IRL Media Teleconference September 7, 2004 James Chesson and Dan Wheldon MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We would like to welcome two Indy Racing League drivers to today's call. Joining us to open the call is Menards Infiniti Pro Series...
IRL Media Teleconference
September 7, 2004
James Chesson and Dan Wheldon
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We would like to welcome two Indy Racing League drivers to today's call. Joining us to open the call is Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver James Chesson, who will be making his IRL debut at this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. James first climbed into a Pro Series car Aug. 16 at Kentucky Speedway for a test with IRL officials, and it's been some time since the 24-year-old has been behind the wheel of a race car as he took the 2003 season off.
In 2002, James raced with USAC and had nine pavement starts, including third-place finishes at the midget series Copper World Classic in Phoenix and the "Night Before the 500" event at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
In 2001, Chesson made his debut in the World of Outlaws Sprint cars series. This year, James' brother P.J. has won the last three Pro Series races.
We'll spend a few minutes with James. Mr. Chesson, thanks for joining us today.
JAMES CHESSON: Thank you. I really appreciate it.
Q: We know you took last year off. Seeing your brother tearing it up in the Pro Series schedule must have given you the bug a little bit to get back in it?
JAMES CHESSON: It did. It's funny because starting out this year, I didn't have any intentions of actually getting in a car even this year at all. I think (P.J.) with his success and just running, and me being around it all, joking with his car owner (Kathryn Nunn), we've been saying how great would it be to have brothers in the series, going off about that. Next thing you know, let's sign up and test, here we go. It's on now. I'm excited about it.
Q: At what point this year did it dawn on you? Was it (P.J.'s) win at Michigan? Seeing him get in the car for the first time? I remember seeing you in Victory Lane at Michigan. You were certainly as excited as anyone. At what point did you think you might make a run at this?
JAMES CHESSON: Well, I've always been competitive throughout my life, in whatever sport. I think just getting back into that level of competitiveness was something that I just loved to do.
With (P.J's) success and just seeing how well he's been doing, the team that he's with, I think that that definitely sparked. And just the whole racing bit, because I've always loved racing, always enjoyed that, getting back into it, especially with him, because we haven't raced together probably in three years. I think with my dad involved, it's become more of a family event. I think that that's really probably sparked the most.
It's a lot of fun going to the races, competing together. I think that's a big part of it.
Q: I'll ask you the same question that we posed to P.J. before. I know you'll get a lot of that, comparing the two, but what are your goals as you take a step forward this weekend? A possible run at Indianapolis someday?
JAMES CHESSON: Well, yeah, of course that would be something amazing to accomplish, is to run at Indy in the 500. I think that would be definitely a goal. To win it, obviously, I think would be the ultimate in achieving that goal.
I don't know. I haven't run these cars in a race yet. I haven't been around another car. I'm looking forward to just competing this weekend, just starting there, then I think it will be a lot easier to give you an accurate reading of what my future goals are.
It's hard to say right now, just stepping in this weekend.
Q: You took last year off. P.J. did, as well. I'd be curious as to what you two guys were doing last summer.
JAMES CHESSON: Well, I started working for my father in the family business at the end of 2002. I actually enjoyed it, oddly enough. That was kind of surprising to myself, working 6:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. almost every day, five, six days a week.
That kept me busy for a while, managing one store. He's into the automotive tire and service centers here in New Jersey. There's a couple of stores that I just sort of walked into, decided I wanted to learn a little bit about it. That's basically what I've been doing for my '03 season.
Q: We're glad you're going to be back in a race car. Unlike your brother, you've actually had some USAC pavement starts. You cut your teeth in the high-banked ovals. Can you talk about the differences of running the Sprint cars on a high-banked oval to these types of cars?
JAMES CHESSON: I think probably the best way to relate it would be between the downforce. I think there's so much with the Outlaw cars, big wing, side boards. The Pro Series cars also have a considerable amount of downforce. I think you can say that the feeling of a car being stuck to a racetrack and really being able to maneuver really well, I think you can compare the two.
Other than that, being on dirt and pavement, there's a lot to be learned just in the basics of pavement, going from dirt to pavement.
Yes, there are a few similarities, but there are also differences as well. I think maybe that wild ride in the Sprint car is really what helps you excel maybe on the pavement with the Pro Series cars.
Q: How long did it take down in Kentucky, how many laps, before you felt comfortable, felt like you knew what the car was doing?
JAMES CHESSON: Well, the weirdest thing was --
Q: Have you gotten there yet?
JAMES CHESSON: I definitely did it. I feel comfortable. I think it was getting used to the shifting part. It felt like I was laying on my sofa at home basically in my car. It was really comfortable, just feeling-wise. Once you get used to the g-forces, the speed, I think it all becomes -- you get more and more comfortable as you go.
I think I felt pretty good at the end of the day. We kept a lot of downforce on the car, which made it even more comfortable. It was a good experience. I was really happy with the way it went that day because the team I think at that point had grown a lot, they had put a car out there that felt just really comfortable, really stable. I was able to rip off some pretty good laps.
Q: How did you get started in this whole thing? I don't know that New Jersey is a hot bed for Sprint car racing. Maybe I'm wrong. How did you get involved in this?
JAMES CHESSON: My dad, he's always been a motorhead. He was a drag guy when he was younger. Then he got into dirt modifies. Billy Pauch drove for him a while back. We always used to joke at the dinner table with my father. We used to say, 'Steve calls us up, wants us to go drive a Sprint car out at the Grove this weekend.' That was always a pretty funny conversation. One thing led to another, and we ended up in Sprint cars running in central Pennsylvania with the best of the best out there.
Q: This year the Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, his father was a dragster racer as well. Good history to work towards.
JAMES CHESSON: Yes.
Q: What does your car look like? Is it similar to your brother's?
JAMES CHESSON: The number is 67, so it's like P.J.'s. It's got white wings. It's got just a few splashes of white on it basically. That's pretty much it. I think you'll see the red car is looking pretty good this weekend, I really do.
Q: Your expectations going into these final three races? I can't imagine P.J. thought he would even get one, much less three in a row. Your expectation these final three races?
JAMES CHESSON: My expectations? I think just to get out there and get comfortable around other cars and hopefully be able to help P.J. in this whole points thing. I guess he's running for Rookie of the Year possibly. I think that working with him on the track to help him achieve his goals for this year, which I think he's already well gone above and beyond that, which he thought he would do this year.
I don't know, for myself, just get out there and run. I mean, who knows, maybe I'll do something this year, maybe not. I think after Chicago, I'll probably have a pretty good idea.
Q: You and P.J. always had a lot of success with the Outlaws, kind of known on the circuit as more of a free spirit. Talk about how you've melded in with the Nunns and all with their operation?
JAMES CHESSON: I have to tell you, Morris and Kathryn Nunn, they're awesome individuals. Kathryn, really she's a no-nonsense woman. I really like that about her. I think she's fun to be around. She's put together a great team.
I think P.J. and myself are definitely free spirits, being younger and brothers. I think we bring a lot to this deal as well, which I think is a positive, because I think it will keep both teams closer together at the end of the day.
MODERATOR: We'll get you go, James. We look forward to you getting behind the wheel of the 67 car this weekend at Chicagoland. Thanks for joining us today.
JAMES CHESSON: Thanks very much.