Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
March 31, 2010
ARNI SRIBHEN: Welcome, everybody, to today's Indy Racing League conference call. Earlier today Andretti Autosport announced it would field a fifth entry for the IZOD IndyCar Series event at Kansas Speedway and the 2010 Indianapolis 500 in association with Richard Petty Motorsports for driver John Andretti.
We're pleased to be joined today by John Andretti, driver of the No. 43 Team Window World car; Michael Andretti, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Andretti Autosport; racing icon Richard Petty, the co-owner of the No. 43 car; and Blair Ingle, president of Window World, Inc. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
First, John, it's an exciting day for you to be joining forces with your cousin Michael for another run at the Indianapolis 500. Can you give us a brief statement on how you're feeling today.
JOHN ANDRETTI: I feel great. I think it's a great opportunity. Obviously I've been in the Indianapolis 500 now 10 times; this will be my 11th; and I feel like this is the golden opportunity. The parties that are involved with Window World and Richard Petty and of course teaming up now with my cousin whose race team has won the Indianapolis 500 twice in its short history, I think it couldn't be any better. If I was to write out what I wanted as a wish list for this race, this is what I would get.
I'm in a great place and ready for May
ARNI SRIBHEN: You talk about May; you're actually starting the month of May at Kansas Speedway. How important is it for you to get a race in with the team before the month of May?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I think it's really important. It's one of the things that we talked about initially because the idea is to warm up and not only to get up to speed but also to get up to speed with the race team, the teammates, the pit stops, everything, all the things that go into winning the race. It's more than just having a fast race car. You've got a lot of things that you have to put together in that day, and I think that this just puts me in a better position to be prepared to do that.
I know that when Michael did the fifth car, and he can talk more about that if they'd like, he did other races, too, typically to get up to speed. It wasn't -- like I said, it wasn't a matter of getting up to speed. The one year you did, didn't you?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Uh-uh. That was Marco.
JOHN ANDRETTI: Well, he didn't do it, but I do, and I will. You know, if he wasn't here, I wouldn't have been corrected because I could have just put up a story.
But anyway, the point is that I can make hopefully all my mistakes at Kansas if I have any and be ready for Indy not to make any mistakes there.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Michael, obviously working with Richard Petty brings together two of auto racing's most storied families, the Andrettis and the Pettys. John has obviously had a past relationship with Richard in NASCAR and obviously last year, but this is your first time working with Richard. What attracted you to joining forces with Richard Petty Motorsports?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, we're really excited about it. Obviously it was through John, the association with Richard, and I've known Richard a long, long time, and it was very exciting to hear him being involved and here supporting John. I think Richard is a legend, and he's got millions of fans worldwide, and hopefully a few of them are going to become Andretti Autosport fans after this month of May. So we're -- we can't wait to get this thing going.
ARNI SRIBHEN: John touched on running the fifth entry. I know some teams are kind of hesitant to add another entry to take away from their current team. You have four cars. Was a fifth car just something that you were only going to consider for a guy like John?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, one thing with our team, we're very used to running multiple cars. We've done it in the past. We've run five cars at Indianapolis when I drove there with Marco for the first time in '06, and '07, as well, and even last year we had our best race of the year was at Sonoma last year where we ran five cars.
So I think it shows that we feel it only adds to the strength of the team if you have the right driver. And I think we all feel that we do with John, that we have a legitimate shot at winning the race with a guy like John because he's always run well at Indy, and he's always been quick. We feel it's only going to add to it, not take away.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Richard, I know you attended your first 500 in 2007 to support John and returned last year as a co-owner. What is it about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 that keeps bringing you back?
RICHARD PETTY: I guess it's probably history as much as anything else. We come up here and run the Cup race, 400 miles, and I don't think -- it's just another race as far as coming to Indy, but you come up here and you've got the open-wheel cars, you've got the Indy deal, you've got 100 years of history. I'm getting old enough now, I appreciate history. (Laughter.)
But you know, it's just the thrill of knowing all those people and all the history that's been here and all the winners that's been here and reading about them and just knowing about the whole thing. I guess the history when they said, "Gentlemen, crank your engines" last time, I got to be a real fan. I know how fans feel now when the announcer said get everything ready to race.
I think I probably became an Indy fan more when I was here and they said, you know, get the thing started, 33 cars coming down the front stretch at one time. That was pretty exciting from my standpoint.
ARNI SRIBHEN: And finally, Blair, I know you've supported John's racing efforts for quite a while last year. I think you had something at the Daytona 500 this year with him, as well. Working with a young growing company like Andretti Autosport must be a good fit for your company, which is also a young growing company.
BLAIR INGLE: Yeah, it is, it's fantastic. Our relationship with John has always been about Indy, even though we did other things with NASCAR. He certainly has held our hand through the whole process.
But being with Richard Petty, being associated with the Petty family, and now even more so with the Andretti family, it ties into the way we do business. We do business as a family, and that's the way we treat our customers, that's the way we treat our store owners and our employees. It's all about family, and we're just going to have a whole lot of fun in the entire month of May.
Q. This is a question for Michael. When you were growing up, your father raced in IROC against Richard Petty a couple times. I don't know whether you got to know Richard's son Kyle, but I mean, here you are the son of a famous race driver and Kyle is the son of a famous race driver. Did you guys ever get into any arguments as to my dad is better than your dad?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, actually I never really met Kyle. I think I met him once or twice, but more when we were older and when we knew that we were better than our fathers then at that point. (Laughter.)
Q. Basically Richard Petty kind of exemplified what your father exemplified at the same time, and I'm sure that was kind of pretty interesting growing up.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: For sure. We never looked at it like one better than the other. You've got to have tons and tons of respect for Richard, what he did in NASCAR, and then you have a different type of respect for dad and what he was able to do in all different types of cars. It was equal respect for both.
Q. And for Richard, I believe there was a few times in IROC where you were involved and Michael was driving. Can you recall any of those?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: In '87 was it?
RICHARD PETTY: Maybe one time.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I did it one time in '87.
RICHARD PETTY: I think we was in the same race, we just didn't race each other.
Q. And finally, John, a couple of years ago at the Indy 500 media day you had a tee shirt on that said, "When I grow up I want to be just like Marco Andretti." Do you still feel that way?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Yeah, I do, and now I get to be more like Marco because if you look on the back of the tee shirt, it listed all those reasons, and I can check off one of those reasons, because one of them was driving for a race team like Andretti Autosport. It actually says, "I want to be Marco Andretti" on the front, and it listed all the reasons on the back. I still have the tee shirt and I was going to wear it today, but I figured I wouldn't see Marco, so I didn't.
Q. I've got two questions. The first one is for John. John, this is probably one of your best rides that you're going to be in for the 500 over your ten years. With the pace that Andretti Autosport has been showing early this year and the end of last year, you must be feeling on top of the world, and Window World is your sponsor, but you must be feeling on top of the world going into May this year with the quality of equipment that you're going to have under you.
JOHN ANDRETTI: I've been really fortunate; I've driven for a lot of great race teams at Indianapolis. But if you look over the years, to get to drive for a team that's won the Speedway a couple times in such a short period of time, from just in its short history, and just a few years ago, I think that how can you look at it any differently than saying this is your best shot? I feel like this is my best shot and I want to take full advantage of it, and I feel very fortunate that Window World and Richard and Michael all believe enough to have me as part of this, because I'm the one that's going to be on top of the world. I really do feel that way.
Like I said, it's something that can't start soon enough and is going to end way too early, I'm sure.
Q. Michael, is there any temptation right now with Marco and John for you to strap into a sixth car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, none at all. I'm very happy and content with my decision to be out of the car now and let John go and be the old guy out there and getting it done.
JOHN ANDRETTI: Still younger than you.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: By six months.
JOHN ANDRETTI: Still younger.
Q. Michael, have you talked to your dad at all? He's got to be pretty proud to see Andretti Autosport, you as the owner, Marco as a driver, John as a driver. He's got to walk with his chest pumped up right now.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, he was pretty excited when I broke the news to him that we were going to be able to do this with John for sure. He'll be there rooting for all of them, so it's going to be cool for him.
Q. I've got one for John and one for Blair. First, John, could you kind of cover the pluses and potentially any of the minuses of the family aspect of this race team, because it seems to be pretty neat given the Andretti family's history at Indianapolis. Talk about that a little bit if you would.
JOHN ANDRETTI: The pluses is Michael's team is really strong and capable of winning the race. That's the biggest plus. And obviously getting an opportunity to work with Michael is something that's always been -- we've talked about, and we've spent a lot of time together. We grew up racing together, so it's about time that we did this again.
What's kind of cool is we could win the 500 together actually instead of -- as teammates; if I win in his car, he wins, too. I think that's additionally special.
I think the thing that we did talk about before this is we have such a great relationship that not to harm that in any way by doing that, and I don't think there's anyway that it can. I mean, we're both after the same goal. We both want the best of everything. We want to do our best, and that's what we're going to do.
The part that you would think could potentially come up, I don't think is ever going to be an issue, because like I said, we're looking at the same thing.
Q. For Blair, you've maintained Window World's involvement in Motorsports in the face of some personal challenges the company has had, and congratulations with that. How have you quantified -- being involved both in IndyCar and NASCAR, how have you quantified the impact on your business, and looking down the season in NASCAR, will you be teaming up with John for any additional NASCAR events this season?
BLAIR INGLE: Well, I'll do the second part of the question first. I think it's unknown whether or not we're going to do anything more in NASCAR. We're kind of all about the big events, the Daytona 500 and of course more importantly the Indy 500. But we certainly always leave our options open. We're excited about participating in Kansas. That's a great market for us, and of course as a lead-in to the Indy 500 it's important.
And to the first part of your question, you know, it's difficult to quantify, but in a time when the economy is doing very poorly, and our industry was doing very poorly in 2009, our business was doing a very strong business. We had a very good year. We had an up year. John will tell you point blank it's because of him. (Laughter.) He's taking all the credit, so I guess I've got to quantify it and give him a 15 to 20 percent boost in our sales, all courtesy of John Andretti. I can't wait to see what we do this year. Holy cow.
JOHN ANDRETTI: Well, whatever you don't get this year is because of Michael.
BLAIR INGLE: He wants to split it with us, and we're just not going to do that.
No, we're really excited about the impact that our involvement in motorsports, which is just such a fabric of the American culture, what that impact does to our brand. Our customers are motorsports fans, and not just motorsports fans, but the Indy 500 is Americana. I mean, it's as simple as that. When you've got names like Petty and Andretti, come on, it doesn't get any better.
Q. I've got a couple questions for Michael. Can you talk about how adding a fifth team is going to affect logistics on the team? Is it going to put pressure on the organization? Are you going to have to expand, and can you tell me a little bit about who's going to engineer the car and things like that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, actually we have all the people in-house. It's sort of the same way that we did it when I drove the fifth car at Indianapolis. So we have the crew that -- a very experienced crew, by the way, so he's going to be looking good there. He's going to have basically the same guys that I had for myself. If they were good enough for myself, you know they're going to be good enough for John.
You know, engineering-wise, it's actually going to be our Indy Lights engineer, who has won the last two championships in Indy Lights. His name is Blair Perschbacher.
JOHN ANDRETTI: He was my engineer at Panther.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, I didn't know that. So John has already worked with him at Panther, which I just found out. I didn't know that. He's very good. So I think we have a really good team there with our fifth car.
You know, as I said, we ran a fifth car at Sonoma last year, and that car was very competitive, as well, at that race. I'm very confident that we can put a winning combination out there.
Q. One other question. Chip Ganassi and Roger, of course, have entries in both IndyCar and in NASCAR. Any inclination on your part to explore that or get into stock cars?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Never say never. You know, I think there's always a possibility of that in the future. You know, we just have to wait and see.
Right now I've just taken over the team at the end of last year, so I haven't -- it's going to take us a little time to get things going here the way we like it. But I think we're in the sport, in auto racing, and we're a racing team, and we always look at opportunities, and if an opportunity comes up to do NASCAR, we may jump on it.
Q. Question for John and a question for Michael. John, last year a lot of people think your last year in NASCAR, that was one of your best showings, the way you were able to keep that car in the top 35 considering the competition. How did you rate your performance in that race -- I mean, how you made out last year, how you managed to keep that car in the top 35?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I think under the circumstances that we built a team, and kind of didn't even get together until about the fourth or fifth race of the season. We were using cars from other race teams and trying to build that program. I think that overall they had a lot of things to be proud of.
Now, in the overall scheme of things, I don't think anybody has as much to be proud of as Jimmie did. Unless you're winning and running up front, it's never as much of an accomplishment that you can sell people on as you can when you're actually making more with less.
But I think last year we did a good job, and it was a solid job. I hate to grade it, but you know, we did better than -- probably better than we were expecting ourselves to do, but always could have been better.
Q. Question sort of similar to that, you toned your schedule down this year. To what extent are you looking at the time that you will retire from racing? Is that close? And is deciding to do this Indianapolis 500, does that play into it at all?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Well, if I win the 500, it's probably going to play a lot into it. If I don't, it'll probably play a lot into it.
You know, for me it's about the desire and, you know, getting the job done and all the things that go along with it. I think this is going to be a really good time. It's going to be a lot of fun, and you know, the way I look at the future, and even cutting back my schedule, I would have never thought about trying to cut back my schedule five or six years ago, but now it's really been good for me, and I think that my batteries are going to be recharged, and I think I'm going to be really going into it with a lot more enthusiasm than coming along and just trying to trudge along and be on the road all the time. I'm ready to go and fired up about it.
I don't know if I'll ever go back full-time or not, but right now this is suiting me well.
Q. Michael, there was an Indy 500 when four Andrettis raced in it. Now, it didn't come out very well -- well, John, I guess --
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was '91. It wasn't bad. I got second there. It still was bad, though; I got passed there at the end by Rick.
Q. There were four Andrettis. Do you remember how it felt before the race and everything and how it was a family affair like that?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I think one thing about it that we've been very fortunate is that as a family we've shared in so many great memories together in the sport. You know, myself with my dad, and then I was able to share -- and then my brother and then John. I think we have the only all-family podium, which was in Milwaukee where we finished -- I finished first, John second and my dad was third. John feels he won, but he didn't. (Laughter.)
We've just had so many great things to share. We were the first four-family -- four members of the same family to qualify for the Indy 500, and then for me personally I was able to race with my son on the same team there and be able to say I'm the first one to run with my father on the same team and my son in the Indianapolis 500.
Now to have John and Marco on our team there in the 500, it's another one that's going to go down in our memories. We've been very lucky as a family to be able to share so many great moments together.
Q. Question for Michael. Maybe you've already mentioned this. How long have you been working on putting this arrangement together? And then the second part is what are going to be the challenges of working a fifth driver into the lineup when you've had three that have been working together for quite some time and adding Ryan this year and now adding John?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I don't think that is going to be a problem at all. John is going to fit right in. Ryan fit right in, and I don't see any problem with that.
You know, I think -- I don't see any real challenges with the fifth car in any way. I think it's only going to add, like I said in the past. I just really believe that adding John to the mix here with the fifth car is just going to strengthen our team and going it give it five legitimate shots at winning the race. That to me as an owner makes me feel pretty good.
Q. And how long has it been that you've been working on it?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, sorry. For a long time we've talked about it, and there was a couple times we started -- we were never able to put it together. And then when I took over the team last year, one of the things was that, you know what, we've got to try to figure out how to make it work, and I think we started talking about it two or three months ago, and we were lucky enough to put it together.
John had great support from Richard and Window World, and once we actually talked seriously about it, I think we put it together really fast, because it was one of those deals that just made sense. You know, I'm glad that we were able to finally get it done. You know, John and myself have talked a lot about it, and now it's done, so I can't wait to get out there.
ARNI SRIBHEN: I think that's all the questions we have from the media, and that does wrap up today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
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