Series' drivers Nashville transcript, part 1

NASCAR transcript January 11, 2009 An interview with: DAVID STREMME REED SORENSON RANDY HOUSER DENNY HAMLIN MICHAEL WALTRIP THE MODERATOR: Denny, your team had its moments throughout the year with all three your drivers. Coming back strong...

NASCAR transcript
January 11, 2009

An interview with:

THE MODERATOR: Denny, your team had its moments throughout the year with all three your drivers. Coming back strong as ever this year.

DENNY HAMLIN: We typically run really good for the first 25 races and then have our issues the last 10. But, you know, we got to figure out what we got to do. We figured out we got to concentrate on those first three Chase race, almost treat them as we got three races to get it done, then worry about it after that.

We got to get a good start off to the Chase, if we make it again, which is optimistic of us. I think we got a good shot at it. We just got to make sure we got all the pieces in place. I think the no testing will definitely help. I think it will be a benefit for Gibbs Racing because we typically don't do as much testing as other guys anyway.

THE MODERATOR: The median age of your three drivers dropped dramatically with the departure of Tony. You have on that's going to be 19 in the middle of the summer.

DENNY HAMLIN: We got them pretty much even spread out. 19, 23, 28. Got a good spread there.

THE MODERATOR: The young gun team?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, definitely not a lot of experience. I think Kyle has one extra year on me. I think there's a lot to be learned. Joey is going to have a lot to learn through the course of the year. I'm sure I can probably help him out a lot. Kyle is going to be able to help him, I'm sure.

Us working together I think is going to be good. Our chemistry between the three, coming into this sport relatively around the same time, we have a lot of the same likes and dislikes, so that will help.

THE MODERATOR: David, you're stepping into the hot seat with one of the better racing businessmen in the industry, even beyond motorsports. Pretty special year coming ahead for you?

DAVID STREMME: Yeah, I'm pretty excited. I was telling the fans out there that Roger, you know, you look at what he's done in motorsports alone, he's talked to everybody in the shop and it's pretty well-known he wasn't happy with last season, the company's performance. He's made some changes. I was like, Wow, they won the 500, they won Loudon.

But I can see it, their performance really stepped up towards the end of the year. As a test driver when I was there, I got to see a lot of things, the company changing, getting better. Probably the really neat thing is how in touch with the team he is, how he's able to motivate people. He's somebody that wants to win more than anybody on the team. I'm excited. He gives us all great tools.

We have three great partners, Miller, Alltel, Mobil. In the times like they are now, I feel like the organization is going to be strong when we go into Daytona and really all year.

THE MODERATOR: What would be the difference? You've driven for some pretty decent team owners in your day already. You come to Penske. What's the Penske way?

DAVID STREMME: It was a little different. One of the things that was a little different when I started there, it seemed like each team was independent. Since the end of the season, even over the winter, you can really see all three teams gelling together. That's something that was a little different for me. I like the direction it's going.

But I think a lot of it, just getting to know the history a little bit of some of the internal things that's been going on over the last couple years, I can see it's been a building process. There's a lot of things that's gone on with moving the organization into a new facility, having people move around.

But probably the neatest thing is Roger's like, Hey, if you guys need it, we got to get it, whatever we got to do to get the job done. He holds you accountable for that.

I'm excited. He's easy to talk to. He'll call you up like 11:00 at night, Hey, how did your test go, how is things going at the shop, how are you and Roy getting along? This is neat to have that owner have so much desire for the sport and passion and be able to talk to you still.

It's going to be interesting to hear him on the radio because he likes to get on the radio and talk throughout the weekend, I should say throughout the race. He's got a lot of experience. He still calls IndyCar races. He's got a lot of knowledge. I'm excited about it.

THE MODERATOR: Randy, talk about the kind of year you had, what you got coming up, goals, expectations for '09.

RANDY HOUSER: You know, '08 was actually the first year I had a single out on country radio, so this past year was a lot of time, we do what we call a radio tour. We go visit like three radio stations per day, playing our song, meeting different radio guys, interviews, just playing things in the stations and all.

It's been a crazy year. I couldn't believe the transition from just being a songwriter. That's primarily how I made my living before now, is writing songs. The transition, I just couldn't believe the difference. You never know as a songwriter the amount of work all these artists that are out here today do that have given their time. You never know how demanding their schedules are until you're stuck right in the middle of it. I'm expecting '09 to be worse (laughter).

I think it's going to be a cool year. We've got our first tour booked. I don't think I can say who with yet, but we'll leave the end of January and start on the first tour, my first Randy Houser tour.

THE MODERATOR: You nervous?

RANDY HOUSER: No. You know, I got into playing music when I was -- I always tell people I started playing guitar before I can remember. Everybody says, I hear people talk about, I learned to play guitar to pick up chicks. I'm always like, Guess what, I learned when chicks had koodies. I'm kind of like these guys, started out racing as a kid, I started out banging around on a guitar when I was a baby.

So only place I can say I've been nervous in a long time was the first time I played the Grand Ol' Opry, for the television spot. I was sweating bullets. That one freaked me out. Pretty much anywhere else I don't get nervous. It's just go do what you do. You get pumped up and a lot of adrenaline, that kind of nervous, but not scared nervous.

THE MODERATOR: Just the thought of going on tour?

RANDY HOUSER: Yeah. Probably like these guys do before a race, you get antsy. It's like going into war a little bit. Kind of the same deal.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Reed Sorenson. Quite a bit of off-season shuffling. I've lost track of where that leaves you for '09. Talk about what you got coming up.

REED SORENSON: Well, it seems to be shuffling around. Every day something changes. Going over to Gillett Evernham next year. I guess they just announced a couple days ago their merger with Petty Enterprises. Not sure what the official team name is, but I'm sure they'll come out with that pretty soon.

Myself and Elliott, Kasey are going to be teammates next year. We have all our sponsors lined up and everything. I'm sure they'll get all that announced. Look forward to a good season. We got a lot of good stuff going on. Having Richard as part of the team and the Pettys will be cool. We're looking forward to getting going.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the floor to questions.

Q: Randy, as a songwriter going on the road, spending all the time, has that really curtailed your writing?

RANDY HOUSER: This past year it did. It slowed it down. It affected it pretty hard. I mean, there was really no time. Basically in a period like last year when I was so busy visiting radio stations and playing like that, all I can do at that time is just have the experiences and build up all the ideas for different songs.

Like starting at the end of the month, whenever I'm on my bus a lot traveling, I'll be traveling, we'll be out playing Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights like through May. I was home probably a total of 20 days last year. I didn't have much time.

But this year I'll be home a couple days a week and then be on the bus so I can actually take one of my songwriting buddies out with me and we'll write on the road. At the same time I've got another album to write. I have a lot of it done, but I'm got to find time to write the next record.

The difference in the radio tour and going out and just touring with your band is I'll have a little more time to write songs.

Q: Denny, you said toward the end of last year that you thought the organization was a little bit too conservative maybe on technology and you were looking to change that this year. What have you guys done over the off-season either in terms of moving people around or doing anything different from a technical standpoint?

DENNY HAMLIN: That's what we've done, is we've assigned teams I guess you could say. Instead of having Joe Gibbs Racing, a big team of engineers, they're all broken down now into each team. The 18, 20 and 11 will each have their own individual group of engineers they're going to work with, personally deal with race issues as well as the issues they want to work on for the future. That will definitely help our race team, for sure, with the week-to-week issues that we had, mechanical failures that we had last year, which were pretty much inexcusable, those things will hopefully be reduced this year. We won't have those issues. If we do, we're going to have a team designated to fix them right away and not wait until another issue happens.

I think that's going to be a plus, for sure. That's the direction that we're heading right now.

Q: Were the mechanical issues because you were the first year with the manufacturer?

DENNY HAMLIN: They were mechanical issues that had really nothing to do with the manufacturer. It was trying different gauges or trying a different type of hosing or what have you for pumps. Little mechanical things. We just needed to stick to basics because our reliability couldn't hardly be beat our first year and a half, then it just seems like it just got worse and worse over the last year and a half.

It's just something that we decided we needed to work on. I think we're going to worry more about the reliability of our cars more so than the outright speed.

Q: Reed, you mentioned you guys have sponsorship. I know we've seen where it's going to be the 43 car, I believe, but I don't think anything about sponsorship was mentioned. Could you talk about that. Also since you've gone and made the move from Ganassi, you've had the merger situation come up, you've had the situation with Elliott being in the car, not being in the car, now he's back in the car. Has any of that kind of been a concern for you, What have I gotten myself into here?

REED SORENSON: No, I mean, that's just part of racing. Obviously this year, with not as many teams out there and things like that, it's even crazier. As far as I know Elliott is in the car now, it's all set. I was just like everybody else, waiting to see what was going on.

I knew what I was doing. I think they were just trying to figure out what was best for the team. I think everything's situated now. But I don't think I'm supposed to announce the sponsors yet. I think they want to do that. We have a pretty good lineup. They announced the Air Force already, which is actually a cool deal. Get to go up in a F-15 in a week or so. Looking forward to that. Then we got actually I think a total of five sponsors.

It's going to be pretty cool. I think it's going to be fun representing all the sponsors we have for next year. I think everything's settled now. They had to get rid of some engine employees and things like that because we don't have the clients that they had. Petty was leasing motors from them. So was Robby Gordon. They don't have that business anymore, so they had to lay off a few people, just like most race teams did this year. I think they're done with that. They've shuffled crew members around. I think they're still looking for a crew chief maybe for the 19 car. I think everything is set on our team and Kasey's team. They've shuffled a lot of stuff around, moved a lot of people around. I guess they're just trying to find some new success. But I think everything's kind of starting to settle down and everybody knows where they're going to be for next year.

Continued in part 2

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Drivers Robby Gordon , Reed Sorenson
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing