Indy 500: Ganassi, Penske - IMS press conference

2010 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday, May 28, 2010, An interview with: Chip Ganassi Roger Penske MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, a big moment for a variety of reasons. Our friends from UPS did something...

2010 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Friday, May 28, 2010,

An interview with:
Chip Ganassi
Roger Penske

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, a big moment for a variety of reasons. Our friends from UPS did something that has never been done before, the Harley J. Earl Trophy for the winner of the Daytona 500, this is the first time it has ever been out of Daytona. How about that? We've got a couple of gentlemen here who know something about winning both of the trophies. One gentleman who has a chance to do so in the same year.

Mr. Penske, you're looking at that thing and 15 times you've been on that Borg-Warner Trophy, I know you're interested in changing your license plate yet again. But that is something to be in that company, is it not?

ROGER PENSKE: Actually, it's great to be here and obviously the guy sitting next to me is the one that we have to beat every weekend whether it's here at Indianapolis or certainly at Daytona or Charlotte. But I've never seen these two trophies side by side. I just asked Chip which one does he want because I don't care if I get two, I'd just like to have one. Anyhow, it's great to be here, and we've had a great month, very competitive. As I said to a number of people in the last few days that something's different here this year. We have a sponsor, we have four women in the race, the field is probably as tight as it's ever been and the great thing was we had bumping on the second day which I think brought a lot of interest to the sport, a lot of notoriety. So we're going to have a great race. To me this is the guy I know we've got to beat for sure.

MODERATOR: Chip, you know I suspect Helio Castroneves going in has had to field the question, "Can you win No. 4?" You're fielding the question, "Can you win the two great races in one year?" Now, that might be a question that gets old but it's a good problem to have.

CHIP GANASSI: Certainly it is. You all know me, it's not something I think about, this is a race I want to win right now. On that day that was the race I wanted to win. But we all know why we're here, our team's here to win the race. I don't look at it in terms of winning the two races in one year. It would be a huge thing, but right now my focus is like he said, to beat this guy next to me. You know, he's the guy I have to beat. He's the team we're going to have to beat on Sunday to walk away with the Borg-Warner Trophy.

It's, I just have to tell you all something. The night of the Daytona 500 I got a little text on my phone, it said, "Welcome to the 500 Club. RP." (Laughter)

I just wrote back, I said, "Thanks." Then kind of the next day it hit me what that was, the 500 Club. I thought, "Jesus, that's a tiny club." (Laughter) It didn't even hit me at first, you know, what it had meant to win.

PENSKE: That's the Augusta racing, I guess.

MODERATOR: Both of you have mentioned competing with each other, but I'm curious about the approach to that. Does that mean you're actually watching the other guy the entire time or is it a matter of simply focusing on what you do. How does that --

GANASSI: It's both. It's certainly both, isn't it? We -- everybody's out there looking at everyone else's car, but these days the things you, you know, certainly some things you can see, some things you can't; and certainly, we're looking at their car, they're look at our car. That's what keeps us sharp. I think that's what keeps us sharp is having a competitor like that, having somebody that wants to push things, you know, and drive his team to a higher standard. I think that's what the sport, that's what sports is all about, that's what this sport is all about. You know, there's no question Roger sets the pace in raising the bar and pushing hard on his team; and that's who we're here to emulate here right now, it's that simple.

MODERATOR: Mr. Penske, when I listen to the two of you and I have an opportunity to listen to a Tim Cindric and Mike Hull, one of the things I take away from it is the lesson you learn in all businesses is about managing the people, getting the right resources and people in the right spots to be successful, that's what it takes to win either of these two events it would seem to me.

PENSKE: It's the human capital, it's the people we surround us in our teams, whether it's the Daytona 500 or Charlotte this weekend or here, and as far as I'm concerned, Chip's been the one that's been successful winning these championships. Obviously last year we thought we had a great chance but mistakes, we didn't get there. And I think tomorrow or Sunday when we race here, it's got to be about who doesn't make the most mistakes. There's another 28 cars out there that can win this race, many drivers out there probably in the first three or four rows. So it's going to be the one who doesn't make mistakes. We look at their cars every day, they look at ours. I think it's a level playing field, very transparent the way the rules are today. We've been racing these cars now for seven years. I think the reliability has been good on the cars and the engines and I think it comes down to team strategy. Obviously, we've got some great drivers, Scott Dixon and Franchitti; they could ride in our team any time. I feel that way about the two drivers he has. We're just fortunate to have these kind of guys associated with our teams.

MODERATOR: We heard a presentation many of us from the folks from IZOD yesterday, Mr. Ganassi, and it was, I have to tell you it was exciting. Mr. Penske hit on this, that there seems to be something different in the air. Boy, it feels like a lot of momentum going into the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500.

GANASSI: I couldn't agree more. My barometer is the traffic coming in this morning, and there was plenty of traffic. I think we put on a good show this past weekend for the fans during the qualifying procedure and the new, the new way of doing things. I know Roger and I looked at each other a lot that day wondering what was next and what was, you know, what was happening next and did we have all our bases covered or not. So, yeah, it's true, there is something different about it. There's certainly an uptick. It's because of IZOD and now it's because of Sunoco and these people getting involved. They see that we have a property that has value to it. So I think that's important.

MODERATOR: We'll take some questions and be patient. This is being transcribed, so I want to repeat the question when I get it. Striped shirt.

Q: This question is for Roger. You guys mentioned there's been an uptick and momentum for this race, but at the same time it seems like there's maybe some missing elements and some former elements could accelerate this process of bringing this sport and the race back to where it used to be. From your perspective, what do you think those elements could be? Where do you think we should find the different --

MODERATOR: The question is, are there dormant elements and things that could be revitalized to bring the sport back strong.

PENSKE: No. 1, we need to get more TV exposure. I think that the ratings where they are, we need to get better. I know all sports are under some pressure today, but I think if the show and the ability for us to have full fields is going to make a difference, I think the weekend, this past weekend was good with a new format and we have to look at other things that we have to look at. We even talked today, it was brought up in the drivers' meeting, do we have a situation like NASCAR where if you're running fourth and you're 17th in line, do you get up to line up fourth to take the restart? Those are things I think the League has to take a look at. I never had a bad feeling copying the guy that was winning, and there's some good things we see out of NASCAR. They've taken our idea of bringing the cars back around and letting them go to the back of the field, that started here. Those are things I think we can do to make a better show.

GANASSI: Yeah, I agree completely. I was telling some guys earlier this morning, you know, when you watch racing on television, it's like watching any other sport. If you watch major league baseball and then you watch Little League baseball, it's the same rules. And it's the same visual show. I think we need to do that in racing. So we may need to adopt some things, whether that's, you know, side-by side starts, like Roger said, having the fourth-place guy has to line up behind the third-place guy. There shouldn't be six lapped cars between them.

But when people look at a show on TV, I think they need to see the same thing. I think that's important. And so they understand the rules quickly. I don't think we need to be too different in that area. So certainly, I want to repeat certainly the television exposure. You know, there are dormant things but this is like it's a step thing, it's one step at a time. I think we're making steps, management's in place to make those steps and given the edict to do that and I think it's moving along at the right pace.

Boy, IZOD when I saw those TV commercials during the NFL playoffs and over the winter, I thought that was big. So we have a willing partner, that's 90 percent of the way there.

Q: If each of you could weigh in on the significance of the Sunoco sponsorship that was announced.

PENSKE: I think just any new sponsor of national accord is important to the league because they'll spend money promoting it, that's one of the things we talked about what is different and the more major Fortune 500 companies associated with Indy car racing is going to be a great move. GANASSI: Certainly we have IZOD, we have Sunoco, we need to get that ball rolling in a lot of areas. That's two. OK, who's three and four? Let's keep it going here.

Q: For Roger and also if Chip wants to follow. Since Chip's already been playing chess like two years ahead with the Delta wing car and espousing innovation very strongly for this race in the series, what's your position on the return of true innovation to Indy and the Series, are you for it? And do you think it's critical to the revitalization of Indy car racing.

PENSKE: I think that change is always good. It's going to shake up the field. One thing we want to do is look at cost. I've followed the Delta Wing project from the beginning; I'm a supporter. I want to see a car built, and we've got to get the funding to build that car, get it on the racetrack, let people see it. There's an interest on four-cylinder versus six-cylinder engines. They want to have potentially a formula where you could have one or the other, which I think is good. There's a lot of interest internationally on four-cylinder engines which will be run in Formula One and DTM and rallying and maybe we have to have a derivative of that over there.

I think this is all good. Under the current process we're taking our time, everybody can be heard, we're just not making a bunch of rules in the back room because at the end of the day the car owners are the ones who have to pay for it. If we're going to make a change, let's make one that shows the fans we have something different and we have something economically and commercially that's beneficial for the teams. So to me I'm all in favor of it.

Q: This famous rivalry in motorsports but usually it's just one series, F1 has McLaren and Ferrari, and NASCAR you have various times, but you guys battle each other in IndyCar, NASCAR, sometimes sports cars, maybe a little too young for Trans Am, but do you have any memories that stand out like wherever you go it seems to be your biggest rival is the guy sitting next to you? @!PENSKE: The only thing I don't like to do is every time he wins I've got to send him a text congratulations. (Laughter)

That's the only part I don't like. But we've had good rivalries and we're friends. He's supported us in a number of areas when we needed it and vice versa. I tell you if he needed a car for some reason at a racetrack, he could have one of mine.

GANASSI: Where were you Saturday? (Laughter)

PENSKE: You were going through the line so fast I couldn't get mine up front to give it to you.

GANASSI: You know, it's certainly something that I know that motivates me and I hope it motivates Roger as well, is to have -- you know, is to have competitors out there, and we have a few more down in NASCAR we have to deal with week in and week out. But the good news is, you know, it's nice to -- believe me, there are times when we'd just as soon rip each other's heart out, I assure you. But at the end of the day, that's one thing on the track, and when it comes to off the track, we're certainly civil and friends and like to keep it that way.

Q: I have two questions for both of you. No. 1, especially maybe for Roger, you know Indy car racing also from the past when you had different chassis-engine combinations, when you run the Mach series, what do you think is better for the long-term future, stay with this package or welcome other chassis or engine manufacturers?

And question No. 2 for both of you, concerning this race, without any doubt it was mentioned earlier, you are both one of the top teams. But looking just on the starting grid, do you think there's also maybe a big chance the dark horse can win the race?

PENSKE: No. 1, you asked the question about different chassis, I think the fact that the committee is looking toady at an engine formula that will hopefully attract multiple suppliers, will be good for the sport. We've got to be sure that the specifications on whatever it is are realistic because we can't get into all fancy metals and things and I think that's got to be important or we get the cost out of sight on the chassis side.

If there's the ability to have one chassis supplier, I'd like to see multiple. But again, we've got to be sure that the price of these vehicles, the race vehicles are at a level that everybody can afford them. I think that's got to be the ceiling. If someone wants to buy one and subsidize it, fine, but it costs the same whether Chip buys it or I buy it or someone wants to get in the series. So to me I think this is a watershed time for us. The fact we have so many cars in this field in a time when the economic and the world is where it is, I think shows that there's some strength here.

As far as anybody else in the field, I think we've got Tagliani, you've got young Rahal, certainly Kanaan coming from the back, Danica, there are a number of people out there that can run well. I think we're focusing on each other, but I can tell you something, come Race Day we might see a much different picture.

Q: Over here, guys. Sunday is such a big day, you've got two major races going on. Obviously this is the big win for a lot of us. But how do you handle, how do the two of you handle Race Day with the two races? You obviously are here for the first one and then what do you do about the NASCAR race? How do you handle getting there and about when do you normally get there?

GANASSI: Yeah, that's a good question, Mike. I say that race teams are like children. You love them equally but some of them need more attention than others from time to time. And you know, I think it's important that you, as an owner, I equally support them. Maybe while my attendance is not -- I don't think we're set up in a way, I don't think either of us but I'll let Roger say this, are set up in a way that our attendance is mandatory, but I think the fact that we're there, you know, on a computer, on our Blackberry, by telephone, you know, in a support role, I think that's the most we can do. They know, I know my guys on both teams know that if it's physically possible for me to be there, that I probably will. At the same time they don't want me there just for the purpose of being there and then maybe be run down if we have an important event coming up this week or an important something happening. You know, if people are there, you obviously want to be there. If our sponsors are there, you know, you want to be in attendance. We have people that like obviously both forms of racing.

I just feel very lucky to have that as a job. It's not a -- I would never complain about having to go between two or three races during a weekend. I think I'm very fortunate to be able to do that as a living or a way to earn my living. So I feel very blessed to be able to have that as a problem.

PENSKE: Well, I think that the way both of us are set up, we have a leader of the Indy car group, Mike Hull obviously, Clive Hall on our side and similarly Mike Nelson heads up the NASCAR team and who's your key guy? Steve Hmiel. So we both have people that run those operations. They have the day-to-day responsibility. Tim Cindric has the overall responsibility in our operation. I obviously like taking a spot in the Indy car side where I can actually, you know, run one of the cars with Briscoe, I've done that. So I've got to be at all the Indy car races. Where I can, I try to go to the NASCAR races on the weekends. The good news is that typically most of the work's done and I can come in on a Sunday or Saturday night. I think the other night I was fortunate the way the schedules were that I could get down to Charlotte for the All Star Race which obviously turned out well for us. I think this weekend the timing is a little bit tighter so depending on what the results are here, we'll make a decision whether we go there, but they're in good hands.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming up at a very exciting moment.

-source: ims

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull , Roger Penske