This Week in Ford Racing Ford Racing and Roush Fenway Racing announced today that they have agreed in principle to a multi-year contract. Brian Wolfe, director, Ford Racing Technology, along with Jack Roush, owner of Roush Fenway Racing, and...
This Week in Ford Racing
Ford Racing and Roush Fenway Racing announced today that they have agreed in principle to a multi-year contract. Brian Wolfe, director, Ford Racing Technology, along with Jack Roush, owner of Roush Fenway Racing, and Geoff Smith, president of Roush Fenway Racing, answered questions about the deal during a teleconference earlier today.
ON FORD'S NEWLY ANNOUNCED MULTI-YEAR AGREEMENT WITH ROUSH FENWAY RACING.
BRIAN WOLFE, Director, Ford Racing Technology:"First, thank you, everybody, for calling in today. Really, what we formally want to announce is that it's my pleasure that we've reached an agreement in principle with Roush Fenway Racing, which will continue our partnership, which has been going for about 20 years now in NASCAR, and obviously, with Jack, we've been partners on many programs before that, and Jack's with Ford and racing Fords, in one form or another, over 40 years. He's a super partner, a strong competitor, and has really taken us where we want to be. Also, at Ford, being committed to success, the marketplace and on the race track, there's no question that the economic conditions of the country and the auto industry, is making us look long and hard at basically all of our commitments. However, with NASCAR and the marketing platform that we have there, we really believe, from all of our indicators, that we still receive a return on investment. So, we continue to be in the sport for the foreseeable future. And we couldn't be more tickled that we have Jack as a partner with that - and the whole Roush Fenway operation."
JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Racing: "It was something we obviously had a small amount of anxiety over with the challenge that the car companies are having and the broader economy has to look at the affiliation that we've had with NASCAR and the partnership that we've had with Ford for really the better part of 40 years in racing, and longer than that in business, there was some anxiety on my part to see if the challenge would be met with the opportunity that was there for both parties to get something worthwhile from the arrangement going forward. The NASCAR racing and the brand loyalty that the fans have and the way the sanctioning body has been run, it's the second-most significant sporting series in the country, so it's important to our marketplace, it's important to our products, it's important to our manufacturers, and to have that importance be able to compete with the limited dollars that get spent for advertising for the interest to bring attention to the products to the consumers is really great. Ford's participation in racing - not only NASCAR racing but all forms of racing that I'm aware of that they choose to be engaged in - it's just vital. I know the NASCAR racing with the race engineering support, the computer programs, the data base, the judgment that their engineers have based on experience, not only with racing but the real-time things going on. The automobile industry is absolutely essential. You could not compete with a NASCAR team without an affiliation like we enjoy with Ford and by the partnership we enjoy with Ford going forward. So we've got so much energy and so much momentum that it's a great honor to be able to think positively about that going forward. We're still able to maintain the balance in our program. I look at the arrangement as certainly more than three years where there are some options going further out. It's a long-term commitment that Ford has made to continue the partnership that we've had and it's just a wonderful thing to have as a basis for our program going forward."
GEOFF SMITH, President, Roush Fenway Racing: "As Jack said, we're delighted that Ford, in these difficult times, has maintained this significant presence to support NASCAR, which is an indication of how important NASCAR is to Ford Motor Company, and likewise with our other various primary sponsors, we're really in great shape for the next several years."
WHAT CHANGES, IF ANY, DO YOU ANTICIPATE NEXT YEAR IN NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK SERIES PROGRAMS? IS FORD GOING TO BE GIVING THE SAME LEVEL OF SUPPORT TO THOSE SERIES AS IT HAS IN THE PAST?
BRIAN WOLFE: "First, our prime goal was really to protect our performance in Cup racing, and with that we have cut back our support for the supporting series. We have not pulled out of those series, for example, with truck we are basically going to continue with the contingency program and continue our technical support to the teams racing Ford products. But as far as financial, we will not continue next year. And, also our Nationwide program has been scaled back as well, but we are continuing with technical support and the contingency programs as well."
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE TRUCK SERIES NEXT YEAR, INCLUDING ENGINE SUPPORT?
JACK ROUSH: "The Roush Yates engines are partnered with Ford to provide engines, not only for the Sprint Cup Series but the Craftsman Truck Series and Nationwide Series as well. Ford's support for the engines - through the engine shop - for the development of the engines for the specific rules and I guess the other challenges that come from other manufacturers is the same that it has been. So for people that want to race Ford trucks and people that are able to and want to race Nationwide Fusions, there is no change. The support continues at the same level it's been at. We've got one sponsored entry - Con-way Trucking - for Colin Braun that we're gonna run for a championship in the Craftsman Truck Series next year, and we're open to accept interesting calls and proposals from other sponsors that would like to be involved with truck. It takes a different level of support from a sponsor without the manufacturer's involvement that's gonna be a challenge in this economy, but we are certainly not limiting our interest in trucks to one truck, even though we've scaled back to one truck that's sponsored adequately at this time for 2009. The Nationwide Series, Geoff Smith is on the line with us and he knows better than me, but it's either four or five Nationwide programs that we're gonna run. They won't be with drivers running for championships in all of them, we'll have multiple drivers in the cars, but it's at least four Nationwide cars that we've got sponsorship for and Ford is important to that. As I said about the Sprint Cup, Ford's involvement, not only with the engines, but with the support for the aero programs and the chassis dynamics programs and the other things that figure into the technical side is absolutely vital, and I think Ford stands ready to help not only the Roush Fenway teams, but the other teams that would race Ford products as they have in the past with that technical support. So we've got balance in our program. We're still in a position to race the trucks and support NASCAR with a Craftsman Truck. We're in a position to bring in entry-level mechanics and drivers and engineers and technicians of all technical persuasion. We're able to bring them in and advance them through the organization as we have in the past, so, for the most part, our program still has balance and it's still intact for all the things that make it competitive."
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO STILL KEEP ALL OF THESE SPONSORS IN SUCH TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES?
JACK ROUSH: "We've had, I think a fairly efficient and stringent operation in the best of times and one of the things that we've been able to do is to leverage the relationships that we've had through Roush Industries. We've been able, with the recent affiliation with John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group, to leverage that relationship to further some sponsor development. The thing that would have been a disaster in this economic circumstance is if Ford had decided that its priorities had changed so that it didn't want to continue the partnership going forward, we would have had a big problem making the change to a different manufacturer affiliation or carried on without a manufacturer affiliation. The viability of our racing program would have been very much in doubt without being underwritten by John Henry's interest back east or my other interests in Michigan. I don't know if I've answered your question, but, right now, all of our Nationwide programs are fully funded. Our Truck program is fully funded. We've got one more year running five Sprint Cup teams. They're all fully funded with sponsorship and I think that's a testament to the fact that over the period of time we've given our sponsors good value, good return for what they've done and how strong NASCAR is in the eyes of the consumer and how well that's recognized by the people who need to compete for the support of interest of consumers."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE NUMBER OF TEAMS THAT YOU HAVE IN THE CUP SERIES? AND, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WOOD BROTHERS AND WHETHER YOU'VE INCREASED YOUR SUPPORT AT ALL TO THAT TEAM, AND WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO HELP GET THAT TEAM BACK ON TRACK?
BRIAN WOLFE: "The other two teams, the Yates team, obviously, we're very pleased with them and their continued support. As you know, Doug and his father have been racing for us since the '80s, and we are pleased with that effort. And then the Wood Brothers, specifically, as you know, they have an enormous history with Ford as well, and we have been trying to assist the Wood Brothers and their team with technical support, which I think is showing later in the season - I think you've seen them a bit better. So, we're happy with the teams we have, and I expect all of our teams will be competitive. And, again, those are the icing on the cake because - I've said this many times - I really believe that from, I call it the 'super powers' in NASCAR, that the Roush Fenway operation is the best, period, bar none. So when you have the other teams like the Wood Brothers and the Yates teams, that just gives us a very, very strong lineup in the field, I believe."
CAN YOU PUT A PERCENTAGE OUR DOLLAR AMOUNT ON HOW MUCH YOU ARE CUTTING BACK IN THE TRUCK AND NATIONWIDE SERIES?
BRIAN WOLFE: "I really can't put an exact figure on that. I can just continue to say that our main focus has been, from a financial perspective, to make sure Cup is healthy and we believe that we've done that, and we will continue, as Jack really articulated very well, the support that we'll supply from the technical perspective and engine perspective for Nationwide and also for people running Truck as well."
HOW ABOUT A PERCENTAGE OF HOW MUCH THAT REPRESENTED OF YOUR TOTAL RACING PROGRAM?
BRIAN WOLFE: "I really can't, I'm sorry."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN IF GREG BIFFLE COULD RALLY AND BEAT JIMMIE JOHNSON FOR THIS YEAR'S CUP TITLE?
JACK ROUSH: "First of all, I hope it's a matter of time until we're able to achieve that third ring in the triple crown for Greg. He's at the top of his game. His cars are competitive. The crew chief is able. They've got good chemistry. The team is strong behind him and the support organization in the shop is doing its part as well, and we expect to be able to continue that with Greg for the foreseeable future, so if he could beat Jimmie this year, that would be wonderful. That would be one more thing that I'm sure that he could realize in his career and I could realize in mine for him and with him to be able to achieve that and, like I said, I think it's only a matter of time until we're able to pull that off. As far as Jimmie Johnson's position, he's got to have a DNF or have a run of crashes here that's gonna cause him to give up more than 150 points for us to have a chance to really have a shot at it. We expect that Greg is gonna be really good at Phoenix and at Texas and Atlanta and Homestead. Those are all real strong races for him, but we don't expect to be able to best Jimmie Johnson by 40 points per race on the race track, nor to be able to offset the advantage that he's had. The wreck just crippled us at Talladega and, past that, Jimmie's done an awesome job. He's won, what, three races here so far, but the portion of the races that we've had so far in the Chase has been to Jimmie Johnson's strength. Not that he's weak in the races that are left, but the races that remain play into Greg and, for that matter, Matt Kenseth's and Carl Edwards' strength as well. We've just got to see what happens. Who would have thought that as we started this Chase that two races into it Kyle Busch would have been out of it, so there are twice as many races left - through really no inaction or no mistake that Kyle made. We've been beset by a crash, by Jimmie having a great run at it early on, and by Carl Edwards having two ignition boxes that failed simultaneously at Charlotte. It's unfortunate to have those things happen, but you get a run like Matt Kenseth had in 2003, where you didn't break an engine all year and you didn't have a crash all year, heck, he didn't even have a flat tire all year. If Jimmie Johnson has a run like that through the Chase, he will be and should be the champion this year and it will be great for him to have won three championships, although I'll do my very best with my guys to frustrate that."
SO DO YOUR EARLIER COMMENTS ABOUT NATIONWIDE MEAN CARL AND DAVID RAGAN WILL NOT COMPETE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT YEAR?
JACK ROUSH: "Carl is gonna run for a Nationwide championship. David, in terms of looking at his program and his third year in Sprint Cup and what the benefit is to his Sprint Cup effort from the information or the experience coming off his Nationwide car, we think that there won't be as much benefit given the fact that the cars are so much different, and it's such a challenge for the races where you don't have coincident races between Nationwide and Cup. It's really hard for the driver to make the best effort that he can at either, so we think that with as close as David has come to the Chase this year, that to have him focus on the Sprint Cup effort for the Chase next year, is probably the best allocation of his time. And Carl, like Jack here, Carl is just a racing dog. If there's time and energy available to go run for a championship in a series, he's gonna do it - at least with the mindset he has today and we're anxious to support that. Clint Bowyer is doing a great job over there and has got a big head start on us - a big lead on us here - but Carl is anxious to go win another Nationwide Series and would very much like to win a championship in both Nationwide and Cup in the same year, so we'll try that again next year if it doesn't work out this year."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ZMAX DRAGWAY IN CHARLOTTE AND WOULD YOU CONSIDER A DRAG TEAM AT SOME POINT?
JACK ROUSH: "My daughter and my son-in-law and one of my friends is still involved in drag racing, so we've still got our hand in even though we're not in Funny Car or Top Fuel. To have Bruton Smith build a drag strip close to his NASCAR track and Dirt Track, and for him to come back and build a world-class drag strip is just a wonderful thing. It's a compliment to drag racing. It certainly elevates all the interests that are in that industry - the sponsors, the track owners, the various vendors. He's brought an amount of energy to it that will make it more relevant and it's in the eyes of the American enthusiast. More drag strips being built at or near a facility that has a NASCAR track will have the same effect. You can look at Kansas. To have a drag strip close to the track at Kansas would be wonderful. They've got one close to the track at Chicago. There is one close to Bristol, so it's not a new thing, but it certainly is a tried and proven promotional benefit to have the synergism of the various tracks together."
WHAT ABOUT ERIK DARNELL'S STATUS WITH YOUR ORGANIZATION? YOU SAID COLIN BRAUN WAS THE ONLY FULL-SPONSORED TRUCK NEXT YEAR.
JACK ROUSH: "Erik is gonna have an involvement with us next year in the Nationwide Series. If a sponsor came and very much wanted to have Erik back in the Truck Series, we would certainly think about that. If Erik is going to advance, my understanding of his career goal wasn't that he wanted to be a Craftsman Truck driver for his career. He's looking to advance into Nationwide and into Sprint Cup and we've got an opportunity, although he's not running for a championship, he'll get a significant number of races in a Nationwide Fusion next year. We would look, I think, with greater interest in having a full program for Ricky Stenhouse or one or two other drivers that we haven't really had a chance to audition yet in the Truck Series. That's typically where, if we were able to orchestrate as we'd like, where we'd like to start them. So Erik would not be the first choice to put back in a full-time truck if another sponsor came, but if the sponsor was insistent on Erik, that would certainly be OK."
IS YOUR TOTAL COMMITMENT FOR NEXT YEAR EQUAL, MORE OR LESS THAN WHAT YOUR COMMITMENT WAS THIS PAST YEAR? IN OTHER WORDS, ARE YOU TAKING MONEY THAT YOU WOULD'VE SPENT SUPPORTING NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK TEAMS, AND PUTTING IT TO THE CUP TEAMS?
BRIAN WOLFE: "The total support next year is reduced from what it was this year. And some of it has been deflected to Cup, and some of it is part of overall reduction to meet our budget."
IS THAT PART OF AN OVERALL COMPANYWIDE PROGRAM CUT?
BRIAN WOLFE: "Most business models, it's pretty classic, marketing is kind of a percentage of revenue. So, if revenue is off, it affects a lot of folks in a lot of different aspects of the company."
TRUCK SALES ARE DOWN - IS THAT KIND OF WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT IN TERMS OF ROI ON RUNNING TRUCKS IN THE TRUCK SERIES AT THIS POINT? AND, BEYOND ROUSH FENWAY, WHAT OTHER TRUCK PROGRAMS COULD BE AFFECTED?
BRIAN WOLFE: "It doesn't relate only to truck sales, it's basically - we believe the NASCAR marketing platform that is really good for all vehicle sales. Again, a lot of the folks that do go to NASCAR events are more classical truck buyers than other items. But, really, our goal was to protect and have a healthy Cup team. So, again, as you're looking at the money you had to spend, we had to understand where that should go. That was the decision criteria, and basically all the truck teams will have the same types of things we mentioned. Really, it will continue with our technical support for both chassis work and aero work, our support of the Roush Yates motor programs, from a technical aspect, we'll continue with contingency monies, but as far as an absolute cash supplement, that will be consistent for everybody."
WITH MONEY GETTING THIN EVERYWHERE, ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT DEVELOPING YOUNG DRIVERS?
JACK ROUSH: "I am a little bit, but I believe that the economic pressure that we've got and the anxiety over the price of a barrel of oil and what's gonna happen in the next term of the next president, and the effort that's being made to help Wall Street and the mortgage industry, I think there's gonna be an improvement in the overall sense of what Americans think about our economy and that that's gonna create an opportunity for Ford not only to come back and be more tangible in their support for teams and for rookie programs in the Truck Series. But right now we've got Colin Braun and Ricky Stenhouse that are in the pipeline and they're great talents. We can take a break here for a year or two and not feel like we've got to be developing a rookie driver every year with the kind of intensity and regularity that we have in the recent past, but we're certainly not gonna stop looking at talented people that are coming and it may be that they'll have to spend more time running Legends cars or running the weekend racing series, where Colin and Ricky Stenhouse and, for that matter, Kyle Busch and David Ragan were able to step up when they were 19 or 20 years old. They may have to wait, given the bump we're going through with the economy, they may have to wait until they're 21 or 22. Greg Biffle, when he came to our program, was 28 years old. Carl Edwards, when he came to our program, was 26 years old. Mark Martin was 28. Jeff Burton was 28. So the guys that are having a chance to get into the programs when they're late teens or early 20s have got a huge advantage in their careers in terms of the times left, and for that to move up for a year or two, I think is of no great consequence to the really talented and able people, which will eventually find their way in, nor to the quality of the racing we see."
-credit: ford racing