PPI Motorsports held a teleconference this Wednesday afternoon to make some team announcements. Owner Cal Wells announced that Ricky Craven would be the team's driver in the No. 32 Tide Taurus for the 2001 season, replacing Scott Pruett. In addition, Mike Beam will serve as Craven's crew chief while team manager Joe Garone takes on the crew chief duties for Andy Houston in the No. 96 McDonald's Taurus.
WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU SEE TO THESE CHANGES?
CAL WELLS, Car Owner --32-- Tide Taurus: "Well, my introduction here to Winston Cup competition has been certainly, if anything, tremendously challenging. I've learned a lot about what I didn't know and I know I still have a lot to learn. All of that being said, the changes announced are ones that we felt were critical to take our team forward, to represent our sponsors Tide and McDonald's in a professional fashion and to give them the results that they deserve, and that all our team members here at PPI Motorsports deserve. We have a lot of very capable people here that each, individually, have been successful in their chosen career in motorsports. But as a team, it's my responsibility to bring them all together and give them the best tools possible and organize them in such a fashion that they can produce the type of results that I know they're capable of and, again, that I know Tide and McDonald's are deserving of. Consequently, we have made these organizational changes with confidence in an effort towards moving our entire program forward."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT JOINING THIS TEAM? @RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus: "It's an opportunity of a lifetime. I've spent some time focussing on what Cal has built, not only in equipment but surrounding him with talented people and phenomenal resources. A company as significant as Procter & Gamble, I'm gonna really enjoy representing Tide. It's truly and opportunity of a lifetime and one in which I'm gonna use all my experience and abilities to conquer and be successful."
WAS THE DECISION TO RELEASE SCOTT DICTATED BY TIDE OR BY YOU?
WELLS: "Any team owner's responsibility in motorsport is to provide the quickest, most efficient, most productive means to an end. Tide's goal as well as PPI Motorsports are exactly the same -- as is Scott Pruett's as is Ricky Craven's and that's to win races. The evolution on the driver front was really focussed to help the entire effort get up front. We have a strong relationship with Tide, but Tide really leaves the decisions on who does what to me. I want to clarify that Scott is still a driver for PPI Motorsports. How that whole relationship will evolve has yet to be determined. We have had some ongoing discussions and we will continue to and I'm confident that we will be able to hopefully continue to work together in the future."
WOULD HE GO BACK TO AN OPEN WHEEL CAR OR A BUSCH
WELLS: "I'm not actually thinking anything right now. Scott has an immense amount of gifted talents that he has developed and honed into tremendous racing skills and is a tremendous race driver. His experience in Winston Cup, as is mine, a pretty big leap and we felt to get where we needed to get, as quickly as we needed to get, that we needed to add the resources and make some of the changes that we've made. As far as what Scott's future holds, I'm sure he'll be able to speak to that directly, but we're still working that out. I still hope to be working with Scott and hope he'll be doing a lot for us at PPI Motorsports."
IS THERE ANY APPREHENSION ABOUT
RICKY'S PREVIOUS INJURIES?
WELLS: "No it is not. In my process of due diligence, as I do with all of my athletes, I put Ricky through a very rigorous medical review. I think he'll even say himself probably more rigorous than anything he's ever done -- not only beyond the doctors he's been comfortable with in the past, but independent doctors that we utilize to ensure that we didn't make a decision that didn't ensure that Ricky, as with Andy Houston, as with Scott Pruett, as with other athletes that have driven for me in the past, wasn't 100 percent. I'm proud to say that he was and is and will continue to be and I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever. I believe it's a non-issue."
HOW TOUGH WAS THIS DECISION TO MAKE WITH SCOTT?
WELLS: "Anytime change comes it's hard -- very, very hard and certainly this was no different. As I mentioned, Scott's a tremendous athlete. I've been proud to work with him and I hope to continue to work with him. But, ultimately, at the end of the day it's my responsibility to my race team, my sponsors and to the athletes themselves to provide and guide through the best opportunities possible. That's not necessarily always an enviable position, but it was my responsibility to do the best I felt was necessary for our team to get our proverbial boat out of the water, if you will. Consequently, I really felt compelled to move forward in this direction. I appreciate all Scott's done. I hope to continue my relationship with him and I want to thank him for all he's done to get us to this point. Again, just to sum it up, any decision that involves change is incredibly tough." IS THERE A CHANCE YOU MIGHT RESURFACE IN CART? "I would say at present, no."
