laughs). I feel like at times ‘damn, there’s so much to learn.’ So, it’s really tough. Cup is Cup. You’d think some of these back teams aren’t prepared, but they are, they do this for a living, so it means everything to them and so they race like it and prepare like it. So, you know, it might not look very impressive in the outside world, but it’s very hard. So, I think I have a massive appreciation for, you know, this part of the garage in Cup and Cup in general, but I’m getting better. So, hopefully, they’ll give me some more chances trying to get better.

INTERVIEW: Trevor Bayne preparing for Sonoma return

Bayne with Michael McDowell
before practice.
PHOTO: Brock Beard
We spoke with Trevor Bayne as he prepared to get in the #6 AdvoCare Rehydrate Ford. Sunday will mark his fourth-straight Sonoma start, but his first in Cup since May 6 at Dover. In the four races since, Matt Kenseth has driven the Roush-Fenway Racing entry with a best of 13th at Michigan.

IN YOUR PREVIOUS FOUR SONOMA STARTS, YOU COMPLETED ALL BUT ONE LAP HERE. WHAT’S YOUR GOAL FOR THIS WEEKEND?
BAYNE: “Complete all the laps again (laughs). Just take care of the car. We’ve done good at that. Last year, we overheated really bad – every time someone would run off the track, they’d throw grass up and get caked-up in our grille. So, hopefully that problem is resolved and we can have a good day. I feel like our road course program’s come a long way. Finished Top 10 at Watkins Glen a couple years ago and had some good runs here so we’re gonna keep working on it, go out and try and get a Top 15 this weekend.”

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN PREPARING FOR THIS WEEKEND?
BAYNE: “No testing – just watched video and study data and do all the normal stuff, so that’s all you can do.”

INTERVIEW: Derrike Cope on StarCom Racing's progress, Tomy Drissi, and the second half of 2018

I spoke with Derrike Cope on Friday morning as the #00 GoShare Chevrolet went through inspection before opening practice at the Sonoma Raceway. The car will be driven this weekend by Trans-Am competitor Tomy Drissi, who last ran the NASCAR event here in 2014.

HOW DID THIS DEAL WITH TOMY DRISSI COME TOGETHER?
COPE: “You know, I’ve known Tomy for a long time. Done some testing with him and driver development and he’s just a friend. So, we called him and talked to him about putting together a deal to come here and run Sonoma and it’s just kind of a home week for me. I like having him around, he’s a proficient road racer, so we’re gonna have some fun this weekend.”

WHY NO MOVIE PROMOTION ON THE NO. 00, AS IN PREVIOUS DRISSI RACES?
COPE: “No, it was actually – I got Tomy on board first and then he worked with some things to try and put the funding together to support it. But yeah, it’s really about Tomy and our program here. I’m excited about our owners’ first opportunity, it’s a brand-new team, and their first opportunity to be here at Sonoma, so Matt and Mike Kohler, Bill Woehlemann (owners of StarCom Fiber), and Ashley-Marie Monica (Team Adviser), they’re just four great people we have on this team and I think they’re gonna enjoy having Tomy around this weekend.”

WILL TOMY RUN THE OTHER ROAD COURSES FOR YOU?
COPE: “Yeah, I think we’re looking into having some discussions, you know, just taking one race at a time, you know, just trying to get through here and we’ll see how things go and see what he feels like how the equipment runs, and we’ll explore opportunities from there.”

HOW DO YOU SEE STARCOM’S PROGRESS THIS YEAR?
COPE: “I think it was a bit slow at the beginning just trying to get our legs under us. But we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. Certainly, Landon Cassill’s been very, you know, condusive to our program and trying to get us to where we have a stable fixture in the seat and some good input. And I think we’ve made some in-roads in the suspension and the geometry side of the cars and finding some of the deficiencies we’ve had with some flexing and rear brake and chasses and so we’ve rectified those things and I think we’ve kind of found some footing, some solid footing, and we’re being relatively consistent right now. So, obviously the road courses are an anomaly and different scenarios, so we’ll get through this one here and see how we fare.”

“But looking forward to getting the second half of the year going – obviously Daytona is looming and we’ll have good opportunity to have good feedback down there with ECR engines. So we’re excited and we’ll see how the second half of the year starts to stack up. But right now, I’d have to say we’re doing relatively well. We’ve overachieved in a couple of races. But certainly with the group that we’re racing towards the back, we seem to be kind of holding our own.”