AJ Foyt, Tracy - IRL teleconference 2009-05-27, part 1

Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript Wednesday, May 27, 2009 An Interview with Paul Tracy and A.J. Foyt THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome everybody to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests this afternoon, as...

Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Interview with Paul Tracy and A.J. Foyt

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome everybody to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests this afternoon, as we've been joined by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series team owner A.J. Foyt, and the newest addition to A.J. Foyt Racing, Paul Tracy. Thanks for joining us today.

Paul Tracy will compete in the 14, in place of the injured Vitor Meira this weekend at the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at the Milwaukee Mile. He has 14 open-wheel starts at Milwaukee, resulting in four victories, eight top 10s, and 723 laps led. He has three starts in the IndyCar Series, each resulting in top 10 finishes, including a second place finish in the 2002 Indianapolis 500, and in ninth just this past weekend at Indy.

P.T., I know it's not an ideal situation for a driver filling in for an injured driver, but you have to be looking to get back into a car after having such a successful month of May.

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it's a great opportunity for me. Obviously, the success that I've enjoyed in Milwaukee over my career - not only at the Milwaukee Mile, but up at Elkhart Lake - it's just a pleasure to race there. I've got a lot of fans from that area.

I'm just grateful for the opportunity from ABC (Supply Co.) and A.J. Foyt. I think we're ready to have a good weekend.

THE MODERATOR: A.J., I know it's only been a few days since Vitor was injured, but you got the deal put together with Paul very quickly. How did this pairing of you and Paul Tracy come about?

A.J. FOYT: He knew Vitor was hurt pretty bad, knew that we'd be looking for a driver. After the race, I had my son Larry to talk to him at the banquet, I think, a couple days. I just felt I watched Tracy race through the years. He gives 110 percent. That's the type of driver we need to beat Penske and all the rest of the guys.

You can't go out there, lay dormant and think you're going to beat them. You have to have somebody that wants to challenge them. I think he's got the same idea I do. We want to get back in Victory Circle very bad. We're going to work hard to do it, and he's the guy that can do it for me.

THE MODERATOR: I know the press release yesterday said it was only a one-race deal for Milwaukee. What about future races? Is there a timetable to fill your famous 14 for Texas and beyond?

A.J. FOYT: Well, I'm going to talk to Paul and see what he really wants to do. Sure, we'd like to have him for all the races. You know, since Vitor is laid up, he can't do nothing, he was our primary driver. But I've been hurt before and people had to drive for me. You know, racing goes on with or without you.

You hate to be that way, but that's the way racing is. I mean, it's a tough sport. When you hook that seat belt, you don't know if you're going to be the one to unhook it or not. It's nothing new in racing, you know, for somebody to step in. I'm just glad that he was available.

THE MODERATOR: P.T., talk a little bit about driving for A.J. Foyt. I know in the press release yesterday, you mentioned he was a driver you kind of emulated coming up the ranks.

PAUL TRACY: For sure. We haven't really had a chance to talk about it a lot. I talked to his son Larry a little bit about it. He asked if I wanted to drive at Milwaukee, and I said sure. And then I was driving across country in my motorhome, made a detour and that went south towards Houston, basically because I found a car on the Internet I wanted to buy. It happened to just be in A.J.'s hometown.

A.J. and I talked early morning yesterday. I was on the phone with A.J., and I had a tire blow out on my motorhome. I was trying to listen to A.J., and I was hanging onto my motorhome, trying to keep out of the ditch (laughter). I had a lot of stuff going on all at once. I had to cut A.J. off, and I never really got a chance to talk to him again 'cause we got hung up on the side of the road for about five hours.

You know, I'm just grateful for the opportunity. And obviously I want to race as much as I can. I'm a race driver that wants to race and wants to win. And A.J. is the same. So we'll see how this weekend goes and then go from there.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned your road trip across the southwest of the United States here. How do you think all the travel is going to affect you this weekend in Milwaukee, and did this deal kind of cut that trip short?

PAUL TRACY: No. I mean, I just got back. I walked in the door about an hour ago. It was myself and Tommy Kendall and a friend of mine. So there were three of us. We drove basically non-stop. We had a four-hour, five-hour break to fix a tire and buy a car. We basically were hammered down going west the whole time.

I'm back now. I'll do my laundry, get my stuff together, and then we have an appearance for ABC on Friday morning, so I'm gonna leave tomorrow and go to Milwaukee.

THE MODERATOR: Let's take some questions for our guests.

Q: P.T., the 10 years between the time that CART and IRL split, there was a lot of animosity there. The lightning rods seem to be yourself on one side and A.J. on the other. Can you talk a little bit about that, and how it's resolved, how it's come full circle?

PAUL TRACY: From my standpoint, I mean, it's one league now. I think it's the best thing has happened for the sport. So from my side, I stayed in the Champ Car Series because it was allowing me to race in Canada. I've said that all through my career. Now that it's one series, we race in Canada, it's basically the way it was, you know, back presplit.

You've got a mix of ovals and superspeedways, road and street courses. So it's really a driver's championship. I think it's perfect for what I want to do. So from that standpoint, I mean, I want to be a part of it, and have missed the opportunity of being a part of it the last year. I've only had the opportunity to race twice. I ran real well both times. So I'm just excited to get the opportunity to run at Milwaukee because I feel that's a great spot for me.

Q: A.J., Paul sort of represents you in more than one way. He has a reputation of being somewhat feisty. He's, in fact, gotten into fisticuffs with people who don't speak English. Does that play into anything, your decision to have Paul be part of your team?

A.J. FOYT: I'm glad to have him part of my team. I think I've got the same reputation. That makes us get along real good that way.

Q: Paul, you've raced against A.J., I think it was back in '91. You've sort of tried to model your driving after him, somewhat idolized him. Can you expand on that? Was there a certain event or something that really sort of stuck in you're mind to say, This is the kind of driver I want to emulate?

PAUL TRACY: When I first started with Penske, I was young. I ran a couple times against A.J. at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. I ran against Mario (Andretti), Emerson (Fittipaldi), Rick (Mears). A.J. was the kind of guy, you know, he kind of drives the same way I do. As I've gone through my career, the things that A.J. did in his career, I kind of wanted to do the same.

And I guess I'm kind of the same as Tony Stewart, too. I've gone out and tried different things and tried to be successful at different things, whether it be stock cars or endurance cars. I certainly haven't had the success that A.J. has had in the different formulas. He's been able to win in everything. I've really just kind of specialized in the IndyCars, kind of dabbled a little bit in stock cars and endurance cars.

But, you know, that was one of the reasons why I wanted to do that. I just want look up to A.J. as a driver who could drive anything, anywhere, and win.

Q: A.J., it was a long time ago, I wonder if you remember racing against Paul, what memories you might have?

A.J. FOYT: I do remember one time at Indy, on a restart, like he said, he's young. Man, he come up flying on the inside of me. I thought, Where in the hell does that boy think he's going. He better get it straightened out before we get in trouble.

But anyway, he was a good, hard racer. That's the only way you win. You got to charge every chance you get. And that's what's wrong with a lot of the racers today. I think Paul knows how to win. And once you've ever won a race, you're going to give that extra little bit to win. Because some of these boys, they just give up, even though they could win. If they ever get a win under their belt, they might change their habits.

To win, you got to charge all day. That's one thing I think about Paul through his whole career. He's been a charger. Like the other day at Indy, he run a hell of a race. I don't think he had the best car handling all day. A lot of people had handling problems. But you could see him hustling all day long. He never gave up. That's why he finished ninth. If you give up, you're not going to finish good, so you can't quit.

Q: Paul will be driving the No. 14 ABC Supply car, is that right?

A.J. FOYT: That's right, yes.

Q: A.J., you were an aggressive driver. You like Paul's aggression. Would you agree that being an aggressive driver and being successful at it is something that probably comes from a lot of natural ability, a lot of natural enterprise? It's awfully tough to take a driver and teach them to be aggressive. Do you think it's just a natural talent that drivers like Paul have?

A.J. FOYT: I think you're born with so much of the talent, because I've seen so many friends of mine that try to do different cars like I did. And I'm no different than anybody else. I was just fortunate enough, my talent just fell when I drove a stock car, sprint or midget. Some people are gifted with it, some aren't.

Then you go back in their field, you can't really beat them where they're really gifted. I think you're born with a lot of that talent. I don't think you can make yourself do it or how hard you work at it. I think if it falls your way, and you want to win, you can do it. You can do about anything you want to do, but you got to work at it. Winning is not easy. It's like a marriage, you got to work at it.

Q: Are you going to be on the radio with Paul?

A.J. FOYT: I'll probably be on there with him. He'll be hollering at me and you, but we'll be having a lot of fun. That's the whole name of this game, is having fun and winning.

Q: P.T., you know all about AJ's legend. That can be interpreted one of two ways. It can either be inspiring or, for some, I suppose a little bit intimidating. Which one falls under your description of that?

PAUL TRACY: Well, for sure, for sure it's inspiring because I looked up to A.J. as a driver and also as a personality in the sport my whole career. You know, this race is named after him. It's the home race for the sponsor. Like I said, it's a fantastic track for me. I'm just super excited to get the opportunity.

And I think that we'll work well together. I've changed a lot. I think I've calmed down as a driver since '03, when I won the championship. I was always pretty frantic to try to get that championship. I think I'm a little bit easier to work with now that I've been able to do that. A little bit more patient than I used to be.

As was seen on Sunday, I wasn't -- even though the car wasn't as good, I didn't take it too far, ask to get too much. So my goal this weekend is to give the team -- they've had some hard breaks this year, and give the team their first good finish of the year, to get the momentum up in the team and get the spirits up.

Q: Paul, you seemingly made this look pretty easy, hopping into the car for occasional races. What's the biggest challenge when you're not on the tracks constantly, moving from vehicle to vehicle?

PAUL TRACY: I think the biggest challenge for me is when I'm not racing, I get mad about it. I'm not happy about it. You know, it's tough to keep motivated and keep working out and keep focused on wanting to go racing when there's nothing -- there hasn't been a lot on the horizon over the beginning of last year.

I got the one race in Edmonton, and then nothing happened after that. Nothing happened over the winter. Then you got to kind of switch your focus from your whole career being a race driver to a sponsor finder. And that's not what my specialty is.

You know, so that's the hard part. You got to dedicate a lot of time nowadays to find money to make the wheels turn on these things. And that's not what I've ever had to do. So, you know, that's probably the hardest thing.

It's not hard to get in the car and drive it. You know, like A.J. would tell you, I've been doing this my whole life, now since I was six years old. To get in the car and drive is the easy part. It's finding the operating budget to do it is the hard part.

Q: A.J., you're a four-time Indy winner. Helio is creeping up on you with three wins. Do you think he can get to four and maybe even five?

A.J. FOYT: You know, the way I look at things? I was the first one. I'll always remain the first one. But records are made to be broken. I broke a lot of records. I look for them to go by the wayside. I mean, records aren't made to stay there forever. So you're gonna have somebody break it. I mean, he's still got to break it. He hasn't done it yet.

So you had Al Unser, Rick Mears, all them, they could have won maybe them five times. Me, I won it two or three times I probably shouldn't and lost it four or five times I should have won.

Race Day, everything's got to fall your way. Your crew's got to be good. It's like we made a bad mistake for Vitor. He wouldn't have been in that wreck if we wouldn't have made a mistake. He was up there running good. You know, you just cannot make mistakes on Race Day at a big race like that.

Some people, under a big race like, that they panic. It wasn't my driver, it was my crew. And I blame whoever made the mistakes. I don't care if it's me, you. I'm just kind of like Paul, I speak my mind. We just screwed up and we got a driver hurt. Thank God we're being able to replace him with a great race driver. Normally that doesn't happen.

Just like he said, the whole name of this game is going out and finding the sponsors, which A.J. Foyt in his day wouldn't have been worth a damn. I'm kind of like Paul: driving was easy, but going out here and doing this other stuff, that might fit Mario Andretti's program, but it don't fit my program.

I've had great sponsors, don't get me wrong. I think we've had great sponsors because of our performance. But as far as me just going out and selling, that's really hard to do. That's not AJ's game.

Now, my young boy Larry, he fits that deal. It's a different breed of people today. And he fits in there perfect.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Paul Tracy , Mario Andretti , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , A.J. Foyt , Tommy Kendall , Vitor Meira