DODGE CITY, Kan. – Twenty-three-year-old Brent Ventura became one of the youngest crew chiefs in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series a couple of weeks ago, for the second time.
Ventura worked as a mechanic on the Roth Enterprises No. 83 since the beginning of the year, while Pittman took on the duties of setting up the car.
However, with the team not winning since Volusia Speedway Park in February, Pittman made the move to focus on driving and entrusted the crew chief role to Ventura.
Since making the change the Roth Motorsports team has won twice – including the prestigious Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway. Now they head to Dodge City Raceway Park for this weekend’s World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series Boot Hill Showdown – just a few hours from where Pittman grew up in Oklahoma.
“We started off really good and then we hit a dry spell,” Ventura said about the team’s season. “We just all talked about it a couple of weeks ago. Daryn just said he needed to focus on driving more. I felt like I had worked with him long enough to know what he liked and didn’t like. Seemed like we’ve got mostly back on track. We won twice last week. Seems to be going pretty well right now.”
Pittman won the two season opening races in Florida and the DIRTcar Nationals – Roth Motorsports’ first DIRTcar Nationals win – and led the points for the first quarter of the season. Then his season turned into a roller coaster of good and bad finishes.
Eventually, a change was needed.
“There always comes a point where you start focusing on, what’s our team’s plan moving forward as far as next year and the team is already looking at what the options are for next season, you know, whether or not I’m going to be here or who’s going to be working on it,” Pittman said. “Obviously, nobody was happy with our performance we had, had. Obviously, not winning since February. It was time to make some changes and see how they worked out. At least now we can try them and if it didn’t work everyone had time to make plans moving forward, as far as if they need to get a different driver or need to bring in somebody else as a crew chief or what.
“You know, that really wasn’t our goal. We wanted to make this work with the people we have. We’re happy with the people that are here. We just need our results to get better,” Pittman added. “So far, we’re going in the right direction. I don’t know if we’re exactly where we need to be safely to give it another shot for next season, but like I said, either way, at least we’ve been able to get a couple wins. We’re just trying to finish the season as strong as we can, so we have a direction for next season.”
Ventura worked as Cory Eliason’s crew with Roth Motorsports for the final stretch of the 2018 season – getting a win at Calistoga Speedway. When Pittman was hired to drive the No. 83 car full-time this year, he wanted to handle setting up the car.
That put Ventura in the mechanic role, which he was happy to do.
“I’m only 23 years old, so to be a crew chief on the World of Outlaws, you know, I was probably going to need some help to get started at least,” Ventura said. “I was perfectly fine with that. I learned a lot. When we had that conversation that Daryn was going to step back, as far as setting the car up, I felt like I had learned quite a bit. Just went from there.”
Getting the two wins has helped relieve some pressure from the team, he said. It showed them they hadn’t lost anything. They just needed a change to get going again.
On race days, instead of the 41-year-old veteran telling Ventura what set up he wants in the car, Ventura gives him the plan for the evening and the two work on it throughout the night.
Also, when Pittman watched videos to prepare for a race, he said he would always focus on what set up cars were using. Now, he focuses more on what happens on restarts and the lines drivers use.
Being able to mainly focus on driving has helped change his mentality on race day, too.
“I’m just a lot more relaxed I think when I show up,” Pittman said. “There’s just a lot more off my plate as far as what I need to be thinking about. I don’t know if that’s everything, but it’s relaxed me a lot and maybe it’s helped in why we’ve won and maybe Brent has just done a better job of giving me a car capable of winning, more so than what I was able to do. I don’t know if it is just one thing or if it’s just working out better for both of us right now.
“I’ve been enjoying it a lot more,” Pittman added. “Our performance has definitely improved I feel like. There’re some nights we’d definitely like to be a little bit better. The wins have been what we’ve been missing. Hopefully we’re not done, and we can get a least another or several more hopefully before the year is done.”