Ford Racing announces long-term extensions with three key teams. INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., August 1, 2003 - Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology, announced five-year contract extensions today with Robert Yates Racing, Roush Racing and the...
Ford Racing announces long-term extensions with three key teams.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., August 1, 2003 - Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology, announced five-year contract extensions today with Robert Yates Racing, Roush Racing and the Wood Brothers. The announcement was made today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to practice for Sunday's Brickyard 400.
"We wanted to send a strong message to everyone that we're committed to NASCAR racing long-term, and continuing our association with these three teams does that," said Davis. "We feel the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will undergo even more changes over the next few years, and we wanted to ensure that the continuity and chemistry we've developed with these three organizations would continue."
All three teams have been synonymous with Ford since becoming involved in the sport. The Wood Brothers, led by the legendary Glen Wood, began racing their relationship with NASCAR in 1953 and have driven nothing but Ford products in that time. The team, which is now led by Glen's sons - Eddie and Len - have amassed 97 series victories, which includes at least one win in five straight decades.
Roush Racing has posted 65 NASCAR Winston Cup Series triumphs since beginning competition in 1988 with driver Mark Martin. The organization boasts a series-high five teams, including that of current points leader Matt Kenseth.
Robert Yates Racing became a NASCAR Winston Cup owner after purchasing the team from Harry Ranier in 1989 and has won 54 races. Recognized as one of the top engine builders in the sport, Yates led Ford to only its third driver's championship in the modern era (1972-present) when Dale Jarrett won the title in 1999.
"We couldn't be prouder to have these three organizations represent Ford," Davis said. "We're grateful for their loyalty to Ford, and we feel this is a way of showing how much we appreciate that loyalty. These teams are the teams we are going to go forward with in the future, and we wanted to publicly state that fact."
In addition to continuing its relationship with current programs, Davis also emphasized that Ford remains open to expanding its roster. He noted the days of one manufacturer having as many as 20 cars in a field on any given Sunday are likely over.
"The sport of NASCAR is continually changing and we're looking to position ourselves so we'll be able to adapt to those changes," said Davis. "As we look toward long-term development and long-term projects, we know who we will be working with, and we know there's a level of trust there from both sides.
"We've picked our dance partners for the future. And now it's time to dance."
Ford Racing announced five-year contract extensions with Robert Yates Racing, Roush Racing and the Wood Brothers earlier today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
DAN DAVIS, Director, Ford Racing Technology
"We're announcing this morning five-year agreements with the organizations you see represented here with us this morning. I'd like to just make a couple of points about what's important about this and why we're doing this and what we feel about these teams. First of all, the five-year agreements that we're announcing is an extension of a strategy that we at Ford have pursued over the last couple of years. The sport is becoming very technical and partners are really important, so we're looking at establishing long-term agreements with all of our key programs. Some of you may know that last year we signed an extension with John Force in NHRA Drag Racing. We did a five-year agreement with John and I think that's a very good way for Ford to show a commitment to race teams. Loyalty is something we take extremely seriously at Ford. We like to reward loyalty and these three organizations have been so loyal to us, that I felt it was important for Ford and Ford Racing to demonstrate our loyalty to them. The third point is that, obviously, the NASCAR Series is going through some changes. Nextel is coming in next year as series sponsor and things are just changing very rapidly and we'll see more in the future. What we're trying to do with these agreements is position ourselves so that we're able to react to those changes, with our teams, and be quick-footed and sure of ourselves as changes come to pass. It's kind of nice to know you're on the same page with your teams. I feel very strongly about this. I always felt like Robert and Jack and the Wood Brothers were always going to be with Ford. In my heart I always felt that was going to happen, but I don't want anyone to think that we take that for granted. In this way, we're kind of putting our money where our mouth is. We're ready to sign good contracts that say we're going to put our money where our mouth is, so I think this gives them reassurance and gives us reassurance. We've picked our dance partners and we like these dance partners. With that, when you have long-term agreements, you can do development work with teams that you know is going to stay in place and you know you're working together. With agreements like this, you know that as the sport gets more technical, you have the ability to do projects and work that you know will stay within our family. We know them and they know us. Trust is really important in this sport, so with these agreements and with this trust we've got in place, I think we've got a really solid program to go forward."
GREG SPECHT, North American Operations Manager, Ford Racing Technology
"First of all, let me say what an honor it is for me to be here with these folks. Obviously, they represent the best in NASCAR in a lot of different ways - in terms of their longevity in the sport and their competitiveness. I, on behalf of Ford Motor Company, want to say that we're very, very honored to be here with you gentlemen. What this means to me from an operations standpoint is tremendous and I think that was exemplified in the development of the '04 Taurus and the '04 F-Series Truck that was unveiled last night at our fan day. The development of the Taurus was very much a joint effort between Ford Motor Company and our key teams who are here. Representatives from all the teams were involved in that process and the end product, I think, shows what this teams is capable of delivering - not only in terms of the performance of the vehicle, but the timing in that we're able to hand off the car to NASCAR this coming Wednesday, which is about a month ahead of schedule. What that means is, with NASCAR's approval that will hopefully come shortly after we test the car in the tunnel and on the track, that we'll be able to put the '04 pieces in the hands of our teams a month earlier than we have in the past. That will give them more time to learn what makes the car work and be ready for the Daytona 500.
