Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript July 15, 2003 Bryan Herta K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, July 15th. Today we visit with IRL IndyCar series driver Bryan Herta. Now...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
July 15, 2003
K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Teleconference for this week, Tuesday, July 15th. Today we visit with IRL IndyCar series driver Bryan Herta. Now we would like to welcome IndyCar Series driver, Bryan Herta. Herta, substituting for the injured Dario Franchitti in the No 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone with Andretti Green Racing, earned his first career IndyCar Series victory July 6th in the Kansas Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. The Valencia, Calif., native will drive for AGR the remainder of the season, including this weekend at the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. Bryan welcome and thanks for joining us today.
B. Herta: Thank you.
K. Johnson: I guess for starters, you don't have a lot of time off. You have actually taken a break in a testing schedule to join us today. What is like up at Michigan International Speedway today?
B. Herta: It's not too bad. It was cloudy and looked like it was going to rain on us, and is a bit windy, but it looks like we ducked the rain. So we can get ready for some running and get ready for the Michigan race which is following Nashville.
K. Johnson: Let's go back and take a look at your performance two weeks ago. It was just your third race with the AGR team, and you come out and post your first career oval track victory, an emotional time for you.
B. Herta: It was great. I mean, to be with this team, and they are a very good team and are running well in this series. To give then a win in the third run was a great feeling.
K. Johnson: The AGR team fields the current series leader, Tony Kanaan, plus, they were behind your winning effort at Kansas. What can you tell us about the team and the success they've achieved over the season?
B. Herta: The thing that struck me, and I've been with some really good teams along the way, as really different about this team is how they work around the three cars and take advantage of the three-car option. They have great engineers and they share all the data between them. We have got three times as much as a one-car team, and that makes a difference.
K. Johnson: You had the opportunity to come to the open test at Nashville Superspeedway last week. Give us your impressions of the track and what kind of race we can look forward to?
B. Herta: I have to watch the race from last year. I understand that it gets slippery off-line and a lot of guys slid into the wall. That's one of the things I have to look out for. It's kind of funny this year, everywhere I've gone has been a new track like for me. Like Nashville, I had a chance to test there and feel I'm going to have a real strong car. That track is different, it looks different, the ground is white, which is kind of funky deal, hard to tell where track ends and the wall starts. They have a blue stripe out at the entrance and exit to the corner so you can tell. Because its concrete, it's bumpy and slippery off line, so you really have to set your car up to be careful and run on the bottom of the track and stay there.
K. Johnson: You mentioned watching video of last year's event. You are not the first driver to mention watching a video to learn about a track. Can you really learn a track by watching a replay?
B. Herta: I don't think you can learn a track. I've already tested there, so I don't need to learn the track. I've heard from a number of people that a lot of guys got into trouble there, last year, and got into the wall. So, I think it would be valuable to see what they did wrong and, I hope these words don't come back to haunt me, but try and not recreate their errors.
Q: Hi Bryan. I want to take a different direction, because there's been a lot of talk in NASCAR, recently, about safety. Bobby Labonte had a fiery crash, but got out OK. I was present in Toronto when you were driving, and you crashed coming out of Turn 4 onto the front straight and the safety team was on you immediately. I suspect that they did a lot to help you recover, because they got to you soon. I wonder what it does for your confidence, knowing that it's the same safety team every week. Also, in the Indy Racing League, they have a trained safety team with you every week. What kind of confidence does that give you as a driver?
B. Herta: It's a good thing that the Indy Racing League does. Fortunately, I don't know too many of the IRL safety guys yet, and hopefully, I won't get to know them. I haven't been with the series that long, but I think that anytime a series can be diligent about safety, and complacency is the worst thing you can be, and it can still keep getting better. Felipe Giaffone just had an injury, and you mentioned my injury in Toronto. It was very similar, where a wheel came into the side of the car and he had a pelvis and femur fracture, so obviously the sides of the cars can be looked at to be stronger. Anytime something happens, as long as everybody is looking at how to improve it and make it better again, that's a good thing. Certainly, in the Indy Racing League, and CART, and NASCAR, safety seems to be a big priority, and that's a welcome thing for the drivers.
Q: How important is response time?
B. Herta: I guess that depends on the accident. Obviously, the sooner they get there and start to administer care to you, that's in your advantage, that's one of the factors that is important.
Q: Thanks very much and get another win. How about this weekend?
B. Herta: Well, I wouldn't mind that.
Q: Bryan, when you first came on board at AGR how did you think you'd fit in with their program, and where did you think you'd be at this time?
B. Herta: I don't really think that I had a firm idea, I didn't really come at it from that angle. I've known Michael, and this has been publicized recently. I've known Michael for a few years, now. I knew that I had a rapport with him and I knew Tony and Dario and some of the guys on the team, already, and am getting to know Dan Wheldon, now. One of the things they talk about a lot on this team is the chemistry they have, and keeping the chemistry intact. That was one of the factors when they brought me in and they expressed that. They felt that I'd fit in with the team. They didn't want someone to come in and change the feel or the chemistry they had. It has been very natural. That's a big reason I think we've been able to be so successful, because I've only done three races, I don't feel like I've only done three races. I feel like I've been with them a long time, already.
Q: Did you expect that you would be winning this quickly?
B. Herta: I saw that all year that they'd been running up front and I certainly expected to run well. You don't want to take it for granted because its tough, and there is a lot of tough competition. But I certainly hoped we'd do this well, and I'm pleased with what we've done so far and hope we can continue that. That's the thing now, you can't just say we're going to automatically get better just because we've been together longer. You've got to keep your head down and keep working to improve in all areas.
Q: You mentioned not racing at some of the tracks, you have raced at Michigan, haven't you?
B. Herta: Oh yeah, several times. I was born not too far from here.
Q: Over the last two years you have driven in a variety of cars. I think this year you ran at Sebring and even a stock car. Do you like the ability to stay with one car for a steady length of time? You've kind of been forced to bounce around.
B. Herta: It's better to be in a program like I'm at with Andretti Green Racing. It's a top team with a front-running car, and that's always better than getting in and out of cars. Because I didn't have a full-time ride, I really decided to open my horizons and take advantage of the fact that I didn't have a contract. Like now, I couldn't do all that stuff. They wouldn't let me, even if I had 'off' weekends. For most of my whole career, I couldn't do other things because my contract didn't allow me to. So I thought, what the heck, I've always wanted to try a stock car. I liked doing the sports car race at Sebring and I actually did pre-qualifying over at Le Mans. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that I had and really enjoy the variety. I think I learned something from every different kind of car that I've driven that I, coming back into open-wheel cars, has helped to make me better.
Q: Dario came back for that one race. Did it look like, then, that you were job-hunting again?
B. Herta: I had a backup offer from P.K. Racing to do Laguna Seca for them in the Champ Car Series and there was talk of actually continuing the season with the team. That's when Dario consulted with his doctor and they decided to do operation. Andretti Green called back and said 'will you do the rest with us?' Luckily, even though I didn't have a full-time ride, I was still getting jobs and getting work. It was good, because I kept current. The worst thing you can do is just not drive. So, I didn't want to sit around and get stale. I wanted to make sure I was active so when a good opportunity, a full-time deal like this came available, I was ready to jump back in it.
Q: Would you like to be back at Indy 500 again?
B. Herta: Of course, that's an easy question. I mean, everybody wants to do the Indy 500.
Q: Do you think at the there's a chance, you know, at the end of this year that you'll be sticking around here or will you be job-hunting again?
B. Herta: I don't know. I mean, if we keep running like this -- I told Michael and Kevin and Kim, when I signed with them, that I knew they're house was full with drivers for next year, but I'm going to make it damn hard for them to get rid of me. So they're going to have to find a sponsor for a fourth car, or something. We'll see what happens.
Q: Well, you did that at Kansas. On this fuel thing, how did that all work out at the end of the Kansas race?
B. Herta: We were running good. We had strong car. I didn't want that to get lost, and we did end up running a different fuel strategy, which won us the race. But certainly, we would have finished in the top three or four, regardless of what strategy we went with. Coming out of the last pit stop, my guys said, Kyle Moyer talked to me on the radio and said we could take a shot at making it to the end. I don't think a lot of people have identified that as a possibility right away. Immediately, out of the pits, we leaned the engine out and started drafting and that was our plan, to make it to the end without stopping. And, if it went green, we knew it was going to go our way. If it didn't, we knew we had a fast enough car that we could race with them until the end. I think we felt good with the strategy and made it work for us.
Q: What was your feeling when you crossed the finish line and had won an oval race?
B. Herta: Oh, it was great. I always had confidence and maintained confidence in myself. When things are going well, everybody is patting you on the back and tells you how great you're doing. And when things aren't going well, everybody theorizes as to why it is, and sometimes they're right and sometimes they're not. So, it's very easy to get swayed by that. But I maintained confidence in myself, and this team that they would give me a car to run up front, and they did.
Q: Congratulations again and good luck this weekend.
Q: You've been known as a fabulous road racer, and we all know they should have re-named that track 'Herta Seca'. I remember back, quite a few years, that you were known as 'High-Speed Herta', and you've been fast on ovals. Why do you think that no one remembers that? You've always done well on them.
B. Herta: Maybe some of it's been my fault, because I haven't tried to direct the press, I've tried to let my results speak for me. I think that's good when things are going well, But if they're not, if you don't give people a reason, then the assumption is that it must be you. If I learned a lesson from the whole thing, it's to be more vocal if things aren't going well as to why. If you don't tell people, they assume the worst. If you go back and look at my history, certainly, I've won oval races and qualified well and run well on them. But the last year-and-a-half, in CART, I didn't run well on the ovals, and that became a knock on me. Now, we're doing well again. I'm the same guy. Hopefully, now maybe people will think of me as an oval guy and think I won't be any good on road courses.
Q: You mentioned jumping back and forth between cars. How hard is that to adapt to the way a car handles and drives? Does it take you a long time to become accustomed to the way a particular car?
B. Herta: You know, because I've done it a little bit in the last couple of years, I feel like I've gotten better at that. I've been surprised. I've never driven a stock car before, and went out to Fontana and within a few laps was turning competitive times. I think just the fact that I have a lot of racing experience, although not in every type of car, made it easier to adapt, and the fact that I've changed, lately, from different types of cars, I've learned how to adapt quickly. I think that's helped, now that I'm not changing cars. You still have to adapt to the track, and changes in the track, and setup changes quickly, and I think I've become better at adapting because of that.
Q: On an oval course, you probably have more pit stops than on the others. Do you set cars up differently when you don't really have a pit stop?
B. Herta: Every car and series has its own little nuances. I mean, we do make changes during pit stops at the IRL races. Actually, there aren't a lot of things we can change on the car during a pit stop that will help us. If you're not good at the start, its not like in a stock car where you can do wedge and change spring rubber and tire pressures and actually change the car quite a bit with those adjustments. In the IRL, we can do tire pressures and wing angle and inside the car we can do weight-jacker for cross weight and roll bars. And none of those things are big, huge changes. They're more fine-tuning adjustments, so if you're out to lunch, you're probably going to be out to lunch all day.
Q: I want to get back to the question about when you're not doing well, everyone presumes it's you. Most race drivers are actually pretty shy people that speak with their right foot. How difficult is it for you to speak up and be vocal about things?
B. Herta: It's easier for me know that I'm a little older and a little more experienced. I think I've just learned through experience to handle those situations a little better. There's no guide book for it, when you're 19 or 20 years old when you start racing Indy cars like I did, I think I was 22 when I started, nobody tells you about that stuff. They'll talk to you about the car and you'll spend hours and hours talking to the engineers about setups and stuff. But nobody talks to you about media relations. That was the one thing, probably the hardest lesson that I had to learn. And sponsor relations too. But that's been easy for me, because I know what's expected of me. I guess I'm naïve, or was trusting, in that I believe that you see the media every week and you think that they know me, and they know that two weeks ago I ran good, but we're not running good this week. They'll know why, and you put it down to that. But it doesn't work that way. You can't assume. If you don't tell people, they won't know.
K. Johnson: Bryan, we know that Kenny Brack plays in a band, the Subwoofers, and when they performed in Richmond, you took the stage and did a Sid Vicious number with them. They are performing, again, this weekend at Nashville. Any chance that you'll be back onstage?
B. Herta: No, I'm not going to do it this weekend. They actually learned a couple new numbers for me to do. But they're actually playing before the race, now. They're playing sometime Saturday afternoon before the race, and I didn't feel comfortable doing it on race day. I get nervous and have the adrenaline rushing and everything, just like do when I'm in the car, and I didn't want to have to go through that process twice in the same day.
K. Johnson: You are predominantly a vocalist, or do you play an instrument as well?
B. Herta: No, I don't play an instrument. I just get up there and run around like an idiot and have some fun.
K. Johnson: Well, Bryan we will let you get back to your day of testing at Michigan International Speedway, but again, we appreciate your joining us today. Look forward to seeing you, as well as best of luck this weekend at Nashville.
B. Herta: Thank you very much, everybody, Bye-bye.