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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 12, 2006
DOUG RICE: Ladies and gentlemen, just a preview of what you might see at this at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming out to our press event today. I'm Doug Rice of the Performance Racing Network, and we have some very -- I've been told never to use the word "exciting" at a press conference, so I'm going to avoid that and I may implode trying to do that. Nevertheless, we have some big news regarding the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge coming up soon at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
I think as we go through this, you're going to say, this is really going to be special on and off the track. First, I'd like to introduce a man that all of you know, he is the vice president of sponsorship for Sprint Nextel, Mr. Michael Robichaud. Michael, come on up.
MICHAEL ROBICHAUD: Good morning. I didn't get the same briefing, so if I use "exciting," I apologize, but we are very excited for our third year. When we look back at the signing of the NEXTEL Cup series sponsorship with NASCAR and all of our partners, the All-Star event was certainly something that stood out for us. Obviously it's our title event, but it was something that we saw as a unique opportunity for us to introduce a lot of fan-based, either technology events or entertainment, and today we are here to talk about all three.
So the first thing is the NASCAR Nextel Pit Crew Challenge will be back for its second year, for hopefully those of you know, it's a unique event that we started last year as a part of the All-Star Challenge Weekend. And it was basically conceived to add more events to the weekend and to really elevate to what we believe and what I think many people in this room believe is the best All-Star event across any sport.
You saw on the video and we see it every year, it's an event where the guys really put it on the line, there's real money, there's real competition and it's a unique event that we're very proud to be a part of. So by adding the Pit Crew Challenge, which Robin is going to talk a little bit more about, it's something we are very proud to be a part of. We are happy to have Ray Evernham here today and also defending his title last year with the #9 team. It's going to be in a new arena this year, down at the Bobcats' arena. Last year it was at the Charlotte arena, this year it's at Bobcat Arena which we think is great. It's a fabulous facility and that's really going to add to it, there's not a bad seat in the house. Definitely want to thank our partner, Craftsman, back with us this year as the presenting sponsor.
As far as the entertainment side, we're here to announce an addition to the All-Star festivities on Saturday evening. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are going to be performing as part of the release of their new album, Stadium Arcadium, a new CD. Their first song that came out, Danny California, debuted No. 1 an the alternative charts and this will be the first time they perform that live. They start a world tour the next day. The unique part about that is it is actually going to be part of the race.
So for those of you that are obviously familiar with the All-Star format where there's the 40 laps and a break and 30, 20, between the 40 and 30, they are actually going to perform. They are actually going to perform two to three songs, actually performing some of the logistics, but that's going to be neat for any NASCAR race and we'll look forward to that.
The next thing on the technology side many of you have seen our NASCAR Nextel Fan View product which has really gone gangbusters for us this year. We've sold out almost every race, including last week we sold out our, 57,000 units at Texas Motor Speedway. It's a unique product we launched this year, over a year in development, it has seven in-car cameras and audio for all of the drivers, also a three-minute replay, we could go on and on. It's a great product and we're proud of it. One of the questions we got is when are we going to start selling it. We are going to start selling it around the All-Star Challenge Weekend. So we are going to try to figure out some logistics as far as how that goes, but essentially it's going to be that weekend and more details to follow on that. But it's something that we believe has really enhanced that fan experience which we've been talking about for years and we hope to continue that.
And we've got our Sprint Nextel Fan Vote. This was again something we started three years ago as part of our inaugural season. NASCAR was great to work with us for the third year, we're going to allow fans to vote in a driver from the Open, and I think -- I don't know how many people looked at the field for the Open this year, but in our three years it's definitely the most exciting field in the Open with some really great drivers. That should be a great race as we've had the last couple of years, but some really good teams. We're starting to get some buzz that some of the primary sponsors that some of the big teams are starting that rally either their customer base or employee base to get their driver voted in. But I think that's been something that we're very happy to have had.
And finally, the Fans in Technology Point of View, we are going to have on our handsets available across all of our user base across the country no matter where you are, we're actually going to have an All-Star dedicated content on our phones, so we are going to launch that in the next couple of weeks and it will run through after the All-Star event.
So it's going to have all sorts of different content that is either historical footage from former races, interviews that we are collecting right now from different competitors. We're going to have content from the Pit Crew Challenge, All-Star interviews. Just it's really something that we've done in some of our other sports and we're excited to add it to our premiere sponsorship within NASCAR.
So we are going to have all sorts of stuff on that. You're going to hear a lot about it but we are going to launch that around our next All-Star Challenge event. So we are finally getting that on the handset. So with that, I want to thank, as I should always our partners at NASCAR, Mike Halpern (ph) and Robin Pemberton for being here. I want to thank Tim Newman of the organizing committee. Ray, representing all of the owners and team that have just been such a great partner to us ever since we've been in the sport. And not go anywhere without thinking Humpy Wheeler and Lowe's Motor Speedway and Marcus for everything they do for us. It's our premiere event of the year and we could not be prouder to have it here at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Thanks very much.
DOUG RICE: By the way, if you have not had a chance to check out the Fan View, you need to do so. We've used it at a couple races this year and it's a really great device that brings a whole new dimension to watching a race. And it's okay to say album, Michael. It's not cool like I did to say, "Oh, the Peppers' have a new 45." Album is still cool.
A guy that will definitely be working overtime when the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge rolls around to Lowe's Motor Speedway, the vice president of competition for NASCAR, Robin Pemberton. Robin?
ROBIN PEMBERTON: Ever since the inaugural race in 1985, the All-Star race has become one of the fan favorites, and for sure a favorite of the competitors. Ray and I go back a way, adversaries and I guess we're still adversaries. I'm not real sure about that. But I tell you what, it's been a great event and everybody looks forward to it. We bring personal cars and all kinds of things. It's an event that the teams really concentrate on.
So it's a good event and I guess we're here to announce officially the worst-kept secret in all of motorsports; that the NEXTEL Cup All-Star Challenge will be here again Saturday on the 20th of May at Lowe's Motor Speedway so we're here to announce that.
This year the format will be the same as it has been in the past. The drivers and the car owners that have won in 2005 or 2006 are eligible. The series champion over the last ten years is eligible. The driver who has won the All-Star Challenge over the last ten years is eligible, and the winning driver of the NEXTEL Open is in and the winner of the All-Star Fan Vote which last year the fan vote was nearly 450,000 votes, so we thought that was pretty impressive. That says a lot for where the sport has been in the last 20 years versus where it is today with all of our fans.
So the distance of the challenge is the same. It's the 90 laps and three segments, so it should be another great race as it always is here at Lowe's. So with the new surface and the new tires and other the things that we have done, it's probably going to be one of best races we've had here in forever, so I think everybody is looking forward to that.
Last year, as Michael talked about, we initiated the very first Pit Crew Challenge. It was sanctioned by NASCAR, and this is the second annual event. It's presented by NEXTEL and Craftsman, one of our partners here. The first year of the Pit Crew Challenge it offered a real glimpse, it was a change from your basic four-tire stop. It was a skills competition. The teams really, it was in question at first, but once we got going it turned out to be a great event. And Ray's team actually did a great job and they won the first event.
It's a great opportunity for the team, for the crew members and the drivers and everybody to get recognized for not what goes on just on the track but on the other side of the wall. So it's a good opportunity for us this year. The venue is going to the Bobcats Arena. It's a beautiful place. I think it will add some excitement and we'll enjoy being there more than we ever have, so it will be a good event for us there.
So that being said, thanks to NEXTEL and Craftsman for putting on the Pit Crew Challenge. It's a great event and we're all looking forward to it. Glad to be here.
DOUG RICE: We have some short video highlights if you did not have a chance to watch presented by Craftsman. It's a great event, the first time, as Robin said that the teams went head-to-head and all other pit crew challenges had been just against the clock and the folks at NEXTEL came up with the idea to actually have head-to-head competition. It made all the difference in the world. Let's go ahead and watch this short video highlight package from last year, and Ray I think you're going to like the way this turns out in the end here.
DOUG RICE: Just an example of what you will see May 17 at Bobcats Arena. Might not be a bad idea for our next speaker to rename his pit crew the Chili Peppers, because I understand you guys do like red and nobody lately has been hotter than the #9 team. It's my pleasure to introduce car owner, Ray Evernham, president and CEO of Evernham motorsports. Ray?
RAY EVERNHAM: Thank you, Doug, and thank you all for coming. First let me thank Sprint, NEXTEL and NASCAR for making events like this happen. You saw that video and I can tell you that when you work with athletes in different places, whether it's race car drivers or football players or baseball players, you can see something in their eyes when they are about to perform how intense they are or how much a certain competition means to them.
And I can tell you, that night, being around my guys, it was like a different group of guys that was in their eyes. I could tell you how much it had meant to them, how hard they had trained and how intense they were and how special it was for them to have their families and their friends be able to watch them in a nice venue as they were about to perform. It wasn't about who had the fastest car that night. It wasn't about the drivers. It wasn't about the tires or racetrack or anything like that. It was about them going head-to-head with their skills against other teams, and they just had a different air about them.
I'm very proud that our guys were able to win that inaugural competition, and they tell me that they are ready to defend it this year, of course. And behind the scenes, those guys work very hard. The pit stops have become such a big, big part of what we do. I have never seen in my 15 years of NEXTEL Cup competition the cars as close as they are right now. I've said it over and over again this season, you're a pound of air or a pound of wedge away from being first or 15th. Track position is so, so critical. Every race we go to, your pit pick and how well your pit stops will determine how you are with track position because it's just hard to pass a lot of cars. And again, that's a tribute to the rules, the teams making the cars closer and closer.
But again, it becomes much more important to put an emphasis on your pit crew, the physical training, the work that these guys go through behind the scenes. I'm really proud that they are starting to get the recognition that they deserve and that they can showcase their talents. Years ago, we had a conversation, certainly, I know Humpy was one of the first people that brought this up to me about making these guys stars, putting names on the back of their uniforms and getting some recognition and those things all coming to fruition now because of our friends at Sprint NEXTEL and because of NASCAR, so we are very proud of that.
Also very proud on the All-Star Challenge to have two cars in it. Again, that's something Evernham Motorsports is very proud of. Our goal is to get all three cars in it certainly before it happens, with Scott Riggs coming on board now. I know you're not supposed to used words like exciting, so I'll use words like awesome or really wild because I spent a love the time with Kasey in Texas, and I tell you, shooting those two guns off scared the heck out of him. We told them they were live ammo and he was in a lot of trouble. We are looking forward to that.
I am very happy and proud that it is here every year at Lowe's Motor Speedway because I think to perform in that on the new pavement, I know that we have been part of the testing here. It's going to be exciting and it always is because you come without a lot of pressure of the points where obviously we are worried about the Chase and the points, and you can come here and you can bring a car that's a little bit different. You can let it drag the ground, you can shoot some sparks and the driver can hang it out and I think that we are really going to see an exciting race.
Again, we are proud to be hopefully able to have, again, three teams in that pet crew challenge this year and defend our championship. They give great prizes and a lot of money. So thank you very much, Sprint and NEXTEL and looking forward to some good racing here.
DOUG RICE: By the way, Robin says the pistols that Kasey won at Texas will not get through inspection, just so you know. And I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that Ray Evernham within the last week was voted by a panel of NASCAR media the top NASCAR Crew Chief of All-Time. Congratulations, Ray, very well deserved.
Before I introduce our next speaker, I would like to recognize a couple of folks that have been very important to the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, and NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Pit Chew Challenge, John Day, the Cabarrus County Manager. John, thank you for being here today. Also the mayor of Concord, Mr. Scott Padgett. Scott, thank you very much for being here. A lot of the rehearsals to get ready for the Pit Crew Challenge are going to be held here in Cabarrus County. It's the staging ground and vital to what's going on here and obviously the Pit Crew Challenge -- inaudible -- Mr. Rick Gamble (ph). Rick, always a pleasure. Rick also one of the hardest-working guys in the racing business, nice to have him here.
It's now my pleasure to introduce the CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Mr. Tim Newman.
TIM NEWMAN: Thank you, Doug and it's a pleasure to be here with you. Thanks for coming out. Quick show of hands who has been to Charlotte Bobcats Arena? Awesome. Awesome. You know the experience that the fans will have coming into the Bobcats Arena, and we are very excited to be able to upgrade the Pit Crew Challenge this year by bringing it to Charlotte Bobcats Arena. Tickets will go on sale this coming Monday on the arena Web site, which is CharlotteBobcatsArena.com will have all of the information.
We just feel like this is one of those things that helps us to continue to add to the excitement, and I'm going to add this word as well, because he didn't school me on that, as well as the fan appeal of this event. The Bobcats Arena is the finest state-of-the-art arenas in the country and we want to celebrate that with this great events. Ray, we hope you guys will continue to have success in the new building. I want you to think about the great things we have done over the last three years around this great effort and I hope it will be easy to decide that this is where the event ought to continue because we have the capability with the new arena to add a new wrinkle with the Pit Crew Challenge that I think will be very, very special. And we are working closely with Ray Howard and JHE by the design of the building that will add to some extra excitement. So I want to encourage everybody to come out to the vent and get the tickets and the information starting Monday at CharlotteBobcatsArena.com.
Also as head of the CRVA from the standpoint of continuing with the growth of motorsports in the region, Scott and John everyone and that has supported us with the local organizing committee, this is our premiere motorsports effort in the region. Certainly there's been a lot of energy and enthusiasm around the Hall of Fame announcement. But I will tell you that in my mind, the capability to build the team for the NASCAR Hall of Fame effort started with the efforts around the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, and certainly the Pit Crew Challenge is one of those events that we will welcome people to the center city of Charlotte and hopefully continue to do that as we go into building and developing the point of view so that those two can tie together very nicely for the long testimony.
The Bobcats are great partners with us, and I want to thank them for facilitating the date that we have. I want to thank Jay and his crew for putting together the great pro destruction. Mike Crumb (ph) on my team has helped facilitate that, as well, and we are excited to host the event and look forward to seeing everybody at the arena on May 17.
DOUG RICE: Most of you probably know, Tim is one of the people very instrumental in bringing the NASCAR Hall of Fame to Charlotte, so thanks for that. And we look forward to the NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge and I'm looking forward to putting a crew together to emcee that affair. It's going to be a lot of fun and a good night of rock and roll and everything else.
The next person I want to introduce -- so before the press conference, I said, "Humpy, I spent 45 minutes watching Red Hot Chili Pepper videos this morning to get ready." He said, "About time you did something productive." It is my pleasure to introduce the president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, H.A. Humpy wheeler. Humpy, come on up.
H.A. HUMPY WHEELER: Man, Ray, that's quite an honor, the crew chief of all time; Wood brothers and Smokey Eunich (ph) and Robert Pemberton, that's really neat. I'm glad. And you're hot. And Scott Riggs did a good job for you. I think it will be interesting to see if we can get in it still.
This thing here is going to change everything about racing. Let me tell you why. Several years ago, some of you people have kids, you'll understand this, I took myself and three other men with 14 boy scouts to Francis Marion National Forest for a hiking trip. It was an absolute disaster. But between rattlesnakes, mosquitos and all of those other bucks they have there, we finally got through the day, we got lost four times. We put the boys to bed in seven tents. We told them, not make a sound, shut up, zip your tents up, and let us relax. And we went to our big tent, these little pup tents.
So we're sitting down to relax, we here this beep, beep, and we're -- Francis Marion National Park, anyone that's ever been there, it's huge, no sounds at night. We got out of the tent and looked out there and there were seven tents lit up with little "beep, beep," little aliens had gotten in them and they were playing games on these little things like this.
And I began to see this show up at the track, I saw a guy standing in line down in Atlanta, "beep, beep," he might have been one of those boy scouts. But this is going to change everything, I'm telling you. I just hope we can get them out of the bathrooms. They can go anywhere with this thing and do it. (Laughter). They can leave the grandstands, doesn't make any difference.
All-Star Week is getting bigger and better. I want to announce, we have one more thing coming, maybe put on some more music, we are going to bring Train in. Train, I thought that was something that went down a railroad track. I think this is going to -- we always have a concert about four o'clock in the afternoon on All-Star day, so I think a video clip of Train.
H.A. HUMPY WHEELER: We have Train, Red Hot and all this over stuff. Thank you, Michael, for the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge again at Bobcats Arena. You throw the Craftsman Truck Race on Friday night, and then All-Star race is my favorite race. I'm telling you, you talk about wild eyes and people. You get down there before, after that Open is done and the guys have already gone through the introductions and the pit crews are introduced, and you look into the eyes of those drivers that are getting up there, and you can tell, you can see the tension. There's not another race like it. They know that they are at the gun fight at OK Corral. This is bragging honors, no points, no nothing. I just love to be down there. I never miss being down there if I can help it because I just want to look in those eyes. You just never see that anywhere else, like right before a big heavyweight championship fight.
Somebody said, sounds like Humpy Palooza, I didn't know what that meant -- (Laughter) -- I did go buy Horizon (ph) one time or try to get by there and I couldn't, people were on the highway going to -- inaudible -- Lollapalooza. Did you go last year? That's good. We've also got some great tickets on sale and I'm telling you, this race, 21 bucks to get in. I bet you when you were running Charlotte Nights, you had seats down there. That's a cheap seat, isn't it? I said to everybody what a bargain that is. Come on, Tim. (Laughter) Fans, 21 a ticket and we're going to try to get as many people as we can in this place. I know we'll have a great crowd.
Robin, thanks for putting up with us that week. Ray, I tell you, you guys are coming along real well, so thank you. And Michael, thank you for bringing us here. Tim, you're just doing a great job for us, you've really stepped forward. We would not have this Hall of Fame in here if it were not for Tim. Scott, glad to see you and you survived another day as mayor. So thanks, that's all I got to say.
DOUG RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Humpy. I was just handed a note that the Humpy Palooza t-shirts will be on sale as you exit, special, 14 dollar value today.
Before we leave, all of our principles will be available for one-on-ones here shortly, so you'll have a chance to chat with everyone that came up to speak. We would like to close this out with a short video presentation of our highlight guest for the night at the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Thanks everyone for coming out.
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