Toyota press conference, part I

Toyota NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Teams Press Conference Nov. 14, 2003 PARTICIPANTS: Jim Aust - Motorsports Vice President, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. President and CEO, Toyota Racing Development U.S.A. Les Unger - National Motorsports...

Toyota NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Teams Press Conference
Nov. 14, 2003

Jim Aust - Motorsports Vice President, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. President and CEO, Toyota Racing Development U.S.A.
Les Unger - National Motorsports Manager, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
Lee White - Group VP and GM, Toyota Racing Development U.S.A.
Alex Meshkin - Owner and CEO of Bang Racing
Larry McReynolds - VP of Bang Racing
George deBidart - Owner, Innovative Motorsports, Inc.
Mike Brown - GM of Bill Davis Racing
Darrell Waltrip - Owner of Waltrip Racing Inc.

Part 1 of 2

Les Unger:
Welcome everyone. The subject we'll be covering today is probably the worst kept secret in NASCAR racing. We're happy you could all join us this morning. We have some individuals here we'd like to introduce. The first individual I'd like to introduce is the vice president of Motorsports, and also the president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development - Jim Aust - who is to my left. Starting down on the far right-hand side of the podium, the owner of Bang Racing, Alex Meshkin. Also, the vice president of Bang Racing, Larry McReynolds. The owner of Innovative Motorsports, George deBidart. The general manager of Bill Davis Racing, Mike Brown. And... I don't know about this guy on the end. The owner of Waltrip Racing, Darrell Waltrip. I'd like to turn it over to Jim [Aust], and then we'll go down the table [for comments from each participant.]

Jim Aust:
Thanks Les... and I want to thank everyone for coming today... We've come full circle here in Florida since we made our announcement at Daytona back in February that we would be entering the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004.

We are proud to be here today with these five gentlemen, representing four separate teams, to begin the next step of our road to Daytona...

Since our announcement in early February ... a lot has happened in the progress of our program, and it hasn't all been easy. We made numerous sheet metal and aerodynamic changes to our truck, and we have designed and build our NASCAR-spec Tundra Racing V8 engine. The engine coming one year after we began the design from a clean sheet of paper. We're happy to say that the Tundra began its first track testing in August after being submitted to NASCAR.

Also over that time... more than 80 legitimate inquiries came in to us from prospective teams. Inquiries and proposals were received by teams in Winston Cup, Busch, and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Plus from newly formed teams. Over the past several months... we made more than 30 visits to prospective teams and their facilities... We took a very deliberate and methodical approach in looking for partners in which we could build relationships and which also had the same goals and determination as Toyota. We eventually sent out "Request for Proposals" to approximately 16 organizations.

As it turned out... all four of the teams that will be racing the Tundra next year are new to the Craftsman Truck Series... However... they all bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the program that will invaluable to us as a newcomer to the series.

Our goal from a racing perspective for next year... and the years that follow... will be to provide the Toyota teams with equally competitive Tundra trucks and engines so that they can do what they do best... compete on the track.

Additionally, we will be bringing an approach that we have refined over the last few years with our successful open-wheel programs... The basic philosophy is to provide technical and engineering support equally among all the teams ... both in the shop and at the track... ... Each Tundra truck and engine will have the benefit of the latest NASCAR-approved updates and improvements. Bill Davis Racing will assist TRD in the process.

From a marketing and advertising standpoint... Toyota plans on supporting the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series like we have in the other series in which we participate... In fact... we have already started this year with our ads on SPEED Channel ... Toyota will also be sponsoring the "Toyota Tundra 200" Craftsman Truck Series race at Nashville Speedway next August... We hope to do our part in helping the series grow in popularity and prestige, as well.

One of the ways we will help do that is to sponsor two of the Tundras that will be racing in 2004... Toyota branding will be featured on the No. 12 Innovative Motorsports Tundra driven by Robert Huffman... who won the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series championship this year in a Toyota Celica... and the No. 42 Bang Motorsports Tundra driven by Mike Skinner.

We are also very pleased that Darrell Waltrip - Mr. "Boogidy-boogidy-boogidy - will be featured as Toyota's NASCAR spokesperson in broadcast and print advertising beginning in January 2004.

Toyota... and its 100,000-plus employees at offices... manufacturing plants... and dealerships across the country... are excited to be a part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series... and we're looking forward to the first race at Daytona next February.

And there's no doubt in my mind that these guys are ready. Thank you very much...

Les Unger:
Thanks Jim. As I indicated earlier, let's go down the row here and get comments from each of our team owners beginning with Alex...

Alex Meshkin:
Thank you. It's a real dream to be a part of the NASCAR circuit, and it's such an honor to have been chosen by an organization such as Toyota. They {used to successful racing}, and we expect to be competitive as a start-up operation next year with Mike Skinner, the first champion in the truck series driving for a start-up team with Larry McReynolds. We're all very excited and looking forward to it.

Larry McReynolds:
You know, when Alex approached me back in May about being a part of Bang Racing I wasn't real sure what to do because I don't think I ever lost that competitive spirit stepping off that pit box back in Atlanta back in 2000 as the crew chief for Mike Skinner. But when Alex approached me I saw his dedication and commitment to put together a winning racing operation. And then when we made out trip to Costa Mesa, Calif., to TRD to meet with Lee [White], Gary Reed and Pat Wall, I saw the commitment that these people are making to the Craftsman Truck Series, from my standpoint it was kind of a "no brainer." To be able to put a deal together for Mike Skinner and a second team, which we're going to announce a driver in the near future. It was a challenge that I just couldn't turn down. And the only thing I can say probably in about June [2004] when D.W. and I cannot be at the races, it will be pretty interesting in the motor coach on Saturday night when we're in there together watching the truck races. To be a part of this group up here - Bill Davis Racing, Innovative Motorsports, Darrell Waltrip Racing - I think we're all going to give you guys a lot to write about and talk about in 2004. And hopefully, the greatest problem we'll have is when we get back here in about a year from now, which one of these groups we'll be crowning champion on Friday afternoon. Thank you...

George deBidart:
Good morning everybody. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to become a member of both Toyota and TRD. We were very fortunate to be chosen as one of the teams that are going to be able to fly the TRD and Toyota marks next season. We look forward to it. It will be the first time in my career as a team owner that I'm going to be able to roll into the garage area with the same amount of ammunition as the people I go to war with every weekend. And I'm kind of looking forward to that one. These guys are a first-class operation, and I feel very, very fortunate to be a part of it. We've got Robert Huffman driving the No. 12 truck, which we're really happy about. We're looking forward to doing some testing with Robert. We signed Hank Parker Jr. to drive our second truck, which will be the No. 21. We're just chomping at the bit to get started. I'd also like to say that I'm proud to be involved with this group of guys up here. Folks that I've done business with and competed against for the last several years in the business. I've got to compare with what Larry [McReynolds] was saying up here, we're going to be some people's worst nightmare when we start rolling on the race track, so I'm looking forward to it.

Mike Brown:
Thanks. First of all, Bill Davis sends his regrets that he couldn't be here today. As all these guys have said, we're excited about our opportunity to team with Toyota. This stable is full of Winston Cup champions, winning crew chiefs, winning teams. It bodes well for the truck series that we're bringing seven new teams to the series. It will be a bright future for the truck series. It should be exciting. You'll find that not only will it be very competitive with the experience that we have. As far as Bill Davis Racing is concerned, we're very close to securing our sponsorship packages for our two trucks. We'll be making some announcements there about sponsors and drivers in the very near future. I'm very excited. I think it's something that we really didn't expect to be racing trucks in 2004. We had some situations that lended itself and allowed us to do this. We're very excited about our part in this.

Darrell Waltrip:
Good morning everybody. I guess you just have to be careful what you ask for. I have a tendency to have my opinion about things, and I always thought that I learned my lesions as an owner. And I always tell people where I look back and I see where I made a lot of mistakes. And so these guys [Toyota] came along and said we're going to be able to help you take advantage of that. And I talked to them first of all about being a spokesperson for their program. I thought that was a natural place for me to go, and in the process - having worked with Bobby Kennedy over at Michael's [Waltrip] on the three truck races we did this year - I really grew very fond of Bobby. And as I talked to the Toyota guys about next year, I said man... Larry's [McReynolds] got a truck... Hey, I wish I had a truck! [Laughter] And so, guess what... we have a truck! And what I'm really excited about is that we have Michael Kranfuss' shop there in Concord that Bobby's feverishly working on right now to staff and get equipped. But what I'm most proud of is our driver. Where is David? There he is. You can't hide. You got to stand up here. We're so proud to have David Ruddamin as our driver. We just made a deal with him this week. I think he's one of the fine young superstars of our sport of the future... a great young man. A lot of you might remember his father Buzzy. I remember his father because I think we probably rubbed fenders together somewhere or another a long time ago. I told Buzzy that I was glad that he was going to come along every week, because I need someone I can talk to that will listen to me [laughter]. Us older guys seem to be able to do that. My dad used to sit on top of the truck, and he'd tell me how great everybody else was doing and how sorry I was [laughter]. So it's good to have a father involved in the program as well.

The truck will be No. 17... and I do have some heritage with the series. If you'll remember the Die Hard truck with Rich Bickle, we almost won the championship in '97. Finished second. Won a number of races. Won a number of poles. And I'm so excited to be in the truck series as an owner, and I in addition will drive the three races that my "rope" is long enough to let me race [laughter]. You see I have a rope around my neck, and it'll only go out so far. And how far it goes is how big a track I can drive. Right now there's two, but I don't know about [Mansville]... I haven't seen that one yet, but maybe there's three or four. Anyway, I'm really pleased to be a part of this whole thing... we're really working on Stevie [Waltrip] on that project. We've gotta convince her to give me more rope!

Part II


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Rich Bickle , Darrell Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Hank Parker Jr. , Mike Brown , Robert Huffman , Bobby Kennedy
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Toyota Racing , CIP