RAY EVERNHAM (Owner, CEO Evernham Motorsports) COMMENT ON CAR OF THE FUTURE "In the long run it'll probably be about the same. The cost savings will come if NASCAR does a good job in the inspection process that has to go along with this car so...
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
COMMENT ON CAR OF THE FUTURE "In the long run it'll probably be about the same. The cost savings will come if NASCAR does a good job in the inspection process that has to go along with this car so that we can run the car at several different places so we're not constantly cutting up bodies or you have to have a special car for each track. Really, if they do that thing right, it can be a good thing. The responsibility is going to fall on them for the inspection process so we can run the same car at Richmond that we run at California. We're not going to build one until they get settled down. They need to settle down with the rules and find a direction and then we're going to build one. We're going to start in conjunction with Dodge building one. Again, it can be a good thing, but they have to make sure they control the inspection process and they have the rules right. Right now the car has not completed a successful test. We need to get that done first."
DO YOU THINK IT'S THE RIGHT DIRECTION TO KEEP THINGS TIGHTER WITH INSPECTION? "No, absolutely not. Keeping things tighter costs more money, it makes the cars harder to fabricate. You've got to make the cars easier to build and to do that you have to make them less sensitive. You build a car and if you miss by a quarter of an inch it's not sensitive in those areas. That's what we should be working on. If you've got a car that's within a quarter or three-eighths of an inch like it used to be, that's when it's easier to build and that's when you can save money."
COMMENT ON TOYOTA COMING INTO CUP IN 2007 "I think they're going to be a formidable competitor no doubt. They do have a big budget. They do have a good racing plan. Is it going to bring the cost of the game up again? More than likely, but the money's got to come from somewhere. You can't spend what you don't have. If they're outspending everybody, right now with the shape American car manufacturers are in, them being able to step up. Right now people are unemployed and our racing budgets are our racing budgets. It's up to us to figure out how to use that money more efficiently, and again, it's up to NASCAR to create the rules as such if you want to spend 100 million dollars you shouldn't be able to go any faster than somebody that doesn't. When I say that, sooner or later somebody is going to have to get a handle on being able to control the money that's thrown around. It's no different than the NFL. You shouldn't be able to go in and buy a player a year ahead of time or whatever. Somebody's got to get a handle on that. That's what will drive the cost up.
"The cars are relatively the same. The big difference in any sport is the people. You could go out and start a team and buy my years of experience, my money that's invested five or six years in the people, and there are no controls over that. If I had an unlimited budget, you'd go after the best drivers and best people. We were able to have that opportunity, but we didn't have that kind of money. I was part of that when Dodge brought me from Chevrolet, but you'll probably see some drivers from other manufacturers headed over that way. I feel there needs to be some kind of league system. We all talk about franchising and this and that, but at some point there needs to be some kind of league of control. Where will it stop? If you don't control it, what's the price tag then? You'll have three or four cars racing for the win, and the fans aren't going to like that. Then I'm going to have to go back and get a job and it's been so long since I've worked I wouldn't know what to do."
HOW WILL CAR OF FUTURE SAVE OWNERS MONEY? "In the long run as I keep saying at some point you've got to switch. Can we stop and change all the cars at once? No. You can't do that. We've got to ease into it. Is it going to save us money right off the bat? No. If the car is done properly it can be a good thing for the sport. If it is not done properly, and right now NASCAR has got a lot to do with it, it's going to be a mess. So, the good intentions are there. Now the plan has to be made properly and executed. Over the long run it can save money. Right off the bat it's not going to."
WHAT ARE YOU NOT SEEING THAT NEEDS TO BE THERE? "Aerodynamically, the car did not accomplish what they were looking to accomplish. Otherwise you wouldn't have to put a wing on it. Why is there a wing on the back of a stock car? If I wanted a wing I'd go race sprint cars. There needs to be more time. I think they did a decent job developing the chassis. I think there needs to be more time put into the aerodynamics, and I think the tire manufacturer needs to be involved. You can't expect that car to run on the same tire we run on now. It simply won't work."
WILL IT BE A SPRINT TO GET THE CAR READY FOR 2007? "If you're going to race it you've got to have it. You've got to build it. You've got to test it. They've got to design a tire around it. They've got to get settled in on the rules. The rules for that car are not settled in yet. What are the aerodynamic rules for that car? I've got to build 20 of them, but there are no rules yet. The clock is ticking, and if we are going to run something they need to get the rules sorted out."
HOW HARD IS IT FOR YOU TO BE PATIENT AND BUILD? "It's hard. Most people would have stood up here tonight and said we had a great year (in 2005), but the bottom line is I stood up there last year and told you we were expecting good things. You know what? We missed it, and I'm not afraid to stand up there and tell you. We put a car in The Chase, but we didn't challenge to win The Chase. We won two races, one of them on fuel mileage. We won some poles, but we did not meet our goals. Bottom line is we have higher goals set. We should have cars in the top five in The Chase. Kasey Kahne should have won some more races. We lost our teamwork last year, lost our direction and got off pace. This year we'll have to change and get a handle on it and get better. I feel good about what we have right now, but it is hard to be patient. We want to build. We know we've got to compete. Again, I can already see the benefits of having a third car. What does a fourth and fifth car do for you? In two months we've seen benefits of having a third one. I'm committed to doing this a long time. I've got partners like Dodge committed. We're not going to quit until we get it done."
CAN WE GET THE RAY EVERNHAM-TOYOTA QUESTION OUT OF THE WAY? "Ray Evernham has signed with Dodge to 2010. If Ray Evernham is going with Toyota it'll probably be on his next go-round. We're not planning on switching. I had a very good conversation with the COO of DaimlerChrysler the other day. He's assured me they are committed to their race program. They are going to help us fix it and they would like to have us in their camp for a long time. I felt very good about that."
COMMENT ON POSSIBLE AERODYNAMIC CHANGES FOR THE CHARGER "There's been no approval from NASCAR yet. We are working with some of the other Dodge teams, looking at some different things, but nothing has been approved yet."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"We've been up and down on restrictor-plate stuff, but a little of that was luck. I've been in the top 10 several times and we'd get in a crash or something. I feel like this is the best I've been at Daytona testing. We've got a good racecar and good race team. Hopefully we'll be able to take some of what Scott's got and share the information. Scott has been a great addition to our team. He's fit right in. He's not trying to prove something to us. We're a pretty humble race team. We understand what it takes and what's got to happen. He's come into our deal with the attitude that he wants to fit in, and he has. I was here when we didn't run good at all. Ray has always been consistent on his word -- we're going to win championship, we're going to win races, we're going to get it right. I'm telling you, that's what's going to happen.
He's not going to stop. Our bad year was still ninth in the points and we get criticized for that. We had a pretty decent year to be a bad year. Ray handled it well, yet he knew we needed to make changes. We believe in him and we're going to back him. We know we can get the job done if we get all the pieces to the puzzle in place. I feel like every year we get better, and like Ray said, 2006 is going to be the best year yet. I'm confident in that. We're headed in the right direction. We don't just jump all over the board. Once we get there we're going to be up front every week like the Hendrick teams and Roush teams. That's part of Ray's philosophy."
COMMENT ON NEXT WEEK'S TEST AT LAS VEGAS "The Las Vegas test is always the biggest test of the year. You go to Daytona and everybody is pumped up and ready to run. You've got restrictor plates on and all that stuff. I just can't wait to get to Vegas. This is one of those years you feel it already. I can remember playing football a long time ago. You knew when you were going to have a good game and when you weren't. I just know this year is going to be a great year.
I've got a lot of confidence. That's why I'm itching to get to Vegas. The good thing about it is I'm not going out there just happy for myself. I can't wait for all three teams to get to work together. I can remember in the past, even before I came here. Rusty would run something and I'd run something and we didn't even know what each other was running. It's important for me now to keep our deal tight and to keep unity built up."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"We need to make it into The Chase this year, and I think with the changes we've made will definitely help us. I was disappointed all year last year, not doing what we were expected to do. I thought about it during the off season, too. It makes you want it that much more. It makes you work harder. A lot of things went wrong last year. I made mistakes I didn't need to make. I cost us a lot of points there. The preparation of the racecars wasn't where we needed to make The Chase. Just racing incidents, you'd wonder how it happened or why it happened again. That's just part of racing. Some years are meant for you and some aren't. I think this will be a much better year. Teamwork has always been good here. Jeremy has been the easiest guy I've ever been able to work with in this series. I don't think a lot of drivers and crews get along like we do. Obviously Roush and Hendrick always run up front, so they're doing something right over there, too, but as a team and drivers we get along pretty good. It's nice to have Scott, too. He's a lot like us."
TONY STEWART HURT HIMSELF AT CHILI BOWL. COMMENT ON RUNNING RACES OUTSIDE OF CUP "I don't know. Tony is a guy who usually doesn't wreck anything. He's very alert and always knows what's going on. He just had a bad weekend. It's good he's not hurt, just bruised or whatever. It's tough when you have as many people behind the 9 team as we do to go out there and race another car and get hurt. That wouldn't be good for all our sponsors and people who work for us, but I don't really worry about it. I could just as easily fall off a chair and get hurt as I could flipping a midget. You never know what's going to happen."
YOU WENT TO SEAHAWKS-PANTHERS GAME SUNDAY. CAN YOU COMPARE THAT EXCITEMENT TO RACE DAY? "Not really because yesterday I was a fan and that's a totally different deal. My throat hurt so bad this morning when I woke up (from cheering at game). Before the race you're focused and relaxed. You want it to get started and you look at the race totally different than I did yesterday. I went to that game just wanting to yell and scream and cheer on the Seattle Seahawks. It's a totally different excitement than you have in a racecar."
WHAT'S YOUR SUPER BOWL PREDICTION? "It's going to be a close game. If the Seahawks score 30 points that'll definitely be enough. If they don't score over 20 they'll have a tough time winning, but if they score 25-30 they've got it. I grew up going to the Seahawks games. My dad has season tickets. If you live in Seattle and cheer on your Seahawks forever and ever and now they're the way they are, we've never seen this is Seattle. They have the entire state of Washington behind them, and it's pretty awesome to see what the fans are like out there now. I think they're as good as any team in the NFL, and that's why they're in the Super Bowl. Not many people outside of Washington knew anything about them or cared. They know about them now."
SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger)
"This is the best opportunity I've ever had. My team director, Rodney Childers, and I go way back and we've got a lot of respect for each other. It means a lot to have someone there that you know believes 110 percent in you. I believe in him as well. They say you have to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win. Well, believe you me, I learned how to lose last year. This is going to be a big change for me. You see everyone working together here and talking to each other. I know everybody talks about working together, and most of the time it's just hogwash. You have to be around it and feel it to realize just the kind of passion everybody has here. It's pretty overwhelming to think about having them behind me. Valvoline has a history of winning races and championships. Maybe I can be added to that championship list one day. Stanley Tools is also stepping up to the plate for us this year. We're in it to win it, and I can't wait to get started."
JOHN FERNANDEZ (Director, Dodge Motorsports Operations)
COMMENT ON TOYOTA COMING TO CUP IN 2007 "I think in terms of Toyota coming on in 2007 we've got to race 43 cars out there every Sunday. Right now GM dominated the sport the past few years and Ford got on par with them, especially with Roush's program. It's going to take Toyota some years to come on board and get their program up to speed. They're going to do it right. They always do when they come to motorsports, but really I look at Toyota coming as just another competitor out there on the track. We don't stop to look to see if it's a Toyota or a Ford or a GM product. It's just another competitor. I don't think our perspective is going to change at all. It's just another manufacturer that showed up. We've still got to beat 42 other cars out there every Sunday and that's what we plan to do."
ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT TOYOTA MIGHT SPEND MORE MONEY THAN EVERYONE ELSE? "Not really. I think this sport in a level of spending is generated by the value people get out of it. The whole idea of how much each team spends is how much each sponsor is willing to put in and that's a matter of the value each sponsor is getting out. To some extent, that's dictated by the sport. The cost has escalated because the sport has become more popular. There's more value and sponsors are willing to put more money in. I really believe changing the rules is an example on that kind of stuff to minimize the cost. The cost is not driven by the rules, and I don't think you can change the cost with the rules. It's driven by the value. If the sponsor perceives he can get $20 million worth of value out of it, then you get $20 million and that's what you're going to spend. I will guarantee you that the racers will spend all the money they've got."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT LOSING ANY DODGE TEAMS TO TOYOTA? "I think that's always a concern. We've worked very hard with our relationship with all of our teams. I don't think we're going to lose any to Toyota, but it is always a concern. We have tried to build good relationships. We have contracts that go out well beyond where Toyota is coming into this sport, so I think a lot of it depends on continuing to have those good relationships and if we do that and our guys can win with our cars, and I think they can, we'll be OK."
YOU HEAR ABOUT PLANTS CLOSING AND LAYOFFS. WHAT'S THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR U.S. AUTO MANUFACTURERS? "Obviously GM has had some problems over the last year and so has Ford. We've fared better then they have, but I think a significant point is even though they're cutting jobs and things like that it looks like they're maintaining their budget to race in NASCAR, and that talks about the value of advertising through this medium. If they didn't feel like they were getting the value they wouldn't continue to put the money in, and they're continuing to put the money in as far as I can see."
COMMENT ON CAR OF THE FUTURE "NASCAR is very serious about the car of the future, and we're very serious about working with them. It's been a little bit of a struggle because they have changed their plans about how they're going to bring it in and what tracks they're going to bring it in at. I think the best we can do is make sure that we're sensitive to what they're trying to do with the car of the future, do our homework to make sure we're not caught out depending on which way they go. With some of the things they're doing, from a marketing standpoint, it might be good for us."