Ford team owner comments 2009-01-26

Last week, Ford Racing car owners and drivers took part in the annual Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour in Concord, N.C. Ford will distribute comments from the breakout sessions during the course of this week for all of the people who ...

Last week, Ford Racing car owners and drivers took part in the annual Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour in Concord, N.C. Ford will distribute comments from the breakout sessions during the course of this week for all of the people who participated.

Today: car owners Jack Roush, Doug Yates and Max Jones.

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Fenway Racing

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE YATES RACING AND THE WOOD BROTHERS UNDER THE FORD BANNER? "As far as Ford is concerned, I would look at it from the team's aspect and also from Ford, Ford needs to have a certain amount of mass to be able to generate as much good news as they need to excite their potential customers and to keep their management interested. I'm concerned about not being able to have Ford cars lead enough laps and not have Ford cars win enough and occasionally win a championship, and if we don't have a certain amount of mass, we can't do that, so the Wood Brothers are important to that and the Yates organization is important to that. Past that, there's a proud history of the Wood Brothers Racing team. Certainly, I looked up to Leonard and Glen as being buddies and really guys that were making a contribution and I was just a kid in stock-car racing. As I got involved, Leonard was there for me and Glen was there for me. They provided help and assistance and we enjoy building engines for them and helping them where we can today. So I'm very much interested in the survival of the Wood Brothers just for all the history and for all the personalities involved and for all the help that they've given me through the years. As far as Yates is concerned, of course Robert and I were adversaries for more than 20 years I was involved in the sport. We competed for turf as it relates to sponsors and the attention of Ford and various other things that we had to do that we were competing with to get the sport where we needed, so a handful of years ago when we put the engine program together, that was really the first time we really started to work together. But based on the fact Robert brought Doug and that I've got the relationship that I've got with Doug today -- and Robert brought in all of his engine ideas and his history, as well as I brought mine, he was as unselfish about that as I was. We share the engines and share that business and that gives us a strong feeling. Before I put the engine program together, if somebody would have asked me the question, 'What do you think about the survival of Robert Yates Racing?' I probably wouldn't have said very much in a positive way about it, except for the fact that it was good for Ford. But as it stands today, I'm committed to keep Doug out there and to keep Max out there and to keep that program viable, we build cars and we provide engineering services to lighten the task of making them competitive today."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU SEE CARL EDWARDS GROWING INTO A CONTENDER? "Carl has great enthusiasm. His father, Carl Sr., was a stock-car racer at hometown tracks. He's a competitive guy. He's a very proud guy. He's bright and he's ambitious and those are dangerous traits if you're another race-car driver trying to compete against him for space on the race track."

WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO STOP THE 48 FROM WINNING A FOURTH TITLE? "Well, if you look at last year in the chase, we had the wreck at Talladega and we had ignition problems at Charlotte, both of which were unpredictable and therefore unavoidable. If one of those would have occurred and not both, he would have got more points in the final 10 races than the 48 car did, so we don't need to close the gap on technology. We don't need to correct some oversight of judgment. We don't need to make our manufacturing or our cars faster in terms of the speed they've got in them, all we have to do is miss the wreck and not have the bad luck of having infant mortality with a component around the engine and we'll be just fine. My deal for 2009 is to try to make sure that if NASCAR lessens their control, their inspection process, if a vendor comes out with a new technology or a new part that winds up being better, that Roush Fenway is one of the first programs to avail itself of it. We finished 2008 in championship form and I've just got to work to try and maintain that going forward."

HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE IS IT HAVING FIVE CARS VERSUS THREE OR FOUR? "It's an advantage in terms of being able to spread the engineering costs. It doesn't cost me more -- maybe one or two people -- but it doesn't cost me more in terms of engineering to do five teams than it does to four, so that gives me a reduction in the cost of my engineering and my car construction. I build cars for the Yates organization as well as my own and now Hall of Fame as well, so being able to spread the manufacturing costs over more programs is good. We're in a position with five teams to have a slightly better break even point in terms of the sponsorship and the prize money we generate than we would if we had four and that's all there is."

HOW CAN YOU GET ALL FIVE TEAMS IN THE CHASE? "I've got to be very, very, very, very lucky as I was in 2005 and then we've got to maintain the speed that we've had and we've got to have other teams have bad luck. That was the case in 2005. It wasn't a matter that we outran all the teams that would have displaced one of our five, but teams that otherwise would have been competitive with us had those infant mortality component problems, they had the wrecks on the race track, they had the tires that ran over something and went flat. So we've got to have that kind of luck and have the bad luck we had last year, to some level, have it move someplace else."

CAN NASCAR PLAY A ROLE IN HELPING THE AUTO INDUSTRY BECOME MORE EFFICIENT? "The thing that NASCAR can do is encourage the teams to have generating panels for the roofs -- their race teams really can -- to generate as much electricity to go back into the system as they can. One of the things NASCAR can do is organize a schedule -- and you can't do that in a single year -- so you don't have as many trips the trucks have to make across the country. So maybe when you go to the west coast you do three races, instead of two and have the races concentrated so that you don't have to move around as much. To be able to have two-day races instead of three- and four-day races -- that's helpful. And shortening the races is a possibility. What the sponsors require and what TV requires and what the fans require in terms of the length of the races is a question. We went from having a bunch of 500-mile races -- virtually nearly everything but short-track races in NASCAR were 500-mile races and now we've got half of them 400 miles. It's my guess that the 600-mile race could be 500 miles and the 500 miles could be 400 and some of the 400 miles could be 300 and still have the quality of the racing and have the excitement be what it needs to be to generate the interest and keep everybody going. But they need to do some analysis on that and figure out what works for their advertisers."

BRUTON SMITH SUGGESTED A BLACKOUT IN AREAS THE RACE DOESN'T SELL OUT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? "I'm sure that would result in a lot more ticket sales, but would you wind up turning off fans to where they decided they would go fishing or flying or play golf, rather than sit home and watch TV and be impacted by the sponsors is not clear. I think that certainly there would be an impact on the TV dollars and the value that the sponsors got for their TV ads, if they had a blackout. I don't think that's the answer."

FANS KEEP WRITING ABOUT HOW THEY DON'T LIKE THE COT. IS THERE ANY WAY TO EVER GO BACK ON THIS CAR? "Our race team probably spent $5 million for that conversion to the car of tomorrow from the car of today. The cars of today are not out there in sufficient numbers to be able to be a choice to go back to, so you would have yet another cost realized by the race teams to make that change. I've not received the letters nor have I had a lot of complaints that the fans have come to me about in regards to that, nor maybe should I being that I have a different role in the sport. It would be my suggestion that for any change there would be some resistance. Certainly I was resistant to the change myself early on, primarily for what it was going to cost rather than anything else. But it's not going to be the case that a change in the car is really going to dramatically change the make-up of who wins the races and which manufacturers are dominant and other things. I think the cream will rise to the top regardless. I suspect that a lot of the resistance that you're seeing is because the mix of who is winning the races is not to some of the fans liking and they're complaining about it."

THEY CLAIM THEY'VE LOST THEIR BRAND IDENTITY AND IT'S NOT REALLY A FORD OR A CHEVROLET? "And some of that has happened, but at 200 miles an hour and a quarter-mile away, how much can you really tell about the quarter-panel or the way the headlights work? The thing that NASCAR has done, that I think is good, is they have stopped the succession of manufacturers that would come out with a new car, with a new shape, and obsolete everybody else's car until NASCAR had a chance to get their arms around it. The fans for a while wanted the racing to be close. They did not want the Fords to be the dominant car. They did not want the Chryslers to be the dominant car or the Chevrolets to be the dominant car, depending on who had the latest thing and how they were able to politic it through the sanctioning body. They've got that now and the result is that the team's performance is more of a factor and the driver's abilities are more important. One of the things that has happened with the car of tomorrow is they don't have as much front downforce, they don't have as much downforce overall and the aero-balance has changed. Some of the guys -- some of the very popular drivers -- have not adapted to that aero-balance as well as some of the rookies have and some of the other people have, and that's meant that different people are winning the races than maybe might have been anticipated based on the fan support. I don't know how to correct all that. I'll say this that from an investment point of view I wake up and I go to bed not as concerned as I was in the past about Chrysler coming out with a new car or Toyota coming out with a new car or Chevrolet coming out with a new car and obsoleting my cars and making the investment I've made and my sponsors are making not as good as it would have been. I'm more confident with the car of tomorrow than I was -- and one of the other things that shouldn't be overlooked is we came back in 2007 and I'll pick a number and say I spent $10 million on aero work and in 2008 I spent about $5. In 2009, I expect to spend about $3, so there has been an efficiency realized to the teams and a value proposition for the sponsors by having the cars not organized so there is so much room that every time you have a whim that the crew chief wants to cut the body off the car. The car has to conform to NASCAR's template and once you've done that, then you can stop wasting money."

SO, THEORETICALLY, THERE'S NO GOING BACK, EVEN IF NASCAR COULD SCIENTIFICALLY SHOW THIS CAR IS KILLING ITS FAN BASE? "If you've got 40 teams that are out there and it's $5 million a team to obsolete the cars -- that's close to half-a-billion dollars for that change -- I don't know where the money would come from. I would suspect that as you went through that, you would have different people unhappy but you'd have as much unhappiness as you have today. I think a lot of the unhappiness you have today has to do with the change, and that would be any change, and the rest of that has to do with the fact some of the very popular drivers have been frustrated with the aero-balance of the car, and, by the way, there is an opportunity to fix that with the car of today -- with tweaks in the size of the spoiler and with tweaks in the shape of the flat fender."

SO YOU COULD GET AWAY FROM THE REAL LOOSE IN TO ROTATE THROUGH THE CORNERS? "They can get away with that from aerodynamically changing the front and back of the car. I don't know that they want to. If you come back and say, 'You make this car so that you can drive it wide-open in places where otherwise you can't,' I don't know if that makes more exciting racing or if it just makes for more spectacular wrecks."

DO YOU THINK JEFF GORDON'S WINLESS SEASON HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH A MENTAL BLOCK OR HIGH FRUSTRATION LEVEL WITH THIS CAR? "I know a little bit about Jeff Gordon in terms of the feedback that I've gotten from Mark Martin and from the other people that have been around him and he doesn't like a loose race car. This car has got to be pretty darn loose to be able to have the speed in it, so if the first thing you do is tighten the car up and you say, 'Now we're going to try and make it fast,' you've probably created a scenario for yourself where the car won't have the speed. I'm not being critical of Jeff, but I think that's what's going on. In my field of drivers, I've got drivers that have got a preference for a car that's looser than other drivers. The drivers that have a preference for the looser cars are the ones that have stood supreme, and the ones that have an aversion to that have struggled."

DO YOU EXPECT NASCAR TO RE-VISIT THE TEAM OWNER RULE OF FOUR CARS? "I don't know. I'd say that the jury is out on that. If they struggle this year to have full 43-car fields for the Sprint Cup Series, and if it appears that by my going back to four teams rather than five that a sponsor would leave the series rather than accept an assignment to another team -- either to one of the Wood Brothers team or the Yates team or one of the Hall of Fame brand teams now, if it looks like the sponsor would leave the series, that is certainly something for them to think about. But I've gotten no encouragement at all that the issue is open. As far as I know it's a closed issue and in 2010 I'll be back to four."

SHOULD THEY RE-VISIT IT CONSIDERING THE CIRCUMSTANCES? "I'm not going to start that debate. That debate has been engaged and I lost it several years ago and I'm good with it either way. I can make my program work with four teams or five teams. It was discriminatory when they came down with it since I was the only program that had five teams and they decided to tax me for that, and if that tax winds up being bad for the sport overall, they'll have to think about that and think about whether changing their mind and losing face is offset by the fact that a sponsor might otherwise stay and we might have one more team in the series."

DO YOU SEE THE POTENTIAL FOR ALL FIVE OF YOUR TEAMS TO MAKE THE CHASE THIS YEAR? "Absolutely." HOW CLOSE DO YOU FEEL DAVID AND JAMIE ARE TO REACHING THAT GOAL? "David was very close. If it hadn't been for the wreck -- I'm a Clint Bowyer fan -- but the fact is that David let himself at Richmond get three-wide on the outside with Clint being on the inside and Clint trying to trip the light fantastic around the bottom with not enough traction for his action with the car that was in the middle and took David into the wall, and from that point on Clint's position in the chase was secure and David was pretty much eliminated from it."

DAVID HAS MADE A LOT OF PROGRESS IN TWO YEARS. HOW GOOD CAN HE BE? "David Ragan will be as good as anybody has been in this business. He's the real deal. He's got great enthusiasm. He comes from a proud family that has instilled pride and a code of honor in him that will let him survive and be very successful here. He's got great enthusiasm, good hand-eye coordination, he's a real racer and he'll be successful."

HE SAID HE AND HIS TEAM WOULD BE DEVASTATED IF THEY DIDN'T WIN THIS YEAR. "Devastation is a hard thing. It's hard for me to put a metric on that, but certainly I'll be disappointed and they'll be the victim of unbelievable bad luck or mismanagement on my part if we let that happen. I'm determined not to mismanage him and hopefully the luck will work out for us."

WHERE WILL YOU FEEL THE IMPACT ON GOING DOWN TO FOUR THE MOST? "It will make the value proposition for our sponsors not quite as good as we go back and renegotiate for our continuation or talk about new sponsors. We are in a position of being a little more efficient. The number of people that work on the race teams individually and the number of testing sessions that you do and the number of false starts or misdirections that you have all affect your costs and our cost situation improved by the fact that we have five programs rather than four, but it's a rather small thing. We won't run any different with four than we will with five, and my guess is and my determination is we'll be able to sell the sponsors at a price point that lets us be viable at four versus five."

DO YOU KNOW HOW NASCAR WILL OVERSEE YOUR MOVE WITH THE FIFTH CAR? "I'm not sure about that. I wouldn't anticipate selling the sponsorship or selling the number. That certainly is not a consideration and that's not my priority to do that and I wouldn't try that, but I would like to see all of our existing sponsors have a happy and solid relationship with Roush Fenway. If it stays in a Ford, we'd be determined to build their cars for it and provide engineering for it, so the full faith and trust of Roush Fenway would follow one of our drivers and one of our sponsors if we could find a happy circumstance where the sponsor would be willing to go."

WHAT IS THE TIMING ON PHASING IN THE NEW ENGINE? "The timing on it is really going to be determined by how much we can afford and how competitive the engine proves to be. The old engine is doing a really good job. That is the engine of the future. The obsolescence of the existing engine, depending on the timing of it, will result in very little additional cost to the teams in terms of the obsolescence, or it could be in the millions of dollars for a team. So I'm anxious, given the economic circumstance and the competitiveness of the engine, I'm going to have the brakes on its introduction, so we don't obsolete a current engine that has value in it, that's got service life left in it, and we certainly don't take a risk by trying to do something sooner than we've got enough testing to verify that it's gonna be a solid move without risk."

HOW WOULD YOU DETERMINE WHO GETS IT FIRST? "All five of mine and hopefully all three of Yates' teams will be running for a championship trying to get in the chase and we certainly wouldn't make any decision that would involve any risk we were able to anticipate. We may wind up and place it in an ARCA program initially. Certainly some of the short tracks that are not known to be hard on engines will be an option. I'm certain that we'll go tire testing with it with some of the Goodyear tire tests coming up -- that's a good way to generate a lot of miles. We haven't spent a lot of times on it, but we'll certainly look at not carrying any amount of risk. I know when GM came out with their latest engine they had all of these mechanical fuel pumps that packed it in. The Hendrick guys and the Gibbs guys both had engine failures and maybe Childress did as well, as a result of the fuel pump function -- the cable-driven fuel pump. Now I'm told that system is developed so that's not the case and it's not a problem, but I very much don't want to come back and make a change that will carry with it a component that's not known and carry a risk to our program."

DOUG YATES, Co-Owner -- Yates Racing Ford Fusions

YOU GOT THROUGH LAST YEAR WHEN MANY DIDN'T KNOW THAT YOU WOULD, AND HERE YOU ARE THIS YEAR WITH TWO SPONSORED TEAMS AND WORKING ON A THIRD. "Yeah, there have been some trying times, but there's been a lot of hard work and effort by many people. Max Jones and myself had a vision that we were gonna get this team back to where it once was and some days are tougher than others, but we had some really bright spots last year. Our car finished second at Infineon and sat on the pole at Talladega and through all that we had a lot of sponsors. The guys gave me a picture at the end of the year and I think there was something like 30 different sponsors that were partners with us last year. I want to say thanks to all of those guys. Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland did a great job and now we sit here and a lot of things have changed. The 38 is now the 98 and the 96 and the 28, so I think I need a scorecard, but I'm so excited to have Paul Menard and Menards sponsorship and Ask.com with Bobby Labonte, and to have Travis back -- being here today really gets you excited about the season. That's what I like about the media tour because here we are with two fully sponsored cars and we're ready to try to continue on what my dad built with Robert Yates Racing, and I'm really proud of that."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE WORK THAT HAS GONE INTO THE NEW ENGINE? "In NASCAR we're more engine developers than designers, so for 20 years we've been rubbing on and making more power out of the same engine. Maybe we've modified the heads a little bit, but when I started in 1990 this engine made 650 horsepower and today the same engine makes 900 horsepower, so from a development standpoint it's been awesome. But the new engine is a chance for Roush Yates Engines to work with Ford Motor Company and sit down and design and all-new engine. I'm gonna sit back years from now and look back and say, 'Wow, that was an incredible time to be a part of Ford Racing.' It's nice to be able to clean up all the things you've added on through the years. Brian Wolfe talked about the manufacturing and just making it easier to work on is big. We've been adapting the current engine, but beyond that, the engine has a lot of technical features that should make it better. It has an improved cooling system, which allows them to run more tape on these cars, which is what everybody strives for. It has a better valve-train layout, so there are a lot of features in it. We're really excited about it and I'm just proud to be a part of it. I can't say enough about the team of guys at Roush Yates Engines. They're a talented group of guys. This sport isn't about one person anymore, it's really about assembling the best talent of people that you can and Ford Motor Company and the other technical partners that we have really made this thing come together."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS YEAR'S DAYTONA 500? "I tell the guys that it takes a long time to build up to win that race and we kind of started that mission a year ago and improved on our cars all year long, and when we got to Talladega we sat on the pole with Travis, and all the Fords ran really good. There at the end of the race an incident took five Fords out, but that stuff happens. The way they all performed in that race gives me a lot of hope. The 99 was pushing the 16 and Travis was right there, so with that said I think our chances are looking better. I think we're gonna go down there and be really competitive and have a shot to win this thing. You know, Jack Roush has never won the 500 and since I'm his engine builder as well, it would definitely be more satisfying to give Jack his first 500 victory. If we can't do it, it would be nice if he could. I think about that a lot."

OTHER ENGINE BUILDERS SAY NASCAR IS TRYING TO MAKE THE ENGINE RULES SIMILAR. WHAT DO YOU SEE? "The fact is that we've got to figure out how to put on these races more economically for the car owners and the teams and the sponsors and everybody for the health of the sport. I don't know what that is, but the things that cost you a lot of money -- engines is one of them -- and if we can all put our heads together we can come up with ways to contain some of those costs. As an engine builder, you want to spend everything you can spend and work as hard as you can work, but to put on a good show for the fans in the stands -- to spend that last million dollars on two more horsepower doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes, so I think we've all got to be smart right now -- especially right now -- and if there's something we can do as engine builders in this sport that would still make it competitive, we don't need spec engines, we need the ability to go out and if this guy works harder and is smarter than the next guy, then he should deserve to win. So you've got to figure out what that is -- leave enough room to race, but don't make it Formula One engines because as you can see, it's not working for them either."

WHAT'S THE STATUS OF DAVID GILLILAND? "David is still under contract with Yates Racing. We're looking for opportunities for David, but just with the way things came together at the end of the year with the Bobby Labonte program and keeping Travis in the 28 car, David doesn't have a ride right now. David Gilliland is a great race-car driver. He did an excellent job for Yates Racing last year and he had our best finish as a team when he was second at Infineon. Hopefully, there's something out there that we can put together for him or puts him back in the position he wants to be."

IS PART OF THE PLAN TO GET YATES RACING TO FOUR TEAMS? "Yates Racing needs to be four teams to be at a really competitive level in this sport. If Jack would be nice enough to give us a team, I think that will all work out (laughing). I think our organization from an engine manufacturing standpoint, the more teams the better and from a car production side and engineering side, it makes sense to have a strong eight-car, two four-car partner."

MAX JONES, Co-Owner -- Yates Racing Ford Fusions

WHAT IS THE 28 PROGRAM GOING TO BE LIKE? "Doug and I made a conscious decision that if we leave the 28 and Travis at home, it's never gonna happen. It's not a lot different than when we started last year and decided to run a few white cars. We felt that if we go and run and we run really well, that we'll be able to put some programs together, no different than we did last year. Right now we're committed to do five races, but our whole sales team is out working and we've got a lot of sponsors and partners that worked with us last year that are looking at it again and we feel really good about it. We're in a lot better position than we were last year. We've got two cars that are fully funded. I think we're pretty well rooted and people know that we're for real and we're running, so I feel good that there's a good chance we can run the whole year."

DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK AND WONDER HOW YOU MANAGED TO RACE THE WHOLE YEAR IN 2008? "You're just a racer. It's no different than trying to get it around the corner and make horsepower. You just do whatever you have to do to make it work. We started out last year and we said, 'We'll run two until we can't afford it and then we'll run one after that,' and with everybody's help and a lot of hard work and a lot of partners that jumped on and believed in what we were doing, we were able to run the whole year. And then where we are today. As you see, we've got sponsors and drivers and we've got big companies and new money coming into the sport, which is all big and positive for Yates Racing. So to leave Travis and the 28 at home didn't seem like the right thing to do, so we'll go from there."

HOW MUCH EASIER IS IT WITH ONE YEAR UNDER YOUR BELT? "It's a lot easier. We've bit off a lot right now, but we're still really busy putting lots of hours in, but we made a lot of changes over the winter. Our first year, it was do whatever you need to go racing and then it was time to evaluate and look at everything we're doing and trying to improve in every area and we feel like we have. I think we're a lot stronger team than we were last year going into Daytona and we've done everything in every department to build on the successes that we had last year, so I feel like we're a lot bigger and stronger."

HOW EXCITING IS IT TO HAVE BOBBY LABONTE ON YOUR TEAM? "I can't even probably put that into words because we worked so hard to put that together and one of the little things I feel good about is I was able to keep that quiet because a lot of things in this sport are really hard to keep quiet and we were able to work that and get that together, and I really haven't had time to spend a lot of time with him talking about going racing and things. We were both working so hard to make sure that we could put the program together, but it's exciting. He's a great driver, a great champion. He brings a lot as far as experience and what he'll bring to the team on and off the race track, it's really gonna be a lot of fun working with him."

HOW ABOUT PAUL MENARD? "I think you guys just sit back and watch. That is gonna be the guy to watch this year. I think that he's really talented. He showed that he can drive and I think the combination of our equipment and Larry Carter leading the way, I think you'll see big things out of Paul. We're really excited about that. I think we've got three awesome programs that can run right up front, so it's pretty exciting."

DAYTONA HAS ALWAYS BEEN GOOD FOR YOU GUYS. "That's Doug Yates. Doug Yates loves that place. I'm not always that excited to go underneath the tunnel, but I am this year. After working one year with Doug and going to Talladega and sitting on the pole and the runs that we had at Daytona and Talladega, I see why he gets excited about going there. I get excited about going to places like Infineon, so he's taught me about speedway racing and I'm still learning a lot. It is exciting with Todd Parrott, he's a speedway master, so with the Yates organization that we have right now, I think we have a really good shot at being on the pole and qualifying our cars right up front. We've got two in the shootout and we've got the 150s to run and then the 500. We could come out of there really well."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Paul Menard , Clint Bowyer , David Gilliland , Jack Roush , Robert Yates , David Ragan , Max Jones , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Wood Brothers Racing , Yates Racing