ROBBY GORDON , NO. 7 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Highlights of Media Q&A's following the announcement that Fruit Of The Loom will be on board as a sponsors for a nine-race campaign in 2005. ON HIS OVERALL PLAN "Sixteen months ago I hired (business...
ROBBY GORDON , NO. 7 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Highlights of Media Q&A's following the announcement that Fruit Of The Loom will be on board as a sponsors for a nine-race campaign in 2005.
ON HIS OVERALL PLAN
"Sixteen months ago I hired (business manager) John Story and our first vision was that we wanted to get a Busch car so that the following year it would be easier to sell a Cup car because we have a race team. The second goal was that we would move from Mooresville closer to Charlotte. Our next goal was to be a Cup team in 15 months. We've been able to make all our goals across the board. First, we got Fruit Of The Loom to do a 24 race Busch deal. That's all I wanted to do because I didn't want to go to every Busch race weekend. I wanted to do the Cup companion races. And then we wanted to win races, which we were able to do. We rolled out at Daytona our very first race (Busch). We threatened to win. We qualified fifth and finished third in our very first race. The difference between a Busch car and a Cup car is five inches of wheelbase and a carburetor. Everything else it pretty much the same. We think if we get the right people - the people make the difference between good teams and bad teams. The people we had last year - my (Busch) crew chief, Bob Temple - were the right people. He was the right choice because of the job he did for us last year, to move him up to the Cup program with us. So Bob Temple will be our crew chief. I brought him to Cup racing in 1997. He worked with me at Derrick Walker Racing. I brought him to Sabco. I stayed there for five years until we were ready to revamp and regroup and have a program that was a long-term program that he could build his future on as well. And then we started the Busch team last year.
"Now we've got our Cup team. We moved into a new building mid-way through the year last year on I-77 and 485 on the northeast corner where I have 35 acres. So we have plenty of room to expand. And we're going to expand our building. Probably before Charlotte we'll be up to around 60,000 square feet.
"When we did the deal with Fruit Of The Loom, it was a three-year program. For a while, I wanted to keep them in the Busch Series because I wanted the Busch team to be the test team for the Cup team. In August, we thought we had a deal done with Red Bull and they ended up buying a Formula I team instead. We were a bargain for the Formula I deal, but I still have a good relationship with them.
"Their company is headquartered in Austria and they are Formula I enthusiasts and that's what they wanted to do. We tried to get our Cup deal signed before the Formula I deal was bought. We knew once that happened that all the money would go there. We missed it by maybe a week or two. If we just would have had that deal done, we could have announced that program for Cup, but we went back to work and now have a series of deals that will work out to a full time program."
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
"I think our biggest weakness in 2000 was engines. When you race against teams that supply engines to you, obviously you're not going to get the best stuff. What we've done is hooked up with John Menard from Menard Inc., and he has an engine shop. They've been on the pole for the Indy 500 six times. They've made Buick turbocharged V-6 engines that made 1200 hp. Since then, he's built the IRL engines for Chevrolet. He bought TWR in England, which is now MEG, Menard Engine Group, and they produce all of our parts in England - the cranks, rods, and pistons - everything except the Chevrolet block. A lot of teams buy somebody else's parts. Menard can produce all the parts for the engine. They build the parts in England and ship the parts to Indianapolis and they put the motor in a box like I used to get in Indy car racing and it shows up at my shop in Charlotte. So that's the first thing that's different. We did that before we did anything else so we'd have our engine program put together and that would allow us to be competitive.
"The motor we're running today is the very first time that Menard has ever produced a restrictor plate Cup engine. So we're going to learn a lot at this test over the next three days. Our goal is obviously to be quick, but we realize that these teams in Cup have been producing restrictor plate engines for years and it might take a little bit of time to catch on to the restrictor plate program. When we leave here, we have a few more weeks to catch up before the race."
HAVE YOU USED MENARD ENGINES BEFORE?
"I used Menard engines a couple of times in the Busch Series last year. We used them at Dover. We had about a half-lap lead when we broke a track bar.
"I used Menard engines at Michigan and we led the race there as well. Something happened there, but we did lead the Busch races last year with Menard engines both times. Before I did the deal with Menard, I'd already had my deal with Richard Childress in place, so I couldn't just stop using RCR Busch engines last year because I had a contract in place to buy engines there so I wouldn't say I was stuck because they are very good engines and they are very reliable for us and we won Richmond with them and led every restrictor plate race with RCR engines, but it did allow us to run a couple of Menard engines so that we could understand where we were with the Busch engines and where we needed to be to be a Cup engine supplier."
ON BEING BOTH A TEAM OWNER AND A DRIVER
"I only speak from my experiences. I've been very fortunate to work for a guy like Richard Childress who has won championships in Cup racing. I understand the way he ran his business as far as how the cars were prepared inside and out. Two of the races I won for Richard we produced the chassis. They were road course chassis. Robby Gordon Motorsports produced the chassis. RCR put the engines and bodies in them, so it was a team effort. And I think it can be done. Back in 1992, everybody questioned if Alan Kulwicki could do it. And we have some things here that are similar with the No. 7. We've got an owner/driver. And I think the real answer is that I don't plan on running the team. I've been gone for three weeks in Africa. John Story runs the business side of it. Bob Temple runs the race car side of it. I don't do the accounting and I don't do the PR. I drive the race car. I'm fortunate that if I don't like one individual on the team, I can get rid of him now. Where before, I've been in situations where I couldn't do that because I had no say. I'm just the driver. Here, I'm the driver but I do have some say."
ON BEING A SINGLE-CAR TEAM
"Last year we didn't have multi-car teams and we were a single car Busch team. We raced in the top five every weekend. When I first came to NASCAR racing, I didn't like it. But now I do like it. Heck, Bobby Labonte's garage is open. The car is there. You can take a look at it. You just have to pay attention a little bit to see what guy's are doing with their cars. You can watch the attitude of the car on the straightaway.
You can see what's going on here. I do have some good notes. Last year at RCR, I know what we ran at every track. I do have some good information to fall back on. We're not a completely new team showing up at Daytona. We will go through our learning curve and we will make mistakes. But I think we'll learn from the mistakes we make.
"Another nice thing about being a team owner is that if I want to run the Indy 500, I can do that now. There are a lot of positives to doing it (being a team owner & driver), but there are a lot of bad things about it as well. Provided I get the right people around me, the positives will outweigh the negatives in a big way. We'll do what's right for the team. We have a sponsor for the Indy 500. It's sitting on the desk and it's been sitting there for a month. We're just a little hesitant to sign it because you want to be careful what you wish for - you just might get it. And then we'd have to do that program too. We did race it last year and raced inside the top 10 with our own team and then I had to leave. This year, I really wouldn't have to leave. And then again, when I was leading the Baja 1000, I had to leave to qualify the Cup car down in Homestead. But then again, I wouldn't really have to leave."
ON HAVING MULTIPLE SPONSORS FOR 2005
"I think it will be a trend. Some of the bigger teams obviously have a lot of success on their side and they can go out there and ask for $15, $16, or $17 million and get it. We certainly hope we're one of those teams in a relatively short period of time. But we knew better than to go out and start asking for that amount of money for an upstart team. So we divided everything by four and started asking for it. The good thing about that is that when you negotiate with a sponsor and ask for a smaller piece of the pie, you don't have as much to negotiate with if that makes sense. You don't have to take too much off the top to get a sponsor to commit. They understand what they're buying. If they're buying nine races for x-number of dollars, they pretty much take it or leave it. Once you've got all four of those sponsors in place, you're right back where you were. You didn't start with a $16 million program and negotiate it all the way back to a $10 or $12 million program.
"Eighteen months ago when we laid out the goals, we decided to look at it as a four-part program. Red Bull came along and it was going to be the full program. It was a bit of a surprise to us that there were still people out there with that kind of money. Actually, you see it a little bit. It's a smart way for a company to market. They still get all the same benefits of being associated with a driver and a team in NASCAR without paying the whole thing."
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY RESTRICTIONS PUT ON YOU BY SPONSORS?
"I race cars because I like to and I have fun doing it. I do other forms of motorsports because I can do that and be competitive too. I think the sponsors understand that I like to race. I've got to have good people and a good business plan in place. It's not that difficult. You can make it a lot more difficult than it is.
"Right now, I'm the attraction for the sponsor. And yeah, we need to be a little bit careful for the next year and a half until we can get to a second car. I don't believe we'll ever do more than two cars in each series - the Busch Series and Cup. Two Busch cars and two Cup cars would probably be enough. I'd be really happy with two Cup cars because then we'd have the information to fall back on."
ON THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE AT SOME TRACKS IN 2005
"I can't believe they did that for us. This is going to help us a ton. At the races where we don't have to have qualifying set-ups, you do a lot less work on the weekend. You show up in race trim and you put tape on it and throw a couple rounds of wedge add air pressure and whatever they're going to allow us to do. We did this in the Busch Series a couple of times so we do have a little bit of experience to know what it takes to be quick in qualifying when they impound the cars as well. I think that's one of the best things NASCAR has done in a long time. To be honest with you, the fans don't know the difference. There is so much work that goes on in the work that goes on in practicing for qualifying and practicing for the race. These guys are running around like wild Indians in the garage trying to make things happen in time to get out there for three runs. Drivers risk it every time they go out there. It's going to be safer for everyone."
ON QUALIFYING FOR THE DAYTONA 500
"Every other new team has to worry about that. If we don't qualify that good, we're going to have to run good in the 150's. So we have two chances to make mistakes and hopefully we can get through one of them without making a bad mistake."