Brett Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Hooters Restaurants Taurus, was one of the guests for the Winston Breakfast Club in the infield media center at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday morning. He talked about, among other things, the difficulties of...
Brett Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Hooters Restaurants Taurus, was one of the guests for the Winston Breakfast Club in the infield media center at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday morning. He talked about, among other things, the difficulties of being an owner/driver and running a single-car team in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series these days. Bodine, who is 34th in the points standings, will start 23rd in the Tropicana 400 on Sunday.
BRETT BODINE-11-Hooters Restaurants Taurus
SINCE THE START OF THE SEASON, YOU PROBABLY FEEL LIKE YOU'VE CLIMBED AS MANY MOUNTAINS AS YOU POSSIBLE COULD CLIMB. IT HAS BEEN AN UP-AND-DOWN SEASON - INCLUDING THE POSSIBILITY THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE TO CLOSE DOWN OPERATIONS BEFORE HOOTERS RESTAURANTS CAME ABOARD AS A SPONSOR. HAS IT BEEN A ROLLER-COASTER RIDE FOR YOU?
"It certainly has. Starting the season without a major sponsor was very difficult, and it's continuing to be so because you dig such a hole without that sponsor. But, the team's done a fairly good job with preparing race cars for us, and we've had some decent runs, and we just need to continue to try to increase our performance. And, hopefully, we can do that throughout the rest of the year."
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE SEASON. THE TEAM HAS SHOWN IT CAN BE COMPETITIVE.
"That's what our goal is, just to continue to increase the performance. We've got some good race cars coming. We've had to kind of wait on them a little bit, and we've had to sacrifice some races to run cars that we really didn't want to run, in getting ready for the second half of the season, and we've got better race cars coming out of the shop for the second half, and we feel like that's going to help us. Now, the other thing we haven't done at all this year, we have not been to one test. The only test we did do was Daytona in January. So, that puts you behind, right there. So, we're hoping we can start doing some testing and do some things to try to just get the team a better opportunity when they unload the car that week to be at a closer spot of running good. It's just a matter of time on the race track, and getting the car adjusted, and we haven't had much time away from the race track, as far as testing, to try and increase that performance level."
COULD YOU ADDRESS YOUR SPONSORSHIP SITUATION? AND, HOW DID HAVING YOUR CAR BURN AT DAYTONA AFFECT YOUR TEAM? WHAT WOULD'VE HAPPENED TO THAT CAR HAD IT BEEN ABLE TO RUN SOMEWHERE ELSE?
"That car was destroyed before it ever caught on fire. It was gone. So, that really didn't have a tremendous adverse affect on our race team, the fact that it was not extinguished in time. Our sponsorship situation is that Hooters and Brett Bodine Racing are planning to have a deal for next year. The terms of the deal aren't completely worked out, but we plan on having a deal."
WHAT RULES CAN NASCAR CHANGE TO MAKE A ONE-CAR DEAL LIKE YOURS MORE PROFITABLE?
"I don't know offhand about what rules would affect that. You just have to look at the areas that are the most expensive for team owners in general, it doesn't matter if we're a one-car team or a multi-car team. The cost of hanging a body on a car is just ridiculous, the amount of man hours that it takes. Man hours are labor, and labor costs with our intense schedule just means more people. And, I don't know how to fix that right now. Whether we went to pre-manufactured parts that didn't have to be handmade, you know, the body didn't have to be hand-fabricated. Robby's [Gordon] is an ex-car owner, he knows about cost, too, and I'm sure he'd agree that the cost of fabrication on a Winston Cup team is ridiculous. His IRL and Indy car background, they don't have that many fabricators. They have mechanics that put the cars together. But, our fabrication is what really drives the labor costs up in a race team."
THOUGHTS ON THE SOFT WALLS USED AT INDY.
"I think the point that Robby about the fact that it didn't break the gearbox in those cars, that's been the shock-absorbing piece to an IRL car. I think their designed to bust, and I think that's a strong testament to the amount of G-load loss that that wall has been able to accomplish."
AS AN OWNER-DRIVER, HOW TOUGH IS IT, AND IS IT PRACTICAL TO DO IT?
"It's about sponsorship, what's in your budget. We're two racers that tried being owners and drivers, and the problem with a racer is he's going to cut administrative budgets way before he cuts the race team's budget. So, what happens is you get very, very short in the front office and in the managerial positions, and you start loading it up on your shoulders, and eventually that load becomes too big. We're doing the owner-driver thing, and we're doing exactly what I just said. We have to cut areas and try to affect that race car. But, eventually the load gets too big to bear, and you've got to start looking for relief if you can't raise enough money to hire those kind of people - managerial positions."
WOULD YOU DO IT AGAIN?
"Yeah, I'd do it again if I thought I had sponsors, if I thought I had sponsorship, and I thought I had sponsors when I did this. I took Lowe's on on the back-end of a two-year deal with the thought t hat they were going to come back, and they didn't. And then we went into a tailspin when the next sponsor didn't pay its bills. I wouldn't second-guess myself at all - if I thought I was going to be funded correctly. I think it's a very, very viable thing if you're the right person to do it."
IF SOMEBODY CAME ALONG RIGHT NOW AND WANTED TO BUY YOUR RACE TEAM UNDER THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES...
"Sold. I would actively look at somebody's offer, whether it's a partnership or whatever. But again, if they don't come with sponsorship, then it's a waste of time to even look at it. It's just astronomical - you all know what it costs. It's ridiculous what it costs to run these race cars, and without it, you can't do it."
CAN YOU DO WHAT THE BIGGER TEAMS DO WHEN THEY FALL BEHIND IN AN AREA - GO GET THE BEST PERSON AVAILABLE TO TAKE CARE OF THE PROBLEM?
"Yeah, they get 'em from me. I've lost a lot of people this year because of that, and I've lost a lot of people since we've been in business. This February we had one of the best Ford superspeedway cars, in the tunnel and best speeds at testing, Robert Yates hires my body hanger. I can't do anything about it. And that's the plight of a small race team. When your under-funded, you have to pay your people less and they're prime candidates to be picked by race teams that have bigger budgets. It happened to Robby; I took Robby's crew chief from him."
WHEN YOU HAVEN'T WON A RACE IN A WHILE, HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED?
"This is what we do. Just because you're not the biggest and the best doesn't mean you shouldn't keep doing it. That's the way I look at it. And this is what I like to do. Certainly, there's days that, there's days for all of you, you don't feel like going to work some days, don't feel like writing that next column, There's some days I don't feel like going to that race shop. But, at the end of the day, it's what we do, and we have to continue to forge on. There's a place for everybody. You just got to do the best with where you're at in the world."
ON UPCOMING PLANS.
"We're planning on testing at Indy. That's our plan right now. In the past, it's been trying to raise money, and now it's trying to put out all the forest fires, the grass fires, trying not to let 'em be forest fires. In our race team, you talk about management positions, well, we don't have job descriptions because everybody has to do a little bit of everybody else's job. Without people with attitudes that are willing to do that, we couldn't survive. We've got two or three people doing the job of five or six. That goes across the board and that works its way down the ladder."
ARE COSTS WHAT YOU EXPECTED THEM TO BE? ARE THEY RUNNING ABOVE? BELOW? BY ABOUT HOW MUCH?
"They're running above. That coincides with the amount of schedule. It's cost per race times how many races. And I think if you talk to any of the car owners that were in business back when we had a 30-race schedule, their costs were considerably less. That is the biggest thing that has driven up the cost of our sport, is the amount of races, the amount of events. When we went and continued to add to the schedule, cost per year has not been a straight line, it's been exponential."