A press conference with: STEVE ADDINGTON: Crew Chief of the No. 18 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team MIKE FORD: Crew chief of the No. 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team DENNY HAMLIN: Driver for the No. 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team GREG ...
A press conference with:
STEVE ADDINGTON: Crew Chief of the No. 18 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team
MIKE FORD: Crew chief of the No. 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team
DENNY HAMLIN: Driver for the No. 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team
GREG ZIPADELLI: Crew chief of the No. 20 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team
TONY STEWART: Driver for the No. 20 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team
J.D. GIBBS: President of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR)
JIMMY MAKAR: Senior vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing
MARK CRONQUIST: Head engine builder for Joe Gibbs Racing
JIM AUST: Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales and President and C.E.O. of Toyota Racing Development (TRD)
MIKE ARNING: Moderator, Vice President of True Speed Communication
MIKE ARNING: "Good morning, everyone. I'm Mike Arning with True Speed Communication. On behalf of everyone from Joe Gibbs Racing, we want to welcome to you today's press conference. We certainly appreciate you being here.
"We'll go ahead and get started with introductions from left to right:
"Down at the left is Steve Addington, crew chief of the No. 18 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team. Next to him is Mike Ford, crew chief of the No. 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team. Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 team. Greg Zipadelli, crew chief of the No. 20 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team. Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 car. J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing. Mark Cronquist, head engine builder for Joe Gibbs Racing. Jim Aust, Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales and president and C.E.O. of Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A.
"Also in the audience from Toyota is Dave Illingworth, senior vice president and chief planning and administrator officer of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., and senior vice president of Toyota Racing Development.
"J.D., you've assembled quite a group up here today. Tell us why we're here today."
J.D. GIBBS: "First of all, let me just say on behalf of JGR, I kind of hate the way this played out over the past few weeks. I know it's frustrating from the media standpoint. It's frustrating from our guys' standpoint, frustrating really from GM's (General Motors) standpoint and all of our key guys here.
"The reality of it is we honestly and truly until this weekend couldn't come to you and say, 'Hey, here's a done deal. Here's what we're doing.' I couldn't say yes. I couldn't say no. So, I apologize. I know it's frustrating for you guys and a lot of us here. I want to say that first and foremost.
"I think what I'd like to say to start off is at JGR, we look at the landscape of our sport. It's really changed a lot over the past few years. I think you see all the mergers, acquisitions, the partnerships, and really, I think what that says is how difficult it is to run a business in this sport in this day and age.
"So, I first and foremost want to say from our standpoint as you look around, I think we kind of figured out, we don't have any other outside businesses. This is it.
"We have got 430 families that count on us to make good decisions. We have some great partners. We've got great fans. And the reality of this sport is if you don't perform well and you don't win, and you don't do it consistently year in and year out, you won't be here. So to me that weighs heaviest on my mind. What is the best thing for our 430 employees, the best thing for our partners, the best thing for our fans short term and long-term.
"I think for us, that is the main reason we are coming to you today and saying we're going to make a decision for the 2008 season. We're going to be in Toyota Camrys at JGR in the Cup series and the Busch series.
"I just want to say I think for the leadership here, it was a hard, long, difficult process going through and making the decision. We can share some of that with you today. Some of it we probably can't.
"But, for us, just know it wasn't an easy decision. We think it's the right decision. We think we have a shared vision with Toyota on what our future needs to look like and what their future looks like in the sport.
"At the same time I want to say how much we appreciate GM. We've had a great partner in General Motors over the past 16 years. They've been a great partner for us, and we've been a great partner for them as well.
"I think going forward for the rest of the year 2007, our main focus, our only focus is winning the 38th Cup Championship for GM. And that's really what we're going to focus on and really give our best effort. Once today's done, we're going to kind of put this aside until 2008 and really focus on going forward this year to win that championship in these last 11 races.
"I know GM has three other really strong teams there. They're going to be competitive year in and year out. We know that. And I think the goal for us from JGR's standpoint, is what's best for our families, what is best for our partners and our fans. That's kind of where we are today and why we're coming to you with this announcement."
MIKE ARNING: "Jimmy Makar, back to you, the senior vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing. If you could address the manufacturer's switch from a logistical standpoint. Basically, what goes into switching out JGR's fleet of race cars in Nextel Cup, soon to be Sprint Cup, and the Busch series to Toyota Camry?"
JIMMY MAKAR: "Really the biggest thing we're going to have for an obstacle is going to be the engine department. As you all know, the Car of Tomorrow and the way NASCAR's rules are, the bodies are going to be very similar. There's not going to be a lot of changing there. So basically the nose, the tail, the hood and some windows, but that's not going to be our problem. I think we've gone through body changes before, and it's a small thing for us to undertake. But the engine's going to be a big deal for us.
"Mark Cronquist is going to be heading up that development along with the folks at TRD. And I think we've done this type of thing before as recently as this year when we went to the R-O7 engine. It was a big undertaking, but we were, I think, one of the first teams to come to the race track with the engine. And that just goes to prove that Mark and his guys can stand up to the task of going and switching out from Chevrolet to Toyota.
"I think the other thing that I want to say about it is the partnership, I think, and that is the keyword. It is a partnership that we're going to be entering into with Toyota. And from what they have in their camp and how we can use their resources, I just look at this as an extension of our team.
