2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 All-American Red Bull Cheever Racing: Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter, Max Jones MIKE KING: I think we're ready to get started. Our second event of the day, welcome to the ...
2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
All-American Red Bull Cheever Racing: Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter, Max Jones
MIKE KING: I think we're ready to get started. Our second event of the day, welcome to the Trackside Conference Room. I would like to say welcome to the members of Red Bull Cheever Racing. In the middle is the managing director of Red Bull Cheever Racing, Max Jones. To his left, veteran two-time winner in the IndyCar(R) Series, Alex Barron. And to Max's right is rookie Ed Carpenter. Both of these drivers obviously competing for the championship this year. Ed competing, as well, for the Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award. Had kind of a tough go of it at Phoenix on Sunday and wound up 19th. Alex, after a bit of a problem in the season opener at Homestead, bounced back with a fourth place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. Let's get opening comments, I guess from each. We'll start with Max. Max, as far as the team's preparation for the 88th Indianapolis 500, if you could talk a little bit about that.
MAX JONES: Well, we actually started probably when we left here last year. We started making changes in the team and working real hard especially over the winter. Chevrolet has worked real hard on their engine program. We reorganized the team. We moved into a new race shop. We've been doing a lot of off-site testing. We've acquired Ed as a rookie, and I feel that we have a very good chance of winning with either one of these drivers. I'm excited about coming back here to the Speedway. I think with the engine package we have and the hard work that we've done, and our season testing when we tested in the winter, it went real well. We had great cars at Homestead, and we just didn't get the results that we were hoping for. And we had good, fast cars at Phoenix, too. Didn't qualify well but ran well in the race. So I think with that, we just keep building on that and go to Motegi, and by the time we arrive here at the Speedway, I think we'll be in good shape.
KING: Alex, how about you in terms of preparations for the 88th Indy 500? You've been strong here before. Generally in terms of historically speaking, it seems like drivers who were strong at Phoenix come to this place and have a pretty good month of May. You were fourth this past Sunday.
ALEX BARRON: Yeah, I think being here, this will be my third Indianapolis 500. I think it's all the little things that you learn in the years prior. There's so much to learn about coming here and racing. This event seems to be quite different than some or most that we run. So, pretty dramatic month. It's a long haul like instead of being on a race weekend; obviously it's spread out over a month period, and the preparation starts long before that. Phoenix, we were real happy with our result. Wished we could have started up a little bit farther than we did. If we didn't have the mishap in Homestead, it would have put us in the championship at the beginning of the season. Cheever Racing, I think has come a long way. Max and Eddie (Cheever Jr.) has put a lot of good people in the right positions. We're looking to be a serious contender this year. I think we got a very good engineering staff. A lot of good guys on the team that seem to really know the direction we need to go to progress our development in the car. We have a lot of people working on the car right now as well as doing other things off on the side, and we're constantly working on everything. The IRL is so competitive now to run in the front with the top teams, I think you have to work on everything constantly week in and week out. I think we'll be strong probably throughout the year, but obviously coming here with the 3-liter engine, everybody changing over, it will be very interesting to see where everybody's at.
KING: On a day where it was exceptionally difficult to pass at PIR, Alex started 17th, I believe it was, and wound up fourth at Phoenix. Ed has the unique situation of returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway having won his last race here. He won the Freedom 100 last year and the Menards Infiniti Pro SeriesTM, this will be his first start in the Indy 500. I know you've got to be excited.
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, coming into this season this month of May, I'm in a lot different position than I was last year. Last year I was with A.J. Foyt preparing for the Freedom 100 in the Infiniti Pro Series. This year I have the opportunity to be with Chevrolet and Red Bull Cheever Racing and prepare for my first 500 start. So I'm really excited about it. The first two races probably could have gone a little bit better for me. Homestead we had an OK finish. I had a little bit of problem coming into the pits that restricted us from finishing higher and then obviously an accident this weekend at Phoenix. But we have one more tune-up when we take our all-American team over to Japan to try to compete against the two other Japanese manufacturers. So we're going to use that last tune-up just to get geared up for the month of May.
KING: We're going to open it up for questions. Eric is on the far side of the room there. Once again, everything here in the media room or in the conference room is being transcribed. So if you could wait for us to get a mike to you. Let's open it up for questions for the Red Bull Cheever Racing team. Questions?
Q: Max, not to go over things from last year, but let's do it any way. It didn't seem like the team had a real feel for the chassis last year. The team, regardless of who was driving, really couldn't go fast with the other Chevy teams, yet this year you guys are very, very competitive. What changes went on over the winter that made you a little bit more competitive as far as the chassis setup goes?
JONES: I think we made some personnel changes. We also did some off-site shaker testing and got to understand the chassis a lot more. It was new to me; it was new to some of the people that were there, new car last year. And once we got through Indy, we knew we got our new engine, we still were behind and we just never caught up. So we started making changes with three or four races to go, and that was basically our preparation for this year.
Q: Alex, if my memory serves me correctly, your first two years at Indy, you were something like third and fourth, certainly two top-five finishes, as I recall. Is there something about the Speedway that particularly adapts itself to your driving style or vice versa? Because you've been fast right out of the box in race conditions. A lot of kids come here, they can run fast in qualifying but they don't race fast. And you've clearly raced fast.
BARRON: I think a key to that is I've got to work with a lot of really good people on several teams, you know, and the engineering staff is very important when you come to a place like this. I started here with a gentleman by the name of John Dick when I was with Blair, and he kind of started me on kind of a mental training to get ready for the place. And chassis setup, it's very strategic here. It changes day in and day out. I think working with the right guys, I was able to learn how to kind of assume, you know, the way the track's going to go in either certain temperatures or wind or whatever it is. But just to go out and qualify four laps here, I think that you have to have a good game plan and in the race to run 500 miles, it's a different mindset altogether. I think a key to that is just to be able to be strategic and work with the right people. Again, I think that we've got a good staff to go after it this year.
Q: Ed, let me ask you, since your win here last year, you've had several top-10 finishes. Is there anything that may have happened to your confidence along the way with the chemistry with your team or something that happened that you believe has made you somewhat regress in what we saw last year?
CARPENTER: I would say the opposite. I would say I've come a long way and developed more as a driver, especially since I've been here at Cheever Racing. I had an opportunity to work with Alex, I learn on a daily basis from him and his experiences. I mean he has a lot to offer me as well as the engineering staff we have. I mean, I've come a long way technically my knowledge about the car. So I think when I come here this month of May, I'm much more prepared and definitely a more confident race car driver than I was last May.
Q: Ed, do you think having run here last year and won in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, that that will give you any advantage over rookies coming who have perhaps never run here before or competed?
CARPENTER: It's hard to say how much of an advantage I have, but any time you have laps on a racetrack in any division, it's a help. Just like going back to Phoenix, I've raced midgets and Silver Crown cars there going back to '99, and I definitely feel that helped me this weekend just understanding the track, how it changes and everything else. So it's a different chassis, different engine, a lot different speeds. But any time you have miles and you can learn characteristics of a racetrack and tendencies, it's always going to play into your hands. So I think both talking as rookies, both Mark Taylor and I have a hundred miles, I won the race, he finished third. So I think it will help both of us out a little bit. But the month of May is a long month, and you just have to pace yourself. If you can't accomplish everything you need to in a month, then there are some other issues you need to work on.
Q: Max, is there any way to project the reduction to the 3-liter engine, if it may give an advantage to one engine manufacturer or another or where you stand on that?
JONES: When I ask that question of Chevrolet, they say they're going to have the advantage, so I'm hoping that is the truth. (Laughter) But I believe they've been working really, really hard on it, and I'm confident. They worked very hard over the winter on the 3.5-liter, and it showed. So we have a lot of confidence in what GM is doing and Chevrolet. So I'm hoping that they have -- what the Japanese are doing, I'm not sure, and we all know that they work very hard at it to compete, too. So the series is very competitive, and the engine manufacturers are very competitive right now.
Q: Alex, for the last couple of years before you landed full time with Red Bull Cheever, you were sort of super-sub and going from team to team. How difficult is it for a driver to adapt your total approach, not just the on-track racing, but your total approach to driving when you're going from team to team with some great disparities in teams and the way they function? The positive of side of that is you see a lot of different ways to do things in working with different people. Racing, as in any job, it's learning the angles on how to accomplish, you know, what you're trying to do on the track. I worked with a lot of good people. The downside to that is when you leave, you leave everything that you worked for to build on with the team that you just left and you have to move forward and start over again. Some teams it takes longer than others. It just depends on where you're at. But I think a lot of it, too, it starts with the package that you're using to try to have success. I was fortunate to get in a few cars that were very quick, and it took a short while to make the package work on and off the track and you move forward from there. But it all starts with the package itself.
KING: Alex, you've been here as a part of a single-car effort a couple years ago. Last year even though you were in a fill-in role with Mo Nunn Racing, that was a multi-car effort, how much of an advantage is it to be part of a two-car team?
BARRON: I think it has tremendous value. Like at Phoenix, the first couple sessions we were trying different things between Ed's car and my car. We learned a lot about it, what to do and what not to do. I think on race day that's why it paid off for myself. I think our cars were real good in the race. The qualifying session, we learned a little bit there what to do, what not to do. Whether it's driving or car setup, you just have to take what you get for that particular session and move forward. But you just have to make sure that you understand when something works for you, why it works. And I think that's what we're trying to work real hard on at Red Bull Cheever Racing.
Q: Max, what does it take to be competitive and beat the big three here at Indy, you know, Penske, Ganassi and Andretti Green?
JONES: I think it takes a lot of preparation. You're not just going to come in. What those guys are doing and what we're trying to ultimately do, too, is be prepared in every area, not only in our engineering and our drivers, but in our pit stops and our strategy. It would be preparation of the cars themselves. So it's important that you cover all the areas and you don't leave anything, an area that you're not going to put 110 percent into.
Q: Alex, I saw you spin and win in Michigan; that was just fantastic. The thing that impressed me most is you could almost sense the power that you had in that car to just do nothing else but win that race, and the fans felt it and everything else. I saw you go from 17th to fourth this last race. You really seem to have that strong desire to win and really want to go for it. What do you need from start to finish to go through a season, get to a championship? Because I really think you're a championship contender. And I have a question for Ed, as well.
BARRON: I think we just have to be strong week in and week out. You have to definitely finish the races. Homestead, I think, because it's early in the season, it's not as detrimental but, again, things like that, it sets you back a bit. But knowing where you're at and feeling comfortable, you know, with the people you work with and having a strong car when you get on the racetrack that shows a lot of speed, and once you accomplish that and then you work on it week in and week out, the confidence from everybody comes up, and that's when you start winning races.
Q: Ed, it looks like you just have this in you, as well. You're not going to take anything other than first place. I've already seen, I think we've all seen -- I've watched you for years on short tracks all the way up. Do you feel like you're going to get your first win this year? I think you are.
CARPENTER: Yeah, absolutely. I think we have a lot of wins within this team for this year. We have a great package with the Dallara chassis and Chevrolet power, and we have a lot of great people at the shop working every day and long hours. Alex and I are doing what it takes on and off the track to be successful. So I'm going to be extremely disappointed if we don't get some wins. Right now the only thing that's stopping myself and the 52 car from doing it is just me and some of the mistakes I'm making. But once I work through that, I'm very confident we're going to win soon.
Q: Ed, after two races, what is your assessment? Is this harder than you thought it would be, easier in the degree of competition that you're running against?
CARPENTER: I would say it's extremely challenging, especially right now the time that I've entered the league, the league's at its toughest. We're picking up teams on a weekly basis right now that are coming from other series. To me that's just great. I mean, I want to be in the -- I want to compete in the strongest series in the world, and the more competition the better. I mean, to me I would rather be racing against the best guys in the world on a weekly basis than not. So it's a lot of fun. I think I knew what challenge I was getting myself into, and that's why we've been working so hard as a team and as a driver; we're up to the challenge.
KING: Quick note for you, Ed did make three starts in the IndyCar Series last year, was with another team, but he has now made five starts in the IndyCar Series competition. Other questions?
Q: Max, what's the chance that the boss will take the wheel, also? Or if not the boss, somebody else? (Laughter)
JONES: Well, I'm too old to drive. (Laughter) So if you're referring to Eddie, I'm pretty sure that he's not going to drive. I guess that he'd like to leave that option open; he doesn't want to announce his retirement right now. But we believe, Eddie and I both talked about this this last weekend actually, and we believe we can win the Indianapolis 500 with both these gentlemen sitting up here. So there's really not a need to run a third car. I think Eddie believes that these guys would make them work pretty hard, so there's not a need for him to get in there.
Q: Max, you were talking there about engineers. First of all, how many engineers does the team have? And No. 2, with the new engine and short time to prepare, is each team looking to find this little edge that nobody else has found in their preparation of the 500?
JONES: We've got four engineers for the two-car team, and we have a total of seven in the engineering staff. Obviously we're always trying to find an edge in every area, whether it's engines or chassis or pit stops or making sure that we have a better shock program than anyone else. So we're constantly working on every facet of the race team. So, yes, we are looking for the edge, and we're hoping that we're going to have that edge, especially by the time we get to the 500.
KING: Let's take one more, and then we'll break for one on ones.
Q: Max, let me ask you, there is a saying that winning breeds winning. Do you see with your two drivers where once that happens, that the likelihood is that you'll be successful to get to the next step?
JONES: Well, I believe in that winning breeds winning, too. And I think that with Eddie winning the Indy 500, that gives us a lot of momentum there as a team. Both of these racers have won in their categories, and Alex has won in the IRL. The guys on the team have won. Last year was the first year that Red Bull Cheever Racing had never won a race in the IRL. So the heritage of Cheever Racing is winning, and we're going to return back to that. And I do believe that both of them will win races this year, and the team will win a lot of races. We just have to break through, and we got close this weekend. We saw, you know, got some results, some of the best finishes we've had in a year and a half. So once we break through and start winning races, I think you'll see us win a lot of races this year.
KING: Max, Alex, Ed, thanks very much. We're going to break for about 10 minutes for one-on-ones and then we'll return at 10:00 for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Guys, thanks.