Darlington: Doug Yates - Ford Friday interview

Doug Yates, co-owner of the No. 38 and No. 88 Ford Fusions driven by David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd, spoke about a number of issues before Friday's practice at Darlington Raceway, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Inc. DOUG...

Doug Yates, co-owner of the No. 38 and No. 88 Ford Fusions driven by David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd, spoke about a number of issues before Friday's practice at Darlington Raceway, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Inc.

DOUG YATES, Co-Owner -- No. 38 and No. 88 Ford Fusions

EVERYBODY'S BEING ASKED ABOUT JUNIOR BEING A FREE AGENT. "If you ask everybody, they'll say they want to get Junior to drive for them. That's an easy one. That's like asking a driver if he wants more horsepower -- of course."

HAVE YOU HAD ANYMORE DISCUSSIONS WITH DEI IN LIGHT OF THE JUNIOR ANNOUNCEMENT? "Our position all along has been that we're trying to do whatever we can do to get our team as strong as we can get it, so we've looked at a lot of situations -- DEI being one of them. They've talked to us and we've talked to them, plus there is other stuff, but at the end of the day we haven't gotten anywhere with that in particular. Actually, we're getting really close to some things that we think are gonna help our team take that next step and make it strong for a long time to come. Hopefully, we can put some of that stuff together. But the deal this week, it was surprising to us as well as everybody else in the sport. I think it's gonna take a little while for everybody to realize how big a move that was for the sport and what that means to the sport and what that means to DEI and Dale Jr. going forward. Obviously, everybody here would love to have Dale Jr. drive for them, so we'll see what happens."

DOES JUNIOR LEAVING DEI AFFECT ANY OF YOUR TALKS WITH THEM ABOUT A MERGER? "It definitely makes it look different, that's for sure. I think looking at DEI without Dale Jr. is a different situation. It doesn't mean that it's any better or any worse, it's just different. We're still open to trying to, like I said, our goal is to make our team as strong as we can make it and we're gonna continue to look at scenarios until we can figure out what that is. We have a lot of responsibility to Ford Motor Company. We want to do a good job for them and the one thing that we've said all along is that we are Ford. If a situation arises that can complement our program and Ford's program, we're very interested in listening to it."

SO YOU WOULDN'T SWITCH TO A CHEVY? "No. Edsel Ford, Dan Davis and the whole Ford family has been very good to us and, hopefully, they feel like we've done some good things for them and it's a good partnership. Our number one deal is to make our team stronger and to make it stronger with the Ford oval on it."

TERESA EARNHARDT SAYS SHE IS LOYAL TO CHEVY. WHERE DOES THAT PUT YOU GUYS? "That probably is a deal breaker, I would guess. We've worked a long time to build our company and not only the race team, but our Roush-Yates engine partnership that we have. That's very important to us. That's the company I run, so that's very important to us. If we can find a situation that makes Ford stronger and makes Robert Yates Racing stronger going forward, that's what we're interested in."

DOES THE ENGINE PROGRAM WITH ROUSH MAKE IT TO WHERE YOU HAVE TO STAY WITH FORD? "No, we don't have to. If we agreed to disagree, then we could do something different but it's been great for both of us. I think that they're happy and I know we're happy with the situation, so I don't see why we would want to change that."

DO YOU HAVE A TIMETABLE TO TRY AND HAVE SOMETHING SOLIDIFIED FOR NEXT YEAR? "There are things in the works now and I think in the next month or month and a half we're gonna know the future of Robert Yates Racing. Our sponsors, M&M's and Citifinancial and Ford Motor Company are partners in this and they've been with us in everything we've been trying to do every step of the way, and I think that, hopefully, in a little over a month we'll know exactly what our future is and what next year brings. The way this sport is today, as soon as the Daytona 500 rolls around you better know what you're gonna do the following year, so the sport is changing and if we're gonna be part of it, we've got to change as well."

ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT A MERGER, A PARTNERSHIP OR SOMEBODY BUYING INTO THE TEAM? "We've looked at all of the above and it may be a combination of both."

RICKY HAS A ONE-YEAR DEAL. HOW DOES THAT PLAY INTO WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN AS FAR AS A SECOND CAR AND ALL? "We really need to have two cars. We really need to grow to three or four cars. You've got to be smart about your growth. You see guys coming in and trying to create new cars that can't make the races. Starting a new team is tough, but Ricky has done a great job for us. We're really appreciative of him coming over and helping us and if a situation would occur where it works for us and works for him, we could carry that on. But if you think about that car number, it's double eights (88) and Junior is eight. If he wants to take it to the next step, he could be double eight (88). That's something for him to think about perhaps (smiling)."

HE WANTS TO DRIVE A CHEVY. IS THAT NUMBER FOR SALE? "No, that number is not for sale. That's our number, but it just kind of works with the Earnhardt name. Anyway, everybody you talk to is gonna throw something like that at you, so I figured we might as well too."

THE NUMBER 38 WORKS TOO. "Three eight (38) works. Two eight (28) has a lot of history, so there's a lot of alignment there. I know that Dale and his family has a lot of loyalty to Chevrolet, but I think he's gonna get every offer in the garage and the person who makes the best offer -- who knows, could you imagine Dale Jr. driving a Mustang convertible down the highway singing Mustang Sally? I'm not a marketing guy, but everybody wants Junior. The biggest deal for us is to get our team strong. At the end of the day, we can talk all we want, we want to be strong; we want to be here; we love NASCAR; it's been good to us; hopefully we've been good to the sport and we want to continue to do that, so whatever situation makes that happen for us is what we want to do."

HOW BIG WAS JUNIOR'S ANNOUNCEMENT? "I think it's the biggest thing we've seen in a long time. That's a serious move and what's gonna happen and how it's gonna play out is gonna take some time, but that's a big deal and it's gonna have a lot of implications. What he does going forward is gonna be interesting and for the sport I think it's a huge deal, and the sport is changing. To me, the sport is changing very fast. You see what Hendrick is doing and how he's growing his program and all the engines he's doing and cars that he's doing, and what we're doing with our engine program and what Toyota is doing and you start forming a picture of what's going on here. The people that realize that are probably gonna be ahead of the curve and the ones that don't aren't gonna make it."

YOU HAVE A FAMILY BUSINESS LIKE EARNHARDT. HAS THE SPORT GOTTEN SO BIG THAT IT CAN'T BE A FAMILY BUSINESS? "For us, what we see going on is you have to have deeper pockets than what Robert and I have to be able to compete for the long run, and that's why we've been looking at different situations. Dale Jr., that's not a problem because he's got all the money he wants. I think every situation is a little different, but to generalize it and say it's a family deal -- my dad and I, we see things differently, but at the end of the day the reason why we do this is because he's here and I'm here and we enjoy that. I don't know the ins and outs of Dale and Teresa, and that's their deal, but the sport is changing and one thing is for sure, if you want to sustain, you've got to have some financial wherewithal to be able to be here."

HOW WOULD YOU RANK JUNIOR AS FAR AS A DRIVER? "Dale Jr. is a great race car driver. There's no doubt about it. His dad, being here at Darlington reminds me of when I was younger. One Sunday before the race all of the drivers were in the men's room getting ready for the race and Dale Earnhardt walks in and asked the guys if they were ready and everybody in there started shaking. He was the Intimidator, but you got to see it first hand. I don't see anybody that's the same as him. Jeff Gordon is obviously there, but Dale Jr. is great. In the right equipment can he win championships? For sure, there's no doubt in my mind. He's just got to get in the right situation and he's got to get a team that's doing all the right things and believes in him. Is he as good as Jeff Gordon? In the right situation, I believe so."

DOUG YATES CONTINUED -- YOU'VE GONE THROUGH THIS. ARE THERE ISSUES A TEAM FACES WHEN A DRIVER ANNOUNCES HE'S LEAVING AT THE END OF THE YEAR? "You have no idea. It is probably one of the most stressful, painful things you ever go through. When Dale Jarrett announced he was gonna leave last year and he was taking UPS, all of a sudden you focus goes to a reactionary mode. 'What are we gonna do? Who is gonna be in the car? Who is gonna sponsor the car?' Instead of focusing on the racing and getting the organization stronger, you go in a different mode and it's tough to recover from and it's very distracting. I feel for those guys because I know what we went through last year. To see what they're going through now is a tough situation for everybody involved and I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. I feel for them."

IS THERE ANY CHANGE IN THE CHEMISTY BETWEEN THE DRIVER AND THE CREW? "I think the guys on the crew are gonna work as hard as they ever did for Dale Jr., and he's gonna drive as hard as he ever has because right now he's a free agent and he wants to impress a lot of people. He doesn't need to impress them, but, right now, he's got nothing to lose and he's gonna probably hang it out. I don't know. It just makes for an uncomfortable situation from the top down, but they're gonna get through it. The first day, it's kind of like getting a divorce -- there are different periods you go through to get through it. The first thing is probably getting fired up and 'we're gonna fix it,' and then there's gonna be some realization of what really happened."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , David Gilliland , Robert Yates
Teams Yates Racing