LMS Media Tour. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and drivers CHIP GANASSI (Owner CGRWFS) "I want to welcome everyone to the shop. I'm sorry I can't be there. You're in good hands with Felix and the drivers. I'm calling from Phoenix, ...
LMS Media Tour. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and drivers
CHIP GANASSI (Owner CGRWFS) "I want to welcome everyone to the shop. I'm sorry I can't be there. You're in good hands with Felix and the drivers. I'm calling from Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. We're out here with the IRL teams."
COMMENT ON CHALLENGES SUCH A YOUNG TEAM WILL PRESENT "It's a group of young, terrific guys, but they've been in our organization for years now. The only new person on the team is Jeff Vandermoss in terms of crew chief positions, and all of our drivers have been in the organization for awhile. They know the people. They know the system. Having young drivers or old drivers, I don't look at it that way. I look at it as people who have been in the organization a long time."
COMMENT ON NEW MANUFACTURER COMING TO CUP IN '07 "I think it's a good opportunity for NASCAR. I feel it's a good opportunity for a lot of teams. Toyota is very concerned about how they're perceived in the sport. I think they're going to do a good job with it. I'm sure they'll represent themselves very well. If they make their mind up to do well at it they will. In series past, you can see where they got involved and once they win they might lose a little interest, but they're hard at it, trying to win and trying to get their in the first place. They have a lot of manufacturing facilities in the United States now, and they've pulled out of open wheel racing because quite frankly their people at the plant level are very interested in NASCAR. They're obviously going to be the No. 1 car maker in the world here in another year or two. We're fortunate to have them and to have their dollars spent in our form of racing."
HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO SIT AND WATCH WHEN YOU DIDN'T RUN UP FRONT? "When Dodge came into the formula we showed given competitive equipment we could be at the front fairly quickly. I don't think we were the only Dodge team to suffer performance. I think all the Dodge teams did a little bit the last year, year and a half. It's just a matter of getting back and getting the bugs out of your equipment and getting the most out of your team and driver. I think we have three drivers sitting up there on stage that are rowing this boat in the same direction now. Their careers are all in front of them and not behind them. Their focus is on this team and not necessarily any other ideas or whatever. It's certainly not a layup, but I'm looking forward to a better year this year than we've had the last couple for a lot of reasons. Our cars are better. Our engines are better. Our pit crews are better. I'm looking forward to an increase in performance."
COMMENT ON CAR OF TOMORROW "We've built one. We're about to run it any day now. Obviously it has some more safety features in it than our current cars do. I don't know if throwing out 50 or 60 cars that are good and making an investment of over two or three or four million dollars over about a three-year period.... We're going to have dual development programs where we're going to be developing the car of tomorrow with our current car. No one really knows what to expect. Some teams are going to figure it out and some aren't. I guess we have to go along with what NASCAR says, but I'm still a little up in the air about it."
DOES THE NEW MANUFACTURER'S LINEUP SURPRISE YOU AND WOULD YOU CONSIDER JOINING THEM? "I've been in Phoenix all week, so I'm not exactly sure what they announced or who they announced. Whoever they go with, I think you saw in the truck series they made winners out of teams that were otherwise not. I don't really know what their plans are for teams or drivers, but I can assure you they'll do it right no matter who they're with. We were with them for a lot of years and had some success with them on the Indy car side. Right now we don't have any plans to switch off from Dodge. We'll see what happens down the road, but right now that's not in our plans."
IS OFF TRACK ABILITY AS IMPORTANT AS ON TRACK ABILITY? "In terms of how they work with other people and how they process their goals and plans, how they interact with their teammates. Everybody in this planet of NASCAR knows it's not a one person thing. One person alone cannot do it. One driver can't do it. This is a team sport from the get-go. I think these young guys today have a better grasp of that than some in the past."
FELIX SABATES (Co-Owner CGRWFS)
OPENING REMARKS "I want to tell a story. About 20 years ago, I didn't know anything about racing. I still don't much today. I went to Daytona with a Busch car and we qualified second. The crew chief is still around, so he will remain nameless. He said the nitrous worked great. I didn't know anything about nitrous. That night we went to the Chart House for dinner. A bunch of guys were there and they said congratulations for qualifying on the front row. I told them that nitrous stuff worked good. They looked at me like I was crazy. The next morning I went to the racetrack and I got a call to go meet Les Richter in the red truck. I didn't know who Les Richter was. I went to the trailer and he sat me down. He asked if we used nitrous and I told him yes, (it) worked really good. I said we must not have used enough because if we had we would have qualified first. He said, 'please leave.' I went back to the Busch garage and saw my crew chief. I found out that nitrous wasn't the way to go, that it wasn't legal. That Saturday morning before the race Mr. Richter said 'tell your driver by the time he gets to turn three after they drop the green flag he'd better be running dead last.' I go to Bobby Hillin and said, 'Bobby, I don't know what we did wrong, but you've got to be last by the time we get to turn three.' He said why? I said because the nitrous stuff apparently wasn't right. That was the beginning of my NASCAR relationship, and it was kind of nice it happened. I got to meet Bill France that weekend and we became friends, so Glover, please, no nitrous this time."
COMMENT ON CAR OF TOMORROW "Personally I think it's a bunch of crap. All that's doing is making the teams spend millions of dollars to convert and those guys in the shop are going to make that car go just as fast in a couple of years as it's going today. So we're going through this exercise and the car of tomorrow is just making everything we own today the car of yesterday and two years from now we're going to be right where we are today. NASCAR has to do what they think is right, but I don't agree with them. That's just my personal opinion."
COMMENT ON YOUR 20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY AS CUP OWNER "I look back where we started 20 years ago and I look at where we are today. If you were going to give NASCAR a rating, I'd have to give them 110 percent. It's not perfect, but from where we were a couple of years ago.... I remember going to the racetrack with a bus and Bill France asked me what it was. I said 'it's a bus.' He said 'I know it's a bus, what's it doing here?' I said, 'it's a place to go to the bathroom.'
"Today you go to the garage, not only do the car owners and drivers and crew chiefs, but the drivers of the buses have their own buses. We've come a long way baby. I'd give them 100 percent mark on that.
"One of the biggest changes was we went from Winston Cup, which was a great sponsor for many years, to Nextel. That's probably the best thing that ever happened to the sport because Nextel brought us to the 22nd century. At one time 90 percent of the people in the garage area were smokers. I was a heavy smoker and I quit. I think there's a lot of positive changes -- new venues and tracks and the new TV package. My first year in Winston Cup, my budget was $1.1 million for the whole year. It's come a long way.
"It's my 20th year in the sport, but more importantly it's my fifth year with Chip. When we got together a lot of people said we wouldn't last three weeks. We've had one argument in five years to see who was going to pick up the check at an expensive restaurant. I just want to say thanks to Chip for letting me participate. I don't think I would be here today if it hadn't been for Chip. I was ready to pack my bags and go somewhere else because I wasn't having a lot of fun. I'm having a lot of fun today because Chip has to pay all the bills. For those of you who didn't think we'd last three weeks, you were wrong."
CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) "I can't wait for this year. I think every year you get up and you're excited about the season. Really, this year I couldn't be more excited. Stepping in the 42 car and working with Donnie (crew chief Wingo), and that whole team this year, I couldn't be more excited. Everything has gone really good. The test in Nashville went awesome. Everything went smooth in Daytona. Working with Reed and David is going to be a lot of fun this year. We got to know each other the last couple of years. They've got a lot of talent, and they're going to bring a lot to the table as well. Anything I can do to help them out and I'll be leaning on them for advice every once in awhile, too. I can't wait for the 2006 season. Everything has gone in the right direction so far. This team has really stepped up a lot the last couple of years. The organization keeps growing and growing and getting stronger. The first time I ever met Chip was when he'd won the Indy Car title. When they first got started here they won a bunch of races with Sterling, and that's what we want to bring back. We want to run up front, and our goal is to get in The Chase this year. I can't wait to go."
