INDY CAR RACING MEDIA CONFERENCE
Topics: Indy Racing League
April 30, 1996
MIKE ZIZZO: Thank you very much. We welcome all of you. We have quite a big group today for Rick Mears. We are going to have Chris Mears introduce Rick and give you a little bit short of a short bio on him.
CHRIS MEARS: Hi, everybody. Thanks for calling in today. As you know, we have three-time PPG IndyCar World Series Champion and four-time Indy 500 winner, Rick Mears, on line with us and because of Rick's success on the ovals IndyCar has invited him to discuss the upcoming Inaugural U.S. 500. The facts we'd like to run real quickly with you about Rick's career on ovals are that he posted 29 career victories 22 of which came on ovals and eight of which were 500 mile wins. He also claimed 40 poles; 36 of which came on ovals and half of those 36 took place at a 500-mile event. Included in his 500 mile poles are the record 6 he claimed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To date he is ranked seventh in all time wins and fourth in all time poles. Another item to note is before he retired, Rick's favorite track was Michigan. And the last race of his career took place there when he ran the Marlboro 500 on August 2, 1992. As most of you know, Rick now serves as team advisor to Marlboro Team Penske drivers Al Unser, Jr. and Paul Tracy and Hogan Penske driver Emerson Fittipaldi. Before we turn it over back to Mike, I'd like to mention that next Tuesday, May 7th, Marlboro Team Penske driver, Al Unser, Jr. will be the featured guest for IndyCar's teleconference. A media advisory will be sent out as a reminder probably by the end of this week. And the teleconference will take place at 1:00 o'clock eastern standard time. The number to call is same number you called in on today, 800-351-6804, and the password again is IndyCar. If any of you would like a transcript for either of these teleconferences, they will be available on Marlboro Racing News or please feel free to call me at 407-575-6043 or you may call IndyCar directly and we will all be happy to send them off. Again, thanks for calling in. I will turn it back over to Mike.
MIKE ZIZZO: Thanks, Chris. We are out of time after that, Rick. We will start questions right away since we have such a large group. .
Q. Rick, talking to some of the car owners at Nazareth, sounded like unless something really comes up; not only is '96 kind of written off in Indy, but it looks like in '97 and possibly beyond, you guys aren't going to be there either. Do you kind of get that feeling now?
RICK MEARS: It is really hard to say. You know, right now, everything is just kind of being played by ear, obviously, and just got to go around the road and see what happens. I see eventually down the road, everything will get sorted, but it is just a shame that it has got to hurt everybody in between now and whenever it happens.
Q. You have probably answered this question with everybody in the world. I just haven't had a chance to talk to you yet. Do you see as holding 2 races on the same day, is that the only option there was out there, or was there another alternative?
RICK MEARS: Well, I really don't know, to be honest with you both. I don't get into the scheduling of events and what is taken place here, when or whereever, so it is really difficult for me to answer that. That is obviously the open time for us as far as IndyCar goes, so it is only kind of a natural time for it to happen.
Q. I guess what I am saying is, was it ever discussed that everybody just stayed home that day and play ping-pong with their children?
RICK MEARS: I don't think so. I think we all wanted to go racing. That is what this is all about. We want to go race and it was looking like we couldn't do it the way it should be done, so that is why it came about.
Q. Rick, I believe that there is not any truth to any potential rumor that you might be coming back for the US 500--
RICK MEARS: I thought about it this morning when I woke up, but then I changed my mind before I got out of bed.
Q. How big of an event do you think it will be at Michigan and what are your thoughts perhaps on running two, 500 mile races there in one season?
RICK MEARS: I think running two, 500 mile races there is fine. I don't see a problem with that. But I think it is going to be a very big event; going to be a great event. That is -- I wish I was still driving to be able to go run this particular race, because I mean, you know, like we are talking about, hopefully everything gets sorted down the road, but if it doesn't, it is going to be the start of something very big.
