Inaugural Freedom 100 IRL Infiniti Pro Series Wednesday, March 26, 2003 Roger Bailey, Ed Carpenter, Paul Dana, Mark Taylor Part 2 of 3 Q: Roger, could you illuminate a little bit about the different challenges you're facing with the...
Inaugural Freedom 100 IRL Infiniti Pro Series
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Roger Bailey, Ed Carpenter, Paul Dana, Mark Taylor
Part 2 of 3
Q: Roger, could you illuminate a little bit about the different challenges you're facing with the Infiniti Pro Series versus your series with the Indy Lights?
Bailey: Undoubtedly, the largest challenge is the economy. I think through the second part of Indy Lights, you know, we were at the part of the bell curve where you went into a bank and they drag you in and make you sign and give you any kind of money you wanted. Now you can't get a banker to talk to you. That's the most significant thing; it isn't on the racetrack. We could probably have full fields -- when I say full fields, we're ultimately looking for a field of 26 for the Pro Series, and I think we'd have them today if we could find the funding to do it. There's certainly not a lack of interest.
I spent a lot of time with Ed's friends at USAC and with Rollie Helmling (USAC President and CEO) and I know there are people there who would love to get in one of these cars. Unfortunately, until the economic climate changes, that isn't going to happen. As regards the physical aspect of the car, Dallara has done a wonderful job of building a very safe, reliable car. The engines the first year, as we all know, were a little bit off color, but throughout the winter period we got that taken care of. I think every car out there is running the same engine they started the season with. It's turned into almost a bulletproof program. I don't want to tempt fate by saying that, but it's turned the corner and there really isn't a whole lot of difference.
One significant difference is the support from the parent body. When I say the parent body, I've got to say Tony, Brian and the people that run the Indy Racing League are all 110 percent behind the program. Whereas in my last life, to get somebody that would stand up and support you and be counted was almost impossible. I think that's probably the most significant difference.
King: Let me remind you, if you would, because our transcriptionist is wearing a headset, if you have a follow-up question, keep the microphone because without it our transcriptionist is not going to be able to hear the question.
Q: Roger, could you talk a little bit about how the philosophy at this place has changed dramatically back in the days when Harlan Fengler was running the rookie orientation program, there were very good drivers that he may not let go out there and take a rookie test. Now you have a series where you're developing them and training them so when they do go through the rookie program they'll have at least experience here?
Bailey: I can certainly vouch for the change. I came here in 1970 as a mechanic with McLaren, and the Speedway has certainly changed. It is a little more user friendly than it was then. I think this all comes along with Tony's philosophy with growing the program, having this junior series. Before we relied on -- we had some very good drivers from other areas. I would go as far to say some of those people that are now in the Indy Racing League came from my prior life. I think the first four on the grid at Phoenix had all come up through the program and first, second and third finishers have all come up through a junior program. If you look at the big picture, I don't think it matters where they come from. I think a junior program at this level is absolutely necessary. I think it was only when they got to a certain point with the Indy Racing League that Tony saw the time was ready for the next step that this took place. I really can't compare it way back when because there was nothing. The guys came from whatever they call it -- they weren't Silver Crown in those days, I don't believe, were they?
Carpenter: They were champ cars.
Bailey: They were champ cars. And they came from the front-engine car. I think the biggest change was when the Speedway went to rear-engine cars. That crossover wasn't there. It was a whole different philosophy to come get in a rear-engine winged car with a thousand horsepower in those days from a six-, 700 horsepower front-engine long-wheelbase car. So I think you're right, there were an awful lot of very good drivers that never had the opportunity to run at the Speedway because not everybody learns at the same speed. We find that in this series now. Some people adapt naturally, some people have to work at it, and some people that would come here for 30 days in the month of May never did make the transition. That didn't make them bad drivers, but they just never had the opportunity.
Q: As a follow-up, having known Harlan Fengler, what do you think he would be thinking right now of having something other than the IndyCars running here?
Bailey: He'd probably turn over but that's a mind-set. This is probably the most beautiful facility in the world anywhere. It takes a lot of money to keep this thing going. To open it up for 33 people to race one day a year doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I think if you look back, the same people that were probably thinking, "Should we run a Pro Series race there," were the same people that said, "Should we run a NASCAR race there? Should we run a Formula One race there?" Those days are over. Tony has been charged with the facility here to make it viable financially, to keep the tradition going. And unfortunately the world has changed, you can't keep a place like this going on one race a year. So you're right. There are some people that probably resent a secondary series being here. But my question is, is this any different than IROC? Is this any different than the Porsche Cup or the Ferrari Challenge? The answer is no. This series is helping to keep this tradition alive. When I say the tradition, I'm talking the Indy 500. So if I look at it like that, there will be people who disagree with it even on that explanation but that's the way it is.
Q: Ed, maybe you could talk about the challenges moving from a series with different kind of cars and different tires and learning to talk about aero and talking to an engineer about different things.
Carpenter: Yeah, it's been a whole new ball game for me. I come from something where I can get out of a car and pretty much work on it myself; I know what I want to do. Now I'm in a series where all I can do is tell you what the car is doing. It's a lot more challenging because there is a lot more communication that has to go on and there's a lot more people that's involved in being successful. So I've tried to kind of put my past up behind me, other than the actual driving part. The mechanics of it is entirely different. So I'm just learning all over again and I've got some great people around me that are teaching me a whole lot, especially now with the addition of Rick Mears and Al, Sr. and Johnny Rutherford. I worked with them a lot last year, but there are so many different resources to make the learning easier. So it's hard but it's attainable.
Q: What's the biggest difference?
Carpenter: The biggest difference is having all the weight behind me. I'm used to having all the weight up in front of me. So it changes the feel of the race car a lot. The biggest thing is there's a lot smaller margin for error. Sprint cars and Silver Crown cars, there's a lot higher margin for errors. That's the biggest thing.
King: Mark, if I remember correctly, wasn't it Chicagoland Speedway where we first met you last year and the program was announced? That's only been six months ago. If you could talk about the six months, your association with Panther and how you got up to speed so quickly, having never raced on ovals.
Taylor: It's difficult to explain. We came over to Michigan to watch the IRL Series and I decided then and there that I wanted to be a part of it. I was able to speak to Panther and John Barnes. They were very welcoming towards me and willing to listen to what I have to say, and for that I have to be thankful. From then on we were able to bring a package together and start testing in December down in Phoenix and sort out the car very quickly get a very good crew with Chris Griffis and "Woody" (Brent Harvey) as well and everyone down there. They know exactly what they're doing. They've worked on IndyCars before, so they've got a huge amount of experience that I can use. That was the reason that we were able to go into the season as if we were running really, have the car sorted out and have my confidence high and felt that we could win the first race.
Q: This is for Mark, Ed and Paul. You've each advanced up to a new level from the series that you were running. What advice would you give those who are still at that level? What do they need to do to go up to your level? What paths do they need to pursue?
Taylor: You mean as in what I was doing before?
Taylor: Well, I've been, as far as road courses are concerned, there's nothing more challenging than the British Formula Three championship in a junior series. So it's difficult to say it's a forward step. It's more of a sideways step. It's a whole new experience moving to ovals. Anyone who is willing to listen, I would say make the transition as quick as possible because its very challenging racing and it's something that is very enjoyable as well as challenging. Anybody who thinks that one side of the racing is easier than the other or they're not willing to do it because they feel that Formula One is the pinnacle of racing, I would have to disagree with them at the moment.
King: Paul, what about you on drivers climbing ladders from one series to the next?
Dana: Unlike F3 to Infiniti Pro, I think F2000 to Infiniti Pro is a significant step. The F2000 car, the two-liter car, as we call it, is very technical aerodynamically. The rules allow a lot of freedom in terms of the shock package and the suspension. So as a driver you learn a lot technically, but it's still a tube-framework. You think you're driving a real race car until you get into one of these. Oh, that really wasn't a real race car. So it's definitely a huge step up. Unlike Ed's experience, a Formula car is a Formula car. That's really all I've ever driven. The behavior of the car, the attitude or what it requires technically from setting it up hasn't been all that different. I think historically you see guys that come up from F2000 or F3 do relatively well because of that. The difference is just the speed, the G load and the fact that there are only two corners and they're both really fast. So there is no margin for error. So in terms of stepping up, aside from bringing the budget or landing one of the rare rides, because there's a huge financial difference between the lower levels and this level, my advice is just trust your instincts. If you've done well in the previous series, you're going to do well here. But do not get in a hurry. Be very patient with your learning curve.
I found the wall early this season. Mark found the wall. I think we all have found the wall this season. It's not fun. So, you know, you're not going to avoid doing that but you hopefully don't do it very often and bank some good results before you do. So you really need to take it in little steps. You can get heroic on a road course and get away with it. You get heroic in this car like I tried to do in qualifying for Homestead, it doesn't work out too well.