"Technically, they've got a lot of people there that we can draw resources from and I think that's the biggest part of what I'm getting excited about. Our company's going to grow technically by 100-plus people, without us having to go out and hire those folks. They're going to be at our disposal to be able to use the way we see needed. And that will allow us to stay on the cutting edge of technology.
"As you all know, everybody competes against each other, and as somebody learns something new in this sport, we want to stay on that cutting edge. And by partnering with Toyota, we'll be able to do that."
MIKE ARNING: "I'd like to introduce Jim Aust, vice president of Toyota Motor Sales and president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development, USA. Obviously, this is a major addition to TRD's history. How do you see JGR and TRD developing in the years following?"
JIM AUST: "I think Jimmy may have addressed that particular issue. We view it as an extension of TRD. We certainly are looking forward to this new opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing - championship race team with type-A drivers and the attitude to get it done.
"Certainly the first year that we've had in this sport has been an exciting one. We're learning a lot. And we certainly look forward to our opportunity as we get into this particular era with Joe Gibbs Racing."
MIKE ARNING: "Thank you. Now we'll open it up for questions from our assembled media. We just reiterate, say your name and affiliation. Also if you can reiterate who you're asking the question of so the transcription service knows exactly who is saying what."
Q: Why is the decision to switch to Toyota right for Joe Gibbs Racing? You said that in order to be successful, you have to win races. Toyota is not exactly doing that right now, so why is this decision the right decision?
J.D. GIBBS: "It is not really from the racing standpoint. We sit down and evaluate going forward. I think we feel like Toyota has some good teams and in years to come will be very good. I think it will be a good partnership for us.
"I do think GM's got four really strong teams. And I think obviously there are certain things we think we'd like to have a leadership role in. I think this gives us that leadership role.
"Again, I think the GM groups we work with are first class, a first class group of guys. We had a good partnership there. Going forward, looking to next year, and two years, three years, five years down the road, all of these things kind of come back into play. 'What is the best fit for us?'
"And I keep coming back to this. I really feel the burden of our 400 employees. All the families that work here, we want to make sure they can stay here for their whole careers. And for me, I think the key to doing that is performance, week in and week out. And there are certain things we can do with Toyota that we'll have a little more of a leadership role in.
"And I do think within GM, you've got four really strong teams, so I think it is probably a little more difficult to say who has a leadership role there. Which direction are we going to go? And I think for us it is just the right decision and the right time.
"We could have waited and announced it toward the end of the year, but that would have given everyone grief. We could have announced it earlier, but the reality is we didn't have a decision made until this past weekend."
Q: There's been some talk that JGR drivers Stewart and Hamlin weren't thrilled about this decision. There've been questions about your contracts. Tony Stewart has Chevrolet backing him in his other racing series - USAC and World of Outlaws. Can you talk about your contracts, your feelings about this switch and whether Chevy will continue to sponsor you in other areas, Tony?
TONY STEWART: "I'm excited about it. We're in the middle of contract negotiations right now and working to extend my contract already. So I'm excited about this. It's like J.D. said, it's a good opportunity for us to take a leadership role and have a little more input on what we can do here.
"But as far as my USAC and World of Outlaw teams, we're still going forward with Chevrolet on that side now. We made it work when I had Mopar and I was driving for Chevrolet on the Cup side. We've done it before. We can make it work again. I'm excited about what we're doing on that side. They've been very supportive of me and what we've been doing with USAC and the World of Outlaw teams, so nothing's going to change there.
"I'm excited about this. I feel like the only way that you constantly stay ahead of the game is by putting yourselves in positions to be leaders not followers. That's why I signed up with Joe Gibbs Racing in the first place and that's why I'm currently looking to extend my contract.
"I've always trusted J.D. and Joe, and this decision doesn't change my feelings about their leadership qualities."
DENNY HAMLIN: "I feel the same way. I'm in the same boat as he is working on the contract stuff. I know I probably have a whole lot less burden on me because I don't have another team with another manufacturer, so it's pretty cut and dry for me.
"I feel like Toyota is really going to be winners. We all know they're going to be winners. We know they're going to be champions and hopefully we're the ones to bring them to that level. I think Joe Gibbs Racing is more than capable of doing it. We just need a little time to get it all together.
"So I think things are going to work out in the end, I'm sure. We know Chevrolet is great right now. We're winning races, and we're part of their team right now and are going to continue to be until the end of the year. So, yes, I'm really excited about the future and trying to finish out my career at Joe Gibbs Racing."
Q: What are the terms of the contract? Is it a long term agreement? What is the length of the contract? What, beyond supplying race cars, are the other elements to this deal? The extra hundred people - is that a new division? What are you gaining there?
J.D. GIBBS: "I don't want to at this particular time get into the length of the contract and the how long the agreement is that we're looking at and working on together.
"I think for us I would say this. GM has a great group of guys, again, that technically address issues. I think Toyota has a little bit different model than what GM has. And I think for us, there will be some resources there. Down the road, there are certain things that we're not going to be able to afford to do, period.
"I come back to the fact that this is our business. We don't have any outside businesses. So for us to go forward, I think we can lean on Toyota hard in some areas where we can use their expertise and can really work with the race program.
"So right now we're still finding out how and what does that look like? How does it come together? We haven't had any in-depth conversations other than to know that we are given the ability to do some things that we really can't do on our own in the future.
"And, as far as cars, engines, we're still going to do all that ourselves in-house, just like we currently do."
Continued in part 2