Q. Just very quickly from that, the Vanderbilt Cup obviously is a big incentive as well, is t not?
RICK MEARS: Yes, that would be very nice. I would like that.
Q. Rick, as you say, two races at Michigan, what will make this race special? What makes it different from any other IndyCar race at Michigan?
RICK MEARS: Well, I think just, you know, everything that is going into it. All the support. Obviously, being the same time as Indy and everything else, just everything that is involved around this whole thing, I think is really going to be a big part of it; as far as generating and making this race stand out, you know, over the others.
Q. I don't quite understand what that means. You mean that all the sponsors are there; that things are happening; that you are doing something special besides racing?
RICK MEARS: I think it is going to be a special event. I think once everybody gets there and we take a look at it, and again, I don't know all the details of what is taking place there. I am involved with the team. I don't know all the promotions and everything that is taking place at the event this particular weekend, so I can't really tell you that, but obviously, I think it is going to be a very strong event. We are just going to have to kind of wait and see how it plays out.
Q. Rick, what disappoints you the most about this whole controversy? Do you feel that anything could be resolved?
RICK MEARS: Well, again, I think you know, down the road, it will be resolved, eventually, but I think that is that part. It is a shame that it had to happen to begin with. I think it is happening for no real reason. I don't think it should have happened. I don't agree with it. But it has taken place, so we have just got to kind of live with it and go on down the road. I don't agree with the way Indianapolis decided to kind of control who can and can't run. Indy has always been the best team/the best man wins; that is what Indy stands for, and I think when you start trying to regulate who can and who can't run a particular race, such as Indianapolis, it is just not fair. I really just don't agree with it.
Q. Do you think in any way, when you look back at your wins at Indy, that this will change the way people look at it or no?
RICK MEARS: Well, I don't know. I don't know if it will change it or not. It's got to change it to a point; that is part of the sad part. It hurts the fans, the sponsors, the teams, everybody that is involved and again that is where, you know, it is a shame that it had to happen, but again, you know, there has been too many teams, since 1979 with IndyCar that has supported this series and really gotten it to the stage that it is at today, which is as strong as IndyCar Racing as ever been, period - since I have been involved, anyway. And so these people have worked too hard to make it all happen; to just kind of roll over and do whatever. It just won't work.
Q. As a quick follow-up to that, do you think that the winner of this Indy 500, there going to be an asterisk -- is this tainted?
RICK MEARS: To me it would be if I was running Indy. The whole point in racing, to me, is to run with the best and to beat the best. To me, it would to be a very hollow victory. You can win a race with the best, like at Indy, and have a hallow victory, but a very satisfying victory is when you have beaten the guy that was running the strongest all day long; he didn't fall out of the race, or whatever the case may be, so to me it would be a very hallow victory.
Q. Rick, would you address yourself specifically to the Michigan racetrack and the special challenge that it presents to the driver and the engineers and the entire team?
RICK MEARS: It is a fast track. Obviously, Indy is fast too, but Michigan is very fast, but to me, I think the main reason it was always my favorite was because being able to run 2 and 3 abreast. I think it is excellent for racing and for that very reason, you can run 2 and 3 abreast. You know, a lot of times at Indy, a slower car, a back-marker or however you want to say it, could actually dictate the outcome of the race because of a single line. Whereas, Michigan, being able to run 2 and 3 abreast, you got somebody -- there is always somewhere else to go. Good side-by-side racing all the way around the racetrack and, to me, that is one of the things I enjoyed most about Michigan, so I think it is going to make for a very, very good show. As far as setting the cars up, you know, obviously, everybody has been there before and got a little bit of a record of how -- of setting it up, but it is a tough track and driverwise and mechanically too, but it makes for a great race.
Q. Rick, you said you wish you were still driving so you can be able to drive at the U.S. 500. But Rick, seriously, on race day on Memorial Day, even though you are not driving, wouldn't there be some little emptiness not being at Indy on that day?
RICK MEARS: Sure there will be. You know, there will be a little bit, but I don't think it will be any different than it would be today because I am not driving period anyway, but you know, you got to weigh it out and what makes sense. And what works, and to me, I'd rather be at Michigan. Obviously, we are going to miss Indianapolis, you know, but I think if they get everything sorted and straightened out, then you know, hopefully we may all be back there, who knows. Just got to wait and see, but right now we are focused on going to Michigan and trying to win the U.S. 500.
Q. How will pole day -- you guys don't usually qualify like that couple of weeks in advance, how will that go over? Are you going to try to make this a big deal like Indianapolis or how is that going to happen?
RICK MEARS: I am sure it will be. Again, I don't know all the details of what is taking place on that weekend other than, you know, I am involved with the team and I know we are going to be there and try to qualify for the pole, so I don't know all of the rest of the details. You have to get that from someone else that knows more about it than me. But I think it is going to be a good weekend. There should be a lot of drama and this inaugural pole is going to mean quite a bit; just like winning the inaugural race, so I think everybody is going to be trying very hard and it should be some very good competition there.
Q. Follow-up, will the speeds there be anything close to what they are going to be at Indianapolis?
RICK MEARS: Just depends on, you know, on the rules. The rules are what -- are what dictate the speed. If you want to turn the boost up, you can go faster. If you want to turn it down, you can go a little slower, but I think the key is safety. That is the issue. So I don't know what our speeds are going to be. I think some of the testing has been around 229, 230 - in that area. Obviously, usually on qualifying weekend, everybody gets it up a little bit more and again that is going to depend on the weather and the conditions and that kind of thing too.
Q. Rick, you talk about the fact that this hopefully will be resolved down the road. What will it take to resolve this issue and is it going to take some outside intervention?
RICK MEARS: I don't think it is going to take some outside intervention, but to me, from day one, it would be pretty simple, you know, if all you want to do is run another series, you can leave Indianapolis alone, the way it is supposed to be, the way it has always been, you know, get together on the rules and, which had been tried to have been accomplished for quite sometime and to where both series are pretty much the same in the rules's department and go run your series. And then make Indianapolis a super bowl of both of them, if all you wanted to do is run another series. So you know, to me, it is two things: Leave Indy alone; leave the rules alone; go run the series and then everything would have been fine.
Q. Rick, actually you have answered all my questions about the U.S. 500. I just wanted to find out from you, the incident at Nazareth on Sunday, with Paul Tracy, if you ever experienced anything like that in the pits and his reaction afterward where he said his confidence was affected the rest of the way. What would you do with him to try to straighten him out for Michigan?
RICK MEARS: Well, that is something you have got to work on yourself. Nobody can really straighten that out for you. I have had an incident like that, but mine was going out of the pits instead of coming in, was probably the only difference. It does shake you up. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. I think this is something that and I am sure it worked on his confidence the rest of the race. That would only be normal. But also I think it is part of the learning curve and when something like that happens, it tends to stick. It stays with you. As far as, you know, making the mistake again, so I think -- I don't think anything needs to be said as far as Paul is concerned. I think he feels bad enough that it happened. And again, like I said, it is part of the learning process and I think he learned a great deal from it.
Q. With all this free time at the first part of the month, what do you envision or do you see your team doing and from what you hear the other teams are doing?
RICK MEARS: I really don't know. We are going to be preparing the cars and getting everything ready. As far as for the races, for qualifying and all of that, and I am sure we will stay busy. I thought you were going to ask about me. I was going to try to do a little fishing. I don't know if I will have time to do that or not, but there will be some free time, but believe me, I have never really seen much free time in the racing industry and there is always something to do. You are always trying to catch up. That is the name of the game. If you don't try to catch up you are going backwards, so.....
Q. Follow-up to that, with not being able to -- like you normally are at Indy for the first two weeks prior to qualifying, do you think that that time away from the cars is going to hurt the teams as far as not running everyday?
RICK MEARS: No, not at all. I actually think it is the other way around. You know, expense-wise, the miles that you put on the car and the chances of having a problem, as far as that much track time and everything else, I think it is a plus, if anything, to let the teams regroup; not have to rebuild things quite as often; less chances of mistakes or problems, so really I kind of think it is the other way.
Q. Rick, Tony George has promised a full field of 33 cars at Indy and even promises bumping. Given the fact there are 21 drivers that have never run a lap there, competitive lap, do you see that as a problem?
RICK MEARS: If I was driving today, I think I would be glad that I was at Michigan. I mean, I am not pointing fingers at anybody or being negative but that place is -- it is too fast, you know, I remember when I first got into IndyCar racing it looks like -- I was going to Parnelli; he told me "don't run Indy first." If anything, go run two or three or four or five races elsewhere before you ever go to Indy. And I believe that. That is really not the place to have your first race.
Q. I guess this is kind of a convoluted question, but I would think most people agree with you at least to some extent that the Indy win will be hollow this year because Al, Jr., Tracy, etcetera are not being there. Yet U.S. 500 doesn't have the tradition and you say you think that eventually things will shake out. By saying that, that would suggest maybe that U.S. 500 will go away in a few years. Obviously, wouldn't be on the same weekend. Can a win in the U.S. 500 be as prestigious as it should be or is it going to be sort of another race?
RICK MEARS: It can also shake out the other way too. Everything has got to start somewhere and that is what nobody knows yet, so that is just the part that is going to have to play out. Whether it has the prestige, on the first event, I would have to honestly say no, it doesn't. But you have got to build. You have got to go somewhere. You have got to start somewhere and grow and that is what the series has been doing all along. Back when I first started, Indy was the only race. You'd trade a Championship for Indy any day. Well, today, it is almost the other way around; if not the other way around, everybody looks towards the Championship. The IndyCar Championship has become very, very strong, very important, a lot of prestige, so things change, and you know, you have got to go with the change, and see what happens.
Q. Couple of followups. Do you do think the U.S. 500 will survive, maybe another date later on when you do settle the differences?
RICK MEARS: I can't predict the future. I really don't know. Again, that is, you know, I am more involved with the team than the other end of it, so that is just something we have got to wait and see what happens and there is no way of knowing it at this point in time.
Q. Do you think running the U.S. 500 the same day as IndyCar 500 is a show of strength, maybe the television ratings -- you know; what the Indy500 drew --
RICK MEARS: I really don't know as far as that is concerned and the ratings, all that. Again, I don't know the total reason for the scheduling, the way it was, or the way it is, or what dates were available or how so that is really hard for me to say much about that.
Q. Rick, considering the problems that the Penske Team had last year at the speedway and also on the super speedway, what has been done over the winter or has anything been done as far as getting the cars up to speed?
RICK MEARS: Yeah, there has been a lot of testing. And the new cars this year, we have done a lot of geometry changes and aerodynamic changes and we have had some good tests at Indy, so I think we have made some very good progress with the car. Again you know, you do that and you try to progress every year, but you never know until the given day and everybody is on the track at the same time how much you have gained. You know how much you have gained, but you don't know what the other guys have gained and that is the key. But I feel we have made some very good progress. I think Mercedes has made some very good progress in the horsepower department. Goodyear has made some very good progress in the tires as far as that is concerned, so -- and Marlboro car is definitely better this year than it was last, but again, until you get everybody on the same day, on the same track, it is difficult to say.
Q. Is there some, not, "apprehension," but kind of like hold your breath 'til we find out what everyone else has done?
RICK MEARS: That is every year. I mean, that -- you can come out and have a 10 mile an hour advantage over what you ran the year before and 10 mile an hour over everybody, any other time that you have heard from other teams, but until you are both on the same track, on the same day, with the same conditions, you never know. So if you don't hold your breath in this business, somebody is going to pass you.
Q. A question about Paul Tracy. A lot of has made in the media about his brilliance and then a moment later lack thereof. Are we making too much of that or is that something that you are consciously working on with Paul to try and eliminate those mistakes or is he just making mistakes just like maybe you did early in your career, etcetera?
RICK MEARS: Well, everybody makes mistakes. It happens. And you know, and you are always working on it no matter who it is or where it is. You are continuously trying to improve; not make mistakes, whether it be the team or whether it be the driver, you know, whatever the case. So that is an ongoing process to try to improve and that is, you know, that is where we are at. And Paul has improved every year since I have known him. He has gained -- you see it in a lot of areas; not necessarily just on the track, but just in handling himself, and whether it be in the media, the sponsors, it is all a learning curve and he has made great gains in all the areas, so you know, it will all click for him one of these days, and everybody has their ups and downs and when it clicks, he is going to be flying.
Q. Do you spend a lot of time with him just talking about that mental aspect of, hey, don't worry about your mistakes, we are improving here; we are on the upgrade; is the general mood here?
RICK MEARS: Right, we definitely do, and again from time to time there are times to do it and times not to. You can overdo it at times. But you always have to, you know, be very careful and in how you approach things.
Q. Let us go back to Indianapolis for a moment. You have tutored a number of great drivers in your career. There are 20 some odd rookie drivers this year at the IRL. You had mentioned that Parnelli said to you that would make Indianapolis your first race. Some of these drivers don't have hardly any time in IndyCar, period. Would you comment about that?
RICK MEARS: Right. You know, it is one of those things you keep your fingers crossed and you hope there is no problems. That would be the best thing, if there are no problems and everything comes out find. Not only talking about the drivers. You are also talking about teams, putting cars together; you know, that is where I have always felt, you know, very fortunate being with the Marlboro team and with Penske that I could always -- that "security" in my mind; that things aren't going to fall off, going to stay together. I have got the best equipment under me that I could possibly have. That is a very comforting feeling and the best people putting them together, so you are not only talking about drivers, you are also talking about teams. Teams thrown together at the last minute; teams not being experienced at working with each other, you know, a lot of them are just gathered together for Indy; to me, that could be a problem. But, hopefully, everybody, like I said, keep your fingers cross that everything works out well.
Q. If we had an incident there, which you never know, it could set IndyCar Racing back and cut it out of the picture?
RICK MEARS: I don't think it could cut IndyCar out of the picture. I think IndyCar is very well established. I think IndyCar is going to be around a very long time. It could hurt the speedway.
Q. Rick, is anything going on now to resolve the impasse and whose move do you think it is next?
RICK MEARS: I really don't know. Again, I don't get into that end of it too much. I read and hear; see a lot of what you do and whether there is anything going on right now or not, I don't know. Right now I am sure everybody is busy getting things organized for the upcoming events, so I can't really answer that.
Q. Rick, as far as Tony George goes, in all your years at the speedway, did you ever forge a relationship with him maybe off the track and give us a little insight what his thinking is about setting up the IRL?
RICK MEARS: I don't know. I know Tony and I know him through different events together; things like that. I have not really spent, you know, a lot of time with him off the track, so I don't really know him that well personally. So it is hard for me to say. I don't know what his thinking is. I just know that I don't agree with what has taken place. To me, it is just not fair.
Q. Follow-up to that, do you see some similarities, though, between what Tony is doing now and what Patrick and Roger Penske and those folks did in 1979 when they broke CART off USAC?
RICK MEARS: Possibly, but I think there is one big difference and the big difference to me is one of the reasons for CART to begin, to begin with, was racing was stagnant at the time. Every other sport was going straight up. And IndyCar racing and it just kind of leveled off and I think everybody said, hey, we have got to do something here to get things going and catch up with the other sports. And I think if you look at it today, a lot of the other sports are starting to taper off and racing is on a very good climb right now and also, I think one of the reasons for -- even back then, it was let us bring the top down to meet the bottom; instead of the bringing the bottom up to bring the top. The way you improve is to bring the bottom up to meet the top. That makes for a better show. It is tougher to do. It is much easier to bring the top down to meet the bottom. But to make a better show and better event, and better for everybody, you have got to bring the bottom up to meet the top and I think that is really one of the big differences.
Q. Vanderbilt Cup, is that going to be enough prestige to last, if this whole fiasco doesn't have a resolve in the future, do you think --
RICK MEARS: I think it is definitely going to be a good thing, but there is no one particular thing that makes all of it. I think it is going to be the whole program. It is going to be the best teams, you know, the best drivers, you know, that makes the event. Then everything else can go along with it. But it takes everything to make it happen. And there is not just one thing that will make it stay or go, so to speak.
Q. Casual fans don't seem to really understand what is going on. One TV station will be having their advertisements regarding their next race that will be the Indy 500 and the other stations will be talking about the U.S. 500. Have you ever had any dealings with the casual fans?
RICK MEARS: Well, I mean, not other than at the events or whatever, as far as the dealings go, no. But again, that is something that is going to have to take time too. You know, I think I have seen a big turn around in comments in letters in magazines and everything that I have seen, since the last couple of IRL races. I think people are starting to wake up a little bit more, so to speak, and starting to understand and I think the more -- as time goes by, the more people understand, that will carry through. That will kind of make the decisions.
Q. Just a follow-up question. You covered most of my ground, but come Memorial Day and everybody is going to be looking sifting through the rubble, so to speak, or whatever, do you anticipate a win/lose, or a knockout punch in this -- in the battle on the Sunday before Memorial Day between the two races?
RICK MEARS: No, I don't. I mean, kind of like I said in the past, it is not necessary for a win/lose situation. It is a shame it has to happen and I think it hurts the sponsors, like I have said. It hurts the fans. It hurts everybody. It is right now, to me, it is just a growing pain, so to speak, that we have got to get through. I am not looking at it as a win/lose situation. It is part of a process that has to be taken, and that is what we have got to do.
Q. You mentioned that everyone knows Michigan. Can you give us your thoughts on the new California speedway in Fontana?
RICK MEARS: I think it is going to be great. Because it will be similar to Michigan from a driver's standpoint, of real raceability, being able to run 2 and 3 abreast, to put on a very good show, a competitive show, so I think we are all looking forward to that very much and then in being in California, you know, I think California has need a good venue like that for quite sometime, so I think everybody is very excited to see it all coming together.
Q. I was wondering what you could tell me about what it means for Penske to have Tracy back in the fold this season?
RICK MEARS: It is good. I mean, it is very good. The kid is very quick. He is definitely going to win some races. That is what it is all about. We are out here to try to win races and Paul is going to win some.
Q. What is your relationship like with him?
RICK MEARS: With Paul?
RICK MEARS: It is very good. We have a very good relationship.
Q. Given your success on the ovals, if there was -- if you had a driver that had never driven on an oval and you have one thing you wanted that driver to remember at a place such as Michigan, what would it be?
RICK MEARS: Sneak up on it; take small steps. That is the key when you get on a speedway, sustain speeds as high as they are, it is very easy to step over the line and if you take small steps, you are more likely to step on the line and feel it before you step over it. I think that is really -- probably would be the main thing.
Q. How do you know when you feel that line, what do you feel?
RICK MEARS: Well, that is just -- that is seat of the pants, and there is a lot of little indicators in the car that tell you that, the old story of getting your head; your ass and your foot wired together is true. And your feet tell you and your tail tells you; your head tells you, and it is just something that you have got to experience, you know, to see where it is at, and the faster the track, the tougher it is to feel it. The less feel you have, the more you have to start working off the feel of what it gives you before it happens; not after it happens. And that is where the rookies are going to have to be very careful.
Q. If this dispute with the IRL and IndyCar, CART goes to long, will will irrevocable damage be done?
RICK MEARS: I have no idea. I have no idea. I mean, like I said, IndyCar Racing is here to say. It is not going anywhere. So you know, there will be some damage, I am sure, but again, it is kind of back to the growing pains. It is just something that is going to have to be worked through.
Q. You said that the prestige of the first event at Michigan wouldn't be the same -- you have to start growing somewhere and you say things change and all those things are things that Tony George says about his last series. Could you both be right, I mean, George says there is room for two series in IndyCar. Could you both be right and both of you go on happily and successfully?
RICK MEARS: You know, there is room for two, if you don't try to regulate Indianapolis and dictate who can and can't be there. It is like telling the Dallas Cowboys they can't play in the Super Bowl this year. When you start trying to regulate and dictate who can and can't, that is the part I don't agree with. That is the part that is not fair. It has never been that way in the past. It shouldn't be that way now, so that is the part that is really upsetting. If you want to run a series, like I said earlier, go ahead and run a series. And see how it shakes out. See how everything works. If it works, fine. But you should not take Indianapolis --
Q. Do you look at Indianapolis as a public trust?
RICK MEARS: Public trust?
Q. Well, I mean, privately owned. It is a public trust to take care of it, so that everybody can be there?
RICK MEARS: I don't know. I am just talking about -- I have raced there since I have been there and it has always been to the best team/best man wins and nobody said who could or couldn't run there and that is what I am getting at.
Q. They made rules this year to slow the cars down, but the tire competition has helped bring a little more speed back in and you have always gotten engine improvements. What sort of speed do you see at Michigan and do you think you might need a little cut-down in the boost, perhaps?
RICK MEARS: I don't know. I think there -- correct me if I am wrong -- I think they have been cutback to 40 inches; again, the same as at the 500 and we have been running two -- I think, I have heard times of 229, 230 and that -- I think we are pretty close there. I don't think we are going to need to go anymore this year, but obviously, you have got to always take a look at it for down the road because there is always going to be a gain. As long as there is technology around, you are going to go faster, period. So this year, I think it is fine, but it is definitely something that everyone will need to keep an eye on.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, making all this come back together again sounds plausible; they run their series; you run yours would make Indy fairer for everyone. But they have come out with a rules package says that is totally different from what you have. Has this, more or less, really severed the whole relationship?
RICK MEARS: Well, for the time being it has, I guess. But I just -- I don't see how that -- another one of the reasons for the series is to make it cheaper and I don't really see it being a lot cheaper. I see a lot of these teams much more likely and much more able to go out and by a 2, 3 year old car like they have done this year in pieces; put a team together than I can see them a lot of them affording going out and buying a totally new chassis; brand new engine and all of that, so, you know, again, there is just so many different factors. I just -- it would have been -- I feel much easier to get our heads together like was trying to be done in the past and just come up with a rule that works for everybody.
Q. The split series if it continues, won't sponsors reevaluate their commitment to IndyCar Racing?
RICK MEARS: Well, I think to a point, yes, but I think a lot of the sponsors realize of what the situation is and I think a lot of the sponsors that you have seen all stick together and stick with IndyCar, there must be a reason for it. I think if there was any real reason to go the other direction, I think you would have seen a lot of the teams split, but I think that just goes to show how wrong - if I have got to say that - the other way is because everybody has stuck together, and including the majority of the sponsors and teams and everybody, so I think everybody knows that IndyCar is a very, very viable series and I think it will stay that way.
Q. I am wondering, you spent a couple years now with Roger; kind have been his right-hand man. I am wondering what your goals for the future are, and if you'd consider a satellite team, maybe like Carl Hogan, if that has been considered for you, if that would be something that you'd want?
RICK MEARS: No, I don't believe so. I am very happy with where I am at and with what I am doing. Usually when you see a driver kind of go off in another direction and start his own team it is because he is, not necessarily happy with where he is at, or what is going on, but I have been very, very happy with the situation here and I don't feel there is anyway to improve on it. So I think that would be taken on a lot of responsibility that I am kind of enjoying not having the pressure now after getting out of the car, so I am very pleased where I am at right now.
