Joe Gibbs Racing Media Conference
Topics: Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
September 5, 2007
MIKE ARNING: Morning, everyone. I'm Mike Arning with True Speed Communication. On behalf of everyone from J.D. Gibbs Racing, we want to welcome to you today's press conference. We certainly appreciate you being here.
All right, we'll go ahead and get started with introductions from left to right. Down at the left is Steve Addington, crew chief of the No. 18 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team.
Next to him is Mike Ford, crew chief of the No. 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team.
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 team.
Greg Zipadelli, crew chief of the No. 20 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 car.
J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing.
Jimmy Makar, senior vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Mark Cronquist, head engine builder for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Jim Aust, Senior Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales and president and C.E.O. of Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A.
Also in the audience from Toyota is Dave Illingworth, senior vice president and chief planning and administrator officer of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. and senior vice president of Toyota Racing Development.
J.D., you've assembled quite a group up here today. Tell us why we're here today.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, first of all, let me just say on behalf of JGR, I kind of hate the way this played out over the past few weeks. I know it's frustrating, you know, from the media standpoint. It's frustrating from our guys' standpoint, and frustrating really from GM's standpoint and all our key guys here.
The reality of it is we honestly and truly until this weekend couldn't come to you and say, Hey, here's a done deal. Here's what we're doing. So I couldn't say yes, I couldn't say no, so I apologize. I know it's frustrating for you guys and a lot of us here. So I want to say that first and foremost.
I think what I'd like to say to really start off is if you really look at from JGR, we look at the landscape of our sport, you know, it's really changed a lot over the past few years. I think you see all the mergers acquisitions, the partnerships, and really I think what that says is it kind of says how difficult it is to run this -- to run a business in this sport in this day and age.
So I first and foremost want to say from our standpoint as you look around, I think we kind of figure out, you know, from JGR's standpoint, we don't have any other outside businesses. This is it.
We have got 430 families that kind of count on us to make good decisions. We have some great partners. We've got great fans. And the reality of this sport is if you don't perform well and you don't win, and you don't do it consistently year in and year out, you won't be here. So to me that weighs heaviest on my mind. What is the best thing for our 430 employees, the best thing for our partners, the best thing for our fans short term and long-term.
So I think for us, that is the main reason we kind of are coming to y'all today and saying we're going to make a decision for the 2008 season. We're going to be in Toyota Camrys at JGR in the Cup series and the Busch series.
I just want to kind of say that. And kick it off and say I think the leadership here was a hard, long, it was a difficult process going through making the decision. We can share some of that with you today. Some of it we probably can't.
But, for us, just know it wasn't an easy decision. We think it's the right decision. We think we have a shared vision with Toyota on what our future needs to look like, what their future looks like in the sport.
At the same time I want to say how much we appreciate. You know, we've had a great partner in General Motors over the past really 16 years. They've been a great partner for us, and we've been a great partner for them as well.
I think going forward is really for the rest of the year 2007 our main focus, our only focus is winning, I think, the 38th Cup Championship for the GM folks. And that's really what we're going to focus on and really give our best effort. That's kind of once today's done, we're going to kind of put this aside until '08 and really focus on going forward this year to win that championship in these last 11 races.
So I know GM, they have three other really strong teams there. They're going to be competitive year in and year out. We know that. And I think our goal for us from JGR standpoint, what is best for our families, what is best for our partners and our fans. That's kind of where we are today. And coming to you with this announcement.
MIKE ARNING: Jimmy Makar, back to you, the senior vice president of racing operations for Joe Gibbs racing. If you could address the manufacturer's switch from a logistical standpoint. Basically, what goes into switching out JGR's fleet of race cars like Nextel Cup, soon to be Sprint Cup, and the Busch series to Toyota Camry?
JIMMY MAKAR: Really the biggest thing we're going to have for an obstacle is going to be the engine department. As you all know the Car of Tomorrow and the way NASCAR's rules are, the bodies are going to be very similar. There's not going to be a lot of changing there. So basically the nose, the tail, the hood and some windows. But that's not going to be our problem.
I think we've gone through body changes before, and it's a small thing for us to undertake. But the engine's going to be a big deal for us.
Mark Cronquist is going to be heading up that development along with the folks at TRD. And I think we've done this type of thing before as recently as this year when we went to the RO7 engine. It was a big undertaking, but we were, I think, one of the first teams to come to the racetrack with the engine. And that just goes to prove that Mark and his guys can stand up to the task of going and switching out from Chevrolet to Toyota.
I think the other thing that I want to say about it is the partnership, I think, and that is the keyword - it is a partnership that we're going to be entering into with Toyota. And from what they have in their camp and how we can use their resources, I just look at this as an extension of our team.
Technically, they've got a lot of people there that we can draw from, draw resources from. And I think that's the biggest part of what I'm getting excited about is our company's going to grow technically by 100-plus people, without us having to go out and hire those folks. They're going to be at our disposal to be able to use the way we see needed. And that will allow us to stay on the cutting edge of technology.
As you all know, everybody competes against each other, and as somebody learns something new in this sport, we want to stay on that cutting edge. And by partnering with Toyota, we'll be able to do that.
MIKE ARNING: I'd like to introduce Jim Aust vice president of Toyota Motor Sales and president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development, USA. Obviously, this is a major addition to TRD's history. How do you see JGR and TRD developing in the years following?
JIM AUST: I think Jimmy may have addressed that particular issue. We view it as an extension of TRD. We certainly are looking forward to this new opportunity with Joe Gibbs Racing. A championship race team with type-A drivers and the attitude to get it done.
Certainly the first year that we've had in this sport has been an exciting one. We're learning a lot. And we certainly look forward to our opportunity as we get into this particular era with Joe Gibbs Racing.
MIKE ARNING: Thank you, now we'll open it up for questions from our assembled media. We just reiterate, say your name and affiliation. Also if you can reiterate who you're asking the question of so the transcription service knows exactly who is saying what.
Q. I would like for you to talk about (no audio).
J.D. GIBBS: It is not really from the racing standpoint, we sit down and evaluate going forward. I think we feel like, Hey, I think Toyota has some good teams and in years to come we'll be very good. I think it will be a good partnership for us.
I do think we we've got four really strong teams. And I think obviously there are certain things we think we'd like to kind of have a leadership role in. I think this gives you that leadership role.
Again, I think the GM groups we work with are first class, first class group of guys. I think we had a good partnership there. I think going forward, looking to next year, and two years, three years, five years down the road, all of these things kind of come back and play. What is the best fit for us?
And I keep coming back to really for us, there is -- I really feel the burden I feel is we have 400 -- all the families that work here, we want to make sure they can stay here for their whole careers. And for me, I think the key to doing that is performance, week in and week out. And there are certain things we can do with Toyota that we'll have a little more of a leadership role in.
And I do think within GM, if you've got four really strong teams, you know, so I think it is probably a little more difficult to say who has a leadership role there? Which direction are we going to go? And I think for us it is just the right decision and the right time.
You could have waited and announced it toward the end of the year, that would have given everyone grief. You could have announced it earlier, but the reality is we didn't have a decision made until this past weekend.
Q. There's been some talk, maybe, that you guys weren't thrilled about this. Questions about your contracts. I know that for Tony, you have Chevrolet backing you in your racing other series, other than NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Can you guys talk about your contracts? Your feelings about this and whether Chevy will continue to sponsor you in other areas, Tony?
TONY STEWART: I'm excited about it. We're in the middle of contract negotiations right now and working to extend my contract already. So I'm excited about this. I think it's like J.D. said, it's a good opportunity for us to, you know, take a leadership standpoint and have a little more input on what we can do here.
But as far as my USAC side and World of Outlaw teams, we're still going forward with Chevrolet on that side now. We made it work when I had Mopar and I was driving for Chevrolet on the Cup side. So we've done it before, we can make it work again. I'm excited about what we're doing on that side. And they've been very supportive of me. And what we've been doing with USAC and the World of Outlaw teams. So nothing's going to change there.
