Cal Wells Up To The Cup Challenge

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Cal Wells was never naive enough to think the transition to NASCAR was going to be simple.

Two weeks ago, the owner of the No. 32 PPI Motorsports Ford described the Winston Cup series as "harder than hell" and Wells admits he has spent a lot of time and money trying to build his Hickory, N.C.-based operation into a viable entity. Never did he think the process would be easy.

"I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, if nothing else I thought it would be harder," Wells said. "Everyone who shows up at a CART race runs, so you’re always going to get track time. In CART, until this year, you could test anytime, anywhere you wanted to, so you could prepare. You would never say, 'gee, I can’t go to Rockingham because I can’t go.'"

Scott Pruett, Wells’ driver, has failed to qualify for three of the 11 races on the schedule this season. At tracks where the team has had the benefit of testing, Pruett has faired well. Yet for both driver and owner, acclimating to the equipment has presented a challenge.

"The aerodynamics of stock car racing are different," Well said. "Every car is different.
Everything here is handmade, custom made like my off-road upbringing. By this time next year we’ll have a better idea what type of car we want to build, what kind of chassis we want to purchase and the type of pieces we want to use so our short track cars, concrete cars, superspeedway cars, road course cars, will all be the same.

"Those nuances -- with as close as the field is now -- are very, very important. Without Scott having any experience and me not having any experience, it’s been a massive challenge."

With last week’s dismissal of crew chief Doug Richert and other mechanics throughout the year, the financial stability of the team has been questioned. But Wells is confident that the team will be properly funded.

"That will not be an issue," Wells said. "We’ve invested pretty heavily, but remember that building up for a second team next year. We have quite a substantial commitment from Tide and incremental support as well. I’m investing in the team personally, but I can’t do that forever because I’m not wealthy as you might read.

"When you get 90 people together, you think, 'hey, let’s go Winston Cup racing,' and if
Tide and McDonald’s want to go, you say, 'great, we’ll sign 'em up.' When you hire 90 guys, you’re not always going to get the best fit. We’ll grow by 30 people before next year and add another building. But it won’t be before November until we’re ready to name our driver or the additional sponsors."

Although the native Californian has commuted to his Hickory operation since its inception, Wells realizes that he cannot compete at this level as an absentee owner and will move his family to the East Coast this summer. Wells feels that once he anchors himself closer to the team that he will have the situation under control.

"Give us until this time next year and then you really evaluate where we’re going to be," Wells said. "I still have a lot of confidence in Scott and I’m committed to the entire team."

Roush University?

Jack Roush is well known for his philanthropic contributions in his home state of Michigan, but now race fans will be able to participate in and benefit from Rousch Racing’s contributions in the motorsports community.

On Saturday, Roush revealed the establishment of the Jack Roush Scholarship Fund at Clemson University. The scholarship will offer grants for graduate and undergraduate students in motorsports-related fields through the Brooks Institute for Sports Science.

The scholarship program will be underwritten through the sales of die-cast and souvenirs
featuring the special Clemson/Roush paint scheme that will be presented in the Winston Open on May 20th at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

"There is a need train qualified individuals," Roush said. "We’ve got more than one reason for wanting to do this. Roush Racing has 200 engineers and we have engineers changing their duties depending what we need. We are certainly supportive of what Clemson can do to encourage young people to be available to fill many roles, not just the ones we need today, but I anticipate 10 years from now for technology and business management services."

Ownership in Question

Sources close to the No. 7 Mattei Motorsports team say that an announcement will be forthcoming on Monday regarding the sale of team to Jim Smith owner of the No. 2 Ultra Motorsports team in the Craftsman Truck Series. Smith plans to move the team to a new building next to his existing facility in Lakeside Park in Mooresville, N.C.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000, Scott Pruett

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