HOW DO YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY NOW COMPARED TO WHEN YOU JOINED
CRAVEN: "I feel great today, but I feel no better than July of 1998 when I got back in the race car at Loudon, New Hampshire. I think that is a legitimate question because of the incidents or accidents that I had in 1997, but understand that I would never, ever put myself at risk because I've got a wonderful family -- two children that are the priority of my life -- and the other competitors. That's what led to my decision originally. So when I got back in the car in July, I was cleared medically and, thank goodness, I haven't had any on-track incidents the last couple of years that have caused me any problems and I think that time has only added to the safety net of recovery. So, for me, we did go through a battery of extensive tests. It was absolutely of no concern to me because I knew how I felt. I think that Cal would probably tell you that I was very committed to ending any speculation or committed to any number of tests that would be suggested, so that's what we've done."
CAN YOU SIZE UP THIS NEWEST
CRAVEN: "With Mike Beam comes a wealth of knowledge and what he's got to benefit from is the same thing I'll benefit from -- a cast of people, a support group that is phenomenal. What I've seen, what I've experienced and been exposed to is second to none. A group of engineers, a group of mechanics and specialists, a staff and administration -- this is a first-class operation and a team that I recognize as a championship contender in the future and I just wanted to be a part of it. It is phenomenal. Our focus right now is on Daytona as well as the other races, but our first stop is gonna be in Daytona and we're gonna go to Daytona as contenders. I believe that, I feel that and I'm really excited about it."
WHEN DID THE RELATIONSHIP WITH PPI START?
CRAVEN: "I think it was sometime in December where I actually got together with Cal and had dinner and we shared thoughts and philosophies on racing -- what he had done and what I had done, where he was going and where I ultimately wanted to be. There were a lot of similarities about what he spoke about and what I talked about. I was able to visit the shop and see the facility and be introduced to the master plan, which includes, I think, some exciting expansion -- a great plan of all of Cal's experience along with the support of his team members and employees. So, in the month of December this thing went very, very fast, but it didn't take long for me to realize this is a contender and a team that has the resources, has the interest and has the dedication and commitment to succeeding."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS A REBIRTH IN YOUR CAREER?
CRAVEN: "I do because I recognize this as a second chance. The similarities to when I got the opportunity to race in Winston Cup or perhaps similarities to when I got the call to drive the Budweiser car for Hendrick Motorsports, and I really want to thank the people that have stuck with me -- that being family and fans, and, of course, my wife. Because there were times in the last two years where I can honestly tell you I didn't necessarily enjoy what I was doing like I had the first 18 years and it became painful. It's difficult to race a week and take two weeks off, or race a couple of events and get your momentum and then take a week off. Through that, we became resilient and it's paid off for us and I'm gonna use the experience -- both good and bad -- to my advantage."
IT'LL BE A LITTLE DIFFERENT GOING BACK TO LOUDON
THIS YEAR, WON'T IT?
CRAVEN: "Yeah, but it starts in Daytona and we're going to Daytona with a chance to win the Daytona 500 and that's what I live for is the chance. So, it's gonna be a wonderful season."
WHAT MAKES THIS
OPPORTUNITY DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS YOU'VE HAD?
CRAVEN: "I think you need to see it and touch it to understand it, but proportionally it's larger in that it has more resources, more people, more equipment and, perhaps, a better plan. It's not just about the next race, the next month, the next year, but a grand plan for where we're at now and where we want to be. So, you can't dismiss the fact that two of the greatest sponsors in this sport are here under one roof in McDonald's and Tide and I commend Cal for that. But with that comes responsibility for he and I in that there are a lot of people who would like to have what we have and we need to establish ourselves as one of those top teams."
WHAT IMPRESSED YOU MOST ABOUT RICKY AND WHY HIM OVER SOME OTHERS?
WELLS: "He's extremely hungry and extremely talented. He's an athlete that has a lot of confidence in and has a tremendous amount of upside with and potential as to where we can end up. With his age and his experience, we're really kind of opposites. He's 34, yet he's got a couple decades worth of experience in one formula -- very focussed on it -- was really one of the stars in the mid-nineties and I think we've got a great chance to surprise a lot of people because he's all the athlete and probably a little more than when he was really turning heads. For various assorted reasons, he hasn't had the opportunity to demonstrate that and I think, collectively, with his new teammate Andy Houston, we can put together a one-two punch that is gonna be incredible for Tide and for McDonald's and we're very excited about the experience he brings and, more importantly, the passion and desire he's got. Rick Hendrick didn't make the wrong decision when he hired him nor did all the others that were very interested in hiring him in the mid-nineties. That hasn't been the case the last year or two, but I think it's from perceptions that just aren't accurate. So, for me, when I looked at who we could get and who could help what our specific program needed, Ricky continued to come to the top of the list."
WHAT ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY GOING
FROM CART TO NASCAR. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
WELLS: "I think the challenges that were in front of all of us were steeper than we realized and we really needed an incumbent somewhere. And while we have been successful in hiring people that build great race cars that have been successful in the hands of other drivers or other team owners. Crews that have been able to bolt them together and get great success and engineers that have been able to engineer them to the front, that to homogenize all of that, the experience in the seat is so, so critical. It has nothing to do with talent, it's just experience and time and what one relies on when being successful in any given type of race car. Winston Cup cars are very restricted when it comes to the information-gathering devices that have become commonplace in single-seat racing and it takes a day or two how to operate without them. But the way the cars feel, the way they're race and, most importantly, the race craft with the other racers that are involved in Cup is very, very different and it takes a day or two to figure that out. I obviously didn't have that experience and neither did Anthony (Lazzaro) or Scott. Again, they're both really great race car drivers in their own right, but either one having a super-experienced teammate would have helped, but obviously neither one had a teammate at all because they raced in Busch and Cup, respectively, individually. That made the hill much, much steeper to climb."
ARE THE SHORT TRACKS TOUGHEST TO ADJUST TO?
WELLS: "I don't know if that's necessarily accurate. I think it's the way racing is done within Winston Cup. How the drivers treat each other, how they race each other, how the cars operate. A winged single-seat car is driven into and out of a corner very differently and the race craft utilized in a single-seat car is very, very different. Those that have made the transition successful, and no one is to say that Scott and Anthony won't, but those that have done it over time have learned the nuances that make it so very, very, very different. Once that's figured out, I know what can and will come naturally to all talented single-seat athletes, and vice versa for that matter. But, again, it takes longer and the hill is a little steeper than I had originally projected."
WHAT WILL BE THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSCH OPERATION?
CRAVEN: "There will not be a Busch operation. One hundred percent of my focus will be here at PPI working with Mike Beam, Joe Garone, the engineers. This has revived me in the sense that I am a participant. They want me here at the shop. They want my input and there are some aspects of auto racing that, honestly, have evolved or emerged that even I haven't been exposed to and I'm intrigued by them and for me to be the happiest and most effective, I have to be a participant, be here and that's what my intention is -- to spend whatever extra time I have right here."
WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE DECISION REGARDING SCOTT?
WELLS:"As Ricky said, it's all come together in the last couple of weeks. Someone earlier had asked that there was a rumor possibly that there was gonna be an announcement a couple of weeks ago -- there wasn't. Our negotiations with Ricky didn't take five days. It's something that he wanted. It's something that I wanted and it's something that we were able to get done very, very quickly, but we didn't meet until well after the season was over -- well after Thanksgiving -- for the very first time. So, it was something, again, that came together very, very quickly."
WHEN DID YOU LET SCOTT KNOW OF YOUR
WELLS: "Scott and I have talked about what was gonna be important for our careers both collectively and separately for quite some time. We evolved into where we are at, again, just recently -- the last 10 days."
WHAT WAS HIS REACTION?
WELLS: "Scott still has great opportunities ahead of him in motorsport. I'm confident he'll do real well. Hopefully, some of that will be with us, but, obviously, he wants to race. He's a racer and that's what he should be doing and I'm confident that's what he will be doing." YOU MENTIONED YOU WANT TO KEEP HIM INVOLVED.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OPTIONS?
WELLS: "I've really got to take more time talking with Scott directly about that. Scott's got tremendous capabilities in all sorts of areas and Scott, obviously, needs to review what's gonna be best for him and his family as we move forward, so I would say a lot of that is in very serious discussion. Where we end up right now I'm just not sure. Scott has contributed in so many way to what we're doing, but, of course, it's got to be something that both he and I are happy and excited about and it'll take a day or two to sort that out."
IS THE EXTENT OF RICKY'S CONTRACT THROUGH 2003 OR DOES IT
GO BEYOND THAT?
WELLS: "We do have a multi-year contract and we have certain obligations to each other to make sure we can move forward with the right mix. But, certainly, our focus and view is that we have a very long term relationship and, obviously, it would be great to see Ricky Craven retire with PPI Motorsports."
WELLS: HOW MUCH DOES RICKY'S EXPERIENCE WITH START-UP TEAMS HELP? "His experience and success in stock cars is well noted. We needed that. He's a proven multiple winner in every formula but Winston Cup and, frankly, in Cup his opportunities in some respects are somewhat suspect. I think we can provide a very committed, focussed opportunity for him and I think he can provide us with the input we need to provide him with the best tools possible so the entire team can be successful. That really was a key to moving forward with him. I think the other thing that's important to note is that at 34 he's got a vast amount of experience. There are other high quality drivers that are available, but they might be in the twilight of their career -- Ricky's not. That is something else working towards everything working out, we could have a very, very long and successful relationship that isn't at least at present boundaried by age."
YOU LEFT MIDWEST TRANSIT WELL BEFORE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. HOW SOLID
WERE YOUR SUSPICIONS THAT THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN OR WERE YOU TIRED OF
CRAVEN: "I absolutely left for that reason. In July or August of this race season I made it clear to Hal Hicks and Charlie Pressley that if I were to return to the Midwest team it would be under the criteria that we run the full schedule in 2001. Early on in December it became clear that it might not happen, so I felt the noble thing for me to do before I even entered into conversation with anyone else, was to give that opportunity to someone else because I absolutely was not interested in part-time scheduling. I want to preface that by saying I have absolutely no disrespect to the team or team members or Hal Hicks. I enjoyed the year and a half I was with them. I'm leaving some great friend there. They're wonderful people and they did a lot for me and I appreciate that, but December was the time to make that change. It was the end of a season and January would have been too late, so there was a period in December where I was unemployed. My path crossed with Cal Wells and Joe Garone and Don Hawk and out of that, I think, came the greatest opportunity of my racing career."
SCOTT HAD ONE TOP-10 LAST YEAR. DO YOU HAVE A FIGURE IN MIND FOR
WELLS: "You show up every weekend wanting to win. We do have some objectives that we think are achievable. Much as they were last year, the first thing is to make every race. You can't win it if you don't start it. The second is to finish every race and finish every race in the top 10 and from there the opportunities to be at the top will just come naturally."
WHAT DID YOU SEE IN RICKY THAT MAYBE OTHERS DIDN'T?
WELLS: "To be candid, I think he had a bad rap on this accident. I think anytime that there's a driver change in an organization there are questions that are created. I think Ricky would admit that for his career focus maybe he could have handled those a little differently -- new territory for him. I think he learned a lot about himself, at least in the last weeks that I've had a chance to spend any time with him at all it seems he learned a lot about himself and how to handle himself in a situation that was very unique to him. I think all of us in our lives have made interesting choices or handled situations in a certain way that, at the time, we thought was the right way and maybe later it turned out you say, 'If I knew then what I know now, would I have done things differently.' I think that some of the decisions that were made by people that had an opportunity to either retain Ricky or to hire him were based on real falsehoods. I think we've got a great opportunity to have a fine young man that can really press the button -- run a race car in Winston Cup very, very fast, very safely, very sanely, be able to come back and compete with the fiercest competitors every weekend and that for various assorted reasons -- some within and some outside of Ricky's control, he hasn't been able to demonstrate that recently. I think we can provide him that and I think he can help our team get to the point where we can provide him that. I really sensed that when I spent the quality time with him. I had heard the rumors like a lot of people that maybe he wasn't 100 percent, but I'm here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth -- nothing. This guy is ready to be an F-16 fighter pilot if he chose and, instead, he's chosen something far more difficult which is to be a Winston Cup champion and we're hoping to get him there."
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER A REALISTIC GOAL THIS YEAR AND HOW MUCH DID
YOU LEARN DRIVING FOR MIDWEST?
CRAVEN: "The opportunity that I was given to drive the 50 car was right at the time. It was a point where I needed to re-establish myself and was more focussed on quality than quantity. Perhaps the entire schedule wasn't what I needed right then. That was great, but I also think individually you've got to understand your weaknesses. Let's face it, the last couple of years I've been humbled. I've had the time to study the things I felt I did good, but also the things I didn't do so well. For me to get back to the level that I felt I was at in '95, '96 and '97, I needed to run full-time because being part-time was very distracting for me. That distraction didn't allow us to be at the top of the chart or maybe to perform like we needed to when we got to the race track on whichever weekend that was or whatever month that might be. So, this mechanically is as good as any opportunity I've ever had. The race cars will be prepared, in my opinion, better than any I've ever sat in and they will be pulled by engines that are second to none. What's really exciting for me is the opportunity to represent one of the world's largest consumer companies and the identity that comes with that. I'm around people that I've very, very comfortable with and the statement Cal made earlier is something that I've given consideration to. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but this is the type of facility and program that a person thinks about retiring at -- that says 'hey, as long as I'm productive and I'm performing,' I wouldn't want to have to race against this team. So however many years that is, that will be a result of performance, but, gosh, it is a phenomenal opportunity and one that I'm gonna make good on because of the experience that I have had. It doesn't matter if it was good or bad experience, it was valuable experience."
DO YOU HAVE ANY PAST EXPERIENCES WITH MIKE BEAM?
CRAVEN: "I think that he's one of the five most recognized names in Winston Cup racing in the last 10 years and that doesn't come for free. He's earned that. He's established credibility in the sport and in the business and he has a keen desire that I think sometimes gets lost. When people have been involved in something for so long that they lose perhaps that hunger, but, boy, you wouldn't have known it in the time I've spent with him. That time has been abbreviated, but, still, it's been a great first impression. He and I and the team believe we can go to Daytona and win a Daytona 500 and that's very, very real. That's occupied a lot of my time recently, but it's fun and it's exactly what motivates me and motivates him and it motivates these competitors that are under this roof. I just hope that we're fun to watch this year for all the people around the country that are watching and I'm sure it's going to be as successful as our expectations."
ARE YOU GOING TO
BE ABLE TO HANDLE ALL OF THIS?
CRAVEN: "Well, that's not gonna be easy. There's no question that that's gonna come at a price. The good news is that it's January 3rd and we're preparing for it. We're making changes in our life daily -- even right now -- to prepare to run the full schedule which is different than what it was in 1997 when I last ran the full schedule. But, on the other hand, I don't think that's a hurdle that can't be cleared as long as you're prepared. So much of it has to do with frame of mind and attitude and I'm lucky that I have a great family that has always supported what I do, so that will make it easier. If there were 52 races you'd find a way to deal with it."
WAS THERE A TIME DURING THE YEAR RICKY CAME ACROSS YOUR RADAR
WELLS: Ricky has been on my radar as an enthusiast from a long time ago. I've always been impressed, always enjoyed watching on television. Remember, I'm kind of from the land of fruits and nuts. I am a west coast guy born in California and I haven't been entrenched in the type and style of racing Ricky and all the other fine athletes here have been, but always recognized him. I really wasn't close enough to the sport to understand what had happened in his accident in '97. It was just like another football injury from what I could tell, but beyond that he wasn't on our radar screen when we came to selecting somebody originally for the Tide opportunity because of some of the rumors we'd heard and because of some of the opportunities of athletes that we thought at the time would fit Tide's needs. Understand, not coming from Winston Cup -- having experience in other areas -- the type and style of athletes that we looked at, which were very, very broad-based when we selected Scott for the 32 -- we didn't realize, really, areas that needed a lot of experience. So, consequently, Ricky wasn't at the top of the list at that time, but, as I mentioned previously, I think Ricky suffered from a bit of a bum rap with me as well. When we looked at Andy for the McDonald's ride, which I'm thrilled we were able to seize him. We had a lot of incumbents that were experienced veterans that would possibly have been available, but we really felt Andy would be a great choice. We didn't really look at Ricky at the time because, again, he doesn't run the full schedule, he's not there week-in and week-out and really just kind of suffered from the same rumors. But when it became apparent that we needed to evolve our program in a certain direction, that caused me to take a really strong first look, I wouldn't even call it a second. You know, you're kind of walking around and you trip over a rock and find out 'my God, there's a huge nugget of gold here and I didn't even see it.' That's really how this relationship came to pass."
IS THE EQUIPMENT BETTER HERE THAN WHEN YOU WERE WITH THE 25 CAR?
CRAVEN: "You've got to consider the circumstance and experience. We came out of the gate like a rocket in '97, but things didn't end the way we had hoped and I certainly take responsibility for part of that if it failed. That's experience and what I referred to earlier. What makes this feel great is if you're gonna go to battle, you want to surround yourself with people that have as much to gain or lose as you do. If you evaluate this program, this is a gentleman in Cal Wells who has put a lot on the line. It's just amazing that in a very short period of time he has become a very significant player in Winston Cup -- again with two of the largest corporate sponsors that are available -- and he chose a driver that in the nineties things came awfully easy for me. What I mean by that is that I didn't hope for success I wondered what form it would come in because I was intent on succeeding. Whatever it took. But in the last two years that, in some respects, was erased. That opportunity didn't exist. I'm not sure that I would be given another chance, nor would I deserve or want another chance. This is the final stop in my mind because it's something that appeals to me. I'm very exciting about representing Tide and I have a chance to win races for several years. I believe we can win this year and when that happens -- and as I reflect, there will be a gap of two years where things didn't work out the way I wanted, but, evidently, I needed to experience that because I will be better prepared this time than when I went to the Budweiser team in '97."
WAS THERE A PECKING ORDER AT HENDRICK WITH THE THREE TEAMS?
CRAVEN: "Absolutely not. I never recognized any of that. I've said before my only regret with Hendrick Motorsports was that Rick Hendrick was not at one of my races. I didn't have the opportunity to race with him and that really was the attraction to me going there, a large part of it. But I want to tell you I have every bit as much confidence, if not more, in Cal Wells. The time I've spent with him, he's won me over. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He is here. He's got it all on the line and he's invested in what he believes in and he's working through it. So, this is absolutely an easy decision for any racer. For someone who truly wants to win races, this would be an easy decision because you have to look towards leadership and the leadership here is first class."
HOW CRITICAL IS THIS SEASON TO PPI?
WELLS: "Every season is critical. Every race is critical. We've got to do a good job with our responsibility -- morally, ethically and contractually. They know how tough it is. Sometimes you make the right decisions and sometimes you don't. Of course it's critical. Last year was a very important year and we did not meet expectations. There was a lot of talk about what we were maybe gonna be able to do and awful lot of talk about who we had unseated and what maybe we were gonna be capable of doing with all this technology stuff. But the bottom line is we've got to put the numbers on the board and we just didn't do it. So, for me, there's more pressure than ever but it's personal pressure. I am in this sport to gain, not only some financial security for my family, but, frankly, I compromise that more often than not to have success on the race track. One really breeds the other. It's worked for me in other formula. It works for everybody who is a true racer in every formula, and for me to be driven and to drive my team as hard as I drive them and, frankly, they drive themselves, they need to be able to taste success. That can be measured in many ways, but we need that. It's not strictly a Tide deal. Tide needs it too. They've earned it. They've been in this sport, this is their 15th year and they've had some great successes. They haven't had it with us, but they've had some great successes. I think we've created a lot of media broo-ha-ha and certainly got 'em a lot of exposure, but we haven't done the job that we're responsible to to them or ourselves. So, is there pressure anymore this coming year than there was last year? No, I don't think so. I think we know a lot more about what we're capable of and have a much clearer idea of the path we need to follow to reach those objectives. Most of the pressure that any of us who are really true professionals in motorsports feel is self induced."
ALL OF THE
MOVES IN YOUR OPERATION THE LAST FEW MONTHS. IS THIS A SIGN OF SURVIVAL?
WELLS: "I guess survival wouldn't be the term I'd use. It's critical because it's what we do and right now, as of this day, it's where my 100 percent focus is. It's not to say what may or may not happen in the future, but one of the big things I've learned over the past year is it really requires a very involved owner on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year basis. That's not to say my management team here hasn't done a fine job, but there's a reason that I own the place and I need to be here to prove that every single day. That, along with these other organizational changes, I think will help immensely. We're not taking a shot gun approach to this evolution. These are well thought out changes that are evolving our path toward success. I started with a particular model that I felt would be very successful and many elements of that model still remain, but I would be a fool to think my way is the only way or my way is certainly the only right way. So, consequently, I've learned a ton this year and I'm applying what I've learned to ensure success in the coming years. The fact we might not be directly involved in CART next year doesn't mean 'oh, gee I better make this Cup team work out or I'm dead,' it's just that, I mean, I wanted to successful last year just as badly as this year, but I realize what it's gonna take to make it successful and that's why I'm here everyday."
TIMES LAST YEAR YOU AND SCOTT SEEMED TO HAVE A TARGET ON YOUR BACK. IS THAT
JUST THE DUES YOU PAY?
WELLS: "I don't know. I think part of Scott's deal on the race track is not that he wasn't respected. I have grown to know that there is a fundamental way to race in a stock car that is different than the way you race in a single-seater and part of that has opened up the opportunity for some of the on-track incidents that we've had. Some of them have been people beating up on him and anywhere in between. I don't think it's necessarily a lack of respect for him. It could be, but I don't think it is. For us and what NASCAR does, I support everything NASCAR does. Their rules enforcement is managed very, very effectively and with all the hoopla, particularly in the press about all this hot-rod stuff we were supposedly bringing to Winston Cup, I applaud them coming to tear us down. I take it as a big compliment, so it's not something that bothers me."