Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript April 6, 2004 Scott Sharp, Vitor Meira and Roger Yasukawa Scott Sharp transcript MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Indy Racing League teleconference. Today we'll be joined by...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
April 6, 2004
Scott Sharp, Vitor Meira and Roger Yasukawa
Scott Sharp transcript
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Indy Racing League teleconference. Today we'll be joined by Scott Sharp, Vitor Meira and Roger Yasukawa. First up is Scott Sharp, the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion. He is the defending champion of the Indy Japan 300. He extended his streak of winning at least one race in seven consecutive IndyCar Series seasons by winning the first overseas IndyCar Series event at Twin Ring Motegi last season. He is the driver of the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Vitor Meira and Roger Yasukawa will each make their 2004 season debuts at Twin Ring Motegi with Team Rahal. Yasukawa will drive the No. 16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone, while Meira will drive the No. 17 Team Rahal Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone. Good afternoon, Scott, nice to have you here.
SCOTT SHARP: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Scott has won at least one race in seven consecutive IndyCar Series seasons. Earlier this year, Scott set an Indy Racing League record when he started in his 84th race in league history. He is currently 12th in the IndyCar Series point standings. Thanks for joining us today and congratulations on setting that mark of 84 starts.
SCOTT SHARP: Thank you. I look forward to speaking with everybody.
Q: You had 76 consecutive starts in this series in a sport where injury and fatigue plays a large part. What do you attribute that to?
SCOTT SHARP: I think also the fact that all 76 of those consecutive starts have been with the same team and same sponsor, Delphi, so it's pretty amazing we have all been able to stick together for that long.
Q: You obviously ran well last year in Japan, but can you talk about that race the track, the fans, the actual events being over there?
SCOTT SHARP: It was an awesome trip last year. It's funny, people say, Oh, yeah, of course, you won, of course it was fun. Tom Kelley and I were sitting on the grid and we said this has just been a fabulous week, no matter how the race ends up. And then to go out and win the race, that was just icing on cake. It was fabulous. But overall, just that was my first time in Japan, the overall experience was tremendous. I enjoyed the food. I enjoyed meeting a lot of people. We went in quite early and spent a bunch of time with the top executives from the company, which is a Japanese company there, and the Asian Pacific Group from Delphi. I got to meet a lot of people, see different parts of the country. The circuit was awesome. Just the minute I got there, I loved the feel of it. I think it has a great variety for our cars in that Turn 1 and 2 are very wide open. Very much like one of our big tracks a Michigan, a Fontana-type feel to it, whereas Turns 3 and 4 are much tighter. It's almost like a very large St. Louis track, but much smoother, with much more room for passing. But it adds two dimensions to it. It's important to have a good mechanical handling car through (Turns) 3 and 4 to get that run coming on to the straightaway, and at the same time it's certainly beneficial if you can run well behind someone and draft right up through them through (Turns) 1 and 2. The fans were tremendous. They were very passionate. I think we were all very impressed as drivers with how knowledgeable they were about our cars for the first time we were over there and how excited they were to see us. So I think everybody's excited to get back there.
Q: Do you have that sense of confidence again going in this year that you did last year, that good feeling you had?
SCOTT SHARP: I hope. I think that based on how our season started, it started a little bit slower than we would have liked, and certainly a little slower than last year. So maybe we don't roll into Motegi with quite the momentum we had last year. But I think we played that race, we were competitive all weekend last year. We also played that race really smart. The team's been working hard to find some speed from where we were at Homestead, and hopefully if some of that is found we can be smart with our pit stop strategy and get ourselves up there.
Q: It's hard to look past Japan, but Indy is right around the corner and you qualified so well there I don't think you've been outside the third row except for maybe your rookie year in '96 and you sat on the pole there in 2001. Can you talk about what it means to race at Indy and your ability to qualify so well in May?
SCOTT SHARP: I love Indy. I really do. We went there last Saturday for the 3.0-liter testing. Just getting back on the track, it to me is such a pure race track. In the way we run our cars you are very low on downforce. It is the lowest downforce track we run. And you really just feel the chassis work so much more. There's a rhythm about the place. Every lap it's awesome to drive around that track. I've always run really well in practice, and I have been fortunate to qualify well. I really enjoy going fast there. When it's time -- Thursday, Friday of that first week -- those are the most some of the most exciting days of the year for me. That's when it's time to get it on, and start just all flat out as fast as you can go. It's a bit daunting, but it's an exciting time. Now the key, one thing I haven't done, is put together the kind of race I want to have there. We have had lots of different things happen to us and are anxious to put it all together, and hopefully it's going to be this year.
