2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR PRESS CONFERENCE Chip Ganassi, Mike Hull, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon Tuesday, April 4, 2006, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Indianapolis PAT SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Target Chip Ganassi Racing again...
2006 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR PRESS CONFERENCE
Chip Ganassi, Mike Hull, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon
Tuesday, April 4, 2006, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Indianapolis
PAT SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Target Chip Ganassi Racing again as we prepare for the 90th Indianapolis 500. We want to thank all the folks at Chip Ganassi Racing for a fine event. It is the second time, and it's always a great affair.
Chip Ganassi spent five years as a driver at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He certainly hopes that his 13th race as an owner will be a successful one. Of course, he earned this trophy with Juan Montoya in 2000. I'm thinking it would bring a fair price on eBay. He'll keep his eye on it, I'm sure.
Chip Ganassi, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause)
I also want to bring up a gentleman who certainly calls the shots on Race Day and a guy who has under his care two very talented drivers, Mike Hull. Mike. (Applause)
A gentleman who is a former Indy Racing League IndyCar champion and who has looked awfully strong in 2006, Scott Dixon. (Applause)
And the defending Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion; he began the year in fine fashion, obviously, down at Homestead-Miami Speedway; he's the defending Indianapolis 500 king, of course, Dan Wheldon. (Applause)
Chip, as I sit here, I can't help but think back and think about both you and Mike a year ago. You had a different cast of characters, of course, with the exception of Scott. Scott came off a championship year and really struggled as the team did through some very lean times. Many of us were delighted to see Scott get back on the top step of the podium at Watkins Glen, a big win for him. And then you put together this team and immediately clicks with the 24 Hours of Daytona, and already you're in a position, and with a break you could have won the first two races. Racing runs in cycles, and right now your team looks to be on the top of that.
CHIP GANASSI: Thanks, Pat. And welcome everybody. It's good to see you all.
I'll tell you, when (team PR representative) Pat Caporali told me we were doing this again way back when, I said, "Gee, Pat, going into Indianapolis, I hope we have something to talk about." And I hope, you know -- I'm not surprised, I'm pleasantly elated to be a part of this thing the way we've started off this year. It's only the start, I might add.
I can tell you that nobody around the race shop here has any illusions of what our season looks forward in front of us. We're all still very much anticipating the job at hand. And obviously Miami was somewhat a subdued win, but a win nonetheless, and on to St. Petersburg, where I think both our guys were very competitive and I think albeit for a couple of gremlins we had a win snatched from us there, but we were able to come home second with Scott.
So I'm excited. I've got to tell you guys and girls, I haven't been this excited about IndyCar racing in a while, I can tell you that. A lot of it has to do with these three guys to my left.
SULLIVAN: To give you a sense of how we're going to conduct things, it's going to follow the same pattern we've had: We're going to hear from these gentlemen, open it up to a few questions, and we'll also have time to do one-on-ones. During that time, we will also have three tours of the facility. Grant Weaver, Matt Swan and Scott Harner will lead those tours. So some of you can go off on the tour of the facility and do one-on-ones and then come back and meet with these gentlemen, which will be a great deal of fun.
Mike, I know that it's got to be a struggle when things aren't going your way and you try to analyze all the parts and pieces and what may be happening, every place from where the person holds the wheel to how your preparation is. I know there's soul-searching when things don't go well, but this is going to be your 17th appearance at Indianapolis. So you know that things are good and sometimes things are lean, but you've got to be loving this.
MIKE HULL: Well, Indianapolis, first of all, to take that in reverse, Indianapolis, first of all, is the biggest race in the world. It is the biggest race in the world. On Race Day, there isn't a bigger race to attend, to participate, to support. It's still that way today. And I didn't realize it was 17 years. I better think about buying an island or something and watching it. (Laughter)
The team itself, yeah, we've had ups, and we've had downs. We always try, in this building here, Chip Ganassi Racing, we always try to accentuate the positive, even when things aren't going our way. And I mean our guys today, we were talking about St. Petersburg and what we could have done to be better. Last year, we were working on a product to try to make it better. I think what you see this year is the result of our concerted effort to work on details. That's what we've done the last, actually, the last two years. And that's car improvement, friction reduction, drag reduction, all the small things that can help you on an oval racetrack as well as ways for the engineering department to support us as the sanctioning body has mandated a reduction in testing. So there's a lot of things now that we need to do or we do. So I think what you're seeing now is a result of that.
SULLIVAN: Congratulations on that.
Scott Dixon, obviously you've been a series champion. You know, when you look back at the history of racing, sometimes when you pair two very talented drivers together, that can produce beautiful music and sometimes a great deal of strife and concern. You're with a team now, you're the senior member of this team, and all of a sudden you get word that you're going to add a driver and that driver is no less than the gentleman who won six races, the Indianapolis 500 and was the series champion in Dan Wheldon. That's an interesting addition to your team. You did make the comment down at Daytona that for bonding purposes and for learning to communicate with your new teammate, it couldn't have gone better. Talk about your thoughts when you added Dan and how you're looking at the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, as well as the Indianapolis 500.
SCOTT DIXON: Well, with the addition with Dan, I think it's great. First of all, it was great with the momentum that he brought from such a successful year to this team, I think. We had been in a bit of a slump and just things like that do help, a lot of the mechanics and people mind-set out. I think being a driver, the first thing you look for is a teammate that's very competitive and fast because it's someone to gauge yourself off or better yourself, I think. So every year I think it's always a lot better to have a teammate that's extremely fast, wins a lot of races, because it pushes you to a new level and the team, and there's nothing like a team rivalry, I think. So the year has started off pretty well. You can't complain about that. We're second and third in points. It's a lot better than we were at this stage last year.
I don't know, I'm just looking forward to it. It's like a new lease on life, you know, going into every weekend now that you have a chance to win. I think in the last couple of years you had a chance, but it was a very slim chance, and now I think we know that we can probably at least podium most of these races. So I'm just excited. I can't wait to get to the next race and at least for myself try and get a win this year early on.
SULLIVAN: Well, good job thus far and certainly could have had one at St. Petersburg without question.
Dan, I tell you, we first got a little inkling, at least I did that there might be a change in the offing with you at the banquet. Racing rumors come and go, and I don't know what to pay attention, to but I will say when the word came down, I was probably a little surprised by your decision. Right out of the box, you have a couple successful goes, not only in the sports car but the opening round. Way to go: You make a change and immediately pay dividends for the boss. That's the good way to increase your tenure.
DAN WHELDON: I think you forgot about the years in 1996, '97, '98, '99 and 2000 where they won the championships and the Indianapolis 500. You know, I hadn't spoken to Chip too much -- actually, I had a meeting with Chip and Mike in the end of 2002. Unfortunately, that didn't come to fruition, but just speaking to him last year, you could tell how determined the man was to win. You know, I felt like I wanted a new challenge, and I wanted to prove to three other team owners that I could win in a different car. I can tell you that gives me great pleasure to do that. I've done so once, but I want to do it more and more. You know, that's what we're working toward.
I think certainly, you know, the thing that I have learned is it takes the whole team. I think what we have here at Target Chip Ganassi Racing is a very, very strong team. It works very different to the last team that I was at. I think there's a lot more positives, to tell you the truth. I think in the last couple of years where they haven't had the results that they're used to, they've worked very, very hard. And I think they're reaping the rewards of that right now.
So coming off a disappointing St. Petersburg, I can't wait to get back to Motegi and obviously the Indianapolis 500. That's the race that's kind of closest to my heart. I think that's probably the most difficult race in the world to win. But I do believe we've got the potential to do it. I think from the Indy Racing League standpoint, I think we're putting on great shows this year. I think they've made some great strides forward. I think that the racing that everybody is putting on is very, very close. I mean, even a street course that traditionally is not that close, Scott was pushing Helio right to that last lap. So I think we're all in for a very exciting year.
SULLIVAN: Chip, you know, there's the notion in all sports, the notion of drafting the best available athlete comes into play. But yet as a driver yourself, you know the psyche of a race driver and the sense that you want the team to rally behind you, your thought process when you had this opportunity to put two very talented guys together, was that just a notion of, "I'm going to get the best athlete" or did you sit and think, "Well, how will the chemistry work here?"
GANASSI: I wasn't overly concerned with the chemistry. I mean, these guys are, you know, they're professionals. I think at the end of the day they both respect the job that Mike and his team are doing underneath them week in and week out. And they appreciate a little bit what Dan spoke about and Scott about years past and what we were working on when our chances weren't that good to win, and the hard work that paid off. These guys are professionals; they appreciate that. I don't think it's a situation where there's any -- the rivalry between the two drivers is maybe to who can get the most out of the rest of the team week in and week out. I'm just, like I said, if you had told me I would be going into Motegi second and third in the points, I would have been -- I would have paid a lot more money for this, I can tell you. (Laughter)
SULLIVAN: Boss, I think those two guys at the far end just heard that, by the way. (Laughter)
Questions from the floor for this group?
Q: I was at Phoenix for the test, and I was really surprised you had -- this is basically for Mike and Scott. You ran the Dallara starting at Motegi last year and gave up on it at Indy. Right out of the box at Phoenix, within 10, 15 laps, you were right at the top of the chart. What was the difference with running Dallara this year as opposed to when you tried it last year?
GANASSI: Let me answer that real quick. I can tell you this one, when we showed up at Phoenix, it was quite interesting for Mike and I because with all the teams being Honda this year, after the first run, Wheldon got out of his car and said, "Man, this engine stinks. God, just nothing." Dixon got out of his car a minute later and said, "That's the best engine I've ever driven." (Laughter)
We knew right then we had something.
SULLIVAN: Looks like we've got Bruce.
Continued in part 2