91st INDIANAPOLIS 500 PACE CAR DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES Saturday, May 26 PATRICK DEMPSEY: "The opportunity to drive the Pace Car is a tremendous honor. I can't get over it. I've been begging for years, and they finally relented. The ...
91st INDIANAPOLIS 500 PACE CAR DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
Saturday, May 26
"The opportunity to drive the Pace Car is a tremendous honor. I can't get over it. I've been begging for years, and they finally relented. The history, the 91st running of this race. I think Carl Fisher was the first man to do it, from 1911 to 1916, I believe, and then you look at all of the drivers, the people and the celebrities over the years. Carroll Shelby has done it, Jackie Stewart has done it, and, of course, Lance Armstrong last year. Just to be a part of the history of this track, it means so much to me. It's unbelievable."
(About Vision Racing's progress and Tomas Scheckter qualifying on the first day):
"You can't help but love Tomas. He's a great driver. He's always full-out; he never lifts. Some days that's good, and some days that's not good. There are things we need to work on. Certainly, the aero package needs to be brought up to speed a little more. The growth of the team has been phenomenal, and we're getting there. And with a little luck, we can get results. And I think in time, we will. It's developing nicely, and the results will come. It's exciting. It's a good time to be a part of it. If you look at Penske and what he's done over the years, it didn't come overnight. It takes a lot to get to that place. I think as a new time, it's going to take us time to get to that place."
(How long have you been interested in the Indy 500?):
"Since I was a little boy. It's hard to talk about it because I get very emotional, about my dad, certainly. I always remember him when I come here, and that's why I think I get so emotional. And you look at all the racers who have come here. Just look at this year: A.J. Foyt, 50 years. It's just phenomenal. It shows the depth of loyalty with the fans and with the drivers, and what this race means. The spirits and the souls that are inhabiting this track, you can feel them. I'm amazed at who comes up to me each year and says hello. It becomes such a big tradition. I think that's why this race is so unbelievable, for the drivers to win it, what it mea ns. For the fans to come, what it means for them and their lives hear at the track, depending on their age. And for me, growing up, we would listen to it in the car because they would postpone the telecast. So we would hide in the car and listen to it on the car radio. And then we'd watch the race at night. So to be here the last four years, it's just a magical thing for me."
(You are a racer. Any envy of the drivers in this race?):
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I have no business racing in the IRL. Maybe road courses, though. I'd like to do that. But this is an extremely dangerous sport, and the IRL, in particular, how close they're going. I have a lot of respect for them. I really enjoy being around all of the drivers. I would never get in that. My goal as a driver is to race Le Mans, certainly the 24 Hours of Daytona, which we're getting a package together for next season to do that. With Hypersport, we're leading the championship in the Koni Challenge so far. And Joe Foster, who has been my instructor and friend for a number of years, is leading the driver points. That's been a fascinating journey, as well as a team owner. You're so beholden to your sponsors. We're really fortunate to be able to go racing and have people behind us. And certainly with SuperCuts doing that and everything, it's been phenomenal. And to be driving, getting top-10 results and getting credibility and respect from the fellow drivers means a lot to me. That's my ultimate goal, to go out there and shoot for a championship."
(You are among a number of celebrity drivers through the years, such as Paul Newman. Who wins the race among celebrity drivers through the years?):
"You have to look at his (Paul Newman) results as a driver, as an owner, as a humanitarian and as a man. He's a perfect role model. It's a shame he's not here."
(Do you have goosebumps about your role Sunday, and how have you prepared?):
"It was nice to get out on track today and run around with Johnny Rutherford, who is a legend. I'm sitting there, a nd I'm looking at his (500 winner's) ring as he's driving around. And it's raining, and here I can't figure out how to lock the top of the convertible, and we're stuck right down here in the short chute. And it was just the craziest experience. 'How do you lock the top of the car?' I didn't get a debrief on that. It's someone you watch growing up, and here you are sitting next to him, and he's telling you how to go around the track. It's a phenomenal experience. That's when I started getting nervous. I think the first time I took Eric Dane, who's with the show ("Grey's Anatomy") around the track is the first time I really was let loose in the car. We were doing like 140 on the backstretch, and then I started to go, 'OK, I'm here.' I realized it was really wet in (Turn) 4, so I had to get off of it quite quickly. And he got a little nervous, so I was quite pleased with that."
(Who were your first racing heroes?):
"Al Unser Jr. That win and his losses here. Here was a guy who was in my generation, and you look up and say, 'Wow, look what he's doing.' I think those are the earlier ones. Also you remember the rain delays, and you missed the race, so that was frustrating. And certainly A.J. Foyt. You can't help but -- he always was such a huge figure. Probably the spin and the win (by Danny Sullivan in 1985). That was a phenomenal finish. I just remember being on the couch, watching."
(About Peyton Manning serving as honorary starter):
"He's funny. Did anyone watch him on 'Saturday Night Live?' He's a guy who I'm really nervous about. Not only is he a champion football player, but he's a phenomenal comedian. And I'm doing this movie now, and I'd love to have him in it because I think he's an amazing talent and a great champion, too. It's great to be in the same presence that he is. And he's very tall, which makes me feel small and insignificant."
(About gaining respect form fellow racers):
"Fortunately, I came through the Panoz Racing School, so a lot of the drivers that you see that are racing in the American Le Mans Series or Grand Am are instructors who have been there. So when I go to the track, I know a lot of those people, and they have been very supportive from day one, and this was well before the success of the show. I think that helped, that I was around prior to all of that. The difficulty is that I bring a lot of attention when I show up so that you have a lot of media that you have to contend with. And you feel a certain obligation to take care of your sponsors and also to help the series grow, so you put yourself out there so that if you make a mistake, everybody is going to see it. So that puts a lot of pressure on your mental game. I'm fine with that. The key to succeeding is certainly money. It doesn't hurt. It allows you the opportunity to test properly, to get the seat time and to develop the car. I was fortunate to run the Baja 1000 this year and finish fourth, and that helps with the car control, a loose car setup. I think seat time and experience. It's the greatest sport. I love it."
(What's in team ownership for you?):
"I get to hang out in the pits and watch the drivers. That's the best thing. You're in it, you're participating in the sport and helping when you can. I think this is a great series. It deserves to grow. It's really hard to get out from under the shadow of the NEXTEL Cup. They've just swallowed everything up, understandably. It's great racing, and there are some great people there. What the IRL has going for it is that there is a reliability with the drivers each year. CART has a big problem with like, who do you connect with over there other than Mr. Newman, who is a great character. A lot of times you don't even know who these people are. Here it's like you know who's coming in year in and year out, and I think that's the difference. Now, to answer you're question, which I really haven't (laughter). For me, I really love being in the pits and behind that. I really enjoy Tony George. I think he's a great character. He's a lot of fun. Some people like him, and some people don't. But he's got a good heart. He's out there, he cares deeply about the sport, and certainly this is a family business that he's had to take responsibility for, and he's doing the best he can. And I love that and respect that. I like being in there, listening to the drivers about what they're feedback is, what the strategy for the race is. To be, once again, part of the history of Indy. That means the most to me. To be involved with Vision, and certainly Tony, is a lot of fun."
(Any racing-themed movies or TV shows in the works for you?):
"Yeah, we are. I'm definitely working on a movie right now. We're working on something that's set in the American Le Mans Series. It would start at the Petit (Le Mans) and end at Sebring. So we're working on that, and hopefully we can get that off the ground. The goal with that is you want to make an entertaining movie, but at the same time you want to be credible. Racing movies in the past have certainly let the fans of racing down. And the more we can stay around the world of racing and really bring that nuance to that, capture that, and also entertain the people who don't like racing, that's the real struggle. It's been a three-year project for us, trying to get it finely tuned. We're hoping to get it done next year."