CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS Press Conference Transcript Part 1 INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 7, 2001 HOST: Mike King GUESTS: Chip Ganassi, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Vasser, Mike Hull MIKE KING: Good morning. I want to say good morning and welcome to the...
CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS
Press Conference Transcript Part 1
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 7, 2001
HOST: Mike King
GUESTS: Chip Ganassi, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Vasser, Mike Hull
MIKE KING: Good morning. I want to say good morning and welcome to the Trackside Media Center here at the WorldComplex at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My name is Mike King. I'm the chief announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.
A couple quick announcements before we get started this morning. First we would like to ask that you all kindly turn off your phones or pagers if they're not set for vibrate. We had a press conference yesterday that was interrupted by a couple ringing phones. That would be appreciated. Secondly, this press conference is being transcribed this morning and for our transcriptionist, for him to be able to hear all the questions, we will need to get those questions on microphone.
So Josh Laycock is on this side of the room, I'll have one on this side. Just raise your hands and we'll get to as many of your questions as we possibly can.
I want to say welcome to all of those that are joining us here this morning on the podium. To begin this morning's announcement, we want to say welcome to a man who has gone from being a driver here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to being one of the major players in all of motorsports, be it the CART series, the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Winston Cup series, Chip Ganassi. Chip.
CHIP GANASSI: Good morning, everybody. Thanks for being here. When we originally put our plans together to come back to the Indianapolis 500, obviously we had Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian are our two drivers, and those two guys are here this morning as you can see.
Our thinking is that the experience that they would have gained in the beginning of the season would have been sufficient when we arrived here at Indianapolis. With the cancellation of the race in Brazil and the cancellation in Texas, we felt it was necessary to reevaluate our plans if we were to be in the best position to come back here and win this race. The reason we're here today is we've decided to bring two veteran drivers back into the race, and certainly these two guys to my left and right know their way around this place.
Tony Stewart is joining us from the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Certainly want to thank Joe Gibbs Racing and The Home Depot. They've given Tony the clearance to join our program and a chance to attain one of his dreams, to win the Indianapolis 500. On my right is someone you know I'm familiar with is Jimmy Vasser. He's back in his red Target firesuit. Certainly want to thank Patrick Racing and Pat Patrick for giving Jimmy the clearance to race here at the Indianapolis 500, also. We felt Jimmy had a good shot last year and it just didn't work out that way.
Let me start with Jimmy. With what has been going on throughout the spring, and we were trying to decide whether to reevaluate our program or not, Jimmy was the first guy that came to mind. He can climb in these cars today and get the most out of it by this afternoon. He's familiar with our program, our structure, our personnel, and he understands our goal, and that is to win this race.
Certainly speaking of winning races, Tony Stewart is, I guess, pretty fresh at winning races, albeit he was in Richmond Saturday night. I saw him, I was there. I saw him outduel Rusty Wallace in the late stages; and certainly he knows how to win the race, and he certainly knows his way around this track as well. He was on pole here in 1996, and rookie of the year and the IRL champion in 1997.
As you know, on Memorial Day, he'll be doing double duty with the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte.
Before Tony and Jimmy speak, I want to just go back to one important point. This decision was not made because Bruno or Nicolas did or did not do something right, and it's not because they're unable to win this race. In fact, if you were here at the rookie orientation, you know that Bruno set fast time during rookie orientation and Nicolas was very quick to adapt to this place as well. Bruno was also on pole this past weekend in Nazareth and finished 7th in the race.
Again, it's not because they did or did not do anything. Our team has proven that we can train rookie drivers in the past; and it's also our goal to set up our drivers to succeed. Right now we need Bruno and Nicolas focused on their training and development within the CART series. Because obviously our most important goal there is to win the championship.
Again, I just want to say how happy I am to be back here. I remember the last time I was sitting in this room and I look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks in this room as well.
So at this time I'll ask Tony and Jimmy to offer their perspectives. Then at the end of this session I have Juan Montoya's phone number that I want to give to each of these guys so they can call and see if he's got any hot tips for them. Thanks. Tony, why don't you start?
TONY STEWART: Well, obviously it's a great thrill for me to be back at Indy. The first thing that happened before we even came to the press conference, I know I'm officially back at Indy because Chuckie pawned me a paper this morning for my dollar. So I know I'm back at Indy officially now because I've got my paper. (Laughter)
It's a great combination. I feel like what we have sitting up here today, I had pretty much decided -- I guess I didn't really decide that I wasn't coming to Indy this year, but I really hadn't had anybody call and nothing really was approached to me to try to come back to Indy for this year. On our first off weekend I got a phone call from Andy Graves who works with Chip on the Winston Cup team and he goes, 'You want to go back to Indy this month?' So it started literally about two or three weeks ago.
