Richard Petty Motorsports hosted the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour on Wednesday to discuss the changes that have been made to the organization since the end of last season and what the expectations are for 2011. Below is a transcript of the formal stage remarks from team personnel.
RICHARD PETTY, Co-Owner – Richard Petty Motorsports – “First of all, I want to say welcome to the new Richard Petty Motorsports. I guess through all these years I want to go back and thank the fans that are here for coming. Without them, none of us would be here. I guess when we look back at last year, especially the end of the year, everybody hung together. Our sponsors stayed with us all the way through the winter and came back this spring and we’re getting ready for the new season. It was really good to have all of those people say, ‘OK, guys. Stay in there and keep digging and we’re gonna be ready for the next year.’ That gave us a lot of incentive to go ahead and finish up last year. You’ve got to give our crew a lot of credit the last five or six races because they didn’t know if they were gonna have a job when they came in the next week or not, but they stepped it up – the drivers stepped it up and the whole crew stepped it up and we ended up with a pretty good season.
“As everybody knows, we had four cars last year and we’re gonna have two cars this year with AJ and Marcos driving the cars. We’re gonna have Stanley back with the No. 9 car as a major sponsor and Best Buy is gonna be the major sponsor, even though we’ve got a lot of other sponsors that you’ll hear from later on. These guys just stayed with us and made it work.
“I guess, most of all, being the press, I want to thank you all for the way you helped handle our situation last year. You didn’t put us in that much of a crack and we were able to overcome the deal and give us some partners to come on and make things work for this coming year. We’re looking forward to this year.
“I was looking around following you guys and you’ve been around to all these Taj Mahal’s and see all the race cars, so we wanted to bring you to a place where it all happens, which is at the race track, so that’s the reason we’re here today. I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done all these years for NASCAR, the Petty organization and just everything to bring racing out.
“For the last three or four months it’s been football, football, football, so now that football is almost over, we’ve got you all out here to carry the ball forward into next season. I think everybody here and everybody I’ve talked to is really looking forward to a new season. It’s been a couple of months since we’ve raced and racers want to race all the time, so with your help to get the spectators and the fans and help us please those people, all of our sponsors that have helped us all this time, you do your job and we’ll try to do our job and work together and make all of this a lot bigger operation.
“Again, I want to thank you all for all the years that I’ve been here and all the years you’ve treated the Petty crowd pretty good, so, again, thank you and welcome to a new year.”
ANDY MURSTEIN, Co-Owner – Richard Petty Motorsports – “First, let me say how excited and truly honored I am to be a part of the RPM family. Our history as Medallion Financial, we traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol TAXI and the company was actually started by my grandfather back in 1937, so, like RPM and Ford, we have a very long and successful automotive history.
“Back in 1937 the city of New York sold 11,787 taxi medallions for $10 each. My grandfather started by driving a cab and through the years bought up several hundred at $10 each and the city never issued anymore since then, so today they sell for $800,000 each and we stuck with it. That’s the way I view all investments is this is something that, like the taxi medallions, I hope 70 years from now my children are involved like Richard’s family is involved. It’s truly a family goal that we have.
“We went public about 15 years ago and since then we’ve raised several billion dollars and invested it in companies and all of our companies really fit the same model as what we have here – a great tradition and great integrity. The board of directors of my company, in addition to myself, is Governor Mario Cuomo, whose son is now governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, Governor and Senator Lowell Wycker, and another king of his sport, Hank Aaron, is on our board. To me, Hank and Richard are very similar men – very humble, yet legendary people who have transformed their sport. So, again, I’m proud to be a part of that.
“One of the many companies that we invested in over the years was we do taxi top advertising on top of cabs. I started that in 1995 and by 2005 we had about 10,000 taxis throughout the U.S. and they all sold out. We did so well that the tops were all sold, so we had no place left to put them, so I remember calling the mayor of New York and I said, ‘Mr. Mayor, I’d like to come see you. We’re doing very well. We want to bring more money into the economy in New York. Can we start advertising on the doors of the taxis, on the hoods, on the trunks.’ I remember the mayor looked at me with a puzzled look and said, ‘Heck no. What do you think this is, NASCAR?’ So that’s what got us thinking that this is a sport where not only can we bring strong financial resources to, but also new sponsors.
“We’ve got terrific sponsors today, but my goal long-term is to grow from two cars to four cars and bring additional sponsors to the table. So we looked at many sports opportunities over the years. We looked at actually buying at one point the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Cubs, but we picked this and it’s really for one main reason, and it’s for the people that you see on the stage today and the rest of the RPM team like Lisa Brown and Robbie Loomis in the audience. They stand for everything that Medallion does, which is excellence, tradition and integrity. So I promise the media and the fans that we’re gonna do everything that we can to get this great man and this great company back where they belong – in the winner’s circle. And we promise you the best is yet to come at RPM.”
JAMIE ALLISON, Ford Racing, Director, North America Motorsports – “We at Ford really believe in the new RPM. Richard Petty Motorsports is very important to us at Ford Motor Co. We have a long and illustrious tradition here in the sport. We have a great team between Roush Fenway, RPM and the Wood Brothers and we stick with our teams, so, Richard, through the difficulties of last year when you and Brian reached out to us, there was not a moment of consideration.
“Our chairman, Edsel Ford, the chairman of Ford Racing, absolutely felt in his heart that it was the right thing to do and to make sure that the legacy of Richard Petty continued, so we are very happy and very blessed that we are here today to kick off the Daytona 500 in the presence of the King. He is called the King for a reason. His connection with the fans is unparalleled. The way he’s been a part of the sport is something we at Ford cherish very much and that’s why we’re involved with the sport – because of men like Richard Petty.
“This business is really about people and it’s about leadership. You saw it on the slide. Leaders make a difference and Richard is a leader in his own right, but we also have new leaders coming into the team. You heard a little bit from Andy. I met with Andy down in Florida and I can assure you that Andy is in it for the long haul. It’s in the heart and there’s a family approach to it, so the leadership of Andy, coupled with Lisa, who is the new CEO and she will have a really great impact on this. This opportunity to really change and bring in some great skills from outside the sport to transform what we do here is really vital, so Lisa will have an impact. Everybody knows who Robbie Loomis is and it’s his steady hands that will guide this team. He’s very tenured and very accomplished and we look forward to having you take us where you’ve been, which is in championship runs. But who is gonna pilot these cars to get there?
“AJ Allmendinger is returning for the second year with his team and we are thrilled to have that, and Marcos Ambrose – a Ford champion down in Australia – is making his own claims here in NASCAR. So we are energized and excited and, obviously, with the support of the sponsors like Best Buy and Stanley, we believe we have a really, really great team. So I’d like to leave you with the last piece.
“We have milestones at Ford. A couple of milestones you’ll be reading out and hearing about. The first milestone is this is Henry Ford’s 110th anniversary of starting racing. If you didn’t know, Henry Ford raced once and won the only race he entered. It was that race he won that garnered the attention of investors, who allowed him to start Ford Motor Co. 18 months later, so Ford Motor Co. started by Henry Ford actually racing. So this is our 110-year anniversary.
“Second, we have 599 Cup wins and the King is responsible for nine out of those 599, so we’re obviously going for the 600 club very, very soon. We want 600 and we want it bad and we want it at Daytona, so all I can say is destiny is on our side, legends are on our side and the future is on our side, so go Ford, go RPM and let’s take it all the way to victory lane.”
AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion – “First of all, obviously, it was a tough year. Paul is a little modest. He’s a huge fan of this sport, just an amazing guy and, honestly, the reason that this car has Best Buy on it right now is because of him, so, Paul, I thank you for all of your hard work. People see on the outside how tough it was with what we were going through, but on the inside how much tougher it was. Paul fought as hard as he could to keep this sponsor on the race car, so, from me, Paul, I really consider you a close friend of mine, but I thank you so much just for the effort that you went through just to get this back on the race car. It means so much to this race team. You’re one of the best guys around, so I thank you for the effort and everything that you did.
“Andy, it’s pretty amazing to have a group like yours come in and support this race team, support myself, support Marcos, support everybody at RPM. It’s a great company. You don’t even know what to say about Richard – a legend, that’s an understatement. Richard had been through a lot of tough times lately, so to see a group like yours come in and give us the opportunity to go out and show what we can do means a lot, so I thank you and your group for all of the effort that you put into this.
“Jamie, all the support that Ford has given this race team in the past, in the future, but especially in the tough times last year, it was pretty amazing to see. I felt really important — that you guys wanted to support myself and you felt so confident in this race team that you did what you had to do to keep this thing going, so I thank you for that.
“For me, I’m excited. It’s not just about Best Buy, obviously, although they’re the key sponsor on the team, we’ve got Valvoline and Air Force, so that’s good see. We’ve got Wix Filters, the PVA, Super 8, Reynolds, so a team that didn’t look like it would be around, we’ve got a lot of sponsors on this race team. I’m excited about this year. I think this team has a ton of potential.
“Mike Shiplett, my crew chief is sitting here in the front, although I think you should be working right now, I’m glad to see that you’re here. I promise you guys that Mike is gonna be one of the best crew chiefs in this sport that you’ve ever heard of and I get to see that on a daily basis. He’s an amazing guy. The work ethic that he puts into it just kind of trickles down through the whole rest of the race team. Mike, I know you’re gonna be one of the best out there, you already are, I’ve just got to take you to that next standard. That’s my job and everybody at RPM, there are a few here but everybody back at the shop who can’t here this, I’m glad they can’t because they really should be working too. We’ve got a Daytona car to get ready, so everything that we went through last year was tough, but I feel like everything that we had to fight to keep going is only gonna make us stronger on the other side. I think it showed us internally what the team was all about and how strong we really wanted to be because we very easily could have fallen apart. Everybody could have gone and looked for other jobs and started fighting, but we got stronger. We got to the race track and, as always, the cars were prepared to the top. The cars were fast, so I feel like the stuff we went through is gonna make us stronger on the other side. I’m excited to be a part of that. We’ve got a ton of potential, but we know potential doesn’t mean anything if we don’t live up to it, so that’s our job. We’re gonna go out there and do everything that we can. We’ll get this thing in victory lane.
“Marcos, I’m excited to have you on this race team, although you’re over there giggling right now. I don’t know what’s going on – telling jokes – but I’m happy to have you be a part of this race team and I’m looking forward to being your teammate. Hopefully, you won’t run into me as much now that we’re teammates (laughter), but, let’s be honest, we all saw how much I liked to mess with the 9 on the race track, so I don’t know if that will change. I’m excited about it. I’m excited about this race team. The way I look at it, heck, it can’t get any worse than it was last year, so we can only get better from that, so thank you. Thanks to all the fans for coming out and let’s have a good time this year.”
MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “To AJ, if I was running into you, it means you were going too slow (laughter). Likewise, I’m looking forward to working with AJ. Teammates are always great to have. I get along well with him off the track. I know I play better golf than you, so it should be a good challenge. It’s a real honor to be here today considering the adversity we went through at the end of 2010. To drive for Richard Petty and the RPM team is a real thrill. I never thought in Australia that I’d ever get a chance to drive for the King, but here I am.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m very optimistic and very enthusiastic about our chances in 2011. I signed on with RPM before the turmoil at the end of 2010 and I must say that the way the company came out of the ashes so strong with such commitment to win is quite outstanding. Without guys like the King to have the leadership to drive it all forward, it was quite an incredible story. I’m still not too sure how it all came back together again because I wasn’t privy to the inside meetings, but it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen – the loyalty, the support behind Richard and this team has really spurred me on to really refocus my energies in NASCAR, to get out there on the race track in 2011 and deliver for Richard, for RPM, for Stanley and for DeWalt and for every employee at RPM. It’s been an incredible story and I can’t wait to turn it into a great new story come the Daytona 500 hopefully and through the rest of the year.
“Looking at the highlights package, there was way too much road course racing for my liking, so I’m looking to really prove myself on the ovals. I feel like this is the best chance in my career ever to get the job done and I just can’t wait to get started. With the help of Todd Parrott, a champion crew chief and a Daytona ring holder, I couldn’t ask for anyone better. I hope I can deliver on the race track. I know that you’ve got my back and I’m proud to be associated with you and hopefully get our team to victory lane as quick as we can.
“I’ve actually passed my sinus infection on to him, so I apologize in advance. You’re gonna be going through the next four days in a bit of misery, but thank you for everybody who turned out today. Thank you for the fans who came out and let’s get started. Let’s get cranking on 2011 and hopefully we’ll contend for the chase and see you in victory lane.”
RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED – “Again, I just want to thank everybody for all their support. I may have said this before, but I don’t know that we could put a better crowd together to start the season with. I’m real confident in our drivers, our crew chiefs and the deals we have working with Ford and working with Roush. All of that stuff is really coming together. We were lucky to get through last year, but we feel like we’ve got a really, really good team with all of our sponsors and partners that came back and are working with us. All the crew people that we have, again, we can concentrate on two cars now instead of four.
“We’re really looking forward to next year. Again, we just want to tell you that we appreciate all you’ve done over a period of years to get us to this point and we’re gonna try to keep pushing. I’ve been up. I’ve been down. I’ve been in-between, so we feel like this is our best chance in the last five or six years to really go forward with Richard Petty Motorsports.
“Again, we want to thank all of our people and all of our new partners that came in and helped us out. As some of you know, the last couple of years I’ve sort of been sitting on the sidelines without having much say-so in the business deal and now they’ve put the pressure back on me. They’ve put me out front and I’ve got a little bit of say-so on what’s going on, so I feel better about that.
“I feel good about the team that I have around — the guys that stuck with me all these years. We’ve got Dale Inman here that has been with me all the years we won championships and all the races. He’s sort of my in-between man. I’ve got him out checking and seeing what’s going on. Robbie has been with us a long time. He went off and wandered around a little while, but then he came back (laughter). We’ve got Brian Moffitt, who takes care of looking after sponsors and looking after me and family, so we’ve got those people who have been with me all these years. Now we’ve got new people coming in from the standpoint that Lisa Brown is coming in to try to help look after the financing part of it.
“I’ve always been a racer and never was much on financing. You all can see that. We’ve got the Medallion crowd coming in and we’ve got another partner in California that we’re trying to keep in California (laughter). Again, it’s gonna be a very different year for us. I think it’s gonna be a different year for everybody because they’ve changed some of the rules around and we’re gonna have to work within those parameters. We’ve got our own parameters that we have to work in, but, again to the fans, the press and our sponsors, I just want to say a real Petty thank you for staying with us all these years and we’re looking forward to the future just like you are.”