NASCAR Winston Cup Todd Bodine, driver of the No. 26 Discover Card Taurus and car owner Travis Carter were this week's guests on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. Both spoke about the second half of the season and the future prospects as...
NASCAR Winston Cup
Todd Bodine, driver of the No. 26 Discover Card Taurus and car owner Travis Carter were this week's guests on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. Both spoke about the second half of the season and the future prospects as far as sponsorships go for Haas-Carter Motorsports.
TODD BODINE --26-- Discover Card Taurus
YOU GUYS ARE TRYING TO PUT THINGS BACK TOGETHER.
Yeah, we had high hopes. We felt like coming into this year, getting a year under our belt, getting the team together and getting everything straightened out, that we could be competitive. We struggled a little bit at Rockingham, but came out at Las Vegas and got the pole and things were looking good. We had a great, new teammate in Joe Nemechek and our relationship was good, and things were looking great. Of course, we all know what happened with Kmart going bankrupt and that left us high and dry with no sponsor. Las Vegas ended up being our last race. Travis and Carl have not given up. They kept searching for sponsors and keeping the 26 car going with Frank Kimmel driving with Advance Auto Parts. Low and behold, a deal came together with Discover Card for six races and that's through Chicago. Hopefully, we can show them that NASCAR Winston Cup racing is a good marketing tool that they can use and that they'll decide to stay on board for longer. But right now it's through Chicago and we're still actively pursuing sponsors."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP AS A BODINE?
I get that question a lot. People think maybe it's special or glamorous, but for myself and for Brett, we grew up around a race track. Our father owned a race track in upstate New York for 25 years, so racing is all we've ever done. In fact, I've only had one job outside of racing and that was working for the sponsor of my brother's modified car at the time. So it's all I've ever done. Growing up watching Geoff and Brett win races, being successful in each division they were in, to me, they were still just my brothers even though they were 'celebrities' or 'superstars' or whatever you want to call it. They're still just my brothers and it was no big deal, it was just neat to watch and to be a part of. I was fortunate enough growing up to be able to help them both work on their cars and be a part of what they did. That's how I got started. When I was 13, I went to my first race as a crew member with Brett and he won the race and from that time on, I understood what racing was about and why these guys work so hard to do this. From that point on, that's all I wanted to do."
WILL THERE BE MORE BODINES IN RACING?
Right now, Geoff's son, Barry, is trying to get a career going, although it's really hard right now to get anything going. We're trying to find him some sponsorship and, as far as Bodines go, he's the only one left that really had the ability and the drive to do it. We have a nephew, Josh Richeson, who is Donnie Richeson's son -- the crew chief on Casey Mears' car in the Busch Series and was also my crew chief for two years -- he's been running some races. He's got a few more Busch races this year to run and he's very good and has a great future in front of him if we can secure sponsorship for him. That's the remainder of the family that's going to be involved."
HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT TO SEARCH FOR A SOLID SPONSOR IN WINSTON CUP? "I've been in situations that we felt like were gonna be the right opportunity with good people and it just didn't work out for whatever reason. Every time I've gotten on a top-flight, high-quality race team, and the substitution roles that I've done for various teams, we've showed that we can get the job done and do a respectable job. I've always tried to position myself to get into that quality ride with good people and, for whatever reason, it hasn't happened yet. I really felt like when I had the opportunity with Travis Carter that it was the right opportunity. At the time it wasn't a Hendrick or a Roush or a Yates, but Travis is the type of car owner that gives you everything you can ask for to go fast. Whether it be good people, good equipment, whatever it takes he's gonna do it to make you go fast. What's very important to be is being involved with good people and Travis is a great guy. He's a lot of fun and he's a good car owner. Unfortunately, we've gone through some troubled times this year and, hopefully, we can get it turned around and secure a sponsor and go on down the road and have a great future together."
DO YOU FEEL GOING BACK TO DAYTONA IS THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL? "Daytona is a little bit of a fickle situation. You go down there and if you don't have a fast car, meaning aerodynamically, and if you don't have the greatest of motors, you can only do so much until you get in the race. So qualifying, you're pretty much at the mercy of the race car. Then when you get in the race, it's kind of up to the driver to get the car to the front. Still, you've got to have a good race car to do it. You can't count your chickens before they hatch, you have to wait until you get there and see where you stack up in the lineup to know how well you're gonna do."
DO YOU GET RECOGNIZED A LOT IN PUBLIC AND HAVE YOU EVER BEEN MISTAKEN FOR ONE OF YOUR BROTHERS?
Being recognized in public, I wouldn't consider myself one of the better known racers. It happens once in a while, but as far as anybody in particular, not really. I used to get mistaken for Brett quite a bit, but now that I've changed my look a little bit, that doesn't happen anymore. Brett's got hair and I don't."
IS THERE MORE PRESSURE ON THE TRACK TRYING TO IMPRESS DISCOVER CARD? "Not really. There's always pressure, but I've always said that there's no way a car owner, a sponsor, a crew or crew chief can put anymore pressure on myself than I do myself. My philosophy is that if you give 110 percent every lap, you've got nothing to hang your head down about if something happens. You've done your best and that's all you can do. That's what I try to do -- every lap, do the best that I can do -- and then off the track do the best job representing the sponsor that I can do. Whatever happens is gonna happen. If it doesn't go the way you want, it's not because you didn't try and do your best. I've always tried to live with that philosophy and, so far, it's gotten me through a lot of hard times knowing that I've always done the best that I can."
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN THE KMART DEAL STARTED GOING SOUTH?
My initial reaction was, 'here we go again.' It seems like every time I get myself in a good situation, something happens that's out of my control. That was my first reaction. It was unbelievable that this could happen again. I couldn't understand why, but I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Every time something has happened before, I've landed on my feet -- whether it be in Winston Cup or back in Busch. I've always been a firm believer in that. Sure enough, when the last race was up at Las Vegas, the Herzogs were looking for a driver and a driver change and I stepped in and we've got a good situation here."
TRAVIS CARTER, Car Owner --26-- Discover Card Taurus -- HOW ARE THINGS GOING WITH DISCOVER CARD?
I think they're moving ahead. They're fired up and they've got a lot of great plans for the future. We just hope they include us. We're working toward that end right now."
HOW HAS THIS SIX-RACE DEAL GONE SO FAR?
It's not gone as well as we had hoped, but when you sit on the sidelines for a while, you lose a little bit. I think, quite honestly, we've run relatively well to have been in the situation we've been up until this point because, again, if you're not out there full-bore every week, it's just like a good athlete staying in shape -- you have to be a part of it every week to stay on top of things and we're gaining back on that. I think the morale of the team has improved a lot. That's a big piece of what goes on, it's all about people. These guys see a future. They've been more motivated than they've been in the past. When people are not knowing the next week or a month from now where they will be or what will happen, that takes a lot out of people and that's taken a lot out of out team this year."
HOW MUCH OF A LEARNING CURVE IS IT FOR THE SPONSOR TO LEARN THE SPORT? "There's a process, but part of it is what this company is doing is their in-car camera is part of that -- to help gain additional exposure. Putting programs in place, it takes a while to get their programs in place to really implement -- their car program. It's so much more involved with a good program. It's not just a car going around a track. That, in essence, is the vehicle that puts you in tune to do all the ancillary programs to make a successful sponsorship. I've been as impressed with this company and their preparation as anybody I've ever been associated with."
DO YOU ALMOST HAVE TO BE AS CREATIVE FOR THE SPONSOR AS YOU DO FOR THE RACE?
Perhaps more so because there's such a different level that those programs are negotiated at or deals are made at. You've looking at the corporate level and it takes the right people, it takes a lot of intelligent people with creativity to go in there and tailor a program that fits a company's needs or fits their method of trying to get their message to the public, or bring their product to the shelf. It takes a lot of work and it's an ongoing process that never stops. It's just like racing, it's a year-round, every day, every week, year-after-year process to continue to make these things successful and keep these companies in place."
YOU'VE BEEN AT THIS A LONG TIME.
I've been at it a long time, yes, but I'm not a sales person. We have to depend on someone else that is more capable than I to do that. Yes, I can go in and talk with people, but to really put the program together, it takes a professional at a level beyond a race car owner."
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WORKED WITH SPONSORS EARLY IN YOUR CAREER?
I remember when I made the deal with Banquet Foods. I went to Omaha, Nebraska, and sat down with a gentleman at a table, signed a contract and put a check in my pocket. Today, these things go on for sometimes a year with many different elements involved with the development of this thing. From the marketing strategy to the merchandising to all the programs they have to implement -- the cross promotions and tie-ins -- it's just a constant development and work to put these things together. And then sometimes you have to have a plan formulated and then present that. You say, 'Here's how this can work for you,' and it's very detailed."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT AFTER CHICAGO AS FAR AS A SPONSOR GOES?
I have some concerns. I'm certainly far more positive than we are negative. We have a relative strong confidence that we'll be there."
SO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS OF HOW TO DEAL WITH THE PRESSURES OF MAINTAINING A MAJOR SPONSORSHIP?
First, if you could win every race and a championship it would relieve a lot of that. There are a lot of factors. The driver has to be the right guy. He needs to be likeable, he needs to be personable, he needs to perform well on the race track, he needs to smile good in front of the cameras, he needs to say the right things and people need to listen to him. That's a good representative. Quite honestly, all the team members are part of that. From a racing perspective, that's what we can offer -- is to put the most competitive car on the track. You're not gonna win every race. The way things are tightening up now, you don't have a guy that wins 10 races. We might not have that in the future for a while. It's spreading around a lot, but everybody has to do what they can to bring their name and their sponsor to the forefront every week."