Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript Wednesday, April 29, 2009 An interview with Stanton Barrett MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests ...
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
An interview with Stanton Barrett
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us this afternoon as we prepare to open practice for the Indianapolis 500. Joining us in a few minutes will be Paul Tracy and Scott Sharp.
With us to start the call is Stanton Barrett. Good afternoon, Stanton.
STANTON BARRETT: Good afternoon.
MODERATOR: Stanton is a rookie in the IndyCar Series and will be making his Indianapolis 500 debut. However, he's a veteran of almost 200 starts in NASCAR between the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.
Stanton, let's talk about the transition to the IndyCar Series so far. Tell us about how things have been going and what are some of the biggest adjustments you've had to make?
STANTON BARRETT: Things are a little bit trying. We're just having to work extremely hard to get to the track each week. The economy hasn't been that great. Some of our sponsors that we had signed up last year and potentials kind of fell by the wayside. Supporters we have have been very supportive, but it's been difficult to get to the track. We haven't got to test this year, except for Homestead. You know, all things considered, I'm pretty happy with what we're doing. It would be nice to have a second car to help us with data and just get more information a little bit more quickly so we can get closer to the curve.
I'm pleased with everybody's performance. We're a new team with regards to running full-time, some of these tracks, this new style of cars is new to both Owen (Snyder III) and Greg (Beck), people on the race team as far as a lot of information. We're growing and building together. We have long-term goals and we're keeping that in perspective. I'm a flat-out rookie when it comes to open-wheel racing. I'm learning a lot, also being cautious about how we approach it so we can maintain a positive learning experience and growth and achieving our goals to get through the year.
MODERATOR: Last weekend at Kansas was the first oval race of the season. You stayed out there 181 of the 200 laps. Did you come away feeling pretty good about the experience at Kansas?
STANTON BARRETT: For the most part. You know, there's a lot of things we just need a little bit more depth and information. I think we could have got our car really strong. We had a little bit of problem with the telemetry in qualifying. It affected the ability to back up our time in practice or improve it, which is not a big deal. We had a little bit better car than that. We made our way through passed some cars in the beginning, until the first caution. We made a tire change. I don't know what happened, but it went to junk. We had to come in and change it again. From that point we ran okay. I wasn't real happy with it completely, but at times there were moments where we had some promise. Like I said, it's a learning experience. A lot of these tracks we haven't been to as far as from a team standpoint. It's difficult. We made maybe not some mistakes but not the right corrections from a gearing standpoint with how windy it was. I think it affected some of our speed and our gearing.
You know, all in all, we made progress. It's something that we can take and learn from going into Indy and other ovals. I was really enjoying the road courses. At Long Beach we got up to pace in the race. Looking forward to coming back to there to run the road courses and street courses more than the ovals, to be honest with you.
MODERATOR: You've had the chance to come to Indianapolis as a spectator several times. What does it mean to you now to get the opportunity to compete in the Indianapolis 500?
STANTON BARRETT: It would be unbelievable. It's something I always wanted to do, to be able to be in the Indy 500. Right now we have a lot to do. Like I said, we're a small team, limited funding. We're working on some really good sponsors to help make that endeavor a little more possible and easy in the month of May. So looking forward to see if that comes to fruition.
For the meantime, we have to make the race first to be able to have the pleasure and opportunity to be able to race the race. That's going to be kind of back in the days, I feel like the days of NASCAR for me, where each race was all or nothing. There's a lot on the line. I have no experience there in an open-wheel car. There's a lot of differences from what I've tried to learn and gather from people. I got to go out and do my job and the team has to do their job and we need to work as hard as possible, and hopefully we'll be able to live that dream and be in the Indy 500.
MODERATOR: Between some of your fellow drivers, team owner Greg Beck, who has been at Indy many times, what are people telling you about Indianapolis, whether it be the track itself, how you manage the track time in the whole month of May? What are those folks telling you about Indy?
STANTON BARRETT: Well, everybody says Indy's a whole different animal. I can see how that could be. I've watched it a long time. I've been on there in a stock car. I have a little bit of understanding probably what they're talking about.
Again, you can't have a complete understanding. I don't know if you sympathize with it or what you want to call it until you've sat in the car and gone around the track at speed and understand all the variables, the needs, everything you need to do and do properly. It's probably going to be a little bit overwhelming, but hopefully I can use the 20 years of racing experience to my advantage in some form to be able to pick that up more quickly. I know the team will be better off at Indy than we have at the last three races because they do have a lot of experience at Indy, and Greg has been there several times with the new car. They can make a driver's job so much easier. I'm looking forward to hopefully their experience there will make my job easier and we can have an enjoyable month of May.
MODERATOR: Any goals in particular set at this point before practice even starts?
STANTON BARRETT: You know, for myself, it's just going in with the right attitude and learning as much as I can, absorbing like a sponge from the other drivers as much as I can comprehend until I get on the track. When I get on the track, do the same. Hopefully our goal is to stay out of trouble and not make any mistakes and also have the speed we need to make the race. Our goal is to be in the Indy 500. We can't gain experience with these cars, nor myself as a rookie, to get better in these cars, unless I'm on the racetrack running every lap. We didn't do that at Kansas. We actually ended up getting pretty tight with the wind conditions and pushed up into the wall and kind of bent a rear suspension piece. All in all, we almost competed all the laps of all the first three races, and we need to do that for the 500 and build on that for the rest of the season.
So, you know, we have a lot to deal with both from a team aspect and from a driving standpoint.
MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and open it up for some questions for Stanton.
Q: You talked about being in a stock car. Is there anything you can take from that to rookie orientation next week?
STANTON BARRETT: Probably not, other than understanding the surface and the banking and the turns and how long the straightaways are. Other than that, probably not.
Q: From the standpoint of running 181 laps at Kansas, obviously you got a feel for an oval. There's a distinct difference in that type of an oval and what you're going to be looking at in rookie orientation. Have you had a chance to talk with some of the driving coaches in the IRL, Mears, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, people like that, that can offer you a wealth of information?
STANTON BARRETT: I've gone to different drivers. Roberto Moreno has been around. He's been helping at St. Pete. We went to the test, Barber, really watched and studied everybody. Al Unser Jr. has been there every race. He's been very helpful both in understanding from a driving standpoint, because he's been in a stock car, he's been in IndyCars, to understand how to communicate that properly, and also every detail of the track, kind of even from a setup standpoint. Both those guys I mentioned have been helpful to both our crew and to me to communicate to them maybe what I'm feeling and probably things that we need to change. I'm really savvy with changes and setup stuff with NASCAR. I have no idea, and I'm learning, some things apply and are applicable, but it's a bit of a different animal. Like I say, some of that experience can transfer over. I'm getting to be a little bit more useful to my team to give them the information they need from the setup standpoint.
I go to everybody I can. I've talked to Dan Wheldon, A.J. (Foyt), E.J. Viso has been helping, riding around the track with me. Dario (Franchitti), different guys have been very open. There's only been a few that don't seem very personable. I've really enjoyed other drivers and really respect what the heck they do over there.
Q: You talked about working with some sponsorships for your Indy program. Anything you can talk about specifically at this point? Do you think you'll be ready to get out there and practice right after rookie orientation?
STANTON BARRETT: We're definitely going to go. We're set. We're going to get through it however we can. We have some great potential sponsors that probably are going to jump onboard, and hopefully by the next day or two, if not, maybe there's some news today we'll be able to announce something. They're really great companies. Looking forward to having them on the car. I'm actually in Sweden right now meeting with another company and looking forward to bringing them over to the United States and launching part of their marketing program at Indianapolis. So all that will be probably announced in the next few days.
There's a lot of potential. Even though the economy is down, people need to market in the States, and they see IRL as a great venue to do that, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the month of May, there's so much going on. It's a real positive thing for us. And companies still want to be in the sport and utilize it for growth and sales.
We got some great players that are probably going to jump onboard. Like every team, we're always looking for more so we can grow and expand it as much as possible and give you the best opportunity to be competitive. That comes down to financing and how smart you are with running that in your organization. So hopefully I'll have some news by the end of the week.
Q: We've seen a lot of drivers go the other way in the past few seasons from open-wheel to stock cars. The question obviously is the big difference between the two cars. Coming the other way, other than the downforce, can you talk about the difference you found in the two cars?
STANTON BARRETT: There's quite a few differences. I'm actually still learning a lot about these cars. It's like any car, I think both from a driver standpoint I need to learn what it takes to make these cars work. It took the first two road courses on a road course or a street course to figure out some of the tricks. We got fairly decent in the race. I think when we go back, we're going to be somewhat competitive with probably the mid part of the field I hope.
But I think from a driver, every driver knows there's things you got to do to different cars to get them to work for you, and especially when they're not working, how to maximize that. I'm slowly learning that.
I knew it would be really difficult regardless of any professional sport, I've competed in a lot of them. I'll not say you underestimate it, but you know you're not sure what to expect. It's always everything and more, what it takes to be good at it or competitive. It's as much of a team as it is a driver it seems in every sport, motorsports.
For me, I mean, everything has been a challenge really. I think we've adapted to things quickly in some regards, but it's all new and it's all learning. It's jumping in head first every time you go somewhere new. Every track has been different new from the street courses to the ovals.
Q: Talking about the street and road courses, Toronto is back on the IRL schedule this season. Do you know if your sponsorship plans will allow you to be at that race?
STANTON BARRETT: Yeah, I think we've worked out everything to where we should be able to get to all the races. We need more sponsorship, but things are coming together. What we need is just more support. We have limited sponsors now, which get us through. We just need more support so we can grow the team. We'd like to add a second team, which would help us tremendously. We want to grow the depth of our team and be around for a while. That's all. Support by our sponsors. We definitely plan on being at every race this year no matter what. Figure out how to do it. We have to this point. We've had some great people come onboard every weekend and people have committed since last year. So those people are still onboard. We're just working as hard as we can and it looks good.
I look forward to going to Toronto. Everybody says it's a great event, the fans are great. I'm really excited to get back to the street racing.
Q: I've been watching your progress the first three races. From the beginning of the weekend until the race, you seem to steadily improve, sometimes by leaps and bounds, might be measured by seconds. If you could address how comfortable you're getting. I think you're taking on a tremendous task to make this changeover. What are your personal goals that you've set? Have you kind of met those or exceeded those to date so far?
STANTON BARRETT: Not really. Every racer wants to win races or run up front and be a contender. We have to keep things in perspective. First race, we didn't get to test. We got to shake down the car. My first time on a road course in an IndyCar was at the actual race. Not to make mistakes there, not significant mistakes, I made mistakes, but not to tear the car up, finish the race, improve upon your position. We had actually some significant problems on the first day. So the whole first day was kind of out the window from a learning standpoint or even being able to drive the car. From there, we really made impacts in our time. I did what I needed to do. I learned. I wasn't as competitive as I'd like to be, but also we couldn't afford to crash that car. We have one car. We have to keep things in perspective. We came out with a good finish.
At Long Beach, we were even more competitive from the get-go. Then during the race we had some pretty decent times during the race, even with some mistakes with our shifting. We had some problems there. We ran fairly competitive. We needed to stay out of trouble, and erred on the side of caution. We had an OK finish. We had a better finish going until I ran off of Turn 9. I'm still learning how to make the most of the braking with these cars.
The next race, I think will be where we wanted to be and hoped we would be. All in all we're happy with the outcome of the first two races there. Personally our race in Kansas was going pretty well until our first pit stop and then after that it was kind of up and down and definitely wasn't happy with our performance at Kansas. Just something that both myself and the team need to learn from and we're going to get better, so it's not the end of the world. We've come back from three races without major damage to the car and can use that to build going into Indy. That was really what we needed to do, is get seat time and learn, everybody as a whole. Of course, you'd like to go out of the box and run in the top 10. But with our experience with these cars, me being a flat rookie in open-wheel, I think that's probably unreasonable. You set unreasonable expectations, too big ones, you're going to get bit. We're looking to learn and build momentum to get through Indy and then start going from there to where we can be more and more competitive. Granted every team out there has been out there for quite a while. We have a lot to make up on both from a team aspect and from my experience as a driver.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Stanton. Appreciate you taking the time for us today. Looking forward to seeing you in the month of May.
STANTON BARRETT: Thank you, guys, for your question. Have a great afternoon.