IRL: Access Motorsports Indy 500 Media Tour transcript, part 2

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Thursday, March 25, 2004 Access Motorsports: Ted Bitting, Mike Colliver, Jamie Nanny, Greg Ray Part 2 of 2 KING: Let's open it up for questions. Q: Greg or Ted or anyone. A lot of talk is...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Thursday, March 25, 2004

Access Motorsports: Ted Bitting, Mike Colliver, Jamie Nanny, Greg Ray

Part 2 of 2

KING: Let's open it up for questions.

Q: Greg or Ted or anyone. A lot of talk is going on about the lease program of engines. As a team owner with resources somewhat limited, is a lease program better overall for any team rather than owning it, doing your own rebuilds or take it to some engine builder and take care of it? Is that a better program? A lot of people are saying that we're going back to where we were. What's your comment?

RAY: You have to be careful what you wish for. You know, to have this series grow, we need major manufacturer support. We need the support of the league, support of racing, their promotion, their advertising, and all those things. But all these manufacturers, and certainly Honda, they're a global leader with technology and the efforts that they put forward, you know, whether you buy the engine or not, do you actually think in your own mind that anybody can go build an engine in their own shop and compete with the likes of a Honda or other major manufacturers? It's just not going to happen. So you know, it's a double-edged sword. Looking at the Indy Racing League the way it was in the past versus today. Costs are getting more expensive; it is getting more technical. But that is racing in a nutshell. You know, we are very, very excited about our relationship today and long term with Honda. There's going to be days that are your days, and there's going to be days that may not be. That's what partnerships are about. But I guess if somebody wants to go buy an engine, they can do it. If they think they're going to run with a factory team, it's just impossible.

Q: Do you guys feel like you represent what the IRL was originally intended to do, to allow a team such as yourself to be able to go out there and compete?

RAY: I think in this day and age, we are the poster child. If somebody doesn't recognize that fact, I mean, if somebody doesn't recognize that fact, they're looking way wrong. I mean, we are the smallest, newest, littlest, tiniest team out there. But we can compete. We've shown that time and time again last year. We could have won races last year. I think we can win races this year. I mean, there's a thousand guys, a thousand businesses, a thousand people who dream about going Indy-car racing that could eat us for lunch and not even know it. They're not racing because they haven't put the business program together. They haven't put the people together. They don't want to take the risk and spend the money. You know, we're living proof that while we're not where we want to be, we're very competitive with what we have. We're a tiny fraction of the big teams, I mean, a tiny fraction. Yeah, I mean, absolutely. We stand - we should be their poster child, absolutely.

COLLIVER: Just to add a comment to that. I think, in general, what the series has done with their regulations in terms of the specifications of the cars, limiting the testing, those sort of things, has definitely helped a small team like ourselves be able to compete week in and week out. I think it's just a matter of getting the right combination of people, people that can wear a lot of hats, being efficient about what you do, just making sure you get the biggest bang for the buck in how you spend your dollars. Get ready, and on race day go racing. When it comes down to race day, everybody basically has the same equipment, same cars, same six guys that go over the wall. If you got the best group of people, they all work together, it doesn't matter whether you got 40 more guys sitting over in England working in the wind tunnel or the carbon shop, can you still compete? I think that's the beauty of the Indy Racing League.

RAY: We don't have air conditioning in our hospitality. Wait a minute, we don't even have hospitality, do we? So that's a difference.

Q: Greg, back in the years when you and Thomas Knapp were taking cash on the sidepods, you had your belts tightened pretty tight. Then there were the Menard fat years. Do you think having a stake in this particular program has increased, you were talking a little about your needing to be safe, a little bit less aggressive, but has that made you a better driver in another way in managing your skills, maybe holding it more?

