Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much and welcome, everyone to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Joining us today from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series is Chris Festa, who last Saturday in Phoenix captured a career-best second place finish in the Phoenix 100 as Indy Racing League enters its road and street course phase in its history, and Chris joins us to talk about his experiences. He ran a Fran-Am car in 2003 at St. Petersburg and joins Jeff Simmonss as the only two Pro Series drivers to have competed on the streets of St. Pete. Joining us later in the call from the Indy Car Series is Adrian Fernandez and Peter Parrott with a new 2005 Indianapolis 500 announcement. Chris, let's start with you and thank you for joining us today. St. Pete right around the corner is certainly coming up and we'll be turning right soon enough with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars, but you guys actually get a chance to do that before St. Pete when later they week on Thursday you'll practice at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday. Give us your thoughts about racing the street course over here at Indy.
CHRIS FESTA: The road course in Indy is definitely a cool one, and the Formula 1 cars go there, so that just makes it a cool track in general. But it will be cool to see what these cars can do on that track since we'll be racing there later this year and get a handle on the gearing and the handling for this car so when we roll it off the trailer when we get there for the race, we have a good baseline set up to start with.
THE MODERATOR: And we mentioned a little bit earlier in the call that you joined Jeff Simmons on as the only two guys in the Pro Series who have raced in St. Pete. Actually there's three Indy Car series guys, two guys and a lady, Darren Manning Patrick Carpentier, Danica Patrick. Give us your thoughts about the first time the IRL turns right.
CHRIS FESTA: That street course is a little bit better than most in my opinion because it's a little bit wider and you've got some longer straights than most street courses, so you can be a little bit more aggressive and race a little bit more. But it's also a lot smoother than most street courses, so it's much more road course like than it is actual street course. So that will be good from a fan perspective because they'll be able to see a lot more racing going on and a lot more aggressive driving, I guess could you say. But it will be a good one also, because it's a fun track for the drivers to drive, as well.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about Phoenix last week. I know you're one of our better-rounded road course racers, so you've gotten used to ovals here a little bit and obviously picked it up fairly quickly and finished a career-best second. Give us your thoughts about that run last week.
CHRIS FESTA: That run was a little interesting. There was a lot of carnage going on, especially at the beginning, just cars dropping out like flies. Once we got going, the car that we had was pretty good and we could just keep pace with Jon Herb, pole race, and could just not get up quite close enough to make a move on him. We definitely worked the car a little bit, see what we can do when maybe we get to Milwaukee or Pike's Peak or something like that. So it was definitely a learning experience for us, and it will pay off dividends when we get to the other short ovals.
THE MODERATOR: Clearly the short ovals, you picked up on those fairly quickly. I know you're looking forward to going to St. Pete, but do you like racing the ovals?
CHRIS FESTA: Yeah, I do especially the Super Speedways because they are so close for long, it's really hard for people to check out and you just run by yourself on those. You know, running with four cars around you for 75 laps is a lot different than anything you ever get on a road course, and it was a new experience for me and I had a lot of fun with that at Homestead.
Q. Being a three-car team, three drivers, is it a hindrance or a help?
CHRIS FESTA: Oh, it's definitely a help. The three of us work really well together and we're all very different. We all three have very different skills, so we can learn from each other's talents and mistakes and work together as a team to really progress up the line the way Jaime and Travis did at Homestead. Unfortunately I had a mishap earlier in the weekend which kept me from being up there with them. We do things like that all the time. We plan on working together most of the time in the race and then racing against each other toward the end of the race.
Q. What will it mean to you personally to race twice, as it is, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
CHRIS FESTA: Oh, that will be a cool thing for us. We'll be the first series to race there twice ever in history, so that will be a cool thing for us and also do be able one on the road course, which the Formula I cars run, and one on the regular 500 track. It's just really cool, they are both completely different, and yet with the same prestige Indianapolis has. That will be a great thing for all of us.
Q. Coming from a road racing background the way you do, why did you decide it come into the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and what your goals down the road?
CHRIS FESTA: I decided to come to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series because there seems to be -- the IRL seems to be much stronger right now than Champ Car and there's a lot more opportunities there. The IRL is making the transition to doing more road course racing which is, like you said, my background and I wanted to get more oval experience just because it's good experience to have. So to come to the Infiniti Pro Series, it gives me the opportunity to maybe still look at Champ Car if I have to, but more importantly, look at the IRL, which is where I'm planning to go in the future, hopefully next year provided I do well enough this year and get ready.
Q. Then the objective of working with the primarily oval series is something that you're into now, that you've done, the Super Speedways and you've done PIR?
CHRIS FESTA: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Real quick, are you in school or not at Florida State?
CHRIS FESTA: I am in school at Florida State.
THE MODERATOR: And your major is?
CHRIS FESTA: Marketing.
THE MODERATOR: And what year are you?
CHRIS FESTA: I'm a freshman.
THE MODERATOR: Very good. A couple other things real quick. Your goals for this season coming into the Pro Series? The last couple years, the Fuchaba 100 (ph) is clearly a race that the Pro Series guys circle on their calendar, but there are some big races this year, including that road course at Indianapolis. So some of your goals heading into this year?
CHRIS FESTA: My goals are to learn as much as I can so that I can apply everything I learned in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in the IRL when the time comes for me to move up there. And also, just to win some races along the way and have some fun. This is what I'm supposed to be doing is having fun, so I'll do that and I'll take it seriously and do the best I can.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate you joining us today and we will see you next weekend down in St. Petersburg. Joining us now is Adrian Fernandez and Peter Parrott from the Indy Car Series. Fernandez, Mo Nunn Racing and Okun have planned to enter a car in this year's Indianapolis 500-mile race. It will be a strange situation for Fernandez who is car owner of two cars already in the 500 driven by Kosuke Matsuura and Scott Sharp, Parrott is the team manager of Mo Nunn Racing, which for this year's 500 race will be known as Nunn Fernandez Racing. Also joining us today is Edward Okun, the president and CEO of Investment Properties of America. Investment Properties of America which will sponsor the Nunn Fernandez team in the 500 and is already a current sponsor of the Dreyer and Reinbold Indy Car Series team driven by Roger Yasukawa. Adrian, let's start with you, I guess first congratulations, we're certainly be glad to have you back for Indianapolis this year, your third start.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, absolutely. Firstly, I'm very thankful to Investment Properties of America to give us this opportunity and for Morris Nunn basically because he is a guy who actually convinced me to do it again. He called me and basically you know we had an opportunity before to do it with our own team and I didn't want to distract the attention of what we have built in Fernandez Racing. You know, since what happened last year, we were not going to be able to drive a full season, I didn't want to disrupt what we have created and now that we have Scott Sharp also on the team. When Morris Nunn called Ken, this was actually different because I know Morris and he's a good friend, I admire what he's done in his career as an owner and engineer through the years. When this opportunity came, I thought it was the perfect fit because we'll be able to -- he can concentrate on building the team, putting the team together and also not distracting Fernandez Racing, but still joining forces in all the information and everything that we have and make a three-car effort for the Indy 500 and that was very attractive to me. I'm very glad that this opportunity came, and I think we're all going to be very strong.
THE MODERATOR: We're certainly glad to have you back. In fact, at the beginning of the year when we found out that you would not be in a race car this year, Indianapolis was certainly a place we circled, you had a strong run there, finishing seventh. Clearly the lure of Indianapolis has got you back here.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, exactly. We were very competitive last year and we were so strong, and you know, I haven't been on the Speedway for so many, many, many years and coming back for me was extremely satisfying, especially coming with our own team and running so well as we did. I'm excited to go back and hopefully, you know, start where we left it last year.
THE MODERATOR: When push comes to shove Adrian, coming out of turn 4, and the 8 and 55 are in front of you, you're going for the front, am I right?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, some people have asked me that question and you know it's just the same as I'm going to be doing, like I've been doing before. I've been racing against Kosuke Matsuura and sin Jay, it's just no different. Obviously we are not going to do something that will damage any of the -- our drivers or vice versa. We'll help if we can, but at the end of the day we're competing against each other, and that's just turned out to be different than what's been in the past.
THE MODERATOR: Peter, let's turn it over to you. You won, I believe, two Indianapolis 500s as a chief mechanic with Rick Mears in the early 80s; is that correct?
PETER PARROTT: Yes, that's correct.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the call and we're certainly glad that you're back with Adrian here for the 500 in May. Just give us your thoughts on today's announcement.
PETER PARROTT: I think it's very exciting. You know to have the opportunity to have a driver of Adrian's caliber and put together with the Panos and the Honda combination, I think it gives us a lot of excitement.
Q. How much of the crew is going to be your guys? You had let some of your guys go, or at least several from the end of last season, how will that crew be made up?
PETER PARROTT: Basically it's going to be all new crew other than two people that we were able to bring back, but other than that it will be a whole new crew.
Q. And in terms of the key positions, who are going to be in those key positions, or I guess it's just you and Morris?
PETER PARROTT: Well, obviously Morris and I, but we've been able to get some really good personnel and I'm not -- I think we'll be able to put together a very competitive group of guys.
Q. Car number?
PETER PARROTT: #5, which Adrian requested.
Q. You're going to be doing just this race with Morris's group?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: What was that again?
Q. You're just going to do the Indy 500; correct?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes, right now, that's the plan, just to do the Indy 500.
Q. So what are you doing to prepare for it in terms of getting into shape and are you doing any karting or anything of that nature?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I mean, I've always been keeping in shape. Obviously I just got married and enjoying time off and I wasn't -- I actually haven't -- after the season was over, I did 600 miles for Honda -- for Honda and Bridgestone at the Homestead track. I've actually done more miles than Kosuke and Scott since the last season finished. But I'm always keeping in shape, and Indianapolis is such a unique track that nothing that you do on other tracks, for example, Homestead, Phoenix, St. Petersburg in this case and Japan really helps you. So it's tough for everybody, but I'll be fine. I'll do some karting, I'll be keeping in shape so I don't see that as a problem. You know, we're keeping the same number, as Peter said, which is a unique thing and it's nice. We'll be sharing everything. It will be like even though it's Mo Nunn Fernandez Racing entry, we will be working all together. We'll be together working on the pits, we'll have our engineers and our group working together, Mike Sales will be working with Peter and everything on the cars, the cars will be identical and we should be very strong.
Q. So the cars that you have, the Honda that you will be driving, the #5, will be pretty much set up the way Kosuke's and Scott's are because you're going to share information across the board?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, of course. You know, that's was one of the first thing when I spoke with Morris, I don't want to compete against my team. If we do this, it has to be a joint force, so we can take advantage of what we did last year. We have very good data from last year and we were very strong as you know last year, Peter and Mike and all the guys will make sure that our cars -- because these two cars that we have will be different -- different in that I am saying they are other two cars that I didn't run; these are cars that belong to Morris. So those cars are going to be prepared to the latest specifications and will be prepared to the specifications of Fernandez Racing; and we both will join forces, and from the experience of Morris and Peter and ourselves, I think that's what will make our entire entry, and I'm talking about the three cars, very strong.
Q. What are your thoughts about the Matsuura accident at Homestead?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: About what.
Q. About Kosuke's accident at Homestead?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I saw the accident prior to the Phoenix race and when I spoke with Kosuke -- we make mistakes when we are rookies and we learn and all that. I told Kosuke, you cannot undo what you have done and the mistakes and we all do mistakes, and unfortunately this time you took more people than maybe you wanted to -- not wanted, but unfortunately, that it happened with. But as long as he knows what happened and he realized what happened, you know, you should not keep it into your mind all the time because you are a race car driver. You are going to make mistakes, and as long as you learn from them, you should keep going so you don't lose your confidence. He understood quite a bit. Looking at the tape, it looked to me that Bryan Herta was losing the car at the same time and just two totally independent accidents. So you could see that the situation of the track at the time, there was the marbles, cold tires and all that; and it happened to an experienced driver and it happened to a rookie driver, also.
Q. How definitely after the Phoenix race? He had a pretty good race at Phoenix.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, he did. One-mile oval has not been good for Kosuke in the past and this has been his best one-mile oval race and I was very proud of him. He felt good, he felt confident and I think that's going to help him for the future. I spoke with the drivers and they said that he was driving very well.
Q. Peter, are you working towards any program after May, whether it includes that inexperienced driver, Adrian Fernandez, or anybody else after May?
PETER PARROTT: I wouldn't call him inexperienced --
Q. It was a joke.
PETER PARROTT: Yes, we are always looking. Obviously our goal would be to continue on if sufficient fundings are available. But right now we need to focus on the job in hand, and that's to go to the Indy 500 and put all our resources and concentrate on that one race. I mean, when you have an opportunity like that, you go there for one reason and one reason is to win the race, and that's what we're focused on right now.
Q. If I understood correctly, these are cars that Morris had hung on to; correct in?
PETER PARROTT: Yes, we initially had about six in 2003. We had six cars and we still had three left. So two of them have already gone to Panos to be updated to 2005 spec with the latest stuff and we should get them back by the end of the month.
Q. Did you give any consideration to run in Japan beforehand? I know you spoke to the fact that it wasn't that much of a tune up, but did Honda press for that at all?
PETER PARROTT: No. Because again of the timing of this to try to get the cars updated and get all the crew, get everybody in place, it takes a little bit of work and try to take in the Motegi race would be too much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, we appreciate it. And we'll see you, Adrian, next week down in St. Pete, and see you both as a team in Indianapolis.
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