Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript July 29, 2003 Alex Barron Part 1 of 2 K. Johnson: Today we will visit with IRL IndyCarTM series driver Alex Barron. Barron, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Panoz ...
Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript July 29, 2003
Part 1 of 2
K. Johnson: Today we will visit with IRL IndyCarTM series driver Alex Barron. Barron, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone is subbing for the injured Felipe Giaffone, and he earned his second career IndyCar Series victory in this past Sunday's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He beat runner-up Sam Hornish Jr. to the finish line by .0121 of a second, the fourth closest finish in IndyCar Series history. The average speed of the 400-mile event was 180.917 mph, marking the fastest IRL IndyCar Series event in history. Alex, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
A. Barron: Thank you, everybody.
K. Johnson: Sunday marked your second career IndyCar Series victory, but it had to be an emotional moment when you took the checkered flag, especially in light of the way it came about. I mean just a little over two weeks ago you didn't have a ride.
A. Barron: This season has been a bit funny for me. We had a pretty good season last year, and then a walk in the paddock pretty much every weekend and I didn't get a shot at driving until Indianapolis. Actually I drove in Japan for Team Penske, and then I got a shot to test for them at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway, and at that point it was speculation that maybe Roger (Penske) was going to run a third car. He decided that he wasn't going to, so Morris Nunn gave me a call and then Aire (Luyendyk) got hurt at the Speedway, so I was able to jump into that car and race the 500. Then here I am again filling in for an injured driver, for Felipe Giaffone, who had an injury at Kansas. I got to race at Nashville and now here at Michigan.
K. Johnson: What is it about Alex Barron that has made you successful in these super-sub appearances? Going back the last season you drove for Blair Racing, and then this year you have driven for Marlboro Team Penske and now Mo Nunn Racing, three completely different teams inside of a year span?
A. Barron: I think a lot of it is the cars are new this year. All I have driven actually is a G Force, and a lot of it comes for driving for Team Penske, doing a lot of testing at the Speedway and racing in Japan. That's enough time when you do get the call to race again, you have enough experience with the car, and a lot of feedback memory that you have, that enables you to get up to speed quite quickly.
K. Johnson: You kind of alluded to the drives you've had this year. Just to reiterate this was your fourth IndyCar Series ride of the 2003 season. You subbed for Gil de Ferran at Motegi, and finished 17th after an accident. Then you drove for Mo Nunn racing at the 87th Indianapolis 500 subbing for Arie. You finished sixth. Then you didn't have a ride until Nashville when you step into the car for Felipe. You finished fifth. If you only include the races in which you have driven this season you would be ranked second in the points standings.
A. Barron: That's been mentioned a few times over the last couple days. It's pretty amazing. It seems like the points chase is a little bit more erratic than last year, but I wish it was only the fourth race of the season, and I had shot at the championship, I think we are 20th now; jumped up five points, but now it's still a long way to get to the front. The cars are so competitive this year, the drivers are aggressive and it takes a lot to win
K. Johnson: Looking back on your win this past Sunday, the manner in which came about, side by side racing, not only between you and Sam at the end, but for the majority of the race and at speeds well over 215 mph. From a driver standpoint, is that fun to do, what you look forward to doing, or would you like to just check out and lap the field?
A. Barron: I think everybody would wants to lap the field, but the cars are so competitive with each other, so equal, that there is a lot of things that the teams have to get right to run in the front and be there to go for the win at the end. It's hard to break away, and it showed all day with lead changes and a lot of the dicing going on. It's a lot of fun. Pit strategy plays a big part, and we got great fuel economy with the Toyota engine. We just needed to be there on the last lap to win.
Q: You are getting this reputation of being a super sub. That must be pretty frustrating for a guy who has to think he is good enough to be in the car every week.
A. Barron: It's definitely tough, finishing fifth last year in the championship. Everything seemed to die so slow there at Blair Racing. We thought we were going to have a go this year throughout the 2003 season. It's been a long year for me. Until I get the opportunity to drive a competitive car to get back in, that's the kind of car I would want to be in. And here at Mo Nunn Racing they definitely have the package to win races. The team has been competitive all year and at that point I realized that the opportunity I got that in order to do well we needed to do more than one race. It seems like it's been extended. I can't say enough about how well we ran at Michigan and I think we've got a lot to build on going into St. Louis.
Q: What kind of pressure do you feel every week knowing that this is a chance for you and a stumble may mean you are out before you deserve to be out of the car?
