Team Spotlight on ZIP Racing DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 31, 2002) - With a quirky sense of humor and an outlook on racing that encompasses the word 'fun', Steve Ivankovich, team owner/driver of ZIP Racing, has brought a love of racing and ...
Team Spotlight on ZIP Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 31, 2002) - With a quirky sense of humor and an outlook on racing that encompasses the word 'fun', Steve Ivankovich, team owner/driver of ZIP Racing, has brought a love of racing and good-time attitude to the sport. ZIP Racing has had some ups and downs during its three years in the Rolex Sports Car Series, but the crew and drivers have never lost sight of keeping what they do fun. The team added a second Porsche GT3 R to the field this season and hopes to finish the season with both cars, currently sixth and eighth in the standings, in the top five.
Series - Rolex Sports Car Series
Class - Grand Touring (GT)
Cars - Porsche GT3 R
Garage Location - Richmond, Va.
Year Established - 2000
Drivers - Steve Ivankovich and Spencer Pumpelly
Car Numbers - 34 and 35
* Finished second in GT class at 2002 Grand American 400 in California
* Finished second in GT class at 2001 Bully Hill Vineyard 250
* Captured first overall victory in the GT race at 2001 Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres
IN THE WORDS OF STEVE IVANKOVICH...
When did you become involved in racing?
In a previous life I used to be a professional tennis player. I was an All-American in college and went on the pro tour for a while. I have always loved cars, so when I retired from tennis at the ripe old age of 21, here I was at age 25 trying to figure out what I wanted to do in terms of still staying competitive and fit. A friend of mine was throwing a party at Charlotte Motor Speedway and I got a ride-around in a NASCAR. I walked out of the car and said, 'I don't know if I can do this.' I went to the Skip Barber racing school, and it turned out not only could I do it, but I was pretty good at it and got hooked. So I have been racing since the mid-90s.
How was ZIP Racing created?
The core of the race team - our crew chief and my co-driver - have been together as a race team since 1994. I got involved in the race team toward the end of 2000 when we resituated the team and reorganized it. So ZIP Racing has been alive since 2000, but the core of the team has been together since 1994.
I don't know if you know this, but my neatly cropped haircut is a shaved head. The team name is my nickname that just kind of stuck. When I shaved my head somebody said I looked like Zippy the Pinhead. The name Zippy just kind of stuck, and it was shortened to Zip. We figured out that Ivankovich and Pumpelly are obviously the two initials 'I' and 'P', but we are still trying to find a word to fit 'Z' so we can have ZIP as an acronym. But right now it just ended up being my nickname.
Does the team have any superstitions?
We have had a real run of bad luck this year so far. It's funny; we went through the whole Rolex Series year last year without so much as a scratch on the car and not a single did-not-finish. This year we had a blown engine in Daytona, we had contact at Homestead, we had some problems at Fontana, even though we finished second, and we had a terrible crash at Phoenix. So we are trying to figure out which racing god we made angry, and we are trying to have an exorcism. Generally, I have no superstitions I can think of, but we need to find a way to lift the taboo right now.
What are your thoughts on the 2002 season so far?
Its been rough going for us. We came in after last year very, very optimistic and committed to the Rolex Series. I think its been rough going for everybody. I think racing in general has seen a little bit of a lull. Given the current state of the economy, I think it has been difficult. People aren't feeling as rich as they were the last couple of years, so it has been tough to find gentleman drivers to drive and fund the team effort. And certainly sponsors have tightened the belt and aren't as free flowing with sponsorship money. I think that has had an effect on the amount of teams participating. So it has been a little bit of an uphill struggle for us as a team, and from what I have been hearing from a lot of teams, to keep the cars on the track. I think everybody is guardedly optimistic that it is going to keep getting better. You have to be optimistic as a race car driver.
What goals have you set for your team?
Our goals last year were not very lofty. We really wanted to go to every race, finish and see what happened. This year we wanted to field two cars, which has been difficult. And we wanted to have both cars finish in the top five, in terms of team owner points. Spencer has been going for a driver championship. We still have these goals, and we are going to try to reach them and see what happens at the end of the year.
What has been your most memorable racing moment with ZIP Racing?
My co-driver is a self-proclaimed sexiest man on four-wheels (laughs). So every race with the sexiest man on four-wheels is an adventure.
The most fun we ever had at a race, was last year at the Bully Hill where we crossed the line first, but were penalized and put in second. It was a great race, duel, car set-up, and we both drove well. It was just fun for us, and even with the little infraction at the end, it didn't dampen it. Really, every time I get in the race car it makes me smile. This is a team that just loves to race and the crew love to be there. We, as a team, just always have a lot of fun. We have a little bumper sticker in the shop that says 'if it isn't fun it isn't worth doing'. We really just enjoy racing and being part of the Rolex Series.
What hobbies do you have outside of racing?
I still play tennis and play the piano. I am on the Governing Board of Directors on the Chicago Symphony, so I really like music. I do a lot of reading and I do regular kinds of hobbies. I do like to eat a lot (laughs) and try to stay in shape.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your life?
It's really hard to say. I think a lot of people have influenced my life. I have been surrounded by some really fantastic people, both in racing and in life. I have always tried to draw from the best qualities of everybody that I know. I can't point to one person in particular, but I can say - everybody.
Which racetrack do you think is the best for your Porsche GT3 Rs?
We personally love Watkins Glen. It's such a beautiful track - the setting is beautiful, the history, and being a true road course, as opposed to an oval. The Porsche's seem to respond much better to a true road course. It is just a fantastic track. From setting to the actual track conditions to the races we have there, I think it's a team favorite, and a personal favorite of mine.
What advice would you give a young racer?
Hang around every single racetrack you can, whether you're driving or not. You have got to be at the track to get a shot, and you have got to be on the racetrack to win the race.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
The best story I was ever told was the story about the old bull and the young bull. It's a little bit of a true story (laughs), but it fits all aspects of life. There was an old bull and a young bull on top of a hill looking down on a herd of cattle, and the young bull looks at the old bull eagerly and says, 'we should walk down there and have marital relations with one of those cows,' and the old bull says, 'why don't we walk down their, take our time and have marital relations with all of them.' It's a crude axiom, but what you gleam from it is if you take your time and do things right, you'll get more out of life.
Is there anything you would like to say to Porsche GT3 R fans?
I think it is the best car out there. I know there are a lot of them, but it is just the best. We just love them. They are tough to drive, but they sure do work well. I don't real envision us driving anything else but a Porsche.
The Rolex Series will travel next to Watkins Glen International for the 6 Hours of The Glen, part of the Sports Car Grand Prix, June 21-23. Tickets are currently on sale for the event at www.theglen.com or by calling 607-535-2481. Additional information about the Rolex Sports Car Series can be found online at www.grand-am.com.