Ricky Rudd / Robert Yates Teleconference Q&A

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Check out excerpts from the conference call announcing Ricky Rudd's return to Robert Yates Racing. Ricky Rudd: It's good to be back, and it's really good to be back with the Snickers Ford Fusion and team back with Robert Yates Racing. Really looking forward to the upcoming '07 season and having a teammate to work with is something that I haven't had the luxury of in some time. We've already practiced a couple of times with David Gilliland and hit it off real well. I'm really looking forward to the new season and can't thank the Masterfoods company enough for participating and stepping up and sponsoring both cars at Robert Yates Racing. And, again, thanks to Robert Yates and all his family for having me back.

Robert Yates: This is a good time of, it's time to go, but it's Christmas. And this is a wonderful deal from Masterfoods to support us in this way. The opportunity to get Ricky, who with three very successful years, joins us back to do it again. So hopefully we can start off equally or better than we were, and we're looking forward to that. I think we have the strength and depth. We certainly have the desire. Ricky has that, and we have the desire. We happen to believe that we can go out and have a great year. So we're excited about this. Claire B. Lang, XM Satellite Radio: I have two quick questions. The first is for Robert Yates. Congratulations and the number for the car? And the second is for Ricky and the decision to come back. Robert Yates: As for the number. We're going to have our two cars. We know one of them is the 38 and the other one is really we haven't decided on that. We're excited about getting Ricky and getting the Snickers brand on the car. That's really going to be a team decision that I think will come in the near future, but it's not been made yet. You'll know which... it's one of the two. Let you figure that out. But it will happen pretty soon. Ricky Rudd: I'm really looking forward to it. I had plenty of time off to decide what I wanted to do. It's the right opportunity. I saw the fire in Robert's eyes when I met him the other day. He's ready to get this operation turned around, and the whole operation is hungry. I just couldn't be back at a better, (more) opportune time than right now, especially with Snickers coming on board to sponsor the car. We're going to have the funding to do it correctly. I know that Robert's got a lot of great people, and there's a lot of kind of regrouping going on right now. I'm excited about working with Butch Hylton. I've always had a lot of respect for him as a crew chief. Tom Jensen, You obviously had some different rides to choose from. I know you tested for Toyota. What appealed to you about this deal, and what made you come back to Robert? Ricky Rudd: Well, I think I probably touched on it a while ago. I don't know if you were able to hear that. Really, the desire. Robert Yates Racing did not have their best year last year. They've had plenty of good years in the past. Once you sort of taste the success like Robert has, when you don't have a good year, it makes you even hungrier. Robert tried to reorganize a little bit and change some things within the organization to make them a stronger outfit. And it sort of back-fired. It went the other way. Now, he's regrouped. I understand Robert is there almost every day opening the shop up. I think the biggest thing is that desire and the fire in his eyes when I met him. He's bound and determined to get this thing turned around. You can't have a car owner that's more committed right now than Robert Yates so I think that's the key. The motor program is never an issue when you go to Robert Yates Racing. Motors are sort of taken for granted. They're always there for you. But I think and also having the funding with the Snickers candy bar coming on board, you've got everything it takes. It's just up to us now to get it organized and get it headed in the right direction. Get it turned around. Ralph Paulk, Richmond Times-Dispatch: Mr. Yates, first question. Can you give me any particulars of the deal. And also if you're looking at what happened this year, how important is it for you to have an experienced driver to go along with David? Second question for Ricky. How much did you actually miss not driving this year? And was that as much of the desire to come back is not being around and watching other folks drive? Robert Yates: Let me tell you that for you guys in Richmond and all around that area, that's one of our favorite race tracks, and that's Ricky's front yard. So everybody better watch out. We're coming to win at Richmond. It takes all our 125 employees and they're all excited. They know that when they build the car for Ricky, he'll put his 100 percent in, and they'll have their 100 percent in. When Ricky drove for us in the previous three years, you always look forward to going to race tracks — some of them even more than the others. They're excited about it so having him in the car was the most popular thing I could do within my 125 employees. And that's just in the car side. And it's been very popular in the grandstand so it's not popular. It's popular because they expect us to run good, and we will run good. And we're looking forward to it. So all the desire is there, and I think our ability now with the sponsorship with Snickers is the best move we could make. Ricky Rudd: As far as coming back and taking a year off... Really what it did, it gave me a chance to focus on what I really wanted to do. Racing's in my blood. It has been since I was a kid. (By) the time I'm dead and in the grave, I'm sure that desire will still be there. But it just came to a time after 30-some years on the schedule, doing the commitments, I needed a little bit of regrouping time. My dad passed away last year. It just sort of makes you reevaluate things. The pace in racing is son aggressive, you don't really have a chance to evaluate things. That was jst a stepping-back period for me to kind of figure out what I wanted to do. I got kind of hungry for that. I missed the competition. Heck, I was running go-kart races and running my dirt bikes daily so the desire to go out and go fast and try to do good in motor sports never left. We went to Indianapolis and teamed up with a young 16-year-old boy and we won a huge go-kart race out there about two months ago. So the desire to race never left. The desire to have a chance to regroup was something that I needed to do. I feel like I'm more focused than ever by having the time off. Dave Kallman, Milwaukee Journal: Ricky, you mentioned your desire to race. Is racing enough? If this thing doesn't turn around as quickly as you expect or hope, what is it going to be like? Are you prepared to maybe run mid-pack or is that going to be any fun? Ricky Rudd: No, just if you look at my nature, my makeup, I'm a very competitive person. I'll put it this way. I wouldn't be back out here and Robert probably wouldn't have me if our goals were to run mid-pack. My goals have always been set your goals high and shoot for them and take what what you could get. I can't see of any reasons why we can't be competitive. When we were together just three years ago (or whatever the number was) in '02 or '03 the last time we were together, up until midseason we were challenging for a championship. But just to go out there and make laps has never been part of my physical makeup. And I wouldn't be back over there if I didn't think there was an opportunity to win races at Robert Yates Racing. That's one thing that was presented to me is the right opportunity and having a teammate like with David Gilliland. We tested twice already. That's something that I didn't realize the importance of that until just in these two very brief test sessions we've been to. We're the same size. We can hop in and out of each other's cars, and it's nice to have a different opinion on cars. Again, we've got to roll our shirt sleeves up too because it's not easy. It's tough. It's a lot of competition, but I'm prepared for the fight and that's what it's going to be. It's going to be a fight. Dave Kallman, Milwaukee Journal: Obviously the Childress organization kind of got things turned around within the last year so has that been an inspiration? Did that help you believe, does that help your confidence that you can do the same thing? Robert Yates: Well, it certainly does. A couple of years ago, I was feeling really bad for the group and wishing them to do good. In the blink of an eye, I needed him to feel the same way about me, and it's like, 'Wow! This is extremely competitive." We've tried to learn from our experiences, but they got their place organized from the top down. And they got it performing from the bottom up. That's what we have to do so we've started that process, and I think we're well on our way. I'm excited. We want to go run up front, and we feel like that we have the right people in place. We'll figure out for ourselves. We won't be waiting on cell phone call from somebody to tell us what the next move is. We're getting excited about it. We're looking forward to it. David Poole, Charlotte Observer: It's funny. Sometimes we go back and look at how things came apart and how things come back together. Three years ago, you and Robert didn't have the greatest parting of ways. You were 45 back then. You had been around a while. What have you learned since then? What do you think Robert has learned since then that will help you get through sort of whatever came apart and get back together? Ricky Rudd: Part of it started coming back together even three years ago when I went to the Wood Brothers. Michael McSwain was our crew chief. I'm not really sure. I think what happened is we had success. I wouldn't say it didn't come easily, but we had a lot of good things happen for us. I'm not so sure that success wasn't what maybe drove us apart. We were a fairly young team at that time. I'm not so sure that isn't what helped to drive us apart. But I think I'm a smarter person right now than I was three or four years ago. I've still got that competitive nature that I had, and I think a lot of things that go on in sport is you're together almost moreso than you are with your family. I've got brothers and sisters, and I know we've bickered all of our lives. But yet we still love each other. So I'd have to compare it to something like that. You spend so much time around each other. You can't help but to have disagreements, and I think maybe the way we handle those disagreements, we might face them a little earlier instead of letting them fester like maybe we did last time. Bring them to the table and let's discuss them. That's something that we probably didn't do a very good job of last time. Gary Graves, USA Today: Two questions. When did talks really start picking up, and second question is how much longer do you really plan on doing this? Ricky Rudd: I'm not really sure. This thing... it's amazing the Internet, the power that it has. About the time we started sort of talking was about the time it started showing up a couple of weeks ago. We had some really brief conversations probably even maybe six months ago. And really at that time, I was noncommittal and teams were really working hard to put their operations together. The ones that maybe were going to have changes were making them back maybe as early as probably early spring last year. And at that time, I was not ready to commit so I couldn't expect any team to sort of wait for me to make my decisions. It's kind of ironic the way it ends up. I guess Dale, I'm not sure exactly when Jarrett decided he was going to make his change, but that left an open seat in one of the powerhouse organizations late in a season when a lot of operations were wrapped up at that point. Anyway, I'm happy the way the timing worked out, but as far as how much longer I want to do this? I don't really think I can put a time on it. Obviously, age. I'm 50 years old. My dad lived to be 80 and was still running bulldozers up until about two weeks before he died and could really do a good job with them. So I think until your skills start to slip, is that age 51, 52? Is it 61? I'm not really sure. During the time off, I was really focused on what I really wanted to do, and that's to drive competitive race cars and be competitive. I don't think I can put a time limit on it. I think I'll know when that day is ready to step out and it's not right now. Q: How are (wife) Linda and (son) Landon? Are they ready for you to go back racing? Ricky Rudd: That's probably a pretty good one. I've definitely had a lot of good home time, and I think the other day when I was going to go test. Two days ahead of time, she wanted to know if she could pack my bag for me. Sure I didn't to go early and get a hotel room. I think maybe I get the hint. She needed me to go back on the road. Being serious, that's probably the big thing that's going to be the toughest is being gone on the weekends when I have time to spend with the family. We'll make things work some kind of way and just beg, borrow or rob time to steal to spend time together as a family. It's getting more and more difficult as racing has become more and more popular, the demands on the drivers and teams have become more of a time schedule juggling act than it has ever been in the past Q: Have you made any arrangements to get your lawn cut? Ricky Rudd: The grass cutting? I'm going to do things different. I used to do a lot of it myself. I'm actually going to make arrangements to get some people to fill in with all the smaller tasks just so I can have more home time. Ryan Smithson, I know you had a lot of laps in the Car of Tomorrow. How much are you going to be able to help Robert and his organization catch up with that development this spring? Ricky Rudd: I think those laps are a good example. Let me rephrase that. We went to Rockingham the other day and tested, and David Gilliland was there. He drove the car, and it amazes me how never seeing the race track before, guys can get out and go out there and go fast right out of the box without really any previous track experience. One thing that David would not know and there's no way for him to know that is what the history of that race track is. When is that car really good, and when is it bad? And when do you need to work on it? That's something that, from an experience level, David would not know because he never raced Rockingham. I know the characteristics of that race track so I think that's going to be pretty valuable experience, especially in working out the Car of Tomorrow. When is this car really good and when does it need to be continue to be worked on? It's nice to be able to have somebody to bounce ideas off of. It's nice to have somebody fit the same seat, and we can go out there and sort of help each other. It's not always a one-way street, me helping him. David is a pretty sharp guy when it comes to chassis. He grew up building his own race cars. He's a smart chassis guy. That's something that most guys today don't really bring to the table because they came up a different way than David did so I'm kind of excited to have the chance to work with him. Ryan Smithson, A lot of crew chiefs have said that you're a very, very, very good test driver. Now technically speaking, what do you think about the car? Ricky Rudd: I don't really know. We've been to a short-track half-mile and we've been to Rockingham. I don't see where the cars are that much different driving than what I've driven in the past. They tend to slide around a little bit more. They're very stable getting in the corner, but we have yet to have been on a bigger track. I think you really need to get on a mile-and-a-half track before you can really evaluate those things. Certainly we got a good feel of it at Talladega. We tested that car, Toyota actually, at Talladega back several months ago. Very stable. It's just a little bit different animal. A lot of things that used to work on cars a few years back, now you can kind of dig up some of the old notebooks and start applying some of that to it because the cars are different. They don't corner quite as good as the old cars but yet every one is going to be equal. They're a little bit bigger car. I was telling Robert earlier, I said we need to bring a lot of right-side extra decals because I still catch myself feeling for the wall on the straightaways. You want to get out there as close as you can, but yet it is a bigger, wider car. And you're sort of trying to feel your way along. I think we're going to put some curbfeelers on it so we can feel the walls so we won't tear all the decals off. David Newton, How many years? Is this just a one-year deal for him or two or three? For Ricky, I wanted to ask you a few years ago, everybody was talking about the young guns, and everybody had to have that next, hot, young driver. Now you and Ward Burton are back. Is there room for some of the older guys to be in the sport as well? Robert Yates: One thing we didn't want to do was run a one-car team so we were looking for different sponsors and this Snickers brand and what the Mars family and Masterfoods are doing for us really put this where we can be in position to have both worlds. We've got the driver that's got the experience . We've got a young driver that needs and will have experience. They can work together. They're, like Ricky said, the same size. They can swap cars and work together so I think we have the best of both worlds all wrapped up into one great company. Ricky Rudd: I think we're just going to take it a year at a time. If we come out of the box and we pick up the pace and we're competitive, I don't think there is a time limit on this so I think it's more of the open mind and let's take it a year at a time. As far as can an older driver compete. I think (racing) is different than a lot of sports. Obviously I probably couldn't go out there and compete in the NFL, just because of how physical it is and all the hits. You're body just couldn't take it. In these race cars, a lot of it is mental. I really don't think age is a handicap. I'm just very happy that we've got sponsors that I happen to fit in with their brand where you're not considered over the hill from a marketing standpoint at the age of 35. The Snickers brand has taken me into their family and has found room for an old guy so it's more about the sponsorship and television perception of the age thing than it is actually can the older driver get the job done. I don't think that's the issue as much as it is from the marketing standpoint. Dave Rodman, Where's Landon fit with the racing future? What's his interest as far as the sport goes or just sports in general? Ricky Rudd: He's unusual. He has a tremendous amount of ability to ride four-wheelers and dirt bikes and cars very fast, but he doesn't have that desire. He might wake up one day and say, "Hey, I think I'll try to make a career out of this." But right now, I've seen no signs of that. That's great, and I'll support him in whatever he wants to do. I guess the hard part about that is if he didn't have the abilities or the talent, you would say, "Well, let's go play golf." I'm sitting there on the sidelines saying, "Man, this kid's got a lot of talent. I'd love to see him pursue it." But that's his call. But I don't really look for him to be behind the wheel of a car. That's just his choice. Whatever he chooses in life, I'll support him. He's a pretty smart kid. Lee Spencer, The Sporting News: Can both of you kind of touch on the sentimental relationship with the No. 28? Ricky was the last driver to drive that car, but it really was the number that launched Robert Yates Racing. Ricky Rudd: I can probably touch on that real briefly, but I think Robert's the one that can probably answer that question probably the best. Just from a driver's standpoint, I always was proud to drive the 28 just because of the history of that number with Davey (Allison) and Robert when they began that team. Then on with Ernie Irvan and all of the great drivers that have driven that car, Kenny Irwin. I guess if I had a personal preference I like the 28, just because of the history of it. But Robert, I'm sure, has a better answer for you. It would be better to hear from him. Robert Yates: Lee, I just like cars that run good. I like numbers that... We've had good success with the 88 championship car, but we also, the 28 was back really as a total owner by myself, the 28 number has had a lot of value and has a lot of value. I like the 8's. I'm good with either one, but my Number 1 deal is make it run like the championship year that we could have had with the 28 several times or like the 88 car that won a championship. I'll be good with either one, but it's going to be a company or a group decision. I'll be a 10 percent vote in that, but I probably would... the 28's pretty. I think the grandstand may say 28. I'm not sure. Bob Pockrass, NASCAR Scene: I'm just wondering if you considered or requested at all any sort of partial schedule instead of doing a full-time deal? Ricky Rudd: At one time, I was considering a part-time deal with Wyler Racing. They were out trying to pursue at one time to see if they could make something work on a part-time schedule. That team there would not have been prepared to run a full schedule. But there's a big difference (between) a part-time schedule and a full-time schedule with Robert Yates Racing. I think you have to be in the trenches week in and week out on a real regular basis. Obviously you've got to compete in all of them to try to win a championship. That's still something that has eluded me for all these years in racing. You've got to run them all to be able to try to do that. For a long time, I was actually turning down some opportunities because they were full-time rides at the time. I got (to) doing a lot of thinking about it. I think if you're going to do this thing, you need to do it right. You need to do it full-time. Claire B. Lang, XM Satellite Radio: I'm wondering about staffing and the team. There are some people, I know, that you refreshed, some having left most recently. What wil the team be made up of? Did you let some people go? Can you kind of talk to us about that? Robert Yates: Well, Claire, we did change... We changed a lot of things. We took our experience where we had grown to 150-some employees, a lot of very young guys, inexperienced. We took that 150 back to 125, and we actually increased our payroll. But we certainly increased our quality. We started doing that when we felt like that at the end of the year we would lose a lot of people. Fortunately and surprisingly, we were able to attract... Once we announced what we were going to do with the Snickers car to the guys, they wanted to stay. I just expected a big, mass exodus, and it turned out that we were able to retain the really key people and put more key people in place. So we're able to... It really surprised me, but I think now we've taken an organizational program that's very different than we had. And then also a lot more focus on the performance side and a lot less on the media side. We're going to let William (Clements, director of Sponsorships and Sports Marketing for Masterfoods USA), Masterfoods and all those guys do all the shouting about it and you guys, the media. If we get the performance where we want it to be, I'll be happy, and I think everybody else will be. Claire B. Lang, XM Satellite Radio: If you decide and look at the No. 28, what sorts of things will you have to look at even considering that because there's been a lot of rumors that that's going to be the number? Robert Yates: It's more about either the grandstands or the marketing, what's best for the marketing. I've been dug down in the middle of the thing. I'm good with the 28, but the 88 has been our number that we chose. We sort of left that 28 alone when we, good or bad, dissolved our relationship at the end of 2002 with Ricky. And just wanted to choose a new number like the M&M car. I think everybody understands that's the 38 car, and I like to wrap packages with a number that is a fun, good package. But now that we've sort of (gotten) closure to the Davey Allison car, the 28 coming back with us would be just wonderful for us. But I'll go either way. The 88 car, still I'm very fond of that number. You probably could answer better than anybody what would be the most fondest number from the grandstand and then maybe you'll tell me.

Tagged: Ward Burton

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