WB: The first thing that happened was that Chuck Etchells let Tim Richards go midway through the 2000 season. While Terry Manzer came on and did a very good job, they had some sponsorship issues that were occurring over there on that team and I just didn't have a good feeling about that team being able to contend for an NHRA Winston championship. That's (the championship) my goal in racing. So I was looking around, driving for Etchells, and at the same time my own team was back up and running with Cristen Powell driving. It was just a small budgeted team. At that time I was interested in putting my own team together again, provided I could do it right with a big enough budget and driving for that. Also at the same time I was looking at every opportunity. That's when the opportunity with Don Schumacher and Matco Tools presented itself. Matco was an associate sponsor on Etchells' car so I had a good working relationship with them. I went and visited Schumacher Racing, the shop in Indy, and saw the commitment that Don has made as a team owner and what he's done to achieve his goals. I thought right away that this is a team that will have the same desire and the same commitment that I have. So, I signed up.
DRO: What's happened since you've come on board?
WB: There were some issues over the winter regarding crew chief and at the last instant, literally a week and a half before we went testing, Lee (Beard) came on board. So we were really behind the eight ball, especially Lee in terms of being prepared for the season. Most of our competitors had all winter and the previous year to prepare. Lee essentially had only a week and a half. So the team was really under the gun from the get go. But, as I think it is fairly obvious from our results this year, he has done an outstanding job. Everyone he's brought on board has gelled and we have a really tight team, a really great team. Everyone seems happy here and that's one of the most important things.
DRO: How has your relationship been with Don Schumacher since joining the team and did the Schumacher Racing shop being headquartered in Indy, your hometown, have anything to do with your decision to join Schumacher Racing?
WB: It doesn't matter where the shop is because I'm the kind of driver that when I go to the shop all the time I usually just get in the way. In fact when I was with Tim Richards and his shop was up in Lansing (MI), I would go up about three times a year and hang out for a day. But usually after lunch, Tim would tell me, 'Ok, I think we're done with you. You can go home now.' For me, where the shop is located is irrelevant to me. As far as my relationship with Don: it's good. It's a business relationship like all of them are out here. Don has a reputation and he's not the most popular guy among the car owners in the pits. A lot of that, I think, stems from jealousy from some of our competitors. They talk bad about him. But I've got to say, he's done everything he said he was going to do with me. He's a very hard negotiator, a tough businessman. But that's why he's successful in business. He's been fair. So, from my standpoint, as long as someone is fair and honest I feel I can work for him. I'm sure from his standpoint, as long as I give 110 percent and do a good job then I'm sure he thinks he can employ me. As long as we're doing that, I think it will be a good relationship for many years.
DRO: You mentioned Lee came in under the gun, so to speak. How did you two gel at first?
WB: We gelled pretty quick because I think we figured out right
away that we share the same goals. One of the first things Lee said
to me when he came on board was the only reason he was here was to win
a championship. Sometimes talk is cheap, but in this case, he's proven
to me many times, along with co-crew chief Mike Neff and the rest of
the team, that together they make pretty damn good decisions. That's
very important. We have a race able car. We struggled on occasion, but
we've come back from those struggles. To me, that is one of the most
important things because sometimes you see teams that get on a roll
and run really well and then they fall off - - get lost. You only have
to look at Jerry Toliver to see that. That's a team that has really,
really struggled this year. But we've run well, then we've fallen off
a little bit, then been able to fight our way back. I think that's important
and says a lot about the ability of Lee and Mike and everyone else on
this Matco team.
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