RAY: I think - I don't know how to quite articulate that, but I had a different outlook on risk assessment. You know, I think as a younger driver at that point just coming into Indy car, I mean, like a lot of drivers, you know, we want to win, we have that drive. If you're in the race car at this level, and you don't want to win, that's not your driving factor, you shouldn't be here. But I think as a young driver, you're always trying to prove something. It didn't matter whether I owned the car or somebody else owned the car, I wanted to go for it, and I still do. I mean, that part of me hasn't gone. But I have gone through a full circle in a lot of ways that will make me a better driver until the day I decide to get out of the car. The ability to feel the car, to adjust the car, hang the car out on the edge is the same if not better just from experience, but risk assessment, knowing when your time is right, knowing what is right in the race, those things have improved greatly. But also from '97, '98, the engineers have become better. They all have figured out the mousetrap. You know, there's a lot more experienced oval drivers, a lot more people have fine-tuned the program. You know, the financial resources of the big teams have gotten way, way bigger, and there's a lot more of them. There's a lot more skilled drivers that have - you know, they're world-class drivers from A to Z. From that standpoint, it's changed dramatically. You know, teams are better, engineers are better, drivers across the board are better, and they've all zeroed in on what it takes to be successful. I use this analogy sometimes, but it's like throwing darts. If you start throwing darts, back in those years if you just hit the dart board to some degree, you're going to be pretty good. Then all of a sudden all the teams started hitting the dart board. Then the good teams really started hitting the bull's eye. Now every team is, it's just how close to the center of the bull's eye. Everything came a lot closer. The rules package has tightened up, too. A long answer to your question, but a lot of things have changed.

Q: Greg, you talked earlier about the dual role of driver and car owner. Are you able to kind of schedule yourself mentally to be a driver in these areas at these times and other than in other areas at other times or do you have to kind of switch the hats on the run? If so, how do you do so without losing focus in the other area?

RAY: That's actually pretty easy. I mean, it's stressful and it's taxing; it wears on you having to wear both hats to some degree. But the single easiest thing I do, and one of the funnest things I do, is actually get in behind that seat and drive the race car. The business side and the pressure and the stress, you know, you got to have this by Tuesday at 2:00, this by Wednesday, you know, those things are very, very taxing. I think Jamie sees it all the time. He'll see me just being stressed out on the business side. You know, he and I talk at 7:00 in the morning, then we talk at 11:00, then we talk at 2, midnight, sending e-mails all day long. So he knows. He's learned a lot. But he can see it on my face, too. When I crawl into the race car, hey, it's like I almost get to relax. That sounds kind of funny, strapping into an Indy car, driving 200 miles an hour, and that's the place I get to relax. I want to be able to as an owner create a foundation financially with sponsors and partners and team members to where when I get in the race car, I don't have to wear the owner's hat, I get to be a driver, and I get to go for it. That's what it's all about. That's what we're trying to create.

Q: Greg, several years ago you were the charger, the guy out in front. Now you've had to change your driving approach. How have you adapted to that?

RAY: I mean, at this point it's self-leveling on its own. Again, it's surviving as a team, you know, trying to grow the team and not do something foolish in the race car. That's not going to allow us to grow the team. I mean, my number -one goal has to be growing the race team, you know, creating the business, creating a program that's going to grow and elevate. I mean, again, it's very self-leveling. If I didn't know what our situations were on the business side, you know, I don't think I'd be quite as carefree as I was when I was younger. But, you know, I've become smarter. The aggressiveness is still there but just more intelligent.

KING: Ted, you all have talked about the sense of family you feel here with part of the team. I know with that comes certain kinships, when it comes to the parts of the team. I understand you've gone so far as to even name the race car. There are a lot of teams that name their cars, but I understand you have named your race car, as well.

BITTING: Yeah. Last year, a friend of mine passed away, and his name was Clifford. I named the car after him. The reason we did that is for 30 some years Clifford would come to Indy, watch the Indy 500. For the last seven or eight years of that, he would come by my house on Saturday night before the Indy 500, we'd have a beer or two, a sandwich, he'd be off on his way. When he passed away, I thought that would be a very nice thing for us to do. So that's Clifford. Clifford's to go to Indy again this year. Didn't make it last year, but he's going this year. Hopefully Clifford can win the race. If not, we'll work as hard as we can to get there.

Q: Because there's so much - a lot of you have heritage with the old Treadway Racing. When you see Fred (Treadway), does he have a tendency at the track to kind of stop by and check in with you?

BITTING: Yes, but he won't leave a check (laughter). Yeah, we are all very good friends with Fred. Fred was a very good owner and a very nice person. He doesn't do this anymore, but when he does, we try to make him feel at home. He's just a really great guy.

Q: (Inaudible)?

BITTING: It's always nice to see Fred. He always looks a lot more relaxed now, and I appreciate why. You know, he's always an uplifting spirit. It's good to see him. You know, everyone that follows him looks like they're really enjoying themselves.

Q: Ted, in your career, you have been in management, team manager, so forth. Now in your position as the team manager and part owner, how have you changed, how has your approach to racing changed, if any?

BITTING: Well, really I'm a truck driver. That's how I started in this business. I mean, that's really what I love to do. I'm at the age now where I can't do that and compete at that level. You find something else that you can do. I don't think my philosophy has changed in racing. I never, ever have got up in the morning at the racetrack and said, "Boy, I'm going to finish second today." I always felt like I could get up in the morning, I always felt like I wanted to win the race. I came from a background of drag racing. The second guy is a loser. That's an old cliche, but that was true in my life. As far as this race team, I come from a family of 10, my father was a policeman. I'm used to not having a lot of things. We make do with what we have and wring every ounce out of what we have. I don't think anything has changed my philosophy, nor do I think it will. My wife might think so, but I don't think it will.

KING: I was talking to Jamie. You have a pretty hectic schedule coming up in the next few weeks. Talk for a minute about everything that's got to be done before you go to Motegi.

NANNY: Well, I guess we could start with today, a matter of probably three hours this thing will be totally stripped down and off to the paint shop to get freshened up before the Indy test, which is April 3rd. Then we have a load daylight of April 6 for Motegi. This upcoming week, we'll be getting things prepared, manifests done, take to the track what we need, have everything designated in a box and get everything shipped off to Motegi. We have a paint job, we've got a test, and we've got to get packed for an overseas trip. We've got a lot to accomplish in 10 days.

KING: Then you get back from Motegi, turnaround time, test for the Speedway?

NANNY: We've got about five days by the time the car clears customs and gets returned to the shop, we start preparing for Indy, for the test on the 26th, 27th, which is an IRL Open Test.

COLLIVER: Just to give you an idea of additional work that we're talking about as the new rules for Indianapolis, we found out on Sunday at Phoenix, then explored it a little more yesterday with G Force, there's some safety parts coming down the road that we probably won't see until next Thursday. We have a 3-liter engine that needs to go in the car. We probably won't see it until maybe next Thursday, probably next Friday. So probably going to be 24/7 from about mid Wednesday until Saturday morning when we roll the car down to the Speedway. Just some of the things that we're talking about, we're going to have a whole different skid floor under the car to help prevent the car from possibly getting in the air. There's a vertical wicker that's going to run all the way from the nose over the top of the car, back down over the engine cover, which needs to be fitted. Actually, none of those have been fabricated yet. Then as an addendum to that, all that has to come off before the car gets loaded to go to Japan because none of those parts are going to be used in Japan. With the small amount of hands that we have at this race shop, that's kind of an example of the amount of work and the labor and the number of hours that it's going to take to get things done. But there's not a person here that is going to shy away from that sort of a challenge. We'll be ready to go to the Speedway on Saturday morning.

KING: Not a lot of downtime.

RAY: He made this paint job thing sound easy. It's not just a paint job. It's every bolt, nut, gear, every single thing on there gets torn apart, gone through, crack checked. He made it sound damn easy, and it's not. It's a lot of hours. It's amazing how efficient they work.

KING: Greg, Jamie, Mike, Ted, thanks for having us. We enjoyed it.

Part 1

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray