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2009 IRL Reports: IMS Press Conferences
Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:39 am
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
An interview with Stanton Barrett
~~MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us this afternoon as we prepare to open practice for the Indianapolis 500. Joining us in a few minutes will be Paul Tracy and Scott Sharp.
With us to start the call is Stanton Barrett. Good afternoon, Stanton.
STANTON BARRETT: Good afternoon.
MODERATOR: Stanton is a rookie in the IndyCar Series and will be making his Indianapolis 500 debut. However, he's a veteran of almost 200 starts in NASCAR between the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.
Stanton, let's talk about the transition to the IndyCar Series so far. Tell us about how things have been going and what are some of the biggest adjustments you've had to make?
STANTON BARRETT: Things are a little bit trying. We're just having to work extremely hard to get to the track each week. The economy hasn't been that great. Some of our sponsors that we had signed up last year and potentials kind of fell by the wayside. Supporters we have have been very supportive, but it's been difficult to get to the track. We haven't got to test this year, except for Homestead. You know, all things considered, I'm pretty happy with what we're doing. It would be nice to have a second car to help us with data and just get more information a little bit more quickly so we can get closer to the curve.
I'm pleased with everybody's performance. We're a new team with regards to running full-time, some of these tracks, this new style of cars is new to both Owen (Snyder III) and Greg (Beck), people on the race team as far as a lot of information. We're growing and building together. We have long-term goals and we're keeping that in perspective. I'm a flat-out rookie when it comes to open-wheel racing. I'm learning a lot, also being cautious about how we approach it so we can maintain a positive learning experience and growth and achieving our goals to get through the year.
MODERATOR: Last weekend at Kansas was the first oval race of the season. You stayed out there 181 of the 200 laps. Did you come away feeling pretty good about the experience at Kansas?
STANTON BARRETT: For the most part. You know, there's a lot of things we just need a little bit more depth and information. I think we could have got our car really strong. We had a little bit of problem with the telemetry in qualifying. It affected the ability to back up our time in practice or improve it, which is not a big deal. We had a little bit better car than that. We made our way through passed some cars in the beginning, until the first caution. We made a tire change. I don't know what happened, but it went to junk. We had to come in and change it again. From that point we ran okay. I wasn't real happy with it completely, but at times there were moments where we had some promise. Like I said, it's a learning experience. A lot of these tracks we haven't been to as far as from a team standpoint. It's difficult. We made maybe not some mistakes but not the right corrections from a gearing standpoint with how windy it was. I think it affected some of our speed and our gearing.
You know, all in all, we made progress. It's something that we can take and learn from going into Indy and other ovals. I was really enjoying the road courses. At Long Beach we got up to pace in the race. Looking forward to coming back to there to run the road courses and street courses more than the ovals, to be honest with you.
MODERATOR: You've had the chance to come to Indianapolis as a spectator several times. What does it mean to you now to get the opportunity to compete in the Indianapolis 500?
STANTON BARRETT: It would be unbelievable. It's something I always wanted to do, to be able to be in the Indy 500. Right now we have a lot to do. Like I said, we're a small team, limited funding. We're working on some really good sponsors to help make that endeavor a little more possible and easy in the month of May. So looking forward to see if that comes to fruition.
For the meantime, we have to make the race first to be able to have the pleasure and opportunity to be able to race the race. That's going to be kind of back in the days, I feel like the days of NASCAR for me, where each race was all or nothing. There's a lot on the line. I have no experience there in an open-wheel car. There's a lot of differences from what I've tried to learn and gather from people. I got to go out and do my job and the team has to do their job and we need to work as hard as possible, and hopefully we'll be able to live that dream and be in the Indy 500.
MODERATOR: Between some of your fellow drivers, team owner Greg Beck, who has been at Indy many times, what are people telling you about Indianapolis, whether it be the track itself, how you manage the track time in the whole month of May? What are those folks telling you about Indy?
STANTON BARRETT: Well, everybody says Indy's a whole different animal. I can see how that could be. I've watched it a long time. I've been on there in a stock car. I have a little bit of understanding probably what they're talking about.
Again, you can't have a complete understanding. I don't know if you sympathize with it or what you want to call it until you've sat in the car and gone around the track at speed and understand all the variables, the needs, everything you need to do and do properly. It's probably going to be a little bit overwhelming, but hopefully I can use the 20 years of racing experience to my advantage in some form to be able to pick that up more quickly. I know the team will be better off at Indy than we have at the last three races because they do have a lot of experience at Indy, and Greg has been there several times with the new car. They can make a driver's job so much easier. I'm looking forward to hopefully their experience there will make my job easier and we can have an enjoyable month of May.
MODERATOR: Any goals in particular set at this point before practice even starts?
STANTON BARRETT: You know, for myself, it's just going in with the right attitude and learning as much as I can, absorbing like a sponge from the other drivers as much as I can comprehend until I get on the track. When I get on the track, do the same. Hopefully our goal is to stay out of trouble and not make any mistakes and also have the speed we need to make the race. Our goal is to be in the Indy 500. We can't gain experience with these cars, nor myself as a rookie, to get better in these cars, unless I'm on the racetrack running every lap. We didn't do that at Kansas. We actually ended up getting pretty tight with the wind conditions and pushed up into the wall and kind of bent a rear suspension piece. All in all, we almost competed all the laps of all the first three races, and we need to do that for the 500 and build on that for the rest of the season.
So, you know, we have a lot to deal with both from a team aspect and from a driving standpoint.
MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and open it up for some questions for Stanton.
Q: You talked about being in a stock car. Is there anything you can take from that to rookie orientation next week?
STANTON BARRETT: Probably not, other than understanding the surface and the banking and the turns and how long the straightaways are. Other than that, probably not.
Q: From the standpoint of running 181 laps at Kansas, obviously you got a feel for an oval. There's a distinct difference in that type of an oval and what you're going to be looking at in rookie orientation. Have you had a chance to talk with some of the driving coaches in the IRL, Mears, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, people like that, that can offer you a wealth of information?
STANTON BARRETT: I've gone to different drivers. Roberto Moreno has been around. He's been helping at St. Pete. We went to the test, Barber, really watched and studied everybody. Al Unser Jr. has been there every race. He's been very helpful both in understanding from a driving standpoint, because he's been in a stock car, he's been in IndyCars, to understand how to communicate that properly, and also every detail of the track, kind of even from a setup standpoint. Both those guys I mentioned have been helpful to both our crew and to me to communicate to them maybe what I'm feeling and probably things that we need to change. I'm really savvy with changes and setup stuff with NASCAR. I have no idea, and I'm learning, some things apply and are applicable, but it's a bit of a different animal. Like I say, some of that experience can transfer over. I'm getting to be a little bit more useful to my team to give them the information they need from the setup standpoint.
I go to everybody I can. I've talked to Dan Wheldon, A.J. (Foyt), E.J. Viso has been helping, riding around the track with me. Dario (Franchitti), different guys have been very open. There's only been a few that don't seem very personable. I've really enjoyed other drivers and really respect what the heck they do over there.
Q: You talked about working with some sponsorships for your Indy program. Anything you can talk about specifically at this point? Do you think you'll be ready to get out there and practice right after rookie orientation?
STANTON BARRETT: We're definitely going to go. We're set. We're going to get through it however we can. We have some great potential sponsors that probably are going to jump onboard, and hopefully by the next day or two, if not, maybe there's some news today we'll be able to announce something. They're really great companies. Looking forward to having them on the car. I'm actually in Sweden right now meeting with another company and looking forward to bringing them over to the United States and launching part of their marketing program at Indianapolis. So all that will be probably announced in the next few days.
There's a lot of potential. Even though the economy is down, people need to market in the States, and they see IRL as a great venue to do that, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the month of May, there's so much going on. It's a real positive thing for us. And companies still want to be in the sport and utilize it for growth and sales.
We got some great players that are probably going to jump onboard. Like every team, we're always looking for more so we can grow and expand it as much as possible and give you the best opportunity to be competitive. That comes down to financing and how smart you are with running that in your organization. So hopefully I'll have some news by the end of the week.
Q: We've seen a lot of drivers go the other way in the past few seasons from open-wheel to stock cars. The question obviously is the big difference between the two cars. Coming the other way, other than the downforce, can you talk about the difference you found in the two cars?
STANTON BARRETT: There's quite a few differences. I'm actually still learning a lot about these cars. It's like any car, I think both from a driver standpoint I need to learn what it takes to make these cars work. It took the first two road courses on a road course or a street course to figure out some of the tricks. We got fairly decent in the race. I think when we go back, we're going to be somewhat competitive with probably the mid part of the field I hope.
But I think from a driver, every driver knows there's things you got to do to different cars to get them to work for you, and especially when they're not working, how to maximize that. I'm slowly learning that.
I knew it would be really difficult regardless of any professional sport, I've competed in a lot of them. I'll not say you underestimate it, but you know you're not sure what to expect. It's always everything and more, what it takes to be good at it or competitive. It's as much of a team as it is a driver it seems in every sport, motorsports.
For me, I mean, everything has been a challenge really. I think we've adapted to things quickly in some regards, but it's all new and it's all learning. It's jumping in head first every time you go somewhere new. Every track has been different new from the street courses to the ovals.
Q: Talking about the street and road courses, Toronto is back on the IRL schedule this season. Do you know if your sponsorship plans will allow you to be at that race?
STANTON BARRETT: Yeah, I think we've worked out everything to where we should be able to get to all the races. We need more sponsorship, but things are coming together. What we need is just more support. We have limited sponsors now, which get us through. We just need more support so we can grow the team. We'd like to add a second team, which would help us tremendously. We want to grow the depth of our team and be around for a while. That's all. Support by our sponsors. We definitely plan on being at every race this year no matter what. Figure out how to do it. We have to this point. We've had some great people come onboard every weekend and people have committed since last year. So those people are still onboard. We're just working as hard as we can and it looks good.
I look forward to going to Toronto. Everybody says it's a great event, the fans are great. I'm really excited to get back to the street racing.
Q: I've been watching your progress the first three races. From the beginning of the weekend until the race, you seem to steadily improve, sometimes by leaps and bounds, might be measured by seconds. If you could address how comfortable you're getting. I think you're taking on a tremendous task to make this changeover. What are your personal goals that you've set? Have you kind of met those or exceeded those to date so far?
STANTON BARRETT: Not really. Every racer wants to win races or run up front and be a contender. We have to keep things in perspective. First race, we didn't get to test. We got to shake down the car. My first time on a road course in an IndyCar was at the actual race. Not to make mistakes there, not significant mistakes, I made mistakes, but not to tear the car up, finish the race, improve upon your position. We had actually some significant problems on the first day. So the whole first day was kind of out the window from a learning standpoint or even being able to drive the car. From there, we really made impacts in our time. I did what I needed to do. I learned. I wasn't as competitive as I'd like to be, but also we couldn't afford to crash that car. We have one car. We have to keep things in perspective. We came out with a good finish.
At Long Beach, we were even more competitive from the get-go. Then during the race we had some pretty decent times during the race, even with some mistakes with our shifting. We had some problems there. We ran fairly competitive. We needed to stay out of trouble, and erred on the side of caution. We had an OK finish. We had a better finish going until I ran off of Turn 9. I'm still learning how to make the most of the braking with these cars.
The next race, I think will be where we wanted to be and hoped we would be. All in all we're happy with the outcome of the first two races there. Personally our race in Kansas was going pretty well until our first pit stop and then after that it was kind of up and down and definitely wasn't happy with our performance at Kansas. Just something that both myself and the team need to learn from and we're going to get better, so it's not the end of the world. We've come back from three races without major damage to the car and can use that to build going into Indy. That was really what we needed to do, is get seat time and learn, everybody as a whole. Of course, you'd like to go out of the box and run in the top 10. But with our experience with these cars, me being a flat rookie in open-wheel, I think that's probably unreasonable. You set unreasonable expectations, too big ones, you're going to get bit. We're looking to learn and build momentum to get through Indy and then start going from there to where we can be more and more competitive. Granted every team out there has been out there for quite a while. We have a lot to make up on both from a team aspect and from my experience as a driver.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Stanton. Appreciate you taking the time for us today. Looking forward to seeing you in the month of May.
STANTON BARRETT: Thank you, guys, for your question. Have a great afternoon.
Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:47 am
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
An interview with Paul Tracy
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us this afternoon as we prepare to open practice for the Indianapolis 500. Joining us in a few minutes will be Paul Tracy and Scott Sharp.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Paul Tracy. Thanks for joining us, Paul.
PAUL TRACY: Sure.
MODERATOR: Paul will be making his 2009 IndyCar Series debut in the Indianapolis 500, driving the No. 15 GEICO/KV Racing Technology car. Paul has made five starts in the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of second in his last start, which came in 2002.
Paul, you got into an IndyCar Series car last summer at Edmonton. Obviously you were quick right off the bat, finishing fourth in the race. Do you have any concerns now about getting back into the rhythm and being quick at Indy?
PAUL TRACY: No, not really. Obviously I've got a little bit more lead time to get ready for Indianapolis. There's a whole week of practice before the first week of qualifying. When we went to Edmonton last summer, it was really just kind of a last-minute deal. I was actually on vacation with my wife and kids at the beach in San Diego and got a phone call from Tony (George) asking if I'd like to do the race in Edmonton. That was about three days before I had to leave. Really didn't get any time to prepare for that. Hadn't driven a car in four or five months.
From that standpoint I've kind of known for the last three, four weeks that this deal was going to come together. I've had time to get ready for it mentally and physically. The team obviously has fast cars this year. They were looking for a veteran driver to make their assault, KV at the 500. We all share the same goal, and that's to go there and try to win the race.
MODERATOR: You mentioned the team there. Guys you're familiar with, like Jimmy Vasser, Kevin Kalkhoven. You've known those guys on and off the track for years. Tell us about the chance to work with those guys for the month.
PAUL TRACY: I think it's great. I've known Kevin since he got into the car. Then Jimmy got involved with him. We've been competitors. But Kevin has always been very friendly with me, has said to me on a couple of different occasions that at some point he would like me to drive for him. So we've finally got that opportunity to do that. I couldn't be happier. Obviously the team is doing a good job this year. I think Mario (Moraes) is just lacking a little bit of experience. That only comes with time.
But the team, I feel they've got competitive cars. A lot of the guys on the team, the mechanics and engineers, I've worked with in the past. Quite a few of them are from Forsythe. My championship year at Forsythe, the guys on the team were on my crew, you know, three, so it should make the transition to getting there and getting up to speed fairly easy 'cause it's pretty comfortable surroundings really.
MODERATOR: Let's talk about the month of May and the race. What type of goals and expectations have you set for yourself heading into the month?
PAUL TRACY: For me, the only reason I want to go there is to try to win. It's not to go there to qualify and make the field and have a good day. I said at the press conference in Long Beach the reason I'm going there is to win. If we can do that and generate a lot of media for our sponsor with GEICO, hopefully we can grow this into something bigger and better. Right now the focus is just on Indianapolis. If that goes well enough, then maybe we can get into the races in Canada or maybe more.
Q: Like you said in Long Beach, this is the one trophy missing from your mantel and you'd like to have it. As you talked about earlier, can this be the springboard to get you back in full-time?
PAUL TRACY: I would hope so. Obviously with either a win or a great result in Indy I would hope that it would open the door to racing on a full-time basis. Last year coming back at Edmonton to come right out of the box and be in the top five or six in every practice session with Tony's (George) team, then finish fourth, I thought the expectations of that, I think everybody exceeded what we had planned to do. The excitement level after the race for that three, four, five days post race was very good. I thought, 'OK, I'm going to be in a car here.'
As time passed by, it just kind of fizzled. You know, nothing's a guarantee. Obviously this is a good opportunity. It didn't come out of the blue. I've had to generate the sponsorship to do this and find the money to do it. Nobody has handed me a ride. It takes money to run these cars. It's going to take finding a full-time sponsor to get me on the track.
Q: Toronto is back on the schedule this summer. Your old pals/enemies at Andretti Green are running the show. How much would it mean to you personally to be back on the grid with a car that's competitive to win?
PAUL TRACY: Well, obviously I would like to do that. Again, it's going take finding sponsorship to do that. Now that we've got a program for Indy, and I was at Long Beach, generated a lot of talk, generated a lot of media, a lot of exposure - some people are starting to talk. 'What is it going to take to get you in the Canadian races or more races?' So we've got the doors open now talking to more sponsors, people getting interested.
But it's tough. It's a tough market out there. I was just listening to Stanton (Barrett). It's no different. I'm no different than him. We're out there talking to sponsors, but it's hard to get a commitment from them.
Q: I remember in 2002 before the race when the team was struggling to make it into the show, you kind of called it Groundhog Day, that every day was the same. Rather than getting better, it was just getting worse. Then you were there at the very end of the race with it in your hands. Do you feel much better prepared going into Indy this year than you did back in '02 with Team Green?
PAUL TRACY: We went there again in '02 on just a one-race deal to run Indy. Our focus was the CART title with Dario (Franchitti) and myself. I think as the month was ramping up towards qualifying, we just weren't progressing and getting the setup right on the car. We struggled and struggled and struggled with it. We were just off a little bit in terms of setup. It doesn't take very much to be two, three or four miles an hour slow.
We basically on the day of qualifying, I think on the first weekend, we made a big drastic change in the final practice to try to get some speed in the car. I had lost the car in Turn 2 and backed into the wall, banged myself up pretty good. I was almost right then, I said to Barry Green, I'm ready to throw in the towel on this deal. I think I should go home for a couple days and just clear my head and think about this. If you don't want to run, or if we want to go test at Mid-Ohio with the Champ Car, then maybe that's what we should do. Barry said to go home for a couple days. I went home, got my head clear, because Indy is the kind of place where you run so much there, and once you get kind of sideways, get going the wrong direction, it's hard to get going back the right way again. Sometimes the best thing to do is just go and clear your head.
I did that. I came back. We had gotten some information and some help from some different teams and some ideas, really just changed the setup and changed a few things that we had on the car that weren't right. Then both Dario (Franchitti) and myself and Michael (Andretti), we were all quick. Second weekend, I think I qualified at like 228 (mph) on the second weekend. Then the car was good. But I was starting on the last row.
It doesn't take very much to be wrong. That's how sensitive the cars are.
Q: To go in there this year, even though Jimmy's (Vasser) team has a year of IndyCar experience now, it seems the teams that came over last year have picked up the pace dramatically. How much better suited do you feel you are going into this year's race to what you were back then?
PAUL TRACY: Well, Jimmy's (Vasser) guaranteed me a fast car, so I'm taking his word on it. He said they worked and worked and worked all winter on a lot of the fundamentals of the car, little tiny things that make big differences in terms of speed. It's not just changing a spring, changing a roll bar that makes the car fast. There's a hundred little things that make these cars fast on the superspeedways. A lot of it is body fit and aerodynamics, wheel bearings, oil. It's all the little tiny tricks that make the difference, like in a stock car. When they go to qualify at Daytona, Talladega, there's like 50 little things that make the difference. When you don't have those, it really shows.
From that standpoint, they qualified sixth at Kansas, which is a big, fast speedway, flat out, with all that preparation is where it shows. I don't think they had the race that they wanted, but the speed is in the car. With that, they've told me they've got a good car that they feel can win at Indianapolis.
Q: I noticed you were quoted recently about that 2002 race saying, I feel I kind of got swindled. Are you haunted by what happened in 2002?
PAUL TRACY: I'm not haunted by it. It's one of those things where I've seen the data and I've seen the television footage and I've seen where our cars were positioned on the track. They can measure these cars. I said to somebody at Long Beach, I watched a show on VERSUS a couple weeks ago, the closest finish in IndyCar Series history, they can measure these things by millimeters, the differences of thousandths of a second. The video of my car 16 feet ahead of Helio (Castroneves) with the green light on.
From that standpoint, I'm not haunted by it. I guess I don't have the material things that show that I won the race. I don't have the trophy. I didn't get the money that comes along with it. But from the other side of it, I have that feeling that you long for when you're a kid in your driveway playing hockey and you're counting down five seconds left and you score the winning goal, when you're a kid. We were coming down to the closing stages of the race and I made an outside pass for the win. That's what every kid dreams about, whether you're shooting baskets and there's one second left on the clock and you make the basket when you're a kid dreaming about stuff like that. That's in my soul now. So I have that feeling of winning there, which I think is more important than having a piece of -- you know, a trophy on your shelf. After a while, you never look at it anymore and it just gets tarnished.
Q: You have the feeling. Maybe you'll get the actual hardware shortly.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, we'll see. I'm excited about it. Get an opportunity to go back and try to do it.
Q: Probably the one great irony of the reunification last year was the fact that you lost your job. How have you been able to deal with that, watching everybody else move on to the new series where you're left on the sideline and your time clock is clicking away on your career?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously it's been frustrating. But as the merger -- the only way I can really say where I'm at today is because while the merger wheels were in process, I was being told a different story by (Gerry) Forsythe, that there wasn't going to be a merger, that I was going to continue to drive for them. That all didn't go the way it was told to me. So I was under contract to Forsythe. It took me a long time legally to be in a position where I was comfortable from a legal standpoint to go and drive for another team. So by the time I was able to do that, the season was already going and there was really no opportunity to get in another car.
Like I said before, with the result in Edmonton, I thought the door would be open. Nothing really happened. Nothing happened over this winter until the last three weeks. So, it has been a little bit frustrating. But I guess it's a lot of different factors that happen, whether it be economy, sponsorship and things like that.
Q: Has it basically in your mind been the economy? Is that the biggest stumbling block right now?
PAUL TRACY: It doesn't help. I think the economy, sponsorship dictates whether the wheels turn on the car. I haven't had a sponsor. I've gone out and found this deal with GEICO, a friend of mine, Doug Barnett, who does a lot of work with them, their NASCAR program. Without that I wouldn't be on the track. It's really a case of if you have money, you'll get a ride, and if you don't, then you sit.
Q: Has the 2002 race been a haunting thing since then? How did you get over it?
PAUL TRACY: I got over it the next week. I went to Milwaukee in the CART race and won there. I kind of let things go pretty easily. Obviously, I've won a lot of races since then, won a championship since then. Like I said, I've got that feeling that's burned inside of me of what it takes to win that race, but I don't have the material things that go along with it, which that's just the way it is.
Q: It's been a couple years since you've been on an oval and seven years since you've been on this one. Anything about that that concerns you or do you feel like once you get out there and get going everything will come back pretty quick?
PAUL TRACY: No, I think it will come back pretty quick. Obviously, I've been doing this for so long, have a lot of experience at it. I don't think it will take me very long to get back up to speed. It's not like I'm going there as a rookie, never seen the place, never been on a track like that. I've raced there a bunch of times, done lots of miles. So I don't think it will be too difficult for me.
Q: I know you joked at Long Beach, you were asked about whether you'd be interested in getting some extra track time, going out with the rookies. You said, 'Former winners aren't invited to do that.' If the extra track time was available, is that something you'd want to take advantage of or are you content to start with everybody else next week?
PAUL TRACY: I know they're talking to the league, I guess they have, apart from the rookie session, they have a refresher session, which is the extra miles that don't really cost anything in terms of the engine program. So if we can do that, we're talking to the league now about getting a handful of laps on the track before official practice starts on Wednesday. So we're trying to plan on that.
MODERATOR: Paul, thank you for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Appreciate that. We're looking forward to seeing you back here in Indianapolis next week.
PAUL TRACY: Thanks, guys.
Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:49 am
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
An interview with Scott Sharp
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us this afternoon as we prepare to open practice for the Indianapolis 500. Joining us in a few minutes will be appeal Tracy and Scott Sharp.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Scott Sharp. Good to have you back with us. Appreciate you taking the time.
SCOTT SHARP: No problem. Good to be on.
MODERATOR: Scott is returning to the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 16 Tequila Patron Panther Racing entry. This will be Scott's 14th Indianapolis 500. He has five top-10 finishes in the race, including his last three in a row from 2005 through 2007 with a career best sixth-place finish in 2007. He also won the pole in 2001. Scott is the IndyCar Series career leader with 146 starts from 1996 through 2007.
Scott, welcome back to the IndyCar Series. Tell us about the decision to come back and compete in the Indy 500, joining a team like Panther Racing that's had success there as well.
SCOTT SHARP: Yeah, obviously very excited to be able to get back for the race. Certainly to be having all the support of Tequila Patron, and Muscle Milk is another one of our sponsors, and to be able to come do it with Panther. We talked a few different times in the past. They had a great run last May obviously, had a really good Indy month. So I'm super excited. I think it's probably the best opportunity I've had coming to May. I can't wait to get on track next week.
MODERATOR: Obviously you haven't been in the IndyCar Series for a little over a year, racing in the ALMS. Do you think there's going to be an adjustment to get back in the car or is it kind of like riding a bicycle, you just get back on and go?
SCOTT SHARP: I hope there's not much. I don't think so. You know, I've been around there a lot, fortunately. Had the opportunity to do the race as many times as I have. I simply love and cherish every lap around that track.
I've dreamt about it so much over the years, I think I could do it in my sleep. So I'm pretty hopeful once I get out there, it's all going to come back pretty quick. I was listening a little bit there with Paul's interview. We're going to try to run a little bit of ROP as a refresher sort of as a casual way to get back up to speed. I'm expecting that to all come pretty quickly, so...
MODERATOR: I'm sure you've been watching the series from afar. It's obviously very competitive, maybe more competitive than it was your last couple years. How tough do you think it's going to be to qualify in the top 11 on pole day?
SCOTT SHARP: I think it's going to be pretty tough, for sure. No doubt the series is really competitive. It looks like a lot of the teams have closed up on the top couple teams. Maybe some of the advantages they've had in the past are a little more widely available now. And I think certainly I imagine that five through 15 type spots are going to be really, really tough. It's going to be a tenth of a mile an hour over four laps that's going to be the difference. I'm expecting it to be competitive. There's nothing like qualifying at the Indy 500. Something I've always gotten really pumped up for. I think it's going to be great to be part of it.
MODERATOR: You come as a one-off. You join a team in Panther Racing that has Dan Wheldon, the 2005 Indy 500 champion. In a situation like that, how closely do you work with Dan when it's a teammate really for just one race like this? Have you talked already or what's the plan there?
SCOTT SHARP: Well, I think the way Panther plans to do it, certainly everything is open, everybody is working together, one big team. Dan and I have always gotten along really well, so no issues there. I have a lot of respect for him. He knows his way around that place really well. It's just a matter of I think, you know, adjusting our cars every little bit we can to get the most out of them. I imagine we're going to work pretty well together. With us both having a lot of experience, I'm pretty hopeful it's not going to take me long to get up to speed and I can be contributing pretty quickly. I think it's going to work really well.
MODERATOR: I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves down the road, but how much do you think about the future years? Do you see this as an opportunity to come back for several more starts in the 500 or have you given that any thought?
SCOTT SHARP: You know, racing's all about opportunity. I've always said that. We've had a good run with Tequila Patron in ALMS the last couple years. You never know. You never know what's going to come along. I'm excited to be back this year. If the right things can all come together and we can look at doing more races, certainly look at running another 500 or two, that would be fantastic.
MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Scott.
Q: Paul was talking earlier about the difference, he's not coming back here just to be in the Indianapolis 500, he's coming back with the idea of winning it. I assume that's your mindset as well, that there's no other reason to be doing this other than coming into it with the idea that you got a realistic chance to be a factor in the race.
SCOTT SHARP: Frankly, absolutely. All across the board I think for everyone involved. Panther doesn't need to run another car just to run one. Patron is probably only going to get a really great return on investment and solid exposure if we're running well and having a chance. For me, I feel so fortunate. When someone said this is going to be my 14th Indy 500, it's like there's no way. To think I've been able to do it so many times. With that being said, I've had enough going on, just had a baby last week, got an ALMS race in the middle of this month, there's enough happening, I don't need to come do the race just to run around 12th. So certainly, like I said earlier, it's my favorite race, my favorite track. I think I've always felt like I've gotten where I wanted to be at some point in the month, whether that was in practice, whether that was in qualifying, certain stages of the race, but never was able to, for varieties of reasons, get it all together when I needed to for maybe the last couple stops and be able to really go challenge for the win.
Certainly coming back to try to put that all together and do just that.
Q: One-offs haven't had a great deal of success here. Do you think the IRL, as it's constituted now, a lot of turnover, do you think the environment is such now that somebody in your situation can come in and maybe have a better chance now than you might have been able to have in years past?
SCOTT SHARP: Certainly hopeful. I remember Michael (Andretti) did it a couple years ago I think and finished third. I certainly think it's very situational. Even then, it depends a lot on how the race goes. Certainly I'm excited to be at Panther and think that they want to see us equally do well. I think obviously when you're not running regularly, you really got to dot your I's, cross your T's. There's less room for error from a competitive perspective. You can't be letting down in any area.
But I think they've assembled a really great group of guys for me. I think they're going to give me a really great car. Like I said, Dan and I are going to work well. Based on all the work they've done, how they ran there last year, I think we're going to be in pretty good shape. I've always felt the 500, it's a race from the moment you wake up it's got to be your day and things have just got to fall into place. There's enough elements going on during that race that things are out of your control, things have to flow your way. I think if we have a good month, qualify strongly, get a good racecar, we wake up, it's one of those days, no doubt we can go win the race.
Q: How does all this racing fit in with your other commitments on your other racing? Do you have the time to do it?
SCOTT SHARP: You know, it's a little bit of a handful. But everyone's extremely supportive. Obviously Patron is over the top supportive in their backing of me, the fact that they're the sponsor of our Patron Highcroft racing entry in ALMS, certainly helps they're the sponsor at Indy. But Duncan Dayton, all the guys have been fantastic. Hopefully a couple of them are going to come help us out a little bit with the Panther team. They certainly have very capable people as it is, but just to keep some continuity there.
Overall, you know, the answer to that, straight up, everyone has been super supportive in recognizing we're going to have to bend in certain spots if needed. But the only part that makes that at all difficult is we have a race in Utah during the second weekend of qualifying. We very much want to qualify the first couple days. There's some scenarios out there where if that didn't happen I could still probably get back to qualify on that third day on Saturday. You know, that throws a little bit of a wrench into things. Overall, I think we've known that from the beginning, we've been able to plan accordingly, and don't really expect that to be much of a problem.
Q: What does it mean to you to win the 500?
SCOTT SHARP: Wow, you know, it's something I've dreamt about since I was a little kid watching it with my dad on the couch. I never even knew if I'd have the opportunity to run at Indy. To be able to have done it as many times as I have, felt like I've had some success there, but certainly not the win. You know, it's something I think about every day. It would be truly, truly incredible.
But, you know, I also look at it that there's going to be one winner and 32 guys that aren't so happy. It doesn't make or break your life, but it sure would be an incredible experience for all involved.
Q: Paul Tracy mentioned earlier about while he didn't mind doing it, he wasn't thrilled about having to go out and pursue sponsorship. He's been fortunate enough to hook up with GEICO. You over the years have had really good sponsor relations. How important is it for drivers today to realize the responsibility they have with their sponsors going beyond the hospitality part of it at the track?
SCOTT SHARP: I think I just came from a different upbringing. My father had Paul Newman as a driver and part owner. When my dad came home from work at night, not only was I asking him tons of questions about driving, but learning a lot about the business on the sponsorship side of things. He had different sponsors, Pioneer Electronics, Diet Coke, all these different companies, finding ways to create value for them, finding ways to get exposure for them, value for them. I guess I always grew up with that mentality that he instilled in me that you have to overdeliver for a sponsor. It doesn't take anybody in this business very long, especially in this economic condition, to quickly realize that they are the key to driving the vehicle. If they're not happy and they're not getting the kind of rate of return that they expect, they're not going to want to keep doing it for very long. I grew up with a business background. I went to business school. Always very entrepreneurial. I feel that's an exciting challenge of it for me. I take pride I was with Delphi for eight years. I've been with Patron ever since. You know, I like the long-term relationships. I like feeling that companies are building on their investment, they're getting a value for their investments. That whole end of thing is a huge part of our business.
I enjoy it and I think you have to be pretty cognizant of it.
Q: Talk about the next driver in the Sharp stable, Jackson is eight or nine.
SCOTT SHARP: He's 10 now. Yeah, you know, my dad, I go-karted, that's all I did when I was a kid. That's all I ate, dreamt, thought about. Did it for nine years before I got into cars. Jackson is mellow, likes karting. He has other interests, plays lacrosse, soccer, some other stuff. If it's something he really wants to pursue, I'll help him with everything I have to do it. I think he's got a pretty good lineage, bloodline, between myself, my father-in-law, my father. But that has to be something he really wants to tackle. It's a tough business. I've been extremely fortunate. Just the stuff we're talking about right now, being fortunate to hook up with companies like Delphi or like Patron Tequila, those have just been great relationships for me. I've been lucky to be with some great team owners. A lot of times things have worked for me. You see a lot of guys that are probably every bit as talented and it just hasn't worked. So it's a tough business. If he really wants to pursue it, I'll do everything I can to help him. If it's something he's lukewarm about, it's not something I'm going to shove him into. He's having fun doing go-karting at this stage, but it hasn't become a hundred percent of his commitment time-wise.
Q: If you could compare a little bit like what it's like to come from a sports car and jump back into an open-wheel car. I understand a great driver can adapt really quickly anyway to anything. I'm sure there's some changes that you have to go through for the transition.
SCOTT SHARP: Well, I probably could give you a lot better answer like next Wednesday (laughter). Haven't exactly made that part of the transition.
But the transition went very well for me the opposite way, jumping into the sports car. The Acura is such a high-tech car, it's a dream to drive on the road courses. As I go into Indy, the way I'm looking at it, I think they're so different. If you said, Okay, let's go run the IndyCar at Long Beach and run the ALMS Acura at Long Beach, that you'd be really compensating, comparing the two, having to think differently, brake at different points. A lot goes into that.
The fact that Indy is so different and it's an oval, a high-speed oval, when the car is working well, you're turning the car very minimally. Obviously not much braking is associated at all around the track. You're getting in a whole different mindset, a whole different groove, obviously way different speeds. I think you go there with such a different expectation and perception of what you need to do that it's going to be so different that I don't think there will be any confusion or any overlap.
Q: You were in the first IRL race as it was known back then in 1996. You've seen the evolution of the league to where it is today. Talk about the hard times, the good times, and how the league has progressed.
SCOTT SHARP: That could be a long answer.
I guess I'd say obviously creating a brand-new league out of nowhere would be like starting a brand-new NFL football league. It was a lot of doubters early on. It gave a lot of - whether it was drivers or owners or certainly crew members - a lot of opportunities that otherwise wouldn't have been there. You think of a lot of guys that qualified the first year at the 500 or the second year at the 500 that ended up really being their only chance probably as the league accelerated along. They got a chance to come run at Indy that otherwise they wouldn't have had.
But certainly I think, as you saw, the big teams start to come into the IRL from Champ Car. You saw the manufacturers come. You just saw the whole level of the game and the intensity continue to rise. So I think it's been fantastic in a lot of ways. Obviously it's an incredible championship right now. It's super intense competitively. But you also are seeing a big change from the drivers that just sort of came along and were thrown into a car and given a chance. I think you've seen a little less of that now because it is just so intense and owners aren't willing to take those chances on some of the younger guys unless they really have awesome credentials and probably have a little bit of sponsorship that comes with them.
Q: Also in that '97 Indy 500, you didn't get to participate because of two crashes you had had. Going out there with the new engine formula at that time, a lot of oil leaks, did you almost kind of feel like you were a test pilot in the early part of the '97 season?
SCOTT SHARP: Yeah, think we all did. That's when they had to institute the diapers and everything so the oil wasn't all over your rear tires. That was developed after a lot of guys hit the wall. I think for a while there certainly you were running around, (thinking) please don't blow up on me. I think a lot of drivers got really sensitive to the vibrations that would sort of occur right before the engines blew up so they could maybe catch it. Certainly changed much from there. Honda has done an incredible job. Look at the reliability and performance record they have.
There's just a natural escalation in team preparation, in car builds, and in the engines and components.
Q: I know how much you love the Indy 500. You were always a great ambassador for the series when you were full-time. The fact you went sports car racing, was that something at that point in your career was almost a good thing to try something different and maybe build up your confidence if that was on the ebb at that time?
SCOTT SHARP: Yeah. Like I said a few minutes ago, racing is all about opportunity. I guess I felt my confidence has always been there on the IndyCar, especially on the ovals. I think it's gotten back to where it needs to be on the road courses. Really I guess I figured at some point I would go to sports cars. I didn't think it was going to be that early. But the right opportunity came along to be with a factory-backed team. It was something Patron really wanted to go do, feeling like the demographics of the ALMS would work well for them. And the whole opportunity just seemed like one of those you couldn't say no to. I think at the time we did it, we hoped to come back and run the 500 last year, and for a variety of reasons that just didn't pan out. I'm glad to be able to come do that now. We'll take it from there and see where it leads to.
MODERATOR: All right, Scott, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it. Best of luck this month.
SCOTT SHARP: Thanks, guys. Look forward to being there next week.
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 11:35 am
~~~Patrick - IRL teleconference 2009-05-05, part 1
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Tuesday, May 5, 2009: An interview with Danica Patrick
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guest this afternoon is Danica Patrick. Hi, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: Hi.
MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us.
Danica is in her fifth season in the IndyCar Series and her third driving the No. 7 Motorola entry for Andretti Green Racing. Last year she earned her first career victory at Twin Ring Motegi. This year she ranks sixth in points heading into the Indianapolis 500 and is one of only four drivers with at least two top-five finishes in the season's first three races.
This will be her fifth Indianapolis 500. She earned Chase Rookie of the Year honors at the Speedway in 2004 when she led 19 laps after starting and finishing fourth. She finished eighth in 2006 and 2007. Last year she started fifth and finished 22nd.
Danica, a couple of practice days this week before Pole Day on Saturday. You qualified in the top 10 all four years at Indy. What are the things that you try and accomplish the first couple of days of practice and then what are the keys to turning in another solid qualifying effort on Saturday?
DANICA PATRICK: First and foremost thanks, everybody for being on. It's a good opportunity to really just focus on qualifying. All the rest of the year we tend to not really be so heavily focused on it, and we kind of do maybe a qualifying practice run or two, but that's about it, and then we kind of fill the car up and work on race stuff from there.
We get a few days to really focus on it. It's about getting the car comfortable. You really want the car comfortable when it has more downforce on it. As you trim it out, the balance changes maybe a little bit, but really you want to start out with a good balanced car, and hopefully you can even take the downforce off and just get faster.
MODERATOR: It's obviously a much more competitive field now, even in the last year, certainly than two, three, four or five years ago since you've been here. How much tougher do you think it's going to be to get in the top 11 on Saturday than maybe in years past?
DANICA PATRICK: Every year is challenging. But, I think you still have a lot of the leaders at the front of the field as you did four years ago. It's always been pretty tough. Yeah, there are a lot more drivers, and I think there are going to be more knocking on that top-11 door maybe more so than before.
Hopefully we don't have to worry about that and we get in that first day and we have a good qualifying run on the first one and it's good enough to put us in the top 11 and in the front row.
MODERATOR: We have a question submitted, three questions from Michael Knight. It's often said it would help to grow the series' popularity for you, Marco (Andretti) and Graham (Rahal) to contend for race wins on a regular basis and be championship contenders. Do you still feel that sort of pressure or are you used to it by now? Have you discussed with that Marco or Graham or shared any advice with them about dealing with that potential pressure?
DANICA PATRICK: Everybody wants to win. That's the problem. At Indy, there's 33 of us, and the rest of the season there's 20 odd drivers that want to win. So, as much as it would be great if Marco and Danica and Graham were contending for race wins every weekend, that kind of reality is not -- it can't happen every weekend anyway. It's just not normal for there to be the exact same three people.
Graham has won. I've won. Marco has won. We've all won a race. But we're also on the younger side, too. So it's tough to compete against guys like Tony (Kanaan) and Dario (Franchitti) and (Scott) Dixon and the experience that they have. They make us work hard.
It would be great. I'd love to be winning more races. To be honest, we've got a couple top-fives in the season. I remember when I first came to AGR in '07, we were in the top five every weekend as well. So that to me really is contending for wins and racing up front. Let's hope we can keep that trend going and get some wins this year.
MODERATOR: The second part of that was, have you talked about that? Obviously, Marco is a teammate.
DANICA PATRICK: No, you don't. It's not like we sit down and say to each other, 'Oh, gosh, wouldn't you like to be contending for race wins?' That's kind of an obvious answer.
MODERATOR: The last part was, do you think it's fair for you guys to be put in that position as maybe having the pressure to grow the series' popularity?
DANICA PATRICK: I just respond to what's out there and how I feel, the people around me. So I try not to live up to expectations, try not to feel like I have to live up to expectations or be overwhelmed and concerned, overly concerned, with what everyone thinks I should do. I just do what I think I can do.
Q: Everybody seems to have an opinion what NASCAR should or shouldn't do to improve Talladega to make it more safe. What's your take on it?
DANICA PATRICK: It's a little bit hard for me to give too much information as that's not the series that I run in. I pay attention and I know what happened a couple weeks ago. But I don't know the ins and outs of it and the politics of it and everything.
But, I think at the end of the day the safety of the drivers is very important. But it's also important that the fans are given an entertaining race, because that's what they pay the money to come see.
Q: I was wondering, since the first day you showed up there, I was there when that was going on, you've always had this sense or you seem to have this sense for that place. I'm talking about Indianapolis. Being smooth and stuff. I'm wondering, what were a couple of the lessons you've learned about that place over the last several years that you'll incorporate even a little bit more? You touched on it a while ago. Is the key being smooth and being patient and letting the speed come, so to speak, through the week? How do you approach it?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's an interesting place. It's different from every other track really because it's the kind of place that if the car isn't right, you cannot make it go fast. You can't hustle it around. You just can't make it do it.
If you do, quickly the car gets out of control and the track bites you. We're going faster here than anywhere else. I think it's really the one place that we go that the track is sort of a little bit bigger and more powerful than you are. And I think that that makes it really something that you have to respect.
So, I took advice from the veterans in the beginning. I wanted to know, and I still want to know. I still ask opinions about what do I need to know about here? What do I need to remember for the race? Everybody kept saying, 'You need to respect the track.' I think that's where it comes in. If the car isn't good, don't think you can be better than it, don't think you can overcome it. Then I think to be patient in the race. I think that really showed in that first year where I went from the front to the back to the front to the back to the front all in the course of the 500 miles. So being patient is also another really key thing around here.
Other than that, I don't know. I think every now and again you get on with the track really well. I feel lucky that Indy's a place that I've had good races here in the past and been fast.
Q: You had a stout race at Long Beach, followed it up with a stout race at Kansas. I don't think you lack for confidence. When you won in Japan, some people said it was a miles-per-gallon race, so to speak. But do you have more of a sense of feeling really into it as you head into this month? Do you understand what I'm saying, from a confidence standpoint?
DANICA PATRICK: I do. I think I was saying earlier today that it comes in waves a little bit, like when you feel that win coming. It's definitely been one of those things that's been on people's minds, and people have been saying that a lot lately. I've even had people at Kansas say, people close to me, fans are always encouraging, but people that really get a feeling for things. I think you might win this race.
Here we are at Indy. I have to tell you a funny story. I got a fortune cookie at the track. We went out to dinner in Kansas at this sort of Asian sushi place. I'm reading it right now because I hung it up. I had two fortunes in there, to start with. I didn't realize it had a second one. When I turned it over, it says, 'A four-wheeled adventure will soon bring you happiness.' So that's in a fortune cookie, right? That's got to be great.
Q: Like a four-leaf clover times two.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah.
Q: Danica, there was a lot of changes made with Andretti Green. I know the big thing was Michael (Andretti) paying extra attention, focusing on you instead of all of the team members equally. How is that working out now that we're a couple races into the season?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think it's a matter of Mike choosing to pay more attention to me; it was a matter of the team using up all of the resources efficiently and well. Over the last couple of years, we've lost personnel here and there, been able to fill in the blanks. And Mike has been one of those guys that's bounced around from car to car, offered his advice on what was going on, what he would do, playing sort of race strategist for all the drivers.
So it was an idea that went around the table. Mike took the job, and he said he buckled under a little bit of peer pressure for it. But it makes sense. He's been around it so much. He still keeps an eye on everybody else, but while we're out there on the track and in the cars, he's on the Boost Mobile car. That's just what the decision was for this year.
Q: Danica, I got to follow up on this fortune cookie. Do you possibly remember the name of the restaurant? Was it near the Speedway?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it was the one right outside the track called STIX. Funny, isn't it?
Q: That gives you a pretty good feeling. You had the good result at Kansas.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I don't think it quite lives up to the fortune cookie yet, so I think there's more to come. But we had a good race at Kansas, and so much of the time you really see the cars that are up front at the beginning of the season carry on into Indy and do well there. So let's hope that we keep that trend going.
Q: We talked about this, too, when you were here. You had the two road races, and now the thing about having the first oval before the Indy qualifying. Do you feel that carrying over, too?
DANICA PATRICK: You mean, just getting in sync with the oval racing and stuff?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it's a little bit unique, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's not a two-lane track like Kansas is. It's really one-car-wide, other than a few little things here and there that are always close calls. But the racing's a little bit different here. But I think that just the more diversity and the more racing you do, period, before you arrive at Indy, the more prepared you feel.
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 11:36 am
(continued from pt.1)
Q: My question to you is about your tie-in with Tissot watches. My husband bought me one for Christmas last year, which I really like.
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, good. What kind of watch did you get? I know it was Tissot, but was it the T-Touch?
Q: We got your watch.
DANICA PATRICK: OK, great. Cool.
Q: We got your watch. So my question is, do you still have your tie-in with them? If so, are you looking to do different designs for them in the future?
DANICA PATRICK: Absolutely. I just met with them today here at the track in Indy. I got some new watches. We talked about some of the ideas moving forward for the year, what we want to do. There's some new personnel in there and there's some new, fresh approaches to what we're going to do. And I think we really want to take the relationship to another level and really go after more mainstream things and get into more magazines and get into more of the fashion side of things and just really make the relationship more prominent.
As I'm actually the only female ambassador for a male watch really, I think that it's a cool thing. We're definitely going to keep doing more and more.
Q: Are you doing a male version of the watch?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, actually they usually -- like this year, it really is I think a male watch. I like the larger watches. The T-Touch watches are really unisex. Like I said, I tend to wear bigger watches anyway. So I wear sort of their biggest watches. They're guys' or they're girls' really. It goes across the board. My new one this year could be worn by either.
Q: How do you feel about the qualifying at Indy? Do you have a problem with qualifying? You've done fairly good in the past.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, then that would sort of mean that I don't really have a problem with the qualifying (laughter).
I think it was such a good concept with the four-lap average that we carried it over to all the other oval races that we go to. I think it's a really cool thing. I think that it shakes things up a little bit. For instance, last weekend at Kansas with the four-lap average, my first lap was a little bit slower than all the rest of them. As a result, I missed a spot on the grid because of that.
So, I think that the four-lap average is really cool, and I like it here at Indy. You definitely got to get going, get up to speed, and it really lends to having a good car from the get-go and a good car from the time you start the car and head on out there. I think it's good for the fans, too.
Q: How is your mindset when you're the only one on the track trying to go the fastest?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't know. You don't really think of it much different. The whole week you're really kind of trying to find clear track for yourself. It's really just more sort of a continuation of what you've been doing in the whole week. And then you get the excitement of being able to see exactly what it does.
Q: You seem to have an affinity for Indianapolis. You've had good results there. What is it about that track that suits you or your driving style?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't really know. I like it here. I enjoy it. I embrace the month. I have a lot of fun. What exactly makes me good here or whatever is subjective anyway I think if I do good or not.
I don't really know. The first year I came here, I took the advice from all the people around me, the people that have been here the most. The advice was to respect the track, to be patient, and I do that. So, you know, maybe that's part of it.
Q: You seem to do better on ovals than you do on road courses, even though I think your background was road racing.
DANICA PATRICK: It's funny. I would actually have to say that some of my best results really have come more from road courses actually. I had a second in Detroit in '07. I think I finished fourth or fifth or sixth at Sonoma. I had two front-row starts. I finished fourth I think last year at Sonoma, maybe fifth at Mid-Ohio. I just finished fourth at Long Beach. So actually some of my better results have been on the road courses, but my qualifying isn't quite as good.
I just think it's one of those areas that I haven't really mastered or gotten really good at. Part of it's because there's such incredible road course drivers in our series with (Scott) Dixon and (Dario) Franchitti, (Tony) Kanaan and Will Power, Helio (Castroneves), they're all really great on the road courses. So I've got my work cut out for me. When it comes to the race, it actually tends to go all right.
Q: When you were named to that Time Magazine top 100 influential people list, you put out a statement which you thanked the people around you for keeping you grounded. Can you go into that a little bit? Are you talking about your teammates, your husband...
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I think I'm predominantly speaking about my family and the people closest to me that see me every day and help me every day, are a part of it all, know me for a long time. They're the ones that say, 'Look, you need to get out there and you need to sign, or you need to calm down, you need to do this.' They don't let me just be the boss. They're not 'yes' people. They're my family, and they're my closest friends. They're helping me the best that I can be.
I think that that's really what I mean when I say people that have helped keep me grounded. They just really are trying to help me be the best me.
Q: How much stock do you put in a list like that? A lot of big names on there. You beat out quite a few celebrities. How much stock do you put in that?
DANICA PATRICK: Oh, well, gosh, I mean, a lot. It's very nice. There was voting for it. Just with all the other things that I've done outside of the car and inside the car, it's making a difference. It's a real honor just to be thought of to be on the list, and then to make it and beat out such other amazing people. It's a real honor. I thank them very much.
Q: Don't take this personal, but were there any aero readings or downforce numbers on that hat you wore Saturday?
DANICA PATRICK: My derby hat (laughter)? I was running some low downforce because it was very uncomfortable. Like when you're sitting down at the table there, at the event, I had to look up so far that I had a headache from getting past the brim of my hat. I wouldn't describe it as a comfy setup.
Q: You came in Indy last year after having won a race. But would you say, other than that, you're off to your best start that you've had so far to your season?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, I actually have to say this is probably one of the best starts. Even the one that we DNF'd in St. Petersburg, we were on a two-stop strategy. The other people that were on a two-stop strategy finished first, second, third, fourth, fifth. We were one of them. It would have been a top-six finish if I were part of that two-stop strategy. I think we would have been looking at three top-five finishes and doing well in the championship. Other years in the past, we've not done as well.
So I would agree. I'd say so, yeah. I felt really good about my oval race in Kansas. The racing was close. I was pushing. I was happy. I was one of the first people to jump up high at the beginning of the race and pass around the outside. That was one of the things we worked really hard to get to.
Q: Other than the obvious answer, to finish first after 200 laps, what are the things you need to do this year to win the Indy 500?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think that it would be the easiest to start in the front and just stay there. I think that we're going to obviously work hard to qualify well. I think it's a matter of, in the past the qualifying's been reasonably good, but it's a matter of staying there. I think that's going to be the real focus, is just to not drop back and to not lose positions on the track on starts or restarts, to stay on top of the car throughout the race and keep up with the way that the track is changing, and then to have really clean pit stops. I think that's going to have to be a really, really big focus for me, getting in and out of the pits and getting in and out of the box at full speed all the time. If we do those things well, I hope we can qualify well and then I believe that we can stay there. Then it will be a shootout in the end.
There's no doubt that you do have to have a fast car to win the Indy 500, because it usually comes to that last sort of 20 laps or five-lap shootout where it's all about speed.
Q: I wanted to ask you about what I call the kinder, gentler Danica Patrick.
DANICA PATRICK: Yes (laughter).
Q: Versus the first race you were trying not to be mad all weekend, then (Raphael) Matos took you into the boards at St. Petersburg, you didn't smack him like we thought you might. Where is that all coming from?
DANICA PATRICK: Is it OK, do you think? Do you think this is OK that I'm a little bit more calm?
Q: Yeah. I was just wondering... .
DANICA PATRICK: I hope I'm not boring anybody (laughter).
I've learned from the past. Look, the emotional Danica is still there, but there's a time and a place. The time and place is not every weekend. So it's just easier. I think I always felt in the past like I had to prove to people that I cared and that I wasn't happy being fifth or 12th or something by being mad. It just doesn't really pay off, and it turns people off. It's a lot easier and a lot more fun to be relaxed. It's all bunnies and rainbows around here (laughter).
Q: I also wanted to ask you, you have a lot of fans. Obviously, there's a lot of younger fans, especially girls. Do you think having all those fans affects what you do and some of your decisions? Are you thinking, 'What are my fans going to think about that?'
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think in the moment I think about them. I have been lucky enough to be myself and be just really true to my character and personality the whole time. But I'd say in the decision-making process when it comes to doing articles or interviews or photo shoots or anything, I do think about what's good and what's bad and what's right and what's wrong, kind of just where I want to take my brand and what direction I want to go with it.
I always do the things that I really want to do and have fun with. But if I'm on the fence about it, or if it's really not going to be good for image, then we just don't do them. I don't take for granted that little kids follow me and that I have a following from them, and I respect that. I want to do a good job for them, and part of that is being a good role model.
MODERATOR: All right, Danica. Thanks a lot for joining us. Good luck this month.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you. Bye.
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 11:43 am
Indy 500: Briscoe - IRL interview 2009-05-06
Indy Racing League Transcript
Wednesday, May 6, 2009: An interview with Ryan Briscoe
MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We're joined today by Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 6 Team Penske entry. Ryan won the 2009 season-opening race at St. Petersburg and finished fourth at Kansas, putting him second in the point standings as the month of May begins. This will be Ryan's fourth Indianapolis 500. He finished 10th in 2005 and fifth in 2007. Last year, he qualified on the front row and finished 23rd.
Ryan, let's get your take a little bit on the season so far. A win at St. Pete, some bad luck cost you another potential win at Kansas, but still second right now heading into Indianapolis has got to feel pretty good.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it feels great. I think especially our performance in Kansas was very encouraging coming into the month of May. Last year at Kansas we struggled a little bit and it really looks like we've picked up our game a little bit at these one-and-a-half-mile ovals and hopefully that translates over into Indianapolis as well.
But it's great. Certainly kicked off the season much better than I had last year. I'm just so excited it's May already.
MODERATOR: For just about every race you can ask a driver about that weekend and you can hear him say, 'If we can't win it, we need to get a good points finish for the championship.' I don't know that I've ever really heard anyone say that about the Indy 500. Is the focus on Indy solely on winning the race?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, yeah. I can pretty much say we've put the championship on hold for a few weeks here. We're just focused on trying to get the big trophy here this month. You can pretty surely say it's bigger than the championship, this race. You don't really get remembered for coming second at the Indy 500. Definitely a lot of focus on trying to win this race.
But, being my fourth start here, it's really the first time, though, coming into it where I feel as though I've sort of got the confidence and the experience where I can actually have a legitimate shot at it. Just really excited that we're carrying good momentum coming into the race this month.
MODERATOR: With that being said, what's the game plan as you come into the month? You have a couple days, obviously qualifying and pole day on Saturday. What is the game plan as you approach the month?
RYAN BRISCOE: It gets going pretty quickly. The first week is all about getting the balance into the car, getting it tuned in, and then by the end of the week feeling confident enough to start trimming out and getting ready for qualifying. Saturday we're already going for pole. Most importantly, if you can't get the pole, you need to try to at least get qualified on that first day so you can start working on race preparation.
But, it all happens really quickly, and there's not a lot of time to be messing around or running into trouble. So we need to be smart about the running and hopefully just keep things simple and keep things running smoothly, get ourselves in a good position to have a good day on Saturday for qualifying.
MODERATOR: You qualified on the front row last year. What are some of the keys that it takes to put in a good run and get up front or even win the pole?
RYAN BRISCOE: You need to be able to trim this thing out as much as possible. It's hard. You need to get a good balance to begin with, and then step by step just keep trimming it out a little bit at a time until really the car starts sliding around too much where you can't stay flat.
But the conditions change. The wind at Indianapolis has such an effect on the car's performance and balance, you just really got to keep an eye on that. I think that's where having the experience of a team like Penske behind me, that's where they can help so much, with just keeping things on track. With Rick Mears, as well, he's always been a great help here, where he just keeps you focused on the right things.
MODERATOR: The qualifying format at Indy obviously is different from everywhere else we go with the 11 cars on each day and three attempts per day. Once you've put in a time fairly early on Saturday, what is your personal preference? Do you kind of like to sit back and wait and see how that stands up or are you a person who might prefer to pull it off the board and go out for another run?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, you just watch the conditions. I think the last two times I've gone for qualifying here, you know, '07 and '08, the track has gotten better throughout the day, times have gotten quicker. If you want to go for pole, you have to sacrifice your first attempt and go for another one.
But the good thing is before you withdraw your first time, you can practice. You can test and go out and see if you've picked up speed. So you can sort of have a bit of security behind you whether it's going to be a smart move or not to take a second attempt.
But traditionally it has been necessary to go faster. In '07, I was lucky enough we didn't take that second attempt. It was important to be in the top 11. I think I ended up qualifying seventh for my first attempt. But all the guys that were going for pole, they really had to put it on the line and take second and third attempts to go for it.
MODERATOR: After you make that first qualifying run, you mentioned you have the opportunity to go out and practice some more later and you've got some media obligations. What else do you do in that downtime if you get the first run in the first hour or two hours? What kind of things do you do while you're waiting?
RYAN BRISCOE: We're in the engineering office going over the data, checking to see what small setup changes we would like to do to the car to pick up more speed. And at that point when we're qualifying and we're so trimmed out, we're talking about the smallest of setup changes because they have such a big effect on the car when you are that trimmed out.
So very, very small changes, just fine-tuning, just trying to pick up those few tenths of a mile an hour to move up a few spots or defend your position. But you also need to eat and relax a little bit and reserve a bit of energy. It's amazing how much energy just four laps around Indianapolis when you're going for pole can take out of you.
MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about your success at Indy in general. We mentioned the first year you had a top-10 finish, moved up 14 spots during the race. In '07 it was a one-off and you finished fifth. Last year a front-row start and ran well for most of the race. You seem to do really well here at Indianapolis.
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I hope so. I hope I can do better this year. I love that track. I love the race. I just love the whole atmosphere. But in previous years, I've always sort of gone into it without that much experience or current experience going into the event.
Coming off of a full season and coming off an oval where I just ran strong, I really feel good going into it this year. And hopefully we can just keep things simple. I know I'm going to have a fast car, but it's such a tough race, anything can happen. A bit of luck on your side can always help, as well.
Hopefully we just keep things smooth and it all goes well.
MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about the situation earlier this year with Helio (Castroneves) and Will (Power). That involved those two guys primarily, and you were kind of off a little bit to the side. Was that a distraction at all for you in your preparations to the season?
RYAN BRISCOE: No. I've sort of gone about things as I would. But obviously lots has been going on with the team. It's probably harder for those guys. Especially Helio not doing the first round or any pre-season testing. I've got to tell you in Kansas last week, it was like nothing had ever happened. Helio was his old self, as quick as ever. Just regular combos within the team.
As for Will, he's been such a great addition to the team. He brings so much talent. Obviously it's difficult for him not doing all of the races, but I think this has been a huge opportunity for him. I'm really looking forward to working with him as a three-car operation this month.
MODERATOR: You've got a new engineer this year, Eric Cowdin, came over at the end of last year. How was that adjustment period and what has he brought to your car and Team Penske?
RYAN BRISCOE: He's great. He's just such a great guy and very good to work with, extremely intelligent. But he's coming into a situation where the team also has a lot of experience. We've just been combining the knowledge and not doing anything big, just keeping things as simple as possible.
He's got a lot of motivation to do well, as do I, as does the whole team. He's really been an amazing addition. He got to work with Roger (Penske) for the first time in St. Petersburg. They're obviously getting to know each other and everything is going great. So he's just a great guy to work with.
MODERATOR: We have a long month of May ahead of us at Indy, then we're off to Milwaukee where you got your first IndyCar Series win last year. As you mentioned earlier, you got off to a little bit of a rough start there. Was the win sort of a catalyst for the rest of your success last year?
RYAN BRISCOE: It certainly seemed that way. I can pretty much say my season began in Milwaukee last year. Everything prior to that, I just kept running into trouble, just couldn't have a thing go right for me. But after Milwaukee, things really turned around for me. We were able to get a couple more wins and move myself up from, I don't know what I was before Milwaukee, 18th or 19th in the standings, and worked my way up to fifth in the standings. So it was great. Milwaukee had been a very tough track for me in the past. To come back with Team Penske and get that win was just so special.
MODERATOR: Ryan, thanks for the time. We'll see you in a couple days.
RYAN BRISCOE: All right.
