Troy Aikman, No. 96 DLP HGTV Monte Carlo SS Co-Owner
Samsung 500, Texas Motor Speedway
Troy Aikman, co-owner of Hall of Fame Racing No. 96 DLP HGTV Monte Carlo SS met with members of the attending media at Texas Motor Speedway to discuss the progress of his second-year team with driver Tony Raines and other NASCAR-relevant issues.
ON LEARNING AS AN OWNER TO DEAL WITH DISAPPOINTMENTS ON TRACK: "As we have learned, that is part of racing. It happens to a lot of cars out there that are running pretty well. For example, I have seen Greg Biffle in races last year have the best car on the track and he gets wrecked and is out of the race. Those things do occur but it is frustrating when you have a chance to finish pretty good, you have a strong car and it doesn't go the way that you hoped."
ON TEAM MEETING EXPECTATIONS SO FAR: "I don't want to over characterize it and say it is not going as we hoped. I just think we all feel we can be better than where we are right now. As far as our long-term thinking, it doesn't change anything. Our expectations for the remainder of this year are as they where when we came in to the season. Last year we had hoped to be a top-25 team, this year we hope to be a top-20 team. I think that is still a relatively modest goal, I think we can do better than that. It is just kind of a place for us to set out sites. But we do expect to get better real soon."
ON WHAT HAS SURPRISED HIM THE MOST AS A NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES TEAM OWNER: "Nothing has surprised me too much other than I still haven't been able to figure out how NASCAR decides on their degrees of punishment. That is probably the most surprising thing to me. How those are handed down. I didn't want to use the word consistency.
"We got hit early in our first race, at Daytona last season. We had an illegal carburetor that didn't impact our qualifying time whatsoever. It was for fuel preservation, which obviously you don't need on a two-lap qualifying run. And there was someone else who had been able to put together a device to raise and lower a windshield. So how some of those things are handed down and to the severity has been, and I don't say this to be critical in any way, but how those things are handled has been the most surprising thing to me about the sport. The rest of it, the competitiveness, the cost of sport, the difficultly, the competition, all those things, we knew those things going in.
"I think a lot of people thought we were going to be surprised at how competitive it is and how difficult it is to have success and all that. We have not been. But that one area with NASCAR has been the one biggest surprise that I have had."
ON DIFFERENCES IN PENALTY APPLICATION IN NFL COMPARED TO NASCAR: "I think for the most part, how things are handled and how punishment is given out is pretty consistent from one case to the next and I don't know that is the case in NASCAR."
ON OBSERVATIONS OF TRAITS AND DIFFERENCES IN DRIVERS BASED ON HIGH RATE OF SUCCESS: "That is a really good question. Without really knowing what those guys are doing in the car, it is hard for me to completely be able to answer that, but I will tell you, I have a great appreciation for guys like Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Those guys being up near the top week in and week out, not just for them but for their entire teams because it is a group effort. The pit crews and what they are able to do. How many times, we were talking about this before we came in here, just in the two years that I have been involved in the sport, have I seen Tony Stewart knocked to the back of the pack and 30 laps later, he is in the top-five. I mean, obviously he has a pretty good car in order to be able to do that, but it can't be substantially better than everyone else's. So then you are saying, this guy has some driving skills that are pretty remarkable. I have great appreciation, for what these guys."
ON THE MENTAL THINGS THAT COME IN TO PLAY IN THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES: "I think so. I know relating it to football, I know that is right. By and large the talent level difference is not that great between the two people you may be comparing. I don't think the talent level is that significantly different between drivers when you get to the upper level. I do think Tony Stewart is one of the more talented drivers. I do think when you get to the elite professional level, athletically, I think more times than not, what separates the really great performers are the ones that are mentally tough and see things maybe a little bit quicker than their competitors. That is what I like about watching NASCAR is seeing how those guys respond."
ON RELATING HOW A FOOTBALL PLAYER GAME SLOWS DOWN COMPARED TO A DRIVER: "It did for me, but I don't know how it is for them and what happens to them from year one to year five. But it is a little bit like golf, when you look at the leader board; the guys generally are there week in and week out. There is a reason for that."
ON EXPANDING TO A TWO CAR TEAM: "We would obviously very much like to have multiple cars. We understand that is the best way for us to compete at the level we would like to. It is the best way for us to operate the team more efficiently and economically. If we are able to secure a sponsor that would enable us to do that, that would be great. We don't want to get so far ahead of ourselves, trying to get another car, that we don't take care of the car that we have got. We are trying to go about building a team and an organization that is going to be here for the long haul and not do anything foolish that is going to compromise those goals. So that is why we have gone about it as diligently as we have.
"It would be easier if we had another car. We do have the benefit of being in the stable with Joe Gibbs Racing cars and that helps us. But at the end of the day, we still are a single car team for all practical purposes. I think for us to be the type of operation that we would like to be, a multiple car team is where we need to be in terms of being out on our own and not having to be so reliant on the people that we are right now."
ON HAVING A DATE IN PLACE TO HAVE SPONSORSHIP SECURED TO FIELD SECOND CAR: "I don't think so. We got our sponsorship with Texas Instruments six months before the Daytona 500 and we were able to get it on the track and finish 17th in that race. The sooner the better, there is no question about that. But I think we do have the infrastructure in place and with our alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, it allows us to maybe move things a little bit quicker than what some other single car teams could do to start a second car.
"We have a handful of potential sponsors, some look more promising than others, that as you well know, that is a full-time job to continually make sure we are properly funded. We are hopeful that here real soon we will have another primary sponsor. "
ON RACING AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND WHAT IT MEANS TO TEAM: "We are proud of this track and the Metroplex area, the way they get out and support this race. Eddie Gossage and his staff do a tremendous job. I know the drivers like coming here; it is one of the best facilities on the circuit. For us to be here in Texas, Roger (Staubach) and I and our other partners, we are all based out of Dallas. I know our race operation is based out of Charlotte. We want to have a good day. There is no question about that. I think Tony (Raines) knows that. For us to be able to run here in front of what we view as our home fans, we want to have a good showing, so we are hopeful that will happen."
-credit: gm racing