GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 14, 2010) – Following is a transcript of the press conference held at the 41st annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway with longtime NAPA AUTO PARTS NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip and Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger Funny Car in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Question: We’re joined by Michael Waltrip and Ron Capps. Michael, you just stood on the starting line and watched Ron Capps. Tell us how that was.
Michael Waltrip: “It’s just amazing. I can’t imagine that, the way the sound hits you and bounces off of you...Standing there and feeling it, I can’t describe it. I’m just so thankful that I’m here. Being here was funny because we woke up this morning in Daytona and had every intention of flying home with my buddies, back to North Carolina. Our luggage was on the plane and we were about to get on and I asked Brian, my friend, and I said ‘We’re pretty close to those drag races, we probably should go, don’t you think?’ So we grabbed our luggage off the plane and got a rental car and drove over. I’m certainly thankful I did because watching the NAPA car just then was one of the coolest things ever. I know y’all are used to it, but I’ve got a permanent grin on my face. Just trying to explain it to people.
It’s incredible. I would like to know what it feels like to be Ron, to do it. But I don’t want to know bad enough to actually learn how to do it.”
Question: Ron, do you have fun showing him your world? You’ve been a part of his world before, but talk about showing Michael around.
Ron Capps: “I went to Bristol last year and it was cold, so he gave me a Michael Waltrip Racing jacket and I felt at home. I had a radio on. I think I brought a little bit of bad luck because they had a bad lap when I got there, but I wanted last year for him to come out and it never happened because their schedule is so hectic. So I got a text this morning. I had just left the hotel at 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and he said I’m coming to see you.
I thought, I don’t know where you’re at but I don’t think you’re close enough to see me. I wrote back “where at and when?” and he said he was coming up from Daytona. All of my crew guys were really excited; they’ve been wanting him to come out. You know, everybody loves Michael. He’s just a fun person to be around. We had a blast doing commercials and stuff. I’ve been bragging about him coming out and getting on the starting line again.
Don Schumacher made a comment about building a car big enough for him and I said ‘Let’s not do that, he might want to come back out of retirement, semi-retirement and want to jump in a Funny Car.’ He drove an alcohol funny car at Frank Hawley’s school here a few years ago, so we had talked about it. He went through the school to drive an alcohol funny car so he can pretty much drive anything; obviously he understands everything.
Question: When you got together for the first time doing the commercials was there something special that happened?
Waltrip: We were friends and any time you get to work with your friends, people you respect and admire, it’s just a good day. We spent a couple of days together and it was a great time, and I was talking earlier today, it was the first time today that reality set in that I’m not really the NAPA driver anymore. I stopped at the NAPA store in Gainesville and I was just going to go in and say ‘Hi,’ maybe get some ball joints or something (I just like saying that word). I walked in the door and there was a stand out there of Martin Truex Jr. and Ron Capps and I was like ‘Where’s Mike?!’
I’m usually that guy standing there, but it really made me realize that I’m not necessarily the NAPA guy anymore. I’ve got great guys like Martin and Ron waving the flag for us so my role is different now. I wanted to be in the commercial, the one that Martin Truex does where he’s singing the NAPA Know How song, and he throws the moon up or something and there’s a spaceship going by. I tried to talk them into letting me be in the space ship. Like I would go by and say ‘Hey, remember me?’ I thought that would’ve been awesome, but they didn’t think so.
Question: Does this atmosphere here kind of give a whole new appreciation for what is really accessible in motorsports?
Waltrip: “Ron has to focus and do his job and when he has to do his job, that’s just part of it. Everyone wants to be friendly and sign autographs, but there comes a time when you have to say ‘OK, right now I have to go drive this car and I have to get my mind right to drive it.’ I don’t see it being a whole lot different; we just have a time during the weekend at the NASCAR races where we have to be focused and then there’s other times when it’s relaxed. I went to Dubai in January and raced in a 24-hour race and that was the first time I felt like a kid again. Since I was growing up in Kentucky and going to race my go-kart the families would always load up and go to the track and Mom would have chicken and we would race go-karts and it was a family affair. It’s weird that I have to go all the way to the other side of the world to feel that again. But when I got to Dubai nobody really knew or cared who I was and there was like 60-some cars in this race and there were people that were just there with their cars to race and have fun and there were some people there that were serious about it and wanted to win and I was with one of those teams. But when I was kid there was always people that wanted to do it for fun and there were ones that wanted to do it for a career, so getting to do that experience and being here today... I texted Ron on the way in and I said ‘I know you don’t know this for sure, but I’m a big fan and I feel just like one because I’ve been sitting in traffic for an hour.’ I looked around and I thought these are my friends; we’ve got something in common. We’re going to the races.”
Question: When you were in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School you probably sat in this very room, were you amazed at all of the classroom instruction before you got on the track?
Waltrip: We went through a speeded-up version of the class. Fortunately we were able to get through the class and get out on the track.
--(Cars start going down the track, Michael gets side-tracked) --
Ron, when I was out there on the starting line watching you some guy starts yelling at me, pointing at me and I’m scared to death, literally scared. Anyway, this guy was yelling at me and I’m like ‘What did I do now?’ but my shoe was untied. I was scared to be there, I really was. My reaction time was 3.4 seconds. It turned green and I said ‘OK, I can go now.’ I had to make sure I knew everything I had to do when I hit the gas because I knew it was all going to happen in a hurry.
Question: Ron, the first time you guys met did you guys talk anything about speeds and compare what you guys do?
Capps: Ironically, the first year, the first commercials we were shooting were all about me being new to the team. It’s funny, I go back on YouTube now and I watch them and I was a little in awe. I had met him before but we really didn’t know each other and we show up on the set. When NAPA sets up a commercial shoot it’s like a full-blown motion picture and there’s 93 people working on the set. So I was still in awe, thinking I was in over my head. So Michael strolls in two minutes to go and he’s got his lines down, he sits down and we start shooting, and I’ve been up all night looking at my stuff so I’m a little bit nervous. The funny part was we shot those commercials where I’m joining the team and I rattle off some part number and he’s trying to tell me ‘Welcome to the team and don’t get cocky’ kind of thing and we did the reaction thing with the hand slap and those commercials were really how I was feeling at the time. I was new to the team and yet I was trying to impress, saying my reaction times were a little bit quicker than a NASCAR driver. It was just ironic how the scripts were that first year; it’s fun to go back and watch them. Those first couple of days that’s how I felt. By that afternoon, obviously you warm up to him pretty quick. We got to talking about the speed differences and he would rattle off some impressive number that he knew about NASCAR and I would say ‘Oh yeah, well, we make 9,000 horsepower and one of our cylinders makes more than your motor. We would just joke and go back and forth and it was a lot of fun. Obviously everyone knows how hard it is to drive one of those cars over there. He would do good if he was in one of these, there’s no doubt about it. It took me a while to get used to everything. They were fun to shoot but that first day, looking back, I remember how nervous I was. He helped, though; he broke me in.”
Question: David Reutimann says you’re funny as a boss, but you’ve got a job to do as an owner…
Capps: He’s John Force over there. I know them both very well and he is.
He’s laughing all the time, making people laugh all of the time. I didn’t mean to interrupt, but he’s just like John Force. Force and I have been friends forever and they remind me of each other. Their heads are going way off and ahead of everything.
Waltrip: (on ownership) It’s really fun for me to have that side of the world. To be able to have sponsors, have employees and be a part of the NASCAR community and do it really with my signature on it. I try to tell people that we’re not gifted; it’s a gift that we have this job. We didn’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it; we race cars and it’s a blessing that we get to do that and we should have that as our attitude. Whether you’re a driver or a crew guy, everyone should be thankful because racing cars is fun. It’s not a job, it is a lot of work at times, but it’s something we should be thankful that we get to do. That’s the way I go about my business and people generally appreciate that, I think, and the folks at MWR they want to work hard. I remember when I drove for Dale (Earnhardt). I drove for him for a grand total of one race and he died in that race, but the couple of months leading up to that race it was amazing how, when you walk through that shop, people just wanted the cars to be faster. They were Dale’s cars and they were going to be the best. I never forgot that; it’s been a part of me ever since then. I want the same thing to happen at my shop. I want our people to want our cars better than everyone else’s, that’s my job. I was telling them earlier, now that I’m retired, I’ll get a text from someone asking me to go somewhere, and I go. I just do everything. Y’all’s job is to make sure you don’t put two things on top of each other, but if you ask me to do something, I’m going to do it. So just be careful what you ask me for.
Question: Michael, have you thought of doing TV or movies? Capps played a cowboy a few years ago in a movie. Would you do that?
Waltrip: “Yeah I’ve been checking some stuff out, I might do some of that.”
Capps: “I could be his midget sidekick.”
Waltrip: “That would be fun.”
Question: A lot of the fans don’t get the opportunity to go in the shops. Can you explain what it’s like at your shop?”
Waltrip: “I don’t have any money, but I know where it’s all at. Every dime I’ve got is in Cornelius, North Carolina, and it consists of a nice building that we build NASCAR championship-contending cars out of. There’s a bunch of those in there. There are parts and 240 people walking around.
When I get to missing my money, I just go there and walk around and say ‘here’s where it all is.’ Some people have asked me, ‘Do you wish you had not done this? and that’s not even an option. I didn’t have the ability to say no. When Toyota said we want you to race cars for us I said ‘Heck, yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do. It’s been fun, I’m happy.”
Capps: “It’s kind of the same thing. Don (Schumacher) obviously has learned a lot. If anyone’s not been there we’ve got an open house before the Indy race (U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend). He’s got a big shop, all of the rigs pull in the shop. It’s 110,000 square feet or something, it’s pretty impressive. I live in California, so I don’t get out there very much unless it’s before the race. It’s Labor Day weekend, Friday of that weekend.”
(Transcription courtesy of Leah Vaughn).