Indy Car Racing Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. I want to first thank Jim and Chip for being with us today and I would also like to go over the procedure that we'll use. First I'd like to please ask that anyone who has a mute button, to please use it when you are not asking a question. It's very important for our radio people to try to get a clear sound bite, and any background noise comes through. So please be considerate of everyone else on the line. What we'll do as far as questions is we will have a question asked by each member out there. We will ask you for a question. If you don't have one at the time, just say pass and we'll go on to the next person. What I would like to do though is get through the order just one time before we open it up for questions for everyone else. So with that we'll move on to Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team who are obviously coming off a victory this week, not probably as they would have preferred it, but yet still the first victory for Jimmy Vasser who has been one of our strongest competitors dating back to the Nazareth round this year. In the last few races you'll note that Jimmy qualified in the front row at Nazareth, was running up front early before getting involved with another driver. Followed that up at Indianapolis where he was leading with just 30 laps to go. Went to Milwaukee, had a top ten finish there. Was second in Detroit with his career best finish at that time and then followed that up with this weekend's victory. With that let's go out and open it up.
Q. Jimmy, you're going to get inundated with these questions so might as well get them out of the way. You didn't have a victory lane ceremony. Do you feel shortchanged or will the next one just be like the late gratification.
JIMMY VASSER: Well, I don't feel shortchanged and, you know, when they reversed the racing order. It wasn't like I was elated with my first victory. So, you know, we plan on winning some races -- some more races this year and I'm sure those will be proper and even a bit more sweeter.
Q. Jimmy, you tested up at Road America here recently and I hear you had a little off-track excursion. Can you talk a little bit about that and is that something we need to be worried about? I mean, is there a problem there or is it just a problem that you had?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, you know, we're not 100 percent sure what happened. We were looking at a fault -- maybe perhaps a faulty part on the car and then there were also some questions about the tire. But we're not 100 percent sure what caused it. I was going into the first corner in the braking zone and something was amiss in the back of the car, kind of put me off to the left on the braking zone in the dirt and just kind of careened down and skipped over the gravel trap and over the embankment and ended up upside down. So I think the only thing we ought to be concerned about in our car is some of the changes that IndyCar has taken the initiative to go ahead and do for the race and they're going to have quite a bit of tires -- bunches of tires like you see them use on the street circuits to, you know, help slow down the car a little more. It should get off. So, I think that they were addressing the problem, but we were just up there testing a few weeks before the event, so everything wasn't in place that they're going to have on the race weekend.
Q. Jimmy, I don't want to hound on this or pound on this, but you still feel like -- really deep inside you feel like you're still searching for your first victory?
JIMMY VASSER: Oh, yeah, certainly. I mean, this is not the way I wanted to win the race, but they do have rules and, you know, on behalf of the team and our sponsors, you know, it's good for our sponsors and our team, we could use the points. And, you know, we put ourselves in a position where if things happened like that then we were winners. It's not the way I wanted to win my first race, but, you know it's not a total gimme either. I mean, the team worked really hard and we did qualify in the front row and we were there at the end. And, you know, if it wasn't us it would have been Rahal or Michael and I'm sure they -- they've won a lot of races and they would have taken it with a big smile on their face. So, you know, I'm looking for forward to having the race or perhaps I -- I pass Junior on the last lap or something like that and came across the line with my fist in the air and I'm sure we'll get that sooner or later. But as far as Portland goes, you know, we need a little good luck. We've had a lot of bad luck this year where perhaps if we'd had a shot to win a race, and so it feels good to get some good luck and get back in the points.
Q. Jimmy, I'd like to ask, you know, the way you guys come on recently, do you look back at all with any misgivings of maybe what happened at Indy and Nazareth and had you settled the trouble there you'd be, boy, right on top of these guys battling for the championship?
JIMMY VASSER: I don't think you can dwell on things in the past. I mean, you're out there racing and things are going to happen. And, you know, not just Indy and Nazareth, we had some other things that were problems. But, you know, one thing I think is we haven't been totally out to lunch yet this year. So I think it's good for the team to have some sort of consistency and it helps billed the confidence. I mean, we've worked real hard all year long and we really aren't doing anything any different now but finishing. So the team is really strong, we've got a great -- we've got great engineering with Morris and Julian Robertson and Grant -- on my car Grant Weaver, you know, he's a great crew chief. So, you know, we're not really doing anything any different, we've still got our heads down and we're up against the wall swinging so I think we're -- you know, hopefully we can come out at Elkhart and run consistently and try to keep this role of finishing races going for the team. I mean, Bryan was running real strong at Portland. So from a team aspect I think we were probably the strongest team all weekend at Portland. So I'm looking forward for the whole team to keep the momentum going and just keeping the consistency.
Q. Jimmy, have you been keeping in touch with Angelo Ferro and the people at Genoa Racing?
JIMMY VASSER: Oh, yeah. Angelo is a great friend of mine and Chip has had the pleasure of meeting him this year. And he's been welcomed around the team. When he comes around, he's obviously busy with his Indy Lights program, but he's a good friend of the team and he's welcome to come around. And we do see him probably every race weekend.
Q. Now, the car that you wrecked at Elkhart Lake, what is the status of that machine at this point?
JIMMY VASSER: We had a lot of damage, and Chip will probably tell you the financial status of putting it back on the race track.
Q. It was the car you ran at Portland?
JIMMY VASSER: It was the car we ran at Portland. And that's a real tribute to the organization of the team to get it back ready, you know. We were fortunate that the actual tub in the gear box pretty much came out, you know, just with some superficial damage that was able to be fixed. And everything was ripped off of the car. It was like a run away bobsled. They worked all week long, the got that car back out there and that was the car we ended up winning the race in.
Q. You mentioned a point briefly before. You're 36 out, do you think you have enough time to catch Jacques and Gordon?
JIMMY VASSER: Oh, there's plenty of time. I mean, we're talking about motor racing. I mean, anything can happen. I was on a string where I didn't much finish five races in a row and I don't even know how many points we didn't get. So I feel very fortunate that we've been able to come -- to be in a position where we're 36 out with -- what is there nine races left or eight races? And so anything can happen. I mean, you seen what happened at Portland. If we can just keep our heads down and keep focusing on putting ourselves up in the front in the top five and finishing races, things are going top happen, we're going to get points and who knows, you know, would we can end up winning the championship. There's no way we're going to assume now that we can't and give up.
Q. Do you think that what happened at Portland is to your benefit; turning the season around for you?
JIMMY VASSER: I don't think it turned the season around. I think we've been, like I said earlier, we've been running competitively all year long and with racing you've just got to take what happens on the weekend and not dwell on the bad things or rest on your laurels if something good happens. You've just got to load up the trailer and get out to the next race and take every session working hard and try to make working with the engineers and try to make the car better. So, it's just that simple. Sometimes things happen that you don't have any control over and you let them get to you, then I think you're going to lose focus the next time you get in the car and you're supposed to work with the car.
Q. Jimmy, I was down at Portland and you did an excellent job down there, your crew worked very well. With this win you're getting an awful lot more press. Do you find that to be pressure on you or is that -- how does that affect you.
JIMMY VASSER: No, I don't think -- you know, there's no extra pressure with a win. You know, I mean, we're just out there trying to do the best job we can and trying to run good every time. I welcome the press extra press if it comes with winning races or running up front. I mean, that's all I really want to do is gain the respect of my peers in the sport and be considered somebody to be contended with on race day.
Q. Congratulations Jimmy, but where were you when they told you you won the race?
JIMMY VASSER: I was -- I had a later flight and my mother was -- and some family members were down at the race. They live up in the Seattle area and I was over at her motor home and just happened to be having a soda and sandwich when some of the IndyCar media officials came over and asked me to come over and have a little press conference over at the media trailer. And I was told by Kirk Russell and Wally Dallenbach and Andrew Craig, and we had a few questions for some of the media guys that were still around. It was just like that.
Q. Did you convert that bottle of soda into champagne?
JIMMY VASSER: No, no. We had some champagne and a bit of a celebration with it. We felt good about our second place finish. We were running pretty strong early in the race and had a string of events in the middle of the race and just weren't favorable, we loss a lot of ground. And I made a little mistake when I was trying to get by Pruett and smoked it in, lost three or four spots and at that point I just decided that I was going to just settle in and get a few of them back and make sure I finished that darned race and get the points that we need so badly. And things happened, you know, one by one in front of us. So, you know, I felt we did a good job as a team hanging in there and grabbing that second place finish. And, you know, to get the win afterwards, it wasn't any extra celebration for me. I don't know, you know, Junior ran a great race and that Marlboro Penske Team, you know, they're tough to beat any time. It's just not the way I really wanted to win the race. So it's just it didn't overcome me with a bunch of excitement so...
Q. Jimmy, congratulations obviously on the win. Let me ask the question: If you had to give your team a grade at the mid-point of the season right now, what would you give yourself and why.
JIMMY VASSER: Do I have to?
JIMMY VASSER: (LAUGHTER.) I think we're probably -- we're doing probably a B plus as a team because I don't think you ever can be perfect. There's always things that you look back -- I'm in there as a driver being graded myself and everybody on the team. I've made some mistakes, the team's made a few mistake, but, you know, I think we get an A in effort in keeping our head up. I think with all the bad luck we've had we've never gotten down and there's no dissention in the team. So hopefully we can always do better, but the guys are working really hard and always looking to not make the same mistake twice, and I am too so. I think it would probably be in the B to B plus range.
Q. Jimmy, talk a moment about -- a few minutes you ago you mentioned respect. What has it meant to your career both respect and profilewise in the racing community to be with a high profile team such as Chip Ganassi and also to have a high profile sponsor such as Target that runs TV adds and the whole nine yards?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, from a driver's standpoint being involved with Chip Ganassi's team and Target and like you say TV adds, it brings up to another level in recognition as far as the fans go. And also, you know, you get a little more respect from your peers to be considered a driver that would be chosen to drive on the team with a caliber that I'm on. And also with a sponsor like STP, I mean, I don't need to go into the their heritage in racing, in IndyCar Racing, and it's good to be the STP car as well. So hopefully we can just continue to do good on the track and do better and be the guys to beat, you know, on race day. That's the thing we're all after.
Q. I've got a question for Chip here, if he's still on the line.
CHIP GANASSI: Go ahead.
Q. Chip, you had some unkind things to say about Michael Andretti in kind of boinked (ph) Bryan Herta right off the track there and frankly he's been boinking some other people too. Have you had a conversation with Michael? And secondly, do you think IndyCar should have a conversation with him? It seems like maybe he's trying too hard to win a race.
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I think, you know, I have a little bit of experience with Michael, and I didn't think what I had to say was unkind. I just said that apparently some drivers have some problem in that corner down there. If you -- one of the things I -- one of the things we talked about before the race, I don't if you remember last year at all, but Michael and Jimmy got into it in that corner last year and they both were out of the race. And so, I, you know -- it's difficult on race day to -- you know, a lot of times your emotions overcome you or whatever and you'd like to be a little more unkind maybe than you otherwise would be. And that's -- I have a lot of comments about that. I mean, first of all I think Michael has an aggressive style sometimes that is to the detriment of his own as well as to the sport's outlook. I think, you know, it's not for me to say whether he should be talked to or reprimanded or -- there are people within the sanctioning body within the organization that can decide that on their own, and I don't feel it's my place to do that. That's why we have people in the CART office. No, I've not talked to Michael about it. He knows what I probably have to say about it so...
JOHN PROCIDA what I'd like to do now is open up questions for Jimmy, and then I'd like to move onto Chip and get a little bit more in depth and give Chip a little bit more time here, I know there's quite a few questions out there for him. But right now please go ahead. And try to remember that there are others on the line so try to still keep it to one question, but we will open it up right now.
Q. I want to jump in with a really quick Chipy (ph) here. Chip, you've never been exactly a wall flower in any aspect of this business. If it had been your car that was penalized, do you believe that the fine and the penalty that Penske Team is paying is fair.
CHIP GANASSI: Okay. Just -- correct me on what a wall flower is.
Q. You always say what's on your mind.
CHIP GANASSI: Oh, okay. In other words, I always do say what's on my mind.
Q. We can count on a straight answer from you.
CHIP GANASSI: Right. Okay. And do I think that the --
Q. Do you think that the penalty that they were assessed is fair?
CHIP GANASSI: Maybe just clarify my memory on what the penalty is. All I understand is they were disqualified. Is there a fine involved?
Q. No. I mean the disqualification. I consider that a penalty.
CHIP GANASSI: Right. Okay. Do I think that's fair?
CHIP GANASSI: I think -- in other words, the problem with that -- I mean, as I understand, and here again, I've only had one conversation with a CART official on this and as I understand it they had a problem with getting a two-inch measurement because part of that had to do with that floor -- you know, obviously they were running the car very, very low all weekend. It was obvious to anybody that was there that car was scraping the bottom off it every session. If they don't -- I guess if they don't enforce that rule I can assure you at Elkhart Lake everybody is going to have their car on the ground and you'll see skid floors flying off like - you know, on a fairly regular basis. And I think there's some -- I was talking to the engineers at Reynard, you know, for about every tenth of an inch that you can chop off the bottom there, there's about a hundred 50 pound -- 150 to 200 pounds of down force created. So I think, you know, it's obvious to me what everybody will be doing if they don't enforce that rule.
Q. Jimmy, you talked about some of the problems you had in the middle of the race. How do you mentally fight back from that? How do you as a driver say okay, I'm going to buckle down here and we're going to get back up to the front? What mental process do you go through?
JIMMY VASSER: It's just like that. You know, I -- Tom Anderson, the team manager, the guy I'm talking to on the radio, he helps me out, he says hey, hang in there, we'll get these back. You just can't give up. You never can give up. It was frustrating, we were running a comfortable fourth and it all started with Emerson coming out of the pit, they pitted a little bit earlier right in front of me on new tires, and I was on old tires and he slowed me down to about half a second to a second a lap to the three laps before my stop. My stop wasn't as smooth as we would have liked, it was about three or four seconds longer, a little more time. I came out behind Guerrero, he was being very, very difficult and we all came up on a pack of guys that were really racing farther back in the pack and slowed me down up to three seconds for four or five laps and I had probably a ten or 15 second lead over guys that were behind me and all of a sudden it was just gone. And it's -- it's frustrating from a driver's standpoint to have a turn of events in a race that, you know, I could have -- I really couldn't get by anybody without jeopardizing my race car and finishing the race. I was trying to get around. And so it was frustrating and you just need to take a deep breath and say hey, things have happened and now I'm here and if I'm going to finish this race, I need to calm down and get into the groove and start picking them back off one by one if I can. And things that kind of happened to me when I was at the front of the pack up trying to get by these cars happened to the other guys that were up there. I in turn ended up towards the back, so I had a good seat and I just calmed down and was taking my time and things just started happening. And you just need to take a deep breath and make sure that you -- you know, to be smooth and don't do anything stupid and don't get yourself in a position, you know, trying to race with somebody where you're going to get taken out of the race. So, you know, that's basically what I did.
Q. In your mind if some of those problems hadn't cropped up, if the pit stop had gone perfectly, et cetera, do you think Unser's car was actually that much stronger than yours or do you think you could have gotten by him and actually won the race outright without even --
JIMMY VASSER: No, Unser was strong. I mean, he was real strong. He was stuck to the track. And, you know, if those things would have gone properly and I wouldn't have came up on the back up of cars and so forth, with the way they were maybe if I could have come up on them one by one, I would have been where I was running. I was running a comfortable fourth at the time behind Villeneuve and Tracy and I had Christian behind me a ways back and some other cars even farther back. So I would have been in that area on the track and I wouldn't have gotten into the mid-race predicament that I was in.
Q. Jimmy, I haven't talked to you since Indy and I just wanted to get your thoughts of what it was like to lead out there?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah, after the race reflecting back the fact that we led the race and were a strong contender on race day, it was satisfying to a certain extent. But while I was -- while I was racing and while I was leading, it was -- you know, there was no different feeling. You are just -- you just do the best job you can do. You try to do the same things you've been doing. It's the first time I had led an IndyCar race in my four-year career but to me it was a good feeling that it didn't feel any different to when -- I used to -- I used to win races from flag to flag in Atlantic and Lower Formula and win a lot of races and I never had a problem leading a race, and it always felt comfortable. And that feeling was the same for me. It was like I was back home again and it wasn't like I was overcome with emotion and real nervous because I was leading. So, yeah, that felt good to me that it was just like I used to be. So while you're leading the race, it's nothing really different, you just try to do all the right things. But it was nice, you know, after the race to reflect back and say hey, you know, my team did a great job putting me in the position to lead the race and we ran strong and people knew that we were there to race.
Q. What puts you out was essentially a racing accident?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah, I suppose you put it in that category. You're running hard and I was racing with Scott there and he made a move that was -- you know, it was a good move but I think it was a little bit late and it forced me a little bit high up in the groove and with all the marbles and so forth and just couldn't get it back down and just lost my front grip and it wouldn't turn. So, you know, that's a racing accident. You know, you go a little bit deeper and say well, you know, if I would have blocked him and not let him come in there, you know, it wouldn't -- he wouldn't have made the pass. But you could play the Monday morning quarterback all you want, you know. That's what happened. You're out there racing, you make split second decisions all day long and you've got to live with them.
Q. Speaking of quarterbacks, was Joe Montana out there this weekend?
JIMMY VASSER: No. Joe wasn't out there this weekend. I think he was on a summer vacation with his family and he'll be back with us I think at the Toronto race.
Q. Has he talked to you yet?
JIMMY VASSER: I haven't talked to him this week. I think he's overseas. He's right in there man, he's involved though. He really liked it and he's jazzed about the race team and comments, so I'm sure we'll hear from him soon.
Q. Jimmy, with the thought that you can still win the PPG IndyCar Championship yet you're still looking, as you said, to find that first win where you can throw your fist up in the air as you go across the line, how do you find a line between the consistency that's needed to win the championship yet the aggressiveness that you sometimes have to take chances in order to win the race?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, you're right, that is a fine line, and I think that, you know, there's a time and a place to be aggressive. Later in the race, racing for the lead or holding somebody off is a team time to be aggressive, or if you really think you're losing ground and it's crucial that you get by something and you think you can pull off the pass, that's a time to be aggressive. Early in the a race in a pack of cars where if you make a chancy move to get by somebody just to get, you know, behind the next guy in the pack because you're not really going to go anywhere, that's not a smart aggressive move. So there's a time and a place to be aggressive. And you're right, it is a fine line. Again, it's also a last second decision that you make. You know, if you see the door open a little bit under braking, it's nothing that you -- more times than not it's not a calculated, you know, planned move, it's just something happens, there's an opening and you take it, you know. The most important thing for us, if we're going to, you know, win one of these races starting up in the front and then running hard all day and beating everybody on the racetrack, is that we work really close with our teams and our engineers and get the cars working good because, you know, when you're running fast, it's easier to -- it's an easier drive when you're running up front when the car's working good than when you're running, you know, 10th or 12th struggling with a car that's not optimum but you're trying to make up the difference from the driver's seat and trying hang on. I'm sure that when we lead our race from flag to flag, it will probably be one of the easiest races we've run all year long.
Q. Did you come into this season thinking this is my chance to prove what I can do, you know, with Chip Ganassi's help and with Target's help, is this my year?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah. You always want to make the best with what you have. I've felt very fortunate that Chip gave me an opportunity to be on his race team in the late stages of the off season. I was also fortunate to have, you know, still the support of Jim Hayhoe who I drove for three years and STP, a great sponsor with me. And my philosophy in racing, and it was really important in this season, is that, you know, being a race car driver, when you get a chance you just can't screw it up. You know, there's no time to work up this speed slowly and, you know, just settle in. And, you know, you get -- you don't get a lot of chances in IndyCar Racing because there's a lot of great drivers out there who are ready to take your job and do a good job. So, you know, you can't screw up your chance, and that was my philosophy. I knew I had to get in the car and give the team good feedback and hopefully not crash a lot and but still, you know, be quick on the track and try to give good results. And I've been fortunate that the team is capable of doing all those things and it makes my job a lot easier.
Q. Jimmy, given the technology that's out there today, do you think that's a reason why people -- you know, a team or a driver can be so good at one place and then completely, you know, out to lunch at another? Would technology be a part of that?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah, technology is a part of that, sure. Sometimes you can have too much technology and you're to put into use and you're really -- it's being a hindrance and it puts you out to lunch. The competitiveness of the IndyCar circuit now is part of that. I mean, there's so many factors that -- you know, that contribute to that kind of a scenario. We had that last year on the Hayhoe team. We had some instances where we were running -- some races were running really good and we'd show up the next race and it was like we forgot our name. And I think Chip can probably attest to that same thing with his team from last year. And that to me is the most important thing that I want to try to get away from, not only from a driver but, you know, with my race team, is that we need to get consistency. And in the races that we run good, there's got to be some sort of a common denominator when you run good and a common denominator when you don't. And it's important to find out what those things so you do don't do them again or you do them again if there's things that make you go good. And it's consistency that's going to win a championship, and that's what I'm striving for. I want to get rid of those races where you're qualifying 18th or 16th and you're not just a factor at all. And it happens to everybody. I mean, it's happened to Penske, it's happened to the Newman/Haas team to a certain extent and it's happened to us this year. But we're trying to do that as little as possible.
Q. Jimmy, on the consistency thing, do you focus on winning the race or do you focus on getting in the top five and letting the race come to you?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, you know, we're always there to win a race. I mean, that's why everybody is here. It's tough to win races. And, you know, I'm not speaking from a standpoint of experience but because I won one race, I'm saying you've got the Penskes out there, you've got Newman/Haas, the Team Green and the Ganassi Team it's just very, very difficult. So, you know, we're not focusing on -- for me, I'm not so focused just on winning the race or just focused on being top five, I'm focused on making the best out of what I have; you know, working with my engineer, you know, driving the car 100 percent hard every lap I get out there so I can -- so I expect what the car is going to do. I can't go out there and drive 90 percent and then I'm not putting the car on the limit, I don't know what it's going to do at 100 percent. I try to drive the car hard every time. I try to come in, give good feedback, make good changes and do the best job we could do. And then if we -- if we can continue to put ourselves in a position where we're up in the front, we're in the top five early in the race and we're running hard, that things are going to happen. And, you know, in one of those things could be that we have a good race car and we're going to pass people for the win and/or we're going to start up front and lead all day or, you know, people are going to fall out and we're going to be there to pick up the victory. So, you know, you've just got to do all the good things and work hard and work with your race car and try to put yourself in a position where if things happen then you can win.
JOHN PROCIDA: Do we have any last questions before we move on over to Chip?
Q. Yeah, John, I do. Jimmy, did you get enough -- in addition to your accident obviously, did you get enough work done at Elkhart Lake or was your time cut short because of that? And if so, were there any other problems with the new surface or anything that you found that will be particularly helpful?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, I think we might have found out what we shouldn't do. We weren't particularly quick, and the surface is good, there's good grip there, there's always work to be done. You know, I don't think we were done. You know, we were cut short. You're never done. I mean, the car is never perfect, so you're always looking for more good grip on one end or the other or both. And I think we now some stuff on the car some set ups that we went to the tests that we shouldn't go with now because we were -- we did struggle a bit, but that's what a good team does. A good team goes to the racetrack before the race and does some testing, and because we did that, now we're going to be a step ahead of where we would have been if we hadn't have gone testing. So I've got my fingers crossed and I've got faith in my and Julian Robertson to put a good set up on the car and get us out there in a competitive fashion.
JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. Let's turn the focus for a few moments over to Chip Ganassi. And this of course is Chip's first win of the season with the Target Team, but of course they won two races a year ago. Chip, let me throw out the first question to you. You took a little bit of a chance this year with two young up and coming drivers, but things are really starting to fall together. What were your thoughts at the start of the season?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, I think the thoughts were that, you know, it was a change of philosophy really rather than going with, you know, rather than going with say a Michael Andretti or Arie Luyendyk. I mean, these guys have won races and we thought we'd try to build a driver equity into the program and maybe get some younger guys that we could hang onto for a while. That was my thought in the beginning of the season and still is today to this time. You know, a lot of times you have drivers that really just need an opportunity. I mean, they're not in with a team, per se, that, you know, can give them a consistent performance week in and week out, so how can you expect a driver to do that. You know, I mean -- you know, with -- I know this may sound like a stretch for some of you, but it's really not when you're in my position when you have people like, you know, Senna dying and Mansell going away and, you know, there just aren't that many drivers out there. So really it was a planned process to -- you know, with these two drivers we have.
JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. Let's open it up for some questions.
Q. Chip, what was your consensus that led you to pursuing Jimmy? ? And could you assess -- you've had a number of drivers race for you, could you asses his abilities for us.
CHIP GANASSI: Well, the circumstances eluded to me was I've been talking with Jim Hayhoe at the end of the year last year about a variety of issues, probably most of which was Jim was looking to -- he wanted to stay involved in racing somehow but he wanted to get away from the day to day of running a race team, and that's probably how our discussions began. As we got further and further into the off season there I was negotiating with Gugelmin in Brazil and I wasn't really happy with how that was going. And one day I just, you know, talked to Jim Hayhoe and said, you know, Jim, why don't we just do something with Jimmy with our team rather than -- he said great. And that was really where the discussion started. And I called Jimmy up on the phone and asked him if he'd be up for that and he jumped at it and that's pretty much how it got started.
Q. What month are you talking about there?
CHIP GANASSI: I think it was in December.
Q. What about Jimmy's ability, what did you think about him?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, here again, I think that, you know, having come from -- with my background in driving and in knowing Jimmy's background in Formula IV, of course him being the national champion, I know what those cars are like. So I think I have a little better feel maybe than some about what Jimmy's been through and what he's been racing, and here again, he's just one of the -- you know, a group of drivers that I think are out there that have the raw talent and just need a forum to expose it really and they're not really given the opportunity. You know, so many times you get on a team that's, you know, underfunded or doesn't have proper mechanics or can't approach the season with a full year focus. And I think Jim Hayhoe was aware that maybe -- you know, he, like I said, he didn't want to be involved in the day to day running of a team but felt he had a gem of a driver and we knew that we felt that way as well.
Q. Chip, in your mind what is a complete package for a driver; how much of it is talent, how much of it is personality, the ability to work with the sponsors, what is the complete package?
CHIP GANASSI: It's an interesting question. I mean, the complete package is really different for each driver that comes up through -- I mean, it depends where you came from, how you got started, what you've driven. The complete package is having the ability and having the resources available to take advantage of that ability when you -- when you need it most. That ability could be everything from driving to, you know -- the ability could be driving, communicating; I think, you know, people skills are very important. I think you have to -- you know, I think you have to be a student of the sport and yet at the same time I think you have to have some natural ability. You can't learn everything, you have to have some natural ability. You know, other parts of the package include hey, you know, you can have the most talent in the world and the most money, if you don't have somebody screwing the car together, you know, if things are falling off the car it'd not going to help you much. The package includes people. The package includes the right amount of money when you need it, when you need it most. The right amount -- the proper sponsorship. Part of the package. Proper management, you know, proper -- one thing I never hear discussed from the people in the press is how, you know, week in and week out these drivers are subjected to quite a lot of activity -- mental activity as well as physical. And it's a completely different mind set week in and week out to go from these short ovals to street races to, you know, bonafide road courses like Elkhart back to, you know, super speedways from a driver point of view with my experience, it's -- you've got a completely different mental outlook for each one of those type of races and how you have to drive the race and what's important, when to push, when not to push, when to lay back, when to get in the groove. So it's, you know -- the package is having all of those options available to you. And part of the package is knowing which of those variables to push aside and which ones to pull down and put into your bag of use for the weekend -- for that particular weekend, wherever you are.
Q. Chip, I wanted to ask your take, you're a little bit closer with it than I am. On the, you know, heating up between the folks at the Indy Car sanctioning body and the folks at the new sanctioning body, first your take on that increased rhetoric and second your thoughts on how this is all going to play out.
CHIP GANASSI: My thoughts on the increased rhetoric are probably -- you know, there's no sport that's big enough to be split down the middle. I don't care what professional sport it is today. I think it's, you know -- I've tried to take the attitude of taking the high road and staying out of discussing all these different things. I mean, I think pretty much everyone knows what the fight is about or what the argument is about. I don't know that my adding to that is going to change the course or the direction of anyone's life, so I don't know that, you know, commenting on it is -- my only comment is that there's no sport that's big enough to be split and all these people that think they're -- that know so much about the sport, they ought to know that as well.
Q. Chip, what is a team owner's perspective on something like the two straight races offshore in Rio and in Australia; is that going to be a difficult stretch for your team or do you think it will help or hurt, what's your opinion?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, I think -- I don't -- do I think it will be a difficult stretch for our team? No, I don't think it will be a difficult stretch for our team. I don't think it will be a difficult stretch for any team. There's no question that the caliber of teams has risen quite a bit in the last four or five years; quite dramatically I would say in the last three. So I don't look at it in terms of stretch for the teams. Here again, you know, we live in this -- this world we live in is getting smaller and smaller every day and, you know, to look at -- you have to look at opportunities like that that are offshore. Offshore is not as big award as it was 25 years ago I don't think. You know, with airplane travel the way it is, I mean people are -- we're truly living in a global economy and there's global interest in all sports, not just in any -- in motorsports. I don't care what business you're in today, if you look at the very tops of that particular business, whether it's, you know, here in Pittsburgh, you know, you want to look at medical or you want to look at computers, you want to look at manufacturing or you want to look at sports. I mean, at any level -- I'm sorry, at any of those games or businesses at the very top levels it's global in nature, and I think you have to look at accordingly.
Q. Being away from home that amount of time and in those particular places, is that something that concerns you from a logistic standpoint?
CHIP GANASSI: No, not particularly. I think that the timing of them is planned well enough that we don't have -- the timing is such that I don't see it being a detriment, being, you know, away that long.
Q. Chip, you've had Target as a primary sponsor since what 1990?
CHIP GANASSI: Um-hum.
Q. And it took you -- you didn't win your first race with them as a sponsor until last year, yet it seemed like your relationship with them grew every year. What's your secret?
CHIP GANASSI: I don't know that my secret isn't their secret. They're just a great company to be associated with; a great group of people, a great company. I couldn't be happier. I think they're the finest sponsor in the sport. They don't tell me how to race, I don't tell them how to retail merchandise, and I think that's worked well for us. They tell me what's important to them. And we have a good -- I have a good relationship with everybody throughout the company. It's, you know -- I couldn't be happier with them. I could not be happier. There's nobody I'd rather be with in the sport, nobody.
Q. Does that type of relationship filter down to the team to the fact that it appears to be a very solid relationship thereby gives the team maybe a little more security in the fact that they know every year you're not going to be out looking for a new sponsor?
CHIP GANASSI: I think it gives us some security. I hope it does. I try to speak with the people on the team, you know, the mechanics and what have you and tell me them that we're solid and we're going to be in business for a while. I think they pick up on that. I think it's fair to say.
Q. Chip, given that the earlier problems with the gear boxes in the Reynards, whatever that was, did you ever find out what it was specifically?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah. I think we've sort of, you know, sifted down to, you know, it's something that was -- here again was a new design, a new piece and we're fairly confident we're on top of it now. And just like anything else, I think as parts and pieces get smaller in racing and smaller and lighter, you know, tolerances are a little less and you have to adjust accordingly. I think that was the biggest problem maybe with that gear box. You know, I mean, we had -- gear boxes were not our only -- we had some serious bad luck. I mean, being -- you know, anytime you're developing chassis and engines or what have you, some things you develop are good, other things you develop are not so good. As Jimmy was eluding to earlier, I mean, you go to a test and you find things that work, believe me gentlemen, half the things you find you find don't work. And knowing what not do is just as important as knowing what to do.
JOHN PROCIDA: Do we have anymore questions for Chip?
Q. One more question about set up. How much does telemetry bring down the margin of error?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, I think -- how much does telemetry bring down the margin of error? In those particular things that are connected to the telemetry I guess it brings it down a lot. I mean what I always look at is what we're not looking at. You know, when you look at grids that are separated by one second from first to 18th or something, all you can think about are those particular items that you're not looking at instead of the ones that you are. I mean, there are so many variables, so many options and different things you can try you can do, you can work on that if you're looking at ten, you want to look at 20, if you're looking at 50, you want to look at a hundred. And we're somewhere in that, you know, hundred plus range; always trying to figure out a group of variables that work as a package. So, yeah, for every bit that telemetry is good, it tells you what you don't necessarily half to be working on because you know where it is. There's a whole group of items that you're not looking at that you'd like to in terms of set up.
Q. You try and isolate a variable or do you work on a lot of things at once?
CHIP GANASSI: That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. I ask the engineers a lot myself. Are we working on one thing or are we trying to do a lot of things at once? That's good question. Hopefully we can get more than one thing accomplished at one time, I would hope. A lot of times when you make more changes than one at a time you get led astray. So that's always the race engineer and driver's dilemma is are you feeling a change? What are you feeling? What part of those last five changes you made are you feeling the most? And is it translating onto the stop watch?
JOHN PROCIDA: With that I think we'll wrap up for today. I do want to think both Jimmy and Chip for being with us. And for all of you out there calling in, let me remind you that next week's teleconference will be held on Wednesday rather than Tuesday due to the holiday and Dick Simon and Lyn St. James will be joining us. Again, thank you very much Chip and Jimmy.
Q. Thank you.
CHIP GANASSI: Thanks you all.
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