Lights out. Losing the Kmart...
Lights out. Losing the Kmart sponsorship was a setback to Haas-Carter's progress of recent seasons.
SCR: Are the cars significantly safer than they were 10-15 years ago?
Carter: I think some things about them are safer. There are several factors. The cars are a little bit smaller inside and smaller overall. That might contribute some, although there are those who don't believe it does. Some things concern me a little. To me, as a racer, the biggest difference is they're going a lot faster. The faster you go, the harder you hit. The turn speeds, if you measured them, are so much greater than they've ever been, and I think that's really the issue of safety, from my view. These cars are going so fast through the turns.
SCR: That's a function of what improvements?
Carter: That's a function of grip, aerodynamics, downforce, better tires-better everything that makes the car grip better where they can drive it faster through the turns.
SCR: Is NASCAR doing a good job managing the growth or does it appear to you to be a runaway train sometimes?
Carter: I don't think it is [a runaway train]. I think they've done a pretty good job, given all the circumstances. We have to realize they're there as decision makers but, if we stop and take into account all the people who are trying to influence them, that's a tough situation they face every day. They have to filter through all the advice they're getting from every direction, from car owners, manufacturers, and drivers-and oftentimes each one has their own little hidden agenda. That's a tough job, to look at that whole scope and make the best decision for all concerned. And I've got to tell you, even though it's easy to be critical from time to time, overall I think they've done a tremendous job.
SCR: Recently there have been complaints about the way the younger drivers are being marketed, that they are being built up at the expense of older drivers. Are those legitimate complaints?
Carter: I don't think so. I think these guys are earning it. Anything new tends to get more attention. It gets more attention from the press corps, gets more attention from the fans. The fans like to see new, upstart, competitive people. Yeah, they've got their long-time favorites that they've been with if the guy's been here 20 years. He started out as their favorite and they grew with him, but I think they welcome the new ones. People like to see competition. I think the hard-core fans like to see competition and they like the young guys. They like to see these young guys upset these old guys once in a while. And I've got to tell you, I think it's healthy. I think it's healthy for this industry.
SCR: So, obviously, you think the young guys are paying their dues?
Carter: Let me tell you something: When they get out there and drive one of those things around 500 miles at the level of competition and the speeds they're running, with the physical demands and mental stress, yeah, they're paying their dues.
SCR: What drivers out there today could have held their own against Petty, Pearson, Yarborough and Allison in the '70s?
Carter: I'm not sure you're comparing apples to apples, but from what I see that really marks today's racing, separates it from those days, is those guys had about 5-10 competitive cars and now you've got 30. You take a race from those old days, a filmed race, and watch the competition, how close and tight they raced all day, and then look at today's races and see how tight they race all day. These guys are busy. I mean, they're busy every lap. They don't just ride around; they race somebody every lap. That's the tough part to me. Now, those guys drove hard. It's not that either one is not driving hard. They're going a lot faster today, but the car is capable of that. Those guys drove hard too, but they just didn't have that door-to-door, wheel-to-wheel-racing somebody every darn corner and every straightaway like they're doing today.
SCR: Is the game, so to speak, getting away from older drivers?
Carter: I don't think so. You've got older guys who are intelligent and they've got good cars and they get up on that thing and race with these guys. They do it week after week.