IndyCar Series: Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300
Topics: Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300
September 7, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by team owner, Chip Ganassi, and Mike Hull.
Chip, pretty exciting day out there.
CHIP GANASSI: Certainly. When you're on the threshold of a championship, the last thing you want to do, everybody comes with all the mathematical possibilities, and they say, All you have to do is finish eighth, no matter what happens. You know, there is that urge to say, Look, just go out and take it easy and finish eighth.
But that's not the kind of team that Mike and Scott have put together on that side of the team. They wanted to go out and they wanted to race like they'd been racing all year - most of the year, I should say.
I'm just a fortunate guy to have the people around me, the team, people like Target we talk about so much. Next year will be our 20th year with Target. They're all here today. They witnessed this right in front of their own eyes.
Scott Dixon, I was a little worried when he got married. You think, gee. What it's done is it made him such a great guy off the track, and it really focused him on the track. It just kind of put everything in focus for him. I couldn't be happier. He's gone through a wonderful, I don't want to use the word "transformation," but he's gone through a wonderful -- just having a great partner in his life has really made him, you know, a great guy to be around off the track and has made him a better racer on the track.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, your thoughts on the season, kicking off with a win back at Homestead, Indianapolis, that happened over the summer.
MIKE HULL: We've had a great season. And I think we've looked at every race like we looked at the race today. I know Chip if would have been on the 9 car stand today, they probably would have had to call 911 because he wouldn't have been able to hold his breath as long as we were able to inhale and then exhale.
It's fun to race. It's fun to race an IndyCar race the way we did today. I think Dario Franchitti paid an enormous compliment to Scott Dixon when he told Chip and I, one of the evenings we were there, talking about the weather, that if he had to race against the Scott Dixon that he saw at Detroit versus the Scott Dixon he raced against last year at Detroit, he'd have his hands full.
I think that's the way Scott has raced all year long. It's a testament to Scott. It's a dedication to the men and women at Chip Ganassi Racing, what they did after coming back from Chicago last year. Oftentimes people spiral into Never Never Land when you get beat like he had got beat last year here at Chicago. We actually took Monday off last year, but we were working on Tuesday. Everybody in the building, we got together and dedicated ourselves to do what he saw this year.
It's nice when you can make that happen with the people that work for you, and that's what happened.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Mike or Chip.
Q. Can you maybe discuss your feelings when you learned you hadn't actually won the race when originally it seemed that Scott had won.
CHIP GANASSI: I thought about it for a millisecond.
Q. Chip, this year has been such an up-and-down year for you. On this side it's been great. Grand-Am it's been great. In NASCAR you've had your struggles. Is this just a great way to kind of top it off and offset some of the troubles you've had over there?
CHIP GANASSI: No, I mean, these teams run every day. I don't feel like I have troubles over there like you in the media want to constantly point out. We have a growing business over there. We're going through any other challenges that a growing business does. This is a little more mature business over here.
No, I don't think about that at all, to tell you the truth.
Q. Mike, Chip talked about going out and finishing eighth. In reality, finishing eighth in this lineup is pretty difficult to do. Talk about how difficult it was just to finish eighth.
MIKE HULL: When you're lucky enough to be on the radio with a guy like Scott Dixon and you're telling him he needs to finish eighth, what do you think's going to happen? That's like putting red in front of a bull.
So he knew where he stood. You know, I don't remember what segment it was. I think it was after -- it was like in that it's segment of the race when we kind of dropped back there. I think he was ready to go again and he charged back to the front.
We had a car to win the race today. We had a car to win the race from the very first practice session. I think it's very difficult to control your emotions when you're driving a racecar, knowing what's at stake, because you're not only depending on yourself and the guys that put the car together, but you're depending on the quality of the guys you're racing.
When you're racing around Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, that's what you want to do to the end of the race. When you have a car that's fast enough to race with those guys, you can do what Scott did today.
So it's fun to do that.
Q. Chip, if you look at Helio and Dixon, the last seven races, they won five of 'em, did everything they could, both of 'em. Can you talk about those two guys, how they did as competitors.
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, you know, I go back -- we've seen a lot of that over the years, two guys break out. I remember Mario and Rick Mears back in the day. I remember Bobby Unser and Mario. You can go on and on, all the way to Zanardi and Vasser, Montoya and Michael. There's a lot of great duels that have been in IndyCar racing over the years. This is just another one of them.
Q. Mike, on the pit stops, you had a little bit of problems today. The last one was perfect. What was your thinking as it went off?
MIKE HULL: Relief, to be honest about it. Our guys practice and they train to be over-the-wall guys. They practice and practice and practice and practice and practice. Prior to the race, we got all the guys together and we just told them, Hey, guys, we know today's special. We're not gonna say it's not. But just remember to breathe. That's what they did today on all the stops. Our guys had great stops. We hung in there all day.
Q. We've been talking about Scott and his performance. The No. 10 car was up there all afternoon. He ran side by side with Helio for lap after lap.
CHIP GANASSI: How about Dan Wheldon taking that thing three-wide for six laps in the middle of the race. My heart was in my throat, I've got to tell you.
He's a great competitor. We're going to miss him. He's been a great asset to this team over the years. I want to publicly thank him for being a part of this. He brought a lot to this team. I want to thank him for just being a great competitor, sticking it right in there today when he needed to, helping his teammate, being a great competitor that he is.
Q. I know you talked about how Scott has changed by getting married to Emma. Could you also talk about how great you feel today for his parents. They've really been his biggest supporters throughout his life, put a lot of investment trying to get him here. For them to be able to share in this victory with you guys.
MIKE HULL: We certainly saw that at the Indianapolis 500 this year. They're a true family. You know what, I don't know where all you people come from, but, guess what, we're just regular people. It's like all you people in this room. When parents support Scott Dixon the way that his parents support him, with no ego, no prejudgment, they just accept what happens at face value, they support not only Scott but the entire team and the decisions the team makes as being in the best interest of not only Scott but the extension of them.
So it's exciting that they can share what happened today.
Q. Chip, sixth open-wheel championship, first one since 2003. Does it still feel just as good as it did back in the day?
CHIP GANASSI: You know, we're involved in four different race series. We won two championships this year. I'm pretty happy about that. I'm lucky to work with a lot of great people.
I go back in the day and I think about the other championships and the people that were involved in those championships, whether it was team members or drivers. Every person that's been a part of any of those championships has a little bit of sweat in this one and has a part of it. Every team member back, you know, starting with Vasser in '96, starting with Michael Andretti back in '94 when he was winning races for us, everybody along the way, every driver, every crew member, every sponsor, they all have some ownership in this championship.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations.
We're joined by our 2008 IndyCar Series champion, Scott Dixon. Scott, I guess let's talk about the championship first. Hard fight the last few weeks
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think unfortunately we set our minds on having it tied up a long time before now. I think that's what run us into a bit of trouble. That was definitely the toughest two weeks I've had. Even today, you know, Team Penske and Helio wouldn't let it go. They were pushing to make sure they got the most laps led. You got to take your hat off to them for doing all they needed to do.
I think in the middle there we were a bit worried just in general. There were some people we were racing that we didn't need to be. I think that's why we sort of slipped back. After that restart, we just needed to make sure we got back up there.
The year on a whole has been amazing, an unforgettable year. I think any year where you win the 500 is going to be like that. But when you top it off with a championship, I still can't believe it. Getting married, winning a 500, winning a championship in one year, not too many people can probably say they've done that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Scott.
Q. The irony are conundrum, all you got to do is finish eighth. In this series finishing eighth is difficult to do. How difficult is it to really go out there and try to even get eighth let alone get up there and fight for the victory?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, you said it, it's extremely tough to try and finish eighth or better in this series. The mile-and-a-half's, the new guys that are new to the series this year have definitely figured it out. There were a lot of people racing up top today that we didn't expect to be and they definitely were. It's changed a lot, the series in general. If it was the situation last year, I think finishing eighth would have been quite easy. You know, now you breathe a little, you give up a bit. We shuffled ourselves all the way back to 12th at one point. You definitely need to keep on it. I think it makes it extremely tough.
To be honest, next year's going to be harder than that. So, you know, definitely extremely happy with winning the first I think unified, even though guys probably aren't up to their optimum speed yet, but I'm looking forward to next season.
But, yeah, you know, if you give up a little bit now, you've really got to fight to get it back.
Q. The big picture today was obviously the championship. For a few minutes after the race, everyone thought you were the winner. Can you talk about your feelings in learning that you weren't.
SCOTT DIXON: We didn't win it (laughter)? I pointed up to the pylon thing and said we won. What are they talking about?
No, you know, that definitely would have topped off the day with a seventh win, and record-breaking seventh one like that would have been fantastic. It was the craziest Victory Circle I've been involved in where you see your car get rolled in position, you get out like you won the race, they roll it out and say you haven't won it. That was tough to deal with.
But, you know, I think in the back of my mind, we all knew we'd won the championship, and that was the main goal. We definitely wanted to win the race. You know, we fought very closely with Helio on those last few laps. He was definitely giving us the squeeze a little bit on the bottom there. They sort of came through with the run.
But I'm disappointed we didn't win. I said that to Chip after the race. I'm like, Man, we should have won that.
Q. When you came out of the pits in the lead after the last stop, was that a relief to be back up front at that point?
SCOTT DIXON: I think that was the first time we led the race. We'd been up sort of third, fourth, around that spot. We were in a pretty good rhythm there actually about 30 laps to go with Helio leading. And Dan, man, he was driving hard today. It was good to watch from my seat, up on the high line, putting the pressure on those Penske guys, trying to get them to crumble.
I think with the four of us there, we were all just running around, it was actually very comfortable.
But to come out in the lead, you know, at that point then, you know, thanking the team for getting us up there, then obviously trying to go for the win at that point. I didn't really think that Helio would have had the speed to get around us, but he sure did. That was definitely a key move I think for our team at that point of the race.
Q. Now that you've done it, how does this compare to when you won in '03?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it means a lot more. I think this year is much tougher. '03 was a tough championship to win. I've always said in the recent weeks for sure that we didn't really know what we had won then. It was a rookie season for me into the IRL, and for the team at that point as well. Going into the last race with five guys possibly or mathematically could win it, we came out on top, was definitely staggering. We definitely jumped pretty deep into that hole. I still to this day wasn't really sure what we had won.
I think after '04 and '05, it makes you I guess cherish things a lot more, definitely race wins just as a whole, but a championship much more. And knowing the guys who have been with Team Ganassi now for about seven years, and a lot of those guys have been with me the whole time, knowing what they go through, knowing what work they put into the cars, it does, you know, I think mean a ton more than the first year. I think to accomplish the disciplines that we have now with short ovals, medium sized tracks, superspeedways, street courses, road courses, that looks like it's going to get stronger as well. I think you'll definitely get a true champion out of that. For us to be the first to sort of win it on that kind of level I think is pretty special.
Q. You're 27, 28 years old. You're still relatively young as a driver. You've made no bones about the fact that this is where you want to race. You have no interest in going to NASCAR or anywhere else. Do you sometimes kind of think you could put together a pretty historic number of titles here?
SCOTT DIXON: Absolutely. I said to Chip just now, I said that's number two and we've got many more to come. As a team, I think that's big. Definitely our team as a whole for next year with Dario -- it's definitely a shame to lose Dan. I think for us, we worked very well together. We're a good team together. To see him choose to go somewhere else was kind of hard. I gave him a lot of flak I think in the last couple weeks after that. He's definitely a great friend and will be for a long time. It's just tough when you're going to have to race against him and his team next year as opposed to being teammates with him.
But, you know, I think with Dario coming on board, having the last two 500 champions and the last two series champions, it's going to be a strong package. I'm looking forward to it. I know he's probably got a far different driving style to me, so I'm going to be interested in trying to learn a few tricks off that. I think this team is definitely going to be a tough one to beat in the next few years.
Q. You're battling for a championship, spent a lot of time riding side by side. Did that appear to you not to be a good idea? A little too close, somebody goes bye-bye.
SCOTT DIXON: When you're running with people like Briscoe, my teammates, T.K., Danica, Helio, you're pretty confident running side by side with them. They've got just as much to lose as we do. Especially, you know, on the last few laps with Helio, he was definitely trying to put the squeeze on us. If we touched, 99% would have been both of us going into the wall and nothing would have happened.
It was frustrating I think in the middle part of that race when you're racing with people. But some definitely looked very desperate, trying to make big moves. I guess it made the racing pretty exciting. But for me it was definitely the opposite.
Q. When you won the Indy 500, the president of New Zealand gave you what you thought it was land for life. Ended up being lamb for life. Are you going to try to get him to upgrade that offer?
SCOTT DIXON: They need to be putting a 'D' on that 'LAN'. Hopefully they can give me some free lamb. I don't think that's going to happen. I might get two life supplies of lamb.
Q. Your mom and dad are in the back of the room. Talk about the role they've played in your career.
SCOTT DIXON: Absolutely. Mum and dad have been fantastic through my racing career. Without them, I wouldn't be here (laughter). But without them, I wouldn't be racing. Dad, for his passion of racing. Mum's, as well. You know, that's what got me back into it. Back when I was seven or eight, I went out to see my cousins race go-karts. From that day on, we've been at a racetrack pretty much every other weekend.
It's been a long, I guess, many years racing. They've always supported me through thick and thin. Even when we've been in the low times, especially in New Zealand when we didn't have any money, they remortgaged their house, made any option to try and keep it going. Definitely I owe them everything. It's just a pleasure to have them be able to be at the races.
Q. Could you maybe talk about how racing has helped develop you as a person, your self-esteem, self-confidence. Your mom said when you were younger, you used to be very shy. Even when you won go-kart races, a lot of times it was difficult the attention you would get. Talk about how racing has helped you develop as a person.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I don't think it's racing, but racing in America. Definitely people speak freely about themselves. In New Zealand, everybody's quite a bit of a closed book. I think for me when I was growing up, especially when I started driving in formula cars, for me it was tough. I was 13. I think at that stage I was the youngest ever to be racing cars in the world. We had a lot of media attention. For me, I just wanted to be a guy that races on the weekend and go to school and hang out with my buddies, as I did when I was 13, all the way through high school. That's why I became so closed up in those points.
I think now I guess growing up in many ways, the things you accomplish. My wife has been a big key to that, as well. Definitely, yeah, living here, my wife, racing has been big keys.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, thank you very much. Congratulations.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.
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