ONE-ON-ONE SESSION WITH ROBERT YATES AND DAN DAVIS Q: WHAT WAS THE TIMING OF THIS? ROBERT YATES: "They arranged a meeting with us and Carl and Mike Lanigan sat down and this is what they wanted to do, so they tapped us on the shoulder and ...
ONE-ON-ONE SESSION WITH ROBERT YATES AND DAN DAVIS
Q: WHAT WAS THE TIMING OF THIS?
ROBERT YATES: "They arranged a meeting with us and Carl and Mike Lanigan sat down and this is what they wanted to do, so they tapped us on the shoulder and said, 'Let's go do this.' We're excited about it. We're glad they called."
"I think it might have been a suggestion that they ought to get together and that Carl and Mike said you ought to just meet face to face, so they called Robert and said, 'Let's meet.' That had to be something like three, four, five months ago -- something like that. So they sat down by themselves and chatted. I think they quickly both found out that they want to be winners."
Q: HOW MUCH PRODDING DID YOU GIVE?
DAN DAVIS: "This was not a prodding exercise, this was an introduction."
Q: WHEN WAS THIS DECIDED?
ROBERT YATES: "We started discussing this over the last couple of weeks. It's something where we've known each other for a number of years. I didn't know the Lanigans and got to know the Lanigans. Actually, Friday night at Chicago was the first time we actually sat down and talked about the operating agreement and about doing something. We dated a little bit for a couple of weeks and got to know each other well and here we are. We got married."
Q: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN BRING TO THE OPEN-WHEEL SIDE?
ROBERT YATES: "The last time I checked they have been winning everything, so I don't know if we can help them, but racing still has relativity. Dan answered it pretty well that it's a business science class and there are things that are relative to each other."
DAN DAVIS: "I would say you never know when you put two classy organizations together what you can learn from each other. When you put them together, you can't always predict how they're gonna help each other, but when it's done and you look back, you find all these instances where they helped that group and that group helped that. So I don't think you can predict it up front, but it's gonna happen."
ROBERT YATES: "I think it's almost refreshing that they come in without all this understanding our mile-and-a-half cars and before that. The only time it slows down is when I talk about what we did in the seventies, but staying out of that, it's a very refreshing engineering group. When you listen to them talk, everybody is excited because it's a chance for everybody to contribute from both sides and we're excited about that."
Q: YOU SEEM RE-ENERGIZED.
ROBERT YATES: "I've had some little bit foggy eyes and some of it has been of my own doing. I didn't really have a clear vision. I thought maybe I was over the hill and should get out of it, yet I have a young son in it. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and then I started getting these offers and large bucks, and then I started looking around the world like, 'What would I do?' I don't want to miss this sport. I love this sport. I don't think you can get anywhere in the world away from this sport, but I want to get to the top of this sport. So what I've got renewed in me is not a bunch of money to go off and spend doing something else, but I've got a job and a responsibility and I want to do this, but I have a very clear vision in how we want to do it."
DAN DAVIS: "Robert did talk to some investors and investors bring dollar signs and a lot of financial controls, but they don't make your car go faster. Here's a situation where you have a group that is not only financially sound, and this isn't about money, this is about the cars going faster. They're about winning and going faster, that's what Robert's about, so I think all of a sudden now this presented itself as win-win -- two groups with a common goal, win-win, they're both better off. They're all smiling."
ROBERT YATES: "We don't have race fans with us. We don't have to carry them around and tell them, 'This is how racing works.' We don't have to spend that time. These guys know how racing works, so we can focus on our cars immediately."
Q: IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU MADE THE INTRODUCTION.
DAN DAVIS: "In talking with Robert, you get a sense of the kind of partner that would make sense for him and it seemed like a group like Newman/Haas/Lanigan would be a good partner, but you don't really know. We all want him to run better. I want more than anyone for Robert Yates Racing to be in the winner's circle, more than anyone. It seemed like that would be the right introduction to make. Then in talking to Mike Lanigan more than the other two, 'Would you like to get in this sort of thing,' and then Carl said, 'I was in NASCAR before and I'd like to get back. The Kmart thing didn't work out because of sponsorship.' He wanted to get back. So I felt like, 'OK, here's an opportunity for a couple of groups that we ought to just introduce. Seriously, we introduced the two and then they went and did their thing. We were not involved. It wasn't prodding from Ford. It wasn't a, 'you need to do this.' It was like, 'Would you two guys please just talk to each other and see if there's something there,' and in a manner of a few weeks, here we go."
Q: FORD HAS HAD SOME STRUGGLES LATELY. DOES THIS RUN IN CYCLES?
DAN DAVIS: "It absolutely runs in cycles. If you go back two years ago with the Roush organization having five cars in the chase, it was like everyone was chasing Fords. We had two championships in a row and everything was looking great, then the sport changes a little bit and you end up being a little bit behind. Now we're sort of in a catch-up mode with one of the other teams in particular, but I think that we've recognized that and we've attacked it. Certainly in the last few races we've got Fords right up front just pounding on the door for wins, so I think you go along, you're ahead, you maybe lose some of your edge, someone else gains something and you look and say, 'Oops, I'm behind.' You go work on it really hard and then we're gonna be right back on top. I don't think there's anything wrong with Ford or Ford teams. It is cyclical. People learn things. They get a little edge and they ride that edge for a little bit and then the next one comes. We'll be in the hunt. For this team, I really think they needed some technology. They really needed to learn how to engineer the product a little bit better and that's something I think the Roush organization has quite a bit going for themselves and has that underway. This team needed it, so now we've got a partnership here where that is brought to them already done. In the case of the Roush organization, Jack grew that capability from scratch -- organically. In this case I think we have another activity coming in that already has it and they're bringing it to the party pre-mixed so to speak. They've gone about it in different ways and both will be effective."
Q: AND FORD WILL ALWAYS BE IN NASCAR RACING?
DAN DAVIS: "Yeah, somebody asked me yesterday, 'Now that Ford made money in the last quarter your NASCAR program is safe?' And I said, 'Well, I'm not sure our NASCAR program is ever safe because we need to prove the value of our NASCAR program every year.' We have for as long as I've been here. It's been nine years now and we prove it every year. You look at it and say, 'Does it make sense?' And the answer has always been yes, and I would expect it will always be yes in the future, but it's never a given."
-credit: ford racing