Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 19, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Appreciate you joining us for the Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guests today are Andretti Green Racing drivers Dario Franchitti and Jonathan Klein. Dario drives the No. 27 Klein Tools Canadian Club car in the IndyCar Series, while Jonathan drives the No. 27 Klein Tools Turn-Key Forging car in the Indy Pro Series. They're joining us today from Klein Tools employee day at their new headquarters for Klein Tools in Lincolnshire, Illinois.
Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Dario is ranked seventh in points and has enjoyed tremendous success on the short oval tracks, especially at the Milwaukee Mile. He won the first IndyCar Series race at the facility in 2004. He finished second there last year. He also has short-oval wins at Pikes Peak in 2004 and Nashville in 2005. He finished sixth last weekend at Nashville.
As for Jonathan, he's third in points in the Indy Pro Series, coming off back-to-back third-place finishes at the Indianapolis road course and Nashville. He has five top-five finishes in seven races.
Jonathan recently got his first test in an IndyCar Series car at the Milwaukee Mile as a result of the Indy Racing League program that rewards teams that participate in both the Indy Pro Series and the IndyCar Series.
Jonathan, kind of a two-part question to start us off. Tell us a little bit about that test of the IndyCar Series car. How did things go overall and what does it mean to you career-wise to get that type of opportunity?
JONATHAN KLEIN: Things really went quite smoothly actually. Did around a hundred laps trouble-free, no issues. I kind of took my time getting up to speed, just made sure I was never uncomfortable in the car. Yeah, we just had a good day, kind of learned what it was all about, got a feel for it a little bit, had a blast really.
It's not all much different than the IPS car. It's almost easier to drive because it's got a lot of downforce. It was really fun. Yeah, I can't wait to go at it again.
THE MODERATOR: As far as like what it means to you career-wise to get that opportunity, to get into really one of the top-level cars has got to be a good boost for you?
JONATHAN KLEIN: Yeah, it was great. You know, I don't think it's going to mean much in the near future for my career in regards to trying to get in the IndyCar Series. That's not really what I'm trying to do. I think it's a great -- it was a great way to kind of lay the foundation to what could be in the next five years.
Definitely it was a positive step.
THE MODERATOR: You're part of a very successful team. How much have Dario, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta helped you this year?
JONATHAN KLEIN: Actually a lot. At our first road course test, Bryan was there helping Jay and Jaime and I out. At the open test in Homestead, they were all kind of down there, watching over us, seeing what we were doing. Part of it is when we run at the same venues on the same days, they'll come and tell us what's going on with their program, and if anything can relate to what we're doing, they'll kind of bridge that gap and really show us what we can learn from them and they're doing. It's been a great program. It's awesome to have those three guys kind of working over us.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, you are a veteran of 10 seasons here in the US obviously at the top level of open-wheel racing. Do you like taking that knowledge and working with the young drivers to help them develop their skills?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, absolutely. It's something I've enjoyed doing with. First of all, up until I came to the IRL, I'd always had more experienced teammates, guys like Paul Tracy, Bern Schneider, then German touring cars. Those guys taught me a lot, really gave me the benefit of their experience.
I think it's up to me to do the same, if I can, with Dan obviously, with Marco this year, and with Jono know, Jamie and Jay to a certain degree. If there's anything we can help them with, we do. That was part of the fun of being at Milwaukee watching Jono test the IndyCar for the first time.
THE MODERATOR: Jono got the chance to be in there half the way and you half the way. With the Indy Racing League's limited testing policy, how important are those bonus test days to your own program?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: They're pretty golden right now. That was a huge bonus, to be able to get in the car, especially somewhere like Milwaukee that's so tricky, to get in there and just get some data that hopefully will help us this weekend. That's part of the deal. They're trying to help the IPS series. We definitely reaped the benefits of that relationship this year.
THE MODERATOR: You've had success, as I mentioned earlier, both of the Milwaukee races we've had with the IndyCar Series and with the chance to test there. Is this going to be the Sunday that we see you back in victory circle?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I hope so. I hope so. It's been a tough year. I feel when we've had the cars to win races, we've had some mechanical issues or I've made a mistake, as what happened in Watkins Glen. A lot of other places we just haven't had a car that's fast enough this year. Hopefully Milwaukee will be when we turn it around.
