Foster Gillett, co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, came into the Texas Motor Speedway infield media center to answer questions regarding the status of the team in wake of Kasey Kahne's decision to leave at the end of the season. CAN YOU TALK...
Foster Gillett, co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, came into the Texas Motor Speedway infield media center to answer questions regarding the status of the team in wake of Kasey Kahne's decision to leave at the end of the season.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOUR LINEUP MAY LOOK LIKE IN 2011 WITH DRIVERS, SPONSORS AND THE CHANGES MADE IN THE CHAIRMANSHIP WITH LIVERPOOL? "The first thing is we're seven races into this season and we're still focused on this season and doing the best that we can. I think something Richard preaches to me and Robbie and Sam and Max is that if we can focus on building the best race cars we can and racing them as well as we can, we're gonna have sponsors and drivers. So I think our focus at this point is to do the best that we can. It's a work in progress next season as far as our driver lineup. I don't think that's a secret. I think we talked about that at media day and we're working as hard as we can to have the best drivers possible. I think it's no secret that my family is looking at all of our options and doing all that we can. I think as far as we're concerned, as a family, and everything that is involved in NASCAR, the more liquidity we have as a family, the better it is for NASCAR. We've always tried our best at Liverpool and we want the team to do the best that it can, so that's what we're focused on."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL THE IMPACT IS ON KASEY LEAVING? IS KEEPING BUDWEISER YOUR FIRST PRIORITY NOW? "I think as far as the impact goes, I'm focused more on what we can do while we have him. I think many different owners or teams in this sport would take a 30-race contract with Kasey Kahne to try and do the best they can. I think he's probably one of the nicest people in this sport. He's one of the greatest racers and we're pleased to have had him for as long as we have, and we're focused on our next 30 races with him to see what we can do. We want to win races. Obviously, when there's a change like this it opens opportunities for others. I think we're trying to focus more on what opportunities we have than what we might potentially lose."
THERE ARE THINGS ON THE INTERNET THIS WEEK ABOUT FINANCIAL ISSUES. IS IT AS BAD AS IT SOUNDS OR JUST PART OF RE-ARRANGING FINANCES? "I think Mr. Newton talked directly with George this week and I think George went on the record with David as far as that's concerned, so from me to him that doesn't change. I think we've addressed that as a whole, but, from my perspective this is a process we're trying to go through. We're nearing closure on that process and I think there's good news ahead. I focus on the future and, from a day-to-day perspective, my role in my family is more to operate these businesses on the ground and be here, than it is with what goes on at the family holding level. I'm really focused on trying to do the best that I can for all of our partners, sponsors, fans, drivers, owners and really lead by example and try to do the best we can."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO DO TO IMPROVE YOUR PERFORMANCE? "I think we've made an effort to address that situation in the off-season. I think we've made a number of enormous changes to go ahead and get better. I really believe in what we've done. I believe in the ability of our race team to build and race cars consistently well. I think with the amount of change in the off-season, going from one manufacturer to another and moving race shops and all that we went through to come out of the box and win the first race of the season, and compete in Daytona the way we did, I think we've generally had good race cars at a lot of places. I think we've had some bad luck here and there. I think that's racing, but, from my perspective, we've already done that hard work and now it's about refining the effort and really getting the results and driving them home."
DO YOU EXPECT KASEY TO FULFILL HIS CONTRACT AND DRIVE THROUGH THE END OF THE YEAR WITH YOU? "Not only do I expect that, the one thing that I do know well is what a gentleman Kasey Kahne is and I think throughout the process of us coming in, I think we've all been very pleased with him as a man and a person and his ability to drive the car. I think a lot of people explain him as kind of a racer's racer. If you give him great equipment, he'll go and win and I think that's our focus. I really believe we have a championship-caliber team in the 9 team as a whole, with the driver and the sponsor and all the people that are a part of it. Our goals haven't changed. We show up here to win with that car. We show up to win with all of our cars and we look forward to trying to get him into the chase and compete for a championship, and I think that process takes a lot of the focus. I really, really believe that not only will he fulfill his contract and his commitment to us, but he'll do it to the best of his ability. He'll uphold all of the commitments that he has. I think that one of the most important things to me in all of this is my family has had a wonderful relationship with Anheuser-Busch and that's part of why they're on this car, and I think at the end of the day there's a commitment from me and from our team and from him to do the best we can for our wonderful sponsor and help them in all of their endeavors."
WHAT'S YOUR SENSE ON THE CHANCES OF KEEPING ANHEUSER-BUSCH? "What I can tell you is we will put maximum effort into keeping Anheuser-Busch. If they tell me I need to run through the end of that wall to keep them, I'm gonna do my best. I think they're a wonderful sponsor. I think they've been wonderful to my family for many years, and I think that we take great pride in our association with them. We will do everything we can. I believe our relationship with them has been successful and you have to put that into the mix, but this just happened. I believe all constituents involved hoped and felt that Kasey Kahne would be driving the 9 car with Budweiser on it, so I think this has been a change of direction. I think we've got to reflect on that change in direction. I think ourselves and Budweiser will go through their own evaluations on how we go forward, and I think everybody involved - at least on our end - would hope that it would result in Anheuser-Busch staying with Richard Petty Motorsports."
WHAT THE PUBLIC WILL WANT TO KNOW MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IS YOU'RE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL. WHAT CAN YOU SAY TO THAT? "I think in life sometimes you can do things for all different reasons, but my family made a choice to be involved in NASCAR. It's something we want to do. It's not something we're gonna leave. I think we've learned some hard lessons. I think I have learned some hard lessons. I have to take full responsibility for the way this has gone. I hoped we were having a different press conference. I think Mr. Hendrick is one of the most wonderful owners in this sport. I think I've learned a valuable lesson from him this week and how this goes, so I look forward to getting better everyday, doing a better job for all of our drivers and sponsors, and our commitment is to be here and win races and championships. When I reflect upon this, obviously, it's something we need to learn from. I think every change of direction provides opportunity, so I'm really focused on what we've done well versus what we've not done well. I think we've had some issues that were brought upon by us trying to learn this sport better, and I think we've had other things that were brought upon us. But I think from my formal involvement here, starting in Darlington, it hasn't even been a year. I think the list of accomplishments we've achieved and what we've gone through during that year, when I look in the mirror I try to be focused on what we've done well and what we've overcome versus what hasn't gone our way. I think a lot of people would be proud of what we've achieved if it were their team. I think we've procured and we have developed wonderful relations with our fans and sponsors and I think that's one of the things I'm most proud of."
IS THERE A NON-COMPETE IN THE BUD CONTRACT THAT SAYS KASEY CAN'T TAKE THEM WITH HIM, AND GIVEN THE TYPE OF TALENT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAS AND THE RESULTS THEY'VE PRODUCED, HOW CLOSE IS IT TO BECOMING A MONOPOLY? HOW DOES RPM GO TO POTENTIAL SPONSORS AND TELL THEM WHAT THEY HAVE TO SELL WHEN HMS IS SITTING THERE WITH THE DRIVER TALENT AND RESULTS? "I've been on all different sides of this. I think one of the beautiful things we enjoyed when we stepped into the Montreal Canadiens was a heritage of winning, and I think for 50-60 years people asked themselves that question - 'How do we beat the Montreal Canadiens?' I think when we stepped in there it was more, 'How do the Montreal Canadiens win again?' So these things are cyclical. They change and go up and down. Right now, Mr. Hendrick is on a wonderful, wonderful run, and I think it's due to his hard work and his personality and, more importantly, I think I've learned in this business that it's about people. I think he has wonderful people. He treats them well and you see the results on the track. I think the other thing you learn in this sport is that there are no doors, there are no laws. I can go and learn and see what Mr. Hendrick is doing, and I think we all can, so I think as he blazes ahead, we all learn from him, too. I think the effort in our organization is to catch him. I look at myself being 34 years old and I think, 'I want what he has.' And if he slips up, we're gonna gain ground. We're gonna do everything we can. I think he's enjoying the fruits of it. I've talked to Richard Petty about it and Richard had a long run as the best in this sport and he's told me how wonderful it is to be there, so we're trying. I think everyone in this sport is trying. I don't think that's a bad thing. I think when the Bulls won six in a row that there were teams lining up to beat them. I don't think it hurt their ticket sales or their revenue potential because the Bulls were what they were. I think the bar is set high. They're wonderful champions. I know when one of our cars finishes in front of one of his cars that we've had a wonderful effort, and I think that's what we're focused on."
IS THERE A NON-COMPETE? "That's a contractual, private matter and we're gonna keep it there."
THERE IS A PERCEPTION ON THE OUTSIDE THAT YOU HAVE NO DRIVERS AND NO SPONSORS LINED UP FOR 2011, AND ONLY ONE CURRENT DRIVER IN THE TOP 20. WHAT GIVES YOU THE CONFIDENCE THAT YOU CAN OVERCOME THE HURDLES AND GET DRIVERS AND SPONSORS SIGNED FOR NEXT YEAR? "I think, first of all, because I believe in our management staff and myself to go out and achieve what we want to. That's why we go to work everyday. I think contracts expire for sponsors and drivers and employees. I think that's part of any sport or business. We're not ashamed by that. That's the way that it is. When I was looking at Dodge going bankrupt and the damage that potentially was going to do for our organization as far as something simple like getting a part or a piece - and what we accomplished during that period - I think hardship has galvanized our group and I think we look at this as opportunity. We've been through worse and we're excited about what we can do. We're a four-car team in this sport. We have more sponsorship this year than we had last year. I think in the middle of the summer last year, you were probably saying the same thing about our company. You know what? We're still here. We're still sponsored. We still have drivers. We're still competing for victories, so we've thrived and survived through what we went through last year and we're gonna do it again."
-source: ford racing