Local duo big part of Kenseth team
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Lehighton native Mike Bugarewicz, engineer for the No. 17 car of Matt Kenseth, mans his post aside crew chief Jimmy Fennig in the pit a rea at Pocono.
LONG POND - It's not too often that you find more than one local person employed by a NASCAR Sprint Cup racing team. When you find two and they're working for the same crew, it's a real surprise.
Brent Wentz, a Palmerton High grad, and Mike Bugarewicz, who graduated from Lehighton High in 2000, are both employed by Roush Fenway Racing and are crew members for the No. 17 Affliction Clothing Ford Fusion driven by Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth, who started 27th in Sunday's 5-hour Energy500 here at Pocono Raceway, sits in 7th place in the Driver's Standings and has won two Sprint Cup races (on April 9 at Texas Motor Speedway and at Dover on May 15) this year.
Wentz joined the Kenseth team four and a half years ago and is the lead mechanic. Bugarewicz is in his first year as an engineer with the No. 17 team, but he's been with Roush Fenway since he got his start, spending time with David Ragan and Paul Menard after initially working with its Busch and Truck teams.
"It's been as good year for the entire Roush Fenway team and we have an alliance with Petty Enterprises who has two cars are they're running better," said Wentz prior to Sunday's race."
Wentz seems to feel that the new FR9 engine that Doug Yates was working on for at least
three years that the team is running is what's made Roush Racing successful this year.
"I worked for Doug and his dad Robert and they're really particular about putting something out there that is a good product.. You could tell every week we have a little edge in horsepower that everybody. Our engineering department has also stepped up a lot this year and that's a big part of it, too."
Bugarewicz is also happy with the way things have been going thus far.
"Our whole organization has been running really well this year," he said. "We've got quite a few wins, we've got Carl (Edwards) leading the points, we're in the Top 10 sitting seventh right now. The 16 (Greg Biffle) has been coming along here and David (Ragan) is having a great year too getting his first win at the All-Star event."
A typical race week for Wentz starts with a day off Monday after traveling Thursday through Sunday (normally race day). He goes back in Tuesday to start preparing the car for the next race. On Wednesday, the crew does all of the preparation making sure everything is in the tool box and the truck that will be needed and get the guys out on the road and then Thursday the crew leaves for the race track.
Bugarewicz's week is a little different, since he sits by Crew Chief Jimmy Fennig's side in the pits and his main job is to work on race strategy and what changes they are going to make, whether it be tire pressure or track bar adjustments, watching fuel mileage or stuff like that. Then it's post-race meetings on Monday where they hash out what they did do well and what they could have done to make the finish better.
Bugarewicz and the other engineers do a lot together and there is a lot of communication between them.
"There's a lot of sharing between us," said Bugarewicz. "We all have an idea of what each other is doing and we feed off of each other. Say the 6 found a direction, we can all pounce on it pretty quickly and hopefully get all of our cars on the right track."
Since the racing industry took a hit a couple of years back when the economy slowed down, Wentz sees it taking a turn for the better.
"You don't see as many cars without sponsors. Some of the cars have sponsors that are low budget, but you don't see a lot of plain jane cars anymore.
"You still see the effects of it in the grandstands at all of the tracks. They're not as full as they used to be."
Wentz and Bugarewicz both credit the time they spent in the Busch Series for giving them the knowledge to make their job easier on the Sprint Cup Series.
"When I worked on the Busch Series, it would be eight guys working on one car," said Wentz. "Now, with all of the teams combined, there are about 300 people, so you don't get to do as much as you used to do.
"I like working with Matt (Kenseth)," said Wentz. "He's a race car driver. He doesn't really care to be on billboards or this and that. He's low key and an excellent racer. He takes care of his equipment and knows when to go."
Coming to Pocono is always a big treat for the two since it's basically coming home.
:"I like this series because we get to come to Pocono," said Wentz. "I don't have to use vacation to come and see my family. We basically get two weeks off a year and you have to use it over Thanksgiving and Christmas because once the racing stops, we start working on next year. We work more in the winter time building and rebuilding new cars, than we do during the racing season."
Both never know from year-to-year what the future holds, but don't be surprised if they keep moving up the ladder on the Sprint Cup scene.