THE MODERATOR: Jonathan, before we open it up for questions, tell us about your season so far. Did you expect to be in the thick of the championship chase here in the middle of your rookie season?
JONATHAN KLEIN: I expected to kind of be up hopefully in the top five. I really condition honestly expect to be third. Actually only four points out of second, which I hope I can eclipse Bobby this weekend in Milwaukee.
You know, it's been a good year really. My whole program is based on consistency, which I've told you before. That's just going to be what we keep doing, just being consistent, making sure we finish every race, learn as much as I can, spend as much time on the track as possible to gain experience, just more seat time. Seat time is the most important thing in racing as far as experience, so that's what we're going to keep doing.
Had the incident at Homestead not happened, I think we'd almost be in the lead in the championship. We know that our program is working well. I know that our team is the best that there is. We're just going to keep doing what we're doing and see what happens in a few months.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Dario, a lot has been written this week about ALMS, everything else. Can you talk about what open-wheel still means to you here in 2006. You've won in Milwaukee a couple years ago, still competitive week in, week out. Explain how much open-wheel is still in your blood.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Open-wheel racing, it's something I've done throughout my whole career, apart from a couple seasons in the DTM. I love it. Saying that, I love driving all types of cars. That's something I've been lucky enough to do the past couple seasons, obviously focusing on the IndyCar, but getting to do the 24 hours, the Goodwood Revival in an historic E-type Jaguar, that's enjoyable.
It's fun at this stage to be able to do some other stuff as well as focus on the IndyCar program.
Q. As far as being a free agent right now, are you looking everywhere? Would you prefer to come back here to the IRL?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm talking to a lot of different people right now. I want to make a decision at some point soon. Right now I'm really talking to everybody, including certainly AGR about next year. When there's something to announce, you guys will be one of the first to know.
Q. Dario, because of the way the track is laid out at Milwaukee, the fact it is so small for an IndyCar, do you have to have a different mental attitude when you go into that race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Not really. Obviously, Richmond is even smaller, three-quarters of a mile. The one thing about Milwaukee having virtually no banking, it drives a little bit more like a road course. I think that works to our advantage.
Q. When you look at the way the season has unfolded for you, has it been frustrating? To a certain point it has, but do you have to fight maybe trying to be overaggressive in order to get yourself up front in the winner's circle?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The "frustrated" word is overused in motorsport, most sports I would say. Last year was frustrating when we were week in, week out running up front, not quite managing, for various reasons, not winning as many races as we probably should have. To be running in the position we are this year is even more frustrating, if you want to say. It's been a very difficult season for myself and for the whole Andretti Green team.
All we can do is just work hard. That's it. We've got to try and dig ourselves out of this hole. I believe in the short ovals, the road and street courses we have as good a car as anybody in the series. We're just struggling right now on the bigger tracks.
Q. You're looking for a ride in 2007. What is the number one stipulation you want when you look at a drive? Almost like when you walk into a showroom looking to buy a car, there's one thing that catches your eye. What catches your eye with a team you may sign with?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Let's be clear. The top of my list is to stay right where I am with Andretti Green. I would answer that question by saying obviously I have to have fun, I have to have a chance. For me to have fun, I have to have a good chance of winning races. I have to be fighting week in, week out for race wins. I have to be having fun. They're one in the same, I would say.
Q. Dario, the rumors and talk, reports that Danica will be joining AGR next year. What kind of distraction is that to you and the team right now?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: None at all. I've heard rumors as well as you guys have. That's all that I know about it right now. Racing year in, year out, people are in this situation, drivers swapping teams, who is going to drive for who, the silly season, that kind of stuff. It's no different than any other year. Our biggest distraction right now is trying to have a car we can win races with on the one-and-a-half and two-mile tracks.
Q. You touched on the fact about trying to make a decision. How long do you think you'll wait? Who knows, just let it play out?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, that's a very difficult question to answer. Yeah, it's almost impossible to answer that I would say because it involves so many different things.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, that looks like all the questions we have for you this afternoon. Thanks for joining us. Good luck this weekend.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
JONATHAN KLEIN: Thanks, Tim.
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