Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript June 24, 2003 Buddy Lazier Part 3 of 3 Q: I've always thought of you as the most dogged driver I've ever seen. Has this really helped you your last two races, your improving picking up....
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
June 24, 2003
Part 3 of 3
Q: I've always thought of you as the most dogged driver I've ever seen. Has this really helped you your last two races, your improving picking up. Has this really helped you this season with the horsepower difference?
B. Lazier: Well, yes. Again, we had a late start and so we didn't get those 10 days of testing. We haven't gotten really much testing at all. We had a shakedown test, and other than that, we're just learning our race car at the race weekends. And, in a lot of ways, I think we have as good a handle on the race car now as anybody. And that's without doing all the testing miles, and that's what happens when your budget's thin. You can't do the testing. And so, we feel like we've got a good handle on the race car. We're really excited about the way that Chevrolet has committed to its success of its drivers and teams, and we're blessed to have sponsors. We're blessed to have Delta Faucet, that's been a loyal sponsor for so long with Hemelgarn Racing. You know, during the Indianapolis, the whole month of May at Indianapolis before the Indy 500, we signed another new sponsor, Victory Brand Cigarette Brands, and that's a small cigarette company that is growing unbelievably fast. Obviously, we have the support and the best tires in the world with the Firestone tires. And, as the Chevy is improving, and as we hope that future things are coming, there's a lot of talk about this Generation Four Chevrolet engine. And I don't know anything, I don't know if it's done or not. They don't, they won't, they haven't, they won't tell us until it's done. Basically, we're excited about what's coming. We're excited also about where we're at. We want to make the best of where we're at and then, hopefully, we're sharp as could be for when we have a chance to win. But we are realistic, too, with the deficits that are out there.
Q: Another question. A couple of years ago when you won at Richmond, you handed them your uniform, and it was absolutely soaking wet, and that race is relatively short. How much weight do you lose during a race?
B. Lazier: Well, it's not uncommon on a really difficult street race, this is before the Indy Racing League was formed, and I ran street races a lot. It was not uncommon to lose somewhere between 5 and 7 pounds of body weight, and then maybe put back 70 percent of that within the first day. So most of that was water, a loss of moisture. It's an amazing thing, g-forces. And g-forces really have a lot to do with this racetrack. It's not just that it's making all of your parts of your body double and then quadruples. You know, each g-force, your body weight doubles and it's linear in a way. So, it's not just holding up your 8-pound head that now weighs 45 pounds. But it's what the g-forces do to your aerobic abilities. I mean, as these g-forces are coming in to your body on the corners, it's obviously making it harder to steer, but it's slowly and surely crushing down and putting an enormous amount of pressure on your nervous system, on your circulatory system. So now your heart's got to pump that much harder to keep your blood flowing, not to mention, of course, you're physically using a lot of muscles and you have a very high heart rate. And so there's a lot of pressure on the body from the g-forces. Then, you combine that with the fact that there's so little time to rest here, and you're not just turning left at Richmond. Very often, it'll be that you're catching the car by turning right. The fact that it's this time of the year, this is a very hot time of the year in the middle part of the country, at least it has been. I don't know what's in store for us this year. It becomes a very, very physically demanding race. I mean, I felt like I was absolutely, positively worn out that night where we won. And then, last year we were on track to be able to make a challenge for the win when our car caught fire. But both years, I can tell you, have been physically demanding.
Q: Is pure speed the most important thing at this short track, or is it more important to be able to get through traffic?
B. Lazier: Well, I think if anybody can get through traffic substantially better than everybody else that, they're probably going to win, without a doubt. But pure speed is very important. You know, it's one thing to be fast for one lap, especially around here, or five laps. It's completely another to be quick through the full fuel load. I mean, we lose a lot of weight in the IndyCar Series cars. As the weight rolls off, it changes the race car a lot. So I mean, this is a place where you can't afford to be slow on the short runs because then you're going to lose track position with each restart. But you also can't afford to be too far off. How many times have we seen in the race where the leader, I think we saw it a lot last year, where the lead car started to go off late in a long run, and it cost them the race. So I think that unless you can have a dominant racecar, the year that we won there, I felt as though I had a dominant racecar, and was pretty much able to maintain whatever pace I pleased, or needed to. Unless you have a car and a package that's capable of that, you really want to be good in traffic and you want to kind of average out your car for the short runs and the long runs. And then, of course, at the end of the day, track position is going to be everything.
Q: There is a lot of money in this sport now. A lot of the big manufacturers are in this sport now, and a lot of big names in this sport. Has the IRL adhered to its original vision, as you understood it?
B. Lazier: I don't know. I can't say what that vision is or was. I mean, I know that I've seen, before this year 2003, there had been big changes in the past. This series started off as a turbo, you know, we ran turbochargers when I won the Indy 500. I think there have been big names from the beginning. Within the first year we had Tony Stewart, the reigning Winston Cup champion, Tony and I were running side by side that first year at races like Texas. I think we've had as big names as anybody all the way through. So I, unfortunately I can't, you know, I can understand where folks are coming from, but at the same time, there are great race drivers from every year, from my perspective. I do think that the race teams, however, have as a whole gained a lot in funding in overall budget. And, I think that is the vision because the whole idea, I believe, was to sustain growth so that the teams could grow with the series. And the fact is there's a demand. I mean, the fans in these racetracks want to see Indy Racing League events. And so, to do so, you need to have, for drivers and mechanics and everybody to make a living, you need to have at least 16 races in a year. And when you have more and more races in a year, you need to have better and better-funded teams. And there is a natural progression, as well. I think as a whole, the series, the officials, the leadership, the racetracks that we're going to, and I think that, like I said earlier, the respect, and I really believe the respect that the racing community has for the Indy Racing League is really right on par.
Q: At the same time, there's an absence of smaller teams, because as you mentioned your budget has prevented you from testing and stuff like that. At the same time, Buzz Calkins and people like that are being squeezed. Is that good or is that just natural evolution, or what?
B. Lazier: I don't know, I don't know. Buzz Calkins is a great guy, and I know he is going to be and is, he and his father, a very potent team owner, and I suspect that you've by no means heard the last of him. But, I think really what this is, is not so much what it turned out to be. But I think it's more a result of the economics. And I've heard other people say that's just an excuse or a reason. And I mean, times have been and were really hard. This last winter, there were a lot of folks that are at the end of multiple-year deals on sponsorships. And in many places in racing, they're having a hard time selling those positions of sponsors that are going to be leaving. And again, it sounds like to me, with all the corporate partners that we've been trying to attract and been speaking with, the level of excitement is going up rapidly. So I'm hoping that the economic difficulties that we're going through right now, all over America, all over the world, is getting better. I feel like it is getting better quickly, and I think that really will change what you're talking about, which is the smaller teams struggling. And you know, we weren't a small team in the last couple of years. But our sponsorship cycle ended just as this difficult economic time began, and then all of a sudden we found ourselves without the proper funding, and Ron Hemelgarn really needed to work hard to get a race car on the racetrack.
Q: Do you have confidence that Brian Barnhart and Tony and those guys can keep their arms around this thing in the face of people like Toyota and Honda coming in?
B. Lazier: Well, I think everybody is very professional. I have a lot of confidence in the two individuals you just mentioned. And yes, I mean there's no question. This also has to be a viable business plan, I would think, for everybody involved. I mean, the series continues to grow, but it needs to be a success. Just like I like to drive the race car and I enjoy what I do more than anything in the world. I can't imagine having to make a living doing anything but driving race cars. I mean, even though I've built homes, and I'm building one for myself, God, that would be a boring way for me to make a living just because I love driving motor racing and racing cars. And it's what really gets me turned on and up every day. I can kind of see where if I, even though I love it, if I'm not putting in solid results and performances and continuing the program to grow, then I'm not going to be able to continue doing what I'm doing. Because it's a business at the end of the day, and success is what you have to achieve. And even though you're going to lose 80, 90 percent of the time, you need to have that five or 10 percent of the time that you win. And I think it's the same way with the series. You know, at some point the series has to be able to continue to grow and to become a good, solid business. And it seems to me that the league is continuing, and I certainly can't speak for them, but as a competitor, it seems to me that the Indy Racing League business model seems to be coming, every year, more and more successful.
Q: One final question. Can you give me any insight on what's going on with Cosworth and Chevy?
B. Lazier: Well, I mean, I can't. Absolutely as far as I know, nothing has been finalized or done. But at the same time, I can't speak for them. There is one thing, though, that I kind of wanted to mention, so I'm glad that you brought it up. The automotive industry really is a global industry, and I know that Chevy is committed to doing whatever it takes for the success of their teams and drivers. So many people have been talking about how they didn't expect this relationship, should it occur, its so unusual. All I can say and suggest, is take a look at who is building, you know, who owns 25 percent of Williams, I'm sorry, 25 percent of Ilmor Engines. I mean, when you look at Roger Penske, one of the absolute premier teams of Indy-style racing, owning 25 percent of the engine company that is building Honda engines. I mean, these relationships are very common in racing, and I personally think it's a very exciting relationship, and it's exactly what we need, and I certainly hope that it does happen because I think that'll get us back to having a chance to win in a hurry.
K. Johnson: Well, Buddy, that concludes our time that we have allocated for our calls today. We certainly appreciate you taking the past hour to visit with us.
B. Lazier: Well, thank you for having me.