Texas Motor Speedway Nextel Wake-Up Call with Troy Aikman, Owner Hall of Fame Racing, No. 96 DLPHGTV Monte Carlo SS AIKMAN: Terry did for us exactly what we hoped he would do which was to put us in the top 35 in points and give Tony Raines an...
Texas Motor Speedway
Nextel Wake-Up Call with Troy Aikman, Owner Hall of Fame Racing, No. 96
DLPHGTV Monte Carlo SS
Terry did for us exactly what we hoped he would do which was to put us in the top 35 in points and give Tony Raines an opportunity to come in and not have to focus so much on qualifying. But to just focus on getting the car setup and ready to go on Sunday which was exactly what he was able to do last week. We qualified 12th and finished 21st. Now at 29th in the standings, it makes another good week for Tony to focus on what he needs to do and our crew needs to do to get the car ready for Sunday. And then it being his second race, I know he is excited about it and slowly working a little bit of the rust off. I know this track should setup a little bit better for his driving abilities as opposed to last week there at Martinsville.
ON TEAM OWNERS AND SPONSORS BEING FROM DALLAS
"We talked about both Roger (Staubach) and me being from Dallas, our sponsor Texas Instruments and DLP is based in Dallas. We have been very fortunate. We made an announcement three years ago that we wanted to get into NASCAR as owners. We were very diligent about how we were going to go about that process. We met with a number of sponsors, many of whom wanted to get involved with our team but we didn't feel it was a good fit or we feel we were going to be properly funded to give ourselves the opportunity to go out and have some success. Then TI and DLP got behind us. It is obviously a good fit from our standpoint because of the fact they are from Dallas, they have a great product and have been tremendous sponsors for us so far. Everyone in NASCAR would recognize the financial commitment they have made, not only to us, but what they have done in advertising during the broadcasts themselves. We couldn't be happier from that standpoint. The rest of it, as far as us going to be able to go out and compete each week. It is nice knowing that we are going to have the proper funds in order to race as we get toward the end of the season. Of course, it is still early.
"We took a trip to Charlotte about 2 1/2 years ago with our other partners and our first stop was Joe Gibbs Racing. Once we got to his headquarters, it didn't take long to recognize why startup teams have such a difficult time competing at the highest level. It was a very eye opening and humbling trip for us but it made us realize that if we were going to do any good at this sport, we were going to really need some help. That is when we started looking at potential multi-car owners as far as aligning ourselves with them to give ourselves an opportunity. I believe that with DLP as a sponsor, being well funded and in addition to that, having an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, has given us a little bit of an advantage over some of the other startup teams in recent years."
COMPARISON OF NFL ROOKIE SEASON TO NASCAR ROOKIE SEASON
"We have been a lot more successful than I was as a rookie. We were one and 15 and what a lot of people fail to realize is that I didn't even win the one game we did win that year, I was zero and 11 as a starter. During that season, there were a few games, not a lot of them, where I felt I played very well and well enough for out team to win only to lose late in ballgames. What I learned from that experience as a rookie in the NFL was that it is very difficult to win in the NFL whether you are talented or not. I think there is crossover into NASCAR with that same principle. Even when you have the most talented driver and the most talented of crews, it is still difficult to win at this level. . I believe that if people had told us that after five races, we would be positioned where we were going into last weekend, I think we all would have taken that. Certainly after six races, by no means have we arrived and by no means is this an overwhelming success, but I do think we have had success, that we are on the right path and that we are going to continue to get better. I mentioned Terry Labonte earlier and what he meant to our team in those first five races. Now Tony Raines gets an opportunity to show what he is capable of doing and last week, even though it was the sixth race, it was his first race and he hadn't raced in quite some time, it is going to take a little bit of time for him to get accustomed to being in the car, out on the track and working with Felipe Lopez and the rest of our crew but I know Tony views this as a tremendous opportunity and we are excited about him showing us what he is capable of doing."
HOW MUCH OF A LEARNING EXPERIENCE WERE THE FIRST FIVE RACES? DID YOU EVER THINK EVERY QUESTION YOU WERE ASKED WOULD CONTAIN NASCAR?
"I didn't anticipate that prior to getting into the sport. It has been a learning curve, there is no question about that. I said before that I followed the sport for a number of years, but I would say that I probably followed it passively. Then once we decided we were going to be owners of a car, I then started to take more of an interest as far as what I needed to know.
Once we got the sponsorship, then that level of commitment was obviously accelerated. I have learned a lot here over the last couple of months. What I try to do, which is what I try to do in some other ventures that I am involved in, is to go into it and not think that I have all the answers. There is no reason for me to think that I have all the answers. I talk to as many people as I can and I am fortunate that most people are at least willing to talk to me and tell me what it is that I don't know. When I visit with various people like Rick Hendrick or Joe Gibbs, with Tony Stewart and various people, although those conversations many times are very brief, I am able to gain a little insight about different things. Then you go back and find out how your own team is handling certain things. It is an ever-evolving process. I am sure that Jack Roush and the other owners that have been in this a long time would probably tell you that they are continuing to gather information as well to get better. But they do have a little more information that what we have got. That is what makes it fun for us, what makes it challenging. That is what is exciting for me. I learn things everyday in the football world and that is my life. To get into something different where I am such an infant in the process is exciting and every day talking with Felipe, Tony Raines, Terry Labonte, has helped me learn more about the sport. The more you learn about these cars, the more fascinating it becomes and the more appreciation you have for the people who are involved, especially the drivers, and what they do while they are in those cars."
IF THE SITUATION WOULD EVOLVE, COULD YOU SEE YOURSELF HIRING A VERY CONTROVERSIAL BUT VERY TALENTED DRIVER FOR YOUR TEAM?
