When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series came to Lowe's Motor Speedway in May, Carl Long surprised everyone by qualifying 35th and making the Coca-Cola 600 field. This time around the surprise is driver Jeff Fuller and his MacPherson...
When the NASCAR Winston Cup Series came to Lowe's Motor Speedway in May, Carl Long surprised everyone by qualifying 35th and making the Coca-Cola 600 field. This time around the surprise is driver Jeff Fuller and his MacPherson Motorsports crew, who are making their series debut for car owner Chip MacPherson. Fuller, along with crew chief Vic Kangas and car owner Chip MacPherson, talked about qualifying 27th for Sunday's UAW-GM Quality 500.
JEFF FULLER --98-- MacPherson Motorsports Taurus -- HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME HERE AND IN YOUR FIRST ATTEMPT DO SO WELL? "Actually it was our first time qualifying a Cup car here and qualifying at night. The other guys definitely had a little bit of an advantage over us as far as that went with running the Winston here recently and the Coca-Cola 600, so I'm just really proud of the guys. We haven't really been together that long as far as putting this thing together and for everybody to be working as a brand new team, I think they did a really good job of putting a good car underneath me."
HOW DID YOU HOOK UP WITH THIS TEAM? "Chip MacPherson is a developer out of Atlanta and he's loved racing all his life. He decided he was going to buy a race team and he bought all of Cale Yarborough's equipment -- building and all. Vic Kangas, the crew chief, was giving his insight on how things should be done. He's been around the sport a long time and they called me and I interviewed with them. I definitely thought it would be a great opportunity for me, so we pursued it and that wasn't very long ago. To get a team up and running that quick and come down and qualify for one of these events is pretty remarkable."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE GOT SOMETHING TO PROVE? "Not at all. As a matter of fact, my goal is if we can get a top 20 or top 25, we'd be very happy with that. We'd like to finish as many laps as we can and keep the car as one piece. As far as proving anything to anybody, all they've gotta do is look at the stats. The owner of this team, even before qualifying started, was very happy with what these guys have accomplished. He shook each and every one of their hands and that was before qualifying. He's very happy. He seems like a down-to-earth guy and his expectations aren't one that 'we need to go out and show the world anything.' He wants to have some fun at this and, like I say, as far as proving anything that's not even in my vocabulary."
DO YOU PERSONALLY HAVE ANYTHING TO PROVE TO YOUR FORMER TEAM, TO SHOW THEM THEY MADE A MISTAKE IN LETTING YOU GO? "No. We're all grown people here and I think that they can look back and evaluate what has happened between then and now. To me, life goes on. Ten years ago I would have been ticked off and tried to show the world everything, but in this business, it's probably the most competitive racing in the world and to waste your time thinking about what could've and should've been, I grew out of that."
CHIP MACPHERSON , Car Owner --98-- MacPherson Motorsports Taurus -- WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT'S HAPPENED SO FAR? "I'm pretty excited about what's going on. I think these guys have worked really hard to be where they're at. I think the big difference in our team versus everybody else is these guys are doing it for heart. Obviously, they're not doing it for money because we don't have a sponsor yet, but these guys have got their heart in it and it's a real team. That's what it's all about to us and I think that's why they're doing as well as they are."
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN MOTORSPORTS? "Basically, I've been a fan all my life. Cale was actually my idol when I was 10 years old and I never really dreamed of owning a team, but I kind of fell into it. I met Cale and the team was for sale and with my love for racing I got into it and we made a deal. We started hiring people and one thing led to another and here we are."
YOU'VE NO DOUBT SEEN GUYS COME IN WITH SIMILAR BACKGROUNDS AS YOURSELF AND THINGS DIDN'T WORK OUT. DO YOU HAVE ANY TREPIDATION WITH THIS MOVE? "I think any business man who gets into this sport probably has to be a little bit crazy. Economically it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's a hard sport and a very, very competitive sport as anybody can see. But the difference, I think, between us and a lot of other people who have been in it is I support this team through its personnel. I support this team through being a team. If you talk to any of the men who work for me, they all feel the same way. They're here because they love this sport. They're not here for a job and they're working together to be able to do that, and I think that's the big difference that will make us successful. I think that's the reason we're here today and went out and qualified 27th after deciding we were going to run this race two weeks ago. That says a lot for these men and I think that's going to be the difference." WHAT'S THE NEXT STEP? "We just broke ground on our new facility. We're building a new facility over by Concord Airport. We're, obviously, in the hunt for a sponsor. We're going to test this year as much as we can, but we're not going to race anymore races because we want to protect Jeff's rookie status, and next year we're going to go into this sport with a good attitude. I think the biggest thing is we're going to have fun at it."
