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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Robby Gordon
Mike Held
John Menard
January 12, 1999


T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. We have got a great turnout today so we are very pleased that you all could take the time to join us. Though I am speaking to you from snowing Detroit our news makers today are based in Anaheim, California, so at this point I am going to send it out there to FedEx Championship Series driver, Robby Gordon, who will open up with an announcement before we begin taking questions. Robby, welcome, and the floor is yours.

ROBBY GORDON: Thank you very much. A few weeks ago Jack (phonetic) who writes for ESPN web site had a neat thing at the end of one of his stories that really amused Mike and myself. It read: Has anyone seen Robby Gordon lately. Well, here it is. We are alive and well. We have Team Gordon formed. Today is one of the biggest days of my life. I am happy to announce Team Gordon and all of its sponsors; John Menard as a partner; Mike Held as partner in the corporation, and certainly without their support, we wouldn't be here today. Also in attendance is Jim Aust and Lee White from TRD and Toyota. Really pleased to continue our relationship with Toyota. Hopefully we can get a Championship for them in the future. In addition, I'd like to thank all of our sponsors: Menard, Panasonic, Johns Manville, and Duracell. This is a beginning of something very special. It is something I have always wanted to do in my career and certainly without all these people, it wouldn't be possible. So I'd like to turn it over to John Menard.

JOHN MENARD: Well, I am talking to you from snowy Wisconsin; not Anaheim, but I wish I was in Anaheim right now. I am really excited to be involved with Robby, Mike and Team Gordon. From the time we first spoke of putting a team together to today's announcement, I have seen an operation driven entirely by determination and will to succeed. Robby and Mike have just worked so hard on this. Something special is really happening here at Team Gordon. As a man involved in motorsports for over 20 years I think I am qualified to say that. I love the way Robby drives and I love his enthusiasm. I will continue to fuel my team in the IRL and this expansion of CART further integrates me into the heart of open-wheel which is really where I want to be. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead as we fight to win a Championship in CART which I am sure we are going to do one of these days. T.E., I guess it is back to you.

T.E. McHALE: Thank you. I just want to give some quick background on Robby before we get started taking questions. He is a 7-year veteran of the FedEx Championship Series; an owner of 86 career starts; two career victories, and four career pole positions. He finished fifth in the series in both 1994 and 1995 while driving for Walker Racing and both career earnings of over $4 million in the series. Robby made 15 starts for the Arciero-Wells Racing Team following the retiring of Hiro Matsushita last year. He recorded top-ten finishes in both his first and last start of the season, 7th at Nazareth Speedway and 9th at California Speedway respectively. His finish at Nazareth remains the best for a Toyota Power driver in the engine -- on an oval in the engine manufacturer's three years of FedEx Championship Series competition. As Robby indicated, we are joined by Team Gordon co-owner John Menard today as well as by Mike Held, the third member of the ownership group; Jim Aust and Lee White of Toyota Racing Development. We welcome all of you gentlemen. And with that, we will open the floor for questions.

Q. I'd like to ask Robby, this is, what, the third or fourth year in a row that you have kind of started the year with a new enterprise of some sort and been excited about it and everything. I would assume you are getting a little tired of starting over and just would kind of like you to talk about that and your thoughts going into this year and, you know, how -- I guess, give me a reason to think that you are going to be back next year on the same situation, I guess.

ROBBY GORDON: Well, to start with, most of our sponsors are a two-year program with options for the third. This is where I plan to stay for a long time. Unfortunately things didn't work out the way I thought they would with SABCO, but that is in the past and everything now is for Team Gordon and trying to win a Championship for Toyota and all of our sponsors.

Q. Does Menard have snow blowers on sale?

JOHN MENARD: Yeah, they are at a deep discount.

Q. John, talk A little bit about what Target has done and Kmart and how maybe you are trying to do this now expanding into CART because, you know we talked yesterday you have got 6 or 7 cities where you are have 140 stores I believe and talk a little bit about is this something you have been thinking about for a while, getting other people like Manville and Duracell and Panasonic all involved in your program?

JOHN MENARD: Well, we have got stores in a lot of cities that CART has races at and that is one of our motivations, of course, for doing it. Chicago, for example, we are real excited about. We have got 30 some stores in the greater Chicago area. Milwaukee we have got stores. Elkhart Lake of course is here in Wisconsin where our headquarters are. It seems to work the type of thing that Target has done and Kmart has done and we have done as far as involving vendors in your race team operations and we found our vendors to be very receptive to the idea. We never pressure them to be a part of the race team. And, if you look, we have only got a few involved and we would rather have a few ones that really want to be there that need the exposure then a whole lot of them that don't. But it has worked well for others and I think it will work well for us. It lends a lot of stability to the operation. We are planning on doing this for a number of years and I think it is going to be real good.

Q. Robby, and if either John or Mike would like to add to it, but first of all, here you kind of now taking over the title from the retired Bobby Rahal being the only owner/driver in the Champ Car Racing which is obviously a big step. But we know you had been involved in running other teams before. But can you tell us a little bit how you put this together, who is actually going to be your team manager and your key guys, Robby, and a little bit of your thinking, you know, putting the package together, the Swift Toyota, et cetera, and how much of a gamble do you feel this is for you to take on, you know, big job of being not only a driver but also running the team?

ROBBY GORDON: Let me start off, Bobby Rahal obviously set the goal post way out there because his first season as a team owner he won the Championship. I think he won four races that year as well. That is going to be very tough to do. We believe that we have assembled a great group of guys, Mike Held has been very involved in building this deal and this team. This is something we talked about last year in October. Cal Wells was aware of this. We told him we didn't know how long we were going to be with PPI or Arciero-Wells and at Michigan for the U.S. 500 we optioned out of our agreement at that point and we were heading down the road of forming Team Gordon.

MIKE HELD: I will tell you at that point, too, just from an energy standpoint when we chose to exercise the option out of that agreement, we basically didn't have anything together. I mean, we basically had a dream and a lot of desire and just a huge wish list. So for Robby and, of course, Robby has the most to lose because his career was on the line. I just try and put the pieces together, but you talk about somebody who follows what he believes in, it was just a huge testimonial in his standpoint to step way out there and say, okay, I am going to do this. And part of that, I think if you have the opportunity sometime to come see the shop here, you will have a better appreciation of what Robby Gordon is all about. He has been accumulating equipment, you know, over the years for each driver, I mean, each owner that he HAS actually driven for, so he has a whole shop full of stuff. I am not sure that most people are aware of that. So the long-term future for Robby Gordon was to have his own race team. Did we really plan it to happen this early? Probably not. But when that window of opportunity opens, you have got to jump through it.

Q. Who are your key personnel in running the operation and I wonder if you could explain what you had to do to ratchet up the whole facility itself and the whole thing?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, the facility itself was -- we built it only a year ago. So we built it to eventually have an IndyCar team based here. In 1998, we built a Toyota Tundra truck that we raced in the Baja 1000 as well as built the shop and had all the equipment in place. So we are in pretty good position plus with the help of John Menard, he has loaned us scoring stands, fueling rigs; the majority of the equipment -- I have two tractors. We ordered a new trailer for the race team. My off-road trailer was Willy T. Ribbs trailer in 1994 which had been used in CART before as a race trailer which will make a great test trailer. The shop is altogether. We have got C and C machines, heliarcs, all the fab equipment, that any CART team that I am aware of has today. I think we have at least as much as everybody, maybe even more. Because we used to fabricate the trucks complete here. Personnel-wise we have hired Laurie Gerrish as our team managers. Laurie has a lot of experience throughout the years. He has been with Penske. He was at Walker with Holbert. From Holbert he went to Walker Racing. From Walker Racing it has been G-Force North America so he knows what it takes to prepare a race organization. I believe that we have got a great group of people from engineers to shop personnel that just clean the shop from top to bottom that are capable of putting together a Championship team.

Q. When do you start testing, Robby?

ROBBY GORDON: Unfortunately being a new team we are a little late, even though we did purchase cars at Laguna Seca, we won't be receiving cars 'til mid to end of February. This is going to put us a little bit behind the eight ball, but to be honest with you, we have a lot of equipment that we are building right now so that when we have our cars show up and -- in mid-February, we are ready to go straight to the racetrack, run, and be very well prepared.

Q. I know this was talked about like you say a long time ago, there were rumors at Fontana that you were going to make an announcement and all this kind of thing. Was there one stumbling block or one final thing that really, you know, held you up on this and put you a little bit late?

ROBBY GORDON: I wouldn't say there is one stumbling block. If it was an easy job to put a CART team together, there would be a ton of them out there. Unfortunately there is not and there is not a lot of competitive ones out there. We are very fortunate to have John Menard on board and all of our sponsors. It just took some time to get everything in place. We wanted to announce at Fontana. We thought we were ready to. To be honest with you, we weren't ready at Fontana. We had a lot of issues to work through. I believe now is the right time to be doing it.

JOHN MENARD: I believe that we really put this together very short time rather than a very long time. But we probably started later than we should have. You know, this was a huge undertaking, and I really have to hand it to Robby and Mike for as hard as they worked at putting it together. This was a lot of work to get it this far.

Q. Robby, what have you seen recently that makes you think Toyota could be a proven power in IndyCars this year and with John's background in the Indy 500, do you plan on getting back in a car there in the near future?

ROBBY GORDON: I am going to answer the first part; then I am going to turn second part over to Mike. If you just look at how the performances were the last four or five races in CART: Fontana, we should have been on the lead-lap at the end of the race. The Toyota tower plant has gained a ton of reliability. A lot of the races; especially last five races, I believe we were in Top-5 to Top-7 fastest race laps of the race. Australia I think we had second fastest race lap. Houston, Max had second fastest race lap. So the competitiveness of the Toyota is getting stronger every week and what I like about the Toyota organization is there is nobody committed to this engine build and competitiveness as they are.

MIKE HELD: The second part of that question regarding the Indianapolis 500, our position at this time is that we are a race team. That is what we are paid to do. We are paid to race. If our sponsor group decides that that is the place for us to be, then there is a good chance that we will be there. But other than that, at this time, we don't have really anything else to tell you.

Q. John, how is this going to affect you as far as handling two different teams, both yours and Robby's?

JOHN MENARD: Well, Robby is going to be the -- between Robby and Mike, they are going to run the CART team. I will continue to spend a lot of my time with the IRL team. Of course I got Thomas Knapp running the IRL team now which has been a big burden -- a big burden off my shoulders. So I think it is going to work just fine. I think there is things that we have already learned one from another that as we go forward we will be beneficial to both teams.

Q. John, where would you say the two series -- you are now involved with two series. Where would you say each one is in its development right now, both CART and IRL, and what are some of the strengths and weaknesses of both?

JOHN MENARD: Well, the CART Series obviously is more developed than the IRL Series, they just simply been around a lot longer. But, it is interesting today we are all testing the IRL team all testing in Phoenix along with Ganassi's team from the CART side, and although there is radically different engine packages and radically different aerodynamic packages, both teams are running about 20.5, somewhere in that general neighborhood. You know, this whole thing is getting closer and closer to being more together in a more business-like basis. You just wouldn't have dreamt of doing that a couple of years ago. Everybody hated each other so badly. And now because we have got a common sponsor in Firestone, it is no big deal to be out there testing the CART open-wheel cars with the IRL open-wheel cars. So I am really excited about the prospects for the future of both series.

Q. Congratulations Robby, Mike, and John. Just a couple of sort of detail questions. It is a Toyota Swift and I don't know that I heard what the tire is going to be.

MIKE HELD: Actually, David, you didn't. Basically because of the situation that we are in, and I guess in this particular case it is kind of good fortune we don't get our car until about mid-February; that puts us in the semi-enviable position of being able to hold out a little bit. One of the things that we decided early on and this was collectively between John and Robby and myself was that we didn't want to -- we wanted to choose the best tire out there. So this provides us a little bit of time before the beginning of the season to be able to evaluate testing, et cetera, et cetera, and then make our choice.

Q. I mean, would you -- would it necessarily be a situation where both Team Gordon and, you know, in CART and Menard Racing in the IRL are, I mean, are you free to have one car -- you know, one team running one tire and the other team running the other?

MIKE HELD: Yeah, I think if ultimately I think that is the decision that we choose as a group to do, then that is the way we go.

Q. Again just to go a little further on the personnel thing, Robby, you mentioned Laurie Gerrish is going to be the team manager. Who is going to be involved in terms of the engineering and chief mechanic, et cetera?

ROBBY GORDON: I think I need to go with a proven commodity. He has been very good for me in the past. Dave Forbes will be my crew chief. Dave has run my race teams for the last twelve years; been involved some sort or the other, so he will be the crew chief. He also ran the IRL program for me when we went to the speedway a year ago. Team engineer, Brian Berthold. We have got all data guys in place. We have got draftsmen in place. We have got on hand right now today approximately 28 people. By the time we start up in march we will have 34. Maybe 32 to 34.

Q. Again Robby, what again just looking at the 1999 season, I mean, what do you -- of course I am sure you want to emulate, you have referred to earlier your Bobby Rahal Championship and wins, but you know, again, what do you see as your sort of realistic goals for this season?

ROBBY GORDON: I think team motto is keep it simple. We are going to take stock Swift cars and race the wheels off them. If you don't think you can win races, why are we racing? In every race we are going in with the attitude that we can win. And you look at people that we are surrounded with here, it is no different than what Rahal did in 1992. We have got experienced mechanics. We have got experienced engineers. And, we are going to keep it down to the basics. I think that is one thing maybe after Bobby won the Championship in '92 that he faded away from.

MIKE HELD: The part of that question that fits in too is that we have our core sponsor group Menards, Panasonic, Duracell and Johns Manville provide us with the basis to be able to do the things that we need to do. We are not handicapped by budget. The other important part of that equation is Toyota and Swift. And both those companies are right in our backyard. We are 30 minutes from TRD and 45 minutes from Swift. So all of those pieces of the equation fit together and make it so that we can put Robby into a position where he deserves to be in which is a front-running program.

Q. Sounds like a very exciting operation you put together here. The team is based where, exactly? What town are you in there?

ROBBY GORDON: Team is based in Anaheim which is in the northeast corner of Anaheim, close to Orange. It is the off-road facility we built a year ago to build the Tundra truck in. It has machine shops, air conditions, so you can build climate control panels. It has extensive fabrication area as well as four bays to prep race cars.

Q. Can you talk about the Toyota engines and plans for that. I think there is a new engine due soon. What is the progress on that both from perspective and from Toyota's, please?

JIM AUST: While I think we have got to look back at last year and Robby pretty much summed up our activities as a result of the progress that the engine made. We will continue with that engine at least for the early part of the 1999 season. We do also have in the development process another engine, but we will not put that engine on the ground until we are ready to run. We still have a few things we want to do with it. So our plans are to run a version of the engine we did last year and then follow it up with a new engine sometime early part of 1999 season.

ROBBY GORDON: For me to answer it, if you look at when the Honda came alive was year four in racing. This is year four for Toyota. The progress they made last year, I feel very good about and the reliability is there. I think they will give us a stable platform for the first half, quarter to half of the season and I am sure when they bring out the new engine, we will be -- it will be a race winner.

Q. Robby, even though you are 30 and you are taking on the task of being a team owner, you are well suited in the fact that you were pretty much team owner, your off-road teams and also you ran the show with the IRL car for the Indy 500. Talk little bit, though, about the challenges now of being the boss and being responsible for 34 other people?

ROBBY GORDON: I think first things first, as you know, I am a cat, and you can throw me however you want, but I always land on my feet and I have got my claws in deep. We have got a great program put together. I don't plan on running the operation on a day-to-day basis. We have got Doug Johns as operations manager; Laurie Gerrish team manager like I said. Mike is going to handle the sponsorship side of it. We have got Ken Marshal in the P. R. department area. We believe we have got all the right people in place that this thing can run and I can concentrate on the driving portion.

Q. This seems to be a really ambitious project for you?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, it is something that I have always wanted to do and honestly when I went to SABCO in the beginning I thought I had my hands a little more on the Winston Cup side. And once I got there, it wasn't the case. So I knew that this was something I'd want to do in the future. We worked very hard on it for the last year and a half to get this in place.

MIKE HELD: I think ambitious is probably the right adjective and it certainly is ambitious, but as you look towards the future of how open-wheel is going to succeed and how our sport is going to succeed, it is necessary for new teams to enter into the fold. Why not? Who else would you rather have in the fold than a young American guy with an American based team? I mean, that is pretty exciting stuff.

Q. Robby, congratulations. Why do you want to be an owner? There is a lot of headaches with being owner with any business and especially car racing?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, you know, thanks for the thanks and I appreciate it. But, the thing with being an owner in this organization and this series is I want to have a choice or at least have an opinion on the packages that we choose to win championships. As a driver, you are just a shoe. You really don't have a choice of what you are going to get to drive, what tires you are going to run on, what chassis you are going to run and I have been down this road a long time. Without guys like John Menard, I won't get this opportunity. And I think I have been around for seven years in open-wheel racing now. I pay attention to everything in racing from Winston Cup to -- from drag racing to sprint cars and there is pieces of each game that you can take and apply to your race team. I think if we go into this with the attitude that Ray Everham and Jeff Gordon are doing with their Winston Cup team, is never give up; never lose, we will be successful.

Q. I wanted to ask you if you would be able to go to Indy and if you have any inclining or any inclination of going there and would that allow you to do this being an owner of the team?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, I think being at Indy do I want to be there? I think a lot of race car drivers want to be at the Indianapolis 500. That was dream as a little kid was to win the Indianapolis 500. As a race team we are in the business to do what our sponsors want us to do. If our sponsors want us to be at the 500, we will there be.

Q. Do you get that feeling from your sponsors, do they want you there?

ROBBY GORDON: We have some sponsors that are very, very interested in Indy 500.

Q. If you could put a percentage on -- what percentage that you would likely be there, could you gauge that now or no?

ROBBY GORDON: I think with the sponsors we have on board there is a very good chance that we are going to be at the Indy 500.

Q. Rahal's name has come up several times in the course of this press conference. I think a lot of us have heard Rahal say that the days when somebody can drive and run or own a race team are past in CART because it is too difficult. I guess my question to you is what are you going to do to ensure that -- to define your role and ensure that you can concentrate on what you need to do as a driver without getting distracted by all the other stuff?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, I think this is why I have two other partners in my organization. When Rahal started this thing with Hogan he had Hogan handling the business side of it and for me, I have got John Menard and Mike Held handling the business side of it. Like I said, we have got some great team managers and operational managers at the race shop that will keep this place in tip-top shape. I think Rahal was just getting too old to own and drive the cars so he said it had to end when he was done.

Q. Robby, obviously with the involvement of Panasonic as sponsorship and the Swift chassis, obviously there is a definite tie to Hiro Matsushita there, could you talk about your relationship with Hiro and maybe what role he is playing in all of this?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, Hiro plays a big role here. We have a special relationship. In the beginning, I think he -- might be even like a lot of guys were a little nervous of Robby Gordon, a little afraid to take chance. At the end of the year he wanted to be part of it. He is a sponsor on our car now and I think he saw the determination and the drive that I have to be competitive. We are fortunate to be able bring Panasonic on to Team Gordon and we have got a lot of great sponsors. I think the Swift is going to be a very competitive and a great choice for our race car. We are just trying to make choices and decisions that will give us competitive advantages.

Q. I have a question and follow-up first to Robby. About a month and a half ago reading the Indianapolis Star I read your column that you wrote about yourself. After I read that, I thought, you know, probably the best owner for Robby Gordon would be Robby Gordon. Is that a pretty fair assessment?

ROBBY GORDON: I think so. You know, I am not in this by myself like I said before. I say it time and time again. Without John and Mike we wouldn't be in this position. But for a driver and the things that I want to see on the race car and in the race team I think that is probably the right thing. Plus I have owned my own race teams in the past where we have won championships, won off-road Championships. I believe we can do the same thing in CART.

Q. Are your opinions of what the car needs sometimes are a bit too aggressive for someone else trying to run the show?

ROBBY GORDON: No. You know, we won the off-road Championship a few years back by just doing the basics and doing the basics right. I am going to model this team -- there is two great teams that had been run in the past. I know there is more than that. But Barry Green and Derrick Walker have ran very simple, very competitive race teams. I think if we model after that, we will be in good shape.

Q. Jim, a couple of weeks ago we were talking about the addition of the third Toyota team. Now we talk about the fourth. You guys just continue to grow like a weed.

JIM AUST: You know, it is very good that we can have an opportunity to pick up another team such as Team Gordon. And I think anybody that has been around racing, you know, feels the enthusiasm that Robby brings to the racetrack, is a real desire to win and obviously that fits right in with our plans. So we are extremely pleased that Robby decided to run with the Toyota.

Q. John, you find yourself in an interesting position where you will be working with CART owners and IRL owners. Your comment on this conference call been real interesting about how close the series seem to be becoming. Do you find yourself comfortable in that situation, would you -- do you mind acting as kind of that middle ground, that ambassador for both sides so that when you can get into a conversation from owners from both sides it will be easy for you to talk about how close the two series really are?

JOHN MENARD: I am in the racing business. I am doing this for business reasons and if I can benefit open-wheel racing in general by anything I do, I feel happy about that. That is one of my goals is to be as beneficial as I can because we have had, you know, our share of downs as -- the last few years in open-wheel racing, and I think we need to start working together to get fan interest and the series -- both series built up for everybody's benefit. I mean, rising water lifts all the ships and if I can be of any benefit, great, I will do it. But, first and foremost, I have got to keep my eye on my ball and that is that my sponsors want certain things and I need certain things for my stores, and if we can accomplish that and accomplish a few other things too, that is great.

Q. Robby, there was a report that you all were in Indianapolis a few weeks ago doing something with the Della Penna. Have you worked out some relationship with them at this time?

ROBBY GORDON: No, but that is a pretty good idea being that we are both going to be Toyota Swift cars. I mentioned that to John a while back. Actually I mentioned it to him at Houston. I have had no response back from John, but maybe he is considering it.

Q. My question has to do with what equipment do you have now? Will you be able to go in spring training and if so, what will you use for testing?

ROBBY GORDON: It is a 1972 golf cart with wide tires. We are looking for wings, so if anybody has some wings they can loan us, we would appreciate some wings. Unfortunately we won't have cars until mid to end of February. So what we are doing is we are getting all rest of the team pit equipment, starter cards, engine stands, all the stuff it takes to run a competitive CART team in place. We have got that golf cart though. But an electric motor doesn't go very fast.

Q. So you won't be at spring training or you will be there just watching?

ROBBY GORDON: We will be there as a spectator and observing seeing what our competitors are doing.

Q. I just wanted follow-up with John a little bit. First of all, refresh my memory on what your IRL plans are for this year in terms of how many cars and who the drivers are and then if you expected to get any flak from either side, I guess particularly from the IRL side, if anybody is going to look at you as an - I don't know - as a trader for going over to the other side or not, or do you really think that the animosity is past to the point that that is not a concern anymore?

JOHN MENARD: I think the animosity past to the point where that is not a concern. My plans in the IRL are to run a one- or two-car team. We have got Thomas Knapp as my general manager. Greg Ree is our primary driver. We are looking at a second car for Indy if not before. And it will be business as usual in the IRL; looking forward to the season.

Q. Is there any chance, John, that that second car would be you know, with Robby in it? Is that kind of what the plan is or --

JOHN MENARD: At the speedway?

Q. Yes?

JOHN MENARD: I don't know, that is certainly a possibility. That would be a very interesting possibility.

Q. About seven and a half years ago you took your first test with Chip Ganassi here in Memphis at the Memphis Motor Sports Park and you and I were sitting up against the wall talking. I am wondering all the way back then, were you thinking working to have a day like today?

ROBBY GORDON: This has been in the plans from the very beginning of my career. To be honest with you, it was just a dream to have an IndyCar. I remember many, many years ago when my dad raced off-road cars, the off-road cars were on one side of the shop and IndyCars were on the other side of the shop. There was a line I wasn't able to go over towards the Indy side of the shop. That is something that I always was very attracted to. I am very fortunate with some of the great people that have helped me get here: Mike Ocranafis (ph.) from Ford Motor Company if we wouldn't have given me the opportunity; Lee White who is on the phone with us, you know, if we wouldn't have got the opportunity to be in a competitive car that he was the manager for with Rausch's program the Ganassi opportunity wouldn't have happened. And then from Ganassi, you know, we have been with some great teams, Foyt, Derrick Walker, SABCO, and last year Arciero-Wells which all these people and all these people and places have given me the opportunity to get in the position that we are at today and we wouldn't have been here without it.

Q. With all the success that you have had with Toyota over the years, was there ever any doubt that when you are in this type of position that a Toyota engine would be the engine that you would want and also because you know them and they know you?

ROBBY GORDON: I have got to be honest, for the last five to seven years Toyota has been sponsoring my dad's off-road program and the family has been involved with Toyota for a long time. 1989 we won the Championship in a Toyota truck - at Tacoma, that was for Arciero-Wells or that was for PPI which was Cal Wells who now owns part of Arciero-Wells. Then last year we were back with Arciero-Wells again, you know, nine years later. Ten years later we were in the position to have our own CART team running Toyota power. I think it is great. I believe in what Toyota is doing. I am happy to be a part of it.

T.E. McHALE: We will take one final question for any of our guests before we wrap up the teleconference for today.

Q. As Steve said earlier, this is yet again another starting over point for you this your career. With some of the aggressive driving we have seen in the sport in the past few years, do you think your passionate desires to be successful will be held in check so you can achieve long-term goals and, if so, how?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, I think to be competitive in CART today you must be aggressive. There is so many competitive drivers out there. You look at how Alex Zanardi won the Championship last year. Very, very aggressive. This is a place I plan to be for a long time. That is why we have got the association with John Menard. I believe he will be a key part in the life and success of Team Gordon and without him, we wouldn't be getting this opportunity. Mike has a final thing we like to end up with, but I believe that Team Gordon will be around for a long time. We are starting off with a program that is a two-year program with a third year option with Toyota so, we are very, very happy and I am looking forward to the future.

MIKE HELD: Our long-term goals as a race team and actually there are probably shorter term goals rather than longer term goals, but we desired to bring a Championship to Toyota and to Panasonic, Duracell, Menards and Johns Manville. Certainly, John Menard, his business expertise as well as his stores provide us with a foundation to be able to secure sponsorship for the future, which is a really important thing these days raising the money is one of the most difficult things in this endeavor; if you don't have the money certainly obviously, I mean, you can't run at the levels that you might like to. Alongside all that stuff, you got Robby Gordon in the cockpit and there is no question and there is never a question on anybody's mind in terms of any of the guys who are affiliated with our race team that Robby Gordon is not going to stand on the gas every minute of every day, the guy is full throttle and that is what excites all of us.

T.E. McHALE: At this point I am going to wrap it up for the afternoon. We want to issue congratulations to everything involved with the new Team Gordon. Wish you guys the best of luck in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series.



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