A. Barron: Actually, I don't look at it like that. I think it puts extra pressure on you and makes you do things you normally wouldn't. You have to look at it like you're going out there and you're trying to win the event, do the best you can, stay calm about it and be smart. Let the engineers on the team make a lot of the decisions; just be careful about when to be aggressive, finish the race. If you have a car in order to go for the win take advantage of it.
Q: And when do you determine you have a winning car versus a third place car? When do you decide that and say, "I can go for the win. I can challenge with it?"
A. Barron: It varies. Usually, it's anywhere from 2 to 50 laps from the end of the race, knowing how you have adjusted the car during the event, knowing how good of a balance you've got in order to move to the front. Again, we started the race; we had an in-balanced car. We made some adjustments in the pits as well as in the cockpit, and we were able to get the balance very good, and we started moving forward right after the first pit stop.
Q: I have looked at the photo finish over and over and there in one thing that I have noticed. Even before you got to the finish line, you were pumping your fist up in the air, were you that confident that you had enough pull to get along Sam and pass him?
A. Barron: Well, I was looking out of the corner of my eye that we were inching away, and I was pretty confident that we won. But at that point, you're so pumped up the emotions come quick there at the end. I thought we had it for sure, but there was a little bit of doubt. The guys came on the radio, said that we did win and at the time I knew it was a victory.
Q: Was this the most important victory that you have in your career?
A. Barron: Most important? Gosh, I'd have to say this one here. Again, I'm trying to get into a full-time ride and go after a championship in 2004. And you need to have results like this in order to get in a good car the following season.
Q: How much does this help you? You had a decent run Nashville as well and all you have done this year, has there been more interest about 2004?
A. Barron: For sure. There's always phone calls going around. It's definitely drawn up a lot of interest. It can change some of the things going on for the following season. Right now I have a job here with Mo Nunn racing with the Hollywood car. And again, it's very competitive winning at Michigan. We just need to make sure when we go out here in St. Louis we try to do the same thing. Only good things can come if you have success.
Q: Have you talked to Mo Nunn about a third car?
A. Barron: Yeah, there's a lot of talk here. It's hard to say what's going to happen with the way the economy is. Sponsorships are being negotiated from everybody, every team. Nobody's really set for 2004 yet, but everybody's working on it. All you can do is stay in touch and hopefully before the season get a good contract out for 2004.
Q: How did it feel going across the finish line?
A. Barron: It felt great; a big relief. There was a little bit of doubt we'd be able to overtake there at the end, but we got a good run there off of (Turn) 2 and had the draft. It was in my mind that 'this could happen, this could happen.' Coming down the main straight the car just kept inching forward it felt fantastic even before the start/finish line.
Q: And I bet there was a lot of screaming on the radio?
A. Barron: Yes, My ear drums took a beating. Very exciting, lot of emotion on the team. They worked hard all year, and I think they really deserved this.
Q: Do you have job security at this point?
A. Barron: It looks like it. Right now I've gotten the go in the following races. I've just got to take advantage of the races coming up. When Felipe is going to come back, we really don't know. But I just have to make sure when I get the call to race that we do our homework and try to have the best success we can.
Q: Are you continuing with your karting at this point?
A. Barron: I'm still involved in karting quite a bit. I've distanced myself to where I only do it when I have time, whereas last year I had a little bit of an obligation with the series that I started and I found in order to get the career back going again, I had to have full focus. I distanced myself away. I still go out to the track a lot and talk to a lot of my customers. It's only when I have a chance and only when I am in my home and I have time.
Q: As you are driving for a Brazilian company now, are you learning a little bit of Portuguese to give them some acclamation to you?
A. Barron: Well I haven't spoken to Hollywood officials a lot. I met a couple with them a couple of times over the year a little bit, but they speak a little English and it seems easier to speak English than Portuguese. But no I haven't learned any Portuguese yet, but if I need to I will go to work.
Q: Hi Alex first up congratulations. Second thing, I know when you were down here in Texas we spoke and I thought it was amazing that a guy of your caliber did not have a ride in the Indy Racing League and you were sporting for Roger Yasukawa. Now I want to relate that back to Michigan. You were involved with Thomas (Scheckter) and towards the end of the race it looked like Thomas had a pretty good car but he was hesitant to maybe go one on one with you to the outside. Brian has talked about the respect, is that something that is important in this league?
A. Barron: Running those speeds around Michigan and a lot of the other tracks, you have to have respect. You have to be smart how you're moving around on the track at those speeds. I though it was a pretty safe and controlled race there at the end. It just seemed like we had a pretty good car there at the end, and we could run low or high even in traffic. And I think that was a lot in the way we were able to position ourself in the end of the race.