"We can only do that when we have long-term partnerships with teams the caliber of Robert Yates Racing, Roush Racing and Wood Brothers Racing because that allows us to open up our books to them and, at the same time, they have been very open in sharing data that they and only they have by showing up at the race track every week. Jointly, we're able to develop a better product to put on the race track. The same thing happened on the truck side. Roush Racing was involved in the development of the truck, along with a couple of other loyal truck teams and we were able to hand off to NASCAR yesterday the F-Series truck that we're going to run next year in that series, which is a spinoff of our new '04 production truck that will be in the showrooms this September. So from an operations standpoint, it makes my job much easier number one. It makes my engineering staff much more effective to be able to work with the engineers on the respective race teams and I'm looking forward to much continued success in the future having solidified this partnership here today."
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
"I'd just like to thank Ford Motor Company for having the confidence in our race team to extend us another five years. Our family has been racing Fords since the beginning. I guess it's 53 years, which is long before me, but that's something we're very proud of. We've never raced anything but a Ford and I'd just like to thank Greg and Dan for all the stuff they do for us. We're kind of in a rebuilding process with our race team. We've got us a really good driver now in Ricky Rudd and we're gaining ground. We've been through some tough times, but they've stuck with us and helped us tremendously, so I'd like to thank them. Going forward for five more years, we're really proud to be involved with that and we're looking forward to '04."
JACK ROUSH, Owner - Roush Racing Ford Tauruses
"I'm really proud of the fact that we're in Ford's inner circle and that we feel like we can go forward. I'm never very happy to stand second in line, but I think we do stand second in line to Eddie and Len with time and service (with Ford). Ford Motor Company is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year. The Wood Brothers have been with them for 53 years and we've got a paltry 36 years in service with Fords at Roush Racing. I started drag racing in 1967 with a 427 Fairlane that Ford gave me and all the support they could give me out of their research and development center to go out and take on the Mopar's at that time and, here we are, we're still taking on the Mopar's and other things as well. The five-year agreement will maybe make the Ford people feel more comfortable and that's good. When Ford feels comfortable maybe things work easier. We need to meet the challenges that are being posed as technology comes in from overseas - from overseas car markers as well as overseas race teams - and we need to match that and monitor that very carefully. The kind of commitments that need to be make for research and development and for the pooling of information and for the development of strategies can't be made on an ad hoc basis. They can't be made annually. They've got to be made almost with a decade in mind and this is certainly a move in that direction. I'm proud to be involved with Ford. I'm proud of the Ford heritage and legacy as it relates to racing and I'm proud to be sitting here with all of my friends."
ROBERT YATES, Owner - Robert Yates Racing Tauruses
"I guess I'll go back to the Wood Brother too, I've built engines for them. I've been around with Ford for a long time and, certainly, if it probably hadn't been for Holman-Moody and their factory program in Charlotte, North Carolina - I just happened to live close by and got a job there - I wouldn't be in racing anyway. So I want to thank Ford for putting the money in Charlotte, North Carolina next to where I lived. And then they're the ones that put me in business in 1988 as an owner. Many times times in '88, '89 and '90, we almost merged with Jack.
"We came close to it several times because of the fear of me being so little, but the Ford guys have really supported us. We've contributed through the years some, certainly we haven't done that as much as we want to of late, but at least with Ford and what Jack's done, it's kept our guys' heads on straight. We know the brand is capable of running good every week, so we're happy to have that. When you sign these long-term deals, it's easier to sign them right after you've won two or three races in a row. The fact that they're doing it with us, without that, they had a lot of faith in us and we appreciate that faith. We're working our tail off. We'll get it figured out here pretty soon, but we're happy to put that to bed. The pipeline is a long pipeline when you work on manufacturing engines and cars, so it's nice to have that five-year length of pipe to work with and put out a good product."
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
Q: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE '04 TAURUS?
JACK ROUSH: "As time goes on in this sport, the number of things you're allowed to work on get less and less. On the face of it, that makes it seem like it's easier, but what you have to strive for is a level of excellence and perfection on the things you're allowed to work on. And the things that have held constant for you, that you're not allowed to work on, those things wind up being your primary obstacle. Our 1997 Taurus is not disadvantaged to the Chevrolet, the Pontiac or the Dodge for anything except the nose and the tail, but those are very important for drag and their very important for downforce and for the balance in the car. All the things that were initially learned on the Ford and were observed by other teams, went into the resulting Dodge and then to the Pontiac and Chevrolet that came out this year. The other thing, and I really shouldn't be doing my sour grapes here, but I've got them out on the table again. But Dodge got a new nose this year. They tricked NASCAR into getting them a new nose and they got to work above the front bumper and that made a big difference in making the Dodge, from what I see, a better car than what it was last year. We've gotten no change, except for one-inch of extension on the lower front valance, which is the same dimension everybody else has got. We've gotten no change since '97, so it's gonna be like a breath of fresh air to be able to have a tail on the car that will take the drag to where it will be competitive and be able to get the nose on the car that will also let us be competitive there. The rest of the car is constant, there's certainly nothing wrong with it, but our feet have been tied down with our nose and with our tail. With Ford's support and with Robert's cooperation, and I think the Wood Brothers have been the lead on it and my guys have just been helping, but we've got a car that we think will be competitive with the Chevrolet and the Pontiac and the Dodge going forward."
