LMS Media Tour - Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates - Jan. 22,2007 CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) OPENING COMMENTS "At the beginning of every season you end up reflecting back on your previous years. In looking...
LMS Media Tour - Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates - Jan. 22,2007
CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)
OPENING COMMENTS "At the beginning of every season you end up reflecting back on your previous years. In looking back, I've had the good fortune of being involved with racing for 25 years, and I wouldn't change that for the world. Today I'd like to bring to the forefront some of the partnerships I've been able to forge. It's certainly a source of pride we have within our team. We've been partners with Target for 18 years. During our operation in NASCAR two of our sponsors are among the top five that have been in NASCAR the longest. This marks Coors 22nd year in the sport and Texaco is celebrating its 20th anniversary in the sport. In an industry that prides itself on partnerships, I'm proud of what this team has been able to accomplish along that vein.
"As I look forward to 2007, there are a lot of things I'm pretty excited about. First of all we have some new brands we're bringing into the sport. We're bringing Wrigley and Memorex into the sport, and that will be great for NASCAR. What I'm really looking forward to are some wins and running up front on a more consistent basis. Everybody talks about JPM (Juan Pablo Montoya), but don't forget about these other guys sitting up here (David Stremme and Reed Sorenson). These guys are just coming into their own, and if you talk to guys around the shop they say 'what a difference a year makes for some of our young guns.' Certainly I think Reed and David are going to be able to help Juan with some of the nuisances in NASCAR and some of the familiarity of the tracks. I think Juan is going to bring some of that veteran experience that this team surely misses.
"We're also going to look for opportunities for our development drivers. Kevin Hamlin, Scott Lagasse (Jr.) and 17-year-old Bryan Clauson are here today, actually Hamlin is down at Daytona testing, but we're gong to continue to look for opportunities for our young drivers and bring those drivers along and develop them.
"It seems like yesterday I got together with Felix, but I guess it's been about seven years and quite frankly I'm tired of being in the building block process. I'm ready to arrive I guess. They say everybody out there has the statistics about how long it takes to build a winning organization. We're down to about our last year or so on that in the statistic department. I think it's safe to say most people wouldn't characterize me as patient and I'm not, but I do recognize it's a building block process in this business and like I said, I think we're about there as far as building blocks. I certainly can't wait for the season to start.
Last but not least, I mentioned earlier about how proud we are here of the partnerships we've been able to forge over the years. With that I'd like my esteemed partner here, Felix Sabates, to stand up. This is Felix's 20th year in NASCAR, and I think that's a great milestone and one I hope to get to some day. I can tell you that's the partnership I'm most proud of in this building, my partnership with Felix Sabates. I wouldn't be here without him. It's that simple. There's a lot of people I could have bumped into at NASCAR, and I feel pretty fortunate I bumped into this guy."
COMMENT ON TOYOTA COMING INTO NEXTEL CUP B "I think it's good Toyota is coming in. I has some experience with them in Indy car racing over the years, and they'll come in and they'll do it right. They'll do it in a big way, and the fact of the matter is the sport obviously needs some new interest and new excitement, and I think Toyota is going to provide that."
COMMENT ON FACTORY SUPPORT "I've said this before and I'll say it again. In terms of this team winning races, our factory relationship is not in the top 10 in terms of things we have to address to win. I'm very happy with our factory relationship. I look to continue it for a long time."
HOW HAS MONTOYA BEEN WORKING WITH THE OTHER DRIVERS? "I don't know if it's from working with him before or if he's an easy guy to get along with, but he's slid right in. He shows a lot of leadership, and that's the important thing. He's as playful as anybody, but when it comes time to put the facts where they need to be and put the pedal to the metal and get the job done, he's right there. He doesn't get caught up in petty little things."
COMMENT ON MONTOYA'S DAYTONA TEST "He did a good job. He was quick. He drafted well. Then we went down there with a not-so-good Busch motor and he got spanked."
