Dodge Motorsports Teleconference March 4,2008 George Gillett- Majority Owner, Gillett Evernham Motorsports ASSESS THE START OF THE SEASON SO FAR FOR GEM: "A really, really good start. I think it's attributable to some really identifiable kinds...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
George Gillett- Majority Owner, Gillett Evernham Motorsports
ASSESS THE START OF THE SEASON SO FAR FOR GEM: "A really, really good start. I think it's attributable to some really identifiable kinds of things -- one of which -- is the tremendous support we are getting from Dodge. There really has been a change in the attitude and the relationship. We've got Bob Nardelli, Mike Accavetti and Mr. Landry (Steven). They've really stepped up and supported all four of the Dodge teams and you can feel it. And you felt it the morning of Daytona when Bob (Nardelli) asked us all to come sit with him an hour before the race. The coup de gras was to offer to us a $1 million bonus if any one of the teams won the Daytona 500. Of course Roger Penske did and we were all thrilled for him. To have six Dodges in the top-eight finishers at Daytona -- it was exciting. It really showed a new commitment on Dodge's part. This isn't just a Dodge commercial -- I don't want to sound that way -- it really is accurate and having become new to this sport and saw the end of last year and the beginning of this year -- there really is a difference.
"The other is Ray (Evernham) has taken his genius to a new level. And his perspective on what needed to be done was -- he's really given us a new perspective. And moving Mark McArdle into the vice president's position -- head of competition -- is pretty amazing. So I am very thrilled -- the driver's are driving very well -- and they're driving cautiously. You take a look at Kasey's (Kahne) finishes -- three top-10 finishes -- and frankly, where he finished was the about the worst that he could have finished."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT PATRICK CARPENTIER AND HIS YEAR SO FAR? "Patrick Carpentier is one of those fellas -- there are a number of people from open-wheel racing -- I have to say (to the extent we were part of the decision making process) -- Patrick is the real thing. These fellas who come from open-wheel racing have no problem with driving fast in close quarters. Patrick was following instructions beautifully in the race Sunday -- and was frankly under direction not to engage in wheel-to-wheel early in the race. And unfortunately, it resulted in an apology from the driver and his spotter who cut him off. We appreciate that. That's the basis of the sport -- you can have your moments -- but you need to be on the same page. So they've apologized, but it put Patrick in a very difficult position. He came back out and was really very, very competitive after he came back out and was running some of the best lap times after the accident. You saw how he ran where he went around the outside in the 150s down in Daytona -- he had a tire going -- he kept going -- he's the real thing and we're proud of him -- he's a great guy -- the sponsors love him -- and our fans love him -- we're very pleased with that relationship."
DOES GEM FEEL ANY RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THE ROBBY GORDON SITUATION (ALLEGED USE OF ILLEGAL FRONT NOSE IN DAYTONA 500)? "I think we feel a responsibility towards the sport. We want to see the sport get it right. There are an awful lot of complicating factors that frankly we're not familiar with. Robby Gordon is one those special young men and I think that he deserves the same treatment in the hearing as anyone else in that position. There were obviously some mistakes made. The real issue is intent -- and it was obvious that there was no intent to get around the rules. The other was that there is absolutely not belief on anyone's part that the mistake would have led to any performance advantage. It was purely a consistency of marketing that was attempted -- unfortunately a mistake was made and that mistake was one that Robby's is in the middle of and he's appealed it -- I don't know how it's going to go. I certainly would hope that NASCAR would find it within it's rules and guidelines to modify what they've asked for -- whether the company of NASCAR is as firm as they need to be -- that a violation of the rules is a violation of the rules -- it's pretty clear that that the process that have gone through since then would suggest that the nose would have fit -- not only the egg crate but also the templates. So even if in the middle of the night --when the nose was put on -- they had all those devices there -- maybe they did, I'm not sure -- if they had, it would have passed. So that's the sad part of what's going on. I certainly hope that it works out for Robby -- he's just a solid guy -- a single car team -- we wish him the best."
CAN YOU TELL US RAY'S (EVERNHAM) ROLE FROM A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS AND HOW HE IS ADAPTING TO IT? "You'd have to ask him about the adapting. The role he is fulfilling now is exactly the role that was contemplated at the time of our relationship beginning. That was he would be senior advisor -- that we would have access to his genius -- and available to us and working with Mark McArdle. So far it has worked beautifully. His notes on Monday are absolutely a beautiful thing to behold. The things that he sees with our teams -- the competitor's teams -- are the real insights that have made a huge difference this year. He was also insightful enough to recognize the genius of Mark McArdle and giving Mark substantial responsibilities was Ray's recommendation. So we have all the great features of Ray -- but in the process -- he's taking a little time off to do some of the other things that he told us at the time when we got together -- that he wanted to do, which is television and some of the other things. We're pleased with the relationship. It's strong. It's solid. So obviously with the performance of Kasey and Patrick and Elliott -- to have two teams in the top-12 -- certainly suggests that the (inaudible) is working."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM RAY ABOUT THE SPORT AND ABOUT OWNERSHIP? "I think the most important thing that I've learned -- not that I needed to learn it because I've had enough setbacks -- I've learned humility (laughs). You really get humbled quickly and how quickly things can change. This last weekend we ended making lemonade out of lemons. As sick as Kasey was, he had a fast car. As sick as was -- being on every kind of IV's for several days -- violently ill and nobody thought he was going to be able finish the race -- to have him finish sixth after being one lap down -- and then to have Elliot --as tough as he is -- to have him come back -- apparently there was some question of the speed of the pace car -- and eight cars got caught at the first stop -- of course once you get your assessment and the race is going on -- there's no way to correct that. By God he's so tough. Elliot Sadler's one of the great guys -- wonderful personalities- but boy is he tough - and he came back from that and finished 12th. So we were very pleased and impressed with what happened."
DO YOU HAVE SPONSORSHIP LEFT ON THE No. 10 CAR FOR PATRICK (CARPENTIER)? "We don't get into that kind of detail. I'm happy to report -- as recently as last night -- for 2008 we have a verbal which is in the writing today, for a major, major, major new sponsor the 10 car. It's very exciting for us and for the sponsors. This business - everybody is asking about the economy -- how much it's going to affect us and so forth. What I think a lot of us have forgotten -- the time, the only time -- in the business cycle when you can change market share - and were dealing with the most sophisticated consumer products marketers in the world -- the only change you can change market share -- and have it be a permanent shift -- is when the economy is soft. What we are finding is that the really smart, sophisticated marketers are coming to us now and saying 'boy o' boy, this is the time were putting the pedal to the medal' -- so were finding a great deal of responsiveness are partly because of the economy that they now this is the right time to be marketing. The other is that the things Tom (Reddin, CEO Gillett Evernham Motorsports), my son Alexander (Gillett) with David Jessie and Jeff Tucker - are a whole series of things that our family has done for years with our sports marketing -- and were really trying to provide incremental value to our sponsors. And I think that people are coming to realize that. We are really starting to see some major new sponsors come on board. Budweiser is a thrill, Best Buy, McDonalds, Cintas and so forth. We're pleased with the way things are going -- but as Patrick gets even more success on the track -- his wonderful personality -- we're finding a lot of people interested in the 10 car."
IS THAT MORE FOR THIS YEAR OR FOR 2009? "Our primary target right now is '08. We are in fact talking to people about windows and extensions and new sponsors for '09. We've got some inventory left for this year on the 10 car particularly -- so we're being realistic -- we're being creative in signing multi-year deals -- where we'll be aggressive in our pricing for the return of the benefit of the for the long-term relationship with clients. This is a good time to talk to Gillett/Evernham because we have some inventory."
ARE YOU INVOLVED AT ALL IN THE ROBBY GORDON APPEAL TOMORROW? "No. Not personally. At the extent that our organization can provide information to Robby and I know that Dodge is being very cooperative in that as well -- we want to do the right thing. He's a great guy. He deserves fairness. NASCAR will give him a balanced appeal."
CAN YOU OUTLINE WHAT YOUR PARTICIPATION WITH ROBBY (GORDON) HAS BEEN? WHERE THE LINE IS? HOW IT'S WORKED OUT SO FAR? "You'd have to ask him how it's worked out so far I guess. The line actually is the line that when Robby and my son Alexander got together and started talking about the possibility of Robby converted over to Dodge, the first thing that I did was to call NASCAR and inform them of the conversation. And invite them into the process at the earliest possible moment so that we did not get anywhere near the line and raise any questions about Robby being a fourth car and any of that sort of thing. That's how we've conducted ourselves -- and that's frankly how our family operates. It's a very, very good relationship. We're providing him with outstanding equipment. You've seen that he's very fast and competitive. We were sad to see that he had a blown tire and a bent frame this last weekend, but those things happen as you saw with Elliott (Sadler) down in Daytona. Robby is a great guy -- a helluva of driver and we have a really good arms-length relationship with him. We're providing him with outstanding equipment -- lots of horsepower and he's handling it well."
ROBBY'S TALKED ABOUT ONCE HE WAS UP AND GOING, HE WOULD BE ABLE TO HELP GEM AS WELL? "We certainly hope that's the case. We've already seen that happen. Just as all of the various folks -- the direct Hendrick's teams -- and indirect Hendrick's teams communicate -- we see a lot of communication going on amongst the crew chiefs and the drivers. And that's very helpful both ways. With armchair resources, he's been fully competitive in the sport for years. He's input is very helpful to us and hopefully our input to him is helpful.
"We've got the same relationship there with the 49 car -- or at least access of that information of the 49 car - as well as the Petty organization. The Dodge teams are cooperating very well together and were seeing that with Dodge's help, we're really doing a better job of communicating this year then I think the Dodge teams have done in the past."
HOW IMPROTANT IS TEAM CHEMISTRY IN MOTORSPORTS? "I never realized how important it was. I always thought that because it was very mechanical, there wouldn't be as much of the moral of the personal aspects of it. What we've discovered is exactly the opposite. There is a tremendous amount of interpersonal relationship -- a tremendous amount of moral that affects performance. Last year, we were coming off a heck of a good year -- the year before. We started off getting mashed down in Daytona doing what we thought was pre-approved. We got mashed hard and all the guys got knocked down - the crew chiefs were sent home. That was a real downer after an unbelievable year. I think that where a lot of people talk about the COT and so forth, Ray put strong resources into it. But I think that the moral that hit us at the beginning of last year was hard for us to overcome. We started the season's second-half that the moral was starting to pick up -- and when Ray made the changes and took on the senior role that he now has -- and I'll put Mark in there -- now we got two for the price of one plus a dollar. I've seen a huge amount.
"The other thing we've done - as in hockey - this week we chartered a 767 and brought the players and their families down to Phoenix for a better part of a week's fun trip while we played three games in the southwest. Their wives are enjoying the wonderful warm weather down in Phoenix with the pools and so forth as our guests. Moral has a huge impact on team sports. While you think of this as an individual sport -- this is a team sport. When Kasey (Kahne) got done on the west coast, he came to our ski resort up in Wyoming and did snowmobiling and all sorts of wild, fun things. And he came back from that experience -- as tiring as it is from the west coast -- with a whole new attitude. We're looking at getting a new jet for the team and making it easier for the employees to get around -- instead of those two and three times you have to stop for gas going from the west coast to east coast. Those are the little things that show the respect that we have for the sacrifices that our employees make on behalf of us and our drivers. And so moral has a huge impact on this sport and I did not realize that. So we're working very hard to use many of the same things that we've do on our other team sports where we've been winners for years."
-credit: dodge motorsports