Indy Racing League An Interview With: Kathryn Nunn and P.J. Chesson Part 2 of 2 Q: And, this is no disrespect to your dear husband, but I've noticed he's lost some hair, and I presume that has a lot to do with being in a position that he's in.
Indy Racing League
An Interview With: Kathryn Nunn and P.J. Chesson
Part 2 of 2
Q: And, this is no disrespect to your dear husband, but I've noticed he's lost some hair, and I presume that has a lot to do with being in a position that he's in. Do you expect to be losing any of yours?
NUNN: Oh, God, I hope not. (Laughing).
Q: It already sounds as if it has been a test of one's resolve.
NUNN: Really, it's just been the organization. As I said before, I have been working on it for almost a year, but there's a lot of planning, and we want to have P.J. surrounded by good guys and good equipment and have everything organized for the first race. So, yeah, it has been a bit stressful, but I'll be fine once we get Kansas under our belt.
Q: You said you had a junior engineer that you brought to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Who is that?
NUNN: That's Brian Welling.
Q: And he's been with the team for a few years now?
NUNN: Actually four or five years.
Q: And I had heard all kinds of rumors at Texas, you know how the paddock is, that you might have two cars, not just one.
NUNN: Well, we are working on a second deal for a second car, but you know how these things take a lot of time. So, that's on the back burner for now. We are just going to proceed to Kansas.
Q: P.J., how old are you?
Q: There are two types of open wheel drivers: those who will hit the wall and those who have hit the wall, and I understand that you became acquainted with Turn 4 at Milwaukee last week. But it's an indoctrination. You don't have to think about it, you've already done it, right?
Q: How bad was the damage there?
CHESSON: I don't know. I guess we hurt the right side of the car a little bit. I don't know how extensive the damage actually was, but it didn't feel like we hit very hard, that's for sure. The cars are built pretty well, and it was just an unfortunate incident. We met, we shook hands, and now, hopefully, we don't have to have that conversation again; that is, the wall and I.
Q: Your expectations are obviously to get some top 10s under your belt and move up from there. Do you have the ultimate goal in open wheel at this point?
CHESSON: Yeah, you just have to take things one step at a time. If things go well and everyone is having a good time to go doing it, I can't imagine that I wouldn't want to go to the next level and drive an IndyCar (Series car). So, that's just all the stuff, and we have to wait and see what happens. As well as Kathryn has put this team together, I'm talking to her about maybe driving the car at Milwaukee next time. (Laughter).
Q: Who is the crew chief on this car?
NUNN: It is Butch Winkle.
Q: Who did you (Chesson) talk to for any advice on driving this kind of car as your first time in a rear engine car? Did you talk to any of the other Pro Series drivers?
CHESSON: Actually, Jeff Simmons was there at the test, and we made some laps early in the morning. We discussed a lot of stuff and all of the little questions that I had from a driver standpoint I could fire at him. He's a really good kid. He's a great driver. He helped me out quite a bit. He helped me get up to speed and also Morris's knowledge and Rick Mears and Butch (Winkle) and Brian (Welling). I guess pretty much everybody at Mo Nunn Racing. There's a lot of people there with a lot of knowledge, so it wasn't very hard to find somebody to talk to that knew what they were doing or that had some experience. It was pretty easy to find some information.
Q: Take us through the learning curve as far as shifting and how that played out in your mind, how they went through that with you for the test.
CHESSON: Actually, for a driver, I think that's probably the most nerve wracking part, stalling the car in the pits or doing something dumb like that. Really, the shifting, that's easy. You could get in an old (Toyota) Corolla and just practice that. Those things, they are nice to drive. I guess the weird part for me was sitting down the way we do, lying down, I should say, in the car and having your head totally secure in the car and that kind of stuff. The crotch straps they have are pretty tight. That was pretty tough to get used to. Other than that, I mean, they are comfortable. They are nice to drive.
Q: Did you get a chance to practice any restarts or anything like that?
CHESSON: Not really. Just coming out of the pits every now and again, I would practice getting through the gears pretty quickly. That's stuff that I'd like to work on a little bit more in Kansas. Again, Milwaukee was more of a shakedown kind of a session for us and for me to get a feel for the car. It's a shorter track, so it was easier to feel the car there on a shorter track. So, that's about all.
Q: In your opinion, would it be better if the Menards Infiniti Pro Series would be running at Richmond, if the series was joining the IndyCar Series there?
NUNN: I can only tell you from my standpoint, I enjoy the larger tracks a lot more than the really small ones. I think you'd have to ask P.J. how he feels about the smaller tracks.
Q: From a learning standpoint, you said you went to the short track so you could learn the car better?
CHESSON: Well, a shorter track gives you a better chance to feel the car. But those tracks are also the more difficult tracks, as well, because you are not flat, and you do have to drive the car, especially when the track is flat like Milwaukee is. Richmond I think would be a great place because there's high bank there, and there's a little more room, a little more room for error. Milwaukee, there's really not much room for error. It's a single lane track. It's really flat. So, I don't know, I think that Richmond would probably everyone says, everyone I've spoken to, they are like, 'Oh, man, Richmond would be a great place for a Pro Series car.' You know, I don't know, that's for the IRL to determine, not me.
Q: P.J., are you racing anything else?
Q: I heard P.J. mention the people who assisted him in understanding and perhaps getting up to speed in the car, and the name Rick Mears was mentioned. How was Rick involved in that?
NUNN: I don't know. P.J. might have been talking about his rookie test when Rick is generally one of the people who observe and offer advice. Is that correct, P.J.?
CHESSON: Yeah, I actually talk to Rick quite a bit on the telephone on a regular basis. He's a great guy. He's a great guy to be able to talk to. He's very good at expressing how a car works and answering the questions, the feels that you'll have. More from a driver standpoint, they are questions that a driver would really want to know, and he has been very helpful. I spoke to him, I guess, the night after Milwaukee, and we talked for about 45 minutes about stuff. His big quote that I'll always remember is (that) these cars whisper to you, whereas a sprint car would scream and holler, 'We are tight; we're loose.' These cars are much more subtle in how you feel them and react to them.
Q: Jeff Simmons must have been at the test, right?
NUNN: Yes, he was. And he graciously offered at Indianapolis to come to the Milwaukee test and talk to P.J. and offer whatever advice he could. He showed up first thing in the morning, and he stayed there pretty much all day.
Q: He's been around a good chapter of the last month or so, hasn't he?
Q: Coming in midseason, it's probably going to be difficult to compete with some of the established teams. What's your short term goal for this year for the Pro Series team, and then, as you move into the future, what are your long term goals for the team?
NUNN: Well, for the rest of this year, we are behind a bit. There's really no pressure on P.J. at all. If there's any pressure, it's coming from him. We just want him to learn the tracks. We're considering the rest of this year just a learning experience to get comfortable with the car, with the crew, with his engineer. And next year, we'll certainly concentrate a lot more on being at the front of the pack all the time. When P.J. and I first met, he did have a plan for his career. He would like to end up in the IndyCar Series, and hopefully, we'll be able to move him up there. If he does do very well next year, Morris would not give a thought to putting him in an IRL (IndyCar series) car in a race or a test and see how he does.
MODERATOR: I want to thank both of you for taking time out of your schedules for joining us today.