Team Chevy team owners, Richard Childress, No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet, and Rick Hendrick, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, were guests on a NASCAR Teleconference to discuss the championship battle at the upcoming season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Full transcript:
An Interview With:
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s very special teleconference. We’re in advance of Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway. That’s the final event of this season in the culmination of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. We have three teams still in contention for the title.
Today we’re really pleased to be joined by the car owners of our championship contending teams. We have; Rick Hendrick, who owns the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie; and Richard Childress, who owns the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet driven by Kevin Harvick.
We’re going to start off with a quick opener from each of our owners. Then we’re going to go to media, and we’ll start with Richard Childress. Richard, you have those six Sprint Cup titles as a car owner, won them all with the late Dale Earnhardt. How special would it be to finally win one with Kevin Harvick?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: It would be very special for RCR, myself. I’ve been there and been fortunate to have been aboard for those. We have so many new employees and sponsors that hasn’t been there, and for us to be able to bring a championship to them and to these employees, it would be very special for all of us.
HERB BRANHAM: Rick, nine series car owner championships. That’s a record that you share in the Cup Series with Petty Enterprises. What would it mean if you came away from Homestead and had that record by yourself?
RICK HENDRICK: It would be awesome. You know, when you think about it, time goes by, and I never thought I would win one of these deals. I thought I’d always watch Richard get them. The guys have worked hard, and we hope we can pull it off.
But to have ten would be an amazing accomplishment for the organization. You never know when you’re going to win another one of these deals, so we’re excited to have an opportunity to do that.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you for those openers. We’ll go to the media now for questions for today’s three really special guests.
Q. I have a question I’d like each of you to address, please. There’s been some surprises in this Chase, but as we look at this championship finale, what would surprise each of you about Sunday?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I would be surprised if we had an answer before the white flag Sunday. I think when the white flag comes out, it’ll still be up for grabs. I don’t think we’ll know until then, until after that.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I kind of go along with what both of them said. You’ve got three top organizations running for this championship, and that’s what the Chase was all built around is to have this. This is a storybook Chase right here, and I think it’s going to go down to the wire because you have three capable drivers, you have three capable organizations, and it’s going to be fun. I’m as excited about this championship effort — I wish we were 46 ahead or whatever we’re behind. I wish we were ahead that much. But we’ll take it just being able to have a mathematical chance of winning it.
Q. Rick, the perception persists that for all he’s accomplished, Jimmie Johnson still has not captivated the kind of credit that is warranted for what he’s done. Could you address that?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I don’t understand it, but to win two or three — two of these deals back-to-back is pretty impressive, three, and then four is just outstanding. You look at his stats, and he’s been amazing. And I don’t know. I think it’s one of those things that while sometimes you’re accomplishing an unbelievable results, it’s after the fact one day people will look at it and say, man, that was awesome back then. I can’t really answer it. I wish I knew.
I think he does have the respect of the garage area, and I think he does have the respect of the competitors, both the teams that he competes against, but I think history will have to prove that what he’s done has been pretty remarkable.
Q. The question I had for you, what is the price of victory? What special reward do each of you guys have to very willingly pay out if your team wins, to the driver, to the team in the shop? I guess is there a bounty on winning the Chase?
RICK HENDRICK: It’s most all of us from our side. I think Joe and Richard, I think the driver gets his piece and then when you get through paying the bonuses to everybody, you might be able to pay your expenses to go out to the championship. But that’s the way we work it, incentivizing our people, and we want to put a carrot out there, and they don’t do it for the money, but it’s the recognition and rewarding them financially that’s important.
I think it’s — I can’t give you a number because I haven’t added it all up, but there is a lot of incentives out there for them, for our team.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Same here with ours. I think the biggest thing is having that trophy as a car owner and driver is the largest incentive for us, but at RCR we will end up paying out most all of the winnings throughout the team and the company, so that’s the way we’re set up as well as Rick.
Q. I think everyone would be in agreement that this is the best Chase since probably 2004, and yet the ratings have been down in each race and everyone still seems to act like the sky is falling in NASCAR. The Chase is so captivating this year, I’m wondering why you think it’s not resonating with fans and what more NASCAR could be doing.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I would hit it first. I don’t think Rome is burning in NASCAR. I think we still have a great sport. We have great fans. I think the economy has touched every sport at some point. I think that we will come back and be as strong as we ever were.
I don’t know financially-wise, but I think with the fans, they’re going to get their NASCAR fix, and I just think it’ll be back. But Rome isn’t burning in our series.
RICK HENDRICK: It sounds like all three of us agree totally here. I think it’s the best racing I’ve seen since I’ve been in the sport. When I first started you didn’t have to beat but two or three cars to win a championship. Now you’ve got 15 capable teams of winning it, and it comes down to a couple of you.
I think our season is long, but the racing is the best I’ve ever seen. But when you turn on TV you might watch the World Series, football, they’re talking about cranking up college basketball. It’s so much for people to see and a lot of things that are popping up every week that are new. So I can’t explain the ratings.
But the stands are — Phoenix looked full. Like Joe said, it was awful quiet with the economy being soft from new sponsors and sponsors wanting to re-up or even new people coming in, and that activity has gotten a lot stronger. This has been — we’ve had more movement, more action with companies — some new companies and the old companies that were there that are re-upping, and the economy is not fixed yet.
But I can definitely feel a difference, and I think NASCAR has done everything they could do, that we’re a victim just like everybody else of the economy just like these guys have said.
But I feel very good. I mean, in the end of ’08 when the world looked like it was going to come to an end for everybody, banks, companies, the whole U.S. and worldwide economy, I feel much better, and we’re seeing a lot more activity. So I think we’re on a tremendous upswing, and I think this Chase is proof positive that NASCAR came up with the best formula for the fans and to make it competitive.
Q. When you were building your championship organizations did you look at Richard’s organization at all, and is there anything that you can remember that you kind of took from either Richard’s style or RCR in general that you saw what they were doing and put it to use for yourself?
RICK HENDRICK: I’ll take that one first because I did look at Richard’s organization extremely hard because we led a lot of laps and we won a lot of races, but we’d get down to the end of the year and Richard won the championships. I think Richard showed us how you have to prepare and run for a championship. You’ve got to be there and you’ve got to race every race and every lap, and you’ve got to finish.
So I did learn an awful lot and watch Richard from the day I started and actually not only followed some of his standards, but he has helped me along the way. We’ve worked together many times on projects. He’s been a great friend and a great competitor just like Joe. But it’s amazing how we do learn from each other, and I learned an awful lot from Richard early on.
Q. I guess I just want to ask you what you guys fear. I don’t think fear like totally being afraid of it, but as maybe this comes down to a green-white checkered or it comes down to a caution being called from the tower, I think we all know NASCAR does a good job of officiating, but what do you want to see there? And what part of it being so close and the officiating of it being different than other sports do you guys think about?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I said early on this year that I thought that the double-file restarts and the green-white checkered was going to decide this championship. You know, I think all of us have been in a situation where there was a double-file restart and somebody got into us. I know Jimmie spun at Loudon and all those things, and you can’t control that. That’s just kind of chaos with so many good cars and everybody racing hard and guys wanting to win a race, guys wanting to win a championship.
From my standpoint I think there’s no debris in the last few laps, ten laps, and I hope we can race clean, and I hope for all of our sakes that there’s not one of those deals to decide it that — caution at the wrong — you can’t help it, those kind of things are going to happen. But I hope that each one of these three cars can finish this race without being taken out by somebody else’s mistake. If one of our guys make it, that’s fine, and we’ve got to live with it. That’s racing. But I think my fear is that they’re going to get caught up in something here and it’s going to be decided by something out of their control.
But that’s racing, and I guess we’ve got to live with it.
Q. Rick, after the standard you set at Hendrick Motorsports the last few years, winning championships and having multiple drivers contend for the Chase, do you consider this a success if Jimmie doesn’t win this thing? And the second part is you said three years ago the pressure was on you to make Dale, Jr., a winner. You’ve thrown everything you can at him. Is the pressure now on him?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, first of all, this deal is pretty competitive and pretty tough, and you never — you’ve never done your best, and we’re going to keep digging in every area. You wrap up a year and you finish one, two, three and you come back and you struggle and you don’t win. I don’t think this is a disaster year by any stretch, but we’re not satisfied. I don’t think we’ve made as much improvements as Richard’s organization has or Joe’s organization, so we’ve just got to go to work. If we want to compete and be a part of the championship in ’11, and all of our cars for your sponsors’ sake you commit to all your drivers and all your sponsors that you want to be competitive and win races with all your cars, then it’s not easy. It’s kind of like being at the fair with those gophers and you hit one and the other one pops up somewhere else. There’s always something to work on.
We can’t be satisfied because we’re not where we were a year ago in the results, in the final standings, so we need to work harder and work smarter, and we’re going to do that.
Q. Rick, as championships go, you can say this may have been the toughest year for the 48 team to win one. If you’re able to get the job done this weekend, will you kind of take some extra satisfaction in the fact that it was more difficult to achieve?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I mean, none of them are easy. I mean, you know, they may look a little bit easier and maybe we had a little bit more points going into the last race, and this one has been hard-fought, and if we’re fortunate enough to win it, yeah, we just know that it was a dog fight to the very end.
We’re just kind of glad we’re in that position to be there. But none of the championships were easy. The point spread might have been a lot different, they might have looked easy, but there was an awful lot of pressure to get it done. But I think this one will go down — I think we lost one in ’04 by, I don’t know, eight or ten points or whatever, and there was a — if Busch’s tire had gone the other way on pit road we’d have I think been first or second.
This is the kind of deal you deal in the moment and you do the best you can, and if you come up short, you’ve just got to go to work and try to be there next year.
Q. Question for each of you. Who’s got a bigger knot in his stomach right now on your team, the owner, the driver or the crew chief?
RICK HENDRICK: I think Jimmie and Chad are — I flew back home with Chad last Sunday night, and I’ve been with Jimmie early in the week, and they seem to be pretty relaxed, and I am, too. I just feel like it’s — we got here, and when we walk into the track is when I’m going to get knotted up. And they get ready to start the race, so many things are happening around you, and you’re trying to keep up with it. I’m trying to wait until Sunday when I walk in out there to get kind of in a bind. Actually I’m fishing today with Joe and Richard, so I’m taking the day off.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: I think we probably got it the easiest on our end because the worst we’re going to finish in the points is third, and we’re the team that’s chasing, and we’re just going to go down there and have fun. If it gets down to the last ten laps and there’s five points difference or ten points difference and we’ve got a solid chance of winning it, leading it or are right there, yeah, I think I’ll probably be like Joe. I may end up having to jump off the truck or something.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and thanks to our championship contending owners. This is one of our best teleconferences of the year. We appreciate it, and best of luck on Sunday.
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