CART Media Conference
February 25, 1997
MIKE ZIZZO: Michael, thanks for joining us. Michael finished second in the championship last season for the fifth time in his career. He is the 1991 PPG Champion. He, too, like Christian will debut the new Swift chassis at Homestead this weekend. Michael drives the No. 6 K-Mart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford. Michael, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thanks. Good to be here.
MIKE ZIZZO: We will open it up for questions right now.
Q. Michael, this year you are going to be ending the season with a 500 mile race instead of a sprint. Given the unreliability over those long races becoming more of a problem, how do you see that with the championship in the balance?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think that is going to be very interesting. I don't remember the last time that a season ended with a 500 mile race, so it may not come down to reliability. I think it is going to be very interesting, be honest with you. It is going to be exciting.
Q. On the Swift, does the road course chassis seem progressive or is pit sensitivity going to be a problem with it?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, that is one area that obviously is a problem on all aerodynamic cars and we have been working very hard at trying to limit the pit sensitivity and we are hoping that our design will be better than the other guys. So, you know, it's an area that every team tackles to try to fix and hopefully we have done a better job than the other people. We won't know until we are out there with everybody on the same track.
Q. Michael, I would kind of like to get your opinion on something that came up last week with Penske deciding to run Indy 500 in 1998.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, hopefully it is not true. I don't know if it's really confirmed. If it has, I am very disappointed, you know, that Roger would take that stand after what we have all done and what we have gone through. And, I think the reason why we have been able to succeed is the way we have is because we have all stuck together and if somebody like Roger decides to defect, it could definitely weaken the whole situation. So I am hoping that it is not true.
Q. Michael, with any season that you always have -- not you, but all race car drivers have, the series of ups and downs. During the off-season do you carry that into the next season or do you begin a new season with a clean slate?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I mean, I guess we look at -- you know, you look at what happened last year and, you know, like for our team, in particular, you know, we are very excited about going into this year because last year we were able to do a lot with a package that we feel wasn't the best package. And this year we feel like we are going in with a lot stronger package. So, from that standpoint, you know, we are trying to build on last year. And, I think we are going in with a lot more confidence than we did even going into last year. So we are very excited and a lot of it has to do with what happened last year.
Q. Is that excitement buoyed also by the fact that -- the challenge of dealing with the Swift because I remember when Billy and I spoke to you last, you were just really excited about some of the things that you had found about the Swift Chassis in testing?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That is what I am very excited about, this whole program. I think the way we have gone about it is the way you need to do it to do it right. And, you know, we have kept a lot of continuity in other areas, first of all, the team is totally intact to the way it was last year. And, we have the same engines, we have the same tires. So, the only difference is the chassis. And the way this whole program came about I think it is less gambled going with the Swift than it would have been going with the Lola to be honest with you. So this whole program is very exciting. And, what we are going to be able to do with it as well throughout the year, we are going to be able to develop it much further than we were able to do with Lola.
Q. Michael, with the two forms of open wheel racing now, I often hear people refer to the CART series as the one that will become the European, you know, based or oriented series. Could you sort of comment on that characterization and where you see the place of the series in the coming years?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I think, you know, it is a very much an international series, but it is still basically a North American series and it will always be. I think we will be racing, I am sure, in Europe for one race. We are in South America for one. We are going to be in Japan and Australia. But, then from then on, everything else on the schedule is going to be in North America. , so it is still very much a North American series. And we are going to be driving in the most important markets in North America, so to say that, I think, is wrong. And, if you are -- if you want to say, well, there is a lot of European drivers in this series and all that, well, if you have a look at the IRL, I'd say that the percentage is pretty much the same. So they just would like to say, well, they are the All-American series which is just not true. I mean, it is a false statement.
Q. This year do you see one or two or three teams dominating like in some years or do you see a little more even competition, more winners; more teams having success?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think, you know, every year you have been able to see that the smaller teams a few years ago are becoming stronger and I think in any given race 15 different cars are going to be able to win the race. And, so, I think it is only going to get harder to win races because it is going to be more cars that can win races. Last year was unbelievably competitive and I have a feeling that this year is going to be even more so. So, you know, I think in terms of competition, in terms of the amount of teams and people that can win are going to be higher this year than they were last year.
Q. This came up with Jimmy Vasser earlier today. He said that as the champion, his schedule wasn't that busy. Now the Winston Cup Champion is kept pretty busy. What I'd like to ask you and maybe Al too is do you think CART could do more, especially since NASCAR seems to be pulling away in terms of popularity to push you guys and market you guys? And, are there things that you, as drivers, could do to sort of raise the profile of the series a little more?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I mean, we do as much as we are told to do and, you know, I am not sure it is our responsibility to go out there and do it. But, we will be out there to do it whenever we are asked. I know when I won the championship, man, my off-season was unbelievably busy. So, I am sort of surprised to hear his comment on that. But, you know, yeah, I think there is still areas that we need to work on. And, we need to be promoting, I think, the drivers in the series a little more than we are. And, I think if you look at some of the moves that were made within CART over the winter, the time to tackle those areas, and, hopefully, we will be able to improve on that. First I want to congratulate Al for having another little one. Congratulations, Al.
AL UNSER JR.: Hey, thanks, Mikey. We are with him right now as a matter of fact.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Excellent. I am happy for you guys.
AL UNSER, JR.: Thank you.
MIKE ZIZZO: Michael, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck this season.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Okay, talk to you guys.
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