Q: Scott, you had a chance to practice in Indianapolis with the new car set-up. What was your opinion of it?
SCOTT SHARP: It was good. I think everyone went in with the interpretation that this is the first go-round. Obviously it was the first stage really for everybody. Freshly off the dyno for the 3.0 liters. As well as the first shot that everyone's had to take a look at the new aerodynamic package. So I think we all know we're going to do a lot to the cars to gain a little bit more speed, and gain a little bit more comfort. I'm sure all the manufacturers will work a little harder between now and May to find a bit more power. So it's all going to change. We know that. But I thought it was a great test. Certainly the speeds were well down, which I know is what the primary focus of the league, so I thought it was a good day we all had there.
Q: With the speed down, does that bother you on a large track like that or does it make any difference to you?
SCOTT SHARP: I love going fast there. I remember back in '96, my basically second or third year at the Speedway, when we were running over 240 on the straightaways. So that was pretty fun. It's funny, people always ask, 'Well isn't that the opposite of what you want to do, slowing the cars down?' And I always tell them a story that there's several times that I've sat there at early practices. There's not a lot of cars on the track, maybe one or two guys, and you're watching someone that you expect to be fast and see a guy really look like he's hauling through a corner. Then you ask someone who has a watch or whatever, and he didn't run that fast. It looks like he's running 225 or 230 (mph) and really he ran 215 (mph). And if it's that hard to really tell how fast someone's going, I think the IRL looked at it as why be going that fast? All it does is raise the risk for everybody. So in keeping with that, it's hard for the IRL, there's so much dollars, so many people working hard to make these cars faster and faster and faster from the individual teams, the chassis manufacturers, the engine manufacturers, if you don't find ways to take significant chunks of speed out, it is just going to keep ramping up. So what I am happy about is it's some of the aero changes that the league's made. We were flat there last year fairly regularly in practice on a good lap. And fairly flat in qualifying if your car was working really well. Well, I think that the league did a good job of countering some of that with the aero changes. And I think we're going to be in a similar kind of game as we were last year from the standpoint that you really still have to be working hard on the handling package to have the car happy around there. It's not going to be real easy.
Q: Before the season started you and I talked about this seven consecutive years of winning a race and we discussed the last part of last season when you guys struggled with your power and especially on the big tracks. After the first couple races this year, where do you feel, you are with your powerplant at this point and getting your straight away speed?
SCOTT SHARP: Well, powerplant wise, I think we're pretty happy. We're very happy with Toyota, and very thrilled they put a lot of focus and energy into the 3.0-liter engine. I think it was a very good test the other day for Toyota as an initial day. And we're expecting some really great things for May and obviously for the races thereon. So I think we're all pretty pleased with Toyota. And I don't think you can say our powerplant is down, even at the end of last year necessarily. It is just our speed of our car is down, and a lot of things go into making that speed, whether it's too much drag in the car, or the handling package on the car, a few different factors as well as the power. I'm an eternal optimist. We went testing and maybe we weren't bad, but we weren't great either. I think we felt there was some work that could be done, and certainly went into Homestead expecting to find some speed. We struggled a little bit down there qualifying 17th. I think we ran a good race to get ourselves up into the top 10. We ran with the lead pack there for awhile, but we sort of got out of sequence on some stops. I think that we have some work cut out for us, no doubt. There's an old adage, every one loves to talk about the bar getting raised, and certainly it does. I think the level of commitment that the front half of the field, at least if not more, has to continually improve their cars, both I think in time and financial resources. I think that's very impressive. It's put us as a team in a position where we're certainly behind and we got to work as hard as we can to try to catch up.
Q: Going into Motegi how close do you think you are in catching up?
SCOTT SHARP: Well, I think we have. No one's given up on the team. That's for sure. We all want it really bad. I think it's been great for me having Andy Borme on board as my engineer. It's nice having someone just a couple of years older than me. He wants it really bad, as badly I think as I want it. So no one's complacent sitting where we are. Delphi has been fabulous at stepping right in and trying to help us from a technical angle. So the team's working on some different things. I certainly think we're going to go to Motegi and be more competitive than we were at Homestead. Time will tell really where we stand. I think I'm excited for the 3.0-liter program and the associated aero package that goes with that. I think certainly we have fallen behind. We don't have much of an aero program or anything. We basically are running a stock car right now. And I think maybe certainly the first couple races of that new sort of configuration you would expect it to level the playing field a little bit. So I'm certainly hopeful that a combination of that whole package will -- and having a lot of track time in May, we have a lot of things we want to cover -- a lot of areas we think we can improve on. Hopefully it is going to be sort of a good time for us there. A good two or three weeks to really catch up a bit.
Q: Excuse me if I'm wrong, but it sounds as though you're going to be glad to get Japan out of the way so that you can almost start off on what you would call your second half of the season because everybody's starting from scratch again.
SCOTT SHARP: Well, I am excited to go there. I loved the trip last year, I love the track. As the defending champion I want to go back and win the race. You look at the results of the first two races, and you realize we're probably not in the cat-bird seat for that. So that doesn't mean by any means we're going to give up. We're going to go there, and like I said, do whatever we need to do, try to get as much speed as we can out of the car. I think we will be more competitive than Homestead. Where we stack I'm not exactly sure. And maybe it's a situation where the guys gave me great pit stops at Phoenix. That part of the team is really coming together. We won some races in the past on strategy. So you never know what can happen at Motegi and we got to go there and score as many points as possible. Hopefully that's 50. The win. But certainly I think we have a lot of things on the plate right now. Areas that we would like to see ourselves improve. Parts of the car that we feel we need to catch up on. And it's wonderful, I think the IRL's been real smart in the way they have constrained the testing for this year. When you're in a position like we are though, that almost becomes a little bit of a hindrance because you can't test. We need to go spend a couple days somewhere and try a lot of different combinations to try to find some of our speed and you're not allowed to do that. So I think we all are looking forward with a lot of anticipation to getting on the track at Indy and not only for a couple days of the Open Test, but then having almost the full week of practice before qualifying even kicks in. So really that will exhaust a lot of issues and hopefully find some good speed.
Q: I see you've been running with Wayne Taylor. You need to get him a ride in one of your cars. He's a personal friend of mine.
SCOTT SHARP: I think actually Wayne had a chance when Tom Kelley first got into the IRL in '97. Not to get too off the path here, but there was some conversations that went on with Wayne to leave sports cars and start driving Indy cars with Tom. At that time I guess, he chose not to. So he had his chance there.
Q: Best of luck for Japan. And I know all the Japanese people will be around to watch the car, that Toyota anyhow. But getting back to Indy, the new engine you're running has it been detuned completely, is it the same engine that's been restroked and bored or do you not know?
SCOTT SHARP: Honestly I don't know all the specifics of that. And I'm not sure exactly what -- that's probably not my place to be commenting on a lot of that stuff. Certainly from our side we're dealing with just some more from how the engine ran, which was fabulous, a very good response, we're very impressed with the motor right out of the box.
Q: Are you getting more revs?
SCOTT SHARP: More revs is that what you asked?
Q: More revolutions, yes.
SCOTT SHARP: No, we're constrained by the league rules at that. And that hasn't changed. Certainly there is a feeling of less power, which I think is what was desired. But I think hopefully with the combined aero package it will be what we need.
Q: Hope to see you there. And one more question. How about Firestone? Are they coming up with any new tires for you or not? For the Indy circuit.
SCOTT SHARP: I think that there's small iterations that they make. I think they felt very strongly about their tire last year, it performed very well. I don't think there were any problems all month, out of the thousands of laps that were run, so from what I heard I think we were testing the other day on basically last year's tires and maybe like a minor slight change here or there. That will basically be it.
Q: I know you were running Sarah's car at the speedway last Saturday, do you have any idea how many miles you put on?
SCOTT SHARP: I do not know exactly. We got a bit of a late start and had some gearing issues we had to get through. And then we made a fairly major suspension change around lunch time. So we didn't get as much time as we would have liked. But I think we still put on some of, maybe the most, miles of any of the Toyota teams. I would have to venture to say it's probably in the right around 300, 350.
Q: And you used that car because yours were being prepared for Twin Ring Motegi?
SCOTT SHARP: Yes. Basically it just was logistically easier. It was great to get the car shook down. The team wanted to do that for Sarah, so it was up to speed and no leaks or no issues, and at the same time, it let our guys concentrate on my two Motegi race cars and not have to be thrashing these last couple days to get it switched over.
MODERATOR: Scott, thanks for joining us. We will see you next week in Japan and next month in Indianapolis. And if every one can hold on we'll have Vitor in just a moment. Thanks again, Scott.
SCOTT SHARP: Thanks a lot.