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CART MEDIA CONFERENCE

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART MEDIA CONFERENCE

Chip Ganassi
Alex Zanardi
April 15, 1997


T.E. McHALE: Thank you. Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media conference. We are pleased that you all could join us. We want to extend a special welcome to our two guests this afternoon, driver Alex Zanardi and owner Chip Ganassi of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. I am going turn it over to Mike Knight of Target/Chip Ganassi who would like to make a brief statement; then he will introduce Alex.

MIKE KNIGHT: Thanks, Tom. On behalf of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing we want to thank everyone for taking time to join us today and, also thank Tom and the CART people for the opportunity to be on the call today. I just wanted to make some brief introductory remarks and then Alex had a little statement that he wanted to make before we get into the question and answer. For those of you who maybe regular viewers of the RPM Tonight Show on ESPN 2, just for your information, Alex will be on the show tonight being interviewed. Some statistics that I'd like to point out going back to last weekend, the victory at Long Beach was the fourth of Alex's IndyCar career and put him second into the PPG CART World Series points standings with 41 points. That is 3 behind leader Scott Pruett. I think most of you are aware that Alex set a CART record with six consecutive pole positions that was set when he won the pole in Surfers Paradise a couple of weeks ago. And what you may not be aware is that three of those poles actually came in the last minute of qualifying. And while that pole streak was ended in Long Beach, by qualifying second, Alex did extend his CART record of consecutive starts on the front row to 11. That is three more than the previous record of eight. Alex started that streak of 11 consecutive front rows last June in Portland where he won the pole and also went on to win his first career IndyCar event, the Budweiser G.I. Joe's 200. And, while there has been a lot of focus on the pole record and the front-row streak, I'd also like to point out to you that also in that 11-race streak, in other words, again going back-to-back to Portland again last June, in addition to starting on the front row in all of those 11 races, in that 11-race span, Alex has four victories, two second place finishes, one 3rd place. One 4th place. And one 7th place finish. Alex also has set the fastest race lap in each of the last two races, Australia and also in Long Beach. In that same timeframe, going back to the last 19 races, in other words, all of the races last season and the first three this year, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing has 8 victories, 4 by Alex and 4 by Jimmy Vasser. And, that is more than any other team in that 19-race time span. As some of you are probably aware, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing has a very special partnership this year with St. Jude's Research Hospital in Memphis, this was the hospital originally founded by Danny Thomas. And, for every team victory this year, the team is donating $5,000 to the construction of Target House which will be the home-away-from-home for the families of patients being treated at St. Jude. For every pole there is a $1,000 donation and for every lap led there is a $25 donation. I mention it specifically because of Alex's victory last weekend and the laps that he led and that Jimmy led there, was a $6,300 donation by the team to St. Jude last weekend alone, which brings the total for the season to $9,575. Let me just conclude my remarks by saying at the end of the teleconference if anyone else needs any further information; needs photos or slides or have information faxed you, press kit, anything like that, please call Monica Davis at 612-851-7221. And, I will certainly be available this afternoon for any follow-up questions out here in Scottsdale where it is closing in on 90 degrees today, and bright sunshine, and that number is 602-661-5240. And with that, I want to introduce the Long Beach Winner and last season's Rookie-of-the-year and third place in the championship last year, Alex Zanardi, and Alex's remarks, just to put them into context for you, when Alex won the pole in Australia, which set the record of 6 consecutive poles in the post -- the qualifying interview, a couple of his remarks were misinterpreted and this has to do with a myth that he once drove a pizza delivery truck in Rome. The background on this is that the 1996 Target television commercial featured a scene incorporating this idea. And, of course, they don't see the Target TV commercials in Australia. So, anyway, Alex tried to clarify this in Long Beach last weekend and we wanted to just take this opportunity to have him explain it to this group. And, then we will get into the question and answer with both Alex and Chip Ganassi. So, Alex, why don't you go ahead.

ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much, Michael, and good afternoon to everybody. Michael Knight had basically said everything, so it is not much for me to say left. Basically, I am Italian and I eat a lot of pizza. But, this is about it. So, that was a little bit misinterpreted and went around the world. But, the clarification, I think, it was needed at this point and that is it, basically.

Q. Chip, I'd like you to sort of compare and contrast the styles of your two drivers.

CHIP GANASSI: Compare and contrast the styles of the two drivers -- well, let us see, Joe. I think if you go back to last year, I sort of felt that -- that -- I knew we had all the ingredients, I guess, to have a good team last season. I think it was going to take Alex a couple three to five races or something to sort of get the feel of the -- the feel of the CART World Series last year. And, that is because when you look at the first, I want to say, five of the first seven races or something were on ovals last year. So, it was a bit of a -- it was a bit of a questionmark, you know, because you always have that question as a driver coming from Europe, is he going to adapt to the ovals. So, I knew that it was going to be about mid-season before he was actually very comfortable in the car and you know, you have the -- the guy could have been speaking French by the time we got to Detroit last year or something, I think was really the first -- where we started to do some road racing and I think we were afforded by rain there last year. But once -- I think I was quoted at some point as saying last year probably the biggest thing Alex was going to do in 1996 was help Jimmy win the Championship and I think it turned out that way. And, I think you are going to see the opposite happen in 1997, if you will. I think the two drivers, I think, are -- you have -- how can I say this -- you have one who is very technical and one who is very American, if you will. And, by meaning very American, I mean, Jimmy is very sort of -- grew up with, you know, with the quarter midgets and came from a background of oval track racing and then into road racing. Where, Alex did the opposite and, was on an oval much, much later in his career, if not -- until last season, so, I think the two of them -- and now you have to juxtapose against that the engineering of their two cars because while you have a technical driver, a very technical driver and for lack of a better term, a very American driver, you have to layover top of that, Joe, their engineers. Because their respective engineers, I think are just the opposite of that. Whereas, Morris Nunn is a, while not a college trained engineer, he is Alex's race engineer and is very -- very much schooled from the seat of the pant, I would say, as opposed to Julian Robertson, who is Jimmy's engineer, that I would call -- that I sort of nickname the slide rule. So, you have opposites in terms of the drivers in their respective strong points. But, then laid over top of that, you have the engineers who are, again, opposite with their respective drivers- if that made any sense to you. And, so I think that -- the combination of those four pieces make our team as what the strength it is, because you know, at different circuits throughout the season, you call upon those different talents throughout the organization and I can tell you, Joe, that a large part of our success is because the two teams work as a team. And, you know, when one is down, the other one lifts him up. And, when one is up, the other one, you know, -- he pulls the other guy up with him. So, it is working very well right now as a team. And, I hope I explained that.

Q. I have one for each, if I can. Alex, if I could start with you. This is kind of an ambiguous question, so I hope you can get it okay. I remember talking to Michael back before he went back to Formula I. And, even if he wasn't winning every single race, he was the guy to beat and everybody knew it. He was the fastest guy. Last year I remember you talking that you were behind the fence in Louden somewhere; nobody had even talked to you. Not last year, but the year before. Now, all of a sudden, seems like you are in that same spot like Michael used to be in, I mean, even if you are not winning every race, Mike was saying the points finishes and you are qualifying and everything. Does it seem that way to you that you are -- I mean, everybody is confident and thinks they can win, but does it seem that way to you that you are the "hot shoe," I guess, of the series now and can you kind of compare that to how it has been to when nobody would talk to you a couple of years ago?

ALEX ZANARDI: Yes. Well, obviously -- first of all, I know that the fact that everybody consider myself as one of the main contender for the championship, it pleases me a lot. But, I know it is not -- that that is going to make me win races. I mean, in other words, I cannot -- I cannot live on top of the glory if I don't make my way up to the winners's circle. I know that I have a strong team. I know that I have all the ingredients it takes to win races and -- but, I know that it takes a lot of effort, not just from Sunday afternoon when it is actually easy to drive the car well, if the car is performing well. But, I have to put effort before that on the normal days when I go to the shop and I try to get the wave brain idea that will make the car performing better at the following race. So all these work get built up much, much earlier than Sunday afternoon, the race -- I strongly believe that you don't win the race on Sunday afternoon. You do win the race much earlier than that. On Sunday afternoon, you can just lose a race like happening in Australia when you are facing the wrong driver. But, basically, it is all the preparation. It is all the team effort that we put. It is the relationship with the teammate like Jimmy Vasser that is always prepared to receive help from you, but also to give you help. And, under this point of view, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing this year is a very, very strong team. Obviously, it was a big jump for me because, as you said, two years ago I went to Louden to watch the race and nobody wouldn't even talk to me. But, it is not because people was avoid --

A VOICE: There was one guy that talked to you there.

ALEX ZANARDI: Yes, that is right. But, people were not avoiding me because I was ill. People were avoiding me because they don't know what I was. I mean, Formula I is a completely different world and what we get over here it is -- it is the names of the people that are winning races. Unfortunately, I won races in my career, I won a lot of races in go-cart, Formula III and Formula 3000, but in Formula I, I never had the right situation and sometime in this kind of business, you need to be lucky also. I believe that I am a very good driver. I have a lot of say in my capabilities. But, I also believe that that I am not the best driver in the world. I have to believe that I am as good as the best driver in the world, but I don't believe that I am the best. I believe that there is a lot of young guys that, if they would have had the same opportunity I had in my career, they would have done probably the same kind of results or maybe even better. But, hey, it happened to me - what I have to say, now I am here, and I am very successful and I want to keep it that way. That is why I don't -- I don't stop enjoy the results for more than one day after I get the results. But, I try from the following day, straight-a-way, to build the good results for the following race. The fact that everybody indicates me as one of the hottest driver or the main contender for the Championship, as I said, pleases me a lot and I do believe that we have a very strong opportunity this year. I believe that our technical package with the Honda engine and Reynard car and the Firestone tires, it is probably one of the best, if not the best, not because the Honda itself or the Reynard or the Firestone are better than the opposition, but because in our technical package, we don't, to me, we don't have any weak points. And, we are probably maybe the only team that can say that. Our car, so far, has been very reliable. I have to give credit to my mechanics because not simply they did a fantastic job last weekend in Long Beach making me win in the race in the pits, but also because every time we have been testing during the winter, we always did a lot of running. We spend a lot of time in the track while other people are spending time with their wheel up in the air the garage because they have a lot of problems. We do a lot of running. We do a lot of testing. And, that is why when we come to Saturday afternoon to put together the fast lap or to Sunday afternoon, when it is time to race, our car goes, and, goes very well, actually.

Q. Chip, you might have gotten this before, but they have had the reports about Roger Penske going to do Indy in 1998 and Al Jr. going with him. I just wondered, would you consider doing the same thing No. 1? And, No. 2, do you think it is right to have CART -- have this stance that they must combat IRL, which is what I have heard before, and fight them everywhere and make sure we have got the good drivers on this side and they have just got Indy. And is that the kind of stance that CART should continue to take?

CHIP GANASSI: Well, I don't want to speak for CART. I think --

Q. In your view.

CHIP GANASSI: Let me clarify what I think Roger said there. I think Roger said that, you know, that he would go back to Indy if he could build his own engine and build his own car. And I think that all along, I think -- I don't want -- that was picked up as the press as -- the only thing the press picked up there was "Roger Penske goes back to Indy" or "wants to go back to Indy." I think that is a little -- that was a little bit jumping the gun, I would say, on the part of the press. I think, you know, I think, certainly, we would all like to be back at Indianapolis, you know, under the right set of circumstances, you know, under what we feel, I mean -- it is a travesty what has happened to that place and what has happened to an American -- to an American institution, to what the American institution of the Indianapolis 500 was, it is a travesty what happened. We feel that we would all go back there under the -- under those circumstances, okay. It is the rules that are keeping us out of there now. So, I think Roger was not sort of -- I think that was taken a little bit quick by the press as to what he was actually saying there. My take on the whole thing was, hey, the guy can't win in this series; maybe he can go over there. But I don't want to say that. That is a joke, everybody! That is a joke everybody! I am not --

Q. In your view - I don't mean to drop names again - but I remember Mario saying when the IRL first split, "we must combat them;" we had to have the US 500 right in the same day and now they have moved it up a day ahead. Do you see, from your view, that that is the way the CART should continue to attack the beginning of IRL; that we should say all the drivers, good ones are on this side, they have just got Indy and, you know, we must fight them everywhere we can?

CHIP GANASSI: I think it is important for the fans of motor sports to realize that, you know, any time there is a conflict, you know, both sides have to come forward with some sort of idea or some sort of -- and I think we as -- I think for myself. I just want the fans to know that we are doing everything we can to try to make something happen there. I mean, if -- all we can do is keep trying. We are trying to make something happen to bring this back together, to bring open wheel racing back under one -- back under one roof. I think it is important that we do everything we can to make that happen. Whether that involves Indianapolis or not, you know, is another discussion. I mean, I think it is important that it be under one roof, one, you know, one set of rules. It would obviously -- it would be a lot stronger with both groups together as opposed to being a part.

Q. Are they trying to get together or are they fighting each other?

ALEX ZANARDI: Yeah, you know, it is an ongoing thing. I don't know whether "fighting each other" is the right word, but, I mean, they seem to be off in separate directions right now.

Q. I was wondering if you considered going back to Formula I, Alex?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, my dream when I was a little kid was obviously to succeed in my activity and to become a professional racing driver, possibly at the top of motor sports. I consider what I am doing now really the top of motor sports and I am very, very happy because I have a fantastic situation where I am not simply getting race results, but I am really enjoying myself. And, under that point of view, I have no thinking or any concern, any doubt, "Well, should I do something else, should I go back to Formula I or this and that." Nevertheless, you have to take opportunity in life and maybe in the future I will find myself in a situation where I can't have the situation I want in CART and if I would have another opportunity-it doesn't have to necessarily be Formula I. Maybe -- who knows, maybe in touring cars or in different series, maybe I would consider something different. But, right now, the way I am enjoying myself in the CART Series with my team and the way things are going -- the way they are going for me at the moment, I am not expecting- I keep my finger crossed- but I am not expecting to find myself in a situation where I won't have a job offer. So, I believe that our series has a lot of strong points and that makes the challenge very, very tough and challenging for a driver. I believe it is a fact that if you win a championship or if you win races in our series, you know as a fact, that there maybe better drivers than you are around the world, but you beat a lot of good drivers in a very fair situation where other people has the same kind of material, the same kind of technical equipment, the same kind of support from their team that you do, and, so, you know that -- the day you win a race, you know that, for sure, your team has put you in the right situation, but you have done your part. And, this is very, very satisfying. Now, in Formula I, sometime you find yourself in the wrong situation, no way you are going to win anything. If you find yourself in a good situation, you can feel good when you beat your teammate, but you can't feel good when you beat all the other drivers because you just did what you were supposed to do. In other words, today, if you are driving Williams and you beat your teammate, you know that you have done a good job. But, you don't know which kind of job you have done beating all the others, you know, because they don't have the same car you do. So, at this moment of my career, this is my attitude. This is my understanding. But, we all change in life and there is different things that comes into play in life like maybe one day I will have a family; I will want to go back and live in Italy because this is where I am from. And, maybe I will consider to move closer to home and that is why I may decide if not to quit that to find a job that gives me the opportunity to spend more time at home. I believe that if you want to do your best, you don't have simply to be committed to what you are doing, but it has got to be a passion for you and it has got to stay that way. Chip knows that as a fact because he sees me at the shop whenever I have an occasion and I always want to talk about the car because I like to do that; not because I am doing that to simply to try to win. I like to do that. It is a big passion for me. And, another moment I cannot consider that as a sacrifice, the fact that I cannot see my friend, the fact that I will be living over here in the United States and I cannot spend time with my family, I have a lot of motivation and this is why probably things are going well for me right now. If that one day will start to become a sacrifice for me and I couldn't do that as naturally as I am doing that today, I may decide something different for my future. But, this, it would never be because I rate Formula I than CART. For me, the two series are at the top of motor sports and I am delighted, at this moment, to be driving for one of the best teams of the CART Series and be in the condition to not simply win races, but to be as -- to be considered as one of the main contender for the championship.

Q. Do you consider yourself Al Unser Jr. as one of your top competitors? Is he the person that you consider that you have to beat?

ALEX ZANARDI: I believe the question was do I consider Al Unser, Jr. like one of the men to beat for the championship; is that right?

Q. That is right.

ALEX ZANARDI: Yes. I mean, when you believe you killed the guy, he comes back and it is like a cat, it has got 7 lives. And, it is a fact that Al Unser, Jr. is one of the stronger challengers, not simply for me, but also for Michael and for all the other guys that are hoping to not simply win race this is year, but also in succeeding in winning the championship. So far, he has been facing some problems. It looks like his teammate had a quicker understanding of what the car -- the new Penske takes in all their setups and this kind of regulation to make it work, so -- but, I believe the car is competitive. I believe that this year, the Penske car is a competitive car and I wouldn't be surprised to see Al Unser Jr. not simply scoring top 5 results as he did last weekend, but fighting for the win for the next race. So, Al Unser, Jr. has the capability and everybody knows that he can be very strong where -- also when you are not expecting him to be that way. I mean, he proved in the past that starting from really the back of the grid he came back and actually won races, so you always keep an eye on a guy like that. And, as I said, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the position to win the championship with -- like three or four races to go. Also, because he always reach the checkered flag. He seems to be like a championship-man more than a single-race-man. So, I believe is he going to be very strong and I just hope we are going to be stronger than him.

Q. Sort of a complex question about oval racing, Alex. And specifically about Nazareth. To win this championship and the way CART has the Championship designed, you are going to have to do well on oval tracks. What will it take and what are you doing to break through the win column there and to be consistent on oval tracks and what do you expect and what will be your approach to Nazareth?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, obviously we have indications from last year and last year we were very, very competitive in the super speedway like Michigan or even Rio de Janeiro was sort of super speedway and we had a fantastic car there. We know, as a fact, that there were some fundamental problems in the package Reynard Honda in the short ovals around the corners where you are normally travelling at the speed of 130, 140 miles per hour. We do believe that our new car, it is different and we do believe that the 1997 Reynard is a big step forward and at this point of view -- and, so, as we will put the wheel down on the ground, our motivation, we hope, will be raised from the performance of the car. Unfortunately, we haven't done much testing in the short ovals. Personally speaking, I haven't done any yet. But, I do hope we are going to find some good weather next week in Milwaukee as we will be testing for two days on Monday and Tuesday before Nazareth. And, I hope we can find a good setup for that race. Once again, I never go to a racetrack with particular expectation. We can -- sometime as for example when we went to Long Beach last week, we knew that last year Goodyear was very, very strong there and we expect Goodyear drivers to be really competitive. So, we kind have said, okay, if we can grab home some points, that is going to be good. But, then, as we put the wheel down on the ground, we realize that we were competitive and we didn't race for second place. We raced for a win. So, this is what is going to happen in Nazareth again. For sure, I don't feel right now like -- I don't feel very, very confident. In other words, I don't expect to go to Nazareth and put a lap on everybody and win the race. But, you never know. I believe that we have the way to put the wheel down on the ground and then we will see -- we will see what we can do. I had don't think I need to say that Michael and Al Unser, Jr. are going to be very strong down there. But, if we cannot compete for the win, we will try to bring points home because it is very important. I believe that in Rio de Janeiro we are going to be strong because we were strong last year and we have a very powerful engine and Firestone tires were performing very well there last year. But, again, nevertheless, I believe we have a team that is capable of trying to solve problems. And, we have problems last year. We are going to be testing in a short oval next week. We will be working hard to try to reach a good setup and then we go to Nazareth and we do what we can. This is the only thing we can do. We will try to bring points home and if it is possible, we will win the race. I mean, I am not going to Nazareth thinking, oh, boy, no way that I will win the race, you know, because -- otherwise, if you then find yourself in the situation where you can win, you may get scared to win the race. So, you have to clean your mind and go and try to do your best no matter what that is and if you do so, and you come home with a 10th place, you got to be happy anyway because on that day, that was your best. So that is what we are going to do.

Q. Anything in particular been difficult for you for short ovals coming off your background?

ALEX ZANARDI: Well, obviously, it is not easy. I had this big questionmark in my mind last year because, as Chip said previously, I never race in ovals before 1996. So, I had a questionmark in my mind because I didn't know how I was going to do in ovals from a driver's point of view. I was a little bit concerned, especially for the super speedways because I thought due to the fact that you are travelling at very high speed, was going to be more difficult from the driver's point of view. Didn't work that way for me. I considered actually more difficult to race in a short oval where the rhythm is much more important; especially in a race situation than really the performance on a single lot. I believe that in five or six years time I will know more things about how to set the car up in a short ovals or how to deal with traffic in a short ovals, but I can't have -- I can't have this experience and I can't go to the supermarket and buy it. So, I believe I have to do the best with what I have got. And, -- but once again, I think we have enough to score more than a few points. So, I want to go to Nazareth and do well and if I would come home after all the oval racing with an average of 10 points each, I will be happy right now. But, who knows? I may come back with that and then regret that I should have got something more because who would expect, included me, for example, that last year I could have challenged Jimmy for the Championship. For sure, last year was a fantastic season. But, now, looking back, I regret that we missed some opportunities to score points and if we wouldn't do so, maybe we would have won The championship. So, you never know in life and you always have to do whatever you can. And, be happy with it.

Q. Chip, seems like you said earlier and I want to clarify this that last year Alex helped Jimmy win the Championship and the reverse may be true this year. Does that mean you think Alex is going to win the Championship and Jimmy is going to help?

CHIP GANASSI: Well, I think, yeah, -- obviously, both guys are trying to win the championship. I said last year that -- I said in 1996 that Alex was going to help Jimmy win the Championship and I think you may see the opposite happen this year. Yeah, I mean, I don't -- I mean, I think Jimmy is certainly trying to win the Championship too, but I think the two of them together, as I said, going back and forth between the two with the strong package between the two of them, they help each other.

Q. Could you put it into laymen's terms the difference between a technical driver and an American driver?

CHIP GANASSI: I just think that -- I don't think one -- I don't think -- that is not to signify good, bad, or right or wrong. I think what I am saying is I think the apprentice program, if you will, in Europe is much more technical than it is here in the United States in open wheel racing. I don't think that is any big secret. And, so, you are generating guys that are much more technically oriented out of Europe. And where I think Americans are more, I would say be, more -- have a different demeanor, if you will, in the car. And, whereas, a European, I think, is trying to get his car -- would work much harder and longer to get his car to work. I think an American would just sort of drive around particular problems, if you will. And again, that is not to say, good bad right or wrong, just different.

Q. Alex, first I'd like to know something about the mental preparation that you go through for qualifying; particularly with the whole streak you have going 11 now on the front row. Is there something special you do or some kind of a mindset that you put yourself into before you head out on Saturday?

ALEX ZANARDI: No. It is not much. I mean, I go out. I make somebody beat me. I eat some spinach and I go out again like Popeye. No. Really, there is nothing special. I mean, this is -- it is a little bit in relationship with the previous question difference between me and Jimmy. Jimmy has always the desire to go fast and under this point of view, he is learning a little bit from me to be patient and try to make the car better before he can actually go faster. You know, this is his desire. Sometimes he tends to adapt himself and change his driving style in order to suit the car problems and go around the problems that way. I always like to make the car better. My desire - and this comes from not simply my technical background, but simply because it is my passion - I really like to follow the development of the car close. That is why I believe I have developed in my career some quality that I probably had, but probably all the drivers have, I had the possibility to develop those qualities because it really comes natural for me because I really like, I really like the technical aspect. I like sometimes to interfere - sometimes even too much - with the works of the engineer suggesting technical solutions for the car. So, this attitude that I have never been -- I am never happy with the car. I am never going to be totally satisfied with the way the car is handling because if you have some understeer and you cure it, you make a technical change to the car; then you are going to try to travel faster around the corners. Now, doing that, you are going to face -- you are going to push a different problem into the car because you always drive the car to the limit. Now, what the limit is, is the limit something that can be moved further? In other words, can you change something in the car to try to use the grip that comes from the tire at this 100%? I always ask myself this question. And, until the last minute of qualifying, I keep trying with Morris Nunn, actually one of the most experienced engineers in the CART Series - and he is my race engineer - I always try to make the car better. Now, when the car is okay, when I am pretty satisfied with the car, I just put on a new set of tires and I take out the time from the car, the time is in the car. It doesn't come from me. It is in the car already; just need to drive the car on another circuit and do one lap, that is all it takes. It may sound difficult, but it is easy. It may sound easy, but it is difficult. You know, it is something that you learn through your career and when you actually find the right situation where you have everything it takes, you have the right tools; then you can really show whether you are good or not to play with those tools. But right now, things are going well, so I am very, very happy. I don't have any mental preparation. My mental preparation is knowing that I am doing everything I can to develop my car and when I know that my car is okay, when I know that the car is doing what I want, when I know that I can drive the car without having to change my driving style because I have developed my driving style and I want to drive the car in the way I know is the fastest way; when I know all those things, it gives me the peace and -- the inside peace to go out and say "it is going to be easy to do that lap." I go out and the times come from the car. It doesn't come from me. I don't have to push the car. I have an engine that is strong enough to do that. So, to answer your question, I don't know, I don't do any kind of special mental preparation. I just have -- I am just working with a team where I have a lot of friends. This helps a lot. I know that everybody in my team is fully committed and as they proved last weekend, everybody works at his best to do his part. And, when the results come, you are not surprised because you know that you have done everything -- everything was in your possibility to achieve that kind of result.

Q. One other quick question I wanted to ask was: One of the big things that has been made a lot of in Formula I with Jacques Villeneuve's success has been his ability to deal with the car, coming from IndyCar to develop and set up the Williams' car. Are you finding that you have more freedom to get involved with the setup of the car in CART than you did in Formula I?

ALEX ZANARDI: No, not really, actually. In Formula I, there was more space, more things to play with; especially at the time I was involved with Formula I, I raced in 1993 with the Lotus Team and at that time, we used to have the active suspension system. To briefly explain what it is, it is a pump driven by the engine, the motor of the car, that generates pressure, oil pressure and instead of having the four shock absorber with the springs, you have four hydraulic activators and this pressure is controlled by the way the pressure goes to these four activators is controlled by the computer. And now, simply changing some computer data, you can make the car handle completely different. You can make unbelievable things. Now, that system was very unreliable. Sometimes the car would sit down on the ground and you would have a big, big moment like I had in 1993 when I had my huge accident. That was an active suspension failure. But, I learned a lot and I enjoyed that. Yet, although, the car was not competitive, I enjoyed that year as one of my best seasons in my racing career because I learned so much really, let me use this expression, "talking to the computer all the time," that I learned a lot of things. After that, when active suspension were banned, we start to ask, both me and the engineers, we start to ask now what did we learn? What can we do with the passive car, in other words, with springs and shock absorber, how can we recreate with the sort of stupid car, the same kind of advantages we had with the other car? And now you go into a new scenario where you ask yourself this different question. You try to go around the problems and recreate the same sort of advantages you had previously. The bad thing of Formula I is the fact that sometime the basic project of the car is so different from one thing to the other, everybody is running their own car, and especially everybody has a different budget. So, sometimes some team, they spend half of their budget in just designing the car and then they go to the circuit, they realize that they have designed an artichoke and there is nothing they can do because they cannot afford to start with from a white piece of paper again. They have to stick with it and that is it. In IndyCars, everybody can go to Chip Ganassi because he is the importer of the Reynard cars and buy a Reynard which is a competitive car and you start from a very good point straight-a-way. Now, that may sound like a limit, that may sound like, hey, good people cannot develop their own idea. But, it is actually more difficult because you can just play with setups. In other words, you can have your own development programs, but in fact, when you come to the race weekend you have -- to succeed to compete with other, people you have to develop a better setup. So, you have less room to work in and if you fail to gain the perfection, you then -- you then stay behind other people. So, you have less room to work in our car, less tools, in other words. But it is much more challenging because you know that the opposition has the same kind of opportunity to start with and if you stay in front of them, it is just because you did a better job. So, under the human point of view, I believe it is much better.

MIKE KNIGHT: Let me just point out that we have already been on the line here for an hour. And, while the conference is fascinating, I am sure everyone doesn't have an unlimited amount of time here today. I'd like to make a suggestion that so that we can accommodate everybody that is on the line, let us get right to the question and, in turn, let us ask Chip and Alex to, you know, sort of hone in right on the heart of the answer so that we can accommodate everybody on the line. We are doing the exact opposite of what we do on the racetrack. We are kind of going slow today, but we are always fast on the track.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks, Mike. I was going to open it up for questions on the floor. Mike's advice is very well taken and one thing I would add to it, if you want to ask a question first, signal the operator by punching star one on your key pad and I would please ask all to keep it to one question, please. And, we will try and accommodate whoever needs to ask a question. But, we do need to move this along. Star 1 again if you want to signal the operator.

Q. Alex, you talked about going back to Italy at some point in the game. Would you like to see an oval track built in Italy?

ALEX ZANARDI: That would be fantastic. Really -- that is a dream. It would be fantastic to go race with CART in Italy because I believe we could make people understand what is a real show and Italy everybody just see red. They just -- you say motor racing and they understand Ferrari. It is very difficult. Maybe a little bit crazy sometimes because right now, I am doing, I believe, good results for my country and it is very, very hard. Motor racing is very popular in Italy. It is quite easy for a young kid to start and to race with CART or little formulas, but then it is very, very difficult to find the sponsors to succeed in your career because we have these big clouds that is Ferrari that is covering everything and is putting everything under a big shadow. Very difficult to find the spot where the sun shines. So I would love to see that happening.

Q. Clip the St. Jude Research hospital - we are located here in Memphis. Talk about that relationship the team has with the Children's Research Center?

CHIP GANASSI: Basically what the laymen don't know is that St. Jude is really -- it is more than just a hospital. It is a research facility. Some of the research going on there in Memphis with children is obviously second to none throughout the world, in fact. And, that is mostly what we are interested in are -- is -- what got our attention really was the children aspect and it is -- I guess it is an old cliche that our children are our future, but having a new child myself, I could tell you, it brings a whole new meaning to things. So our affiliation there is really true Target. They announced they were doing the Target House and being a partner with Target obviously, we stepped up and said, hey, we want to be a part of this thing- really, is the long and the short of it. As Michael said earlier, they are constructing a Target House there, which is basically like a hotel, if you will, for the families. We are going to have a room in that facility in the racing decor of the team and it will be in the team name and we are proud -- we are proud to help out one of our partners as well as help a good cause. I mean, you really don't understand what is going on in the medical world with children until you go to a St. Jude hospital and see what they are doing down there and it was an eye-opener for me to be in Memphis and be a part of that. And, I certainly can remember those commercials on television with Danny Thomas when I was a child and once again, we are just proud to be a part of it.

Q. Alex, you were the first Italian to win a CART race since Teo Fabi. Was that a special meaning for you?

ALEX ZANARDI: For me it was, very egotistical speaking, it was a special meaning for myself; not for my country. It is obviously nice then when you read the magazines and the newspaper and you see that they are taking good care of you and they are all with you and they say, oh, an Italian is doing well, but for me, it is important in my career to finally find another opportunity to change the direction that my career took in the previous two years of my agreement with Mr. Chip Ganassi, which I take the occasion and I thank him again for the opportunity. So, obviously, it was an unbelievable sensation because when you win a go-cart race in your first years and you have -- you kind of have the same feeling, but it is not in front of the same crowd. Like, for example, yesterday in Long Beach was amazing. When we took that lap after the race, it was incredible. To see all these people cheering for you, it is an emotion that you have to experience in life to really understand what it means.

Q. Alex, congratulations on your win Sunday. I have got a question that I guess it is for Alex and Chip. How do you see the current tire war in CART affecting the outcome of the season ultimately?

ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much for your congratulation. I believe it is a constructive war for both companies. I mean, the reason why they spend so much money into racing it is because they try to develop their product and if they don't have a reference point, it is difficult to really judge how good is the work you have been doing. Now, the battle has reached pretty equal level. Personally, I believe we have an excellent tire; especially for the race situation with Firestone and we are very, very proud and pleased to be associated with them. We do a lot of development for them. We did a lot of development during the winter and I look forward to do some more. So, I don't think that is going to be something that is going to degenerate in something that will make -- will take the series to a worse level. I think it is a productive war. So, I am very -- I am pleased that obviously there is more than one manufacturer involved in our series producing tire. I think it is a big plus. Now, I would like also to make another thing about the previous question about the St. Jude Hospital. Chip was very good about what he said and if I can just add one little thing. I believe that the team feels that association with the St. Jude hospital really strongly and was very emotional when, after the race, Chip Ganassi to me on the radio didn't simply say congratulation for the win, but he said this is the first $5,000 we are donating to St. Jude Hospital. That was not -- nobody was listening to the radio, so that was really sincere. And, that tells you how much we feel about that program and how much we are proud of it.

T.E. McHALE: That seems like a pretty good way to close. I want to thank Alex, Chip and Mike for joining us today. We wish you all continued success heading into the April 27th Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway. I want to thank you all for joining us and we will be with you again next week.



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