Dodge This Teleconference Tuesday, June 3, 2003 Rusty Wallace, Don Miller and Bill Wilburn DON MILLER (President Penske Racing South) "Not a third team, in fact sometime down the road here we'll probably be looking at some young guys to bring...
Dodge This Teleconference
Tuesday, June 3, 2003
Rusty Wallace, Don Miller and Bill Wilburn
DON MILLER (President Penske Racing South)
"Not a third team, in fact sometime down the road here we'll probably be looking at some young guys to bring along like we did with Ryan, but in the immediate future, no.
"Richmond is a pretty short track for an Indy car, but people will say the same thing about that half mile at Bristol being brutal for a stock car, for it to carry 3,500 pounds and 800 horsepower moving around on a half-mile circle. I think it's going to be extremely challenging for the Indy car guys. I think it ought to be one of the best races to watch for the spectator. Running around there in 16 seconds or 15.9 or whatever they're probably going to run, to me is phenomenal. It's like when Ryan knocked off that lap at Bristol this year. It's a milestone. They're going to have some real challenges as far as keeping their focus at the speeds they're going to be running, but I'd like to see that race.
"I think it's going to be a good show because it's going to be like a tight road course where everybody is going to be poking and trying to shove that little race car into the smallest hole possible. You're only going to have two places to get it done, and that's coming off the corners. You've got to get a good bite and run at that cat and smoke 'em into the next corner before he gets there. I think it's going to be a very exciting race. It's going to be something the drivers are going to have to make huge adjustments as to their personal driving styles. A real wild man isn't going to do too well there I don't think.
"I would say there's a certain amount of technology you carry from one manufacturer to another because you've worked so long with that particular car. What has happened in NASCAR racing, let's all face the facts, the cars are so much like each other now than they have ever been in the past, it's really not like taking something from one manufacturer and taking it to the other because we saw some aero testing between the Fords and Dodges and GM cars and there's so little difference between them any more, it's kind of a moot point I think. The engine is the big thing.
"Let's face it, Ford or Dodge or Chevrolet doesn't make their own crankshafts. Connecting rods, they get them from the same manufacturers. Valves are different lengths and cylinder head castings are different. It was kinda like a crap shoot for us when we went into the Dodge engine, but we're pretty satisified with it now.
"It's getting a lot out of control. It's such a commitment now. I think if the average businessman came in and looked at this, he'd say 'you guys are crazy.' If you want to win now, you've got to just take every piece of the puzzle and put it together and lump it together in one bag and go for it. It's so competitive now. I don't know how an independent race car owner/driver could ever do it anymore. It's not the way it used to be, that's for sure.
"Everyone knows the economic status in this country. Most of the companies that are in the sport right now have to be asking themselves if this is what they really want to do. Is it giving us a payback? The numbers are getting so big. Because the numbers are so big and because our economy is off a little bit here, or depending on who you talk to more than a little bit, but when you look at that it really really reduces the number of possible players. I think that's the main issue when it comes to the Grand National teams. If you're going to get a player in here now who wants to run up front, it's going to cost 'em between 10-15 million dollars. That's what you've got to start with and then you've got to go get your associates and everything else to make the thing work. You can't do it any cheaper. We're running every weekend. Just the transportation and lodging, not to mention all the R&D and everything else you have to deal with, and then the number of people it takes to turn these cars around... The more they tighten up the templates and the more they tighten up the rules, the harder it makes it for the fabricators and engine builders and everybody else in the game here. We find ourselves waiting on the fabricators because they're dealing with 60 thousandths of an inch. Ten years ago you could stick a candy bar underneath the template and they'd let you get by.
"I think that's normal evolution. You really want to find a guy you can grow with, kinda like we did with Ryan. If you really look around at the sport and things that are going on right now, manufacturers are beginning to step up and say, 'we're going to be in this sport five, six, 10 more years at least. We need to get some young talent that's going to run for the red bowtie or blue oval or the Dodge Ram or whatever so we can put our advertising behind 'em, so we can put our marketing behind 'em and we know maybe he's not always going to be with the same team, but he's always going to be in a Dodge.'
