Grooms: Miss Madison ready to move on
Team opens door for new crew members
Friday, March 21, 2014 11:00 AM
Charlie Grooms wishes nothing but the best for his former crew chief but the Miss Madison team manager is already looking ahead to the next chapter in the team's story.
IN PIECES: The Oberto/Miss Madison sits in the team’s shop (above and below) on Milton Street on Thursday waiting to be reassembled. Former crew chief Mike Hanson was in the process of putting the boat through winter conditioning when he resigned last week. The team has not named a replacement for Hanson but anticipates no problems in getting the boat put back together. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Mike Hanson abruptly resigned last week as crew chief of the Oberto/Miss Madison after 10 years on the job to take the same position with rival Ellstrom Racing. Grooms admitted that he was stunned by Hanson's departure but understood that the Seattle native had to do what was best for his family.
"The shock was overwhelming. Mike had been part of our team since 1988," said Grooms, who found out a day after the team introduced Jimmy Shane as driver. "It came as a shock but we appreciate all of the efforts that he has done for us over the years. He was a big part of what we did and we wish he was still here.
"Mike was good for us and he helped us become champions but I think we were good for him too and helped him to become a champion," Grooms said. "We're not a one-man team by any stretch. It's all about the team and we expect to still be champions moving forward."
Hanson joined the Miss Madison team in 1988 not only as hull specialist, but driver as a well. He was instrumental in the team's conversion from piston to turbine power in 1991 and rebuilt the old boat on several different occasions.
After a five-year stint driving for Jones Racing - which included a Gold Cup win in 2001 - Hanson rejoined the Miss Madison team in 2004 as crew chief. In 2007, he oversaw the construction of a new hull which won four national titles and six driver's crowns for driver Steve David over the next five years.
Hanson was in the process of a winter conditioning program on the boat when he resigned last week. As a result, the boat is sitting in the shop on Milton Street, stripped down and devoid of any hardware or wiring.
Getting the boat in race condition shouldn't be a problem. The entire crew - including engine specialist Larry Hanson, Mike's brother - is staying on board and each knows what needs to be done.
"The boat is completely disassembled and is sitting in the shop. It's really an empty shell right now," Grooms said. "It's not atypical for what we do over the winter. We were making some changes and there is going to be a new paint scheme. It's not a major issue to get the boat back together. We're still committed to making the test session in Tri-Cities next month but if not, we'll certainly be ready for the season opener at Madison."
Grooms' next step will be to find somebody to fill Hanson's shoes as leader of the crew. He said he already has a list of nine names of individuals who have either expressed interest in the job or that the team has an interest in. But with a veteran crew, Grooms knows that he can afford to take his time.
"I'm going to let the dust settle and see what is out there. See who steps up and wants the job," Grooms said. "Ninety-nine percent of the crew is back so there isn't any real rush. We have a very good crew, a very accomplished crew and we know we can get it done. Heck, I was the crew chief before and I could do it again if need be. But right now we feel we can afford to be patient."
With such an experienced crew the biggest qualification the new crew chief may need is serving as a tactician with Shane, the team's new driver. Hanson and David often worked together on game plans for a weekend and Hanson served as David's radioman. Grooms would like his next crew chief to have that same relationship with Shane.
"Mike was Steve's right-hand man and that's the relationship we need to find," Grooms said. "We may find somebody that I'm really comfortable with, but it's more important to find somebody that Jimmy is comfortable with."
As for Shane, Grooms admitted that his new driver was stunned by the new of Hanson's departure but he got a chance to meet with Shane at last week's H1 Unlimited meetings and said that he is raring to go.
"I had several good talks with Jimmy and he gave me a list of guys to consider," Grooms said. "He was surprised but he's totally on board with what we're doing."
As for the crew itself, Grooms wanted to invite any members of the community who wanted to help with the boat to feel free to stop by the shop on Milton Street. The Miss Madison has always had a strong sense of community volunteerism and Grooms fears that the team may have gotten away from that feel in recent years.
No experience is required and Grooms said the team can find something for anyone.
"Having any knowledge or experience is certainly not a requirement," Grooms said. "I didn't know anything when I first started, Jimmy (Gilbert) came from a NASA background and didn't know anything, Larry Hanson didn't know anything when he started. But if you have the desire to race and want to help make this boat go real fast on the water and have a lot of fun, come on down. We'd love to have you."