Indy Racing League An Interview With: Kathryn Nunn and P.J. Chesson Part 1 of 2 MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our two guests today are Kathryn Nunn and P.J. Chesson. Welcome to...
Indy Racing League
An Interview With: Kathryn Nunn and P.J. Chesson
Part 1 of 2
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our two guests today are Kathryn Nunn and P.J. Chesson. Welcome to you both and thanks to both of you for joining us this afternoon.
Kathryn is the team manager for Mo Nunn Racing, a new team in the Menard Infiniti Pro Series. Kathryn and her husband, Morris, have fielded a car in the IRL IndyCar Series since 2002.
Also joining us is P.J. Chesson. He will drive the No. 76 car for Mo Nunn Racing. P.J. has been racing in the World of Outlaws for the past four years and has earned more than 50 top 10 finishes. The team took delivery of a Dallara chassis and put it together for a test at the Milwaukee Mile last week where P.J. ran 114 laps with a top speed of 140.899 miles per hour. P.J. and the team are now looking forward to competing in their first race at Kansas Speedway on July 3.
We'll start with a couple of questions for you, Kathryn. The formation of this new team has taken a while to come together. Can you take us through the whole process starting, I know it started as just an idea, over a year ago, and just tell us how it all came together.
Certainly. I had started watching the Pro Series races actually a couple of years ago when my good friend Mieke Luyendyk's son (Arie Luyendyk Jr.) got involved. I thought it was really good racing, so I talked Morris into coming out and watching a couple of races on the weekend, and he enjoyed it. I just suggested that we field a team and help develop drivers to bring them up, and it would have been useful to us on the (IndyCar Series) side to have development drivers in this series. He had sort of a lot on his plate, and he said, 'Well, if you will put it together, do all of the deals, get the funding, the drivers, the crew and manage the team, then I'll be all for it.' So, as you say, it's taken me about a year to get this together, but it's finally happening, and we really look forward to working with P.J. He's going to be brilliant.
Q: When did you guys actually purchase the car and take delivery of the car?
NUNN: It was as of today, it's been 13 days. When we appeared at the Milwaukee last Tuesday, we were exactly seven days old as a team.
Q: Are you using any of the same people that work on the IndyCar Series team? Or is it a completely separate crew?
NUNN: Well, it's a completely separate team. But we did actually have the opportunity, one of our young junior engineers, who has been with the team quite a few years and has worked with Felipe Giaffone and before that, Jimmy Vasser, asked if he could come over. He was familiar with P.J.'s career and was very excited, and he said, 'I'd love to engineer one of these cars.' So, we moved him over to our side, and there are some others, like our crew chief, Butch (Winkle), we had worked with before in the IRL, so he was excited to come and join us. So, he is now the crew chief for P.J., and the other mechanics are new guys.
Q: As you started to look to who you were going to put in that driver's seat and started hearing P.J.'s name, what characteristics stood out that made P.J. the right fit for you guys?
NUNN: Well, we did have to do some research into the sprint car and the dirt track races, but I was introduced to P.J. was it (Menards Infiniti Pro Series Executive Director) Roger Bailey, P.J.? I think he introduced us before Indianapolis. We chatted because Roger knew I was trying to put something together. I introduced P.J. to Morris, and Morris really liked him because he's quite colorful and quite a character. We started talking, and he's had a lot of success in the series he's been racing in. So, you know, it's a good fit. He's got a lot of oval experience. We just need to convert that into asphalt experience.
Q: You've obviously been around racing for a number of years. Were there any special emotions that you felt as the team, just seven days old as you mentioned, prepared to roll the car out for the first time at Milwaukee last week?
NUNN: Oh, yes, it was very exciting. It was very exciting, and I have to say Morris is excited about this. He likes the racing, as well. As I mentioned before, he likes P.J. He likes new projects, and he was anxious to see how it would come together. I think we were very well organized. Our engineer had a good plan for the day, and I have to say, I was quite emotional.
Q: With that under your belt now, the time in Milwaukee, is there a new set of emotions as the first race comes up next weekend in Kansas? What's the mood like now?
NUNN: Well, we are just really excited. Now I really have a lot of confidence in P.J. It was a very successful test last week, and Morris was very impressed with his ability and how he handles the car and how quickly he got up to speed and with the feedback. Because Morris is an engineer by trade, the feedback that P.J. was giving really impressed Morris.
MODERATOR: P.J., let's turn our attention to you for a couple of minutes here. You've obviously had your own set of emotions throughout this entire process. What was it like for you to take to the track in the Pro Series car for the first time?
P.J. CHESSON: It was really cool. I felt the last time that I did something for the first time was a long time ago. It was really good. I was very comfortable with the situation. It's the first time I've ever driven for somebody outside of my family, so to go there, it's very easy for a driver to be not comfortable with the situation or whatever. But with this program, it felt so natural. Kathryn has done a wonderful job organizing everybody, and she's done an amazing job coordinating a bunch of really good people to work on the car, therefore making my job a lot easier and much more comforting, knowing that we're going to be there totally organized with the best guys that are possibly roaming around out there. So, while I'm learning the car and doing all that, it was, I'm sure, probably much more emotional for Kathryn and Morris because it's their program. For me, it was just the best situation that I could have really imagined for the first time to be starting, and it's really cool to be a part of their inaugural rolling out of the car, I guess you could say.
Q: You ran well all day in Milwaukee learning about the car, pushing the limits in the afternoon. Do you feel like you're ready to go into race mode in Kansas?
CHESSON: You know, I don't know. I've always been a better racer. When I get too much time on my hands even sitting around the house, I start thinking too much and trying stuff. I think I'm probably a better racer than I would be at testing because my mind runs. When I have a goal, I'm a real competitive kind of a guy. So, I guess it will be quicker, it will be easier for me to learn, being around a bunch of other cars. Do I think I'm ready to get in there and dice with guys and go really hard? I don't know. We'll have to see how comfortable I am around the other cars. But the first couple of races, I just want to get some good laps under my belt and work with the guys, and if we can post a good finish, that would be really good. Just try and keep our noses clean and learn as much as we possibly can. But I think we are definitely going to have a very fast car there. Just a matter of whether or not the chauffeur is going to be up for the challenge.
Q: You grew up in a racing background. Your father did a lot of racing, and you mentioned yourself, you've pretty much raced for his team throughout your career. As a kid, what kind of aspirations and goals did you have for your career?
CHESSON: I remember when I was little, I started out go kart racing, and my dad was involved. We used to take my brothers to World of Outlaw races, and we would meet Sammy Swindell and Steve Kinser and all those guys, and I never thought in a million years I would be racing with them. Fifteen years later, I was racing with them and actually beating them. So, it was like as a kid, looking in all of these series and the great drivers that are in them. It's a totally different perspective, and for me to be here now racing with these guys, it's every little kid's dream, I guess, that ever wanted to drive a race car. You just have to enjoy it on the way up. I don't know that I ever really aspired to be a professional race-car driver. It just always seemed like a lot of fun, and I guess I'm still having fun at it. I guess if you are having fun and being successful, take the next step, and I guess you just keep going until there are no more steps to be had.
Q: You've got the background in the short tracks. Do you think there will be a lot of other drivers in that arena that will be watching your progress in this series, and could your success in the IRL lead to more of those drivers looking for an opportunity to compete here?
CHESSON: I really hope so. I can guarantee you there's going to be a lot of people watching from the short-track, dirt world. Even the short-track world in general, the Midget guys, Silver Crown guys, there's definitely going to be a lot of them looking, and I think definitely, if things go well, and we have a little bit of success here, I think that you'll definitely see more open wheel racers, short-track guys, coming, maybe aspiring to this direction instead of NASCAR, which I think would be great. I think it could be great for everybody involved in both worlds, the short track world and the Indy world. We'll have to see. Who knows? Only time will tell, I guess.
Q: Now, you (Nunn) said that the day that you made the announcement was very emotional?
Q: Had you shot golf that day, what would you have shot?
NUNN: Oh, dear, about 115.
Q: OK. That tells me you really would have been upset. How many female managers are there in the IPS?
NUNN: Oh, dear, I think I might be the only one at this point. Tim might be better prepared to answer that.
MODERATOR: To my knowledge, she's probably the only one, yes.
Q: And Kathryn, do you feel like you're blazing a path here? You've explained to me before and you reiterated today what you were seeking to do was help develop the talent in the (Menards Infiniti Pro Series) and perhaps bring it up into the IndyCar Series. But do you feel like you're blazing a (trail) in this area?
NUNN: Well, I haven't actually had much time to think about blazing anything. But, no, maybe it's just that women haven't had the opportunity or haven't thought of this yet. It just sort of happened, just like I said, as a result of developing some drivers. A couple of situations last year with the two cars on the IRL team, it would have been nice to have someone like P.J. and say, 'P.J. we need to you get in the car tomorrow.' So, you know, in the future, this can happen.