IRL: The Super Team press conference transcript

THE SUPER TEAM Press Conference Transcript PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001 HOST: Mike King GUESTS: Galles Racing drivers Al Unser Jr., Didier Andre and Casey Mears MIKE KING: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce to you what's ...

THE SUPER TEAM Press Conference Transcript PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001

HOST: Mike King GUESTS: Galles Racing drivers Al Unser Jr., Didier Andre and Casey Mears

MIKE KING: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce to you what's already being dubbed the Super Team. We're looking forward to what will be the first three-car team to run a season in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. There have been other owners that have had three cars in -- for example, entered at the Indianapolis 500 or have run three drivers in the 500, but never three cars in Indy Racing Northern Light Series event for the season. Rick Galles has assembled these three drivers this year. Of course, in the middle, the senior member of the team, recognizable to anyone that has covered motorsports, Al Unser Jr. Next to him Casey Mears, and on the other side of Al, Didier Andre. So, ladies and gentlemen, this will be Galles Racing 2001, and we'd like to start very quickly. Al, I know that Rick was hoping to be here today but was unable to join us today. Explain why that is.

AL UNSER JR.: Yeah, Rick's mom passed away unfortunately yesterday, and so Rick, he wanted to be here very bad, because, you know, this is a great, great time and an exciting time for us as far as the team doing three cars for the season and so on and so. We're very excited about it. Rick is ecstatic about it. But unfortunately, his mother passed yesterday, and so he went back to Albuquerque, and so I don't know if he will be back here this weekend or not. But he wished he could be here and sends his sincere apologies for not being here.

MIKE KING: Let's start with Al, who of course lives in Albuquerque where the team is located, as does Didier, by the way, who is from Lyon, France, but has moved to Albuquerque. Al, last year, your first in the Indy Racing League, the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, you won in Las Vegas. Very quickly give us kind of a quick synopsis of your first year in the league and what you thought and what you anticipate for 2001.

AL UNSER JR.: Well, I can tell you really what we found in the Northern Light Series last year was the fact that it's so competitive out there that, you know, we had different winners for every race, just about all the way up until seven-eighths of the season was complete when Buddy Lazier won his second race at Kentucky. But that showed how competitive that this series is, and we found it to be that, you know. I have a great race team with Galles Racing, and I've ran a few races in the past, and so we were looking to just jump in and do really well straight away, and it took us a while. And then after the win at Vegas, we had some mechanical problems, we had some pieces fall down in front of us and took us out of a couple races, and so it just -- I just have to say that this is the most exciting series that I've ever raced in, and I'm really, really looking forward to 2001, especially with the expansion of my team with my teammates here. It's going to give us a lot of opportunity to go to the different racetracks and try different setups in the sessions, and because you don't really have a lot of time on race weekend to try extreme setups from one thing to the other. And with Didier and with Casey here, they both have great experience, have level heads on their shoulders, and so it's going to be a learning year for all of us. I mean, I'm going to learn from these guys, and I hope they don't learn too much from me, but we'll be working very, very hard together. And somebody asked me earlier when I was doing an interview who I thought my competition was going to be and, you know, my dream of who my competition is going to be is the dream that I was part of in 1994, where all's I had to do was go out and race my teammates. If I can do that this year, then, you know, Galles Racing will bring home their second national championship and so on and so forth.

MIKE KING: Let me go to Didier. Didier, you've run -- you have three seasons under your belt in Indy Lights. You run a combination of both street road and oval events. What's it going to be like going from a series that offers that to exclusively oval-course racing?

DIDIER ANDRE: Well, when I first move in your country, '97, I discovered Indy Lights and ovals at the same time. And on my first podium and -- I was talking to somebody this morning, just different. You know, you have to -- just different feeling, different way to drive on the oval. You have to be patient, and I guess with someone like Al on my side, he's going to teach me a lot about this. But it's -- I went to the series, to the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, because for me to go into my [inaudible] at this time, I ride two years and a half at Indy Lights and I want to keep for doing the series, and then I find to participate with Galles Racing, and I'm still very happy to be here.

MIKE KING: I want to mention that Al, of course, the primary sponsor on his car will be the Starz Super Pak and TV Guide package that also appeared on his car last year as associate, but move to the primary sponsorship this year, Didier's, I believe, if I remember correctly, will be PlayStation France. That will be --

DIDIER ANDRE: Yes, correct. It's one of my sponsors, yeah.

MIKE KING: That will be the sponsor on Didier's car, and on Casey's car will be SportsLine that will be the sponsor and, Casey, of course, doesn't need, I guess, a lot of introduction to fans in this area, certainly. Bakersfield, California-born and raised, I guess, and where most of those Mears come from and has done a great job in the Indy Lights Series for the last three years, second and third series finish, respectively, I guess, in the last couple of outings, and I guess it's time to get down to business here pretty soon. You excited?

CASEY MEARS: I'm really excited. It's going to be a lot of fun to be part of the Team Galles Racing here and being a part of the team with Al Jr. and Didier. But I'm really looking forward to it. You know, it's going to be -- it's a whole new deal for me, and we are going to get to Al on the track here in the next couple days and start settling in here, and so far, everything's going really well. I've gotten to know a lot of people on the team now. What I really like about Galles Racing is it's got a family feeling to it. You know, it's run by a family. I've always been involved in things that have involved my family, and now to be part of their family, it's feeling natural. Everything's going real well. I'm just really looking forward to getting on the track. I think it's going to be a good year, and like Al said, the three-car program I think is really going to -- it's really going to come to the plate this year. Last couple years, I've been on a three-car team, and if it's done right, like I think we can do, it's nothing but positive. I mean, there are more chances to win. There's more chances to win championships. There's more information coming back, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to the season.

MIKE KING: Al, before we start taking questions, I know you also have an announcement about a sponsor for the Indianapolis 500.

AL UNSER JR.: Yeah, definitely. We want to announce today that we are very excited that the King of Beers, Budweiser, has signed a deal with Galles Racing for secondary sponsorship of both Casey and my car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so the King of Beers has gotten with the first families of auto racing and have gotten together and we're very, very proud to be able to announce this association today and let everybody know that Budweiser is going to be both on my car as a secondary to Starz and on Casey's car also. So we want to thank Bud, Budweiser, for getting into the IRL, the Northern Light Indy Series, and helping us out. Thank you.

MIKE KING: By the way, there will be a photo opportunity available with all three and with Casey and with Al with the Bud photo op as well. So questions for the Galles Racing team? Questions?

CASEY MEARS: I just want to add one thing. I mean with the Budweiser sponsorship, I think that I'm just really looking forward to it. It's someone that -- it's a company that's been involved in motor racing for a long time and has obviously been probably once of the most established names in motorsports, and just to be a part of that, I'm very happy and I think that, you know, for Al and I both, they've both been a part of our families in the past. I mean, they sponsored my dad for about -- you know, anywhere from eight to 10 years in off road, and I'm just happy to continue that relationship, and I hope that it can be an ongoing relationship for the future, and just really looking forward to it.

MIKE KING: Al, this is kind of a marriage. Once again, you mentioned two of the biggest families in open-wheel racing in yours and obviously Casey's, but also the Galles name. There is the first time that Galles, Unser and Mears have all kind of formed together in one coalition, if you will.

AL UNSER JR.: I think it's really the first time that they have all been together. I mean, I know that Rick Mears talked with Rick Galles a long time ago about driving for him, and I don't know if they actually did or not. That was in the beginning of Rick's career and so on. I mean, it's just great that we're able to put this deal together and expand Galles Racing into a three-car team and to have the kind of sponsorship that's coming at us with Starz Super Pak, with TV Guide, with now Budweiser. I think, you know, it's a show and a sign that what this series is coming to. You know, we've got over the first open test of the year 2001. You've got Penske trucks sitting over there. A, he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for real and this place is for real, and it's going -- nothing but gaining popularity everywhere we go, and I'm very proud to be part of the growth. And also with Budweiser coming in, I mean they sponsored my father in the early '90s with Kenny Bernstein at the Indy 500, and I always made fun of dad. I would go, "Come on, Dad, give me a Bud, give me a Bud." And now I'm sure dad's going to be coming up to me, so maybe the tables are going to turn and so -- but it's really great and I'm -- like I said, it's a very, very exciting time to be part of the Indy Light Northern Series.

MIKE KING: Didier, if you could, you know, in the grand scheme of this, is it intimidating at all? Give us your feelings on being part of this three-car team. I mean, you are now married to two of obviously the biggest names in American open-wheel racing. What's it like from the standpoint of a Frenchman coming into this series? And you become the second Frenchman, by the way, joining Stephan Gregoire, who is part of the series. Give us kind of a feel for what it's like.

DIDIER ANDRE: Coming from my country, definitely a name like Galles, you know, Mears or Al Unser, it's just big name like Fittipaldi, everybody knows all these names over there, even if they don't know exactly know which series they compete. But being part of this three-car team, I and Casey and Al is going to be just grateful just for all three of us, and it's just going to be great. And being with all these big names, you know, the United States knows all these big names, and maybe in the future, they will know the Andre family.

MIKE KING: Any questions? I know a lot of you are anxious to get one-on-ones. Do we have any questions?

Q. Al, do you have any concerns about expanding this team too quickly and jumping from one to three cars?

AL UNSER JR.: Not at all. I think, you know, Rick and I've known about this from the very beginning, and Rick and I talked and, you know, the team needs it. And so it's nothing but pluses, you know. We have quite a bit more equipment. We have quite a bit more engines. We have quite a bit more of everything, and so more people, and like I said, you know, we can try different setups, 'cause these cars, the racetrack changes, the air changes, it changes your race car quite a lot and so you can go test, and when you start looking for the hundreds of thousands of seconds, which is what separates these cars, it's the day that really decides that. And so, you know, we can go to the race weekends and, you know, we can try different things on different cars, different geometries during those sessions and try to get the most out of the whole team effort. And like what Casey was saying, I mean, for himself, in the Indy Lights there, that it was a positive for him to have the teammates. And I can tell you that in '94, it was a positive for the three-car team with Penske and so, you know, if it works right, and if we all work together, which we're going to do, because the main goal here is to bring a championship back to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and put the number one on one of these three cars here, and really, it's the best way to do it. So --

Q. Which guy is (Paul) Tracy?

AL UNSER JR.: Which guy is Tracy? I don't know yet. I don't think there is another Tracy to be honest. You know, so -- but we'll definitely work on it and come out with the best of everything.

Q. Casey, is your season schedule grown now with -- does Budweiser allow you to go with the whole season?

CASEY MEARS: As of right now, we are till just focused through Indy. You know, we're working harder than ever to get the funding for throughout the rest of the season, but, you know, as we said in our earlier releases, we are about 90 percent sure that's going to happen, and we are still really positive on the side of that we are going to get that done. So right now, it's just a work in progress. But right now, we are going to right now focus on the first four races and hopefully some good finishes and all that will elevate, you know, what's going to happen the next half of the year.

MIKE KING: Casey, I guess the one thing -- I guess the same for Didier -- you are going to be very familiar with some of the driving styles of some of the guys out there right off because there are several drivers with Indy Lights experience that you guys competed against that will be joining the league this year.

CASEY MEARS: Yeah. I think one that Didier and I will have, also Al when he ran with -- you know, when he was running with Penske, we ran at some of these tracks before, which is an advantage that some of these guys haven't ran this year. On the hand of the drivers, I mean, yeah, Felipe Giaffone from Indy, Didier is Indy Lights and there has been a few other guys that ran Indy Lights that are in the series now, and it is going to be a help. I mean because one thing, you do like to know going to a race is who you are around, how do you treat that person. Some people are going to give you room, some people aren't, and it's not knowing -- at least a couple of these guys you raced with in the past, and I have got a little bit of a head start on the year anyway.

Q. Al, pleased or displeased with the qualifying points going away?

AL UNSER JR.: Myself, I'm happy that the qualifying points have gone away. They were starting to get a little bit -- a little bit too much emphasis on qualifying engines and so on and so forth, and so with it up just for money or for ego or for whatever, it matters, it's not going to go toward the championship. So I'm happy about that.

MIKE KING: Any other questions?

AL UNSER JR.: Thank you for all coming and listening to us.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Didier André , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears