Travis Carter, owner of the No. 26 Discover Card Taurus, is still in the process of trying to secure full-time sponsors for his two-car operation for this year and beyond. Discover Card has signed on for the next six races, but Carter is...
Travis Carter, owner of the No. 26 Discover Card Taurus, is still in the process of trying to secure full-time sponsors for his two-car operation for this year and beyond. Discover Card has signed on for the next six races, but Carter is continuing to pursue opportunities. He spoke about his current situation and what it's been like since Kmart filed for bankruptcy and ended its sponsorship.
TRAVIS CARTER, Car Owner --26-- Discover Card Taurus
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A MAJOR SPONSOR FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT SIX RACES? "I think from where we were a couple of months ago, it's certainly going in the right direction. It's the time of year, starting in late May, where companies are willing to commit something to a program like this. I think we're very fortunate to have Discover Card because it was a situation that came together very quickly. The thing that's impressive and pleasing to us is it's such a good company - a good, solid, strong company - that can fund and continue to go forward in this kind of industry. It's our job to go out and do a good job for them. Hopefully, all the programs come together in the right way to make it a successful venture for them and, hopefully, they'll choose to continue."
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE IN THE INTERIM, ESPECIALLY THE RACES RUN WITH FRANK KIMMEL? "It's been a tough deal. History shows we ran a few races with no sponsors and then Larry Clements and Frank Kimmel came in with their Advance Auto Parts and mostly the National Pork Board wanted to sponsor us for five races, so I think we can't say enough about how valuable that was to this team. I mean, it kept things going through that period of time where we would not have been racing otherwise. It gave Frank an opportunity to get a taste of Winston Cup racing, which he had wanted to do for some time. We talked about this a year-and-a-half ago, and it gave us an opportunity to keep going week to week and keep our team together and keep some people working. When you're out trying to sell, it's good to have an operation that's in business itself and one that's up and running."
WAS THE HARDEST PART HAVING TO TELL YOUR PEOPLE THAT THEY WERE FREE TO LOOK FOR OTHER JOBS? "We had a two team operation and we immediately sort of had to come back to one. What we tried to do was look at all the factors - the people involved, their potential opportunities outside. How would it effect those people that didn't have those opportunities? And some of the people it was my choice to ask them to go ahead that if they had other job opportunities to take those and leave the jobs with us for people who hadn't had any job offers. Part of my goal was to make sure everybody was employed."
HOW DO YOU VIEW THIS CURRENT SITUATION WITH DISCOVER CARD AS FAR AS LONG TERM? "I think, obviously, a good performance will certainly help us. I'm not sure it will be the only factor. From a company perspective they have to look at a lot of things. There are a lot of issues and factors that go into why a sponsor is here, what makes them keep going and what drives them forward. I think this company is investigating all those options and in the next two to three weeks, they'll have a read on where they're going and what they've seen and what they think the future can be for them."
WHAT KIND OF NETWORK DO YOU HAVE AS FAR AS SEARCHING FOR SPONSORS? "I think we have a pretty good network with some quality groups who have worked on our behalf. Then you have a lot of individual types that are trying to undertake something that is perhaps a little more than they can do, but, nonetheless, they've put forth a good effort. They've rattled a lot of cages, but it's really hard to close one of these deals. I think people going into this have to be the eternal optimist. People who search for sponsors have to say, 'Well, I know this company is a good chance and I know we've got a good chance here.' In my not pessimistic but realistic view I'm thinking, 'Boy, I tell you, if these people only knew what they're facing.' It's not quite as easy as it sounds and, obviously, a lot of people are realizing that as they go forward."
IS THIS A GOOD TIME OF YEAR TO APPROACH SPONSORS FOR NEXT YEAR? "I think mostly what we're talking about now is for next year - like for our second team. The possibilities of finding a sponsor for that car for the remainder of the year, I think, is something we're really not even considering. We're trying to position ourselves to pursue sponsors to have in place for next year and that's only six months away. So, it'll take every day that we have to be able to put that in place and have everything ready to go by January 1."
ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC YOU CAN HAVE TWO FULL-TIME SPONSORS FOR NEXT YEAR? "For me, with the things I know are going on, I think there's a reason to be optimistic. Again, in the search for the sponsor that we have now, there were sponsors we thought we were going to get and it didn't happen. This one came along really quickly, almost unexpectedly, so you never really know. You have to continually work. It really needs to be a year round process every year - searching and developing relationships for these new sponsors. Just because we have one for next year doesn't mean we need to stop looking or searching. I think a real quality, strong organization needs to work, search and develop and investigate year round. You can always create some opportunity and, typically, these people won't be here forever either, so you have to look all the time."
IS THIS SITUATION ANYTHING YOU CAN PREPARE FOR? "No, I don't think you can prepare for it. I've been in it before. This is not the first time I've been in this situation and, I don't know. It's kind of a day-to-day deal. For me, it's something where you really have to have that grit and determination to battle through it because everyday you have to get up and think of a new angle or a new approach. You can't ever just fold the table and give up on it. You just have to say, 'OK, there has to be some way.' You change directions if you have to, but you always find a way to try and pursue something and that's what we've done for the last two or three months."