COMMENT ON COT "I'm OK with it. It's going to cost us a hell of a lot. It's a million and a half per year per team for about three years for us. What I look for is a lkeevel playing field. You give me the same rule book as the guy next door and the guy up the street and I'll race him. That's all I'm worried about. I don't care what the rules are as long as they're the same for everybody."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR FROM MONTOYA THIS SEASON? "I just want to make sure he gets a lot of experience and we don't do anything stupid at first. Let's just get him settled into the season and concentrate on moving him slowly up to the front. I think it was big (Cup debut last year at Homestead). It just wasn't that start but it was those seven races and all the testing we were able to do and all the cars we were able to get him in. The ABC program worked out well, and we were fortunate to get him released early from McLaren. It couldn't have worked out better."
DO YOU WANT TO SEE HIM MORE AGGRESSIVE? "I don't know that I want to see him more aggressive. Because we weren't points racing last year we could do some different things. You race differently in this sport if you're points racing versus if you're not points racing. He wasn't points racing last year so we were able to take some chances that otherwise we might not have thought about."
COMMENT ON MONTOYA'S STATUS IN NASCAR? "I don't think there's any question he's a superstar, certainly in auto racing. I don't know about NASCAR yet, but it's great to have a guy like that around."
COMMENT ON NEW CHASE FORMAT "We all just found out about this within the last day. Some car owners got it late last night, so I haven't really thought about it that much. Because it puts more emphasis on winning, you're going to see some people make some different calls in the pits. I think it's going to make the racing better. It's certainly going to make the racing at the front better."
12 VERSUS 10. IS THAT A PLUS? "It's certainly a plus for me. We would have been in it a couple of times."
FELIX SABATES (Co owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)
OPENING COMMENTS "I look around the room and a lot of people are here today that weren't even out of high school when I started in NASCAR. Some of you other guys are getting old like me. There are a lot of gray hairs around here. Twenty years is a long time to be in anything, and this is the seventh year for Chip and I. I can tell you if it wasn't for him I probably would have been in NASCAR for 13 years because they probably would have kicked me out. I'm excited about this year. I told Chip I'm going to be like Bud Moore. When I can't get my legs over the pit wall I'm leaving. Reed and David have demonstrated they have the ability to run up front and Juan at least when I get ticked off I can talk to somebody. We can talk in Spanish. We can say things in front of you and you won't know what we're saying."
REED SORENSON (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger)
"We learned a lot of things last year that are definitely going to help us out this year, whether it was me making a stupid mistake on the track or something happening with just bad luck. I feel like I'm going to be a better driver this year and the team as a whole is going to be better. We're looking forward to being competitive every weekend and being consistent."
DO YOU LEAN ON ANY OTHER DRIVER FOR ADVICE? "I think in Nextel Cup it's hard to lean on a lot people. You have a lot of friends for sure, but it's hard to ask a guy for advice because a lot of the stuff is personal and everybody's car is different. When you get to this level it's pretty much one of those deals where you've got to pretty much learn it on your own. You've got your two teammates you can work with and learn stuff."
WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU LEARNED LAST SEASON? "I think over the winter it was just evaluating where we wanted to be by the time 2007 rolled up. A lot of times we were disappointed how we ran and a few times we ran exceptionally well. If we can run good at a certain track one time we should be able to go to similar places and run good as well. We kept the same mechanics on the team, and that was good because we felt they were a pretty strong group. I think Jimmy Elledge and me are a little bit smarter going into 2007 than they were going into 2006."
COMMENT ON TESTING AT VEGAS NEXT WEEK "For us we've got a lot to learn because of the new Dodge nose. Actually I went out to Vegas for a Target photo shoot and had a rental car out there just to check out the track. I saw where Biffle hit and caught on fire and everything and that was pretty extravagant. It's going to be a fast track. I'm looking forward to checking out the new Dodge nose and seeing what we've got for the mile and a half tracks this year."
COMPARE TESTING AT DAYTONA TO VEGAS "One of them is boring and one of them is not. Daytona for a driver is really not as much fun as any other place you go. Vegas, I heard they were hitting 205 (mph) on corner entry, and of course that will be fun. It's a lot more fun to drive at tracks like that."
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TRACK? "I like Darlington. I haven't won a race there, but that's a fun place to drive. A lot of times you think you're not going to hit the wall and you end up hitting it. You go through turns one and two and it's totally different from three and four. In one corner you're riding against the wall all the way through the corner. The next corner by the time you get 20 laps on your tires has no grip at all."
COMPARE ENTERING YOUR SOPHOMORE SEASON TO LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME "It's a lot different. I feel like the 41 team is more prepared going into '07 than we were in '06. Being a rookie last year we were kind of going from track to track and doing one race at a time. We're just more ready for this year, and we've got notes to look at from last year. We've got our goals set and we feel like we can reach 'em."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? "To win. I think last year was the first year in my career that I haven't won a race. We've got to win. That's what Target wants us to do. That's what we want to do and that's our job, so we're going to try to do everything we can to do it. Last year we thought our mile and a half tracks would have been the best place to win, but then we went to New Hampshire and ran good all day and went to Dover and ran good all day. As long as I'm driving good and we get the car right we can win anywhere. Right now we feel like we're a team that can run between 10th and 15th in points. If we run 15th all year and it comes down to four or five races before The Chase, we've got a shot. Obviously we'll have a better shot with 12 being in instead of 10."
DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Charger)
"The exciting part for me is last year toward the end of the year we showed a lot of improvement. No one would ever expect the season to start off like it did, but I was real proud of Steven Lane (crew chief) coming in and turning everything around. That was something I thought was real important. For awhile we were outside the top 35 in points, but we got back in and we got a lot better. When you have some time off and get a chance to regroup, when we went back to Daytona I saw a huge difference in my team on how they were working together and the camaraderie and how everything was jelling. I'm awful excited about it. They're the ones that believe in me and I believe in them. Again, I think as long as we start the season where we ended it last year and continue on we're going to go out and contend for wins. I'm excited to have Coors and Lone Star back. Coors has been in the sport a long time, so I'm excited about a lot of different things. I get to run some Busch races with Brian Pattie and his guys and having Tums on the car in Chicago.
"We started out really bad (in 2006) and 10-12 races into the season we had to change a lot of things. The crew chief and cars were a lot of that. It's hard to do it into the season, but we really did a lot and already testing at Daytona the cars have been really strong and I think it gives credit to the team and what they've been able to do over the winter time working together and being able to put something together to go to Daytona.
"When you're not running good it makes you think about your job and everything, but Chip and Felix reassured me they felt like I was the person for this position and at the end of the year we showed more of that. We look at starting this season out the way we finished 2006, to be in the top 20, top 15 every week and to go and try to contend for wins after that. I believe the organization has come a long way compared to last year. We had a lot of management changes, there was so much going on. I think the company has a whole has its feet on the ground more."
IS THE CHASE A GOAL FOR YOU THIS SEASON? "You never know. Look at Jeremy Mayfield's team last year. They were in The Chase two years before and then they're outside the top 35. You have a group of teams that it depends on how your year is going. If we go out and everything is clicking right away and you have some luck on your side it's possible. I don't think it's outside our goals. I think it's very within the reach. We're in the entertainment business, and I think (12) will make it more interesting for the fans. I know from outside watching it last year obviously it came down to three or four guys, but when I'm in the car I don't pay much attention to it. I think it's good for the sport."
COMMENT ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW (COT) "We've been doing a lot of testing. A lot of people ask where I've gone on vacation and I tell them in the car. I just look at our team trying to collect as much data so we can be on top when we come out. It's like everybody has a fresh start, and we're trying to capitalize on that. Some people are negative toward it, but I'll race anything. You see guys like Tony Stewart and they'll go race midgets, sprint cars, late models, whatever. I'm excited about it."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON? "We haven't really come up with any goals other than to just be competitive each and every week. When we go to Vegas and do our test, that'll tell us more about where we are as a team. I wanted to stay in the car more over the winter, testing every two weeks or so. I went to run a late model race in my own car just so I could stay in the seat and keep on my toes, but I feel all the guys are back. It's just a matter of jelling and getting everything in line."
HOW TO YOU FEEL AFTER THE DAYTONA TEST? "I'm optimistic. I think everyone has done a great job. The big thing that's helping is the new Dodge nose. I think it'll help everywhere. I was fortunate to be able to test it at Homestead last year and there was a substantial amount of difference. Even though Kasey Kahne had a good season last year, I think the other Dodge teams will be able to be real competitive."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
"I think last season was a really good experience. We did good, but I want to do better. I think the team is ready to win. I'm just happy to be a part of it. The different in open wheel and stock car is the weight of the car. The weight of the car is what makes the race so exciting. With the small cars they're going to slide a little more. They're going to be less forgiving. It allows much better racing. When you drive in open wheel, the car is pretty much on rails."
COMMENT ON HOW NASCAR IS VIEWED IN COLOMBIA "Initially when everybody heard about it, people didn't follow it that much. It was the same way when I went to Formula One. A lot of people in Colombia didn't follow Formula One. After they watched the whole race they go, 'this is exciting. You're passing people.' Brad Parrott gave me a tape of Miami and said you passed 70 cars in the race. I think in my whole five and a half years in Formula One I didn't pass 70 cars."
COMMENT ON POINTS SYSTEM "In a way it makes it real exciting. If you lead a lap you score five extra points. It's hard because you need to be up there every race. Points are so close. The way The Chase is you need to be winning races just to make the field."
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING TO ACCOMPLISH IN 2007? "There will be some places we suck, but when we suck we've got to make the most out of it. I think the COT will be better for us because I'm not used to the cars and I don't know what they're supposed to feel like. When you take grip away and you've been used to the grip for a long time, you think what the heck is wrong with this? From my ignorance, it could actually help me. The engineers and people who work on these cars are really smart people. You hear people say there's no technology, oh, you'd be shocked."
DO YOU THINK A LOT OF LATIN AMERICANS WILL BECOME NASCAR FANS? "I think you're going to see a lot people that are not turn, but they're going to start watching it. If they come and see a live race, they'll be in love with it."
HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT NASCAR SO FAR? "The fans have been amazing and the racing is just unreal. I never could understand how you could affect the car in front of you if you were behind and never touching. That just blew my mind."
IS NASCAR MORE A DRIVERS' SERIES THAN FORMULA ONE? "The thing here is the car changes so much from new tires to old tires, from high fuel to low fuel. The driver has a big influence, but it's how the driver relates to the crew chief. I think that's the key to success here. I'm all ears. Up to a certain point I'm probably the dumbest guy here driving the cars. I have no experience with stock cars. I have a lot of experience how to set up a race car, but as Chip told me years ago, NASCAR is about all the don'ts, not the dos. It's the things you shouldn't do to be able to succeed. The don'ts are the ones I'm trying to learn."
COMMENT ON YOUR CREW CHIEF, DONNIE WINGO "Donnie is a really good guy. He's a really smart guy. We seem to get along well. >From day one we've been getting along well. He's a guy that wants to win badly, and I hope I can help him win. I'm not going to win by myself here. I'm going to need help from guys that build the cars and build the motors and work on the pit stops. I need all of them to succeed, and that's they key. We need to all work together. When I fail, everybody else fails. When they fail, we all fail. We've all got to work together to win."
WHAT WAS MORALE LIKE WHEN YOU FIRST GOT HERE? "The morale was good. From day one they were working hard. This place was 100 times bigger and better than I expected. You look at the cars and hear what people say and you don't expect to see a place like this."