IRL: Indy 500: Ganassi, Stewart, Vasser press conference Part 2

CHIP GANASSI RACING TEAMS Press Conference Transcript Part 2 INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 7, 2001 HOST: Mike King GUESTS: Chip Ganassi, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Vasser, Mike Hull KING: OK, some numbers for you real quickly before we start ...

Press Conference Transcript Part 2
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 7, 2001
HOST: Mike King
GUESTS: Chip Ganassi, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Vasser, Mike Hull

KING: OK, some numbers for you real quickly before we start taking questions. Of course, Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns as the defending team champion here at the Indianapolis 500 after Juan Montoya won the race in 2000.

For Jimmy Vasser this will be his sixth appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after starting races in '92, '93, '94, '95, and the last season in 2000 where he started seventh and he finished seventh. Jimmy was the '96 CART series champion, has career earnings here at the Speedway of $1,023,527.

For Tony Stewart, this will be his fifth appearance at the Indianapolis 500. In '96, as Chip mentioned, it was his first year as a starter here. Started on pole after the unfortunate death of his teammate, Scott Brayton. When he moved to the pole position, he was rookie of the year. Tony also started in '97, '98, '99. Tony is really the only driver to successfully do the double here at the Speedway. He finished ninth here in 1999 and left here, went to Charlotte and finished fourth. So it's an impressive feat. Tony was the 1997 Indy Racing League series champion.

So questions, Chip, unless you have something else to add. Are you ready for questions?

We'll start on this side.

Tony, you did the double two years ago. How tough was that and what are your thoughts on attempting it again this month?

STEWART: It was pretty tough. I mean the media coverage we got, they made it look a little worse after the 600 than what it really was. They really just wanted to get me in an ambulance and get me to the care center where I didn't have to have 400 media people two inches from my nose. So it was pretty bad, though. I mean, I was exhausted by the end of it.

But they also say hindsight is 20/20, and we learned a lot from our first experience doing this. So we've got a physical trainer with us that's going to make sure that I'm eating properly, stay off the pizzas and sodas all month. Which if they can keep me off the sodas, that will be a major accomplishment.

Basically we're trying to do everything we can off of what we learned in '99 to try to do this. We felt like we did it the right way, but we felt like we made a lot of mistakes at the same time, and we're making sure that we don't make those same mistakes this year.

So I think we've learned a lot in that first year, and I think we'll make the right adjustments.

KING: Bruce.

Jimmy, could you talk a little bit about how this has all kind of come back for you? When you left Chip last year and went to Pat Patrick, it looked like your chances of being able to come back to Indy weren't going to happen this year. Just kind of talk about how it all came back for you.

VASSER: Well first, I feel a little remiss that I didn't thank Pat Patrick for releasing me to do this. I really didn't want to do it unless my team wanted me to do it. I didn't want them to even just say, 'Oh, yeah, it's OK, you can do it.' I wanted them to encourage me to do it and they did, from top to bottom. Pat and Chip were able to, you know, come to an agreement, and for that I appreciate Mr. Patrick.

I had a couple of opportunities. I had talked to some people about the Speedway, but it certainly had to be the right situation. There were a couple possibilities that Patrick Racing might do the Indianapolis 500 in conjunction with some other teams with the thought that some particular sponsors would like to run the Indy 500 and then be on my white, stark white car in the CART series for the rest of the season.

That didn't come about and then Chip not too long ago mentioned to me that, you know, he was starting to think that maybe since the races were getting canceled, that maybe the boys didn't have the miles under their belt that he felt was necessary to go into the month with them. One thing led to another.

Like I said, it's the greatest race in the world, and I think probably the greatest team here. I've got a lot of friends and a lot of history with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. There hasn't been any bad feelings since what happened last year at all. Chip and I, we did things together and we're still friends. We still communicate, you know, on a weekly basis basically throughout the off-season. And it was a no-brainer, as long as everybody was happy on both sides.

Tony, could you explain being from Indiana why this race is worth putting yourself through the grind again?

STEWART: Well, let's put it this way. I mean I remember when I was in grade school and high school, every day when the school bell would ring at 20 after three, the first thing I did was rush home, turn the TV (month of May coverage) on; and I got in a lot of trouble with my parents because homework didn't get done, because I wouldn't pull myself off the TV until 6. When you grow up 45 minutes south of here (Rushville, Ind.), the whole month of May, this is it. There's nothing else that matters, especially when you're a young race car driver.

So to say that my racing résumé will never be complete, I've had a great career to this point but there's a space that's at the top of that that only one thing can be added to and that's the Indianapolis 500 victory. So I can't express in words, to be honest, how much this race means to me. It's just when you grow up in Indiana and you're a race car driver, this is all there is and this is all you think about.

So to not have an opportunity to come back here would be devastating. But the only way to come back here is to make sure you're with the right team. That's why until Chip called I didn't feel like there were any opportunities that were worth pursuing; and when Chip called, I said this is the right opportunity to come do this the right way and do it the way that I feel like we need to do it to have an opportunity to win.

KING: Robin.

Chip, at Nazareth the other day we were talking about what it might cost you just to get Jimmy, and I said between a hundred thousand and a million and you said 'yeah, between there.' I know you're not going to tell us the truth, but just give us a ballpark about what an amazing thing this had to be to put together with Joe (Gibbs) and Tony and agents and Home Depot.

GANASSI: Without getting into the numbers of it, I'm again, Robin, I'm blessed with having good people around me. Whether it was my friendship with Jimmy and just -- you know, it was a very easy thing with him. I mean it was almost as if we just sort of talked about it in passing. It was like, hey, you know.

Of course, Andy Graves made the initial contact, I would say, with Tony. He brought it up to me and said, 'Hey, you know, if you're thinking about doing that,' he said, 'Stewart said something to me.' I said, 'Oh, OK, yeah.' He said something to Tony.

STEWART: Don't worry, we all know how it worked. We'll tell you about it later. End result, you're stuck with me for the next three weeks. (Laughter)

GANASSI: I could be stuck with a lot worse guys, I could tell you. It was just a matter of I was lucky. I was in Talladega, Tony and I had a chance to sit down and talk. Then being at, you know, as much time as I'm spending in Charlotte now, it's nice that I can get some things done while I'm there. This is all I do every day on a day-to-day basis. I don't have any other businesses I operate. I'm in the racing business.

I was fortunate, Joe Gibbs, obviously very thankful for him for letting this happen. You know, because you can talk about whether it's in someone's contract or not, but it's really -- like Jimmy said, it has to be done with somebody's blessing, not because it's written down on a piece of paper. It's really got to be, like I say, with someone's blessing. So we want to thank his team for that.

Again, with Jimmy, Pat and I are old friends and, you know, we have a long, long history together. It was just a matter of Pat and I sitting down and making sure that, you know, in today's -- really for Pat and Joe both, in today's world of racing it's not that they don't -- from a team owner's point of view, you have to cover a lot of what-ifs, and I won't go into those what-ifs today. But I mean, obviously these guys have programs and athletes today, in all the major sports there's a lot of dollars resting on these guys' shoulders in their normal day-to-day jobs of racing, let alone an interloper coming in and saying, 'Hey, we have this one race where we think we can do really well at.'

So we had to make Pat and Joe comfortable with a lot more of the what-ifs. Certainly they were OK with having Tony and Jimmy drive, but we had to cover our bases on the other aspects, like I said, of the what-ifs.

So I want to again thank those two gentlemen for making this possible, because obviously without them giving their full blessing, this would not have happened.

This may be the biggest financial undertaking you've had to put together just for one race just trying to keep everybody happy.

GANASSI: Not really. Financially, we're not talking about numbers that would break the bank or anything, you know.

Not your bank.

STEWART: By the way, Chip assured us that you were helping out with both of our salaries anyway. So we appreciate you helping out there, Robin (Miller).

GANASSI: I will say this: These two gentlemen up here, both of them said to me -- and I'm glad you brought the point of money up, Robin, because both of these boys up here said to me that money was not their first issue. Their first issue was the team they were with and they wanted to make sure everything was going into the team. Their salary or their prize money was not first and foremost on their mind. Both of these guys said that.

KING: Thanks. Because we have so many of you who would like to get one-on-ones, we're going to take one more question from the floor and then we're going to split everyone up for one-on-ones.

Bruce, go ahead and take the last one.

Chip, in an era where racing has become so specialized with the schedules conflicting and all that, talk about just how unique Tony's versatility is. He's been able to win in practically everything he's climbed into.

GANASSI: Again, Bruce, it's an opportunity I look at, from our team's point of view, we try to do something. Each year we try to raise the bar. Each year we try to raise the level of what we're doing. Our team continues to grow. It continues to explore new opportunities; and where there's an opportunity, we like to exploit those opportunities. You know, it's an honor for me just to be in the situation.

Tony talks about his dreams of growing up in Indiana; and, you know, it's the same for all of us. I know that I had my heroes and, you know, I remember some of the deals that these guys did when I was growing up and listening to and hearing about happening at Indianapolis or happening in racing, it's an honor for me just to be able to have the caliber of driver to want to drive for a team that I'm a part of. You can talk about putting deals together, but, like I say, it's an honor for me just to have my name mentioned in the same sentence as Joe Gibbs or Pat Patrick or one of those guys.

KING: Chip, thanks very much for being here. Tony to you, Jimmy to you and Mike to you as well.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmy Vasser , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing