An Interview with Chip Ganassi, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Salvador Duran, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Mike Hull MODERATOR: We want to thank Chip and his drivers for being cooperative in joining us. In case anybody isn't ...
An Interview with Chip Ganassi, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Salvador Duran, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Mike Hull
MODERATOR: We want to thank Chip and his drivers for being cooperative in joining us. In case anybody isn't aware, they are the defending winners of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, where last year Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, who are with us today, joined Casey Mears, who has moved on, in winning the race. That followed a year after they won the championship with Scott Pruett and Max Papis in the Rolex Sports Car Series, Daytona Prototype category. They've been the standard bearers in this series, along with the SunTrust team for several years. We'll see what happens, what their plans are for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona and the season in total.
Chip, welcome. We appreciate it.
CHIP GANASSI: I want to welcome everybody. We're excited to be back here for another year. Obviously last year we had a good race. We want to improve upon that a bit. We had one car fall out in the middle of the night. We're certainly back obviously with our partners in Lexus, TELMEX, and of course here for the 24 we're going to have Target with us also. We wanted to come back with a team that represents--to represent those partners well and represent our company well.
Last year had we split Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, we had them in the same car, but had we split those two drivers last year, I think we would have won the drivers championship as well. We didn't do that. That was a little bit of a mistake, I guess.
So for this year, for the entire season, we'll have Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. But for this race, we have Scott and Memo split in two different cars, hoping that will pay dividends at the end of the season.
We've also brought in Salvador Duran over here on my left, an A1GP driver, to augment Scott's car. Obviously, Memo will be with Dixon and Wheldon. This other little-known driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, is going to help us with the race also. We're very excited to have him. He has various experiences in different racing. I don't know if you guys have heard of him (laughter).
With that, I really want Mike Hull to talk. I would like Mike to come up and talk a little bit about how we put the teams together for the season and for this race. We're looking forward to the 24-hour. I hope you are, too.
MODERATOR: Mike, we'll hand a microphone to you. Mike Hull.
MIKE HULL: Chip pretty much outlined everything we're doing. We wanted to come back here and have two cars that could run to the end of the race. Hopefully we're going to be able to do that. We want two strong drivers, two strong driver lineups.
Chip Ganassi Racing has always been about partnership. This partnership is a partnership, and it's hard to say TELMEX and Target simultaneously. I'm not quite sure how we do that. But our cars are partnered up equally with Target/TELMEX, TELMEX/Target, with Felix Sabates. We have Target drivers, we have representation from NASCAR with Juan now, we have representation from a future Formula One guy in Salvador Duran, representation from all different persuasions of racing in Scott Pruett, and a young rising star in Memo Rojas. That's what Chip Ganassi Racing has always been about, putting people together that have one common denominator, that's wanting to win a race.
I hope at the end a Target/TELMEX, TELMEX/Target car wins the race. That's why we came. I think you want to speak to the stars, so I'll turn it back over to these guys.
MODERATOR: The drivers of the No. 01 TELMEX/Target/Lexus Riley will be Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Salvador Duran. Drivers of the No. 02 Target/TELMEX car, which is the defending race-winning car, will be Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, and Memo Rojas.
Scott, because you've been holding this team down since its creation, we'll go to you for a quick question. Talk about the lineup. You probably want to reverse the finishing order, at least get to the finish this year in the 01 car.
SCOTT PRUETT: Needless to say, I'm excited to be back. The whole TELMEX team, this is exciting to have this group of drivers involved with Lexus again. They've been working very hard. What we saw last year were two cars, they were capable of winning this race. One went on to win this race. Hopefully we can do the same thing this year with a 1-2 finish.
The determination, the focus that Chip has throughout his whole organization is just immense. With that, you know, comes wins and championships, all that kind of stuff.
It was a great season we had last year, but not quite--we were just one step short of winning everything. We won the manufacturers championship for Lexus, which was exciting. We won the team championship. We unfortunately finished second in the drivers championship. That's what Chip had mentioned, we're splitting the drivers this year to get as many points as we can. If we would have done that last year, we would have had the drivers championship and wrapped up all the championships we could have.
That's the exciting part of being part of this organization, is the fact that we don't stand still; we continue to move forward, trying to do the best we can for the team, whatever that is.
My drivers with Juan Pablo and Salvador, both guys are a lot of fun to work with. I think we're going to have a terrific time in the 24 Hours, being one of those cars that's going to be there all 24 hours.
The difference I see with this race is going into it the durability of these cars, the durability of these engines. I know TRD has put a lot of time, effort and energy into our program with the five-liter. You can run these cars hard for 24 hours. I think this is going to be the first time in a lot of years we've seen where you can push that car at a very hard pace for 24 hours. In my opinion, that's going to be a little bit of a change from what we've seen over the years.
MODERATOR: Dan, in the early morning hours, as we approached dawn last year, the No. 02 car, the No. 01 car, then the Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford, made it look like it was going to be a three-horse race with those cars. The Porsche Crawford was quick. Who do you look for, in addition to your teammates, to be the guys to look out for this year?
DAN WHELDON: I think that's the exciting thing about this race. You really can't count on any two or three cars in particular. The one thing that I find unbelievable about this race is the pure pace of it. I think some people, particularly fans watching it, you would expect in a 24-hour race some laps to be maybe 90, 95 percent to look after the equipment. But it's really not that kind of race. When you're up against the SunTrust guys, the Ruby Tuesday car, you do have to be flat out.
I think that's where this team is very well-prepared. Certainly the partners that we have in Lexus, TRD, TELMEX and Target, they give us the ability to be able to run the equipment flat out at all times.
I don't want to pick out any couple of cars in particular. I'm sure you're going to hate me for doing that. I know we've just got to keep doing our job with both the 01 and 02 cars. If we do that, run reliably, I'm sure we'll be up for challenging for victory again.
MODERATOR: Scott, this puts you on a road course that you love. Do you mind the early start to the season?
SCOTT DIXON: Certainly the test seems to screw up everybody's New Year. Apart from that, it's good .
It's good to be back in the car. We've had a long time off. I think for us, for myself actually, it wasn't too along with having a test just before Christmas. It's good to be back in the car, especially on a road course, and get some laps in. Even this morning the traffic was hectic as always, a lot of fun.
For a race to start off the year, for myself, it couldn't be any better. You get to catch up with a lot of people that you've raced with over the years. The competition is like nothing else. As Dan touched on, I think with trying to pick a certain few cars that you're racing against, even last year we thought we were out of it, but to come through the night, the team worked extremely hard to pull us through for the win. It's just one of those races you never are out of it until the finish.
I'm happy to be back. I'm very happy to be back in the car, getting some laps in.
MODERATOR: Let's welcome Juan Pablo Montoya. This announcement today kind of officially makes what we've been speculating in the press for a couple months. It's good to have you here. Talk about your experience at Daytona International Speedway. How many laps on either the oval or road course have you had?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Before this, nothing. I came here about two years ago. My brother was racing go-karts. There is a go-kart track in the infield. It's the only time I've been here.
It was pretty exciting to be out here. It's great. I didn't even know where the road course went. It was nice. I took a ride in the car this morning. It was nice we're using both banks. It's pretty good, actually helps me a little bit when I come back in the Cup car. It's quite bumpy. You kind of find where the bumps are. I think that's going to help me out a little bit.
The car is a lot of fun to drive. As everybody said, I think we've got a winning package, but a lot of people do as well. We need to work hard and keep the car in one piece to bring it to the end. I think if we do a good job, there is definitely a decent chance of winning.
MODERATOR: Memo Rojas will be the season-long teammate for Scott Pruett as they look for another championship. Memo, welcome to the series. There is a big following down in Mexico. How much pride running with TELMEX colors do you bring to the series and for your home country in Mexico?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, first of all, I'm very excited for this opportunity. I'm very, very excited first to have the opportunity to race the Daytona 24 with this driver lineup. Second, like you say, I'm very proud of being selected to drive with Ganassi Racing with TELMEX and Lexus for the full season with Scott. I'm obviously looking forward for the Mexico City race. I'm very excited about it.
Continued in part 2