Roush Racing hosted the media on Wednesday morning as part of the Lowe's Motor Speedway tour of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race shops. JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Racing Fusions -- "We're real excited about 2007. In the interviews that ...
Roush Racing hosted the media on Wednesday morning as part of the Lowe's Motor Speedway tour of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race shops.
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Racing Fusions --
"We're real excited about 2007. In the interviews that will follow, I'll enumerate all the various changes we made to try to get a competitive advantage, which we didn't have last year. It was OK. It was a great year. OK, it was a good year, it wasn't a great year. We wound up falling short of our mark in several areas, but it was still a year that we can build from and we've taken great steps to close the gap and hopefully get back ahead in some of the areas where we weren't as dominant as we had been previously.
"The majority of our sponsors that we had in 2006 are back in 2007. Of course, not to repetitious, but I have to mention my sponsors. I'm real happy to have AAA back; Ameriquest, which made their entry into the Busch Series last year is stepping up with Greg Biffle. I don't know if Greg is gonna wear this crown happily or not, but he is our oldest driver and has the most tenure with us. Mark Martin will still be around for a couple of races. That was a surprise to me to find that that was gonna happen. We're all excited about that, but Greg is the guy that I'll look to, especially for direction. Of course, Matt is gonna be standing right there beside him. Matt has actually been longer in Cup than Greg has, but Greg has been with Benny Parsons -- bless his heart -- with his support back years ago, we were able to identify Greg as somebody that we should have in our program and, of course, gave Greg the shot that he'd been looking for.
"DeWalt is back. Crown Royal, I'm excited about what we're gonna do with them this year. Office Depot, Carl Edwards -- the promise of 2005 was not realized for Carl in 2006 and we're putting him back on track for that. The 3M folks will be here. Torrey (Galida) and some of the folks spent two days at a retreat with them in Minnesota and it was great fun. They've got great plans for next year and it's a super company and we're anxious to move forward with. My friends at Scotts are back. World Financial Group is going forward with us. Northern Tool and Equipment has got a great program and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service is back and, of course, Kraft has been with us for so many years is back with us.
"We've got several new sponsors that we're equally excited about. Discount Tire with their program has made the decision to join us. Dish Network, Arby's and Sharp Electronics.
"We're doing exploratory marketing programs with them to figure out how to launch their new programs as well as add momentum and energy to the programs we've been involved with. Ford Motor Company, NASCAR and all of you, of course, will be a part of our year next year as the races unfold and each of you find your moment to question us on something that may be contentious, or hopefully give us some credit when unbelievable positive things work out. We look forward to participating with you in all those things and, yes, we'll be there for the tough days and the tough questions and the bad circumstances as well.
"The Car of Tomorrow, I've been guardedly pessimistic about the timing, the necessity and the cost of the Car of Tomorrow. Being totally fair, and I made a comment in this regard which borders, it's as close as -- I don't apologize for having to spend my money very often, but this is as close you'll get. The car will be ultimately safer and it should have no long-term ill-effect on the racing as we've known it with the car of today. I believe the car will be easier for NASCAR to police. Their anxious to have all of our programs, all of our drivers to be in the biggest ball possible to compete from turn four to the start-finish line at every event. I think the cars will be closer than they've been.
"The impact of the manufacturers and their contrivance and the team's contrivance to exact and advantage for themselves -- those prospects will be limited based on what they've done. I believe that NASCAR and has got the best interest of all the racers and all the manufacturers as they've brought this Car of Tomorrow program on us.
"At the AARWBA banquet the other night, I was aware of what was going on in the room and I saw that Toyota had rented a table from you guys, as Ford had and a number of other folks that supported you, and I held back. I turned one sheet over on my Toyota comments just because I respected the fact they were there and they had been there to support you, but for me and the things that happen technologically with regard to the innovations and the initiatives that other teams took -- that we were more conservative on last year -- 2006 is clear evidence that the competition is not gonna stand still. They won't be intimidated for any new team or any new manufacturer that might come in with more money or, on the face of it, would have some of the ingredients to make a better effort or a better program. All of the manufacturers are trying to establish a competitive and strategic advantage for themselves. Some will succeed in time. Most will not succeed initially. Toyota will not find that the established teams and manufacturers will wither in their path as has been the case where they've decided to engage elsewhere.
"I know there are probably a lot of you that would like for me to go deeper into that, but I'm just gonna say that nobody is frightened. We're gonna go to war with them and they should give us their best shot because we'll be back and giving as good as we take.
"Anyway, we're glad to be here with you and I guess we're gonna break out into session here and do some things. It's thrilling on this beautiful North Carolina winter day to have all of you here with bright, shining faces and be thinking about what's gonna happen at Daytona and the rest of the year that's gonna follow. It's gonna be a very exciting year with a lot of turns that are gonna be unexpected.
"Myself and our marketing folks and, of course, all of our drivers have got to keep their eye on the ball and be vigilant as to the things that we're here to do. I couldn't feel more positive about what our prospects are based on the initiatives that we're able to make, based on the support of all of our sponsors and the support that Ford Motor Company has given us. In this, their time of greatest need, they're standing shoulder to shoulder with us and giving us everything that would be useful that I could justify."
Q&A SESSION ON STAGE
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion
DO YOU BELIEVE IN A SOPHOMORE JINX AND ARE YOU GLAD IT'S FINALLY OVER? "I really wasn't sure it was gonna happen in 2006. Obviously, it wasn't what we planned, but that's how racing goes. You can't expect anything. There are a bunch of variables you can't control and I think our Office Depot Fusion team is back and, hopefully, we'll run really well here in 2007. At the end of the season we accumulated a lot of points and had some better runs, but I've learned a lot of different things that can go bad this last season and, hopefully, I can apply what I learned and our team can move forward."
JAMIE MCMURRAY -- No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion
YOU HANDPICKED LARRY CARTER AS YOUR CREW CHIEF. HOW HAVE THINGS GONE SO FAR? "I had such a great relationship with Donnie Wingo that I wanted somebody that was similar to Donnie and I already had a relationship with Larry through driving Rusty's (Wallace) Busch car and he actually worked with Donnie at Travis Carter's years ago. I liked Larry and I felt like we could have the same off-track relationship that I had with Donnie. I never really had that with Bob or with Jimmy. Jack never really gave me a chance to have it with Jimmy (laughter), but I never developed that with Bob. I didn't realize how important that was to me to have that relationship away from the race track as much as the communication at the track. The thing is with our team this year is it's not just about the crew chief. We have a different engineer, a different car chief. Actually, Todd Zeigler came over from the 6 car to be the car chief, a different tire guy, there's a different shop foreman. Our entire race team is gonna be different this year. I have a lot of confidence in all the people and when Homestead ended, I was a little bit worried because we didn't have a crew chief and without the crew chief, you don't really have the leader to get the rest of the people that he wants, but after the first of the year when Larry came over and we were able to get a new engineer and all of the new people, I'm very excited about the quality of people. I feel like this year we actually have the people in the right place and have a great group of people -- from where it starts all the way up to the crew chief -- so I'm excited about that part of our program this season."
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
WILL THE POINT CHANGE MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOU RACE? "No. I think you approach them all the same. We all go out to try to win races. The only thing about rewarding more points to winning is that I think it's cool if you win a race early in the year to be able to take those points into the chase if you make the chase. But I've said all along with more points to the winner, I don't think it's gonna change the winners of the races. It's gonna give the winners more points, but I don't think it's gonna change the people who win. I go back to where we've run second at Indy a couple of times and it could have paid a 2,000-point bonus to win that race and we still couldn't have won it. We were running as hard as we could to run second, so I don't think it's gonna change the winners, but that part of it and carrying those points to the chase will be interesting. You'll be thinking about that early in the year. If you can pull off a win, you'll be like, 'Yeah, if I make the chase I get an extra 10 points going in,' so I guess that's something you'll think about if you can win."
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 Ameriquest Ford Fusion
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A MENTOR NOW TO THE YOUNGER GUYS AT ROUSH RACING? "Let's get the facts straight. Matt is actually older than I am, but I've been at Roush longer, so I've got him by a year. I do (feel like a mentor). We don't get the opportunity as much as we'd like, obviously this year being teamed up with Todd Kluever in the Busch car, I'm gonna be able to work a lot closer with him on setups and things like that with him driving that race car with Eddie Perdue as being the crew chief. So that team will stay the same and I think we're gonna have a lot of success in that 3M Busch car, so I'm looking forward to that. And as much as I can help all the rest of the guys. David Ragan in the 6, I think we're gonna be able to put a lot of support around him with the meetings that we have at the race track and the shop, so I think it's gonna be a good season for us. I think the truck teams ran very well last year and I think the Busch cars are gonna be better this year, and I think we're right on track with our Cup program, so I think it's gonna be a good year for us."
DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR REALISTIC GOALS FOR THIS SEASON? "Realistic goals are to go out and, one, put on a great show for the fans and support my sponsors -- AAA and Discount Tire -- two great sponsors that I'm glad to be a part of the team. But just to improve week in and week out. I'm still a rookie. I just turned 21 a few weeks ago, so I feel like I'm getting a little older and also got a lot more pressure on me this year than the last few years to go out and get the job done, but week in and week out I want to get better. I want to try to win some races in the Busch car. I'm not counting it out in the Cup car. I feel like the team is capable of winning races. Jimmy Fennig has put together a great group of guys for the AAA Ford Fusion team and the main thing is that first half of the year I'm kind of looking at it by running the full Busch schedule and the Cup schedule, at Daytona in July I'll have a full year under my belt between the two series, so that second part of the year we're really looking at going out and having a great time on one side of things, but continue the learning curve, improve week in and week out and hopefully come away with a few wins and some good, solid runs at the end of the year."
HOW WILL TOYOTA COMING IN CHANGE THE SPORT?
JACK ROUSH: "I think that question has been asked and answered, but if Toyota is gonna bring about changes in the way we conduct our business -- they've got the deep pockets and the wherewithal to step outside the box and to pay more for a service or for a technology than sound business practices would otherwise justify, then we're gonna have an announcement, I think, if things go well, about a new investor in our program to help us -- not as a sponsor but as a potential partner -- and part of the reason we're discussing doing that is to be able to feel like we can stand the pressure of having a round of negotiations with sponsors that may not be rich enough to cover everything that we're spending, or may be ahead of where we are to negotiate with our drivers in the face of offers that they'd have to do other things. I'm definitely preparing myself for a siege and I expect that traditional conventions -- where you look at the Wood Brothers and Bud Moore and the Pettys and all these other folks that have made their name in this business down through the decades -- they've done so based on what the dollar income from the sponsorships and from the prize money would justify. I don't expect that's gonna be the case with Toyota. I think that they'll carry their money and carry their technology and try to put the rest of us in a catch-up scenario, and I'm trying to be ready for that."
Continued in part 2