"Ford, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Dodge to some extend have already tied up some of the young drivers. They're paying them a retainer to stay with that brand, and I think that's really, really smart, but it makes it tough for the car owners. On the other side of the coin, you've got a lot of car owners that are off looking at young talent at the short tracks. It's getting like basketball and football and all the other professional sports. They're looking for the next young hot rod that's going to come along and smoke everybody off every weekend. They're out there researching the talent, trying to find who's available and trying to tie them up for the future. They might be paying them a retainer and let them do some testing and other things. I think you've got guys like Rick Hendrick and Chip Ganassi and Jack Roush, they've all done that. They're looking four or five years down the road to tie these guys up and be able to tap that talent base when they want to make the change. It's evolutionary, not revolutionary.
"Well, I don't have a crystal ball, but I'd say when Toyota comes in they're not going to come in to run 10th or 20th. That's not how they operate. If you look at how they've competed in other sports, they're going to come in with both guns blazing. Anybody that thinks it's going to be a pushover is using too many chemicals. These guys are going to be playing for keeps. They're going to be very serious about what they do. I think all the other manufacturers are looking at that as well. That's what's driving some of the things that we were talking about earlier, tying up the young drivers and getting your technology in line. Winston Cup racing has become so technical over the last six or seven years that the technology and engineering are driving the performance. Toyota and GM and Chrysler all have the technology available. I'm telling you right now when it happens it's going to be the gunfight at the OK Corral. You wait and see.
"The guys that aren't paying attention (will die in the gunfight). This is something I think you can see on the horizon. We're probably talking about two years from now I imagine, maybe the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 before they'll probably come, but this is the kind of thing you don't want to carry a squirt gun to a gunfight. You want to go in there with a shotgun. They're going to be real serious about what they do, and we're going to have to be just as serious about beating 'em. I think it'll be tougher and tougher on smaller teams because the technology advances that are being made as I watch them and develop them and work with our people to keep us on that same plain, it's become more and more difficult. It's not going to necessarily be the guy with the deepest pockets, because you know in this sport a lot of guys have come in with a lot of money and left it here and didn't do anything. It'll be the guy who applies the technology and has the financial backing to maintain his people base. I think Rusty said it earlier, it's all about people. If you've got the right guys and the right technology available, you're going to be competitive. NASCAR has done a pretty damn good job, and even though I argue with them from time to time as you know, but they've done a really good job of applying the technology that's available out there right now. They're bumping heads with the drivers and owners and manufacturers all the time, but they've got some pretty good parity going. When you can see a Dodge and Ford and Chevrolet and Pontiac beating on each other after 500 miles right down to the last lap, they're doing a damn good job. I think they will do a lot similar to the conversation I had with Bill France, I'll never forget it, when we were building the Taurus. He said, 'Miller, make it a good car, but don't make it too good because I don't want to have to slow you down.'
"The manufacturers are the identity point. We don't have a G Force or a McLaren in our driveways. We have Dodges and Fords and Chevys and we've got Pontiacs and Toyotas and Hondas. That's what drives this whole sport. That's what makes this sport so popular. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to walk through the grandstands and see all the Ford and Chevy hats and see that these guys are serious about their sport. We have a lot of good years in the future, and I think NASCAR is going to have an even tougher job. I believe they will do it. I believe they will even it out."
BILL WILBURN (Crew chief No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"We didn't have a lot of opportunity one make versus the other before the change. All the information we had from the Ford was basically all we had to look at for a baseline. That's all the information we had. From the body placement rules and the templates like you're talking about, everything is so close, you change the nose and tail on one of these things you're real close to having the same car minus the front and rear change. That information we'd gained from the Ford over the years was largely a baseline aero wise to start with with the Dodge. Then you've got the body placement rule, which I think is the single one biggest change as far as your balance front to rear. You don't have much room to play with. You take all that into consideration and take what you had last year, lay it out and see what you've gained this year and it's pretty easy to come up with the difference. That was a situation our engine company had to take by the horns if you will. Basically a Ford is a different animal than a Dodge. Dodge is closer semblance to a Chevrolet type engine than a Ford. That's something we jumped into and had to start from scratch."