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 11:45 am
Indy 500: IMS press conference - Ganassi, Schmidt teams, part 1
2009 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Chip Ganassi Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Alex Lloyd, Mike Hull, Sam Schmidt, Brett Jacobson
------PAT SULLIVAN: Well, what better way to kick off the gala celebration here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Economaki Press Conference Center to bring the championship team into the press room. What an interesting situation. First of all, success is bred by the fact there is continuity with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Mike Hull joins us, and I can't imagine a guy that would go into a month of May and not feel a bit of confidence when you come in as the defending race winner, you come in with two drivers, both who have won at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the biggest race of all, and we have two drivers who have already won in the 2009 season. That's going to be just outstanding. First of all, Dario, I was just talking about this, the last time I saw either of you two gentlemen in this press room, you were two of the happiest human beings on the face of the earth. Now, you were a little more wet than when Scott came in that year, we've got a rainy day for you. First of all, Dario, welcome back to Indianapolis. It is great to see you here.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you. No, it feels good to be back. Actually the last time I was in here was about a year ago, I was collecting for the Dairy Association thing and I had a broken ankle, so I'm feeling a lot happier today. It really does feel good. I know I'm back in Indianapolis in May because it's raining. Literally it feels like I haven't been away. Got on the bus this morning, jumped in the golf cart, and it started to rain. Some things haven't changed.
SULLIVAN: How hard was it when you couldn't come back and defend? We know this win meant a lot to you when you got it. What was that like? Talk about your thought process.
FRANCHITTI: I made the decision in August or September of '07 not to come back because of all the reasons I've talked about before about looking for new challenges, so it was my decision not to do that. Didn't make it any easier, and I tried to kid myself I wasn't missing it. But I did find myself every day in May sitting in front of the computer watching the track feed, watching the lap times, watching -- you know, speaking to Scott (Dixon), speaking to Tony (Kanaan) on the phone what was going on and keeping abreast of what was happening. It was tough.
SULLIVAN: Scott, you have experienced the highs and lows of Indianapolis. I suspect a lot of people say the racetrack, we're starting to celebrate a hundred years of the racetrack, it doesn't look appreciably different from a driver's perspective. You've experienced it all. Last year you had one of the, at least from the outside, perfect months at Indianapolis. It seemed like everything went well. One of those rare times when the driver who appears to be the favorite all month actually is the one with the Borg-Warner Trophy at the end of the day. That had to be something.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, I think that's a special thing about Indy. I think everybody gets to experience great days and bad days. With how our month went, we had so many good days. Coming into the race expecting a terrible day, something to break or something to end up pretty quickly. It was a picture-perfect month for us with having a fast car every day in practice and coming through with the pole and obviously with the win. So it would be nice to come back and try and repeat that with one of the Ganassi drivers here would be fantastic. It is a special place and very demanding, and a place that requires a lot of respect and one that you really have to earn it.
SULLIVAN: Mike, I have to think that you have a little bit of a spell having two highly professional and talented race drivers in your stable, and both men have demonstrated the abilities to win the Indianapolis 500. Talk about what that brings to your table coming into the month of May. Or in your mind is the slate absolutely clean?
MIKE HULL: It's 2009, so we're starting anew, and I think that's the way you have to look at it. In this case it would be great if we had a two-seater so that both of them could cross the finish line at the same time. But I think what happens with Indianapolis is a couple of things. You pinch yourself when you come here because you need to remind yourself how important it is to race here. This is still the best place in the world to race. But then you forget about that if you have a bad day. And you know, you mope around, you frown, you're upside down, you're not happy with yourself. But the true reason is because of what it means to win this race. Everything else becomes secondary if you finish second. Whether you come here as Scott did last year and everything lines up perfectly and you achieve greatness like he did last year in the car, that's fantastic. If you have a so-so month and you qualify on the third or fourth row and you win the race, all that work pays off. So I think in either case what happens on Race Day here is why we come here. And the rest to me is absolutely secondary.
SULLIVAN: It's compelling because we never know what's going to happen obviously. Questions?
Q: This is for the managing director. You've had some great two-car, two-driver combinations in the past, notably Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi and later Juan Pablo Montoya. I know in '03 you had hopes of great driver combination with Scott and Thomas Scheckter. Talk about how it is to get two guys of this caliber on a team at the same time.
HULL: Well, Chip isn't here today, but if Chip were here today, and I would say with Chip being here or not, that it's Chip first of all. A long time ago when Chip did everything he could do to try to get me to come to work for him and I was kind of young and dumb then, he said, "I will get you what you need to win. You work on the other part of it." And over the years it's been fantastic to be working for a race team where the very first thing that you need to have success are the guys that drive your racecars. You can't take a race driver that doesn't have the ability and put him or her in this case on the best race team and meet your expectation. You have to start with quality people driving your race cars. Over the years we've had combinations of drivers that represent that. The only difference in the two drivers have simply been the experience level that each of them respectively had or have when they joined us. In this case, it's unique for us because we have two drivers that have absolutely accomplished things that are very similar in their careers to this point. It goes without saying they've both won the biggest race in the world. They won the IndyCar championship, they've won races in open-wheel racing in another series. They've come up through junior formula ranks doing very similar things. The common denominator that they have to this day is they don't have outside interests. They're only interested in one thing, working together to win more races. And that's what has marked us over the years with the two-driver combinations that we have had here. For the most part over the years that's what we've had and that's what we have here in front of you people today, and that's what we'll have in front of the people that come here, over 300,000 people that come here on Race Day to witness two uniquely talented race drivers driving for a race team that in common wants to do exactly the same thing that they want to do.
Q: Either of you two address that?
FRANCHITTI: No, please. It's nice to have one, obviously, to have Scott and I having won the last two 500s, last two championships, to have won races this year; but as you kind of alluded to, it's a blank slate. You come back here with some -- you've done well in the past, it's not a guarantee of success this year. You've got to prove yourself again. And you have a good month, that's only half the battle of the Indy 500 is showing up on Race Day with a fast car. That puts you in a position to win the race, then you've got to do everything right over that whole day to get it done, and you've got to have some luck, as well. But not -- to be teamed with Scott on the Target team, I'm enjoying it a lot. It's made me raise my game already and it pushes me really hard. We're kind of -- we get out there and we try, especially like on a street course, one corner or another, how Scott is doing it, pushes me up a level, he looks at me in one corner, pushes him up another level. It's a good fight; it's good fun.
DIXON: I think for me it's been going back to more of the team side of things. It's been kind, I've been lucky on two parts. One is still being here I guess and not being on the firing line of Chip, and the other would be having the many great teammates I've had, which I've had I think eight or ten since I've been here. Those two points I'm pretty lucky and fortunate. Every time you have a new teammate, it's new fresh blood, and you learn things they've learned over their career. And especially in IndyCar racing, because you have people coming from many different countries. They've been brought up in different styles and things like that. And that was definitely a big transition for me when I teamed up with Dan initially on the mile-and-a-half ovals and even the Speedway here. And already with Dario on some of the street courses and things like that. So it's been interesting on many points. But as Dario touched on, this race is very unique. It comes around once a year, you've got to put in the most amount of effort as possible for three, three and a half hours, and like any motor race, it can be a five-cent washer or somebody messing up a little bit that takes you out of it, so yeah.
Q: Dario, looking back now, do you regret the decision to try NASCAR or do you still feel that was a challenge you could see if you could succeed at?
FRANCHITTI: Absolutely not. I don't regret the decision at all. I'd liked it to have turned out differently; I'd like to have been successful. But for all the reasons we know, losing the sponsorship and things, it didn't work out. So I'm pretty lucky that I went to go over there, had the chance to try that as sort of a experiment, and then get to come back here and jump straight into the best seat in the paddock. That wasn't lost on me the fact that I was able to do that. It was, and as I said before, it feels really good to be back driving the IndyCar, such a thrill of driving these things. And that was the one thing when I jumped back in the car for the first time, the smile it put on my face, the fun and the thrill I get from driving an IndyCar.
Q: This is mostly a question for Mike. We had such lousy weather at Kansas and abbreviated the practice time there, and it doesn't look like it's going to particularly be great this week. This may be the smallest amount of practice time we've ever had in going into Pole Day. Any special preparations because of that or challenges you guys have as it relates to --
HULL: We talked about that this morning because we have nothing else to do in the morning since it's raining except talk. And our opinion is that the IRL allowed us to start on Saturday, the vortex would be generated to the point where we wouldn't have rain today. And it seemed to be, seemed like when we used to start on Saturday, we always got a good week in the first week, and everybody qualified well. So that's probably a whole other subject, so it's probably not politically correct to discuss. Now, in terms of being ready to qualify or being ready to race, there's a clear separation point between the teams that will be ready on Saturday and those that won't, and that will be very apparent. But oval racing is all about patience. You have to be patient and then you have to be able to draw everybody together in a teamwork atmosphere immediately based on the conditions that you have. And I think you have to prioritize what you're doing and you have to be very objective and honest about where you stand. And that's probably the hardest part, and that's what we work hard within our team structure to do is just remind ourselves where we are when the track is available to us. And if you had a hundred days of testing or if you had one day of testing, you'd do exactly the same thing. It's just very frustrating for all of us to be in here and listen to the rain hit the roof on any given day, particularly in an oval. I think these conditions, once it dries out, will be fine for us. The greatest thing about the Speedway is what Kevin Forbes did here with the paving. I read a comment by a driver the other day which I'm sure some people in oval racing took great offense to, but the greatest thing in the world about what we've done here since this racetrack has been diamond-cut is the fact that it comes back quickly, and Firestone tires work. So we're really happy about that and we're happy to be here. If it doesn't dry out till Saturday, we'll be ready to go.
Q: This question is for Scott and Dario, kind of following up on what Mike and what Scott had already said. Only thing that matters is Race Day, only comes around once a year. Is it strange knowing that the one man standing in front of you may be your own teammate come Race Day?
FRANCHITTI: Not at all. It's a situation I've been in before. I've been lucky to have a lot of great teammates, and that's what happens when you get in good equipment and you end up driving with really great drivers on your team. You end up fighting for wins and championships with them, and it's like Scott and I have talked about, it's the way you do it. You go out there and it's kind of go back to when you're a kid, you go out and have a good race and afterward if you're beaten, you say, "Good job, man." If you're the guy that wins, you get the same from your teammate, and that's the way I've been lucky enough to do it in the past and now.
DIXON: I guess with that at least you know what your teammate's got, so that leads you into a little bit of inside on Race Day. At Indy, there's always many people that can be fast and many people that can win the race. Generally there's a few wildcats that come in at the end and trimmed out more, and you've been sitting up front thinking, 'That's going to be the speed,' which is what Meira did last year, which was surprising. I think the good thing about us is we'll definitely push each other to the max through practice all the way up to Race Day and hopefully obtain the best race car as possible.
Q: When you guys look at the 100-year history of this place, is there another era you think would have been cool to race here throughout the 100 years of the Speedway?
FRANCHITTI: It would have been nice to try them all, I think, from the start. I just read a book from Dr. Steve Olvey, used to be our head doctor when we give ourselves concussions. He wrote a book and it was talking about the 1920s; that was a pretty interesting era. Yeah, I think to try each one would have been cool. It certainly was more, there's still risk, a lot of risk driving at the Speedway, but there was a lot more back in the day, whether it was in the '60s -- I think going back to sort of the '60s, all of that innovation, that would have been a fun part. Whether you're driving in a rear-engine Lotus against a front-engine roadster and the next thing there's a turbine car, all of that kind of stuff. You go over to the Museum, and you see some of the weird and wonderful creations that people strapped themselves into here, it was pretty impressive. (Laughter)
DIXON: I totally agree, I think Dario touched on most of it. But I think that the stuff you have seen people race around here is pretty crazy. I guess the only sort of unfortunate part about today's racing is the cars are all very similar, so you don't have that maybe -- a lot of cars back then might have had mechanical failures but would have been super-fast and lapped the fields, but the guy that kind of maintained a solid speed got to the end first. As you said, when you go to the Museum, there's some amazing stuff there.
Q: A hundred years from now, you think people will look at this stuff that you drove and think, "I can't believe they strapped themselves into those machines?"
FRANCHITTI: I don't know, who knows what's going to happen for the next hundred years. I think it's impressive, the track has, is coming up for its hundred-year anniversary, all that history. It's pretty cool. You have to come back from things like at the end of the Second World War, and seen those pictures it was all covered with weeds and stuff when Tony Hulman bought it. What a difference to look at it today.
Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 11:46 am
(continued from pt.1)
Q: Dario, with rain here today and let's say hypothetically, God willing, but we see rain again tomorrow, for you I would assume that you don't need a reacclimation here, but what is your mindset getting out there? You're familiar with this place, but how many laps would you need just to get kind of familiar again with the corners and et cetera?
FRANCHITTI: Well, I can probably answer that when it stops raining. (Laughter) I don't know, I really don't. I expect to be up to a certain speed fairly quickly, but it's always, as usual, finding that last little bit, trimming the car out and those things, and really especially Indy more than anywhere is getting that setup exactly as you need it. We haven't done a lot of oval testing with the rules now in the IndyCar Series; it's very, very limited. Not only am I coming back and getting used to running the car here which is a small part of it but getting used to my engineer, Chris Simmons, and getting the way we set the cars up here in the Target team and getting the car so it feels absolutely right for me. Because one thing Scott and I have learned, we like quite different things from a car. So something that works for Scott might not necessarily work for me and vice-versa. So I'm hopeful it is going to stop raining pretty soon and we can get some laps in. (More) Page 7 ... 2009 Indianapolis 500 press conference (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, May 6)
Q: You had earlier touched on dark horses. Considering he's now been moved to part-time status, considering the equipment he's in, I mean do you make Will Power a dark horse or do you make him a contender? And also, same thing about a Paul Tracy out there. Is it even fair to call those two guys dark horses?
FRANCHITTI: Are you asking me? I was waiting for Dixie to answer that one.
HULL: Dixon will answer the Will Power question.
FRANCHITTI: Come on, Dixie. (Laughter) I don't think a dark horse at all. We've seen what PT can do here before. He got back up to speed in about three laps yesterday. You know, coming back here as a past winner, he's pretty stoked, I think. (Laughter) And I'm going to leave -- there's so many people can win this race, like I say, and there's going to be a lot of dark horses. We've seen it so many times.
SULLIVAN: Take one more.
FRANCHITTI: Scott was going to answer that.
SULLIVAN: I was trying to help you.
FRANCHITTI: Don't help him.
DIXON: You know, anybody can be a dark horse, but I think the biggest thing is everybody's got to remember it's a long race. It's not going to be all over in 20 laps.
SULLIVAN: Anyone else? Final question.
Q: Scott, you talked about all the teammates you've had and what you've learned as the years have gone on. Tell us a little bit of what you've learned since Dario has become your teammate.
DIXON: Quite a lot actually. On and off the track, but I've definitely got a bit of schooling on the first couple of road courses, so I need to pick up or pull my finger a little. As I said, it's never anything drastic; it's small little bits here and there. I think Dario is, good or bad, is probably learning things off me, as well. That's why I mentioned it's such a great thing to have as many drivers come through when you've got something stable and, you know, a breath of fresh air is always good. There's lots of little technical things, and I'm a little more, what I would say, a lot more laid back, especially on debriefs, kind of like put an X on here and X here where Dario will have pages of stuff to go through. So there's different areas that we work on, but I'm definitely picking up on it.
SULLIVAN: Thank you very much for coming in. Again, welcome back to the Economaki Press Conference Center. Mike Hull is continuing to hang with us. He's in collaboration with this gentleman here, a great friend of the Speedway, Mr. Sam Schmidt, Brett Jacobson of HER Energy is here with us. The gentleman in the middle, how could we miss him? Alex Lloyd has a unique distinction as many of you know, he is a gentleman who has won on the road course and the oval here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that puts him in rare company. Alex, I just want to let you know we did the quickest research that we can. We put our heads together, and some of us have a lot of gray in our hair, we can certainly remember the two winning cars in '55 and '56 easily, Bob Sweikert and Pat Flaherty. We came up with Johnny Thompson who had the Racing Associates pink car who put that car in the pole position. Johnny Thompson was a fabulous race driver. Ronnie Duman in 1964, we believe, ran a pink and black machine. We had the announcement here -- I remember this one very well -- the Aerosmith announcement with Jeff Ward in 2001, ran a pink car. We believe that Emmo, Emerson Fittipaldi in his very first appearance at the Speedway -- and I got a nod of affirmation, and we think Stan Fox ran a pink car. But, nonetheless, when you think about the history of this track, it has been a very unusual situation. I think that's going to get some attention. Alex, congratulations on your opportunity, and it's always good to see you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tell us about your team.
ALEX LLOYD: We've got a great team together this year. I'm certainly very excited. I think coming back here, it always gives you chills when you come to Indianapolis. It did before I ever raced here and only more so I think every year that you come. So, yeah, I mean from a driver's point of view, I'm really excited to be back in the car and to get another crack at this race. I think I learned a lot last year. I think hopefully that will be able to adapt that to this year as well. In terms of the team, I mean I had a great relationship with Sam in '07 when we won the Indy Lights championship, and then since then I've been driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. So to have the two come together, for me it's a dream experience because everybody I've been working with the last three years altogether now making a run at this, and I think we're going to have a really good car. We haven't really had a chance to give it a try so far. We had a little issue yesterday and obviously the rain came after a few laps this morning. But I'm looking forward to a really good month. Now we've got HER Energy on board, which we've been talking to and working with for a while. So it's great to have it all come together. I mean, it's an awesome drink actually, if you haven't tried it, because if does taste really nice, and it's a good company to represent. I've known Brett now for a couple of months, and we've had a lot of fun. I'm having fun wearing the pink suits, and I enjoy representing them for the month.
SULLIVAN: Sam, when you won a championship, you knew the kind of talent this guy brought to the table. I know it's a thrill to team up with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Mike and all the folks to put Alex in this position to have success here at Indianapolis.
SAM SCHMIDT: Clearly it's difficult to come here as a one-off in the IndyCar Series. I mean, the mega teams and a lot of sponsorship, et cetera. I was really looking as a team owner to come back in a competitive environment or not come back at all. Mike and I actually began the process last December talking about them building my car, et cetera, and one thing moved on from another. This came together. So from our perspective it's really the best of all worlds. We did have a fantastic relationship with Alex and continue to. Winning eight races in 2007 was really a dream season. You know, we're hoping that all of these synergies that are coming together this month will equate to good results. This time in 2007, his wife was pregnant and now she's pregnant again, and on and on and on. There's so many similarities to 2007, and hopefully we can do real well this month.
SULLIVAN: Mike, we just had you up here on the podium. One of the things that stands up is you bring champions to your Target Chip Ganassi IndyCar Series team and now an opportunity to partner with a guy I think that you had this look from afar and saying, hey, this guy has some real skills and talents.
HULL: First of all, Alex Lloyd represents a very unique level of racing, racing driver. He's got what it takes to succeed in this sport. And racing itself is, to be successful over a long-term is defined by partnership. True partnership creates success. It doesn't just do that in racing, it does that in life, it does that in other business areas. You know, if you look at the partnerships that are developed over time in the business industry, true partnerships accelerate everybody to the next level. Being associated with somebody who wins races and championships and knows how to do that is extremely important to Chip Ganassi Racing, and that's who we're associated with Sam. Sam and Chip Ganassi Racing, Sam's team and our team are absolutely parallel in what we've done and what we've accomplished. We bring talent into the racecar and support that talent with a true team of people, and we win races. That's what we want to do together with Sam. That's why we were so interested as a team, and I know that's why Sam was so interested as a team to put this together. We certainly have Alex in common between the two of us. Sam allowed us to run Alex in the year that Alex was trying hard to win a championship for Sam, and in the middle of his championship season we could have easily sidetracked him with the bright lights of driving an IndyCar prior to when he was going to try to win the championship at Sonoma. I think the week before we ran Alex at Sebring. Oftentimes what happens when you take a race driver and put him in a completely different race car and then send him out the next weekend, he misses his braking points, he forgets to turn, he spends a lot of time in the tire wall. Alex did none of those. He won the championship the very next weekend for Sam. So we have a lot in common and this is really important to us. Bringing Brett and HER on board has solidified the deal for us.
SULLIVAN: You talk about teamwork and Brett Jacobson with HER Energy, I have to say this is going to be an eye-popping entire package during the month of May. Obviously, you looked at this avenue as an opportunity to highlight your product and what you do as a company. Talk to us about how you got involved with this team and with Alex Lloyd.
BRETT JACOBSON: It's been an ongoing partnership for a long time now. I think Mike and I originally met about a year ago and sat down with Chip, kind of set out exactly what we wanted to do, how to go about it and said if we want to do this, we want to do this properly and make sure that it was a relationship that was going to last. This is step one in an ongoing process for us and that's something that we wanted to build on. Our brand has been around for about four years, we're distributed by Target and Super Targets in 26 states. We're picked up by Costco now. We're a smaller brand, but we're independent guys that have done very well. You know, bringing together Sam Schmidt and his expertise and bringing together Mike Hull and Chip Ganassi, we couldn't ask for a better team of people. Adding into that mix Alex, we happen to be around the same age, it's like obviously we've had a chance to develop some kind of relationship and a friendship together as well. And just everything felt right about it and it all came together at the right time. I think that when those things naturally occur, those are the best opportunities that you have. It's not one of those things where we ever forced it or we pushed it to happen sooner than it should have. This was just the right time with all the right players. We couldn't be happier with the team that's been assembled, and we couldn't be happier with the partnership that we're a part of. I mean, we're dealing with the most elite guys in racing and obviously they know how to spot talent and Alex is that talent. So we're very excited for this. We're very excited to move forward with them and can't wait for a great Indy 500.
SULLIVAN: Any questions?
Q: I just want to know if you're going to leave Alex hanging out to dry like this or, Sam, will you be outfitted in all pink on Race Day? (Laughter)
SCHMIDT: Obviously, we've been getting the crew uniform together, and so that's taken a priority. We were a little short yesterday, so I fell on my sword, I gave the crew shirts to some of my guys. But, no, I definitely got a pink crew shirt in my closet. As soon as Chip gets there, I'll get there. How's that? (Laughter)
JACOBSON: We'll get Chip in one. (Laughter)
Q: This is for Alex and Mike. If the two of you could kind of discuss the timetable that you have to want to be a full-time IndyCar driver. I know that was kind of what you hoped for after you won the Indy Lights title a couple years ago. The economy is kind of tough right now. But if the two of you could discuss the timetable for you to become a full-time IndyCar driver at some point.
LLOYD: I think the important thing for me after 2007, I've spent enough of my career now in teams of various levels up and down the grid. In 2007 was the first time in my career that I had ever gone to what was known as the No. 1 team, the drive that you want. We obviously were very successful with that. I really felt at that point, you know what, as a racing driver, the most important thing is to put yourself with the right people. I mean it's really tough for a young driver, you know, with sponsorship is so hard to come by, the economy is very bad. But I felt like the best thing for me was to get an opportunity to drive for Target Chip Ganassi Racing was the best place that a driver could be. And I felt like there's a future there long-term. And sure, yeah, would I have loved to have jumped in the car full time? Everybody would. But in today's state that's not possible. So I'm just looking at it as be patient, do my job when the opportunity arises and we're all working very hard to try and make something happen. And I feel like I'm in the right environment, that when opportunity comes, I'll have the opportunity to shine. So yeah, that was the whole thought behind my decision and I still stand by that as a driver, that's what you've got to do, you've got to put yourself with the best people.
HULL: Thanks for the question, Bruce. You know, our brand has always been about not asking race drivers to bring sponsors. Because we feel that race drivers who are the best at what they do are hired on their merit, not on their -- on the balance in their checking account. We feel Alex Lloyd represents the kind of race driver that should be driving an IndyCar. We have tirelessly worked for three years to come up with a full-time budget for this guy to drive a car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. It's probably not fair to give everybody in this room and then some people that would read the Internet or read the world press, a list of the people that we've discussed with budgets of trying to make this happen for us. Because for us it would be an additional entry, an equal entry to what we already have. That's what we've worked so hard to do. So we're not giving a worldwide plea, sponsorship needed here. It's more of how we operate. We have a lot of confidence in Alex. He has driven our IndyCars in testing situations. He's driven our Rolex sports car team in the 24-hour race, again probably the biggest sports car race in the world next to Le Mans. He's driven for a championship team there, has been in contention there. So we have a lot of confidence in him. We didn't go out and hire a sports car ringer to drive that car, we put Alex Lloyd in there with our guys. So that's how strongly we feel about this thing. In a way, if I was Alex, I would probably use a tear-off and find somebody else to drive for because I'm not getting enough time in a racecar. But he's been professionally correct in what he's done with us, too. He stands by the brand and works hard with us, and we hope that we can return that favor.
SULLIVAN: Additional questions? Gentlemen, we're excited. Look forward to seeing you.
Posted: Sun May 10, 2009 12:53 pm
2009 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Richard Petty, Todd Whitworth
PAT SULLIVAN: Welcome to the Economaki Press Conference Center. The crowd says it all. It's a big moment for us when Richard Petty visits the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, particularly a great time that he is here in an ownership capacity. Richard, why don't you introduce Todd. Todd is a gentleman who I know is very involved in putting this program together for us. RICHARD PETTY: Do what now?
SULLIVAN: Todd, introduce Todd. Todd has joined us here.
PETTY: Yeah, this is our sponsor guy. He's the reason we're here.
SULLIVAN: Just been introduced to me, said you were very instrumental in putting this program together. Talk to us about that real briefly.
TODD WHITWORTH: Well, I met John Andretti last year, and Window World hadn't been involved in motorsports whatsoever. John came up to see me, and we started talking about Indy last year and just couldn't quite get it put together. It was sort of if we could have everything in the world that we want to make this thing spectacular for us, for John who's a great, great friend of Richard Petty's and great for my company, Window World, if we could have everything we wanted, it would be to have Richard Petty on board with us.
So it didn't work out last year, but this year we're here, and to be here with the King our first time here is just everything we could ever dream of.
SULLIVAN: Obviously, we've been blessed by having the seven-time champion, 200-time winner with us and in a variety of capacities, particularly the Allstate 400. I know you've been a fan of what happens here in Indianapolis the month of May, a great crossover, I can't tell you how delighted we are to have you as a car owner. Talk about how that came together.
PETTY: We used to come up here 15-20 years ago with STP. We always came to qualifying, probably for 10 or 12 years I came every qualifying day because that was running our Cup stuff, and we didn't ever have time to come for the race. Basically last year I came up here on Race Day was the first time I've ever been to the "500." You know, last year I also got to go to the Kentucky Derby and you've been to the Super Bowl, you've been to World Series, been to the -- we finally, finally got to come to the biggest race there is here. It was quite a thrill just to see all the people, see all the excitement. You know, I've been here for all the 400s, but I'm used to the stock car stuff.
Just to be around the Indy crowd, seeing the cars and stuff, and I think what fascinated me about the Indy deal is the cars more than maybe the people or the circumstances. I've always been mechanical working on my own cars, and we started with stock cars and now we've got pretty much of a race car. But it's nothing like what the IndyCars are. So all of that put together, then we come back this time because, you know, John drove for us a couple times, we got to be good friends, and Window World is out of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, so that's a local operation. So all of it just come together, and we're back up here again pushing John on around the racetrack, see how he's doing.
SULLIVAN: We know there's a tight schedule here. Please use the microphone for your questions.
Q: Richard, even though this is a Dreyer & Reinbold car and you're listed as the entrant in it, I'm sure that there's a lot of things that you're just kind of standing back and observing. In a lot of ways would you like to be a little more involved and really understanding how a lot of these things work and the things that need to be done to get these cars to go faster, and especially how they try to do it in qualifying?
PETTY: Well, you know, from the mechanical standpoint, even my stock cars and stuff, I really don't get that involved in it because I can't be there every minute. You know, used to when I drove my own car and worked on my own car, everything that was done, I was right on top of it. I knew what the crews was doing and all that. It's hard for me to come in to IndyCars and even my stock cars and say you need to change this because it's going to be better or whatever. So try to hire the right people to do the job and then me stand back and see what goes on from there.
Q: Richard, did not at one time you were offered, I believe, by Andy (Granatelli) a ride here.
PETTY: Yeah, way back.
Q: It was quite a while ago.
PETTY: A.J. Foyt, we knew each other from way back, and I think I came up here one time and I think I made about two laps around the car and looked at it, and I said, "See y'all, guys, I'm going back to Level Cross, North Carolina." (Laughter)
Really, what happened, I was looking at the car and, you know, the stock car is great big room and stuff. So they stuff the driver down in there and had this little hole where he had accelerator, a brake and a clutch, and I said no way I can get my 11-and-a-halfs in there. He said, "Tell you what." He went over to his locker, and he got out a pair of 7-size shoes. He says, "You have to put these on." Nothing -- I said, "No way, man." So I'm out of here. So that was about as close as I come to ever be getting in an IndyCar.
Q: Richard, going back in the nostalgia, talk about the days when you were coming here eating Jimmy Voegen's Chicago hotdogs in the garage.
PETTY: We came with all the hoodlums out of Chicago with the STP guys. It was a lot of fun. They had been here forever, I guess, because I guess Andy and his crowd came and then Andy went away but the crowds still came. They were always big here. I guess they run, I guess Andretti won in '69 for the STP for the first time and then Johncock won and they've had a decent record here. But they were always, always big. Even though they sponsored my race car and was big in stock cars, they still was leaned a little bit to the Indy deal because that's what they grew up with. It was always a lot of fun, and they knew everybody. It didn't make any difference, they knew the shortcuts getting around, how to get in and out of town, all the eating places and all the beer places, they knew it all, man. (Laughter)
But it was just a fun, fun deal to be able to come up here and spend all day. You know, you had a lot of these guys that, the mechanics and stuff that go from stock cars to IndyCars or IndyCars to stock cars, so I think right now at Richard Petty Motorsports, I think we've got five or six guys, engineers and mechanics and stuff that came through the Indy situation. In fact, our chief engine man, I think he worked with Penske or he worked with somebody up here on two or three different winning cars. So the racing fraternity sort of just goes around, and it just makes it interesting to come back and see these people, and then I can go home and talk to some of my boys that have been here. So just makes it that much more interesting.
SULLIVAN: Just a quick note, if you could please project when you ask the question, make sure it gets piped upstairs well. @%
Q: Richard, you've got a guy on one of your NASCAR teams that was very, did very well in Champ Cars. How do you think A.J. would do if given the opportunity? I know there are scheduling conflicts with Charlotte, but how do you think A.J. Allmendinger would do up here?
PETTY: A. J. is a racer, and all he sees is getting in the race car and running hard. We've not been able to give him equipment to equal his ability yet, though we're working on it. But he is very much of a racer. You know, a lot of people want to race and think they're racers and stuff like that, but this guy was born to race. So I think he would be good in anything that had wheels on it, whether it was two wheels or four wheels. The trouble I had with him is keeping all four wheels on the ground. (Laughter)
Q: Window World, how are you promoting your company through racing? I know you are in NASCAR as well, now you're in here. How does your company utilize the racing that you're into?
WHITWORTH: Well, it reaches out to the fan base of racing both in NASCAR and Indy. The fan base there is also our customer base. So we're reaching out to the people that are buying our products. And now in the economic climate and all that that everyone is talking about, is a wonderful time for people to buy our products because they're energy-saving products. We're saving homeowners over a half-billion dollars a year in energy savings currently with past customers. With the new tax stimulus plan and all that, people can replace their windows with our products and qualify for that, replace their windows and get up to $1,500 back in tax credits.
So this year was absolutely the perfect time for us to get involved in motorsports and get our name out there. And again, who else better to do it with than with Andretti and Richard Petty. @%
Q: Richard, could you just talk a little bit about how you've seen John Andretti mature as a driver from when you first started with him to how he's driving now?
PETTY: Yeah, you know, we came up here and ran some exhibition runs with the stock cars and John had been running the IndyCars, I guess, and they run, I don't know, seven, eight laps, had eight or 10 people running at one time, and John crashed them all going into one corner. So that was my introduction to John. (Laughter)
But, you know, and just over a period of time, you know, when you meet people sometimes you just meet them. Then other people you're interested in and then you follow their career and all that stuff. And John's personality sort of went along with our stuff, so we kept an eye on John. He came and run some stock cars with us and stuff, and then we was running a road race somewhere and we didn't have a driver and called John, wanted to know if he would drive the car. And again, the deal, the personalities, I think, just clicked. Sometimes on a racetrack we wasn't doing that good but we had a lot of fun doing it. As long as STP was paying the bills, we was in good shape, man. (Laughter)
But we just got to be good friends. So when this opportunity came up, in fact he talked to me last year right before the race, and he was talking to Window World and they just -- it came up too late and he wasn't able to put it together. So I told him, you know, if you get another chance. So quick as the race was over last year, he started working on all of us trying to get ready for this year. So I don't know, about a couple months ago he said, "Hey, man, I got it all put together." I said, "OK, come in and tell me what you got going." Then I contacted all these boys with the car and all that stuff and said, "OK, what do we have to do to sort of get involved in it?" So it all worked out. So now we've got to do is get the car in the race and go out and have a good race.
Q: Richard, you've talked about the history of many of the tracks you've raced at and visited. When you come to a track like this, when you can think back on that first visit, what is it that really strikes you about the Speedway, particularly in terms of the history?
PETTY: The first time I came here was 1954, OK? We had, my dad run a race in Kalamazoo or somewhere and we came back through here and was talking to Firestone about getting some tires for the stock cars and all that stuff. And you know, I was just blowed away. I'm probably 16 years old, something like that, 15 or 16 years old. So, you know, I can remember listening to the races and stuff on the radio crawling up under the race car, working on it and stuff like that, but I had never been here. Once I got here, but the first time that we really came to watch the qualifying and stuff, wasn't none of this modern stuff here, they still had the old garage areas and, you know, it was like -- I told them it was sort of like me going out behind the house, looked like a bunch of barns for horses and cows and stuff. Then you come back and you see all the deals of modernizing the racetrack, you've got a golf course, you've got a road course. So just, I guess time took care of everything. Everybody sort of modernized the deal. You've still got the same racetrack as far as the way it's shaped, but everything else is different. They've got the new soft walls, did a super job in putting down the asphalt, making a real smooth racetrack. So, you know, I guess if anything from when I first came to now, it's just growed up a little bit more, and it's just that much more impressive to me.
SULLIVAN: Before we go with a question, we want to acknowledge Dale Inman is with us and he's going to be recognized at Darlington, we understand. Mr. Inman one of the great legends. How about a round of applause for Dale Inman. Equally as famous as the King. (Applause)
PETTY: Dale, for some of you who know a little bit and not a lot, Dale is my crew chief on seven of my championships and seven Daytonas. Me and him was together throughout my career. Then he went to work there for three or four years and worked for Terry Labonte and won another championship. So he's won eight championships from a crew chief deal. You know, there's nobody even close. I think maybe somebody might have won three. So, you know, he's out there by hisself on that deal.
Q: Richard, one time you and I were chatting in the garage area, and I said, "What's the difference between a racer and a driver?" And you said, "I was a racer." I said, "What does that mean?" He said, "It wasn't pretty, but I won. I went to win." Are there drivers of your caliber still around today that are racers as opposed to drivers?
Yeah, yeah, you know, all the good drivers that's out here today, all the drivers that make it through Cup racing, they're really good drivers or they'd never get here. But a lot of them are not good racers, they're not winners. And you know what makes that? I haven't got a clue. If I did, I'd get one of them and put them in my car. (Laughter)
But you, you know, it's just life. Some people just rise a little bit above other people. It's not that these guys on one on one are getting around the racetrack or qualifying, they're great drivers or they wouldn't be able to do what they're doing. But a lot of them, I guess, are just not winners. I won't say that they -- and I classify that as they're not racers. But, you know, you've watched a lot of people, if you watch them and under certain circumstances how the people act and react, then the winners know what to do and the good drivers don't know what to do so they don't wind up winning a lot of races.
Q: Richard, you told me about 20 years ago that had there been no Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there would have probably been no NASCAR. It was probably 35, 36 years this place had been running the Indy 500 before NASCAR was ever created. I think you were talking about that big of a race gave Bill France Jr. ideas what he wanted to try to emulate. If you could talk a little about that and your thoughts on how this place has really been the centerpiece of all racing in the United States.
PETTY: Yeah, you go back and read the history of there was over what, 200 auto makers here in Indy, and it was the capital of making cars. So somebody comes up with the idea, 'Hey, if we're going to do that, why not make a track or something so these guys can test on?' Well, that sort of went by the wayside and then wound up just making a complete racetrack out of the situation.
I think it probably got a lot of the different things started. I know when they built Darlington in 1950, they were after a 500-mile race because they said look, Indy runs a 500-mile race, we've got to run a 500-mile race. That was the beginning of our superspeedway era. Up to that time the biggest thing we run was a half-mile dirt. That was about it in the South.
So when you look back and you look at what started racing as far as in the United States even though people were racing, they raced Saturday night and stuff, the Indy 500 always stood out way above anything else. And so I think France looked at this, looked at Indy, and he said, 'OK, we build Daytona, we could compete.' They built Charlotte. They was trying to compete with the Indy 500.
So in doing that, this let NASCAR grow, grow, grow, grow, grow. When it really came down to it, NASCAR was able to put on a bunch of small Indy races all over the country where the Indy deal is still Indy. It's either here or you don't even -- you just wait until next year if you miss this race.
Q: Richard, other than qualifying for the "500," what will you consider a successful race for your team? What are you looking at? What are your expectations for the "500?"
PETTY: You know, just a good finish. I think that knowing John it's not, doesn't run with these cars all the time, doesn't -- he understands what's going on, I think, but he gets so enthusiastic about the deal. So we have to calm him down sometimes. The big deal is I think that all of us' expectation is go out and put on a decent show and have a good finish at the end of the race. You know, in my operation, deal, if he could finish in the top 10, that would be a big, big boost for him and for our team and for Window World because that's hard to do, to run 500 miles and not have any trouble. But if you go 500 miles and outrun a few people, that makes you feel even better.
SULLIVAN: We know Richard is busy, we'll take the final question right here.
Q: Richard, this seems to be a pretty big race for you, have you got plans for the future for the IndyCar? Have you got plans for the future in --
PETTY: No, this was just sort of a one-shot deal, guys. If we come up and win the race -- (Laughter)
WHITWORTH: Next year.
PETTY: Circumstances can change. Right now we sat down and worked out a situation and said, "OK, we're going to do it, you know." Again, if we had a little success here, we'll liable to get a little more interested. But right now we're just looking at doing what we're going to do this year and getting the very best out of it, and then we'll add up all the chips when it's over with and see where we go from there.
SULLIVAN: I just want to end by saying one of the neatest things I saw last year was the recognition of the King at Chicagoland Speedway at the NASCAR race and I worked in the PA booth and I could see the television feed. What a lot of people don't know, all those drivers came out with cowboy hats and introductions, and the neat thing was watching and looking behind the stage the current stars of the NASCAR taking their cowboy hats up to have the King autograph them. That said it all. Welcome to Indianapolis, Richard.
PETTY: Thank you, guys. (Applause)
Posted: Sun May 10, 2009 12:57 pm
2009 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE PRESS CONFERENCE
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Helio Castroneves, Roger Penske, Tim Cindric
PAT SULLIVAN: Peak Performance Pole Winners. What a day, huh? Mr. Penske, I know one of the things you've said in the past is you look at this event and a couple of segments, and one of the competitions is running for the Peak Performance Pole and you got it.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, we're excited, and I think to have Helio after his time off to come back and show everybody how good he really is, and it was a thrill for me and obviously for him and all the people who stood behind him over the last five or six months, especially, you know, to his family. I just want to personally congratulate him for a fantastic job. Obviously, we've got a competitive team because Ryan wanted to have a go, which was obviously a tough call. But he wanted to go and Ryan wanted to go, so we had to give each of them a chance, and we didn't want to lose those top two spots, but it worked out fantastic for the team. Of course, Will Power, we've got to take our hat off of him. I mean, he made that run. The people who got ahead of him at the end each had two or three times they went out, and he stayed with his time from the beginning. So it was a great run.
SULLIVAN: Really was. Tim Cindric, I have to ask you, you're involved in these conversations, I would have to think these extra runs, et cetera, when you're locked in the top 11 or at least some cause for acid reflux. (Laughter)
TIM CINDRIC: If you're not up for this day, I'm not sure why you're here. It was a great opportunity for us, those are all good problems to have. Our goal today was to try and sit on the pole and make sure all three cars you were in the first 11 in the first day. We accomplished that, and there's no better way to do it with my buddy here racing against the wind, about made me cry today, but I didn't. Thank you and great job again, Helio.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you, man.
SULLIVAN: Well, Helio, you looked pretty close to that. It has to be a very emotional day for you.
CASTRONEVES: Say it again?
SULLIVAN: It has to be a very emotional moment.
CASTRONEVES: Are you kidding, man? It's just incredible. Again, for me, once again, I have to thank Roger and Cindric to believe in me, to be behind me all the way. Like I said, you guys gave my life back just being in the race car and for me that means a lot. That's what I know to do, you know, since I was 11 years old, that's what I love, it's racing. This place is magic, man. I tell you, it's something that's just amazing.
I have to say Ryan and Will Power, they did a great job during the preseason tests, preparing the cars, as well. The entire time Team Penske we get out of the truck, basically, we didn't have to do very much. The cars were extremely strong. And we just have to continue working through the weather, working through the day and that's what we did.
So today, as Roger said, Ryan and I were really strong. A couple of times I'm like, 'Man, it's going to be tough.' Especially when he left toward the end, I'm like just make me easy to do a decision here. I didn't want to go out and just don't go for it, you know. And it's one of those things, you want to make sure that your buddy is there, and I'm glad that we got the front row. I'm sure Will, it's having Rick Mears beside him, he's learning a lot and he will definitely be there.
But today it was about finding the edge, the first attempt. I said to many people it was a little easy, and you don't want to go around easy; that means you're not going fast enough. Again, we work a little bit, make a little bit tough and certainly that 225.4 was something that, I don't know what happened. But definitely it was a great job for Roger Penske and the entire crew, No. 3. They did get all the bits on the car to make sure that we could squeeze every speed out there. And it did help.
Q: Helio, because of your problems over the offseason, was winning this pole more important to you today? Was it more special?
CASTRONEVES: Being here it's already been very special. Many times during the trial I was thinking about it. You know, unfortunately I'm a human being, there's not much I could do. I have to think about racing because that's what I love, and I was just wishing that I would be here. That was my wish, in those times. Just sitting here just to prove that my faith definitely, you know, He did not let me down. He kept me saying this is where you belong. And I have to thank again the team and my family and everybody to keep supporting me.
Q: Helio, with the emotions you went through in the trial and especially that moment when they announced the verdict, does that give you a better appreciation of fighting for that edge that you fight for every time you go out on the track?
CASTRONEVES: It definitely changed a little my perspective of life, you know, appreciate what I do. I realize even more, I knew what I loved racing, but I realized even more that's my life, you know. And just to be here, it's just a dream come true, and I appreciate every day knowing that I wake up in the morning. I know sometimes I'm annoying in the morning, but that's me: I enjoy life. Now I enjoy it even more. But again, I have to say that what I learned from the trial probably my mind is much stronger now and my skin is a little bit thicker now. (Laughter)
Q: For Roger and maybe for Tim. Can you talk about the decision to send Briscoe out again and pulling second place off the board for a run at the pole? I mean, did he talk you guys into that or who drove that decision?
PENSKE: I think, you know, if you looked at it, you know, prior to that we were in pretty good shape, certainly with Helio had run that lap. But these guys are competitive and Tim and I talked about it and said, "Ryan, do you want to make a run?" He said he did. So we didn't say don't make it, we gave him the opportunity. It would have been the same if there had been time and Briscoe would have beaten Helio and he wanted to go, we would have done it again. So I think you've got to have that kind of momentum with a team and certainly people could look at it that we made a mistake, but these guys we count on are the best. When you're running at the level that the Ganassi team or any of the other teams are, we've got to give them that opportunity. That's why we're here.
Q: Roger, out on pit road, you know, after the gun went off, Helio wins the Pole, you're kind of over there consoling Ryan, that's got to be a real delicate balancing act for you because you're supporting both drivers. One is guy going to win, one is going to lose. How difficult is that sometimes to -- you know, Rick Hendrick once said the first thing he does after a race victory often is talk to the drivers who didn't win before going to talk to the winner.
PENSKE: He would be a pretty good teacher if that's what he does, I'll remember that next time. No, really, I'll say it today, I've said it in the past, if the team wins, the members of the team win. When we go out on Race Day, only one can win the race and only one can be on the pole. But there's great respect, and I think you can see how Ryan has come along over the last two years. He had a lot on his shoulders with Helio out of the first race. But, again, he did a great job. He came here and tested and that information was the basic foundation, you know, for the month of May for both Will and when Helio came back.
I think as far as I'm concerned, you know, it's pretty special to see Helio on top I think that from his circumstances. But he didn't give it because we said, 'OK, Helio you're going to get it today.' He won it, he earned it, and Briscoe had a chance to get it, too. So I think it worked out fine.
Q: This is for Helio. Did you have an opportunity to talk with Ryan and what were his comments to you?
CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I mean I could see in his face he was a little upset. He's a race car driver. You want to be the No. 1, it doesn't matter who it is, you know. But I have to say Ryan and I being we worked together last year, and we help each other. We did seem to be, to have a very similar driving style, especially on the ovals, and no question about the help both of us to develop the car to the limits so that both of us can be fast. Unfortunately, what I'm going to have, he's going to have. One day it's going to be my turn, one day it's going to be his turn.
But I do feel he's, I mean he's a first-class guy, he's an incredible race car driver, and that's the way it goes. One pushes each other, and the only one that's winning here is the team. It makes both the team happy because obviously as Roger said, you want to see the No. 3 and 6 right up there first and second. Today Team Penske is the one that's winning.
Q: Tim and Roger, I mean since the verdict was announced and basically three weeks, two top 10s and now pole, is there anything you can compare this comeback to?
CINDRIC: First of all, I'd like to say his English has gotten a lot better hanging out with all those attorneys. (Laughter)
He's going on and on and actually sounds good. He used to only know about 50 words of English, but he's continued to move that along. "Dancing with the Stars" has taught him another 25, but they were a little different, though. (Laughter)
Now he's got all these technical words. But in terms of where he's at, I think he's had an opportunity to win the last, you know, two races that he's been in, Kansas running second there and there at Long Beach, you know, the yellow falling different, he might have had a chance to run to run with Franchitti. So I can't say enough about his focus, his concentration. Woke up this morning, saw the wind blowing like it was and saw the direction it was, and when he sat on the pole here in 2003, with the gusts and the winds and it was twice as bad as it was today, the flag that was all ripped up that was on top of the Pagoda, the Speedway flag, we asked Tony for that after the end of Pole Day, and we still have that. When I woke up this morning, I thought: 'You know what? We've got the guy to do this.' We just had to put it out for him, and he executed, for sure.
SULLIVAN: Folks, we have four questions lined up and I'm going to leave it at that. @%Q: Roger, to follow up on what Tim just talked about, when you wake up and see bad wind like that, with all your experience here at the Speedway, do you think that favors your race team?
PENSKE: I would say the experience we have, certainly to the level where we are, I think it helps. The drivers are experienced, certainly Helio is. We've seen him run in the worst conditions, and I'd have to say the qualifying run, you know, Mears had some amazing runs, I think Rick would also say running in 2003 when it was about 45 degrees and I think we had 35, 40 mile-an-hour winds, he ran 230. It was pretty special. So I think quite honestly today for Helio was an advantage because he knows how to drive through that type of situation.
Q: Helio, I understand you're spending the entire month here in Indianapolis as opposed to previous years you might go home to Florida to recharge for a couple of days. Is that just because you want to savor this entire experience, start to end in a different way?
CASTRONEVES: I don't know. I just found out, obviously schedule changes all the time, I just found out Monday I'm going to have to go to Texas. (Laughter)
So my intention was to stay here all the time. But, again, as the media requests, I'm going to go. So the point is, like I said, my perspective change so much. There was a point in my life in the moments, tough moments that I don't even know that I would be here. So not because I didn't doubt, but just unfortunately it was outside of my control. Then all of a sudden I have this opportunity now. I will do what I love. I like this place and I like being racing, involved in racing. And as long as I can be around, so I will. It's not to change anything different from last year, from previous years or to make it better, it's just because I feel like it. So I'll go with instincts.
Q: Helio, you talked about having to make the car a little less comfortable. How uncomfortable are we talking about? And what are the sensations, what do you feel when you find that edge?
CASTRONEVES: You know, when the car is kind of stuck going around this place and you can go any line you want, that means you might not be achieving the best that the car can do. You know, and for me there was a way to say, hey, you have more to go here. But sometimes you've got to remember, you've got four laps to go, it's not only about one lap, and that's where we were facing all of a sudden. We were trying to take the downforce of the car, trying to change a little bit of the setup to make sure we could go a little bit faster, and also see what Ryan did because his run was pretty strong. So you've got to put everything together and do a little shake, shake and bake. (Laughter)
Then whatever happens happens, you know. I guess I go back again. Sorry, Tim. (Laughter)
Q: Helio, winning the pole is probably a good step toward winning the race. Starting up front, do you feel that will give you a distinct advantage?
CASTRONEVES: I mean, no. Starting on the pole here does not give you an advantage here. Certainly it's a good start, as Rick Mears said, two types of races. We accomplished one, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us and that's where we're going to focus now.
SULLIVAN: Helio and all of Team Penske, congratulations. I'm always reminded of the fact, Tim, that you once put a banner above your garage that said, 'Yes, we know it's your birthday.' So happy birthday tomorrow.
CASTRONEVES: Thank you. Thank you.
Posted: Tue May 12, 2009 1:00 pm
2009 INDIANAPOLIS 500 FRONT ROW PRESS CONFERENCE
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
, Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti
PAT SULLIVAN: Good morning, everyone. This is the annual front row conference. I don't know how much sleep these guys got, but happy guys indeed. We've got a birthday man on the pole position, Helio Castroneves. Ryan Briscoe, and then Dario Franchitti did a great job.
Dario, we'll start with you, real quick question. In the press conference room yesterday, you expressed some disappointment. I'm just curious, after a night of rest whether or not you feel any different. Is it satisfying now to be on the front row or is there still a little tinge of disappointment?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's very satisfying to be on the front row here. It is a great feeling, especially Race Day to get in the car and have a clear view in front of you. But, you know, I think I kind of got my expectations up a bit little bit in the morning thinking we had more in the car and we didn't, so that was slightly disappointing. It would have been, we were pushing for the pole, what can I say? And these guys did a better job as a team, and we're back there now just making sure when we come here for the race, we've got everything we need.
SULLIVAN: Ryan, one of the things, I guess, from the outside I've always thought of as a strength of Team Penske is that there's a little bit of internal competition if Tim Cindric is calling the shots. For example, for Helio and maybe Roger for you, that one of the things that propels you guys to greatness is there is a little competition, and you had that in the pole position. You both went out and you went out again. Good accomplishment for the team, maybe Ryan Briscoe would have liked to have been in that first seat.
RYAN BRISCOE: No, it was definitely a great day. Helio put in four very strong laps to get the pole. I really felt as though I had the car to match that. We just ran out of time at the end of the day and weren't able to get the practice run in to truly be prepared 100 percent. But, you know, we thought we had a shot at it and were in line and it just would have been, you know, distasteful, I guess, to not go and at least have a go at it. So we tried and didn't work out, but it was a lot of fun all day long.
SULLIVAN: Helio, I believe it was Tim Cindric that one time said: "When we come here there are some competitions. There's Pole Day, there's the pit stop challenge, there's the race; and if it's a competition, we want to win it." This is a situation where your team was able to take the pole position and for you personally for the third time you'll start from the pole. It had to be a great day for you.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No question about it. But every time you approach Indianapolis, Team Penske is just amazing, you can see from Roger, his mindset, himself change a little bit, you know. If you compare it to the other races. So this is very special for Team Penske and, again, Tim is not only calling my shots, is also helping out Ryan and the whole team, even Will Power.
So, again, this is all credit for Team Penske. Ryan and Will, the preseason testing, those guys did a hell of a job preparing those cars. Today is two cars in the front row, it just prove that we're going to have a lot of fun the whole season.
SULLIVAN: If you have a question, speak up. We're trying to transcribe it.
Q: Dario, Graham Rahal said last night that he would rather start on the inside of row two rather than on the out side of row one. You're kind up there in a fairly treacherous area where a lot of people don't race. Is there an advantage maybe to being inside second row as opposed to outside front row?
FRANCHITTI: This will be the third time I started outside row one, and it's worked out pretty well every time. So, yeah, I'm quite happy, thank you very much. As long as Graham is happy in fourth, I'm pretty happy in third than fourth. (Laughter)
I like it out there. I think it's a good starting position. Like we said, obviously the pole is the place you want to be and our expectations, that's why I'm kind of disappointed with our position. But our expectations are so high when you come here with Team Target; you want to be shooting for the pole here. The whole team has these high expectations. But no, third is for me, it's not a bad start spot going into (Turn) 1.
Q: You think that's youthful inexperience talking?
FRANCHITTI: Could be.
SULLIVAN: Questions? You guys wake up.
Q: I don't know if it's been asked already, but the way that the schedule is now, I mean, you're all going to probably go out there today and do other little work on the race setup. Will you come back again before Carburetion Day?
FRANCHITTI: We have two days of practice, Thursday, Friday this coming week.
Q: You will do that?
FRANCHITTI: Oh, yeah.
CASTRONEVES: As many practices as we can get on the racetrack is good. You always learn something. Basically everybody will be preparing for qualifying and not thinking about the race and now that's the typical of the next, second week is working on the race car.
FRANCHITTI: I think we're going to see running obviously today and probably next Saturday and Sunday, as well, I think you're going to see when the track opens for practice, you're going to see everybody out doing race stuff. Time is short now.
Q: Just as a follow-up. Today is totally different than yesterday obviously. Hardly any wind.
CASTRONEVES: It's beautiful. That's because it's my birthday. (Laughter)
Q: I was going to say it will be a totally different situation today.
BRISCOE: Not to mention Mother's Day. (Laughter)
CASTRONEVES: Good job, Ryan. He's always covering me.
FRANCHITTI: Don't you want to pull the car out and see if you want to go faster today? (Laughter)
CASTRONEVES: No, no, it's over, it's over. Let's move on now.
Q: Guys, can you talk about running today, will you run your qualified cars or will you start working on race setups and do work on the T car?
CASTRONEVES: I believe the qualifying car is now going to be prepared for the race. Normally the way we work, it's the T car, try everything we can and on Carburetion Day, that's the time when you pull your primary car back again and make sure that everything is right.
FRANCHITTI: I don't know. I'll find out when I get back to the garage what they've got in line there for me. I'm not sure what the plan is right now.
Q: Helio, when you think back a month ago where you were, even though you said you remained hopeful about everything, did you really envision being in this position to come back so soon the way things turned out?
CASTRONEVES: I mean to be sitting on the pole position, obviously I did not think about it. Those moments was just to be back racing, and I did see myself coming back to Indianapolis, trying to focus about it. Even if it would be for one race, you know, I was always thinking about I've got to be in Indianapolis. Plus, I was concerned about how long the trial was going to last. So there was a lot of thinking. When you're in the room for about six hours a day, you know, nothing that you can do, a lot of words that you don't understand, you start thinking about a lot of things, you know, other than those words. But it's been very special, no question about it.
Q: Does Brian Barnhart give y'all the rules of the road first start of a race like this, where you're supposed to hold your position or is it every man for yourself?
CASTRONEVES: He didn't say about the white line, did he? (Laughter) He did mention to us don't worry about the white line here.
Q: Do you all get the hard-and-fast rules you're supposed to follow coming down the front straight?
FRANCHITTI: He tells us what he would like us to do.
Q: What does he tell you he would like you to do usually? You've been here a few times.
FRANCHITTI: I guess forming up rows of three and --
BRISCOE: 400 yards --
FRANCHITTI: Yeah, he wants us to all kind of space out and give the corner to the guy on your left, I think I remember him saying that. Everybody pretty much I think ignores that, though, if you watch some of the starts.
Q: Dario, is it literally, hey, get a shot right here? What are your thoughts as you're coming down there?
FRANCHITTI: It's an expression you can't win the race on the first corner, but you surely can lose it. It's a long day, and the first corner is not, you know -- if I get ahead of these guys in the first corner, it doesn't really matter that much.
CASTRONEVES: It's common sense, you know. I mean, probably for us that we do have an experience. Maybe when you're young you're like I want to pass everybody. But I guess we're becoming a little older, I became a little older today, and the gray hairs, but it's common sense. You know, you respect the other guy and, hey, if you've got a better car, if you've got a better start or something like that, you just can't panic. You've just got to keep going and do your own thing. It's a long race, you know. But I see some drivers going like really crazy on the first, second lap. I'm like I don't think he's going to last much, and certainly it does happen that way most of the time.
Q: Does the guy in the middle always become the wiener in bun, so to speak?
FRANCHITTI: Not very nice calling you a wiener.
BRISCOE: Did he call me a wiener? (Laughter)
CASTRONEVES: You want to settle it outside, all right. (Laughter)
Q: Do you get squeezed?
CASTRONEVES: Squeeze now. (Laughter)
BRISCOE: Last year I was in Dario's position and Dan was in my position, and you know, we all sort of got an equal start and sort of gave way to the left and Scott took the lead. Dan fell in behind him, and I fell in behind Dan. You know, we just wanted to get away and get a nice, clean start and get the race rolling. I don't think there's any point in everyone sort of trying to get into Turn 1 three-wide. I hope not.
Q: Question for Ryan and hopefully this is not redundant, but did you second-guess yourself at all last evening about what you could have done differently or made some adjustment that might have put you up in the top spot?
BRISCOE: Well, you know, I think, for sure, a little bit. I really felt as though, you know, either myself or Helio had a good car for the pole, but the end result is we're sitting first and second, and it really doesn't get better than that. From the team standpoint, you know, this is absolutely perfect. The thing was, I got the pole early in the day and it was holding up, and we had to play a position of defense, I guess, really, and we didn't want to put both cars at risk and getting both cars out on the track all day long trimming out to the maximum and potentially, you know, putting both cars at risk. And so, you know, we sort of decided for Helio, who was sitting third, that he was going out and doing all the practice runs and going for the ultimate speed. We sort of sat back and just sort of played defense for a while.
Q: When they came up with this 11-11-11 format, a lot of people thought that a lot of people would take shot at the pole on Pole Day, but it really seems like it was 16, 17 people. How big of a benefit was it for the rest of you who wanted to go back out, the line wasn't clogged up with cars that didn't have a shot at getting in the top 11?
BRISCOE: It got pretty clogged up at the end; I wanted to go practice, and we couldn't. I think the last hour you couldn't practice. It was everyone in line.
FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think we were all trying to do the same thing, is practice right up until the last moment and we all kind of got caught out, didn't we? None of us could practice that last hour and people just kept trying to make attempts at the pole but also attempts at bumping in the top 11.
BRISCOE: I was pretty focused on what I was doing, but I think it was probably one of the most exciting first qualifying days, with the 11th spot bumping, especially. It looked pretty exciting for everyone. Everyone was getting in line, and there was a bit of push and shove. I think it was a pretty good qualifying day.
Continued in part 2......
Posted: Tue May 12, 2009 1:01 pm
Continued from part 1
Q: Helio, you had about an hour and 40 minutes after your qualifying run to wait, and that's pretty long on Bump Day.
FRANCHITTI: I had six hours or something.
CASTRONEVES: I was actually, you know, remember this guy here and was it in '07? I remember this guy sitting the whole day there, and I said I think it was a little too early. Unfortunately --
FRANCHITTI: Right at the end, thanks.
CASTRONEVES: It was a little too early, an hour and 40 minutes, as you said. But somehow the track seems to be getting a little bit faster. You can see other people getting better all the time. So I'm like, 'Hey, if it's getting better, the track, we've still got another chance to go out and try again.' So I was very confident, as well, and I was very confident that Ryan would throw very good laps out there. But it didn't happen that way, so he made me make an easy decision. At the end of the day we didn't have enough time to do it, so we just decided to pull out and let -- I think Justin was the last guy on the racetrack. I'm not sure what happened.
SULLIVAN: Other questions?
Q: Do you guys like this format? This qualifying format.
CASTRONEVES: I do. I think it's great because, you know, you can work on the car, you can go back, you have another chance. I mean, obviously talking about way back, you had -- it basically makes you like not go and try again because it's safe to be there instead of done for the day. So I think it's pretty exciting for everybody.
FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think for the fans, definitely adds drama to the whole thing, and that was what it was designed for. We do our best to play within the new rules and try and improve and improve, but I think ultimately the fans get a much more full day of excitement. That was the whole plan.
SULLIVAN: Other questions? Wait a minute, we haven't preapproved your question. I'm teasing, go ahead.
Q: You're really rolling the dice if you pull out at 5:40, even though you may be third, you've been part of the show all day, but things could happen where you're all of a sudden not in the top 11, but is there anything you have to say about that? Maybe having the top five all going for it at the end something like that?
BRISCOE: I think Brian does a really good job with it, and he keeps an eye on who is getting in line, you know. And if there's a 12th-place car getting in line and there are cars that are clearly not going to be able to have a shot getting in or whatever, he says he's able to manipulate the line so it keeps the spectacle going. I don't know if that's actually happened, but I think it's good, you know. And as we're all getting experience with it, it seems to be getting more and more exciting as the years go on.
SULLIVAN: But one of the questions I hear a lot in the press area is some people are mystified that more attempts aren't made. In other words, you've got three shots, and why aren't those being used earlier? I don't know, I'm not thinking about it very much but other journalists are always saying, "Why don't they go out again?" as Bruce has said on that one.
Q: Saying a lot of people but not --
FRANCHITTI: Stop arguing, Bruce. Behave. You do that to me. (Laughter) The score is one all. (Laughter)
SULLIVAN: What do you think, though?
FRANCHITTI: What was the question?
SULLIVAN: A lot of times in the press room people are saying: "Why aren't they going out again? They've got three shots. Why not?"
FRANCHITTI: Look, in our position yesterday we went out and we did our run and we practiced and we practiced again and again, and we didn't have that -- we weren't convinced we were going to be able to run a four-lap average faster than we posted, so there was no point in going out there. Had we had one more run, we might have taken an attempt. We lined up and it was kind of more of a -- I think that was Chip throwing the dice. If Ryan and Helio, you know, they were ahead of us, anyway, but if other people had bumped us off the front row we might have had a gamble at it, but we weren't convinced we could run that four-lap average faster.
CASTRONEVES: And guys, you've got to remember, even when we're not attempting to go out there, we're practicing like in the limit, you know. So even though we're not taking a chance for the qualifying, we're taking a chance practicing. We're pushing to the limit. To run here four laps on the knife's edge, it's extremely hard. So it's not like so easy, come on, just go out there and try again. I wish it would be like that, but it's extremely hard for us to keep trying and trying to make a decision to go out there and try.
Q: The wind was terrible yesterday. It was one of the windiest days I've seen at the Speedway. Was it better or worse at different times of the day? And where on the racetrack was it giving you the most trouble? Because it was a tailwind in the south end and a headwind in the north.
CASTRONEVES: It wasn't the worst day. 2003 I think it was the worst day we had here, I remember that very vividly. But I have to say it was definitely hurting a lot and a lot in Turn 2 at least in my car, for example.
FRANCHITTI: Mine, too.
CASTRONEVES: But again, it seems that toward the end of the day the sun is coming out, the temperature is getting better. And remember, when you have three -- same tires, three cars the same, everything the same, it tends toward the end of the day, if the weather helps, everybody is going to go faster. So it's one of those things that you've got to manage well, you've got to try to find the great spots and hopefully the engineers find out where to go with the setup of the car.
But the point is you've got to go, you've got to go. If the wind is strong, there's nothing you can do, it's qualifying day, you've got to try to put a lap out there.
Q: Dario, how much were you able to follow the saga of TK throughout the last couple of days. Especially, yesterday was a pretty weird day for him.
FRANCHITTI: Yeah, you've got my cell phone here, got a couple of text from TK over the last couple of days. Yeah, he wasn't having a good day and they were swapping cars, and he has that one that looks like Frankenstein with the different paint jobs on it. It's typical with the AGR people; he's sitting outside row two, kept his streak alive of always qualifying in the top two rows here. I guess he had a tough month, and the speed wasn't in that particular car is what it looks like. They swapped the cars, and you see the result. That's bloody impressive.
I mean, it's kind of difficult now with TK being on different teams, we don't talk about technical stuff anymore, and we don't really talk about the business end of racing anymore as we used to. But from the outside, that's what it looks like.
Q: Also, do you think Graham has made a lot of improvement on the ovals the last year, and how big a factor do you think those guys could be on Race Day?
FRANCHITTI: I think it will be a big factor. I think absolutely. Never count out the Newman/Haas guys, and Graham is obviously learning a lot. If he gets his pit entry sorted out, he will be pretty impressive, I think.
CASTRONEVES: I think the same thing. They've proved the ovals to be very fast. Coming here I thought it would be the team surprising a lot of people. And again, they just show again that they are, they're good. So Graham already have one race under his belt and so obviously going to continue getting more experience, but he definitely improve a lot.
Q: With so much practice remaining on this month, how far can you think ahead in terms of strategy or now that you all have your positions, can you already start thinking about what you want to do in the race?
CASTRONEVES: That's the beauty of qualifying the first day. So now we don't need to worry about anything else other than the race. The strategy, I mean you've got to put all the plans out there. If you're leading, if you're in the traffic, and whatever happens, you know. But that's why it's very important to be on the racetrack because always when the weather change and things like that, you at least know what your car is going to do. So just hope that you have the most consistent car through all the situation, and with that you've got your race pretty -- the strategy is pretty set.
FRANCHITTI: Helio touched on it. We've got today and the next week, next Saturday and Sunday, as well, we can think about race cars rather than trying to get cars in the show. For me now it's about making a good race car, making a car that's got good balance in traffic and good grip level and speed and trying to get it working in all weather conditions. I think we're all doing the same thing.
BRISCOE: Yeah, I think, you know, it's the weather conditions, the wind direction can change how a car feels around here, so even if you're not making big setup changes every day, just getting out there and experiencing the different conditions just to be better prepared on Race Day because we don't know what it's going to be like on Race Day. It could be exactly like today, so it could be good to get out there and just turn some laps and make some notes for how the car is with this temperature, with this wind direction. And you just try to do that every day. It's just all about trying to make the tires last, be consistent, have a good balance on full tanks, and it really is just a nice feeling to have qualifying out of the way and forget about that now, put some downforce in it, and let's go racing.
Q: Now that this is out of the way and we have a couple of days off, we know you're going to cook tomorrow. Anything the other two of you do to decompress on your days off when you actually have some down time?
BRISCOE: I'm going home for a couple of days. So just go to North Carolina and chill out for a couple of days, and I'll come back Wednesday and get ready to hit the track again.
FRANCHITTI: I'm kind of undecided right now. Probably go back to Nashville. That looks like the plan.
SULLIVAN: Anything else?
CASTRONEVES: I'm going to cook.
BRISCOE: What are you cooking? I might stay.
CASTRONEVES: I don't know, I don't eat steak, but I'll probably have a big chicken. (Laughter)
SULLIVAN: Bruce has his final question.
Q: After the comment you made last night, I hope it's not Shake 'N Bake. (Laughter)
Anyway, when Rick Mears retired at 41, it was kind of surprising he retired that young. A lot of guys in IndyCars race well into their 50s like Mario and Big Al and Johnny Rutherford and A.J. You know, Mark Martin has won twice now at 50. How long do you think an IndyCar driver's career is going to be? I don't know how long you guys want to drive, but --
BRISCOE: These guys are pretty old.
Q: -- but do you kind of see this being a much younger sport than it really used to be?
CASTRONEVES: Certainly we're here on the front row, so we're not giving anything for the younger guys.
Q: You're not 50 yet, either.
CASTRONEVES: True. But as you said, I don't know, ovals is a lot different than, you know, road course, I would say. It's a lot more experience and more about the feeling in the cars. That's why Mario Andretti, who else? Rick and so many other drivers, Emerson, Al Unser, they race into -- even Michael, I know 40 years old. So I don't see, if you've still got it, if you're still feeling that you're a competitor, competitive and keep going, I don't want to stop; I want to keep going.
FRANCHITTI: I think for me it's an enjoyment thing now. When I looked back, I saw when Gil retired when he was 35, won his last race, I thought that seemed pretty cool, seemed like a nice way to do it. But with going to NASCAR for a year, I decided I really wanted to come back and do this, I still want to race; I still want to drive IndyCars, and that year away really made me appreciate how much I enjoyed doing it, how I enjoyed all the disciplines of it, whether street courses, road courses, especially here at Indianapolis. I love driving the cars. I think as long as I'm enjoying it and competitive, then I'll keep doing it. I have no idea what that's going to look like.
Q: But having raced with Mark, how impressed are you? He's now won twice.
FRANCHITTI: Mark Martin? Just look at Mark. He is very, very fit, first of all. He's a very smart driver. I think he's an amazing driver. When you follow him, you're thinking how the hell is he hanging on to that car, it's so loose. He's a very, very talented guy. I've learned a lot from him, both sitting and talking to him and following him on the track. He's one of the cool guys. I'm not surprised at all he's having the success, not only winning races but pole positions, too. He's on it, man.
CASTRONEVES: I had a great experience in IROC going to Richmond, right at the start of the race, I was inside, and he's outside. I'm like no worries, I'm going to brake deep and that's no problem. I brake, and this guy, he kept going. I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding.' (Laughter) I cannot believe he just did that. And it's amazing. I always told him that: 'I can't believe it; I want to be like you one day. I want to be racing still.' It's just incredible to me, as Dario said, he's a very smart driver, and he's been proving it.
SULLIVAN: What about you, Ryan? Talking about the career and you look out, your reflections and thoughts on that.
BRISCOE: I hope to race for the rest of my life. So I don't know, I think you've got to keep fit, you've got to keep focused, keep motivated. You're only as old as you feel.
SULLIVAN: Other questions?
Well, on that note I'll be down in pit area looking for a ride. Thanks. (Laughter)
Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:58 am
Indy 500: Winning team press conference, part 1
Indianapolis 500 Winner's Press Conference
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Winning team: Castroneves, Penske, Cindric
PAT SULLIVAN: We know that this man now has orchestrated a 15th Indianapolis win. He did exactly what I know they plan to do or want to do every month of May. They won the pole, they won the pit stop competition and won the race. Any way you slice it, that's a clean sweep, and that's a great day.
ROGER PENSKE: We talked with Helio about the win of his life a couple of weeks ago, and he comes back do show you. Outside he has that personality, he climbs the fence, but inside he's as tough of nails. He had to be to go through what he went through the last six months. It's really a credit to the team. Great to see how Briscoe ran. Will Power was up there. Sorry to see my son Jay's car have the problem. But you look up to that podium, that's the one thing during this race, you look up at the podium for two reasons; where are you and how many laps to go. And I think about 85 or 90 laps, that 9 and 10 car were out there doing a pretty good job, and I said it's going to be a long day. But we stayed on our game plan; the pit stops were sharp. For some reason, Ryan thought he had a tire go down, and we got a lap down and able to get him back into second, but unfortunately we were probably four or five laps short and we had to come in. So it was just one of those things, but it was a great day.
It's a credit to Tim Cindric, who will come in here, obviously, and the consistency. I think I said before probably 800 years of experience on this team, and it's interesting that Rick Rinaman has had, I think, 12 wins, too. He's a crew chief that's been on the team, not always as a crew chief, but certainly as a key part of our whole team. So it's consistent sponsor, consistent wins, and this guy is something else. Give a big hand. (Applause)
SULLIVAN: Welcome the winner of the 93rd Indianapolis 500 and three-time winner, Helio Castroneves, and Tim Cindric.
Mr. Penske just talked about your toughness, Helio, and I think about the emotional Victory Lanes we've seen in years past. Bobby Rahal certainly had an emotional Victory Lane, and Emerson one time comes to mind and the famous Al Unser Jr. Victory Lane. But I don't know if I've every seen one like that, and all I could think was this has all the makings of a made-for-TV drama. It is the most incredible finish to a set of circumstances. And all of us in Indianapolis were hoping you'd be here, simply be here for the month of May. And to be here and win, wow. How about that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's exactly what I said, wow. When I was inside the helmet and still on the victory lap, I, normally I cry -- no, actually I scream to the guys and celebrate, and this time I have no words, just let it go. It was a very special moment that last, the celebrating lap. I was a little upset because I to stop and I keep hearing breaking radio, "You've got to go to Victory Lane." I didn't know where Victory Lane is because the last two times I was here was exactly where I stopped. So I was like I've got go over the fence. What they did for me during this very difficult time; they never stopped sending great messages. As you said, I heard it all what I'm talking about. It is a great way to pay them back. What a great way to show that I am so honored to have fans like that. I will never forget so many positive messages.
Obviously, I keep telling this to Roger and Cindric to give me -- and our partners, to never stop believing in me and to give my life back, to be in the race car again and to be here in Victory Lane and to be here in Indianapolis, winning for the third time is just, without you guys, I wouldn't be able to do that. So thank you so much.
SULLIVAN: Before we go to the questions, Tim let's get a comment from you. One of the things Roger said, you never know what's happening in the month of May to some degree, you've been the dominant car in everybody's mind and all of a sudden, bingo, there go the two Target guys and they were looking awfully strong. What were your emotions at that time?
TIM CINDRIC: I was about to ask him what was going on because all those things happen, and all of a sudden we're fifth, and he's as calm as can be. He was a lot calmer than I was, because I was sitting there trying to figure out what our next steps are going to be. Just like Indianapolis always is, it's a series of races inside of races, and you always have to look at the next stop and you know you have four or five more stops to make it up. If you can make up one stop, all of a sudden you're the leader. He actually had to pass a guy or two to get there. We knew we had the right guy behind the wheel.
Q: Helio, I think one of the things that's been overlooked here is you are a three-time winner, a historic achievement in itself. All the adversity aside, now you've joined three-time winners, four-time winners, that's the best of the best.
CASTRONEVES: I feel honored to be in this category of drivers. When I go to the dinners with the old-timers, and I'm there first of all feeling pretty impressive -- feeling pretty honored. I feel pretty honored just to be there. And now being this type of category, wow, with such the incredible names. I feel blessed to be in that category. But without a team, without good people surround you, you cannot make that and, like I said many times, Team Penske has won so many times, so they prepared this race. I again give them credit for all my guys and especially Ryan Briscoe and Will Power when they did the preparation, you know, while I was not there. And that was incredible.
During the race, you know, just to answer the question, I was just trying to take it easy. I didn't want to push it. I was waiting for the right time and I just asked them, put me in the lead, and I will have no problem. In fact, we didn't change anything in the car. As soon as they put me in the lead, boom, the car was just incredible. We were running 220s, even saving fuel, and this guy kept telling me got to save fuel, got to save fuel. In the back straight I could not hear because I have a problem with the radio, it was the best thing. So every time I come to the front straight, got to save fuel. Gosh, this guy won't let me go. And then I was actually back there, I was studying what the car could do and if I have to pass somebody. And I was just waiting for the right time, and the right time came, like in 2002, the right time came, 2001. So this place is amazing. I had a great car, Roger Penske gave me a great car today. When we needed the speed, we were right there, and when we didn't need the speed we were very close to the other guys. So great job there.
Q: Helio and Roger, it took you guys maybe a little longer to get together after the race and, Helio, I know you were greeted by a lot of people before Roger. What was that meeting like sort of between the most emotional guy in the place and one of the most calm guys in the place? (Laughter)
CASTRONEVES: As you can see, look, he only smiled three times or two times, when it's his birthday and when he wins the Indy 500. (Laughter)
But I tell you one thing, these guys know me for a long time. Like I said, they are not only my boss, but what I've been through, I really felt they are becoming great friends. It was just incredible, you know, so many people, even the fans as you can see that everybody was cheering. It was just incredible. I want to say thank you to everybody who supported me and to give me the extra push, especially when I wasn't there driving the car. To drive for this man here is just an honor again, and I'm so glad I'm still doing what I love most for the best in the business.
PENSKE: Well, I guess my situation is the race, I think I mentioned on the way in, I said, "Tim, one thing you do is you look up at that pylon and see where your number is and how many laps to go," and I did that a lot today. From Lap 180, I knew who had the wheel, I knew the experience, I knew the preparation, and I felt calm and there was no reason to get excited. I talked to Tim, I said, "Has he got enough fuel?" He said, "No problem." So it was a matter of winding it out. And, of course, the chance to see Helio, he's part of our family and, you know, you're just so happy to see these guys execute like they have, because it's -- you know, I said I think to someone, that Indianapolis, what it's done for our company and our 40,000 people, our customers, my family, building a brand, you could never do it like you can if you surround yourself with the Indianapolis 500.
So for me it was just spinning in my head, I say this is exactly what people expect. So I have to take my hat off to you. Thank you.
Q: Helio, you said Friday, "That's the last chapter in my book." Obviously you're writing more chapters. Kind of talk about how many more chapters you've got, and what's this chapter going to be?
CASTRONEVES: Hey, if we keep doing what we're doing, it's going to be a big book, you know? (Laughter)
I'm probably not going to read it, but it's going to be a big one, too much. (Laughter)
But I said it was the last one but, I think it's the beginning. And certainly it's a great way to come back. I feel fantastic, I feel great. But certainly like I said, I couldn't do it without those guys. Talking about Rick Rinaman, he won this place 12 times with different drivers. When he come to you and he says he has so many other drivers and he's honored to be with you, so that's the type of people you want to be, you want to have right there tightening your wheel because you know they're going to do everything to make this happen. And I can't stop thanking them because without a great team you can't do what we did, and a great strategy. This guy here has been with me since 2000. He's still the only one that understands me. However, I did improve my English but even today with the problem on the radio, we have to go through a lot of communication. And Rick Mears, he was there for me; Clive Howell was there for me, as well. Those guys were just -- it was a great synchronization piece, you know. We never lost any calm on those issues that we had. That's what it takes to win this race.
Q: Helio, you know, you showed your emotion a lot after wins and stuff like that, what do you do before the race to like turn it down? Do you still have that statue you smuggled into the Vatican in '04?
CASTRONEVES: I do actually. I just put my helmet on and close my visor, that's it. That's what I do. When I'm there in my space, in my territory, I know what I need to do. Obviously, I have guys around me telling me what to do because they have better eyes than me in those circumstances, but I'm the one in charge there and I'm the one telling me I need to put the car where I need to be. So when you do that, it's a great place in the world. You don't need to worry about anything else. That's why I'm one person out -- not that I'm different, I'm just excited to be around in race cars, but when I'm in the car I've got to do everything I can to reach the limit, not only myself but in the car, as well. Today was just a perfect combination.
Q: Roger, you were faced with a pretty unique and extraordinary set of circumstances with Helio's legal troubles. What went into your decision to handle that situation the way you did it, keeping the seat warm? Also, did you ever during that process wonder to yourself, "Will I get Helio back?"
PENSKE: Obviously, that was the big question, what's going to be the final answer. When Helio and I talked almost every night, and initially we talked about a race and so many seconds ahead, so many seconds behind as we kind of went through the four or five months of discussion. But I think Tim Cindric and our sponsor, we met, we talked about it, we sat down with Helio and said, "Look, we've got a situation here we've got to deal with, we will stay with you until the final answer." Obviously as the season was going to start, he understood that we had to put someone else in the car and we said, "You need to focus on your situation, but the moment we get the word that you're ready to go, we're going to have a car for you." And I think you saw that at Long Beach and we were able to give Will a good car, finished second, sat on the pole.
So I guess, you know, I had so much faith that Helio hadn't done anything wrong. I couldn't understand why he was guilty, you know, before he had the trial. That's all I saw, every piece of publicity that came out of Miami was he was guilty, and the way they treated him initially was, you know, was deplorable. We just said, "Hey, we're with you." The good news is Helio, myself, his family, we never had to get the other side of the answer, so, again, the final answer was exactly what we thought it would be. He was cleared of any situation, and obviously there was no issue because one has to understand that we knew Helio, we had a contract with Helio. That contract we knew was the right one, and we handled it properly. Obviously when he first came to this country, putting something together, we had the Greg Moore problem, lost Greg, and Helio was there, I talked to him and he said he didn't have a ride with Carl Hogan. So there's lots of moving parts there. This is the things that you don't get unless you're sitting there in court and read a lot of these documents that you don't see.
But I can say this: We never, ever were going to leave his side. It's worked out, and I think the payoff today is not only for him but for everybody on this team that never, never blinked an eye.
Continued in part 2
Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:59 am
Indy 500: Winning team press conference, part 2
Continued from part 1
Q: Helio, Roger mentioned when you first came here, and I want to take you back for just a minute because when you did first come here, nobody knew anything about you. And I remember I met you in the garage and we walked together to the pits and nobody bothered to say boo to us. Then within about three weeks you were totally inaccessible because you became a superstar. I saw you on television recently and I know how emotional you are, and I think people rightfully adore the sincerity that you exude. But you said something about this whole series of events has really kind of -- these are not the exact words -- but something like this whole series of events has put life back in perspective for you and given you a better perspective or sense on that. I kind of wonder, you know, you became this instant superstar, and I'm kind of wondering how that's going to temper now your life moving forward. Is there anything that can change really given what you've done?
CASTRONEVES: No, I'm always going to be the same Helio as I've always been. Outside the car, I've always been accessible to you guys. Whenever I'm asked questions, I'm always able to do that and the fans, as well. I'm going to continue being myself because that's what my mom taught. My mom always told me to be yourself. If you're happy, you're happy; if you're sad, you're sad. But I always continue to be myself.
Q: Helio, you kind of talked about you're honored to be part of this, the category of being three-time champ of this race. Winning the 100th anniversary of this track, does that add a little more excitement to today's victory?
CASTRONEVES: Winning here, I mean it's very special. I'm just so honored to be the guy doing that. Like I said, to be in a select group, first of all, and this is just incredible to see how many people -- and I was actually coming to the track this morning, asking a lot of people. I don't remember seeing how many people were here and struck in traffic and things like that, and they keep saying the Indy 500, it's coming back. And for me, to hear those words, it's just fantastic. And be sitting here talking to you guys is just amazing because this place is very special. I'm super-happy that it's coming back.
Q: Helio, a question concerning the final stages of the race. You said earlier your team were on the radio and said save fuel, save fuel. Nevertheless, just from the outlook on the television, personally I had the impression lap times, speed, et cetera, et cetera, have been nearly identical. So how difficult was it to concentrate and do always the same speed or nearly identical lap times?
And a question also for Mr. Penske. Three or four laps before the end the camera shows Helio's family very emotional, very nervous. You seemed pretty controlled and cool. (Laughter)
How difficult was this not to show emotions and to be controlled?
CASTRONEVES: Do you want to answer the last one?
PENSKE: I guess when you've been here, you just hope that there isn't, you know, a yellow. I knew at 180, when we said, when Tim said we had fuel, and I knew Helio was behind that wheel and he made that restart without Wheldon getting by him, it was ours to lose. So you have to be rational in this thing. You get excited, it doesn't do anything to help you go faster. I think Helio, the lap times that he was turning, we have a fuel gauge, we know where we had to be on fuel, he obviously had a number he was making and still running in the 220s. Wheldon is a real competitor, and what we didn't want to do was have him jump us on the start and we didn't want to have another yellow. That's the time, you can see at the beginning how aggressive Franchitti was, and yet, as we ran about 20 laps, Helio just moved on by.
So this is -- it's a very, very different race.
CINDRIC: Just to clarify as far as saving fuel, not the last yellow but the yellow before that when he actually made his last pit stop, that's the point where everybody was really having to save fuel. If there weren't any more yellows, once the last yellow occurred, who was it, Matos and -- from that yellow because it was so long put us in a position and put Helio in a position the last 20 laps to run flat-out as much as he needed to, just to clarify all that.
CASTRONEVES: He answered that. (Laughter)
CINDRIC: What he said.
CASTRONEVES: I can't hear, man. The radio and everything, it's like a buzz.
Q: Tim and Helio, they're talking about the best of the best of the best. And Helio, you're still a relatively young man. Has the discussion ever come up the first to win five Indianapolis 500s between you two?
CINDRIC: You know, I guess it hasn't really crossed my mind too much since probably 2003, you know, at the point where he had a chance to win three in a row and we had made our last pit stop there in 2003 and he was the leader. Helio ran up on lapped traffic there toward the end of the race and he was able to get by him, and at that point in time that's probably the last time we really talked about numbers here. After that it was just a matter of what's it going to take to get back there again. We had a couple of rain races and a few things where I think we had the car to win, but we weren't able to get to the end for a couple of reasons, but rain being one of them. As we look at it now, I remember as a kid growing up here, remembering how cool it was to wait for A.J. to win his fourth and what that meant and all the hype about A.J. winning his fourth, and then again with Mears. So I kind of lived it as a kid, and it's kind of cool to sit up here and think he has a chance to do it.
CASTRONEVES: Well, for me, I tell you, you can't be thinking about five without making three. We just made three and now thinking about fourth. But I will think about it, dream about it, but we've got to work for it. Certainly have the team to do that, but we have a long way. Right now for me, I'm just going to enjoy this moment because it's very special.
Q: Helio, to win this race sometimes takes a little bit of luck. Weren't you behind Kanaan when he crashed in the back straightaway? Take me through that and what went through your mind when he veered off.
CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I saw on the straightaway like a little smoke probably from bottoming and all of a sudden, I'm not sure if it was the left rear or right rear suspension broke, and he hit pretty hard. I saw a piece of wing coming straight to me. I even told the guys to check the air box because I thought something hit, didn't hit my helmet but there was so much debris. Well, we did stop right on that yellow, and we found out there was a piece of carbon stuck into the right front or left front tire. So it was lucky that everybody stop and I stop, as well. So we were able to go back and continue the race. So it was very, very impressive because it was right on the front straightaway and it was a big crash.
SULLIVAN: We've got four questions left in line. That will be our final four.
Q: Helio, I want to go back to a question, sort of a spinoff on a question he asked before. I remember when you started the tax case, I remember you saying on TV to a reporter, "I'm trusting in God to get me through this." And today when you took the checkered flag, you hadn't completed the lap and you said, "Thank you, God, thank you."
What's happened to your faith in the course of this last six months?
CASTRONEVES: Sometimes you try -- I try to answer questions, I just couldn't find the answer. And today I found the answer and that's why. I thank Him.
Q: Helio, I want to go back toward the end of the race when everyone was saving fuel, so it might have been two yellows from the end. When Will Power was behind you, if it wasn't a situation where you both had to save fuel, and say you had enough fuel to make it to the end, what do you think would have happened? Were you worried about Will, because he looked like he was catching you?
CASTRONEVES: Yeah, he was very strong. What was up with that? (Laughter)
PENSKE: We hadn't dialed the number yet.
CASTRONEVES: I didn't know who it was until I looked at the Pagoda and saw the No. 12, and it was like he's coming here, and they're telling me to save fuel, tell him to save fuel. (Laughter)
No way. And he was very strong, and I don't know what happened. But I would not give up that position. Toward the end, certainly I don't think he was saving fuel, but he was doing extremely well up to that point because we already have quite a few laps on the tires, and he didn't have a clear lap. I had a clear vision and no traffic, and he was catching pretty fast. So he was doing very well. Then I think a yellow came up and we all had to pit, so he definitely show he's very strong and potential here.
Q: Helio, I have two questions for you but they're short. The first one: Was there some confusion about you being able to climb the fence? Were they saying, "No, don't do it?" If you want to answer that one, and I'll ask the other one. It's real short.
CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I was going over there and they were like, "You've got to go to the Victory Lane." And this yellow guy kind of like pulled me in. (Laughter)
I want to get out, and he's like, "No, you've got to stay here." I was trying to take the stuff and he was literally holding my helmet and myself there. Finally I saw the team come, and I said, "I'm sorry, I want I've got to get out." (Laughter) That was the confusion, I wanted to go and climb the fence.
Q: The other thing was so often the person leading with ten laps to go doesn't win this race just for whatever reason or whatever various circumstances. It looked like to us when you were leading at that point, there was absolutely no way that anyone was going to catch you. Do you think, did you have that feeling, I mean after the all the emotions and things like that, it really felt this is one time there is absolutely no way?
CASTRONEVES: You guys make that. You guys talking about the 10 laps, guy's not going to win. No, I was just going in and certainly I had a good gap between the second place, and I was just managing, make sure -- and I couldn't hear how many laps to go. I tried to keep looking to the number of laps, and he keep telling me 10, then I didn't know if it was 10 or seven or I was just so confused. So I'm just like, "OK, forget it, keep going, keep like the 219s, 218s." And I think I had enough car. I didn't even ask the lap time that the second place was doing. So at that point I was just trying to finish the race and manage the gap that I had and hopefully not get in traffic. Because this year the field was so tight, I can see it was very hard to get traffic. So it was interesting to see that.
Q: Helio, the boss mentioned his concern about the restart. You had seen starts and restarts where a guy in second place was in pretty good position. Were you concerned about that restart with Wheldon?
CASTRONEVES: Yes, absolutely. We didn't have the new tires, either, so I kind of like knew that in that situation if you don't have a very good car, you'll be able to keep behind and certainly it happened and I was able to manage the gap. After that I was just -- and because I had a few laps in the front as well, so I was pretty comfortable with the car. It was just one of those things when you're in the front, you just keep going and the car was just fantastic up there.
Q: A quick one for Roger and then a quick one for Helio. In '06 you said that was your most exciting Indy victory. Was today your most gratifying?
PENSKE: I would say yes.
Q: For Helio on a lighter note, are you glad this one was a decisive Indy 500 victory?
CASTRONEVES: A what? Well, the last one was never a problem for me or for us. But hey, we didn't have rain, we didn't have to deal with anything. So we proved it.
SULLIVAN: We've learned something that Tim Cindric is right, by the way, Helio used the word synchronization very well. That's a dancing turn, the decisive maybe not so much. I tell you what, how about it, folks, what a great effort by all of you? A salute. (Applause)
Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:00 am
Indy 500: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, top rookie press conference, part 1
Indianapolis 500 Second, Third, Fourth, Top Rookie Press Conference
Sunday, May 24, 2009
2nd - Wheldon,
3rd - Patrick
4th - Bell
Top Rookie - Tagliani
PAT SULLIVAN: Tell us about working your way through the front, and what that was like for you?
ALEX TAGLIANI: First of all, the day started when I walked into Gasoline Alley and saw the grandstands the first time here on Race Day. So quite unbelievable, very, very happy that I had the chance to do this race. And, you know, for the team, they did a fantastic job on the car. Obviously, from where we were starting, we pretty much had no choice but to go for a little more downforce on the car, and I think that's why at the end of some runs some guys were struggling pretty bad with their tires and they were coming back to us. We made some ground and when I was unable to pass, I saved a lot of fuel in every pit stop; the guys did really, really good. Slowly but surely, we were going into the front, and at the end when we got into the pack with the top-10 runners, obviously it was a lot easier to stay flat all around for my runs because I was really stuck. And then it was harder for guys to pass us. So, you know, our day was pretty simple. Just like make no mistakes and stay out of trouble and continue to make some grounds toward the front and no mistakes in the pits, and that's exactly what we did. The team obviously in the stops with having to put less fuel from saving so much, we kept leap-frogging a lot of the guys and, girls and we got ourself into P11. So really good job, team effort.
SULLIVAN: It was a good team. Danica, you had one hell of a race. I was thinking about your rookie year when you had that battle with Dan Wheldon, and you two you were out there the latter stages of the race. We heard you talk; we thought perhaps an adjustment here and there, a chance to win, but awfully good day.
DANICA PATRICK: I was happy with my car the last run and the run before that, once I cleared a couple cars in the second to last run, and I think I got up to sixth or something at that point. I was just running flat-out all the way around, which I'm happy with because it didn't happen that much in practice.
But that was as a result of us being more in the proactive side of keeping the car on the ground and being ready for longer runs, being ready for traffic, being ready for lapped traffic. So we were pretty good. And then on the last stop the guys got me another couple of spots, and I was up to fourth. I knew there was something going on with Briscoe because he had been a good chunk back, and all of a sudden he was at the front. So that was what I thought was going to happen, something on fuel.
So when he pulled in, that was third, and I wish it would have been green the whole last run. Our car was really good on longer runs. Had a great restart on the last restart and awesome run out of (Turns) 3 and 4 and went instantly went to the outside of (Turn) 4. It was that good of a run. I just kind of stalled out, I just didn't have enough. I think that was the difference. That was kind of us being ready for the whole run, the whole race and not just the last run. So it seemed Dan was a little more trimmed out maybe because it just kind of run side by side all the way down into (Turn) 1. I thought I was going to pass him completely on the outside, but that did not happen. But it was a good job. Dan did a good job. He looked like he had a handful in front of me, and obviously with Helio winning, that's great for him and everything that's been going on with him for the last sort of, well, I don't know, year or years. So I'm happy to see him happy. And he's great for the sport. So congrats to Helio, he had this standout month, really. If you'd ask me who was going to win, I would have said Helio.
SULLIVAN: I think everyone felt that way, but awfully good run, Danica.
Q: Danica, it's maybe unfair for you to compare 2005 because you had a shot at the win but after the race you were not very happy, but now you've moved up.
PATRICK: Which one, '05 or this one?
Q: '05, that's my question. You've improved: This is your best Indy 500 finish. Can you compare how you've changed?
PATRICK: I think that I did my best to stay calm the first year, for sure. I'd have to say there are lots of parallels, actually. Once the car got to the front in '05, I was good there, I was fine. But back in traffic, I remember in the very beginning of the race I had some engine cuts happening and I dropped back to 10th, and I was nothing special back there. I was just hanging out. That's kind of the way it was this year. Once I was back in the pack, it wasn't anything special, and that's how I felt for the first half. But I think once the track grip came up enough where it came into me being able to be flat out there, I think that's when it made the difference out on the track and I could make passes happen. So, you know, and my crew did a good job. The pit stops were good. I mean, I'm happiest I've ever been with my team there.
But, you know, I mean, I have mixed emotions about both of them, obviously. I was happy with the day, I was happy with the '05 day with what happened, but to miss a win here -- and it's enough to just have a chance. If you can be there, that doesn't happen that often, but to miss it is even more like, oh. But, you know, what can I say? Helio was really fast and Dan did a good job, too. So they actually remember very similar.
Q: Danica, maybe as a third-place finish at Indy, does that fulfill the promise of the fortune cookie?
PATRICK: No, no, a win would have fulfilled. How many times do you get a fortune cookie tell you a four-wheel adventure is going to bring you happiness? Why would they even write that? Who has four-wheel adventures, I guess on a four-wheeler, but how great could that be? I would love to get a road course win, so maybe that's somewhere down the line. Actually, I love Milwaukee, which is coming up in a few days.
So I think it was a good day. I'm really happy. I wish it would have ended up a little bit better than what it did, but that's the way it goes here, and that's what makes this place so awesome and frustrating.
Q: The way the cookie crumbles.
PATRICK: Cookie crumbled at the third.
Q: This question goes to Alex Tagliani. Alex, did you feel after Bump Day and not having a ride, then having a ride afterward, that you would be sitting in 11th position at the end of the "500?"
TAGLIANI: Well, you know, in all honesty, you know, we definitely missed first weekend qualifying from the crash on Sunday morning. So that really put us back a little bit. And like the last weekend of qualifying, we qualified Saturday and we probably showed exactly what not to do, just went out there, you know, feeling safe and doing race trim all day long, and at 4:00 pulled the car in the garage and go to qualifying sim and basically run the clock down until we had no time to go put our lap in. Obviously, the car was quick. As a driver, you know the car is fast enough to compete in the field but, you know, from an exceptional situation we just got bumped and never seen before. It was not actually a Bump Day; it was a replica of Saturday because everybody pulled their time off. But in the race, you know, like obviously with the car we had, we just -- it was unfortunate that we started so far back and we had to put like quite a bit of downforce on the car because like in the last stint I felt like, you know, maybe a degree less on the rear wing and we would have been able to compete inside the top 10. The car was really, really good.
So I guess the consolation was to just win that Rookie of the Year trophy and showing that the team is not only good on road course now but is also pretty good on ovals.
SULLIVAN: Let's welcome the gentleman who ran second, Dan Wheldon. Looks like Dan and Danica were trading notes on the last run. That was pretty exciting stuff.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, she's certainly a tough competitor. I think she's like a lot of those troops, she never gives up. So all credit to Danica. But I have to say I'm incredibly proud of the Panther Racing National Guard Team, and in my IndyCar career there's not many races where I've honestly left the track feeling that we've executed everything perfectly. And I have to say, I thought they did an absolute phenomenal job. The pit stops were just first class. I didn't have to do too much work on track because they kept making me spots up. It was one of those things at the end where I just didn't have enough for Helio. I was toward the end having to hold off Danica. But they should be incredibly proud of the job they did. Honda and Firestone yet again gave everybody very consistent engines and tires, and it was a good day.
Q: Danica, could you talk a little about what Michael (Andretti), how he helped you specifically during the race today? I'm interested, your first year when you got the good finish, led the race, the earth stood still afterward and it set off Danica mania and everything, I suspect this year it's just a good race car driver that ran a good race.
Q: Talk about that a little bit, too.
PATRICK: That's good. I'm doing my job. My job is to finish as high as possible and get as many wins as possible. So I'm actually glad about that shift. I'm glad that I'm not like, "Oh, my God, wow, third." I'm paid to do this job, so I wish it could have been a little bit better, like I said, but it was a good day overall, and it was for the tough month that we had and just how we had to keep our heads down so much of the time, it ended up turning out pretty well.
So, you know, I'm glad that people are seeing it more like just a good finish from a good driver.
Q: How about Michael, what did he tell you?
PATRICK: Mike has done a fantastic job on the radio. As you guys probably know because you've been around racing, he's a passionate guy. He's, you know, he gets very into it, and I think in practice I see more of that even than in the race. In the race, he stays really calm, even on the pit stops I was looking over to him, and he was just standing very calm. That's very important. So when he needs to be on, he's on, and he's right. But I think he was just saying, he was telling me "good job" every now and again. You know, he was obviously telling me when to tune the fuel down and things like that, but I mean he did a great job on the radio. I think the most important thing from someone like that and basically a voice in your ear is that they are calm. They can't influence you because trust me, there's plenty going on to influence me on my own.
Q: Alex, I just wondered, I ran into Bruno this morning, had a couple of words with him. He's such a gracious guy. Now that the race is over, I wonder if you could tell us whether you got any help from him prior to the race after following qualifications and if you said anything to him in the interim. How did that go?
TAGLIANI: No, actually, not really any help. But just like a really good conversation with him on Sunday night, you know. Obviously last year after finishing fourth with the team in Australia, they decided that they wanted to build like a long-term program. They knew sponsorship was going to be the first big challenge, and we kind of like decided to work together. So at that exact time in 2008, I became kind of like the No. 1 driver for Conquest Racing. So when Bruno came, we worked on the car, they put the same setup. You know, he came up to speed really fast because of his experience here, and when the team decided that, made a mistake on Bump Day and we had the fastest car of Sunday, felt it unfair to let me miss the Indy 500, and they got me into the second car that was sponsored.
So the only conversation I had with him was just to thank him, to be understanding and that's all. After that just spent a lot of time with the engineers and get settled in in the second car and pretty much go forward from that.
Q: For Dan and Danica. Can you guys even begin to imagine what Helio's emotions have been like this month and a half, what he's gone through?
WHELDON: I can't imagine, to tell you the truth. You know, he's a first-class individual at the racetrack. You know, I don't really know him aside from that, but I think the best thing about it is obviously that's over and the guy has won his third Indianapolis 500, which is no mean feat. This race is incredibly difficult. You know, it's not just it looks obviously very individualistic with just the driver in the car, but there's so much effort that goes in. Even to the, you know, the families of the guys back at the race shop, you know, there's so much preparation that it's difficult, and he's handled himself very well in difficult circumstances. I've been very impressed with the way Roger Penske has handled the whole situation. I think that's why he's one of the most respected individuals, if not the most respected individual in the IndyCar Series and, you know, I think in business, in general.
So he was, I think, the deserved winner of this race certainly from what I saw. I didn't see how Scott and Dario were up close, but certainly at the end I didn't have anything for him. So he should be very proud, but that's taking away nothing from the team that I drive for. Like I said, I think they executed everything perfectly.
SULLIVAN: We're going to let Alex Tagliani go. Congratulations to you, Alex.
TAGLIANI: Thank you.
SULLIVAN: We're going to let Townsend Bell come in, fourth place.
PATRICK: Obviously, with all that's gone on with Helio, I saw him at Long Beach and just the kind of hug you get from him after what he's gone through, it was a different kind of hug. So I'm very happy for him. I enjoy him as a person. He's always been kind to me and, what I felt, respected me, which goes a long way. So I'm glad to have him back, and obviously he's great for the sport. So, you know, I'm happy to have him around. But he's pretty tough to beat, though. That's the only problem with it.
Continued in part 2