Kelly Bires by Fr. Dale Grubba
Kelly Bires, from Mauston, WI, may be traveling under the radar by driving for the Wood Brothers but that has done little to dampen his enthusiasm. As the 2007 season comes to a close he is confident the future is a good one.
Bires began the summer sharing a Craftsman truck with Mark Martin. The team struggled on the short tracks and super speedways but excelled at the mile and a half tracks. One of his best races was at Kansas where he qualified third, ran in the top ten all day, and was in second ready to challenge Erik Darnell with 40 laps to go when the engine blew.
Then in June Bires began to concentrate on the Busch series. When he did he came away with the feeling that his car was a top fifteen car. He finished seventh at Kentucky, but felt he could have been third. A final restart found him in fifth, but he backed up instead of going forward.
“I’m just getting the hang of things,” Bires admits. “With the Cup guys in the series it is tough. For the first three quarters of the race you are racing the track, not the cars. You are trying to get the car to handle the best you can so that you will be able to move forward after the last pit stop. You work all day long to get the car better so you can be in the top fifteen at the end of the race.
“I definitely think it helped being down here two years ago. I feel like I have no pressure to run good. I don’t feel like I have to do more or that I haven’t done enough. I can just do my thing. Everything is working out for me. I’ll be driving the #47 Busch car full time next year.
“It’s unbelievable. A little over a year and a half ago I was driving late models in WI. Last year I was racing an ASA late model. Now I’m in the NASCAR Busch series. It is a dream come true, an opportunity, a privilege to drive these cars.
“Right now we are working for next year. To run in the top seven every week everything has to be right. I have to be right. The car has to be right. The crew has to be right on pit road. We are starting to get that. I feel like we can be a top 10 car every week. That’s what we are shooting for next year, to run in the top 10 and win some races. That is what we are focusing on.
“Right now we are all across the board with cars. We are focusing on building a standard car. We are updating our cars and building new ones so we can come out firing strong at Daytona.
“We don’t have the multi-car Cup team. The way I look at it we are basically a Busch team. Hendrick, Roush, Childress, are actually Cup teams running in the Busch series. They’ve got the ability to build not just quality, but a quantity of cars and choose from them. We don’t have a chance to hire top engineers. It looks like we will always be a step behind because of the money in this sport.
“It’s so tough. You can hit on all cylinders and run in the top ten with the Cup guys and think you’ve got it. Then you’re off a little bit the next week and twentieth again. It doesn’t happen over night. I think we are making the right decisions. I feel in two or three years we will have something.”
The NASCAR races that Bires has been running are much longer and that involves some special preparation for the 120-pound driver.
“In WI. I could drink pop and eat a full pizza before a 50-lap race and think nothing of it. Now I have to be right on the money. The night before I have to be hydrated, get enough sleep, and be focused. I drink six or seven bottles of water throughout the race. I’ve never weighed myself at the end of the race but I know my suit weighs about five to eight pounds more at the end of a race.”
Bires is leaving no stone unturned to make the most of the present opportunity. If he is home he is doing laundry or cleaning, not out having fun. The Wood Brothers team seems to be a good fit for the young, aspiring driver from Wisconsin.
Wimmer Looking Forward to 2008 With RCR
It was the beginning of the season and Richard Childress was explaining his decision to hire Wausau’s Scott Wimmer to drive twelve races for him. “I believe in Scott,” Childress said. “I think Scott’s a great driver, a good person, a winner who knows how to win. We talked to him a couple of years ago. We are happy to get him signed.”
From Wimmer’s perspective it was an offer that couldn’t be refused. “Richard said he had a part-time Busch deal he thought I would be a perfect fit for. It meant teaming up with Jeff Burton. It was exciting! I had never had a teammate before and I definitely had never had a teammate like Jeff Burton. I jumped on that opportunity pretty quick. I thought it was the best opportunity for me.
“Richard and I had always kept in touch, although we never really talked about a ride. He always wanted me to call him if I needed some advice or help. I needed a lot of help last year. I needed to get in some quality equipment and run real competitively. Fortunately he called me and it worked out for us. There aren’t many owners like that in the garage area and I’m grateful I’m with one of the few there are.”
What has it been like to have some of the best equipment available? Wimmer states that he has had to retrain himself. “When you’re not in good stuff you lose your feel for what a good car is really like,” Wimmer observes. “It’s been a bit of a transition, but it’s been fun trying to relearn it.”
“It’s really difficult,” Scott admits, “running with all the Cup guys every weekend because of all the laps they get on the track before our race. They’ve got about three more hours of practice.”
That has been the big difference in running in the Busch Series now compared to when Wimmer first competed in it. “Every weekend there are about twenty-five Cup drivers in the Busch race. I think there are five or six Cup drivers running full time. Jack Roush has four or five teams in the Busch Series. Childress has two teams plus another team that runs 18 races. Gibbs has got two full-time teams.
“Back when I was running the Series most owners had a Busch Series car and if it was a Cup affiliated team it consisted of all the guys they wanted to move up to Cup. It was an opportunity to practice. Now Busch teams are just like Cup teams. I wouldn’t be afraid to be in the Cup Series with my team. Last year we went to Homestead and finished twelfth in the Cup race with the very same team I’ve got this year. It is just another Cup series with a little different name.”
At the beginning of the year it was a struggle, but soon Wimmer found himself comfortable running competitively in the top fives and tens. The Milwaukee Busch race was a highlight.
“It was exciting,” says Wimmer. “I’ve been going to Milwaukee as long as I can remember. I’ve got a lot of great memories of sitting on top of a motor home in turn one watching a lot of great drivers. It was real special to run good there, to be competitive. We ran up front all night long, led some laps, and did everything right. We just couldn’t come away with the win. It was both exciting and disappointing. We just couldn’t close the deal at the end.”
The rest of the summer has been a good one for Wimmer. He finished third in the Meijer 300 at Sparta, KY. Then he set a track record, sat on the pole, and finished second in the Gateway 250 at Madison, IL. He also finished fifth in the Food City 250 at Bristol, TN.
“I never quite got a win, but I’ve been close,” Wimmer states. “I keep putting the pressure on myself to win one as a reward for the team.”
One of the things that Wimmer has discovered at Richard Childress Racing is great team chemistry. “You couldn’t ask for better teammates than Burton, Harvick, and Bowyer. Even when you have bad days these guys understand because they’ve been through them. It is a great company to be associated with. If you do well for them they reward you, try to get you more races, better people. I think that is why Richard has been around so long and has been so successful. No matter if it’s a driver or employee he treats you with a lot of respect and appreciates what you do for him. I’ve been really blessed to have this opportunity.”
Wimmer is already looking forward to 2008 when he will be with Richard Childress Racing again. He is scheduled to run 23 Busch races in the #29 car and is hoping to pick up another 12 races in a different Childress car, giving him the opportunity of running for the Busch championship. Wimmer is also scheduled to run 4 to 8 Cup races