JTG-Daugherty Racing is entering the 2012 season with higher expectations than ever and a vision for the future that includes expansion to include a second car. The team had considered adding a second car this year, but decided that it wasn’t the right time, as they will have to convert to the new 2013 racecar next year, making building a fleet of this year’s model for one year impractical.
The team announced sponsorship for 2012, which includes Kroher and the USO for the Daytona 500. Kimberly-Clark returns to the car with such brands as Kingsford charcoal and Clorox. Bubba Burger will be the primary sponsor at Pocono and Chicago. The team expects to make additional sponsorship announcements for their team and driver, Bobby Labonte, in upcoming weeks.
Having the veteran leadership of Labonte, the 2000 Sprint Cup champion, has been a key to the team’s growth. Team co-owner Brad Dougherty says that Labonte’s leadership is an important part of team dynamics. “Bobby is so calm, and his wisdom has been the greatest part of all,” Dougherty told the assembled media on Wednesday morning. “He does a great job of giving everyone on our race team feedback. Not just the crew chief; he talks to everyone. He talks to the tire changer, he talks to the gas man. He talks to everyone, and he gives them very calm, individualized, and focused information. That makes it great for us as a young race team. We have information that we can build upon that he’s given us…obviously, he’s very knowledgeable, so when something goes wrong, I’m yelling and screaming and losing my mind, he can put perspective on it and give us some builing points to take out of a bad situation and next time, we can build on it and make it better. That veteran leadership and experience is so valuable”
Dougherty also said that the newly combined engine departments at Toyota and Joe Gibbs racing give the team confidence in the durability and power of their equipment. The team had considered switching manufacturers after the 2011 season, but decided to stick with Toyota when it became clear that the equioment would be competitive. “You take their resources, their technology, that combination, and I think it gives us a very formidable component to go out and compete with the FR9 and the GM product,” Dougherty said. “It’s great for guys like us, because now we can get our motors from TRD and it’s going to be one reliable product. We’ll all be sharing the same information. They’re going to glean from Joe Gibbs and vice versa. I think it’s going to be the best of both worlds going forward. Reliability-as long as that’s there, we know the power will be there.”
Dougherty went on to say that one reason the team decided to split from their close alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing after last season was to build continuity and to unite the team toward their original goal. The team moved back into their original headquarters in the Wood Brothers shop, though they will race MWR chassis this year. “We’re all racers,” Dougherty said. “Everyone in that race shop is working hard together, trying to build that family. We want a family atmosphere, because when we’re at the racetrans and things get a little bit sideways, you want to be able to rely on one another in order to get the results we’re looking for. It’s all about being on the same page. It’s all about being selfless and working as a group. Everybody’s got a job to do. You expect me to do my job; I expect you to do yours. If I know you’re going to do your job, then I know I can do my job.”
Although surviving in NASCAR today has become an uphill battle for the smaller teams, 2011 proved that there is hope for them when the Wood Brothers and Furniture Row Racing, both single-car teams, visited Victory Lane. Daugherty said that the challenge for smaller teams is to take care of equipment and to use resources wisely. “We’re looking at a sport that has become two or three pods of monster teams,” Daugherty commented. “We want to see more teams like ours be successful. Is it hard? Heck yeah. I mean, I’m going against a guy like Roger Penske or Rick Hendrick who has resources that are just through the wazoo. He may have ten of what I have one of, so I’ve got to make the most of what I’ve got. I don’t have a throwaway. It’s a challenge.”
“I want to be successful racing,” Daugherty told the media Wednesday. “I want to put a better product on the racetrack. The way we raced last year was just unacceptable. We’re better than that and we want to show it” Daugherty added that he believes that the No. 47 team is capable of e top-20 points finish this year. “I’d be really disappointed if we weren’t a top-20 race team. We can go toe to to with Rick Hendrick and the other big boys. “We’re expecting big things”
“This is a hard, tough sport. Nothing is guaranteed, Daugherty continued. “There are a lot of moving pieces and parts. Just because we say we’re going to have a great year, doesn’t mean a thing. We’ve got to show up just like we did at Daytona last year. I mean we almost won the thing, and I’m going back this year thinking we can do the same thing, but just continue on from it.”