DON SCHUMACHER RACING TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT NHRA POWERade DRAG RACING SERIES JUNE 15, 2005 Participants: Don Schumacher, owner of Don Schumacher Racing Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car Gary Scelzi,...
DON SCHUMACHER RACING TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
NHRA POWERade DRAG RACING SERIES
JUNE 15, 2005
Don Schumacher, owner of Don Schumacher Racing
Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car
Gary Scelzi, driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car
Mike Neff, crew chief on the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car
Q: To Don Schumacher: With the departure of Lee Beard from Whit's team momentarily, or whatever the time frame is, can you clarify what Beard's relationship is going to be with Don Schumacher Racing through the remainder of his contract and is he being moved into your engine shop?
DON SCHUMACHER: He is not being moved into the engine shop. Lee and I have spoken many times and have gotten together. We haven't determined what his role will be today, tomorrow and the foreseeable future, but he is going to stay with Don Schumacher Racing and he will be an integral part to my operation going forward.
Lee certainly didn't get stupid overnight or the last couple of months. Things just start to happen with a team and a car and you kind of get caught up with what you're trying to work on and at times you can't see the trees for the forest, so I just felt that it was best to have him kind of step back and take some time off and see where things were; let another fresh set of eyes step in and take over the car from the front to the back like it's a brand-new team, a brand-new car and look at every little area and re-set everything up and all of the teams pulled together.
The Oakley team pulled together, the Brut team pulled together, the Army team pulled together and everybody kind of worked on the operation to make some changes and I'm confident we will have a successful, good outing in Englishtown. Again, Lee Beard ultimately is staying with my operation and will continue his employment with me.
Q: To Whit Bazemore: Does this break your confidence or help your confidence with the race car that there's this kind of mid-season change?
BAZEMORE It's not going to affect my confidence. I mean, there's no question that we've been struggling as of late. Racing is a very big business and our team is very results-driven and our sponsors - Matco Tools, Dodge and Oakley on our car, to be specific - are very results-oriented. We haven't had the results lately and the pressure was on to get those results.
It's never good to have a situation like this. Don did what ultimately he had to do. And it's very unfortunate. Lee and I...this is our fifth season as a driver-crew chief combination and I had a tremendous amount of confidence in him. We had a lot of success together (won two races this year) and we had some hard times together as well. You have ups and downs. As Don said, Lee is going to stay within the organization and that's extremely pleasing to me, because we have a big history together and we had a lot of success. He is a very, very smart individual and a valuable player to the team and I feel a lot better about the future of our team with him staying involved.
Q: To Mike Neff: I'd like to know how similar are the Funny Cars and how much information is shared amongst the team crew chiefs and does the driver play a big part in how you tune the car.
NEFF: The cars, as far as the components that are on them, they're pretty similar for the most things. The blowers, the clutches in all the Funny Cars are the same. The difference is just what happens when you get off track or a car starts to get different than the others. It's pretty much the way that you're setting the thing up, whether it's the way you're figuring your compression, how much compression it has, how much timing, your fuel system. Even though it's all the same parts it's how they're adjusted....
It's not that it has different parts; it's just the way that they're set up. As far as setting the car up for the driver, no, we don't really do anything different from one driver to the next.
Q: To Neff: Does the tune-up in one car that makes a successful pass work in another car?
NEFF: Not necessarily. It should be close, but each car seems to require a little bit different setup. One may require a little more clutch weight, one may require a little more compression to get the cars to run the same ET or to get similar. It's not that easy to just set them up exactly the same and have them do the same thing.
Q: To Neff: How much information is shared among the crew chiefs on the Schumacher team?
NEFF: We communicate pretty well and we share all the information. We don't keep anything from one another. What happens is there are so many little variables that over a length of time can start getting off that you don't catch while it's happening. There are so many different things to look at: the fuel pressure, the fuel flow, the return and so that's what happens. And, plus, when you're racing and you're busy you don't have time to communicate as much as you would like to at some times.
Q: To Schumacher: I'm wondering if you can comment on the rumored million-dollar raise coming to the professional purses in 2006 for NHRA drag racing and do you have any comments on whether this is enough to make a difference to pro competitors or spread across the four different categories, if that really means much?
SCHUMACHER: This is the first purported raise that professional categories will receive in five years and I don't think anybody ever considers a raise they get in their paycheck may be adequate. Everybody is always looking for more money and such, as I would think the whole sport is looking for more funding and more dollars to come into it. All of this is really an unknown amount and there's really no details disclosed about it as of yet and I'm certainly not at liberty to disclose any. That will happen I'm sure by Indianapolis this year, but I don't think we'll have any details released and really know where those dollars come from and are going until that time.
Q: To Schumacher: Say it's a million dollars. Is that a significant raise since we're dealing with something from 1988, (which) was the last raise?
SCHUMACHER: No. There's been raises since 1988, to say the least. Maybe 1998 is what you're meaning. I'm not even sure of back then. I actually only got back involved in the sport in September of 1998. You guys speak with more authority in that area. Is a million dollars adequate or substantial? Like I said, everybody is always looking for more money than what ends up being put on the table and ends up taking place. It's the best that could be put together at this point and hopefully 2007, 08 and 09 will see more increases and bring the sport of NHRA drag racing to the level that it needs to go to.
Q: To Schumacher: Are you going to be the new president of PRO in 2006 and beyond?
SCHUMACHER: I am currently Vice President and I would think that I will be taking over as president when Kenny Bernstein fulfills his term. His term actually runs for two more years. It runs through 2008 and if I need to step in before then I certainly will. And once Kenny fulfills his term if they want me to step in as president I will certainly take that over.
Q: To Schumacher: The rumor from Englishtown today is that a couple of the Okahara boys are coming over to your team, Don, to work on that. Is that fact or fiction?
SCHUMACHER: That is fact. Both Todd and Scott Okahara have joined my team. Todd will be involved on the Matco Tools cars, co-crew chief along with Dan Olson. Scott has joined the Brut team as a very key tuning assistant to Ed McCulloch over there to kind of fill the void by taking Dan Olson from that team and moving him over to the Matco Tools team for the time being.
Q: To Schumacher: Is there a general dearth of A-list crew chiefs out there do you think? There are a lot of great young kids like the Okaharas that have a chance to move up. You have a lot of great top-of-the-line crew chiefs on your team. Do you think the next guys that become crew chiefs on teams like yours will be promoted from within or taken from other teams?
SCHUMACHER: I think you have to look both ways. You have to look to promote from within. And I would certainly love to have done that with a couple of very capable people that I have over on the Army team, but to disrupt that team in the middle of a season like this in a championship points race or to disrupt the Oakley team taking somebody off that team to move them into another position really is problematic in my eyes. And I believe it would be problematic in the sponsors' eyes, the drivers' eyes and the crew chiefs' eyes. I really chose to look to people that wanted to move on to other areas and I was fortunate enough to find both Todd and Scott wanting to make a change and certainly was willing to work with them.
Q: To Schumacher: It looked like an interesting conversation or discussion or statement between Alan Johnson and you after Tony's loss in Chicago. He came up and looked at you and grabbed you by the shoulders. It was pretty brief. Would you like to tell us what he said to you?
SCHUMACHER: It was a pretty frustrating happening that Tony made a mistake in the car and every member of the team was disappointed, but not nearly disappointed as Tony is. Alan expressed his feelings to me on a personal basis about some personal matters in reference to Tony and that's what it was in regards to. He certainly has apologized since and I didn't even take it as anything offending or offensive at all. When you're in the heat of the moment people catch a lot of things that really shouldn't be displayed as such, but it didn't bother either Alan or I in that vein and I'm not concerned at all about it.
Q: To Schuimacher: Tony at the (top) end was just beating himself up about that. How do you tell your driver to get over that? Everybody wins as a team, loses as a team. He was just crushed by that.
SCHUMACHER: That'S one of the things with this sport. There's instant euphoria and gratification or instant depression and loss. You have to be able to pick yourself up again the next race or the next weekend and go on from there. If you can't, you'd better get out of the competitive world and go do something else.
Q: To Schumacher: There's been a lot of talk about team orders with multi-car teams. You obviously have a multi-car team. What is your concept on the multi-car team and what is the ultimate goal that you're trying to achieve?
SCHUMACHER: I will start with the last question you asked. What is the ultimate goal we're trying to achieve? It's to win the world championship with the team that is sponsored by any one of the three major sponsors that I have on the Funny Car side of my operation. We don't choose which team is going to win the world championship; they all fight for it equally. As far as team orders, I know that I learned a lesson in 2004. It will never happen again in my camp. There will not be such a thing as a team order. And I even expressed that to the NHRA that it will not happen at the last race in Pomona because it doesn't fit for the driver of that race car, it doesn't fit for the crew, the crew chief, and it really doesn't fit for the sponsor of the race car. And if that costs that team the world championship because they got beat by one of my other teams, it is their own fault and I will certainly accept it, I think the sponsor will accept it and the team has to accept it. We have to reach to the highest goal and that's to win the championship in the fairest manner and take care of the sponsor, the fans and the sport.
Q: To Schumacher: You were pretty vocal in trying to land Dave Connolly earlier this season. And now that he's hooked up with Evan Knoll and you're in business with Evan Knoll with Torco Race Fuels and Pro Nitro, I'm wondering if this is just a holding pattern for you to bring Dave Connolly into your fold for 2006 in the Mopars? You've said you wanted to have a third Mopar Pro Stock and I'm just wondering if this is a gateway to that?
SCHUMACHER: I'm not really not sure what will happen in 2006. My operation has changed so drastically from September of '98 when I came into the sport to where it is today in 2005. I don't really kind of guess or try to preclude what could take place or what may take place. As far as Dave Connolly or any other teams, I do have to say that Dave Connolly is a great driver. Torco is a great sponsor and a great group of people that are heavily involved in the sport of NHRA and IHRA drag racing. Their move to buying that team and keeping it together was a fantastic step on their party. Who knows what next year will bring, or what next month will bring, or next week will bring. I think that everybody who works for me there in my racing operation kind of has to shake their head and say, Yup, you just never know what's going to happen next week, because change is inevitable. Fortunately, it has always been uphill, and I look to continue that.
Continued in part 2