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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Reed Sorenson
August 26, 2008


THE MODERATOR: Now everybody on the line, we are going to be joined briefly by Reed Sorenson who is going to talk today about an announcement made earlier this morning; the fact that he's going to join Gillett Evernham Motorsports starting with the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Read, thanks for joining us. You must be really excited. Tell us what you're feeling today in light of this exciting announcement for you.
REED SORENSON: Yeah, thanks for having me on. Just really excited about joining Evernham Motorsports here, and obviously that's something that I feel pretty strongly about, and I'm very excited about. It it's a big day for me, and just can't wait to see what the future holds for us and looking forward to being able to start off the '09 season and get going from there.

Q. Everybody was saying a few weeks ago how you were renegotiating with Ganassi Racing; what happened there?
REED SORENSON: Nothing really. That was a true statement. There was negotiations going on, and just obviously made a move that I felt like would be better for myself and the future, and hopefully this will be a good move. I think the team fits me well here, and I just see where this would be a good move for me on down the road and short term, as well.

Q. Losing you to Evernham and losing a major sponsor, how would you classify the state of that organization right now?
REED SORENSON: Well, I could tell you this: There's a lot of hard work going on over there, and that's still continuing going on this weekend at California.
As far as Target goes and my sponsor, they have been nothing but great, and I don't see where there's any problems as far as that goes.
And as far as how hard everybody is working, there's no lack of that, either, as far as testing, and everybody in the shop is still working really hard. It's just obviously a competitive sport, and it's not easy to be up front and winning.
So you know, it's not a lack of effort. I don't see where there's any problems right now as far as everything they have going on for rest of this year and next year.

Q. What do you think of Felix's comment last year where he said: "Reed is as good as he's going to get?"
REED SORENSON: I hope not. I plan on winning some races and going for championships here sooner than later.
So I respect Felix a lot. He's been a great guy to me. Him and Chip have both been two great mentors for me and I enjoyed working for him and working with him, and I definitely don't plan on not winning races.
So I plan on winning races and I plan on being competitive and being able to get a shot at running in the Top-12 and things like that. Hopefully I can prove that in the future.

Q. My question concerns the economy and the strains that everybody has been going through; how has that affected what you're doing, your team, and what-have-you, and did that have anything to do with your move?
REED SORENSON: Not really. You know, I looked at it more as a racer and more of a competitive thing. I just felt like it was the right thing for me to do to come over here and I'm really excited about being a part of this team. I looked at it more as a competitive change, and I feel like this team is definitely heading in the right direction.
And if you just look from last year to this year, they have definitely taken a step forward as far as how competitive they are. Just look forward to being a part of that, and that's pretty much what made up my mind.

Q. Have you noticed not just your team, but other teams, have you noticed teams pulling back, maybe not doing some of the things that they have done in the past because of the money crunch?
REED SORENSON: Obviously I don't know a lot about what other teams are doing. Just being a part of the team that I'm on, it just seems like that obviously they had to shut down the 40 car, but I don't see where they have held back on anything competitive-wise they need to do on the Target car or on Juan Pablo's car. It seems like they made some changes they needed to make, and after that it seems like everything seems to be okay.

Q. In the announcement today there, was not a whole lot of detail other than that you've signed. Can you fill in some details such as what the car number might be, whether you expect to be driving for a three-car or four-car team Gillett Evernham team, and how this might affect Patrick Carpentier's status, as well.
REED SORENSON: Well, I can tell you right now, I know they are looking for sponsorship for him right now, and that's really all I can say about that.
You know, as far as the rest of the stuff there, I think that's just kind of something that we'll have to wait and see over the next few months to get a definite answer on all that stuff, and that's just because there's some stuff going on and a lot of hard work and trying to get everything placed in the right way.
You know, we made that announcement today and that's what we do know for sure is that I'll be here driving next year, and the rest of it should fall into place fairly soon and be able to let everybody know.

Q. Did you have to think long and hard about making that kind of decision when everything was not in place maybe where you would like to be?
REED SORENSON: Not really. Just dealing with this team and this type of organization, everything should be just fine and I'm not too worried about it. I'm really more excited than worried about that kind of stuff, because I think that's all going to take care of itself, and just excited to be part of this team, man.
Just everything here seems to be upbeat about everything and excited to work with Kasey and Elliot, and I'm excited to the new challenges I'm going to have and I'm looking forward to running good.

Q. What has been the reaction from the Ganassi side of things, and do you expect to finish out the season in the 41 car?
REED SORENSON: Not too much reaction. We obviously made the announcement this morning, but there was a lot of speculation over the past weekend that kind of got out there and everybody was talking about it and things like that.
This is a sport where change is something that happens. You see it more often now than in the past. I think everybody understands. I was at the shop yesterday with some of the guys, some of the crew guys and with my crew chief and things like that, and you know, it's one of those things where I think people understand why I have to make a change sometimes, whether it be for a personal deal or just competition-wise or whatever it might be.
And you know, I think everybody respects that, and it goes both ways. As far as the plans right now, you know, I plan on finishing out the year in the Target car and he'll see what happens.

Q. Is there any chance that the Target sponsorship could follow you to Gillett Evernham?
REED SORENSON: No. I haven't, you know -- there's been no discussions of that whatsoever. They have been a great sponsor for me and it's been more than a pleasure to work for a company where such great, great things come from them. It's great to be a part of history with them and it was great for me as a driver and not to say that I wouldn't want to work with a company like that in the future, but there has been no discussions of anything like that.

Q. Looked like you're probably going to end up next year in a car that is either the fourth or No. 10 that is not in the top 35 in owner's points, which means that you won't have that automatic qualifying spot and will have to race your way into the Daytona 500. Did that possibility factor into your decision, and what do you think about having to do that?
REED SORENSON: Well, obviously that's something that I don't think any team wants to be a part of is that chance that something could go wrong. And it seems like a lot of times this year, even California this year, weather has a decision on who went home and who didn't. That's one of the things you definitely can't control.
That's part of it. Even with Childress, he's starting his four-team, as well, but when you do things like that, you have to go through that process. It's obviously not a fun process to go through, that's for sure, having that extra pressure on you, but at the same time, long-term wise, I feel like this is where I want to be and long-term wise, be where we can be up front and get in the top whatever we can in points and not have to worry about that in the future.

Q. Is there any word on who your sponsor will be, or will there be an announcement coming pretty quick?
REED SORENSON: I think they are working on that right now.
Obviously if we could have had all that done by now, we would probably have tried to get all of that handled and announced and everything, but I think they are working pretty hard on that and we'll know sooner or later, but I know they are working pretty hard on it.

Q. Were you involved with any sponsors in the transaction? Did sponsorship weigh into it, or is it strictly going over for the salary? Are you strictly going over for the financial transaction?
REED SORENSON: I'm going over here because just like I said awhile back there, I'm going over here to try to make myself a better race car driver. That's the main point of going over here, and that's the bottom line.
I wanted to be more competitive and I wanted to have some more opportunities to win races and things like that. That's the reason for coming over here, and I want to be a part of it and Gillett and Evernham Motorsports and everything that they are about and represent.

Q. Guess I didn't phrase that right. What I wanted to know was whether sponsorship was part of the negotiation for you to go over there.
REED SORENSON: No. Most everything I was negotiating about was just trying to be somewhere where I think I can make a home and be at for long-term and be a part of being competitive.

Q. Can you talk to me about what Gillett Evernham Motorsports can offer you that maybe you were lacking or wanting at Ganassi?
REED SORENSON: Well, I think that's kind of what the future holds. I mean, you know, it seems like they are definitely on an uphill climb towards the top.
Like I said, between last year and this year, they have definitely made progress. Just talking with Elliot and Kasey there, they seem really happy with everything that's going on over here. The whole organization seems like it's structured really well.
You know, it's a team that I think will be here for a long time and seems to be heading in the right direction to win races.

Q. From the Ganassi standpoint, this would appear to be possibly a good situation for Dario Franchitti. Obviously they have to find another driver now for the 41. Do you have any idea what they plan to do there, and would you like to see this work out for Dario to get a ride again after what happened to him earlier this season?
REED SORENSON: Yeah, Dario is a good friend of mine. He kind of got cut short there on his Cup opportunities there, but that was obviously from -- you know, we didn't have a sponsor for that car, so they went on as long as they could without -- obviously they had to put it to an end.
So as a friend standpoint, yeah, I think it would be pretty cool for him to get another chance. Obviously coming into this series, and as competitive as it is, it's not easy to step in these cars and go out and be able to be really competitive.
So, you know, he's definitely shown improvement since he's started, and I have no idea what the plans are as far as the future goes for that car, but I would say he's definitely a candidate.

Q. How long did negotiations go on between and you the Evernham folks? Can you take us through the time line?
REED SORENSON: Well, I won't give you a specific time line, but it was fairly fast. This is the first time that I've kind of been in this type of situation, so it went fairly quick.
I think that they knew what they wanted and I knew what I wanted as far as what we want for the next five years down the road and whatnot. It seems pretty nice how it happened, like I said, both sides wanting the same thing, and I guess we both see that we believe in each other. I think they believe in me as a driver, and that means a lot, and I believe in them as a team. So I think that kind of sped up the process a little bit.

Q. Yesterday you met and told Donnie and the guys what you were doing; have you talked to Chip and Felix and had that same conversation?
REED SORENSON: You know, I actually talked to -- I actually was at a Target event last week and I was with Chip and informed him the week before of kind of what I was going to do. I didn't know specifically yet but I tried to let him know that I wasn't going to come back.
I talked to Felix this past weekend, and Felix isn't around a lot around the racetrack and things like that, and he's a very busy man. A lot of times I try to just talk to Chip about things, but Felix told me I could call him any time, and that was kind of one of those deals where you don't want to break up a friendship, that's for sure. I feel like I can still be friends with both of those guys.
You know, any type of breakup like that is not the easiest thing in the world to do for either side, but I felt like it was fairly well for how that went. I'm not too sure how good those types of things can go, but I think it's okay.

Q. Second part is completely clueless, apologize for that, you had a great opportunity with Ganassi, great success in the Busch Series but not so much in Cup; when do you know it's not going to work, and how do you deal with that; and take us through the dynamics of how that all goes.
REED SORENSON: Starting out when I ran the Busch car the first year, we had a great amount of success. Even moving into the Cup Series, it seems like in 2006, we had some decent runs, and obviously I was a rookie but it seemed like we had some fast cars.
I think from that point on, it's kind of been just a little bit of a slide downhill. It's not lack of effort on anybody's part, whether it be Chip's or the drivers or the crew guys or the crew chiefs. Everybody has been working really hard trying to figure out where we can find some speed.
But it seems like this year, it has been.
Worst year out of the three, so I guess you could say that probably factored in on things like that.
But to be able to get the opportunity to work with Gillett Evernham Motorsports is probably another thing that went in there, and I just feel like this is a good place for me to be.
I felt like I've done everything I can with the situation I'm in now. Like I said, it just seems like this last year, it got a little bit worse as far as not being able to find speed at some of these places.

Q. If team chemistry is a real important part of all this, and we're not sure at this point -- or at least we're not sure at this point what the chemistry going to be at Gillett Evernham, is there any concern going ahead for you for that?
REED SORENSON: Not too much. I was actually with some of the crew guys yesterday at the shop and with Donnie and I don't have any issues with that right now where I'm at as far as having good chemistry with my crew chiefs and team members and things like that.
I think everything will be okay. I think it will fall into place really nice, and I think everything is I think pumped up on the Gillett Evernham front and I'm pretty pumped up and excited about where I'm going.
Usually when both parties are excited about what's going on, it usually flows together pretty well. I'm excited to get the chance to do this and going to try to make sure I make best of it.

Q. With all of the money that sponsors bring in and all of the money that teams are charging, is there increased pressure on drivers to win more quickly?
REED SORENSON: I wouldn't say so, because it's a kind of across the board. When you have sponsors, you want to impress them everywhere you can. But obviously the competition level is really tough right now.
You know, I think every team and every driver wants to have the opportunity to win. But at the same time, you kind of have to get consistent first, and you know, make sure you have more opportunities to win. And when you do that, usually you'll be able to win.

Q. Again with the same thing in mind, with more money being charged, do you think drivers are taking more heat these days, even though their cars are not as fast?
REED SORENSON: I would say maybe in some situations, but I feel like race teams and organizations kind of know when they are -- you win and you lose as a team, is kind of the motto that everybody has.
You know, you have to pull together as a race team and a whole organization and try to get better, and that's what you portray to your sponsor. There's a lot of work that goes into these NASCAR teams that people don't realize. This is a huge team sport, and with as many employees as all of these places have, you have to pull together and kind of spread the pressure throughout.

Q. How much of a factor was it for to you make a move on your own term while you had options, because it's no secret that Chip turns over a lot of drivers and a lot has changed a lot in the last several years?
REED SORENSON: What's the exact question there?

Q. He gets rid of drivers and he gets new drivers; how important was it for you to go someplace on your open terms while you had options, and it was your choice and not his maybe down the line when you wouldn't have other options.
REED SORENSON: I wouldn't say that factored too much in my decision. If you look at the history, he has done that in the past where he kind of moves everybody around a little bit.
But, you know, we were negotiating on certain things, and you know, what it comes down to, I didn't really rook at that too much, it was where I wanted to be and this is where I felt like I wanted to be.

Q. What's your sense of job security there? Do you feel like you have to prove yourself every day, or you get to work and get some time?
REED SORENSON: At Ganassi?

Q. Yeah.
REED SORENSON: Do I feel like you have to prove yourself there?

Q. Yeah, is there a constant state of pressure there knowing he turns over a lot of drivers there?
REED SORENSON: I think there is a little bit. But at the same time, obviously we haven't had the greatest success over the past three or four years, and that's kind of, you know, with the two or three Cup seems that we've had.
I think everybody kind of tried to pull together and tried to make sure that nobody was pointing fingers or anything like that, because obviously we've had different drivers in there, and with Juan Pablo coming in there, there's not much questioning on his ability, I don't think, as far as a driver goes.
So having him come in there and kind of set the bar for, we know this guy is a champion and a world-class driver, so I think that kind of helped things on that stand.

Q. I was wondering once you had decided you would start negotiating with other teams, how much interest was there in you, and did you get far along with any teams besides Gillett everyone ham?
REED SORENSON: Obviously I didn't go any further than I wanted to. I felt like this is where I wanted to be, and we worked really hard on trying to make sure I could get here. That's where the main focus was, I'll tell you that. It was a choice and it was a tough decision, but at the same time, I feel really good about it.
Like I said, I think there is a lot of respect both ways, and I think they see potential in me as a driver, and that helps build confidence in me. And I see potential in this race team getting even better than they are right now.
I think that's the kind of respect and confidence that goes both ways.

Q. Do you feel like you've lost any confidence in the last year or so?
REED SORENSON: Well, you know, I think as a race car driver, nobody likes to not have a chance to run up front and get top fives and Top-10s and things like that. So I would say it kind of brings you down over a period of time.
But at the same time, I've only been in the series for three years and I'm still excited about being here and getting a chance to run in the Sprint Cup Series and make a living off of it.
I'm really not too worried about trying to get my confident built back up. I think we can do that fairly quickly, and like I said, I don't think any driver likes to not get a chance to run up front on a regular basis, so it's been tough, or especially this year, this has been the toughest out of the three, for not only myself, but for everybody involved in the situation.
So hopefully we can turn that around fairly quickly.

Q. It seems that patience is one of the most important traits that a young driver like you learns; did you grasp that concept early?
REED SORENSON: Patience is something that I guess sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I've seen a lot of drivers not use a lot of patience and it paid off for them, and I've seen it hurt as well. I would say more times than not, in these races with these cars, you have to be patient.
And these cars are obviously a little bit harder to deal with than the older ones were. I think it even takes more patience even, not necessarily just during the race, but throughout the whole weekend when you're making changes on the car, trying to get it better and things like that.

Q. You're making big decisions early in life -- does that help you when you have to make more big decisions like you just made?
REED SORENSON: I think any decision like this is a tough one to make. Obviously this is the first time that I've had to make a decision like this. It was a tough decision to make, but I feel confident about it and I'm pretty excited about it to say the least. It was a tough decision, but at the same time, I feel really, really good about it, so I'm pretty excited to see what happens.

Q. Looking ahead to the rest of the season, there's still 12 races left to go, what are some of the goals that you have looking forward to get the most out of this current situation?
REED SORENSON: Well, you know, we have some good tracks coming up for us. Richmond coming up for us is somewhere where I think we can run Top-10. We ran Top-10 pretty much the whole time there last time. New Hampshire, we have a really good car there, as well. I think we had about a Top-12 car there last time and a shot at the pole where it rained.
I would foresee some of these good tracks coming up to be able to get a solid run, and you know, maybe get a pole for the Target car and see what we can do with that.
But there is some good tracks coming up here for us, and I would like to try to at least get a couple more Top-10s under.
Belt and maybe even a pole.

Q. In terms of this weekend, California is one of those races that kind of starts in the heat of the sun and ends in the evening. What do you guys do to prepare for that in terms of setup?
REED SORENSON: Well, you know, a lot of things are different with this new car. The old car was a little easier to predict what the track would do at night. A lot of times, especially this year, sometimes the track doesn't always do what we think it will. Sometimes it does the opposite. So I think we might have a late practice session out there, or a later, one, and kind of get a good feel for what the track does once it gets some shade on it.
Obviously get some grip once it gets nighttime out and maybe get a little bit better feel for the track on which way the balance is going to go. Last time we were there, we had an okay car and seems to be the tracks we were struggling, but hopefully got some things for the car this weekend that will make it better and hopefully we can tune that in during practice sessions on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for joining us today and congratulations again.

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