Loudon: Waltrip comments on leaving DEI


July 15 2005


WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS DECISION? "We just had a little bit of trouble trying to figure out what 2006 was going to look like - with Martin (Truex Jr.) coming up to Cup - and the commitment that was made there. We were back and forth about whether Mike was staying or going and what might happen. The performance that the No. 15 car has enjoyed this year up until the last couple of weeks has put everybody so optimistic and in such a good place mentally thinking that we're doing a lot of smart things at DEI to bring this team back to where we know it belongs and that's on top. The growth that we've made in a short period of time has been encouraging for me. I wanted to drive for (crew chief) Tony (Eury Jr.) for the rest of my life. I really enjoyed the group he put around me and the job he did for me. But it could really be put into place what 2006 was going to look like. So we just decided as a group it would be smarter for us just to do something else at this point."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS DECISION) "I feel really good about the decision. I'm real thankful for NAPA and my other sponsors that have fielded this team for me. And I'm so happy about getting with Tony Jr. this year because of the way I performed and the job that we've been able to do. I've got a lot of options for 2006. I thought I would drive this car for the rest of my career. I knew if that was the case that I'd be winning races and doing all the things I'm supposed to do. It's sad to say that I'm not going to be at DEI any more, but I'm really proud of winning some races for the team that Dale (Earnhardt) picked me to drive for."

"There are some things in the works. I'm sure by making this announcement today will probably complicate that a little bit more before it comes clear. I'm just looking forward to getting into the best situation possible."

IS THIS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO ELEVATE YOUR BUSCH TEAM TO CUP? "No. My Busch team has struggled over the past year and a half. We really haven't been able to find our rear end with either hand. We are reorganizing and trying to get that program up to par. It's going to be a Busch team and Aaron's is really happy being a sponsor on the dream machine and it being in Busch, so we'll just continue that program. But I want to get in a car that I believe I can win in like the one I'm getting out of."

WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS FOR 2006? "Well we have to figure all that out. I definitely will be in the Cup Series with a winning team."

DO YOU HAVE ANY OFFERS? "We've just had talks. We've talked to a lot of people about what next year could look like. So there are no real offers - just people who are interested in what I might do."

WILL NAPA STAY WITH DEI OR GO WITH YOU? "NAPA has a lot invested in me and in DEI. They were hoping we could figure out some way to stay together. They wanted to be with me and with DEI next year. That was their goal. But that's not the case. They're certainly going to be faced with the decision of what they need to do. I'm certainly hoping to seeing if they want to go with me, and encouraging them at the same time to stay with DEI as well. I think they can find a place with one or the other of us."

WAS THIS PARTING A MUTUAL DECISION BETWEEN YOU AND DEI? "It's safe to say it's as mutual as any decision as ever been. Because of the respect that I have for DEI and the friendship I have with Richie (Gilmore) and the relationship I have with Teresa (Earnhardt). Dale and Teresa I go way back. We just decided that in order to ensure we didn't take a step back as an organization, or as a team for me, maybe a should find something else to do."

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT TONY EURY JR. WILL GO WITH YOU? "I don't know what Tony Jr's plans. I'm sure we'll find that out. But I wouldn't say there is no chance, but we haven't even discuss the possibilities of that."

AS A GREAT PITCH MAN, DO YOU EXPECT A LOT OF TEAMS TO LOOK AT THAT AND THINK YOU'RE A GREAT GUY TO HIRE? "I want the fact that I'm pretty good at making commercials and doing interviews to be a bonus to the fact that I'm going to be one of the best race car drivers in the garage. I don't think about my ability to sell auto parts or pizzas. I think about that fact that when you put me behind the wheel, I can go out there and outrun these guys. Tony Jr. has given me the opportunity to prove that."

WHAT ABOUT DRIVING WITH YOUR BROTHER, DARRELL, AND TOYOTA WHEN THEY COME INTO THE CUP SERIES? "I don't even know when that's a possibility and I need a job for next year. Darrell is not in a position to provide me with that."

IS THERE GOING TO BE A THIRD TEAM AT DEI? "I don't know. That's up to them. I just know that the relationship that has won two Daytona 500's is going to come to an end. I always thought it would be a really sad day. But I think we just are all mature enough to see that maybe this is what should happen."

WHY WOULD YOU MAKE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT NOW? "It's just a point in time of the year. I had an option in my contract with DEI that had to be exercised by May 1st or I could go look for another job. And so it's real important to let people know you're going to be available. We worked real hard from May 1st until about a week ago to put it all back together and do it all again. That's how badly we wanted to do it. We just couldn't put it together."

"But we just never really could answer a couple of key questions. What exactly would my team look like in 2006? I think DEI felt they could give me a winning team and that they would make the decisions on who my crew chief would be and that should be acceptable to me. And I was more hoping that I could have Tony Jr. back again and was never told I wasn't going to get him, but never was really sure whether I could or not. I stumbled into getting him. I didn't want to stumble out of having him."

WHO'S OPTION WAS IT? "It was their option to re-sign me for another year, and it came and passed on May 1st. That's not unusual that those options come and go. But what it did was enable me to say I want to be at DEI, but if somebody else thinks I need to be there (with them), I can listen because I don't have anything written that says I can't. So we just kept quiet and we totally worked toward getting an extension signed, it just didn't come to be."

ON THE GROWTH OF THE NO. 8 AND NO. 15 TEAMS AT DEI? "I'm real proud of the growth at DEI between the two teams. A year ago, I don't think the organization was as strong as it is today. Tony Jr. gave me fast cars and I think Dale Jr. recognized that the cars I was driving last year needed some attention. And he was able to make some changes over there and get them straightened out and I'll be darned if he didn't win last week. We were really close at winning in Phoenix and could have won Daytona a couple of times. Our performance on the track is not the issue. They're not running me off because I'm not performing. We're performing. We just didn't see how we could make it work in the future."

DID YOU WANT A LONGER CONTRACT THAN DEI WAS WILLING TO OFFER? "No. They said what about a year? I said that would be fine. They said what about three years? I said that would be cool. There was really no issue really. I almost think it would be a challenge for DEI to run three teams given the ability that they have right now. They might think that they can and they might well do it. But it didn't look like it would favor me if that's what they decided to do."

IF YOU STAYED WITH DEI, WAS IT CLEAR THAT IT WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN WITH THE SAME CREW GUYS? "Probably clear..kind of clear. They weren't willing to commit to me that I could have Tony Jr. So..I love that guy. I thought, 'Well, darn. I need to find somebody else I love.'"


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Series NASCAR Cup