PYLE, MCGOWAN CAPITALIZING ON EACH OTHER'S STRENGTHS by Jeremy Troiano & Bob Dillner
Duo Now Has The #63 Team Sitting Fifth In Points
McGowan, who led St. Amant to two ASA National Championships (1998 & 2000) and almost a third in 2002 (St. Amant finished second to Joey Clanton by one point), retired at the end of last season. That retirement didn't last long. Before the start of this season, McGowan returned to the ASA circuit by teaming up with Pyle and the WalTom Racing crew.
"I probably decided I wanted to get back into this right after Christmas," said McGowan. "I was just sitting around and doing nothing; I had nothing going on. I was checking websites out and saw that (WalTom) still didn't have anyone as a crew chief. Then I figured they wouldn't be interested, because there was no way I could do it full time. I gave them a phone call. I told them if they ever thought it could work, I would be interested."
The rest, they say, is history.
Now, halfway into their initial season together, Pyle and McGowan are still looking for their first win together, but they haven't been slouches by any stretch of the imagination. They have a series-leading two poles, five top-five finishes and six top-10s in nine races.
"It's been really good so far," said Pyle. "When Bill came onboard, he was bringing in all kinds of experience and that is something that is really important in racing these days. We just had to get used to each other and get used to our styles.
Pyle has been fast, but not quite good enough for career win #2.
"Bill he is from the old school of racing. He knows a lot about these cars and these racetracks. The biggest thing from him I think was getting used to these Howe cars. But he has worked with Howe car before and like he says, 'it is just a bunch of steel.'
"Our biggest change was really on my end. I needed to let Bill take more control of things. I've always been a big part of the setups and the way the cars are prepared. I still am, but it is nice because I can now focus on being more of the driver."
And being a better and more intense driver is what Pyle has focused on this year. While he's often been called one of the cleanest and most respectful drivers in the series, this year he has learned to be more aggressive when he has to.
Just weeks ago, at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, Pyle showed a little aggression. After being moved out of the way a couple of times by rookie Travis Kittleson, Pyle returned the favor and came home with his third runner-up finish of the season.
"There are differences between working with Gary and working with Robbie," said McGowan. "Gary was good at getting what he needed to get done without people seeing it. Robbie is much more respectful (of a driver) and when something happens with him, people really focus on what he does. They didn't focus on Gary when someone got into him; they just knew Gary would get them back at the right time. Robbie is learning that now.
"That is the biggest difference between working with the two of them their communication with me because they have a very similar driving style. Robbie has an engineering mind; he can tell me things in ways that I don't' even understand sometimes. It is good though. It is a little easier to get exactly what he is looking for.
"They aren't really any different on the radio. They talk when they need to. Otherwise, they stay pretty quiet."
Bill McGowan (left) and Robbie Pyle (right) have formed a sort of "dream team" in ASA.
Robbie Pyle and Gary St. Amant are the "Buckeye Bullets" in ASA. Yes, they both come from Ohio, both of them have been winners in ASA and both have somewhat similar driving style, but those are not the only similarities they share. They now have also worked with legendary ASA crew chief Bill McGowan.
The season started out a little slow for Pyle and even now at the halfway point, the team still hasn't been able to shake the mechanical bug that has seemed to bite them for the last two seasons.
Since joining the series in 2001, the WalTom team has scored only one victory. That number doesn't do the team justice, as they have been the fastest car in many events.
"Most of the things that have hindered us this year are things that I have done, not that the team has done or that Robbie has done," McGowan admits. "I am kind of embarrassed about that.
"It really has been good between the two of us. We are right there on the edge of winning. We just need a few other things to go our way. We're only halfway through with this season, so we have plenty of time to get it back in line."
"We are really good, but we are just missing something," said Pyle. "I don't know what that one thing is. Sometimes it is just a couple other seconds on our pits; sometimes the driver needs to do a little more; maybe we need a better handling racecar and sometimes it is a small combination of both.
"But it hasn't been Bill. He's brought a lot of light to this team. We felt like that experience was the one thing we were missing last year; now we have that. It is just taking some time to capitalize on it. We've been fast in all of our races together, that isn't a problem. We just need to put it all together."
The #63 car hasn't put up the finishes they had hoped for in '03.
Unlike many crew chiefs, McGowan doesn't spend the entire week at the race shop. Yet, when he does, it requires a big trip from his home in Michigan, where he works for the state full-time, to the Chicago-based CITGO shops.
"We communicate back in forth a lot during the week," said McGowan. "I might make a couple of trips (about 2 hours and 45 min) during the week at night to go through setup and everything so we are on the same page when we get to the track."
And when they get to the track, the WalTom team is always fast. Look at the top of the speed charts during qualifying and you are sure to see the #63 CITGO Chevrolet with Robbie Pyle.
"I know it is going to be really sweet when we start hitting on everything we are looking for," added Pyle. "I've learned a lot from Bill and I hope he has learned something from me so far this year. Funny part is that we both still learn from Gary (St. Amant) too.
"Bill has this calming feeling about him. When something doesn't go right, so many people get mad. Bill is not like that. He is all about learning from the mistake and moving on. It is a much needed calming factor for this team, especially when so many little mechanical problems go wrong with this team."
And that could make for a pretty interesting victory lane celebration when the CITGO team finally hits Victory Lane this year. With the calming presence of both Robbie Pyle and Bill McGowan, Victory Lane might explode with emotion they have been holding inside for so long. And we're pretty sure that'll happen sometime soon!