An Interview with Marco Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Jr. Wednesday, May 2, 2007 THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests with us today. Joining...
An Interview with Marco Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Jr.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests with us today. Joining us in a few minutes will be IndyCar Series team owner A.J. Foyt, who will announce his second driver for the Indianapolis 500. To start the call, we're pleased to have IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti. Marco is in his second season in the IndyCar Series, driving the No. 26 NYSE group Dallara for Andretti Green Racing. Last year, he was the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. He won at Infineon Racewat and finished second at Indianapolis. This year, he's recorded a fourth-place finish at St. Petersburg.
Marco, unfortunately other than that fourth place at St. Petersburg, you've had some tough luck in three of the first four races of the season. But you kind of had similar struggles last year heading into Indianapolis. Obviously, you were still able to finish second. Do you have any concerns as we head into Indianapolis or is it a completely fresh start?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, that's exactly what it is. I've got to look at it just like that. You know, now we have a month. I think my biggest struggle lately has been no warmup. It's no excuse because everybody is in the same boat. But it has caught us out twice in the first four races. You know, Homestead and obviously last week in Kansas. We couldn't tell you what was wrong. You know, we really were struggling with the balance.
As a competitor, as a driver, it's been an absolutely miserable year so far from what I had hoped to start the season. I was hoping to be right up there in the championship hunt going into Indy. But now I can just think about winning the Indy 500. That's got to be my main mentality.
You know, like I said, the positive thing is that we have a full month. That's what allowed me to turn my season around last year, as well, because going into Indy last year, I barely had any race experience. I mean, we broke two drive shafts, then I just wanted to finish Japan, which was almost like a test session just doing laps because we ended up 12th or something.
Anyway, I mean, I'm looking forward to Indy, having a month, driving with dad and everything like that.
Q: You alluded to it right there, you'll be competing against your dad again for the second time. What does it mean to you to be able to share the track with him again?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's awesome. It's good. With his experience, along with my other teammates, of course, but he has a ton of experience. He knows what it's like for a good car, number one. Last year, I mean, I was struggling with the balance a little bit. He goes, Well, get in my car, get in my car. I was able to on the same day get in his car and experience what a good car is supposed to feel like. From then on, I'm like, 'OK, now I know what that feel is, so we got to get back to it.' That was huge for me.
Having him drive on that same track that particular day definitely helps me.
Q: Do you feel the Speedway owes you one this year from how you lost that one last year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, I don't think it owes me anything. I nearly won the thing at my first go. I'd say a good example is it owes my dad one. I only had one go at it, like I said. Everything worked out. Yeah, it was kind of a bummer. I don't know what's worse, losing it the way I did or in dad's case almost a lap on the field and with 10 to go the car breaks.
I don't know, I wouldn't say it owes me. I'm still young. We got time.
Q: How long did it take you to get over that? Is it still something that bothers you to this day?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's going to bother me till the end of my career, even if I win that thing four times. The race is so huge, I don't know, especially for our family. I explain it to my friends. There's no Grand Prix or single race that's as big as that. That's the biggest race in the world. It just slipped away. Of course it's going to bother me. I'm a competitor.
Q: Sam was saying he bought you several dinners. Is this something you're going to keep holding over him, keep getting him to do stuff for you?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, we bought each other dinners. I'm going to correct that.
No, I don't know, he's a competitor as well. He's going to go try to win the race. I don't hold anything against him. If you say the better car should have won, then that's what happened. Just kind of the way we lost, we were like in fifth in the closing laps, we charged to second. We lost by a straightaway. That's a good day. That's an awesome day. But the way we lost it, leading out of turn four, kind of bothers me. But no big deal.
Q: I wanted to jog your memory about a track in Upstate New York, Oakland Valley. What do you remember most about racing there, go the go-karts?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, there was a couple kids that raced there week in and week out. They were very competitive. They had that track down. They had the track stuff. They were the ones to beat. Actually, I mean, I got a lot of good experience racing up there. Like I said, the competition was very tough. I felt when you beat those kids, you've done something. It's not just like you go up and you win a go-kart race. It was a good feeling to beat them because I think they were very talented individuals.
The track itself was pretty fun. It's very local to me. It's about an hour and a half from my dad's house in PA. It's fun to go up and hang out and have fun.
Q: When is the last time you've been there? Not since you raced?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Not since I raced. Maybe five, six years. It's been a while.
Q: I talked to your grandfather. He said everyone was there. How was it to have the whole Andretti clan up there of watching you do your thing?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I mean, if it was up to me some weekends I'd just go up and just do it myself, not even tell anybody I'm racing, just to go up and get the experience. But they brought the TV crews and everybody out, stuff like that. It's always good, too, to get positive exposure. They help me when they can. They obviously bring a lot of attention, too.
No, I mean, like I say, it's always good. It's good to have that support, for sure.
Q: Can you tear it up there one last time? Any chance of you making an appearance?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. The last thing I want to do is go up. I can't just go up there and say I'm going to test. I'll go up there Saturday, feel I'm quick enough to race Sunday, I'll end up staying overnight and try to win the thing, getting hurt doing it. That's the last thing I want to do.
Q: You say you're struggling. Is it something you think you can correct or your engineers got to correct? Is it horsepower or just the car itself?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think it's a combination, of course. I mean, there's no way I can just blame anybody. One thing I can tell you is I didn't forget how to drive in a year. If anything, I think I'm a lot better this year just because of how much I learned last year.
But even when you don't have the results, or on an oval when the car is not working great, it's both of our faults because maybe I didn't relay good enough of information about what the car is doing to him or whatever. You can't just blame your engineer or anybody like that.
Like I said, even when things aren't working out, and you have a year like I had so far, you tend to lose confidence. That's the last thing I should do. If I do that, it's just going to spiral downwards. I just need to keep my head up and things will get better.
The only thing I'm bummed obviously about is the points. Like I said, I didn't forget how to drive a race car in a year. We'll just get a good balance underneath us. It is frustrating especially on an oval when the car's not working. It is so frustrating, a bit embarrassing, to have to park it. It's either that or crash the car, which I did the week before. It was a bit better to park it.
Q: Before the season, when you were in Sonoma, you were optimistic about everything. Has it been any one thing in particular you can pinpoint or lots of little things?
MARCO ANDRETTI: The first race caught us out because we're like, 'OK, we got greedy. We went so far out there in our setup to catch those other guys because their speeds were frustrating us the whole off-season. We were like, man, how could these guys be going so much quicker. We went so aggressive on the setup, it kind of caught us out.' My mentality going into last weekend was, 'All right, let's just be flat all day, let's be conservative, everything like that.' Whatever it was, it caught us out again.
It really is easy to dial it right out on ovals like that. It's easy to tip the car over from a good car to not even being able to drive it. We're going to try to make sure that never happens again. That's a miserable feeling. There's a long season. We just didn't get a great start. All we can do right now is go try to win some races, especially the Indy 500.
Q: Speaking of the Indy 500, you have a whole month to concentrate on it. Coming back to Indy, a place where you did have that good ride last year, does that give you some renewed confidence, momentum?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, for sure. I always knew it could be done, but it always helps your confidence if you can go out and really prove to everybody, 'Man, we can win this thing.' You said it. The month is the key for me. It's just seat time 'cause, you know, I still don't have many oval races under my belt. I'm not saying I'm a rookie any more by any means. That excuse I can't use any more. It's just not been as smooth as I would expect.
I did come in this season with very high confidence, which I can say I'm not sure I lost. I still feel -- I still have confidence in myself and the team. Dario (Franchitti) looked very strong. Obviously so did Tony (Kanaan) and Danica (Patricfk). We can build off that. Now we have a month to, again, get my act back together and hopefully compete for the win.
Q: Now that we're getting closer to Indy again, how is your dad handling things? Is he beginning to get his game face on?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah. I mean, he knows exactly what needs to be done. Yeah, he's getting in race mode a little bit. I like to see that. He's very focused. I'll be sleeping in until 9:30 a.m.. I'll wake up, he's already got his run done and everything like that. He's been on it.
It's good to see. Like I said, he knows exactly what he needs to win. Now he just needs a little bit of that luck. Man, all I can say is hopefully he gets it.
Q: Do you carry any extra pressure as Andretti coming into this place, trying to break the jinx, win one for your dad?
MARCO ANDRETTI: For sure. I mean, there is when you look at it on the big picture. Yeah, it is. On that particular weekend, I'm not feeling it at all because my thinking on it is I want to win this thing so bad myself. I just do everything in my power to maximize every time I'm on track and the whole race, my thinking on that, as well, it's so long. Everything I do in my power during the race is just to make sure you minimize mistakes. I think if you do that all day, it's almost guaranteed you'll be in it in the end if you have any kind of speed. That's exactly what I did last year. That's what we're going to try to do this year.
Continued in part 2