Ford Racing - Robert Yates interview

Indy Brickyard Test July 15, 2002 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, and team owner Robert Yates provided an update on where things stand as far as contract negotiations for next season. Rudd had said...

Indy Brickyard Test
July 15, 2002
Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, and team owner Robert Yates provided an update on where things stand as far as contract negotiations for next season. Rudd had said he hoped a decision could be reached by today, July 15.

ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28-- Havoline Taurus:

WHERE DO YOU SEE THINGS RIGHT NOW?

"I probably have only imagined what was going through his head. Without going around trying to be a private investigator, I knew he had several good, solid deals and offers. We really have been enjoying what we've been doing and probably all want it to continue, but Ricky wanted to be paid at a certain level. It's not all about money. I'm not trying to paint Ricky as a greedy money guy, but that's the way life is. When the first guy moved out of the cave, just about everybody else wanted to follow. I'm the same deal. I'm trying to run a business and it's got to be financially sound as well as how much can you trade for trophies. Racing is fun and, certainly, there are days more stressful than others, but as long as your healthy you really like to race against people that you know -- better than the ones you don't know. Brothers always race harder than others. You think they're mad at each other, but they actually know each other so they can deal with it better. I like to know people I race against and, saying that, I may be racing against Ricky Rudd next year.

My goal 10 years from now is when we look back on this deal that we look back on it as a fun experience, instead of going through two and a half years and botching the whole thing up and remembering the bad times. I thought yesterday was an excellent day. Everybody did their job very professionally even though we had a malfunction in the pits and cost us a good top five. Everybody's doing it professionally and this is a small business world. I keep reminding all of us -- 'Don't say or do something that you'll regret,' because they're all good people here. There isn't anybody who was born better than the next one or worked harder to be better than the next guy. It's about choosing up sides in racing. I would really like to see a win for everybody. I hate the last year (of a contract). I hate negotiating. I never could play poker because I can't b.s. anybody. I just hate that last year. I wish we would have addressed this last year, but the whole thing about last year was it was gonna be retirement. So we didn't need to address it and didn't want a farewell tour.

I think that's what got us. Again, it sounds like I'm throwing all of this on Ricky's lap, but that's really what went on. We didn't think about us dealing with another race team or anything other than a farewell retirement. The good part is that Ricky's back has healed up and that's not bothering him. In fact, that's what he sort of told me. He said, 'I didn't realize my back was gonna be to where it doesn't bother me. I'm enjoying sitting in the seat now.' So we're not bashing him. We're glad he came back healthy and thinks he can race for years and years. We got into this last year because of that. From a sponsor standpoint, some inexperienced people got involved. They elected to take on Ricky and negotiate with him and I gladly dumped it in their lap, but they didn't get it done."

IS THERE ROOM FOR RICKY RUDD AT RYR NEXT YEAR?

"I'd say it's slim. I won't say none, but I'd say slim because I think his best situation would be he goes somewhere that will be very competitive and pay very well. That's just not in my deal. My deal is too thin. Very honestly, it's just too thin. In the best year, unless it's a championship win, it just comes out upside-down. I don't have deep pockets. I don't have any other business to rely on. In a way it's sad, but I've looked at the numbers and they haven't lied to me. I don't see where I can go cut any people out of the deal. In fact, I need more, so it just comes down to a business. I would really like for it to be read as 'there's room for everybody here. Nobody's leaving. Nobody's going away mad. Nobody is gonna throw any rocks.'"

WHEN DID IT BECOME APPARENT IT MIGHT NOT WORK OUT FOR RICKY TO COME BACK?

"After the people that were negotiating with him came back and said, 'We can't do it.' That was in the past week. They do business everyday looking at one and two and three and four percent increases. They don't look at big increases. Ricky Rudd deserves it. I mean, he's absolutely not wrong about what he deserves. I don't think this side of the fence gets paid enough anyway, but I can't do anything about that. I have a wonderful sponsor in UPS and, certainly, Texaco has been a great sponsor for a number of years but, like Ricky Rudd, I'm sure he enjoyed racing and owning his own team, but when he counted his money at the end of the year it's like, 'What am I doing this for?' Some things are aggravating. There are a lot of things in it for sure. Everybody needs to come out on the financial side. It's a balance of, 'Yeah, we have a team that can win.' 'How much would you pay for that win?' You can't pay anymore than you take in. You can't sell the trophies for enough money to pick up the bottom line, so it's choosing up sides. I worked with Ricky Rudd in 1981 and I've got a cut from here to here (signaling about a three inch vertical line on his chest) because of so much stress we put into it trying to help him come along. I put that all behind me. I never had a bad moment. I went on and he was successful and we were successful. We stayed friends and that's certainly what I would like to come out of it from here on. We're having three really good years. That's what we agreed to do. If his back would have been good last year and we would have tacked on a year to this deal, we wouldn't be standing here today with this. That would be my wish, but I can't back that up. I think we should have gone to the sponsor together and we didn't. They took it on their own and said they would handle it and they did, so here we are."

ELLIOTT SADLER IS AVAILABLE. IF YOU WANT HIM YOU KIND OF HAVE TO GRAB HIM NOW DON'T YOU?

"Timing in this sport is everything. I don't know if it's so much how smart you are or just where you're standing at the right time. Certainly, he was a guy that I wanted to put on my list to compete against so I could sit down and make a deal. You can't get one without two kind of a deal. You can't go and negotiate when you don't have a choice. You can't go out in the middle of the ocean in a row boat and have only one life line and not give everything that you own, so I didn't want to go into that deal with Ricky. This sport has been super to me and I'm lucky to even be a car owner. I don't even feel like I am one. I love working here and I want to be fair to people. People say, 'Why would you do that for somebody else?' I don't want anybody spit out. I would like for Ricky to feel the same way about me in that I didn't trash anything he's got going or anybody else. It just gets back to the bottom line and that comes from our only source of income practically and it just wasn't in their budget to do it. I think a lot of us have to get used to corporate America not tightening up, but seizing up. We still work hard, play hard, the races are good and we still earn that money, but it's different. When you go into an executive's office now, they have to really do it by the numbers. They can't do it just because they like to. Unfortunately, I have to look at my business the same way. I don't have deep pockets and I can't do what I love to do. I'd love to pay my guys twice what they're making, but I can't do it."

SO NEXT YEAR WILL YOU HAVE ONLY TWO TEAMS?

"That is our desire."

WOULD DOUG HAVE A TEAM AND YOU HAVE TEAM?

"This deal is slim, but it was never our desire to do three teams. I had to cover myself because Texaco has an out. It's one of the few contracts out here that is that way. They could have walked, but they didn't exercise it. I was actually surprised they didn't. We've learned to live on two paychecks and I wanted to cover ourselves. It wasn't our desire to do multiple teams. I won't say that we are not in control and we were forced to do something, but I guess we have been fortunate to have good people and good offers. There have been people coming around offering deals and that means the sport is healthy and that means we're healthy. That's good and it hasn't been that way for about a year or two. People want to see what we do and sponsors what to be a part of it, but, at the same time, everybody is trying to make their best deal."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robert Yates