KENNY WALLACE, NO. 27 EEL RIVER RACING PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON THE FUTURE OF THE TEAM) "First things first, true champions are made up of a positive attitude. We've had a positive attitude all year long, although we've been down and ...
KENNY WALLACE, NO. 27 EEL RIVER RACING PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
(ON THE FUTURE OF THE TEAM) "First things first, true champions are made up of a positive attitude. We've had a positive attitude all year long, although we've been down and out.
"First of all, I want to thank the Birminghams (team owners) for going as long as they've gone. Now, they haven't told us that this is our last race. But, they told us that it was going to hard to go past California. By them telling us that - even though they're not giving up - I think we should prepare the media, the fans and everybody in the garage area for the possibility that we might not show up at Richmond. If we do, then that means something good happened and that would be another story.
"I want to commend the team. We've made every race except one and that was a fluke. We missed that race at Talladega by about the smallest margin that you're ever going to see. We've got a total of 15 employees, a white car and an owner that has spent about $200,000 per race. I can't ask any more out of Mr. [Jack] Birmingham. He has done everything he can do. "It's just that there is still no money out there. You've got a lot of teams out here that are nervous. Everybody is still looking for sponsorship.
"But the bottom line is this: if the '27' car has a sponsor, everything is null and void and everybody is quiet. It's just one hell of a story. We're like a damn weekly soap opera."
(ON THE TEAM'S SPONSORSHIP SEARCH) "I want to set the record straight on one thing. I've seen a couple articles where people have stated that we've tried to get everything from a liquor sponsorship to a sex magazine. Let's set that straight: it was Playboy, not Penthouse. That's a lot better because Playboy is a little bit cleaner magazine than Penthouse. Hugh Heffner (Playboy publisher) is a pretty cool guy. The second thing is the Hills Brothers Coffee deal. We didn't go ask for that. They missed a lot of races and they came to us. We didn't try stealing that sponsor.
"And legitimately, there is nothing wrong with a liquor sponsor. It's great, it's clean, it's moral. A lot of people have a little mixed drink after work at a nice bar for happy hour. If a man can't have a liquor sponsor, then I don't know what to say. Let me ask you this: would you rather see a 10-year old kid in a Mark Martin/Viagra t-shirt or would you rather see a 10-year old kid with a Kenny Wallace/Crown Royal Fishing shirt on? That's the way that sponsorship is being sold - the Crown Royal Fishing Tour.
"We're just down and out right now. Sometimes telling the truth gets you in trouble. But we just need that sponsor. There is no money out there because the economy is so slow. People are cutting back their marketing expenditures.
"Misery does not love company, in my case, because I like everybody else to be good. But there are a lot of teams out there that are on the backside of the contracts. To go out there right now and get corporate American to give you $7 million to $10 million is a hard thing to pull off right now. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
"But in the meantime, I'll keep coming to the racetrack every week making races and on the Busch side, I'll fight for the championship."
(HAVE YOU BEEN TREATED DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR IN THIS SITUATION?) "I think a lot of people come up to me, they tread lightly and they say, 'What are you going to do?' My response to them is, 'What do you mean what am I going to do? What do you want me to do?' If the Cup team shuts down, it shuts down. I can't help it that there is no sponsorship out there. It doesn't mean our team hasn't tried. If our team shuts down I'll just go run the full Busch deal and things will come around.
"I tend to justify things when they're bad. We've lost a lot of good race car drivers recently. I'm thankful I still have my life and I still get to compete every week. A lot of people want to make a big deal out of the fact that somebody missed a race or something like that. Well, there are different avenues of justification. Right now, the avenue that I choose to take is a positive one, not a negative one. I'm just like anybody else. I have three daughters and a wife. I'm a family man, but I'm a race car driver. I can't bring my family down. Once they see that dad is all bummed out, then my whole family is bummed out. I choose not to go that direction. Although I'm not happy in my situation, I've got to justify it and I'm fine."
(ON YOUR DECISION TO LEAVE ANDY PETREE RACING) "In 14 years of racing I haven't had very many sponsors because they've been with me for so long. The Square D sponsorship is a great sponsorship and great people, but I chose to try to do better. So far, the '55' car is having a tremendous year. I'm great friends with those guys. Me and Jimmy Elledge talk more on the phone now than we ever have. We spend more time together than we ever have.
"I just got caught really off guard. Back in the middle of 2000 when I had my head down and I was racing, I didn't know the economy was going bad. I had no idea that was happening because I just wasn't paying attention.
"It's pretty amazing. I'll never forget this experience. It's not humbling. It's not that word. It's an experience that you chalk up and you'll never forget. Never assume that there is $7 million to $10 million out there. To get that much money from a sponsor is basically incredible to do. Some of the biggest companies in the world don't have that kind of money to spend. A lot of these cars are looking at major sponsors, associate sponsors - anything just to make up the money that you need.
"Like I say, it's not a humbling experience. I've been humbled my whole life. My career has been like watching a damn heart monitor. It's been good, it's been bad, it's been good, it's been bad."
(ANY REGRETS?) "I have one regret. The regret I have is that this whole '27' deal blew up in my face. Nothing played out the way it was supposed to play out. The way it goes is that I was going to leave the '55' team, I was coming to the '27' team and we had a lot of things planned out, and a lot of things that were promised that never panned out.
"Now, none of that is anybody's fault. I don't blame anybody. I'm just saying this: when I came to the '27' car, we had sponsorship, and then there wasn't sponsorship and the whole damn thing blew up in my face. That's all I'm saying, but I'm not blaming anybody." (continued, p. 3)
"We're probably 10 people short on this team right now. We only employ 15 people - that's everybody. We're doing everything we can do to keep costs down so we can keep racing. But the lack of money has just brought the team to a standstill. There are so many people that we need to help out. I can tell you Barry Dodson has just done one hell of a job keeping his core unit there because the rumors have run so bad. It's incredible that our employees have stayed, so all the credit in the world goes to Barry.
"And I want to thank the hell out of Pontiac. At least they're backing us. They've let us go to the wind tunnel twice. Now I know that you can't just go to the wind tunnel twice and think you're ready to go. It's nice to know it's there for us, but with 15 people you just can't go to the wind tunnel every week. With that small a group all we can do right now is get from race to race.
"I put myself in this position and I know that, so I don't need to hear that from anybody. So far, I haven't really heard that from anybody because I think people are really treading lightly around me.
"Me pushing Dale Earnhardt to his win last year at Talladega and Bobby [Hamilton] winning that race this year - people have been really easy on me about that whole deal. That is something that a lot of people could have shoved down my throat and broke it off. But they haven't, because I almost won that race last year and the guy that won that race wasn't there this year.
"For all the people out there that say, 'You left the '55' car, you went to this deal and it's worse.' Let's put it this way: I left the '55' car and I came to something that was supposed to be there, and now is not here. A lot of people don't know that story. When I came here, we 'quote-unquote' had a sponsor. Everything was fine. For people to say that I came to an unsponsored team, that is untrue, because they don't know the whole story. When I came here, all this team needed was for me to sign up and we had a sponsor. Then, all of a sudden we didn't have a sponsor. It's because corporate America is making their decisions by the week right now to race or not to race. We've had a lot of companies that were going to race and then they decided not to race because of the slumping economy. A lot of companies cut back right at the time that things were happening.
"Right now we've just got ourselves in a position and there is no use crying over spilled milk. That's the way I look at it. Am I crying? No. Do people think I'm crying? No, I'm not. I think I'm just a little bit tougher and I would have to say - if it makes anybody happy out there - yes, I am upset; yes, I'm devastated and yes, I'm very disappointed - all those things in a nutshell. But the bottom line is, am I going to kill myself? No. Am I racing? Yes. Am I happy? I'm not real happy, but I'll go on. That's all there is to it."
(WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU SAW BOBBY HAMILTON WIN IN THE '55' CAR?) "If he would have won that race and nobody would have said anything about how good I did in that car at that track last fall, then that would have been a little hard to swallow. But I'll tell you what saved me was the very first person they interviewed was my old crew chief, Jimmy Elledge.
"The first thing Jimmy Elledge said was, 'This is the same car Kenny Wallace finished second with and pushed Dale Earnhardt to his victory.' When that was said it started snowballing. The FOX network started saying it; Larry McReynolds started saying it and overall, I didn't see or read anything where anybody was trying to shove it down my throat. I want to thank the media for that.
"The truth is, yes, I was disappointed to see him win the race. I wasn't happy that he won the race, but at the same time, I was happy for those guys.
"They have made a lot of changes over there, too, and they've had to. Just don't think that since I've left that they (Andy Petree Racing) haven't done anything. The '55' team is a good team, but they've picked up the pace because they've had to. For anybody to think that the '55' team has done nothing but change the driver - well, that is false. I know a lot more about that than a lot of people because I am good friends with Jimmy Elledge, I am good friends with Andy Petree. But, sometimes we all become blind and we only see what we want to see.
"You can't get down. I've learned one thing. When you're on top, it's never enough. And when you fall down, all you want to do is get back to the top. That's a quote from the movie 'Blow.'
"If you think you're down, you are. It just don't work that way with me, man."