Grand American Road Racing Association Media Conference
Topics: Grand American Road Racing Association
January 6, 2007
NATE SIEBENS: We're joined today by several representatives of Fitz Motorsports, Supercuts as well as Hypersport for a couple of exciting announcements.
Without further ado, I'll turn it over to Armando Fitz, who is the owner of Fitz Motorsports. Explain what we're all doing here today, Armando. Talk about maybe how excited you are to announce this program.
ARMANDO FITZ: First of all, I want to thank everyone for coming. This is a big day for our race team. Making a new announcement. Supercuts, a dear sponsor of ours, been with us for five years, has expanded their partnership with us for two more. Along with that, they've expanded their motorsports program. That's where a lot of these fine gentlemen down here come into play.
It's an exciting day for us. When Supercuts came on board back in 2002, we started. We said we would grow the motorsports program a little bit at a time and make sure we did it right. I think the announcement today has taken it to that level.
Along with their continued support in the Busch Series, they've expanded their program into the Busch Grand National series with Ruben, they've expanded their motorsports involvement with Hypersports in the Grand-Am series which we're all excited about. We also plan to run a Cup race in Sonoma to try to branch out into that level, too. It's very exciting for us. I want to thank them for coming on board with us and for their continued support.
As some of you saw, we made a design change on the car, which it's a very bright and colorful, good-looking car. We also made a number change. We've gone from the 12 to the 22. We've made a great addition to our driver status with David Stremme, who in 2005 I had the pleasure of working with in the Busch Series. He's involved now in the Cup Series. He's a very young, talented, great driver. We're excited to have him back helping us out with our Busch Series.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks. We'll go ahead and get comments from Patti Langworthy, she's the director of marketing for Supercuts. Patti, just talk about how exciting it is to not only continue this program but to also expand as you have here.
PATTI LANGWORTHY: Very, very exciting. Armando, I can't say it much better than he did. I will say we've had a wonderful last five years. It was the beginning of racing for them sort of with Fitz Racing, Supercuts. It was our first foray into racing. It's been wonderful. The relationship itself, it's been exciting on track. It's the off-track stuff I think we all appreciate as well, all that we've gotten from the partnership.
With this, it's been really great to be able to meet all these new folks as we're expanding into the next era of racing for Supercuts. Again, we're just going to have fun and as great a relationship going forward as we've been blessed with the last five years with Hypersports.
NATE SIEBENS: Let's hear from Joe Foster, owner and driver with Hypersport in the KONI Grand-Am Challenge series. Joe, obviously your team is probably one of the more high-profile teams in the KONI Challenge series, I think for obvious reasons. Give us your comments.
JOE FOSTER: We'll, we're obviously pretty darned excited about it as we've been working hard at various levels within the Grand-Am hierarchy to get our program to a level that is competitive and professional. As owners of the team, myself and Patrick, Rick Skelton, who couldn't be here today, the three of us have a long-term vision on what we'd like to see in terms of the competitive level of the team as well as at the same time the real concrete, you know, tangible marketing returns we can help real sponsors create, which is important.
Part of our long-term vision for this is just being competitive on the track, it's actually creating returns for folks like Patti and Supercuts that are gutsy enough to invest in motorsports in this day and age. We want to reward them for their vision by creating a program that is awesome and creates a lot of media value and facilitates the program they already have going in NASCAR with Fitz Motorsports. That's obviously a proven quantity. Certainly in the Busch and Cup level, there's no arguing the massive media value that that represents.
With our kind of program we can bring to Supercuts, as well, we can definitely improve on and choose to do specific things for the brand in terms of brand marketing and internal incentives, things like that, create a different corporate marketing environment for them.
We're pretty excited about it. There's one car outside, the 54. We're going to have a co-primary position for Supercuts on the 54 Mustang as well as the 55 Mustang. You'll see that in the KONI Challenge series and Grand-Am as well.
It's exciting for us. It's definitely obvious Patrick is getting better and better, faster and faster every time he gets in the car. He did a super job this morning. He went very quick, considering he's on virtually no sleep. It went very well. We're impressed with his actual skill, his increasing credibility as well as a racer who just happens to have a day job in L.A. We're pretty excited to have him as part of the family.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks, Joe.
David, talk about rejoining Fitz Motorsports, the Busch Series, working with Supercuts.
DAVID STREMME: First off, I'd like to thank Chip and Felix for allowing me to run the Busch car with Armando for the 2005 season. Got to drive for Armando, got to see Supercuts as a sponsor, what was my team car then. It's going to be real neat to get to drive for them, with also running the Cup car, I'm sitting around normally on weekends. Armando came to me. Yeah, I'd love to do it.
It's going to be really cool. Plus I get to go to a nice place and get my hair cut and look great. No, it's going to be interesting, definitely come down to Daytona, see what we can do. I'm real excited about it. Car looks great. Hopefully we kick it off and you guys will see me in here after the 300, the Busch race.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks, David.
Let's hear from Ruben Pardo, who is driving for Fitz Motorsports in the Busch Series. Rueben, obviously this is a new program.
RUBEN PARDO: I'm very happy with this program, with Armando. I'm very, very happy with Armando for this opportunity. The most important is the sponsor. I want to thanks Supercuts for this support and for give me this opportunity, no?
NATE SIEBENS: Last but not least, we'll talk to Patrick. One year ago, basically you kind of launched this program with Hypersport. Obviously this is another step in the evolution of the team with Supercuts. Talk about that and maybe talk about what your expectations are heading into your second year in the KONI Challenge series.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: It's a real pleasure and honor to be here, to actually have Supercuts come on board and help us and support us and believe in us, and certainly believe in me. And giving me the opportunity to race is really quite special. I thank you very much for that.
I'm having a ball. I love it. I can't belive I'm here. I had to get on a plane last night. I had to work late. It's nice to be here for the second time. I feel a little more relaxed. I think the goal is for all of us is a multi-year thing, take the proper steps, build slowly, test properly.
It's been great. It's been fun running the Ford Mustang. It's a great car to drive. This track, with its history, to be a part of this group, it's really great. It's a dream come true in many respects to be able to go racing in this series. It's very competitive. This morning it was very competitive, very interesting, very entertaining (laughter).
It was good to get out there. The support of the team, everybody here, you know, I'm very fortunate to get away from my day job, as you put it, to be embraced by the community. I hope that in time I get the respect.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks, Patrick.
We'll go ahead and take questions.
Q. Patrick, how do you compare the rigors to drive a race car to the rigors of learning acting?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: It's interesting. This came up. It's the ability to try to stay private in a public space. There's a lot of pressure on obviously with the media watching me, everything I do. I have to really let go of that and focus on what I need to do, what the goals are for that session.
I think that's really helped tremendously from the acting crossing over, just to stay calm, stay focused, not to do things because people are watching. You know, I think that and also having to deal with certain aspects of the media, all that, you know.
Sponsorship is hugely important. It's been a real challenge in the last year being a team owner, how much effort it takes to have sponsorship. When you have someone as wonderful as Patti coming on with Supercuts, it makes you breathe a lot easier. We're very thankful for that.
It's an eye-opening experience every time I come here. I learn a little bit more. Hopefully in time I'll be up there in the top 10, very competitive. I'm really pleased with this morning, where I was last year, where I am this year. I hope that continues to continue on in the sport with everybody. Look forward to everything. It's been wonderful.
Q. Patrick, what are your long-term goals regarding racing?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Certainly move up to Rolex. We hope to get in and maybe do a few races at the end of this season. If we can test properly, I think that's key. Seat time is critical. I need to do it wisely and move methodically. We have a good plan for that.
24-hour race, certainly. Sebring, LeMans, I think those are certain goals we would like to achieve. We'll see how real that becomes. I think to get through this reason, be competitive, be consistent, finish races, that's the goal, develop. Get a couple Rolex races in at the end of the season, I hope.
Q. What about being here at Daytona International Speedway?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: It's amazing. First time I went out on the banking, I couldn't believe I was there. You take in the history, all the races that have happened here, Rolex 24 Hour race, all the Cup races, it's phenomenal to be at this track. It's really quite special and challenging.
When you get out of the car, there's so much joy of just completing that, getting a little bit faster. I love it. I really do.
Q. Any particular area been challenging of the track?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: One, braking, that's always challenging. I think that was my first incident second time out last year. Hit the wall. Didn't damage the car too badly. It's all challenging. You start to break down each segment, you need to take a little more time off, you see all the frontrunners. Our team is could go quite well. 55 car running phenomenally well. We were really quick all last year. Had some bad luck. This year I think we have a good shot if we can just get some finishes in and have a little bit of luck.
Q. Patrick, as Joe mentioned, when he talked about you earlier, he said you're here on little sleep. Obviously that's kind of a common occurrence in your racing career. Tell us about how tough it is to deal with that.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Every session we go, we try to have a plan, Okay, what can we learn from this? If you're going to run distance races, you have to learn how to race without a lot of sleep, do it without getting in over your head, being consistent, smooth, knowing where you're at, take care of yourself. That's what we're trying to do.
Q. Patrick, I noticed Scott Maxwell is integral to the whole operation, the spent a lot of time with his head through the neck speaking to you during the sessions. Talk about how important he is. Is it comforting to have him there to help?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Absolutely. I think to have him racing with us this season, with Joe, I think that's a great combination. The wisdom, insight, his experience. Thanks for taking the time to help me out there. I think it's a great opportunity. I mean, what a great teacher.
We picked up quite a bit after those notes, too. We keep improving. With the 55 car, we really want to shoot for the championship, see if that can happen. If I can stay consistent, I was running 15th, if I can do that in a race, keep finishing this season, make break into the top 10, I'd be thrilled. It's just going to get down to, you know, proper testing, coaching. I've got a great team around me. It's very organized, very professional. The support from Ford has been wonderful. Also the racing community, in general. I'm very thankful for it.
It's amazing to be around all these racers. These are my heroes, the people I look up to. To be here, they take the time to give me advice, I certainly am going to listen. I have a lot to learn. I want to continue to grow.
Q. Joe, take us through the driver lineups for your cars.
JOE FOSTER: Well, I think you'll see we also are look at our program this year, not only as an extension of the marketing program with Supercuts, but also we want have to some technical interchange and stuff with Fitz Motorsports as well. Rick couldn't be here today is a part -- is going to be a part of the driver lineup. Scott Maxwell, Romeo Kapudija, running with Patrick this weekend, doing a fantastic job.
As we get set back into the Rolex Series, we're working very hard on creating some opportunities not the not only for ourselves to move up to the Rolex Series, but also to see Carl and Ruben out there, as well. He looked at me like, I don't know about that. Got to turn right, downshift, stuff (laughter).
No, it will be a lot of fun. It's part of my background as an instructor, as well. We relish that in terms of an opportunity to transfer that knowledge there. We have a great relationship with Supercuts, but also we deal with Armando and his team. We want to facilitate that.
To answer your question, you'll see a range of guys in the Mustangs as well as in the Rolex Series.
Q. David, some of your contemporaries are competing in the Rolex 24 this year. Several others have done it in the past. Is this something that you ever have an interest in doing?
DAVID STREMME: We were actually testing like two weeks ago, Juan Pablo and myself, at Lakeland. You know, he said he was coming up here. Just with the schedule of splitting -- I'm running the Busch car for Armando and Supercuts, we have Wrigley's doing Busch races with Chip and Felix, also my full Cup schedule, it's real busy. It's kind of hard to fit that in.
I wouldn't mind it in the future. I know I love watching the Grand-Am series when they go to Watkins Glen, even coming here in July, getting to watch. I'm trying to get myself into some free time so I can come down here early to watch the 24 Hours. It's just hard with all the testing and that.
Again, it's interesting. I didn't know they had other different classes, I should say, that they run and everything. Normally with Chip, he's into the Prototype cars and everything. It's kind of interesting getting to look at all the different equipment.
It's definitely a real huge series. You can see the amount of teams that's pouring out. Something probably in the future, just see how my schedule is.
Q. Patrick, can you talk about maybe what your plans are for the season?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah, I think it's extremely difficult with the scheduling with Grey's Anatomy. Constantly changing, which is why I wasn't here yesterday. Try to make as many races as possible this season. The races we can't make, to test, get as much seat times a well, just to stay at it. Hopefully get into the Rolex Series at the end of this season I think is the key.
NATE SIEBENS: Thank you, gentlemen
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