IPS: Season preview press conference, Part II

Indy Racing League - Infiniti Pro Series press conference: Feb. 18, 2003 Rick Mears, Arie Luyendyk, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Ed Carpenter Part 2 of 3 Q: Ed, I wanted to ask you a question. You have always kind of looked on A.J. as a hero. Are you a...

Indy Racing League - Infiniti Pro Series press conference:
Feb. 18, 2003
Rick Mears, Arie Luyendyk, Arie Luyendyk Jr., Ed Carpenter

Part 2 of 3

Q: Ed, I wanted to ask you a question. You have always kind of looked on A.J. as a hero. Are you a little bit in awe of him, and have you become accustomed to him?

Carpenter: Well, I have spent a lot of time with A.J. over the years. He has been a close family friend for a long time, and I have looked up to him just the way he ran his career. (Inaudible) the cars that I have raced coming up through my career is kind of the same stuff A.J. did, so we relate in a lot of ways. I have known him for a long time, so I am not necessarily in awe of him. Surprised, I mean, every time I am around him I seem to learn something else for him, whether it be with the car or just something else. So I am just really looking forward to working with him this whole season.

Q: Will you be down at his shops a lot?

Carpenter: I have already been down a couple times this winter, and I will be there occasionally throughout the year. I do not know. I am still going to school full time in Indianapolis so I have to balance everything with that. But I go down there whenever I need to go down.

Q: Rick, this is for you again. In your role as coach there, are you going to be monitoring every practice, every qualifying, every race so you can get a notebook on these guys and kind of have something to fall back on race after race after race?

Mears: Yes, pretty much so. And again, it is all really kind in the works right now and the first two tests that we had in Fontana, Phoenix, it is kind of-- We are being very flexible, and I am just kind of trying-- I am going to be trying different things as we go here and see what works best for everybody. But yes, I will be in the mix of pretty much everything that goes on with them, whether it be practice, qualifying and race. So I will pretty much be keeping a record of what is taking place, and I am going to need to do that to be able to be of help.

Q: So is this going to impact your situation with Marlboro Team Penske?

Mears: No. No, it will not. I will be doing pretty much the same thing that I have always done with them, working with Michelle (Inaudible) and the guys and the engineers and -- We did not really take anything off the plate, we just added a little more to it.

Q: Rick, expanding a bit on what John was talking about; can you talk a bit about your coaching style, so to speak? Do you approach the drivers with comments or do they come to you with questions, or is it a bit of both?

Mears: Both. Whatever works for everybody. If I see something that I feel needs to be addressed, then I will approach. I mainly stand back and watch. Again, like I said, unless I see something that stands out that I think needs to be addressed. But my main thing is I want to be the door wide open and that the guys feel comfortable and be able to be free to come to me any time they want to with anything they have on their mind. I want to be accessible as much as possible. I am just going to be floating up and down pit lane during practice sessions. Do not know for the race yet, but I am going to be probably up top watching and then radio communications. We are playing a lot of that by ear right now.

Higgins: Sounds good. Now from your observations last season and also at the recent test at California and Phoenix, how would you assess the talent pool for the 2003 Infiniti Pro Series season?

Mears: Oh, I think it is very good. I think it is very good. Everybody seemed to do a very good job. Again, it is early to tell much yet. Fontana being pretty much a wide-open track, it is hard to get much of a feel for driving styles, patterns and lines and that kind of thing. But Phoenix, when we went over there, it is more of a handling track. You can kind of start distinguishing more of a difference between the guys. But I think everybody did a very good job. We were all very pleased with what we saw, and I think it is going to make for some exciting races this year.

Q: And this one is for Ed right now. Ed, you come up through the ranks like you said, kind of like A.J. did. So you have been Midget, Sprint, Sliver Crown and now the Infiniti Pro Series under your belt. Which is the most fun or the most difficult?

Carpenter: I do not know. They are all fun when you are winning. I have had fun racing all the series. It is hard to put my finger on one. The Pro Series has probably been my biggest challenge just because it is a complete different style than the other three. The Midget, Sprint cars and Silver Crown are all very similar, so things carried over. I have had to learn a lot more about this type of car as far as the Pro Series, so it has been my biggest challenge, and it has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, it will get more fun with winning races this season.

Q: And my last one is for Rick. When is the last time you sat in one of the race cars? Do you get the itch once in a while?

Mears: No, I do not get the itch. The itch was going away, and that is why I got out. The desire was just kind of on its way out. So I knew if the desire went out, I would be going out with it, either physically getting out or not be competitive, one or the other. So it was time to go, and I have not run a car at speed since my last race, when I got out of my last race. I have been in a couple of the cars just on exhibition. I did not even attempt to go fast. To me, the fun was running on the limit. To run the limit, what I feel the true limit is, you have to stay current, and you have to be current to be able to even reach that limit. And to just go out and do it once in a while, you cannot really run that limit, and that was always part of the fun for me, being competitive. And if you cannot be competitive, then where is the fun? So I just have not had the desire to.

Q: Well being that Roger Penske drove at one time, I can just see the two of you on a rented track with nobody around, the two of you running against each other.

Mears: No, if we did something like that nobody would know about it because I am sure our insurance companies would not appreciate it.

Q: Thank you. Rick, you were talking about running on the limit; is it difficult to teach young drivers coming into a series like this exactly how to know what that limit is and to keep them off the wall?

Mears: Yes, you cannot really teach somebody that. It is something that has to be felt. And it is, like I said earlier, there is no substitute for track time and the seat-of-the-pants experience. You have to get there and do it yourself. Like my son and my nephew when they were running, because of being related, people tend to think that they should know right off the bat what to do, and that is not the case. And in some respects, they are not afforded the opportunity and the time that is actually necessary to learn like anybody else does, which is what they have to do. We try to help speed that up a little bit as much as we can to steepen the learning curve a little bit. But still they have to do it on their own. Now like I said, the erratic driving, that kind of thing, sudden movements that can shake a car loose if it is borderline anyway, whatever, anything that you can kind of help curb before it happens stop it, then that is a plus. And that is what you try to do. But as far as them actually getting up and running on that limit and getting it on the right rear and being able to do that consistently, that is just something that they have to go through and experience. But we just try to help that process along a little bit and maybe speed it up some, but in a safe way. And that is the main thing, you try to keep it as safe as possible. But it is still something they have to do on their own, eventually.

Q: When you see yourself at the first race, and I am sure at the drivers' meeting, you will talk to the drivers before they go out. I am just assuming that.

Mears: More than likely, yes.

Q: What will be the main thing that you will try to get over to that group of drivers?

Mears: Oh boy, I do not know. I have not even really gotten to that stage yet. I am sure I am going to write that down as practice goes on before the race and before the drivers' meeting. Whatever I would come up with now, I am sure the scenario will change completely by then. To me, the main thing is take care of each other, because if you take care of the other guy you are actually taking care of yourself because it is easy to take yourself out. Like I said, the erratic movements, the quick movements, make everything progressive. It gives any move you make, if it is progressive, it gives the guys around you a warning and plenty of time to react. Because if you make erratic moves you can do something like that and catch somebody else off guard and take yourself out. So when you are protecting the other guys, you are actually protecting yourself. You cannot win a race unless you finish the race. The only important lap is the last lap. So I think the consistency, the getting to the end, keeping your noise clean and by doing that you get -- My main focus when I started was run every lap I could to learn, and if you run the whole race, you learn a lot more than if you run half of it. So consistency and get to the end if you to work on that scenario first before anything else can happen.

Part III

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Rick Mears , Roger Penske , Ed Carpenter , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Team Penske