IRL: Panther Racing/Chevrolet press conference, Part III

Indianapolis 500 Pennzoil Panther Racing/Chevrolet April 11, 2002 Panther Racing, Indianapolis Part 3 of 3 Q: I have got a two-part question. In your setting up for your -- this is for any of you. Setting up for your race in your strategy, is...

Indianapolis 500
Pennzoil Panther Racing/Chevrolet
April 11, 2002
Panther Racing, Indianapolis

Part 3 of 3

Q: I have got a two-part question. In your setting up for your -- this is for any of you. Setting up for your race in your strategy, is it a balls for the walls attitude that you're going to hit it and drive as fast you can? I'm thinking engine-wise, mechanical-wise, are you going to sort of test it first to make sure you don't put the full strain on the engine to begin with? The second part is, is you know how Indiana weather is by now and we don't know if it's going to rain or be cold or hot, how far -- do you have a strategy set up that you're -- if we got a 90-degree day or 50-degree day that you're prepared, as far as driving and setting up the car?

Barnes: Yeah, we do. And we will show you that Sunday race day. Andy and Sam have worked out a lot. During the month of May you're always working on different conditions. We have a tremendous staff here at Panther Racing with Seth, Ed Delporte, as far as the engineering staff that helps Andy. They catalog all that information. I can tell you he'll be there at 3:00 race day morning and figuring out which way we're going to go.

King: Kevin, when you guys roll off at pretty much any racetrack, we see the No. 4 car come off and a lot of us just see an Indy car. How much of a difference is there in the car that will run that Sam will be in at Nazareth versus the car you'll roll off to run at the Speedway? How many changes? How long does it take to change the car from that racecar at Nazareth to the racecar you'll run at Indy?

Blanch: The main change is going to be the wings, the front and rear wings. We do a few different things, not a whole lot. You'll have some suspension changes you're going to do, and you may have the little bit different motor you might use to qualify with. But as a matter of fact, we're going over there to test Sunday at the Speedway. We've already started running in our race parts for Indianapolis. We've got a clutch, we ran in brand new headers. We try to run that kind of stuff just one time, make sure everything is okay and it doesn't crack or fail. Then we will put it on the shelf. Fuel pump, clutch, headers, four or five other items that we just run one time, get them kind of bedded in, make sure they're okay, put them up, use them just for the Indianapolis 500 race only because it's 500 miles on these cars, it's not as hard on them as it used to be when they were turbo-charged cars, but still pretty hard. And even that last Fontana race where we ran 400 miles, we ended up cracking an upright, which is the type of thing that happens when you run 500 miles or 400 miles that you kind of got to look for. So Fontana was actually a good test for Indianapolis for us. It let us know what parts were going to give up, because normally you run a 200-mile race or 300-mile race, so you kind of find the edge of the parts. A little bit of difference, but not a whole lot. We try to run the same package everywhere we go because we know the stuff we put on the car is good and we never go to a racetrack with anything new on. We always test it before we try to race it, whether it's moving a wire up an inch or down an inch, we will never do that until we try it out one time to make sure we don't have an unforeseen problem with it.

Q: John, maybe you can address this. The hallmark of the Indy Racing League and whole idea was that parity and everybody should be competitive. At the same time, there's been no other leader in the standings since the beginning of last year. What does that say about you guys?

Barnes: We cheat. Don't you read the paper? It's all about blocking and tackling, what we do here. Everything here is we take the -- we do all the basics. Work really hard at all the basics and that's what carries us through. And we've got a great engineering staff, great driver, great crew. We've got a tremendous engine shop that works very hard at giving us the best engine. Not always the best to qualifying, but always the best for the race. One of the things we learned a long time ago is drivability with the engine program. And Rick Long, who runs that program for us just extremely well. Any of those banners on the wall up there couldn't be here without Speedway Engines. And it's just the way it is. And they really concentrate really hard with drivability and reliability. We talk to GM daily about new parts that are in the pipeline. And they know one thing, they don't give us anything that hadn't been done at least 1,000 miles of durability testing. So just the old adage, to win you've got to finish. With the people that we have, we know when it comes down to the last lap, that we've got the people to be there with. And I mean, that's it. It's all basics, no tricks here. We don't believe in them. I have a friend by the name of Richard Petty who told me one time, I was down at his place and somebody was trying to sell him something, he said, "If everything worked that everybody brought in here that swore it was going to work, I wouldn't have to go to the racetrack, they would send me the checks and the trophies."

King: KB, you're a pretty excitable guy. You spend a lot of time with Sam at the racetrack. Is there anything that cranks him up, winning a race by 28 thousandth or 18 thousandths, his pulse rate doesn't change. Have you ever seen him excited?

Blanch: Yellow flag. He when he has to slow down. That's the only time I see him get excited. When the radio didn't work in the last race, he was really upset. He pulled in that pit lane kind of wondered what we were going to do. I'm trying to tell him, don't forget to hold your hand up, put your palm up, lay your palm down, watch the sign board. That's probably the second most excited I've seen him. But he just drives. He just gets in the car and drives it. That's all you can say. To me, unlike Andy, who couldn't compare him to somebody, I think he's like Tony Stewart. When the green flag drops, he is going to front whether he has to carry the car or whether the car is the best racecar on the track. He is going to go to the front. That's the same way Tony would do it. And it sure makes it a lot -- real enjoyable for the guys in the pits watching and gets my excitement level up quite a bit when you're running out there three, four, five wide, at Texas, you can be first one lap, tenth the next lap, and third the next lap. With him, we know we're going to the front.

King: One last question.

Q: John, any impact on you with the sale of Pennzoil to Shell?

Barnes: No, I mean, everything is really good with us with them. It's only, we figured, an advantage. Shell is a little bit bigger company than Pennzoil, and it's going to help us in the future. I wanted to say one thing, too, everybody has been making a lot about how all of a sudden we're the team to beat I felt like we've been that way since 1988 when we started this place. We had Scott Goodyear, who is over here, put a lot of the banners on the wall. You know, this team here has gelled around from day one. So we're just building on that, like I said, just basics, one brick on top another.

King: They tell me we do have time for a couple more.

Q: Sam, you mentioned before that one of the things that bothers you is the lack of confidence in the young American drivers. Do you think your success has helped turn that around?

Hornish: I don't know. I can't really judge that because I don't see a whole lot of them coming out. I'm not racing against a whole lot of young American drivers at this point in time. The more that I can do, the better. Because if you look at some of the greatest racecar drivers that have ever been, Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt, there have been American drivers. I don't know what the reasoning is why everybody changed it, but I think that in a lot of other countries racing is a lot more popular. It's more than, you know, kids want -- you know, you'll see 20 kids standing around that want to be racecar drivers instead of football or baseball players. I think no more than a select few in the United States. I don't know what the reasoning is for that. Hopefully there be some more. I know a lot of good American drivers that I raced against in go-karts that maybe were a little younger than me, but I had an opportunity to watch that. I thought they were good drivers at that time and they are trying to work their way up right now hopefully they will get to where they need to be.

Q: John, you've got CART teams coming to Indy and IRL races next year, and pretty much common chassis and engine rules. You've got a driver brought up on road racing, engineer background in road racing, would you consider going and doing a couple of the primo CART races?

Barnes: There's only one group of premier races in this country. Oval racing is IRL, that's what we race. I think that in the future you'll see IRL running on road courses probably in 2004. When that happens, I think we will be ready for it. But as far as running races in other organizations, we're pretty busy enough. We believe the people here have to have a family life, and we work very hard to make sure that they have that.

King: We're going to have to -- how much time, Eric, will we have for one-on-ones, if any, before we have to head out? So we will have a few. Go ahead and break now. Have a few minutes for one-on-ones, then we will be heading out in a few minutes. John, Andy, KB, Sam, thanks very much. Thank you to Panther Racing and thank you all for being here this morning.


Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Scott Goodyear , Mario Andretti , Richard Petty
Teams Panther Racing