An Interview With: RICK MEARS T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for being with us today. Our guest this afternoon is one of only two three-time ...
An Interview With:
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for being with us today. Our guest this afternoon is one of only two three-time driving champions in CART history and a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Rick Mears, of Marlboro Team Penske. Good afternoon, Rick, thanks for making some time for us today. RICK MEARS: Thanks for having me. T.E. McHALE: Rick's storied Champ Car career includes CART Championships in 1979, '81 and '82 in all, a long time ago. RICK MEARS: (Laughs). T.E. McHALE: There it was, but not so long ago that we've forgotten certainly. Rick also owns Indy 500 victories in 1979, '84, '88 and '91. He owns 29 Champ Car victories, 7th all-time, and 40 Champ Car pole positions, fourth all-time. He is the CART leader in career poles with 39 and stands third on the CART career list with 26 victories. Rick retired from driving in 1992 and has more recently served as a technical advisor to Marlboro Team Penske whose Gil deFerran recently clinched his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series Championship and the ninth in the history of Team Penske. Certainly his many accomplishments qualify him as a legend and Rick will be among the Champ Car legends who will be honored this weekend's Marlboro 500, Presented by Toyota, the season finale of the FedEx Championship Series. Rick will be joined by such fellow legends: Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Bobby Rahal, Dan Gurney, Danny Sullivan, Emerson Fittipaldi and others in participating in a variety of fan-focused activities including a fan forum, an autograph session and a parade lap prior to Sunday's race. The Marlboro 500, Presented by Toyota, the final round of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series will be televised live on ESPN on Sunday, November 4th, beginning at 3:30 P.M. eastern time. Before we open it up to questions for Rick I just wanted to ask Rick a little bit about the legends program - this is the second year for it. I am kind of curious how often you get to see some of your old competitors on the racetrack. RICK MEARS: You really don't. That's one of the great things about it because everybody's got their own lives going in different directions, different things they are taking care of, so to be able to get back together with everybody like this, it's really a lot of fun. And I enjoy it even though we were competitors (laughs), it is a lot of fun. T.E. McHALE: We certainly look forward to having you participate in the program. With that we are going to open it up to questions for Rick Mears.
Rick, a lot of speculation going around that Roger is considering fielding a full-time IRL program for next year. Can you shed any light on that? RICK MEARS: I really can't. Thanks for asking, and I really don't -- I tend to stay out of that with Roger's decisions. He's taken a look at -- you know, he's always looking at his options and which way he wants to go, whatever. He's always been that way. So that's not part of my job and I just -- I go with the flow - whatever we do, we do.
Obviously you are not going to talk about Roger's plans, but do you miss not being in the driver's seat when you are out there with the other legends? Don't you ever get that competitive juice up; if you do, how do you cope with it? RICK MEARS: I just try to hit a golf ball as far as I can hit it. (Laughs) I do, but I don't. There's only been a couple of times over the years since I got out of the car that I have missed it. One of them was one time at Phoenix we went there for a test right after I got out of the car and they had just resurfaced the track and it was a cool, crisp morning and I thought, boy, you could lay down a lap today that would stand for a long time. Because the track is slower, the longer they are there. I thought man, this could be good. Then the next time was at Indy in 1995 when we were trying to qualify and we didn't make a show. I thought if I -- if I can just get in the car and feel it one time, I might be able to help, you know, fix our problem. But it took me longer to tell you right now than I thought about it (laughs). So it went away very quick. No, it was the right time for me. The desire went away and if you don't have that desire, you aren't going to put your right foot down. That's what it takes to win races. So it was the right time. But that's the only two times that it even barely crossed my mind.
Why hit the golf ball? RICK MEARS: Because I have no control over it. (Laughs). I always kind of prided myself on my self-discipline in a race car. And being able to try not to make mistakes and that kind of thing. But I tell you, when I get a golf club in my hand, I have no self-discipline. It goes right out of window. So I am still working on that. (Laughs).
As we look forward to a possible new engine package in 2003 with the 3.5 aspirated engines, what challenges do you see in that in your position in advising your drivers concerning that new configuration or is that just another one of those you deal with -- you play the cards that you are dealt when you get there? RICK MEARS: It's a little bit of both. You play with the cards you are dealt with. But I think probably one of the biggest things to me is going to be more of a timing thing as far as, you know, to try to pass; without the horsepower, it's going to be more of a momentum - keep the momentum up, and set up the timing when you go into a corner with somebody to be able to keep the momentum up to get by him on the next straight-a-way. I think that's probably going to be one of the biggest things.
Granted, you don't know if the formula is going to stay as proposed or not, what do you think -- talk a little bit about the changes you have seen in Champ Cars when you began up until today and if you can evaluate them a little bit, if you like them, or don't like them? RICK MEARS: I think it has been great. Probably the biggest thing -- there's -- two of the biggest things are safety and the electronics - are probably two of the biggest changes that have taken place since I got out of the car. We had some electronics but not like we have today. I mean, you name it, we can watch it today. We couldn't back then. So the electronics, being able to -- I think one of the biggest things is -- the CART Series is so close today and the cars are also close. The electronics - being able to look at a fraction of a second here; a fraction of a second there and put it altogether to be able to come up with a 10th and that's what you have to do today. So I think that is probably one of the biggest things. But also the safety. I mean, the same materials and composites and things they used to make the cars faster, they have also utilized to it make them safer. I think those are two of the biggest things.
Can you talk a little bit about any views you have on the HANS device or other restraints that you didn't have then? RICK MEARS: No. And I think you are crazy if you don't use it, whether it's a HANS; whether -- there's -- what is the other one?
Hutchinson in the NASCAR. T.E. McHALE: Right. It just -- you can't be too safe. You cannot be too safe. And I don't care, you know, I hear these guys complain about having to get out of the car with them on in NASCAR and are you kidding me?
At least they can get out of the car -- T.E. McHALE: Yeah and I'd get out of the car in a heart beat if I had to - no matter what I had on. I think it's -- I really think it's a must. I think you are crazy if you don't wear it. T.E. McHALE: Thanks a lot, Rick, I guess we're going to let you make that tee time. RICK MEARS: (Laughs). Okay. Thank you. Sorry we didn't have a little more going here. T.E. McHALE: That is quite all right. Thanks very much for joining us. Have a good weekend with the legends. Congratulations again on the two Penske Championships. RICK MEARS: Thank you very much. T.E. McHALE: Thanks to all of you who took the time to be with us today. Have a good afternoon, we'll talk to you later.