IRL: Test in the West veteran stars press conference, Part I

Indy Racing League Test in the West press conference Feb. 3, 2003 Veteran Stars: Michael Andretti, Robbie Buhl, Gil de Ferran, Dario Franchitti, Jaques Lazier, Tony Kanaan, Scott Sharp Part 1 of 2 Moderator: We'll get started today with our...

Indy Racing League Test in the West press conference
Feb. 3, 2003

Veteran Stars: Michael Andretti, Robbie Buhl, Gil de Ferran, Dario Franchitti, Jaques Lazier, Tony Kanaan, Scott Sharp

Part 1 of 2

Moderator: We'll get started today with our final scheduled press conference of the today. We've assembled a group of IndyCar Series drivers that we call our veterans, although some of them are new to the IndyCar Series.

We had a group of young guns earlier, the new generation coming up. We look at these guys as the ones that established themselves in motorsports with race victories and championships. That's the reason that we chose this group of drivers for this press conference. We'll start with taking comments from each one of them, then open it up to questions from the media.

Starting at the far end, we with Gil de Ferran. Gil, if you could start us off by talking about the return to the IndyCar Series. This is not a new series to you, unlike some of the drivers up here. Tell us how that benefits you, having participated in the series in the past.

Gil de Ferran: I'm not sure I understand your question. I'm sorry.

Moderator: Just tell us about having been in the IndyCar Series in the past. Do you think you have an advantage over maybe some of these guys who it's their first year in the series?

de Ferran: Oh, now I understand. Sorry about that. I'm a bit slow today. Still maybe the accident, hitting the head (Laughter).

Well, it's really hard to comment how the same experience affects different people. All I can say is that as far as we are concerned, having gone through the experience of doing a whole championship, going through every race, having made mistakes, having made good choices and bad choices, we feel like we're going into the 2003 season with a lot more knowledge than what we had going into the 2002 season.

That's always good because you feel like you learn something, you got a little more experience, your judgment is slightly more polished and refined, you know the requirements slightly better.

I guess if you're going into the first season, that's the disadvantage you have. I mean, these guys here need no introduction. I'm sure they will get up to speed fairly quickly.

Moderator: We'll move on to Jaques Lazier. He drives for Team Menard. Jaques, you're coming back from a year where you experienced a pretty severe injury, so this will be your first time back in the car really for a full-time race season. Can you talk to us about your health, and how does that prepare you for the season or what are you doing differently since you haven't been in the car in a while?

Jaques Lazier: I think the biggest thing has just been the offseason and the rehab that I've had to go through. It's been pretty extensive. I fractured my T11, T12 and L1 vertebras. I actually had a starburst fracture of the T12, which basically shattered and blew out. The rehab has been pretty long and brutal, so I'm very excited to be back at the racetrack.

I feel stronger than I did before. I'm actually very excited to be here, be a part of the Johns Manville Team Menard and represent Chevrolet.

Moderator: We have Robbie Buhl, who has been in the IndyCar Series for quite time with Dreyer & Reinbold. He represents both the owner and driver angle. Talk to us about preparing during the offseason. We know there's been a lot of talk about the second car with Sarah Fisher, we heard from her earlier today. Tell us about the driver aspect, how that differs from the owner aspect during the offseason?

Robbie Buhl: You have to wear a couple hats, but it's all for the same end. Last year we had a tough year from a reliability standpoint. We're excited last year is over, and we're concentrating on this year. We're excited to have Chevy power, all our same sponsors are back, Dial and (inaudible) are back with us.

We're working hard, like you said, to put a car together for Sarah this year. She'll be here running this weekend, and Phoenix, as well, for the open test. Hopefully we'll get things all finished up on her car and focus on the whole year.

Moderator: Next we have Michael Andretti. Michael, you also represent the owner factor. The first year for you as an owner. Talk to us about the owner aspect, how you feel about that, if you're getting comfortable in that role, then secondly tell us about your decision to retire after the Indianapolis 500.

Michael Andretti: I guess I need to talk to him a little bit. I'm a bit of a rookie at this, being an owner/driver.

I'm very excited about it. It couldn't have come together any better. I'm so excited to have guys like Dario and Tony and Dan coming on as drivers for us, the great sponsors we've been able to put together, our partnership with Honda. For a first time coming in as an owner, I don't think I could do it any better. I'm so excited about that. I can't wait to get out there and be able to show what we got because I think we have a really good program this year.

As for my retirement, basically I just felt like the ownership is going to take away a little bit from what I can do on the racetrack. I don't want to be out there not knowing that I'm giving 110 percent on the racetrack. I just felt it's not fair to my driving to do that, or the team. I felt that timing would be that I'll retire after Indianapolis because I still want to have one more last shot as trying to win Indianapolis.

We came up with this plan. Actually, I was still contemplating what I was going to do up until a few weeks ago. Finally, I came to a decision that I just felt like it wasn't fair to the team to do both, so I chose to go with the ownership role because that's where I feel my future is in racing.

Moderator: Tony Kanaan is our next speaker. A teammate with Team 7-Eleven and Michael Andretti. Talk to us about the IndyCar Series and what your thoughts are on the competition level. Obviously, your teammates are going to be competitive, people are speculating. What about racing against your teammates as well as the other competition in the league?

Tony Kanaan: I had a taste a little bit in Indianapolis last year how competitive this series is. Once I got the call from Michael to be part of his team, obviously it was a pleasure. It was a good mix together. You can have a competitive team and people that you like a lot to work with.

Between me and Dario, the relationship, we've been good friends for a long time. Michael, I always got a lot of respect for him. We had good battles in the past in some of the races. I think that's probably what makes him think about me driving for him. Dan is coming on board, as well. The team, like he said, was all coming together so well that I couldn't make a better decision about the series.

The results, they speak for themselves. The races that these guys had last year was awesome. So close, I was watching and getting excited. Sometimes I would flip the channel just because I didn't want to see what was going to happen in the last lap. It was like getting my heartbeat up.

I'm really excited. I think it's going to be a very good year for all of us. The series is growing so much. Now the competition is going to be even higher.

Moderator: Scott Sharp with Kelley Racing. Scott, your team has had a lot of changes, you have changed a lot on the mechanic end, but overall it's still a consistent organization, still Kelley Racing. How does that help you coming into the season having the same team, sponsors, teammates?

Scott Sharp: I think we're really excited to be with Toyota. Made a big step up, being able to consummate that relationship. I think we had Steve (Newey) that came on and consulted with us a fair amount last year, and him and Tom (Kelley) decided at the end of last season to make a lot of changes. Fifty percent of the personnel is new. Probably (inaudible) percent of my car is new. Hopefully what we've learned over the last couple seasons can help springboard us for this year.

There's places we ran really well; there's places we can improve on. Hopefully that can provide the areas we need to concentrate on.

Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jaques Lazier  , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan