|EGR President Steve Lauletta|
“There is always change," said Lauletta. "If you don’t change, you’re going to fall behind. But that doesn’t necessarily mean changes that are visible to the fans. We’re working hard on a lot of the tools that our engineers, crew chiefs and competition people are using, but we obviously haven’t hit on it yet.
“A lot of our offseason changes were made very late,” he explained. “They happened in January and February, and a lot of the new tools we’ve invested in have just been coming on line in July, August and September. We’ve got them all working individually, and now we’ve got to get them all working together. It takes a lot longer than we all want, but we feel like we’re on the right track. The increases in performance are coming.
“It’s amazing how hard people are working at the shop to figure this out,” said Lauletta. “The drivers are in there, and we’ve had some meetings this week where we have asked every employee to come to us with their ideas, based on what they see in their respective roles. That’s in an effort to get us moving in the direction we all want to be, (because) nobody’s happy with where we are.”
Lauletta said that despite this week’s announcement that Bass Pro Shops will back former Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart in 18 races next season, he hopes to retain the outdoor retailer as a sponsor of McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet next season.
“We’re talking to them now,” he said. “They want to stay in some way, shape or form, but it will obviously be reduced from where they’ve been with us in the past. The opportunity (was there) to move to a champion like Tony Stewart, but I know (Bass Pro founder) Johnny Morris and his people thought long and hard about their relationship with us and Jamie, and how long they’ve been with our team.
“They had to make a business decision, but the good thing is that we have delivered for them – both on and off the track – and they want to stay with us in some way. We’re working through that now, and I assume there will be some sort of relationship that will keep the Bass Pro Shops logo on the hood of our No. 1 car; just for fewer (races) than it’s been in the past.”
Lauletta said the search is underway for new partners to join McDonald’s as primary sponsors of McMurray’s Chevrolet.
“The search is always on,” he laughed. “There is also an opportunity for McDonald’s to take a look at some races that have historically belonged to Bass Pro, and for them to get their brand in front of the NASCAR fans at the Daytona 500, at the Brickyard and at the Bristol Night Race. They’re actually very excited about the potential to take advantage of this (situation).
“We’ve been in the enviable position in the garage for the past three seasons to have both our cars fully covered in terms of primary sponsorship,” he said. “There have been a number of companies who are involved with our company on the NASCAR, IndyCar or Grand Am sides that have wanted to do things (on McMurray’s car), but we couldn’t do it. We’ve been creative in making opportunities available for them, and now that primary paint schemes on the NASCAR side with Jamie are available, we’ve already started to have some really great dialogues.
“I think we will be able to fill-in the few remaining races that we’ll have once everything comes together.”