IRL: Indy 500: Rookie drivers press conference

87th Indianapolis 500 2003 Rookies Press Conference May 24, 2003 Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Tora Takagi, Tony Renna, Roger Yasukawa, Shinji Nakano, Buddy Rice, A.J. Foyt IV, Vitor Meira Ron Green: Thank you for joining us in the Trackside Press...

87th Indianapolis 500
2003 Rookies Press Conference
May 24, 2003

Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Tora Takagi, Tony Renna, Roger Yasukawa, Shinji Nakano, Buddy Rice, A.J. Foyt IV, Vitor Meira

Ron Green: Thank you for joining us in the Trackside Press Conference Room of the MCI Media Center. We really appreciate you coming out early this morning and to spend time with the Bank One Rookie of the Year Class here for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. Before we get started talking with the drivers, I would like to introduce Al Smith, president of Bank One, for a few quick remarks. Al, thank you for coming out this morning.

Al Smith: Thank very much, Ron, on behalf of Bank One, we're delighted to be here. This is our 25th year of sponsoring the Rookie of the Year Award. Congratulations to all of you for making the field and best of luck tomorrow.

Green: Thank you, Al. Now I'm going to introduce each driver. If you guys just raise your hands. We don't have name plates for everybody. Just raise your hand when I call your name, and then we'll get quick remarks from each of you and then open it up for questions. We're going to start off with the fastest qualifying rookie this year, at least the highest-qualifying rookie, as well. Scott Dixon, qualified fourth for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Scott's four-lap average was 230.099. Welcome, Scott. Next we had qualifying in fifth position, Dan Wheldon for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam. Dan qualified at 229.958. Qualifying in seventh, Tora Takagi for the Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing team. Tora qualified at 229.358. Qualifying eighth was Tony Renna. Tony is driving the Cure Autism Now/HomeMed car. Tony's four-lap average was 228.765. Eleventh, rookie Roger Yasukawa for the Panasonic ARTA team, and Roger's four-lap average 228.577. Qualifying 15th, Shinji Nakano with a four-lap average -- I'm sorry, he's driving the Beards Papa's car with a four-lap average of 227.222. Qualifying 19th, Buddy Rice for the Red Bull Cheever Racing team with a four-lap average of 226.213. Qualifying 23rd, A.J. Foyt IV for the Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing team. A.J.'s four-lap average, 224.177. In 26th, rookie Vitor Meira for the Menards/Johns Manville team with a four-lap average of 227.158. Guys, with a big class this year, we're going to get a few quick remarks from each of you as you enter your first -- the day before the first Indianapolis 500, just what's going through your mind? Maybe even an early thought or thought from an early Indianapolis 500 that you have in your memory. We're going to start here with Dan and work our way across and work the back row. Dan Wheldon.

Dan Wheldon: Thank you, everybody, for being here. It's been a good month so far. Certainly the Andretti-Green Racing Team have given me a good car. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew have worked real hard. It's probably a tougher month for the mechanics than it is for the drivers. It is certainly a pleasure to be here. As far as the race, I think we're just going to make sure we're around for the last hundred miles because I think as far as the history of this race goes, I think like somebody said the other day, you don't remember a good first lap, it's the last few that count. So that's what we intend to do, but we intend to be real strong all day, run up at the front and then put ourselves in a position to be right there for a win at the end. We'll see how it goes, but we're certainly looking forward to it.

Green: Vitor.

Victor Meira: Yeah, had kind of a late start on the week and on the month, actually. And I started test only after the Pole Day. But during the test that I did, there was -- we did a lot of laps actually on Friday before the qualifying. We had 150 laps or so, so that was pretty good. And it was kind of surprising. I just knew we were going to race after the qualifying. That was kind of surprising, and everything's coming along really good. I just hope that we don't do any mistakes on the race and see how it goes. But, as Daniel said, nobody remembers the first or the second lap, the last lap is the one that counts. To get there, we have a long way still. So let's just concentrate and see what happens.

Green: A.J.

A.J. Foyt IV: I've had a really good month, I think. I've had a lot of fun and just coming here as a kid and watching my grandfather race and then coming here and watching his cars run has just been a dream come true to come here and participate in this race. It's such a great race, and I'm just glad to be a part of it. Going to go out there on Sunday and run all day and get a lot of experience and hopefully finish the race and have a good finish spot.

Green: Shinji, just pull that microphone down.

Shinji Nakano: Glad to be here and we had a little tough time after we started practicing. And it's been tough for the team and myself, but I think the team is doing really good job to put everything together in such a short time. We didn't even have time to set up the car for the race with a full tank, but we had some sort of problem in the car. I don't know, just see what happens. We just have to do all that we can. I'm looking forward to it.

Green: Go over to Tony.

Tony Renna: Just echo what everybody said here. I think it's obviously a big honor to be here. We've had a really smooth month here so far. Team Kelley has done a good job of giving me the tools that I need. Toyota has been fantastic to work with. And like all these guys have said, it's all about being there at the end, and certainly that's our focus. We've paid a lot of attention to our race setup all through the month. I think we're pretty good right now. But I'm just -- kind of what A.J. said, I want to go out there and get as much experience as I can as well. It's so many laps around this place, and I think it's going to be different for all of us in being all the traffic that we don't really experience during all the practice that we do here. But I'm certainly looking forward to that. I haven't done any pit stops this year so far so I'm looking forward to just being good on all my pit stops and being smooth in and out, making no mistakes and trying to have as much of a flawless race as we can and hopefully be there right at the end.

Green: Move back to Scott.

Scott Dixon: My month has gone pretty consistent, I guess. Team Target has done a great job. I think we're a little disappointed with qualifying. I think we could have done a lot better than that. We just had too much downforce in the car, but it's probably the same for a lot of the others. I think we can race a little better than where we qualified. It's a good starting position. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble and be there at the end.

Green: Tora.

Tora Takagi: I am happy to be here because the Indy 500 is a big race. This is 500 miles, long race. I try my best in this race, yeah.

Green: Thank you. Buddy.

Buddy Rice: I think, as a lot of people have said, not only is the field in the Indy 500 one of the deepest, and obviously we're the third-fastest group, but I think the group of rookies that are sitting up here that have been running -- I mean, all these guys have a lot of credentials to be here, and it's going to be probably one of the fastest crop of rookies to have been through here. I think it's an honor to be up here with these guys and running the Indy 500 with all the people we'll be running with. The Red Bull Cheever Racing team has been awesome. I think it helped that we won the Pit Stop Competition the other day. We've had excellent pit stops all year long. We've made big strides over the offseason to get to that point. So it was good for our team to be able to go out there and showcase their talents. But I think we've got some work to do come Sunday, but we've got a very good car in traffic and looking for a super-strong finish come Sunday.

Green: And Roger.

Roger Yasukawa: Well, thinking that we've been here for the whole month, it's really hard to imagine that we're going to go racing tomorrow. But really I think the Panasonic ARTA team has been great. The car has been running well the whole month. I think we've got a really strong engine. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow. As a rookie driver, I think there's a lot to learn within the race stil,l but that's the challenge of this race and, you know, I hope to see the checkered flag tomorrow and to have a good race.

Green: Guys, thank you. What we'll do since we have a large group, we'll take a couple of questions from the audience and then we'll line them up. Part of the reason they're here is a presentation by Bank One for a photo, then we'll release them. Some have to leave immediately, some are available for one-on-ones, but we are on a tight schedule this morning with the drivers' meeting coming up. We'll open it up for questions now for any of the rookies.

Q: Actually, this can go to anybody. I'll go ahead and ask it of Vitor. Have you ever been in a race that seemed to be this big that had this many rookies in it? You know, I did a couple of laps in the Pace Car out there the other day going 93 (mph) into one of those curves, and I can't even begin to imagine how fast that comes up on you guys. How do you feel about the field given that there are so many rookies, Vitor?

Meira: Yeah, not only the rookies, everybody else. It's just amazing to be here. And for sure, more than the track, more than the G's and everything, the history here is really big, bigger than everything else. We'll see how it goes. It's kind of different because the last test day was two days ago, three days ago and we've got to go straight away, straight to the track. No warmup, no anything. The track is going to be different. The weather is going to be different. And you have to kind of work on the car during the race. You have to have a really constant setup. But as I said, the biggest thing here is the history. It is the thing that's amazing here.

Green: More questions? What we'll do now to save time, we're going to bring Al up for a photo with all of our rookies. We'll release them. If you need some quick one-on-ones with them, that will be the best use of our time. Again, guys thank you.

-ims-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn , Vitor Meira
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing