Continued from part 1 KING: Jay, you mentioned your performance last year in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series event at the Speedway, you finished fourth. You have the unique opportunity to run two events at the Speedway over the course of just...
Continued from part 1
KING: Jay, you mentioned your performance last year in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series event at the Speedway, you finished fourth. You have the unique opportunity to run two events at the Speedway over the course of just three weeks. You'll be on the oval during the 500 weekend on Friday on Carb Day and then just three weeks later you're back to race in the event that will be held as part of the support events for the United States Grand Prix. Looking forward to that?
DRAKE: Very much so. Just to get to race at the track just is a dream come true for me. It's something I never thought I would get to do, and then to do it last year and to get to come back and do it twice this year is very exciting. You know, we did that test out there, we had an open Menards Infiniti Pro test out there, and that was very fun and very educational for me, really. I learned a lot throughout the short time that we ran there. Now with the experience I gained at St. Petersburg, I'm really looking forward to coming back and running the road course at the Speedway and extremely looking forward to running the race in May there after, you know, the success we had last year and Larry's got some great ideas what he's going to do with the race car to make us even better yet for this year. So I'm just really excited about getting back out there for the next race, like I said, excited about going back for the road course, too.
KING: Let's open it up for questions.
Q: Tony, you've taken a ton of criticism for being involved in the Indy Racing League and owning a team. Can you talk about that? Tell us what your thoughts are about all the criticism you're getting over this.
GEORGE: I don't know what to say. I mean, people, you know, are certainly entitled to their opinion. I've always been able to compartmentalize my life pretty well. It's, to me it's no conflict. I'm really not that involved on a day-to-day basis with the league in those decisions. It's more of a strategic role I play at the league, which is only good for everyone. It doesn't work to the benefit of Vision Racing any more than it does for Andretti Green or Marlboro Team Penske. So I think my critics, which I'm sure you know I have, are going to continue to beat that drum until they break it. So it's really of no concern to me. I don't really feel that my motives are anything but -- you know, I see this as a unique opportunity to help me continue to grow as a person and as a leader of the series. But I feel that, you know, if people want to question my integrity and my ability to do both effectively, that's their problem, but I have no problems at all with my integrity or my values or anything else that might suggest that anything I do might be inappropriate with those two hats. I certainly wear a lot of hats and will continue to.
KING: Tony, we have not had the opportunity to get your reaction to the event at St. Petersburg. You were busy clearly with the team, but now looking at it, the decision to add street and road courses to the schedule certainly, in retrospect from the weekend's success, it appears to be a good decision.
GEORGE: I had a great time, as I'm sure that anyone attended or watched it certainly able to draw their own conclusions as to whether or not it was a success. In my mind, it was a great success. The city and the promoters, Andretti/Green promotion did an outstanding job of pulling the event together. They, of course, had a good foundation to start from, the event, the Champ Car event two years ago sort of laid that ground work and afforded them a great opportunity to be successful right out of the box. I think the circuit itself was good, provided for unique -- for a very good street show. I think sitting back watching the race on television, you know, Monday night our Tuesday night, whenever I watched it, I thought the broadcast, telecast was pretty good. I think that for a first event, for a first road course event for our league officials and the track safety workers, I think they did a pretty good job. It was far from perfect, but nothing glaring there that leads me to believe that they won't do a much better job when they roll into Infineon Raceway later this year. So the street circuits present a particular, unique challenge. And as most street races go, I think it was very well done and very well officiated. I think the teams behaved themselves for the most part pretty well and put on a great race.
Q: Tony, I'm sure that as being at the helm of the Indy Racing League you've been bombarded from team owners complaining about costs, you know, all this kind of thing. Now you are a team owner and finding out, are you finding out some of the things you've been hearing are, in fact, the case? Are you looking at ways to try and bring it under control?
GEORGE: I haven't gotten that far, Don. We're just trying to get to Motegi load-in at this point. So it's been that way for the last six or eight weeks. But, you know, I continue to get phone calls from other owners complaining about the high costs of this or that. To this point, I haven't experienced it because I haven't made the decisions they've made, you know, to go out and do the things they've done. So I'm sure they're there. You know, I think certainly a large cost in this equation is engines. Being a team that is paying for their engines, I have an appreciation for what they cost. When the manufacturers tell me that they're heavily subsidizing that cost already, I believe them. I think the engines cost more than I'm paying for them to run and maintain. That said, I think that's something we definitely have to look at. As far as engineering -- I think the league has done a good job of kind of reducing the areas that we can spend a lot of money as team owners, spending money to make significant gains. I think you can spend a lot of money to make little gains. At the end of the day, it comes down to teams' preparation and on-track on any given day as to who's going to come out on top. But there are a lot of things that you can still spend a lot of money on, beginning with payroll, which we haven't done to this point. At some point, I think we're going to start spending more money on personnel, whether it's to expand to a second-car team at Indianapolis or to just try and continue to work toward building a little stronger team for ourselves. But I don't ever see us having a staff of six or eight engineers and those kinds of things, which people that have the budget are going to spend it some way. And they can choose which ways they're going to spend it. At this point, Laura and I are providing the budget for this team. We hope to change that in the near future, but obviously, you know, we're going to try and do the best we can with the resources we have available to us but still address the costs of the serie s with a strategic level going forward with my hat on for the Indy Racing League.
Q: For Ed and Jay. From the moment they arrived, you could see like a look in Kanaan and Dario's eyes about how much they enjoy the road and street course as soon as they went on the track, big smile on their faces. Now you've done a street course race, do you understand why they enjoy those so much more than they would seem to the ovals? Have you caught that little fever they've got?
DRAKE: Yeah, well, honestly I can say going into it that I wasn't nearly as excited about it as probably anybody throughout the pits. But now that I've done it and from my perspective, I learned a lot and had a fairly successful weekend. It doesn't show in the results, but as far as I'm concerned, you know, I was pleased with my performance toward the end of the weekend. So, yeah, to answer your question, I'm very excited about that street race, especially that one at St. Petersburg. It was probably the most fun I can remember having in a race car in a long time. Like I said before, I'm really looking forward to doing the next one. And I tell you, just from the differences between watching the street races and doing it, it's a whole lot more fun to do it than it is to watch it, that's where I stand on it.
KING: Ed, let's get your response to that.
CARPENTER: Kind of the way I look at it, I raced ovals my whole life, that's where my heart's at. Kanaan, Helio, those guys, they've raced road courses the majority of their life until they got to Indy cars, so that's where their heart's at. I think they love oval racing now, too, just for the pure excitement that comes from it, and I'm learning to enjoy road racing. It's definitely a lot more fun than what I expected, and it will be a whole lot more fun once I get better at it. I'm a competitive person, and I'm really not happy until I'm doing well at what I'm doing, and St. Pete I didn't do a very good job. So as soon as I get better, then I'm going to have a lot more fun. But, I mean, anytime race car drivers are racing anything, I could go run a figure-8 and I would be happy, so it doesn't matter to me.
Q: Larry, this is a question for you. You are one of the few one-car teams left in the series. Obviously with Rahal adding a car, Andretti Green maxing out a good portion of the field, you're used to managing multi-car fields, and it's got to be difficult with a young driver and a single-car program, obviously working closely with the team owner and knowing the budget is principally their cash, is there a way to accelerate into a second-car program, not just for Indianapolis, but maybe bringing Jeff or a similar driver in for a longer run?
CURRY: I would answer that by saying that's going to be dictated by how sponsorship or something comes along. As we all know, regardless what you do in racing, you can race a go-kart, and it becomes expensive. So I would say that certainly we have the facility to grow into a two-car operation. Would that benefit us down the road? Certainly it would, because the way the format is structured at these races now to where you can -- you know, you have a four-car team, they're getting four times the information in a 30-minute session, and you get just part of that. But what we're going to do in the outset to try and bring along the team as well as -- and when I speak of the team, I'm not just talking about the mechanics, Ed is a crucial part of that team, as is Jay, as is Jeff now, and I think we ought to go ahead and put this out now so that nobody gets anything confused coming into the road course test we're going to do at Infineon. We evaluated our program after we came back from St. Pete. To try to find out where we're at with the race car and to try to help Ed along with his road-racing techniques and abilities, we have made an arrangement with Roberto Moreno, and Roberto will come in and will drive the car some on the first day of the test and then will become Ed's coach to coach him along, to try to bring along that side of the program. So we don't have the luxury right now of having a second driver in the camp that is a solid road racer that Ed can go lean on and be assured that the car is what he thinks it is. You know, for the transition that he's trying to make in that side of it, that's a big deal. Knowing coming from the CART days when we ran both sides of that, I've been on both sides of that fence where I've had guys that were good oval drivers and when we went to the road courses, we were terrible. Then I ran a guy for a couple years that was a great road racer, and I had to put somebody else in the car to get it qualified for Indianapolis. So those are some steps that Vision Racing is going to take to try to bring our program forward.
KING: Because we started about 15 minutes late, we're going to take two more, then we're going to break for one-on-ones, then we're going to head as soon as we're wrapped up here, we're going to head back to the bus and head over to Dreyer & Reinbold.
Q: Larry, with teams you've been associated with in the past, your plan for Indy is to be out there as soon as the bell rings to start every morning and be running every day. With the test out west and Motegi coming up, do you have the race cars to do that with? And will you approach Indy the same way with this team?
CURRY: Yeah, I believe so. I was looking over that schedule yesterday and certainly, you know, some of what will happen as far as how our program starts off at Indy will be dictated by us getting out of Motegi clean. But our plan will be to go over and on Opening Day when we're allowed to go on the racetrack on that Tuesday, kind of the standard format that I like to see us do is to get the drivers in both of their cars, primaries and backups, get them shook down. Many, many times you'll build a car for a driver that you kind of tag as his primary and after he drives the other car, he says, you know, I like this car better. So you try to get those issues out of the way and then put together a plan. I don't think, because of the size of our team and information, it will probably be a scheduled run each day, meaning that Ed may start off first on a particular day and when he comes in, we get that information and then we go out and run Jeff and we look at that information; and when they take the lunch break, we get a chance to go through everything and then start over. And that's leading up to qualifying, and I believe certainly after we're qualified in the second week of practice, hopefully we've got them working out there as treatments on race setup, and then they will be out there all the time together.
Q: Jeff, welcome back to the IndyCar Series. I believe earlier this year you had a wrist injury. Has it healed? Will that affect your driving during the month of May? And how do you feel, how long will it take you to get back to that comfort zone that it takes to be competitive in these cars in this series?
WARD: I broke my wrist at the beginning of last year, actually, and broke both ankles last year and tore two knees up. It doesn't affect my motorcycle riding, so it's not going to affect my car racing. (Laughter)
KING: Have you talked to Race Bandage as a potential sponsor?
WARD: I'm happy to be back in cars now. (Laughter) Actually, I'm in better shape now than I was when I raced on the Indy Racing League. I got away from the bikes and concentrated on cars and keeping my programs going. Now the last few years, I ride five days a week and my kids race, so we're racing every weekend. So I'm actually in really good shape. But as far as getting back behind the wheel and getting back up to speed, I don't think I will have a problem. Indy is a track that no matter how many times you've raced there, you have your steps to go through to get up to speed, and you take one step at a time and so I'll be doing the same thing I did every year that I come back to get back up to speed. Still, you get here at Indy, and the speeds are higher and the turns seem sharper than the banked tracks we go to, and it takes a little while to get up to speed, anyway. I feel pretty comfortable and I should be able to get back in the car, and even though I haven't driven the new chassis that have come out since I've been, I have a lot of friends in racing, and they say the cars are better than when I drove them. So I feel pretty confident that I'll feel right at home when I get in.
KING: Jeff, welcome back. Tony, Larry, Jay, Ed, thanks for having us. We'll break up for a few minutes for one-on-ones, then we're off to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Thanks, guys. (Applause)