2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Darren Manning Part 2 of 2 Q: Chip, you have brought some strong lineups to this Speedway in the past, where does...
2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Darren Manning
Part 2 of 2
Q: Chip, you have brought some strong lineups to this Speedway in the past, where does it rank with Dixon and Manning? How good is this Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team compared to years past?
GANASSI: Well, like I said, you know, I feel going into this year, we have a strong of a team as we've ever had coming into May. You know, obviously, you look back at maybe - the one thing, Darren is going to have a little bit of a learning curve, but I think he's shown the first few races with us, or the first couple of races he's been with us, that he is a good listener and a good learner. So I don't feel that is a hindrance at all or a handicap, if you will. I feel Scott is certainly as talented a race driver as - what's that guy's name we had in 2000 there - (laughter). When it comes to what can be done, when it comes to qualifying for a race or when it comes to being in an open-wheel, that's another thing Scott does well. It takes a different mindset to be in a qualifying mode versus in a racing mode, and he is one of the few drivers that we've been fortunate to have that, you know, he can make that transition on Saturday night, if you will, from somebody who is qualifying a car to racing it, because I think it takes two different mindsets.
Q: More and more we look at new newcomers who are coming to the race. Where did that concern suddenly dissipate from the mind of the investment that you all had to make and the concern that you had?
GANASSI: I think there's a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I think younger people coming into the sport is something that you can pretty much look for the most part across the board in sports in general. You know, I think with the - I know you'll think this is crazy sounding, but I think is t was really the advent of video games and these kids are - they have grown up now on video games and their hand-eye coordination is much more - much more refined than it was for someone like myself who had never saw a video game till I was 16 or 17 years old. So I think all athletes across the board, whether it's football, baseball, basketball, you have younger and younger talent coming in. So let's start with that premise. I think when it started at Indianapolis, it was really - or in Indy-car racing, if you will, it was, you know - it was shown that - when did it start? I think it started a long time ago. Really, I think it started in the early 80s, really, when people like Josele Garza and myself and Michael (Andretti) and Al, Al (Unser) Junior, that was on the front end of it. You know, these drivers are in many more races at an earlier age than they were, say, when I came up, or Michael or Al. You had guys that had been in - quarter midgets, go-karts, small formula cars. They have been in the 200, 300 races before they ever even see Indianapolis, sometimes maybe even more. So you're seeing that today where they get a younger start in the sport; whereas I was never in a race car of any sort till I was 16 or 17 years old. These guys are getting started a lot sooner. There are other training grounds that these guys are starting at 5 and 6 years old.
Q: First, Darren, more and more we've had four or five English guys in the IRL, are more and more of the young English drivers looking toward America? And Scott, the same for you with what you've done this past year, how have you influenced the young drivers over in New Zealand?
MANNING: Firstly with the European and British drivers, Formula One is such a tough nut to crack into. It's so political. When I drove - I've been test-driving for - and for me, all of the car teams and some IRL teams, Chip, Michael Ganassi, they all wanted to speak to me or they all spoke to me. I knocked on the doors, and they all let me in, and they all welcomed me with open arms and all recognized, leading some laps, finishing on a lead lap and finished the race in that first oval race. Rockingham was not a bad job. Unfortunately in Formula One, if you don't do that, you don't get past the receptionist, and they kind of say, well, you're only ninth-best or whatever, you didn't win. Just look at my friend, Justin Wilson, I think he's in town at the moment. He's kind of a stalwart in Formula One, just not in the right place at the right time. It looks like over here, you know, your talent in the machinery that you've got is appreciated a lot more. Maybe Chip has got a comment on that, as well. You know, as a driver, you just want to be up there winning races and showing your talent. Sometimes you don't get that chance in the right machinery, and Formula One is pretty much like that. So it's tough. There's quite a lot more opportunity to shine, and as a driver, if you're not doing your job over here, I want you to be telling me and telling me my job is on the line; and if I'm doing a good job, I want to be keeping my drive. It doesn't look - seem to be that way in Formula One.
DIXON: In New Zealand, there's always been a lot of talent down there. The biggest problem is it's so small, and there's really not much money down there. That's the biggest thing to break through, is I think the dissention in America, smaller categories. The IPS (Menards Infiniti Pro Series() is there, but they are struggling for cars and things like that. You know, it's kind of hard to pick guys out of it I think. But definitely a lot more interest in New Zealand as well as guys, I think a couple this year starting in Formula 2000. I think for me coming over here, the same investment group is starting to help out some of the younger drivers in New Zealand. I see another guy in Formula 3 or Europe from New Zealand. I think there's a lot of hype. After the championship, there's been a lot of guys coming through. It's going to be interesting, and it will be good to see some fellow Kiwis up here, for sure.
Q: We know after you won IndyCar Series championship, your reception, you were pretty much received as a hero back home, which certainly you are. But if you won the Indy 500, what would that mean to your fellow New Zealanders?
DIXON: That would be huge, as well. I think there have only been a couple that have ever qualified for the Indianapolis 500. So it's few and far between. But we'll try and do it. You know, the Indianapolis 500, as everyone knows is the biggest race in the world. Everybody in New Zealand knows, especially the motor racing community down there, probably half of them are going to be at the race, but it should be pretty good. (Laughter).
Q: As you were growing up, what part of their careers and the legends about them are what brought you into racing?
DIXON: I think, you know, there's definitely a lot of history in New Zealand with Bruce McLaren and Chris (Amon) and people like that. There was, you know, sort of a run at times. It was definitely big hype. You know, there's a lot of people. I remember people coming out in New Zealand, people like Kenny Smith and things like that, trying to guide me. We were racing against those people. It was very interesting. You know, to see how they sort of did it. The biggest problem was it was so much different back then, and you could not really relate to it too much. You know, you can throw a rock up at a car and race back then. It was great to hear that and sort of hear stories of how they did it. As I say, relating and things like that was totally different. It's good history. It's such a big gap, need to try and bring that together.
Q: Chip mentioned video games. Did you guys grow up on video games? Do you play now and are new any good (Laughter)?
MANNING: Well, yeah I've got my PlayStation and Xbox and things like that. I don't play any racing. I play my golf, I play my football games - soccer games, not football.
DIXON: I'm more on the racing games.
MANNING: I really get into golf.
Q: It's rumored that Mr. Manning can poke one out there about 380 down the middle of the fairway.
MANNING: We'll see tomorrow.
Q: Chip, regarding you have a full plate already, what got you into sports car racing, and what's your assessment so far of what's happened, particularly the instruments and comments on Homestead?
GANASSI: Let's start with the outcome at Homestead. First of all, you know, I think it was obvious that, you know, that (Jan) Magnussen and Papis were interestingly, I think most of all, I find it interesting that that evening, Magnussen had stayed at Papis' house, and that's where he stayed for the following week after the Homestead race. They were pretty good friends, I guess. You know, I think it was a situation where Max had a deteriorating car, and it was not handling as it was in the beginning of the stint, and he was passed by the 02 car, which was a team car, also, just previously to that before it drove off. You know, Magnussen had his team come in, and he started bumping his way by Max, and I guess Max took offense to that style of passing and they were since reprimanded. I guess I'm an old-timer or something. I mean, I don't think there's any need to use your car as a weapon in that series. I think there are some, obviously, in NASCAR, you can rub on somebody, but I still think there is a fine line between rubbing on somebody and using your car as a weapon. I think that that incident at Homestead relegated itself to the cars being weapons, as opposed to rubbing on somebody. What was the rest of the question?
Q: Just because you already had a full plate, what got you involved or wanting to go into motor cars?
GANASSI: Just, you know, I had started - when I started in the racing business, it was in sports cars. You know, I guess I always had a - you always have a soft spot in your heart for road racing these days between IRL and NASCAR, you know, there's not enough road racing for a flea. I guess you just have a soft spot in your heart to do some left and right turns again, and being as that's where I got my career started. So I've always had an interest in sports car racing, and, you know, I talked to both the Le Mans family and the Panoz Group about getting involved in their series and told them I was looking for an opportunity to get involved. One came along. I think it's a good series. I think it's got a lot of future. You know, me personally, I would like to see those, that, Grand-Am would be a great - if you put Grand-Am and IRL on a weekend, I think it would be a great weekend show at a lot of events.
Q: Is there any interest at all in NASCAR in either one of your countries?
MANNING: Well, in the U.K., it's getting a lot more popular. The new series, NASCAR series over there, which is pretty similar to, I think - but they run at Rockingham and Lausitzring in Germany. They really built the grandstands and things. Obviously, the main racing over there in Europe is mainly Formula One. Yeah, I think a lot of people are watching on the TV, not really much press about the NASCAR too much really, though.
DIXON: Similar in New Zealand. Probably would be fourth on the list, I think in racing down there. They don't get too much of it, only SKY TV and satellite, things like that. I think IRL or Formula One is definitely the big one down there.
Q: Both of you had a much better second race this season than the first race. Talk a little bit about that.
MANNING: Yeah, well for me Homestead was a big learning curve. Obviously, the first -- I've got limited oval experience through CART and IRL now, and Homestead was a very different race to anything I've ever driven before, big pack running, high banking, lots of slipstreaming and lots of drafting and passing. I think, you know, I learned 200 things, something new on every lap, and I took that into my race at Phoenix. We qualified a lot better. The car was quite a lot stronger there. Obviously, we were on the third row. Scott and I both probably thought we could have done a little better. With the conditions changing, it was pretty tough to guesstimate. The race I was really strong. My car was proper. I was able to work up on people, but it was so easy to defend, even guys were locked down that I wasn't terribly happy about. The guys that you were trying to pass - they have got very long straights down there. They could just block you a little bit, and you would have to make a real serious move to try and pass them. It's not a stage in my seat to be doing that, and, you know, I could have probably risked a couple of moves and got up a couple of spots, but at the same point I would be risking and taking myself and somebody else off. In a championship, 19 points off the lead at the moment, and it's all because of that philosophy. I'll be - coming last few races, I'll be taking those.
DIXON: Yeah, obviously, Homestead I guess, we had a pretty good car. I think it was more disappointing for myself and had a great shot at winning. I think it was going to be the Penske cars and us pretty much. These things happen. Phoenix, I was very disappointed with qualifying just because we had a lot of problems in the session previous. Tried to get a balance. As Darren said, I think we both could have done a little better there. As far as the race went, the car was fairly decent. It was kind of hard to pass, just sort of get within two car lengths, and it was very difficult. I think if they didn't have a yellow there at the end, we would have a lot more - could have been more - we're happy enough. I think it's good points for us. Just need to keep working on that, I guess.
MODERATOR: Thank you for taking some time to be with us today. Look forward to seeing you in Motegi and here at the Speedway in May.
GANASSI: Looking forward to it, boys. Good to talk to you and looking forward to May myself.