Continued from part 1 Q: Even though I found my voice thing with you stating what we talked about earlier, I won't replay it for everybody else. Mr. Rahal, Daytona looms as being a place where the IndyCars will find themselves some day, and...
Continued from part 1
Q: Even though I found my voice thing with you stating what we talked about earlier, I won't replay it for everybody else.
Mr. Rahal, Daytona looms as being a place where the IndyCars will find themselves some day, and hopefully we'll see that happen hopefully come the first of 2007. What are your thoughts on Daytona?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, the circuit -- I was not there for the test. I mean, of course, we just talk about Daytona itself, it's obviously a tremendous facility, France family, it just gets better and better. I was there last year with Graham at The 24-hour, and it's certainly changed a lot since I was there racing in 1981.
But not being there for the test, I know the circuit was different. You know, I think that the challenge for anything will be -- the cars will put a great race on, I have no doubt of that, if they were to have one there. Bringing IndyCar racing to the south like that, the big challenge will be filling the seats.
But why not? I think we want to be in the best circuits in this series that we can be at, and certainly Daytona is one of those. It should make for -- I think it would make for a very exciting, very interesting race.
Q: Bobby, you sound rejuvenated.
BOBBY RAHAL: I am excited. We're very fortunate to have ethanol and Patron Spirits. I can't overstate that. I guess what got me excited was after the Iowa test, the kind of job that Scott did with the team there, I mean, everybody, all the guys, the engineers, everybody came back just -- they were off the ground a bit. I mean, they were walking on air. That always gets you going.
Bringing Jay O'Connell into the team was big for us. There's no question in my mind.
As I say, all the changes that we've put forth this year -- you know, none of us, me in particular, liked the results from 2006. We had a tragedy to begin with. We changed cars -- I mean, we asked a lot of this team, and I don't think many of them could have managed it.
But in the end, with the exception of two teams, we were right in the middle of it. Now we've got to make sure that we join those two teams at the front.
All the things that we've done in this off-season so far, and it's pretty new as an off-season, it just ended, they're just giving me nothing but a lot of enthusiasm to look forward to the coming year. So yeah, I'm very enthused and I thank Scott and Jeff and ethanol and Patron and Jay and Scott Roembke, all the people for that feeling.
Q: Question for Scott: Do you look at this as one of the best chances that you've had and maybe the last best chance that you will have at accomplishing the goals that you want?
SCOTT SHARP: Certainly I think of it as one of my best chances for sure. I think success will determine whether that's -- I'm hoping it's not my last chance. Hopefully I'm staying with this whole situation with Bobby and Patron for many years and we get to keep trying at it.
But as far as the opportunity, I certainly think that -- once again, going back to just the history of the organization and the consistency of the performance, yeah, I think one of the times I was pushing Bobby pretty hard when we were talking about putting this together, and he goes, "Man, you've got to remember that two years ago we won the Indy 500, a year after that we finished second and fourth," and that's just so true.
That's one place that this team has consistently done very well at, and I think that statement in itself, we all can become so short-sighted in our thinking, and I hate to keep bringing up the same words here, but that level of commitment and the performance that's gone on for so many years, I'm very excited about the potential of this team. And I think a lot of that also -- Jeff and I can really maximize our abilities to work together. That's got to take us up even a whole other level, and I think the potential is huge here for us.
Q: Is this going to be the young teaching the old and the old teaching the young situation with you and Jeff?
SCOTT SHARP: Hopefully just everything is on the table, and I think that's certainly the way the team operates is everything is open to everybody, and I think to be successful you have to be that way, so I fully expect it to be that way.
I think it's just going to be -- obviously maybe the fact that Jeff and I are both from Connecticut, even though we have that sort of reserved Connecticut attitude, we'll understand each other and there won't be any problems.
I just think certainly he'll have a different style from me and I'll have a different style from him, and if we're both pushing hard and we together can get the team pushing hard, it's just going to help to provide better communication and feedback and help push us to new heights.
Q: A question to Ed if I may. I know in marketing it's as big as race as it is on the racetrack. I'm sure you're not going to show us your entire hand, but can we see your up cards on what you're looking at for 2007 promotions?
ED BROWN: When it comes to IRL, listen, we want to make it a total experience for not only the customers but the consumers. One of the things we're going to do is have actually a Club Patron at every race where we'll unload like a nightclub at each race so that our customers and our consumers can really enjoy it.
Of course the more successful the team is, the better that is for Patron tequila. I think we'll tweak things by each race, and we'll learn from it. This will be really our first full year where we're really involved. So it'll take us a little time to really figure out what's going to be the best thing for the consumers and for the audience.
MODERATOR: I want to bring in Jeff Simmons and Tom Slunecka. They've been kind enough to hold for a few minutes while we've had some questions and want to get to them.
Jeff, good afternoon to you. Obviously, you worked long and hard to get an opportunity in the IndyCar Series last year. Jeff competed two full seasons and two partial seasons in the Indy Pro Series, recording seven victories. He joined the Rahal Letterman team at Motegi last year and finished the season with six Top Ten finishes in the last seven races.
Jeff, things really started coming together for you in the second half of the season. Can you tell us just about the opportunity to come back now for a second season with Rahal Letterman and ethanol?
JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, thanks very much, Tim, and hello to everybody. Let me start off with letting Scott know one piece of advice coming into the team here that Bobby doesn't mind if you stay out late, have your Patron and have a good time, but it better work. If it works, there won't be any problems there.
Obviously, it's great to be back. I'm proud and honored to be associated with Rahal Letterman Racing and ethanol again, and obviously last year it came under difficult circumstances, but everybody around has been extremely supportive, both on the team, sponsor side, and I'm just looking -- really looking forward to having the off-season this year to learn more about ethanol. It's something that I've become very passionate about and excited to learn about.
I've always kind of been into science and that sort of thing, and it's been great to travel around and learn more about it now that I've had some time to do that and read up on it.
It's funny, I get some stuff I think from just about everybody. I get stuff from my parents and from friends and from people that I've never seen, never talked to, probably never will, from their small town newspapers or wherever it's from, I get information on ethanol, and it's been exciting to learn about.
This off-season, hopefully, we're going to get a chance to do some testing, as well, which is one thing I didn't have the opportunity to do last year, so I'm really looking forward to that and kind of building the team chemistry before we get into the season instead of trying to do it in the middle of the heat of the competition.
It's great to have Scott on board. I'm excited to get to work with him, and we haven't had a lot of chances to talk yet but I was at the Iowa test and he did a fantastic job there, and I'm there listening on the radio and picking up things already from him. It can only help. A guy with his experience, his ability to win races, it's going to be a great thing for me and certainly I think for the whole team, and we're all very excited.
Everybody has already touched on how excited everybody sounds around here, how happy everybody is, and that's just the way it is. We're really focused on being race winning and hopefully championship winning team this year.
MODERATOR: Tom, welcome to the call. Thanks for hanging with us for a little while here. 2007 should be a banner year for ethanol and the IndyCar Series turning to 100 percent fuel grade ethanol to power its Honda engines. Talk with the partnership between the ethanol industry, Jeff and Rahal Letterman and then tell us about some of the new things ahead.
TOM SLUNECKA: I'll tell you what, it has been an amazing last 12 months. Our involvement with Rahal Letterman and the Indy Racing League. This partnership, the IRL's commitment to proving that they can have a high performance platform that's environmentally friendly and good for this economy has taken ethanol to all new heights.
Consumers all around the country and even around the globe are now saying, look, if they can run it in the highest performance vehicles in the racing series today, we certainly can fuel up and make our way to church and to school and to work every day.
We are hearing that sound byte back every single day on our web communications and all of our marketing tools that are out there.
The E on the side of that car is starting to represent far more than just a simple brand for a commodity product. It really is a movement that has been strengthening for the last 12 or 14 months, letting consumers know that the performance in that IndyCar, the performance that Jeff shows can be done on every weekend can be purchased locally at their gas station.
So some of the things that are new and occurring across the country is that E label is making its way across the United States and you'll soon find it at many, many gas stations across the country. We're going state by state, so that E is there, and every time they see that E they think of that race car and they think of the performance and the environmental aspect.
We're also proud today to announce that the fuel will actually be provided by one of our members in particular. Of course all of our member plants are producing the same high quality product, but Renova Energy will actually be fueling the IndyCar Series with product coming out of their plant out of Torrington, Wyoming. They've proven over the last few months to be able to lead in the technology arena and be able to be a strong technical partner in making sure that this fuel supply is safe and fast.
We couldn't be happier about being back with Rahal Letterman this year and Jeff Simmons as our driver. Jeff has proven that not only is he a good driver but he is a good study, and every time we go and speak, he impresses me more and more on his ability to speak about ethanol, and we're proud to be associated with the team and with Jeff and with the Indy Racing League as a whole.
MODERATOR: Let's go back to question and answer session, and for Jeff, Tom, Scott, Ed and Bobby.
Q: Scott, this has been a pretty difficult sponsorship environment, but we're going on near ten years now where you've always had pretty substantial backing. What are you doing different that maybe some other people could learn?
SCOTT SHARP: I don't know about that. I've just been really fortunate. I certainly had a great one with Delphi for quite a while and I really owe them many thanks. It was, I think, a great partnership there.
It was really exciting this year to bring on a new company into IndyCar racing with Patron and let them get a feel for it. At the early stages you don't really know where it's going to go. You don't know if this is just a one-shot year and they might not be fond of it or whether it's something that they're really going to sink their teeth into.
I think after Indianapolis they really saw the type of consumer that is in IndyCar meets up really well with the type of products that they sell. I think that excites me. Certainly I enjoy that end of the business for sure, but I think most of it is just I've been very fortunate and lucky to get myself aligned with some really great people.
I enjoy that end of it and feel that the reason we're in business is to help companies sell their products, and I think when you're looking at it that way, I think maybe you make some moves that are a little different than if you're just out there not thinking about the marketability of the products.
Q: Jeff, you're coming into your first full year as an IndyCar driver. What are you looking forward to as goals? Have you set any for next year? What's your plan of attack for 2007?
JEFF SIMMONS: Well, the first ones are maybe the goals I didn't accomplish from last year, and that was I wanted to win a race. Scott is not in this, I'm not in this, Bobby Rahal isn't in this, to run around even for top 10s. We were fairly happy in the second half of the year when we were getting consistent top 10s because that was even a struggle in the first half of the year.
I'm there to win races and obviously to be a good spokesman for ethanol, and that's something that this off-season is going to allow me to do, develop more, and hopefully be a better spokesman when it comes time for 2007 when we're going to 100 percent ethanol. That's a big deal.
Tom Slunecka mentioned that everybody is going to associate the E with performance. It's not going to be just because of my performance, it's going to be because of all the cars out there, as well.
But for me, I want to win races and take care of the equipment better than I did this past season. Those are some of my main goals.
Q: This question is for you, Ed. Can you talk a little bit -- obviously this off-season, the hot button has been how many cars will be in the field next year and it's looking at anywhere from 14 to 17 full-time rides. Why does a sponsor like yourself choose a driver?
ED BROWN: Well, my relationship with Scott last year really started to grow. I mean, first of all, he's a great human being, and in my opinion I truly believe that he is a great driver.
I think the key with us is that really early on Scott and I started to work as a team, and I think we were listening to each other. Scott made the comment to me that I learned about racing really quickly.
So I just think that because we've worked so well together in making some decisions on where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do and how we could be different from everybody else, it was just a really easy decision to go with Scott and go with Rahal Letterman because I think it's going to just present the best exposure for our company and give us the best chance to be winners, and that's what it's all about.
Q: As a follow-up to that, you talked a little bit about what your target market will be within the IRL community.
ED BROWN: That's the unique thing about Patron is there's probably never been a brand in the beverage alcohol business that crosses all the demographics. When people ask us what is our target, it's really about every single human being on the planet. I know that's kind of strange, but this brand crosses over to everybody.
You know, I think everybody knows that the IRL consumer is a higher income, established consumer, and that fits in with one of our strategies with Patron.
You know, we have many, many strategies when we're targeting people, but IRL is definitely right at the top of where we want to be.
MODERATOR: Looks like we've taken up all our questions. Scott, Bobby, Ed, Jeff, Tom, thank you all for taking the time to join us today, and congratulations again on an exciting announcement for 2007. We certainly look forward to seeing you guys all at the racetrack very soon,