Yates Racing has added former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard to its team for 2009, joining Travis Kvapil in what will start the season as a three-car team. Labonte and Kvapil spoke about their situations...
Yates Racing has added former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard to its team for 2009, joining Travis Kvapil in what will start the season as a three-car team. Labonte and Kvapil spoke about their situations during last week's Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour.
TRAVIS KVAPIL -- No. 28 Yates Racing Ford Fusion
YOU HAVE TO BE OPTIMISTIC WITH THE SITUATION YOU'RE IN. "I'm very optimistic. Just knowing where our team was a year ago and how much we've grown since then, we're going to work on building on the success that we had a year ago. I mean, when I came to Yates Racing a year ago, I never drove the COT and didn't know anything about a bump stop, but I just learned so much. I just feel like we're gonna be pretty strong to start the year off. Obviously, we don't have sponsorship but we are gonna go to the first five and they're gonna give me a chance to go out and perform and run good and, hopefully, we can piece it together. We did a great job of doing that last year."
DO YOU HAVE TO JUST FOCUS ON ONE RACE AT A TIME AND NOT THINK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FIRST FIVE ARE OVER? "Yeah, obviously we'd like an ideal situation where we know we're going racing with sponsors, but that's just not the case. I'm disappointed that we are only going to potentially only run a partial schedule, but at the same time, I know there is a great list of drivers that are on the outside looking in right now, so I'm just grateful to Ford and Yates Racing and everybody involved that they're gonna give me a chance to go out and try to perform. If we do that, it will all come together."
WHAT OTHER THINGS TO YOU HAVE WORKING BESIDES CUP? "Right now during the offseason we've been working on trying to get the Cup situation figured out and what direction we're gonna head, and we're working really hard with the marketing team trying to be on the phone and call sponsors myself and do everything I can. I think there will be opportunities for us in Nationwide or possibly truck races throughout the year, but right now I'm just really focused on trying to get the 28 car running up front and if we can do that, hopefully we're doing that all season long."
HOW FAR HAS THIS ORGANIZATION COME? "You see so many new teams that are young and starting out and they say, 'We're gonna go racing,' but I think the thing to think about with Yates Racing is this is an established team and we definitely have some credibility and proved ourselves with what we did a year ago, and now bringing in Paul and Bobby is even adding to that credibility. So if there are deals that are gonna be put together, I hope it's with us -- a team that is established and ready to go. Everything is in place, and that's gonna be our goal to do that. Ideally, it's not what we want to do, but I think that's definitely a possibility."
WHAT ABOUT GOING TO DAYTONA AND THE CHANCE TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START? "I think Yates Racing, Roush Fenway, Ford -- all in general we have a great plate program. I think the biggest part of that is our engine program. Doug and the guys do a great job over there and obviously having Todd Parrott on my side last year was a great asset as well. Unfortunately, we wrecked a lot of speedway cars at Talladega between the Ford group, but at the same time it gave us an opportunity to build all brand new stuff pretty much, or take what we had and rebuild it. I know our fleet is pretty solid and I think we'll all qualify good -- especially for the 28 it's important because we're gonna go in without points and it would be pretty cool to win the pole for the 500. I think that's our goal."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO STEP IT UP THIS YEAR? "I hope so. We showed last year we could do it, but we'd have a top 10 once and then it would be another month before we'd do it again, so we need to be a lot more consistent. A lot of that I feel like with me understanding the car and working with Todd for the first time last year, I was just kind of getting back into it. Just having a year under our belts as a team, we actually look like a race team now when you go to our shop, instead of just moving into the building and here we go. The team is much more prepared. Our relationship and the understanding of our relationship with the Roush group is stronger. A year ago we were trying to get set up with information from them and we weren't sure where the boundaries were, but now we know where we all stand and all that engineering and stuff is behind us. I'm confident going into the season. We do need to run in the top-15 or top-20 every race and that's our goal. If we can do that and get a few top 10s in there, we can contend. We really don't have much to lose. Right now, our team is kind of looking at doing a limited schedule due to the finances, so we're gonna go out there and try to win races and run up front and try to take chances. We've got to get our 28 car up front and get it noticed, so that's what our plan is."
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON YOUR LIMITED SCHEDULE? "I guess we don't have anything set in stone, but I know we're going to the first five for sure and we'll take it from there. This is an established team. It's not like this is something that has been piece-mealed together. We've got a lot of talent. There was a lot of talent in the industry that came to work for us at a moment's notice, so we're really excited about what we've got going on."
DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A LEG UP ON SOME OTHERS AS FAR AS SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES? "Not just a leg up on putting deals together, but if there was any money that was going to come into this sport or a sponsor that wanted to look at moving, I think the 28 team is the first place you look. We ran all season. We ended up 23rd in points last year -- reasonable -- we definitely expect better, but it was not bad for what we had to work with and this season we're established and have a solid group of people and I've got a few years under my belt. We can go out and compete, so we're planning on going out in these first five races and running really competitively and get as much exposure as we can."
WHO IS GOING TO CREW CHIEF THE 28? "Ben Leslie. He's actually on a dual assignment. He works for Ford and is kind of a liaison between the manufacturer, the teams and NASCAR. He was key in developing the COT for Ford and the manufacturer, so he's a proven winner. It's been a couple of years since he's been on the pit box calling a race, but he's very familiar with the Ford program and the Roush group and the Yates group and he should slide right into place and be up to speed."