I know both of you have been on the AT&T Teleconference before, so once again, welcome. Kay Keselowski: Thank you very much. Terry Cook: Yes, thank you for having us back on. Owen Kearns: Let's turn first to Kay. We had you on last year...
I know both of you have been on the AT&T Teleconference before, so once again, welcome.
Kay Keselowski: Thank you very much.
Terry Cook: Yes, thank you for having us back on.
Owen Kearns: Let's turn first to Kay. We had you on last year with your then driver, Dennis Setzer.
O.K. So we've got a new driver. At that time, and in fact, the year before came very close to giving Dodge its first championship with Dennis Setzer, who was your previous driver. This year the Dodges are gone and you've got Ford F150s in your shop in the greater Detroit area. So not a lot of other things have changed though, the crew looks to be all the same, the crew chief is pretty much the same and the ownership is the same. I guess you're still the spotter for Terry?
K.K.: Yes, I am.
O.K.: Tell us a little bit about how everything came to pass and all the new things that are going on at K-Automotive.
K.K.: Well, we're really pleased to have the Fords, Ford has been performing well, actually. Greg Biffle has the true meaning of that one. The Fords have done really well. We're very pleased. Ford is just an absolute delight to work with and we've been doing exceedingly well. Terry has just been awesome for us; four top tens in four races, so there is very little we could ask for more than that other than, obviously, we want to get up there in the winner's circle.
Things have been going very well. We're still searching for a sponsor; got some possibilities coming up here that may happen for us, so we're pretty excited about that. Other than that, Bob actually is the crew chief now and he's excited about his role. He and Terry seem to be doing very well together. We're all just very pleased to be doing what we love to do.
O.K.: Now there were a lot of drivers out there looking for rides at the conclusion of the 2000 season, what really were the skills and the things that Terry Cook brought to the table that caused you to make the decision to put him in your truck?
K.K.: There were a lot of drivers and we probably talked to 50% of them because there were a lot of people looking for rides. We needed someone that was going to mesh with our lifestyle. Terry, we've actually known him for years and years, Bob raced against his father, and so we kind of watched him growing up. He had the ways and the means and what we consider to be the talent that we needed to make our team successful. He was willing to work with us in some pretty trying times without a sponsor. It has all just come together. We ran him in Fontana last year. He did exceedingly well with a team he had never run with, never worked with and still brought us home a top ten. We were just very impressed with that, looking to find someone who could come on board and be successful pretty much instantly, and he was it.
O.K.: Okay. Terry, let's bring you in, and maybe stay a little bit on the same page as far as you making a change. Ever since I've known you on the series, and that goes back, I guess, pretty much to the second year of the series and your late model activities, you drove for Duke Thorson. Duke pretty much picked up your career in the late models up there at Sandusky Speedway in the northern Ohio area. Every race that you've run on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, through all but one there, through the end of the 2000 season, 93 of them had been with Duke. This had to be a big change for you.
T.C.: Well, it definitely was. It was a very big change for me having raced with just the one team up until this past season. You know, I give a lot of credit to my former team owner for giving me the opportunity to get me to this point, but I could have not asked for a better situation than what myself and the K-Automotive team are involved with right now. I mean Bob, Ron and Kay Keselowski, you could not ask for a better group of people to drive for. As far as I'm concerned, I am home. This is the real deal right here. Like Kay said, our track record early this season has proven that from the word go to the fourth race of the season the team as a whole is just gelling really well. We are just clicking along. Things are superb. The only thing we're lacking right now is just a major sponsor, and with the performances we've been having, we know that is going to come.
O.K.: Your career on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has been one where you've either been at the very top, you qualify up front, win a race, come back on a road course the next week and almost win the race, or on the other hand, it's been kind of down in the valleys where you've had some problems, mechanical failures, accidents and that kind of thing. All of the sudden, now you've become Mr. Consistency on the series, is this the change in team or is it a change in attitude, what can you say about that?
T.C.: Well, I think a lot of this industry is attitude, but it's 99%, in this case, team. I mean I always felt as though I had a great attitude, a great focus, but it's hard to have a great attitude and focus at times when you're dropping out of races with mechanical failures. Nothing against the former team I raced for, we just had a lot of mechanical failures over there. We were constantly dropping out of races with broken parts and just trying to push parts to the limit that we should not have been running.
The thing with the K-Automotive team is they have been racing for so long and they're such sharp people, they know when you need to cycle parts out and they know when you need to have good equipment and when you might be able to cut a corner here or there. The only time they cut a corner is when they know that they can. They don't take a chance on not cutting corners when there may be a possibility of a failure of an engine or anything in the driveline or what have you. So the big key to our early success this year is four races, four finishes. We've been running at the checkered flag. I feel as though I've got enough confidence in myself, and this team here has helped elevate my confidence level, that if you can give me a truck that will be running at the checkered flag, we're going to bring it home in a top ten position. If you just keep building on that and building on that, the next thing you know, you find yourself contending for the championship.
One of the team owners, Ron Keselowski, pointed out to me when I was up at the shop here a couple of weeks ago, they keep a running tally in their break room of past finishing results. They had 1999 on the wall and 2000 on the wall and 2001, and we are further ahead right now in points accumulated in the first four races than when they were when they were contending for the championship in the 1999 season with Dennis Setzer in the last race of the season. So we're really pumped up. We're excited about things right now.
O.K.: Let's talk a little bit about the Martinsville Speedway, you finished third up there. That was your first top five finish since Daytona in 2000. That's a long time, but it also was Ford's first top five finish of the season after having gone three consecutive, which was a dubious record for the manufacturer on the series. That had to really make you feel pretty good having that kind of a finish on probably one of the most difficult, technical racetracks on the circuit.
T.C.: Well, it really was. I mean that was a huge boost for not only myself, but the team as a whole. You know we were consistently in the top ten, consistently in the top ten, I mean we led some laps at Daytona and we were right in the hunt at Bakersfield, but this is the first race that we can actually say that from the drop of the green to the checkered flag, we were right there battling for the lead. We were in the top three all day long and had a shot at winning it there late in the race. That was huge.
We rolled off of the trailer with one of the fastest trucks there and that was nothing more than great preparation, did a little bit of testing the week before hand, learned some things and just went to the track with a great, prepared truck. Anytime you can go to the track, roll out of the trailer and put a great time up on the scoring pylon in practice, you know you're going to have a good weekend. We were able to do that at Martinsville.
O.K.: Okay. Let's take some questions from the media for Terry and Kay.
Dave Dugan: Hello, Terry. It's good to get the chance to talk to someone from the area.
T.C.: Yes. How are you today?
D.D.: Real good. We follow you with intense interest here. We have a weekly radio show that we go over the happenings in the sport, and we follow you with a great intensity here. We were wondering how have the experiences you've had, like at Sandusky Speedway and the Toledo Speedway, how has that carried over with the Craftsman Truck Series?
T.C.: Well, the tracks that I raced locally on there, and I think even my team owner, Bob Keselowski, could attribute this to the local short tracks, no matter where you're racing, especially Toledo Speedway and Sandusky Speedway and even Flat Rock Speedway, you learn the basics of racing. You learn how to drive side by side with somebody without wrecking them and them wrecking you and how to maneuver yourself through traffic. Between Flat Rock Speedway, Toledo Speedway and Sandusky Speedway, there were three completely different tracks and they're three unique tracks to themselves. Anytime you can have a lot of success, like I was able to, at all three tracks, it only gives you enough confidence to move on to a bigger touring series like the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and be able to know that you can get there and compete.
D.D.: Very good. That's good to know. We've got, of course, a lot of great talent here, and the reason we asked that question is to find out what these drivers can look forward to if they decide to move on.
D.D.: Also, I'm wondering how are you dealing with, you as a driver or as your team, how do you deal with these long gaps on the Craftsman Truck Series schedule?
T.C.: Well, actually, as a racer, as a driver, I wish we could race every weekend of the year. Now if you ask Kay, the team owner who has to write the checks, she may differ with you because it is very expensive to go racing. I wish the Craftsman Truck Series next year had a 30 or 32 race schedule where we didn't have these long breaks in here. I definitely would love to start the season off every year at Daytona for speed weeks, and you want to close the season, you know, early in November. If you're only running a 24-race schedule, you're going to have to spread them out there a little bit. It's a lot of scheduling conflicts, and as Owen may be able to tell you, with TV, with the tracks, with NASCAR, trying to get everything put together, it's tough to not have some breaks in there, but the breaks are definitely tough on us drivers because we tend to get a little antsy.
You don't have much of a social life because your social life is your friends at the track because you're almost always at the racetrack. So when you do come home for a three-week stretch like this, you're climbing the walls looking for something to do. I'd like to be racing myself.
D.D.: Very good. Thank you for getting a chance to talk with us today. We wish you a tremendous success. We'll have our eye on you here at WFRO.
T.C.: Thank you very much.
Dave Rodman: Kay and Terry, congratulations on a great start to the season.
T.C.: Thank you, Dave. Greatly appreciate it.
D.R.: I guess the first question, are you guys committed to running the full schedule, and how has your sponsorship search been going, please?
T.C.: I think I'll let Kay answer those questions.
K.K.: Absolutely, we are committed to the entire schedule for this year. The sponsor search, we do have a couple of good prospects coming through we're pretty excited about. I really can't go any further and say anything more about it, but we have some things happening for us that look to be promising. So we are committed to the entire series. We promised Ford that. We promised Terry that. That's what we're going to do.
D.R.: That's great. Terry, those Dodges have been awful tough so far.
T.C.: Yes, they have.
D.R.: Looking at short-term, down the road, where is the best opportunity for a Ford to win, specifically yours?
T.C.: Well, you look at the schedule and our next race is Gateway, and I'll be honest with you, we're going there with one of the trucks that I think will be our best truck in our fleet, it's the one we just ran at Martinsville. Again, K-Automotive prepares the trucks so well. I'm not going to sit here and bad mouth the Dodges and say the Fords are at a deficit or a handicap. We all are in control of our own team and I think we all have a little bit of homework to do to bring ourselves, maybe, up to the Dodge level. Dodge has definitely done their homework, and you know they're at the top of their game right now.
You kind of see that changing of the guard always happening. The first couple two or three years it was Chevrolet. The last year or two it was Fords. This year it seems to be Dodges. That doesn't mean that a Ford's not going to get in to victory lane soon. Personally, I like my chances at Gateway coming up here on May 6th. I think that the K-Automotive Ford F150 has as good as chance as any to not only sit on the pole, but to win the race.
D.R.: What's the biggest thing that goes in to determining what vehicle you're going to use at a particular racetrack?
T.C.: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with driver feel. You know, we used three different trucks already this year. We used a Daytona truck. We used a truck different at Homestead, took that same truck from Homestead to Bakersfield and were very happy with that one. The guys at the shop were able to complete the third truck right before Martinsville and we went and shook it down and I just fell in love with it. I was like, 'Wow, this thing is a nice piece.' And again, we rolled off the truck at Martinsville and were very fast.
Whenever you get a truck that performs well, responds to changes well at the track and has a good feel for the driver, you kind of fall in love with it, and we like to just run the heck out of it, run it as often as we can. Unfortunately for us, we don't have much turnaround time between Gateway and Darlington. We probably only have two days in the shop before we have to get back on the road to make it down there for our optional test day on Thursday. Bob has promised me if we put that thing in victory lane, he'll work 24/7 until that truck's done and we're taking that same truck to Darlington. If we don't, we're probably just going to run our truck that we ran at Bakersfield and Homestead at Darlington.
D.R.: In terms of a truck, and I guess with the exception of the truck that you'd race at Daytona, are they more adaptable from a Bakersfield to a much longer racetrack? It seems like you're using the same piece at a short track as at a racetrack over a mile, is that the case?
T.C.: Yes, it is. That's a good point you brought up there. You'll see the Winston Cup teams, they'll have 15 cars in their stable and they'll have a car that is strictly just a Martinsville or a Bristol type car.