IPS: Texas: Top three press conference

<B>A.J. Foyt IV, Cory Witherill, Ryan Hampton, A.J. Foyt Moderator: Like to welcome our second- and third-place finishers in the BG Products 100, Cory Witherill and Ryan Hampton. First of all, Cory, closest finish in Infiniti Pro history.

<B>A.J. Foyt IV, Cory Witherill, Ryan Hampton, A.J. Foyt

Moderator: Like to welcome our second- and third-place finishers in the BG Products 100, Cory Witherill and Ryan Hampton. First of all, Cory, closest finish in Infiniti Pro history. Talk about the drive to the line. Anthony led all the way, just about pulled it off at the start/finish line.

Cory Witherill: Pretty much shot the whole range. I was just pacing myself. I think I could have got around him at the last restart. What's his name, Luyendyk, did a mis-shift. I had a good run on both of them, but I decided to stay back. Pretty much throughout the rest of the race, I tried to figure out where I could time my timing to get by him and when I could do it. I was trying to think maybe five laps, three laps to go. I kind of said to myself, "Wait till that last lap." I tried to (inaudible) figure out when I could get around him, gain on him and pull out. Pretty much they gave me a great car this race, this whole weekend. The Hemelgarn team is unreal. I just kind of stayed patient and just throughout the last 13 laps, tried to figure out where I could get by him. Probably could have gone by him at the start/finish line. You know, it was close. Almost had him. If he had the line a little bit further, probably would have gone around him.

Moderator: Ryan, you had some contact during the race with Aaron Fike but came back. You were coming on at the finish also. Talk about the incident, near incident, and also just about your charge back up through the pack.

Ryan Hampton: Well, you know, we pretty much started off with a pretty rough weekend. Lost a motor right in the warm-up. Right when we started off this race, immediately our water temp started skyrocketing. We were running at 215 on the pace laps. Gradually it was just heating up more and more. Our oil temp was going up, and we started losing oil pressure. Basically the whole race it was just kind of keeping my fingers crossed and trying to work my way up, use my head. Unfortunately, what happened with Aaron, we were running a real tight pack. I'm not sure, somebody checked up going into (Turn) 3. I tried to swing out to avoid him and caught him just with the front edge of my wing. I feel real bad about it. I don't like being in positions like that. It's not how I drive. Just a racing incident. I feel bad. But, you know, it would have been a good race had he stayed up there. We just kind of kept on going. I didn't know what it did to my car. Kind of held together till the end. I was just kind of hanging on. I didn't have an engine that could make any kind of moves. The whole race, all I was doing was just trying to draft. I mean, I didn't have anything to pop or go by anybody with. On that last restart, Arie and Marty missed shifts. I went around both of them like they were tied to a fence post. I got a really good restart, got by them, and I think at that point everybody was running in a single line. All I was doing was hoping that Cory wouldn't pop me. I couldn't have done anything because I didn't have the power. I was hoping for the best, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to hold together till the finish. By God, it did. I'd like to thank again the CGF team. These guys absolutely thrashed this weekend. To get an engine out, in, get the car cleaned up before the race was phenomenal. I can't say enough about them.

Moderator: Cory, you won Nashville. Ryan you won at Gateway. Give us, looking back on the season, how much fun the series is, how much it's going to be able to help you down the road, hopefully get into a regular IRL ride. Cory?

Witherill: I mean, despite three bad races we had, couple engine problems we had the last two races, I honestly feel I could have given it a run for the championship this year. One win, all the other finishes have been on the podium. We were there leading the championship at the beginning of the early stages, we were running second, then we had three bad races in a row. That just killed us. Starting from Michigan, at the start, losing an engine at St. Louis, then last weekend. Those just hurt us badly. I know I can do this race in Indy. I proved it to a lot of people. I know being with Ron (Hemelgarn), that's a guy out there that wants to win probably more so than any other team owner out there. He provides an excellent car. This is by far the best team I've ever driven for, ever been associated with. I look forward working together with them next year, whether it's in the IPS series or IRL. This definitely is a team that wants to win, and I want to win just as bad as they do. I'd like to thank you for a great year. Too bad we couldn't have a better championship result. But I guess (inaudible) points are good, and for Indy again next year, we're going to come out winning. Hopefully we can do it. Thanks a lot, thanks to everyone.

Moderator: Ryan, look back on the season, some of the successes, what it's going to do for you.

Hampton: Coming in, missing the first two races, pretty much our team had no hope of winning the championship. It was pretty hard to come back from that far. All we were looking for were some good results, certain people allowing me to prove that I am a good driver. I think I proved that at Gateway. Out here I proved that I can use my head, work my way up. Hopefully we can parlay this into our own team becoming an IRL team, Lord knows what. It's all up in the air right now.

Moderator: Let's open it up for questions.

Q: One of the benefits of the series is getting to know each other and how you race. Cory, benefits of this series, down the road working with these drivers you might be racing against?

Witherill: It's very important. Going into this first year, there are drivers from all different series coming into Kansas. Everyone here are excellent drivers; we just come from different types of racing. I didn't know if you go wheel to wheel, sprint cars are used to banging each other. These cars obviously can't. Wasn't until I think Nashville I knew that I could run with Foyt, a couple of people, when I was making my way to the front, and I won the race. Later on in Kentucky, being up with the group of people, I knew I could do it. It is very critical to know how a driver is, the ones you to stay away from and the ones you can stay side by side, like Foyt and I did at the finish line. This series, it definitely teaches you that. Last week's race, we were like two by two all the way through.

Moderator: Ryan, same question.

Hampton: Well, it's pretty much like Cory said. You have to have that trust in that guy on the side of you. Is he going to turn down on you? From a driver's standpoint, me and Cory actually were on the same team back in '96 in our Formula 2000 stuff, so we're actually old teammates. But it's important to develop that relationship. You never know. The next week you may be driving side by side with this guy in an Indy car. It's probably a good idea and it gives us as drivers in the IPS an opportunity to learn what everybody is going to do, how is everybody going to react. I think so far everybody has an outstanding job, coming from so many different backgrounds, from the short-track drivers, to the road-course drivers, the typical formula car drivers. It's really good to see everybody kind of working together. My hat is off to them. Everybody has treated me with respect when I've been out there. I'm just happy to be a part of it, happy to be racing.

Q: Your view on racing here at Texas? Did anything surprise you? Cory?

Witherill: Well, there's no real big surprises. Surprising that I didn't win (laughter). But the banking, it just makes it a lot easier. You don't really have any side Gs. It's more just straight down. I don't know about the back, but I got pushed up high during one of the practice sessions where you could go three across. I was actually supposed to do this race here last year with CART and the Indy Lights series, but I was doing another high bank in Atlanta, my first IRL race. But it turned out to be a really good race. I mean, it's a good track to race on. It gives you enough room to pass anywhere, high or low, or just go anywhere on the track.

Moderator: Ryan.

Hampton: What was surprising were the kinks at that front straightaway. Going side by side with a group of eight cars, they're moving all over the place. That was actually pretty exciting. I never quite have been at that speed with that much stuff going on. I've had very limited experience on those high-bank tracks. But it's a lot of fun as a driver. It's a big drafting game. It's a big mental game. It's a big strategy game. I think that's a lot of fun as a driver. This actually gives you some time to breathe and think about what you're doing. That was kind of ... it was a very fun racetrack to drive on.

Moderator: We've been joined by Anthony Foyt IV, the first Infiniti Pro Series champion, also winner of the BG Products 100. He led all the way. First time you've done that this year, Anthony. Cory just about had you at the end. Talk about the end of the race. Did you want to be up front the whole time or did you ever think about dropping back to second and drafting for a while?

<B>A.J. Foyt IV: No. I dropped back to second in Chicago and tried drafting for a while, moved myself from second to fourth, ended up sixth. I wanted to stay up front the whole race. I knew Cory was going to give me a run there at the end. Luckily I held him off. I knew it would be a lot harder to on the outside. That's what we had to do the whole race. It worked out.

Moderator: Talk about at the end, were you doing anything as far as working with trying to keep Cory behind you? Did you know Cory was trying to get behind you? Talk about Turn 4 to the start/finish line.

Foyt VI: I knew he was definitely going to try to get by me. I stayed on the white line all the way around. If he was going to get by me, he was going to have to go high. That's what he tried to do, he pulled up alongside of me. Just I got to the finish line a little bit quicker. Luckily I held him off.

Moderator: Cory, Ryan, we'll let you go. Congratulations, you guys had a great race. A.J., what does this mean? Anthony last year started (inaudible), now he's champion of the Indy Pro Series. How has he progressed in the past year?

A.J. Foyt: It means a lot. The day is the 14th. The car was No. 14. I really wasn't supposed to live much over 21 years in my life, everybody said. It's really great to be here with everybody. Like I said, how many times could you win the championship on the 14th day and be running car 14? That's pretty unusual. I'm just glad I lived long enough to see him get started. Everything he's raced in, he did a fine job. He's won a lot of championships. Like I said, what else can you ask for in life? If I have to leave tomorrow, I'll die a happy, happy man.

Moderator: A.J., was this one of the most enjoyable series, just watching him, or were you more nervous?

<bFoyt</b>: It was a hell of a long 67 laps today, that's all I can say (laughter). I think it's a great series because you run at speeds over 175, 180 miles an hour. It's not like grabbing somebody off of a half-mile track and telling them to run over 200 miles an hour. I think, not because we won the championship, but I look at the cars, they're great cars. I think the engine is a fine engine. I know they had a few problems this year, but it's not something that won't be worked out. To put it together as quick as they did ... I wasn't really that interested in it until they showed me a car in May. I said, "Fine, I'd like to run Anthony in this." This is what he wants to do, is open-wheel racing. I think it's great.

Moderator: Let's take a couple quick questions.

Q: Will you take Anthony to the IRL next year?

<bFoyt</b>: He's done a great job. We don't know what we're going to do. We're going to do a lot of testing this winter with this particular car. We're going to have to make that decision further down the line. I mean, we got to talk to him. You know, I don't want to rush him because he's doing a great job. In all these other cars, you can bust your butt real quick. I really don't want to rush him. We have to talk to our sponsors. Just say, for instance, they said they definitely want to go. I would have to come back to them and say, "Look, he don't have that much experience. Don't expect nothing out of him." I don't care to go racing like that. I'd rather race like we did today, right down to the wire to win the championship. He could have went out there and coasted, probably run a sixth, seventh, fairly easy. He told me, "Pops, if I can win, I want to win." I said, "Just be careful, go for it. Don't do nothing stupid." I think he had a good, level head on his shoulders today.

Q: (Inaudible)?

<bFoyt</b>: I watch the computer. It tells you a lot. No, I was trying to help him on restarts, calling the shots with him. Jack (Starne) has been my mechanic for 30 something years. He's still with the organization. He's helped Anthony all through the years, karts, Formula 2000. It's kind of like a family knit, not like one guy calling all the shots. I think Jack and I was more nervous than he was.

Q: What were you like at 18?

<bFoyt</b>: 18? I was pretty damn wild (inaudible). No, I would say he's actually probably got more experience than I had at his age on things he ran. I ran a lot of the midgets and sprints, dirt tracks, things like that. But I love dirt. I don't think there's better races than a big, heavy dirt racetrack. Hate to say this. Dirt has kind of gone by the wayside because it's so hard and slick, where before they was heavy, you could run the whole race. Most of your dirt track races are like pavement, they're so hard. Old dirt days, muddy, clay, where you could really get with it, they was pretty good.

-irl-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series INDYLIGHTS