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IndyCar Series: Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix

IndyCar Series: Camping World Watkins Glen Grand Prix

Ryan Hunter-Reay
Bobby Rahal
July 6, 2008


THE MODERATOR: If we can have your attention. It's our pleasure to bring to you now the two principles who have captured the Camping World Indy Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, team owner Bobby Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Just a quick note if we could about some of the significant aspects of this win. Many of you may know that Ryan Hunter-Reay has won two times in his career in Champ Car competition in Surfers Paradise in Milwaukee, where I believe he won every single lap if I remember correctly. It's the first win in the IndyCar Series for Rahal/Letterman Racing since Buddy Rice won in Michigan in 2004.
Another interesting note about this event, save the years that Cart ran at Watkins Glen when Bobby Unser and Rick Mears were victorious. Going back to the days of the U.S. Grand Prix, and now the Indy Grand Prix with the Indy Racing and IndyCar Series. It's the first win by an American born race driver in that series.
One more note, as part of the new partnership with the Indy Racing and the IndyCar Series with IZOD, it was well established that Ryan Hunter-Reay was going to go and spend a couple of days in New York where a gigantic poster and billboard, if you will, was going to be unveiled with a picture of Ryan Hunter-Reay. And next to it, the words were, "I am next." Our understanding is that they're going to work overnight and change that to, "I am now."
So, ladies and gentlemen, a great congratulations to two gentlemen here at Victory Lane, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Bobby Rahal.
First of all, Ryan, I'll start with you. I think I've served as a public address announcer for 85 to 90 events in this series. I don't know if I've ever seen one that went quite the way this unfolded. But let's make this clear, you've been strong all weekend long. Congratulations and tell us what it was like?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you, it was a long day. We settled into a good rhythm there in third place. Briscoe and Dixon were just really fast in a straight line, so that was difficult.
But, for all the things that have just gone against us for all the weeks leading up to this race, for something to go our way was great. It didn't land in our lap. We had to definitely go out there and I had to stuff it down the inside of Darren and hold off Tony several times during this race.
Then we just checked out, which was the best. We put an exclamation on the end of that one. So it was a beautiful deal. And I couldn't have done it without this team.
At the beginning of the year Bobby told me to go out there and make something of this. And to make something of building this team around myself and we all get along so great. It's really a special thing to be a part of. The fact that we've been building and get faster and faster and faster is a neat thing. And to finally win, huge.
THE MODERATOR: It is huge indeed. And Bobby Rahal, I would imagine nothing ever changes or replaces the exhilaration of winning as a driver. But it's certainly gratifying as an owner. But for you personally, I would think to break a drought, not only to break it, but to break it at Watkins Glen would be an added special thing for you as a car owner.
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, for sure. I think for sure to win here, I mean, it's my first Formula 1 was race here. My first professional Formula Atlantic race was here. My first Can-Am race I drove was here. So my first pole position and Sprint car racing was here in 1981 or 80, one of those two years. It's so long ago I can't remember.
So, yeah, I mean, this is the crown jewel of American motorsports circuits. So much history and so many great drivers have been here, and it is such a fantastic racing circuit, especially the long circuit.
To win here, you know, for us it has been a bit of a drought. And there were comments made about this team by some of our previous drivers about our desire and our commitment. Really what it boils down to is you have to have the right person in the driver's seat. And this guy, since the day he came on to the team and almost a year ago now, mid-Ohio, he elevated the performance of the team immediately.
We just got better and better. We're saying this is the third time, three road courses in a row we've been in the Firestone Fast 6. And it's because he's been able to take the car to a new level and work with our engineers and our guys to, you know, kind of keep it there and make it stronger and stronger.
So, you know, for me it's a vindication a little bit. But I'm just so happy for our team and all the mechanics who work so hard. This is a brutal series in terms of the timing of the race, the tempo every weekend. These cars are very difficult.
You know, we've just come off a big shunt at Richmond, and we had to repair the car. These guys work like you can't believe. So I'm just so pleased for them. So many of our guys on the team this is their first win, and that even makes it even more special. So, yeah, I'm thrilled. As I told my guys, I said, you know, it's okay if we do this again.

Q. If you could follow up or elaborate. In two weeks it will be your first anniversary together. Bobby, if it's just kind of a situation where maybe everything kind of happens for a reason in order to get a guy like Ryan, the driver that you had before wasn't able to do it. And just how this game works in cycles?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, you know, I've known Ryan fair long time. My career wasn't a smooth progression. I had sidesteps and backsteps and times when I was the flavor of the month, and times when people didn't return my phone calls. So I think I identified with where Ryan was at.
The guy showed a lot of promise, and it takes a long time to get up, and it takes nothing to get down. Because you have a bad deal or bad this or bad that. Sometimes not even of your making, but you're the one who suffers from it. So I just had a great belief in Ryan.
And this team, if we look at the history of this team, Buddy Rice was pretty much a forgotten commodity. We asked him to join us, and next thing we know he joins Indy 500. Michel Jourdain, people had pretty much washed their hands of him, and this team worked with him, and he won numerous Champ Car races. The guy was a darn good driver.
This team, I don't know if it's just the make-up of the team that we believe in. If you're going to come drive for us we're going to do everything we can to help you win. Because obviously, we win as a result.
For Ryan, it wasn't a difficult decision for me to ask him to drive for us, and I have to say the ethanol people were fantastic because they were very supportive.
I mean, if you remember. We had a horrible baptism together in Homestead with Paul Dana's staff. And this was originally Paul's deal. He worked hard for this, got off on a horrible first step. So for today I think this is kind of the ethanol guys are really the ones who backed this. I hope they think this is as sweet as I because they deserved it as much of as anybody.
You know, with Ryan, all year, again from last year and even this year he's stepped up his performance, and stepped up his team's performance, and the results, we're seeing.

Q. Can you talk about the one-year anniversary?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The amount of action that we've gotten done in the year is unreal. Just because we made some changes there that Bobby enforced over the off-season engineering-wise, and he had put that same faith that he put into me and the engineers on my car. And we've been working so well together, it's unreal.
We have a great repertoire, we're doing everything right. We talk to them almost every day. It's a great thing the way everything's rolling. And with the Ethanol folks, I've got a great dialogue with them and representing them is huge.
But it's all along the lines of to get into this seat I had to really show what I could do prior to that in Champ Car, and that's what made it possible. I mean, I won with Dan here in Surfers Paradise, one of my old team owners is here. And he comes out to the races and I've either gotten a podium or a win. So he's coming to the rest of them for the year.
But to me, this is huge. And to be on the bottom, he for sure gave me an opportunity to come back and really show my stuff.
I was driving a couple Grand Am races here and there, and looking for some NASCAR testing. I didn't sit down though. I was out there trying to make myself visible. And I like to think I drove the wheels off anything I got into.
And this deal, I got in it. I couldn't go out there and wreck any race cars, but I went out and I learned and I applied myself. In every race, I was my biggest critic. And I went back out, and you know, this is big for us.
This is big for momentum, and this is only going to be better as we go forward. I'm just so happy to give it to some of these guys. Like Bobby said, these guys work so hard. It's unreal. NASCAR's every weekend they have 30 cars and they roll them out, and they've got guys back at home and working on them. These guys are the same guys that go back home and repair the cars. It's amazing how hard they work.
To give them a win is huge, and to do it with Ethanol on the side of the car is awesome.
Then to top that all off, as if there wasn't anything better, you know, IZOD, we announced our partnership this weekend, and we've got this huge party on wheels out there in the paddock. And we're going to New York this weekend just to say I am next, is pretty funny. It's awesome. I was next.

Q. Bobby, how does this compare with having Graham win earlier this year?
BOBBY RAHAL: It's different. I guess Graham's win, you know -- Ryan's not my son. I might -- if he keeps going like this, I might adopt him. But I'm sure Nick would have something to say about that and Ryan's mom.
But, you know, I know how hard these guys have worked, and it's been a topsy-turvy last couple of years. And they've worked extremely hard on mechanics and our engineers, there's not a lot of payback, you know? And that's tough.
That really wears on you when you're, again, from the timing of the schedule, and you're repairing and you're driving all night home Sunday night, you know, you're back, piecing the car together on Monday. I mean, that is -- that gets really old in a big hurry.
You know, I just know that Scott, who is my right-hand guy, Scotty lives and dies by this team as to what happens on a daily basis.
For him, I'm particularly pleased. I think it was pretty emotional in the stands. We didn't kiss or cry, but you could tell. There was such a sense of, I don't know, you know, we did it, and all of those -- the stress of it damn near killed Scott Rimsky a year or two ago. So for him, for the crew. I mean, yeah, Graham's thing was wonderful. This was wonderful, but just in a different way.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Another thing about Scott, too. Rimsky is an amazing guy to drive with. He's the guy in my ears. He's got plenty of experience doing this, and he's very -- he's one of those guys that you work with and you just know the bases are covered, and that's big for a driver to know that.
He's a great guy to have in my ears. I love working with him. And congratulations to him, too. Because I know this means as much to him as it does to me.

Q. That moment was captured on television by the way. It was really a good moment. I'm not quite sure how to ask this question, but prior to the unification, as people watch races, kind of expect a certain three, four, five people to be up there and running out in front. Now since the unification, that's got it all scrambled up, and now we seem to have people who in the past seem to be able to drive automobiles without getting a scratch on them. Now they're having accidents and I was just wondering if it was a case of just so many good drivers out there or maybe they're not used to driving with each other and how they react in certain conditions? I'm just kind of curious because it was an interesting race.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I don't think there's any question that the intensity level of this series has gone up and has been ratcheted up. In part, it's because of guys like Ryan coming in to existing IRL teams, and in part because of guys like Justin Wilson, Graham, Viso, Will Power, Oriol Servia, and these guys are good drivers.
So all of a sudden, now to qualify in the top 10 or 12 is a real accomplishment. That's what you want. That's what makes it so satisfying for us being that fast six. Because it's like, I mean, you got these guys have to suck it up for those couple of laps to -- especially the way the qualifying is, which I think is exciting for all the fans and the driver it's a lot of pressure that you live under for an hour and a half.
But, hey, the intensity level goes up, there's going to be incidents. There's going to be incidents. There's going to be push and shoving, emotional, you know. I mean, it gets emotional out there. But then again, that's what you want. I don't think you want it where you just kind of can cruise around and collect.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, everything coming together with the split now, it's amazing how tight the competition is. I'm so happy it's this way. Went through so many years where it was, you know, ten cars and the rest were field fillers, ten cars, and the rest were field fillers on both sides. Now it's stout, 20 deep, for sure.

Q. Ryan, going back to the things were meant to happen for a reason. A year ago, if things had gone a certain way you might be out there pounding around in the middle of the pack in the truck series. You know? Just talk about how, maybe, it really worked to your benefit that those opportunities didn't come through? And I have a follow-up to that.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, even when the whole, you know, in 2005, when the whole Rocket Sports thing went down, and I got on that team and it was a horrible experience from the first day to the last day. A couple months after that whole thing ended, I was like these things happen for a reason.
I've got to stay strong, and this is teaching me a lesson to show me what it could be like and to never be complacent and to always be pushing as an athlete and as a businessman, too. To be out there working it as hard as you can. And, you know, that's basically how I see it.
Things happen for a reason, for sure. I don't think things are set in place. The time line of my life is set in place for the future, but yeah, things happen for a reason.

Q. Also the emotion you felt at Texas when you thought that was going to be the breakthrough night for you, how much has it helped to have gone through something like that so close to getting your first victory to be able to appreciate this?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It definitely makes me appreciate it a bit more. I would have appreciated that one, a lot, too. The appreciation is in abundance.

Q. Ryan, towards the end of the race when what looked to be the two best cars were basically taken out. What were your thoughts on that? And did that change your mindset and approach to the rest of the race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, I've said it a couple times, you know. Dixon's one of the most aggressive tire warmers out there. He warms his tires really hard. There's a lot of marbles off line, and I don't know.
I guess he just got off line. Right when it happened it was like a scene out of "Days of Thunder." I couldn't see where it was, where the opening was or cars, nothing. It was just black and dirt in front of me, a cloud of it. So I picked far left and luckily it was open.
Got through there, and immediately I thought this is that point where everything has finally paid me back a little bit for all the bad luck. Paid this team back for all the bad luck it's had not only this year, but over the past three years.
So, like I said, it wasn't gifted to us in our last lap, we had to go grab it from them, but it helped.

Q. Is there any special significance to winning this race on the 4th of July weekend?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, for sure. I've said that a couple times. Being an American kid with Ethanol, an American fuel in the car and on the side of the car, driving for Bobby Rahal, an American legend, and finally announcing IZOD, the American apparel clothing apparel clothing line on the 4th of July weekend in upstate New York on one of the best racetracks in America, it's a pretty American deal. That's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to the team. And I have to tell you, one thing that goes with winning, you have a longer night now, Ryan. So congratulations.

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