Inspiring Athletes

Inspiring Athletes

A conversation with NASCAR crew chief Dave Rogers

posted by Chad Bonham
Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 - Practice

Dave Rogers (left) talks with Kyle Busch (right), driver of the #18 Snickers Toyota in the garage area at Michigan Speedway. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images/Courtesy of NASCAR Media)

Since 1998, Dave Rogers has been fully immersed into the unique culture of Joe Gibbs Racing. From his start as race engineer for Tony Stewart’s #20 team to his current post as crew chief for Kyle Busch’s #18 team, Rogers has been through plenty of changes yet found stability under Gibbs’ leadership.

In this Inspiring Athletes interview, Rogers talks about how he deals with year-to-year changes within the sport, how he balances his faith and his family with work, how his driver Kyle Busch has matured over the years, and why he isn’t always crazy about the media attention that comes with the job:

Chad Bonham: How do approach the challenges of each new season whether that’s moving to a new team, dealing with new rules or handling adversity?

Dave Rogers: I’ve had a lot of changes in my career, but the good thing is that I’ve been with Joe Gibbs Racing for almost 16 years. There’s a level of comfort there. The job responsibilities and the people you work with change from year to year. But I can’t say enough good things about Joe Gibbs Racing and the support structure there and all the guys that work there. The change is really seamless. I think we do a good job of promoting from within and encouraging people to set goals and accomplish them. That type of environment makes it easy to switch job positions every now and then.

Bonham: How have you taken advantage of having men like Joe Gibbs and Norm Miller (owner of Interstate Batteries) as mentors in your life?

Rogers: Probably the coolest part of my job is the relationship that I’ve built with Joe Gibbs. Joe has treated me extremely well over the years. I value every time he comes in my office and closes the door and just wants to talk. Sometimes we talk about racing, but more often we talk about life. The challenges that we fight in this sport are the same challenges that people fight in life every day. Joe has three Cup titles. He’s got three Super Bowl championships. He walks the talk. He’s a man of great character. He feels comfortable sharing some of those experiences with me and I treasure that.

Bonham: How do you deal with the ups and downs that come with week-to-week racing?

Rogers: That’s actually much harder than changing jobs within the company—keeping perspective on how the season is going and how you’re racing. That’s very tough because this is a performance-based industry. You’ll hear people in the garage area say things like, “You’re only as good as your last performance.” We know that’s not really true. But we know that if you put your self-worth in a sport, then that becomes true for you. That’s something Joe preaches. Don’t put your self-worth in a sport. But it’s tough. That’s one of the tougher challenges. You’re expected to perform. So we always try to bring our A-game.

Bonham: How have you seen Kyle Busch mature over the past two or three years?

Bank of America 500 - Practice

Dave Rogers (left) speaks with Kyle Busch (right) during practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR/Courtesy of NASCAR Media)

Rogers: Kyle is still a young guy, but we’ve learned a lot together over the years. We’ve had a lot of fun working together since late 2009. I see exponential growth every off-season. I think Kyle does a good job looking back at each season and evaluating his pluses and minuses. He does a good job of learning from that and then applying those lessons to the next year. Every year, I’ve seen maturity and growth out of Kyle. This year is no exception.

Bonham: How important is it for you to have access to the chaplains and chapel services that Motor Racing Outreach provides every weekend at the track?

Rogers: MRO provides a great service to everyone in the garage area. We typically work 80 to 90 hours a week. It’s seven days a week. It’s 125 days a year on the road. There’s a lot of travel and a lot of hours. Joe does a good job of preaching faith first, family second, occupation third. But when you at the hours in a day, the occupation ranks number one. So you’ve got to exchange quantity for quality when you’re talking about your faith and your home life. It’s tough to keep everything balanced. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges that guys on the road face. Each year, our management team does a good job of trying to shuffle resources around to make sure people get rest and take care of things other than work.

Bonham: Crew chiefs get more attention from the media and the fans than ever before. Are you comfortable with the extra attention and how do you deal with it?

