Ginn reveals why he axed Marlin and Nemechek Wednesday on “The Driver’s Seat,” on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio, hosts John Kernan and Buddy Baker spoke with Ginn Racing owner Bobby Ginn about the reasons behind the shakeup involving his #13 and #14 race teams.
Host, John Kernan: “I guess it is all a matter of being able to do business and finding sponsorships. That’s the reason you made the changes with Sterling [Marlin] and Joe [Nemechek]. Is that correct?”
Bobby Ginn: “Yes, I think so. There were a lot of reasons. First of all, I’d like to say that both Sterling and Joe have become friends. I know their families and we feel bad about the situation but at the end of the day there are hundreds of other people that are involved in this team and the strength of the team is what keeps you racing. I think all of you would agree. We started the season off this year and Joe and Sterling and Mark [Martin] did a masterful job of getting our cars into the top 35 and keeping them there. That was our first objective. We started with one car qualified, and it was pretty far down, and two cars unqualified. So the first hurdle we had was to try to get something that was on the track and as we went through the season we were trying to get sponsors and trying to get sponsors that were quality sponsors not just take the first one that came through the door. And as the season got in close to the halfway mark we began to look at the fact that because I was running the car with our name on it I think the world thought that we had third party sponsors. And so I had to make a decision, a decision that I think a lot of teams have had to make over the years and that was to let the world know by running two black cars that we still had inventory available, we had space available. So that started and it helped. We’ve had a lot more activity and a lot more urgency put into that since we did that than we had up to that point. When we bought into the team last year we didn’t get into it until the silly season was over and so talking to sponsors before they did budgets last year was not an option to me. I didn’t have that. So most of the sponsors we talked to this year were talking about not this year but they were talking about ’08. And I was running three cars in the top 35 and I still had inventory so I ran that and that helped. I heard the end of Joe’s interview and he’s right. There’s a lot of activity out there and a lot going on right now so we’re scrambling like we should be to try to fill up that inventory.
“The other thing that happened during the season is NASCAR announced that they were going to the COT full time in ’08 and our plan has been from the beginning that we were going to build our team slowly, over time, not make snap decisions and quick decisions that we would look back on and regret and so we were running the truck and the Busch car and Regan [Smith] was doing great in the Busch car. He had done pretty well in the Cup and so I talked with Mark and Jay [Frye] and Mark was convinced that he was ready to run a full-time schedule so if I’ve got to run a car with no sponsorship on it I may as well be trying to get my young driver seat time.”
Kernan: “Is youth more appealing to sponsors out there?”
Ginn: “It’s both. If you were running #2 in the points or #1 in the points and you were 70 years old sponsors would be attracted to you but if you’re not running well and sponsors have the option to go to anybody, the sponsors are looking for youth. In the case of the Army this year the decision was not to yank Joe out of the car. The decision was that Army’s marketing people came in and said our business is recruiting. Every weekend at that track we have hundreds of recruits that are out there with the Army that they are trying to recruit. The Army today, all the services today, are in competition for people just like business is. And so if they can use NASCAR, and they do, pretty much all of them use NASCAR to help in their recruiting process, they want somebody that is going to more closely relate to the people that they’re trying to recruit. So there was a situation where Mark Martin coming in was a seasoned veteran at the end of his career and we put him in with a young driver and they loved that idea. It wasn’t anything against Joe. It’s just that age is age. We’ve all got to live with it. So it certainly wasn’t anything other than that. In our particular situation right now I think the younger drivers is what most of the sponsors [want]. They’re either going after the big names or they’re going after somebody that they think is going to be a big name.”
Host, Buddy Baker: “There’s a question about your #13 car that you’re probably not going to race anymore this year. What happens to that number and that race team?”
Ginn: “First of all, I’m not going to speculate on what’s going to happen. Things are happening so fast right now that we are preserving every option we have. I don’t intend for that car to sit still. It’s got value to me or to someone but we right now –and this is not dodging [the question] – we have not made a decision as to what we’re going to do. As Joe said, both Joe and Sterling are both still under contract. I have sponsors sitting in my office right now and so we are still working on trying to sponsor it. On thing I don’t want to do is I don’t want to waste resources. You said it earlier that this is a sport that its top line, its income line, is dependent on sponsorship. Now, I can put money into it but I’m wasting resources that I can continue to build our shop and build our team stronger if I’m racing cars that I don’t have sponsorship on.”
Kernan: “Has anybody, another team owner approached you about buying that #13 so they can get your guaranteed top 35 spot?”
Ginn: “There are so many scenarios floating around and everybody’s got an idea and a lot of things have been discussed. Sure there have. Of course they have. But, you know, that’s not NASCAR’s rule. At the end of the day we can want to do whatever we want to do but I’ve got to go back to [NASCAR president] Mike Helton and get his approval and we’re not sure what he would say to that if we’re even going to do that. The option is to not do that. We’re looking still for a long term fix for it. Right now we’re talking to anyone who will talk to us. We’re listening to them and we’re collecting information. And, Buddy, I do listen to people. I’ve listened to Sterling and I’ve listened to Joe. I’ve listened to Jay and other people. I’ve gone outside and asked advice from Rick Hendrick. And one of the big reasons I did the deal with Mark Martin was that Mark is not only a professional on the track, he is a professional off the track. He knows this business. He’s had up days [and] he’s had down days. So one of my fall-backs has been Mark. When I’ve really got a question; ‘What happens, Mark, if I run a black car?’ I wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t gotten advice that that was something I should have done.”
“The other thing I’d like to say about Sterling and Joe, too, just so that everyone knows this is that we did this at the break, it’s halfway through, they’re still under contract with us, I’m hoping something works out. But at the end of the day I didn’t want to restrict them from getting to the end of the season and having to do something that was catastrophic to them. I felt like, from a personal standpoint, that it was better for them to know today than to wait until the end of the season and not be able to get a ride with somebody that needs a good driver because both of those guys have still got a lot of driving left in them and they’ve both got a lot to contribute to this sport. Both have contributed a lot. So one of the reasons we did what we did when we did was to give them the fair shake to be able to go out and find a ride.”