Wood Brothers/JTG Racing announced today that starting in 2006 Ken Schrader will drive the famed No. 21 Ford and that Little Debbie will join the team as a new sponsor for 18 races. Schrader takes over for Ricky Rudd, who last week announced that...
Wood Brothers/JTG Racing announced today that starting in 2006 Ken Schrader will drive the famed No. 21 Ford and that Little Debbie will join the team as a new sponsor for 18 races. Schrader takes over for Ricky Rudd, who last week announced that he was pulling back from fulltime commitments to the series after not missing a race in the last 25 years. Team co-owner Eddie Wood, Schrader, ST Motorsports owner Tad Geshickter, and McKee Foods (Little Debbie) CEO Jack McKee participated in a press conference this morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
ON THE MERGER OF WOOD BROTHERS AND ST MOTORSPORTS (ANNOUNCED IN AUGUST), AND HOW THE NEW SPONSOR WILL BENEFIT ALL THE SPONSORS AT ALL THE LEVELS OF THIS ORGANIZATION.
TAD GESHICKTER -- owner ST Motorsports (Wood Brothers/JTG Racing): "Obviously, the merger is creating great scale within our racing organization, with truck teams and Busch teams and Cup teams. More than that, we have great synergy between the sponsors, the grocery sponsors, in all of those different divisions. The sponsors will be able to share costs on grocery promotions, retailers will be able to promote across multiple aisles in their store, and we can't be remiss in thanking, also, our partners in the Air Force and Ford Motor Company. It's just a great group of synergistic sponsors, and we're looking forward to helping them drive their business to a new level."
WITH KINGSFORD, YOU HAVE THE LONGEST-RUNNING SPONSOR IN THE BUSCH SERIES.
TAD GESHICKTER: "It's all about selling cases."
HOW WILL THIS MERGER HELP THE ON-TRACK PERFORMANCE OF THIS ORGANIZATION?
MICHAEL MCSWAIN -- crew chief, No. 21 Taurus: "Like everyone else in the sport, we're trying to look toward the future. We've got stability in our Cup program right now, and adding more stability with Kenny. We want to see the youth from the driver standpoint and from the crew standpoint grow within our own company, so we don't have to go out and search for guys and develop tire guys and tire changers. We want to try to build an organization where we can develop that in-house and give someone an opportunity to work somewhere their whole career."
ON JOINING ONE OF THE WINNINGEST TEAMS IN THE SPORT'S HISTORY.
KEN SCHRADER -- 2006 driver, No. 21 Ford Fusion: "I've always been a huge fan of the 21 car and the Wood Brothers, and felt like I got to know them quite a bit when I first started back in '84 and '85 -- I drove a Ford for the first four years that I raced in the series, with Elmo Langley and Mr. Donleavy. And, obviously, I got to know the Woods then because we ran all their old parts, is what we ran then. It's just a great honor to drive the car. We talked about doing it three years ago, but I was too old then, so to get the chance now, I'm really thrilled."
YOUR BOYHOOD HERO WAS?
KEN SCHRADER: "David Pearson, for sure. He always was. He still is."
YOU HAD TALKED ABOUT RETIREMENT FROM CUP RACING AFTER 2006. DOES TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT CHANGE THAT?
KEN SCHRADER: "When we announced the Schwan's sponsorship, it was three years, and you just thought that would be it. When we first talked to Eddie he asked about the possibility of going farther, but signing a one-year deal, and I said, 'Well, is it next year?' And he said it was for '06, and I said, 'Well, that's the year I'm really worried about right now.'
"So, we'll just have to see how it goes right now. My goal is to get Little Debbie and Motorcraft and Air Force and the car good enough, running like it already has run, and just keep it up there, and who knows how long we'll go?" SO THE DOOR'S OPEN?
"Oh, yeah. I'm not going to shut doors to races, that's for sure."
THIS ORGANZATION WILL RUN ACROSS THE THREE MAJOR SERIES, AND YOU WILL BE MENTORING QUITE A NUMBER OF YOUNG DRIVERS.
KEN SCHRADER: "Jon's [Wood] been running the Busch Series for quite a while now, and he's close to getting ready to go up. It's fun, that's something we've always done. We've done that a lot at Schrader Racing, with our own cars, putting kids for ARCA races and every now and then a Truck race, and that's something I enjoy to do. I like to run against them, and when they get really where it's hard to out-run 'em, then you know it's time to cut 'em loose. But, yeah, that's fun and that's a part of the job I'm looking forward to."
PLEASE GIVE US A RUNDOWN ON WHAT BROUGHT LITTLE DEBBIE TO NASCAR?
JACK McKEE -- CEO of McKee Foods: "As most of the people here know, NASCAR is the best in the world -- it's got the best drivers, the best teams and the best consumer brands in the world. The NASCAR fans are great, great fans and we know that NASCAR fans are Little Debbie fans."
THIS IS THE COMPANY'S FIRST VENTURE INTO RACING, BUT NOT YOUR FIRST VENTURE INTO RACING.
JACK McKEE: "I've always been interested in racing since I was a child, and my first car was a 1954 Ford. It was a used car and I drove that Ford to a drag strip in town, and won first place in my class, so I've been interested in racing ever since."
ON HIS FIRST NASCAR RACE.
JACK McKEE: "My first NASCAR race was Daytona 1963. Tiny Lund won the race in 1963, driving what? A Wood Brothers car, in a Ford, in 1963. So, I've always been a fan of NASCAR since the '60s. The Wood Brothers have such a long history of winning and such a successful team, you combine that with a driver like Ken Schrader, we just think it's a great opportunity for McKee and Little Debbie."
LITTLE DEBBIE IS NOT AN ARTIST'S CREATINN. THERE IS A REAL LITTLE DEBBIE.
JACK McKEE: "There is a real Little Debbie. She's my neice and she serves on our Board of Directors. Back in 1960 my father was talking to a packing salesman and the packaging salesman suggested that Dad name his new line of multi-pack snack cakes Little Debbie, after his granddaughter, Debbie. And Debbie grandmother had a picture, that picture became the trademark and the rest is snack-cake history."
ON THE MERGER AND THE ANNOUNCEMENT.
EDDIE WOOD -- co-owner, Wood Brothers Racing: "First of all, I think this is about the coolest thing that ever happened to us since we've been racing. We've been around a long, long time. Every sponsor we have involved with us is multi-generation and been around at least 50 years. The Little Debbie people have been around 50 years. We've been around 55 years, I'd say. Ford Motor Company, over 100. And the United States Air Force, I think they were started in the late '40s, early '50s. So, we've got a lot of tradition and a lot of history involved within our race team, and we've joined with Tad and Jodi and form this other company. And just look forward to making things better for everybody. I see the Little Debbie people have got a lot of innovative experience themselves, in that they made the snack cake, the snack box thing. We knid of get credit for the pit-stop stuff, and I'm not sure that that's duly warranted but we do, I'm really proud of that, but I'm just really proud of everything we've put together. I'm proud of Tad. He put went and put all this deal together. I want to thank Kenny for coming on board with us.
"And I thank Jack for being here. Thank Fatback for staying with us and making all this stuff work. And Ford Motor Company. Everybody. I see a thousand people in here I should thank, but I want everyone to know I thank all of you, and we're going to go racing."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO YOU THAT MICHAEL MCSWAIN WAS STAYING WITH THIS TEAM, ESPECIALLY WITH HOW MUCH HE HAS DONE WITH THIS CAR?
KENNY SCHRADER: "The 21 was like a dream ride from the get-go, though, but to see how they've run since Michael came on, and then what's probably the neatest part, now with the association with Tad and what they're plans are. Still, it was a single-car team, kind of on an island, to some extent, and they realize that, too, and then they made the steps to grow the whole operation. And I think that and, obviously, Michael, having the experience there were the key things."
WILL THE SPONSORSHIP BE EXTENDED TO THE BUSCH AND TRUCK LEVELS, TOO?
JACK McKEE: "At this time, we just have a one-year contract and we're looking to sponsor this one car. Not planning anything at this time to go to the other series."
CAN YOU OFFER AN UPDATE ON THE STRUCTURE OF THE NEW ORGANIZATION, AND WHERE DOES JON WOOD FIT INTO THIS?
EDDIE WOOD: "What we've got in place now is for Kenny to drive the 21 next year. Jon is going to drive the 47 Clorox car and Stacy Compton is going to drive the 59 Kingsford car, and the two trucks are going to be driven by Marcos Ambrose and Bobby East. That's the driver lineup right now. We plan to run Jon in seven races in a second Cup team, second team separate from the 21, next year. We won't run ore than seven so he stays eligible for the rookie things when he goes fulltime in Cup. But, right now we're just trying to get all that stuff sorted out. This whole deal we've put together was scattered all over the United States and within 48 hours it come together. And so we just now got it kind of all in one little pile here and we're trying to figure out what the next step is. Everything so far looks like Jon will probably go fulltime in Cup in '07."
HOW DO THE NEW TESTING RULES AFFECT YOUR ORGANIZATION?
MICHAEL MCSWAIN: "At first I was a little worried about the new testing policy and the rookie situation. We were in a meeting yesterday with the Truck series and they're actually going to add some more practice for the rookies, so they can get a little more time. Your always at a disadvantage as a rookie in any of three premier divisions. We'll do our best to get 'em all the track time we can, whether it's at the particular track or at one of the other tracks. Along with Kenny, that's a big plus when you're talking about rookie drivers."
TO TAKE IT ONE STEP FURTHER, YOU'RE A ONE- OR TWO-CAR CUP TEAM VERSUS A FIVE-CAR OPERATION THAT ROUSH HAS. HE HAS FIVE CARS TESTING AT THE SAME TRACKS YOU DO, SO HE'S GOT FIVE TIMES THE POSSIBLE INFORMATION. HOW DO YOU COMBAT THAT?
MICHAEL MCSWAIN: "The best scenario I can give and I gave this scenario to someone earlier today: When you leave here and walk through the garage area, if you look on one side of me, there's an owner with two Cup cars and one or two Busch cars. A couple cars down from me, lower in points is what I mean, is an owner with three teams.
"On the other side of me is an owner with three Cup cars, two Busch cars and I don't know how many trucks. I think as long as you got the guts to do it and you're willing to work, anything in this world is possible, especially in this sport."
WILL MARCOS AMBROSE HAVE A SUPERSPEEDWAY LICENSE RIGHT AWAY?
TAD GESCHICKTER: "Marcos signed his agreement two days ago. We're starting that process with NASCAR. We got a chance to test with Marcos at several different-size tracks this summer, so while it may take us a while to get him to where he can drive that truck each and every week in NASCAR's eyes, we're tremendously impressed with his abilities to come up to speed, and we're really excited about him and Bobby East."
WHAT HAS RICKY RUDD MEANT TO THE WOOD BROTHERS?
EDDIE WOOD: "Having Ricky with us fits in with the long list of drivers we've had over the years. I really hate to see him retire -- I'm not even going to use that word, retire. Ricky's going to take some time off, because I don't think you've seen the last of Ricky Rudd yet. It's sad to know that he's going to drive probably his last race in our car this weekend. If you walk by our car, everybody on our team, everybody in the shop, everybody signed the hood, just to say goodbye, for now. And you might want to check the decklid out, it's pretty cool, too. We're going to give Ricky the decklid and the hood after the race, hopefully it'll be in one piece. If it's not, we'll make a duplicate. The back-up's got it on it, too. Like I said, I'm going to miss him, as well as Fatback and Len and everybody. But I wish him well, but like I said, I don't think you've seen the last of him yet."