Inaugural Freedom 100 IRL Infiniti Pro Series
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Roger Bailey, Ed Carpenter, Paul Dana, Mark Taylor
Part 1 of 3
Mike King: I think we are ready to begin with our second discussion of the day and our panelists today, of course, representing the Indy Racing League Infiniti Pro Series. In the middle, the Executive Director of the Infiniti Pro Series, Roger Bailey. On his left is Paul Dana. And Paul, I might add, is from St. Louis and obviously a driver in the series. To Roger's right, Ed Carpenter from here in Indianapolis, last year finished third in the series points standing. On Ed's right is Mark Taylor. Mark is from Wimbledon, England and is undefeated right now in oval competition. Mark's first oval race was at Homestead four weeks ago. He won that event and came back at Phoenix over the weekend and led 100 laps at the Phoenix event. Of course, everyone is very excited and it's going to be a history-making event when the Infiniti Pro Series becomes the only other series to run an event on the Speedway in conjunction with a race during the month of May as the Freedom 100 is set to take place.
Roger, if we could, let's get some opening comments from you about the Freedom 100 and what it means to the series to be running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Roger Bailey: Thanks, Mike. Before I get into the comment on the Freedom 100, I would just like to say someone asked me why would somebody from Wimbledon come to Indianapolis? And the story is he can't play tennis. (Laughter). To answer your question, I think the Freedom 100 here at Indianapolis is purely the icing on the cake. It isn't just another race, it's the race. I think as you've rightly said, this is the first time in the history of the Indianapolis 500 that there is a second event on the schedule. We're delighted and honored to be chosen as that event to be here. If you look at the big picture, I think it's just another commitment of Tony George and the way he's going to rebuild open-wheel racing in the United States. This was the final piece of our ladder anyway to get this on the show.
Speaking with Rick Mears the other day, and Rick obviously knows far more about this place than I ever will, and I think he hit the nail on the head when he said this is a training ground. We go to 11 other events and the reason being, we're going to give these up-and-coming drivers the opportunity to race at these events prior to moving up to the Indy Racing League. If that's the case, why not do it here? I think as most of you probably know, we looked at other venues and it just didn't work out. It fell into our favor that it didn't work out to do it anywhere else. And the twelfth race, we're delighted that it is going to be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Somewhat difficult inasmuch as that it's late in the announcement. I think everybody in this room knows the problem we're having right now, not just the Indy Racing League but all forms of motorsport and, in some instances, all forms of sport. The dollars needed to put on a show like this are just not there anymore. I think if it wasn't here and was just another race, it would be very difficult to put on a twelfth race at this event. I think the interest that's been generated by this is second to none.
King: Let's get the drivers' perspective. Ed, you're from Indianapolis obviously, a grassroots racer. You've come up through the sprint car, midgets, Silver Crown ranks. You finished third in the series last year. No one, I don't think, anticipated the series moving to the Speedway this quickly. What's it like to be in your second year in the Infiniti Pro Series and to know you're going to be racing here at the Speedway in May?
Ed Carpenter: It's great. I just live right down the road on 25th Street. I wake up every morning and look at Turn Four. Now when I wake up I get to look forward to racing here finally. It's been my dream for a long time. I've been coming to the 500 since I was eight years old. Since I was 16, that's all I've been working towards. This is just going to be like the first step in that goal. I'm not going to settle for racing here in the Infiniti Pro Series car, but it's definitely going to be the first step toward achieving my goal and running and winning the Indy 500.
King: Paul, what about you, your reaction when the announcement came that the event would be run here at the Speedway?
Paul Dana: It's just amazing for all of us. As Ed said, that's always the goal for any driver, I think, in any form of motorsports is to run here. You think as you look at your career path, I came up through Skip Barber and then worked with Jerry Forsythe in F2000. When you step up to the Infiniti Pro Series, you're at least in the family with the Indy Racing League, but you still kind of think you're a few years off from being able to run here. They've just fast tracked that for all of us. The opportunity to get experience around this place this early in our careers is priceless. You know, should everything, the stars line up and we get an opportunity to run in the big cars, it won't be our first time. We will have had a couple days around here. A lot of that learning curve, which I think history has proven is really steep around here because it's a difficult place, we're going to have huge (advantage) from having run in these cars, which are real similar. So I think we're all pretty much blown away.
King: Mark, not only will you be racing here at the Speedway obviously for the first time, but you'll be considered the favorite. You've won the first two events, you're the points leader and you come in carrying the burden of the guy that everyone is going to point to saying we expect to see you out front.
Mark Taylor: Yeah, we certainly had a good start to the year, that's for sure. Panther Racing has got a great car for me. As you say, only my second oval race and I'm two out of two already. So from the start of last year when I decided to come over here, I wouldn't think it started this way. I have to say congratulations to everybody working in the Infiniti Pro Series to be able to get this race up and running this early on. I felt that my first race around Indy would be in an IndyCar^Ù Series car and hopefully it would have been next year or even the year after that. So to be able to get the experience, as Paul says, with running a car around here and feeling how the car reacts around here is just going to be great for us.
King: Let's open it up to questions for the Infiniti Pro Series drivers and Roger Bailey.
Q: This is for Roger and any of the drivers. Even though you want this as a developmental series, do you see a scenario where some of the IndyCar Series drivers come down, in a sense, to drive for the experience and maybe to help give some of these other drivers a little bit more experience much like NASCAR does with the Busch series?
Bailey: If no one wants to answer it, I will. I don't think that's a scenario that's going to happen. I'll tell you why. I've been doing this in other sanctioning bodies for a little while. Once someone has reached the pinnacle, which is the Indy Racing League, they're very reluctant to come down and risk everything against the junior drivers. Because I'll tell you sitting here now -- and I don't mind who hears it -- there are some people running with us in the league today that are certainly going to make the people at the bottom end of the Indy Racing League sit up and take note. I don't think if you're in their position you want to come back down here and risk getting beaten on and then going back to justify why you've got that seat and why they haven't.
I think in terms of coming down and people helping, I think the biggest thing that we've done in a long, long time is to sign on the four-time Indy champion Rick Mears as our driver coach. I think that's going to be far more significant and have more impact on what these drivers here do at this first event than anything else we've got going. I know for a fact that Paul's used Rick Mears' resources to a large extent over the first couple of races, he and I'm sure many others, it's so nice to be able to call Rick over. Or if you don't call him over, he will come over. If he sees you doing something wrong on the racetrack, he's the first guy to roll up on his scooter. I think, Paul, you will agree with that and tell --
Dana: And it's Rick Mears. I mean, its Rick Mears. He knows. He's right.
Bailey: If I go and tell them, they say, "What did you do? What did you run there last?" So that doesn't work. So to have Rick Mears to go and say, "Rick, would you go and tell them?" But he doesn't need that. He's there long before I get there. I think that's more important than any drivers coming down and trying to make the crossover.
The other thing -- if I'm babbling on, just let me know -- but the other thing is the cars are different. We think they're close but the horsepower is probably the most significant difference, but they do handle differently. We have a slightly different aerodynamic setup. Unlike, you mentioned Busch, I think you go from a Busch car to Winston Cup or vice versa, the cars are very similar. The engines are somewhat different, but the cars are very similar. That isn't the same here. I don't think anybody can step down and think they're going to run up front in one of these things from any former. It's going to take time. You serve your time and you move up.
Taylor: I'd just like to say that anybody who wants to move down to race with these guys here in this series is more than welcome. I think everyone would agree.
Carpenter: Bring it on. (Laughter)
Taylor: Exactly. If they feel they have the confidence to come out and win the race here and maybe get the publicity for doing it, I think they should do it. Hopefully we'll get more drivers in the series for this race from, as you say, the short track, the dirt trackers, as you say, I don't know. Sorry. But I think it would be a great experience for us to have the drivers in the IndyCar Series moving down and racing against them.
Q: The reason why I ask that is knowing there are a lot of drivers that just can't get enough time behind the wheel for their own benefit, it would be something even though the cars are different, if they still want to do it, just because they want to do it, is there anything to prevent that?
Bailey: I think Brian told me the other day there were 44 hours of running for the Indianapolis 500 and if you don't get there after 44 hours, doing a couple more hours with the Pro Series car isn't going to save you.