Irwin, Yates discuss split By Dave Rodman WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 13, 1999) Robert Yates is looking for a driver to replace Kenny Irwin in his No. 28 Fords. Kenny Irwin felt nothing but bitter irony on Friday afternoon at Watkins Glen ...
Irwin, Yates discuss split By Dave Rodman
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 13, 1999) Robert Yates is looking for a driver to replace Kenny Irwin in his No. 28 Fords. Kenny Irwin felt nothing but bitter irony on Friday afternoon at Watkins Glen International when he hammered his Texaco Havoline Ford into the styrofoam barriers on the far end of the road course. Just two days before, Irwin and team owner Robert Yates had announced that Irwin's "dream" NASCAR Winston Cup Series ride would end at the conclusion of the 1999 season. With scant moments left in practice, the wreck that balled up his No. 28 Taurus was a tough pill to swallow.
But later in the day, Irwin offered some frank opinions on the split, giving an exclamation point to the effort expended by his crew, which reassembled his very rumpled-looking car and enabled him to qualify it in a safe 29th spot for Sunday's Frontier @ The Glen.
Both Yates, who also owns Dale Jarrett's points-leading No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Taurus, and Irwin agreed the Wednesday meeting had gotten heated at times, but they were comfortable with the outcome. Yates emphasized that he was only in the beginning stages of replacing Irwin and had no one -- not even oft-rumored Ricky Rudd -- locked into the seat of his second team.
"I felt like it was important that we get it out in the open as early as possible," Irwin said of his departure from the team with which he won the 1998 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. "It (the meeting) was a little wild at first, but when it was all over I felt pretty good about it. We talked about several different issues that I had and really that's just between us. I thought, overall, we had a very good meeting about each of our careers."
Yates agreed, somewhat wistfully.
"I tell you, after six hours, if we could communicate like that all the time, we probably could go out and win a championship eventually," Yates said, shaking his head. "It's a shame that it had to wait this long before we could finally get down to talkin'. I don't do a lot of yellin' and screamin' and I haven't been yelled or screamed at, but you could probably hear it from across the race track for the first hour or two.
"But I tell you what, I think I got to see inside of him, and it looked like I had wished for and... there was a doubt. It was a good communication time. I wish we had done that early on, because we probably wouldn't be doing what we're doing now."
Irwin said more than just the last few weeks had been a trial for him, in one of the most high-profile seats in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series garage.
"Was that only the last couple of weeks?" he said of the rumors that he would be released. "I thought it was the last year. You would think that I would think about that a lot, but I didn't. I really tried to focus on what I was doing, but it seems like this talk has been going on since 1997.
"The only talk we (Yates and Irwin) had about it was Wednesday -- about me being out of the car. If I knew what was wrong I would have fixed it. Robert and I talked about the resources that he could come up with and that I could come up with and neither one of us could bring that to the table to make this work like the No. 88 works. That's what he wants the No. 28 car team to do -- run as good as the No. 88. That's what he's looking for and I couldn't bring that to the table."
Yates said he still felt Irwin had enough talent to succeed in NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing, and that even though he maybe should have gained some seasoning somewhere other than in the No. 28, he would probably maintain his status as a driver in NASCAR's premier series.
"Well, certainly, if you look back, I would have told him that we need to run Busch for a year," Yates said. "But now he's got a couple of years here. He's solidly on this side of the fence.
"I think what we do the rest of the season will show how much character, what his character is like, by still performing and working under this situation.
"On the one hand, the fact that he can probably express himself without worrying about losing his job is good. He probably will learn more in the next 12 or however many races we have left and I think that he's a candidate for a lot of the new or current teams. And that why he needed to be able to put his name out there."
On Friday, at the very least, Irwin and his crew showed they are intent on earning the top mark for effort in the face of adversity.
Irwin hasn't had much time to ponder the future, but he certainly appreciated his recent past.
"Robert gave me the opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "He brought me into Winston Cup. I don't regret the changes I made in 1997. I still believe that this was the right opportunity for me. At the time there were other teams involved. Robert gave me the opportunity to do something and I'm very grateful to him and Texaco and Raybestos, because they're the ones who, when he was looking at me, said 'Yeah, that would be a good choice.'"
Source: NASCAR Online