An interview with Tony George, Paul Tracy, Derrick Walker and Mark Bamford Indy Racing League Press Conference Transcript July 15, 2008 MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. I want to introduce those who have joined us here today on the dais.
An interview with Tony George, Paul Tracy, Derrick Walker and Mark Bamford
Indy Racing League Press Conference Transcript
July 15, 2008
MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone.
I want to introduce those who have joined us here today on the dais. First off, Tony George. Tony is the team owner of Vision Racing, is also the CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the founder of the Indy Racing League.
Next to him is Paul Tracy. Paul, certainly no stranger to any of us, has competed obviously in CART, Champ Car and IndyCar Series events during the course of his outstanding openwheel career. 262 career starts for Paul and he's currently the winningest active open wheel driver with 31 career wins.
Next to Paul is our good friend Derrick Walker. Derrick, who is the owner of Walker Racing, also great to have him here this morning.
And on the far end, next to Tony, we'd like to welcome Mark Bamford. Mark is with the Rexall Edmonton Indy. He's the Northlands Vice President of Finance.
Gentlemen, it's great to have you all.
Tony, if you could, start us off and let everyone know why we're here today.
TONY GEORGE: Good morning. And thank you for joining us today to confirm what has already been announced by some of you in the media, and that is our intention to field a third Vision entry at Edmonton for Paul Tracy.
And we're very excited about that opportunity. I want to thank all those who helped make this possible, starting with the Indy Racing League, but Derrick Walker Racing, who has been really great to work with.
And Paul, who is excited, I believe, about this opportunity. Lastly, but very importantly, the promoters up in Edmonton, Northlands, represented here by Mark. It's through everyone's effort that we were able to pull this together on short notice.
Derrick first approached me about his desire to put something together several weeks ago. And that was a great idea. I wanted to lend whatever support I could to that effort. As time started slipping away, it became more challenging and I wanted to still try and do what I could to help make that possible. And so we were able to come up with a different scenario that really brings us here today. And Vision is very happy to be part of it. It goes without saying that this year is all about looking forward.
And from the very beginning of the season we've been presented with a great opportunity fraught with great challenge. And so we've all been putting in the extra hours, doing whatever it takes, whatever way possible to take the opportunity that's been presented with the unification and really make the most of it in 2008. So while this is not a perfect scenario by any means, it is a great opportunity to get Walker Racing and Paul Tracy a part of the 2008 season, in an initial way, and hopefully it will grow into something more.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Tony. Paul we talked about your record --
TONY GEORGE: One more thing. I forgot. This would not be possible without a really great sponsor that has come on board. But I think I'll hold off on that for just a minute. So never mind.
MODERATOR: That's a nice little tease. So stay tuned for the sponsor announcement.
Paul, we talked about your record and obviously the fact that you have had to sit on the sidelines for much of the season. The last time we had an opportunity to talk to you was at the Long Beach Grand Prix, final Champ Car World Series event. I think you started 11th, finished fifth there.
A lot of uncertainty at the time. I knew you were kind of disappointed about the fact you weren't going to be in a car. Could you talk a little bit about the fact, after sitting and watching for a few weeks, you now get the chance to race again.
PAUL TRACY: Well, for sure it's been a frustrating year, but it's also given me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my family, which has been something that's been difficult to do over the last 20 years of my racing career, as my whole focus of my everyday life was always around what we had to do with the race car.
But you know we went to Long Beach. It was my final race for Champ Car and my final race for Gerry Forsythe. And at that point really all the options for me to do something with an IRL team or a transitional team to the IRL, there was nothing on the table at that point.
So I really just had to sit and wait for the right opportunity and had conversations with Derrick throughout that time since April until now. We've been working. He's been working diligently trying to put together a program for this year and possibly moving on towards next year.
This deal has really come about with the help of Tony and a great new sponsor on board. And Derrick and I want to be competitive. And that was one of the most important things to me was I just don't want to be another car in a 27-car field. I want to have an opportunity to compete well, to be where I'm accustomed to running.
And I think the opportunity to run with Tony's equipment, I've seen his shop now and his equipment there, and how his cars have been running this year.
And with Derrick's preparation, he's fielded championship contending cars the last two or three years with Will Power, and the opportunity to work with this new sponsor and bring a sponsor into the sport I think is a great opportunity. So for me it's all kind of just really happened, we've been working on this for quite a long time but it all seemed to go into fast forward in the last about 60 hours or so. So it's been a bit of a rush.
I was in Europe over the weekend, in England, and flew back on Sunday and jumped straight on a plane to Indianapolis. I arrived here Monday afternoon from England. We were able to get the car prepared and a seat made and finished it up this morning, and the driver's physicals and eye exams and blood tests and all that stuff.
And here we are now. So we're hopefully getting through all the hard work, and once we get to the track next week that will be the easy part.
MODERATOR: Month's worth of work in two days' time?
PAUL TRACY: Yes.
MODERATOR: Derrick, I know how frustrating this season has been for you. When we talked at Homestead, I know it was every intention, you and Walker Racing, to be part of the IndyCar Series full time this year but circumstances at the last minute prevented that.
Could you talk a little bit about your role in working with Paul for this event and perhaps down the road?
DERRICK WALKER: Yes, indeed. First of all, good morning and thanks for coming this morning.
I'd like to start, if I may, with some thank yous to Tony and Vision Racing and to Paul coming on board here. I think without all their support it wouldn't have happened.
The original idea came from Canada, from some folks I know up there who had some sponsorship, who maybe were interested in supporting an entry for Paul. And we've been working on it for several weeks. But it wasn't getting enough traction. So without Tony and Vision Racing and Paul buying into it, it wouldn't have happened. So thanks to all of them for making it happened. And we're looking forward to it.
With respect to working with Paul, we've obviously raced against him for many years and we've seen all sides of Paul. I like the fact that he's bald, because that's the first driver, just like me, has got no hair.
But, seriously, we've raced against him. And obviously this time last year we had a car on the pole with Will Power in Edmonton. So we just hope, and we'll be really interested to see, how it translates, what we learn at Edmonton. There's no doubt that Paul knows his way around Edmonton.
He's one of those drivers who I think gets everything out of a car. So I don't think, knowing what we've got, is going to come late in the day. We're going to know real early where we are. And hopefully, as I say, some of the information that we've learned in the past is going to translate to the Dallara, but there's a lot of very competitive teams in the IRL.
When we were racing in Champ Car, there was really one mega team that seemed to get most of the results. But if you look at the IRL, there's several mega teams and several really strong road racing teams.
So there's a lot of competition. So I don't think we're going into this with any illusions. But as Paul said, we're going there to get the best result we can. So we know it's there. If we can execute in the short time that we have I think we can have a good result.
The last point I'd like to make is, certainly, if you look at the big picture and you look at Canada, it's been one of those great markets for open wheel racing. And I think for one reason or another over the years it sort of -- it's depleted a little bit.
So I think IndyCar going there now and particularly with Paul being in the field, I think it's a great opportunity to kick start it back, and I know IRL is looking for more events next year in Canada.
I think it's a good opportunity, and hopefully this effort can help make, get Canada back on the map in open wheel and get the fans back. Because we know there's a lot of great racing fans up in Canada.
MODERATOR: Mark Bamford, as we mentioned, is the Vice President of Finance for Northlands. Northlands is the operator of the Rexall Edmonton Indy.
Mark, if you could, just comment on what it means to see Paul Tracy as an addition to the field for the race that would take place a week from this Saturday.
MARK BAMFORD: Good morning. And thank you. And on behalf of Northlands, the operator of the Rexall Edmonton Indy, it's my pleasure to be certainly joining Mr. Walker, Mr. Tracy and Mr. George for this announcement this morning.
We are just absolutely thrilled to have Paul Tracy joining this event. We think from a Canadian perspective the fans are going to be thrilled to see Paul taking part in this event.
I would echo Mr. Walker's comments with respect to the Canadian fans and it will help reinvigorate a lot of fan support up there.
We are just thrilled that he will be able to be there and join us at this event.
TONY GEORGE: I just want to thank Subway Restaurants and Jared for being here. This is certainly a historic day in the 2008 season, and one that has taken a lot of effort. But it would not have been possible without those I mentioned earlier. But specifically Subway Restaurants, who, through our relationship with Just Marketing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League, this opportunity was really brought about.
So I want to extend my sincere thanks to the folks associated with those organizations for really stepping up and making this possible.
Continued in part 2