IRL: Cheever Indy Racing team press conference transcript 2001-04-13

<pre> HOST: Mike King GUESTS: Cheever Indy Racing drivers Eddie Cheever Jr. and Scott Goodyear </pre> MIKE KING: Good morning and welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Conference Center. My name is Mike King, and I'll be your ...

<pre> HOST: Mike King GUESTS: Cheever Indy Racing drivers Eddie Cheever Jr. and Scott Goodyear </pre> MIKE KING: Good morning and welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Conference Center. My name is Mike King, and I'll be your moderator for this press conference with Eddie and Scott as well as the 12:30 Johnny Rutherford press conference and the 1:30 press conference with Sam Hornish Jr., John Barnes; and we're hoping that Kevin Blanch will be a part of that as well. There was one sheet that was omitted from the press packets. I believe you may have received this. Members of the public relations staff have just asked if you would read over it. It is basically the guidelines for the weekend, nothing new to us. They would ask if you would to please read over this. For a quick update on Nicolas Minassian: What happened in the incident this morning here on the front straight, I would like to introduce the Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Fred Nation.

FRED NATION: Thanks, Mike, and thank you all for coming. We've really had a surprisingly good turnout, more of you all than we expected. We have a good, tight schedule here today and an opportunity to watch some racing. In terms of Nicolas, he is at Methodist Hospital. He was taken to Methodist Hospital complaining of sore neck and a sore right wrist. He is awake and alert. We'll update you as we know more later this afternoon. As far as the month of May this year, you all know we've got several changes. We have resumed our three-week schedule. We have three qualification days. We've got a great lineup of drivers and we're going to bring you some very exciting racing. There are so many story lines this May that I don't think anybody will run out of them. We've got two of the story lines sitting here today and I don't want to take any more time away from them. So we're going to turn it over to our two drivers today. Any questions you have, we've got a number of our staff here today that can help you with it. Please call any time. Let us know what you need and we'll make sure you get it.

M.K.: Thank you, Fred. Of course, the two drivers joining us this morning are no strangers to any of us. Eddie Cheever, the winner of the 1998 Indianapolis 500, will be looking to make his 12th start here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May. He was the first true driver/owner in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series beginning with Team Cheever in 1997. The team is now Cheever Indy Racing. Scott Goodyear, of course, left us as far as a full-time driver in the series, but will return as Eddie's teammate this season. They'll both be powered by the Infiniti 35A power plant. Scott has unfortunately found every way to come as close as you can possibly come to winning this race without winning this race. The closest finish in the history of the 500 in '92, finishing behind Al; the situation, the debacle, if you will, in '95 with the pace car situation; and then in '97, another debacle, if you will, with the restart behind Arie. So unpleasant memories, I'm sorry, Scott, but we have to dredge them up every time we talk about you and the 500. I will start with a quick opening statement, first from Eddie, then from Scott, and then we'll open the floor for questions.

EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: Every press conference I go to with Scott, they always find a way to slip that in right in the beginning, don't they? First, I would like to welcome all of you here today. It kind of feels like it's the first of May, and yet we've got another 15 days before the 500 starts. We have been in a very aggressive development mode with the new Infiniti 35A for the last two weeks. I want to thank the Speedway for giving us the opportunity to answer some questions maybe on that issue so when the actual month of May starts we can just focus on going fast. Being just one of three cars in a field surrounded by General Motors engines makes it for a very difficult month. But we have put a lot of work into it. We have just had a very successful test in Atlanta coming off what was probably the worst race in our history at Homestead. So we're quite focused on that. It is going to be a very exciting month of May as they all have been. All 12 or all 11 that I have participated in always had a different story. I hope that this year the story will be that Infiniti is a lot stronger than people have given it credit to date. It actually looks, the way we're dressed, that Scott is the owner. He's got all the rings on and the jacket on and I'm the scruffy one. Actually we've been called the odd couple lately. I'm the scruffy, dirty one and he's the one that's always well dressed and says the right things. He is the epitome of a perfect teammate. He's been a in charge of doing the 35A development. When I started talking to Scott about driving for us at the 500, I saw in him a driver that had come so agonizingly close to winning it, but yet at the same time having probably - the full story of his 500 story is not the fact that he's come so close to winning it but that he has been so consistent over time. I think it takes a lot of experience and a lot of patience to be able to position your car so that you are in the lead group for the last 20 laps. It all comes down to that last 20 laps. I sincerely hope that Scott's luck will be on Scott's side when the 500 gets down to those last 20 laps. That's probably all I'll get to say with Scott sitting here today, so I will move over and let him do the rest.

SCOTT GOODYEAR: I'll keep it short. I'm delighted to be with the team. It's turned out something that's great for me. I'm having a lot of fun. Being involved in the development program has been a lot of fun, also. There's a lot of work that we've done, there's still a lot of work ahead of us. As Eddie touched on, I think the last test that we just had at Atlanta for the last couple days went very, very well. I'm pleased and I'm sure the team is pleased, and everybody I think from Infiniti is pleased. So if I may say, we completed over 600 miles on one engine which I think for everybody coming to the month of May is a great feeling; and not that they have not done it before, but this was the first opportunity that we had a chance to go off and try and do that. The first motor that we tested at Phoenix, the car went to Phoenix and the motor was delivered to Phoenix and the guys put it in; and that motor went over 300 miles without any problems whatsoever. So when you come into a new program with a new engine package, obviously for myself when you're just going to do one event and that's the Indianapolis 500, you want to make sure you're there at the end. So that's been something that's pretty prime on my mind. So we're delighted with the way the Atlanta test went. Working with the team is great, working with Owen Snyder and everybody has worked out to be to my benefit. It's a lot of fun with these guys. Overall I think we're going to be very competitive the month of May. I'm looking forward to it. When Eddie mentioned about teammates, I think it was here about ten years ago in 1990, that we probably first came here as rookies and for whatever reason - I probably shared this story with a few of you before. We just didn't get along. A lot of times we ended up running into each other at events throughout the season. I think it was even Detroit one year that we left the pit lane on Friday morning in the first session, and we didn't even make it to turn one before tires were flat and wings were flying. If you had asked me even five years ago whether we would be teammates and would actually be driving for Eddie as a team owner, I would have said no way. But I think our relationship has grown a lot over the last couple years and especially when we've both been involved in the IRL. It was great for me to have the opportunity to speak with him throughout the tail end of last season to join the team. So I'm elated to be here and looking forward to the month of May and maybe eroding a little bit of that getting close that both these guys have mentioned. It was a great day of driving here and getting underneath the tunnel here this morning and hearing the cars go around until you brought that up.

M.K.: I apologize. Hopefully that, like you said, will change and we'll have something to better to reference you with when it comes to returning here. Josh Laycock is on that side of the room, he has a wireless mic. We are transcribing this, so we would like to get your questions on tape. Questions for either Eddie Cheever or Scott Goodyear. I'll have the mic for this side of the room. Quick hands and we'll get the mic to you.

E.C.: One at a time, not all together. You guys can't be this shy.

S.G.: That means we've been here too long, they know too much.

E.C.: That or we're boring, one of the two.

Scott, changing over to a different type engine from what you have been driving and learning it in a quick pace, is there much of a change between one and the Oldsmobile?

S.G.: Well, there's a change. My first try at the Infiniti was with the older style engine, had a 90-degree crank, so it felt different. Not only when you sat in the car and they started the car up, but it felt differently leaving the pit lane and being on the racetrack. The new 35A with a 180-degree crank is a smoother engine. I think it's more similar to the Oldsmobile engine in the sense that that obviously has a 180-degree crank and I think the advantage of the 180-degree crank is now obviously felt with the Infiniti engine, too. So there's many levels of motors that we're going through quite quickly. The group is trying to respond as quickly as possible to getting ready for the month of May and they have done a great job. They keep giving us new pieces to try. I keep looking forward to new things that keep coming from the group, from the Infiniti group, to actually try on the engines because I've sort of been put in charge of testing and test miles and things like that. So Eddie made sure that I was the guy in the car that made the car go 600 miles before he was actually going to sit in it. So he wanted to make sure that it was off and complete more than race distance. Obviously it's 500 miles here, but you add in Carburetion Day where you might run anywhere between 20 and 50 miles and then obviously a pace lap. So 550 miles or more, and you're pretty safe. The engines themselves, they have different characteristics, but the way that they do the sum of all the parts is probably just about the same; and our goal is to just continue making it more and more competitive.

E.C.: If I can elaborate on that just a little bit. Ilmor actually is doing Penske's engines, Sam Schmidt's engines, and I believe another team, Kelley's engines. Yes, they have moved the benchmark and one of the very important parameters which is fuel consumption. We have had to change our plans to address that fuel consumption because it does add an added element to the strategy of the 500. I think that Ganassi's team last year, one of the things that we learned analyzing the race afterwards, they spent a lot less time in the pits. The question really is: Was that because they had less fuel to put in their car when they would stop under the yellow or were their pit stops quicker? The whole strategy of the 500 is changing dramatically and we have had to change what we're doing to adapt to have that chess piece too play, also. I am very pleased that we have made a lot of gains in the fuel economy area. But having said that, I sincerely hope that our races do not become a strategic fuel match because I think that would take a little bit of that element of aggressiveness that is the namesake of the IRL.

Eddie, in your career you've gone from a driver who's been part of a team to an owner as a single entity and now you've got a teammate as an owner. How are the responsibilities different for you now than they have been in the past?

E.C.: You've actually gone through 40 years of my life there in just two sentences. I started off racing as a go-kart racing driver when I was 13; and you progress through certain parts of your life. In a five-year span I was testing Formula One cars and racing Formula One. What you are taught in Formula One is to make sure that you are very defensive of your area, that everything has to focus on yourself. You become extremely egotistical. I learned that with Prost when I was his teammate at Renault. So the things that you build up and develop, the character traits that you develop as a racing driver are diametrically opposite what you have to do as a team owner. As a driver you race, you stand up on the podium if you're lucky enough, you wave to the crowd, then you leave and then somebody else cleans up the mess Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and then you go to another race. As a team owner you spend a lot of time trying to position all these things and places and you have to patiently listen to what everybody is doing and you try to analyze what you can do to do better. I could not have done this 15 years ago, I would not have had the patience. Often I would say the biggest drawback that I have is trying to forget the fact that I am in a racing car, that I am a racing driver and not just a team owner. But one of the promises I made Scott, and I think it was very important to him when we were negotiating, is that he had the absolute same equipment that I had and there would be no first driver, there would be no second driver. I told him, also, that if there's ten laps to go, he better look out because if he's in my sights, as vice versa, I'm going to do everything I can to win the race. But my relationship with him has been really good. I'm really looking forward to being on the track with him the month of May because there will be double information. That's another thing that's very hard to do as a racing driver to share your little secrets. But as a team I think it's very important that you do that. Did I answer your question?

Scott, I think this question may be for you. You've been doing a lot of testing. Eddie answered part of it on fuel consumption but do you feel like you have a stronger engine now than when you first started your testing?

S.G.: With the Infiniti package I think it is. There again, the first motor I sat in in Miami in January at the Homestead track was the older engine. There's a lot to be learned now with this new motor. It's over 30 pounds lighter, it's smaller. It's got a lower center of gravity. So a lot of the information that I think the team had from last year, based around the other engine which was bigger and heavier and what have you, is changed. So I think we're quickly getting a handle on that and having to learn a little bit more about basically putting a new component in the car itself. The 35A has improved since the first time that we drove it at Phoenix to using it at Atlanta the last couple of days. As I touched on a little bit earlier on, I hope that they keep doing that and they continue looking for new ways to make it go faster and better fuel consumption and better reliability. That's not to say that everybody else isn't out there doing the same thing. But I think we have got just an astounding quality group of people with the Infiniti engineers that are there that are with us every weekend and are back now working on things to come back here on Monday and Tuesday when we test here to maybe give us some more new things. It's no different than what every other team is doing out there in every other racing series with any other team I've been with is that you want to keep improving and learning and taking small steps every day and paying attention to the details because that's what's going to get you going faster and make the team stronger.

Eddie, can you elaborate a little bit how much are your driving styles alike or how much do they differ and car setups and things like that; and how many miles have these engines been tested?

E.C.: We've done probably, between our team in the race, Scott in the testing, and Robbie Buhl who is running the other one, we're probably close to - oh, we're probably around the 2,500 miles. Historically as a team we've always done 3,000 miles of testing before the season even started. So we had done a grand total of 400 miles before we went to Phoenix with the engine. So we are catching up quickly. Just to go back - and I'll address that question in a second, let me go back to the earlier one. We have gone through three different specs of engines so far just in the 2,500 miles that we've done. Are our driving styles different? Yes, they're dramatically different. I tend to paint with a much larger brush. Scott is a lot more careful in detail. Because of that Scott likes the car to do certain things that I don't. But I think his character suits testing a lot more than mine does. I want to get there quickly, let's go, let's go. What's next? Let's hurry up, somebody is going faster. He's a lot more careful in how he approaches things. So our styles are different. Inevitably, when I was racing against Scott, I knew that maybe he wouldn't be a problem at the beginning of the race, but I don't know how he did it, he'd always be there at the end. The last race in Texas was a very good example of that. I didn't really see Scott until three laps from the end and then I saw too much of him on the last lap. I've actually learned a lot from working with Scott. A lot of what he does is very good and it's good for our team. He's galvanized the whole team around this testing and testing is a very pedantic procedure. I mean you go around and around and around and around and around and around; and then at the end of the day you try to sift through all this information. We have reams and reams of data right now that we're taking out of the car and we have all these Infiniti engineers. But the good thing about the program we have now is that Nissan and through their brand of Infiniti have realized that the Indianapolis 500 is a global event. We're in constant communication with Japan, we're in constant communication with the whole group. They've started to allocate technical assets that they have for this whole program. It's put a lot of pressure on us. We are under an enormous amount of pressure.

M.K.: I guess for both of you, if you could take us back to your Rookie Orientation Programs here 12 years ago or 11 years ago, whatever it was, in 1990. Give us an idea, Scott, I remember talking to you then at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when you came here, this was only the second time you had ever been on an oval, right? Phoenix was first. Give us an idea what, for example, Junqueira and Minassian and guys that have been brought up with road course, street course training and have never seen concrete walls like this, what goes through your mind when you're here for the first time?

E.C.: What's the name of the guy who just crashed?

M.K.: Minassian.

E.C.: I know what he's thinking right now.

S.G.: I've got to go back there, that's what he's thinking. It's funny because it seems a long time ago, but actually some days it doesn't feel like maybe it was that long. I came here in 1990 and I had '89 that particular year; and there was a rule change, so my '89 cars got diffusers in them, and I had the Judd engine. After I finished with the cars for the year, they told me at the end of the year that that probably wasn't the best package to have, that a new car -- probably would have been a better race car on the racetrack but it was probably better I didn't know anyways. I had not been on ovals before because my training in my Formula Ford, Formula 2000 and Atlantic and what have you, they did not have the ovals in the part of the series at that time. My first oval experience was at Phoenix in February of 1990 in an Indy car. The first day I felt pretty comfortable in the car. I was with Doug Shierson Racing that year and Arie Luyendyk was my teammate. Arie ran the Domino's Pizza car that year, had a 1990 car with a Chevrolet engines in it. So the information transferring back and forth was obviously not the same as far as setups were concerned. The first day at Phoenix I felt pretty comfortable. It was called a long-track car; the second day I went into what they call a shorter-track car just because the miles were up on the other car. I guess I started to feel a little bit bold and thought I really knew what I was doing. By about 11:30 that morning I had punched a whole in the wall at turn two at Phoenix with the back end of the car. So I got out a little dizzy and realized that I better find out what it takes to make these cars go around the racetrack, otherwise I was going to probably hurt myself. So I spent a lot of time really just studying films and watching people, listening to people on ovals. Studied Rick Mears a lot and just tried to understand what you needed on a car on an oval and how those guys raced those races and what they did and just tried to learn as much as quickly as possible. We finished 10th at Phoenix that year in March and then we came here and qualified and finished 10th. I think the most important thing in my rookie year that year was that I actually finished the race and completed the 500 miles and learned about racing that distance because it's very different. I came back in '91, there again with a new car but a Judd engine. We qualified well, 12th, but only went a quarter distance before the motor stopped. But the rookie year is overwhelming in a lot of senses because you don't know what to expect. You're coming to a facility that holds three, 400,000 people and you hear all the stories and you read the stories; and they say not to pay attention to what it's like on race day, just come here and do your job. It's a very different place. You come here throughout the month of May and even though there's forty or fifty or 60,000 people here maybe on a given day, you're still coming to a facility that's so big. It seems dark, it seems gray and it's not very colorful throughout the month because there's not a whole lot happening in the stands. When you arrive here on race day and all of a sudden the place has got warmth, it's got color, it's got movement in the stands because the place is full. And it's a very different place than what you experienced for the three weeks leading up to the race. Just another quick story on that, everybody said to me that when you leave the garage area for the race, you walk down Gasoline Alley here to the pit lane, don't look up. Just pay attention and think about your race car and what you're going to do that day. I heard that story so many times. Evidently what I was doing was walking along with an ABC camera in front of you at the time they give you, 10:28 in the morning or something like that. Walking along and Lesley and I were holding hands, we're walking along and walking out. I looked up and I guess what I did was squeezed her hand. She said to me when she felt that, she said, "What's wrong?" I said, "Whatever you do, don't look up." Just simple as that. We go about another three or four steps; and for a lady that generally a cuss word doesn't come out of her, she just went, "Oh, shit." It was the funniest thing because at that point in time it was like I forgot what I was doing. I was just walking out there looking at all these people. Subsequently years after that - now if you had to ask me about the last five, six, seven years or something like that, I don't think I can pay attention to the National Anthem and all the stuff that goes over, I'm just so focused on what's going on that day and getting into my car. Once I'm into my car, I've even had the guys in front of me sometimes tap the nose of the car say, "Hey, you ready? We've got to start this thing now," because I'm just in a trance sometimes. It's so different from your rookie year to having a few years of experience.

E.C.: I don't remember what I had for breakfast, how do you expect me to remember my rookie year? I came from a little bit different background than Scott did. I was driving in Formula One and I always look at a track and say, 'What is the worst thing that can happen?' I always have done that. I had raced in Formula One racing where if you made a mistake in many of the tracks we would race on, you would go through a hundred yards of sand to slow the car down and then seven rows of catch fencing, then you'd hit a guardrail. And I had hit my share of guardrails going through the sand and the sand traps. When I came here after a few laps, I couldn't believe that there was no room for error. There was absolutely no room for error around here, none. It took a lot of getting used to. I really did not like the place. I had, like Scott, had a car that had a diffuser. Diffuser is in the back of it and it sounds like nothing to you now but that was the worst word of my life for the month of May, were those diffusers because it would unload the back of the car. I had always driven a Formula One car loose. That means the back was always coming out. So I thought that's the way you drove any race car. I spent the whole month of May loose at 220 miles an hour. I was just running out of nervous energy. Any gust of wind would affect the car. I got to where I was so worried about the wind, I would open the motel, hotel door in the morning about 4:00 in the morning and look up to see which way the trees were moving to know whether I wanted to go to the racetrack or not. It was a very scary -- it's a scary place if the car is not working properly. At the end of the race, and I managed to finish the race, my hands, I was so tired that my hands had actually cramped on the steering wheel and the mechanic had to peel my fingers off one at a time. I was very glad when it was over. Now I come, this is the track I love the most. I love coming here. There are so many different nuances to it. It's alive. You can have a car in the morning that will do one thing, in the afternoon it will do another and it will do one thing with a full tank and one thing with the tires that are old. All the people, there are about ten people I will see here, spectators, all from different age groups that come back every year. I know one gentleman who has seen 50 Indianapolis 500s and every year he gives me another story. I'm anxiously awaiting to see him. There are kids that will be here for the first time. This is an event. This is an event. It marks a very important part in a lot of people's life that come here. So as a racing driver I do not look back fondly on the rookie year at all. I enjoyed the year that I won a lot more than that one. That's a much better story, too.

Since there's been a change in the development team for the Infiniti, with the change have the improvements come more rapidly than in the past?

E.C.: Yes. I'm glad you asked that question because I kind of feel that it's been floating in the air for a while. When we started with the Infiniti program - I'll be as brief as I can - when we started the Infiniti program, it was based out of California and Ed Pink was doing the work with Frank Honsowetz who had been in charge of all of Nissan's motor racing for a long time; and they did a very good job with what they had available. As the interest of Nissan started to expand and more was asked of the program, a decision was made that they would use global assets instead of just using American ones. A lot of the work - now they have a different group of engineers working on it and we have made a lot of progress, an amazing amount of progress. The engine was actually a year and a half late. We were supposed to get it a year and a half ago and we didn't. Our mechanics started calling it "Big Foot," like everybody knows supposedly there's been a picture of one, nobody has actually seen it. So when we actually saw the engine, we were very relieved. But we have made a lot of progress. This is the most important racing program in Nissan's calendar. When you take Nissan and Renault and group them together, now that Renault has a controlling interest in Nissan, it makes it the fourth largest car manufacturer in the world. The Infiniti piece is very important, they have a whole bunch of new cars coming out in Infiniti. So there is a reason, there is a push behind all of this. Yes, we have made a lot more progress a lot quicker.

Scott, having seen your former team win the first two races this year, are you okay with the decision you made to semi-retire or would you rather be participating full-time?

S.G.: No, I think I'm pleased with the decision. After today I'm actually going to go and get my wife and kids and going up to a lake to spend some time up there over there Easter; and then I promised my kids I'm going to spend some time with them this summer at the lake. Our oldest boy, Christopher, is nine who has become a bit of a hockey star and wants nothing to do with motor racing. Michael is five and he's a motor racing nut; and our little girl just turned three. I don't think it really affected me with the kids in traveling until Hayley came along. She is, like I said, she's three and those three years seemed like they passed so quickly. I don't know whether because I knew basically that was going to be our last child or because it was a little girl, what the situation is. But I think probably more from the standpoint that last year became a point where it wasn't fun to go to the racetrack. It felt like a job, it felt like work. Now with some time off and just ramping up here and doing the testing and doing more and more, I'm actually back to enjoying going to the racetrack again. I get excited. I come underneath the tunnel here and pull into the parking lot and the cars are going around, I'm going, 'Now I've got to wait until Monday to get on the racetrack next week.' That wasn't me last year. It was probably just time overall for a change. I was at a point last year where I thought that I might do the 500, but I knew I wasn't going to do anything full-time. Everybody that knows me, my friends all know that I always said that Lesley and I would never buy a cottage or lake house until I knew I was going to retire because in our business you just never get there; it would be sort of senseless to have one. We bought one last August because I thought really I wasn't going to be doing a whole lot. I was up there a couple weeks ago and you could tell that we had been off and we had been testing because all the snow and ice that was there in the wintertime, the eaves troughs were hanging down on the ground and the screens were falling off and things like that. It looks like a homeless place, actually. Our neighbors are sort of glad to see us come up after not being there I think since last Thanksgiving. But the only thing that I could experience is when I went to Phoenix - I arrived on Friday. I couldn't be there on Thursday or Friday morning, I flew out Friday morning from Indy. I came to the racetrack and at Phoenix, as a lot of you know, they don't have a tunnel. So I go around I stop and I'm lined up in the que to actually wait for the track to open for myself to get across. When I stopped the car, the Indy cars were going by. My first feeling, after driving for so many years, the first feeling - I'm sure you've ever had this - is like, "Shit, I'm late. I'm late for the session." Because I've been going to the racetrack and doing this for so long. Then I realized I'm not late, this is okay. It was one of those feelings. So it's funny because now I'm getting so tuned into and I'm learning a lot more about being on the other side of not being a driver; and you learn a lot from standing there with a headset on, you learn a lot from listening to your teammate test. I sometimes put myself into, okay, if I was experiencing that, what would I do? I'm listening to the engineer. I think it's coming around full circle that sitting down even with a debriefing with Eddie after his test and his races and everything, I'm learning a lot. I think it's actually going to make me better for when I'm back in the car the month of May. So I'm enjoying it. What next year holds for me, I don't know. We have a lot of discussions about next season. But right now I think we're just going to tackle the month of May and then we'll look at it and go from there. If I'm going to find myself anyplace, I'm enjoying it tremendously with the group here. We'll wait and see but we'll go one month at a time.

I just wanted to ask Eddie what made Homestead so bad? Were your problems or Robbie's engine related?

E.C.: My only problem is it took me too long to do a lap. The car was handling terribly. No, it was not an engine problem. We had gone down there and done a lot of laps above 199 miles an hour which would have put us third or fourth on the grid. We had done a lot of full-tank testing at 195 miles an hour. We came back, we couldn't touch 194 in qualifying; it was the hardest job to get 195, then we couldn't get above 186 with full tanks. We made a lot of changes which we never do on our setup and we were just grasping for straws. It's just a different package, we didn't really understand what we were doing. We were very relieved when we went down to Atlanta which is a place where you're full throttle the whole way and you're trimming the car kind of like a fighter plane where you're just trying to make it as slippery as you can; and we were very competitive. But it was a horrific weekend. It just showed us how much not testing in the wintertime really hurts us. So we were all very focused and rather humiliated over that weekend. I'm glad to see the team is humiliated because I would be disappointed they were happy that we finished 9th, but it was not a good race for us. That's a very positive note to end this press conference on, isn't it?

Eddie, if you were to win the 500 either as a driver or a team owner, how would that affect your future?

E.C.: Are you asking me if I'm going to retire if I win the 500? You guys are really treating me softly today, aren't you? Unlike Scott, I don't have a cottage to go to.

S.G.: You're invited. Easter is this weekend.

E.C.: I had a big life change about six years ago when I got divorced. My main focus has been racing. I live and breathe it. I've been up since 6:00 this morning working and I go to bed at 10:00 at night working and trying to figure things out; and I love every moment of it. Yes, that would be a great fantasy to win the 500 for the second time when you're 43 years old and stand up on the podium and say good-bye, that was my last race. But I'm not that good of a surfer, so I can't go surfing; and I really don't have anything else that drives me as much as racing does. It's such an exciting period to be in in the Indy Racing League. We've had a horrific battle the last four years with the other open-wheel series and the whole philosophy of the IRL. I've embraced it so much that I have a very hard time getting it out of my system. So if Scott wins, I'd be elated. I have really grown to like Scott and I like the way he thinks; and it would be great to have our second win to be Scott's. Obviously, I would like to win myself. But, no, I have no other plans. But I'm a little bit of a lunatic, I could change in the morning easily. I did not plan to be a racing car driver, so I don't agree with saying six months from now I'm going to stop racing. I don't know. That was a very long-winded non-answer, but I don't really know.

So you still have the hunger, you're not tired? You still get up and want to get in that race car?

E.C.: I am so angry what happened at Homestead that probably half of my employees are ready to quit right now. Yes, I don't like weekends like we had at Homestead. I relish every moment I sit in a racing car. I desperately want to do well at this Indy 500. I have to do everything we can to win the championship because the pressure that's on us and Nissan; and I'm loving it. This is the best, this is probably the best segment of my career. I've been so fortunate. I'm the same person when I sat in a go-kart, I don't know how many years ago, 30-something years ago when I put my visor down for the first time. I get the same sensations. It's like this is unbelievable, I get to compete in the Indianapolis 500 with some really good equipment. I'm not about, having gotten the equipment to the point where it's at now, to pass it on to somebody else and let them have fun. So, yes, I am just as hungry. I can't give simple answers this morning.

I've got one last one then for you, Eddie. You've brought in young drivers like Wim Eyckmans and Robby Unser and so forth and even your brother last year.

E.C.: I attempted to bring my brother in last year.

Why this time did you decide to go with a veteran, experienced driver in that second seat?

S.G.: At least he didn't say old.

E.C.: You can say old, he's old.

S.G.: I was waiting for that.

E.C.: I am in a unique position as a team owner that I get to drive against all these guys. I know - Jackie Stewart told me something. I spent a day with him when I was 18 years old because I wanted to get into Formula One and I had a friend and I managed to spend a day with him. I asked him a million questions to which I have all those notes still. Should I write a book one day, they will be prominently displayed in them. One of the things he told me is that to be successful you have to understand the character of every racing driver and what they think when you're racing against them. I have always done that. No matter what category I'm racing in, no matter what I'm doing, I take mental notes on what buttons you can push to make them pay attention or how they drive or how they react in certain circumstances. Racing on an oval, you spend a lot of time in the company of racing drivers. Formula One race, they'll disappear or you'll disappear. In an oval you're always there and battling with them. So the reason, when I saw that Scott was a free agent, is I had raced against him. You do not win oval races by being flamboyant on the first ten laps or being overly aggressive or brushing walls and coming back in the pits and all proud because your tires are white-walled. It is a very methodical job that you have to do; and Scott is extremely methodical. So to have somebody like that available and to have him be able to focus on the 500 and work with us, and he's still - I mean, I joke with him about this pace car thing often and it troubles him. I like that. He has some unfinished business here. If we can give Scott a car that is quick and that is reliable, he is going to be a problem. Robby Unser did a great job for us. Robby did not have enough miles beforehand to actually capitalize on the car that he had. Scott's tough. I lost the Texas race to Scott with two laps to go. I think highly of his ability and I do believe in luck going full circle. I think that he's due for a good race at the 500. Does that answer your question?

S.G.: I will add to that. The situation I think with two people in one team testing, I think that I'm seeing a buildup of knowledge coming along in the sense that Eddie has something to add to it, I can add to it and I think it's good for Owen because he gets an opportunity to listen to two guys now instead of one and then put that all into a mixing pot. I think his mind is probably working overtime, I would say, especially with all the data that we have now. That's the fun stuff, to go and try something and go back in the data and look at it to see if that's really what you felt, you know, is what you thought. Like you might have just gained 50 or 75 rpm; and like Atlanta, being able to go around there and make changes and then come back and dissect it and look at it and just try to get the car dialed in. Eddie mentioned it's like a fighter plane, you're stalling to get speed there. So and opportunity to go and try all these little things or make a mechanical change to the car, whether it's a spring or bar or shock absorber and then you're looking for like .1 of a mile an hour. The test there was very successful. I think the only guy that went quicker than us was probably Ray on an out and out qualifying run. So the thing is to try and just keeping improving the team and move the mark forward and be able to come here with the fastest package that we have. I think two guys doing that is probably a better opportunity than just one.

M.K.: I was told we had one in the back that we missed.

Eddie, the Infiniti engine was in a lot of cars when the IRL started, and then just you and Robbie Buhl now. Will we see it in other cars throughout this year?

E.C.: Our objective as the test team for Infiniti is obviously to win races and to be competitive. The next objective is to see more cars running it. The only way you're going to get people - the beauty about the IRL is a lot of team owners own, that's their stuff, that's their engines; it's not a lease. To convince somebody to sell their engines to buy something else, you have to be winning more races than just one a season. So a lot of people are looking at what we're doing. I seriously don't think, and it's unfortunate, but after our Homestead race people are going to be lining up for the Nissan engine, the Infiniti engine. But that's just the way things go, but I do believe so. I think technology goes in trends. We are in a very steep upward trend now with the engine. We're working overtime. We're trying to package into three months what you really would do in eight or nine. I think we'll be pleasantly surprised when we get to Atlanta. I don't see people changing for the 500, but I think over - before this new cycle which will be 2003 with the new engines, I think you'll see some cars changing over. I mean I swapped from a G-Force to a Dallara, although I had invested a million dollars in G-Forces in the beginning, because the Dallara was the car to have. I had to just bite the bullet. If we win three races in a row, there will be a lot of people saying maybe that's why they're winning. Thank you all for being here today.

M.K.: Eddie, Scott, thank you very much. Will both of you be able to stick around for a few minutes? I want to remind you in just about ten minutes or a little less, actually, Johnny Rutherford will be starting. We'll go about 20 minutes, 25 minutes with JR, then we'll break for lunch. I also want to remind you that the track schedule for today and tomorrow is nine to five with one hour, noon to one, the track will be down for lunch. So we'll start with JR in just about five or ten minutes.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Nicolas Minassian , Jackie Stewart , Sam Schmidt , Rick Mears , Wim Eyckmans , Robby Unser , John Barnes , Johnny Rutherford , Sam Hornis