I'm excited about this. I feel like the only way that you constantly stay ahead of the game is by putting yourselves in positions to, you know, be leaders not followers. And, you know, that's why I signed up with Joe Gibbs Racing in the first place. And that's why I'm currently looking to extend my contract.
I mean, I've always trusted J.D. and Joe, and you know, this decision doesn't change my feelings about their leadership qualities.
DENNY HAMLIN: I feel the same way. I'm in the same boat as he is working on the contract stuff. But I know it's probably I have a whole lot less burden on me, because I don't have, you know, another team with another manufacturer. So it's pretty cut and dry for me.
I feel like Toyota is really going to be -- we all know they're going to be winners. We know they're going to be champions. And hopefully we're the ones to bring them to that level. And I think Joe Gibbs racing is more than capable of doing it. We just need a little time to get it all together.
So I think, you know, things are going to workout in the end, I'm sure. We know Chevrolet's great right now we're winning races, and you know, we're part of their team right now. And going to continue to be until the end of the year. So, yeah, I'm really excited about the future. And, you know, trying to finish out my career at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Q. For J.D. and Jim, the terms of the contract, you said in 2008, I'm sure it's a multi-year deal. Do you have a length of the contract for you or GM. There was a talk about 100 extra people - what beyond supplying race cars, are there other elements to this deal? Any kind of -- this hundred people, is that a new division? What are we gaining there?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, really from our standpoint, you know, I don't want to at this particular time get into the length of the contract and the how long the agreement is that we're looking at and working on together.
I think for us I would address, I do think and I would say this, GM has a great group of guys, again, that technically address issues. I think Toyota has a little bit different model than what GM has. And I think for us, I think there will be some resources there, down the road there are certain things that we're not going to be able to afford to do, period.
I come back to the fact that this is our business. We don't have any outside businesses. So for us to go forward I think we can lean on Toyota hard in some areas where we can use the expertise and can really work with the race program.
So right now we're still feeling how what does that look like? How does it come together? We haven't had any really in-depth conversations other than to know that, I think for us, we give us the ability to do some things that we really can't do on our own in the future.
And, as far as cars, engines, you know, we're still going to do all that ourselves in-house, just like we currently do.
Q. Jimmy certainly touches on the engine issue. But everybody in the garage kept saying what a daunting task it was going to be. TRD certainly has technology that will help expedite your learning curve where that is concerned. But how long for the lay people does it take to put an engine together? What are the tremendous, I guess, challenges ahead for you?
MARK CRONQUIST: Well, that's a good question. Really putting an engine together is easy. It's finding the combination that you need for that. The one advantage we have switching to Toyota from say the RO7 engine, is the RO7 engine, nobody had raced it. I mean, if you look at everybody's RO7 engines the alternator might be on a different side or the oil pump may be on a different side. This engine's already built. It's put together. So mounting the alternatetor and the oil pump, a lot of that is done for us.
The thing my group has to work on is making sure it is up to our standards of what we normally do, being the performance, the torque, the horsepower and stuff like that.
So actually, we think it's going to be easier switching to the Toyota engine than it was to switch to the RO7 engine. Because the RO7 engine we had to do everything to it, and this engine's built and running right now.
And we actually get a free year of failures and other things, too, that have happened to it. So we get to work off of that also, so.
Q. This is for the crew chiefs. How quickly do you guys figure you can be competitive in the Toyota and what adjustments are you looking at from your side of things?
GREG ZIPADELLI: For my side of things, we're obviously focused on the end of this year. Everything's going to be on COT next year. So it will be small body changes as far as appearance to it. The fundamentals of the race car, the parts and pieces that are into the same thing that we're using this year.
We're going to rely on Mark a lot to keep our motor programs as strong as it's been in years past with reliability and competitive horsepower.
So from my standpoint there is a little bit of an unknown, but I think that we've got the people here to go to Daytona in the first few races and be just as competitive as we've been in years past.
MIKE FORD: On the car side, there's not a lot changing. What we're doing now is going to carry over to next year. Jimmy touched on it. A few body changes. But NASCAR has that so tight right now that all the manufacturers are very similar. So on the car side, it's the people that you have working on your cars that make them go fast. And you know, we're going to carry that over into next year.
So on the performance side, related to the chassis and the bodies, really don't see much of a change coming for next year. It's how quickly we can adapt to the engine and move forward from there. And I know Mark has a good handle on that.
STEVE ADDINGTON: We just felt like we had a strong group of people here supporting us. And you know, after Mark looked at the engine side of it, we felt pretty good about it.
Q. What do you see as your biggest challenges as far as the engine goes? We've heard so much about it? Where do you see your biggest deficiencies are and how do you expect Gibbs to help you?
JIM AUST: I'm sorry, would you repeat that? Was that for me?
Q. Can you talk about where you see your biggest deficiencies in the engine are? What are your biggest problems, and where do you hope that Gibbs can help you out in that area?
JIM AUST: You have to understand that the engine that we're using in the series is an engine that we just started with in the beginning of the season. The truck motor we had as far as the Busch motor is different than what we're using in the Cup series.
So this engine doesn't have the development that the other engine has. The shortcomings possibly that we've seen them are in the lower RPM area, and we're continuing to develop the motor. And over time, and certainly our belief is by the time we get to the beginning of next year, that our engine's going to be equal to what we have as far as competition's concerned.
Q. When you go to make a decision like this, obviously there are a lot of factors and a lot of people that have to be considered if you change over your business from any kind of manufacturing change. The fact that it is Toyota and that there have been all of the issues about the foreign manufacturer and all that stuff coming in, did that bring an extra layer into that discussion? Was that a factor at all in making this decision as you went forward?
J.D. GIBBS: I think it was a factor. I think when you look at the realities. If you're going to Dodge or Ford you probably wouldn't have some of the issues that we're going to face. But I think when you really look at it, and the reality of it is and this really isn't my area of expertise, but the reality is hey, a lot of people in this U.S. do work for Toyota. A lot of people sell Toyota vehicles, lot of people drive Toyota vehicles.
So from my standpoint if they have an issue with that whole group, I'm not sure I can help you out a whole lot with that. I'm just saying from our standpoint, what is best for our families here and our teams and we think down the road is this partnership. I think it's a first class company. I think if you look at their history, you'll see that. And I think we look forward to working together for years to come.
Q. Tony, was there any reluctance when you first heard about this change on your part? Did you have to be sold on it at all? And also, do you expect that your fans will react negatively in any way?
TONY STEWART: You know, it's like J.D. said, it's about winning races. And you know, that's why I came to Joe Gibbs Racing. I've always had the confidence in, you know, Joe Gibbs Racing's program. And you know, the thing about Mark Cronquist and I, is if we don't talk to each other, we look at that as a good thing. We look at that as a standpoint that things are going really good in the motor department.
I think today's the first time we've spoken, probably, other than you making a token appearance at a couple races this year, probably in a year and a half, two years. So things are pretty comfortable there.
So I've always had the confidence in our program. And like I said, I mean I came here because I felt like this was my best opportunity to win races and championships. And I didn't have to be sold on it. I was sold when I signed my first contract with these guys.
Q. Jim, this is for you. You guys came in and essentially started with a bunch of start-up teams. There were a couple of teams established, but they weren't premier teams, this is. This is an elite NEXTEL Cup team. What does this say for Toyota? Is it a statement that, okay, we tried to be nice now we're going to go win some races?
JIM AUST: I think you know, probably the first thing is any manufacturer would be privileged to be sitting in this chair today, you know, at this historic press announcement. So, you know, our plan has always been that as we entered NASCAR Cup series, that we would grow.
The opportunity is one of the things that you don't know when that's going to come available to you. So the plan is that as we entered, we entered with new teams, with the addition of Bill Davis, and Bill bringing, you know, the experience that he had. But certainly there is a lot of skill, a lot of experience, many years of championships here that I think are going to help Toyota in the long run, and I think you'll see the benefit of that next year.
Q. Help the fans debate this today as to whether a guy sticking with a manufacturer his whole life because that is his manufacturer is changing in the sport when it's a business decision now. And Greg, when he's done talking about what you have to do to pull this off next year? Because there are obviously a lot to do and expectations of how quickly you can make anything happen with this.
TONY STEWART: What was my side of it again (laughing)? You got going are there, I got lost.
Q. (Question clarified).
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but I mean you look at society changes it is in a constant state of change. This is not like any other professional sport. I mean, things are constantly in a state of change.
You know, I've had a great relationship with General Motors. From day one I was with GM, and we've won a lot of races and a lot of championships and they've become part of my open wheel program, and I'm very proud of that.
But like we mentioned earlier, I joined this race team because of the leadership qualities and the quality of competition and dedication that Joe Gibbs and J.D. have had for this sport, and are going to continue to have. So it's never been a question of where are we going to be and where are we going to finish our career?
It's what are we going to do and what do we need to do to win races and make sure that we're staying at the top of our game? And if this is the decision that as an organization we feel like we need to be at, we have to do what we think is right for the organization and right for all the employees.
But it's not any disrespect to general motors, because we've had a great relationship, we've had a great history with them. The record books show that. But at the same time, we feel like this is the right step to maintain that, and maintain that edge on everybody in the sport.
So you have a lot of loyalty to the manufacturers, but at the same time at the end of the day, this is what we're here for is to win races.
Like we mentioned earlier, if I feel like if J.D. and Mark and everybody feel like this is our best opportunity to do that, I think our fans and everybody will support that. I mean, at the end of the day, it's about winning races and championships.
GREG ZIPADELLI: From my standpoint we kind of touched on that. We've changed, you know, from Pontiac to Chevrolet and did it successfully as far as body changes and workload on our part. We've got a great organization. We've got a lot of people here that are behind us, that support us when we're not here and we're testing and we're racing. And you know, our fab shop will do a fantastic job at changing.
Mark, I have no questions at all will give us good, reliable horsepower by the time we get to Daytona to race, and Vegas and California those first couple of races. You know, it's going to be another year. It's going to be a little bit of craziness as far as cars.
But we're going to Car of Tomorrow next year. We're building a lot of new race cars. Did I tell you about that, J.D., for next year? We'll be replacing a lot of what we have in the current cars now for intermediates and stuff. So as that process goes, they'll be built new and they'll be Camry bodies.
It will be a little more work, but we've got the people here, the strength. And the teamwork, I think, is going to be most important. And I think all of us will work together to have good, successful season next year.
Q. J.D., when you talk about the other four manufacturers at Chevrolet being so strong, did you feel it was oversaturated to the point where you guys maybe wouldn't get the funding you needed to survive in the future? And were there qualms between the other GM teams about the direction you wanted to go with your program?
J.D. GIBBS: You know, I think we get along well, I have a great relationship with all those teams. I think what happened was when you have that many strong teams, hey, the reality of it is you know everyone's going to have different ideas. So I think, you know, to some extent I do like the fact the way GM's organized it and put together, you have four different entities currently. And so it's not like there is one entity handing out things. Each team does their own things on their own, which is a benefit.
I do think as you go forward in the future, I think you're going to have to have a way of working together, closer with the manufacturer, with another team. I think you see it in the sport. All the engine programs have become consolidated. All the partnerships have become consolidated.
And I think for us going forward is as you go forward, who are we going to be partnered with going forward? I think for me, I think for us, this is the right partner. I think if you look inside GM, all those groups currently, they already have partnerships established.
I think for us, this will be kind of -- it is really our partnership going forward. And we think we'll be able to work well with the teams that are currently there and partner with them well.
Q. Similar type question. You spoke earlier about how difficult this decision was for you guys, and I think that was probably emotionally -- how difficult was it from a business standpoint? Did they make it a foregone conclusion? And how did GM respond? Did they try to up it and up it and keep you?
J.D. GIBBS: I think from our standpoint, really in the negotiation with GM, they did a great job. And we were up front with them saying, Hey, here's some options for us. They came back and said we understand that. And it wasn't a deal where we went to one and said how much are you going to pay us. And went other another group and said how much are you going to pay us.
We said what are your offers and let's sit down and evaluate it. And it took us a while to evaluate that process. Really for us going forward, I think the biggest key here is that I keep coming back to, you know, our families here, and what do we think the right decision is for next year as well. Because we've got to come out of the box and perform.
But down the road I do think, to your point, it is an extremely hard business. From a sport standpoint, you know, I deal with some NFL owners and get to talk and spend some time with them. What they have there is a franchise that's set. You've got it. No matter what, the values are going to go up for the most part. Over here, you don't have that.
Now I kind of like that. I kind of like the fact that the value over here is if you run. If you run well. If Tony Stewart sells a bunch of souvenirs, he keeps the money from those souvenirs. There's no pot you have to share.
But at the end of the day what we're spending the money on -- what I really lean is is these guys sitting up here. If one of these guys came to me and said don't do this. This is not the way to go, we wouldn't have done it. The key is all these guys were on the same page and that meant the most to me.
Q. J.D., one of the things that fueled the sport for 50 years - and Tony and you guys Denny can answer this, too - is rivalries. Competition between people, teams manufacturers, whatever. And the landscape, you talked about the landscape of the sport. Until you make this announcement, the landscape of the sport next year, the two teams that have the driver rosters. Everybody's going to argue all winter about who is better, are both Chevrolet team. Now there will be one Chevrolet and one Toyota. Is it easier for you guys to compete against Hendrick to be "the best "and another manufacturer? Does that make that competition more of a natural feeling sort of rivalry to be opposite manufacturers?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, I would --
TONY STEWART: From inside the car, they all look the same. I know you haven't been inside a car to see that (laughing), and even with the Car of Tomorrow, it's not likely that you will, still, so. But they all look the same.
I don't think that -- you want me to help you out with this, Denny? Don't say anything, just let me help with this one (laughing). It's no big deal to us. What it boils down to is we want to win races.
Q. (No Audio).
TONY STEWART: You have to ask the fans that question.
J.D. GIBBS: What I would say is I like the fact that from a sponsor standpoint, when you have sponsors that really are rivals, that brings a little added dimension to the sport, and I like that.
If you go through, I think if, you know, the reality is we've kind of been through it before with Interstate Batteries. For a time, there was a competitor they had in the sport and that was good for everybody. Because you want to go out there and whoop them. That is good from both standpoints. That is good for the fans.
When you lose that from a sponsor standpoint or team standpoint, I think that rivalries are a big deal. I grew up with the NFL, and that is a big part of the passion that's there.
TONY STEWART: Don't worry about it. When we get done with this contract negotiation, you'll think I'm your rival (laughing).
J.D. GIBBS: I do want to announce my dad will have to coach for an extra five years to afford Tony's contract. On top of Kyle and Denny's.
Q. When do you start building Camrys? Will we see a Camry at the Talladega test next week or the Atlanta test in a couple of weeks?
JIMMY MAKAR: No, you won't see any Camrys this year as J.D. pointed out. Our focus after this conference is to win a championship for Chevrolet and until the season's over, that's what we're going to concentrate on.
Q. Different question. I think a lot of us maybe suspected your last contract that you signed would maybe be your last in NEXTEL Cup, and maybe you never said that and that was just us speculating and we're the idiots. But now you're talking about extending?
TONY STEWART: Finally somebody's admitted it. It's all come out, it's on TV and everybody in the world has heard it (laughing). So my quest is over now. I don't have anything else to work for now.
Q. So you have to retire. So retire. Anyway, can you talk about your drive and your hunger and what's made you come to this decision that you want to stick around longer?
TONY STEWART: It's about wanting to win races. I mean, that's what I've done for 28 years. I've been racing since I was 8 years old. And you know, the day that it's not fun anymore is the day that I'll quit. But I'm having fun. I mean, obviously we're up here laughing and carrying on. What we do, I'm enjoying. So as long as I'm enjoying doing what I'm doing, I'm staying around.
And I'd prefer the day that I leave this sport, that I leave with this group that I'm sitting at the table with. So I'm comfortable where I'm at. I'm comfortable doing what I'm doing. You know, even though we had kind of a rough spring, I think even Zippy can tell you we've probably had more fun this year as a group of coworkers than we've ever had. I mean, we've just enjoyed racing this year. So you know, I'm not looking to retire anytime soon. If I was doing that, I wouldn't be worrying about resigning a new contract. So I'm excited about it.
DENNY HAMLIN: Was Daytona fun for you?
TONY STEWART: Yeah (laughing). Obviously, every day's not going to be fun. But, you know, all in all, we get to do, everybody up here we get to do something that we love to do. And J.D.s now letting me have all the souvenirs evidently, so we actually get paid even more to do it.
So, you know, we get a chance to do something that millions of people would love to do every week. And as long as I'm having fun doing it, I'm not going anywhere.
Q. You've got seven Toyota teams this year. This makes ten. If Hall of Fame follows Gibbs it might be 11. Can Toyota potentially support that many teams next year or do you expect attrition in the number of teams?
JIM AUST: The teams that we have currently that we started the year with this year will continue on. The addition of the Joe Gibbs Racing team will be added. And, you know, the Hall of Fame situation is yet to be, I think discussed.
But at any rate, we don't have any issues with supporting that many teams.
Our plan over the life, I guess, if you will of our NASCAR program has been to add teams. As I mentioned earlier, we just can't pick the time when those are going to happen, but we will continue to expand as our life in NASCAR continues.
However, how many teams that's going to be, there's no real strategy on that. But, you know, I guess our expectations were that eventually we'd get to the point there are four manufacturers in the series, and we'd have, perhaps, 25% of those.
Q. Just to clarify, I don't think this was answered earlier, but the 100 people that you spoke of, are those going to be dedicated strictly to Joe Gibbs Racing? Or will those be a shared group of people that you'll be sharing information with the other Toyota teams?
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, I think when Jimmy mentioned that he was kind of referring to TRD, Toyota Racing Development really is a large group. And they serve in a number of racing series. I think one of those is going to be NASCAR. So I think you can kind of lean on that. And that roughly is -- that's not all focused on NASCAR, but the reality is GM has a large group that focuses on racing as well.
I think for us, what is kind of yet to be determined how we actually utilize that. We haven't really gotten in depth, what's that look like? Where do they help us? I think that's obviously encouragement to us that they have a group there that's kind of willing to support us in a bunch of different areas.
JIM AUST: At TRD we have 220 associates. About 180 of those are in Costa Mesa, and the balance of them are out here in North Carolina. And the folks that are out here in North Carolina, certainly, are concentrating their efforts on the NASCAR effort and certainly a portion of those in Costa Mesa do, as well.
Our engineering staff, for example, are all in Costa Mesa, while the people out here, generally speaking, are either people working with the teams or are part of our aerodynamics group that are here.
So there are any number of people that can be working on this program as it unfolds. But I think the numbers there that we were referring to earlier are the culmination of perhaps those that are going to be working on our NASCAR program.
Our Costa Mesa operation is also a build operation. Currently we build the engines for Michael Waltrip Racing and for Team Red Bull. So there are all sorts of occupations, if you will, that are a part of our operations.
So I think that the engineering staff is really going to be the key to the overall input that we have, and what we can share with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Q. First who sought who out and when? And secondly, Lee White said about four weeks ago that Toyota really wasn't ready for a team of this caliber. What happened in those last four weeks?
J.D. GIBBS: You know, really from our standpoint, all I would probably say as far as that is until fairly recently, it didn't get down the road as far as it has gotten obviously today. So I'm not going to give you exact dates and times.
But for the most part it was a fairly recent process to get where we are today. Even this weekend there were still some issues that had to be addressed. As we got addressed, we felt good going forward as a race team, and I think they felt good going forward as a manufacturer.
JIM AUST: Yeah, I think if anybody would have said at the beginning of the season that Toyota would have been sitting at a press announcement on September 5th announcing Joe Gibbs Racing being part of our overall team effort for next year, I think we would have all had a hearty laugh at that.
So what has happened here has happened over a very short period of time. And I think Lee may have thrown you one of those fakes, if that's probably a good word to use. Some time back, certainly, we felt all along very confident in our abilities of TRD with the history that we've had, the championships we've had in other series and the success that we've had thus far in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series. That we've got the organization in place, I think, that can be of some value to Joe Gibbs Racing.
So we're just looking forward to getting it kicked off next year.
Q. Steve Addington and Mike Ford haven't spoken yet. Can you guys address your thoughts about this?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Like we said earlier, we looked at it as a group. Our parts and pieces are done right here at Joe Gibbs Racing, and with the support group that we have when we're out racing and testing and stuff. So we looked at it as just a plus.
Toyota came into NASCAR, if you look at it, they did it as a class act. They got involved in truck series, and worked their way into the Cup series. We just felt that from a growing standpoint, we wanted to be on the leading edge of being the top team for a manufacturer, you know. We want to lead Toyota in the championships and win. So it was a no-brainer for us.
MIKE FORD: I mentioned earlier, on the car side, NASCAR has us reigned in pretty tight on the chassis and bodies. And no worries on the car as far as performance goes. Moving into next season in COT races, I feel like that transition can happen actually easier going into next year than it was this year building two cars. So, you know, we're looking at keeping our guys busy. You know, and being able to keep everyone going into next year.
So on the car side, I think Toyota, you know, is going to work with us. You know, we've got more support on development and things like that, so on the car side, really no concerns.
The major concern, which they hit on earlier was how quickly can we get the engine to where we are today? And Mark has commented that he's not concerned with that. So I really think that we can move forward pretty quickly.
Q. Can you talk about what you get from Chevrolet during a typical race weekend? What type of information do you get from them? And is there any information aspect of their support that you wouldn't expect to get over the last 11 weeks of the season?
JIMMY MAKAR: Well, on a weekly basis there's not a lot, per se, that comes from the race weekend other than some reports on engine failures and things of that nature that allows us to be aware of things that are going on with other teams. But they do support us in many other ways.
You know, throughout the year in aerodynamics development, and in giving us access to test rigs, to go test different aspects of our race car. And those, I don't see changing, as far as I'm concerned and as far as I've been told, nothing is going to change for the rest of the year. We're still going to have access to all those things.
Now, there is a key partners meeting that the four teams that J.D. referred to are involved in on the engine development and also chassis and aero development. It will be interesting to see exactly where those meetings go now that we're going to announce this change. That's something we haven't talked about, and we'll just have to see, talk to them and see where that goes.
Q. J.D., when did you inform Chevrolet of the decision, and how did they react?
J.D. GIBBS: I think we had obviously we were going through a process, as all GM teams were going through this year, of renegotiating the deals. Looking forward to the future. And I think we made them aware of kind of where we were a while ago in that process.
But the reality is until this weekend, we didn't officially have our verbal commitment. So until we had that, I felt like wasn't a whole lot to say one way or the other. And once we got that, we informed them this week and kind of going forward.
I think we'll sit down with them some, too, and go. Obviously, again, just appreciate what they've done. Kind of going forward and making sure we're clear on, you know, we don't want to overstep any boundaries. I'm sure they want to -- we both want to get partners going forward, And I think that was clear when we talked to them.
We're going to finish this year out and hopefully win a championship for them.
MIKE ARNING: Any other questions for our guests?
Q. Is this decision made any easier with the Chase format, and the sense that if the transition doesn't go well at the start of the year, you still have a chance to maybe get your guys in 10th, 11th, 12th in points and kind of have everything set by September?
J.D. GIBBS: You know, for us we didn't look at it like that. Our hope and our expectation is if we thought we were going to come out of the box slow next year, we wouldn't have done it. So we aren't looking for -- we should come out of the box just as strong as we were this year. If not, I think we'll all be really disappointed.
MIKE ARNING: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen of the media. Thank you for your time. We certainly appreciate it.
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