Ford team owners also took part in media day at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway media tour on Thursday. Below are comments made by team owners during the stage portion of the event.
JACK ROUSH, Co-Owner – Roush Fenway Racing – CAN YOU LOOK BACK AT 2008 AND THEN AHEAD FOR 2009, ESPECIALLY IN THESE TOUGH ECONOMIC CONDITIONS?
“Looking at the economy first, the team sponsorship will remain a viable marketing investment in today’s economy, as tough as it is. We’ve signed for 2009 a total of 35 sponsor agreements, most of which were carryover – a couple of new ones in there – and we’ve lost less than a handful of sponsors that left the sport. The major sponsorship value comes from the TV audience and the fans who buy tickets for the race track. I’ll comment on those separately.
The Television Ratings
“The ratings for 2008 were great and we expect them to be better in 2009. In fact, 2008 ratings, I understand, were better than they were in 2007. The weakness in ticket sales is related to the economy and not to the quality of our racing, and I personally am glad to see that the race tracks have finally responded to some of the challenges of the economy be reducing the cost of the tickets and some of the other things that relate to the NASCAR experience for the fans. The hotels, which are a constant sore spot for me, are responding as well. Historically, what the hotels have done is charge our teams and the ticketholders two or three times what they would charge on a normal weekend. The charge for the race weekends typically go from three to five day minimums and that has been a real hardship as well, but we understand that they’re starting to get off some of that. On a positive note, NASCAR race attendance is the highest of any sport event in the country and we’re really looking forward to having that improve as it relates to the number of tickets sold.
“The sport has some economic challenges that are not unique to businesses around the world. The disappointing ticket sales and souvenir sales are an indicator of the health of the world’s economy and not the referendum on the popularity of NASCAR.
“The makeups of the teams and the drivers and the sponsors will continue to evolve as they have throughout history. The core NASCAR product is fundamentally sound and requires no change as seen by me.
“I’m a race fan and I think that my fellow race fans are still interested in the best on-track performance that we can deliver. I’ll do my part to see to it that they get a great value for their entertainment dollar going forward.
NASCAR No Testing Policy
“There’s been some question about whether NASCAR’s testing policy is going to have a negative impact. I feel it will not. This is the third year in the car of tomorrow program and I think that the racing will continue to improve to everybody’s satisfaction – both the look of the competition that the fans see on the race track, and what the drivers think about it as they’re able to relate what’s going on from the cockpit.
A Look At 2008
“Two thousand and eight was the first year in my 21 years that we finished the year and looked back and said, ‘You know, we really didn’t get beat.’ In 2007, we got side-slapped for not testing as much as we should have early, and that was my fault, but in 2008 we didn’t get bested by our testing strategies, we didn’t get bested by our aero-function. Ford had a lot of help with that. The suspension, the kinematics the engineers came up with were good. The pit stops did a nice job. The strategic calls on the pit stops that the crew chiefs made were great. Two thousand eight was OK. It was great. The second-place finishes we had in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were the result of unpredictable and therefore unavoidable occurrences on the race track that were outside of my control and the control of our teams. Our manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, provided every tool and experienced engineering asset. The key people are really important to all the technology, but they gave us everything that we required to meet the challenges both on and off the race track. With everything that’s available to us, we at Roush Fenway Racing have just got to wait for the happier championship result that the 2008 championship effort justifies.
“Looking at our sponsors. Our existing sponsors reap and continue to relate the benefits of their involvement with Roush Fenway and that’s our greatest asset in looking for new sponsors. For 20 years we’ve delivered on-track performance and at-track activation strategies for our sponsors, which has allowed them to meet their marketing objectives within their budgets and realize the value proposition that was better than their alternatives. We’re positioned to continue and improve those aspects of our sponsor relationship going forward.
“During the off-season we’ve had a lot of obsolescence in the car construction jobs. The car of tomorrow involved a lot of angst and as most of you recall, we had to build, develop and race both kinds of cars for an extended period of time. That fiasco cost the Earth and required a substantial additional car construction personnel. We’re past the crunch now with the car of tomorrow transition, so the reduction is back to the pre-car of tomorrow transition level.
“The jury is still out on what the affect will be of the NASCAR no testing policy. The no testing policy still does obviously involve some testing. We can go to non-NASCAR affiliated race tracks and a number of teams are doing that and we’re certainly not going to get behind on that as we did in 2007. But we may be able to have some additional reductions there, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“But the large view, I think our future is very bright. We came close to winning our championships in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide last season. An achievable goal for 2009, not unlike a lot of teams, is to win a championship in all three divisions and to put our five drivers in the chase for the Sprint Cup as we did in 2005.
“Ricky Stenhouse, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun continue to be exciting rookies. We’re continued to support them despite the economic problems we face. If you know of any sponsors that are anxious to get their feet wet, we’ve got ready-made programs for our talented young drivers. We’ve got a number of options still open in their schedules.
“The partnership with the Fenway Sports Group has been widely celebrated and copied numerous times. The magic of the synergisms resulting from Roush Fenway, Roush Racing – one of NASCAR’s perennially competitive top teams and the Boston Red Sox, one of Major League Baseball’s perennial top teams hasn’t been matched. We are confident that we’ll continue to attract and retain the great sponsors and will be able to benefit mightily from our combined efforts.
Relationship With Ford
“I want to comment on the relationship with Ford. We’ve just completed a long-term extension to our partnership with Ford Motor Company. My relationship with Ford dates back to the mid-sixties. When I first arrived on the drag racing scene with my NHRA Super Stock and Pro Stock Fords, we had great success. Ford sold a lot of cars and trucks to sports minded fans at that time. In the 1980s we moved off to sports car racing with the same result. On my bad days when things aren’t going well in stock car racing, I remember the happy days when we had our way in sports car racing. It was wonderful.
“Anyhow, here we are in the 21st century and still able to continue on with Ford. Ford has great products for today’s consumers. They have a dynamic management team that’s ready for the changes that are required and they’ll make those in a timely manner, I’m sure. I could not be happier nor prouder to have Ford be my automobile manufacturing partner, and for all that the arrangement means for the NASCAR fan and the broader economy.
Looking At Daytona
“I can’t believe we’re back around to another media celebration in advance of going to Daytona. I know I told all the guys that we’re leading in the points, we haven’t made a mistake, we haven’t run out of gas, we haven’t had a wreck. I can’t wait to get going and see what’s gonna happen at Daytona.
“We brought a propane vehicle – one of our alternate fuel vehicles down from Michigan – and anyone with a question about that vehicle should just let me know. That vehicle goes on one filling of propane can go over 400 miles and we’re real excited about that. We’re gonna be selling those going forward – not only for the F-150 through Ford dealers, but for the F-250 and for the E-150 and the E-250. We continue to explore in Michigan the electric cars and the alternate fuels and all the other things going on to keep us green. I had a conversation with some of my facility guys in Michigan. I’m gonna build a new hangar that’s gonna house my airplane when I’m in town and probably even have sleeping quarters so I can camp there instead of a hotel when I’m in town. We’re gonna have solar panels on top of that, so the environment and the economy is on everybody’s mind. We’re all working real hard at it and we’re anxious to go back and celebrate our championships and our wins on the race track as we try to fix everything else that’s wrong around us.”
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner – Wood Brother Racing – “That’s a pretty tough act to follow. Jack’s got a lot of stuff going on. I think all of that would make my head hurt (laughing), but they do a good job with it. They’ve really got it going on. Brian already spoke about our limited schedule this year, and we arrived at that decision because in tough times you kind of look back at where you used to be and what worked for you – kind of dance with what you brought to the party – so that’s why we’re going back to our roots. We had our most success running a limited schedule back in the seventies and the eighties and we’re proud to say that Motorcraft and Ford Racing are actually the reason we’re standing here. Had it not been for them, we probably wouldn’t be here today. We’ve been loyal to them and they’ve been loyal to us and so here we are. Bill Elliott is gonna drive it. We’ve got tons of support from Ford Motor Company and Ford engineering and we’re looking forward to it.”
LEN WOOD, Co-Owner – Wood Brothers Racing – CAN YOU TELL US HOW YOU DECIDED ON 12 RACES FOR THIS YEAR? “We talked with Brian Wolfe and some of the guys at Ford about what our schedule should look like and we tried to plan it where it wasn’t back-to-back weekends where if we needed to make the travel arrangements something different, we could. We have a smaller group for this year. We’re not gonna run the truck series as of right now, but with a smaller group we’re looking for guys that can jack a car and can also be a mechanic. We need fabricators who change tires, so we’re trying to be more efficient and get ready for the future.”
MAX JONES, Co-Owner – Yates Racing – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR 2009? “We’re really excited about the outlook for 2009. We have Paul and Paul is someone that I’ve known for quite a while and watched race, and we’re really excited about having Paul with Yates Racing. He’s teamed up with one of the best crew chiefs in the garage right now in Larry Carter, so we’re really excited about what the future holds in 2009 with the 98 team.
“Travis, we’re excited about him coming back. If you think about it, he’s the veteran of Yates Racing now. This will be his second year and we’re really excited about the opportunity. We had a great season last year and we’re gonna build on those successes for this year and we’re excited about having the 28 and Travis back.
“I don’t know where to start with the developments that we worked really hard the last month or so on, but having Hall of Fame and Yates Racing ally together and be able to put Bobby Labonte and Ask.com and DLP together, you couldn’t ask for more right now for Yates Racing and where we’re gonna head. It’s exciting. I think if you look back a year ago when we were all standing here, Doug and I were sitting up here in white shirts and we were taking two white cars to Daytona, so we’ve come a long ways and what we’ve got going on.
“With the development of putting a Nationwide team together for Paul to run 16 races under the Yates banner, we’re excited about that and I’m sure that everybody in the Menards organization and that group is excited about the opportunities there, too.
“We’re trying to grow and we’ve grown a little bit over the last year and we’ll just keep digging. We’re real excited to go racing.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – “About five years ago I got together with Robert and we merged our engine program. The cornerstone of that was, of course, Doug. Doug is the son that we both shared as it related to looking forward to what we’d be able to do with the engines. I took the responsibility to go straighten out the race teams and get those going and Doug took the responsibility to come back and make the engines work with his dad standing behind him. This engine that’s in front of you is the first new Ford engine since the early 1970s. The head gasket that fits on the engine that we’ll run at Daytona is the same head gasket that Eddie and Lenny’s dad and uncle used in the Wood Brothers cars back in the seventies. This represents a real milestone. It’s really great that David Simon and, of course, Mose Nowland and all the guys in Dearborn brought together their engineering, and then Doug and Robert and all the crew down here were able to adapt those engineering ideas to the problem that we’ve got of making these cars go fast and live on the race tracks. But I’m real excited about this engine. I would have prepared myself better if I realized it was going to be unveiled here, but this represents a real important time. I hope the rules stay the same so that the investment we make to obsolete all of the existing parts will be able to use as long as the investment we made on the current engine. The problem this engine has – the biggest problem it has – is it has to go head-to-head with the old engine. The old engine has continued – particularly in Robert and Doug’s time since we put our deal together – has continued to make more power than I’d ever imagine. I just wanted to not let this engine sit up here and look like a step-child that I had overlooked and not celebrate where it came from and what it means going forward. It’s really a big deal.”