Q. Obviously there is a lot of young drivers in the IRL and there is a number of them in IndyCar. Who do you see out there that looks like they could be a great oval track driver?
RICK MEARS: I mean, it is really hard to say. There is a lot of talent out there. Oh, boy, it is really -- it is hard to say and it is also on a given day. Somebody can be strong one day and not the next, depending on the setup of the car and that kind of thing. I don't know, how do you choose one or two without putting three or four or five others down. It is hard to say. There is a lot of good talent out there.
Q. Paul Tracy has talked about how drivers are more aggressive on the track nowadays and he has said that it is not necessarily more exciting, but it is more cut-throat. I wanted to know if you felt that that was sort of attitude that has pervaded the whole sport and if not, what is your theory as to why this whole thing happened?
RICK MEARS: To me, there is one reason for it; that is the competition. The series has gotten so strong and so competitive that it has made it almost a necessity. I don't agree with some of the things some of the guys do. To me, that is not racing when you start blocking. Anybody can do that. That doesn't take ability. The ability comes in being able to pass a guy and race a guy cleanly, you know, without cutting him off. So I don't agree with that. But what has caused it, there are so many teams and they are all running so close together because the competition is so good which is what it is all about. That -- it is kind of worst at hand a little bit more and some of the guys are starting to take it. I would just as soon they settle down a little bit and do a little bit more racing and little less blocking, but that is being worked on. Again, that is kind of growing pains also, but as the sport gets more competitive and more capable teams of winning, you know, new things crop up that you have to take care of. So I think that is being worked on and again mainly just because it is so competitive.
Q. Would you say that that attitude -- could that attitude be pervading the sport and could that anything to do with why this whole split with the Indy 500 --
RICK MEARS: I don't think it has got anything to do with the split. I don't see your connection there as to how that would have anything to do.
Q. Just sort of like a cut-throat kind of an attitude; more aggressive, you know, winning type of attitude, I wanted to establish -- wanting to establish a name for yourself.
RICK MEARS: I mean, to me, I don't know. As far as the other situation goes, it is almost like, you know, I never got to drive a midget or a sprint car. I never got the opportunity to. About the time I got the opportunity to drive a sprint car, I got in an IndyCar. And I would enjoy sprint cars and midgets. My brother drove them. But also, I wouldn't expect a series be tailored around me coming out of a Midget or a sprint car. I would expect to go do what I had to do to get in the series that I wanted to get to; not have the series brought to me. I don't think the aggressiveness has anything to do with the split.
Q. Roger Penske has been known to look for every possible unfair advantage and you still only have 4 IndyCar wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Any chance you could go back to work looking for your fifth?
RICK MEARS: No. I have had all the fun I could stand and the old desire was going away and that is why I got out because it wouldn't be fair to the team if I wasn't putting my best foot forward, so I don't see that coming back, so I think I am very happy where I am at.
Q. I take it you haven't been invited to participate in rookie orientation at Indianapolis this year?
RICK MEARS: No, I haven't.
Q. What advice, if you had been there, would you give them as far as safety on the track? I know it is going to be a big concern this year either there or at Michigan because I know Michigan is also a track where there have been some serious incidents?
RICK MEARS: Well, you can give all the advice in the world, but until you get the actual seat time, you know, you still never know. I mean, you try to talk to the guys and try to give them some advance warning about different things, whether it be turbulence, whether it be speed or whatever, until the they actually get out there and experience it, they really don't understand what you are talking about 'til they feel it. So you just try to help out; then you hope for the best and that is why Indy really shouldn't be or Michigan, either one of them, really shouldn't be a very first race that you run.
MIKE ZIZZO: Any other questions for Rick? Rick, we tired them out. We really appreciate you coming on today.
RICK MEARS: Thank you for having me.
MIKE ZIZZO: A reminder to everybody, Al Unser, Jr. next week, same time, same channel.
RICK MEARS: Thank you.
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