Pre-Daytona test teleconference transcript (part 1)

Rolex Series Media Teleconference Transcript An Interview with Roger Edmondson, Terry Borcheller, Scott Pruett and Max Papis ADAM SAAL: We want to wish everybody a Happy New Year which kicks off with Grand American Test Days at Daytona ...

Rolex Series Media Teleconference Transcript
An Interview with Roger Edmondson, Terry Borcheller, Scott Pruett and Max Papis

ADAM SAAL: We want to wish everybody a Happy New Year which kicks off with Grand American Test Days at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. We will be on track Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and just a couple of minutes ago we distributed the entry list for this event. It features 57 Rolex Sports Car Series entries. Among that group there are 30 Daytona Prototype race cars. We asked Roger Edmondson, the president of Grand American, to be with us today to talk about that, as well as the three Daytona Prototype champions that have won or hold the title currently over the past two years.

We are pleased to have Terry Borcheller, who drives for the Kodak EasyShare team with us today as well as the co-champions from CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing last year, Max Papis and Scott Pruett. Thanks for taking the time to be with us.

Roger, we are here in Daytona Beach and we'll find out where our other participants are, but talk about the excitement as we come up on a very significant test this weekend. What's the mood here in Daytona Beach?

ROGER EDMONDSON: Let me join you in wishing everybody a Happy New Year. The mood is strictly upbeat. This is going to be the sixth test at Daytona that Grand-Am has organized, completing our first five years as a sanctioning body. It's the first time we've ever had this kind of excitement around an entry list. It's the largest field of cars that we've had. Obviously people are very interested in the progress of the Daytona Prototype, but I think more importantly, the driver lineup is unparalleled in decades here at Daytona. So it's going to be a very exciting announcement when people see who is going to be here, and of course I think it will be followed up by even better news by the time we get ready for the race itself.

ADAM SAAL: We are currently updating both our web site and sending out an advance press release to talk about some of the stars who are coming to this event, as well as the new teams and you'll be able to find that information to all of our participants on the web site. In fact, some of our driver guests are probably trying to get on the Internet to see who they are going to be going up against.

We'd like to start with a gentleman who comes back to the Daytona as defending champion of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Terry Borcheller. Welcome, Happy New Year and good to have you here.

TERRY BORCHELLER: Thanks and Happy New Year to everybody.

ADAM SAAL: You won the title in 2003 and everybody acknowledged the competition got bigger and tougher last year. You won the Rolex 24 and you're coming back with a great lineup of drivers in your car this year. I know you want to repeat that win at the Rolex 24, but I think a championship is also in order for you. Talk about your preparations and essentially where your head is at and where your team is at heading into this season.

TERRY BORCHELLER: It's pretty exciting going into next year because we have some updates that we've done with the car over the winter and we've lightened it up quite a bit. We are hoping to be more competitive than last year. It was a pretty big struggle with the Rileys and the Crawfords coming in, and the way that they were driven and the way that the teams prepared, it was hard to be competitive and we just really want to be running forefront again. That's probably the No. 1 goal.

Then everything else pretty much takes care of itself as far as wins and championships. That's our goal, and I'm preparing personally. I've started back up with my training and just excited to be there. I can't wait. I've also heard that there are a lot of improvements to the Speedway and I'm looking forward to seeing that.

ADAM SAAL: That gives a great segue for me, thank you very much Terry. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will be another unveiling of the new fan-friendly and incredibly renovated infield at Daytona International Speedway. It's a project that they are just putting the finishing touches on right now. The race layout we have known and loved for many years will not change but around it, I don't think you'll recognize what will be a true state-of-the-art facility in the infield and so forth. Hurley Haywood joined us for some media outreach a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned that he's looking forward to the new changes, but he also knew his way after being there for 30 years. He had a secret parking spot and so forth. We look forward to it.

Going to Scott Pruett, you come back as a champion with a defending team. There will be a proper and official announcement of the entire team on Saturday at noon at Daytona International Speedway. But talk about what you're doing and your anticipation as you look for yet another road racing championship in 2005.

SCOTT PRUETT: Well, Happy New Year to everyone. We want to just continue on doing the same thing. We are a lot better prepared than last year. Last year at this time we were still getting cars, our one car together that we took delivery on right before Christmas, so we are leaps and bounds ahead of that.

We'll be coming back there with three cars, all top drivers, and very prepared race cars. We put a lot of miles on the cars last year and did a good job. We put a lot of miles on the engines and Lexus did a terrific job. They are in a position where they don't have to be as conservative going in as last year. So we'll be better prepared from that standpoint from Lexus and continue on.

Daytona is one of those races that Chip Ganassi wants to win. There are so many great races that he as a team owner has won, and this is one that so far has eluded him, but he just started focusing on that last season. We had a strong run last year. Coming out of the box, we have some issues that we've addressed and I'm looking forward to the season.