"That is a great question. It is somewhat difficult for me to answer because I don't know the drivers as well as I know the football players. I will tell you this, my philosophy is that I would much rather have a less talented player, but someone who is a team guy, who worked hard, who knew what team was all about, I was fortunate enough to play with those guys and that is one of the big reasons we were able to win three world championships during the 12 years that I played. I don't think talented players alone win anything for you, especially selfish, talented players. Some of the drivers I know that are somewhat controversial, as someone new to the sport, it seems to me and I don't want to speak out of turn, I kind of like it. I kind of like the intensity, I like the aggressiveness of these guys.
When you are racing at those speed and literally have your life on the line when you are going around that track, I was somewhat of a hot tempered guy when I played, I can imagine those guys getting pretty hot tempered especially when you go from second place, and all of a sudden one mistake, you get knocked back to 12th or 15th. I don't see it necessarily as a negative for the sport. I see it that it creates a little bit of excitement for the fans, it certainly gets me excited when I see some of that stuff. It seems anyway, but you know better than I, but I say that because it seems to me, that once that is all done, these drivers have great respect for one another and I think that is the difference. In this sport it appears that even though there is some heated competition among some of these drivers, there is an underlying respect. To be more specific with your question, I like aggressive people. I like talented guys that play to win and don't worry about losing. To put it in NASCAR terms, I like drivers that drive to win as opposed to drivers that just driving to finish. So if having a guy like that means occasionally this guy is a little bit high maintenance, so be it as long as he understands the team concept. Now if we have problems in the garage and within crew chiefs and crew, now that is a problem and I don't know that I would be real tolerant of that. There is a driver that comes to mind that I am a big fan of, I know he has had some things said about him but I think he is tremendously talented and I enjoy watching him drive each and every Sunday and that is Tony Stewart.
WHEN THEY WERE BUILDING TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY DID YOU EVER THINK IT WOULD GROW TO BE THE FACILITY THAT IT IS TODAY?
"I don't know that anyone really knew what to expect. I was discussing yesterday this being the 10th year for the speedway, I was out here for the inaugural race. I had a Legends car at one time and raced it a few times and had a charity event around that first race. Some teammates of mine raced. Bill Bates put me up into the wall, which was a lot of fun. You watch how this thing has grown. I know that they had some track issues early on with some water seepage and such, I just think it is such a tremendous venue. It seems to me that people really do enjoy coming here. I know the fans do, you don't have to look around very far to see it. I know you guys get a chance to see it every weekend and now I am getting a chance to see it, I know that prior to becoming an owner and you drive out here and see the masses of people in anywhere from million dollar RVs, I guess I should say buses instead of RVs, on down to tents, it is amazing that this sport has really captured the imagination of racing fan and I think it is terrific.
Eddie Gossage, Bruton Smith and everyone that is involved has done a terrific job out here. I am glad they have got it. I am very proud of being in Dallas, this is my home. When you look at the various sport franchises that are here and combine those with NASCAR, it really offers the sports fan in this market, everything they could possibly want."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE PRESSURE TONY RAINES IS FEELING BEING WITH THIS TEAM IN TEXAS? DID YOU GUYS EVER GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CARB ISSUE AT DAYTONA?
"I haven't talked to Tony specifically about this race yet, but I intend to, but I have seen his comments about this race and you are right and accurate in how you presented the question about the pressure. I do think he is feeling some pressure. I hope that at some point between now and when he starts that race on Sunday that I can alleviate some of that pressure. I don't know that I will be able to completely. This really is just another race. At the risk of sounding like as a cliche, it really is true. I don't know that we are going to get anymore or any less coverage being here at TMS than we have gotten anywhere else we have been. If we are running out front, we are going to get a lot of coverage, if we are running in the back, we aren't going to get as much coverage. There are some story lines yesterday and today as we move through it. There are going to be a few more people because of the fact we do live here and our sponsor is based here. I really hate for Tony to put undue pressure on himself or for him to think he has to do something more than he is capable of doing right now. I know as a former professional athlete, as soon as you start putting pressure on yourself and force the issue and try to do too much, then you aren't going to be very successful. I think it is extremely important for Tony to understand that and to go out and drive the car the best way that he can and not try to over compensate for anything.
"As far as the Daytona situation, I was hoping someone here had figured it out for us and have an answer as to what happened because, I don't know. As I said at the time, it is very frustrating, I don't understand it, and I don't think I ever will understand it. And having said that, we have just said, hey, it is what it is and lets move on. That is what we have tried to do. If NASCAR was trying to send a message to us, we got it loud and clear. If they weren't and they felt that is the appropriate fine, then that is something I won't ever comprehend."
WHY DID YOU GET INVOVLED AS A TEAM OWNER AND WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
"I saw it as an opportunity to get involved at the ownership level in a sport in a sport that I appreciated and had great respect for and a sport that is continuing to grow in popularity and saw a lot of great things on the horizon for it. In addition to that, I thought we could assemble a team that we could be competitive.
"As far as where we see ourselves going, as I said a little bit earlier, right now we are a sister tea, for lack of a better term, to Joe Gibbs Racing. That is how Joe got started in the beginning with Rick Hendrick. In three years, I would like to say that our goal is that we would be a stand-alone team. If we are able to do that, I think that would show signs of progress and success on our part because if we aren't doing that, that means we are not having the success we had hoped to have over the course of the first few years. I hope that five years from now that I am able to be talking about our team and our car. That is where we would want to be as well. We didn't' get in this for just a year or two. We hope we are able to have success, to get better and continue to grow and run a multi-car operation like some of these other successful team owners."