|Rumors are this is a precursor to NASCAR buying the V8 Supercar series and extending its brand internationally. Mike Helton looks happy about it as he chats with Ambrose|
Roger Penske– NASCAR Team Owner
Dick Johnson – V8 Super Team Owner
Marcos Ambrose – Driver
Tim Cindric – Penske Racing President
MERRILL CAIN: Good day, everyone. I'm Merrill Cain with Team Penske and we appreciate everyone joining us for this very special media teleconference. It was announced yesterday that Team Penske has formed a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing to begin competing in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship starting in 2015. DJR Team Penske will field Ford Falcons in the series starting next season, and one of the most accomplished drivers in the recent history of V8 Supercars – Marcos Ambrose – will return home to Australia to race in the iconic No. 17 Ford after competing in NASCAR over the last nine seasons. We're excited to be joined today by several special guests that helped bring together this unique partnership as we welcome to the call Roger Penske, Dick Johnson, Marcos Ambrose and Tim Cindric. We'll begin by getting some opening comments from all of our guests.
Roger, congratulations on Sunday's NASCAR Chase win at Chicagoland Speedway as well as this exciting news that was announced yesterday. Team Penske has obviously had tremendous success over the years across its racing platforms, winning over 400 races and 26 national championships. Why does it make sense for the organization to team up with Dick Johnson Racing for this program and move forward with Marcos to begin competing in the V8 Supercars Championship starting in 2015?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, Merrill, when I stepped back away from this opportunity, I really look at our business that we've now been developing in Australia. We had the opportunity to race in the Gold Coast for a number of years with IndyCars. I had the opportunity to watch the V8 Supercars Series. I know a number of the drivers, and obviously have followed the series for a number of years.
When I looked at our business – and racing has been a common thread through our businesses for many years – and I saw that the V8 Supercars would connect with our customer base throughout Australia and there was no question that with our interests in racing as we know our NASCAR heritage here, IndyCar, a chance to go to Australia and take some of our people an opportunity there would be something that we wouldn't want to turn down.
Obviously when we look at the landscape coming down there by ourselves and trying to develop a team, we really said that wasn't an option, and so we took the last four to five months really to look and see what we might be able to do, partner or do something with another organization, and I found out very quickly that Dick Johnson Racing had such a great reputation. I had the opportunity to go to the shop, meet Dick and meet the key people there, and it was obvious that we could have a good fit. We need a partner. We've partnered in many businesses here in the United States and internationally, and the chance to partner with someone who had assets, who had the RECs and had the ability for us to be able to join together and go in 2015 was the first step.
Obviously with all the drivers in most cases under contracts, that made it difficult for us to make a decision on just where we might go from a driver standpoint, and having known Marcos and from time to time talked to him about Australia, he said to us – “At some time I'm thinking about going back to Australia with my family. If you ever want to run down there, let me know." So I took the opportunity to call him up on the phone and Tim met with him, and he said, look, there's an opportunity, I'd like to be part of it.
This has taken time over the last several months to get to this point, and quite honestly we didn't really want to go forward until we finished the IndyCar season and looked at the next nine races in NASCAR. It's a business reason, we love racing, we love Australia, and I think the combination of Johnson and certainly Marcos Ambrose to set the stage and the foundation for us will be a real opportunity.
Again, I appreciate the opportunity to communicate that to everyone on the line tonight. Thank you.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Roger. Now let's hear from Dick Johnson. Your teams have experienced great success with seven Australian Touring Car and V8 Supercar championships. This new partnership with Team Penske really represents a new era for Dick Johnson Racing. Can you talk about how this relationship developed over the last several months and the opportunity to work with Team Penske and Marcos Ambrose?
DICK JOHNSON: Well, actually the first contact was made near on 12 months ago when Tim came out to Australia and certainly had a look around at the Homebush facility, et cetera, and we've been in conversation ever since, working out the finer details, but it was never, ever going to realistically come to play until such time as 2015, at the beginning of a new season.
To have Marcos as part of our team, I've known Marcos for quite some time, he was one of the few guys to win back to back championships for Ford, and to have as I said, to have Marcos as part of our team is a real bonus. And certainly with Roger and the Penske organization, what they can bring to our team will be second to none, I can assure you. It's one of those situations that anyone who ever had this sort of opportunity would never, ever give it up because obviously Roger is iconic not only in the U.S. but certainly throughout the world with his racing exploits and certainly his business exploits.
He has made it very clear on a number of occasions like he has done with his other teams that he does this to leverage his business in every way in every country that he's been in, and I think it's just a great way of doing things. We've had a lot of partners along the way that have done exactly the same.
And for Marcos to come home, I know a lot of speculation is that Marcos was really, really good in the early '90s late '90s into the 2000s, but coming into the V8 Supercars, which has changed an awful lot over the past nine or 10 years, I don't think he'll have any trouble at all finding his feet within these cars, even though they're different cars. They're not all that different, and Marcos, as you know, has a tremendous record on road courses in the NASCARs and things. I'm sure that he'll fit very well with the system.
Mind you, it's not something, if anyone thinks you're going to come straight out of the box and win races from day one, I think that would be a pie in the sky sort of attitude, but quite frankly, next year, I think from what Roger says, is going to be a learning year for all of us and we'll have a real good crack in 2016. But boy, the opportunities here are endless with the technical expertise that we can get from Penske and certainly to sort of integrate with the team we currently have here and the facility we have I think will be nothing short of spectacular.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much, Dick. We're all very excited for the new partnership. Now for Marcos, after a successful nine seasons competing in NASCAR, you'll get a chance to return home in 2015 and race in a series where you won 28 races and two series titles in five seasons. How great of an opportunity and challenge is this to come back to V8 Supercars and the legendary No. 17 Ford Falcon and race for two motorsports legends in Roger Penske and Dick Johnson?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, thank you for the question. It certainly is a great opportunity and it's going to be a great personal challenge for me. The point I want to get across, also, it's an honor to be able to bring to Australian racing, be part of bringing Team Penske to Australian racing. It's going to be great for Australian motorsport. To drive the No. 17 for Dick Johnson Racing is also an incredible opportunity for me and a privilege. I've watched Dick race as a kid. I've raced against his team, and now I get to drive with him, so the combination of DJR and Team Penske is an opportunity that is an incredible one for me personally. It was a no brainer for me to come with the conversations I've had with Roger to take this opportunity and really run with it. I can't wait to get home and get started.
It will be a challenge for me personally, there's no doubt about that. It's been nearly 10 years since I've driven a V8 Supercar. I don't take that challenge lightly. I know it's going to take some time to get integrated back into the series with the way they like to race, with the rules they have in place, and also the technical aspect of these cars, but I know what I've done in the past, and I know what I'm capable of, and it's not like I've been sitting around a beach. I've been racing 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup races every season. I've had plenty of racing miles under my belt. I'm looking forward to the change. I'm looking forward to bringing my family back to Australia, and just can't wait to get started.
MERRILL CAIN: Penske Racing President Tim Cindric also joins us. Tim, you made some trips to Australia to explore opportunities for the team in the V8 Supercars Championship. Can you talk a little bit about the competition in the series and the opportunities for Team Penske on the racing side and also how the organizational structure will work within DJR and Team Penske as it gears up for the 2015 season?
TIM CINDRIC: Sure, I guess at the start, my first exposure to V8 Supercars was really when we raced in Surfers Paradise with the IndyCars back in the CART Series in the early 90s. I think 1991 was the first year that I came across it, which was the first year of the Surfers event, and there was all this talk about V8 Supercars, and the IndyCars were a bit secondary to what was going on with V8 Supercars. I guess we understand at least from my perspective what was V8 Supercars, and obviously that was a long time ago, but when Roger mentioned to me that he was seriously considering some kind of involvement within the V8 Supercars Series in Australia, I didn't know to take him serious or not, but then he told me about fellow by the name of Dick Johnson that was actually going to come across to have a look at our workshop in North Carolina. And I thought, okay, it's a typical, I guess, tour of our facility, but never did I really realize how serious Roger was about getting involved. As he asked me more questions, it was obvious that I needed to get on an airplane and go find out really what the landscape looked like, which was why I went across to Homebush, and as I was in Homebush, there was quite a bit of speculation about kind of why we were there and what our end objective was.
A couple of the media had actually mentioned to me would we consider Marcos as a driver, and that stirred up things a little bit, and Marcos a little bit later had asked, hey, I might be interested in something like that if this is something that you're seriously considering, and from then it just continued to grow. We felt like we were serious enough to try and understand a bit more about the DJR organization when I came across in June, and what I saw there and what I felt there was a very positive energy within that organization, and I spent the better part of a week there just getting to know the people and getting to understand the infrastructure. And what had occurred to me when I had first taken my position with Roger, within the Penske organization at the end of 1999, it was a team that hadn't won a race in two and a half years, and it was something that I felt very confident that we could turn around quite quickly because I knew that the people there had been through the hard times. They'd been through the times in which they'd had some successes together and they had obviously had talent, but they hadn't had recent success.
So a lot of the employees that were there just for the success and weren't willing to be there for the hard times had already been gone by I guess the time that I arrived, and I felt that same atmosphere existed within DJR when I was there, that the people that were there were the core of the group, and the core group was still very strong, it just needed enhancement, and it needed further resources, whether it's monetarily, or more importantly, through management or through other people.
And what I've come to find out in this journey is that Ryan Story, he's somebody that is probably very under spoken, but he's somebody that we feel very confident in being the managing director of this new partnership that we have going forward, and we feel like he's the guy to lead this as he is with DJR now and the sacrifices that he's made along with Steve Brabeck and the group that he and Dick have, I think we have a very good relationship there.
And we feel like we can augment that with some influence from the U.S., but I feel like it doesn't this isn't a matter of Penske taking over the DJR organization as far as personnel. We need to integrate, and that integration really is simply going to be in the form of a team manager that we've had that's helped start up our Porsche RS Spyder program back in 2005 and started up our very successful Nationwide Series program. Jeff Swartwout is his name, and he'll be the team manager and he'll work closely with Ryan in terms of managing the organization as we get started. His wife is actually from New Zealand, so he has quite a few relatives actually in Australia now, and a fellow by the name of Nick Hughes who actually had his first position with us at Penske out of college, he worked for Penske Shocks and then he moved into the NASCAR world with Ray Evernham and then went to work as technical director with Michael Waltrip Racing, so he understands the NASCAR landscape. He's an Australian, he's most recently worked for PWR Radiators as their technical director, and he's going to come on board as the technical director for our organization and help again enhance the guys that exist there from a technical perspective.
Aside from those, I guess, different integration points, that car group there, I left there with a lot of confidence in June knowing that this group could get the job done, obviously with Marcos behind the wheel. As we looked at how do we connect that to Roger's businesses, we knew that we needed to have someone on the ground floor within Australia to do as we do here in the States, and as Roger said, the common thread throughout our businesses is the motorsport, and we needed someone there that knew the landscape to tie these things together, and I think most of you are familiar with a fellow by the name of John Crennan, and John Crennan most recently was managing director at Nissan Motorsport and was the co founder of HRT. He's going to come on board to help us leverage our association with the Penske commercial vehicles and our racing program.
As far as how we work our racing side in that organization and our competition and business, that's kind of maybe a long winded overview.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Tim. We appreciate all the comments from our guests today, and I think we're ready to take some questions from the media members on today's call.
Q. Roger, and I guess Dick is involved in this question a bit, too, the arrangement has been described in the release as a partnership. Can you talk us through how it's going to work and what the actual ownership split is going to be, please?
ROGER PENSKE: We'll have a majority ownership, but Dick will be involved on a day to day basis. He lives there. He's been part of the team and will integrate with the people that he has on the ground. I think Tim was able to give you some specific details on people that we would bring to the party, but we'll make we'll set up actually a separate entity which Dick and his investors will be part of, and then he'll contribute assets and we'll contribute capital into the business, and then we'll go to V 8 Supercar for approval to transfer the RECs into that new organization.
Q. So you're taking over both RECs?
ROGER PENSKE: Yes.
TIM CINDRIC: It would be all part of that entity.
Q. I mean, it is a takeover, so Dick, I mean, bittersweet? This injects a lot of resources into the team, but you're losing control as it were.
DICK JOHNSON: To be quite honest, I think anyone would be more than happy to hand control to the Penske organization of any motor racing business. We're in motor racing, and I've been in motor racing for, as you know, a lot of years, and over those years we've had a lot of success. But in recent times the success hasn't been what I've got in this business for originally. At this point I see this as a way for us to be able to run at the front of the field in the future.
ROGER PENSKE: I think just to put it specifically, we'll have 51 percent of the entity, and Dick will have 49, and obviously we're going to take on the financial responsibility on a going forward basis. I think to me, it's an equal partnership, and with Dick on the ground and Ryan being the managing director, I think we have forged a great alliance.
Q. Just quickly, Marcos, when are you actually getting back to Australia and when do you expect to drive one of the cars for the first time?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, thanks. I have nine races left in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty Motorsports. I intend to honor that, and so shortly after the last race at Homestead I'll be planning to come back. We have some opportunities to get behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar which is really what I'm thinking about the most these days for some media rides and corporate rides and things like that, so I do expect to come back in November, and then the big move with the family and so forth will take place at the end of December.
Q. Are you going to be at Homebush?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yes.
Q. And where are you going to live?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I'm going to live in Tasmania, and I've kept my residence in South East Queensland that I've had when I was racing for Stone Brothers, so I'll be using both houses to do the job, but I'm going to move the family and base ourselves in Launceston, Tasmania.
Q. Marcos, what will you miss most about NASCAR, and perhaps your biggest moment over here in the eight or nine years you raced? And one for Roger, what is it you like most about Marcos Ambrose as a driver and someone representing your company?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I've got some incredibly fond memories of racing in the U.S., and there is no feeling like running a Sprint Cup car on a high speed oval. It's something that not many professional drivers get a chance to taste, and I will miss that. I will miss the sensation, the speed and the intensity of the racing, the amount of racing. You know, that is why I came to America. I came to America because of the schedule, the amount of races, you know, of the toughness and the aggressiveness of the racing, and I'll miss that, there's no doubt about it.
