Travis Carter, owner of the No. 26 and No. 66 Big Kmart/Route 66 Tauruses, is still looking for his first points victory as a car owner. Jimmy Spencer did reach victory lane for Carter in the 1996 Winston Open, but his best chance might...
Travis Carter, owner of the No. 26 and No. 66 Big Kmart/Route 66 Tauruses, is still looking for his first points victory as a car owner. Jimmy Spencer did reach victory lane for Carter in the 1996 Winston Open, but his best chance might be in Sunday's NAPA Auto Parts 500 as his two drivers -- Spencer (2nd) and Darrell Waltrip (7th) -- start in the top 10. Carter spoke about the race and about his team's struggles the first third of the season.
TRAVIS CARTER, Car Owner --26 and 66-- Big Kmart Tauruses -- OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE TO BE PLEASED WITH HOW THIS WEEKEND HAS STARTED. "Well, it's definitely started better than some. I think over the course of the last couple of months, I think we've seen the things that we need to do to improve. We've been getting a lot of criticism and a lot of heat, but sometimes you can't do those things overnight. We kind of had to lay out a plan in those areas that we needed to improve and change and it takes awhile to get that done. I think now, for us, that we feel we've established where we need to be and it's just a matter of working hard to get there and we've begun to do that."
JIMMY SPOKE YESTERDAY ABOUT THE TALK YOU GUYS HAD REGARDING THE TEAM AND THE TYPE OF CARS BEING TURNED OUT. WAS IT A CLEARING OF THE AIR, SO TO SPEAK? "It wasn't that so much as we were just trying to evaluate and analyze everything. He came to me and said, 'Hey, you can get somebody else to drive this car for a couple of weeks. I'll get out of it.' And I said, 'Well, when we get these cars where I think we need to be, if you still can't run good, then we'll talk about that.' But until that happens, I think it's a car issue and it has been for awhile."
HAS JIMMY'S SITUATION BEEN MORE FRUSTRATING FOR YOU THAN DARRELL'S? "Yeah, honestly it has. We've always been a team with Jimmy that had periods of momentum rising and falling. We went through it last year. We were not very strong and then we went through a period where we could run pretty good and then we kind of fell back on our face a little bit. Yeah, I think that's the frustrating part. I think Darrell is a little different situation. We know there are places he can run well. I think a lot of it is a personal confidence thing with him and right now I think he has begun to have some more confidence in the people and the cars he has, and with that being the case his performance will pick up. That's always been his issue."
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE YOU, JIMMY OR DARRELL HAVE WON A RACE. HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THAT FRUSTRATION? "I think, obviously, it's tough and I won't stand here today and tell you that I think we're ready to win. But I think to be able to win races you have to be a consistent performer. Yeah, you might get a break with a fifth or an eighth-place car and win a race some days, but that's not regular in this business anymore. The key is to get a car that you can finish in the top five with and start being consistent and start making some smart decisions and sometimes you can win doing that."
HAVE THERE BEEN TIMES, THOUGH, WHERE YOU WANTED TO JUST THROW YOUR ARMS UP AND SAY, WHY AM I DOING THIS? "No because I'm too much in debt and I can't afford not to (laughing). I don't know, for me, I've always been a rather determined guy and I certainly am not a quitter. I know people look at me and they say, 'Well, that guys is not very smart,' but I guess I have my own ways of going about things. Everybody says, 'You need to change this and you need to change that,' and in my heart when I know what's wrong, I know what's wrong. I know other people's opinion, I value that and I listen to them, but often times I don't quite agree with them. In the end, I think that I can prove I'm right, but I'm just quiet about it. I don't care about talking about it, I just go about trying to do it. My philosophy is just don't tell me, show me."
SO IN YOUR OPINION CAN JIMMY OR DARRELL WIN THIS RACE TOMORROW? "As this is Saturday morning I wouldn't say we couldn't, but yet I know where we'll need to be to be capable of doing that. We'll be able to tell a little bit more about that in a couple of hours."
Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus, will start seventh in tomorrow's race -- his best starting position of the season. He spoke about getting back on track and his hopes for Sunday.
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus -- WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THE CAR YESTERDAY AND HEARD THAT CROWD CHEERING SO LOUD? "It really makes you feel good. When you know you've done good and then the fans know you've done good and everybody cheers...I could hear 'em coming down pit lane. Of course, I knew what I had run so I was pretty exciting myself. That's really gratifying to know that you have people who feel that way and are pulling for you. I know they are. They want me to win, they want me to do good and that's real gratifying."
WILL THEY BE CHEERING LIKE THAT FOR YOU TOMORROW AT ABOUT 2 P.M.? "Well, they could be. We've got an awful good race car. It's our best car. It's kind of been the prototype car for everything we're doing. It's got good numbers in the wind tunnel, I like the way it drives, I like this track, I like 500 miles. If the cards fall right tomorrow and fuel mileage, pit stops, strategy -- you never know what can happen."
HOW DID THAT CHARLOTTE TEST LAST WEEK HELP YOU GUYS THE MOST? "What helped us most was that we were over there by ourselves. We really had nobody to compare ourselves to. We weren't really racing the clock. It wasn't like you had to sit there and look at a computer screen and see where you were all night. We were just there by ourselves. We worked through a lot of different scenarios of things that we had done at other races that had not worked and we figured out why. Then we tried to figure out what we needed to do to get a good race setup. In all honesty, we thought our qualifying stuff usually goes pretty good but our race stuff has just been terrible. That's what we worked on and then, low and behold, once we get the car pretty racey -- tape it up and it qualifies pretty good, so that's what we were doing. A lot of shock stuff. That's where we feel we were missing the boat -- we were getting too exotic on our shock package. We were trying too many things because there are so many options with shocks and we were just over-engineering. We went to a real basic linear package and made some long runs and the car stayed real good for me. I think that's probably what we learned the most about was a shock setup for what these cars like. And then, of course, this car has good downforce and that made it a lot easier too."
Robert Yates, Doug Yates, Dale Jarrett and Todd Parrott held a question and answer session in the infield media center at California Speedway. Here are some excerpts from that event.
TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "It seems like silly season starts earlier every year and I guess that's just the nature of the sport. I doesn't ever really end, it seems like it just keeps going throughout the season. It don't start earlier, it just keeps rolling over. However, I feel it's important not only for myself, my family and our race team to set the record straight. There are a lot of rumor going around about me leaving. I read them all weekend during Easter. I kept getting phone calls was the big thing. It was aggravating. They keep adding races and we don't get very many weekends off and all I do is get phone calls about what I'm gonna do and where I'm gonna go. I'm very happy. I am not leaving Robert Yates Racing. I have been approached by some people, but I'm not gonna tell who they are. Over Easter vacation I got phone calls. We all get phone calls. Dale gets phone calls, Doug gets phone calls, ya'll get phone calls. That's why we have the great phone services of the world, I guess (laughing). But to end all the rumors, I guess somebody saw me talking to Felix Sabates, that was one of the big ones, right before the race at Talladega...To Felix, thank you for the offer but I'm not interested. This past week and last night I settled on a lifetime contract with Robert Yates Racing, so I'll be there for a long time."
WHAT'S A LIFETIME CONTRACT? "Hopefully, myself, Robert and Dale Jarrett and Doug -- we brought this 88 team from ground zero, from nothing to a championship caliber team in four short years. We know what other team has done that and they raised the bar. We just got up to the bar. We've had a little bad luck this year. We've run great at some races and it just seems that the competition...we're defending champions so everybody expects us to go out every week and win every race. Well, it's not happening this year. Everybody is winning a lot of races, a lot of different winners, so competition is tougher than it's ever been. I want to win, he wants to win. I get aggravated, he gets aggravated, that's part of life. I'm happy to be here and, hopefully, if this thing keeps going maybe some day when (Robert) retires, maybe Doug will own the 28 car and maybe someday I could possibly get a chance at the 88 car. Or maybe this guy (Dale) could buy it and I'll work for him the rest of my life. It doesn't matter, this is where I'm gonna be and I'm excited."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- IS THIS A PLUS FOR YOU AND THE TEAM? "Yeah, it is. I guess it all is part of the business. Since I knew we were gonna do this I've been wondering exactly how to handle it and I guess I'll, against what I really want to say inside because that got me in trouble not long ago, I'm gonna say that it can be a tough business. You have to understand these guys work day and night. With the amount of races and time that we have, any distractions at all take away and I think some of that is a ploy from others. They know that, but it would be nice that at some point in time instead of all the rumor going and starting in one place, you'd get to the source. I did a conference call not long ago and told you exactly what was going on, but it continued. I didn't read the papers that much because I was gone and it was nice to be away from all the nonsense for a while, but it just has to continue. I guess you have a week off and you don't have a race to write about, so there's gotta be something to write about. But, when I speak I'm not just saying something to be saying it, I'm saying it because it's a fact. It's a shame we have to be sitting here right now. I enjoy talking to you and we normally do something on Saturday mornings, but it's a shame these guys have to be here. It's nice that we can be here and tell you that we're gonna be together for a long time and anything else that you hear or anything else that is said is not true. I do know that we have agreed on a contract through 2004 with me being there also, so I'm excited about that. I'm just excited to be a part of this, but I hope this can put to rest some of the talk and we can go about our business and try to win races."
DOUG YATES, Robert Yates Racing -- HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS? "I want to kind of take a different position and thank every one of you in the room because this has kind of made it all come together a little faster for myself and Robert. These lifetime contracts are kind of good for us. I've got kind of the same contract that Little E has, a blood contract I think it was, so I'm just happy and excited about the future and I'm ready to go racing."
TODD PARROTT -- WE'VE HEARD A LOT OF RUMORS, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW IT ALL CAME ABOUT? "Like Dale said, what you need to do when you all hear these rumors is you need to go to the source. Don't go to another race team and ask them about it because they don't know what they're talking about. The best thing to do is go to the source. The deal that happened at Texas, man, that was an accident. We were at the wrong place at the wrong time, our car wasn't very good and it just so happened that Ricky was there. At Martinsville, it was bumper cars. There were 43 cars out there totally demolished after the race and these guys have been working day and night since Martinsville to go to Richmond. It's just one of them deals, it's racing. There's no conflict (between the 88 and 28 teams). Me and Michael McSwain have been riding together all weekend long talking about chassis setups. I even asked him this morning, I said, 'Are you sure you want to ride with me,' because we didn't do too well. I think we get along really well. Ricky Rudd has got a lot of talent and we're getting a lot of feedback and that's what we need. That's what the two teams have not had in the past few years."
DID THE OFFERS COME TO YOU? "Yeah. I'm the one that got the phone calls and I'm just flattered. I'm a racer. I'm like Doug, he's got a contract by blood. This sport right here is in my blood. I'm gonna be here until it goes away and I'm gonna be with this race team until it goes away."
DALE JARRETT -- CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH THE HEALING PROCESS WHEN YOU AND TODD GET AGGRAVATED WITH EACH OTHER? "It's kind of like a marraige. Everything doesn't go good all the time, you have to work at it. I mean, we may raise our voices and people take that the wrong way. We have a relationship that allows us to agree and disagree with each other at any time, but we're gonna get over that. If we get in an argument in that truck, most of the time before we leave there about what we're gonna do, it's over and done with. If we say something on the radio, which now everybody hears everything that we say, you blow that up to something and we realize that it's part of the way we go about being successful. It's happened since day one with us, it's not something that's just evolved now or is happening because maybe we haven't had the success or finishes that we want on the race track. There are no problems with us. We get through those, I'll assure you that by every weekend if we don't happen to speak at the end of the race, or if I go off and I'm just ready to get out and go, we talk on the phone on Sunday night before either one of us goes to bed so it's over and done. It's something you have to work at, but there is always aggravation because you're never perfect, but you work through that."
HAS THIS ATTEMPT TO DISTRACT JUST STARTED RECENTLY OR HAVE YOU FELT IT FROM THE START OF THE SEASON? "I didn't have any idea until somebody called me on Monday and said that Todd was gonna be going somewhere else, so as far as any vibes I haven't felt anything. You always know with a championship team that other teams are after your people. It's no different than any other sport, except their contracts with salary caps and things might make it a little more difficult. Here, you can basically go out and talk and do anything you want. I think that's what Robert is asking, you can do that just be a little more courteous and not calling our race shops and getting our people away from their job at the shop and talking to them. We realize the challenge that we had at the end of last year because we have a championship team, that others want those people. It serves two purposes, they get "a good team and it splits up our team. We realize that over the years what has won championships and multiple championships has been keeping that core together and that's been very difficult for Robert and Doug and Todd to do -- to keep those people there. We have a great organization, but people can make things very attractive to others sometimes, so I don't know that we've felt any vibes about anything. That hasn't even been a discussion that we were gonna split up or anything like that."
ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28 and 88 -- ABOUT LOSING PERSONNEL. "I think people are always trying to cherry-pick teams and I think we've worked hard to build this cherry tree. I grew up working here and if somebody had tied me to something, and I work 10-year contracts with guys, it's good to have (people) come after, it makes you feel good. It makes Todd feel good. What I'm saying to Felix is, 'Talk to him, meet him on pit road. You don't have to waste your Monday because there are usually 20 guys at the shop waiting on his direction on Monday. Talk to him at the race track, that's fine. Be competitive. If you get Todd, you're gonna get me and Doug and DJ.' So if there's somebody out there that wants us, we're a cherry tree and you're gonna have to take the whole entire tree. That's my plan. I didn't come in here with the stress of owning a race team and trying to keep it together, I came in here with the skill of working on cars and engines. As the value of this sport goes up and increases, I'm gonna get paid well enough if I'm an engine builder, so I can sleep better at night than most car owners. I love this sport, I love working on it and I want to enjoy every day of it. I don't want to go through this laying awake at night worrying if Todd is leaving. Hey, take me with him or whatever, but I think we have an attraction among ourselves -- not just contraction -- that we want to be together, we want to do this. I've grown up with his (Dale's) dad and have a relationship, and Doug and Todd have. I think what's really sweet about this is we can watch this generation work together. I like the other teams that we race against. I love racing against the Earnhardt's and Penske and all these people. Yeah, I'll get in the rumor line and stir up some stuff to try to make them have a bad day to make ours look better, but most days I like to just focus on working and enjoying it. Again, what I'm really trying to make and why we're here today is we want to efficient with our time, so we can run 36 races and do the things the fans want, yet give our time to have a little life in between."
DALE JARRETT -- SO YOU DIDN'T SENSE ANYTHING AT THE START OF THE YEAR? "I don't know that we sensed it. We knew that we had a lot of teams after a lot of our people. I think that's fair to say. We certainly knew that they were doing their very best to either break our team up or just enhance theirs, which it was kind of two-fold there. We knew that and, again, they spent a lot of hours over the winter in trying to keep these people, so other race teams and other people have certainly upped our budget quite a bit I'd have to say. A lot of guys got a lot of raises."
DOUG YATES -- ON THE VIBES. "I think, talking about vibes, it used to be where if you won the Daytona 500 that made your entire year and nowadays every week is more and more pressure. I think everybody is forgetting we pretty much dominated Speedweeks and have sat on two poles, it's just that we created our own monster by raising the bar for ourselves. If you look at that part of it and look at the second place where we were real close to winning at Darlington -- I think we're on track. We've had some bad luck here, but like I said, it's good for us to set this straight right now and get back to racing and doing what we do best."
ROBERT YATES -- WHAT ABOUT THE SPONSORSHIP RUMORS? "Well, I'll repeat myself. We've had this team since we talked about beginning this in 1996 we put two cars in the Daytona 500. Daytona USA has been a great organization. Again, as the sport goes along we have to fund it and we have great sponsors in Ford Quality Care and Ford Credit. I've always said that I want to negotiate before my final year because in the final year of a sponsorship I might take the money to the house instead of spend on the race team (joking). I'm being very honest with my sponsors. We happened to be in a negotiating year last year, so we looked around. To be fair with our sponsors, we've given them fair time to look at what they want to do and that's still out. We certainly have talked to a couple of wonderful sponsors, one that has just joined NASCAR. I think they would do things in the class that we'd like to do, but, certainly, Ford is among the top in the world too. We're just trying to be fair to them, give them what they're paying for. There are no deals done. I wish this were October or November, we might could go ahead and finalize that, but we're trying to be fair and to give them what their paying for. It gives them a fair opportunity and it's given us a fair opportunity to evaluate what the costs are. I didn't know I was gonna have to pay guys as much as I've had to pay them, but it's a wonderful situation, so my costs go up. We've had this period of time and it'll go on for some time. I'm sorry I can't just say this is the way it is."
IS THERE A DEADLINE? "Well, it's not something that's on my plate everyday. I've had few talks with good people. I think it really gives everybody a time to watch our team and see what they want to do. Certainly, our current sponsors to find out if they want to stay with us, so that's still open. I could talk for 30 minutes and move my mouth and you probably won't hear anything different."