Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript March 2, 2004 Phil Giebler and Dan Wheldon MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome two Indy Racing League drivers who had successful races over the weekend...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
March 2, 2004
Phil Giebler and Dan Wheldon
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome two Indy Racing League drivers who had successful races over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway to today's teleconference. Menards Infiniti Pro Series rookie Phil Giebler took his first laps on an oval at the IRL open test in Phoenix just weeks ago and went on to win the Homestead-Miami 100 on Sunday. He joins us in the first segment of today's call. Also Dan Wheldon will be joining us in just a few minutes. He is last year's IndyCar Series Rookie-of-the-Year and also had a strong showing at Homestead, finishing in third place behind Sam Hornish, Jr., and Helio Castroneves. Phil, we'll start with you. Thanks for joining us on today's call.
PHIL GIEBLER: Thanks for having me.
Q: We talked about this in the post-race press conference, but yours was an incredible story of winning at Homestead, it being your first time on an oval. Can you talk about Sunday's race?
PHIL GIEBLER: For me, I thought it was going to be a learning experience and I just wanted to get laps under my belt. Obviously, I was going for the win no matter what. But, I didn't really think that after the first opening laps. I had to start in the back, and I had to work my way through. I stayed calm, and just kept a steady race. I just made my way up to the front slowly, and made my pass for the lead. It was a good start to the season, for sure.
Q: You talk about starting in the back. Did it take long really for you to get comfortable on that oval because you did make your way through the field very methodical, seemed like you had been on there for ages.
PHIL GIEBLER: Coming from road racing, the opening laps are actually a lot crazier. You have a lot of guys going different places, and everybody's trying to make their moves on opening laps. On the oval, it was just a matter of just settling in. It wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be actually, maybe because I wasn't right in the middle. I was watching everybody from the back. I could really gauge to see where everybody was going, and I didn't have to worry about anybody behind me. So that probably helped a little bit.
Q: You sometimes talk about these speeds on these high-bank tracks like this. But obviously it didn't bother you that much. But were speeds on that track, did it affect you? Did it get your attention early in the week?
PHIL GIEBLER: Definitely. The first time I was on the track was obviously on Friday. I didn't get a chance to go around on a road car or anything like that. Compared to Phoenix, which was my first test a couple weeks ago, you're hitting 35 mph faster than you do at Phoenix. So it was definitely an eye opener. Everybody I talked to just said, "Just work up slowly to it." After a few laps, you obviously get used to it. But it's pretty wild when you get out there and you're going 190 and you're on the high banks. It's a different feeling. Your perception is so different. It was definitely an eye opener.
Q: You got a lot of people's attention over the weekend. I'd be interested in hearing what your goals were heading into Homestead. Was a victory on your first oval race even a consideration or was it getting used to the car, the series, the circuit?
PHIL GIEBLER: Obviously, I wanted to win and I wanted to show well in my first race. I knew with the team that we had with Western Union and Keith Duesenberg Racing, we had a really good shot at it. From my test in Phoenix, I felt really comfortable in the car. I was definitely shooting for a win. Really, I just wanted to get points and make some good strides towards the championship.
Q: What are your future plans in racing? Is it to move up to the IndyCar Series or perhaps qualify for the Indianapolis 500?
PHIL GIEBLER: Those things are definitely on my list of things to do. But I want to make a career out of racing, and I've spent half my life preparing for something like this. Whatever opportunities come up in the future, I'll have to take all those one at a time and just see what I got going on. I'd love to race in the IndyCar Series. Obviously, the Indy 500 is a dream race for any driver, anywhere they're competing. Both of those are definitely things I'd like to do. Really I'd like to go out and race and go out and compete against the best in the world.
Q: Except for the obvious differences between road racing and the oval, the fact that you only turn left on the oval, what differences did you see during the race?
PHIL GIEBLER: Well, during the whole weekend, you definitely have to approach it differently because everything's happening in smaller amounts. You're looking for something that's completely different from road racing. To try to improve the car, you have to be a lot more sensitive to changes, and what's going on with the car. That was probably one of the main things I had to adjust to. I really had to try to figure out what I had to look for in the car and the data to see what the best way to get in a better car was. And in the race, it was just being patient was a big part of it. You know, don't make any mistakes. And it paid off.
Q: In oval racing as compared to road racing, the mistakes, you pay a little higher price. In road racing, of course, if you miss a turn, you bump wheels with someone, you have plenty of grass to run off on. You don't have that in oval racing. At any point did that enter your mind?
