2010 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 30, 2010,
An Interview with:
Dario Franchitti - Winner
Chip Ganassi - Owner
Mike Hull - Race strategist
THE MODERATOR: It was a whacky day, but you had the dominant car all day long. In the end, it looked like justice. Tell us about it.
CHIP GANASSI: I was telling Dario, we were lucky had a good enough car he could stretch out his lead there by four or five seconds or whatever because we needed those four or five seconds at the end when we were having to save fuel. We were a little confused listening to some of the others about what mileage is. Everybody monitors everybody else's channels. We were a little confused by some of the numbers they were saying the other teams needed.
The other thing you have to keep in mind is, you know, we were in a situation where we got down to the last 10 laps of the race, OK, you had Castroneves, Wilson, those guys pitted, then you had the guys behind us. Now you get in a situation where they could get by you, not have enough fuel to finish the race, squirt by you, it goes yellow, now they suddenly have enough fuel to finish. You have to be prepared for all eventualities there. We had to play that game being the leader to keep those guys behind us but also stay in front of them to make it to the finish.
MIKE HULL: It was a great day. It's what race teams work to achieve, to win this race. This is the biggest race in the world. Today we had great race drivers and great race teams. I don't know what the head count is here because they never tell us, but I think they were treated to a great show. Obviously we think that at Chip Ganassi Racing. What we had to employ today was everything we do as a race team. We had to employ setup, speed, strategy, and understanding fuel after different times during the race. That's what we do well as a team. We just try to be consistent in being able to do that.
Q: Chip, you always seem to hate talking about yourself. But please do this time. From qualifying, Shootout, you had a fierce competition going with Penske. You sent Dario out time and again to beat them. You give him a fantastic car for Carb Day all the way through today. There had to be times when you thought Helio was waiting to pounce. Then you have the end. Still with it all, Chip Ganassi from Pittsburgh becomes the first owner ever to win the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500 in the same year. Talk about yourself some this time.
CHIP GANASSI: You know I can't do that. I'm not good at that. You guys are good at that.
The good thing was at the start of the race, I don't want it to fall upon anybody, at the start of the race Dario asserted himself on the start. Yeah, there was that yellow pretty quick. But he got by Will going into one. He went around the outside. I saw him up like that on the outside of Will Power going into one, then he passed Helio coming off of two before it went yellow. That kind of set the stage. I think that was a very important kind of pumping his fist in staking his claim. Certainly you can't win the race on the start, but you can lose it.
I think that went a long way towards getting him up in the seat, knowing how his car was. Then as the race went on, we were able to pull out one second, two seconds. It was dominant up through 150 laps or whatever.
Between Scott and Dario, they led here before a bunch, and came up short. I think we led 175 laps a couple years ago.
MIKE HULL: We just didn't lead the right laps.
CHIP GANASSI: We led more laps than we led today and didn't win.
Then, you know, probably one of the deciding factors in the race was I think Roger short pitted Helio there to try to catch a yellow. What it did was it actually took him out of sequence with us. I think he might have had a better finish had he not done that.
But it was a gamble they had to try to take to try to win. They came up about four or five laps short.
Q: What about Daytona and Indianapolis?
CHIP GANASSI: Obviously, you know, Jamie McMurray, Bass Pro Shops, won that race in February. Dario and Target won the race here today. I'm a lucky guy to be in this business and to be able to work with people that accomplish that. I didn't drive either car. I didn't change any tires. I didn't put any fuel in the cars. I don't do any of that stuff. I have hundreds of people that do that kind of thing. I'm very, very lucky is what it comes down to. I'm very lucky.
Q: You put the teams together.
CHIP GANASSI: 25 damn years or more I've been working on it. I'm just the guy that gets my name on the door, the sign in the front. But it's a lot of hard work by a lot of people, a lot of people that never get the attention they should. A lot of decision making that you never know if you made the right decision or not. You never know. You're on the end of the diving board, I used to hear Roger say. You have no idea what a lonely world it is being a car owner these days. You're in the middle of sponsors in this environment. We have great sponsors. But you got sponsors on one side, drivers on the other side, your team on the other side of you. Everybody is always pushing hard to get those cars to the front.
All we work at at our teams are to win the next race. Someday we'll look back at the record books and say, Gee, that was a great race, a great year, a great win. But when it comes down to it, it's a sports business. It's every kid's dream.
Q: Chip, how much fuel was left?
CHIP GANASSI: 1.6 gallons.
Q: How far will that take you?
CHIP GANASSI: I have no idea.
Q: Was there going to be enough to get him to the end if it had remained under green flag conditions? How fearful were you that Wheldon could have picked you off?
CHIP GANASSI: I don't think he could have picked us off, but I think he could have passed us. A lot of those guys are kicking themselves because they ended up with fuel left over at the end of the race. The worst thing you want to do is have some control over the fuel either with a switch or the 'push to pass' button. The worst thing you can do, and we've done it, is come up second in this race or third and have fuel in your tank that you didn't use, you could have used more of it.
But that's this race. I mean, that's what it's like when you go into the last three laps or two laps and there's a yellow, white flag and then there's a yellow.
Q: Mike, all through practice and qualifying you guys were struggling with Penske. They seemed to have better pure speed. Dario was able to run a strong speed and they couldn't quite come up to him. What can you tell us about how you were able to make that work in the race? Did you have to do a huge amount of work? Dario and Scott practiced a lot together.
MIKE HULL: In fairness to the Chip Ganassi Racing team, I think we worked all week to do what you saw today. We were fast during the week. We weren't always the fastest car. With what we concentrate on, which is today on fuel, working on race things, mechanical grip versus what the aero side of the car is, I think that was demonstrated very well today.
As a team, we worked hard with Dario and Scott to understand what we need to do for today. Then you wait for the atmospheric condition, the density of the air. You already have a mechanical setup, the suspension side, the dampening, then you work on the aero side to try to match that up. The worst thing you can do is put too much aero in a car on a day like today. You have to have enough aero to be able to run the laps when you're out front like Dario was today.
CHIP GANASSI: I know exactly what you're saying, because I felt the same way. It takes a guy like the guy on my right to keep everybody focused and calm and on plan about what we're doing. My hat is off to Mike for doing that during practice and qualifying, just keeping everybody calm, everybody focused on the task at hand. That's what's going on right now.
MIKE HULL: Imagine what would have happened here if next week in the middle of the week my neighbor, I talk to my neighbor, maybe I'm outside getting my mail, and he said, You work for Chip Ganassi. He said, That's right, you guys won the warmup. That's not what you come here to do. You come here to win the race (laughter).
CHIP GANASSI: Plus, I don't think he would have said that anyway.
MIKE HULL: You won the warmup. It's really important to win the race here and that's what we work on.
Q: Dario always has been an elite driver, but what he did today puts him in an elite category of drivers. Talk a little bit about how this kind of only elevates him.
CHIP GANASSI: I'll start with that.
The guy's a champion. He's been there, done that. He knows what it takes. From the first day of practice up until five minutes ago, he's the consummate professional. The last time I saw him, he's the guy you want in the car in that situation.
We show up here at the beginning of May. He and Scott and Mike and I had dinner one night. We just had a nice, calm dinner like I do every year with the drivers. The beginning of practice that week, the first or second night we get together. We just said, Look, everybody knows what we have to do, everybody knows what why we're here. We talked about it in Long Beach. We talked about it in Kansas. We talked about it that night at dinner. We're here to win the race. We know what we want to do. Let's get everybody moving in that direction to that one goal, which is the checkered flag here today first to finish.
MIKE HULL: Chip said it. What I think about Dario Franchitti, first of all, personally, Chip has afforded me a long time to do what I do with first rate guys like Dario driving racecars for us. Then it's our job to get them across the finish line first, get them across the finish line as two teammates, because that's how we've done what we've done over the years.
What we have here is a guy, I know he just had his birthday, I don't know how old he is, we have a 20 year old guy in a body of a guy that has a ton of experience. He comes to work every day like a 20 year old. He wants to get the most out of the day. That matches our ethic because that's what our ethic is all about: Get the most out of the day. He just matches up so well for us. He's always trying to make us better.
We've had pairs of drivers over time that have been fantastic race drivers. You can't take away anything from them as pairs of guys. These two guys we have right now never, ever hide anything from the other driver. They never hold anything back. First time we've ever seen that at Chip Ganassi Racing. I hate to admit that, but it's true. Arty used to say, I always keep a little bit in my pocket. Dario puts what's in his pocket for Dixon and vice versa. I think that makes a big difference over time.
Q: Mike, before the game, when the cars are on the grid, I saw you had your team grouped around you like a huddle and you were Peyton Manning calling the play. What do you tell your team before you take off?
MIKE HULL: We talk about today. We talk about what's important for us today, what we're trying to achieve as a team. We try to put it in the present tense. We don't talk about winning the Indy 500, the last lap, where it's going to take us. We talk about, Let's get to the first stop together, let's do what it takes today, let's make this happen together just like we've practiced to do. The greatest thing about our team is the fact that we've done this as a group together for quite a long time. When someone comes and someone goes, they fill a different place, they always make that job better. That's what creates the consistency and momentum we have as a team.
So, you know, I know that Tom Moore is on the sidelines for Peyton. It's great to have guys like that on the sidelines for us. Appreciate the comparison.
Q: Scott Dixon losing the wheel, was that the only mishap today of Ganassi?
CHIP GANASSI: On Dario's car we had a clean day.
Q: Scott Dixon, that was the only mistake?
CHIP GANASSI: Yes.
Q: How would you characterize Dario as a human being basically?
CHIP GANASSI: I don't know. I don't know. He's a great race driver, I know that. I've not hung out with him much outside of the racetrack, so I don't know how he is as a human being. Seems like a great guy. I don't know much else. He's a great guy. I've never characterized anybody as a human being. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be smart, I don't understand the question.
He's a great racing driver. He's a great person. I like hanging around him. I don't know much else about him.
Q: Chip, you made a decision after a very frustrating when he went to NASCAR to bring him back here. That was a tough year. Did you ever feel like there was no doubt in your mind he could come back and be what he was before, as he has now, or did you have concerns what happened that year was such a downer that it would affect him?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, you guys know me well enough to know, I'm not the kind of guy, if we make a mistake, OK, we make a mistake, we move on. If I thought Dario didn't know how to drive, he wouldn't be driving the car, no matter what happened in NASCAR. I knew he knew how to drive. I knew he was the best driver available when that seat became available, and I told him that. I think I said, you know all know what I said to him, I told you. He was the best guy available to drive the car and still is, so... His NASCAR experience, that was like a semester at sea or something that we did. We did it and we're glad we did it but we're glad we're back home, too.
Q: Chip and Mike, there's a lot of major changes in the way the 500 worked out today. Would another change of 10 gallons more fuel been a help to you guys?
CHIP GANASSI: You can sit there and sharpshoot any race you want. I don't care if you're in NASCAR, IndyCars, Grand Am, I don't care if you have a fuel switch or you don't. If you have X amount of fuel in your tank, and with that X amount of fuel you can go X amount of laps, just pick a number, you have fuel to go 20 laps, and there is a yellow with 22 to go, you can bet everybody is going to come in and fill up and save fuel till the finish. I don't understand why you guys don't do a better job of explaining that to the fans. Everybody is like, We don't like fuel races. There's no way to stop fuel races no matter what you do. There's always going to be that case where there's a yellow right before the exact amount of laps that you need to get full to finish. Everybody keeps trying to put a switch in, take the switch out, have 'push to pass', all this stuff. It doesn't mean anything. There's always going to be a fuel race. I'm not saying every race is going to be a fuel race, but there's always that incident where there can be guys saving fuel to get to the finish. It's just that simple.
The only way you could legislate that is have everybody stop with 10 laps to go in the race and fill up and say fuel has nothing to do with it so the first part of the race means nothing. You're always going to have that no matter what you do. There's always going to be that instance. Does anybody not understand that? You're always going to have that case 'cause we never know when people are going to crash. You never know when. That's one of the things about sports, you don't know the outcome of it. You're always going to have that case.
10 gallons more fuel, yeah, would have helped us today, but maybe last week it wouldn't have.
MIKE HULL: At the point everybody pitted, 10 gallons of fuel wouldn't have made any difference. You still would have had to come back in. We have a 22 gallon cell. What you're say is should we have a 30 gallon fuel tank. If we had that, lap 60, we all would have made it to the end, yes. We came in over whatever it was, 63 or 64. You're not going to make it. It doesn't matter what clever strategy you employ. If you're full rich and running with your foot flat on the floor at lap 163 at the Indy 500, you're not going to make it.
Continued in part 2