COMMENT ON BEING SENIOR MEMBER OF THE TEAM "I think David is the oldest. It's definitely not a position I expected to be in at this point in my career. I don't think it's really going to be a lot different. We've all worked together the last few years and we're going to go out and do the best job we can and share all the information we possibly can. It's pretty much an open book. I don't think it's something I'm going to concern myself with this year. It feels good going on my fourth year to be a part of the Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates team. This is a great opportunity for myself to be with a sponsor and a team that has a ton of support and a great background. I look at it as a great opportunity to help build myself and the team and do everything I can to help these guys. Both of them have run races so far, but anything I can do to help them out will be fun for me. I've enjoyed that. I've worked on the team aspect pretty much my whole career growing up. I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
COMMENT ON PRESEASON TESTING SO FAR "We've got a pretty good handle on the Charger. There's definitely more to learn. We're working on that right now. The Daytona test was good. Getting the guys working together with all the changes going on with the organization it was good getting the guys working together and back up to speed. As far as speed goes, we weren't all that fast. We were a little off the pace, but the car worked well in the draft. It handled good, and that's the biggest thing you've got to have at Daytona. I can't wait for the Las Vegas test. I'm ready to get to a track where you've got to drive the car a little bit more. The restrictor plate races get a little monotonous, but I can't wait to get to Vegas and see what we've got. We went to Nashville and had an awesome test, but getting to Vegas where you have a little bit more speed.... We run more tracks similar to that during the year, so that'll give us a better idea of how we're going to stack up for the rest of the season."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE CHASE THIS SEASON? "There's definitely a lot of importance put behind it, and not just from the team's perspective but from mine. I've been in this deal for three years and I want to be in that Chase in my fourth. We're better prepared than we've ever been. The biggest thing is we can't knock ourselves out about it. We want to win races. We want to sit on poles regardless of what meaning is behind it. For us it's just added incentive to want to do better."
DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light/Lone Star Steakhouse Dodge Charger)
"I felt we had a really good test at Daytona. Being the team is all new and getting to work with Jeff and people that Chip and Felix put around me, it feels like we've been together six or eight months. I feel like we're going to be pretty good this year. We want to be competitive every week and fill a notebook here at the beginning of the season. We want to win races, and I think with the people they put in place we'll be able to do that. That's what my expectations are this year.
"It's a lot more relaxed than it's been in years past. I feel being in other programs is going to benefit me this year, and I'm going to be able to showcase what they hired me for. Being able to come in with all the people they've put around me, my job is much easier. All the guys on the crew are doing a great job. It's phenomenal the sponsors they're bringing in and the equipment they give us. When I go to the racetrack I feel so relaxed and at ease I'll be able to do my job a lot better."
COMMENT ON RUNNING FOR RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR "All the guys we're racing against are very talented. To me, I think it's the strongest rookie class in history and to be part of that I'm proud. I think you'll see us all work together because we'll all be able to benefit from it. It's not just us. Going into this rookie battle, I think you're going to have to make The Chase to be able to win it. Look at Carl Edwards. He wasn't really a rookie, but it was his first full season and he ended up getting in the top 10. We might not have much experience, but a lot of people in the organization like Andy (Graves) and (Tony) Glover have a lot and we'll be able to lean on them. Casey came in fresh, and we'll be able to go to him and talk about different things. We got some limited Cup starts last year and Casey was down helping me. It wasn't like we had to go find him. We go and talk to each other, and I think that's going to be very important. I think results will come from that."
REED SORENSON (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger) "I think the main challenge will be running 800 miles (Cup and Busch) every weekend, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to representing Target and working with these two guys sitting here beside me (Stremme and Casey Mears). Pretty much everybody on the Target team stayed together and the Busch team stayed together. I'm looking forward to becoming a big family with all these guys I'm working with. It'll make it a little easier. We only ran one year of Busch, but we're going to try to go for that Busch championship as well."
COMMENT ON RUNNING FOR RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR "Obviously if I can't win it I want David to. Hopefully we're 1-2 in that battle. I think most of us are really wanting to win it. It's going to be tough. A lot of guys are running with top of the line teams that win races. It's not going to be easy, but at the same time that's probably my main goal in the Cup car this year -- to get better as we go along and to learn as much as I can and to win rookie of the year. That's what our goal is. I think David and I being rookies at the same time will be able to lean on each other. We've got Casey to help us with all the things we need help on. The teamwork between the drivers this year is going to be a lot stronger than it's ever been, and I think that's going to help the teams work better together as well. That's only going to make the whole team better. Somebody asked me if David and I got into a battle for rookie of the year if we're going to be working against each other, and that's not going to happen. We're going to be working together no matter what."