PHIL GIEBLER: Well, I think even before I went on to the track in Phoenix, before my first test, it's obviously something that you consider. I'm not too worried about just running out by myself or running on any track. I'm not really worried about it.
But the things you do worry about are mechanical failures and other drivers making mistakes and taking you out of the race. One little mistake in a race turns into a big accident. There's no way around it on an oval. So that's definitely in the back of your mind. But you just try not to think about it and just focus on the race. It didn't bother me at all in the race one bit.
Q: How closely did you watch the Toyota 300? If you did, what were you looking for?
PHIL GIEBLER: I watched a little bit on the big screen and I was watching some guys in the pits just to see what a few of their strategies were, just to see how some of the guys pace themselves. You see some guys trying to make it up to the front quite quickly, and some guys out there that are just patient, just working, you know, one lap by one lap. That was (Sam) Hornish (Jr.) who I saw, just persistent, just kept a cool head.
Q: When you won the race, when you drove under the checkered flag, were you surprised?
PHIL GIEBLER: I wouldn't say surprised because I knew I had a good car. The race kind of came to me with the yellows and the one stop we had to make to check for the tires. I felt that it was just going my way all day. I wasn't surprised. I was very, very happy for obviously the team, Western Union, and obviously myself. It was just a big relief just to get that under our belts in the first round.
Q: You spent the last four or five years over in Europe aiming at a Formula 1 ride. Have you kind of given up on that idea? Do you really think they want an American? There's so many young guys that have gone over there. They can't seem to get a decent look.
PHIL GIEBLER: Well to answer the first question, no. I definitely haven't given up. If I can get there later down the road, that's something I obviously want to do. I want to be competing against the best in the world, and that's my main goal, to get to the highest level I can. I think they would accept an American driver. They really want the drivers that go into the series to be proven in European grounds. I don't think they're too favorable of people just showing up and thinking they're going to show the Europeans who's boss in their first year over there. You kind of have to earn your respect over there, just make headway little by little. I think I was on a pretty good path over there.
Q: Growing up being a road course driver, did you think much about the Indy 500? You'll be driving in the race here, the Freedom 100 this year. Have you been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ever?
PHIL GIEBLER: Well, I'll answer the last question first. I've been to the speedway a couple times. Almost every time I think I've been there has been for the Formula 1 race. That just goes to show where my focus has been over the past couple years. I've always thought about doing the Indy 500. It's America's biggest open-wheel race, for sure. I'd love to do it. I'd love to be in a position to win the race. That's one thing, I'll keep in my sights. As for the Freedom 100, I'm looking forward to that. The Infiniti Pro cars I think are maybe a little under-performance for that circuit. It's just so big. I think it's going to be very valuable for track time. It's going to be great to just get out there and to run those laps around Indy is going to be great. If anything, it's just going to be a good experience.
Q: How did this deal come together with Keith Duesenberg? Was it a last-minute thing?
PHIL GIEBLER: I didn't know if I was going to Homestead until really Tuesday of last week. So that was definitely last minute. I was working really hard with Keith and everybody to make it happen. Keith, himself, has been looking at me for almost two years now. And he has been calling, inquiring if I was going back to America. It just worked out this time. Everything just fit together. The timing was right.
Q: You started at the back of the pack because you couldn't get the engine fired up. Did you learn a lot about what other people were doing on your way up to the front. ?
PHIL GIEBLER: I think everybody in the pits just wanted to make it exciting, so they kept my engine from firing until everybody went out (laughter). It definitely was a learning experience. Everybody raced really fairly, which I was really happy to run against everybody I came up on. Everybody gave me reasonable room. It was definitely a good experience to get that under my belt. I think as a first race, that was the best way I could go into a season, just going out there and running with guys wheel to wheel.
Q: What kind of condition were your tires in when you made that mandatory stop when they red flagged?
PHIL GIEBLER: My tires were looking pretty good. I was running behind people. Obviously my car wasn't handling as good as I'd hoped for, or as good as it would on its own. But I felt pretty comfortable I could run the whole race. I wasn't hurting too bad. I was running within the limits of the car. I wasn't forcing too much on the tires, just trying to keep them there for the end.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Phil. We appreciate you joining us today. We will see you in a couple weeks down in Phoenix. Thank you very much again.
PHIL GIEBLER: Thanks.