Robertson Helps Fuel Bill Davis Expansion

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Every NASCAR Winston Cup team should have a guy like Lee Robertson. Every Winston Cup team, however, does not, and Bill Davis is forever grateful that -- during the substantial growth of his NASCAR operation -- Lee Robertson has shared with the fellow Arkansan in the satisfaction that every successful stage of expansion has brought.

Officially, Robertson’s title is director of operations for Bill Davis Racing, but Robertson is not a title kind of guy, and his job description leans more to whatever major project is next for Bill Davis Racing.

As the No. 22 and No. 93 teams prepare to move into their new 65,000-square-foot shop later this month, Robertson is planning the logistics for the difficult in-season shop-shift as well as the next significant challenge on the horizon for BDR.

It is staggering to know that Robertson has coordinated the construction of virtually every building in the personal and professional lives of Bill and Gail Davis, from their first home together in Batesville, Ark., to the first and second Bill Davis Trucking facilities to the three race shops the couple has built in North Carolina over the past nine years that now encompass 125,000-plus square feet to house the two BDR Winston Cup teams, the No. 20 Busch Series team, the team’s in-house motor program and the research and development space for the team’s upcoming Dodge program in 2001.

"When we’ve had these big projects, Lee has been ideal because he and I have such a deep personal understanding of each other and our 'think' process is so much alike," said Davis, now in his 13th season as NASCAR car owner. "I moved to Batesville late in 1975 to work for (Mark Martin’s late father) Julian and met Lee 15 minutes after I got into town. I was moving into my apartment and he lived in the apartment below and helped me move in. We’ve been close friends ever since.

"At that time, Lee was a custom-home builder, but he knows so much more than that. He’s got some much ‘real-world’ knowledge that lets him work in so many areas. He was there for the very first race car I built in our little race shop behind the house in Arkansas. We go back 25 years, but he didn’t come to work for us full-time until we started to race. We were friends first.

"That’s probably the most important part of his role in the building of all of our shops. He and I started in that little shop without a clue as to what tools, what supplies we needed, and we just self-taught our way through to this point. But we’ve both worked in every shop we’ve had and been hands-on all the way. Right, wrong or indifferent, we have the same opinions now about how a shop should be laid out and its functionality, not so much cosmetically, but for the guy who’s got to work in it. Does he have the right tools? Does the layout allow him the right space and efficiency to do the job? All that comes way before the neon and the water fountains out front. It’s about racing."

Robertson, who also is the creator of the first oversized NASCAR pit-road "war wagon" and is a race-day member of No. 22 crew, admits "there’s probably been a situation in the early times where I thought I knew what Bill and Gail wanted in a project and they surprised me, but it doesn’t happen much any more. We’ve come a long way from the first car we built in the winter of 1987. Bill was working on building an ASA car for Mark Martin for the Snowball Derby, and Mark called to tell him he thought the Carolina Ford Dealers wanted to do a limited Busch Grand National schedule for the following year. The story’s correct that Bill and Mark talked every night and built that first car over the phone. We got it to the track in 60 days and we’ve been at it ever since."

General Manager Mike Brown, who has known Robertson since joining BDR a decade ago, puts it best when describing the indispensable yet modest Robertson.

"When I think of the backbone of Bill Davis Racing, I think of Lee Robertson," Brown said. "Any expansions, additions since Day 1 with this organization. Lee has been the designer, head contractor, foreman for Bill Davis. He’s done it all. We never needed blueprints because we had Lee.

"He’s in a unique position here. He gets feedback and input from all angles, from vendors, and from all the guys inside the team. He’s in the middle of all the chaos but he’s still willing to listen to an idea if it’s a good one and try to incorporate it into what we want to do. It’s probably like listening to 100 spouses and catering to each individual area and need. Not a volunteer job for most people. And above it all, you never have to hunt Lee when you need him because he’s always at work. I don’t know how Bill Davis Racing would have gotten this far without him."

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