Jul 22, 06:45 PM
_I enjoyed interviewing Mr. Steve deSouza of Joe Gibbs Racing.
As everyone probably knows, Joe Gibbs Racing means a lot to me because my favorite driver works there.-
Steve was also involved with speedboat racing, and I enjoyed learning about it, and how that kind of racing compares to NASCAR.
After reading and thinking about it, though, I think speedboat racing is too dangerous for me.
There are a lot of things about him that are really exciting, too. I like to watch races, and Steve gets to watch a lot of them. I would love to have a job similar to his.
_I found out some interesting things about him and their teams.
If you want to, too, please read my interview._
He has done a great job throughout his career, from the shore to the garage.
He has made me think about watching speedboat racing now.
Thank you, Steve deSouza. This is one of my best interviews!
My first question has to be how you ended up in the world of racing?
I have been involved in racing most of my life. I started when I was 9 years old. (see the history questions about how I got started)
Is the shop for JGR Busch teams at the same place as the Cup teams?
No we have each of our shops separated.
Is that where your office is located?
My primary office is located at the BGN #20 shop. I also have an office at the Winston Cup shop and I spend a fair amount of time at the BGN #18 shop as well.
Is your desk messy, or do you keep it neat? What is one thing ALWAYS on your desk?
My desk is semi organized. I know where everything is even though at times it has several stacks. I prefer to keep it clean. The one thing always on my desk is my notebook.
Tell me about your two Busch teams.
They are two great teams. Each team has approximately the same number of personnel. They each have their own personality, yet they both get the job done in a quality and professional way.
What does a ‘VP of Busch Operations for JGR’ do; and how did you get to this position?
My basic job is the overseer of the entire BGN program. Starting at a young age, I have done about every position from sweeping the floor to owning a team.(When I owned my boat racing team, I participated in every aspect of the team at some point- from building engines, to driving our rig to putting decals on boats!) I believe that having hands-on experience in every department provided the education needed for this position.
Also, what are your duties as a member of the ‘Executive Committee for JGR’?
We meet every Monday and Tuesday. We pray for our employees, our sponsors and to be good stewards with the resources we have. We discuss current and prospective business issues regarding the company. We are accountable to each other.
Finish these sentences:
“The hardest thing I do at my job is _____.
...to discern solutions for problematic areas or situations.”
“The most fun I have with my job is ______.”
...watching our teams when they have good runs.
What is your most common long-running problem in your job?
Trying to run a smart profitable business and yet provide every opportunity to gain performance.
Is it ever boring?
Occasionally stressful but I wouldn’t say boring.
How long have you worked for Joe Gibbs?
I am in my fourth year.
Is he as nice as he seems to be on TV?
Joe and JD Gibbs, Joe’s son who is president of JGR are excellent employers. They hire people to do the job and let them do it.
Do you interact with him much in your job, or your personal life?
Yes on the job, as I said we meet once a week and I also see him at each BGN race. Not as much on the personal level. Joe and his wife Pat do host all of the teams for special occasion dinners, (Christmas, etc.) so we all get to interact away from work.
Does your work keep you away from home too much? If you say ‘no’, is that what your wife would say, too?
I would say it is a good balance. I enjoy work and staying busy. For most races we leave Wednesday or Thursday and I am home late Saturday night.
(Missy’s comment: It IS hard to have Steve gone nearly every weekend. It’s like Maggie and I have a whole separate life that goes on without him. We are glad he gets to be home on Sundays. At least we have part of the weekend together! On occasion he’ll get home early enough for us to have a Saturday night “date”!)
If you do have to travel, how do you prefer to do it?
We share a charter plane with several other teams, which is very nice. I also enjoy traveling on Joe’s plane.
Sometimes I get carsick. Do you; or did you when you were a kid?
No not really, but believe it or not, I get seasick on “slow” boats!
When I’m traveling, I like to keep a record of license plates that I see to pass the time. Do you have any travel games you do with your family? What would you do if traveling by yourself?
When we travel as a family we used to keep count of animals, find shapes in clouds, cars the same color, license plates, etc. When I travel by myself, I like to listen to Christian music and just enjoy the landscape. We also have a video player in Missy’s mini-van, so we watch movies on some family trips.
Please tell me about your normal weekend schedule?
Starting on the morning of practice I set up the computers that monitor practice times. Check to make sure all our race team members have signed in at the NASCAR trailer. Normally I spot during practice and Happy Hour for Mike, so I go up to the spotters’ stand. After practice I listen to the drivers and crew chiefs debrief and also provide computer reports to the engineer and crew chiefs. On race day I visit with our sponsors for a bit, follow up to make sure that the computers are working properly. During the race I monitor the computers for pit strategy, and take notes as I mostly watch the team in action. I keep a small notebook in my pocket for quick reference, in case I see something we need to bring up in a team meeting-usually a place for improvement, or something that deserves a pat on the back for a job well done by the crew.
When it’s race day, what is your favorite track for your teams to be racing at?
Any track we run well at on a given weekend.
Which one do you secretly groan to yourself about?
Daytona, Talladega and the short tracks because anything can happen beyond your control!
If you walked into BGN 18/20’s garage on a Saturday, would everyone smile, snap to attention, or run away?
Generally I would say smile. I don’t expect them to stop their work nor would I want the guys to be fearful of me.
Do you ever ‘have a talk with’ drivers you’re not pleased with?
I believe in being upfront with our employees. When they have done a good job, we want to tell them “Great job”. When we feel they need coaching we want to be open about those issues as well in a positive way.
If ‘defective car parts’ are found, do you get to get mad at someone for it?
Disappointed is a better word. However, the real focus is to immediately get to work on resolving the issue so it does not happen again.
I know you’re position is with the Busch Operations, but I have to ask: How often do you get to see Bobby Labonte & Tony Stewart?
I don’t see either of them very often. I do occasionally speak with them when we are at the same tracks together.
Bobby is my favorite driver. His green car is what got me hooked, since that’s my favorite color. What color(s) do YOU like to see on a racecar?
Since Interstate Batteries sponsored me in boat racing for several years, I too like green. But I also like red.
I graduate high school in 2006. What do you see happening with JGR’s Busch Operations at that point?
Personally, I hope we are still running strong.
The NASCAR fans that post at different message boards argue about ‘buschwhacking’. Are you brave enough to tell me what you really think of Buschwhacking?
There are a number of reasons I don’t think it is a good idea for them to be there. I would not encourage it personally if they were my Winston Cup drivers. I think the negatives of potentially getting hurt in a BGN race and the effects that could have on their Winston Cup program or something like that outweigh the positives.
If you had the ability to work in another sport, too, which would it be?
Do you watch other NASCAR series’ races; or other series like CART or IRL? Do you ever go to races as a spectator?
I keep an eye on most other series just to see who the strong drivers are and also the up and comers. I normally don’t go as a spectator unless it is to meet with someone. I enjoy watching all kinds of racing on TV.
What driver(s) do you pull for, that isn’t/aren’t in JGR (don’t answer if you’ll make somebody mad)?
I have a lot of drivers who are friends and I enjoy seeing them all run well (preferably behind us though).
I know about the success you’ve had at speedboat racing. But do you ever want to race a car? If so, which kind most appeals to you?
I would have to say BGN or Winston Cup and also open wheel cars on road courses.
If you tell me that you have more racing championships than Joe Gibbs, then shouldn’t YOU be the ‘Spicy Meatball’?
When and how did you get into F-1 powerboat racing?
I started by writing a letter to Mercury Outboards when I was 9 years old asking how to become a racer. My first boat race was when I was 15 and I was fortunate enough to go up the ladder to F-1.
Tell me about your records and championships. Is there a ‘powerboat racing museum’ somewhere?
My records and championships each have a story behind them. But at the end of the day it was the people I had helping me and the opportunities I was able to take advantage of over the years. There really isn’t powerboat-racing museum for the type of boats I raced. There are various collectors’ shows and events that display the boats still. The APBA (American Powerboat Assoc.) does have a “Hall of Champions” and has talked about establishing some type of museum, but I don’t know if anything has ever developed.
Were you ever in an accident?
In any type of racing there is a saying that you either “have” or you are “going to” if you’re in it long enough. I have probably crashed about every way possible over the years, however, was fortunate not to have been seriously injured in my 25 year career. What people don’t realize, hitting water at a high rate of speed is like hitting a concrete wall! I have destroyed a few boats, but safety equipment did its job!
I really don’t know very much about powerboat racing. How do you stay safe in a powerboat? What is your safety gear like?
The F-1 boats today are a lot like Indy cars, made out of carbon fiber and kevlar and they also have a driver’s air supply as well as a canopy over the top of the driver to protect them on impact. We use similar safety belts and helmets. Additionally, boat racers wear specially designed life vests. If there is an accident the safety crews are some of the best in the world and respond within seconds to the scene- often having a driver out of his boat in less than a minute or two.
Can you tell me where they race? Is it a circuit, like in NASCAR?
I raced in the US and around the world. There are several series that race in the US. In both cases, in the US and in the World F-1 circuit (Europe and Asia and Africa) there are sanctioning bodies like NASCAR.
Does the process/procedures for sponsorship work the same way as NASCAR?
Yes, only it’s not as expensive for as sponsor (but there’s not as much exposure either!).
In NASCAR racing, you practice, qualify, practice again, and then race. Is this the same in powerboat racing? Do you do things like qualifying, or do you start at the line?
Yes, it’s similar. There are normally a couple of practice session, qualifying, sometimes qualifying heats and then a final event. Perhaps the most appealing thing about this type of racing is that the boats start the race from a dead stop lined up along the beach or dock according to how you qualify. There is a count down from one minute. At 20 seconds a flag is raised from a boat out in front of the racers, and at any time after that, the flag drops the race is on! (They can drop it right after the 20 second warning, or wait until to very last second-it’s the flag man’s call). These boats accelerate from 0 to over 100 MPH in less than 4 seconds, and top out at over 140 mph. When they turn they pull up to 4 g’s on the driver. They are considered the quickest turning motor vehicles on earth-even compared to open wheeled racecars.
When a racecar has a perfect race setup, they call it, “running on rails”. What do they call it in powerboating?
Basically the same thing.
Can a powerboat be ‘tight’ or ‘loose’? What would make it that way?
The boats have power trim so the driver can lift the boat further off the water (loose) or bring it down closer to the water (tight) by raising or lowering the motor. Too “loose” or trimmed out, they will blow over backwards. Too tight, or trimmed under, they drag and plow through the water and slow down.
Is there such a thing as ‘difficult tracks’ to powerboat race at? If so, what makes it more difficult than others? Is there the equivalent of Bristol?
Like Bristol or other tacks, the difficulty comes from the location and length of the race. All the races are circle races but like three rivers regatta in Pittsburgh, PA, there are sometimes cement bulkheads on both sides of the river so the waves bounce back into the course, causing swells, chop and cross currents. A river or lake with smooth beach allows the waves to dissipate and keep the water smooth. The driver has to read all this while trying to fly the boat as much as possible. The difference from boat racing to car racing is that because of the water, the “track” is different every single lap!
Are there flags, like the black flag in NASCAR? Do they work the same way?
Do you have pit crews, and pit stops?
We do have pit crews. But no regular pit stops. The only time there are pit stops would be for some of the endurance races that used to be held. I.e.: 6, 9, or 24 hour races. Every few hours you would change drivers and fuel up. Otherwise your crew would be available to repair you if you had crash – motor/prop/etc changes aren’t allowed.
We all know there are ways to cheat in NASCAR. Are there ways to cheat in powerboating?
As in all Motorsports, there are ways to cheat.
Did YOU ever cheat?
No, I never cheated
What happens if you get caught? Do they have a ‘big red yacht’ you go to?
Basically yes. (But it’s not on the water!)
Sometimes NASCAR fans say there really is no NASCAR rulebook; that they make it up as they go. Is there a ‘powerboat racing’ rulebook, and did you ever see it? Do you think there are any ‘unjust rules’ in it, like people do in NASCAR?
It all works the same. Perhaps it is the same people running both?
Is there a floating Victory Lane?
No. Boat racing awards ceremonies are similar to those you see on TV with Indy cars or CART. There is a podium set up with blocks for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place drivers to stand on (like the Olympics). The winners’ boats/engines go through inspection after a race in much the same way as in NASCAR.
What’s the ‘Daytona 500’ of powerboat racing, and when and where is it?
There are a couple of majors. One big one (oldest continuous event) is in St Louis, MO. There is a lot of prestige associated with winning St.Louis. The boat racing season is pretty much May to October (sometimes April and Nov.) St Louis is usually in early-mid August.
Why did you quit racing? Did your wife make you?
No, actually, in March 1994 I donated a kidney to my younger sister and my doctor said that was all the racing my body could take with only one kidney. Had my wife not been sitting there listening to all this, I would probably still be racing.
(Missy’s comment: not true! If he really wanted to race, I would not stop him! He loves it too much! -he made the decision to donate the kidney during the “off” season, so didn’t really get to experience his “final” race-and that was hard. However, about 6 months after the surgery, the Dr. gave him permission to race one more time. It was a national championship race at Kankakee Illinois. He won his race – so it was easier to quit for good!)
What is your wife’s name?Missy
And the names of your children if you have any?
Clem (18 ) Maggie (13)
What is your family’s favorite place to go on vacation?
My wife would probably say Sea Island, GA
_(Missy’s comment: WHAT vacation?! I have to MAKE him take the time!!! We like the beach most, and the mountains-Steve likes anywhere with water!)*
When you are home, what do you like to do to unwind?
Work in the yard, computer, read.
(Missy’s comment: watching racing or racing shows on TV)
Finish this sentence:
“The one thing that will make me furious is ____.”
...not using common sense.
I LOVE Bobby Labonte green, and always ask people what their favorite color is?
No real favorite color. I wear a lot of black and dark blues and greens.
I always ask this, too, because we have a lot of interesting pets: Do you have pets?
Do you like cats or dogs better?
We have two of each. They are the girls’ really. I put up with them!
On different message boards, the people posting sometimes get into fights about the war. Do you have anything you’d like to say about it?
I think we have a Godly man as President and as a citizen of this country I support his efforts to make this a safe place for me and my family to live. Do you have any family members fighting over there? No thank goodness.
Were you ever in the service?
I always ask this question: My Mom and I write articles about NASCAR, and Tourette Syndrome/disabilities awareness at CawsnJaws.com. Could we send you some information about Tourette Syndrome?
It was a pleasure answering your questions. They were very good. I hope we can meet some time.