Q: IS THE COMING OF TOYOTA A DIRECT REASON FOR THESE LONG-TERM PLANS?
DAN DAVIS: "I would say it's part of it, but it's not the main reason. This really got started with me in NHRA and Funny Car because when you're trying to do technology projects and you're really trying to have true partners and shared data and really get close with each other to help each other as a manufacturer and a team, if you don't have a long-term agreement to help you do that, then you're always real cautious about what you do. There's always some level of distrust that sort of mingles through conversation and it just seemed to me that the way to cut through all of that is to have a long-term agreement so you don't have to worry about those kinds of things. So, if we're gonna be real partners with teams - and that's absolutely our desire - you just have to know that you're gonna be together long-term so you can plan accordingly and that you can share the technology that's so precious to you. As a manufacturer, you can spend a lot of effort - and I just don't mean money.
"Money is one thing, but when you take your top technical capability, the thing that's really important to you and you share it with a team, you've got to know that it's going to stay within your influence. If you share that with a team and the next thing you know it is with a competitor - and it doesn't matter to me whether the competitor is a domestic competitor or a foreign competitor, a competitor is a competitor. You just want to be sure that you're doing the right thing and you're not giving something away. That's what we feel. Whether it's a foreign competitor or not, it doesn't really matter."
Q: DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE EVEN MORE EVENING OF THE MAKES WITH COMMON TEMPLATES?
DAN DAVIS: "I hope not. I don't have a crystal ball that can say, 'here's where we're going.' To me, it makes an awful lot of sense to have common greenhouses - a lot of things that need to be just one. There's a lot of sense in doing all that. As a manufacturer, what we've wanted all along was to have an identity of our product on the track and I think you can get it with the noses and the tails that we're doing. I think we can have that identity and, hopefully, it will stay like this so we can have our identity and, yet, you still have the close competition that everybody wants. I don't have a crystal ball, but I hope this is kind of where we end up."
Q: DO YOU ENVISION HAVING TO RATCHET UP YOUR BUDGETS WITH TOYOTA COMING IN?
DAN DAVIS: "As a company we plan very formal five-year plans like many companies do and we always have 10-year outlooks, so this kind of fits with our normal planning process. Yes, we do have targets for budgets in a five-year timeframe like that, but we also know that all of those resources have to be looked at every year and you have to make adjustments based on market conditions, you make adjustments based on what competitors are doing and that sort of thing, so there is adjustability put in place. You do your best job of trying to foresee what's gonna happen in the future and build your programs appropriately. The cost of racing seems to go up every year no matter what. Competition is competition. The price goes up, people get smarter, it takes more resources to do things. We build those into our budgets. The real question is, 'what does the slope look like? Is it sloped like this or like that in terms of how flat is it or how steep is it. It's hard to say. There are so many different manufacturers in NASCAR now that you've really got to work hard and stay on top. To me, it doesn't matter where that competition comes from. You've got to be very, very diligent and you need to be real efficient and I think we're looking at being real efficient with what we spend. Whatever budget it takes to compete we'll have. I'm very confident of that. My upper management knows this is important and we'll be competitive. Whatever it takes."
Q: YOU'VE COMMITTED TO 8 TEAMS. WHAT ABOUT THE SECOND TIER TEAMS?
GREG SPECHT: "The teams here (on the stage) have the resources to be able to work with us on the longer term projects. For example, the '04 car. That took a lot of effort on the part of the Wood Brothers to dedicate body hangers and engineers to take on the primary load of getting this thing done. Not every team has those kind of capabilities, so if we were to go and ask one of the other Fords in the field to take on a project like that, frankly, they couldn't. It would be a detriment to them as it was somewhat of a detriment to have to distract some of their people to work on the '04 car. In that regard, I don't think it's a burden to the other Ford teams that are out there and the benefit to them is that they will now be handed a car that has been developed by the best in the business. So it's going to make them more competitive on the track. It's just like engines. Not every car has an engine builder and it's because the resources that are required in this day and age to be competitive are such that every team cannot afford to have a research staff doing the engine development work. So I think in the long run all of the Ford teams benefit from this type of association."
Q: IS FORD HAPPY WITH THE NUMBER OF TEAMS IT HAS NOW?
DAN DAVIS: "I think if they would like to add cars, great. To me, the real key starting here in this series - certainly at the top level - is do you have a sponsor that has resources to allow you to do a quality program? That's really important. With a quality program and these quality teams, they would put forth a quality effort and we would be more than happy to bring that in."
Q: ARE YOU SO FIRMLY ENTRENCHED WITH FORD THAT NOBODY ELSE EVER TALKS TO YOU ABOUT SWITCHING?
EDDIE WOOD: "I don't know how to answer that. Our garage is probably the biggest gossip group in the world. In our case, when I grew up there was nothing but Ford. When you got old enough to drive cars, you had Fords. You didn't even look at anything else. Nothing else existed. I don't know how other manufacturers view us as that, but it's always been Ford. There have been times in the past when things have been talked about, but probably never really approached in a real serious manner because I think they feel if you say Wood Brothers, you say Ford in the same sentence. That's a good thing. I'm very proud of that. We have a picture hanging in our museum right now of the Ford dealership that was in Stuart, Virginia in 1930 and Edsel Ford signed it for us. It's stuff like that which makes us proud to be with Ford. To answer your question, there has been conversation on our part, but nothing ever serious. People know that when it comes to the end of the deal we're gonna be with Ford."
Q: ARE YOU SO FIRMLY ENTRENCHED WITH FORD THAT NOBODY ELSE EVER TALKS TO YOU ABOUT SWITCHING?
JACK ROUSH: "I'm pretty sure I'm damaged goods (laughing). The rest of the stuff is editorial, so you can knock yourself out (laughing)."
Q: ARE YOU SO FIRMLY ENTRENCHED WITH FORD THAT NOBODY ELSE EVER TALKS TO YOU ABOUT SWITCHING?
ROBERT YATES: "When we hear people coming and certainly even with manufacturing the way it is in the United States, we start to be more service than manufacturing. I want to see technology be here and I think that this is a positive move by Ford to say, 'hey, we're ready for it and we're gonna be ready for it,' instead of sitting back and seeing what happens. They're overlapping this with more manufacturers coming and they're up for it. I don't think there's anybody that would doubt that Jack Roush would ever do anything other than Ford and, because of that, I feel safe in sticking with that deal. But, certainly, it's an exciting time because we're gonna see a lot of things that are new. New technology, new engine stuff. We'll probably get a chance to change our antique engine to something new just because of that. I think it's actually exciting that these guys are not thinking the sky is falling on them, they're getting up and getting ready for it. I think part of it is not that we'll take off and do a different manufacturer, but I think more competition brings a better way of manufacturing. It's actually gonna take a lot of the blacksmith out of our sport and really make it high tech, so I'm excited. I think it's really gonna be F-1 technology here, so I think this is really a plus for us. For me, I can sort of live without the new stuff, but when you have a son involved in it, you want him to have that technology. I'm happy for Ford saying, 'Hey, the sky is not gonna fall on us. We're gonna be ready for it.'"
Q: CAN YOU CLARIFY THE END POINTS OF THE CONTRACTS?
DAN DAVIS: "The end points are either 2007 or 2008 depending. In some cases what we did was we had existing agreements that still had years in place and just re-did five-year programs. We didn't really look at it and say, 'Here's an end point and we need to add on to it.' It was really one of, 'look, we want long-term partners.' We had existing agreements in some case and we kind of just said, 'Let's brush them aside and do long-term one.' This really is a strategic move on our part, I think, of saying, 'Let's have long-term partners,' independent of what our current contracts were."
Q: YOU'VE GOTTEN MORE ACTIVE IN THE TEAM OF LATE.
ROBERT YATES: "I went out and bought a boat and I thought I would be better off doing that. I actually got called back to work and I'm enjoying it. I'd like to have better performance out of it, but I have been back to work and I'm enjoying that. Everybody, Doug included, is saying, 'Hey, let's put our best effort where they're needed,' so we're working together. There's no real change other than we have completely re-done our aero program. Our body program now, we're trying to work on the stuff that's maybe gonna fix us, but it's always nice when you're on a team to contribute. There are days that sometimes you want to step back. I remember seeing some old guys and I was like, 'Ah, they don't really contribute.' I never wanted to be one of those guys. I always wanted to be the one that wouldn't slow things down and said, 'Oh, we've done that. They don't want to hear that.' I've tried to remember that, but then my age rolled around to that and I said, 'I'm gonna shut up and let these guys do it.' Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever hot-cold deal it is, they said, 'Hey, you better come over here and work on this program or that program,' and I'm enjoying it.' I'll enjoy it a lot better if it starts panning out for us, but, no, this is all I want to do. Probably the best reason to owning it is that they can't fire me - maybe - so that's pretty much where I'm from. I love doing this. This is all I ever wanted to do as a kid, work on cars, and I'm still able to do that. Thanks for the great sponsors and for Ford Motor Company for allowing us to do that."
Q: WHERE IS THE FORD ENGINE IN RELATION TO THE OTHERS?
GREG SPECHT: "Where it stands relative to the other manufacturers, as mentioned earlier, we're running the same head since 1992 and we're running the same block since we were making them in Cleveland. Today, it's really the only production car based engine that's in the series. Our competitors have had a chance to pretty much take a clean sheet of paper and design a race car engine - push rod with carburetors - but still pretty much purpose-designed and built. The time has come for us to move on as a manufacturer. These guys - Jack and Robert - have been spending just gobs of money trying to eek out another horsepower or two out of what we've got and it's clearly at the end of its development stage. The latest chassis dyno numbers from NASCAR bears that out, so we have been in discussions with NASCAR - similar to what we did with the '04 Taurus. What is the real estate in which we have to work? Where are the boundaries? We've gone back to them a couple of times and told them what we were thinking and asked what they thought. So we're heading towards submitting a piece of hardware by the deadline, which we're shooting for a September-October timeframe. It's going to be nothing radical and, frankly, nothing they haven't seen before, but it's going to give our engine builders some new ground to work on and to catch up with our competitors."
Q: THIS IS THE 10TH BRICKYARD 400. A.J. FOYT HAS SAID THE BRICKYARD HAS MADE NASCAR AS POPULAR AS IT IS IN RECENT YEARS. DO YOU AGREE?
ROBERT YATES: "I remember doing engines for A.J. back in the early seventies and I admire him. We've had some confrontations here and there about engines and power, but I always felt like there was some green grass over here that I'd like to see one day. I had some relationships with Penske doing engines for him in the late seventies and I was offered a job and went to Reading and it was like, 'If I could ever work on those engines, I would really be at the top of the world.' And the day we drove in here, I think we accomplished all of that with NASCAR. That's how I feel about it. I think we're on the top of the world with the best racing in the world at the best center of racing in the world."
Q: THIS IS THE 10TH BRICKYARD 400. A.J. FOYT HAS SAID THE BRICKYARD HAS MADE NASCAR AS POPULAR AS IT IS IN RECENT YEARS. DO YOU AGREE?
JACK ROUSH: "I'll try to answer directly the question (laughing). I think the answer is no. I don't want to be contrary with A.J., but I don't mind saying, no. The thing that happened is NASCAR, over the last 10 years and for the five that preceded that that I was paying close attention, has been hell-bent toward making NASCAR Winston Cup Racing not a southeastern United States regional sport, but to make it a worldwide sport. Not that we're going to go take our cars worldwide, but to attract attention of worldwide enthusiasts. The decision to go to the Brickyard, as seen by me, was part of that broader strategy and was one piece of a puzzle that was very complex and very many parts. Having said that, there is so much tradition and so much history and such a great fan base and such an expectation that if you race at Indianapolis, in whatever format, you've arrived. I know when we started drag racing at IRP. That was a big thing. Amongst all the other race tracks you'd go to around the country, they're all the same length and had about the same number of bleachers but, man, this is Indy. The same think, I think, holds true of the little oval track over there. There's an aura around Indianapolis here that starts with the things that (Eddie) Rickenbacker did in terms of his investment that has blossomed and tossed a glow on everybody that has been in its beams. I've got a lot of pictures that are associated with my 16 years of being involved here, but one of the pictures I praise the most was the first time we tested here. I was helping push the 6 car - Mark's car - back up Gasoline Alley. On the billboard back there it said, 'Mark Martin, Valvoline, Number One Position,' and for that time what the time and speed was and that's a prize thing. That meant we that we'd arrived at Indianapolis, but to come back and credit the proliferation of the sport and all the enthusiasm we've got worldwide to this one race track and that one decision, I think, is not right."
Q: THIS IS THE 10TH BRICKYARD 400. A.J. FOYT HAS SAID THE BRICKYARD HAS MADE NASCAR AS POPULAR AS IT IS IN RECENT YEARS. DO YOU AGREE?
DAN DAVIS: "The only thing I would add is that, certainly, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a special place for racers and for fans. As a city Indianapolis, is, likewise, a special place but it is just a cog in the total NASCAR wheel. It's a big cog. This is a special place and you can never take that away from this place. It's a piece of it, but not the whole piece - not the whole thing."
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Taurus, was one of the speakers at the Winston lunch today. Jarrett, who won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and '99, spoke about winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the status of the team.
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
Q: DALE, AFTER WINNING THE SECOND RACE OF THE YEAR, THE TEAM HAS HAD SOME UPS AND DOWNS. A WIN AT THE BRICKYARD 400 COULD CERTAINLY CHANGE THE COMPLEXION OF THIS SEASON IN A HURRY.
DALE JARRETT: "Yeah, it could. And maybe it'll change the ideas of some of these people out here that think they know what I'm doing next year, that they really don't, reporting. So, I'll take this chance to take just a second to say I'm at Robert Yates Racing, I intend to be at Robert Yates Racing for quite a while, and UPS is going to the sponsor. We've been a little frustrated, we haven't been exactly happy with our performance, but that's no reason to quit. We're not quitters, so we'll continue strive to get better, and hopefully this weekend will be a time that helps turn us around. This is a great facility, as everybody has alluded to. Being able to race here is a real honor more than anything else. To win here is such thrill, it makes you want to do it even more. I love racing here. It's going to be, as everybody's said so far, strategy is going to be important. It's going to be interesting throughout Sunday's race to see the different strategies that people employ trying to get themselves positioned in the front for that last pit stop and being able to use the track position to your advantage there. We've had fuel-mileage victories, we've had races that where two tires or no tires have done the job, so this is a race track that all of that could come into play again, and we certainly hope that when the day ends up that the UPS team has a chance for victory."
