IRL: Chip Ganassi Racing Indy 500 Media Tour transcript, part 1

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Darren Manning Part 1 of 2 MODERATOR: We have the drivers of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the defending IndyCar...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi, Darren Manning

Part 1 of 2

MODERATOR: We have the drivers of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the defending IndyCar Series champion. He had a great run at Indianapolis last year before a late-race incident took him out of the running; New Zealand's Scott Dixon. That's the kindest way I can say it, Scott. That's the kindest way I can say it. And his new teammate this year, and please keep in mind Darren has had an interesting designation. He is the newcomer to the IndyCar Series, he is a veteran open-wheel driver, he is not a rookie in the IndyCar Series; he is a rookie at the Indianapolis 500. So, there you go. Darren Manning from North Yorkshire in England is the second driver the Target Chip Ganassi racing this year, and both of these guys had excellent outings on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Scott wound up finishing second behind Tony Kanaan, and Darren, who brought it home in fifth place after a sixth-place finish after Homestead Miami Speedway. Good start for Darren as an initial season in the IndyCar Series. Series champion, you had a great car here last year. I know that winning this race is one of your goals.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think it's probably everybody's goal is to win the Indianapolis 500. As you said, last year, I think we had a pretty good month in general. We just had a rough race with running out of fuel, down to 12 gallons, and we had run out of gas. We ended up having to push it a bit. Then I sort of messed up toward the end. I think we are looking forward to this year. I think the emphasis of the team is going to be on it this year because it's so early in the year, compared to the championship, that's what we're focusing on right at the moment. So looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Darren, are you getting set for your first Indy 500?

DARREN MANNING: Yeah, it's obviously one of the biggest races or the biggest in motorsports in the world, in Europe, Formula One. It's a big one that I'm going to be able to tick off my list. Yeah, I'm happy to be in with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with Toyota and everything. As Scott said, they were running really strong there all last month, and in the past, obviously. So it's experience for me to draw on, it's going to be great and just be able to stand a chance of winning the thing is going to be even better. So, you know, just take taking my time the first few races, and hopefully it will come to - looking forward all the time now, so hopefully it will accumulate winning thinking.

MODERATOR: There's not much denying that Chip Ganassi has a great eye for talent. In fact, if you look at the drivers from Target Chip Ganassi over last decade or more, there are going to be one or two things: Either a series champion or an Indy 500 champion, and in some cases both. It's a pleasure to have Chip Ganassi joining us by phone. Chip, where are you today?

CHIP GANASSI: Actually I'm in Naples, Florida, it's Spring Break, with my wife and daughter.

MODERATOR: Hope it's not as warm there as it was in Phoenix.

GANASSI: It's about the same.

MODERATOR: We have a full room here. We have heard opening comments from Scott and from Darren, why don't we ask you about your thoughts and about preparations coming back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with these two drivers and another assault on the 500.

GANASSI: First of all, I think it's kind of a harbinger of spring to be talking about going to Indianapolis and all that goes along with it. You know, like Darren said, he's been taking easy the first few races and quite frankly, these first couple of races, you know historically they have been a preparation for Indy. They are certainly big races in their own right. But there's no denying that everybody has the big one in mind right now. And that's coming up in May. So, you know, we are all - we obviously certainly want to do well in Indy, the first few in our eyes are certainly focused on Indy. When you go back every year, you feel - you feel as if some years you have a better shot than others coming from my point of view, and you know, I thought we had a really good shot last year and we were - we were - we beat ourselves, if you will. You know, that's really all there is. That's the only people that I think can beat us this year is ourselves. We have as strong a team as we've ever had coming into Indianapolis. And therefore, look forward to everything that goes with that.

Q: Does it bug you BMW wants to steal all of your good drivers?

GANASSI: Not really. That just tells you the level of drivers that are coming through our operation. I don't - I don't look at that as - I don't look at that as a plus or a minus. I mean, it's part of the business. And, you know, while I'm sorry if drivers move on to their careers, I'll be last one to hold them back, believe me. If they feel they have better opportunities somewhere else, I would encourage them. In fact, I'm here to help them.

Q: You are were probably a little young remember this, but we had Nigel Mansell was here, the word he used to describe this place was "daunting." Do you have that feeling when you come in here, just looking at the long straights and magic grandstands; do you feel a little daunted when you feel this place?

MANNING: Well, yeah, obviously it's a pretty special place and not many tracks of this size or nature. Big stadium kind of event, you know, with 500,000 people. At the moment, it's just another racetrack that I'm going to try and conquer. But I'm sure come racing day or the month of May, the whole buildup, it's one of the longest races in history. You've got the whole month of May instead of just a normal three- or two-day race weekend. It's going to be a different challenge for me, and I'll be taking comments from Scott and Chip and the whole team. I've got 70 guys back at the shop to draw on their experience. Yeah, but I'm sure come race weekend, it will be, you know, a pretty daunting place, definitely.

Q: St. George (flag) - should we look forward to seeing many of those now that you're here?

MANNING: I hope so, for many years to come. Yeah, I'm hoping to make this place my home. Obviously, I have a long future here with Chip and the whole Target team. You know, it's the place where I want to be. I've been racing over in Europe for a long time and, you know, Formula One is a very - this is an opportunity. It's a chance to run with a top-line team, then I make take it, but hopefully you'll see St. George on my helmet for a long time to come over here.

Q: Scott, have you given any thought to an urgency to win this one as possibly your last chance?

DIXON: (Laughing) Wow, he's not gone yet. I think there's a lot of hope, everybody is sort of saying that I'm going, there's nothing said at all, this is just a test and things like that. I think there's always an urgency on trying to win this race. I think any chance you can you get to do it, as Chip says, there's years that you can see when the team that you're with, or for himself that he owns, has a great opportunity in winning this race. And I think this year, as we did last year, we have a great opportunity. We just need to make sure we can gain from it. And I hope every year that I can compete will be a year I try to win it.

Q: Michael (Andretti) believes that you had the car to beat here at Indy despite fact that when you went out you were running, what was it, sixth, I guess before that restart in, your mind, did you have a car that was going to be able to overtake the five in front of you?

DIXON: I think it was the first couple - we had a pit stop and topped off with fuel again, and we pretty much, I think jumped away from most of the field. It was either Tony (Kanaan) or somebody that was trying to chase us down but generally we had a really good car and then until we found our fuel gone, the day pretty much went south. But by the time of that last pit stop, it was kind of amazing to me that we managed to stay there, and I think that was because of the speed of the car that we had. I think we did have a good opportunity if we didn't have problems, and maybe I wouldn't have been as frustrated as I was.

Q: You have two experienced Indy-car drivers running for you in the Grand-Am series. Are there any prospects or potential of you fielding a third car at the Speedway for either Max (Papis) or Scott (Pruett)?

GANASSI: There's no plan to do that right now unless something falls out of the sky and hits me over the head. I wouldn't plan on seeing either one of those guys here.

Q: You're our team owner, which is kind of a play on words: You own an Indy-car team, two cars, you have a NASCAR team, a Grand-Am team, an owner of a baseball team. How do you split your time between all of those activities?

GANASSI: Well, first of all, it's very important to know I'm not involved with the baseball team anymore. I'm still a season ticket-holder, but I divested of that interest over the winter. To get back to how I decide which race to go to, you know, it's pretty simple. I mean, you know this past weekend I had - we had some Target executives that were going to be in Phoenix. My choice was to go to Phoenix with Target executives and go to Darlington, South Carolina. Really was not a big choice for me, if you can imagine. I just went to Phoenix. Really, with so many NEXTEL Cup races, if I go to all of the Indy-car races, it splits my time about half and half, at least that's how it worked last year. This year when you sprinkle in 12 or 15 Grand-Am events, interestingly, those are - some are on weekends with NASCAR on the same weekend. On a Saturday race, we have the next race coming up is Saturday before Easter, which is an off weekend for IndyCar and Cup, as well. So it's pretty easy to make the decisions when it comes time to decide where to go and where not to go. The next conflict is Motegi or Martinsville. Again that's not much of a decision. A lot of times we have involvements, such as with Toyota that obviously we'll be in Motegi.

Q: Scott, your probably the only New Zealander who did not appear in "Lord of the Rings," don't know how you managed that. (Laughter). Secondly you've had a run of second-place finishes recently. Is it harder to have a second-place finish knowing that you're this close to being able to win this race versus a Homestead-type finish?

DIXON: It does get frustrating the last five races I've had four seconds. I don't know, second, it's great points and good for the championships. I think if you finish second most of the time, you're going to win a championship. It is frustrating sometimes and how you see some races play out where you think you possibly could have won that race, but such is racing. Some people have better cars on the day. Our time will come. I think it's great that we are able to be at that end of the field every race pretty much we compete in and every qualifying we compete in. I think it's inevitable that we are going to come out with a win here shortly.

GANASSI: If I can add to that, you know, I spent a lot of time with a guy named Joe Montana. And he said some of the best passes he ever threw, the ball never left his hand. I think you can parallel that to, in my view, of Scott Dixon in that, you know, second is better than crashing out and passing for the lead. That takes a true champion to understand that he's got to - if his car is no better than second place on a given day, you know, I think Scott is the kind of guy that knows that and doesn't want to take - would much rather have a second place than up against the fence, you know, passing for the lead. Especially in the IRL series, I mean, it rewards consistent finishes. That's very, very important in this series if you look at the point structure.

Q: Joe Montana was at one time an investor in the team. Is he still a part?

GANASSI: No. His kids are growing up now, and they are all 15 to 20 years old, and they are involved in horses and what-have-you. He's still a close friend. We talk every few months. He's not formally involved with the team any longer.

Q: Last year when you were running in CART, how keen of an interest did you pay to this event? Was it a situation where you kind of followed what was going on and kind of thought, you know, "Wow, I wish I was there?"

MANNING: Yeah, for sure, being based over here obviously with the CART racing and stuff like that, I was living here in Indianapolis like I still am. You know, the IRL is a big part of this town. It's one of the two premier categories in this country and in the world, probably second only to Formula One. I was following it avidly and every team's progress and drivers. I've got friends over here, as well. So in the 500, I was out in grandstand at Turn 3 with my teammate, with some of the guys from Walker Racing, I was on scouting Scott's radio and everything listening to - I can't repeat that. (Laughter).

Q: Did you have a premonition that you would be a teammate in the coming year?

MANNING: No, Scott for a time being. It was Scott Sharp that - inaudible - they have some great language on his radio. I couldn't understand a word what they were saying or anything like that. I don't know where they come from, somewhere due south. (Laughter).

Part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Nigel Mansell , Chip Ganassi , Joe Montana
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing