HALL OF FAME RACING ANNOUNCES 2006 DRIVER LINEUP: Terry Labonte and Tony Raines to co-drive No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Press conference transcript highlights BILL SAUNDERS , managing partner of...
HALL OF FAME RACING ANNOUNCES 2006 DRIVER LINEUP: Terry Labonte and Tony Raines to co-drive No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
Press conference transcript highlights
BILL SAUNDERS , managing partner of Hall of Fame Racing: "We understand how tough this can be. Everybody has told us don't do it. As a matter of fact I got a big lecture on this. But we are going to do. The thing is you've got to put great people around you. We've been so blessed to have the Gibbs Racing organization to help us through the tough times in the formation of which has been nothing but a pleasure because of what they've brought to the party.
"And I know you want to hear from (managing partners) Roger (Staubach) and Troy (Aikman). I know you're probably wondering where Roger is. I'll let him tell you.
ROGER STAUBACH: "Well, I'm here at the naval academy. I'm here for that class of '65, which is a few years ago. I'm humbled by this, and I'm excited about the team we have. We have a great sponsor and great drivers in Terry (Labonte) and Tony (Raines) and (crew chief) Philippe (Lopez) is there. I'm anxious to meet our whole crew. We're going to have almost 40 people working for Hall of Fame Racing. Being involved with Joe and J.D. (Gibbs) is exciting for me. We are going to work hard and get competitive. It's going to take a little time, but we are going to be competitive. I'm really excited to be a part of the ownership team."
TROY AIKMAN: "I'd like to point out that we recognize the challenge we have before us. It's not going to be easy. There is a lot of hard work involved. We're not opposed to that. And Roger, moving into his business life after (football) has been very successful with the Roger Staubach Company; and I'd like to think that some of the things that I've gotten involved in since I retired from football have worked out well also. We go into this with eyes wide open. We recognize there is a lot of hard work involved; but at the same time, we anticipate having success. I think that means a lot of things to a lot of people. But we feel we have assembled a great group of people. If we were going to do it any other way, we would have made this announcement a long time ago. I think we were very diligent on how were going to align ourselves with a sponsor. The right sponsor had to be a part of this group.
"We were able to do that, no question about it with Texas Instruments. They are going to give us the resources and everything that they can do on their behalf for us to have success. My background is football and I feel that's what I'm the expert on. And racing is a lot like football. You've got to have good people and talented people. And if we give those types of people the things they need in order to do their jobs, more times than not those people are going to perform. That's what we're banking on. We're going to everything we can to make this thing successful."
WHAT DO FANS THINK OF YOU PARTNERING WITH JOE GIBBS, AN OLD RIVAL? "They understand the correlation and the connection from the NFL and they say, oh, I get that. They don't go any further to say, they were first-degree rivals. I really believe that the NASCAR fans..they like it. They know what Joe Gibbs Racing has done for this sport. Hopefully in some way we can provide something for it as well."
HOW MUCH WILL YOU BE INVOLVED? "Well, I'll be extremely involved because Roger and I both understand that if it doesn't work, it's going to be on our nickel. Our name. He and I are very protective of that-everything we've been involved in. First off, when we were playing athletically and when we weren't playing. So that's why it was clear to us when we went through this that we wanted to do it right. There's no guarantee to having success. But I think we've given ourselves at least an opportunity. If we're struggling, both of us will be involved."
YOU HAVE A BUSY SCHEDULE WITH FOOTBALL BROADCASTING. HOW HAVE YOU GOTTEN CAUGHT UP WITH NASCAR? "Trying to watch the races on Sunday, it's very difficult with my schedule with Fox and trying to get caught up the best I can. It's challenge for me to keep up with everything that I'm supposed to keep up with on the NFL side and at the same time, educate myself with the NASCAR front. So, that's what I signed up for and that's my challenge when football season ends, that I will be able to jump into it a little bit further. I won't be able to attend races during football season because I'm tied up with the broadcasting. But I'm excited to be a part of it."
TERRY LABONTE: (REGRARDING THE AIKMAN-STAUBACH COMBINATION) "Growing up, I was a huge Cowboys fan. I can remember watching Roger Staubach for years and he was just the greatest quarterback I thought I'd ever seen. Then Aikman comes along and takes the Cowboys to all those Super Bowls. It's pretty neat that these guys came to me. For them to be involved in NASCAR, it's great for the sport. They're bringing Texas Instruments on board, which is a new sponsor for our sport, too. These guys have been working hard to put this team together for several years now. You know, I thought it was great when Joe Gibbs got into the sport. He brought a lot of new fans and I think Roger and Troy being involved is going to do the same thing."
"I'm excited about the opportunity to be a small part of this team. I think it's great that these guys have gotten into our sport. I think it's going to be good for the sport. They've entered in a big way with Texas Instruments on board. Being from Texas, I'm really honored to be part of a team with Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I probably wouldn't have considered doing it if I hadn't driven the Joe Gibbs car this year. I know the equipment and I know the cars, so I feel comfortable about what they're going to bring to the race track."
"Ten years down the road when they're successful, I'll be able to look back and say I ran the first race for those guys. I'm just confident in the team they're putting together and the equipment they're going to have. I'm just a small part of this deal and honored they asked me to help them get started."
"Being from Texas and growing up a Cowboys fan, it's really exciting to be involved with Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. We're still going to run our Hendrick Motorsports car 10 times next year, but it's neat to be able to add a few races to the schedule and help these guys get started. This is a tough sport, but I think they've gone about it right. They've done a lot of homework. I'm excited to be just a small part of it."
HOW BIG A CHALLENGE IS THIS FOR HALL OF FAME RACING? "Oh, it's a huge challenge. Coming in like they've done with a new team, people just don't realize how difficult that is. It's a big challenge for people who have been in the sport for a long time. It's very, very competitive. They've aligned themselves with Joe Gibbs Racing, which is a first-class organization, but it's still going to be hard. They're still going to need the right people and do the right things. It's a tough sport."
WITH THIS BEING A NEW TEAM, DO YOU FEEL A LOT OF PRESSURE TO SUCCEED? "Running the limited schedule I've been running for Hendrick Motorsports, it's a pretty low-pressure deal. This is a little different, but we'll just try to get them off to a good start. After driving the Joe Gibbs cars this year, I'm familiar with the equipment. I'm just honored that Troy and Roger gave me a call and thought enough of me to ask if I'd drive their car a little bit."
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM THE LIMITED SCHEDULE YOU RUN WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "This will be a little different situation because this car runs all the races. This car is in the points race, so when I drive this car, it'll be approached differently than when I drive my car - my Hendrick Motorsports car. We're not points racing when I drive the No. 44 car (for Hendrick Motorsports), so we approach it a little bit differently than these guys will because they'll be in for a full season."
HOW DID THIS COME TOGETHER? "I filled in for Joe Gibbs a little this year on their FedEx car, just trying to help them out a little bit. That's really how all this started, actually. Gibbs called Rick (Hendrick) and asked if they could 'borrow' me and it was pretty neat. This deal with Hall of Fame Racing came along, they were working with Gibbs and I already had experience in that equipment. Rick and I talked about it. He thinks it's really good for the sport that these guys are getting involved. Roger was at Rick's golf tournament earlier in the year. They've known each other and crossed paths. Rick is a big fan of Roger and glad to see he and Troy in the sport."
SO YOU'RE STILL RUNNING A LIMITED SCHEDULE WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IN 2006? "That hasn't changed. We'll be running 10 races in the No. 44 Chevy with Hendrick Motorsports next year. The schedule is being firmed up, and we'll make that announcement soon, but I can tell you we're definitely racing twice here at Texas, including my final race. The deal with Hall of Fame Racing is great because I get to run a few more tracks in my last season. It's going to be a lot of fun."
TONY RAINES: "Without a doubt, this is the best opportunity in my career. I kept pinching myself to make sure it was real. To have owners like Bill (Saunders) and Roger (Staubach) and Troy (Aikman) and a crew chief like Philippe (Lopez) and a sponsor like DLP HDTV and Joe Gibbs Racing. All the relationships that we have here are going to come forth as the season goes on. I'm looking forward to working with Terry (Labonte)."
DID YOU UNDERSTAND UP FRONT THAT THIS WOULD BE A LIMITED SCHEDULE FOR YOU AND WERE YOU IN FAVOR OF THAT RIGHT FROM THE START? "They asked me how I'd feel about having Terry (Labonte) involved and I said I was all for it. This is a team sport and that takes every guy from the truck driver all the way to the parts man in the shop. I couldn't do any of it by myself. I felt like with Terry's experience in racing the Gibbs cars this year and Gibbs teams that if he can kick it off and get everything set so at least we know where we're at, it will be beneficial to me. So I'm all for it -- especially in restrictor plate racing where I'm usually in the middle of a big wreck anyway (laughs).
"One of my first questions was who the crew chief was going to be. When they said Philippe Lopez -- I'd worked with Philippe before -- and that had a large bearing on whether I was interested or not because it's all about the people. Without the right people, it's hard to succeed. With his name being mentioned, that made me interested right away. So we went from there. We probably had three or four meetings before I actually received an offer to drive the car. So it took a while, but it was worth the wait."
WITH THE SPONSORS YOU HAVE, DOES THAT SORT OF TAKE THE EDGE OFF OF IT BEING YOUR NORMAL RUN-OF-THE-MILL START UP OPERATION? "In all my career, I've been with a single car team in Cup racing. I know the obstacles. I know what we're up against. Having the opportunity to have an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and three other drivers where there is a wealth of information, it's a whole different deal. I've always competed against guys who have had that and now hopefully I'll have the same tools and it'll certainly show up on the race track."
WITH TERRY LABONTE STARTING THE FIRST FIVE RACES, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT QUALIFYING AFTER THAT. IS THAT WHY IT IS PLANNED THATY WAY? "I don't think that's entirely why it was done that way, but it's a benefit. But like I said, with him running the Gibbs cars this year somewhat, it'll just get us pointed in the right direction. I've got 53 or 54 Cup starts, but Terry (Labonte) has over 700. For him to get the groundwork laid with somebody who is familiar with the Gibbs organization and equipment is going to make the team better so that when I get in the car I know which direction to go and we don't have that variable. I think that's a plus for all of us. With that being said, it makes it easy to hit the ground running, hopefully."
BILL SAUNDERS: WITH NASCAR POSSIBLY LIMITING TEAM OWNERSHIP, DO YOU EXPECT A LOT OF EYES ON THIS TEAM REGARDING YOUR SUCCESS? "The health of this sport in the long term could be -- and I want to stress could be -- could be determined by the success or failure of this team. The strategy that Brian (France) is going forth in what he's said he's going to do and limit ownership, then this is really important. If it goes another way, then maybe it's not so important to him. But I will tell you that I think NASCAR is behind us a thousand percent. They've told us they are. NASCAR has welcomed us. The Gibbs folks believe in this team and in what we're trying to do. They want us to be successful. I know there are some other owners that want us to be successful. There are some that don't want us to be successful. There are some with an eye on a bigger vision that would like new ownership in the sport."
DID NASCAR CONTINUE TO BE ENCOURAGING YOU DURING THAT PREVIOUS TWO OR THREE-YEAR PERIOD? "NASCAR was always on our side. There is not a guy in the group who gives up. We said we were going to do it and so if it had taken 10 years. Thank goodness we ended up with this sponsorship. Troy was talking about all the opportunities we had. But they weren't right. It's hard sometimes to say it isn't right when they're throwing money at you. I know some other teams that would have loved the potential sponsors stuff. But we wanted to make sure it was the right fit at the right time. We'll know at Daytona, won't we?"
ROGER STAUBACH: WHY NASCAR? "It really became a relationship experience for me. I was on board because our customers are involved with NASCAR. The NASCAR fans, a lot of them are football fans. They're just really great people. I thought it would be fun just hanging out with them and being involved, but it became a very difficult scenario to do it right, to get the right people in place, the right sponsor. We have a great sponsor in DLP and Texas Instruments. We have a wonderful crew chief that we've hired in Philippe Lopez. We have great drivers in Terry Labonte and Tony Raines. We're all excited. I think if we have the right people in the right place doing the right things, we can be successful. My grandkids think I'm going to drive in NASCAR, but I'm not driving. I'm learning about the sport. But I've also learned in business as we've built a wonderful real estate firm that you get the right people in the right places, miracles happen. We're looking to be successful. Not only to be in NASCAR, but to be successful at it. We're off to a good start with our sponsor and the crew that we're going to have is going to be first class. We're going to give the driver the right equipment to start running up front."
CAN YOU DRAW A PARALLEL BETWEEN FOOTBALL, YOUR REAL ESTATE COMPANY AND WHAT YOU'RE DOING WITH HALL OF FAME RACING? "There are some parallels. I've used teamwork a lot in our business and relate it to football. We won a couple of Super Bowls and we were in quite a few, so we were successful because we had everybody working together. When you have the right equipment, the right drivers, the right crew chief, the right people putting our car on the race track, it's all teamwork. I think NASCAR has even more teamwork than possibly football, so there are a lot of good analogies. And also, with the owners of football teams, when they've put the right people in place, they've won very quickly. There's some owners that still haven't won after many years because you've got to put your ego aside and put people that are smarter than you in place to win. I've got a wonderful company because we've got a lot of really good people in the right positions in our company. Our job in NASCAR is to put the right people in the right positions.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH HALL OF FAME RACING? "My role is to do everything I can to let our crew of 40-plus people and our drivers and Philippe to let them know that we're going to be behind them. We're going to do everything we can to support them. We're going to create the right resources. Make sure we do the right things for them. So my job as an owner is to get the confidence of the team and let them know that I am there if they need me for anything. If one of our crew has an issue or problem, we can help them. They're part of our life now. Other than that, I'll just be at the races screaming and hollering and also a lot of our customers will be at the races, so I'll really get to know some of our customers a lot better. The France family has done a phenomenal job. Three years ago, I wasn't that excited about NASCAR but I am today.
THERE ARE A LOT OF FORMER NFL PLAYERS IN NASCAR. HAVE YOU SPOKEN WITH ANY OF THEM? "Well, we talked to Joe Gibbs. Troy Aikman, he's classy a person as you're ever going to meet, a great athlete. Being on the team with Troy has been a positive thing for me. I really like the guy a lot and he's just a fantastic football player and a great human being. We had talked to Joe and his team and J.D. (Gibbs) and we met Rick Hendrick. What a great person he is. He gave us a lot of help. So, we've done our homework. Everybody's looked at us and said, 'Hey, what are these guys getting themselves into?' But, we look at each other and we've got a winning instinct in our lives. We not only want to win for Texas Instruments, DLP and our team, but we want to win because it's been important to us as we've dealt with our businesses and as athletes."