CT: You advised earlier that a fledgling team needed to invest in a reliable engine as a first step. Is there an area you would advise teams to stay away from? In other words, buying a reliable engine is a definite do; is there a definite don't for Saturday-night racers?AP: My world is so much different now than it was before. There are a lot of don'ts in what I'm doing now! If I were to give a piece of advice, it would have to be, try not to spend money unnecessarily. There's going to be some limit on your budget; there's hardly any team in racing that doesn't have a limit on its budget. Try to make sure you don't spend money in the wrong place. For instance, don't go out and spend a bunch of money on fancy chrome wheels or a fancy trailer, and then not spend money on a good engine, new tires or good parts for your race car. Make sure you're spending money in the right place; don't spend it in a frivolous way. You don't want to spend $100,000 on a rig and then not have any money left to spend on the things you need to go fast. If you want to be successful, be successful on the racetrack because that's where it counts. If you can do both, that's ideal. But if you have to choose where to spend the money, spend it on the race car itself.
CT: Once you get the good, reliable engine in place, what's the next priority?AP: Why, the race car, of course! You need to have good running gear, brakes and all the rest. You have to have the first two things, which are a good engine and a good race car. Past that, you have to be able to put good tires on it every week. You don't want to spend all your money on other things and not have any left for tires, because that's going to make as big a difference as anything once you get on the racetrack.
CT: When you raced, was there a tire rule?AP: We had a tire rule, yes, but you could put new tires on every week. It wasn't like you had to run used tires on the left side. A lot of tracks are doing that now, and that does help from a cost standpoint. When we ran, it was a 50- or 75-lap race every weekend, and you could put new tires on every week. If you didn't, you weren't going to be one of the guys anyway. If you tried to run your tires for two weeks or tried to put just two tires on, you usually weren't going to be one of the guys who were there at the end.
CT: In terms of sponsorship, what would your best advice be to team owners who are looking to land the "big deal?"AP: The first thing, the absolute first thing, is performance on the racetrack. The next thing is your image. Do you have a good image? Is your hauler clean? Do you have a nice shop? Is your image polished? If it isn't, how can you clean that image up? But the first thing has to be your performance on the track. The better you do, the more you are noticed.
CT: What are the things a good team owner looks for in a driver for hire?AP: You look at what he's done in the past. That usually gives you a pretty good idea. Even at the Late-Model level, the driver has probably run Street Stocks or something similar. You're looking for a winner, somebody who has been a winner in their division, in whatever they've done. That's what it boils down to in the end.
CT: Is there a formula for getting the help you need? If you don't have a machine shop close at hand, what's a good way to get some help for your race car?AP: You can be creative with it. Go out and find somebody, like a good machine shop, and trade them some signage for a little head work, or some other work you need done. It's a good way to get things done that you need, it doesn't cost you much, except for painting the name on the side of the car, and it can open the door for other sponsorships down the road. It's a very good way to go.