WHAT KIND OF OWNER WILL YOU BE -- HANDS-ON OR STAY IN THE BACKGROUND? "I would say a combination of both. I believe in kind of a different theory. I think we have a lot of experience on our team. If you look through our team, a lot of these guys have gray hair. I hired a bunch of men who have a lot of experience and a lot of heart. My hands-on is supporting them. Obviously, they know racing and I don't. I'm learning just like any other owner would at this stage, but I think that when you've got 480 or 490 years of experience in a team, I've got to listen the them. They know what they're doing on a daily basis and I support them as much as I can morally, ethically and making sure that they understand it's a team. I'm hands-on as far as being here and giving them the pat on the back that they need because these men deserve that. It's not all about a sponsor and it's not all about a driver, it's about these guys, and I think there are a lot of teams that leave them out of the mix."
WHAT KIND OF BUSINESS ARE YOU IN OUTSIDE OF RACING? "I'm a developer. I've been a developer for quite a few years. I develop shopping centers and commercial buildings, that type of thing. We're developing in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida and that's my real life. This is a sport and it's a hobby, but it's a great one. This is the greatest sport in the world."
DOES SPONSORSHIP HINGE ON THIS TEAM RUNNING NEXT YEAR OR ARE YOU COMMITTED TO 2001 REGARDLESS? "Obviously I'm committed to it. I wouldn't have come in this deep, but we're in deep, so we're committed to it. I think the sponsorship will come. I think the sponsors that we're already talking to are starting to recognize the difference in our team versus a lot of the other teams. We can't kid sponsors by telling them that we're going to go out and win races. Our idea is that we're not going to go over and run our mouths and tell people we can promise this and then under-deliver. I would rather under-promote and over-deliver, and I think the sponsorship will come. I think the sponsors are going to recognize that what we have is something different than a lot of other teams have. There are a lot of great teams in racing, but I think at the level we'll be next year and where we're going to fit into the mix, I think there's a sponsor out there for us."
VIC KANGAS , Crew Chief --98-- MacPherson Motorsports Taurus -- HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT? "We started talking to Chip way back in the middle of March and he was looking for a team to either purchase or maybe buy some cars and start his own team because he intends on building his own shop. He's got his property and blueprints for a brand new shop over at the Concord Airport, so this whole process has kind of been an evolutionary thing. He ended up purchasing Cale's team on June 1st and this is what we've accomplished since June 1st. We've put a real good group of guys together. I mean, we've picked the very best people that we can get in this sport. Chip felt like he wanted to put real good people in place. He would wait to get the good people rather than just hire bodies, somebody that's just gonna go in there and be somebody to stand around. These people that we've hired are pretty much experts in their own right and that's why we've hired them. At one point there wasn't anybody in the shop that didn't have gray hair. You have to buy experience and by doing that I think we've put ourselves on the right track as far as that goes."
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW WELL YOU'VE STARTED? "No. I mean, I've won a championship with Joe Nemechek (Busch Series championship in 1992) and I did that in my first year of serious competition, so I've got enough of a background that I think my experience carries me. I'm not the type of person that goes around waving a flag, 'here I am,' but if somebody looks at my stats, like Jeff was saying, they'll see that we've been real successful. Jeff and I have worked together before. We won a Busch race at Bristol and sat on the pole for that same particular race, and I think the matching of people is way more important than a lot of people understand. Jeff and I get along good. We're good friends outside of racing too, so I think that's a good thing."
AN EFFORT LIKE WEDNESDAY MUST ONLY GIVE YOU AND THE TEAM MORE CONFIDENCE. "Yeah. I think that in today's racing game there is more pressure in qualifying than there is actually in the race. We had a meeting this morning at the shop and we said that the racing is gonna be the fun part. We're gonna go have fun Sunday."