But at the same time, V8 Supercar is an incredible series, and I'm certainly going to get plenty of competition down there, as well. I will miss the high speed racing that is NASCAR and just the general intensity of it and the size.
What was the other half of your question?
Q. What was the moment you'll remember most from your eight or nine years here?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, certainly winning my first Sprint Cup race will go down as one of my highlights, but tonight to be honest with you ranks right up there, the opportunity to be sitting next to Roger Penske announcing a deal to return home. If I look at my racing in America, to think that I was actually able to come to this point in my career, it's an amazing thing. So I think tonight is a highlight.
ROGER PENSKE: From a Penske perspective, I think Marcos has the talent, I think he's the ultimate road racer. He's shown his capability racing against the best in this type of vehicle in the United States as a winner many, many times. He's a local boy in Australia, which makes a big difference, as we wanted a team with Dick Johnson, and the chance to have Marcos as our driver made a great combination, and he'll be able to connect with our customers, connect with our employees, and more important, he'll be able to help build the Penske brand in Australia because it's about performance and it's about integrity and it's about winning.
To me when you put it all together, we couldn't have a better combination with DJR and Marcos, and we're going to try to provide input and bring our experience to the table, too. Again, as I think Tim said and Marcos said earlier, and Dick did, this is the first year for us. We don't have high expectations. We want to be professional. We want to bring our expertise to the series. I've made a huge commitment there from a business perspective in the Western Star, MAN Truck distribution we just announced in the last 24 hours the purchase of Detroit Diesel and MTU Engine distribution. We'll continue to invest in that part of the world, which we think is exciting.
Q. Marcos, when we were speaking last month at Watkins Glen, I'm wondering if this deal, if it wasn't with pen to paper, at least in your mind, was this a done deal, and if not then, when did you know you were going to be making the return?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, the first question really is when was it time to stop in America, and I had come to that conclusion leading into the summer that the timing was right for me personally to return to Australia the end of this season for personal reasons – my family, my kids are six and eight. I want them to enjoy and experience Australian life, as well, so when they grow up they can make their own choices in life where they want to be. I have one American that was born here and I have an Australian, Tabitha, who's eight who has an Australian passport. I think the timing for me personally was right. My career in NASCAR has flattened off, and I always said that when I felt like I wasn't going to be able to either keep progressing or wasn't going to be able to achieve what I came here to do, which was to win a championship, then I needed to look at my options, and that's exactly what I've done.
At the same time in silhouette, I started talking to Tim and Roger somewhat loosely and said that if they intended and wanted to be part of Australian racing in the V8 Supercar Series that I would be honored to be a part of that and I'd like to be a part of that. So we've had a very open communication. We've also been making our own choices, and it's been fairly recently that we've been able to put pen to paper and make it solid.
Q. When you say that your career in NASCAR had flattened off, how much were you looking at maybe trying to get with a bigger team as an option perhaps as an alternative to going back to Australia?
MARCOS AMBROSE: You look at all those factors, and I've achieved a lot in NASCAR, getting an opportunity to drive in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty is incredible, but I felt like my opportunities were getting narrower, and certainly my results had flattened off. I mean, it's just a fact of life.
I felt like it's a good time for me to return the family to Australia. I've certainly scratched the itch of NASCAR, and I'm really proud of what I've achieved, but I'm happy to return to Australia and go to the next chapter in my racing career.
Q. Will you have any partnership stake in this new arrangement?
MARCOS AMBROSE: No, I will not.
Q. And finally, you mentioned the flattening off. The fact is there are only two out of every 36 races a year that are on road courses. How eager are you just to get back to road courses?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I'm really excited to go road racing again all the time. I certainly have a knack for it, and I enjoy it. In going back to V8 Supercar Series, it's a really natural home for me. The cars are amazing vehicles. It's one of the most competitive categories in the world, and I certainly don't come back into V8 Supercar with any misconceptions about how tough it's going to be to reintegrate and relearn what the series is and what the cars are.
That being said, road racing is my niche. It's what I'm really good at, driving heavy race cars around road courses, and I'm looking forward to dedicating my entire seasons to it.
Q. Is there any chance you would do a one off in NASCAR?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I haven't thought about that, but to be honest with you, I'm just really, really excited to announce this and to look forward to putting my full commitment behind the V8 Supercar program for DJR Team Penske.
Q. Two quick questions, one for Roger, one for Marcos. Roger, while you're known to be a great delegator, you're also known to be a hands on person, and I was wondering how much time if any will you be spending in Australia with the team, and for Marcos, could you tell me about what's necessary to test the new cars?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think from my perspective, I've had my schedule arranged where I'll spend probably a week every quarter in Australia, and what I'll try to do is time those when we have races and we can utilize that for connecting with the team. But obviously I have a huge schedule over here which I'm committed to, but I think it's our people, and again, that's where Dick Johnson comes in, because he's got to carry the partnership in Australia.
Q. Marcos, is there any limit to your testing before the season? What will you be doing?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, there is. he biggest factor with getting ready will be the restrictions that the series have in place for the teams and drivers for testing the vehicles, and so we have to work within the guidelines that the series sets. We have a test day or two left, I believe, in DJR's allotment of testing, plus we have some ability to do some media rides and corporate rides, and we're going to have a look at getting as much seat time as possible for me just to get used to sitting on the right hand side again. I mean, as much as anything I've got to get used to shifting with my left hand and sitting on the wrong side of the car, for me, and the other factor that comes into play, too, are the tracks, and when you look at the schedule for 2015 there are two tracks I haven't raced on, a couple of tracks that have had some changes to the circuit, so I'll be looking to get some track time, as well, maybe not necessarily in a V8 Supercar but in another race car.
Q. I've got a question for Roger Penske. We've been hearing in pit lane for some time that there were potential conversations going on with other V8 Supercar teams. Might I ask if any of those discussions happened, and were they serious? And can I also about what role, if any, Ford Motorsport took in the formation of the team and introductions and so forth?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, really we have an alliance with Ford and NASCAR here in the States, and when I made one of my earlier trips last year to Australia, it was arranged for me to go and meet the Ford Racing team in Australia and also meet Dick Johnson. I had that opportunity.
I hadn't talked to any other team. Tim made the trip out there and had some discussions, but at this particular time, with our relationship with Ford and their ability over here, they've supported us, we felt that Dick's relationship with Ford, the tools that he had, it would be the smart thing for us to do this first year would be to run Ford vehicles. That's pretty much how we came to that decision.
And again, as Tim said, Dick had an organization which had a core group, and we felt was the support he needed, and with the little technical expertise that we could bring to the table that we could have a great partnership. So we've been transparent on the ownership, and I think that his people have too from what we've seen, and we've worked closely with them as we've been outlining this. This didn't happen overnight – there's been some starts and stops. We thought earlier on that we were going to be able to just get a car and take a look at it. The league told us we could have that and then quickly was told after that that we couldn't have a car and bring it to the States, which was disappointing. In fact, at one point we decided not to compete.
But in the end I think with Marcos coming on board, we decided to push the green button and keep going, but this has kind of evolved here over the last several weeks here. This isn't something that we had for sure six months ago.
Q. Marcos, how closely have you been keeping tabs on what's been happening here the last nine years when you haven't been in V8 Supercars?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, I've certainly kept abreast. I've got a few friends in the pit lane there so I always tend to see how they go. The footage on SPEED TV for a couple years was great to be able to follow the series, but this year I've had to get some DVDs sent across of the telecast and so forth. So I've watched intently since I knew that I was going to be doing this program in 2015. I've spent a lot of time and energy looking back at the series, looking at the drivers, the driving standards, the rules, and the interpretation of those on the track. So I feel like I've got a really good handle on the current generation car, the current crop of drivers and the competitiveness, and the things that are happening during the race weekend.
As much as I can do from 14,000 miles away, I'm doing, but I've been keeping track of it over the years, but obviously the last six months or so with much more scrutiny and intensity.
Q. Can I also ask, the second driver who will run alongside Ambrose, is there a time frame for that, and also endurance co drivers with IndyCar ending its series now in August, is there any opportunity for other Penske drivers to make the trip south and drive a V8 Supercar in an endurance race?
ROGER PENSKE: Right now we're really focusing on Ambrose, and we need to go through approvals with the association, and before we would get into a second driver, we felt let's get ourselves announced, let's get our organization together, and we've got four or five months here before the season starts, and I think that that's probably the best.
I told Marcos maybe we'd get (Juan) Montoya who said he likes to run on road courses to come down and join him, but that was only a joke. Please don't print that. That's just a joke.
TIM CINDRIC: (Laughs) We'll have a long line out the door with Helio (Castroneves) and Will Power and the rest of them asking why they didn't get to go. There's a long list.
Q. You discussed the U.S. team manager will be installed and new technical director will be installed. When will that technical structure and management structure come into place?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, obviously our organization isn't going to exist until the first of the year, but I would say that those pieces have already begun to start to formulate, so as far as when they'll be actually on the ground within the organization, Nick Hughes from a technical direction, he's been, as Marcos has, really a student of the series here in the past few months just trying to understand the integration, and from our perspective, as far as the team manager aspect of it, I would say that, again, in the next month or two, Jeff would spend some time understanding he's got to relocate his family from the States to Australia, and I would say that he won't have an active role until we form our company at the end of the year.
Q. DJR still has a couple of test dates up their sleeve at the end of this year. With a view to ensuring the performances where you would like them to be in 2015, is there any potential you would sacrifice those days throughout this season and use them in December?
DICK JOHNSON: Well, we've obviously still got a few races left this year to be able to complete our championship, and our focus is on that at the moment. If the opportunity comes up and Marcos is out here, obviously we would try and utilize those two days along with possibly some corporate rides and things like that that he could get a bit of a feel for the car.
Q. We did briefly touch on consideration of a second driver, but you've got two pretty handy steerers in the team at the moment, but I wanted to get everyone's thoughts on Scott Pye the driver.
DICK JOHNSON: Scott is doing a great job for us at the moment, but at this point in time we're just obviously trying to get down to the bare facts of what we're sort of releasing at this point in time. That sort of discussion hasn't really taken place at this point.
Q. Marcos, we've got a bloke called Jamie Whincup who's on his way to winning a sixth chip and he's wrapped up the pole record since you've been gone. Can you be the man to take it to him because he's looking pretty unbeatable at the moment.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, the driver is just one element of that. I'm certainly not going to stand up here today and tell you I'm going to come home and dominate the world. I've got a big challenge in front of me to get reintegrated into the series, to readapt my driving style to suit these cars, to change my style to suit the rules of the racing, the code of conduct on the track, but I've got a lot of strength around me with Dick Johnson Racing and Team Penske putting their might behind this project. It's going to take us time, but we believe we're in racing to win, and that's what our intent will be.
Q. What do you think of Jamie Whincup from what you've seen? Is it a scary prospect to think that you're going to be coming against him and he'll be your rival now?
MARCOS AMBROSE: He's got two arms and legs just like every other driver out there, but he has done an amazing job, and congratulations to him. He certainly has an approach to his racing and his work, incredible talent behind the wheel, plus he's got clearly a lot of dedication to his craft, and he also has the professionalism to get it done year in and year out. You look at the series, he's certainly up there top of the list of guys to compete against, but there's more than just one, and I look at some of the footage I've watched this year, there are some amazing drivers down there, young drivers I have yet to race against, and I'm looking forward to competing against them all.
Q. Your biggest rivals when you were winning championship two of them are out of the series, and I think Ingall is really struggling. Does that concern you at all?
MARCOS AMBROSE: When I was there, Jamie Whincup was racing, so too Craig Lowndes, so too Jason Bright. They're all doing pretty well, so I don't think that it's necessarily a matter of the talent level has increased, just the game has changed.
Q. Roger, we've talked about experience and expertise, but the big thing that DJR has been lacking is cash. Are you going in there with an open checkbook to turn this around to try to win races?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think if you look at our team over the years, the key thing we do is try to get the commercial relationships with sponsors. The good news is we have a number of them that we do business with here in the States who are active in Australia, so we are having conversation with them at this point as we go forward.
As I said earlier, we're taking on the responsibility with the majority ownership to fund the team. I think that hopefully, and professionally with the team, that we'll be able to fund a team that has the capability and the assets, not only the human capital assets but the cash assets in order to compete at the highest level.
Now, I don't think you can buy wins. I think it's all about the team effort and how it comes together. We've seen a lot of people come into the sport, I’ve been in it a long time, and typically it's the team that pulls the human capital together, the assets, the human assets, that win. Capital and funding is key, but I think starting out with Dick and with Ryan and the people that are associated with DJR, Marcos is highly motivated to compete in Australia, I think we're starting out really in a good position.
As far as the second driver is concerned, I think it's not fair at this point for us to assess Scott Pye or (David) Wall at this time because we really have just come to the point where we know the new organization will have Marcos, and we're going to take our time now and see how things wrap up here as we look at a second driver. I think that seat is certainly wide open.
Q. Marcos, it seems as though you didn't leave many stones unturned your first foray into V8 Supercars. Is there anything left to achieve for you? What do you hope this time around?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Bathurst comes to mind. I've yet to win the Bathurst 1000. I've had five shots at it and have done an average job every go. That is certainly on the list, but I mean, the biggest thing for me, is returning to Australia. I used to compete at the highest level with the caliber of team that we're forming here and we're talking about tonight, I'm super excited to be part of that and to achieve what we all hope. That is what I'm after. I want to be able to bring, be part of bringing Team Penske to Australia with Dick Johnson Racing and get them back in the winner's circle and get them back to where they want to be, which is the champion.
Q. You mentioned just before this, just want to clarify that you said you saw your NASCAR career sort of flattening out a little bit. You wouldn't come across here unless you thought you were going to be particularly competitive, would you? We can talk about Jamie Whincup and that kind of thing all day long, but this I assume wouldn't be a career move of yours unless you thought you had a chance of winning another championship?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, that's correct. That's a two part question for me. Personally it was the right time to return my family to Australia at the end of this season, and then the second question is would I drive V8 Supercar, I certainly have taken that opportunity as has been presented with this deal. I think it's an incredible opportunity and one I'm looking forward to.
Q. Also you mentioned that you're going to be living in Tasmania, but you said you'll have a sort of base in South East Queensland, because DJR at the moment is based on the Gold Coast, will you be spending much time here with the team?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yes, I will. I've always based myself around the race team that I'm driving for, and this will be no different at Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske. I still have a property up there from when I drove for Stone Brothers, and I'll be using that property when I'm working up at Dick Johnson Racing in South East Queensland. It's a personal choice to get the family back to Tasmania, it's where our immediate family is, it's where we all grew up, and after nine years in the U.S., I think it's appropriate that my kids get to hang out with their cousins and their immediate family. I'm going to balance that out, and I will do whatever it takes to get this company back to the front, and that will be a considerable time up in South East Queensland working with the team on a daily basis. I'm ready for that work and looking forward to it. I've been racing pretty much full time every weekend for the last nine years, so I'm not scared of hard work.
Q. Roger, is there any interest in having Marcos do any of the NASCAR races, specifically the road courses, and for Marcos, do you have any interest in that? And if you do, do you have to do it with Penske or could you do it with any Ford team?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, obviously having someone in the organization with the road course experience, I think it's about sponsorship and having the equipment. As you've seen, we've run a two car team in NASCAR for the last couple years. We've been successful. And I think that if there were reasons that we wanted to run Marcos, whether it's an oval or a NASCAR road race, we would have to look at the schedule and to be sure we had the proper funding to do it. I think as far as he's concerned, he's made the decision to come with us in Australia, and I think those opportunities he'd have to really look at one at a time.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, just to follow up on that, you know, I'm fully engaged in making this work in Australia. My focus is entirely on that. I haven't asked the question of Roger or Tim because I just don't think it's appropriate to do that. They've asked me to take a lead and go to Australia and help them with their V8 Supercar program, and that's where my focus will be.
Q. Roger, could you explain to us what role you expect Ford Motor Company to play on this team?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think I said earlier, we have a technical relationship with Ford in the United States and also from a sponsorship perspective. At this particular time, Ford has a commitment with a partner in Australia, and what we've done is we felt that, because Dick has been associated with Ford, that we would this first year run under that OEM's banner. We have met the Ford people when we were out there, Mr. Graziano and his team, and I think the good news here is that we can hopefully partner with a key Ford team from an alliance perspective, and that's what we expect to do the first year.
Again, this is early stages, and we really couldn't have those types of discussions either locally or internationally until we really had this call tonight and made the decision to go forward. But we're fully committed with Ford this next year in 2015.
Q. Are you seeking commercial backing from Ford Motor Company in Australia?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I haven't quite honestly we have not discussed commercial funding from Ford at this particular time because we hadn't made up our decision. Obviously if we can work with them from a marketing perspective and Marcos can create some value for them, I'm sure we'll have a fruitful discussion, but I can tell you as of this call, there's no commitment from Ford other than the normal pieces I think that they would supply any team that would run their products at this point.
Q. Beyond next year then, are you open to running other brands if there is a commercial relationship potentially available?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, let's say this: I'm a businessman, and if we feel that moving from one OEM to another would enhance our chances to win, I'd take a good look at it quite honestly. But we have a long term relationship with Ford. They've been terrific with us here in NASCAR. We've shown them the results, and I think that it would have to be a pretty good deal before we would leave Ford.
Q. Is your intention to run the FG X next year and partner with FPR and continue the technical relationship DJR has with them?
TIM CINDRIC: Obviously it's early days relative to that, and I haven't had really the first discussion with Tim Edwards based on this announcement, but that's probably one of the top five things on my list here of things to do here shortly. I've gotten to know Tim a bit, and Rod and Rusty there, and I think the DJR association with the FPR group is a strong one and one that I would hope would continue and hope to build together to get the FG X up to where it needs to be, but obviously there's a homologation process that I'm learning about, as well. To answer your question, yeah, that's one of our goals, but we haven't achieved it yet.
Q. Commercial backing, at the moment do we expect that the Penske owned brands, Western Star Trucks, et cetera, will take primary backing on one car, any car or both cars?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I would expect that what a great billboard for our commercial companies, V8 Supercars. I'm sure you'll see the brands that we represent in some way, shape or form on the vehicle. You might see multiple sponsors on our car or cars as we go forward because of the relationships we have here. But also the good news is there's relationships that Dick has with current sponsors, and we would hope that once this has been announced that we could have fruitful discussions with them and see if there isn't any ability to maintain those relationships going forward.
Q. Marcos, obviously this was a long process from the Penske side to get this done. Was there any thought or a plan B for you if Team Penske didn't go with V8 Supercar racing? Were you still looking at racing here with a different team or taking a year off, or was there a plan B?
MARCOS AMBROSE: A couple years ago before my last renewal with RPM I did consider coming back to the V8 Supercar Series at that time and chose to stay in the U.S. for another two year contract. This go around I was certainly going to stop racing in America at the end of 2014, and the only team that I would ever consider driving for after I had spoken to Roger would have been this deal. I would not have considered anything else.
Q. You mentioned one of the big appeals for you in NASCAR was racing so often. Obviously you said you want to win with this, but do you want to do other events while you're here, do some sports car racing or whatever it is, because it seems like V8 Supercars, big fans of our drivers compared to in other categories.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, I see there's some wrangling going on down there at the moment with the Bathurst 12 hour event clashing with a test day. To do this properly is completely on V8 Supercar for Team Penske and I don't envisage doing anything other than that. I think there's plenty of effort, plenty of work required to get that job done right, and I'm very happy to be focused on that one thing.
Q. A bit of a parochial question, but what have you missed about Launceston and what role will Tasmania have in your future?
MARCOS AMBROSE: First of all, I'm a proud Tasmanian. I grew up as a Tasmanian and have always considered my home as Tasmania and in particular Launceston. My immediate family is there, I met my wife there on the corner my corner there when we were about 15, 16, so it's my natural home, and our kids have their cousins there, and we still have a lot of ties to Launceston and Tasmania in general. We're really excited about that, looking forward to moving back there. We haven't lived in Tasmania, my wife and I, since '97, so this will be a real homecoming for us, and looking forward to getting our feet planted on the ground firmly in Tasmania.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you had decided quite a while ago that this was going to be your last season in American racing. When did you first approach Richard (Petty) with that decision, briefly give us an idea of how the conversation went and I assume he's been supportive of your decision?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, Richard Petty Motorsports has been a fantastic team to work for and drive for, and we've been communicating about my future for some time. Two years ago I re signed with Richard Petty Motorsports, and we'd had the discussion then, and it was leading into this summer that I had come to the decision to stop at the end of this season. They've been very supportive of that, and we've been working with them on that. Obviously I wanted to leave them in good hands and with a good future in their hands, and they have all that going for them. They have a lot of momentum on their side with Aric making the Chase and winning races this year and I wish them the best success. I've been working with them. They've been extremely good to me through the process of getting to this decision and as well as after. The press release on the weekend was really appreciated and very humbling to think that Richard includes me in his extended racing family, so that's fantastic.
Q. There is an involvement between MAN Truck in Australia and the Red Bull Racing Team. Will that continue through 2015 as a separate entity?
ROGER PENSKE: I think that from MAN's perspective, that's a year to year relationship, and I think Chris will take a good look at that as we end the season. We were not involved with MAN Western Star when that took place, and I think obviously if we're going to be in the series, we'll have to take a look at that and see whether that is commercially viable for us. But we're obviously going to live up to any commitments that MAN has obviously with Red Bull.
Q. Will we see Penske Truck Racing move into the franchises for the dealerships that you now have as a result of you purchasing MTU DDA?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that if you look at our history, we own Detroit Diesel, the factory here in Detroit we bought in '88 and then sold it to Daimler early in 2000. We operated Detroit Diesel in Australia and New Zealand and that part of the world for a number of years, and then sold the business. Following that we really had no business in Australia until we bought from TPI, Trans Pacific Industries, we bought the truck distribution for Western Star, MAN and Dennis Eagle, which gives us a network of franchise dealers and service facilities.
And with that, we looked at how we might be able to extend our footprint, and with Rolls Royce Power Systems owning MTU and Daimler owning Detroit Diesel, we felt with our experience it might be a good opportunity, and long story short, we completed negotiations, and we'll be the distributor for those products and support the dealers, not only on the Western Star side but on the Freightliner side as we go forward.
We've already opened up our first Penske Truck Leasing location at the Brisbane Truck Center, and we would expect to bring our full service truck leasing and rental into the market in Australia in the capital cities as we go forward. We're going to make one step at a time. That's why this complete auto racing venture makes so much sense to us, because we can use the racing series as a customer entertainment, we can display the trucks that we represent throughout the country, we can partner with the dealers both Freightliner and Western Star dealers and MAN at the events, and I think it will give us the ability to build our brand value in the country.
It's perfect. It's our DNA. We're in the service business here. We have a leasing company with over 200,000 vehicles, and we rent them, we lease them, we service them, and we'd like to replicate that in your part of the world.
MERRILL CAIN: That will conclude this special DJR Team Penske media teleconference. Thanks for participating and have a great day.