Indy Racing League Aug. 17 Teleconference Transcript P.J. Chesson MODERATOR: This afternoon's teleconference will feature three guests, P.J. Chesson, a two-time winner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series; Adrian Fernandez, owner/driver in the...
Indy Racing League
Aug. 17 Teleconference Transcript
MODERATOR: This afternoon's teleconference will feature three guests, P.J. Chesson, a two-time winner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series; Adrian Fernandez, owner/driver in the IRL IndyCar Series; and Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development. We'll start the call with P.J. Welcome, good afternoon, P.J.
P.J. CHESSON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: P.J. joined the Menards Infiniti Pro Series at Kansas where he turned his first laps on pavement. His background is in the World of Outlaws, and prior to Kansas, his experience was completely in winged Sprint cars on small dirt ovals. He had a second-place finish in just his third race with the Pro Series, and drove into victory circle at each of the last two races in Michigan and Kentucky. That has to be more than you ever really expected.
P.J. CHESSON: Absolutely. Well, Kathryn Nunn, my owner, when we first signed this thing, I believe it was two months ago was when we decided we would go ahead and give this a shot. There were no expectations. Just go out, get our feet wet, see how we like it, see how everyone adapts to it, get some top fives (finishes), you know, it would be nice if we could do that. We've exceeded everyone's expectations, including my own, by miles. I mean, I don't know what else to say. To win two races in a row in only your fifth start is pretty impressive with a brand new team and a rookie driver. So we are just really fortunate right now to have this kind of luck coming our way.
Q: That's very impressive. With two victories you've already moved up into fifth place in the points standings. Does that give you any reason to start thinking about making a run at the championship, does that thought even enter your mind at this point?
P.J. CHESSON: Not really. I don't need that kind of pressure this year. I'm still a rookie. It's still only my fifth race, and when you start applying pressures like that, I think that it becomes more of a distraction than it does any kind of motivating strategy for us. I think that it's just going to be good to stay on track doing what we're doing and see if we can just stay consistent for the rest of the year. If we don't win another race for the rest of the year, we still have had an extremely great run at the last eight races that we raced.
Q: In each of your two wins at Michigan and Kentucky, you've run a very high line around the track, and obviously that's working for you up there, but it seems to be a different line than the rest of the field is taking. Is that where you're more comfortable?
P.J. CHESSON: I think so. I don't know why. It just seems like I can see who is sitting in the front row of the stands better when I'm up closer to them than when I run down on the track. That's very important to me.
Q: All of the good looking girls sit in the front row, right?
P.J. CHESSON: That's all I'm looking for, man.
Q: After winning Saturday, you joked about celebrating by going to the library. How did you spend your Saturday night, or is that something you can even tell us?
P.J. CHESSON: My Saturday night was -- what did I do Saturday night? We had a good time Saturday night. I don't know if I should be talking about that right now. I shouldn't say that. I was tired. You know after a race like that, you want to go home and just think about it. We went to dinner with Kathryn and Morris (Nunn), did the autograph thing. I gambled. I lost some money. Ended up going home and going to bed. So it wasn't very eventful.
Q: Plenty of time to celebrate after the season.
P.J. CHESSON: Yeah.
Q: You came into the Pro Series from the dirt track and the short track background as we mentioned earlier, obviously your performance should serve as an incentive to others in those forums, that there's a good future for them in the IRL. Would you agree with that?
P.J. CHESSON: Well, I definitely think that it should serve as some kind of a confidence boost to a lot of these guys, or at least a motivator because I have -- I don't have really any pavement experience. I never really raced on pavement and I know there's a lot of extremely talented, young drivers in the short track dirt world that given the opportunity, could do just as good as the next guy in this series, I believe, given the opportunity.
I think notoriously, it's cost too much money for them to be able to make the jump to the premier series or premier level of open-wheel racing, and I think as this series becomes more and more established, and the fan base grows, and the sponsors come, I think it's going to going to open a lot of doors for a lot of short-track racers and they know that. I want to say we, dirt track guys are, are capable of getting in a car given the right opportunity and making good things happen. So, yeah, I definitely think it's a good motivator.
Q: One of the next drivers who is going to make that transition from dirt tracks and short tracks is your brother, James. Mo Nunn Racing and the Menards Infiniti Pro Series announced today that James Chesson is going to be in a second Mo Nunn car coming up at the Chicagoland race in September. James tested for the first time in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series car yesterday at Kentucky Speedway. Tell us a little bit about how his day went and then how his deal has come together with Kathryn and the Mo Nunn team.
P.J. CHESSON: Well, I guess the way his deal came together was James, being the great brother that he is, as well as my mother, has been coming to all of my races and supporting me and really talking me through the weekend, helping me with my line, just because he's raced a little bit of pavement stuff where I never have, and so it was really good to be able to have him there to help me with the pavement side of it.
He's been showing more and more of an interest, and I kept asking him, 'What do you think? What do you think? Do you want to do this? Do you want to give it a shot?.' He kept saying, 'Well, I don't know.' And then finally, he said 'Yeah, man, you know what, I'd love to give it a shot.'
So we got to talking with Kathryn, and I said, 'You know, this guy is a really extremely capable guy and he's young and he's eager to do it and he can win races. Let's give him shots and see what he thinks.' So the least I can do is put in a contact and get them talking in that direction. Kathryn Nunn, obviously, and my brother. And they came to an agreement, let's test him at Kentucky.
So we tested him yesterday in Kentucky, and the test went absolutely awesome. He's really comfortable with the car. He looked very smooth. Kathryn was really excited about it. Everybody was. I think it turned out to be good.
Q: What about him, was he running the high line, too?
P.J. CHESSON: He was fishing around. I think he's just trying to get comfortable with the rear-engine car and lying down in the seat. Yeah, he seems to be really good at it. He seemed very comfortable. He was staying away from the high line. I don't think he was searching for the cushion like I was.
Q: A little bit lighter here for you, but I've heard that in the World of Outlaws competition, you and James had some very intense moments on the track. Should we expect any of the same things from you guys on the ovals of the Pro Series?
P.J. CHESSON: I don't know. I think any time there's a little brotherly love, you're going to have some probably pretty good battles. We're not looking to battle with each other as much as we're looking to be teammates and help one another. He and I have a really good relationship where I'm very supportive of him and he's extremely supportive of me. I think it's going to be beneficial for us to work together, rather than try and race one another. I don't have a teammate, so when you have a teammate there's no point -- I'm just as happy for him as he would -- as he would be for me to win a race.
Now, obviously, we were talking, it's funny you asked that because we were talking about it yesterday in the car and said, 'What the hell were we going to do when it comes down to the white flag and I have a better car than you, do you think I'm just going to want to let you win?'
He said, 'Well, I don't know what we're going to do; we're going to have to play that one by ear.'
It could get interesting but definitely for the whole race we are going to work together and share a lot of information and see if we can help one another get better and ultimately put on a better show, you know.
Q: How did it all come about, you and your brother, James, and Mo Nunn, Kathryn Nunn, that's a big transition in the World of Outlaws into rear-engine open-wheel cars. How were you discovered or was it the type of thing where you were working at it?
P.J. CHESSON: How it came about is you take the World of Outlaw Sprint car, and you look at the next level over or up, whichever one you feel more comfortable using. NASCAR, IRL, where do you want to go? And the one that's the most similar that would be probably the easiest transition I thought for me would be IRL. I love open-wheel racing and I like wings and the whole aero side of it, the technical side of it.
I have just naturally been around stock car racing, because it's in your face. It seemed to be the direction where a lot of the open-wheel guys, the dirt guys when they get the opportunity, it's always like in a stock car or Silver Crown car or something like that. You just kind of naturally hear about that. I decided I would go and learn a little bit about the open-wheel racing and IRL and see what it's all about. I went out for the month of May and got hanging around the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway talking with people, and the more I was around, the more I thought, hey, these things are pretty cool, this could be fun.
I got to talking with (Menards Infiniti Pro Series Executive Director) Roger Bailey, and I said, 'What do you think, man? What's this all about?' We got talking and he said, 'Let me put you in contact with an owner that's looking to get into it and see how you guys hit it off.' He introduced me to Kathryn Nunn, and Kathryn and I sat down in her hospitality bus and just started talking and next thing I know, we're negotiating a deal.
Q: Next year the IndyCar Series is going to start running some road courses. What would you be your feeling of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series running on the dirt?
P.J. CHESSON: Running on the dirt?
Q: Thought that would get you.
P.J. CHESSON: Who's running on the dirt?
Q: No, it's just a joke.
P.J. CHESSON: I was going to say, we're going to -- put the Pro Series cars on a dirt track. (Laughing).
Q: Menards Infiniti Pro Series may be going to the dirt and your dirt background what would you think about running one of those on dirt?
P.J. CHESSON: Not much. I drove one through the grass when I was doing donuts in Kentucky, and I didn't like it.
Q: Now that you've got your brother involved, of course, the Nunn name is magic in open-wheel racing in America. Are you guys going to explore family dynamics over the next few months?
P.J. CHESSON: We sure are. We've been hanging out. It seems like a very family-oriented situation because my dad is there, my brother is there, Kathryn and Morris are there. We sit down and it's pretty cool to be able to talk. They are such incredible people, both Kathryn and Morris, and Morris obviously has a wealth of information and experience and knowledge. Kathryn is an extremely savvy business woman with a strong desire to win and be successful.
I think if you put that combination together, there's a very strong camp over there. We have great guys working for us, and now to have my brother on board and have an awesome teammate, you put those ingredients together, it means we are laying groundwork for a great success story. We'll have to see how it all pans out.
Q: Did you get a sense that Ms. Nunn's precocious start here is a source of family pride or maybe put a little more pressure on the other garage?
P.J. CHESSON: I don't think it's putting any pressure on Tora (Tagaki). The IndyCar (Series) team right now, everyone has their turn at the barrel. I think that they are a steadfast group over there and Morris is a great engineer and has got good people working there. I think that Tora is going to be just fine. They will have that stuff sorted out here in the next few weeks, and he'll be back racing again right where they would like to be.
As far as our program goes, we are just sticking with it and having a good time wherever it takes us.
Q: When you look over at the other garage and see a Mark Taylor or the other past veterans in the series, is that kind of an incentive, an inspiration to the guys at Menards Infiniti Pro Series garage about what might be out there?
P.J. CHESSON: Yeah, I think there's definitely a lot of opportunity there. The guys, it was pretty cool, you know, after the race, the Kentucky race, I went to the autograph session and a lot of the drivers, big-car guys were there, Darren Manning in particular, a few others. They walked by and were congratulating me saying it was a great race and stuff.
People are definitely watching. Engineers for other teams and bigger cars, everyone has kind of got their eye on the series and they are seeing what it's doing, how they are racing, what's becoming of it. I think they are even looking at the lines the guys are racing and what the track is doing and which way it's going. I think they are slowly starting to pay a little more attention to it. I think that's great. I think it's awesome that A.J. (Foyt IV) and Mark Taylor are in that series and Ed Carpenter, as well. I think that it's a great incentive. I think that (points leader) Thiago (Medeiros) has got some really good opportunity maybe coming up, and we'll just have to see.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much for joining us. I'm sure if we do add those road courses next year, you will keep it on the pavement. Good luck at Pikes Peak.