IRL: Cheever Racing teleconference transcript, part 2

IRL Weekly Teleconference Feb. 3, 2004 Red Bull Cheever Racing's Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter and Eddie Cheever Part 2 of 2 Q: Just driving there with a change in the engine and a loss of power somewhat, will that change the way you drive the...

IRL Weekly Teleconference
Feb. 3, 2004

Red Bull Cheever Racing's Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter and Eddie Cheever

Part 2 of 2

Q: Just driving there with a change in the engine and a loss of power somewhat, will that change the way you drive the car any?

ALEX BARRON: Well, I think it's going to be interesting to see where we are at power-wise. But, you know, the race will still carry on in order, strategically the way you are going about it. Fuel mileage, I'm not sure what that will be. That will play a big part in it. I don't know if it's going to bunch everybody up more so than it did in the past years. It's hard to say. There's a lot of variables involved with the engine manufacturers doing that. But I think that the main purpose of the IRL is trying to slow the cars down a bit at that time of year, and being at that race is probably a good idea. It's going to be very interesting. There's a lot of question marks that everybody has with that rule and we'll just have to see what happens when the 3.0-liter engine comes about.

Q: Eddie, last year, you spent a year with A.J. Foyt. What kind of a learning experience was that and how did that prepare you for working with Eddie Cheever?

ED CARPENTER: It definitely was a learning experience working with A.J. I would say I learned more character-building things than I did actual things with the race car and driving-wise. I think my skin is definitely a lot thicker after spending a year with A.J. But, that's all part of the game. You have to have thick skin in the IndyCar Series with how intense it is and the competition being so high. So I definitely think that some of the things I went through before help me this season.

Q: Driving three races at the end of last year, does that take some of the pressure off you as a -- even though you're still a "rookie" -- does that take some of the pressure off you going into this season?

ED CARPENTER: A little bit. I've been in those situations and I've drove my way from the back to the front so I know that I can do it. It's just a matter of putting pressure on myself to improve and better my team all the time. There's always pressure, but I'm really happy that I was able to start with three races last year instead of going in with no references to this season.

MODERATOR: We'll turn our attention to Red Bull Team owner Eddie Cheever who is joining us this week on the Indy Racing League teleconference. Eddie, let's start out with a recap of areas in which you were pleased with in testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway last week with Alex and Ed.

EDDIE CHEEVER: Obviously, the first one that comes to mind is the performance of the Chevy engine, the reliability. It was also the first time that we ran the new updated kit with the Dallara. Everything ran smoothly. We had a lot of tests and things that we went through. Was a good back- to-school test for the whole team, for the whole technical group.

MODERATOR: What are the differences that you're seeing in regards to communication with two cars? Obviously, the workload is a little bit more here for you and the two drivers. In the limited time that you've seen them together, what are your impressions?

EDDIE CHEEVER: The workload is heavier, obviously, for the team. There's a lot more information. There's a lot more opportunity to study trends and understand which way to develop the cars than we had last year with a one-car team. It's just a question of taking advantage of the technical opportunities that are there. We have a finite amount of time to run the cars with the limited testing schedule and new rules, so you have to be able to get everything you can information-wise out of the drivers and the cars every time you test. So what we have managed to do at Homestead, it would have obviously managed to take us four days instead of two if we had run a one-car team.

Q: There was a story in the Indianapolis Star this week regarding a possible, and I underline the word possible, shortage of engines. Has Chevrolet talked to you about that and do you have any concerns?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Chevrolet asked us if we would be running a third car for the Indianapolis 500 -- and I am assuming that's what you're alluding to, and we told them that is definitely a consideration for us to run another car at the Indianapolis 500. But I have not heard of any shortage of engines for the coming year. For Indy, we are changing from a 3.5 liter to 3.0 liter, and I have not heard any problems with that, but I'm sure it will stretch the ability of all of the engine manufacturers to get the engines out there on time. But I have not heard anything to lead me to believe that they will not have enough engines.

Q: Now, when you look at the opening test at Homestead, on a scale of one to five, where would you put your team at this point?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Internally, I would say that our performance was probably a three. There's a lot of room for us to grow. Comparing to the cars that were there, I would definitely give us a four. But you don't really know what everybody else is running. You don't know what everybody else is trying to learn. We had a schedule of work that we had to go through and we were very successful in doing most of that. The cars ran well. They ran reliably. They ran fast. So I would say we were relatively competitive This series is changing so quickly that you really don't know what it's going to take to win races until you're probably halfway into the first race. So there's a lot of things that we feel that we have to improve upon that we have made enormous gains from last year.

Q: Do we in the media sometimes read too much into speeds during practice sessions, especially preseason practice sessions?

EDDIE CHEEVER: No, I don't think so. At the end of the day, there's two Ethings you can judge a race team by. One is the speed is and the second Eis how many races they finish leading. In winter testing, there is very Elittle else that the media or the drivers or the teams can focus on Ethan just pure speed. So I think it's indicative of how well a car is Eperforming, but it is not the only criteria that you can judge a team Eby. I'm in racing because of the speed. Speed is what it's all about. EWhen you are up there in the Top-5 you are obviously doing something. EAnd it's something that the public can embrace. very day at Indy when Ewe run, there's a mad rush in what we call "Happy Hour" to be the Efastest car. It serves no purpose towards the race, but it is something Ethat everybody aims to own.

Q: And it helps get that publicity for the next day's headlines; right?

EDDIE CHEEVER: It helps that, and it helps the team and it helps the race car drivers and annoys the other ones who are not faster.

Q: Where are you as a driver? Are you definitely done, is that third car at Indy possibly for you? Where do you stand on that?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Right now I'm sitting in my office and I don't have any driver suit on. As a team, we are very happy with the drivers that we have for this season. We have a very good mix between Alex and Ed. They are both at two different parts of their career. My driving career is no longer a priority for this race team. I really don't know what else to add to that. We will be running a third car and it has not been decided who will be driving. I'm not trying to be coy by not answering your question. I just don't have an answer for you.

Q: Tell me where you think things are headed in the long term with the CART partners winning in court, where do you think that will be a year from now, two years from now, because of the decision that was made last week?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think that it is inevitable that there will be only one open-wheel series in the United States. I know, I can only tell you that I know the direction that our series will be going in and the partners that we're going forward with. We have Chevy, Toyota and Honda that are investing both technical money and marketing money inside of the series. We race on a lot of ISC tracks. We have a very good schedule and we probably will be doing road races in the future. I am very optimistic on our future. I don't really follow what the other group is doing. I think it's unfortunate that the opportunity to have one series was not taken, but that really does not affect what we are doing.

Q: Let me ask you something a little more poignant about this engine manufacturer deal. A lot of times in the past in various racing series, when manufacturers either auto or engine manufacturers have come in and become so dominant in a series that they kind of dictate and maybe have a part to play in the future of the series. Do you fear that might be happening in the IRL?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Well, I have spent most of my career in Formula 1 where there was a Mr. Bernie Eccelstone who managed to keep all of the cats herded in the right direction; everybody following one interest. That was the interest of the sport, and he did so very well. The latter part of my career has been spent in the Indy Racing League where Tony's vision has really quite clear, not everybody has to agree with it, but it is quite clear. So I think that IRL has to guard against many things, but the most important thing that they have to guard against is making sure that the concept that the IRL was started on maim remains intact. I don't see any manufacturer having a large advantage on another one. It's a very difficult technical battle right now between Chevy and the two Japanese competitors. But it is truly at this point just a technical battle. So I don't think that will happen here. The IRL is not run by a committee. There is not a partnership. It is the Hulman-George family that runs it, and they have been running it very successfully. I see no reason why that should not continue in the foreseeable future.

Q: You mentioned your background at Formula 1 and I know the background in sports cars, but a lot of drivers in America right now are coming from Sprint cars and dirt tracks, including one of your drivers. Is that the place now where people are getting their experience to handle the kinds of speeds and power that are available in the major leagues of American racing?

EDDIE CHEEVER: That's a very good question. I think it is the only place that it is available. The whole hierarchy of how a driver trains in America to go into Indy racing, into Indy racing league cars or to go into NASCAR really has it's only basis in midgets and silver crowns and USAC, really. I think a lot can be done in those series to bridge the technological gap that there is now and that really is why the Pro Series was created in the Indy Racing League, so that you can give drivers a taste of what an IndyCar would be before jumping into one as they had done in the past. That is where it comes from but I think a lot can be done to improve. I think underneath there should be a unified go-kart series like they have in Europe where a lot of young drivers can battle against each other and the best can come out from there and be better prepared to race in Formula 3 as they do in Europe. I think the European system is really more efficient than the American system.

Q: As a team owner there a lot of effort being made to market to young people. We saw what happened in the Super Bowl with the halftime show fiasco and the effort to reach what people think are on young minds. Is there any emphasis on continuing to market to the plans that currently exist?

EDDIE CHEEVER: I think the difference between the fiasco and at the Super Bowl, people are attracted to racing for its -- it attracts a certain type of fan that loves speed, loves excitement. It is truly, we talk about extreme sports, driving a racing car around a speedway at 220 miles an hour just inches from the wall is about as extreme as any sport can be. I don't think we actually tailor for a certain part of the population. There's a certain part of the population that is attracted to racing. But we do have to work on making it more available than it has been in the past.

Q: Alex, I guess I'm not asking this specifically to your speed and performance during the week last week at Homestead but how close do you think most of the people were to being final -- legal is not the word I want to use, but close to specifications, given that we really don't know some of the specifications, so are the basic times that we saw the other day, do you think they are valid?

ALEX BARRON: I think so. Especially on the draft, at mid-day everybody was drafting each other so much. I think in practice, the speeds will probably be very similar for sure.

Q: And tell me how long -- and this is relevant to Hornish having a kind of new engineering staff to work with. How long does it take for a driver to adjust?

ALEX BARRON: I think there's a lot of variables to that. It can be so much different from one to the other. It would be hard to say exactly where that would be. But sometimes it takes a week and sometimes it takes a half a season, so it's really hard to answer that question.

Q: Last year you were talking about wanting to get back into a car, but needing an engine and package that was competitive, how much did seeing how well the Chevy package was going, how much did that whet your appetite to get back in a car?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Very much so. But, I mean I get up every morning before I go for my morning run, I'm a race car driver until about 12 o'clock when I get into the office and the telephone starts lighting up and you have meetings and deals to do. It just keeps being pushed back farther into the day. Both Alex and Ed spend all of their day doing exactly what you need to become a race car, a successful race car driver, working out and doing all of those things that lead you to being competitive in the race car. When you see the cars running around, of course you want to jump in it and see how it runs and measure yourself up against others. But I think that the drivers we have now in our team are doing a great job and they are putting a lot of effort into it, a lot more effort than I would be able to put no it. So I would not be doing our company justice if I could not spend as much time as our current drivers do getting ready.

Q: So we could say that you are staying in physical condition and May comes around and you're looking for the third driver, that third driver still may be somebody with the company already?

EDDIE CHEEVER: You never know.

Q: Eddie, I understand that you bring your drivers to Orlando to work out with you. Is that as much to get the chemistry started or to see if they are in the proper condition to get their racing season started?

EDDIE CHEEVER: A variety of things. A race team is a small family. You are always under battle and there's always a lot of pressure during the weekends, and I think it's good that the drivers have a good chemistry among themselves. It is also, quite frankly, to see if they are in good condition. Having driven race cars for most of my life and having been around race car drivers, I have a pretty good feel for what is required physically to do a good job. It's a lot of work. We put a lot of grueling hours going through those workouts and testing drivers and seeing where they are at and giving them some goals that they can achieve.

Q: Are you giving Ed any dispensation to do a couple of Sprint races this year?

EDDIE CHEEVER: Dispensation, isn't that something the Pope does?

Q: Well, aren't you the Pope of this team?

EDDIE CHEEVER: No. Actually Ed has never brought that subject up. We haven't talked about that. But I'm assuming if he wanted to, he would ask Max Jones and that would be a question between him and Max.

Q: Ed, are you going to do that?

ED CARPENTER: I'm past that part of my career. I've been racing my whole life to get to IndyCars and have the opportunity to race in the Indy 500, and right now it takes so much to be successful at this level that I want to put all of my focus on being successful and making Red Bull Cheever Racing a better place to be. I mean, I don't really have any drive to go back and race them. It would be fun but I'm content where I'm at, and I just want to do everything I can to be successful at this level.

Part 1

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Alex Barron , Max Jones , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter