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 2 of 2
And he's trying to convince me how I can spot for him and still be a part of these other two trucks! [Laughter]
We'll work it out.... Anyway, it's gonna be a lot of fun. These guys over here [Toyota and TRD]... Lee [White] and all these guys that have been working on the engine stuff. When I went to California, like Larry said, TRD - I walked in and saw the way they do things and the way they prepare for this series - I was blow away. And I'm really excited about what were going to be able to do next year in the truck series.
Thank you Darrell. Before we open it up to questions, there are two other individuals that a lot of you know that have been, and continue to be very instrumental in our NASCAR Craftsman Truck program. To my left, the group vice president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development - Lee White. And the other individual standing near the door next to Greg Thome, that is Pat Wall. Both of these individuals have played an integral part, a very important part, of the entire program prior to today and on into the future. I wanted to make sure they receive the accolades that they are due.
Right now, I'd like to open it up to any questions any members of the media may have for any of these gentlemen, myself included.
What was the nature of the test this week in Daytona?
That was a TRD test conducted by our Tundra Race Truck Center engineers with Joe Ruttman driving. Joe is over here... take a bow Joe [laughter]. Joe has been helping us from the beginning with our on-track testing. And in fact he's helped us long before that. He came to a lot of our wind-tunnel tests and offered at least a dollars worth of advice every time we were in the wind tunnel. It was a big help with his vast experience. Joe will continue to be out test driver for the TRD Tundra Truck center in High Point, N.C. That [Daytona] was a TRD test... it was done by Joe. I will tell you that the first on-track test with the TRD-from-scratch racing engine [Tundra Racing V8] will be here [Homestead-Miami Speedway on Monday and Tuesday.
With your motor?
That's correct. Our final approval came through... Is Wayne Auton here? There's Wayne. Another guy we need to acknowledge is Wayne Auton who is the NASCAR director of the truck series. Jim Cassidy is in the back. These guys have been a great help for us. Pat [Wall] and I have probably spent more time - invited and uninvited - than anybody in the 'big red truck' [NASCAR administrative trailer] at the truck events discussing how to get this whole program together. And those guys have been a huge amount of help for us.
Lee, that's the way you handle these guys right there. You did it just perfectly [laughter].
The obvious question is 'What's next?' What comes after trucks? Is [Nextel] Cup in the future? How long? What's the plan?
I guess the first thing is we've got to find out if we can do a good job here [in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series]. We've had a great start with these gentlemen represented here today.
Obviously, we've looked down the road. At this particular point in time, we've got our hands full with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and also with our continued participation in the Indy Racing League. So that decision has not been made at this point. And I honestly can't tell you when that might happen. It's something that is on the horizon, and something that we'll continue to be looking at. It's years down the road is the best thing that I can tell you at this point.
This question's for George [deBidart]. George, we've followed this year your struggles with sponsorship and drivers situations you've had presented to you. How nice... you've talked about going and being competitive at the racetrack, but as an owner of a team and you have a bunch of families in it... how comforting is this now to finally have something to hook you teeth into?
It's comforting in a lot of ways. Financially, it's going to be an advantage for me to sit back and know that I've got some support from an organization like Toyota and TRD. And based on that support, we got some people working on some sponsors that we can announce shortly. But it's more important for me to keep the rest of the butt I've got because my wife's been tearing it up for the last few years, you know, spending all the money I've been spending. I'm looking forward to that and going forward.
How would you guys gauge the reaction to Toyota coming into NASCAR, whether it's the fans, the series or the fellow competitors?
It's been mixed. Obviously, there's a lot of enthusiasm coming from the fans and spectators, and obviously the sanctioning body. There've been some negative responses as well, but it's not something that we're surprised at. I think it's probably difficult to warm up to a new face. We the first new entry in NASCAR since I think it started back in the late '40s. By the same token, with the teams that we have up here, and the drivers that are going to hit the track... and the fact that all of these teams will be additions to the Craftsman Truck Series. With the advertising support and the promotional support that Toyota is going to bring - and has already started to bring - I know it's going to be a win-win deal for everybody involved. It will certainly make for some more exciting racing on the track, and that's what it's all about.
Has there been any area that has been tougher... was it easier in Southern California... as far as the response to Toyota coming into the Craftsman Truck Series?
I don't think there's any particular region of the country that we've been able to determine that is more positive or less positive than the other. The truck series is such a national series, probably the most 'national' of all of the top series that NASCAR is involved with, I think the response has been pretty uniform regardless what part of the country you're talking about.
Darrell... just from a media standpoint. Here you are, going to be a spokesman for Toyota, and an analyst on FOX broadcasts. And clearly, you and Larry [McReynolds] both will have a vested interest in Toyota's success in motorsports. Even thought you don't... on FOX news - SPEED Channel does trucks and you don't do it - you'll be talking about the truck series. Do you think that there's a conflict there, that there's a fairness issue there... that it will be something you'll deal with?
David... I am a trained professional. [Laughter] I walk the line every time I go into the booth... every time I go into the garage, really. [more laughter]. You know, I've been accused of that with my brother. I tell you this, we don't make this stuff up... If those Toyota trucks are up front running well, that's the story. Just like when Dodge came back and they were up front, that was the story. We just call it like we see 'em. Now I'm honest when I tell you that, sure. I'm gonna be watching David... I'll be bitin' my nails when he's doing this. Larry [McReynolds] is too. We know we can't oversell that aspect of what we do. So I'm purely and simply in this situation because I love the truck series. I always have. I believe in it. I think it's a fun series. It reminds me of Saturday night racing. I went to Irwindale [Speedway in Calif.] this past weekend [for the Toyota All-Star Showdown]. I don't know if you've been out to Irwindale or not, but I saw some of the best racing I've seen in my life out there last Saturday night. Thanks to these folks [from Toyota]. Sure, we have a vested interest, but we know where the line is. And we have plenty of people in our ear telling us if we go over. I hope that answers your question.
Jim, can you give us an idea of the financial investment involved in all this?
Well, I'd like to but then you'd know the rest of the story. [Laughter] Certainly like I mentioned before, we're going to be sponsoring two trucks... the No. 12 truck and the No. 42 truck. And we'll be providing some additional sponsorship for the rest of the teams here, which includes the engines and the chassis support. That's about as far as I'd like to go into it.
While we're talking about money... earlier today Chevrolet announced that they were supporting trucks. Do you see the cost of Craftsman Trucks escalating now?
No according to what these guys [owners] are telling us. [Laughter] Certainly we hope that that's not the case. When we started this particular program, we went out and did our homework. Lee [White] and Pat Wall, who's been a great help with us on this program, did a lot of work to determine what we felt was a reasonable budget for running a truck. And as everything unfolded, we found that there were different price ranges in the garage for running a truck. So we had to settle in on a number that we were comfortable with, and we did that. The real bottom line is that there are varying packages that teams can run, so it depends on how you spend and if that's going to get you the results that you need. To answer your question Lewis, I don't really think that's the case. We think we have a very competitive program, and one that we're not really expecting to drive the cost of racing up. That's not been our motive in the past, and we don't need to change it at this time.
Are there any more questions? Thank you all very much.