IPS: Jeff Simmons press conference

Indy Racing League June 10, 2003 Jeff Simmons K. Miller: Thank you. Hello, my name is Kimberly Miller. I'm the Manager of Media Relations for the Indy Racing League, and I'd like to welcome you all today to the Indy Racing League...

Indy Racing League
June 10, 2003

Jeff Simmons

K. Miller: Thank you. Hello, my name is Kimberly Miller. I'm the Manager of Media Relations for the Indy Racing League, and I'd like to welcome you all today to the Indy Racing League Teleconference. We appreciate your coverage of the Indy Racing League, and we appreciate your taking time out of your day to speak with the drivers that we have. Today, joining us from the Indy Racing League Infiniti Pro Series is Jeff Simmons. Jeff will be with us for approximately 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of the call, and then we will be joined by to represent the IndyCar Series. Jeff, thank you for joining us today.

Simmons: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure. I hope everybody is doing well.

K. Miller: Jeff, obviously we are going into the event at Pikes Peak this weekend. The Infiniti Pro Series runs on June 14, which is this Saturday, and you just mentioned to me that you are already in Colorado when you have had an opportunity to test there last week on Wednesday, but this is your first time to ever compete at the track, is that correct?

Simmons: Yes, that's right. Actually, I've never been to Colorado before last week, so I've had a little bit of time adjusting to the elevation and all. We didn't get too much time on the track on Wednesday because the weather turned pretty bad on us in the afternoon. We only got about 50 laps in and that's, you know, 50 laps more than what we would have, I guess.

K. Miller: Well, can you give us your thoughts of the track, now that you've actually had an opportunity to test?

Simmons: It's actually a little bit trickier than it would seem by just looking at it because in the corners the banking tends to change on you. You go into the corner and you generally have a -- like in Turns 3 or 4 you have more banking at the start and then it flattens out so you end up fighting a bit of a push there. And it seems to be windy there the majority of the time, and the wind was kind of playing with us, as well. And also it seems like it kind of like clockwork around here that rain comes in the afternoon, so I'm hoping that when we race there on Saturday, we'll be able to get it in before the rain comes in.

K. Miller: Now, your sponsor is Western Union, and I understand they're headquartered in Denver. How does that play into an event like this? A lot more people coming down from you sponsor or do you have many more appearances with them in Denver?

Simmons: We've done a few things already this past week. On Thursday, I went to an elementary school and gave a talk on safety and took pictures with the kids and stuff like that. We had about 300 kids there that day. So that was fun. And then we had a bit of a function at the Western Union headquarters here in Denver. On Friday and for this coming weekend, we expect to have quite a few employees of Western Union down there, probably around 100 or so, so this is kind of like the home race, and for us I think this is sort of, you know, the second-biggest run of the year, after Indy.

K. Miller: Jeff, this is your first year in the Infiniti Pro Series. You started off the season at Miami with a disappointing 14th-place finish, but then you rebounded nicely with the fifth-place finish at Phoenix and a fourth place at Indy. You're still working for your first win. Do you feel like that that could come at Pikes Peak? Do you feel like you have the experience on those type of racetracks to get your first win here this weekend?

Simmons: Yeah, I certainly think that it could come here. You know, I've actually been -- I expect a lot more out of myself and, you know, out of the team, in general, we all expect more out of ourselves, you know, than even fourth-place and fifth-place finishes, and we led that first race at Homestead after, you know, I'd just joined the team five days before that race. And you know, that was certainly disappointing that it ended that way. But I think that with the amount of time that we've had together now, the engineers, Dave McMillan, my engineer, is learning more about what I need, and I'm learning better how to communicate that to him. And we've been very close, we've been very fast in the majority of the sessions. We just haven't been able to get over that little hump, and I think that could happen this weekend.

Q: Jeff, you know, when you land a break leading at the Miami, had a good race there and then you have another break, how do you keep yourself, you know, going during that long stretch and now you're going to have a bunch of races regularly?

Simmons: Well, in between the races I'm generally working on trying to secure more sponsorship for myself and for the Western Union Speed team. And I like to go running and stuff like that to kind of clear my mind, and I always feel that I'm more focused after working out. And fortunately we had the test last week, which has kept me sharp, I think, and so I'll be ready when we go on the track on Friday this weekend. But I certainly like when the race has kind of come more quickly like they're going to here in July when we have, I think, three out of the four weekends we have races, and it helps to keep you focused and it helps that as soon as the race is over, I'm thinking about the next one. So it's nice when it comes quickly after that.

Q: Well, also this is the fourth track for the series, and each one has been different. You start with, like in Miami, a mile-and-a-half and then you go to a mile in the desert and then the Indy and now up in the 5,000 feet. How do you get the car to adapt to each type of facility and altitude and so forth?

Simmons: Fortunately, we pretty much tested it at each track before we've had to race on it. Homestead, we didn't do too much testing, and here once again we didn't get all that many laps in, but we generally have kind of a basic setup for, you know, a certain size track that we go into it with, and then we just start to tune it from there. Here, like I've said previously, the way the track changes really affects the car, you know, the way the track flattens out in some parts you and you tend to have a big understeer there, so we were working on that quite a bit. And the high altitude here really seems to cut down on the horsepower. I'd say we're probably making about 10 percent less horsepower here than at sea level. And also, obviously, we make less downforce than we would because of the altitude, so the car tends to want to move around a little bit more than it would on other tracks and the wind really, really affects the cars here.

Q: One other question. Driving, you know, and finishing fourth at Indy, what has that meant to you? I know you would like to have won, but just getting the opportunity to drive there and show what you can do on a that big track.

Simmons: It was amazing. I mean with the way the grandstands are, almost all the way around on the front side there, and you always are aware of exactly where you're at. You always know that you're at Indy and no other track. You kind of just focus on the tracks, but there, there's always kind of that little presence that the track has and obviously the, fourth-place finish was OK, and we got some points. But we would have liked to finish better, and we would obviously like to finish ahead of Mark Taylor to try to make up some points on him. But at the same, with actually touching the wall after Turn 1 there, when I was outside of Mark and basically bent the right rear suspension and pushed 100 pounds over to the right front tire, the car really wouldn't handle very well after that. Had a lot of understeer, and that was probably with about 10 laps to go. So, looking at all those things, the fourth place finish was not too bad.

K. Miller: While we wait for more journalists to queue in, what kind of speeds do you think we can expect at Pikes Peak this weekend in the Pro Series event?

Simmons: I believe they should be very similar to Phoenix, which I guess is about 140 --high 140s, I believe?

K. Miller: Yeah, 147 was your qualifying speed at Phoenix.

Simmons: Yeah, I think that they're going to be pretty close to that. Maybe a little quicker than what I qualified. When we tested here we went quicker than that. But I think this track would be especially fast if it was down at sea level where we were making the extra horsepower and the extra downforce. You know, I think this would, from what I understand, they say that it's the quickest one-mile track now. That's what somebody told me last week. I don't know if that's true. But if it was at sea level, it certainly would be with the way the layout is and the D-shape. You tend to get a lot of momentum going and you don't slow down very much on the corners. I mean it's almost a constant speed around the track.

K. Miller: Also, can you talk a little bit about the last couple of years you have not been racing? You have kind of taken some time off to look for sponsorship and some other things. Tell us what you've been doing the past couple of years and then also does it make more difficult this year for you to get back in the car after that much time off?

Simmons: I think it does make it a little bit more difficult. You know, I've gotten back into it, obviously, and I think that I'm basically there where I was before, in terms of driving. But there are still those things that happen in the races that you were always more prepared for, I guess, when you were racing, when I was racing more often. But I feel like I'm driving well, and I think that the team is progressing well, as well. The last two years, obviously, were really difficult for me, not being able to race and after winning the two championships and then doing the Indy Lights season with Team Green, which didn't go as well as I had hoped. But all in all, it wasn't a bad effort with a lot of the things that were going on that year with Indy Lights and the team. The last two years were difficult, and just trying to find money when the economy turns down is certainly not an easy thing to do. But it's just great to be back with the team now and with a great sponsor like Western Union, who have been so enthusiastic and supportive of me and of the team. So I'm just hoping to try to build a long-term relationship with them and with Keith Duesenberg and try to move forward and move up.

Q: Keith Duesenberg runs the team or owns the team, or so forth, but have you met the two guys, the brothers or the names it's named after, the two sons?

Simmons: Yes, I've just met them this past week when I came to Colorado, the two boys, yeah. We actually went one night, and I went to see one them play hockey here because they both play hockey quite a bit, and both were very good hockey players, so that was fun and it's good to meet them, and I'm sure that everybody will see them down at the racetrack this coming weekend.

Q: Did you realize that the team was named after those two boys?

Simmons: I did, actually. Not at first, but I did afterwards, yes. They've now changed. The team has now been changed to Keith Duesenberg Racing instead of Duesenberg brothers.

Q: Oh, it has?

Simmons: Yeah.

Q: Yeah. Yeah, when they came here it was Duesenberg Brothers.

Simmons: Yeah.

Q: One other question. You have a degree in computer science. Do you use that in any way on your racing involvement?

Simmons: I guess in some ways I do. I mean, I'm very comfortable with the computer and as I've driven, even back in '98 when I started Barber Dodge, I was always kind of into the data and trying to learn as much as I could from the data that we get. So I'm still very involved in that, and I take home all the data that we get from tests and from the races, nd I go through it to try to find thtoday. We thank you very much for taking the time to join us and we wish you the best of luck Saturday in Infiniti Pro Series Race at Pikes Peak.

Simmons: OK, thank you very much. And when Al comes on, tell him I said congratulations. I watched that race while I was out here, and it was a good one to watch, very exciting.

K. Miller: We'll make sure we pass the message along. Thank you, Jeff.

Simmons: OK, thanks a lot.

-irl-

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Jeff Simmons