Q: YOU TOUCHED ON IT UP ON STAGE. OBVIOUSLY, YOU'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE.
DALE JARRETT: "I'm not going anywhere, haven't even discussed going anywhere with anybody, and I don't really know how these things get started. I look at it as being unfortunate that maybe it's human nature that as people struggle they get kicked while they're down and others try to help that scenario, if you will, by starting things that they don't know anything about. Robert has no intentions of selling the race team. We have a deal with UPS that we fully intend on living up to and honoring, and part of that deal, it's something that's obviously unwritten, but we're not happy with our performance. We expect to get that back to a level that everyone is happy with. The only calls, and I've explained this a number of times, the only calls that we've gotten from UPS have been in support - is there anything that they could do to help us in this situation. It's not, you know, what's wrong, or what's going on there - that's never been a question. It's been total support, and I finally just got tired of it. Everything that I have seen out there that has been written, nobody talked to me about. I haven't been asked about it. I was asked one time about it, and that was printed as I said it. I have no intention of leaving, I'm not a quitter, never have been, and I fully intend on being there as this team works its way back to the front and to the top of this sport."
Q: AT WHAT POINT WILL YOU HAVE A CONTRACT IN FRONT OF YOU TO SIGN?
DALE JARRETT: "I have a contract through next year, as far as what my contract says. We've agreed on 2005 and '06 in principle, it's just something that hasn't ever been a priority with Robert Yates and myself, that we have to have a piece of paper to say what we're going to do. Because, we've seen all over the country that a piece of paper doesn't really mean a lot, it's what's in your heart. And Robert Yates and Doug Yates and myself have sat down and said, 'We're going to do this together. We're in this together.' We were there together when we got ourselves in this hole, and we're going to continue to be together as we fight our way out of it. Again, in principle, I'm there through 2006. But we fully intend on making that happen at some point in time, but that's the least of our worries and concerns right now. Our concerns are what are we going to do to make our race team better and more competitive week-in and week-out."
Q: DO YOU THINK YOU'VE BEEN DRAGGED INTO ANOTHER DRIVER'S MESS? A LOT OF THIS SEEMS TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH WHAT'S GOING ON WITH TONY STEWART.
DALE JARRETT: "Maybe so. I don't even know how many people have talked to Tony about what he's doing. You see that, but I have no idea where that would've started. Why anyone would've thought I would've been going back to Joe Gibbs. Matter of fact, I haven't even talked to Joe Gibbs this year, other than one time when we talked about golf. It wasn't even about racing. I guess maybe that was a part of it. Again, it's just natural when everything's not going well for people to start speculating, I guess. But when you start speculating, you don't realize people's lives you affect out here. I can handle this stuff. It makes me angry because I think each and every one of you have to, if you're honest, you'd say I've been as cooperative as anybody that you've ever dealt with, in this sport in particular. That I've always answers questions and I've honest about your questions, and sometimes I've said things I've felt from my heart that maybe weren't the right things to say, but that's the way that I felt. So it angers me to know that people start putting things out there that are very untrue, and however I got started in this mess. If anybody would've just come to me, I'd tell you what's going to happen. If there was anything going on, I would tell you, 'This is what I'm gonna do and be at.' I've said for years that it wasn't just whenever things were going well that I intended on being at Robert Yates until the end of my career. I'm telling you that whenever things aren't going so well that I intend on being there because I feel a responsibility because I helped get this team started and help build it to a championship-caliber team and I'm gonna be there as we build that back again."
Q: DOES FORD'S ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION HELP KEEP DRIVERS AROUND?
DALE JARRETT: "Yeah, certainly. We appreciate the support that we've gotten from Ford Motor Company, and they've been a huge part of the success of NASCAR, just as R.J. Reynolds. That means a lot to us. And that support that we're getting there is even more than what we've gotten in the past. They fully intend on making their program be at the top for a lot of years to come."
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES ABOUT YOUR 1999 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON?
DALE JARRETT: "Oh, gosh. You know, I think about '99, and as I watch other drivers battle for championships, I think it's pretty cool to see how they handle situations and how they got themselves maybe a top-five or a top-10 on a day that maybe they weren't the best. And I see that in Matt Kenseth and his team this year. Just a couple races that where it looked like they were struggling and then the next thing you know they finished fifth or something like that. And those are the days that I remember from 1999. I can go back to California whenever I cut a tire down, and almost got lapped and we were running terrible, but we kept adjusting on the car all day. We literally were going to finish 25th to 30th and we came back and finished fifth that day. And then at the Coca-Cola 600 in May that year, we started off the race absolutely horrible. Actually got lapped, made the lap up, almost got lapped again because of a tire situation and eventually worked on the car just all 600 miles to make it happen, but we ended up with a top-five again. So, those are the kind of things that I look back and remember. I'm not even sure of all the races, I think we won four races that year. I know we won at the Brickyard. It seemed that there for the longest time that you had to win the Brickyard if you were going to be the champion, so we were fortunate to do that. But it the days that we made something out of nothing. But I guess the most special memory are the last two weekends of that. Certainly at Homestead, when we clinched the championship. That was just an incredible feeling and one I'll never forget, and hope to realize something like that again."
Q: THIS IS THE 10TH BRICKYARD, AND THE TIMELINE IS ALMOST PARALLEL WITH NASCAR'S POPULARITY EXPLOSION. A.J. FOYT HAS SAID THAT HE THOUGHT THE BRICKYARD SET THIS WHOLE THING OFF. IS THIS THE RACE THAT TRANSFORMED NASCAR, OR IS JUST A PART OF IT?
DALE JARRETT: "I think it's just a part of it. Certainly, there have been a lot of big moments, and just as R.J. Reynolds coming in in the early '70s and making their presence known and then taking it to another level, but certainly when we came here it gave a lot of credibility to our sport that for the first time in the history of this hallowed speedway, they were going to allow something besides Indy cars here. That, I think opened the eyes of a lot of people that hadn't really paid attention to our sport. Certainly, the TV packages and everything the networks did and the cable networks did before that happened did a lot for our sport. But you can say that coming here to Indianapolis Motor Speedway gave our sport a lot of credibility with a lot of people, and people in high places."
Q: DID YOU GO TO THE FIRST TEST IN 1992?
DALE JARRETT: "I didn't come for the first test. No, I wasn't a part of that. Would've loved to have been. I just remember the first time that I ever came here was just an incredible feeling. Driving out on the race track was something I never thought I'd get that chance, but it was a very special thing."
Q: IS IT STILL AN UNUSUAL THING TO BE DRIVING DOWN BETWEEN TWO GRANDSTANDS ON THE FRONTSTRETCH?
DALE JARRETT: "It really is. There is no place like this. It's going to be that same feeling. You get chills doing it, especially the first day here being back on the race track. And then Sunday's just an incredible experience. Whenever this place gets filled up with people, it's like a totally different place, and there will never be anything like it."
Q: WHERE DO YOUR VICTORIES RANK AMONG ALL YOUR WINS?
DALE JARRETT: "I think Bobby [Labonte] alluded to it pretty well up there earlier. I have lot of my trophies that I've been fortunate to accumulate in my office complex in a showroom there, but the ones that I do have and have kept at home are my Winston Cup Series trophy, my three Daytona 500s and my two Brickyards. Those are very special to me. Winning here probably meant as much to me as anything that I've ever done."
Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, took part in the past champion's media event Friday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus -
"Well, '97 was a pretty good year for us. We won two races that year and, like I say, we were also the owner and the driver. If we would have quit right there in '97, I would have enjoyed being a car owner for about four years, but I think I took all that Brickyard money that we won and re-invested it in the team and it didn't go too far once we re-invested it. But it was a big day for me and for our race team at the time. It was an experience that I'll never forget. I've won a few races along the way, but the Brickyard is one that always stands out. There's just something special about this place. I don't know if it's the historical value or the fact that it just goes back so far. The track was built in the early 1900's and it's just a pleasure to race here. Hopefully, this weekend we can get that Motorcraft/Air Force Ford up front. It's kind of tricky to do that because track position is everything, but you can use that to your advantage. If you're not a competitive car that day, you can put yourself in a place to finish in the top two or three or maybe even win this thing. That's our strategy anyway. We're real happy to have Rent-A-Center on board, a new sponsor that will help us out this weekend at the Brickyard. We're real happy to have those folks on board and we're looking forward to the race on Sunday."
Q: A WIN SUNDAY WOULD BE PRETTY GOOD.
RICKY RUDD: "A win anywhere would be good. A win anywhere or a top two or three is good. We've got a third and fourth that are our highlights of the season so far, so the way these races are unfolding, it's down to fuel mileage or a tire changing issue. A lot of it is circumstances that are putting some of the guys in victory lane. There are a bunch of fast cars, but week in and week out the fast cars aren't always winning the races."
Q: CAN YOU WIN WITH A FUEL DEAL HERE?
RICKY RUDD: "This is a fuel-mileage race track. It can be won on fuel, but it's also a strategy deal. Who has the freshest tires when the race unfolds and not only the fresher tires, but the track position with the freshest tires. That's what will probably win this race unless it goes green from start to finish and I don't see that happening."
Q: DO YOU HAVE A SHOT AT IT?
RICKY RUDD: "Coming in here this weekend it's a clean slate the way I look at it. We've got a car that has not been tested here. It ran at Loudon. We learned some things about it. It's a good race car. It's not the one we tested because our test was average. It was somewhere in the middle of the pack and you've got to be better than that when you come to Indy, so these guys elected to bring an untested speedway car to Indy. When I say speedway car, it's a short-track car that we run at Loudon that's being brought here. We had not tested prior to Loudon and it did very well for us, so it's built a little different. We're sort of rolling the dice a little a bit, but I think it should pay off if we stay out of trouble."
Q: WITH ALL OF THESE FUEL MILEAGE RACES HAS IT CHANGED THE WAY YOU DO THINGS?
RICKY RUDD: "It's a similar deal. When you say fuel mileage, it's the strategy with the fuel mileage factored into it. We were fifth or sixth when the last caution came out. We elected not to come into the pits and get tires, whereas sixth on back came in and got tires. Not all of them needed fuel either. They gave up track position to come in and get tires. They thought tires would be more important. We didn't think so. We thought track position was more important, so there were 10 to 15 cars that could have done what we did. That's the way things have been unfolding in recent weeks. When you hear guys talk about track position, you've got to have the mileage sometimes to be able to make a smart move, or have the option to make the call to stay out on old tires. What's going on is that Goodyear is making such a good tire right now that there's a slight advantage of coming in to get new ones, but it doesn't override the fact that when you restart you're back in disturbed air. That's exactly what we experienced at Indy. We had a very fast car all day, but we couldn't get any track position. So that type of race, the way it's unfolding, is sort of a flashback to that time in '96."
Q: SO WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THE DRIVER IN SCENARIOS LIKE THAT?
RICKY RUDD: "You need somebody to hold the steering wheel."
Q: IS THAT PRETTY MUCH IT?
RICKY RUDD: "In my opinion it is. Somebody has got to hold the steering wheel and somebody has got to stand on the gas pedal. Bill Elliott is probably a good guy to talk to on that. He's been really fast lately, but strategy dictates that he's back in traffic and he was telling me how brutal it was back there last week - that he couldn't get back to the front. That's a lot of it right there. With these flat tracks you depend on the air and you've got to have the clean air to do it."
Q: YOU WON HERE ON GAS MILEAGE.
RICKY RUDD: "Mileage helped play a factor, but it was about 15 cars that could have had the same option that we did. We elected not to change tires the day we won it because we felt the track position was more important than the four tires you're gonna get. That's the same thing we're seeing today. In the last three or four weekends at New Hampshire and at Pocono, that's the same type of strategy that we're seeing today. You very well might see the same thing on Sunday here at the Brickyard."
Q: DO YOU FEEL THE TEAM IS GETTING BACK ON TRACK?
RICKY RUDD: "Our on-track performance on race day has been better. Our poor performances have been more in qualifying. Recently, we finished third at Daytona and that was just a smart strategy call. Then we went to Loudon and were in eighth place on the white flag lap and ran out of fuel and finished 12th, but on-track performance now is an eighth to 12th place car. That's much better. We started the season as a 25th-place car, so we've gotten better on the race performance, we just need to get our qualifying act together a little bit. We're not happy with eighth to 12th, but it's a lot better than where we started the season."
Q: THIS IS YOUR 701ST STRAIGHT START. THE STREAK IS KIND OF HUMBLING.
RICKY RUDD: "It doesn't really sink in until you sort of force yourself to slow down long enough to look back and think about it. Since 1981 every single Winston Cup weekend that there was a race I've started. When you look at it in that perspective, I guess it's pretty neat. I tend to always look forward and not look backwards, but the 700 starts sort of forces you to take a little look back."
Q: DID THIS TRACK ESTABLISH NASCAR AS THE TOP FORM OF MOTORSPORTS?
RICKY RUDD: "I think what happened is when we first came here, it just seemed like a perfect fit. It went smoother than maybe anybody expected. It was a really neat deal. A lot of the people that come to the Indy 500 came to watch our Brickyard. I don't think it took over precedence of being the big race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but I think probably during the critical time of the big split, where there was no stability in open-wheel racing, here is Winston Cup racing that's been here for many years and is very stable, that probably helped contribute to some of the popular growth at the time because of some of the turmoil that was going on with open-wheel racing."
Q: DO YOU SEE ANY SIGNS THAT ANYBODY CAN CATCH MATT?
RICKY RUDD: "I don't think so. I haven't seen any signs of it. Will it happen or will he run away with it? That's hard to say, but Matt is a pretty cool operator. He's a real cool, level-headed driver. He doesn't get caught up in the emotions. They've got a very solid race team right now and a big operation behind them and those guys are hot right now. They've been hot for a couple of years, but they've got it all together now. If I was gonna bet, I'd put my money on Matt right now."
Q: IS TRACK POSITION MORE OF A FACTOR HERE?
RICKY RUDD: "It's important here because the corners here don't really lend themselves to fast side-by-side racing. When you catch somebody, even if you run somebody down and you catch them, if you're close to being the same speed, you're forced to follow that car. If you're following that car for three or four laps, your front end quits working and you start sliding the front end. The front tire pressures build up and now the second car that ran the first car down is not as fast as he was and that evens them up. That's just a problem you have to deal with. The track doesn't really lend itself to being able to stick your nose out in clean air, so track position, as it always has been, is very critical here at Indy."