Rockingham II: Ford - Robert Yates interview

Robert Yates, car owner of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, held a Q&A session prior to Friday morning's NASCAR Winston Cup practice to discuss the departure of crew chief Michael McSwain and how he plans on proceeding to find a replacement. Raymond...

Robert Yates, car owner of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, held a Q&A session prior to Friday morning's NASCAR Winston Cup practice to discuss the departure of crew chief Michael McSwain and how he plans on proceeding to find a replacement. Raymond Fox, who will handle the crew chief duties this weekend, along with Elliott Sadler gave their reactions as well to McSwain's decision.

ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28-- Havoline Taurus

"I'm sure you want to ask me about Michael 'Fatback' McSwain.  He's gone to the 18 car and it's a good opportunity for him, but I'm sure that will open up a good opportunity for someone else.  Everything is good."

WHY IS HE LEAVING? "I'm sure he felt that opportunity was good for him because that was his choice."

DO YOU FEEL THAT'S A SIGN HE DIDN'T HAVE CONFIDENCE IN ELLIOTT SADLER? "I certainly don't think so.  The reason we hired him (Sadler) was probably 90 percent because of Fatback's push to get him, and certainly all the way through.  There's nothing to that junk about testing or anything, it was all positive.  This was just something that came up.  He felt like it would be better for some other reasons and didn't really give 'em.  He tried to sell himself that that was a good deal, but I've been doing this a long time and I understand where he was coming from.  He negotiated a contract with me and he didn't walk from that.  He re-negotiated and negotiated himself out of it, so, from that standpoint, it was a deal that he pounded out of it but he wanted to do it.  That's why I'm probably not crazy about contracts, but it's more about attraction than anything else.  He just had this opportunity.  I've been in some similar circumstances myself, so I could understand what he wanted to do.  Like I said, it's a good deal for him and I'm sure it will open up a good opportunity for someone else."

WHY DOESN'T HE FINISH OUT THE YEAR? "It's probably something that we could have very easily done.  Certainly with some of the things that have gone on this year, there are people that would want to go home, but they've stayed on the job.  I thought that was the thing to do.  This was a deal that was a good opportunity, the other deals were bad opportunities so everybody needed to be professional and do their job.  In this situation, this is all about futures and go ahead and get on it.  I'm all for that because I feel like we're well equipped.  Most of our preparation is done for the year and we have great people on board anyway, so we just decided to let him go ahead.  If his heart left, take the rest of his body with it." 

DID JOE GIBBS CALL YOU OR IS THIS JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT HAPPENS?  "It's a deal where I contract or I make deals that work for our team and it was a deal that Michael McSwain and myself made.  He came, quite honestly, even though we had a good name in the garage area, Ricky Rudd, I would say he was the biggest factor in Michael coming to our team.  I've enjoyed working with Michael.  I think that he'll always remember a lot of things that he learned from Robert and Robert has learned a lot of things from Michael.  So we've packaged that up and, hopefully, we'll be on good speaking terms but race hard against each other and have a lot of respect for each other.  That's the good part.  It's sort of like when we were kids -- you draw a line and I get on one of the fence and you get on the other and we're gonna have a little battle here.  So it's healthy.  Like I say, I don't have to dodge him and I hope he doesn't dodge me.  He came and left the same kind of way -- sitting down talking to me in a very professional way.  He came in and negotiated in then negotiated out and we're choosing up sides.  It was a good deal for him.  I couldn't sit there and say that our seat was better than the 18, but, certainly, I'm focussed and I plan on it being better.  People have different views and it was a good deal.  I couldn't argue with him, so we worked a deal out and he's gone." 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO KEEP THIS TEAM FROM GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS THE LAST THREE RACES?  "I think we'll just go ahead and let them go.  I think our guys are fired up and they want to prove themselves because I think that Michael had been surrounded by some great people and we've got a good opportunity to show how good that was for three races.  We almost start next year now.  We're planning.  If you're not gonna be here, it's sort of hard to be in that mix.  A lot of what you're doing on that particular day is not most of your job.  A lot of it we're working six weeks or six months out.  As next year's planning takes place and testing starts, it's better to go ahead and be where you're gonna be.  It's a good jump for Michael to be there and, certainly, it would be a little bit unproductive to have him sit in on a meeting on our future, so we'll just go ahead and get on with next year now." 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET A FULL-TIME CREW CHIEF IN HERE BEFORE THE SEASON ENDS?  "This opening may open up a great opportunity for someone else, but, at the same time, I think we have some real strengths within the team.  Raymond Fox was the crew chief for us for a few races three years ago (with Kenny Irwin) and did a great job.  The thing that I still feel good about is that we have great people working on the team and we're not concerned.  We may go out and run over something and have a flat tire or something, but I don't think it's because we don't have the right people." 

IS THIS A TRYOUT FOR RAYMOND?  "It doesn't have to be an acting thing because he's already acted and proven himself as a crew chief.  He was a big part of what went on, so I'm sure we're not concerned about going and having to rent somebody for the rest of the season.  We have good strengths within." 

IS HE TAKING A LOT OF SECRETS WITH HIM TO THE 18?  "You always learn things that you think someone else doesn't know.  NASCAR does a good job of laying most of it out on the table, but there are still things that you know.  You may be at a crossroads or a point where there's barely common knowledge and then there are times when you say, 'Man, I'd shoot myself if somebody left right now because we've learned and we've got something clicking.'  So there are probably things that we think he'll carry off to another team and pollinate that team with.  At the same time, we may be able to pollinate our team with somebody too.  Like I say, it's a good opportunity for him and it may be a good opportunity for us." 

WILL YOU BE GLAD TO SEE THIS SEASON END?  "If I was 25 years old, I used to look and take the schedule and keep marking it out.  I was counting down every year, but when you get as old as I am now, you really enjoy every day.  So I'm really not looking forward to the end of the season, but for a good day each and every day.  There are a lot of good days left in this year and I want to make them good days." 

ARE YOU ACTIVELY TALKING TO GUYS NOW?  "My telephone is pretty active, yes." 

CAN THE 28 FINISH IN THE TOP 10?  "You have different plans.  You can throw everything and just try to win a race and be very risky, or I think where we are now, you always say if you're not in the first three it doesn't count.  But everything does count, so, yes, top 10 is important.  We've got our hopes and we've worked hard to have top-10 finishes this year.  Both of our teams have been bumped down some notches because for the last three years we've been in the top five, so, yeah, we don't like that but, somehow, you will settle when you have to settle.  We would not like to finish without being in the top 10." 

DOES IT WORK TO HAVE A CREW CHIEF THAT IS UNDER THE DIRECTION OF SOMEONE ELSE?  "It's all about covering the bases, having the right bases and having them covered with the right time.  Titles and responsibilities are probably -- this thing keeps broadening and broadening.  It's a brain trust of people that have to work together.  It's not about one person having it all in his head or in his notebook.  It takes so many people to support this, so there are room for titles and room for a lot of CEOs and letters between them to cover that if that's what makes people work hard.  But you do have to have an organization and it takes a lot of people covering a lot of things.  There's room for general managers, team managers, crew chiefs, car chiefs, chief mechanics, specialists of all kinds.  Sometimes it's about giving out titles and we're all gonna get excited about going to races.  I think most of our deal is that we'd like to cut up all the titles, cut up all the money and just go win trophies and work together.  It's nice when you can contribute, but you have to have titles and maybe that's something we'll look at in the future." 

THERE WAS TALK ABOUT RICKY AND ELLIOTT SWITCHING PLACES BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR AND THEY DIDN'T, BUT MCSWAIN HAS LEFT.  WHAT MAKES THIS SITUATION DIFFERENT?  "About 10-20 million dollars.  There's a lot of difference.  The sponsors give me the money to operate the teams, but they build around the team and the driver.  It's not something you can switch around that easily.  You have to make some long distance phone calls to make those decisions and sometimes what you wish for doesn't work out.  Maybe they didn't spend four million dollars on making a commercial with Robert Yates, but they may have with Ricky Rudd and, in fact, did.  So you donk't just toss these things around as easily as you can crew chiefs or first basemen." 

HOW HARD DID YOU TRY TO KEEP MCSWAIN?  "I think there was a point that I guess I wanted to make myself feel like I could keep him attracted, and I think there was a point that I could have.  That probably helped it be a little easier for me because nobody likes to feel like they've lost any battles and I felt there was a point that we could have, but, at the same time, I couldn't blow enough smoke or tell enough lies or make enough promises to make our seat look much stronger than the other seat.  It's a good opportunity.  Everybody in the garage area and everybody in the grandstands understands that, so it's nice that people can go where they're happy.  I've lived under contracts and there have been times that I've wanted to go, but I didn't have the same kind of boss.  He said 'no, you're gonna do this,' and I worked two five-year contracts with DiGard and I had a great opportunity with Roger Penske once and another guy that had good opportunities with me, and my owner said no.  I just had to put my head down and went to work, so I've grown up on contracts and respect them, but, at the same time, maybe I should have pitched a fit and maybe I could have gotten out of it.  But it worked out fine.  It's better if you negotiate it, but I'd like this whole community to know that if you sign a contract it's worth a lot more than it costs to replace that paper.  In this case, Joe Gibbs and Michael McSain both understood that that paper had value and did negotiate, so that's probably one message I would want everybody to understand here.  It wasn't a pound it out kind of deal."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler , Roger Penske