It's been very impressive to watch how quick and organized this has become both with Home Depot's help and with Chip's help, also. To do what he's done in two short weeks now and to get two cars for two different drivers that didn't test here, to get all that preparation and get everything ready for us and make us both comfortable in the cars before we even start today has been a very impressive feat, and it's been fun to watch and be a part of the new team.
So I feel like I've got a great teammate with Jimmy. We both have a common interest in the World of Outlaws series. We've been around each other in the past in different areas. So I think our relationship this month is going to be just as good as what I have with Bobby Labonte in the Winston Cup series and what I had with Robbie Buhl when I was back here racing in the IRL full time.
But the neat thing about our program this year, we didn't want to just come back to Indy and race. We want to come, first of all to win, but at the same time we wanted to be able to use the media exposure that we're going to get this month and do something a little bit extra with it this year and try to do something for charity. We've decided, this year Kyle Petty is starting his Victory Junction Gang Camp and that's for terminally ill children, and we're going to donate a hundred dollars a lap for every lap that we complete at both the 500 and the 600. If we can complete all the laps, that will be a total of $180,000 that we'll be able to donate to that charity. So it's given us an extra purpose to be here. Not only are we here to run the race now, but it's also letting us do something good and positive for the community at the same time. So I'm very, very proud and honored that Kyle has let me be a part of this program, him and Patti; and we're going to do something positive in Adam's memory and at the same time try to win two great races.
So I'm looking forward to the month again. To be a part of a team like Chip Ganassi Racing, it's just a great opportunity. We've got two great sponsors with Home Depot and Target. To see two sponsors that are logistically in the same sponsorship category and retail category to join together like this, I think it shows how unselfish this world really is when it comes to helping people try to realize their dreams. Both Target and Home Depot realize how important this race is to me; and it's been great to have their support. So I'm really looking forward to a good month.
GANASSI: With that we'll go to Jimmy Vasser.
JIMMY VASSER: Thanks, Chip. Tony, I'm looking forward to working with you, too. You've had a great career so far and to be teammates -- I mean, think of the teammates that I've had over the years and it's really a list of the, you know, some of the greatest race car drivers that still walk the planet.
You know, it seems a little funny to come back and don the red Target uniform after what's gone on. In its simplicity, I'm stepping into I think one of the cars that has the best chance to win this race, and I very badly would like to win the Indianapolis 500. It's as simple as that. And to get an opportunity to work with all the guys in the Target Chip Ganassi Team and seeing some old faces and friendships rekindled a bit, it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to that. I have to thank Chip for having the confidence in me to come and do a job; and I appreciate that, Chip.
I'd like to echo as well things that Chip was saying about Bruno and Nicolas. They're doing a fantastic job on the CART circuit and I think some unfortunate things happened in our schedule that didn't allow them to get as many miles as they would like. Personally, I think you guys would have done one hell of a job, but maybe you can hang around a little bit and talk with Tony and I a bit, and we might take you to another level for the future oval races.
With that, I'd just like to say thanks for having me back. Looking forward to a good month and a victory. Let's get to work. Mike.
MIKE HULL: Thanks, Jimmy. What I'm supposed to talk to you about is what we're up to here this week logistically.
As you know, Team Target, that's exactly what it is, we're a team and teamwork is what this is all about. What we have is a group of people assembled here this week that have been part of our family for a long time. We're proud to have Tony with us because what he represents is exactly that from where he comes. The guy (Joe Gibbs) that he works for exemplifies what Chip stands for. So we're really happy about that.
We have, engineering-wise for us this week, we have Bill Pappas and Julian Robertson who were with us last year; and those guys worked as a team last year. Our goal last year was to finish first and second. We were going to let Juan (Montoya) and Jimmy figure that out on the last lap on the racetrack. It didn't happen. We would like that to happen this year. Julian is going to be with Jimmy again, reunited with Jimmy; and they have a great relationship. He has Barry Wonzer working for him who has been on our CART team for seven years. Barry was part of Juan's deal, part of Jimmy's deal, part of Alex's deal. He's been with us for a long time.
On Bill Pappas' side, which is the 33 car, which is the car Tony's going to drive, we have Simon Hodgeson who was Juan's chief mechanic last year for the CART championship.
So we have a lot of depth, a lot of experience. We're looking forward to this. Thanks for letting us be here.