NASCAR Sprint Sound & Speed Festival
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
January 10, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Niki, Aric, you have a little story. Do you want to get started with that? Anything new in your lives you want to share?
BURNEY LAMAR: We got a lot of stuff to share about that. Sound and Speed is very dear to us. '06 was the first year for Sound and Speed. We had a chance to sign together. At the time I was still a Nationwide driver and she was a super model. As we know, they pair up the country musicians and the Cup drivers. So we were paired up. It worked out pretty good. It really did.
We talked that year. The very next year we came back, we were married. We missed the following year. Then we came back this year and we're pregnant.
THE MODERATOR: Niki, how does the super model fall into the Sound and Speed in that spectrum?
NIKI TAYLOR: I actually got involved from SunTrust. Actually, we ride motorcycles as well, so we got put on Kyle Petty's charity ride. That's how I got involved. That's how I got involved with Camp. I live here in Nashville, so I was a local at the time. That's how I got paired up with the Sound and Speed.
THE MODERATOR: What was his opening line here to try to get things rolling back a few years ago?
NIKI TAYLOR: Your opening line was...
BURNEY LAMAR: How you doing?
NIKI TAYLOR: Hey, you (laughter).
I don't know what it was.
BURNEY LAMAR: We sat there. When we started talking to each other, we just rambled on about the goofiest things.
NIKI TAYLOR: Absolutely nothing (laughter).
BURNEY LAMAR: I think that's why we hit it off so good.
THE MODERATOR: Richie, you're more than a year into your solo effort. Things seem to be going very well for you.
RICHIE McDONALD: It absolutely is like starting over. The great thing about it, over the 15 years with Lonestar, I coach made a lot of great friends out there, wonderful relationships. You're going back to radio and begging them to play your music.
But it's a lot of time still out on the road. You know what, I love doing it. I have a passion to do this still. I want to change the world with my music. I want to touch people's lives. I'm blessed to still be doing it.
THE MODERATOR: Very good. Back over to the other side, I don't to forget about Max and Brian. You have one of the strongest teams in the Rolex Series. How are things going?
MAX ANGELELLI: Looking forward. I think we have a good package, our car engine, Brian with us. Looking pretty strong.
THE MODERATOR: Brian won twice as many races as you did last year. So he brings a good bit to the table. How is that?
MAX ANGELELLI: He'll bring luck. No, he brings speed. We're going to be a good combination. I feel we're going to have a good shot for the win.
THE MODERATOR: Are you starting to feel comfortable around this NASCAR and country music crowd? I know that's not a Nashville accent I hear there.
MAX ANGELELLI: No, yeah, it will be better next year.
THE MODERATOR: Brian, your first Sound and Speed. Are you having a good time here with this crowd?
BRIAN FRISSELLE: Yeah, definitely. Everyone has been real nice, all the fellow people that are up here with me, all the fans that I've met. It's just a good time for Max and lets us spend more time together because we are teammates for the season, going to be trying to win a championship together. The more we can get to know each other and spend time, it's good for team chemistry.
THE MODERATOR: Even at a country music/NASCAR festival?
BRIAN FRISSELLE: Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from the audience.
Q. Aric, can you bring us up to speed on where you're at with sponsorship, how many cars the team is going to be running, any details on what you know for '09?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I just asked the guy out there, too. He asked the same question. Do you have any money (laughter)? We don't. We're trying to find money, yeah.
It's tough, it really is. It's tough. There's a lot of teams going after the same sponsors. It's a brutal market out there right now. So many race teams are without sponsors that the few sponsors that are willing, everybody's going after the same sponsors. They're low-balling each other, taking a lot less, stuff like that.
It's a brutal market. We don't have anything set in stone right now for a full-time sponsor. It's a shame, too. Our racecar finished 14th in the owner points last year. You look at that, it makes you wonder what in the heck's going on. We have an awesome race team. We have cars capable of running up front every single weekend.
It's tough. It's tough to get sponsors right now. It's tougher to get anybody to spend money.
I mean, just average Americans that go to the mall, buy something new, it's tough. It's tough to ask a sponsor to spend $25, $20 million. We're struggling with that.
Q. Will you be at Daytona?
ARIC ALMIROLA: I've talked with Theresa and Chip both. We're committed to run the full season. So they say, Come hell or high water, we're going to race. I'm excited about that, too, because this will be the first opportunity for me to be able to race every single weekend and get in a groove. I'm excited about that. Really looking forward to working with the guys on my team. I got Doug Randolph coming over to be my crew chief. All the guys -- not all the guys, but a good majority of guys from the 15 group last year. We've filled in a few other spots with some other guys throughout the shop. We got a really good team and I'm excited about next year.
Q. Niki, as such a long-time successful super model, now married to a racecar driver, are there any parallels, any comparisons you can see between modeling and racecar driving?
NIKI TAYLOR: We both just travel a lot. Again, I've had this question asked out there. We just have a really good management that schedules our schedules together. That's how we work it out. With the baby on the way, I get next year off.
ARIC ALMIROLA: It's crazy. She did a TV show last year. There was days she'd work 20-hour days, 21-hour days. You know, a lot of people think it's an easy life, easy-going work. There's a lot of time spent working, on your feet.
NIKI TAYLOR: Yeah. Maybe I'll travel with you this time. You were traveling with me. Now I'll travel with you.
ARIC ALMIROLA: I got a chance to travel with her in New York. Had a lot of fun there. I'm sure she's going to be traveling a lot with us this year on the Nationwide Series. It's just nice that she's at a point in her career where she can pick and choose. I'm at a point in my career where I got to work hard.
NIKI TAYLOR: I should be asking you this question. How do you juggle? You have three kids, your family. Do you bring them on the road with you?
RICHIE McDONALD: I have to give all the credit to my wife Laurie. In the early years, when Lonestar was at our peak, I was on the road probably 200 days a year. She gets all the credit.
But, you know, as the years have gone by, like I say, you can kind of pick and choose. But it's a matter of just finding a balance, 'cause just like I was talking out there, Rhett is 13 with the hair under his arms. It flies by. I guess you just have to take in every moment and cherish it because 16 years old in three years, all I can think about is the song Cats in a Cradle. Ray, do you want to play basketball? No, dad, I think I'm going to go over to a friend's. It's just a balance, it is.
NIKI TAYLOR: You just make it work, I guess.
Q. Aric, kind of ironic you have the 41 car over there with sponsorship, nobody in the seat, you've got somebody in your seat and no sponsorship. Any updates on the 41 car? Could there possibly be some sponsor switches along the way?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Yeah, I mean, that's something that they've kicked around and talked about. I mean, really and truly, we want to run four cars. That's the goal, is to run four cars. Everybody knows to be able to compete with Hendrick and Gibbs and Roush, you have to have a multi-car team. Four is way better than three.
It costs you almost as much to run two cars as it does four. When you really look at it from in the shop standpoint, stuff like that, it's way more beneficial to run four cars. They've said if we have to run three cars, it may be a possibility. But that's not something we're driving for or shooting for. That's not our goals. Our goals are to run four cars and be a competitive four-car team. Hopefully we can do that.
I think from what I've seen over at the racecar shop the last few weeks, they've got some really nice speedway cars going to Daytona. I mean, hopefully we can go to Daytona and run really good there. That place is crazy. You never know what's going to happen there. Maybe something good will come of it. Lord willing, will get some sponsorship, so...
Q. How about the 41 going to Daytona with no driver in it yet?
ARIC ALMIROLA: That's the thing that's quite unique about this year. I mean, the owner is really in the catbird seat right now. There's drivers out there begging for work. It's not like you have to hurry up and hire some guy. I mean, there's drivers out there. You don't even have to worry about it if you're an owner. We're not testing. I mean, you can hire them right before you go to Daytona if you really have to.
They're not going to go anywhere else. There's nowhere to go. Our market is really dry right now for opportunities to drive racecars. They're in no hurry. I mean, it's a huge deal. It's a great big deal. But from their standpoint, I mean, they can still drag their feet a little bit more and try to figure some stuff out.
With all the mergers, everything that happened, they've got a lot of stuff to sort through still. They've figured out a large majority of the part, we're all in one building now, but there's a lot of the smaller logistics that have to go in to figure all that stuff out. They're working through all that, then still trying to find another driver to put with me and Truex and Juan.
But, like I said, they're in no major hurry. The drivers that are available are still going to be available when we leave to go to Daytona, so...
Q. Richie, the new material seems to be a lot more positive, a lot more spiritual than when you were with Lonestar. Is this going to be your direction as a solo performer?
RICHIE McDONALD: Absolutely. I mean, you know, over the years, Lonestar, we had some songs that were very meaningful songs and touched people's lives. My first CD that I came out with, like I said a while ago, is faith-based, inspirational. Then my country CD is more about my family. Singing about my faith and family, that's kind of where I am. Just want to touch lives.
Q. How much more difficult is it now without the backing of a major label behind you?
RICHIE McDONALD: You know what, I think, I mean, the music business is no different than the racing business. We're all in kind of the same game. It's all about entertainment.
I'm really fortunate to be at a brand-new label here in Nashville, Stradivarius, James' label. James has been a part of many careers over the years. Always made a point to come up to me over the years, didn't have to, tell me just how much he believed in me as a singer. I was one of the first artists that he signed.
I love the fact that I'm on a small label because I think you got probably a little more attention and you don't kind of get lost in the shuffle. I'm excited about the future.
Q. Of course, James ran DreamWorks so successfully.
RICHIE McDONALD: You know what, James has had a lot of success over the years, and as a drummer. If that's any indication, then Stradivarius will hopefully be just as successful.
ARIC ALMIROLA: I got a question for you, Richie. How much do you ride down the road with your family, you hear your song come on the radio, you roll down the windows and crank it up?
RICHIE McDONALD: Usually if one of our songs comes on the radio, my kids are at the point, they say, Can you change that (laughter)?
ARIC ALMIROLA: No way.
RICHIE McDONALD: You know, they're over it. They really are. Used to be when we'd be in a restaurant or something eating, someone would come up and ask for an autograph, when the kids were little, in fact, I was at a race one time, I was at a race out in Carthage, Tennessee, it was on Father's Day, me and my dad and my son, and Rhett was probably six years old. One of the guys waving the flags, he recognized me, asked me to come down and draw tickets out of a hat during intermission to give away door prizes. Anyway, go down there, Rhett is with me. I'm calling out the numbers. Rhett tugs on my shirt. He said, Daddy, give me that microphone. Wait a second. Daddy, give me that microphone. I said, What do you want with it? I'm going to tell these people, No more autographs (laughter). No more autographs.
They know what dad does for a living. I guess the older they get, it's not just that big a deal.
ARIC ALMIROLA: I don't know, I mean, if I made a song, I'd want to hear it.
RICHIE McDONALD: You know what, it's fun to still hear yourself on the radio. Laurie was doing some paperwork the other day in the office. I'm Already There came on the radio. I think when a song like I'm Already There comes on the radio, I still like to stop and listen because of what that song means to me, what it's all about.
Q. Was there one defining point that you decided to embark upon a racing career? Was there one particular inspiration, a racer that inspired you most of all?
ARIC ALMIROLA: Mine is kind of a lame answer because it's a lot of people's, but it really is true. It's not because I work for that company. But my hero growing up was Dale Earnhardt. My grandfather was a huge Dale Earnhardt fan. My grandfather was my idol. He raced dirt Sprint cars and stuff like that. I watched him race as I was a little kid growing up. He finally decided to quit. I was eight years old. He bought me a go-kart. He wasn't ready to quit racing; he just wanted to quit racing himself.
He bought me a go-kart. We started going racing. My one lucky break was I was going to college, I was really torn between racing or college, racing or college. I was giving 50% to both. I couldn't give a hundred percent to either one. I was really struggling with that. I was right on the verge of either quitting racing and really focusing on my school or quitting school and really focusing on my racing.
Obviously my mom was way more pro college than racing. I drug my feet a little bit longer. But, yeah, I got an opportunity to go -- I got a phone call while I was still in college to go race a late model stock for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Reggie White Diversity Program. My dad is from Cuba, so I fit the profile as far as being a diversity driver. That was my big break. I got to pack all my stuff in a U-Haul and move to North Carolina.
MAX ANGELELLI: I'm coming from Italy. My father was a racing driver. I was going to racetracks with him. I got really annoyed by the fact he never won a race. I told him to, Stop, that is not your business, and I grabbed the car and start racing myself. Finally I could beat the people that my father wasn't able to (laughter). That's why and where I started.
THE MODERATOR: Max, when you first started racing, I love this story, you were paid not in Italian lira but in some other kind of currency.
MAX ANGELELLI: With prosciutto ham. The team owner owned a prosciutto factory. He was paying me with the prosciutto. Every time going to the racecar with an empty car and going back full of prosciutto to sell on Monday. That was my paycheck.
BRIAN FRISSELLE: For me, my dad was a racing driver as well. He was always taking us to the racetrack. I looked up to drivers like Al Unser, Jr., Danny Sullivan, American drivers in open-wheel racing, that were heroes to me. Just to watch them do what they did inspired me to want to do the same. My brother got into racing. Once he started having success, started winning, I said, Geez, I got to get in there and start winning myself. It just kind of rolled from there.
BURNEY LAMAR: Max, are you serious? Because your dad couldn't win?
I got into racing when I was five. It was something my dad and I got into, just to spend time together and do that father/son thing. Such a young age, you know, we're pretty competitive people. We started out just going to the racetrack. We would put our go-kart in the back of my mom's Oldsmobile, in the trunk, and next thing you know we lived at the racetrack. I've been at the racetrack pretty much my entire life. It's pretty much all I've ever known. It's all I've ever done. Even going to school, I went to college, you know, got into marketing so we could get sponsorships and go racing. It helps out with having great sponsors like Dollar General. It's just a part of life. It's all I know.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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