Part I: As preparations continue for next week's Daytona 500, there are three Ford teams currently looking for sponsorship to run the full 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. Haas-Carter Motorsports, along with single car owners Brett Bodine and ...
As preparations continue for next week's Daytona 500, there are three Ford teams currently looking for sponsorship to run the full 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup schedule. Haas-Carter Motorsports, along with single car owners Brett Bodine and Junie Donlavey, have limited funds under their current agreements and are faced with trying to find additional dollars. Car owner Travis Carter, along with drivers Todd Bodine, Joe Nemechek, Brett Bodine and Rick Mast all spoke about their situations.
TRAVIS CARTER, Car Owner -- Kmart Ford Tauruses
IS THIS JUST WHAT HAPPENS SOMETIMES IN NASCAR WINSTON CUP RACING? "I think that's the nature of the beast. I've always said, 'You're only as good as the contract you have in this industry,' and I think that's one of the things that can be a negative. I mean, it's good when it's good and it's not good when it's not good. That's my assessment of the whole thing."
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET RIGHT NOW? "Our mindset is that we need to stay in business. We're looking for new opportunities and we're looking diligently. Quite frankly, I think we have a lot of support in our efforts."
ARE YOU PREPARED TO KEEP THIS GOING NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES? "I think any team at this level needs funding from sponsorships. It's a terribly expensive venture and I don't think there are many people doing this personally."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU HEARD KMART'S PLANS? "Well, you're kind of shocked because, for one thing, if you anticipate a problem arising, it's not going to be at the beginning of the year. Yeah, toward the end of the season or maybe in making plans for the coming year there could be situations arise, but this thing kind of caught us off guard a little bit. This hit us right in the midst of preparations for Daytona and the entire season, but you've got to take a deep breath and really start thinking through things. You can't just react and you can't run and hide either. You have to put up a good fight and that's what I'm prepared to do."
WHAT DID YOU TELL YOUR GUYS? "What I've tried to do with our people, and I've always done this, I keep them informed every day or two of any changes or issues that might be arising. Without going into great detail, all of the things that I think they need to know as employees, they know."
YOU HAVEN'T LOST ANYBODY YET. "No, we haven't lost anybody. I think this team has shown a lot of togetherness and a lot of support for themselves and one another, and I'm really pleased and proud of that."
WHEN YOUR NAME IS MENTIONED TO OTHERS THEY USUALLY REFER TO YOU AS A RACER. IS THIS JUST ANOTHER BUMP IN THE ROAD? "I've been faced with adverse situations before, but with the help of a lot of good people and support we've been able to overcome that. To be very honest, we're counting on being able to do that this time too." WHERE CAN YOU FIND SOME HELP? "What we've tried to do is go to people who we feel can make a difference and discussed the situation with them. I think it's in the hands of a lot of good, quality people and they're trying to help us with this situation."
TODD BODINE --66- Kmart Taurus
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENED? "Unfortunately, this is part of the reality of our sport. When someone like Travis Carter and Carl Haas go through a situation like this, especially Travis, maybe it will wake some people up and wake our sport up. We've got some problems and we better start addressing them." ARE THERE TOO MANY PEOPLE LOOKING FOR SPONSORS NOW? "It's not really that there are too many hands out, it's just that there aren't enough sponsors to go around. It's hard enough to go through this halfway through a year and knowing you've got six months to work on it, but we've only got three weeks. We're going to Rockingham and we're gonna race, but from there we don't know what we're doing. We're planning on running a whole schedule and, hopefully, we can come up with something to do it with."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO JOE ABOUT THIS SITUATION? "A little bit, but the difference between Joe and myself in this situation is that Joe has a Busch car and a Busch team to fall back on and race with, so he still has something to do. I don't have anything to do. I've got to find a job and be able to support my family and, hopefully, I can. Then again, this is the wrong time of the year to be trying to do that. Right now, I'm not looking for a job and Joe's not looking for a job. We're 110 percent behind Travis Carter and until Travis tells us to put our helmets in the bag and get our suits and leave, we're there and we're gonna stick with him."
THIS IS SOMETHING NASCAR HASN'T SEEN IN A LONG TIME. "We've been isolated from this sort of thing and, for whatever reason we chose not to look at the realities of what's going on in the world and where we could go. We've been riding this wave for so long and, hopefully, the wave will continue and this is just another bump in the road for this race team and a couple of other races teams and we'll all be better for it next year, but I think we need to look at the reality of what's going on. I don't know what can be done or if anything can be done, but they're trying to help the situation. They've shortened the Busch fields up because there aren't enough Busch cars. They wanted to lengthen the truck field out, but they couldn't because they didn't have enough trucks. I'm afraid you're gonna see some short fields in Winston Cup this year, especially now if what happens to us goes down. It's not good, but we've got to deal with the situation we've been dealt. We're here to win the Daytona 500 and we're gonna do the best we can at Rockingham and, hopefully, we can survive the whole thing."
HAS TRAVIS SAID YOU GUYS WILL RACE ONLY THROUGH ROCKINGHAM OR WILL HE RE-EVALUATE THE SITUATION AT THAT TIME? "He hasn't really said. We're gonna race through Rockingham. We're committed and we're honoring what we said we were gonna do, but from there I don't know. If we get sponsorship, we'll take one and two-race deals if we have to in order to keep going. It's really hard to do that and try to run a business. As a driver and an employee, I'm not gonna ask and I don't feel anybody should ask Travis and Carl to spend their savings to try and run this race team. Hopefully, we'll get to Rockingham and have a deal and we'll go on racing. Right now, that's what we're planning on."
YOUR BROTHER, BRETT, IS IN A SIMILAR POSITION AND GEOFF IS STILL TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING FULL-TIME AS WELL. HAVE YOU KIND OF WONDERED WHAT'S GOING ON? "It's kind of ironic that this is all going on. You almost want to say, 'What did we do to make people mad or why do we deserve to go through this,' but, for whatever reason, God has chosen us to bear the weight of this and we'll survive it. The thing is, it's not just the three of us. We've got two nephews that are trying to race and we can't even get sponsorships for them and that's a shame because they're both good race car drivers, so there are five of us in our family going through a bad time right now."
JOE NEMECHEK --26-- Kmart Taurus
WHAT ARE THE TEAMS PLANS IN THE NEAR FUTURE? "From what I've been told, we're gonna race Daytona and Rockingham and then we'll see what happens after that."
YOU'VE DEALT WITH THIS SITUATION BEFORE. WHAT CAN BE DONE? IS IT JUST THE ECONOMY? "It depends on which situation you're talking about. As far as the Kmart situation, I think it kind of blew everybody's mind that this happened. I mean, it shocked me. As far as the lack of sponsors in this sport, it's tough. It costs more and more, and I know that from having two Busch Series teams. What it costs to race, it's out of control. And doing a Winston Cup team from what it cost then to what it costs now, it's more than doubled. There's no good answer. There are probably more companies out there that, if used properly, could benefit very much from racing, but with the economy like it is, I think it's tough trying to get new people in. When you've got the stock market down in the gutter, how can people justify coming in and spending 10 million or 15 million or whatever it is? How can you justify it?"
CAN NASCAR HELP AT ALL? "I would like that. I would like for NASCAR to come in and say, 'Okay, we're gonna up the purse money.' I know from the Busch Series side what it costs to pay the bills and I know what the dollars are coming in and the Busch Series definitely needs some help as far as purses. We're hoping the TV money would go up and a lot of things would go up and, as every owner would say, they haven't gone up enough. It just costs so much more. I think they've done some pretty great things with this TV program in Winston Cup, but we need to get a little more trickle down effect to the lower series."
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET RIGHT NOW? YOU HAD TO DEAL WITH THIS LAST YEAR? "The biggest difference is that with Andy Petree and Oakwood Homes, they came and told us, 'Hey, we've got one more year and after that we're not gonna be back.' Now it's like, it's a shock to me just like it is to everybody else. It's something that I don't think anybody ever expected, so we just have to wait and see how everything turns out. For myself, I'm down here and we're gonna race hard. We've got a very good race car and, hopefully, we're gonna have that Kmart Ford up in front. That's our goal. Todd and I are both in the same boat. I think we've got good race cars and we've got to have a good showing here at Daytona."
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT YOU MIGHT DO IF THIS SHUTS DOWN OR HAS IT GOTTEN THAT FAR YET? "It hasn't gotten that far. When I signed on I signed on for two years and I'm looking at the long term. It's just one of those things that we'll have to wait and see, but Travis has been around a long time. He's got established teams that have run good and it's just kind of unfortunate timing."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU HEARD? "I was as shocked as anybody. I heard it on the radio and on TV and it just shocked me. It's a large company and something you'd never expect. I own stock in their company and it just shocked me."
IS THERE MUCH CONFLICT BETWEEN YOU THE DRIVER AND YOU THE BUSINESSMAN? "No. When I was hired on and I made my deal with Travis, I made a deal for two years to drive for Travis and we're gonna work as hard as we can whether it's here at Daytona, Rockingham or Las Vegas to make that deal work. I'll give it 100 percent effort in that race car to get my part of the job done and, hopefully, all of the other pieces will fall into place."
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A VICTIM OF SEPT. 11 IN A WAY? "I think everybody was a victim of September 11th. As far as the sponsorship issues, yes and no. It effected everybody, but maybe it effected this deal a little more than most, but I think it made everybody take more note on what they need to accomplish out there, how they need to market products and how they need to conduct business to be successful. I think it made everybody have to be smarter about how they go about business now, whether it's in racing or in any business."
ARE MORE SPONSORS GOING TO LEAVE? "In my opinion, the Busch Series is struggling and the Truck Series is probably a little bit worse off. It's tough. It costs a lot to go out there and compete. We did it for a long time with no sponsorship when I was getting started and I was very fortunate to continue racing. I don't know. I really hope it doesn't get any worse, but it will probably get worse before it gets better."
SO DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE AUDITIONING FOR A NEW SPONSOR EITHER HERE OR ROCKINGHAM? "Well, the one thing in racing is that you're always graded on your last performance. You have to run as good as you can anytime. Probably in our situation it's a little more important, but I want to run good at Daytona. It doesn't matter if I'm in a Truck, a Busch car or a Winston Cup car. We've come down here to win races and our team is pumped up and working together. This is probably one of the best situations that I've ever been in and we just need to get the job done down here in Daytona and we'll move on from there."
HAS THIS BROUGHT THE TEAM TOGETHER? "Well, it definitely has. It's been neat because even though a lot of stuff is being talked about, we haven't lost one person from either team at the race shop. That's pretty good and that says a lot for Carl Haas and Travis Carter and what they stand for. They've been racing all their lives and they're racers."