NASCAR News

Toyota truck announcement press conference

November 17, 2003

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PARTICIPANTS: Jim Aust - Motorsports Vice President, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. President and CEO, Toyota Racing Development U.S.A. Les Unger - National Motorsports Manager, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Lee White - Group VP and GM, Toyota Racing Development U.S.A. Alex Meshkin - Owner and CEO of Bang Racing Larry McReynolds - VP of Bang Racing George deBidart - Owner, Innovative Motorsports, Inc. Mike Brown - GM of Bill Davis Racing Darrell Waltrip - Owner of Waltrip Racing Inc.

Les Unger: Welcome everyone. The subject we'll be covering today is probably the worst kept secret in NASCAR racing. We're happy you could all join us this morning. We have some individuals here we'd like to introduce. The first individual I'd like to introduce is the vice president of Motorsports, and also the president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development - Jim Aust - who is to my left. Starting down on the far right-hand side of the podium, the owner of Bang Racing, Alex Meshkin. Also, the vice president of Bang Racing, Larry McReynolds. The owner of Innovative Motorsports, George deBidart. The general manager of Bill Davis Racing, Mike Brown. And... I don't know about this guy on the end. The owner of Waltrip Racing, Darrell Waltrip. I'd like to turn it over to Jim [Aust], and then we'll go down the table [for comments from each participant.]

Jim Aust: Thanks Les... and I want to thank everyone for coming today... We've come full circle here in Florida since we made our announcement at Daytona back in February that we would be entering the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004.

We are proud to be here today with these five gentlemen, representing four separate teams, to begin the next step of our road to Daytona...

Since our announcement in early February ... a lot has happened in the progress of our program, and it hasn't all been easy. We made numerous sheet metal and aerodynamic changes to our truck, and we have designed and build our NASCAR-spec Tundra Racing V8 engine. The engine coming one year after we began the design from a clean sheet of paper. We're happy to say that the Tundra began its first track testing in August after being submitted to NASCAR.

Also over that time... more than 80 legitimate inquiries came in to us from prospective teams. Inquiries and proposals were received by teams in Winston Cup, Busch, and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Plus from newly formed teams. Over the past several months... we made more than 30 visits to prospective teams and their facilities... We took a very deliberate and methodical approach in looking for partners in which we could build relationships and which also had the same goals and determination as Toyota. We eventually sent out "Request for Proposals" to approximately 16 organizations.

As it turned out... all four of the teams that will be racing the Tundra next year are new to the Craftsman Truck Series... However... they all bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the program that will invaluable to us as a newcomer to the series.

Our goal from a racing perspective for next year... and the years that follow... will be to provide the Toyota teams with equally competitive Tundra trucks and engines so that they can do what they do best... compete on the track.

Additionally, we will be bringing an approach that we have refined over the last few years with our successful open-wheel programs... The basic philosophy is to provide technical and engineering support equally among all the teams ... both in the shop and at the track... ... Each Tundra truck and engine will have the benefit of the latest NASCAR-approved updates and improvements. Bill Davis Racing will assist TRD in the process.

From a marketing and advertising standpoint... Toyota plans on supporting the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series like we have in the other series in which we participate... In fact... we have already started this year with our ads on SPEED Channel ... Toyota will also be sponsoring the "Toyota Tundra 200" Craftsman Truck Series race at Nashville Speedway next August... We hope to do our part in helping the series grow in popularity and prestige, as well.

One of the ways we will help do that is to sponsor two of the Tundras that will be racing in 2004... Toyota branding will be featured on the No. 12 Innovative Motorsports Tundra driven by Robert Huffman... who won the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series championship this year in a Toyota Celica... and the No. 42 Bang Motorsports Tundra driven by Mike Skinner.

We are also very pleased that Darrell Waltrip - Mr. "Boogidy-boogidy-boogidy - will be featured as Toyota's NASCAR spokesperson in broadcast and print advertising beginning in January 2004.

Toyota... and its 100,000-plus employees at offices... manufacturing plants... and dealerships across the country... are excited to be a part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series... and we're looking forward to the first race at Daytona next February.

And there's no doubt in my mind that these guys are ready. Thank you very much...

Les Unger: Thanks Jim. As I indicated earlier, let's go down the row here and get comments from each of our team owners beginning with Alex...

Alex Meshkin: Thank you. It's a real dream to be a part of the NASCAR circuit, and it's such an honor to have been chosen by an organization such as Toyota. They {used to successful racing}, and we expect to be competitive as a start-up operation next year with Mike Skinner, the first champion in the truck series driving for a start-up team with Larry McReynolds. We're all very excited and looking forward to it.

Larry McReynolds: You know, when Alex approached me back in May about being a part of Bang Racing I wasn't real sure what to do because I don't think I ever lost that competitive spirit stepping off that pit box back in Atlanta back in 2000 as the crew chief for Mike Skinner. But when Alex approached me I saw his dedication and commitment to put together a winning racing operation. And then when we made out trip to Costa Mesa, Calif., to TRD to meet with Lee [White], Gary Reed and Pat Wall, I saw the commitment that these people are making to the Craftsman Truck Series, from my standpoint it was kind of a "no brainer." To be able to put a deal together for Mike Skinner and a second team, which we're going to announce a driver in the near future. It was a challenge that I just couldn't turn down. And the only thing I can say probably in about June [2004] when D.W. and I cannot be at the races, it will be pretty interesting in the motor coach on Saturday night when we're in there together watching the truck races. To be a part of this group up here - Bill Davis Racing, Innovative Motorsports, Darrell Waltrip Racing - I think we're all going to give you guys a lot to write about and talk about in 2004. And hopefully, the greatest problem we'll have is when we get back here in about a year from now, which one of these groups we'll be crowning champion on Friday afternoon. Thank you...

George deBidart: Good morning everybody. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to become a member of both Toyota and TRD. We were very fortunate to be chosen as one of the teams that are going to be able to fly the TRD and Toyota marks next season. We look forward to it. It will be the first time in my career as a team owner that I'm going to be able to roll into the garage area with the same amount of ammunition as the people I go to war with every weekend. And I'm kind of looking forward to that one. These guys are a first-class operation, and I feel very, very fortunate to be a part of it. We've got Robert Huffman driving the No. 12 truck, which we're really happy about. We're looking forward to doing some testing with Robert. We signed Hank Parker Jr. to drive our second truck, which will be the No. 21. We're just chomping at the bit to get started. I'd also like to say that I'm proud to be involved with this group of guys up here. Folks that I've done business with and competed against for the last several years in the business. I've got to compare with what Larry [McReynolds] was saying up here, we're going to be some people's worst nightmare when we start rolling on the race track, so I'm looking forward to it.

Mike Brown: Thanks. First of all, Bill Davis sends his regrets that he couldn't be here today. As all these guys have said, we're excited about our opportunity to team with Toyota. This stable is full of Winston Cup champions, winning crew chiefs, winning teams. It bodes well for the truck series that we're bringing seven new teams to the series. It will be a bright future for the truck series. It should be exciting. You'll find that not only will it be very competitive with the experience that we have. As far as Bill Davis Racing is concerned, we're very close to securing our sponsorship packages for our two trucks. We'll be making some announcements there about sponsors and drivers in the very near future. I'm very excited. I think it's something that we really didn't expect to be racing trucks in 2004. We had some situations that lended itself and allowed us to do this. We're very excited about our part in this.

Darrell Waltrip: Good morning everybody. I guess you just have to be careful what you ask for. I have a tendency to have my opinion about things, and I always thought that I learned my lesions as an owner. And I always tell people where I look back and I see where I made a lot of mistakes. And so these guys [Toyota] came along and said we're going to be able to help you take advantage of that. And I talked to them first of all about being a spokesperson for their program. I thought that was a natural place for me to go, and in the process - having worked with Bobby Kennedy over at Michael's [Waltrip] on the three truck races we did this year - I really grew very fond of Bobby. And as I talked to the Toyota guys about next year, I said man... Larry's [McReynolds] got a truck... Hey, I wish I had a truck! [Laughter] And so, guess what... we have a truck! And what I'm really excited about is that we have Michael Kranfuss' shop there in Concord that Bobby's feverishly working on right now to staff and get equipped. But what I'm most proud of is our driver. Where is David? There he is. You can't hide. You got to stand up here. We're so proud to have David Ruddamin as our driver. We just made a deal with him this week. I think he's one of the fine young superstars of our sport of the future... a great young man. A lot of you might remember his father Buzzy. I remember his father because I think we probably rubbed fenders together somewhere or another a long time ago. I told Buzzy that I was glad that he was going to come along every week, because I need someone I can talk to that will listen to me [laughter]. Us older guys seem to be able to do that. My dad used to sit on top of the truck, and he'd tell me how great everybody else was doing and how sorry I was [laughter]. So it's good to have a father involved in the program as well.

The truck will be No. 17... and I do have some heritage with the series. If you'll remember the Die Hard truck with Rich Bickle, we almost won the championship in '97. Finished second. Won a number of races. Won a number of poles. And I'm so excited to be in the truck series as an owner, and I in addition will drive the three races that my "rope" is long enough to let me race [laughter]. You see I have a rope around my neck, and it'll only go out so far. And how far it goes is how big a track I can drive. Right now there's two, but I don't know about [Mansville]... I haven't seen that one yet, but maybe there's three or four. Anyway, I'm really pleased to be a part of this whole thing... we're really working on Stevie [Waltrip] on that project. We've gotta convince her to give me more rope!

Larry McReynolds: And he's trying to convince me how I can spot for him and still be a part of these other two trucks! [Laughter]

Darrell Waltrip: We'll work it out.... Anyway, it's gonna be a lot of fun. These guys over here [Toyota and TRD]... Lee [White] and all these guys that have been working on the engine stuff. When I went to California, like Larry said, TRD - I walked in and saw the way they do things and the way they prepare for this series - I was blow away. And I'm really excited about what were going to be able to do next year in the truck series.

Les Unger: Thank you Darrell. Before we open it up to questions, there are two other individuals that a lot of you know that have been, and continue to be very instrumental in our NASCAR Craftsman Truck program. To my left, the group vice president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development - Lee White. And the other individual standing near the door next to Greg Thome, that is Pat Wall. Both of these individuals have played an integral part, a very important part, of the entire program prior to today and on into the future. I wanted to make sure they receive the accolades that they are due.

Right now, I'd like to open it up to any questions any members of the media may have for any of these gentlemen, myself included.

Question #1: What was the nature of the test this week in Daytona?

Lee White: That was a TRD test conducted by our Tundra Race Truck Center engineers with Joe Ruttman driving. Joe is over here... take a bow Joe [laughter]. Joe has been helping us from the beginning with our on-track testing. And in fact he's helped us long before that. He came to a lot of our wind-tunnel tests and offered at least a dollars worth of advice every time we were in the wind tunnel. It was a big help with his vast experience. Joe will continue to be out test driver for the TRD Tundra Truck center in High Point, N.C. That [Daytona] was a TRD test... it was done by Joe. I will tell you that the first on-track test with the TRD-from-scratch racing engine [Tundra Racing V8] will be here [Homestead-Miami Speedway on Monday and Tuesday.

Question #2: With your motor?

Lee White: That's correct. Our final approval came through... Is Wayne Auton here? There's Wayne. Another guy we need to acknowledge is Wayne Auton who is the NASCAR director of the truck series. Jim Cassidy is in the back. These guys have been a great help for us. Pat [Wall] and I have probably spent more time - invited and uninvited - than anybody in the 'big red truck' [NASCAR administrative trailer] at the truck events discussing how to get this whole program together. And those guys have been a huge amount of help for us.

Larry McReynolds: Lee, that's the way you handle these guys right there. You did it just perfectly [laughter].

Question #3: The obvious question is 'What's next?' What comes after trucks? Is [Nextel] Cup in the future? How long? What's the plan?

Jim Aust: I guess the first thing is we've got to find out if we can do a good job here [in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series]. We've had a great start with these gentlemen represented here today.

Obviously, we've looked down the road. At this particular point in time, we've got our hands full with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and also with our continued participation in the Indy Racing League. So that decision has not been made at this point. And I honestly can't tell you when that might happen. It's something that is on the horizon, and something that we'll continue to be looking at. It's years down the road is the best thing that I can tell you at this point.

Question #4: This question's for George [deBidart]. George, we've followed this year your struggles with sponsorship and drivers situations you've had presented to you. How nice... you've talked about going and being competitive at the racetrack, but as an owner of a team and you have a bunch of families in it... how comforting is this now to finally have something to hook you teeth into?

George deBidart: It's comforting in a lot of ways. Financially, it's going to be an advantage for me to sit back and know that I've got some support from an organization like Toyota and TRD. And based on that support, we got some people working on some sponsors that we can announce shortly. But it's more important for me to keep the rest of the butt I've got because my wife's been tearing it up for the last few years, you know, spending all the money I've been spending. I'm looking forward to that and going forward.

Question #5: How would you guys gauge the reaction to Toyota coming into NASCAR, whether it's the fans, the series or the fellow competitors?

Les Unger: It's been mixed. Obviously, there's a lot of enthusiasm coming from the fans and spectators, and obviously the sanctioning body. There've been some negative responses as well, but it's not something that we're surprised at. I think it's probably difficult to warm up to a new face. We the first new entry in NASCAR since I think it started back in the late '40s. By the same token, with the teams that we have up here, and the drivers that are going to hit the track... and the fact that all of these teams will be additions to the Craftsman Truck Series. With the advertising support and the promotional support that Toyota is going to bring - and has already started to bring - I know it's going to be a win-win deal for everybody involved. It will certainly make for some more exciting racing on the track, and that's what it's all about.

Question #6: Has there been any area that has been tougher... was it easier in Southern California... as far as the response to Toyota coming into the Craftsman Truck Series?

Les Unger: I don't think there's any particular region of the country that we've been able to determine that is more positive or less positive than the other. The truck series is such a national series, probably the most 'national' of all of the top series that NASCAR is involved with, I think the response has been pretty uniform regardless what part of the country you're talking about.

Question #7: Darrell... just from a media standpoint. Here you are, going to be a spokesman for Toyota, and an analyst on FOX broadcasts. And clearly, you and Larry [McReynolds] both will have a vested interest in Toyota's success in motorsports. Even thought you don't... on FOX news - SPEED Channel does trucks and you don't do it - you'll be talking about the truck series. Do you think that there's a conflict there, that there's a fairness issue there... that it will be something you'll deal with?

Darrell Waltrip: David... I am a trained professional. [Laughter] I walk the line every time I go into the booth... every time I go into the garage, really. [more laughter]. You know, I've been accused of that with my brother. I tell you this, we don't make this stuff up... If those Toyota trucks are up front running well, that's the story. Just like when Dodge came back and they were up front, that was the story. We just call it like we see 'em. Now I'm honest when I tell you that, sure. I'm gonna be watching David... I'll be bitin' my nails when he's doing this. Larry [McReynolds] is too. We know we can't oversell that aspect of what we do. So I'm purely and simply in this situation because I love the truck series. I always have. I believe in it. I think it's a fun series. It reminds me of Saturday night racing. I went to Irwindale [Speedway in Calif.] this past weekend [for the Toyota All-Star Showdown]. I don't know if you've been out to Irwindale or not, but I saw some of the best racing I've seen in my life out there last Saturday night. Thanks to these folks [from Toyota]. Sure, we have a vested interest, but we know where the line is. And we have plenty of people in our ear telling us if we go over. I hope that answers your question.

Question #8: Jim, can you give us an idea of the financial investment involved in all this?

Jim Aust: Well, I'd like to but then you'd know the rest of the story. [Laughter] Certainly like I mentioned before, we're going to be sponsoring two trucks... the No. 12 truck and the No. 42 truck. And we'll be providing some additional sponsorship for the rest of the teams here, which includes the engines and the chassis support. That's about as far as I'd like to go into it.

Question #9: While we're talking about money... earlier today Chevrolet announced that they were supporting trucks. Do you see the cost of Craftsman Trucks escalating now?

Jim Aust: No according to what these guys [owners] are telling us. [Laughter] Certainly we hope that that's not the case. When we started this particular program, we went out and did our homework. Lee [White] and Pat Wall, who's been a great help with us on this program, did a lot of work to determine what we felt was a reasonable budget for running a truck. And as everything unfolded, we found that there were different price ranges in the garage for running a truck. So we had to settle in on a number that we were comfortable with, and we did that. The real bottom line is that there are varying packages that teams can run, so it depends on how you spend and if that's going to get you the results that you need. To answer your question Lewis, I don't really think that's the case. We think we have a very competitive program, and one that we're not really expecting to drive the cost of racing up. That's not been our motive in the past, and we don't need to change it at this time.

Les Unger: Are there any more questions? Thank you all very much.

-Toyota-

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