2005 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT Wednesday, April 6, 2005, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Indianapolis Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Richie Hearn, Travis Gregg, Sam Schmidt RON GREEN: We'll go ahead and get started as Chip ...
2005 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Wednesday, April 6, 2005, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Indianapolis
Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Richie Hearn, Travis Gregg, Sam Schmidt
RON GREEN: We'll go ahead and get started as Chip hands out a release here. First of all, we want to thank Sam or for opening up his shop here at Sam Schmidt Motorsports. As we've touched on it, a couple of the other stops, these teams are very, very busy right now. There's probably not a team in the Indy Racing League as busy as Sam's team. Not only does he field three cars in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series for the Indy Racing League, he's also participating in the Indianapolis 500 with an entry. So he has a full plate, and his team does. Certainly it takes some time to, as you mentioned, clean up the shop and open the doors for everybody. So Sam, first of all, thanks for doing that. We really appreciate it. Joining Sam up here with me, we have Travis Gregg, who is leading the points currently in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, winner of the first race, as well, and we'll spend some time talking with Travis. And we're great to welcome back -- it's great to welcome back Richie Hearn, who will be driving Sam's entry in the Indianapolis 500 this year and we'll spend some time talking with Richie as well. First of all, Sam, let's touch on the three-car effort that is proving to be very successful for you in the Pro Series, and I guess you did something nice for the crew members recently.
SAM SCHMIDT: Thanks, everybody, for coming, we really appreciate it. I was thinking about this the other day, I haven't done one these tours since 1999 with Treadway when I was driving the Sprint car; Sprint PCS car. I should get that sponsor right, right? But it's great to be here and to be back in this shop and to have everybody here. But, yeah, the three-car effort is something that I think initially we underestimated what it would take to do that in the IPS this year, and we really are taking it seriously after winning the championship last year and obviously want to go repeat that this year. We won the Freedom 100 last year, which is also extremely important this year for us to try and repeat that, being at the Speedway. We've got a great group of guys. Basically everybody that was here last year for the championship effort has stayed on, and then we brought in a couple more guys for the third car. But they're off to a great start. Qualifying one-two and finishing one-two and qualifying one-two-three at Phoenix. Frankly stumbling a little bit at St. Pete with the road course effort. We'll come back and evaluate the situation and hopefully be a lot better in time for the USGP weekend, which is going to be very important, as well.
GREEN: Sam, tell us about the shop. The shop has history in motorsports, and you know quite a bit of that history.
SCHMIDT: I'm not sure which year it was built, but Bill Simpson owns the whole complex, which he is the safety guru in the industry. I know you guys are going across the street to the plant after this. My understanding is he built this whole complex, he occupied quite a bit of it when he owned Simpson, and then he sold Simpson and started leasing to teams and I know for a fact that Greg Beck was in this shop and subsequent to that Treadway was in this shop, as well. Then we were in this shop back in 2001 and 2002, and then came back for this year. So there's a little bit of history there and, you know, being an IPS team, we came in, said 10,000 square feet, that's going to be, we'll have all kinds of room, and now we don't have any room. So it's just one of those things you tend to collect stuff. But it's a good place to be, it's centrally located to Gasoline Alley and everything else.
GREEN: Richie, hand the microphone to Travis, we'll start with Travis. Travis, you're headed into one of the most important months on the calendar in all of motorsports, month of May in Indianapolis. You're leading the points in your series and heading into probably the most prestigious race on that calendar. Talk about heading into the month of May and what it means to you.
TRAVIS GREGG: I'm happy to be back on top of the points standings. Coming out of the street course at St. Pete, it was different, kind of tough, my first street course race in any car, actually. And you know, the Indianapolis race is going to be very important. I think it's the most important race of the year as far as prestige. There's a lot of history there, and it will mean a lot to get a win there. And it would be great for the team.
GREEN: We'll move to Richie before we open it up to some questions. Richie, you've competed in the Indianapolis 500 for several years now, but the last two years have been rather challenging, that the programs have come together at the last minute. This one was announced quite some time ago. Talk about your mind-set going into the month of May knowing your program is in place.
RICHIE HEARN: I feel very privileged to be able to be a part of this media tour for the first time. Usually I'm not in part of the event until after everybody's been on the track for a week. So I have to thank Meijer and Coca-Cola and Sam for putting the deal together early so that we can get the right preparation, get the cars ready, the guys are mentally ready for the month and, you know, hopefully we can be the first car on the track on the 10th there and qualify on that first day and practice for the race, because that's what matters.
GREEN: Quite often drivers show up and get in the cockpit and don't have an appreciation really for what the owner is going through. Richie, you somewhat have an appreciation knowing what Sam goes through putting together four cars for the month of May on the racetrack. Richie is a car owner in another series. Talk about that effort.
HEARN: Last year I started in the Pro Mazda Series and so a lot of people said I was stupid to be a car owner, and I said, 'You know, it's no big deal, right?' After a year into it, I scratch my head sometimes wondering what I'm doing. So I do have an idea of what it takes to organize on a smaller scale but organize the guys and organize the preparation and just every little thing that goes into it to make sure it's a proper effort. I think that helps me understand and not be impatient when things go wrong or things like that. I understand how it all works, and hopefully that makes me a better driver in the end and in the same side, you know, makes me a better owner, too.
GREEN: Travis, when you found out Sam was bringing on a full IndyCar effort for the month of May, did that give you a little bit of peace of mind knowing that you would have a seasoned veteran on the team that can help you? I know it's two separate cars but somebody to bounce some ideas off of?
GREGG: Sure, it's going to be my first trip around the big track, so I'll have him. He's the seasoned veteran at this, so any questions I may have, I'll be able to bounce some ideas and get some feedback. It will be great.
GREEN: Besides Sam's multi-car effort which keeps him busy enough, he's also -- he started a foundation years ago, the Sam Schmidt Foundation, takes also a great deal of his time. Joining us today, Ida Cahill with the foundation, who's the day-to-day director of the foundation. Just want to say hello to Ida, and Sam has a couple comments he wants to make about the foundation. He's worked hard on it the last couple years but with some events that have happened within the last year, he's really ramped up his efforts and he wanted to say a few things about that, as well.
SCHMIDT: Well, for those that don't know, I actually do see a lot of new faces, so I'm glad to see the regulars in and some new folks here. But the foundation was started five years ago from somewhat of a selfish origin that I want to eventually be involved with finding a cure for this thing, and that's much larger than me personally. I knew it was going to take a lot of research dollars and a lot of awareness and a lot of momentum. But more recently, with the passing of Christopher Reeve, our board has decided to really kind of ramp up the effort with a national PR program with just a lot more awareness and really more or less trying to capitalize on the fan loyalty that is involved in motorsports. There's no way that myself or Marc Buoniconti or anyone out there can fill Christopher Reeve's shoes on this issue, but hopefully together we can all keep the momentum going. It's obviously a pretty hot topic in Washington. Several states are passing initiatives for stem-cell research and different forms of research. We're right in the mix of that and obviously with the motorsports involvement and support, we hope to grow the foundation considerably this year. Ida actually was previously involved with Christopher Reeve's foundation, so she has a lot of experience in the industry, and it's basically her job to take it to the next level. So we're just really excited about what's going on. We've already got a tremendous amount of press this year and in some of our race markets. We're hoping that the effort at the 500 and once again, Meijer and Coca-Cola being involved, all of those exposure items from the team standpoint are meant to support the foundation and meant to support the awareness of the foundation.
GREEN: Ida will stick around the rest of the stop here at Sam Schmidt Motorsports -- it was really difficult when you drove for Treadway, I always struggled with that one, too -- but Ida will be available for one-on-ones after our program here. We'll turn it over to the media and start with some Q and A. We are transcribing this, but I will repeat the question or have you ask it in the microphone for all the people on the panel. First question?
Q: Sam, if you could, talk a little bit about what the future is for this team. With having an effort like this, this is more or less kind of a training ground -- I don't want to say training ground but a starting point for eventual move up to full time in the IndyCar Series?
SCHMIDT: Well, basically we had kind of like Richie said, I jumped in with both feet in 2001 and didn't really know what the heck I was doing from an owner standpoint, and we really didn't have the resources to compete at that time with the Panther Racings of the world. We found ourself doing really well but doing really well for that effort was fifth, sixth or seventh. When the Infiniti Pro Series started, I really felt like that was a better opportunity for us to compete, at least with equal budgets to the other teams in the series. And also, it's a really good fit for me coming from Formula Fords, Formula 2000, Atlantics to Indy cars to be able to work with drivers that were coming from the same stuff I did, working their way through the Infiniti Pro Series and hopefully going to IndyCar Series, that's a real good environment for me to be able to work with those drivers. Now we've got a situation in IndyCar Series where there's a ton more resources, extremely competitive teams, so if the opportunity arose with similar type of budgets those guys are working with, sure, we'd take a look at it and we'd look at it really seriously. But right now it's kind of like we're, you know, hopefully the dominating team in the Infiniti Pro Series. It's a much, it's much easier for me to get the motivation to go to the track and face all the challenges that it does to go to the track if you're winning races. Wouldn't want to go back to the IRL and just run in the middle of the pack just to be there. So I guess the answer to the question is if the right opportunity comes along, we'll certainly take a hard look at it, but right now we enjoy being in the position we're in in the Infiniti Pro Series.
GREEN: Next question?
Q: Richie, you came here I think in '96, wasn't it? And finished real well and then your car -- because of circumstances you went away, you came back. How much more do you appreciate now that you can drive again in the 500 from that first time?
HEARN: Well, when you're young you take things for granted a lot, and that year we had a great finish, finished third and honestly that's the first time -- that was the last time I had had a proper effort where I started at the beginning of the month and, you know, I never thought that it would be this hard to get that type of program back into place. This year we have that type of program, so I'm expecting the same results, if not better. So I think as a driver, yeah, I appreciate it more now and maybe focus more now on it because you never know when it might not happen again. So I'm pretty happy about the situation.
Q: For both Sam and Richie, do you know at this point what cars you're getting from Penske, or cars, and are you going to be ready to go on the track when the track opens?
SCHMIDT: Yeah, that's over the last two days kind of been working through the time line of things, but we're supposed to go up to Nazareth -- I'm sorry, Reading, what am I saying? -- next Tuesday to pick up two Panoz chassis. We're physically buying those from Roger. I believe one of them is a chassis we ran last year, which was a previous Gil de Ferran backup car, and then I believe the other chassis was the chassis that Castroneves tried out in 2003 before he switched to the Dallara for the rest of the month. So they're both obviously incredible cars and extremely well prepared. So we'll bring them back, we'll begin the 2005 update process and we've met with Panoz and Chevrolet and everybody that's involved in the project. We fully intend on being there May 10th ready to run at 12 o'clock.
Continued in part 2