An interview with Dillon Battistini and Roger Bailey Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript August 13, 2008 THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today.
An interview with Dillon Battistini and Roger Bailey
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
August 13, 2008
THE 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 Firestone Indy Lights driver Dillon Battistini and the executive director for Firestone Indy Lights, Mr. Roger Bailey. Joining us in a few minutes will be IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Dillon is a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for Panther Racing. He leads the series with four victories, including leading 66 of 67 laps at Kentucky last weekend, and he ranks third in points with three races remaining.
Dillon, congratulations on the win. Tell us a little bit about the season, especially the fact, kind of wondered, did you think coming in that you would be able to get four wins this season, especially four wins on ovals?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, I came into the season with an open mind really. I wasn't really too sure what to expect. I knew it was very competitive. A lot of great drivers driving in the series this year. So I knew it was going to be difficult. And the way that my deal came together, it was signed before the first week at Homestead, I didn't do any preseason testing.
So I didn't expect to do quite so well so soon, although I was hopeful that I would win a few races this year, yeah.
THE MODERATOR: One of your teammates, your only teammate I guess on the Indy Lights side is Brent Sherman, a guy with more of an oval background than you. How well have the two of you worked together this year? Has it helped to have a guy like him around to learn the ovals?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, Brent and I get on great, which helps. We don't hide anything from each other. We work together, and I think we do quite well at giving feedback to our engineers and helping to make the car good on the oval tracks. That's definitely worked well so far. And he's been helpful to me, and I've been helpful to him I think. So we are a good pair.
THE MODERATOR: Coming out of Indy, you were the points leader, and then had a little bit of a rough stretch from Watkins Glen to Nashville and Mid-Ohio. Can you talk a little bit about that? Was there any particular reason for some of the struggle, and was there ever a sense of panic on the team?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, sure, we had a bit of a downturn in fortune, definitely. The results make it look worse than it really worse I think.
Our road courses this year have been weaker than the oval performances, for sure. But if you look at the facts; that I had an engine blow up in the first race at St. Petersburg and I had to start in the back in the second one and I finished fourth; and then in Watkins Glen, we missed the test beforehand, and I didn't even get to learn the track until qualifying. We didn't have a very good setup, so we were on the back foot the whole weekend there.
And then in Ohio I struggled in the first race with a problem, but in the second race I went from 18th to fifth before a spinning car took me out of the race. So the results make it look worse than it really is, and I'm hopeful when we go to Sonoma next week we are going to be quite strong.
THE MODERATOR: The win in Kentucky put you back into third place in the championship with three races to go; Infineon being the next one with the doubleheader coming up next weekend. But obviously the guys that you're chasing in the championship, Richard Antinucci and Raphael Matos, they have been very strong on the road courses. Talk about the battle for the championship. And what will it take here in these next three races to close the gap?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, they have just over a 50-point lead over myself, so it's not too close of a gap but it's not that big, either. I mean, it only takes them to crash into each other once, and I could be right back in the hunt. They have already done it in practice once, so it would not surprise me if it happens again.
So that's really what I need to hope for. And also just focus on making sure that our road course performance at Sonoma is as good as what I've shown that I can do on the ovals. Neither of the two championship leaders have won on an oval yet, and I've shown I'm the guy to beat on the ovals this year.
THE MODERATOR: Roger, let me ask a question or two of you. The 2009 schedule came out with 15 races and three new venues. Tell us about some of the changes for next year.
ROGER BAILEY: First of all, let me say how delighted I am with the 2009 schedule, and there are a lot of people that put a lot of effort into making this a reality. This is going to be our eighth season, and it is by far the best schedule that we have seen. It's out earlier than we have ever managed to get the schedule out in previous years.
We have three new venues joining our returning tracks, and I think it's where we need to be. I think we have a good mix of ovals and road courses. And when I say "road courses," I include street courses, because to me any time you turn left and right, it's all the same thing; it's just that the walls are a bit closer on one than the other, and it's the same for the rest.
I'm delighted. It will be nice going back up to Canada for a couple of trips. That is clearly an incentive for some of our friends from north of the border to come and join us; people from years gone by, and a name that comes to mind immediately is Paul Tracy, who had a good run a week or two ago at Edmonton.
But the biggest thing of all is to return to Long Beach after all these years. Long Beach has always been to me the No. 1 street circuit in the country, and there are some that are very close now I think. But in the past, Long Beach has set the standard. It's the one where everyone wanted to be and everyone wanted to win, and I'm just delighted and proud to say that that's part of our schedule.
THE MODERATOR: One of the things that stood out to me when I saw the schedule was the fact that the past three or four years, we've had three or four doubleheader race weekends, and that's going down to one. I guess maybe can you talk a little bit about the balance between the economic benefits of doing doubleheaders with the benefits of going to new markets and expanding the number of trips you take going to new markets.
ROGER BAILEY: Well, the balance is very similar. If we had 16 races this year, dropped to 15; but if we had 16, the next one would probably be another road circuit, which would swing the balance even further. But as it is right now, we have seven ovals and eight road courses; to me, that's the perfect combination.
Certainly going to the new venues, Edmonton is up there in the frozen north, and is most of the year; but during the summer, I understand it's very warm up there, but it's 1,800, 2,000 miles away. Long Beach is a considerable distance, probably similar distance.
So, yeah, it's going to cost the teams a little more not having the doubleheaders, but we have compensated for this in the league by having reduced the number of test days available to the teams, both private and Open Tests. So at the end of the day, the incremental costs will be more than offset by the reduction in test days that we've done.
The way the schedule has been set up, and as I said before, I think it's probably the best schedule we've ever had, there's a nice balance of two weeks on, one week off. But frankly that doesn't give the teams time to test and get to the next race.
So I don't think reducing the testing is going to hurt. And I think at the end of the day, the dollar amounts, which is what we have all got to be very, very cognizant of, because at the end of the day, that's what drives it, no matter where we are. We can have double- or single-headers, but if you don't have the money to do it, it doesn't matter.
By reducing some of the test days, we have managed to keep that balance and keep the dollar amount similar to the numbers this year. Certainly adding a couple in Canada is going to add a new interest to our friends north of the border and hopefully will result in a few Canadians coming this way.
THE MODERATOR: Dillon, you had a chance to look at the schedule next year; what are your thoughts from a driver's perspective?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, it's really exciting. I get to learn a few more new tracks, and they are quite prestigious ones, as well. The Long Beach Grand Prix is going to be a great event to go to; that is fantastic news. And going to Canada twice is really exciting, too. I've never been there before, and it is just going to be great experience.
Q: Well, I just wanted to get your thoughts on Sonoma, not sure if you had a chance to go out there this season, but what are your thoughts on that course?
DILLON BATTISTINI: I haven't seen the place yet, I've just seen the maps. But each track I've been to this year has been new. It's my first year in America, so there's nothing new there. I'm good at learning tracks quickly, and so I should get a decent amount of track time before we start qualifying and enough time to get a good setup on the car and be ready to go out and fight for the front.
Q: What are the European impressions of the Indy Racing League? How is it viewed over there?
DILLON BATTISTINI: I really like the atmosphere and the feeling in the paddock over here. I've been racing in Asia for the last two years, and so I didn't race cars in Europe much. I did some racing in England in Catherons and Formula 600 which is the equivalent, or cheaper equivalent of Formula Ford back in the U.K. I really haven't experienced the level of pressure that you get in top-line European car racing, but I know by all accounts, it's not as much fun as racing over here.
Q: Your team has shown it can win, and this goes back to the seeming dichotomy to your experience on road courses and the lack of results. Is there anything other than bad luck to explain why the results have not shown up for you?
DILLON BATTISTINI: We've had our fair share of bad luck on the road courses, that's for sure. We didn't have any preseason testing. As I said my deal was signed so late. I've been unlucky being out in the last race in the wet, when I was ahead of the eventual race winner going forward, so that was a bit of a blow on a chance to set the record straight.
Q: These two race weekends, what have been the challenges for those, and do you try to do anything different when you go to Sonoma?
DILLON BATTISTINI: What do you mean different?
Q: Not so much road courses versus ovals, but doing two races that count in one week versus, you know, just the one race. Are there special challenges built into that?
DILLON BATTISTINI: There are. It helps a lot if you do well in the first race, and that puts you in good stead to get points in the second race, too. There is more pressure on the doubleheader weekends, because you stand to lose a lot more if you're on the back foot. So there is more pressure, and you just have to be careful to get it right really.
Q: Any changes in terms of your approach this week, since things haven't gone particularly well previously in this scenario?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, we've got some ideas of what we want to do on making the car suite me well, and we'll have more time going into the event this time around and that's really key really.
Watkins Glen, like I said, I was learning the track in qualifying and didn't really get any time to set the car up. We'll just have to see. The approach is going to be pretty much the same. We just had a bit of bad luck.
Q: In terms of wanting to progress your career, do you think it's better to win races or a championship, and do you have anything brewing for next year?
DILLON BATTISTINI: I think it's crucial to win races definitely. It does help a lot and it shows that you're capable of getting out there and getting a few wins, it means a lot. If you become a champion without winning any of the races, I don't think it's the same.
What as the other thing?
Q: I was just wondering if you knew where or for whom you would be driving next year.
DILLON BATTISTINI: Well, I'm hoping to get an IndyCar ride with Panther, but we'll have to see how things work out. I think I've put on a good enough performance this year to put me in a car next year, but it comes down to finances, and it's too early to say at the moment. I don't know what will happen.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, and wish you luck the rest of the season.