An interview with Helio Castroneves and Cliff Hawks Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Starting the call with us ...
An interview with Helio Castroneves and Cliff Hawks
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Starting the call with us is IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves, and Nashville Super Speedway president Cliff Hawks, and in a few minutes we'll be joined by Firestone Indy Lights driver Richard Antinucci.
Good afternoon, gentlemen. Thank you for joining us. Helio is in his seventh full season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Team Penske. He ranks fifth all-time with 12 career victories and first all-time with 23 career poles. This year Helio ranks second in points and has eight top-5 finishes in the first 10 races. This will be the IndyCar Series eighth visit to Nashville Super Speedway.
Cliff, first a question to you and then I'll let you have a question for Helio. The IndyCar Series obviously has had some great races at Nashville in the past. Tell us about the buzz down there as race weekend approaches, and is there anything new or different fans can expect this season?
CLIFF HAWKS: Well, this will be our eighth year to host the Indy Racing League, and as always, the ticket sales for the event are very strong. And this marketplace has really embraced the Indy Racing League since year one when we began with the series, and the media has really gravitated to this event, as well, which is always exciting. So the event creates a big buzz in Nashville and throughout middle Tennessee, which we're always excited about.
I would say that fans could expect all of the amenities and things that we offer around the Indy race, including the Fan Walk, which for $10 allows fans to take a tram into the infield and see everything going on in the garage and pit road. We'll also have Kate and Kacey Coppola live in concert prior to the race. They are being featured now on "Duet" on CMT TV, and that's going to be a great, live show leading up to the pre-race.
But I would say that the one thing fans can look forward to, and I know are looking forward to here in middle Tennessee is the larger car count this year, and I think that's going to make for an even more exciting race here at the Superspeedway over and above what we've seen in the past, if that's possible.
So I would say that would probably be one of the things that fans can expect to be different and I think is very welcomed.
And Helio, I would just ask you, if you would comment a little bit on what it's like for you and the other competitors to come into a marketplace like Nashville that has really embraced the series over the last eight years, and what it's like to compete in front of the capacity crowds that we have here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, listening to what you say, I totally agree that Nashville, it's one of the places that definitely embraces the IndyCar Series. I think when I was there for the first time, I remember that every time we go there, people enjoy it. And for us, it's an awesome scenario, and it's great to go to a place where you're welcomed.
And, well, we can ask anybody about that. We always feel so pleased about it. I can see that the fans in Nashville, they are extremely excited and enjoy the IndyCar Series there, and they definitely go for it.
No question about it, especially the history. I've been promoting the race many, many times; even once when I went to Elvis's studio to record a CD, which thank God I am a very good race car driver; otherwise, I would definitely be in trouble. I think that I can drive and I can dance, but probably not sing.
I have to say that with all of these years that I've been in IndyCar Series and Nashville's been part of the championship, no question about it, you can ask any driver, and everyone enjoys it. The track is definitely a challenge because it's concrete. So definitely for the drivers and for the engineers, it's a challenge to find grip, but once you have it there's a great chance you'll be in good shape.
Not only that, it's a unique trophy, having the guitar as a trophy. I do not have that. I really cherish and I really want to have that in my collection, so hopefully this year will be the year.
CLIFF HAWKS: Helio, the guitar is here, and we look forward to having you here this weekend and everyone else from Indy.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you so much.
THE MODERATOR: You talked a little about the challenges of the concrete surface and the challenge of finding grip on there; is that because it's so bumpy, kind of has a reputation of being a bumpy track?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, there are several things. Yes, when you go on the highway, you feel that they have the seams in a different direction, which makes it very bumpy.
But in terms of that, it's not a problem. But concrete definitely versus asphalt, it's just a little bit different. In fact, Firestone, every year they do everything they can to develop a better tire, and I don't think this year is going to be different. They are going to continue working to make it better. It is just the level of grip is just different, which is normal.
You see in NASCAR, I believe it's Dover, also it's a concrete track, so it just depends on the way they built the track, and it just makes it challenging. When you definitely go above 200 miles an hour on the track, it is tough and it's cool, and racing at night, it's really fun for the IndyCar Series drivers.
Yeah, it will be interesting, and I can't tell you how much I want to be there, and hopefully I will be learning how to play the guitar.
THE MODERATOR: Let's look ahead at a couple of the other races coming up. We're in this six-race stretch right now. Mid-Ohio is obviously another place that you've had lots of success and you won the pole there last year, and you won two races in CART in 2000 and 2001. Talk about what you enjoy so much about that track.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, Mid-Ohio is a different track obviously than Nashville. You have up-and-down elevations. You have twists and turns, turns right and left, very physical, demanding. But at the same time, it's very fun.
Last year, I do believe it was probably the best I've seen in terms of the public participating and being part of it. You see all of the hills that they have there; it was kind of full and everybody was enjoying having the IndyCar Series there.
So for me, Mid-Ohio, it's a very unique place. And once you've figured out what to do, it's fun, too.
THE MODERATOR: How much tougher has the road racing been this year with the addition of the new drivers and teams?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's been very competitive. Not only that, but the challenge for new teams and new drivers, it's unique.
But it's great, not only for us to make us better drivers, but especially for the fans. They can see on average, 26, 28 cars in the field; when they have an oval like that, they are facing more traffic and when some of the cars are not handling very good. When you go to road courses, you have more cars to pass for another challenge, as well. So definitely it's been very good for the series.
THE MODERATOR: And one more question from me. Looking even a little bit further ahead to Edmonton, obviously a place you've never raced; how much do you think it will be similar to St. Pete, and have you talked with any of the other drivers, guys like Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal who have raced there to get a feel about it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I've never been to Edmonton, but I heard that it's a beautiful place and I heard that the Canadians are really looking forward to having us there.
Well, I can only say that I'm looking forward to it, as well, to be there. But in terms of similarities, in terms of what it's going to look like, I guess I'm going to have to wait and see.
Q: As you said in your opening remarks, you've always enjoyed coming to Nashville, had a great relationship. I talked to Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon last week, and they said the same thing. And having said that, there's a rumor this might be your last trip here; what's your reaction to it, and what's your feelings about it if the IRL should drop Nashville next year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, for us, we are not the ones to decide if we should have a race there or not. Definitely for us, we enjoy being in Nashville so much, it's going to be sad if that's true.
But right now, the only thing I can say, I had a lot of fun being with everyone from Nashville, you know, and working with everyone from there. Especially now that I've been part of "Dancing With the Stars" and Julianne (Hough) living over there, so it will be great to have new friends over there to come and watch.
So for me, Nashville should be part of the circuit; it's been for so many years, but obviously it's not me that's going to decide if it should be or not. So the only thing I can say, is if it happens, it will be missed.
Q: Helio, how much does it grate a little bit that you've been close here at Nashville but you haven't gotten the win? Is it just a matter of things finally falling into place?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, that's part of it. But you know, it's one of those things, I do feel that I want to win as bad as anybody, and probably because I've never won here, it's one of those races that you're like, 'Man, I've got to do it,' and there's something I need to change to make it happen. And if you ask me, yes, being at the right time at the right time, I think being lucky is part of it, because for many, many years we had mechanical issues.
I believe this year we are more prepared, but you're right, hopefully things fall into place and we are going to be celebrating at the end of the evening.
Q: I know you talked about Mid-Ohio, looking ahead here a couple of weeks, you scaled the fences here before; what's it going to take for you to do it again in an IRL car?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No question, this year it's been competitive with the Champ Car guys. But I guess last week unfortunately at Watkins Glen, we had several issues with mechanics, etc., and weren't able to be up front.
We feel we have a very competitive car. Last year we got a pole position and finished in the top three, and we feel that this year, we can make crack that first win that we're looking for and probably it will be Mid-Ohio, if not Nashville, which is the one that I'm looking for so bad.
Again, conserving fuel is one of those things that helps a lot to win racing in CART, and last year was the same scenario, as well. I believe if you do the same things, probably it will pay off this year, as well. The only difference is we have more cars thinking like that, as well, so that will be something.
Continued in part 2