Chip Ganassi-Alex Lloyd-Bobby Rahal Press Conference Transcript 2008 Indy 500 Media Tour Wednesday, April 9, 2008 PAT SULLIVAN: Before we really begin our Target Chip Ganassi press conference in full force, we'll bring up the other participants.
Chip Ganassi-Alex Lloyd-Bobby Rahal Press Conference Transcript
2008 Indy 500 Media Tour
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
PAT SULLIVAN: Before we really begin our Target Chip Ganassi press conference in full force, we'll bring up the other participants. A very special announcement that for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, the No. 16 Dallara-Honda Firestone IndyCar piloted by the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion, Alex Lloyd, will be run out of the Rahal Letterman Racing stable during the month. There will be close cooperation between the teams and hopefully create a situation that is very beneficial to a talented driver in Alex Lloyd.
Chip, maybe you can just say a word about the partnership and how this came about and what the plans are for this and the future.
CHIP GANASSI: I tell you, it was not my idea, it was Rahal's idea. It was all because of him, I can tell you. It was his idea and his team's hard work. That's how it got started. With that I'll turn it over to Bobby.
BOBBY RAHAL: Thanks, Chip. I think I felt Chip would be the only guy in the paddock area that would accept an idea like this. But, also, you know, Chip's an old friend, and I didn't propose this to any other team because Chip to me is the best. So I'm just pleased that we were able to come together, pleased for the series, pleased for Alex, obviously. We're going to make sure it's a great opportunity for him. It's good for our team. I think it's one of those deals a much overused phrase, win-win situation but this is one of those situations. So we're looking forward to it to have Alex and Ryan Hunter-Reay as part of our stable for the month of May. I think that we're going to have two strong candidates for Rookie of the Year and two strong candidates to win the race. So I'm just pleased and, as I said, we look forward to coming here in about a month's time.
SULLIVAN: Alex, first of all, delighted to see you in the IndyCar Series after such a wonderful run in the Firestone Indy Lights. The talent is obviously there. You have done well here at Indianapolis, as well. What an opportunity to be matched up with two gentlemen who have been successful owners, also individuals who know about getting around this racetrack fast themself as drivers. So talk about your opportunity, Alex, and you've got to be excited about the 92nd running.
ALEX LLOYD: Yes, absolutely. I'm thrilled. First of all I want to thank Chip, Mike Hull and Bobby for putting this all together. For me, it's a fantastic opportunity. It's always been a dream of mine to race in the Indy 500 and to get a chance this year with such a good operation is very exciting.
I'm just really excited, looking forward to it. I've been working for this for my whole life. I had a great year last year and excited for the chance to move up and see what we can do in the biggest race in the world. So, you know, I can't wait and I'm working very hard for it.
SULLIVAN: Chip, you know something about being fast as a rookie here, it can be imposing.
GANASSI: It is, but you know, a guy like Alex deserves a shot at this thing. He proved his worth in the Pro Series and proved his worth here at this track in the Pro Series, in fact. I think again, you know, it takes a guy like Bobby Rahal to come along and say, 'Hey, come on, let's get together, this kid deserves a shot at this thing,' you know. He got our attention.
I'm just real happy, you know, to get together with these two guys on my left and put something together. It says a lot about the flavor around IndyCar racing these days is more of a coming together, I guess, around the whole sport. You know, I think the Pro Series champ deserves a shot, and Bobby obviously felt, he actually felt stronger about it than me. So we're happy to do -- we're happy to give it a big effort.
I also want to point out that this is no, you know, it's not a second-week effort, it's an ROP program and first-week effort right off the bat. It's the full-on program. It's not a bunch of extra guys or a bunch of, you know, volunteers that are doing this. Bobby really has a first-class organization he's going to put behind it, and we're putting some people behind it from our staff. So we look for it to be a first-class effort and run in a first-class manner and hopefully be at the front at the end of this thing.
SULLIVAN: Bobby, I heard you talking about Rookie of the Year honors, how are you going to deal with this kid with Newman/Haas/Lanigan?
RAHAL: They're going to be tough. But I was saying earlier just a few moments ago, I'm not a great historian of the Indy 500 like Donald Davidson or my guy Scott Roembke, who can tell you who qualified where just about every year this race has been in existence, but I've got to think this is maybe the greatest rookie class in the history of the race. When you look at how many -- it's not just going to be Graham or Alex or Ryan, but you've got Justin Wilson, you know, Will Power, and I'm missing a lot of other guys, I know, but -- Oriol Servia, who is quite quick on the ovals, it's going to be a tough deal.
So I think, well, you know, Graham may be competitive out there, I think there's going to be a lot of other guys that are going to issue as strong a challenge. So we've just got to -- we're going to have to work very hard and very close together to ensure that we've got a good chance.
SULLIVAN: Those of you who are fans of Alex, I want to tell you, thank you.
GANASSI: I disagree with Bobby, I think probably the most competitive rookie class at the Speedway was 1982. (Laughter)
RAHAL: I'll go with that.
SULLIVAN: Without any question.
GANASSI: I just want to make it that he and I disagree --
RAHAL: I stand corrected.
GANASSI: -- but I disagree with him on that.
RAHAL: He's my new partner, so I stand corrected.
SULLIVAN: OK, folks, we're going to take a limited number of questions about this and then we're going to bring up the rest of the Target Chip Ganassi team. So if anyone has questions about this partnership now, now is the time.
Q: Two questions, the first for Alex. You coming from Great Britain with no history in oval racing, if I remember correctly, you were driving before you moved over to America in the Superfund European Formula 3000 Series and now you became last year's Indy Lights champion. How you adapt so quickly to this totally new environment?
Question two to Chip Ganassi. You said this idea for this cooperation came from Bobby Rahal. In case he had not given you this idea, do you have maybe a third car for Alex Lloyd for your own team?
LLOYD: I think, to your first question, getting to grips with ovals, it is certainly daunting to start with, and I thought it would be very difficult when I came over. But I think one of the biggest things as a driver is if you're patient and realize that, you know, if you lose a position, it's a lot easier to get back than on a road course. You don't need to be quite as aggressive as you do on the road courses. I think that put me in good stead to know that I could be patient and that I could sit and draft with people, but it takes a little bit of time to learn for sure.
It took me through the first three races of the year in 2006 I did on ovals to really start feeling comfortable. I was very fortunate last year that I was with a great team in Sam Schmidt Motorsports that really taught me a lot. By the time I got to the first race after the preseason testing, I felt very comfortable that I knew what I was doing through their expertise that they had sort of imparted on me, and that really helped.
I think ovals are a lot of fun. I've really enjoyed them, and I certainly would miss oval racing now if I was told I was never allowed to do them again. So, you know, that's one of the reasons I love this series so much is that we have the ovals. So, you know, I've enjoyed them so far and looking forward to getting more experience on them.
GANASSI: And I think if I understood your question correctly, if we didn't do this, would I run a third car with Alex Lloyd in it? I don't know. I think the important thing to understand is this is a better opportunity, this is a much better opportunity than a car that we could put a third car out there. This is a much better opportunity than that.
GANASSI: Right, I think it's a hell of a good opportunity. Sure, it's a better opportunity, the combination of this -- this combination of people and resources is a better combination than we could have put in a third-car effort out there.
Q: Really, this is a question for Bobby. Every year I wind up talking to Alex after the race in Chicago, and the plan had always been so what's next year, what's going to happen. This is obviously an excellent chance to put a solid car in the field. But, Bobby, when you came up and you had a great partnership with Jim Trueman, sometimes there are these business relationships that you have with a protege or a mentor who understands what it is you have to do that can farm you up through a lot of series, Can Am or IndyCars, but much like Penske and Donahue had. Is that kind of a relationship much more difficult to find nowadays that would have people like Alex, one guy working in through a different farm system in a sense?
RAHAL: Well, I think -- I don't know if that's more difficult. I mean, I think obviously both Chip and I felt that, you know, Alex deserved a chance. Obviously, Chip felt that Alex deserved his support at the end of last year or earlier this year, whenever it was when Chip signed Alex. I think you see a lot of drivers being given opportunities by owners or what have you. They're not all bringing money. You know, it still happens and maybe it's a little more difficult nowadays, but it still very much exists.
And certainly I think both Chip and I can both attest, you know, at some stage in your life you really need to have a champion to get you, you know, over the hump or to get you going, whatever the case may be. In my case, it was Jim Trueman, and I certainly feel some obligation to, you know, to try to do the same. I think the track record we have had as a team in bringing drivers in, whether it was Bryan Herta or whether it was Kenny Brack or whether it was any of the other -- Danica, for example. I mean, I think we've always had a strong sense that we should somehow, you know, be a conduit for someone to help achieve their goals and dreams.
SULLIVAN: This will be the last question this segment.
Q: Chip, what else is on Alex's schedule for '08? What else is on his schedule, sports cars and IndyCars?
GANASSI: r You have to talk, that's a Rahal question. Now, I think right now we're just taking this, you know, we're going to try to get through this month and take it from there. I don't think we really have any plans beyond that right now.
SULLIVAN: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We want to bring up the remainder of the Target Chip Ganassi squad.