NASCAR/Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Teleconference Transcript - Kevin Buckler and Justin Marks May 13, 2009 An interview with: KEVIN BUCKLER JUSTIN MARKS THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining...
NASCAR/Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Teleconference Transcript - Kevin
Buckler and Justin Marks
May 13, 2009
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. Welcome to this week's NASCAR Grand-Am Teleconference in advance of Sunday's Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
It's a pleasure to have with us today, car owner, Kevin Buckler, and driver, Justin Marks. Justin will be driving the Rolex 24 winning No. 67 Construct Corp Porsche GT3. That is one of seven Porsches that TRG will be fielding this weekend, in addition to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet, and a truck for David Gilliland at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Kevin had a sensational year in 2002 when he won his class at the both the Rolex 24 and the 24 hours of Le Mans, and that got him the 2002 Porsche Cup as the top independent driver worldwide for Porsche. How could he top that? By winning the Rolex 24 overall in 2003.
Justin is a former sports car racer who made his debut at TRG in 2001, and after a couple years in ARCA and in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series, it's a pleasure to have him back in the Rolex series.
Kevin, it's kind of business as usual for you. You're running seven cars at Laguna Seca plus Sprint Cup series at Lowe's. How do you keep track of everything?
KEVIN BUCKLER: Thank you, J.J., I'm glad to be here. Thanks, everybody. Using the words running business as usual, and running seven cars doesn't sound like it goes together, but it does, and it was an exciting week here at TRG.
I really enjoy coming here to the shop and seeing the work that our guys have been doing. Every day was full. All the guys were here. Parking lots were full, the cars were full. Wheels were outside being stripped, tires were being sorted and cars were being painted. It was really a cool last week getting everything prepped.
I was driving in this morning, and one of my trailers was heading south for Laguna. So it is pretty awesome.
The bottom line is we've got a great group of people. It's taken years to assemble. It's sort of our secret sauce. Everyone's been getting along well. We've been horsing around and kidding and having barbecue lunches and stuff out here while we're working. The guys are coming in around 7, staying till 8:00 or 9:00 at night.
We've got a great group here. Everyone likes what they. I try to lead by example as much as I can. I'm just really proud of my team, all the way from the drivers down to the guys sweeping the floor.
Q: Justin, competition has been very intense this year in GT. What are your thoughts as you head back to tackle the famous corkscrew at Laguna Seca?
JUSTIN MARKS: It's been a couple of years since I've been there of the it's a place that's special to me because I went to racing school there when I was in high school. Had my first professional racing start there. My first professional racing podium there. And it's neat because friends and family get to come to the event and everything.
So I think the last year that I raced at Laguna was the ALMS season finale in 2006. So it's been a couple of years since I've been there, but I'm really looking forward to going to the home track. Just kind of excited to keep the season going.
We started with a bang winning the 24. We've got a solid points position, and really digging deep and trying hard. We've got some tough competition here with some of these other teams. And, you know, we're just fighting really hard. But it's a closely contested championship, and I feel like coming to the home race is an opportunity to dig down a little deeper to see if we can't make something special happen.
Q: Kevin, the Cup season, the season's often do, has been a little up, a little down. I hate to see that your sponsor had to pull back the reins on that a little bit. But what is the latest plan with the Cup program? Have you had to set anymore "deadlines" as far as running ahead into the future?
KEVIN BUCKLER: Yeah, good question. A lot happened this morning. We had a big partner conference call yesterday. We had all of our partners on the phone. Sort of laid out the progress of the program. It was a pretty neat day. We have four or five points throughout the year where you can see sort of milestones are set and things are happening. Yesterday and today was one of them.
When we had this thing start with the truck program last year, you know, my partners, myself, my wife, all of our resources and TRG, we threw in and started the business. Bought a building, went to Mooresville. Started to figure we'd get our black eyes and bloody nose in the truck series first. Just kind of figure out the way to do this.
We did a pretty good job. I was proud of the guys. Had a win, a bunch of Top 10s. The economy was strong and I figured we'd be going into this season with three full-time trucks because that's who was courting us last year as well as some ARCA cars.
The sponsorship, when it dries up, dries up first in the lower series. So ARCA and truck are slowing up, great racing and great stuff. But just hard to find the money and it's expensive.
We took a stab and swing at the Cup program a year early. We were planning to go in 2010. Things came together this year, and we did it. We got a little money together. Ran the first few races and surprised ourselves. Missed Daytona, started qualifying our way in with David Gilliland, and it's just been Bam, Bam, Bam.
The last couple of races in the last month has been tough. We courted a sponsor for a couple of months. Found out at the end of the day it was sort of almost a sham. It was a shame because apparently this has happened with the same group once before in another series.
We had to pull back. We've been doing a few, you know, start and parks here in the last couple of races. But as of this morning we've committed fully to Charlotte. And we'll be doing a triple play for the Charlotte weekend.
We're going to be running David in the 7 in the truck series. We're putting him in the truck this weekend for the first time. That will be great. We'll be running the All-Star Race qualifier as well, hopefully making it in. And then we're going to run the 600.
We're going to try to continue to work really, really hard on doing as many races as we can this year. We will probably make every race in some fashion this year in the Cup series, and start properly looking towards 2010.
We've been chasing dollars week by week. And there are very few people out there that have discretionary budgets for next month. They're looking for next year.
So we took a deep breath. Got a few bucks in the bank ready to go after a few races and we'll go after properly looking for a budget for 2010.
Q: Since the entry lists are just coming together, can you tell me what will be on David's truck this weekend? And then the car for the showdown, and then the car for the 600? Is that in place yet?
KEVIN BUCKLER: It's not in place yet. We don't want to run it blank. We have a couple of people that are looking to be with us. They haven't committed yet. I'm absolutely adamant about finding a partner sponsor for a few of these races.
I'm trying to find one person that would be involved in all three events just because it would be so nice to have that so we can immerse them in our program for an entire week. But I don't have it figured out yet. But if anybody has any clues or suggestions, fire them at me.
Q: I know you've answered this before, but I have to ask, you've come from sports cars and the ARCA and trucks and then Camping World stock cars and go back to sports cars. Can you walk me through the transition in your head and your mind and what goes through all of that when you're going from such different vehicles?
JUSTIN MARKS: I think a big part of it is what I had to tell myself when I left sports car racing to go to the oval tracks is that I don't know anything. Just start all over again. It's like I'm racing for the very first time. Doing the oval track stuff was a lot of fun, and I'm still planning on doing it a little bit this year and a little bit next year and on down the future.
But the truck series experience was a great one. It didn't end the way we wanted it to end. Ultimately, I've got a special place in my heart for road racing just because it's the way I came up. I love the race cars, the venues we go to. The tracks we go to. Especially places like Laguna Seca. They're so diverse and challenging.
And the pure enjoyment of driving a sports car on a road course to me is not really tops anything I've done.
But the competition in stock car racing at any level that I've done it sort of fascinates me. And it's just amazing racing, and the quality of racing. I'm one of these guys that I just love to race. I'll kind of get in anything.
There's a lot of things that we're looking at in the future heading from doing Tulsa for the midget race next year or doing Baja whatever it is. Just being able to experience everything that the sport has to offer is something that I want to do in my career.
So I wouldn't say that I've sort of left sports car racing to go stock car racing or left stock car racing to go back to sports car racing. I had a really neat opportunity with Kevin to drive the Porsche this year, with Andy, the guy that I've raced against for many years and had a lot of respect for. And it was an awesome opportunity to be able to take up, and an opportunity to put my sponsors in Victory Lane at Daytona I knew going into that race we had a strong shot at winning it.
So I think it comes down to the fact that I love this sport more than anything in the world, and I want to experience everything that it has to offer.
Q: You mentioned that about Laguna Seca, and the driving school there. That is such a gorgeous racetrack, and I imagine a very tricky racetrack to get around. Can you walk me through some of the keys of doing well at Laguna Seca?
JUSTIN MARKS: Absolutely. Laguna Seca is a neat track because it offers everything. It's a smooth track. It's a wonderfully maintained facility. We always struggle with grip there. It's in a pretty unique spot being right next to the ocean, and the way the topography and the landscape is around.
But what I like about Laguna, it has unique challenges from the elevation. There are a lot of blind corners where you're undulating and going downhill and uphill, it has the corkscrew turn which is one of the most unique parts of any racetrack in the world.
What I love about Laguna, too, is it is a great racetrack and there are tons of passing opportunities. You can set guys up and make a pass anywhere on that racetrack. You can't say that about a lot of the racetracks we go to.
In the 20 or 30 some-odd races that I've had at that track, I've passed people into and out of every corner on that track. So in that respect, it's a really fun place to race.
Also in a series like the GT Series where you have different makes that have distinct characteristics that differentiate themselves from the other makes. They show up incrementally on that racetrack. So there are corners where certain cars are better than others, and your car is better than your competition. So it makes the racing strategy and your race craft really important. So in that respect, it's challenging and rewarding to any driver that goes there.
Q: Justin, you've raced with a lot of different teammates in sports car racing, if you had your druthers, what are the ideal characteristics or qualifications you'd be looking for in a teammate? And the second part is just to compare the competition level today or in 2009 versus the last time you ran in this series?
JUSTIN MARKS: Well, I think as far as teammates go, you're right. I've had a lot of different teammates at opposite ends of the spectrum from like Joey Hand or Brian Sellers or Andy, and Hans Stuck, and Boris Said. I think ultimately the most important thing as far as what I look for is the goals have to be the same. I think I look for someone that is as driven to win as much as I am and is, you know, basically won't settle for anything else.
I think other than that, you know, you can overcome differences in how people like race cars. When I drove with Joey Hand at PTG for the factory BMW team, I always wanted to drive a loose car, he always wanted to drive a tight car. But we were both motivated by the same things and wanted to win the race. And we were good friends, so we were always able to come together on a compromise.
I think that's important. I think you need to have a mutual respect for each other, and you need to have a good working relationship and be able to compromise with each other is the most important thing.
As far as the competition goes, I mean, you see in a lot of these series that some car counts are down. From the outside looking in, sometimes, it looks like the series is struggling. But the competition I think in any of these series is as good as it's ever been. The product is as good as it's ever been.
You have three or four really good makes in the Rolex GT Series, and a bunch of really good teams and just a ton of driving talent. So in that respect, I think that it's every bit asp much as it was before, if not more. I think these guys have had time to mature in the series and really find their place and learn their race cars and bring products to the racetrack that are very competitive.
I know aside from me relearning all these tracks and learning how to drive this Porsche, which is a very different animal than what I've raced in the past and I'm working as hard as I ever have to keep up with the pace.
Q: You were just kind of talking about this. You've driven a BMW for a while during your sports car career. How has the switch to Porsche been? What have you had to deal with with the switch?
JUSTIN MARKS: The car is very different. It takes a pretty unique driving style. I think for me it's sort of I almost can't sit down and go through exactly all the intricacies of the Porsche versus the BMW, because I've been out of sports car racing for a long time. I'm kind of just trying to get back in the road racing groove, period.
But with the Porsche, with the weight distribution and just the handling characteristics, you work really hard to get the time out of the car. It's very difficult and it's hard work to get the speed out of the car. So it takes a very precise technicality I guess to drive that car that is different from the BMW.
I think that there has to be a lot of precision, and you have to always be thinking about where the weight is, and where you are in the corner with that car. Whereas the BMW, I felt like we could just throw the thing off in the corner and stand on the gas and get up on the wheel on that thing and get aggressive with it. And the Porsche is more of a technical style of driving. I'm still kind of getting my hands around it.
But like every driver, I'm a huge fan of forward bite. And that's what I love about having the motor over the rear wheels so you can really just stand on the gas. That's a lot of fun.
Q: How do you think it will go with Laguna Seca and the Porsche? I know there have been things going back and forth about the Porsche loosening up and things like that?
Continued in part 2