Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NASCAR Crewman - Part 2

Travis Geisler stands with the Daytona 500 trophy after the No. 12 car won the Great American Race in February.


By Mike Jones
Staff writer

Travis Geisler spent years at local short tracks and in the Busch Series before becoming a full-time crewman in 2006. He reached a dream job, but had never won with Yates or Penske. So the undisputed high point of his NASCAR career came in Feb. 15 when Ryan Newman won the Daytona 500 with a last-lap push from teammate Kurt Busch. Geisler watched countless 500s from the grandstands. Now he was standing in Victory Lane with his father, Lynn, on NASCAR’s grandest stage

“To be able to unload, go through two weeks at Daytona and watch the car to come across the start-finish first, it’s very difficult to explain,” said the 27-year-old. “Everybody there puts so much into that.”

Since the Cup series doesn’t race close to Pittsburgh, many of his family members traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the race. But he especially enjoys the fact he helped to deliver the first Daytona 500 victory to team owner Roger Penske, a man who has succeeded in just about everything in racing.

“We got our rings (in early July),” he said. “You put it on just to let you know what a special accomplishment and something you’ll have for the rest of your life.”

But the season has been difficult ever since that 500 triumph. Newman and Busch have struggled this season and both are outside the top-12 in the points standings for NASCAR’s playoffs. And now there are questions surrounding Penske ever since Newman and the team announced they are parting ways after seven seasons together. Newman is expected to drive the No. 4 car for Tony Stewart’s upstart team in 2009. In addition, the No. 12 car may be losing the Alltel sponsorship next year because the communications giant is merging with Verizon. New cellular telephone companies are forbidden from joining the sport due to Sprint’s exclusive agreement with NASCAR.

“The one thing about working in this sport is you become very comfortable with change,” Geisler said. “Very few teams stay the same. When it comes down to it, all our jobs are the same. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little bit concerned, but I’m more interested and curious than concerned. I’m excited about a new challenge and working with someone new.”

He is disappointed that Newman is leaving because of the close relationship they’ve built over the past two years. But Geisler is confident Penske’s outstanding ability to hire some of the sport’s best drivers will continue. Now his focus in on improving the car’s performance to secure a new sponsor while sending Newman off with another victory.

“We have 17 races with Ryan and that’s 17 great opportunities to win,” Geisler said last month. “He started his career here and doesn’t want to finish it running in the back. Our effort level won’t change.”

(Click here for Part 3)

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