Indy 500: IMS press conference - Ganassi, Schmidt teams, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Dario, with rain here today and let's say hypothetically, God willing, but we see rain again tomorrow, for you I would assume that you don't need a reacclimation here, but what is your mindset getting out there? You're...

Continued from part 1

Q: Dario, with rain here today and let's say hypothetically, God willing, but we see rain again tomorrow, for you I would assume that you don't need a reacclimation here, but what is your mindset getting out there? You're familiar with this place, but how many laps would you need just to get kind of familiar again with the corners and et cetera?

FRANCHITTI: Well, I can probably answer that when it stops raining. (Laughter) I don't know, I really don't. I expect to be up to a certain speed fairly quickly, but it's always, as usual, finding that last little bit, trimming the car out and those things, and really especially Indy more than anywhere is getting that setup exactly as you need it. We haven't done a lot of oval testing with the rules now in the IndyCar Series; it's very, very limited. Not only am I coming back and getting used to running the car here which is a small part of it but getting used to my engineer, Chris Simmons, and getting the way we set the cars up here in the Target team and getting the car so it feels absolutely right for me. Because one thing Scott and I have learned, we like quite different things from a car. So something that works for Scott might not necessarily work for me and vice-versa. So I'm hopeful it is going to stop raining pretty soon and we can get some laps in. (More) Page 7 ... 2009 Indianapolis 500 press conference (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, May 6)

Q: You had earlier touched on dark horses. Considering he's now been moved to part-time status, considering the equipment he's in, I mean do you make Will Power a dark horse or do you make him a contender? And also, same thing about a Paul Tracy out there. Is it even fair to call those two guys dark horses?

FRANCHITTI: Are you asking me? I was waiting for Dixie to answer that one.

HULL: Dixon will answer the Will Power question.

FRANCHITTI: Come on, Dixie. (Laughter) I don't think a dark horse at all. We've seen what PT can do here before. He got back up to speed in about three laps yesterday. You know, coming back here as a past winner, he's pretty stoked, I think. (Laughter) And I'm going to leave -- there's so many people can win this race, like I say, and there's going to be a lot of dark horses. We've seen it so many times.

SULLIVAN: Take one more.

FRANCHITTI: Scott was going to answer that.

SULLIVAN: I was trying to help you.

FRANCHITTI: Don't help him.

DIXON: You know, anybody can be a dark horse, but I think the biggest thing is everybody's got to remember it's a long race. It's not going to be all over in 20 laps.

SULLIVAN: Anyone else? Final question.

Q: Scott, you talked about all the teammates you've had and what you've learned as the years have gone on. Tell us a little bit of what you've learned since Dario has become your teammate.

DIXON: Quite a lot actually. On and off the track, but I've definitely got a bit of schooling on the first couple of road courses, so I need to pick up or pull my finger a little. As I said, it's never anything drastic; it's small little bits here and there. I think Dario is, good or bad, is probably learning things off me, as well. That's why I mentioned it's such a great thing to have as many drivers come through when you've got something stable and, you know, a breath of fresh air is always good. There's lots of little technical things, and I'm a little more, what I would say, a lot more laid back, especially on debriefs, kind of like put an X on here and X here where Dario will have pages of stuff to go through. So there's different areas that we work on, but I'm definitely picking up on it.

SULLIVAN: Thank you very much for coming in. Again, welcome back to the Economaki Press Conference Center. Mike Hull is continuing to hang with us. He's in collaboration with this gentleman here, a great friend of the Speedway, Mr. Sam Schmidt, Brett Jacobson of HER Energy is here with us. The gentleman in the middle, how could we miss him? Alex Lloyd has a unique distinction as many of you know, he is a gentleman who has won on the road course and the oval here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that puts him in rare company. Alex, I just want to let you know we did the quickest research that we can. We put our heads together, and some of us have a lot of gray in our hair, we can certainly remember the two winning cars in '55 and '56 easily, Bob Sweikert and Pat Flaherty. We came up with Johnny Thompson who had the Racing Associates pink car who put that car in the pole position. Johnny Thompson was a fabulous race driver. Ronnie Duman in 1964, we believe, ran a pink and black machine. We had the announcement here -- I remember this one very well -- the Aerosmith announcement with Jeff Ward in 2001, ran a pink car. We believe that Emmo, Emerson Fittipaldi in his very first appearance at the Speedway -- and I got a nod of affirmation, and we think Stan Fox ran a pink car. But, nonetheless, when you think about the history of this track, it has been a very unusual situation. I think that's going to get some attention. Alex, congratulations on your opportunity, and it's always good to see you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tell us about your team.

ALEX LLOYD: We've got a great team together this year. I'm certainly very excited. I think coming back here, it always gives you chills when you come to Indianapolis. It did before I ever raced here and only more so I think every year that you come. So, yeah, I mean from a driver's point of view, I'm really excited to be back in the car and to get another crack at this race. I think I learned a lot last year. I think hopefully that will be able to adapt that to this year as well. In terms of the team, I mean I had a great relationship with Sam in '07 when we won the Indy Lights championship, and then since then I've been driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. So to have the two come together, for me it's a dream experience because everybody I've been working with the last three years altogether now making a run at this, and I think we're going to have a really good car. We haven't really had a chance to give it a try so far. We had a little issue yesterday and obviously the rain came after a few laps this morning. But I'm looking forward to a really good month. Now we've got HER Energy on board, which we've been talking to and working with for a while. So it's great to have it all come together. I mean, it's an awesome drink actually, if you haven't tried it, because if does taste really nice, and it's a good company to represent. I've known Brett now for a couple of months, and we've had a lot of fun. I'm having fun wearing the pink suits, and I enjoy representing them for the month.

SULLIVAN: Sam, when you won a championship, you knew the kind of talent this guy brought to the table. I know it's a thrill to team up with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Mike and all the folks to put Alex in this position to have success here at Indianapolis.

SAM SCHMIDT: Clearly it's difficult to come here as a one-off in the IndyCar Series. I mean, the mega teams and a lot of sponsorship, et cetera. I was really looking as a team owner to come back in a competitive environment or not come back at all. Mike and I actually began the process last December talking about them building my car, et cetera, and one thing moved on from another. This came together. So from our perspective it's really the best of all worlds. We did have a fantastic relationship with Alex and continue to. Winning eight races in 2007 was really a dream season. You know, we're hoping that all of these synergies that are coming together this month will equate to good results. This time in 2007, his wife was pregnant and now she's pregnant again, and on and on and on. There's so many similarities to 2007, and hopefully we can do real well this month.

SULLIVAN: Mike, we just had you up here on the podium. One of the things that stands up is you bring champions to your Target Chip Ganassi IndyCar Series team and now an opportunity to partner with a guy I think that you had this look from afar and saying, hey, this guy has some real skills and talents.

HULL: First of all, Alex Lloyd represents a very unique level of racing, racing driver. He's got what it takes to succeed in this sport. And racing itself is, to be successful over a long-term is defined by partnership. True partnership creates success. It doesn't just do that in racing, it does that in life, it does that in other business areas. You know, if you look at the partnerships that are developed over time in the business industry, true partnerships accelerate everybody to the next level. Being associated with somebody who wins races and championships and knows how to do that is extremely important to Chip Ganassi Racing, and that's who we're associated with Sam. Sam and Chip Ganassi Racing, Sam's team and our team are absolutely parallel in what we've done and what we've accomplished. We bring talent into the racecar and support that talent with a true team of people, and we win races. That's what we want to do together with Sam. That's why we were so interested as a team, and I know that's why Sam was so interested as a team to put this together. We certainly have Alex in common between the two of us. Sam allowed us to run Alex in the year that Alex was trying hard to win a championship for Sam, and in the middle of his championship season we could have easily sidetracked him with the bright lights of driving an IndyCar prior to when he was going to try to win the championship at Sonoma. I think the week before we ran Alex at Sebring. Oftentimes what happens when you take a race driver and put him in a completely different race car and then send him out the next weekend, he misses his braking points, he forgets to turn, he spends a lot of time in the tire wall. Alex did none of those. He won the championship the very next weekend for Sam. So we have a lot in common and this is really important to us. Bringing Brett and HER on board has solidified the deal for us.

SULLIVAN: You talk about teamwork and Brett Jacobson with HER Energy, I have to say this is going to be an eye-popping entire package during the month of May. Obviously, you looked at this avenue as an opportunity to highlight your product and what you do as a company. Talk to us about how you got involved with this team and with Alex Lloyd.

BRETT JACOBSON: It's been an ongoing partnership for a long time now. I think Mike and I originally met about a year ago and sat down with Chip, kind of set out exactly what we wanted to do, how to go about it and said if we want to do this, we want to do this properly and make sure that it was a relationship that was going to last. This is step one in an ongoing process for us and that's something that we wanted to build on. Our brand has been around for about four years, we're distributed by Target and Super Targets in 26 states. We're picked up by Costco now. We're a smaller brand, but we're independent guys that have done very well. You know, bringing together Sam Schmidt and his expertise and bringing together Mike Hull and Chip Ganassi, we couldn't ask for a better team of people. Adding into that mix Alex, we happen to be around the same age, it's like obviously we've had a chance to develop some kind of relationship and a friendship together as well. And just everything felt right about it and it all came together at the right time. I think that when those things naturally occur, those are the best opportunities that you have. It's not one of those things where we ever forced it or we pushed it to happen sooner than it should have. This was just the right time with all the right players. We couldn't be happier with the team that's been assembled, and we couldn't be happier with the partnership that we're a part of. I mean, we're dealing with the most elite guys in racing and obviously they know how to spot talent and Alex is that talent. So we're very excited for this. We're very excited to move forward with them and can't wait for a great Indy 500.

SULLIVAN: Any questions?

Q: I just want to know if you're going to leave Alex hanging out to dry like this or, Sam, will you be outfitted in all pink on Race Day? (Laughter)

SCHMIDT: Obviously, we've been getting the crew uniform together, and so that's taken a priority. We were a little short yesterday, so I fell on my sword, I gave the crew shirts to some of my guys. But, no, I definitely got a pink crew shirt in my closet. As soon as Chip gets there, I'll get there. How's that? (Laughter)

JACOBSON: We'll get Chip in one. (Laughter)

Q: This is for Alex and Mike. If the two of you could kind of discuss the timetable that you have to want to be a full-time IndyCar driver. I know that was kind of what you hoped for after you won the Indy Lights title a couple years ago. The economy is kind of tough right now. But if the two of you could discuss the timetable for you to become a full-time IndyCar driver at some point.

LLOYD: I think the important thing for me after 2007, I've spent enough of my career now in teams of various levels up and down the grid. In 2007 was the first time in my career that I had ever gone to what was known as the No. 1 team, the drive that you want. We obviously were very successful with that. I really felt at that point, you know what, as a racing driver, the most important thing is to put yourself with the right people. I mean it's really tough for a young driver, you know, with sponsorship is so hard to come by, the economy is very bad. But I felt like the best thing for me was to get an opportunity to drive for Target Chip Ganassi Racing was the best place that a driver could be. And I felt like there's a future there long-term. And sure, yeah, would I have loved to have jumped in the car full time? Everybody would. But in today's state that's not possible. So I'm just looking at it as be patient, do my job when the opportunity arises and we're all working very hard to try and make something happen. And I feel like I'm in the right environment, that when opportunity comes, I'll have the opportunity to shine. So yeah, that was the whole thought behind my decision and I still stand by that as a driver, that's what you've got to do, you've got to put yourself with the best people.

HULL: Thanks for the question, Bruce. You know, our brand has always been about not asking race drivers to bring sponsors. Because we feel that race drivers who are the best at what they do are hired on their merit, not on their -- on the balance in their checking account. We feel Alex Lloyd represents the kind of race driver that should be driving an IndyCar. We have tirelessly worked for three years to come up with a full-time budget for this guy to drive a car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. It's probably not fair to give everybody in this room and then some people that would read the Internet or read the world press, a list of the people that we've discussed with budgets of trying to make this happen for us. Because for us it would be an additional entry, an equal entry to what we already have. That's what we've worked so hard to do. So we're not giving a worldwide plea, sponsorship needed here. It's more of how we operate. We have a lot of confidence in Alex. He has driven our IndyCars in testing situations. He's driven our Rolex sports car team in the 24-hour race, again probably the biggest sports car race in the world next to Le Mans. He's driven for a championship team there, has been in contention there. So we have a lot of confidence in him. We didn't go out and hire a sports car ringer to drive that car, we put Alex Lloyd in there with our guys. So that's how strongly we feel about this thing. In a way, if I was Alex, I would probably use a tear-off and find somebody else to drive for because I'm not getting enough time in a racecar. But he's been professionally correct in what he's done with us, too. He stands by the brand and works hard with us, and we hope that we can return that favor.

SULLIVAN: Additional questions? Gentlemen, we're excited. Look forward to seeing you.

-credit: ims

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Ward , Paul Tracy , Sam Schmidt , Pat Flaherty , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Will Power , Mike Hull
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing