It’ll be just a few hours before the Craftsman Trucks take to the track for the first time in 2006. The approaching action brings a great deal of excitement to the Orleans Racing team because it’ll give the Las Vegas, NV based team a chance to evaluate the numerous changes undertaken during the off-season.
First and foremost on the list of changes is the paring down of the organization from a two-truck operation to a single truck entity.
To that end the team has reduced its ranks and become a lean 28 member staff which will prepare Dodge trucks that carry the #77 for driver Brendan Gaughan. That 28 member staff has “touched every part” that goes onto Gaughan’s trucks in preparation for the upcoming season.
The changes started at the top with the management structure. Moving from his crew chief position, Charlie Wilson has taken over the duties of general manager for Orleans Racing. Buttressing Wilson in the shop is new hire, Tom Buzze. Buzze, with his many years of NASCAR experience, will handle the duties of shop foreman.
Heading Gaughan’s team is crew chief, Tony “Rambo” Liberati.
Explaining what Buzze brings to the table at Orleans Racing Rambo says, “He’s going to be a big help taking care of the shop and making sure that all the stuff that we’re trying to get changed and get squared away happens in a good and timely fashion.
“Last year when Charlie Wilson, the other crew chief and I were gone we didn’t have a whole lot of stuff going on in the shop. As everybody knows in racing when the guys go to the race track there’s a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t get done that you’d like to get done. Now with the addition of Tom I can leave and I know something’s going to get done. It might be wrong but something’s going to get done and when I get back it’s going to look different than when I left.”
Buzze knows he’s got challenges --- and not all of them have to do with the hardware that’ll carry Gaughan through a 25-race campaign in 2006.
“I think the biggest challenge is going to be the attitude of the people that are here,” notes Buzze. “There are people that have been here for a long time. When change happens some people accept it and get excited about it and some people are more resistant and say, ‘Well, we’ve done it this way for five years’. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, to get everybody to open their vision and look beyond what is immediately in front of them. They need to see what’s changed in five years.
“Look at the Truck Series right now. With all the Cup influence that you have in it it’s basically a Cup Series,” Buzze continued. “The guys that you’ve got running in it are very competitive. So we have to be able to standardize. I think that’s the biggest thing as far as equipment goes. Then we have to get the people on board also. That will be the biggest challenge. The standardizing, I think, is going to be easy because we know where to go to do that. To get the people that are here to conform to the systems, I think that will be the biggest challenge.”
Addressing the fleet of Dodges slated for 2006 Rambo says, “The good thing about going from two teams to one are the choices it offers us. We have a lot of equipment and it’s going to make it easier because we weeded out the stuff that’s bent and busted up and the stuff that Brendan didn’t like and didn’t run good. From the two-truck fleet we’re going to narrow it down and have a one-truck fleet that’s up and ready to go.
“There is nothing in the shop that hasn’t been touched. Everything’s been touched and changed in a different way, one way or the other.
“I just went after consistency,” Liberati added. “I wanted to make sure that all our chassis are consistent and all our bodies are consistent and all the components are consistent. We needed to have everything lined up and taken care of so that we can be somewhat consistent on components. Then from there we’ll go to working on more stuff.”
That’s where the years long relationship that Buzze and Liberati have forged will come into play.
“We’re a lot alike. If you think you can’t, you won’t,” Buzze says while looking at Liberati. “The only limit is what you put on yourself.
“As far as being a racer, I’ve raced my whole life. I started when I was a teenager running dirt cars in upstate New York. From there racing has been a constant staple. We want to win. If I ever had a love affair it’s with Victory Lane. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that with Rambo and different people winning in the Cup Series and the Busch Series. That’s what drives us, the passion.”
“I’m real excited,” added driver, Brendan Gaughan. “This team is more excited than they were in 2003. Some of these guys have been here since 2000 and they’re kind of my gauge – and the guys really have a pep in their step.”
Continuing Gaughan added, “Tony Liberati is back and that’s going to be a big deal for me, to have the same crew chief for a year and a half. He’s starting to understand the things I like. Tom Buzze is a huge plus for the team. And Charlie Wilson has moved over to general manager and he’s doing a fantastic job. He’s a stabilizing person – he kept that team together as it was over two seasons --- without Charlie it would have been worse.”
Now smiling Gaughan concluded, “We’ve got our Daytona, Fontana and Atlanta stuff ready and that gives the driver a warm feeling. I’m looking forward to getting the year started to see how the changes have helped.
“I’m really looking forward to 2006.”