Robert Yates announced today that he has signed Ricky Rudd to drive the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus beginning with the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Yates also announced the extension of his sponsorship agreement with Texaco to 2004.
Robert Yates announced today that he has signed Ricky Rudd to drive the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus beginning with the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Yates also announced the extension of his sponsorship agreement with Texaco to 2004. Here are some excerpts from today's press conference.
ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "There have been a lot of guys in and out of my motorhome during the weeks at the race track and I've probably got a lot of teams upset with me, but I sought out to get a guy I could afford. So I dug through some stuff and I found this contract from the DiGard days and it was still good for this driver that drove for us in 1981, so I decided to just exercise that option because (Bill) Gardner cut a heck of a deal...We're certainly happy to announce that we've got a veteran driver, somebody that I did work with in 1981 pretty successfully. I built engines for him when he won the rookie of the year thing, but, certainly, he's a guy that knows each and every race track and he can team up with the 28 car and have that experience that we've been a little short on. We've been gaining on it a lot, the 28 car has been running good lately and I expect, hopefully, the next nine races it'll even do better than it did the other night, so we're happy to have Ricky Rudd drive our car. In fact, we really didn't have a deal until just now because he didn't come over to my motorhome Friday night to sign the contract, he went over to the hospital (where he was treated for symptoms of food poisoning). I thought, 'Oh no, I've already made this guy sick.' Anyway, we're happy to have Ricky."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "I tell you, I'm really honored to be able to drive the Texaco Havoline car for Robert Yates and his family -- Doug and Richard, his brother. I've known these guys for a long time and I couldn't be happier to be behind the wheel of this 28 Ford. Robert wasn't joking a moment ago, as a matter of fact the contract and paperwork just got signed about an hour ago if you really want to know the truth. But Robert was referring to a contract that I signed basically as a kid years ago when I first kind of got started in this thing. I had the opportunity to drive the 88 Gatorade car and Robert sort of ran the thing and was the head engine building, and the Gardners were the owners of the team. I think I signed an eight-year contract and it wasn't 35 percent, it was 25 percent of the purse, and just about had to pay them to drive the car. That was my first start with Robert Yates years ago. "I'm more happier to just be able to have to worry about the job and responsibilities. I've had the ownership role now for six years and it's been a very interesting six years. I think every driver on the Winston Cup circuit at one time or another needs to be in the owner's shoes. It gives you a little different perspective on the sport and it sure makes me appreciate what it's like to only have to worry about driving the race car for a change, instead of all the problems that come with running a multi-million dollar a year business. I'm looking forward to the future, it's a multi-year contract, and I'm looking forward to not only being a part of Robert Yates Racing but trying to help get the 28 team -- I don't think we need to get it back on track, it looks like it's doing pretty darn good -- I'm just happy to be able to step in. "What can you say about Dale Jarrett and Todd Parrott's performance this year. To be able to team up with that and to take advantage of having a teammate and another crew chief with that type of ability, hopefully, we'll be able to kind of play off each other and make that stronger even yet. That's something I've tried to build over the years and we've had some hit and miss success at it, but to have the chance to team up with a championship caliber team like this is just unbelievable for me. "It's not like this is a big surprise, I don't think but believe me there were a lot of details that had to be worked out and, sure enough, it wasn't signed until just a while ago. We've got things to worry about. I'm responsible for about 45 or 50 people that work underneath of me right now with our race team. Robert's got a lot of people involved in it, so it's a little more complex. "Right now the 28 shop is in a temporary building, I think, and part of my arrangement with Robert, he's gonna own all the real estate where I'm at right now, so I would assume maybe the 28 team will be moving or there are some other details that need to be worked out. We've got a facility that's big enough and enough property to expand the project, so, again, there are a lot of little things that could complicate things so we didn't want to end up at the last minute having something jeopardize this arrangement, so we tried to keep things under wraps. We didn't do too good of a job with it and Robert, I think, still had to consider drivers. But the deal was a little more complex than an average driver signing situation, so that was the reason for maybe trying to keep it a secret the best we could."
Q&A SESSION RICKY RUDD -- AFTER SIX YEARS AS AN OWNER ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE AN EMPLOYEE AGAIN? "I'm sort of looking forward to the opportunity to work heavily to make the car go faster and not have to worry about a lot of other things like you've got taxes to pay this week...you've got employment situations...you've got to file your 940 forms and all that stuff...I'm so glad I don't have to worry about all that, just concentrate on driving. I'm ready for that."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE TRANSITION THAT WILL TAKE PLACE? "We're gonna finish this year with the Tide 10 car and I've still got a race to win, so I'm not gonna roll over yet. Our goal is to spend every dollar we've got in the budget to finish this year out with. If we get to the end of the year and we've got zero dollars, that's my goal. So we've still got some money to put towards this effort and try to win some races before the year's out. If we can talk Robert and Doug into building us a motor or two before the end of the year, we might be able to accomplish that goal here in one of these races coming up, but that's our goal -- to finish this season on a high note. I want to keep my streak alive and we feel like we've got some good race tracks coming up. Other than the performance the other night, which I don't remember too much, we've sort of been on a better run here lately. We've been a top 10 car pretty much the last four, five, six weeks, so we've got some good race tracks coming up."
ARE YOU GOING TO LIQUIDATE YOUR TEAM OR SELL YOUR TEAM? "I don't really know for sure exactly what's gonna happen on that. I think the real estate is spoken for. What happens with the contents? Do I continue to race? Do I keep the 10 car going? I'm not really sure. I'm kind of open for suggestions...find the right partner...find the right owner...I'm just open for suggestions, even considering down to an auction situation. To tell you the truth, I don't really know. I'm not gonna let it worry me too much. I'm concerned for the people that work for me, don't get me wrong. We had a little talk about 30 minutes before we came over here and that's the first time they actually knew what was going on. Of course, you guys hit it pretty much right on as to what was gonna happen, but, again, we've got a lot of people that I worry about and care about. I don't think they'll have any trouble finding work. I'll go on every job interview if I need to, to go with them, but our trouble lately has been keeping the vultures away from taking our help. The trouble is keeping help and not getting rid of it."
IS THERE A CHANCE YOU'LL LAND A SPONSOR FOR YOUR CAR AND GET SOMEONE ELSE TO DRIVE IT? "I hate to say no that's not gonna happen, but we sort of set a timeline, that mid-September timeline, and it was set there for many different reasons. I felt like when the smoke started to clear and all of a sudden it looked like Robert's team might be available, I got to thinking. I'm so stubborn that I'm gonna make something work, I'll fight it to the end, and sometimes not look at really what's the best situation. Then I got to thinking about it. We're talking about a championship quality team here that can win a championship the first year. I'm in a situation where I'm still in a build-up mode. We face a lot of hurdles, but we, realistically, probably would not have been able to win a championship. It might have taken us three years to build that type of an effort. If money was unlimited and you started hiring people today, it would probably take you at least a couple of years to assemble the people that could build a championship team. I look at my driving career and I probably have three to five good years left and I want to win a championship really bad before I step aside in this sport and I've got a few more races I want to try to win. It became very frustrating as an owner fighting that battle and seeing that time clock start to tick and knowing that I'm a couple years away, even if I had all the people that it took to do the job. So this is a super opportunity for me to be able to step right in to a team that is championship ready right now. That was probably one of the biggest pushes in my decision to be able to do this. No regrets on my team. What am I gonna do with that team? The number one thing I'm not gonna let it do is handicap...I don't see how I can pay that team justice and pay the 28 team justice by trying to continue to own a team on the side. Again, I'm not gonna rule out anything at this point because I don't know what's gonna come along, but I don' see how Dale Earnhardt drives for the 3 and owns the 1."
WHAT ABOUT THE SHOP? "We've got six acres up there in Lakeside Park and our building right now is about 25-30,000 square feet and it only sits on a two-acre site. We've got an additional four acres for expansion. If you're gonna be in motorsports, to me, I think that's an awful good area to be in. We have about 40-50,000 fans a year that come to our shop. We have tour busses that stop out front, so it's been pretty amazing to see the fans reaction who want to come and see a Winston Cup operation."
ANY THOUGHT OF MERGING THE TWO TEAMS? "I think there are still a lot of loose ends that need to be worked out. Robert is like me -- Doug and Richard -- they want a championship team and whatever it takes to do that. We've got some awful good people and they've got some awful good people. It's not really for me to say, I'm not an owner in this situation, but whatever it takes to build the most powerful team I'm sure that's what they're gonna want to do."
DID A SPONSOR EMERGE LAST WEEK FOR THE 10 CAR? "Late last week, I guess, before we went to Richmond a situation did pop up with a sponsor. We set that deadline around mid-September and we had some activity go on, but it didn't look like the kind of activity that we needed to have going. Then a pretty promising call came through late last week, but it was basically too late. Even though we hadn't committed to Robert 100 percent on paper, I basically committed 100 percent and said let's work out the details. So it was too late at that point, but, still, when I say promising there's a big difference between promising and then having it on paper. We're talking about months before stuff gets signed on paper. It just wasn't in time. To be honest with you, I'm glad it took the shape that it took because it's the right thing for me to do."
HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO GIVE UP OWNERSHIP? "It's maybe like a family run business -- maybe it has nothing to do with racing -- where you work and put your heart and soul into it and it just wasn't in the cards. The hard thing, once I could take the emotions out of the decision, the decision was pretty much black and white what I needed to do but from the emotional side -- the blood and sweat and equity -- it was tough to do. It's not a question in my mind, it's the right thing to do. For a long time you willed it to work and it just wasn't working. We couldn't raise the money that it took to continue to hire the good people. We were facing a situation with a motor program where, if we came out next year with our own team, we needed to start our own engine program. I wouldn't say you're digging yourself a hole, but now you're in even deeper and deeper as you go. So, it was the right opportunity and the right time to take a look at making that change."
HOW LONG IS YOUR DEAL? "It's multi-year. Three years."
DO YOU GET YOUR SHOP BACK IN THREE YEARS? THE OPTION TO BUY BACK? "I'm out of the shop business."
WOULD YOU BE A TEAM OWNER AGAIN? "I'm not gonna rule that out, but I'm looking at the options right now -- what comes across the table. If I've got somebody that wants to partner and take all the burden and keep my name active so maybe one day when I do retire and I want to come back. That's kind of a far-fetched thing to happen. I don't think that would happen, but I would maybe have to consider something like that. This is really the first time anybody really knows for sure that my team could be of some opportunity."
DID YOU TALK TO A.J. FOYT? "A.J. stopped by and it was more chit-chat. I really haven't gone anywhere with that. I think it would be a smart thing for A.J. to look at the equipment because it's gonna take him a year to buy everything. If he just starts writing checks it's gonna take him a year to buy everything, so those are the type of opportunities I would look at. I'm not gonna rule anything out."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET A COUPLE LEGITIMATE SHOTS AT A TITLE? "That's one of the big motivations for taking the 28 ride. I'll be honest with you, if the 28 team wasn't here...the reason, way back, when I was with Hendrick's in the early nineties, the multi-car team concept wasn't really working and going like I'm sure even Rick Hendrick would have anticipated it should go, and even like I didn't want it to go. It wasn't going very well. In fact, it took Ray Evernham to step in and get that operation pulled together. So, at that time, multi-car ownership wasn't really the way to go. Teams like Robert's were not available. You had Davey that was gonna be there for a lifetime, so, basically, I made a commitment I wanted to build a championship team. If I couldn't drive for one, then I'd go build one, so for six years I've been trying to build one and haven't done it yet. Now the 28 ride opens up. Had that 28 ride not opened up, I probably would have rode the sponsorship thing farther and, if nothing would have come about, I would have sat out a year until maybe, hopefully, something came up that you could win the championship with. Like I say, this is a rare opportunity to have this open up for a driver."
WAS THIS YOUR BEST SHOT FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? "Oh year, by far. I'm mentally seasoned for what it takes to hopefully try to win a championship. In 1991 I came close, I finished second, but since that time...in '94 I started my own team and, not to beat up on what we've done, we've accomplished a lot, but you can't start up a team and expect to challenge for a championship in year one, two or three. So I've kind of been building and rebuilding. Everytime we get good people, people would tend to hire them away. Then you're starting to build people again. We never had the financial backing it took to keep the thing solid and uniform. We were doing it on half the money that these other people have been doing it on."
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU'RE DONE DRIVING? "I figure I'll just wing it and figure out what I'm gonna do when the time comes. Heck, I might fly teams to and from the race track. I've got about 1,500 hours and I'm a multi-instrumented pilot. I might do that. I might fly airplanes."
DO YOU REALIZE HOW TOUGH THIS SITUATION CAN BE? "I'm not looking for an easy road. I'm not looking for somewhere to go ride around and finish laps, I'm looking for somebody that wants to put the same time and dedication into it that I am as a driver from the team side. You look around and you look -- who are the real racers left in this sport? You've got Childress and Robert, but you've got a small handful of guys that are really racers running these teams, so I'm not looking for an easy road. It's gonna be tough. I'm sure I'm gonna get my butt chewed out on many a day, but I want that. I want someone to say, 'Hey, you're not getting the job done. You need to go out there and push the button harder or you're not driving hard enough.' I'm ready for that."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS FOR NEXT YEAR? "I feel like a top five in the points is realistic for year one. Some race wins. I hate to put numbers on them, but, if not, I'll probably be looking for a job next year but I firmly believe that the tools are there. I think Kenny Irwin's done a great job. I can almost see myself...in 1981 I drove for DiGard, Gatorade, I wasn't ready for that ride. I was a rookie. They changed the size of the cars, they changed the wheel base of the cars, I knew I wasn't ready for that ride but I knew if I didn't take it that was the last maybe good opportunity. I came out of there and it helped me a lot. It prepared me for years down the road and I started winning shortly after that. Kenny Irwin is a great little race car driver and I think he'll be great for some time. I don't want to make it look like I'm booting him out of a ride. Obviously, Robert made a decision first, but I think he's got a good future. I think he'll do well."
HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF IS THIS FOR YOU? "It's been pretty difficult with the sponsorship negotiations and all the things that were going on that side, it was pretty difficult. I basically went to our sponsors back in the winter and said that if you guys want to stay and be a part of this thing, you're gonna have to pay the dollars it takes to be competitive. I think at that time they sort of thought I was just pulling their leg, and they went out and did a market study and they saw that what I was telling them about their sponsorship dollars having to double for next year, there was a lot of pressure on carrying that message to them. There was a lot of pressure on backing up that information and there was pressure when they decided to do something different. Now, all of a sudden, I probably as an owner put too many eggs in one basket. I assumed they probably would be back, but sort of regretted the fact that they're gonna come back with a big increase in budget and we didn't get a chance to try to operate a team with the right money. But this thing is packed full of pressure, but the driving part of it -- it's almost gonna be a relief just to have to go in and say our job is to come here this week and get this 28 Texaco car to go as fast as we can possibly tune it. That's gonna be such a lift off my mind because I worry about that now, plus many other things. I was one of the first guys that used to be in the gym working out. I used to work out three days a week and two-and-a-half-hour workouts every time. I haven't been in a gym since 1993, so I'm looking forward to going back in the gym and get some workouts in."
WHEN DID YOU AND ROBERT FIRST TALK? "I'll be honest, it really didn't start until Delano Little reported on the local news that it was a done deal. We had not even talked. He mentioned it on the news and I got to thinking that it made a lot of sense. We were at Indianapolis at the test session the next day and I was walking by their garage stall and talking to one of their crew members that had gotten banged up at a go-cart race the night before. He was showing me his skin-up marks and I think Doug walked out there and said you oughta say something to Robert about driving the car and make a joke with him. So I walked by to Robert and said I'll be by there on Monday to get my seats fitted up, and that's how kind of got started. It was all kind of a casual joke."
WHY DO YOU THINK ROBERT CHOSE YOU? "I think, probably, he went the route to go with a young guy, a rookie that's getting started and has a great future in front of him. And I think there's a lot, I can see in Robert's state there would probably be some aggravation that would come with that. Going to the race tracks for the first time, not knowing if the car feels like it's supposed to or not, and I think he probably went the extreme in the other direction. He's got Dale Jarrett in the 88 and that thing probably runs pretty smooth and he kind of wanted that flow to happen in the 28. I think there needs to be a bounce off of knowledge between the two teams and I would say probably the 88 has been feeding the 28 a lot of information, and I feel like, hopefully, I can give something back that can help the 88 team on occasion. I think it's probably been a one-way flow, maybe. We like the same type of chassis, so the driver styles have to be fairly similar to run similar setups, so I'm guessing that has something to do with it. And probably the desire. I've been out there beating my head against the wall for five or six years and I guess they say this guy's either crazy or he's got desire, so let's give him a chance."
ROBERT YATES -- SO ARE YOU GOING TO TAKEOVER RICKY'S SHOP? "That's what we've agreed to. I just bought some property, or in the process of buying property here in Concord. I've put a lot hours into it, I think I have a great plan for it, but as this sport goes...we took a poll of the people that work for us and 80 percent of them liked Lakeside better from a driving to work standpoint. So, it looks like that's what we'll do instead of working on this here, plus it's up and running and we don't have to go through that eight months of spending time on it."
WHEN CAN YOU MOVE IN? "Once the season is over it's ready to go."
IS 6 ACRES ENOUGH TO PUT THE 88 THERE TOO? "Well, I'm already getting some things from Todd saying, 'Hey, how about us?' So, I apparently had a couple additional acres, I have to have it, so that's certainly a possibility. Our engine business, we keep expanding that, and it'll probably end up using up the four acres that we're on in Charlotte."
YOU WENT FOR EXPERIENCE THIS TIME. DO YOU FEEL THIS CAN GAIN YOU A TITLE SOON? "As far as having a driver who knows his way around each and every race track. It's so important and it's something that you don't do overnight. We knew that two years ago when we signed up with Kenny. I think we've given a lot of our business back to the sport for that. We've brought a guy to this arena that's gonna be here for a long time and do a good job. Again, I was very influential in getting Ricky in the 88 car many years ago and that was probably one of the toughest years. I remembered last year with Kenny seems like 1981 all over again. It's just something that I've always said. The drivers need that experience or they need to hit the wave just right and we didn't have the wave just right for Kenny. It was just a little too much inexperience, but now he's gaining that. The 28 needs a big shot right now and I think that was my thinking -- try to get a driver that's won some races and that list was almost not there until Ricky decided he wanted to do this. I think what really got me excited about it was that he wanted not to pursue sponsorships. He turned down more money than I used to have to race, so he really wants to do this and I'm excited about it."
HOW LONG DO YOU SEE THIS GOING? "I'd like to get day one out of the way first. Hopefully, it's long term. We want to be successful. We need it. We think we can do it in a hurry, but let's get today behind us first."
ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT SOME OF RICKY'S PEOPLE TO HIRE? "Certainly, the toughest thing when you merge something, you've got a total of 100 people. I don't know how it's gonna shake out. With all the new teams and all the teams that are looking for help and searching for help, I'm sure everybody that is skilled at doing this is not gonna have a problem with a job."
HOW TOUGH WAS IT FOR YOU TO TALK TO THESE OTHER DRIVERS KNOWING RICKY WAS YOUR NUMBER ONE OPTION? "That was the toughest thing for me to do. I'm bad about getting in a room with somebody. I'm sort of a person who loves the one I'm with. Don't tell my wife that, please (laughing). But I get in the motorhome and start talking to Joe Nemechek about racing and I want to go racing so bad with him I get all excited about it. I've had a lot of guys come in and just say, 'Tell me what's wrong with my style or what I'm doing?' I'd like to race with a lot of them. There are a lot of neat guys, each and every one of them out there are the best in the world. There's just one seat in that car and you don't have the opportunity to work with each and every one of them. The toughest deal is to run the guys down and say, hey...some of them I haven't even...I think Ernie Irvan used to tell me, 'You can talk for an hour and not say anything.' That's probably what they've been hearing from me, but I'm sure everybody can go jump in the seats they want to get in to. There are a lot of good seats, I just want to make the 28 the hottest one."
WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE FINAL DECISION? "It's been since Bristol. Ricky joked with me a little bit at Indianapolis (during the test) and it was like I didn't give it a second thought because I figured he's been successful doing his deal and it's not an option. So I didn't really go after that. He called me a couple weeks after that and says, 'I know we were joking, but I'm serious I would like to do this.' I said, 'OK, I'll put you on my list.' But, when you put a driver on a list of his caliber -- and when I walked through the grandstands, especially after the race at Bristol -- that's who they're hollering at me to hire. 'Hire Ricky, hire Ricky.'"
HOW MUCH DID THAT INFLUENCE YOU? "We all race to the grandstands. You don't argue with them. They see it before anybody else sees it. You have to pay attention to the grandstands and that means a lot."
DID YOU GIVE RICKY ANY TIMELINE AS FAR AS A FINAL DECISION? "No. When we really started looking at this he called me and said, 'Even if the governor of Virginia gets me this deal I don't want it. This is what I want to do if it's available.' We didn't really get down to talking about salary, this is just something that he wanted to do and he's been happy. We sent him the contract and this is what we pay, this is what we do. There's been no negotiating on that. He's happy and saying this is what he wants to do. That makes me feel that he wants to be in the car for driving and not necessarily worrying about all the other things and because of that I know he'll focus on driving."
WHAT ONE QUALITY MADE HIM THE RIGHT GUY? "He knows how to win and he knows how to win at every single race track. That's hard to come by these days and we're happy to have that."
DOES HE HELP THE 88 A LOT? "When you have two teams that you can trust, it's nice to have them both running good. When one of them is a little behind the other one, they share the notes. I think Ricky, certainly, will bring more than just road courses to this program. He qualified awful good at Daytona, so I'm sure there's a lot of technology we can share."