Continued from part 1 Q: Your record last year and so far this year has shown pretty much you can dial a car awesomely when it comes to reasonably flat tracks like Richmond, Milwaukee and Indy. On the high banks, is it just overall balance or...
Continued from part 1
Q: Your record last year and so far this year has shown pretty much you can dial a car awesomely when it comes to reasonably flat tracks like Richmond, Milwaukee and Indy. On the high banks, is it just overall balance or balance in traffic?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, no, I mean, if the car's good on its own -- well, I shouldn't say that. If the car's good, it's going to be good in traffic. I mean, it has been a bit of car balance for me on the mile-and-a-half's so far this year. But there's no excuse. My teammate, Tony, for example, after Motegi, I called him, I'm on the phone with him for three hours saying, 'You kicked my butt, how did you do it?' I'm picking his brain.
It's a bunch of little things that add up. I'm just trying to, again, learn from that and do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't happen any more.
But, yeah, I mean, we have work to do I think when it comes to car balance. You said it, I love going to the shorter ovals and stuff like that. Actually, I love Indianapolis. It's a unique place. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season, but now we've got to just win some races, like I said earlier.
THE MODERATOR: Marco, thank you so much for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Good luck this month.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us now is IndyCar Series team owner and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. Good afternoon, A.J.
A.J. FOYT: Good afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: The team is announcing today that two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., will drive the No. 50 A.J. Foyt Racing entry this May.
A.J. congratulations on today's announcement. We've talked earlier this season about this being your 50th season in open-wheel racing. Tell us about the decision to put Little Al in the race.
A.J. FOYT: Well, the biggest reason, his father, when he first went to Indy, drove for me. I've known Al since he's been born. I think he's a great driver. I think he's a race driver that's going to win the race for us. That's what we're all working towards this year. We're trying to turn the team around with Darren (Manning) and him both. I don't know who else I could have found that would be better than Al because I've known him, like I said, since he run little midgets and sprints and all that stuff. He's a hell of a racer.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Al Unser Jr.
AL UNSER JR.: Thank you for all coming.
THE MODERATOR: Al, of course, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1992 with Galles Racing and in 1994 with Penske Racing. Tell us about coming back for your 19th Indianapolis 500 and the chance to do so with A.J. Foyt.
AL UNSER JR.: I'm real excited about coming back, especially driving for A.J. He's been a hero of mine since I was a little boy. For him to give me a call and really ask me to drive for him, especially in his 50th anniversary, then driving the 50 car, it's just a real honor. I'm really proud to be driving for A.J. We're going to go out there and give it everything we got.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for both A.J. and Al.
Q: Al, what have you been doing to stay ready? What shape are you in physically for May?
AL UNSER JR.: We've been training quite a bit. We've been doing the regular stuff, the cardio and so on. Pretty much doing the same thing we've done in the past. We're really ready to go out there and have some fun and be competitive and see what we can do to work with Darren. I'm very excited about that, so on. He's a very talented race car driver.
To get the opportunity to work with A.J. is just a dream come true.
Q: When is the last time you were in a car?
AL UNSER JR.: It was a year ago last May is the last time I was in an (IndyCar Series) car. It didn't end up the way we wanted it to, but we sure did have a great time. Again, when A.J. called, it was just a great phone call and a great opportunity.
Q: Al, you've known A.J. all your life. What are your earliest memories of him?
AL UNSER JR.: They go back a long way. My first memories of A.J. we were at a racetrack. I was probably six or seven years old. I remember walking with him and dad and Uncle Bobby. We were in the pits somewhere. The reason why we were walking around was because it was raining. I had the gumption or the stupidity to splash water on A.J. with my foot. I stomped in a puddle. What did A.J. do? He stomped right back in the next puddle and got me wet. Those are my first memories of A.J. Then it just keeps going. We'll leave it at that for right now.
Q: How would you rate this Indy 500 field? Is it shaping up as a real challenging one? Have you seen better?
A.J. FOYT: Well, to me, any time you go for a 500-mile race, it's very challenging. I don't care if it's one car or 500 cars, it's a big challenge. Everything's got to be perfect that day. The team's got to be perfect or you're going to get beat. Any kind of mistakes on a 500-mile race is going to cost you the race.
It's always a big challenge any time you go to Indianapolis. It's like the Kentucky Derby. You go there and it's an open field. You never know who's going to win. A lot of times when the favorites are favored to win, they're in the back. It's always open.
Q: Do you have any picks for the derby?
A.J. FOYT: No, not really.
Q: A.J., could you tell me about your experience with Al. How did you two get together way back when?
A.J. FOYT: With the Unsers, his daddy and Bobby, we always run sprints in California, Ascot, all over the Midwest and all that. Little Al come along in the picture. I don't know if his daddy really wanted him or if it was a mistake, but anyway he arrived, we become great friends. I watched him come up through the series.
I remember I was teasing him because Tracy Hines broke both legs the other day on his motorcycle. Tracy drives our Silver Crown. I called Al. I said, Al, you want to drive a Silver Crown at Iowa this week? He said, Man, last time I drove them, I was 20 years old.
Anyway, I've known him through his whole racing career. We've always been great friends. I've been with his daddy Al, Bobby, all of them. We always been close. We all kind of come up together. I watched his son come up. When I heard he was open, I was pretty excited about getting him in our second car.
Q: The one thing that has changed drastically since the advent of the (IndyCar Series) is we now all have standard engines with the Honda. How does that enter into equation? We used to be looking for 10, 15 cars maybe to finish the race. Now no one is falling out.
A.J. FOYT: I think that's good. Last time there were 30 or 40 horsepower different and it made some people really stand out that shouldn't have been standing out. Now it's the driver and the team and tweaking the chassis for everything you can.
Like you say, you don't have all those explosions where debris is all over the racetrack and cause wrecks. Any of them can blow up at any time. But so far the ratio has been very good. When you go there and race now, you better plan on racing 500 miles. It's not who's falling out and who's finishing. That makes it pretty interesting.
Q: Al, you're one of the few individuals that came up through the midget and sprint ranks. I still quote you saying that sprint racing is a contact sport. How did you make the transition where other guys have not been able to?
AL UNSER JR.: Oh, gosh, a lot of it was really my family, my father, the advice that he gave me, Uncle Bobby. I was racing go-karts when I was nine years old. My dad was a very big part of my growing up in racing. My dad had a simple theory that a race car is a race car. Whether it be running in the dirt or a front-engine or rear-engine car, you need to adapt to it and get the most out of whatever you're driving in and learn how to drive it. Basically that's what I did all growing up. Anything I drove, I just treated it as a race car and tried to get the most out of it whether we were at Manzanita or Ascot, like A.J. said, or going to Milwaukee or Indy. You get the most out of it.
That goes all the way to today's racing. A.J. was exactly right when he talked about the engines. It has changed in the aspect that the team really has to go out there and work as a team and not make any mistakes, get the most out of the car, make it consistent. If we can do that, we'll be up front somewhere at the end of it.
Q: A.J., how special is this year to you? It's got to mean something to you.
A.J. FOYT: Well, when I first started, everybody said I wasn't going to live to be 22 years old. Hell, it means a big, big deal to me.
But, no, it's just to me another day, another race. I guess I'm glad I'm still looking down at the grass and not up at it where a lot of friends of mine -- just like last night, I had a good friend of mine die that I didn't know till this morning. Just like (indiscernible), we were very good friends down in Florida, passed away.
Kind of just like George Snider says, the yardstick is getting a little shorter. But I'm just glad to still be here and having a lot of fun. Because when you quit having fun, I think that's when you need to leave.
Q: Al, does this mean something special to you to help A.J. this year?
AL UNSER JR.: Oh, for sure. It's really hard to put into words what that phone call meant to me. Driving the 50 car for A.J. on his 50th anniversary, you know, I'm just super proud. I mean, those are really the only words I can come up with. He helped my dad get going in 1965, and now there's another Unser driving for A.J. I couldn't be more proud.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations again on the partnership for the month of May. Best of luck.
AL UNSER JR.: Thank you.
A.J. FOYT: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Our next teleconference will be Wednesday, May 9th at 2 p.m. Our guests will be Indy Pro Series driver Sean Guthrie and four-time Indy 500 winner of Al Unser.