|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 18, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue today's media availability with our three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship‑contending owners. Obviously three giants in our sport: 11‑time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and owner of Hendrick Motorsports, Mr.Rick Hendrick; four‑time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and reigning championship owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, Joe Gibbs; and the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner celebrating his 50th anniversary season, owner of Team Penske, Roger Penske.
All three of you obviously have experience with championship pressure, so why don't we open by talking about your mindset heading into this championship weekend, and as reigning champion and the guy who got put in the middle, we'll start with you, Coach.
JOE GIBBS: Well, I'm not nervous or anything. I just walked into the women's restroom. (Laughter.) Other than that, no harm, no foul.
No, I get so excited about this. I've got such great respect for Roger and Rick. You guys know my history coaching football, and gave Rick a call, loved motorsports, and he was nice enough to help me get started, and that was the longest‑‑
RICK HENDRICK: Biggest mistake I ever made. (Laughter.)
JOE GIBBS: I kid him all the time, I said, I had no debt them. Now I'm knee‑deep in debt, so I'm not sure I should like him, either.
But it's a thrill for us. I think the biggest thing about our sport I get focused on is the fact that this sport, we run and go with sponsorship. Other sports, football, basketball, baseball, you don't need a sponsor. But over here, it's a huge deal for us, and every time I think about that‑‑ and I think about the people that are going to be here this weekend from some of the biggest and best corporations in the world, and when you stop and think about that, just on our teams, it's going to be coke, it's going to be Toyota, it's going to be Stanley Black & Decker, it's going to be Interstate Batteries, it's going to be Subway, it's going to be ARRIS Corporation. You just think about that, Mars, with Kyle. It's just a huge deal for us. They're all going to be here. And it's so important for us, and I love that part of what we do. It's the relationships. I know Rick has built great relationship, and Roger, with their sponsors.
So I get excited about that because it's such a huge weekend for us, and to have them here, to be a part of this, and our fan base, for me, you know, you see our fans, they're so loyal. We had fan day at our place‑‑ actually had fans that stayed all night, stayed all night to get autographs the next morning.
So I love it from that standpoint. Thrilled to be a part of it. Really excited about this weekend. I really think it's going to be, for the fans, I don't think you can get anything better. These four guys want it really, really bad.
THE MODERATOR: Mr.Hendrick?
RICK HENDRICK: Let Roger go next.
ROGER PENSKE: I don't know about this. I'm not sure how I got here, 11‑time winner, four‑time winner, Super Bowl champion. I'm just glad to be in the club with you guys. You know, it's quite an honor.
But for me and for our whole team, it's amazing to think about the season, 30 plus races, and to come down where there's four great drivers, and I would say this: When you look at the demographics of our drivers, you look at what they've accomplished individually and collectively on and off the track, you know, it's amazing.
We had good racing last weekend. I know Joe was disappointed. We had a great day. But I just want to thank the media and everyone for the support.
People talk about our sport and what's going on. To me, having run the Super Bowl in Detroit back in 2006 and seeing football down, yet we're not down quite as much because of social media and some of the other media that take place that drive sports, but we talk about the commercial side of this, Joe, you know, our drivers got to be not only great drivers and tough, they've got to understand the technical side of the business and the commercial side today becomes more and more important as we field these teams and have to run at the top.
For me and for Team Penske, and certainly after 50 years, I probably should get the hell out of here. But I've got some work to do just to try to keep you guys honest.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, it is an honor for me to be here with these guys because they're both really good friends of mine. You know, it's hard to believe that we've been able to win this thing 11 times. Really excited for Jimmie to go for seven. I think it's really a neat situation. We had a big pep rally I think it was Wednesday, and all our folks are excited.
I don't know if Marty is here or not, but he was doing an interview with Jimmie, and I don't FaceTime, but some of our folks were FaceTiming, so I called Jimmie and he didn't answer the phone. So then I texted him, and they saw that it was me, and I said, you didn't not answer my phone, and it was pretty funny.
He's excited. Our organization is excited. It's going to be a very competitive race. I think the fans are going to get their money's worth.
You know, for me, I'd love to win it. I'd like to see Jimmie get No.7.
But I'm just happy to be here, because 20 years ago yesterday I was diagnosed with leukemia, and I didn't have much of a shot, and these guys sitting right here did a lot to try to find a match for me and I get to publicly thank you for that. So I'm just taking it like this is a great opportunity. We made it to the finals, and we're going to give it everything we've got. Somebody is going to come out of here the champion, and at least we have a shot.
Q. Coach Gibbs, you're the first owner to have two drivers in the championship under this format. Yesterday they kind of differed a little bit on how much information they want to share. They kind of deferred to you. How much information do you want them to share? Do you want them to be as open as they have all season?
JOE GIBBS: I think there's some information at the shop that, to be quite truthful, both of them want this in the worst way and they're going to compete. They're not sharing a lot of stuff. It's going to be up to them individually, and I think both of our guys, along with Jimmie and Joey, it's such a big deal for them. We kind of felt like obviously they're going to be kind of individually going for it. So it'll be at practice today and everything, big deal for both of them, but they'll both kind of be on their own here.
Q. Tommy Baldwin Racing made the announcement they're pulling out of full‑time racing for next year. Where do you see the sport when it comes to sponsorship? Do you see issues? Do you see, is it improving? What did that announcement mean to you guys?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think in any sport today, it's tough. You know, if you look at what's going on in the NFL and the viewership, all the sponsors watch that. The good news is we have not slipped as much as some of the other folks.
We have a couple of new guys coming on, new sponsors. We did this year. We're working one that we'll announce probably after the 1st of the year. But you have to do a lot of work, and you have to work social media, digitally and everything else, and I think NASCAR has stepped it up.
But it's tough out there. You know, you're seeing multiple sponsorships on cars, but you're having to do more work and build more content to help the sponsors that you have. It's a lot harder than it's ever been, but I do see it kind of leveling off.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, we had a perfect example of‑‑ I'm really bullish on our sport. In the last two years we've had ARRIS, Hisense, companies like that. A good example was Tide with Proctor& Gamble. They wanted to take a look at the throwback race at Darlington. Those are all millenials running that company right now. They were basing it off of social media. They wanted to see what kind of return they got.
And because of our fans and everybody, we hit it out of the park.
I think with this group up here, we've got three XFINITY cars totally funded, we've got four Cup cars totally funded. I'm excited about‑‑ because listen, we have a great marketing window here. We're 38 weekends, and I think some of the biggest and best companies in the world are sponsoring Rick and Roger, and when you look at that, I just think we've got a lot of‑‑ I'm bullish on where we are.
So I kind of see that going forward, and the thing about our sport that's different, when somebody sponsors a race car, they're in the race. They're going to be in the race. They're going to be going around there three and a half hours and have a chance to win a championship. I think it's some of the biggest and best companies in the world are represented up here, and I'm excited about our future. We've had dips‑‑ in pro sports you have dips, but I'm excited about where we're headed.
ROGER PENSKE: I think when you talk about Baldwin, I think one of the things that he's going to benefit from is the charter system because he had value that he was able to generate through the charter system, and I think he's probably made a deal which will keep him involved to a certain extent, so I think that's what we all wanted. You build a team like the Coach has, and he understands what value is there, I think we have that today, and when they talk about the health of the sport, I think the communication and partnership between the car owners and NASCAR has never been better, and I think that if you talk to Baldwin that maybe he just feels he can't put a car on the track as well as he wants to from a competitive standpoint, but he can certainly take his knowledge and share that with someone else along with his charter.
Q. Roger, what's the difference for you being here this weekend and having a shot at the title compared to the way it was a year ago when you didn't?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, you know, people have asked me that before. We really closed the season last year, I talked to Coach, and we moved on. I think I've got to thank Joe on one hand because he was the one that let Joey go for us.
To me, it was disappointing we couldn't run last year in the Final Four, but you know, it's 2016, and as I said earlier, I'm just proud to be here and one of the cars chasing the Chase here on Sunday.
Q. Roger, you've been through races for championships and won them in all different kinds of points systems. How do you see this four‑driver, top‑finisher‑take‑all format, good, bad, ugly, indifferent?
ROGER PENSKE: I sure like it right now. I think right now, these are the rules, and I know there's been lots of discussions how we can make it better. One thing we have to be sure in the sport, that we collaborate with the car owners, the drivers and NASCAR and think about the fans, number one, and then obviously our sponsors and the show. And it will continue, I think, to reengineer this to a certain extent and see what might help us to make it even better next year.
Certainly a lot of excitement, certainly a lot of pressure when you think about the teams and the preparation, and I know our sponsors, we're going to have people that have never been here before, and when you think someone like Shell Oil Company and they send out an email to all of their employees around the world to watch this race on Sunday, that's the kind of connection we have, and I think that's pretty powerful.
Q. Your list of drivers collectively is ridiculous. You've employed some of the most talented, successful men to ever do it. In your estimation, where does Tony Stewart rank among that list? I know, Joe, he drove for you, did some Busch stuff for you guys once, and Roger, you've said before one of your greatest regrets was he was never in one of your cars. When you look back at what he's accomplished, where do you rank him, and what's his legacy?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, let me just say, Tony coming from an open wheel part of the business, Indianapolis you'd have to say was the crown jewel for him, and to see him compete there and then obviously move on to NASCAR, he brought such emotion and class to the sport and the competitiveness that he brought, and to see him step out is certainly amazing when you think about the years have gone by and it's time for him to do something else.
But what he's been able to do is take his name, take his spirit, and certainly his expertise and build a team with Gene Haas, which will give us the ability to compete with him for a long time.
As I said a couple weeks ago or maybe a week ago, he and I talked about him going to Indy and driving for us, and it's a shame that we never had that chance because I used to sit in those meetings and he would sit up front there being the guy that we had to beat, and we just never had a chance to partner. I respect him, and I also respect him to say, hey, it's time for me to get out‑‑ Rick Mears did that a number of years ago. He said, you know, Roger, I just can't dig down deep enough anymore to make it happen. I think that's where Tony is.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think there's so many things about Tony, first meeting him. I think he was one of the guys that had the best feeling for himself and a great pride about what he wanted to do in life, and we talked to him and we signed him, and he said to me, I'm not ready. I don't know that I've heard that from somebody else that's a driver. He said, I'm not going to embarrass myself. He said, I want to spend some time in the XFINITY Series, Busch Series, and when he was racing for us, he had such a passion. That's his total focus, and when he really‑‑ when Tony went after it, I don't care what the track was, I thought he was one of the great competitors.
I tell a story on him that when he first came with us, and I used it in football, too. We had a horrible pit stop when he first went to Cup. You know how most drivers go nuts and everything, and I always remember this. He was the back of the field, and he goes like this, he goes, "Watch this." And honestly, he went to the front faster than anybody.
So I use that in football. If you're down and think you're down, I always used to use that, watch this, and he said, hey, I used to sign up to start in the back of the field over there at midget racing and stuff so I could win 10,000 bucks. This guy, I think he's special. I'm glad that he's going to continue to be in our sport, and I think we all really respect what he's done.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I think Tony brought a lot of color, excitement. He mentored a lot of young drivers. He sure showed a lot of passion. I got to win the Daytona Busch race with him, and he's just‑‑ he's somebody that the sport needed and still needs, and I think his face, he was in the owners' meeting the other day, and I think he will add a lot, and I think, as Roger said, he knows it's time to step out and do something else.
Having him in the ownership role I think is going to be great for the sport of NASCAR.
Q. Rick, it was this race 11 years ago that nearly ended the partnership of Jimmie and Chad. Jimmie said the other day that over time you'd kind of come to him and Chad and asked is it still working. Why would you do that, and what were you looking at, and how much were you considering in the time since making a change?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, every‑‑ I think it's the toughest question when you have a relationship. It can be in a dealership, it can be in a race team, when you have two guys that have been so good and you try to decide is it time, and this year we started off really well, and then we hit a lull in the summer, and it was‑‑ we asked ourselves then, is this time, do we need to make a change.
But when you see things that are so close, I think that's when they work harder, and we really just sit down and work hard together and try to identify weaknesses, and I think they have both made a commitment, they want to retire together. They want to finish their careers together.
So when there's problems, everybody kind of locks arms. This year the whole organization did about the summer and the speed picked up for all the cars. But it was a situation‑‑ I think their relationship right now, even I think this summer was the biggest test we've had when we just weren't running after winning a couple races and struggling, but they did not lose focus, and it wasn't one of those situations where, yeah, we talked it out, but it was not a time when we were going to say let's just try something different.
Q. You're described as an entrepreneur in pieces that one reads; did it come by happenstance, or were you always focused on having such diversified business interests?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think I loved cars as a young individual, and my dad took me to Indy, and it kind of became part of my DNA with automobiles, and then had the chance to become a Chevrolet dealer back in Philadelphia in 1965. That along with our race team helped us build a brand, so I would say it started right at the beginning.
The access, as Joe knows, and certainly Rick does, to the OEMs because when we win with their brand, it's something that drives through a company, don't you say, your sponsors, and that gave us a real opportunity to connect at the highest levels, and that gave me the opportunity to build partnerships which have made the difference in our company in the past and certainly still today.
Q. Rick, this is for you, but I'd be interested in Roger's response, also. When Jimmie was winning his six championships, seemed like he had a hard time getting the acceptance and respect of a lot of the NASCAR fans. He says he thinks that's changing now that he's getting a little older. Why do you think that was with him? Was that frustrating?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, you know, it is. I was talking to someone a little bit earlier, and they said, Jimmie seems to be very vanilla, and Jimmie is kind of everything but vanilla. I mean, he may come across at the track that way because he's so focused and driven, and he thinks like a computer when he's in the car if you listen to him give feedback or break it down, or in a debrief he's just so‑‑ the way he eats, the way he exercises, everything is about physical and mental fitness for the race car.
But when you see him in a charity event with a bunch of his friends, he's one of the most fun‑loving guys. I've been around him in lots of events with friends, and he's bubbly, and I see a lot of 48 shirts and fans in the garage area now, and I think people‑‑ I think when he won five in a row, he was winning a lot of races and a lot of championships, and people maybe got a little tired of it. But I think then after the sixth one and we had a lull, I think they respect him now, and they look at what he's accomplished. I feel like he‑‑ I still say that Jimmie is going to get more credit when he's done than he'll get when he's driving, but to look at what he's accomplished, it's pretty remarkable what he has done.
The people that don't know‑‑ that don't like Jimmie Johnson don't know Jimmie Johnson, all the good he's done to mentor so many young people, young drivers, and still does today.
ROGER PENSKE: I might say that I've watched Jimmie for a number of years, and he's certainly connected in partnership with Rick, but he is the ultimate driver when you think about people in the garage area. I don't think he has an enemy out there, when you talk about driver to driver, crew chief to crew chief. Johnson is at the very top of the game, and you have to respect that. We certainly do from a Team Penske perspective, and I'm sure the Coach does, also.
To me, people don't like to see someone win all the time. Well, I love to win all the time, so I'm sure Rick does and I know Joe does, so to me, I take my hat off, and I wish I had my driver going for the seventh championship. Rick, you don't have to‑‑ no apologies for that guy. I think he's the best.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I actually vote to break them up. I think you should break them up. (Laughter.)
Q. When we talk to your employees, drivers, crew chiefs, whatever, they just adore the three of you and they know what leaders you are within the companies. They also say the three of you are incredibly competitive, and yet we don't see that on the outside, only on the inside. You guys are partners in a sense as team owners in the Owners' Council, but how competitive are you amongst each other outwardly, and do you bust each other's chops? I guess there's no trash talking, just a little bit on the stage today, but you're in business together in a sense in the Owners' Council, yet how competitive do you see yourselves outwardly with each other?
JOE GIBBS: I think Rick and I have two grandkids that hang out together, and I think we get the biggest kick out of that. But I know how competitive these two guys are. I know Roger, and you've got such great respect for Rick and what they've done. So I was just thrilled to get into the sport and be a part of it, having watched these guys and knew what they did.
I'd say that I know that those are guys are extremely competitive. They wouldn't be where they are, and I admire that when I get a chance to go to the racetrack and race against them, I think everybody in our group respects both these guys, everybody in our sport.
I want to mention one thing, talking about your team and everything. I just want to thank everybody back at our race shop. I want to mention J.D., and that every time I get here or someplace like this, this might be a weekend where he can't come. I just thank everybody here that's prayed for him.
Q. Sunday morning early afternoon right before you guys climb in the cars, what's the last piece of advice you'll give them?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think if you give them any different advice than you gave them 36 weeks ago, I think you're probably making a mistake. I think they've got to take it on as another race. The one thing that's different on Sunday, we're racing three other people, that's all. So we don't have to worry about 37. I think that's really the difference.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I think to try to keep as much pressure off of them as possible and not try to say‑‑ they know what they've got to do. These guys, all of them, are champions, and just let them go do their job and support them. They're going to have enough pressure, so it's just‑‑ we've done the best‑‑ I know all four of these teams have prepared the best we know how, and go out and do the best we can and leave it all on the track, and that's it.
Q. Coach, anything from you? You've got two drivers.
RICK HENDRICK: They're going to wreck each other.
JOE GIBBS: That may be a distinct possibility.
RICK HENDRICK: It's going to be between Roger and I.
JOE GIBBS: That's right.
I think, yeah, we were thrilled to get our two guys in there, but I do look at it as I know Joey, I know what this is going to be for him and for Jimmie. I look at it as we're thrilled to have two of our guys in there and our sponsors. We're thrilled for that part of it, but it's going to be an individual deal, believe me, they're going to be going for it, all four of these guys. I know how bad our two guys, I watched them, and they pretty much set down a bunch of rules, and basically it was just we're going to try and make it a normal weekend, just what Rick said, so that's what they're‑‑ I think that's probably the best way to approach it.
Q. You three gentlemen all came in at different times. I think Roger was '70s, Rick was '80s, Joe was in the early '90s. In the garage we've always seen teams watch each other and see what they're doing, if that's going to work for them, can't keep any secrets out there. As owners, do you guys watch what each other does and how they run their individual operations and maybe adapt that to how you guys run your businesses, or is it strictly, I know what's best for my business and I'm not concerned with what other people do?
ROGER PENSKE: I would say from my perspective, I use Coach Gibbs and Rick really as models for our organization. You don't have the success he had in football and also the way he's built this team in such a short time, and we look at that, and then from a commercial perspective, to be able to show companies that we're trying to deal with, to see Mars and see Lowe's, just to mention a few, and see those folks be involved is a real plus for us and it has been. Much different than when we were back in the '70s running.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think when I‑‑ you look at Roger and I, and I didn't get to answer the other question. Roger and I are good friends. We talk a lot. We're both in the automobile business. We actually vacation together, and I admire him a lot.
I watch his attention to detail. I watch how Coach organizes his organization and rallies his people.
But in the garage area, you watch everybody. I mean, you‑‑ it's the damndest place I've ever seen about snooping. Sometimes you'll put stuff on a car just to watch them take a picture of it, and it really doesn't do anything, but it's just fun to watch him run around and take a picture of it.
It's really kind of neat in there to‑‑ you don't‑‑ you might have something one day, but on a serious note, you've got a‑‑ one thing we've learned through our organization with the owners, there's a lot of smart people in this sport. The presidents of Joe Gibbs' operation and Roger's operation, when we start working together and you look at the depth of the talent that's in these teams today, it's amazing, from a financial basis or marketing or just the organizational skills that they have. It's really phenomenal to me because I remember when I started and what I started with, and you know, with five people and Harry and Renton transmissions and gears, and you look at the technology and everything else that goes out there today.
So I think we've built off of each other. You see someone step it up, and then you step it up. We force each other to get better.
But it is a‑‑ and you know, the really neat he's thing about the garage area, I walked out yesterday and spent some time talking to Jack Roush. We have to race each other, but this is a pretty tight fraternity of owners that respect each other, and I think Joe used that word. Respect is the big word. I mean, with Richard Petty and Richard Childress and all of the guys that have been in it when I got in it, and we want to beat each other, but we still have a way of becoming and staying friends, because I know when we always have a skirmish, we always tell each other, we weren't driving the car, we don't ever have a problem with each other over it.
JOE GIBBS: I was just going to mention one thing that's different. It's kind of what we were talking about here. Everybody is around Charlotte. That's what's different about it. And so it's like one big family, but we're not spread all over the country.
All the things that you hear and that go back and forth and we're all extremely competitive, but I think Rick said it best, that when somebody gets ahead, it's almost like, okay, it's pushing the rest of us, okay, here we go, what are they doing, and I think it has caused us to be better and better. I think we've kind of pushed each other. That's what I see in it.
And the thing that amazes me about the family here and all the people working on these cars, I came down here, I remember the very first thing I worried about was all the tools, the machinery, all the stuff we had. I started saying, man, I'm worried about people taking things and all that. None. I'm talking about 25 years, I don't know of anything with the exception of we have one janitor that tried to take a motor one time. Wasn't real smart. But other than that, it's an amazing fraternity that they‑‑ we have everything around and people don't take things, and they really respect each other. I think that's great about what we do, and I kind of quit worrying about it.
Q. You talked a lot about the pressure on your drivers, but organizationally I'm sure everybody on your teams feels a lot of pressure from a leadership point of view. Did you guys do anything differently this week to help manage that?
ROGER PENSKE: I'd say from our organization, we have our debriefs after each weekend, and certainly we've got ready for this race not starting on Monday, we were building cars‑‑ backup cars and cars for this race probably six, eight weeks ago, so there's been a lot of focus on Homestead hoping we would be in a position where we are.
But as I say, this is what it's all about, getting to this final opportunity to run, and I would say our organization has been focused. Certainly I've got to take my hat off to Roush Yates and the engine side. We keep pushing them every week. In fact, ironically at Phoenix last week, we were changing an engine at our dealership before we went to the track, so that's how close we are to having the cars ready each weekend.
JOE GIBBS: That's not right. He was working on cars six or eight weeks ago. We started two weeks ago. See, that's how you push each other. That's what we need to be doing.
Q. You gentlemen have accomplished so much in this sport. What keeps you coming back year after year?
ROGER PENSKE: Trying to beat these guys.
RICK HENDRICK: I asked myself that this morning. I think Roger and I talked about this a lot. Actually Joe and I talked about this at a football‑‑ our grandsons' football game. It's the love of the sport and competing, and Roger and I love the automobile business, and like he said, it's part of what we do, and you see all these OEMs down here this weekend, and we're carrying their flags.
I don't know, I grew up racing since I was eight with my dad, and that's all I know in the automobile business. When Joe called me‑‑ I mean, he's been a drag racer before you were a coach, right, Joe?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah.
RICK HENDRICK: Like I said, that's the worst mistake I ever made. I should never have helped him. But no, I think it's the passion and being able to compete, and it just fuels you getting up and coming out here and trying to do it again.
JOE GIBBS: For me it's to fall in love with cars and motorsports. I moved to southern California when I was 16 and I fell in love with hotrods and drag racing. I know that's the way Roger loves it, and it's something about being around cars, and most people in here know what that's like, and then to be able to put stuff together and see it run and then try and beat somebody, to me it gets me excited every morning, you know, is to get up and think, hey, we've got a chance to go compete against the best in the world at something. That's a real thrill.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen, and good luck this weekend across all three series.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports