Team Penske’s Jeff Swartwout has taken up his post at Dick Johnson Racing well ahead of the 2015 V8 Supercars season.
While initially slated to start with the team when the DJR Team Penske entity officially comes into being in January, Swartwout has stayed on in Australia following his visit to the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
In addition to spending time with the team at its Queensland workshop, Swartwout will attend the three remaining championship events with DJR before briefly returning to the United States in December to help relocate his family.
The American has been appointed as the team manager for DJR Team Penske and is the key link between the V8 Supercars effort and Penske’s headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina.
He joins fellow Penske appointment, technical director Nick Hughes, in making an early start to the US giant’s V8 Supercars assault.
Swartwout has worked on Penske sportscar and NASCAR efforts since joining the organisation nine years ago.
“Everyone here at DJR has been very accommodating,” Swartwout told Speedcafe.com.
“They’ve made me feel very welcome which is quite gratifying.
“I have been in motorsports all my adult life and the expectations and the goals here are the same.
“Every category has its nuances, but at the end of the day the goal is to put the most competitive package on the track as well as looking at what do we do next, how can we improve?
“Its an ongoing process. Whether its an IndyCar a V8 car or a prototype, the goals are the same.”
This weekend will mark Swartwout’s first visit to the Surfers Paradise street race since 2004, when he made his last appearance as part of the Champ Car circus.
“I came to Surfers Paradise in 1994 which was the first year Reynard entered the CART World Series,” said Swartwout, who enjoyed a nine-year stint at Reynard North America before a brief period at Lola preceded his move to Penske.
“It was interesting because the first couple of years when we came down as a group, speaking collectively, everybody in the IndyCar side thought the V8 Supercars were the main feature.
“We had our eyes open that the Supercars were the main act.”
Swartwout is currently observing DJR’s existing operations and analysing the task of best applying Penske’s technical and human resources to the V8 Supercars effort.
The experienced campaigner stresses that it was “not realistic” for the US outfit to start its own team in Australia, without partnering with DJR.
“I think it would be a naive statement on our part to expect to come down here with a clean sheet of paper without having a solid base which the DJR organisation brings,” he said.
“We are not under any illusions of how tough the competition is not only on the track but as far as personnel infrastructure and all the capabilities to make sure you are competitive.
“There is an awful lot that goes into making a successful team. To come down on the other side of the world on your own is not realistic.
“You look at the entry list and the people behind it and it’s as competitive as any series I know,” he added.
“Hell, the grid is covered by a second. That tells you everything.
“That’s where attention to detail, preparation and the thinking comes into it. It’s a big ask there is no question.”
Amid ongoing discussions over a second driver for the new season, Swartwout has been in continued communication with star signing Marcos Ambrose.
Next year marks Ambrose’s return to V8 Supercars following a nine-year stint in NASCAR and is expected to shake-up the Australian series upon his return.
“I’ve had quite a lot of contact with him back in America,” Swartwout said of Ambrose.
“I can tell you he is one excited cat. He is really stoked to come back and very determined and I don’t think he for one second is underestimating any part of this venture.
“He’s done well in the Cup cars especially on the road circuits so clearly he has shown he has the skills and capabilities to perform there.
“There is no question that this is a different landscape to when he was here previously.
“I think that, give him a competitive car and support behind the scenes, he’ll be as competitive as the next guy.”
DJR’s two Falcons will return to the track at the Castrol Edge Gold Coast 600 after being repaired from their Bathurst crashes.
While the David Wall/Steven Johnson Falcon only received minor damage in its Reid Park spin, the Scott Pye/Ashley Walsh chassis suffered its third major front-end hit this season after a tyre failure heading into the Chase.
The #16 Ford was sent to chassis builder Pace Innovations following its return to Queensland and is now being rebuilt at DJR’s headquarters before the team’s truck departs for the circuit on Wednesday.
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