Friday, November 16, 2001 Opening Statement by Ty Norris, DEI executive vice president of motorsports Basically what we wanted to do was give an update on what's going on. Two weeks ago Teresa, (Steve) Park and I sat down and had about an...
Friday, November 16, 2001
Opening Statement by Ty Norris, DEI executive vice president of motorsports
Basically what we wanted to do was give an update on what's going on. Two weeks ago Teresa, (Steve) Park and I sat down and had about an hour and a half long conversation with him about whether he felt like he was (ready to return). And he felt like he was progressing very well but he could not pinpoint when he was going to get better. So we asked permission to talk to his doctors. Teresa and I then called Dr. (Brian) Petty and talked to him for about another hour and a half and asked him very pointed questions. And, after we gathered that information, we flew to Houston to meet with Pennzoil, the primary sponsor, and basically, got their input from all this. So basically, what we've done is gathered all the information we could and concluded that Dale Earnhardt, Inc. needed to have a contingency plan going into 2002. Obviously we've had a lot of success in our team and trying to prepare the best we could but we were really unsure about what was going to happen with Steve's condition for next year so we went to Kenny, talked to Kenny before Rockingham and asked him if he would consider what we are going to talk about today and that's a 1-year agreement with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to be it's fourth driver with his primary role, right now, being the driver of the Pennzoil Chevrolet until Steve Park returns. Basically, Kenny and I sat down this week and he looked at the contract and very happily signed it. We're happy that he did. This is by no way saying that Steve Park isn't going to be back in Daytona. This is mostly a contingency in case he cannot return. Steve is very adamant that he is going to get his vision back and all of the other aliments and will be completely healthy before he would consider getting back into a race car. We are very happy to hear that he had that attitude because sometimes drivers try to get back too early and he is very adamant that he will not get back too early. At that point, based on the performance of what Kenny has done in our race car since September, we felt like it was natural for us, based on performance -- because Pennzoil is a performance based company and they remind us of that every Monday after the race -- that's why we sat down with them and they were very comfortable everything Kenny has done with the customers and he can perform like he has on the race track. That gave them a real comfort level to have Kenny in the car for as long as we need him. There's no guarantee that he'll be in the car for the start of the Daytona 500 but can't guarantee what particular point Steve will return either. Basically we have a contingency in place. We are going to enter Kenny in the Bud Shootout, he earned that right by winning the pole at Rockingham a couple of weeks ago. We are definitely going to keep him busy regardless of what happens.
I think Ty said it all. The important thing to remember is that Steve's injury is not a time-based injury. In other words, I think the craziest question for any of us to ask is "what if?" and "when?" because we don't know right now. Steve's doing a great job in his recovery. Ty came to me with a 1-year guaranteed contract; it blew me out of the water. I thought it was a pretty good deal. If it was for just five to 10 races then it would be a totally different. I want to thank DEI for giving me the opportunity of my life. Of all the drivers they could have chosen, there's a lot of great drivers out there, especially in the Busch Series, so when they came to me at Darlington it made me feel really good. So for them to offer me a full 1-year contract, gosh, I'm speechless. It's all worked out really well and I'm looking forward to taking the next month off here. Getting Christmas done and get on to testing and keeping track on Steve's update. Think Ty has said it all and that Steve's injury just not something you can put your finger on and say when he's going to be back. I'm thrilled to death with what I call a guaranteed 1-year contract. And also on top of that, a lot of people have questions on what I'm going to do. George Debidart is here, my Busch Grand National car owner. I wanna thank George. I'm going to run at least 20 races for George next year in the Busch Grand National Series. Sometimes, people don't count the Busch Grand Nationals Series in but it was a great year for me. George didn't want to come up here but we agreed on at least 20 races and we're also going to have Shane Hmeil helping us out. The reason I bring up George and Ty tie together, we were able to put of this other and make it work out. It's just a great day for me and I want to thank Ty and Teresa Earnhardt and I still say pretty soon I'll get to see Teresa. I haven't seen her yet.
One think I failed to mention is that Steve Park was actually a big part of the decision. Not only from the initial meeting but when we got back from Houston last week before Homestead and sat down with Steve and talked to him about what we had in mind and he was very appreciative of the fact that the company would commit those type of funds to allow him to have all the time he needs. It is Steve's intention to be ready to test in January and be able to race in February but with this contingency plan he's not forced to rush back at any point.
Basically, today we have two statements to make -- the contingency plan and who is it and we've answered those two. What happens, whether it's February, March, April, June, we're not prepared answer that question. We, as an organization, are not prepared to field four Winston Cup teams full time but that's not to say that if the situation came up that we wouldn't field four cars at a few selected events but the bottom line is decisions had to be made because Kenny has commanded a lot of notoriety recently because what he has accomplished in our race car. A lot of car owners have talked to him about signing on and so we kind of had a little deadline put on us and we needed to make a decision. Our decision was that we needed a contingency plan and that Kenny Wallace was the man to do it.
Let me help out Ty. Here's so nobody reads through the lines. I was going to sign a 2-year contract with a team. Me and my wife made a collective decision to sign a 1-year contract knowing what we know with this team. I feel that at any given time I can win in this car so I made the choice to sign a 1-year deal with DEI rather than sign a 2-year deal with another Winston Cup team. I need this opportunity to win. I don't need the security to say I've got a 2-year deal with another team. I need the opportunity to win so that's why I did what I did.
Kenny will definitely drive the Bud Shootout for us. He will run some races but what I'm saying we have no guarantee that he will run races next year. And that is what we have discussed from the beginning. If Steve Park returns in January, than we go to Daytona and we have Kenny there as a fourth driver if we need some relief. And we will make a decision at that time whether we run a fourth car and where we run it.
You can't plan for what you don't know. We have to go with what we know right now. Since we don't know what's going to happen to Steve Park, we had to make a decision on who's going to drive the car. And then you ask what's going to happen when Steve does come back -- well, we don't know because we don't know when he's coming back. I think it says a lot for DEI and Steve Park.
I'm taking my chances. The reason I'm here is because we don't know when Steve is coming back. It's a lot better for me to be associated with DEI than it is for me to be associated with a team that is 30th in points. I have a full-time ride with George and with DEI. I have two great rides. If Steve comes back, then I continue to run for the Busch Grand National Championship. I have a full ride. The reason I have so comfortable signing what I'm signing with DEI is because by the time we should know what is happening with Steve, NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch series are running together still. And we'll probably know if I'll be running in the Pennzoil car or just go ahead and run for the championship in the Busch series.
Kenny is going to commit to us for a year so we are going to commit, we are going to do something for him. But if you ask me today what, I can't tell you what. I can't tell you how many, where, why and how. He making a sacrifice to some on board with us and we're going to take that into consideration when we start looking at everything. But I'm not going to totally commit our company on a full-time basis.
We cannot tell you today what's going to happen because there's not a doctor in the world who can tell you when Steve Park's going to be back. We have to have a contingency plan. We anticipate when Steve will be healthy and ready because we're not going to shut our doors to him. We anticipate that he will be back but if he is not, we had to make a decision and have a contingency plan. The contingency plan is Kenny.