It never stops. For me after about a week off, two weeks off, I'm ready to go back to racing. So I'm anxious to get back in the saddle and get to Daytona and see the new facility and all of the renovations after going there as many years as I have.

ADAM SAAL: As you mentioned, it never stops and part of what you have to do in the very brief off-season is accept the various awards for a championship season. Both and you Max were elected to the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, All-America First Team. You take your spots alongside several other drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais. Congratulations on that award. I know you've won it before, but it's a source of pride here at the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand American, and the first time our champions have been honored at the highest level. We do appreciate it.

SCOTT PRUETT: We have that dinner next week, and it's exciting to be in that as well as being invited to do IROC. Both of those together are huge from my participation in the Grand-Am Series last season.

ADAM SAAL: I believe that's breaking news, ladies and gentlemen. I wasn't even aware you were selected, so that's great news and congratulations. You've raced and won in IROC before at Daytona.

SCOTT PRUETT: That's right. I hope we can continue on doing the same thing.

ADAM SAAL: As Scott mentioned the AARWBA banquet is in Pomona, Calif. at the Fairplex on Saturday, January 15 and we'll get news on that as well.

Max, you have some changes heading into this season, but you're just back from Italy. You've received some awards of your own over at your home country of Italy, but you've already been testing the race car since you got back on U.S. soil last night. Happy New Year, and tell us what you've been doing today and the last couple of weeks.

MAX PAPIS: First of all, Happy New Year to everyone listening, and I just came back yesterday night. I was in Europe collecting several awards for all of the things that we'd done last year with Scott and all of the guys in CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing and Lexus.

It has been a pretty busy wintertime, but nice busy in a way that it's always nice to be recognized for what you have done. I could have never achieved the goals I achieved without the full support of everyone in CompUSA, Chip Ganassi Racing and everyone in TRD and Lexus.

Now I have a new challenge. I'm going to miss a lot of my friends that are over there in the Ganassi organization and in TRD, and I'm going to try to make new friends over here. It's a GM-supported operation and I'm kind of in a situation that we were last year. I'm here at Roebling Road in Savannah shaking down the car for the first time. We have everything new. We are starting from scratch, and Mr. Kevin Buckler and Mr. (Tracy) Krohn, they are really focused on trying to do the best job they can.

We know that we have to face a great challenge, especially from the Ganassi organization and everyone else. But I'm really excited, especially to go back to Daytona as a defending champion. It's going to be fantastic to see the new renovation to the racetrack, because Daytona has been the place that really changed my career, completely. I went over there in '96 and nobody knew who I was, and Daytona was a business card for my American racing career. I'm really, really proud to be back there as Daytona Prototype champion and face an opposition of 30-plus cars and it's just going to be great.

We know we have a lot of work to do but, you know, I don't have any problem and I am actually very confident. I have a lot of motivation to do well. I started my winter training, physical training about three, four weeks ago to be in top shape at this point. I was home doing a lot of cross-country skiing and running in the snow. My house in Italy, it's in about a couple of feet of snow at the moment. I'm still strong and still prepared and really proud of being able to be back in Daytona as the Prototype champion. That means a lot to me.

ADAM SAAL: It's good to have you back in the series and a great race to kick things off at the Rolex 24. Good to have you back, Max, as well as Scott and Terry.

Roger, again, we talked about the great level of anticipation and an incredibly strong entry. In the growth of Grand American and the Daytona Prototype category in particular, as well as GT division, where are we at from your presidential perspective as far as the momentum and the series growth? Right on schedule? More to come?

ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, first off, the growth is undeniable. I said that last year was going to be the year of momentum, 2003 was our year of transition. I would have to say that 2005 is going to be a year of continued momentum. I think a lot of people may have the feeling that we are starting to see the end of the growth, but, in fact, I still believe that Grand American is a ground floor opportunity for team owners and for drivers and other people who want to get involved in sports car racing. I don't think the end is in sight as far as our growth goes.

Of course, everybody focuses on the Daytona Prototypes and the new cars, but I have said for some type time that one of our goals was to make the cars almost irrelevant so that focus could be placed on the quality of the drivers and the teams and their strategies and performance in the pits as well as on the track. That's what makes me so excited about this entry list. I know here at Daytona, the World Center of Racing, we have a chance to go over to the archives and look at the entry list from Daytona 24-hour races in the past, and it's amazing when you look at the drivers who have participated in this event since its inception and you see many of those names who are famous drivers. If you looked at that and you look at this year's list, you might not be impressed as much except for one big difference. Many of those names that drove here in the past had yet to establish themselves as champions. On this year's entry list we have almost 90 championships represented by the drivers who are currently entered, and that is unparalleled as far as a quality field.

I think the people that say that the Daytona 24-hour lost its way and is not as important and as big a star as it has been in the past just aren't paying attention, but they won't be able to ignore the quality of this field.

Q: Roger, I'm curious to know what the speculation is on what the field, the Rolex 24 At Daytona field is going to look at, look like at 23 hours, 30 minutes into the race. Do you have any idea on that?

ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, I tell you what. I can tell you what I'd like it to look like. I'd like it to be about a half-dozen guys on the lead lap, hoping to make a last-second winning pass from the chicane to the finish line. But I have no reason to believe it's not going to be the most competitive 24 hours in Grand-Am history, if not Rolex 24-hour history.

Q: My next question will be for Max. Max, welcome back, congratulations. Last year you as a driver were really not in much of a different position than you are again this year with the Krohn/TRG operation. That was a pretty big hustle. The car did fairly well, you all felt your way along during the 24 hours. Of course, inclement weather did not help a whole heck of a lot, but you as a driver were involved in an awful lot of what was going on from the very first moment that car rolled here during Test Days. What is it that you can bring, taking from that experience and bring to Krohn/TRG that is doing essentially the same thing?

MAX PAPIS: First of all, thanks for the congratulations, the awards and everything. To answer your question, me as a driver, I've always been just a part of a big organization. You know, I've been contributing in all of the ways I could, with experience, with the excitement that I have, and I think that's what I'm going to bring over to the Krohn/TRG organization.

I felt that I built a lot of knowledge about the car, and we know we are facing a great challenge this year because, you know, we never ran the car before today. The opposition this year is definitely going to be even more, even harder than what it was last year. We are definitely completely aware about that. You know we are humble. We are going to work really hard to prove that we can be successful, but we know that we are facing very hard opposition. What I can bring to the plate is my experience, my determination. And you know the smile is always on my face because I'm a positive person and I'm thinking positive in every situation.

On another neat thing, I wanted to tell you something, we are all talking about the growth of Grand-Am. I was over there in Europe and in Italy for a while, and I never got as many articles on major newspapers talking about Grand-Am and the Daytona 24 Hour and what's happening in America in the road racing standpoint as I had in the last 15 days. That's a statement to Mr. France and everyone over there in Grand-Am, because a couple of years ago, everyone was very skeptical and now it looks like it's the rush to the goal line. Everyone wants to be in Grand-Am, and I'm really proud to represent Grand-Am on and off the track and it's something that made me really proud.

Q: Roger, we talked last year about the growth of the GT series. Here in California, we had a visit from a Japanese GT Championship. It brought in a very different crowd, but it's one that I think is needed on all motor sports levels, a younger audience. Are you aware of that and how do you see, or do you see a need to reach those kind of fans to bring them into Grand-Am racing?

ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, first off, I am aware of the event that took place, and it looked like while they had some operational problems, it appeared that it was still a big hit with the spectators and a much larger demographic than the traditional road racing fan we've seen in the past. I lay a lot of that credit on the hands of the tuners because they are interested in the cars that are being raced in that series. That's one of the things we are so proud of with our new GT rules and no criticism of Ferrari and Porsche, because they have always been there to support GT racing. But unfortunately those two brands, while they may be exotic, don't connect with the American audience.

Our new GT rules are going to allow for cars built up very much like the Japanese touring car and GT series cars that will bring in a wide cross-section of the cars that are available in the American marketplace. Hopefully that--as well as some other initiatives we have to reach out to the tuner crowd--are going to bring some of those younger people to the road races, because we do need to start building new fans for this sport.

Q: You did mention that you were going to try to build up the drivers and not so much the cars. Will it become necessary sooner than later to build up the drivers that are in the sports cars and not build from people that come over from (NEXTEL) Cup racing into Grand-Am to get the headlines and to get the media attention?

ROGER EDMONDSON: I think that's natural evolution. For so many years, road racing has been, for lack of a better term, operating in the back water of American motorsports. So no matter how heroic we were or how great some of the passions and action were, they were really non-factors in the media or on the broader cross-section of motor sports awareness in this country. That's not blaming the media, but simply open-wheel racing when it was at its pinnacle and NASCAR racing the last few years has sucked so much of the air out of the marketplace there has not been much room for road racing.

Right now, one of our avenues to having the media pay closer attention to us and having the spectators and television viewers pay closer attention is to have champions and well-known drivers from other venues. So I think it's a natural part of it that we are hoping people enjoy the road racing when they see it, and certainly there's no question when they see drivers like Terry and Scott and Max do their thing. Their respect for those drivers is going to go straight up, so I think that's just part of the evolution.

Q: Finally, Roger, that's the way that you're going to move road racing into the red states and bring them into the situation with the blue states in road racing in America?

ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, in some degree. I was in Hi-Fi for 15 years, and one of the things I learned there was your best prospect was your current customer.

So our feelings are, if we can get somebody out to the track or tune in on TV and give them a good race and exciting show with a wide cross-section of drivers and give them a variety of cars, they are not only going to be a good prospect to come back, but to come back and bring a friend. That is our plan.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Max Papis , Tony Kanaan , Scott Pruett , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Buckler , Terry Borcheller , Hurley Haywood , Sébastien Bourdais , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing