Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: J.D., one of the things that fueled the sport for 50 years is rivalries. Competition between people, teams manufacturers, etc. You talked about the landscape of the sport. Until you made this announcement, the landscape...

Continued from part 2

Q: J.D., one of the things that fueled the sport for 50 years is rivalries. Competition between people, teams manufacturers, etc. You talked about the landscape of the sport. Until you made this announcement, the landscape of the sport next year was which Chevrolet team is better. Now there will be one dominant Chevrolet and one dominant Toyota team. Is it easier for you guys to compete against Hendrick to be the best with another manufacturer? Does that make that competition more of a natural rivalry to be opposite manufacturers?

TONY STEWART: (Interrupts J.D.) "From inside the car, they all look the same. I know you haven't been inside a car to see that, and even with the Car of Tomorrow, it's not likely that you will still, but they all look the same.

"It's no big deal to us. What it boils down to is we want to win races."

J.D. GIBBS: "I like the fact that from a sponsor standpoint, when you have sponsors that really are rivals, that brings a little added dimension to the sport, and I like that.

"We've kind of been through it before with Interstate Batteries. For a time, there was a competitor in the sport and that was good for everybody, because you want to go out there and whoop them. That is good from both standpoints. That is good for the fans.

"When you lose that from a sponsor standpoint or team standpoint, it's not the same. I think that rivalries are a big deal. I grew up with the NFL, and that is a big part of the passion that's there."

TONY STEWART: "Don't worry about it. When we get done with this contract negotiation, you'll think I'm your rival (laughing)."

J.D. GIBBS: "I do want to announce my dad will have to coach for an extra five years to afford Tony's contract - on top of Kyle and Denny's."

Q: When will you start building Camrys? Will we see a Camry at the Talladega test next week or the Atlanta test in a couple of weeks?

JIMMY MAKAR: "No, you won't see any Camrys this year as J.D. pointed out. Our focus after this conference is to win a championship for Chevrolet and until the season's over, that's what we're going to concentrate on."

Q: Tony, I think a lot of us suspected your last contract that you signed would maybe be your last in NEXTEL Cup, and maybe you never said that but now you're talking about extending. Can you talk about your drive and your hunger and what's made you come to this decision that you want to stick around longer?

TONY STEWART: "It's about wanting to win races. That's what I've done for 28 years. I've been racing since I was 8 years old. The day that it's not fun anymore is the day that I'll quit, but I'm having fun. Obviously we're up here laughing and carrying on. What we do, I'm enjoying. So as long as I'm enjoying doing what I'm doing, I'm staying around.

"I'd prefer the day that I leave this sport, that I leave with this group that I'm sitting at the table with. I'm comfortable where I'm at. I'm comfortable doing what I'm doing. Even though we had kind of a rough spring, I think even Zippy can tell you we've probably had more fun this year as a group of coworkers than we've ever had. We've just enjoyed racing this year. I'm not looking to retire anytime soon. If I was doing that, I wouldn't be worrying about resigning a new contract. I'm excited about it."

DENNY HAMLIN: "Was Daytona fun for you?"

TONY STEWART: "Yeah (laughing). Obviously, every day's not going to be fun. But, you know, all in all, we get to do something that we love to do. And J.D.'s now letting me have all the souvenirs evidently, so we actually get paid even more to do it.

"We get a chance to do something that millions of people would love to do every week. And as long as I'm having fun doing it, I'm not going anywhere."

Q: Jim, you've got seven Toyota teams this year. This makes ten. If Hall of Fame follows Gibbs it might be 11. Can Toyota potentially support that many teams next year or do you expect attrition in the number of teams?

JIM AUST: "The teams that we have currently, that we started the year with this year, will continue on. The addition of the Joe Gibbs Racing team will be added. The Hall of Fame situation is yet to be discussed, I think.

"But at any rate, we don't have any issues with supporting that many teams.

"Our plan over the life of our NASCAR program has been to add teams. As I mentioned earlier, we just can't pick the time when those are going to happen, but we will continue to expand as our life in NASCAR continues.

"However, how many teams that's going to be, there's no real strategy on that. I guess our expectations were that eventually we'd get to the point there are four manufacturers in the series, and we'd have, perhaps, 25% of those."

Q: Just to clarify, the 100 people that you spoke of, are those going to be dedicated strictly to Joe Gibbs Racing? Or will those be a shared group of people that you'll be sharing information with the other Toyota teams?

J.D. GIBBS: "When Jimmy mentioned that, he was kind of referring to TRD, Toyota Racing Development. It really is a large group and they serve in a number of racing series. I think one of those is going to be NASCAR, so I think we can kind of lean on that. That's not all focused on NASCAR, but GM has a large group that focuses on racing as well.

"What is yet to be determined is how we actually utilize that. We haven't really gotten in depth. 'What's that look like? Where do they help us?' I think that's obviously encouragement to us that they have a group there that's kind of willing to support us in a bunch of different areas."

JIM AUST: "At TRD we have 220 associates. About 180 of those are in Costa Mesa, and the balance of them are out here in North Carolina. And the folks that are out here in North Carolina, certainly, are concentrating their efforts on the NASCAR effort and certainly a portion of those in Costa Mesa do, as well.

"Our engineering staff, for example, are all in Costa Mesa, while the people out here, generally speaking, are either people working with the teams or are part of our aerodynamics group that are here.

"So there are any number of people that can be working on this program as it unfolds. I think the numbers there that we were referring to earlier are the culmination of perhaps those that are going to be working on our NASCAR program.

"Our Costa Mesa operation is also a build operation. Currently we build the engines for Michael Waltrip Racing and for Team Red Bull. So there are all sorts of occupations, if you will, that are a part of our operation.

"I think that the engineering staff is really going to be the key to the overall input that we have and what we can share with Joe Gibbs Racing."

Q: First, who sought who out and when? And secondly, Lee White (Senior Vice President, TRD) said about four weeks ago that Toyota really wasn't ready for a team of this caliber. What happened in those last four weeks?

J.D. GIBBS: "All I would probably say as far as that is, until fairly recently, it didn't get down the road as far as it has gotten obviously today. So I'm not going to give you exact dates and times.

"But for the most part, it was a fairly recent process to get where we are today. Even this weekend there were still some issues that had to be addressed. As we got them addressed, we felt good going forward as a race team, and I think they felt good going forward as a manufacturer."

JIM AUST: "I think if anybody would have said at the beginning of the season that Toyota would have been sitting at a press announcement on September 5th announcing Joe Gibbs Racing being part of our overall team effort for next year, I think we would have all had a hearty laugh at that.

"So what has happened here has happened over a very short period of time. And I think Lee may have thrown you one of those fakes, if that's probably a good word to use. Some time back, certainly, we felt all along very confident in our abilities of TRD with the history that we've had, the championships we've had in other series and the success that we've had thus far in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series. We've got the organization in place that can be of some value to Joe Gibbs Racing.

"We're just looking forward to getting it kicked off next year."

Q: Steve Addington and Mike Ford haven't spoken yet. Can you guys address your thoughts about this?

STEVE ADDINGTON: "Like we said earlier, we looked at it as a group. Our parts and pieces are done right here at Joe Gibbs Racing, and there's a support group that we have when we're out racing and testing and stuff. We looked at it as just a plus.

"Toyota came into NASCAR as a class act. They got involved in the Truck series and worked their way into the Cup series. We just felt that from a growing standpoint, we wanted to be on the leading edge of being the top team for a manufacturer. We want to lead Toyota in the championships and win. So it was a no-brainer for us."

MIKE FORD: "I mentioned earlier, on the car side, NASCAR has us reigned in pretty tight on the chassis and bodies, and no worries on the car as far as performance goes. Moving into next season in COT races, I feel like that transition can happen actually easier going into next year than it was this year building two cars. We're looking at keeping our guys busy and being able to keep everyone going into next year.

"On the car side, I think Toyota is going to work with us. We've got more support on development and things like that, so on the car side, really no concerns. The major concern, which they hit on earlier was how quickly can we get the engine to where we are today and Mark has commented that he's not concerned with that. So I really think that we can move forward pretty quickly."

Q: What do you get from Chevrolet during a typical race weekend? What type of information do you get from them? And is there any aspect of their support that you wouldn't expect to get over the last 11 weeks of the season?

JIMMY MAKAR: "Well, on a weekly basis there's not a lot, per se, that comes from the race weekend other than some reports on engine failures and things of that nature that allows us to be aware of things that are going on with other teams. They do support us in many other ways throughout the year in aerodynamics development, and in giving us access to test rigs to go test different aspects of our race car. Those I don't see changing, as far as I'm concerned. As far as I've been told, nothing is going to change for the rest of the year. We're still going to have access to all those things.

"Now, there is a key partners meeting that the four teams that J.D. referred to are involved in on the engine development and also chassis and aero development. It will be interesting to see exactly where those meetings go now that we're going to announce this change. That's something we haven't talked about, and we'll just have to see, talk to them and see where that goes."

Q: J.D., when did you inform Chevrolet of the decision, and how did they react?

J.D. GIBBS: "We were going through a process, as all GM teams were going through this year, of renegotiating the deals, looking forward to the future. I think we made them aware of where we were a while ago in that process.

"But the reality is that until this weekend, we didn't officially have our verbal commitment. So until we had that, I felt like there wasn't a whole lot to say one way or the other. Once we got that, we informed them this week.

"I think we'll sit down with them some, too. Obviously, again, we just appreciate what they've done. We'll make sure we're clear on certain things. We don't want to overstep any boundaries. I'm sure we both want to get partners going forward and I think that was clear when we talked to them.

"We're going to finish this year out and hopefully win a championship for them."

Q: Is this decision made any easier with the Chase format, and the sense that if the transition doesn't go well at the start of the year, you still have a chance to maybe get your guys in 10th, 11th, 12th in points and have everything set by September?

J.D. GIBBS: "For us we didn't look at it like that. If we thought we were going to come out of the box slow next year, we wouldn't have done it. We should come out of the box just as strong as we were this year. If not, I think we'll all be really disappointed."

MIKE ARNING: "Gentlemen, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you for your time. We certainly appreciate it."

-credit: jgr

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Drivers Michael Waltrip
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Toyota Racing