Rogers: That’s the part I didn’t sign up for. I accepted it when I signed on the dotted line but that’s not why I did it. Everyone in this sport loves working on racecars. I love leading people. I love being someone that my guys can lean on and hopefully talk to. I love setting direction. That’s in my nature. The media stuff, the interviews, the TV cameras—it’s tough for me. I’d rather not see my face on TV. I’d rather not see my quotes written in the press. But it’s part of the deal. The good part is I get to work on racecars. The bad part is every now and then there’s a spotlight shining on me. But in the end, it’s worth it.

Read about the history of the faith movement within NASCAR. Pick up a copy of Faith in the Fast Lane featuring stories and commentary from Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Labonte, Ned Jarrett, Bobby Allison, Matt Kenseth and many more racing personalities.

A conversation with NASCAR driver Blake Koch

posted by Chad Bonham
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Blake Koch (photo courtesy NASCARMedia.com)

NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Blake Koch (photo courtesy NASCARMedia.com)

Blake Koch has never been afraid of hard work. And that’s a good thing considering how difficult it is to break into NASCAR—especially when driving for small, underfunded teams.

Over the past six years, Koch has raced in all three major series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck) for no less than 15 different owners. But that hasn’t slowed him down from pursuing his dream. More importantly, however, has been his desire to use the NASCAR platform as a way to share the Gospel message of Christ.

In this Inspiring Athletes interview, Koch talks about his relationship with other young Christian drivers within the sport and how he deals with the ups and downs of sponsorship and on-track performance:

Chad Bonham: How important has it been to have a solid support group (guys like Michael McDowell, Trevor Bayne, etc.) to help you get through the uncertainty of the racing business?

Blake Koch: I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. There’s been a lot of growth for me as a driver and spiritually too. I’ve been plugged in with the right group of guys and that started from the beginning. Sometimes it seems like things are going the right way but when I look back I really do love the way everything has happened. Last year looked like it was going to be a great year at the beginning and then everything started falling apart, but through that I developed a great relationship with my team owner and I was able to help lead him to Christ and now he’s going to church with his family. So yeah, when you look at things from a racing standpoint, it’s been a rough couple of years, but spiritually it’s been awesome.

Bonham: Everyone seems to be struggling with sponsorship these days. How do you deal with that element of the sport—especially during the offseason between November and February?

Blake Koch's car at the DRIVE4COPD 300 in Daytona was sponsored by the Son of God movie. (Photo courtesy of NASCARMedia.com)

Blake Koch’s car at the DRIVE4COPD 300 in Daytona was sponsored by the Son of God movie. (Photo courtesy of NASCARMedia.com)

Koch: It’s tough to get that sponsor that’s going to stick with you all through the year. There just aren’t many of them that do that anymore. You have to put smaller deals together—five race deals, 10 race deals, one race deals. After those deals are up you’ve got to do it all over again. I’d love to be in a competitive car every week but just being around the track is a dream come true and a great opportunity. It sure as heck beats working for a living (laughs).

Bonham: What did you learn about the business of racing and yourself in light of the sponsorship controversy (Koch lost a 20-race deal with the Rise Up and Register Campaign when ESPN rejected the sponsor’s advertisements) from 2012?

Koch: It was a crazy time in my life. I don’t really let things bother me too bad so it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. There was an issue with ESPN and we resolved it. I don’t get mad at people. I was just wondering what was going on and what the outcome was going to be. Looking back, the outcome ended up being great for me career wise. I had it easy for a while. I had a sponsor every week. I raced every week with no problems. Then I lost my sponsorship and I had to race my way in every weekend. It taught me how to unload and get up to qualifying trim right away. I had to do that for a year or so. And then when I had the chance to get into a really fast racecar, I was ready. Something like that just prepared me for where I am to and the opportunities that are on the way. So yeah, that was an interesting time in my career. I even got to go on Fox News and I’d never watched Fox News before that. But as long as you speak the truth and say what’s on your heart, you can’t do anything wrong.

Blake Koch is one of several drivers who were interviewed for the book Faith in the Fast Lane: How NASCAR Found Jesus.

Keep up with the latest news about Blake’s racing career by visiting his official website www.blakekoch.com.

A conversation with NASCAR driver Michael McDowell

posted by Chad Bonham
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Michael McDowell (Photo by Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Michael McDowell (Photo by Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Michael McDowell has been quietly building confidence and a solid résumé over the past seven years. It hasn’t been the easiest transition for the former open wheel racer and road course specialist, but his determination to make a permanent home in NASCAR and stronger desire to have a larger impact within the garage has driven him right to the edge of a significant breakthrough.

Earlier this year, Inspiring Athletes caught up with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver McDowell who talked about the group of Christian drivers that he leads, the unique spiritual makeup of the sport and the benefit of working for several Christian owners throughout his career:

Chad Bonham: As a group of young drivers trying to live for God within the context of the NASCAR garage, how does the larger group work together to help an individual who might be facing challenges?

Michael McDowell: Our relationships go way beyond the racetrack and the Bible study. We all do life together—especially me and Trevor and Blake and Josh and a handful of other guys. When Blake was going through some sponsorship issues, he was calling us and asking us what we thought about it. You just walk through those things with them and give them someone to lean on and give them good advice.

Bonham: What is the atmosphere like in the garage as a group of outspoken Christians?

McDowell: If you look at other places in the world, we’ve got it easy in NASCAR. There’s no persecution here. We were having a Bible study in the RV lot and there were about 10 of us guys just walking around with our Bibles and no one cared what we were doing. There’s always going to be trials but it’s just how you get through them. God doesn’t waste any of them. Every trial is an opportunity to upgrade your character. It’s just part of our growth and part of who we are. God is good even when the circumstances aren’t. God is still good.

Bonham: Has your journey through NASCAR been a little smoother because of your opportunity to drive for several Christian owners like Joe Gibbs, Phil Parsons and Randy MacDonald?

Michael McDowell in the #95 K-LOVE Ford (Photo by Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Michael McDowell in the #95 K-LOVE Ford (Photo by Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)

McDowell: Yeah, this is a really cool sport. For me, I’m not just trying to drive for Christian teams. That’s not my goal. But it is nice. After 2008, I struggled in the Cup Series and it didn’t work out for Michael Waltrip Racing. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next. My commitment to living out my faith became intensified. Before 2009 started, my prayer was really, “God I don’t know if you want me to be in racing or not, but whatever I do, it’s going to be with a mindset of living out my faith and being outspoken about it.” I’ve just been fortunate to work with people that are likeminded. But it’s easy in this sport because there are a lot of people in this sport like that. It’s definitely cool and you learn a lot from those experiences. You go from a team like Randy MacDonald’s, which had no money, and then I get to go race for Joe Gibbs. I’ve had some success over there and I’ve had some great runs. I’ve come close to winning races a couple times. I’m very thankful for that opportunity. This sport is crazy. There are so many ups and downs. If your faith is determined by your circumstances, it’s never going to work.

Michael McDowell wrote the forward to the 2014 book release Faith in the Fast Lane. Check that out along with the incredible story of “How NASCAR Found Jesus.”

You can also keep up with Michael McDowell’s career by visiting his official website HERE.

 

Kevin Durant wins first career NBA MVP Award

posted by Chad Bonham
Kevin Durant, 2014 NBA MVP (Photo courtesy of NBA)

Kevin Durant, 2014 NBA MVP (Photo courtesy of NBA)

On Tuesday, Kevin Durant won his first career NBA Most Valuable Player award. His acceptance speech has quickly become the source of great inspiration across the country. Durant is truly a unique soul in a league where the biggest names rarely display such authentic humility.

I’ve had the chance to interview Durant a couple of times over the past few seasons. In this composite of those conversations, he gives credit to spiritual leaders such as his mother and his former teammate (and current Connecticut head coach) Kevin Ollie for leading him down the right path and talks about his desire to honor God in everything he does:

Chad Bonham: What did you take away from the 2012 NBA Finals? Did you appreciate the accomplishment of dethroning the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals or were you mostly disappointed that you fell short against the Miami Heat?

Kevin Durant: You can’t take that stuff for granted. People play in this league for 15 years and never make it to the Finals. We did it with a bunch of young guys. It was a great experience for us. We really enjoyed going through that. It was really fun.

Bonham: How have you grown as a leader since coming so close to an NBA championship?

Durant: Experience is the best teacher. I’ve been through a lot—going to the Olympics, going to the Finals, having a lot of good games and having a lot of bad games. It’s a rollercoaster ride and I’m just happy I’m a part of it. If it was easy, then everybody could do it. I’ve learned so much about myself and about my game, and I just keep growing every single year. It’s fun that I get to live out my dream every single day. It’s a blessing. I can’t lose sight of that and I’ve just got to keep pushing.

Bonham: What is the foundation of your strong faith?

Durant: It comes from my family. I went to a Christian school. I was always intrigued simply about how we got here. Why do we do the things we do? Who made us like this? My mom always sat me down and talked to me and I have spiritual teachers that help me out. I’m not perfect at all by any means. I’ve got a long way to go to become closer to the Lord but hopefully I can continue to stay on the path. I might take a few steps forward and take a couple steps back and take some steps forward, but I want to get better.

Bonham: Talk about how Kevin Ollie influenced you when he played in Oklahoma City.

Durant: He’s unbelievable. He got everybody going (to chapel) and wanting to learn more. I was just one of the guys who was trying to follow his lead. He was a big teacher in helping me do that and making me feel more comfortable in my faith around other people and being able to pray for other people and pray out loud and things like that; take those baby steps. I’ve been trying to do a better job.

Bonham: Are you encouraged to see a greater number of Christians—guys like Derek Fisher, John Salmons, Kyle Korver, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Luke Ridnour—becoming more vocal about their faith?

Durant: It’s unbelievable to know. It’s good to see other people walk with the Lord too. We do so much in this league. A lot of people don’t know how they got these gifts and how they’re portraying them on the floor. It’s always good to let people know where all this stuff came from. To see other players in the league doing the same thing is a joy.

Bonham: People always talk about how down-to-earth you are. What’s your secret to staying humble in a world where it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hype of fortune and fame?

Durant: It’s tough man. I can’t lie. I can’t lie about that. But I always kind of pinch myself and say that any day this can be gone. In the Bible, (it says) the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to be all the time—when I’m talking in front of people or when people tell me I’m great, I (remind myself that I) can always be better. I always work on what I have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can. I’ve got to continue to be that way. I know that if I try to get a big head, my mom is going to do a great job of bringing me back down to size. I have the best of both worlds with the coaches we have here and my parents and my family doing it back at home. I’m in pretty good hands.

Previous Posts

A conversation with NASCAR crew chief Dave Rogers
Since 1998, Dave Rogers has been full

posted 7:30:01pm Sep. 24, 2014 | read full post »

A conversation with NASCAR driver Blake Koch
Blake Koch has never been afraid of hard work. And that’s a good thing considering how difficult it is to break into NASCAR—especially when drivin

posted 12:00:48pm Aug. 25, 2014 | read full post »

A conversation with NASCAR driver Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell has been quietly building confidence and a solid résumé over the past seven years. It hasn’t been the easi

posted 12:00:42pm Aug. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Kevin Durant wins first career NBA MVP Award
On Tuesday, Kevin Durant won his first career NBA Most Valuable Player award. His acceptance speech has quickly become the source of great inspiration across the country. Dura

posted 12:00:26am May. 07, 2014 | read full post »

A conversation with two-time Olympic bobsleigh athlete Elana Meyers
Elana Meyers was born into an Episcopalian family that later became Lutheran. More recently, she was baptized in a Baptist church. She’s also been known to attend non-denominational services. So Meyers really isn’t sure how to label her Christian faith. But the two-time Olympian and 2010 bron

posted 7:00:31pm Feb. 14, 2014 | read full post »


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