This Week in Ford Racing July 8, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Travis Carter, car owner of the No. 54 National Guard Taurus driven by Todd Bodine, is still trying to recover from losing Kmart as a primary sponsor shortly after the start of the 2002...
This Week in Ford Racing
July 8, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Travis Carter, car owner of the No. 54 National Guard Taurus driven by Todd Bodine, is still trying to recover from losing Kmart as a primary sponsor shortly after the start of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season. As the series heads to Chicagoland Speedway, a place where Carter's team won the first NWC pole at the new 1.5-mile facility in 2001, he spoke about the status of his operation.
TRAVIS CARTER , Car Owner - No. 54 National Guard Taurus
WHERE ARE YOU AT IN YOUR PROGRAM AS FAR AS SPONSORSHIP?
"What we've been doing has kind of been short-term and we'd like to have something longer term and more secure. I think several factors happened with that. You seem to have your program on track and performing to a reasonable sense of competitiveness, but when you lose support you lose competitiveness. It's kind of like the chicken or the egg because then your team isn't quite as good as it was and when you're in the marketplace looking for dollars, I think, obviously, sponsors are gonna look to teams that they deem to be more capable, so that kind of hurts you some and I think that's hurt us. Our goal right now is to try to get some level of competition back with some consistency that shows we have a quality team to offer. That's the first step."
DO YOU THINK HAVING NEXTEL COME IN WILL HELP YOUR CAUSE? WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN THAT WAS ANNOUNCED?
"I was pleased that NASCAR had found a replacement sponsor. I spoke with Ned Leary (of R.J. Reynolds) in February and he told me at that point that they would like to find a replacement sponsor and I was quite surprised. Hopefully, having Nextel will do several things. I think it could put a more positive spin on this business and this sport. I think, perhaps, it will encourage other new sponsors who have maybe been sitting on the fence the last three or four years. You talk to a lot of people like that. They'll say they want to wait another year and then it's another year and another year. Then there are people who are actually evaluating and considering that perhaps now they'll take a more positive approach to it. I certainly hope so."
DID YOU RECEIVE A LETTER FROM NASCAR REGARDING SPONSORS THAT WOULD BE ALLOWED OR NOT ALLOWED?
"Yeah, I saw it. I didn't read it very thoroughly, but I'm not so sure it's much different from the deal they had with R.J. Reynolds as far as cigarette manufacturers. It appeared to be along the same line - no direct competitors in the wireless telecommunications industry. That was my quick understanding. I might have missed something else that was in there, but that was my initial thought."
DOES NASCAR TRY TO HELP YOU AS FAR AS SPONSOR SEARCHES GO?
"I don't know to what degree they feel they should try to help the teams. They've tried to help us. They've had some influence on some things in the past that worked good. I'm not going to be critical. We don't want to put NASCAR in the position of being responsible for bringing the sponsors to the teams. Now, yes, I think they are willing and could assist in helping direct sponsors to some teams. I think they've done that in the past and I think they will continue to do that in the future. What I guess we all have to realize is that their business is their business and their first goal is to find the support they think they need to run their own business. That being the case, I guess if they get to them first, they have first dibs. If they can sew somebody up, they do that."
HAS THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY CHANGED ENOUGH TO WHERE MORE COMPANIES ARE WILLING TO LISTEN TO YOUR PITCH?
"I think there are as many or more companies interested, but I think it becomes cost prohibitive for a lot of them. That's the element we have to deal with now is the cost element because it has escalated so much."
DO YOU HAVE ANY SOLUTION TO THAT?
"Yeah, throw half or three-fourths of the templates away and let them race. That would be the solution. That's my opinion. It may be a negative if you did it, but that's my opinion anyway. You have to have so many more people and you spend so much more on labor costs. NASCAR can't affect the travel costs. NASCAR doesn't run the hotel industry. NASCAR doesn't set the price for diesel fuel. NASCAR can't affect those things, but they can affect the things they control and my recommendation is to do that. They did something with the engine rule and I think that helped a little bit. Like many things, it didn't reduce much but it eliminated some of the quick escalation that you normally would have from year to year. That's what I think they need to look at doing. It's gonna be hard to reduce the cost a lot, but they need to try to control the growth and expansion of it."
SO THE COST OF BUILDING CARS FOR THINGS LIKE ROAD COURSE RACES CONTINUES TO GROW?
"Well, look at this year. In order to use last year's car, you had to put on a new body and rebuild the whole car. So you had to build two cars to run two races. That's pretty expensive and, again, it comes to the time. There's been talk about eliminating one road course race, but if they do that, they surely wouldn't run just one road course race. Those are the kind of things that they could do to help the teams be a little more efficient in management and operation and how they have to spend money. I think what you're gonna see is that at some point in time, when some of the better funded teams start to feel the pinch and start to squeal, that's when some changes might occur, but it probably won't happen until then."
DO YOU STILL HAVE THE SAME DESIRE AS BEFORE?
"I think you honestly get to the point when you know that you don't have the real opportunity or chance that you want that it probably takes a little drive away from you. There are times when we've been competitive. Even the last month or two we've had some pretty competitive cars and that's still what we try to do. A lot of things have happened within this team that have kept it from moving forward. We've had a lot of wrecks at inopportune times that really helped put an additional burden and workload on the team and when that happens, it really takes away from your ability to continue to improve your performance. That's really hurt us a lot this year. If we can just get those things behind us and get on track and go race for two or three months, I think we can get into a routine. I think if we can get over that hurdle and start improving our cars, which we've done some, we'll have a good foundation to move forward with."
WOULD YOU STILL LIKE TO HAVE SPONSORSHIP FOR TWO FULL-TIME TEAMS?
"Some days I would. There's an advantage to that second team with the way we do it now. I kind of like that. There's not a lot of pressure with it. You've got the option to run some Winston Cup races or you can run a few ARCA races. My son is racing some and I want to help him. I enjoy working with him. He's coming along well. He's learned a lot and improved a lot and I'm kind of having fun doing that, so that's kind of my salvation and that's one reason why I keep my nose to the grindstone is to try to see what opportunity might exist there."
SO DURING THE WEEK YOU'RE TRYING TO FIND A COUPLE OF PRIMARY SPONSORS?
"We keep doing that. We keep looking that way. We've got people that work for us and look for sponsors and my partner, Sam Belnavis, is looking for opportunities to introduce new sponsors so we just keep searching."