J.Andretti, Fritz teleconfernce 2008-06-25, part 1

An interview with John Andretti and Doug Fritz Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today. Starting the call with us...

An interview with John Andretti and Doug Fritz
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today.

Starting the call with us is IndyCar Series driver John Andretti and Richmond International Raceway President Doug Fritz. And in a few minutes we'll be joined by Indy Racing League presidents Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart.

John's in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving the No. 24 entry for Roth Racing. He's competed in the last four races for the team, qualifying seventh at Texas and recording an 11th-place finish last weekend at Iowa.

John competed in CART in the late '80s and early 1990s before competing in NASCAR's Sprint Cup beginning in 1993.

This weekend will mark his first IndyCar Series start at Richmond. However, he's made more than 20 NASCAR starts at the track and has had several top-10 finishes there. This will be the IndyCar Series eighth visit to Richmond International Raceway.

Doug first question for you, and I believe you've got a question for John. There's some changes coming to Richmond this year from the previous seven years. 50 additional laps for the race. We have four-lap qualifying. Give us your perspective on the weekend's SunTrust Indy Challenge.

DOUG FRITZ: Tell you what, from the fan perspective, it feels like the energy and excitement level has never been this great going into a SunTrust Indy Challenge.

I think it really starts from what the league did early in the year with the unification with the Champ Car Series. Can't underestimate the value of that to the fans, because now we're going to have all the best open-wheel drivers in America on the same track at the same time.

So it really started, the excitement started with that happening earlier in the year. And I think that's carrying on to what's coming up here at Richmond International Raceway. The fans like it so much here that they've asked us, in the past, about adding additional laps to the event.

During the off season we had a chance to sit down with Terry (Angstadt) and his team and asked if we could add 50 more laps to the race at Richmond International Raceway. They agreed to it. So the fans are really excited about the more laps here. And, of course, with the unification comes more teams. In the past we've had 18, 19, 20 cars on the racetrack at one time.

This year it looks like 26 cars will be starting the race. So it's going to add a lot more traffic. I know John can talk about what that might mean out here, but it's going to be very, very exciting for the fans.

Qualifying Friday night, we're going to carry the theme that the Indy Racing League has done with the other events in that the four-lap qualifying which will be pretty exciting for the fans. And the last thing we'll start at 8:00. Long summer days here at Richmond gives an opportunity to start the race a little bit later, a little bit more laps under the darkness here during the course of the night. So all those things add up to, like I said when I started off, this is probably more excitement, more energy from our race fans this year than almost since we started this series eight years ago.

So our fans are really looking forward to it, the media here in Richmond are excited about it, it's going to be a fun weekend for everybody. I guess that could lead me into the question. John's been on here several times with the stock car and NASCAR racing.

I guess the first thing, he's got some great experience, knows how to run well here. The question now is how will that translate into running the SunTrust Indy Challenge come Saturday night. I imagine there's a little bit of difference.

JOHN ANDRETTI: Well, yeah, there's going to be a lot of difference. I didn't know they added 50 laps. I'm thinking oh good.

The NASCAR races there are all 400 laps. For us, it's a fight for every corner. And, Richmond, if it's not my favorite NASCAR track, it's certainly way up there, because -- and I think it is everybody's. It's just a really fun racetrack to race on. It ends up with multiple grooves for the stock car, as you get sliding up against the cushion, which is -- it almost is like the cushion of Richmond. It's not like you get up right against that wall, but there's some grip up there.

I've watched the IndyCar race in the past, especially last year, and you see them and even these other races, the groove is spread out.

But 300 laps around Richmond I think is going to be tough, because you run 15-second laps around there. A lot of G loading. You sort of lay up against the side of the car and hope the car is going to do the work, because there's no power steering in these Indy cars. So the steering gets real heavy.

And physically it's a big challenge. You know, obviously, I understand it's going to be warm. So the temperature at night's going to be probably beautiful for the fans. And fortunately for Indy cars that's the one benefit of having an open cockpit, there's not so much darn heat inside the thing.

So I'm really looking forward to it. Last week was my first short-track race in an IndyCar ever, because the mile oval used to be the short tracks for us. Now, to get below the mile -- and I had a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to having more fun at Richmond, like I said, one of my favorite tracks.

MODERATOR: Let's talk about the season so far. You joined Roth Racing at Indy for what looked like might just be a one-off race and now it's been four and heading into your fifth. Can you tell us a little bit about how that relationship came about in May and how it's progressed so far?

JOHN ANDRETTI: Well, I showed up in Indianapolis basically like a driver does, with a helmet bag in hand. And, unfortunately, a couple of the deals that had been put together weren't together when the month of May opened.

So I went up there and walked around and talked to different people. And the opportunity came to hop in a car at Roth Racing, and the opportunity only came because the weather was so bad. There was so limited track time.

And they said, OK, we need to put somebody experienced in the car. And it worked out really well for me. My expectation was I'm going to, great, I get to run Indy and we'll do some more racing after Indy. But who knows where. But I really didn't expect in the IRL and they started talking to me about doing more races.

Because it took me a little bit of time to kind of get my arms around and say do I think this is something that I think I could do and enjoy. And it's a big challenge. These guys are -- it's not like you're racing against people that are learning. There are teams that are extremely experienced, have winning traditions, especially the IRL teams and the Champ Car teams that joined on.

The drivers the same thing. And then there's some really outstanding young drivers that have joined the series as well. I think that it's so difficult. So I wanted to be up for the challenge. But I also like a challenge as well.

I like almost sometimes stacking the cards against myself and seeing if I can pull it off. And fortunately we've had some good races. Unfortunately, we've had some bad pits. I made some mistakes on pit road, and we've had some things happen to us on pit road.

But from the standpoint of really racing, on the part that goes fast, we've been pretty good at. The part where it slows down a lot, if we can get that better. But that's just going to help me next year, the mistakes I've made earlier this year I'm not making again, and that will just help me in a bid to run the Indy 500 again next year.

MODERATOR: When you have a deal that's basically kind of race-to-race, how does that impact things when you go to the track, as far as pressure on yourself or things like that, is it easier to race when it's race-to-race? Is it more difficult?

JOHN ANDRETTI: I don't think pressure ever gets any harder than what it always is. I think you always want to be successful. And you know this didn't start off to be a race-by-race deal and then it moved and then it didn't. So I don't even think about it.

If I say I'm going to do something, I go and I do it. And then I do the best I can do. And hopefully we have another good weekend and keep progressing forward.

But in the series you've seen some of the best drivers in the series, too, already had problems and just a few short races I've been around there's been some problems already.

That's how competitive it is. You race wheel-to-wheel. Sometimes bad things happen. And we're just hoping some more good things happen.

Q: John, did you meet with the Roths and did you resolve anything for the future or was it just this race?

JOHN ANDRETTI: We actually didn't meet. We spoke on the phone and as far as anything past Richmond, no we didn't. It hasn't really been discussed. So I think Marty (Roth) and Margaret (Roth) are obviously have a lot of things on their plate, things that they're thinking about.

One is obviously the lack of sponsorship and because it's something that is all on them at this point. So I don't know exactly what the future holds. But we'll go to Richmond this weekend. Hopefully have a good time, have a good run and if we go to anymore races this year, I can't answer that right now because I don't know.

Q: Including Watson's Glen the following week?

JOHN ANDRETTI: Yeah, including anything past Richmond.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti