Indy Racing League Teleconference Oct. 5, 2004 Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to this week's Indy Racing League weekly teleconference. This past weekend, the Indy Racing League crowned champions in...
Indy Racing League Teleconference
Oct. 5, 2004
Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree
MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to this week's Indy Racing League weekly teleconference. This past weekend, the Indy Racing League crowned champions in both the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and the IndyCar® Series. Our guests today will reflect on both of those championships.
Joining us in a few minutes will be the three co-owners of Andretti Green Racing - Michael Andretti, Kim Green, and Kevin Savoree. The AGR team clinched its first title in the IndyCar Series on Sunday when Tony Kanaan finished second in the Toyota Indy 400.
We're joined now on the call by the three co-owners of Andretti Green Racing - Michael Andretti, Kevin Green, Kevin Savoree. Gentlemen, congratulations on the championship.
Q: Michael, you won a championship as a driver in 1991. Now you have a championship as a team owner. How do you compare the two experiences?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's actually different, but, you know, good in different ways. When you win it as a driver, obviously it gives -- I don't know how to explain it -- but a different accomplishment when you do it as a team owner. When you do it as a team owner, it's a whole team effort. It's just been a very enjoyable experience, the drivers that we have, having the partners that I have with Kim and Kevin for one, that's where it starts. It's great to see all your ideas --
MODERATOR: I think we lost Michael. Perhaps he'll call back in.
Q: Kim, question for you. This is the second year AGR has competed in the Indy Racing League. How satisfying is it to you to win the championship so soon?
KIM GREEN: Certainly very, very satisfying. You know, certainly we had a plan if we were going to be involved as a company going forward, Andretti Green Racing, we were certainly going to put every effort toward putting together competitive programs and giving ourselves a chance to win. We were very, very close in our first year to winning the championship. I think everybody on the team worked even harder this year, and obviously our partner at Honda, with their engine program, worked very hard this year. Extremely satisfying. Going into the season, we certainly felt like we should have a chance, and that maybe several of our drivers could compete for the championship. That's obviously how it's turning out, which is fantastic.
Q: What role do you think adding a fourth car to the team played in getting from, as you said, close to a championship last year, over the hump and winning it?
KIM GREEN: Well, I think Bryan Herta came in as a substitute for Dario (Franchitti) last year and really did a very, very good job substituting and worked well with Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon. At the end of the year, at that point, we were going to have Dario back for this year. An opportunity came up for a fourth car, we all felt like Bryan fit so well with the team, he was immediately the first choice.
I think it's been very, very good. The four drivers worked so well together, and I think certainly Bryan was a big catalyst to that being successful. Michael also being out of a driver's seat now allows him to focus a bit more time on other aspects of the team, including the drivers especially, not having to think about his own car setup.
Q: Kevin, the drivers on this team all get along very well. We've seen them play a lot of practical jokes on each other this year. Is that attitude, that type of camaraderie among them, limited to the drivers or is that really kind of the corporate culture there at Andretti Green Racing?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Just following up with what Kim said, there's obviously great chemistry amongst the drivers. You know, there's also probably some mad science that goes on now and again with the owners, the rest of the team. So I think there's plenty of joking around that goes on. We all want to have fun working, but at the same time we're very, very serious when it comes to our business. When we have the right balance, that's what makes it perfect.
MODERATOR: We have Michael Andretti back with us.
Q: Michael, in the five-year plan when the three of you all got together and sat down and said, "Here is what we're going to do," was there a championship within that five-year plan?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think last year the way we came out of the blocks, I think it surprised us a little bit. But after coming out of the blocks like that, we felt like we had a lot of momentum going into this year that we were definitely thinking championship because we almost did win last year with Tony.
You know, we put this team together to win. That's why we're out there. You know, did it surprise us as a team that we did it as quick as we did? Probably. But then again not. If you look at our team and the people we have, all that, it shouldn't be a surprise because we have a lot of great people on this team.
Q: Last week, we talked with Tony (Kanaan). He agreed with us that the lack of team orders as far as which car is No. 1, which is No. 2, so forth, given the background of what open-wheel racing has been over the years is a bit unusual. Is this something that you guys talked about you, you and Kevin and Kim, and said, "We're going to let every guy show his own talent. There will not be a No. 1 car?"
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, for one, we have to worry about each sponsor, obviously, on each car. If we were to say, "This car is No. 1, the other one isn't," one sponsor wouldn't be very happy, the one that was the No. 2.
We approach it as, you know, four equal cars out there. You know, that sounds like an easy job, but it's very difficult. Really, I think the credit goes to the management run by Kim. I mean, they do such an unbelievable job to make it all equal between the four cars. When they're able to do that, everybody within each team then knows that they have an equal shot at winning. They are more willing to work as one team instead of their own team.
I think that's the beauty of this team. Everybody works for that common goal, and that is for all four cars to be up front all the time.
Q: Compare the last lap of the last time that you won the championship when you were coming down to the checkered flag to the last lap that Tony was taking. How long was that lap? What were you doing at that moment? Anything could have happened.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, it felt a little different because when I won the championship, Bobby Rahal dropped out during the race, and I knew I won it that way. But it was nerve-wracking, like I said, when we found out they were going to do a white and green flag lap. You know, you hold your breath. In those places, with a win on the line, people do some crazy stuff.
But, you know, obviously Tony did a good start, and then he and Adrian (Fernandez) were able to pull away from the other guys, you know, be safe anyway.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Very emotional. Just happy. Just so happy for everybody on this team. Start with Tony, here is a guy that's gone through a lot of hard luck, but in my mind was always a champion, and now he finally proved it. Then everybody within the whole team. If you look at his teammates, how happy they were for him, it was so genuine. It makes you feel really, really good.
Q: Concerning Tony Kanaan, he won races in CART, won one championship in Indy Lights. He really had been pounding around pretty much with Mo Nunn Racing before you took him on. What did you see? How did you believe that he had championship material?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I feel like I can answer it because I had forehand knowledge of his driving because I raced against him. Tony was a hard charger, a clean racer, a guy that I thought drove very smart when he was on the racetrack. He was very aware of what was going on. That was me knowing it forehand.
Also, on top of it, his personality, he's just a great guy. We knew that he would work very well with Dario, because he and Dario were also very close friends. That's how it all came about really.
Q: Kevin and Kim didn't need any convincing?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: They can answer that. I don't think so. I think they all saw that. Our first goal was to sign Dario, which we did. Our next goal was to go after Tony. I think we were all three in agreement on that.
Kim and Kevin can answer for themselves.
KIM GREEN: I think Michael summed it up very, very well.
Q: For anybody that wants to answer this, how many employees do you have in your organization right now?
KEVIN SAVOREE: We have 85 full-time employees.
Q: With the four sponsors, to land four sponsors, keep them all happy in this day and age in motorsports is a tremendous accomplishment. Who gets credit for that? Are all your sponsors coming back next year?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Well, I think, again, it's a lot of hard work. We all spend an awful lot of hours working with our sponsors, working on programs that incorporate racing into their business models. Again, Michael is a big part of that. He's a great brand ambassador for all of our companies, along with our drivers. I mean great personalities.
Again, it's all the fits that work with those sponsors. You know, right now we're working really hard with all of them, and obviously with Klein Tools and Jim Beam we announced in Chicago they had signed long-term deals, so we're really thrilled about that. We're working really hard on the others. We hope to have those finalized here in the near future.
But obviously the results on the racetrack is a great first step for that. We'll keep after it.
Q: Kevin or Kim, can you comment about Michael, the way he's adapted to being a team owner? Everybody knew what a great driver he was. He raised a lot of eyebrows when he retired at a relatively young age, but seems to have taken to this business part very easily.
KIM GREEN: Well, certainly I had quite a lot of forehand experience working with Michael. He drove on the Team Motorola program at Team Green. I ran that pit during the race weekends and got to work closely with Mike.
Just like he was back in the days of kicking our butt when he was on an opposition team, he always gave 100 percent every time he hopped in the race car. I found that the same with his stepping over to an ownership role. He gives you 100 percent all the time. He's very straightforward, honest, open to ideas, and really I think as a combination, the three of us all have some different personalities and strengths, and we work quite well together.
I think it's been a good combination.
KEVIN SAVOREE: I guess I would say that another way also is that even though Michael is new to race team ownership, Michael's got a lot of other business interests. So as far as being the CEO of companies, Michael had experience doing that. Obviously, from the racetrack, he was a tremendous racer. So those skill sets melded pretty well together.
I think the skill set that he brought, it was already there. Again, he's a great leader. That's what's gotten us to where we are.
Q: Four cars were good for you this year. Are you interested in more cars next year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think we're at our limit right now. I think we're really happy with what we have going. To just say, "We're going to add a fifth car," just doesn't really make sense. You know, we think we are at our capacity right now. We just now want to build on it and make it better than what it was this year.
Q: The other teams seem to have picked up on what you've done with multiple cars. I suppose that will probably make more competition for you next year.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I mean, we'll see. I think it's good for the series, for one. I think you're going to find that it's not as easy as you think.
Our team is pretty unique, and that is because of the personalities we have. They all get along so well. That's the challenge that they're going to have when you add that many cars to a team. It will be quite interesting to see how they are able to work it.
The other thing is the history of this team, you know, we as a team before we even bought it, the people within this team have been used to doing multi-car things since like 2001. We've been running at least three cars. I think that experience has been invaluable for us. I think there's going to be some learning curves for a lot of these teams that haven't done that.
Q: You as an owner, Michael, seems like you had a lot of fun when you quit driving.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I did. I really did. I was just sick of the pressure, being under the pressure all the time. My whole life was always like that. I could never have fun. You know, now when I don't have to be training every day, I don't have to be on top of my game and all that, I just feel like I'm way more relaxed than I used to be when I drove. Now I'm actually having fun. I can't say that I actually had fun when I was driving, and now I finally am.
Q: To any one of you three gentlemen, you said you weren't adding a fifth car next year, but you are adding to your business promoting the race at St. Petersburg. Talk about that type of expansion and how that affects the entire Andretti Green organization.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'll let you answer that, Kevin.
KEVIN SAVOREE: For us, Mike and Kim and I sat down in Kansas City this year and talked about the opportunity and the marketplace and what it meant to the league, what we felt like it meant for our business. I think we came away from there with a commitment that we wanted to try to make it happen.
But just as with any business model that we work on here, we try to look at putting the right people in place. It's never about throwing lots of people at problems; it's about putting the right people in place. So we came away from there with, "How can we make that happen?"
We worked with Barry (Green), Kim's brother, and he was very excited about the opportunity and the marketplace. We had had a long-term relationship with a marketing company that also happens to represent Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon. We felt like we had a good relationship with them.
Really, again, it's about the chemistry we had amongst that group. So once we felt like we could put that together and went down and met with the city and saw the excitement that Mayor (Rick) Baker and Kevin Dunn with Economic Development down there had for having a race event in their city, we were just met with open arms.
It became very apparent that the market wanted a car race and wanted it in a big way. We went back to the Indy Racing League, (inaudible) sanction agreement, it all fell together fairly quickly from there.
For us, it's really more from an administrative standpoint for our duties and just making sure administratively that the right partners, whether it's the CSS Stellar Gem Group, or Barry Green, have our support when they call for it.
It's really more that Barry is the general manager, and he's heading that event up. We're all looking forward to being down there April the 3rd.
Q: Michael, when you look down at the garage area, paddock area, you see so many long-term teams with championships and what have you, Penske, Ganassi, some of those, is there special satisfaction in the fact that the three of you have been able to put something together in such a short time and actually beat these guys at their own game?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, absolutely. It makes you feel real good. These are guys that I've been racing against my whole life, guys like Penske and Ganassi, those guys, and Rahal. To go out and beat them in our second year, that really makes you feel good and feels like you really accomplished something. I have so much respect for all those guys.
To go out and do it the way we did this year just really I think makes each and every one of us proud.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks for taking some time out of your schedule this afternoon to join us. Congratulations again on a great season.