Over the last few seasons, Chuck Schultz has started a fledgling privateer team, scored sponsorship from Subway and Coca-Cola, progressed through the Funmover stage and up to a full semi. Over that time, he’s also fielded a roster of 450-class riders who always put in solid results. More recently, we learned that in ’06, he’ll double his efforts, expanding into a second 250F team that will be sponsored by Home Depot.
With his prowess for procuring coveted outside sponsors, and his success at expansion, we wanted to run a few questions by him to find out a little more about the guy behind the team. We caught up with him at Glen Helen, after racing had concluded. Of course, we weren’t the only ones who’d heard of the expanded squad, and while talking to Chuck, a rider or two stopped by to check in, and throw their hat in the ring of consideration…
What’s your background, how’d you get into doing this?
I raced. I started racing when I was seven years old, and grew up through the amateur ranks with guys like Keith Bowen, Ron Lechien, Jeff Stanton. I grew up in Chicago, and raced in Michigan my whole life, so I grew up with Bowen and the Bigelows, and those guys. Then I got hired by Team Tamm. I rode for them. At the time, they were real innovators, and we came in with six or eight box vans. We had a really neat program that Bob Tamm put together for us, and I was lucky enough to get a ride on that. Unfortunately, it fell apart because of money issues outside the sport. All of us were called one day and said, “Hey, take your box vans and run.” (Laughs) But that’s how I got involved with it.
After that, I went to Canada and rode for a year with Suzuki. Then I got out of it, I was over it. I became a full-time fireman in Chicago for 13 years. I got out of it cold turkey, I didn’t even know what was going on in it at all.
After a while I was getting tired of fireman stuff. I wanted to get back into the sport. It worked out good…really good. When you’re in it, you’re in it. When I came back, I was done. It was in my blood and I was doing it again. We’ve been super-happy. My wife and family, we’ve got a race shop that’s literally five houses down from our regular home, so the kids are into it.
The traveling right now, I’m burnt out on it, and I’m ready to go home. You heard me was joking my riders, “Don’t call me for a week, I don’t want to hear you.” But I know I’ll be hearing from them, and that I’ll be calling them, too. (Laughs)
What can you tell us about next year?
Right now we’ve got the Subway Coca-Cola team, and for ’06 it’s going to be Jason Thomas, Jeff Gibson and a new addition to the team, Keith Johnson from Albuquerque, New Mexico. They’ll be the three 250 riders on Honda CRF450s. The new team we’ve put together is with Home Depot. That team is going to be a 125 team. At this time we’re just talking to a lot of riders. We don’t have anything set in stone with anybody. But it is going to be on Honda 250Fs, and we’re just putting the new team together. We’ve got a new truck ordered up, and just starting to put everything together. I’m hiring a team manager to help me out with that team. I’ll still be running the Subway Coca-Cola team, he’ll run the Home Depot team, and I’ll oversee the whole deal.
It seems like you’ve gotten quite adept at chasing down outside industry sponsors.
As everyone know, it’s who you know. Using some of our connections, and having things fall into the right spot at the right time. I just got ahead of the game, because I definitely feel the sport’s going that way. If we can be the leaders of it for a while, that’d be good.
The progress that you’ve made over the last few years has been pretty big.
Thanks. That’s been our goal, not to overspend and get ridiculous on things, on our goals with American Honda and of course our other sponsors. We come in with realistic goals, where we’re looking for a 10th through 20th team. That’s what we’re hiring for. We know it’s tough to break into the top 10, and anytime we do, it’s a bonus. This year I thing we had three or four top ten finishes, up to a seventh in Houston with Jason Thomas. But we’ve had some great results. We just try to be a consistent team, do what we’re supposed to do for everybody, and not get carried away and overspend and not be here the next year. I think we’ve done a good job as a team of accomplishing that.
Is it all about the visibility for the Subway, Coca-Cola, and now Home Depot?
Yeah, it’s like a moving billboard for them. Subway alone spends 152 million dollars a year on advertising. For them to give us the sponsorship money that they give us…to us it’s big money, but to them it’s money. So, when everybody says, ‘They’re only giving you that much?’ That’s a lot of money to them, no matter what. When you’re spending that much money, it’s still budget, and anything they give you to help you to get to that point is big.
We’ve grown in the last four years with Subway, and then having the addition of Coca-Cola. Next year they’re stepping it up, and there’s some more things coming out with that. We might be going with their energy drink, which is called Full Throttle. So it might not be Subway Coca-Cola, it might be Subway Full Throttle. We’re in the process of figuring that out. Until Anaheim 1, when everybody pulls up with their trucks, it’s kind of silly season, and we’ll find out really what’s going on.
This is also a lot cheaper for big companies than trying to jump into NASCAR.
I’m about NASCAR stupid, but this year I’ve really learned so much about it and about the sport, It’s been good. NASCAR’s the leaders. and we’ve got to follow them. We’re dummies if we don’t. They market their companies really well. We’re not going to catch up to them in attendance, or viewership, but if we can capture a percentage of that, it’s big. That’s why all these companies and team owners need to realize we’re not NASCAR and we’re not going to get that money, but take what we can get to make a good team and a good program for them and for us. They like the moving billboard going down the road, they like to see their stuff on TV. When we get to run the helmet cam and throw the Subway on there and be on national TV for them. Next year we’re going on CBS, I believe, with seven next-day episodes. That’s going to be big for Supercross, and help us out a lot. It’s good for us, and our sponsors.
Thanks, Chuck, and good luck next season.