United States Grand Prix-Menards Infiniti Pro Series Open Test Press Conference Transcript Thursday, March 24, 2005 Marco Andretti, Al Unser TIM HARMS: Thank you very much for joining us. We're joined today by Al Unser here on the left, Marco...
United States Grand Prix-Menards Infiniti Pro Series
Open Test Press Conference Transcript
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Marco Andretti, Al Unser
TIM HARMS: Thank you very much for joining us. We're joined today by Al Unser here on the left, Marco Andretti on the right, drivers in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, testing on the road course and, of course, getting ready for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg next weekend, St. Petersburg, Florida. It will be the first non-oval event in Pro Series history, the only street course on the schedule for 2005. Today also significant, it's the first time any cars have driven on the surface here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the repaving over the winter; and a brand new Yard of Bricks placed in there, as well. These two come from, obviously, very historic families, quite a legacy in racing. The Andretti family, 53 starts at Indianapolis; and the Unser family, 71 starts at Indianapolis. For Marco, his first time in a Pro Series car; and for Al, he's raced with us a handful of times last year and the first two races this year. Neither of them have raced here at Indianapolis. So, gentlemen, let's start with Marco, your first time in the Pro Series car, you were the first one out on the track this morning, too. Just tell us a little bit about what it's like in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series car.
MARCO ANDRETTI: To be honest, it's the best car I've driven so far, obviously, but I think it's the most fun. This morning was a little slick with the track temperature being so cold; but it came in a lot better, you know, now. But we're making some changes but, unfortunately, we broke a drive shaft so that we lost some valuable time there. But, you know, we'll find it.
HARMS: Al, your first time here racing on the -- not really racing but driving on the Speedway course. What were your impressions this morning?
AL UNSER: My impressions were basically the same as Marco's. It's lots of fun out there. It's just real slick. You're hauling butt through the corners just totally sideways. It's great to finally get these cars going sideways and feeling confident about it. Going sideways during the oval is not very much fun. But I was having a blast, you know. I had the same problem Marco did. I broke a drive shaft, too, but right before lunch. So we can get it fixed, and hopefully I didn't lose too much time.
HARMS: Through the course of obviously the next weekend and in the future, I think there will be a lot of comparisons between you guys and everything your families have done in racing. You guys are here to make a name for yourself. Does all of that comparison, does that start to bother you after a while?
UNSER: I'll go for that one. I really don't know. I've always had it that way; I've always been an Unser. So that kind of sense of added pressure, comparisons and so forth, it's really not going to bug me too much. I'm just out there, going to try to drive it the hardest that I can. We're both out there to win, as so is everybody else in the field. So we'll just go out there and see what we can do.
ANDRETTI: Pretty much the same. There's obviously, you know, a little added pressure, but it makes our competitors want to beat us that much more just because of our last names. You know, sometimes when we're winning, it's like we should be there and then when we're not, it's like, 'Why aren't we?' But, I mean, it's fun. Like he said, we're going to go out and do what we love to do, try to make our own names for ourselves, you know.
HARMS: Let's take some questions.
Q: Al, you're the seventh Unser and, Marco, you're the fifth Andretti to drive here. How much coaching are you getting from your family?
UNSER: I'm here by myself. Marco definitely has Mario and Michael over there. I'm going over there and nudging them and getting some tips from them myself. Either way, we're the only ones in the car. It all comes down to we're the ones behind the wheel. That's the final thing.
ANDRETTI: They can only hope as much as they can, you know, not actually driving the car. That's where I need to get better, is my mechanical feedback. You know, I can drive the car, but it's not all that, you know. You have to get the car working, and that's where they could help, as well.
Q: Could both of you explain when you first realized what it meant to be an Unser and an Andretti and at what age did you begin to realize this?
UNSER: Well, I think I started a little bit later than Marco did. You're what, 17 now?
UNSER: That's when I actually started racing is when I got into Skip Barber and so forth, was when I was his age. I think I've realized that I was an Unser, not only that I had some itch that I needed to scratch and once I got in the race car, that definitely was it, but that I was fast right away. I mean, to go out there and just to do it and not only not necessarily win, but to just be one of the quicker guys, you know, to be out there with people who had been doing this, had been karting since they were 12 and so forth. I felt pretty confident in myself that, 'Wow, I can run with these guys, and I still have less than 50 races under my belt.'
ANDRETTI: I don't know when I really realized, you know, what kind of family background I had. But all I knew growing up, you know, I was around the racing, I grew up around it, but all I knew was, you know, Daddy and Grandpa, you know, they raced cars. So now I look back at it and wish that I understood more back then and I could see, you know, some of the great things that they've done. So I just started to realize it when around 10 years old, racing go-karts. I actually got into it for the wrong reason. Like I started at first, you know, went into it and felt, you know, felt pressured and felt I had to, which obviously was not the case. So I went into it, and I wasn't having fun because I felt the added pressure, which there's always the added pressure; but if you think about it, you're not going to go fast, you know. Then I actually quit for a year and then went back to Dad after I thought about it, and I was like I want to do this for me. He's like: 'Well, you take care of it. You set everything up.' He was totally hands-off. I basically put my own deals together, and that brings me here. I'm loving it.
Q: Do you guys have a sense of significance about racing in front of the Formula One crowd or is that just going to be another race? Being given the opportunity to test on the track today before you go out there in front of some of the biggest road-racing aficionados in the world, is there any nervousness or are you more worried about next weekend?
UNSER: I'm personally looking at the next race. But for sure, when June comes and we're on this track, that is definitely a driving force to be behind -- or to be in front of all the F1 guys. Mario really is an inspiration to me because he ran F1 and then came over here and ran Indy cars and also did some IROC stuff. He's run just about everything there is to run. So I don't think in today's racing that you could do that because of how dedicated those F1 drivers are just to F1. But I would love to skip around or do something like that where I could get into a different car and drive it for just, you know, a couple races and then get back out.
ANDRETTI: Yeah, I mean it's a little bigger when there's, you know, there's more of a crowd there. Doesn't matter what kind of fans they are. Just more people there, the more intense it's going to be. But I think it's pretty cool, you know, because I'm driving actually in front of some of the biggest idols. Obviously, my father and grandfather are my biggest idols, but they're my most active, you know, the Formula One drivers.
Q: I would like to follow that up. Do you guys have any ambitions toward Formula One? Do you have any career goals that extend beyond the next five years? Where do you see yourselves?
UNSER: Oh, of course. I see myself in one of the main open-wheel series, either or, and definitely would love to do some IROC stuff, probably run the Daytona 500. I want to run whatever I can. I want to run the 24 Hours of Daytona. I would love to run some of the F1 races. I would love to jump in an F1 car at Monaco, would definitely be a great race to do. I'm out there to get experience and seat time and run whatever I can because I like racing.
ANDRETTI: Same. You know -- what was the question again? (Laughter)
Q: I just wondered if you had any ambition towards Formula One. I mean particularly --
ANDRETTI: I always say that's every kid's ultimate goal, you know. But to be realistic, you know, I think the only way to get there is to stay in open-wheel racing where -- that's where my heart lies but I would also, like him and my grandfather, just to drive anything just because that's what we love, you know.
Q: The Indianapolis 500, your family and your family and dominated here and have been big stars and all these other things. You talk about Formula One, and your grandfather did win a title, but still in America this is the race. How important is that to you, driving the 500?
UNSER: This race is definitely extremely important to me since now that my dad is retired racing. The Unsers, my family have nine wins here, and since we're on the 90th running of the Indy 500, something like that? Eighty-ninth, you know, that's 10 percent of the wins. I definitely want to get that 10th win for my family. I guess I'm the next one in line, and I hope I can aspire to that.
ANDRETTI: To me, I think it's more an unfinished business for my family. I think my grandfather obviously, you know, had won here in '69, but my dad just with a lot of unfortunate luck. So, yeah, basically hopefully we can beat the system and, you know, try to bring it home.
Q: Did the two of you have much interaction through the years? Have you known each other at all?
UNSER: We've always known each other.
ANDRETTI: Always known of each other.
UNSER: We've always known of each other. This will definitely be the -- today was the first time that we're on the track together. St. Pete will be the first time we get to race each other. I guess Marco's always been in go-karts and then when I finally got into racing, I was a little bit -- I was a couple years ahead of him because I went right into the Skip Barber system, which he went into and won the championship last year. So we've kind of always known each other.
ANDRETTI: Basically, I mean, unfortunately we're not able to be closer. I mean we are now because we're in the same series. But you always know of each other, and you follow each other, you know, how we're doing and everything, even Graham Rahal. You need to know how they're doing just so you can get -- obviously, it's important to be ahead of them to our parents. (Laughter)
Q: Are you guys planning on running the IPS race during the 500?
UNSER: On the oval?
ANDRETTI: Me, right now, no, not this year anyway. We're going to stick to some road courses. Maybe if we get a deal done with (unclear), we can do some more road courses. Whatever doesn't conflict, because my Mazda schedule is the primary for this year. But next year, you know, we'll come on full force.
UNSER: I plan to be here. You know, with today's racing, it's all about the funds. So right now I'm funded through St. Pete, and Indy is the next race afterward, and I hope to -- I definitely would love to run here on Carburetion Day, yeah.
Q: Marco, do you have any reaction to when you got sideways down the first time through there?
ANDRETTI: I'm just testing the limits. I did it a few times today. Mainly -- I'm not going to make excuses, but mainly because we had a big understeer in the car and I was trying to actually get wheelspin to trick the thing around. But it would just snap 'em. I'm not used to this horsepower.
UNSER: I will comment on that. The new asphalt going into (Turn) 1 here, as soon as you come off of it, the car settles and feels a lot better. That new asphalt right now is still really slick. Nobody's been on it. When I went out there and did my first lap, I was way sideways, too.
ANDRETTI: Even coming onto the banking it's a lot smoother, I'll give it that; and as soon as it gets some rubber on it, it will be right where it needs to be. But, I mean, the first lap on it, I kind of lost the front end, had to get out of it.
Q: You don't have any of your relatives here, but anybody from your family say anything to you, give you any advice before you came? And Marco, you've got the whole clan here, what are they telling you?
UNSER: I did talk to my dad and my grandfather before I came down here and just let them know Marco was going to be here. It's good for the series. It's good to get another car out there, and I'm happy for him to actually get out there and race with us. But, you know, it's basically just using my head and not doing anything really different, you know, just because he's out here; and I agree with that statement. You know, just trying to do whatever I can do the best I can.
ANDRETTI: What was the question?
Q: About you've got a whole clan here, what have they been telling you today or have they kept quiet?
ANDRETTI: My dad is a little more hands-off because I guess he knows how it is, you know, the pressure. But they help as much as they can, like I said earlier, not being in the car and they only can help as much as they can with my feedback. So that's where I need to get a little better. But obviously Tony Cicale is a huge help to our deal this weekend. So, you know, he's helped out a lot on the engineering side.
Q: Can I get some comments on how the cars felt? This is obviously the first time they have been on a road course, too, so you don't have a lot of data. Marco, you mentioned there was a lot of understeer when you first went out. Were you able to make adjustments that had an impact when you came back in?
ANDRETTI: Yeah, we connected the rear bar and it just made a substantial difference. That's pretty much the only change because we only have like, say, 15 laps so far, 20.
ANDRETTI: 19, yeah. So that's about it. It was cold this morning, so obviously the temperature helped a little.
UNSER: This morning when I first went out, it was definitely, you could tell the track temperature was down. With these tires, Firestone had us wait until they got a good ambient temperature before we could go out there and run. Now that it's gotten warmer and we've gotten some more rubber on the track, the best the car felt was right before I came in. You know, it's definitely lots of fun with these cars. I mean, it's again, like Marco said, the best car he's driven. Same thing here, it's the best car I've driven because I couldn't really compare the car to like the Atlantics or anything else because we were just on the ovals. Now that we're actually turning right and accelerating and braking, I think they could use a little beefier brake; but other than that, it's a blast.
ANDRETTI: I agree, the only place it lacks is the braking, but everywhere else it's fun. The cars on the banking now, I guess the game plan now is just to trim out as much as we can for the straightaway speed; but it's all about, at this place it's all about mechanical grip and just trying to lay the wings down as much as you can.
HARMS: Thanks, guys.