BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarkets Taurus
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SEARS POINT?
"I look forward to it. That's where my best finishes come as a car owner is at Sears Point. I look forward to road courses because I feel like I'm a fairly good road course driver. Unfortunately, last year we didn't get a chance to race at probably our best track -- Watkins Glen. We were consistently in the top five in practice speed prior to qualifying getting rained out. We had a great car at Sears Point last year, but we dropped a cylinder and kind of just finished the race. I look forward to Sears Point, but I don't look forward to the changes they keep making out there because you have to re-learn the race track. We had a top-10 run out there the last time on the old course and the next year they changed the layout and you've got to re-learn it. We've never tested out there because it's just too expensive to go there and test for one race, but I love road course racing. I look forward to the two that we have and I would probably like it if we had a couple of more. I feel it would help me in the overall point standings at the end of the year because I feel I'm better than most at that kind of racing and I feel we've got good road-course race cars."
AS A SINGLE-CAR OPERATION, CAN YOU PUT A LOT OF EMPHASIS ON THE TWO ROAD COURSE RACES? WHAT'S YOUR PHILOSOPHY?
"The road course car that I have, that is my best car, is one I got in the purchase of the team from Junior Johnson. Bill Elliott drove this car. It's an old race car, but when you only race it twice a year it's not like it has a lot of miles on it. So I've kind of benefited from purchasing a real good road race car, plus we've built another new one. We do put some effort into it, but it's because it's convenient. We go to a little track in South Carolina named Kershaw and we're able to go down there and prep the car real well. We get our brake system worked out and work on some transmission things, but it also tunes me up a little bit. It's a tight little road course and it gets me in tune for shifting and down-shifting and handling that car. We do put some advance effort into it. It's not like we just have a road course car sitting over in the corner and we dust it off and come out racing. What we learn on our short track cars and what we learn in the wind tunnel, we apply to that car. Not that the road course car ever goes to the wind tunnel, but we do apply what we learn to our other stuff. We put a good effort into it. I mean, it's not something we take lightly."
BUT SOME OF THE TOP-FLIGHT TEAMS FIGHTING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP ARE WILLING TO GO OUT THERE AND TEST. IS THIS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THIS SPORT CAN SPLIT THE TEAMS UP IN TERMS OF COMPETITION?
"It does and it is splitting. It's continuing to split, especially with the way the TV money is being divided. Now I'm going to get on my soapbox as a car owner. The way the TV money is divided up, NASCAR has split us at about the 18th position in points. I have voiced my opinion quite strongly that they have drawn a line in the sand at 18th on this TV payout and in a couple of years that line in the sand is going to turn to a ditch and nobody from 19th on back is ever gonna be able to jump over it and get into 18th because of the amount of money those 18 teams are receiving as part of the TV package. Hopefully, NASCAR will see that and change it for next year and in the future. Certainly, the TV distribution has been heavily weighted to the top 18 teams in points. They're starting to recognize that our fields are consistently getting shorter. I feel they're not only getting shorter, but a couple of the cars that show up don't have sponsors. No one can last in this sport without a sponsor because the costs are just astronomical. They need to look at the team's income. Our income source is that race purse. That sponsorship money offsets our operating costs, but we have to make a living off of what we race for on Sunday. If you continue to feed the top 18, then the field will continually get farther and farther apart."
HOW HAVE THE PURSES INCREASED?
"This year the purses are up, there's no question about that. My earnings are up. I'm at three-quarters-of-a-million-dollars and we're at the 15th race and I made only a million dollars all of last season, so there's no question our earnings are up. That's great, but the earnings of those in the top 18 have almost doubled already. That's the point I've tried to make as one of those teams outside those 18 positions. I just feel it's heavily weighted to the top. I'm not saying that guaranteed money that they're paying out off the TV package that they shouldn't get more. I'm not saying that at all, but I think it should be incrementally divided amongst everybody that qualified under their criteria to be part of the program. I believe in supporting the people that support you. I run my businesses in a fashion that I promote from within and that's what they should be doing. They should promote from within, but life is certainly better at Brett Bodine Racing than it has been in a long time."
FROM A SPONSOR STANDPOINT, THEY HAVE REALLY TAKEN A MUCH MORE HANDS-ON APPROACH, HAVEN'T THEY?
"They have and I feel really comfortable with that. I think what Valvoline has done could be a trend-setting move in that they've actually become an equity partner. My contracts with all of my sponsors includes an open book policy. They have the right to come in at any time and look at my books. They have a right to know how much my driver is getting paid, how much my crew chief is getting paid, and what we're spending our money on. I just feel like you have to have that relationship because you're dealing with a tremendous amount of money. It would be real easy for a car owner to skim a hunk off the chunk and short his race team the things that they need. I'm not saying that anybody is doing that, but it would be very easy for it to happen."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL THE FUTURE IS FOR TEAMS LIKE YOURS?
"I think there's a place for single-car owners, I really do. I bet you on any given occasion you could go through the garage and ask the multiple-car team guys, 'Well, how's it going?' And if you asked the question, 'Right now would you rather have a single-car team?' I think some days they'd say, 'Yes.' I picture myself, at some point, a multiple-car team. I basically am right now with my start-up ARCA program. Some day that program is gonna maybe turn into a Busch team and then maybe a Winston Cup team. The difference between a two-car team and a one-car team is simply one more sponsor. If we can get the funding for a second team, which we're actively looking for, then we'll have a second team."
IT SEEMS YOU'RE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SPONSORSHIP. DOES THAT GET FRUSTRATING OR IS THAT PART OF THE DEAL?
"That's part of the job description of the car owner. That's my job. I spend probably 75 percent of my time during the week actively seeking or dealing with people that are actively seeking sponsorships. You can't do this without that funding and you have to put a tremendous amount of effort into that. I enjoy trying to help companies be creative and try to find their place in our sport. Our sport has so many opportunities if you can just match up that opportunity with the right sponsor and the right company and show them what can be done. The education process about our sport has been tremendous, but right now it's been mostly fan-based education. We still have a tremendous job ahead of us in educating corporate America of what we can offer them and that's part of my job. When I make presentations I think I have a little bit of an advantage over some people because I'm not only the car owner speaking but I'm also the driver. I think that kind of gets their attention a little bit better and I think they're a little more receptive meeting with me because I'm the one they see on TV each and every weekend. I enjoy trying to help marketing people and helping them figure out ways in which they can benefit from being in our sport."
WHAT ARE THESE COMPANIES SAYING?
"It's getting way too expensive and the more expensive that it gets, it starts narrowing the prospects that can afford it. I think you're gonna see the trend like I have on my race car -- two major sponsors instead of one major sponsor. That's the strategy that we have and we're continuing to use that. We're trying to find two half sponsors, so it's a little more palatable, but in that respect, you have to have a driver that's willing to service two sponsors at the same level as if they were the only sponsor. That becomes more time consuming, but that's okay if you can have your driver cooperate with you in that way. In our organization, our driver cooperates."