Friday, Sep 22

Ford Performance - Doug Yates Talladega 1 Transcript

TODAY IN PARTICULAR IS A SPECIAL DAY, AS IT IS JACK ROUSH AND YOUR DAD, ROBERT YATES’, BIRTHDAY. TAKE US THROUGH THE EARLY YEARS, UP UNTIL TODAY. “It’s a really special day – special year for being our 20th season since our founders Jack Roush and Robert Yates decided that we were going to join forces and allow me to lead this company. It’s a really big day… my dad’s been passed on – it’ll be six years in October, but we still celebrate him. His twin brother, Richard, is still a part of our company. He’s going to join us tomorrow for a company lunch, fish fry, that we’ll have. Jack will be here, and Richard will be here to celebrate them and give them the chance to speak to all 215 employees to appreciate what they do. When we founded the company, it really happened fast. I know most of you guys have heard the story a million times, but it was basically – at Atlanta we met, said, ‘Yes, we want to do that,’ put this company together. The next weekend, Jack won the championship with Matt Kenseth at Rockingham. I got on a plane with him – Jack was flying and I was in the back. We went up to Michigan and put our deal together. When my dad and him started talking, they said, ‘Right now, what’s important to you?’ – and vice-versa. They listed 20 things that were important to each one of them. All but maybe two of them matched up. We started even before we had the business stuff done, but it came down to ‘How are we going to name this company?’ My dad and Jack share the same birthday – Jack being one-year older than my dad, it was just, ‘Well, you’re older. So, you go first.’ So, that’s how we came up with Roush Yates. It turned out to be a good partnership – a great partnership. Jack’s been an amazing guy to work with. I just remember sitting there in my office in the early days when Jack and my dad would come in and share their opinions about engine design and philosophy… a lot of heated discussions, but cool discussions and I’m proud to be here in it all, for them and with them, today. It’s interesting to me. I went to North Carolina State, have a degree in mechanical engineering, but working with Jack Roush felt like a final exam every Tuesday, when he would fly down from Livonia, have his debrief with his teams. He’d come meet with me and say, all right we had eight cars at the time, ‘What jet was in this carburetor, what piston and ball bearings are we running’ – he would just find the toughest question that he could just to test me. Every Monday night after debriefing from the race, and getting ready for the next race, I’d literally pour through our engine build books and records to try to make sure I was prepared for the toughest question, as he was kind of checking me out and making sure I passed the test. But, it made me a better engine builder. Working with Jack has made me a better person and he’s such a great guy – it’s just an awesome, awesome partnership. I just appreciate him. But yeah, those early days – my dad and I just love to make power. We wanted to make as much horsepower as we could, and we were making 700 fairly early out of college, 800 and then 900. Jack loved to run his engines hot. He wanted to run the most temperature and the most rpm, and back then, we didn’t have a gear rule. So for people who haven’t been around that long, there was unlimited. So we were turning these engines, basically what we race today, about 10,500 rpm – push-rod, V8, same architecture, and today, it’s at about a 8,500 rpm limit. So, it’s changed quite a bit, but learned a lot, and together we’ve won a lot of races and won a championship our very first year out with Kurt Busch in 2004, put five of Jack’s cars in the playoffs the next year, and I wish we could say we won the championship, but came up just short. But, we’ve had a lot of success since then, including most recently, winning the championship with Joey Logano last year and in 2018 with Ford Performance. So, it’s been fantastic – I could talk for days on end about some of the things we did together, but it’s been a great partnership, and it’s all possible because of Edsel Ford, Jim Farley, Bill Ford and Ford Motor Company. They’re the ones to make that happen, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to lead this company.”


WOULD ADDITIONAL HORSEPOWER, LIKE WE’VE SEEN IN THE PAST, IMPROVE THE SHORT TRACK PACKAGE? “I love power. I’m an engine builder. But, I’m also a race fan. What I want to see, just like you guys and everybody else, is great racing – passing and the opportunity to pass, and what creates that. We all have our opinions, right? Could you ever imagine staying out on tires at Martinsville? Or putting two tires on and winning the race? That just doesn’t seem right. But, every race is different, and we had a great weekend. Stewart-Haas was really fast. To give a little bit of history on how we got here, I think and in my opinion, is that we were making about 900 horsepower on these engines we have today. We were running faster than a lot of people probably needed to go, especially at places like Michigan. And we could only run the engines one race, which is really extensive. Back then, the engine programs were over four million dollars per car – what it’d cost for the season. We went and did some testing at Michigan, the way I remember it, and reduced the power and NASCAR liked what they saw and reduced the power significantly. The goal was to close-up the racing, make it more pack racing and reduce the cost of engines by being able to run them further. So we went down this path. If you go way back, we used to have a qualifying engine, a practice engine and a race engine – back in the day when we were really pushing the limits and just had a one-race engine. And really, before we had a lot of engine technology, we didn’t have the amount of testing capabilities that we have for durability, etc. We went to one engine per weekend which was helpful for cost, and since then we’ve reduced the power and run the engines two to three events per engine today. Could we add more power? What would it take? What would it cost? I think that’s the big thing. If you remember two years ago, we had a 750 horsepower, 9,000 rpm package, and last year we went to a sixth set with the Next Gen car, which is a 670 hp, 8,500 rpm package in an effort to extend the life of these engines, and it fit with this car. We have the same base engine as we had last year, so I think very easily in my opinion, we could go back to 750 horsepower – pretty quickly. I think that’s not too hard, and it would not really increase the cost very much. Could we add 80 horsepower back? Yes. Could we go back to 900? That would be a pretty long runway to get there, and probably add a lot of expenses due to just that the life of the engine will be short. So to summarize: Yes, we can add more power. Probably 50-100 horsepower with not a lot of expense, in my opinion. I think we could do that pretty quickly. To go to 900 or 1,000, that’s a whole different discussion.”


HOW MANY CARS ON THE TRACK WOULD IT TAKE TO GIVE YOU AN ADEQUATE SAMPLE SIZE IN ORDER TO DECIDE IF IT’S WORTH TAKING THAT STEP? “I think if you took three or four cars on track and just did some long runs, you’d be able to figure it out pretty quickly – like we used to. I don’t personally think that this is something simulation could do a good job of, just because you need multiple cars and all the tracks are so different. But go back to Martinsville: We always say, you’re going back on Monday. This is the question we ask every week. We didn’t like the results we got, with our team and package – what would we do differently if we went back tomorrow, or raced again tomorrow? I think that’s something you’d want to do, is take three or four cars, add 100 horsepower, and go do some long runs to see how it works. That’s just my opinion, but there are a lot of dynamics, a business behind this thing and ultimately, it’s really the OEMs and NASCAR driving these types of decisions.”


LET’S SAY THEY WANTED TO TRY 750 HORSEPOWER. DO YOU ALREADY HAVE ALL THE PARTS AND PIECES TO MAKE THAT ADJUSTMENT, AND DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHETHER OR NOT THE ENGINES WOULD LAST? “I think the first thing we’d do honestly is go to the dyno, change the taper spacer back to the 1170, do some tests and run a durability test with what we have today and make adjustments from there. There would probably have to be some changes to the calibration of course, which are things we do anyways. Just to see if all the hardware is ok as well. I think, with some tweaks, it could be done.”


IS THIS BROUGHT UP IN MEETINGS WITH NASCAR, AND IS THIS SORT OF ADJUSTMENT ON THEIR RADAR WITH ENGINE BUILDERS? “I don’t think that it’s one of our bullet points that we discuss every meeting, no. It’s more podcasts and media today. I think that’s kind of the world it’s in today. I think NASCAR is very aware of trying to make sure we’re having the right powertrain at the track, keeping costs in mind, and we’re also keeping the future of the sport in mind with what would attract a new OEM to come into the sport. All those things are strategic discussions that we do have with NASCAR.”


NASCAR ANNOUNCED ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES YESTERDAY. HOW MUCH ARE YOU AND ENGINE BUILDERS INVOLVED IN THOSE DISCUSSIONS TO DECIDE WHAT’S FEASIBLE? “John Probst has done a really good job leading the engine-builder group, and having regular meetings to discuss those things, and sustainable fuel is one of the key topics. So, all the engine builders and OEMs are aware and ready when they make a decision of what the chemistry is going to be and what the fuel is going to be. We’ll be ready to test. That’s what it’s about on our end. We got to go have the sample, do all our testing for validation and durability, and see if we have to make adjustments accordingly. So yes, we’re all up to speed on those things.”


HOW SOON DO YOU NEED TO START DISCUSSING THE 2024 ENGINE PACKAGE? “The sooner, the better. If we were to make a power change, we’d want to know that as soon as we could. Mid-year is probably a great point. We have a lot of long lead items… but I don’t think it’s going to change the bottom-end necessarily, which are the longer lead components we have to order. We would just need to know, probably mid-year would be a good time. I heard Jeff Andrews say now, and I agree with him in the point that now would be nice to know if we were going to change something. Like I said, this really hasn’t been on our radar screen. We all have those opinions, we’ve watched the races and we’ve heard the commentary and listened afterwards. This is something that would be nice to know.”


WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE ROUSH YATES ENGINES STACK UP AGAINST THE COMPETITORS SO FAR THIS SEASON? ARE YOU ON TRACK TO MEET YOUR GOALS? “We’ll start with the positives. Daytona was fantastic for us. We won both Duel races, and I think we may have won the 500… I don’t know. But anyways, we were there. Then Atlanta was really the story for us with qualifying first and Joey [Logano] winning the race, and having a really strong day. I’m looking forward to going to Talladega this weekend, and hopefully we can carry on that success. We felt like we had a really good shot to win in Phoenix. [Kevin] Harvick was really driving away from the field before the caution came out, so that was really encouraging. Then in Martinsville, the Stewart-Haas guys were fantastic. It was a tough race to pass as we all are talking about now in different ways. But yeah, the Stewart-Haas guys were great – Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece were good until they got in the back. We’ve had some highlights, but we’d definitely love to have more wins. Today, we’re sitting here with one win in nine races, which is not good enough for sure. I think intermediate tracks are probably our biggest concern. Vegas was a tough race for us, so we’ll see with Kansas and other tracks coming up here soon. We’re not where we want to be. Everybody here is working extremely hard. I think the lesson we learned last year was that we started off ok, the summer was tough, and then we peaked really well in the playoffs and won the championship. So, we don’t really want to go back to that strategy again, but it seems like, ‘here we go again.’ We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we have a great team here at Roush Yates and great race teams that we are partnered with at Ford Performance. We’re going to have to really work hard to try to get more wins, and be ready when it comes the time to win a championship.”


WHAT KIND OF TIMEFRAME DO YOU THINK IF NASCAR WERE TO INCREASE 50-100 HORSEPOWER? “You’re talking to a guy who used to rebuild engines overnight and put them back in the car. The answer you get from me is probably going to be different from other people. At the end of the day, we’re here to do whatever NASCAR, Jim France and Ford Performance want to do. I think that’s a pretty easy change. I don’t know if I could envision them doing it this year, but I don’t think it’s impossible to do that. We were at Charlotte Motor Speedway testing with the Next Gen car and on Day 2 of the oval test, Greg Zipadelli calls me and says, ‘Man, we’re struggling with this 550 hp package. Can we add more power?’ We changed the spacer and here we are today, so not easier for a test engine where the stakes aren’t as high, but I think there are a lot of smart people in this sport and if we needed to do something to make the racing better from an engine perspective, we’ll try to do that.”


IS IT WORTH THE EFFORT TRYING TO INCREASE BY A SMALLER INCREMENT OF 50-100 HORSEPOWER, AND WILL IT MAKE THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE ON-TRACK AS OPPOSED TO MAKING A GREATER LEAP TO 900 HP? “I think the answer is that we have to go test and figure it out. I don’t think it’s just the power – it’s the tire, aero combination. In some ways, it’s a moving target. One package doesn’t stick forever. It worked for awhile, but you have to continue to adjust and change to make it better. You have to go test. That’s what we do for a living – we try things and test things and we try to continually come up with a better package. That’s what I’d guess. And I know these things cost money – the test costs money, the engine development costs money. I get all that, but our job is building a great race for our fans, creating excitement and our job specifically is to try to get our Fords to victory lane. I’m not lobbying for it. You guys asked the question. Can we do it? Yes. If that’s what it takes to make better racing, then I think we should take a look at it.”

ANY FOND MEMORIES OF NORTH WILKESBORO AHEAD OF THE RACE THIS SEASON? “I have a lot of great memories growing up. We lived in Ronda, North Carolina when my dad worked for Junior Johnson from about 1971-1975. I always went to the track. I remember the first time my mom took me there for qualifying. We sat on the concrete bleachers, and I was immediately taken by the sport – the sound, the excitement. After that, my dad would take me down there in the pits, but there was no pit road wall back then. You just backed the trailer up to the track, and we’re all sitting there with Junior Johnson, the Wood brothers, Richard Petty. Man, it was so awesome. I just remember, as a little kid, Richard Petty was just like how he is today. He was just so nice, would come up and talk to me, and I was just so fascinated. Racing Wilkesboro is really special. For Junior Johnson, it was his Daytona 500. Being a part of that team, it was our Daytona 500. It was a lot of good times and good memories. Even when my dad had his team, we won there with Davey [Allison] after he had his bad wreck at Bristol. he had cracked ribs, got into the car. Jimmy Hensley qualified the car, and Davey was not going to get out of his race car and won the race. Just a lot of great memories, and I can’t wait to get back. Thanks to Marcus Smith, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR to put that race back on. There’s a lot of excitement. Look, my sister, who’s not a race fan and four years younger than me, called me and asked me for tickets. If that tells you anything… I think it’s going to be a huge success and a lot of people are going to be excited for North Wilkesboro.”


WAS NORTH WILKESBORO “THE SPARK” TO JUMPSTART YOUR LOVE FOR RACING, OR DID THE ATMOSPHERE JUST ADD TO YOUR PASSION FOR THE SPORT? “It’s kind of appropriate that we’re talking about this on my dad’s birthday, because what excited me about getting into racing is that my dad was my hero and I wanted to be like him. Whatever he did, I wanted to do – trying to carry that on. So, when I’d go to Junior’s shop, it was pretty small back then, he would do all his machine work during the day, and put his engines together at night. He would always come home for dinner and go back to work. Our house was just down the road from the shop, and I’d go back to the shop with him after dinner. I’d stay all night with him. I even had a little cot there I’d sleep on. I’d help him sort nuts and bolts or do whatever he asked me to do. I’d stay there all night as he built the engine. Junior would come through and pat him on the back and say, ‘Boy, we’re going to win this race.’ Man, that was awesome. I thought my dream growing up was that I wanted to own my own race team, and I wanted my house right next to my race shop – just like Junior. That’s what I knew. That’s how it was. I just thought that was so awesome. I still did. He’s a great American hero, and we got to be a part of that. It’s an awesome deal.”


IF THERE WAS A PUSH FOR MORE HORSEPOWER, HOW DOES IT CHANGE THE ENGINE ROTATION? “It’s all over the board. Reason being, if you wreck a car, overheat a car or over rev an engine, sometimes you have to take those apart, inspect it and restart. Basically, have two mulligans during the season. I think we’d have to get some sort of pass on those things to be able to make this happen. That would be a discussion and a great point to bring up.” 


DO MOST TEAMS USE A FRESH ENGINE DURING TALLADEGA, OR IS THIS A DAYTONA 500 ENGINE? “The way we did it is the Daytona engines, the short blocks, went to Atlanta and then they’re fresh for Talladega. But some guys had issues at Daytona, which changed their rotation up a little bit. But for the most part, these are fresh engines for Talladega that will go on to Atlanta for their second race.”


WHERE IS NASCAR WITH ELECTRIFICATION, AND WAS YOUR DAD WORKING ON ANYTHING THAT ALIGNED WITH SUSTAINABILITY HAVING BEEN SO PASSIONATE IN IT? “His passion for that goes all the way back to 1989 when he took a break from NASCAR and moved to South Carolina to work on, at the time, alternative fuel which was ethanol. So, he spent a year down there building and testing engines, working on fuel – which he was very informed and excited about. Ultimately, he came back to NASCAR and started his own engine shop in 1986. My dad was always the kind of guy to look ahead and not behind him. He was a big proponent of what’s the next engine platform, what’s the next technology that we can have to move this sport forward. Those things are ahead of us, I think. I think IMSA is a leader in that. Jim France and his team do a great job with working with OEMs on hybridization and electrification. I know NASCAR is working on some things along that line. At the end of the day, in regards to electrification, the facts are that the technology is not there to run a race, as we know, in NASCAR today. I think it’s in the future still, and we’ll continue to work with NASCAR. But I think the path is sustainable fuel and continuing to look at hybrid systems, and then down the road, electric. All those things are definitely on NASCAR’s radar and they’re actively talking about them, but I think it’s a longer road to get there.”


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