Craig Nelson gets major sponsor

Screaming Eagles Racing and Slick-50 have teamed up in the IMSA World Sports Car championship. Here is a transcription of Saturday's press conference, emceed by Ralph Sheheen: Ralph Sheheen: We'll point out who everybody is first of all and...

Screaming Eagles Racing and Slick-50 have teamed up in the IMSA World Sports Car championship. Here is a transcription of Saturday's press conference, emceed by Ralph Sheheen:

Ralph Sheheen: We'll point out who everybody is first of all and then go from there. At the far end of the table over there is Dan Clark, who is one of the team drivers and manager of the Screaming Eagles Racing team. The gentleman in the middle, Mr. Craig T. Nelson, who is one of the owners and drivers of the Screaming Eagles Racing team, and then--

Craig T. Nelson: >The< owner!

Ralph Sheheen: The owner, OK. [laughter] The man here on the end in the Hawaiian shirt is the president and CEO of Slick-50 Products, Mr. Bill Jeter. We'll let Mr. Jeter begin with the important announcement.

Craig T. Nelson: Heh. Golf classic! [laughter]

Bill Jeter: Well, it's with great pride that we begin this relationship with the Screaming Eagles Racing team and Craig T. Nelson. Slick-50 enjoys a heritage in racing that's of late, and the last few years, whether it be NHRA racing, NASCAR racing, IndyCar racing, or sprint car racing. Now, we're proud to announce this relationship with the Screaming Eagles and Craig T. Nelson. Our commitment to racing has to do with our consumers and our fans, people who use our products. We feel it's important to us to give something back to each one of them. So, for that reason, we have been involved in racing over the last three or four years, or increased our involvement in racing, and this is just another extension of our involvement. We spend a lot of time and money testing and coming up with new products, and that's our dedication to quality. Our mission is to come out with quality products and quality endeavors. We think that, each time we involve ourselves in racing, one of the most important things we do is involve ourselves with quality teams. In this case, with Craig and the Screaming Eagles Racing team, we think we've made a wonderful relationship with a quality team. We're pleased to be involved with them, and look forward to a great association over the next period of time together. Craig?

Craig T. Nelson: Thanks. Can I call you Bill?

Bill Jeter: Oh, why not? [laughter]

Craig T. Nelson: Thanks, Dad. [laughter]

Bill Jeter: Oh, here we go with the ages...

Craig T. Nelson: Heh heh. It was about five years ago when Dan Clark and I got together and Dan was the chief instructor here at the Russell school at Laguna Seca and I was in the process of doing my first Celebrity Toyota Grand Prix race. Dan and I hooked up for a one-on-one, and it's been five years of an addiction that has grown into a wonderful endeavor for me into business. So, in the process of being a businessman, it became apparent to me that I couldn't continue racing on my own money. We went out and approached some people for sponsorship, and, having decided as a group that perhaps we were going in the wrong direction, we discontinued those efforts. Through I think a very fortunate stroke of good luck, and through some providence, Slick-50 approached us and we got together. I must say that, having been in the business -- show business -- 28 years, my affiliation has been more or less as a rebel and someone that stays outside the crowd. The combination of their good grace and their professionalism and their business sense and the product that they carry, advertise and send out to the consumers, changed our minds entirely. It enabled us to finish the last three races of the season. We're in this engine development program, and, with Slick-50's participation, we'll be able to do Laguna Seca, Portland and Phoenix. Hopefully, if I behave myself and the car runs well, we can continue. I'm really looking forward to it. It's been great so far. They have an incredibly competent and professional staff, and it's a relationship that's more like a family right now. I appreciate that. It's very honest and open. We're really proud today to have qualified eighth in a car that has about half the horsepower of the other cars running out there. I think it's a testimony to the guy that qualified the car -- myself! Um...

[strange look from Dan Clark, laughter]

Craig T. Nelson: It's a great team, and Dan and I and the other guys on the crew I want to specifically, I want to thank you, Dan, for your help. We've really worked hard to get here. When we get this new engine, which will be delivered to us in a couple of days, we'll be on an even footing with everybody. Watch out; I think we're going to be a real fun team to watch. And I'd just like to say thank you, Bill, for your participation and for deciding to join us. Thank you.

Bill Jeter: You bet.

Ralph Sheheen: Dan?

Dan Clark: Well, I'd like to thank Craig T. Nelson. Without Craig, none of the crew, none of me, none of us, would be here. We wouldn't be able to be affiliated with our new sponsor, Slick-50. I think that Bill is very generous when he says he's associating himself with a new professional team. We are still learning our trade. I don't think there's any team out here that tries harder. I think that this team is a reflection of the new IMSA series. We are a privateer team, now with real professional help. I think that the future bodes well for both the team and Slick-50. I think that, from here on in, the potential is going to be tremendous. Thanks, both of you gentlemen.

Craig T. Nelson: You got it.

Ralph Sheheen: Any questions from the group?

Questioner: Is this a three-race...?

Ralph Sheheen: Looking for whether or not it's a three-race series with the sponsorship detailed.

Craig T. Nelson: Right now we're planning to do this race, Portland and Phoenix. That's my commitment to the series. When IMSA, and hopefully Mr. Slater and the governing body and I can sit down and discuss what's in the future, I would love to. I'm sure the relationship would continue with Slick-50. We're not seeking to terminate it in any way, but we are... I am a businessman, and I'm trying to look at this from the proper perspective.

Ralph Sheheen: Mr. Jeter, what was it about IMSA racing that attracted you to the series?

Bill Jeter: Well, it's a place that we've haven't been, and I'm fascinated with it. It's more road track racing, and it's not something that we're accustomed to being in, yet. But I think when you start expanding your horizons, this is a place that you need to be. I go back to that you have to be with the right team and you have to be in the right situation. This happens to be it for us.

Ralph Sheheen: Anybody else? [no questions] One last thing I can think of, Craig--

Craig T. Nelson: Anything personal anybody want to ask? [laughter]

Ralph Sheheen: As a business owner, as a team owner in the series, here we have a major national corporation now involved in the series on the car. Is this a sign, do you think, that IMSA really has turned the corner and is able to attract big sponsors to its World Sports Car series?

Craig T. Nelson: Yeah, I certainly hope so. We developed our car, the WSC car, basically in a very small garage on a very limited budget. It was our intention to go racing in this brand-new series. I think that, with the attraction of sponsors like Slick-50, and teams like the Screaming Eagles, it's definitely got a foothold. It depends on... We >are< a privateer group. I personally believe -- this is my opinion -- that the heart and soul of racing are the guys who come out, unload the car from the back of the trailer, roll it on out, and the wife changes the tire -- we don't have that on our team, however [laughter] -- but they change the tires. It's great to go racing that way. Well, this is just another step up. I'm going to do everything I can to beat the Ferrari. I'll try my hardest with what I believe is a good product. I just think it's great for competition. As far as I'm concerned, I'd love to see this continue, but I think there has to be some changes, and I think some of the rules have to be delineated and made quite plain. I also want to thank Motec and the Weigh Station -- incidentally, if you're looking for a place to stay, the Weigh Station here in Monterey is a great place -- Simpson and BBS for their sponsorship, also. Also, I'm doing a great movie now with Kirk Douglas, which, I must say, is one of the thrills of my life. I'm working with Spartacus! [laughter] These people are as impressed as heck, aren't they. [laughter] Tough crowd tonight.

-- Ron O'Dell `Keeper'

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