CHAMPCAR/CART: Barry Green, Dario Franchitti re-signing press conference, part II

Part II Last year, traditionally Road America, those who start outside the first couple of rows haven't fared too well. I guess Paul last year being the exception especially the way his car shut off and he got it going again. Is this a track,...

Part II

Last year, traditionally Road America, those who start outside the first couple of rows haven't fared too well. I guess Paul last year being the exception especially the way his car shut off and he got it going again. Is this a track, you know, is there a lot of opportunities in the past, make some headway, should you be unable to qualify in the first couple of rows or if you are back in the pack is it that much of a tougher climb?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's a tough climb, any race is difficult from the back of the pack. This is a difficult place to pass actually up at Road America which makes Paul's achievement last year all the more remarkable. When you consider he didn't have any help from the yellow flags, so I think he did an exceptional job last year. But it is always handy to qualify up in the front car row. Every time I am in a qualifying session I am out there to try and stick the thing on pole position to make the race that bit easier.

If you were a fan attending Road America what corner would you prefer to watch the CART race from and why?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: During testing I have been around the track and I have looked at different corners. I would say go to a variety of different places. Down into turn 5 is just awesome. Canada corner is terrific. Watching the cars come out under the bridge into the last corner is -- the whole place is breathtaking to watch. It looks as exciting from outside as it is from the inside of the cars. It is a great venue.

Dario, the early forecast right now is the possibility of rain for this coming weekend. What is Road America like to drive in the rain? Is it difficult?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Last thing I can remember driving up there the first race up there in 1997. Yeah, it's pretty difficult getting under the trees there, it's pretty slick. What tends to happen is that it dries out in certain places and under the trees it is going to remain wet; when it's a wet track and a drying track is when it really becomes difficult. But it's Road America, it is a challenge in any conditions.

Rockingham, you were there, just like to get your impressions of it, and there has been talk that the ticket sales were not what they were want them to be at this point. Is your sense that the British fans wait for the last minute to buy tickets or do you think it is just a matter of maybe doing a little heavier marketing?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think first of all, I think it is a terrific facility. The progress they have made since I was last there in March is unbelievable. The place looks great. As far as ticket sales and stuff, I really don't know anything about that. I have read stuff in the press as well, but I think if you believe everything you read in the press, you know, there's certain things that are written that maybe aren't true, but I don't know. I have to say I think they are doing good job and I am sure the fans -- I don't know when they buy their ticket or whatever, but I think anybody I have spoken to is -- they are all going to show up and I think it is going to be quite a good crowd and be a good atmosphere.

Dario, I wondered psychologically how this positions you? Were you going through a period of wondering where your career was going to lead? Does this announcement give you some sort of resolve confidence to move forward for some duration of time?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I don't think it really makes any difference to me in that regard at all. I think you know, it was just -- that's not something that I really worry about too much. I am only really interested in with my job and basically do the best I can at any given race. And you know, as far as direction, I was pretty -- I was confident, as I said, I was very happy, especially after last season which was incredibly difficult, I need to recharge my batteries which I did over the winter and I came back for the start of this season feeling -- I had a whole new enthusiasm again for getting out there and driving the car. I think that's continued also throughout the season. That was one of the reasons as I said I have been having a great time working with the team this year again and it's just -- for me it is a great thing to be staying there for a couple -- another couple of seasons.

Dario, going into Road America, can you give us a lap?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'd rather not actually if you don't mind. I tend not to do that.

Going back to spring training 1997, your first time there, you and I talked at the baseball game and your perspective of CART then and now, how much of CART then do you see yourself now?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: A lot has happened since then. (Laughs) really. At that point everything was unknown. I didn't know people. I didn't know anybody in the paddock. I didn't -- watched racing on TV but I wasn't a part of it. Everything was strange and new. Now, you know, obviously in the paddock I feel -- I know a lot of people in the paddock. I have a lot of great friends there. I think I understand -- everything is a bit more familiar now. But still surprises you. The one thing is that, you know, in races -- when the race starts you can never -- experience only counts so much because two races are never the same.

It's going to be nice to see you around for a couple more years. I guess you are happy that Vancouver is on the schedule for three more years?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. Yeah, that was good news. I love racing out there in B.C.. It's awesome. For all sorts of reasons. It's one of the places I really enjoy coming to.

Do you approach it like another race?  I am thinking partially
about what happened last year  and not winning the race?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Last year was frustrating. That's putting it mildly with what happened.

But yeah, obviously Vancouver has a special feeling, special feeling going out there with it being Greg's hometown and stuff. There's always -- for me there's a different feeling there. Certainly there was going out there last year, I get to hang out with Rick and Donna and the family and all those guys. It's definitely a special place from that point of view because it was Greg's hometown. A lot of great memories from Vancouver.

What is the design on your helmet? What does that symbolize?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's got the Scottish flag on top with the colors of the Italian flag running through the sides. The Italian flag obviously runs up and down but we took a bit of an artistic license and incorporated the colors in it. Troy does a great job painting it and just makes little additions here and there to make it a bit more pleasing and a bit more sort of funky. And on the back it has a small Greg Moore sticker.

Congratulations on the new contract. Can you expand a little bit on what makes you as a driver happy to be here in the U.S. and drive in CART other than just winning and being competitive, any other factors involved in that?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think that the relationship between people is very important, the people on the team, for instance, I think you have to be comfortable, first of all, I am sitting next to Barry here, but, you know, you have to be the boss guy first of all. There has to be a level of trust there. I think we've always had that. But last season when things were pretty difficult on occasion Barry didn't lose any sort of faith and was -- never questioned me; never said hey, you are not doing your job right here; just keep doing what you are doing, you will be fine. That was key, just the people on the team, everybody from team manager, Kyle Moyer, to my engineer, Iain Watt, my mechanics, my crew, the truck drivers, it's just a great bunch of people. And first of all, that makes me happy, makes me happy to hang out with those people. I enjoy working with him. I enjoy winning races with them and hopefully at some point I will get the pleasure of winning a Championship together with those people. That's what makes me happy. I enjoy the atmosphere in the paddock with all of the drivers, that's a great thing as well. But winning is very, very important to me. But there's more to it than that.

Barry, you have got the entire team back together again next year. Are the contracts with Klein and your other sponsors long-term or are they on , say, a two-year basis?

BARRY GREEN: We can't discuss too many details about the contracts, but having just signed Dario, everything is -- it's as long-term as it can be in motor racing and I am very pleased right now. We've added Michael to the group this year to -- feeling that if we had three strong drivers, three strong teams working together we would do well. I think we've done very well. We've been very, very fast in every race. We've not seen the wins that we wanted, but we've been fast. So we're not about to panic. But I think that just continuing to build on this relationship, we've got to be very, very strong again next year. With the partners I have, with Firestone and of course, Honda, I feel that I am certainly really excited about next season.

You certainly have a headstart on a lot of people from next season getting all of this out of the way early?

BARRY GREEN: Thank you, that's important too. Not only important that the drivers feel good and comfortable. Certainly makes me relaxed a little bit more. But there's always work for us to do and there's always work for us to do as far as reaching out to the fans, but I think that it's good for all my employees. They can sit back knowing that we've got three great drivers lined up for next year with sponsors to support them. We try and bring it forward as far as we can because, believe me, it's not a lot of fun coming down to the 11th hour there trying to get it all done. I have been there. I have done that. This is the better way and we're real real pleased.

Barry, talk a little bit about the contract; is the deal optioned? Does Dario have the option if he gets an opportunity across the ocean would he of that option to take a look at it?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, again, I can't talk about too many details, but as long as we've got a team and sponsors and a building to house those race cars in place, we've got Dario. So that's the extent of it.

Just a quick one for Dario. We were just kind of wondering was the pit board person at Mid-Ohio a little bit of the distraction when you made that mistake?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely not.

Dario, I keep -- what I am trying to -- I was reading the latest Auto Sport with the story about you in there. You and he are good buddies. I was standing with him at Fontana a couple of years ago. He was like -- just -- I mean he could not believe it. He was just blown away by the whole thing. In that story you are talking about -- Montoya had some quotes too saying that Formula One is still -- some of the guys still have -- they look down a little bit on CART. Yet you know you guys both said, hey, until you try it, don't -- you don't really -- the four disciplines that you have got to run, and I just wondered if you looked at the thing as being pretty equal -- it must be pretty equal in your mind, I mean, to keep staying here?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, of course it is equal. I think, you know, you look at a guy who can drive a Champ Car quickly and can get in a Formula 1 car. Okay you look at Zanardi, you look at the car Zanardi was in, it was not a good car. You look at Jacques. Jacques got a great car, was on the pace straight away. You look at Juan, he got in a good car, and on pace straight away. That's the difference. You are as good as your car. That counts in Champ Cars too but there's a lot more equality through the equipment.

But I think, you know, you look at Montoya, Montoya was quick here. He goes over there, he's quick there too. You brought Schumacher here, yeah, he'd be quick here too. I think when you get the Eddie Irvines of this world spouting out about what's this and that in a Champ Car, the guy never had been in a race, never mind, sat in a car so I don't know how he can say that. He should really concentrate on driving his car right first before he should comment on our series. But yeah, I think both Championships are highly competitive. I would say ours is by far more competitive than Formula One and they are both different but they are both great shows.

BARRY GREEN: I think to add to that, Jacques saying it is not as competitive as now -- CART is not as competitive now as it was when he was here is just absolutely a load of rubbish because I would say it is many, many, many more times competitive when Jacques -- than when Jacques was here. You just look at our qualifying grids and how hard it is to win. So you know, I think to see Juan go over there and do such a good job. Dario -- (inaudible) it is pretty hard with him over here, you know, equaled the Championship in points; lost because he just didn't have quite so many wins but they had some great battles. It is all about teams and personnel and being comfortable and you see good drivers go this way; you see good drivers go that way. I'd say they are both great series and I love to watch Formula One and I love to be involved with CART.

The proof in the pudding is that they keep using CART to either send people over here or pull people back. Obviously the owners in Formula One obviously have some high regard for it.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think they do. I think if you look at some of the guys particularly like a Frank Williams a guy who is one -- if not the most respected team owner out there, I mean certainly from my point of view he is anyway, Formula One- he is a guy -- he is incredibly intelligent and a great guy and he has obviously a tremendous admiration for this series and he's picked a lot of his drivers and different people and I think as Barry said, they are using this -- they are bringing people over from CART and stuff and using it and at the same time I think if you watch on Sunday night most of them are watching on TV and watching our races because they are so exciting.

I think the days are gone when CART is a feature series for Formula One. I think CART is a great series in it own right.

T.E. McHALE: I just want to deliver a couple of statistics that amplify the point that were just being made. 8 different winners in 12 events so far this season, but the telling statistic in my mind is really that we've had 18 different drivers finish on the podium already this year and that's barely midway through the season and actually we had 18 by the midway point. So I think that goes a long way toward telling you how competitive the FedEx Championship Series is.

I guess we'll wrap it up for the afternoon. We want to thank Barry Green and Dario Franchitti for being with us. Gentlemen, thanks. Congratulations. Best of luck at Road America and through the rest of the season and the seasons to come.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thanks, guys.

BARRY GREEN: Thank you.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks to all of you who took the time to join us this afternoon and we'll talk to you next week.

Part I

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Dario Franchitti , Barry Green , Frank Williams , Greg Moore
Teams Williams