Indy 500: Front row press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: I asked Scott this question a couple of days ago and he gave the best answer that I've gotten all month, so Ryan and Dan are kind of on the spot here. With the two series merging now and the schedule having to be ...

Continued from part 1

Q: I asked Scott this question a couple of days ago and he gave the best answer that I've gotten all month, so Ryan and Dan are kind of on the spot here.

With the two series merging now and the schedule having to be bashed together at the last minute, there's a lot of talk about what the schedule is going to look like next year and in the future. What racetracks would you guys like to go to and race on? And how many races do you think there should be per year in a series? Scott did give the best answer to that that I've gotten so far.

DIXON: Thanks.

BRISCOE: What did you say? (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: You didn't get a lawn mower for that one, no. (Laughter)

WHELDON: I'm not Scott, but I'll give you my answer. I think it's important as the series is growing particularly that you go to places where, you know, there's going to be a lot of people watching. And the racing is good; that's the important thing. I think for me as a driver, I love Phoenix. I thought that oval was one of the most fun to drive. It was challenging. But unfortunately no one came out to the racetrack, so it does nobody any good. I think at this point in IndyCar Series racing, it's how everybody wants it. You're racing against all the best people and, sure, you know, the transition people have come in there a little bit behind in terms of experience, and to be fair, they're a long ways behind on their time that they've had to develop the race car. But as that, you know, becomes more equal, I think the racing is going to be incredible. So that will take care of itself. It's just then you've got to pick your schedule that works well with fan attendance, and I thi nk in terms of the number, you've just got to -- I'd love to race a schedule as big as the NASCAR schedule, but that's me, personally.

I think what you have to control is the budgets, too, because you saw when it was just a CART series the budgets got out of control and, sure, CART was great for a long time, but as those budgets started to escalate and the owners started to dictate more, it kind of went downhill. So I think everything just needs to be controlled properly, and I think you've got to look toward the good of the sport, which I'm not sure that's ever going to happen 100 percent, but that's what you've got to bear in mind.

BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, Dan pretty much said it all. But I think this is a great time for open-wheel racing, and there's a lot of momentum at the moment, which we need to keep going. You know, for sure, there are a lot of tracks available now to go to, a lot of good destinations, and the people that are making decisions need to really, you know, analyze well what's going to be best for the sport, what's going to be best for the fans and for the sponsors and, you know, do what's going to work best to keep open-wheel racing growing in America and keep some longevity here and keep it growing.

SULLIVAN: Other questions?

Q: Scott, you mentioned when Dan came in --

WHELDON: He was lying, bro; he was totally lying. (Laughter)

Q: Can you get into that a little bit more and, Dan, can you (inaudible)?

DIXON: No, I think that's the way they set up the cars, with the G Force, I guess, we raced a little different, and what I'm sort of alluding to, it was probably the mile and a half racing. Dan and the AGR guys, you know, in those two years were very dominant on the mile-and-a-halfs, and they could seem to run the car a lot loose and run the high line easier, and at that point I think just looking at his data and his style I think helped me out a lot in my transition in 2006.

WHELDON: I think the biggest thing for me when I came to Target Chip Ganassi Racing was I saw how well you could benefit the team with four guys working together so strongly. I knew that, you know, if Scott and I were going to compete with them and obviously leaving a team when I did, I wanted to make sure that I didn't look like an idiot, so I wanted to come out running. It was obvious we were going to have to work closely together, and for the benefit of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, I had to -- you know, the experience that I gained from my years there, I had to try and put to use. And the same with Scott, there was a lot of information that he had and that team had, and we kind of put that together and you got what you got.

But, you know, I've always thought when you look back at the history that Target Chip Ganassi Racing has been a strong team, and I have to say, and I think Scott will agree with me, the preparation that they've done for this month is the best I've ever seen from a race team. They've also had to put a program together for Alex Lloyd and obviously with the help of Bobby Rahal, but the team has done a very good job. I'm not kissing their butts; it's true, they've really worked hard. They really have.

Q: Dan, you're going late in the day, what's it make you think when you see a guy also going late in the day like Ryan Hunter-Reay that crashes, does that reset in your mind? Whether it happens before or afterward, does that really show the folks how much on the edge it is and does it make you think twice about maybe someday making that late run?

WHELDON: I don't know. It was on edge, but I think you don't think it's on edge as it really is because you know to win the pole at Indianapolis you're going to have to be on edge. You know, I don't think -- like Scott says, the first couple of laps always feel fine. It's not a big issue. It's just the last one, in particular, normally, and that's just part of it. If somebody crashes before you, then so be it. I mean, I've crashed in qualifying this year before. But you've got to be very -- you've got to concentrate a lot, you can't be lazy. You've got to make sure that you keep up with what the car is doing. You've got to keep maintaining a very, very, I don't want to say neutral balance, but it's more of an oversteer balance because it makes you very quick around here. If you start to feel a hint of push, you've got to make sure you're stiffening the rear roll bar or going to the left on the weight jacker. Like I say, you really don't worry about anything else, a crash that 's gone on before you, you just worry about your deal and making sure you maximize it.

Q: Dan, since in some ways we're honoring the pole winner here, can you talk about how great a season he really had last year, going into Turn 3 with the lead for the championship and then dominating the ovals this year?

WHELDON: He's been strong. He's been very strong. Like I -- it's very difficult. When you say, you look back at 2005 season and, yeah, it was disappointing, but it's not like all of a sudden a different driver. He was the same driver then, he's not transformed all of a sudden and become an amazing driver; he was. In 2003 he was bloody good, too. It's just when the equipment is not good enough, you're not going to perform; it's too competitive. My opinion is you're being a little shortsighted.

Q: I'm asking.

WHELDON: Yeah, but no, I think everybody will agree on the grid that he's always been very, very talented and dedicated to being quick. You know, anything Scott thinks he can improve on, he will absolutely try and improve. When he gets in the car, he will give it his all. That's why I think, you know, we get along as teammates because I think we both understand -- I think he knew that I would go and try and beat his time yesterday, and I know that if I had beaten it, he would have got in and tried to go again, that's just the way we both are. But that's why it works. He's a guy that's dedicated to his job and wants to win. He's not just riding around, that's for sure. It's nice to be in a team with somebody like that. He's the same as 2005, bro, he doesn't transform.

Q: Dan, one of the other things, different styles, different backgrounds maybe as you guys came together, also very different personalities, personal styles. Can you --

WHELDON: Like chalk and cheese. (Laughter)

Q: How did that work? How did that come? Describe your personal style and how that, how you guys were able to blend and ultimately it seems like become pretty decent friends.

WHELDON: Yeah, it was funny. When I first joined the team, Scott didn't say much at all. He really -- I don't know what you think, but he didn't. He's somewhat like introverted.

Q: Like you. (Laughter)

WHELDON: Yeah, I guess. No, when you get to know him, he's bloody funny. How can I put it?

DIXON: That's always after a few drinks. (Laughter)

WHELDON: We are opposites, and obviously I had and still have a very good relationship with Tony (Kanaan), and I always was worried about not having that with somebody, because it definitely makes what's a long, difficult season nicer and you can enjoy it more. I think certainly, you know, the 2006, I don't think we were particularly close, but I think over time, you know, we've got to trust one another. You know, I tried to help him a lot and I think Scott has tried to help me a lot in different situations, and I think just over time we've become what I would call good friends.

But, yeah, he's definitely seemed to come out of his shell since I've been in the team, that's for sure. I think that lot of that's his wife, too, Emma, because he's in a good place in his life right now.

Q: Is it just time that does that or is there more --

WHELDON: I think it's times and situations. You know, you've got to gain trust from one another, and that takes time, you know. It's different personalities, too. I think Tony and I were able to do that pretty quickly, but it was a different -- it was a different scenario. I came into the team as a rookie and stuff like that. You know, you get judged against your teammate in this business. So I think, yeah, I think in this situation it probably did take time. But he's a good teammate.

Q: Ryan, to follow up on that, how are you getting along with that noted introvert Helio Castroneves? (Laughter)

BRISCOE: Yeah, he's different, but good. I mean, yeah, he's pretty busy doing, riding his wave at the moment from the 'Dancing with the Stars' and all that. But when he gets down to business, he's very focused and pays a lot of attention to detail. He's a good teammate to have when we're talking about the race car and trying to make the car fast. He's really quick, and he's definitely a very good driver. So on that side, you know, he's a good guy to have by my side and for me to learn from. You know, I think we're really helping each other at the moment. So it's good.

Q: Ryan, I was going to ask the same question. I recall Gil de Ferran one time saying when you see Helio he's like that all the time, he never changes. I got the impression Gil would have like to have found an off button to shut him off once in a while. (Laughter) So, I mean, do you have a similar reaction?

BRISCOE: Yeah, he's just on it 24/7. He walks into the garage, and he's just shouting and screaming, you know. It's funny for a while, but after a while you just need to go to the other end of the room and get some quiet time because it can get a bit much sometimes. (Laughter)

But that's the way he is. I think at times it really keeps spirits up. You go through some difficult times, and everyone gets a bit stressed in the team. At our last race, we were having a pretty tough weekend and for sure, you know, we talk about getting serious, we talk about what we need to do. But five minutes later he'll come in, and we'll be laughing and joking. I think it really keeps the whole team going, keeps the motivation up.

Tim Cindric has always said he's been a real important part of the team and kept everyone together, really glued together, and he's definitely a very good team player.

Q: Ryan, last year you were in team Sputnik, obviously, I was looking for the T-shirts for that and never quite found them. This year Tomas is over there, and most of you have had in the past reputations being very fast and hard on equipment. What was the transformative thing that happened where you started to grow hopefully out of that and also what would you tell Tomas?

SULLIVAN: Just a second. For those of you who are not like over 50, Sputnik is like a satellite. (Laughter)

Q: I got that term from your guys in the garage.

BRISCOE: Who's Sputnik?

Q: You were the satellite team. And I'm not over 50.

SULLIVAN: They're looking at each other asking questions. (Laughter)

BRISCOE: I appreciate that. You know, I think I came over here and for sure had, you know, too many accidents, and I had to look back at myself, as well, and see what I needed to do to become a better driver. That doesn't stop. I think even, you know, guys like Scott and Dan are always still looking at themselves from race to race and looking and saying, "What can I do to make myself a better racer and better driver." I did the same, and I'm still working on it. I think as, you know, you gain more experience, you learn more about yourself and you learn more about your competitors and your equipment and the circuits and everything. So I think that was probably from three years ago in the oval racing, I had to learn what it took to finish races and be competitive and work on a race car during a race and be there at the end. You know, I'm still working on that.

For sure, it helps having people like Roger Penske around and Rick Mears. Those guys are all about patience and, you know, for sure listening to them and hearing to everything they've got to say. That helps a lot. So, for sure, I think I've been working on that and getting better.

SULLIVAN: We'll take one more and then let these guys go.

Q: Getting back to that personal style sort of thing, and excuse me because this is going to come way out of left field, but how many pairs of shoes do you own? (Laughter)

WHELDON: Lots.

SULLIVAN: You're kind of like on the edge on a qualifying run here. (Laughter)

Q: It's wet out there; we'll go fishing.

SULLIVAN: He owns lots of shoes and drives awfully fast. Congratulations, gentlemen. This is more than a couple of days of work; it's a lot of work over the winter, as well.

BRISCOE: Thanks.

DIXON: Thanks.

-credit: ims/irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Bobby Rahal , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Roger Penske
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing