[Tommy LaMance, nephew of Conseco Pontiac owner A.J. Foyt, assumed the role of general manager this week for Foyt's first-year NASCAR Winston Cup operation in Mooresville, N.C. In the past two weeks the team has added Philippe Lopez as crew...
[Tommy LaMance, nephew of Conseco Pontiac owner A.J. Foyt, assumed the role of general manager this week for Foyt's first-year NASCAR Winston Cup operation in Mooresville, N.C. In the past two weeks the team has added Philippe Lopez as crew chief and David Evans as chief engine builder to go with new driver Rick Mast. The new combination yielded the 15th quickest speed in Friday's first round qualifying for tomorrow's running of the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway.]
THOUGHTS FROM TOMMY LAMANCE, GENERAL MANAGER, NO. 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
(ON HIS NEW ROLE WITH THE TEAM) "The biggest thing that I am coming over here to do is to coordinate all the different departments that we have and lead the employees in a more focused manner. We have a lot of energy and a lot of resources, and I need to direct that. That is the key to what has made me successful on the Indy car side is the ability to lead the people, give them direction and give them the organization to go the right way. That's what we're trying to do. I think that's been lacking. There has been a whole lot of work done and a whole lot of busy people, but not a whole lot of focus and direction. I think it's just about getting back to the basics and becoming a consistent team before you try to do different things."
(IS IT INTIMIDATING TO ACCEPT THIS ROLE WITH A WINSTON CUP TEAM?) "It is intimidating, but it's competition. I am a very competitive person. I look at it from that aspect. I have to learn this sport, whereas with Indy car racing, I was born into the sport. I understood the sport from when I was a child. This is something completely new - the daily grind, the week-in and week-out. That's a whole different concept I'm not used to."
(RACING WEEK-IN AND WEEK-OUT) "On the Indy car side, you would have two, maybe three races a month, and that was once a year you would have three in a row. To come over here and do this week-in and week-out really puts an emphasis on having a consistent race team. You can see the guys that are up front are consistent. They are always there, they are always up front, they are always leading the way. I'm going to try to copy or emulate their formulas until we get our own success going. Then we can venture off into different waters."
(BEING A "RACER") "Racing has been my livelihood since I was 15 years old, since I was in high school. I've always enjoyed the business side of the sport, the people side. I understand that a race team is only as good as the people you put on it. No matter how many resources you have, or sponsors, or corporate partners, it all comes down to your core people. Once you surround yourself with a good nucleus, then a lot of good things can happen. But you have to bring those people in and you have to get them to work together."
(IS THE SEASON JUST STARTING FOR THIS TEAM?) "Yeah. With all the work that has been done at Team Conseco since the middle of September really - we've built 11 cars, a race shop, our whole program from a scratch of paper - it's been phenomenal just the fact that we're at the racetrack. I've never lost sight of that. And that's great, but it's still about the competition on Sunday. When you are not there competing on Sunday it is very frustrating. What I explained to the team was that almost one third of the season is gone already, and we have to accept that. But now our goal is to come in here and try to park our transporter one more spot down every week, and to keep that momentum. Now we're fighting to get everything ready for next year and for the second half of this season.
(ON THE TEAM "TURNING THE CORNER") "I really think that in 10 to 12 weeks we can get back together and see where we're at. Things are going to take time. We have to re-do a lot of our chassis, and we have a lot of aero work to do yet. Our package isn't where we want it to be yet, but I'm hoping in the next 10 or 12 weeks, three to four months, that we'll have it the right way. As far as turning the corner, I don't know. I think you'll be able to tell better than I will just by the results of the race team. If we become more consistent and we're here every Sunday, then I think we will have turned the corner. I think that will be a good way to judge." (ON THE PRESSURE OF BEING A.J. FOYT'S "RIGHT HAND MAN") "It's exasperating because A.J. Foyt has spent a lot of years building a reputation as being the greatest and true champion in everything that he has done, and I never want to see that tarnished. So as the team faltered early, the thing that bothered me more than anything was seeing the hurt on A.J. He wasn't really upset, he was just hurt. And that motivates me, as well, because I know that A.J. Foyt needs to be in the front. He deserves to be in the front. The only way to get to the front is to work really hard to get there. In racing they don't just let you go there. We have to become a better race program and we'll do that."