Travis Carter Enterprises announced today that Hideo Fukuyama will drive a combination of races in NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch and ARCA in 2003. Fukuyama competed in two Winston Cup events in 2002, racing at Dover (finished 39th) and Martinsville...
Travis Carter Enterprises announced today that Hideo Fukuyama will drive a combination of races in NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch and ARCA in 2003. Fukuyama competed in two Winston Cup events in 2002, racing at Dover (finished 39th) and Martinsville (finished 43rd). Carter, Fukuyama and Japanese financier Mr. Mitsuo Maeda participated in a press conference to announce the program at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
TRAVIS CARTER , Car Owner - No. 66 Kikkoman Taurus:
"I'm very pleased to be associated with Mr. Maeda and Hideo. We spent some time last year on sort of a trial and test basis. We attempted to do three races, I believe, and we did have him involved in two of those events. But with Mr. Maeda's support and the support of Kikkoman, it's kind of a program in its infancy. This is something we want to try to build on and I'm looking forward to trying to do that and provide Hideo with the very best cars that we can and give this guy an opportunity to be a successful Winston Cup driver. Of course, we all know how difficult that is. I think he knows the task ahead. I think this guy is mentally prepared for that and all of us associated with this program are prepared for that. We know the pitfalls and we know the work ahead of us, but our goal is set for long-term. It's not a short-term situation or a splash in the pan type thing. We want to build this into a strong team in the future and I hope this certainly is a long-lasting relationship."
HIDEO FUKUYAMA - No. 66 Kikkoman Taurus:
"I first met Travis in 1996 when there was an exhibition race in Suzuka, Japan, so we have a long relationship dating back to 1996. At that time I knew it was everyone's first time there and I was able to do a very good job and perform well at that track. At the time, Travis was associated with Jimmy Spencer and he told me I should just join in and come over to America. The problem was that Travis forgot to bring his glasses to Japan, so I wasn't sure if he would recognize me the next time he saw me. I also got to run in that race with Dale Earnhardt. I got a chance to meet him and he said some very nice things to me. He told me that I raced very well and was a good driver. He said I should come to American and try to do it here. I sort of knew how Americans were, so I thought maybe he was giving me some lip service, but after that I got a chance to come to American and speak with many people here. That's when I realized that people believe in me and now I have a chance to do my dream. My dreams and hopes became very strong after that and it's going to be a very long time before I forget the time I met Travis and the words I had with Dale Earnhardt. Again, I'm very grateful to Travis Carter and Mr. Maeda for this chance to be in America and drive here. As Mr. Maeda said earlier, this is really a source of pride for Japan and I'm looking forward to working as hard as I can in Winston Cup."
ARE THERE ANY OTHER DRIVERS IN JAPAN WHO WOULD WANT TO COME OVER HERE? "Yes. There are many people who have this dream."
ON OTHER JAPANESE DRIVERS: "I would like to comment on that. I attended a press conference back in Tokyo back in August or September and many, many Japanese drivers attended as friends and supporters of Hideo. Believe me, everyone had a business card. I probably had 20 of them when I left because all of them wanted to come and drive."
WHEN DID YOUR INTEREST IN NASCAR RACING START? "I had heard of NASCAR before, but my first real experience was in 1996 at the Suzuka race. There are still a lot of people in Japan that don't know NASCAR. It's not like in American where everyone knows NASCAR, so it's still sort of an unknown thing there."
ARE YOU ENCOURAGED BY TOYOTA'S ENTRANCE INTO NASCAR? "I'm very happy that Toyota has this chance to enter into the NASCAR scene. As far as me being related to Toyota, if Travis Carter decides to use Toyota, then I'll be related to Toyota as well."
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE LANGUAGE BARRIER? "Obviously, we just try to use certain words that are very profound in spotting. I've worked with him myself in the spotting arena. We've had the good fortune in this year's endeavor to involved two Japanese mechanic engineers that have moved to North Carolina with us. One of those guys is working in training as a spotter. As a matter of fact, he attended the race at Rockingham and listened along with Todd's spotter. I'll work with him and make sure he understands. He speaks pretty good English, so it's not a matter of understanding, it's just a matter of how to conduct the races and how to anticipate and give the drivers the information. I would like to make a comment about those particular guys. They came to the shop and we met them, but their first involvement with the car was actually here at the test at Las Vegas. I came in from Daytona on Sunday night and arrived Monday morning. When I got to the track around 9 o'clock, I thought, 'These guys will take a month to figure out how to find a wrench in the tool box.' Well, they were working on the car like they had worked on it for 20 years, so my response was, 'Do you have about 20 more of these guys that want to come over here?' We're really pleased with those guys. They're deeply involved and very capable and certainly bring a level of confidence to Hideo that I think was missing somewhat last year. That's gonna be a benefit in us moving forward."
WHAT IS THE PLAN FOR THIS SEASON? "What we've done is sort of work on a schedule that probably could change as time goes by, but our plan is to put a mix of some Winston Cup tracks - the tracks that I think are probably less difficult, that he's more comfortable with, that NASCAR is more comfortable with him running on - some ARCA races, which I think is a good learning ground, and perhaps some Busch races. As much as anything it's to get Hideo as much exposure to the particular tracks as possible and to give him an environment that allows him to be a little more competitive easier than trying to be competitive on the Winston Cup level. We all know how difficult that is, so I think our array of races will allow him to grow and hone his skills some and just flow into the race a little better. When you go to Daytona and Talladega, you know how difficult it is. You don't want to be out there three-wide until you sort of learn more about racing these cars, so it's just kind of a slow learning curve. Again, we want to emphasize our program that we're working on here. It's not just a short-term thing for this year. I think Mr. Maeda's intention and certainly ours is that it's something we can develop long term."
WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT-TERM PLANS? "We plan to run here and we plan to do the ARCA race next week at Atlanta. I think that's a good race for him. Darlington is kind of up in the air right now. It's something we need to discuss. I want to work with them and advise them on what I think the best schedule is with him. I think Mr. Maeda might want to do some races that maybe we should not attempt right now, so I think there are some issues we need to discuss. There are certain tracks that are just really tough. It's sort of like throwing a guy to the wolves to try and put him on some of these tracks and I think we need to get a little better prepared for some of them."
HOW MUCH TESTING WILL YOU DO? "It's our goal, it didn't work out at Atlanta to test ARCA, but we want to test everywhere he runs. I think that's imperative. We tested here. The first day went real well. The second day he had a little trouble, but I thought he ran pretty good. He didn't run as fast as Todd and those guys, but he ran a pretty good time, I thought, the more time he had in the car. If you're gonna ask me what his chances are of making this race, if he can get some practice time, I think he'll have a shot."