IRL: Scott Sharp post-season press conference, part II

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript Nov. 18, 2003 Scott Sharp Part 2 of 2 Q: Is one of the primary movements of the team to work on the qualifying package this year, really want to make it much better than it was? S....

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
Nov. 18, 2003

Scott Sharp

Part 2 of 2

Q: Is one of the primary movements of the team to work on the qualifying package this year, really want to make it much better than it was?

S. SHARP: Yeah, you got to get better (laughter). It couldn't get much worse from a qualifying perspective. I mean, we were tail end, towards the back at least, a few different times. But, you know, ultimately I still think, you know, we got in tough position because we didn't test at many of those tracks. You go to a two-day show, you know, Friday, Saturday, some of the races when they trimmed off one of the days, Saturday, Sunday, if you didn't test there, and you don't roll out right on, which there's a fairly high likelihood you're not going to if you didn't test, sometimes you have only one, sometimes two very quick practice questions and, boom, you're right into qualifying. One more practice session, it's time to race. It would have been sort of foolish for us to come out, this is what we all sort of decided, and work on qualifying because in two half-hour sessions, you're not going to like make this quantum leap up to the top six, seven or eight probably anyway, and yet you're not going to have done anything to help yourself for the race. By the time you're done scuffing some tires, mixing it up in traffic a little bit, the final practice session, it's over with in half an hour, you got to go race for guys. We all said, "Hey, even though it doesn't look so good, the smartest thing for us to do is work on the race car, forsake qualifying a little bit." With maybe three or four positions farther back maybe than we would have been, I don't think we had outrightly the kind of pace we needed for qualifying, but at least we had a better race car come race time. I think that showed. When you can get a 19th place car up to, I think we were ninth at Fontana, when you take 20th place race car in Texas, up to sixth in Texas, you you've done a good job of making the car draft really well. Our strategy was good, pit stops were good, all that, that came in sync with each other. Given what we had, I think we made the right decisions. To answer your question more directly, though, I think we need overall competitiveness to be raised. We need more speed, period. That speed that comes in a race setup, that speed that comes in qualifying. I think you go there for race weekend, maybe your race weekend approach doesn't really change overall. You work towards a race setup. You're hopefully unloading off the truck two or three miles an hour faster than we were last year.

Q: Besides Andy, have you added any new crew members?

S. SHARP: There hasn't really been any announcements on the team at this stage. I don't feel right in going forward and making any of those announcements. You know, it's still hard to tell, exactly. I don't even a 100 percent know what's happening in our second car. So there's a lot of guys that are very good on our team, and I think if we don't have two full-time, two-car teams, the team has a lot of great people to pick from to round out, you know, my team on a full-time basis, certainly leaving some guys to help whenever we can run the second car. With that sort of being up in the air at this stage, it's hard to really tell what's going to happen. Paul (Harcus), Ziggy as everyone knows him, was with our team last year, has been around Indy cars a long time. He's been pretty much running the team since the end of the season. As far as I know, he's going to do that next year as our team manager. Then I think all the other slots are going to pretty much fill. You know, the one thing that's been pretty good the last couple years, the team has gotten more and more towards one two-car team. I went testing sometimes with Al's (Unser) guys last year. Al had my guys helping him sometimes. We seem to work better and sort of rooted for each other. It's not as big a stark difference as if some of Al's guys work on my car, it's going to make a huge chemistry difference. I think the guys are pretty much used to working with each other. The team is going to end up picking the best group of guys.

K. JOHNSON: Your sponsor Delphi is extremely proactive in the area of electronics, but also safety. As we all know, safety is a hot buzz word any time you talk about motorsports. Give us your thoughts about some of the innovations that they've brought out this year or in the past years in terms of driver safety, your thoughts about it.

S. SHARP: I mean, a lot of sponsors, team relationships, driver relationships throughout the world in racing I think try to tout the line so often that what their sponsor does actually is incorporated into their actual cars, their on-track performance. We're I feel in an incredibly unique position. That really does happen with Delphi. You know, for them being such a leader in the automotive engineering and electronics field, we use so much of what they produce, as far as our chassis goes, exclusively. They've designed some suspension pieces that we use, and then also they've done, as you alluded to, they've done a tremendous amount from an electronic and safety aspect. I don't feel they've really gotten the credit they probably deserve. I think people fail -- if you look at the map of changes that's happened since, let's say, 1996, 1997, in the IRL from the safety perspective, Delphi has been very involved, whether it's cooperating with the IRL in the crash testing, whether it's the formation way back when, the whole crash-data logger, that was the -- the ECM was the first step of what kind of Gs were these cars seeing, what sort of angles were they going in. It migrated to the track-condition radio, which has been a huge saver for everybody, that's the yellow light on the dash that really goes off before any other light warning systems, and it's also a warning system you can't miss. Sometimes you don't quite see the track lights or maybe you aren't looking at the flag or whatever, but, man, you can't miss the track-condition radio. Sometimes if it's even half a second difference of just seeing that before you're staying on the power can make a big savings in avoiding a crash. Now they've gone into the earpiece accelerometers which all drivers wore this year. As the years go, I think that's going to pay big dividends. The IRL, Dr. Bock, has been able through these pieces that Delphi developed, basically be able to have a logbook, see what drivers are experiencing for the types of G-forces with their heads in relation to what the cars see, and how they deal with that, what's too high a limit, what kind of impact gives the concussion. I think actually, without speaking out of school, I think everyone has been surprised at the kind of G-forces our heads can see without being concussed. You know, a lot of that intuitive information helps make better safety on the cars. When Dr. Bock can see the kind of changes they maybe want to do to the headrests, that kind of thing, they can compare it to what kind of Gs the helmets saw versus what kind of Gs the car saw. All kinds of tools that Delphi is always working with the IRL to implement. Right now there's several programs that are maybe stuff that won't come to fruition for a couple years, but they're constantly moving ahead in trying to make the cars safer.

Q: If you are going to be a single-car team this year, what does that do in terms of development of your vehicle? Do you think even if you are a single-car team, that Andy can make a difference?

S. SHARP: Well, certainly Andy is going to make a difference. Right out of the box, just having a sort of relaxed sort of day, me getting comfortable with him, him getting comfortable with me, everybody working as a team, we're already faster than we qualified last year by a fair bit down in Phoenix. That's with one day of running. It's pretty obvious he's going to pay some big dividends. I think a lot of the programs that Andy really wants to see the team partake in from a development perspective are going to tie into his whole strategy and really help. I think we're all expecting -- it's not just one guy. Certainly, Andy is going to make a big difference, but I think with a lot of his experience and his knowledge, he's going to help, you know, make sure that the team does the best they can with whatever resources we have, to spend our money wisely and invest in the right technologies to hopefully make the most speed gains. Really, as far as the team goes, that's really hard for me. I'm not really privy to a lot of those conversations. I'm not sure what the team honestly at this stage is looking at from a game plan. I know they're always working on different sponsorship deals. There's really a lot in the loop right now. Whether some of those can come together in short order, whether it's enough to be a full second car, whether that's just Indy as a second car or something in between, I don't really know. I think -- I haven't heard what the final version is of the sort of little bit tighter testing restrictions for next year. What I have heard is basically requiring teams to participate more on the open tests, which I think is pretty fair for everybody. Whether you're a multi-car team or single-car team, it isn't going to affect that too much because you're all going to be there. Where I think it starts the added team's help is when they restrict your private testing. Let's say they limit it to five or six or seven days of testing, obviously if you have a three-car team, that's 21 days versus if you're a one-car team, that's seven. Certainly you can see the opportunity for a team like that, where we might have to choose our different tracks, a team with three cars might have the ability to go to every track.

Q: That creates the same kind of problem you had this year. That's what I'm worried about for you.

S. SHARP: Well, I appreciate your concern. Thank you. But, you know, you got to run with what you're dealt. I think, no matter what, we're going to be stronger next year. I think the tighter testing will help. And there's not many teams with three cars, luckily.

Q: One that I can think of.

S. SHARP: There's only one that I think would have a distinct advantage on us. I think enough other good things are going on with the team that we're going to be a lot stronger. You know, we've got to start probably by utilizing all the available test days we have to begin with.

Q: At what point during the off-season do you start getting itchy to get back in the fight?

S. SHARP: You know, it's funny, the off-season goes by quite fast for me. This year it hasn't really slowed down a lot yet. Delphi and our whole group of sponsors are real generous during the season. They know with the typical testing you do, the travel for all the races, they don't ask all that much of me during the season. We try to do some more things, more in the off-season. And so between that and once testing starts kicking up, it stays real busy. From a personal perspective, now is the time you really want to be getting yourself in the best shape possible. You don't quite have the obvious time during the season on a week-to-week basis to do quite all the work you'd like to do in the gym. So my days go by really fast. We just went to a trade show for Delphi. We're going to Mexico to visit some of their factories. They have 40,000 workers in Mexico that are all very enthused about IndyCar (Series) racing. We're going there the second week of December. Got some other appearances for some of the other sponsors. We stay real busy with that. We're going to test at Homestead tomorrow and Thursday. So that stays pretty busy as well. I think after Thursday, we're down from running until early to mid-January. And I imagine in that time frame, as you cross into the new year, you start to think about it, you smell the season sort of coming, you get hyped for the new season coming, and you're not running, that little window there that comes up to when the testing season with the '04 spec really kicks off, that's when you start getting really anxious and really pumped about getting on the track and making good gains and getting the team as ready as possible for next year.

Q: You can smell the season coming?

S. SHARP: Oh, yeah. Everything dies down for that little while. With NASCAR ending, there's not as much racing on TV now for the next couple months. It's that sort of a little bit of a lull. You get caught up in a lot of other things. I never stop thinking about being on the racetrack. After thinking about it for a month maybe and not doing it, you're like a horse in the gate a little bit.

Q: You talked about going to Homestead. The speed jumped tremendously when NASCAR was there, 25 mph increase. What do you think it will mean for your cars when you guys go there? It could really be a jump.

S. SHARP: I don't think it's going to be that big a jump. We'll know more tomorrow. But, you know, certainly I've heard the new paving has a lot of grip, so that could be as big of a jump as anything else. On qualifying, you're pretty much running, for our cars, running wide open around there, whereas the NASCAR cars on the old track, they were on the brakes. There was a pretty huge speed disparity between the two. So now for us, you know, from what I can see, I think where it's going to help us the most is in the race. You get into Homestead, maybe on your own, you can almost be flat out. In traffic, in turbulent air, if the car is just off a little bit, you're off the throttle a bit. I really liked it that way because I think the driver contributed more. But now, especially with an increasing embankment, certainly the second and third grooves are going to be huge for raceability. No doubt if your car is anywhere close, you should probably be, based on where our other tracks with similar bankings are, you should be more flat out. I think you'll see us more flat out more often, probably most of the time, but certainly be able to be two and three abreast.

Q: Would you say a 25 mph increase would be a no-brainer there for your cars?

S. SHARP: I don't think there will be that kind of an increase. We're already flat. We'll wait and see, but I can't imagine more than like six or seven miles an hour, personally.

K. JOHNSON: Scott, we don't have any more callers with questions for you. With that, we'll let you go. Again, we appreciate you joining us today, wish you the best of luck in your test at Homestead later this week and an enjoyable off-season.

S. SHARP: Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp