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Indy Car Racing Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Car Racing Media Conference

Danny Sullivan
March 21, 1995


BOB ANDREW: Good afternoon everybody and welcome. We have Danny Sullivan with us this afternoon from Pac West. Danny finished 5th down in Australia last weekend, had an excellent run. I would like to remind everyone that everyone is available to ask questions of Danny. We you encourage that. We do ask however that you try to keep background noise to a minimum as we do have some radio journalists with us today and they need to have a clear background so they can have broadcast quality transmissions. I want to make three brief announcements before we open it up to Danny. First of all, later this afternoon at 4 o'clock Eastern, that is today at 4 o'clock, Bobby Rahal will be available on a teleconference. If you'd like to call in you, can call 800-227-9428. And the ID No. Is Y571. If you need more information you can contact me here at the IndyCar office when we're finished. Next week on Tuesday same time, same place, same phone number, Robby Gordon will be available with us to answer questions. So let's get right to Danny Sullivan we know he's in a hurry. We appreciate him taking the time to call in today. Let's get our first question for Danny.

Q. Danny, I was wondering if you could just comment about coming back after a year lay off and what sort of adjustments you've had to make?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, I tell you, the biggest thing I noticed is just the cars have changed quite a bit with the systems from sequential gear boxes to the ABC system; that's just where you can shift without lifting off and, you know, some of that. Drivingwise it's a little bit like Michael Jordan felt after his first game. After Miami I felt like well, you know, I'm a little bit out of racing condition, I'm in good shape, but I was a little bit out of racing condition and I had no problems in Australia so it came back pretty quickly. The field is much more competitive at the moment than I've ever seen it. I mean, there was -- I sat out in the second session in Australia and if you'd seen the last five minutes on the computer with the times changing, it was really exciting. I mean, one guy would be up in third, the next thing you know two others guys had jumped in front of him, one lap later another others guy jumped up. It was just going like that nonstop. So what's happened, you've really got to have to have your car very, very right. And technically I'm probably a little behind just because being out of it 16 months was long enough since the first race. I feel good and Pac West is doing a great job. And it's not like stepping into Penske or Newman-Has where things kind of roll. And this is only the second year for our team and the first year where we've been -- you know, where they've been really super competitive. But I've got a great teammate in Mauricio Gugelmin. I'm very positive. I started 19th out there and came back and finished fifth and we changed the car completely. The entire suspension we changed between warmup on Sunday morning on race time. So we were scrambling a little bit but got it right.

Q. Danny, describe, if you will, what emotions you had in Miami sitting on the starting grid?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, of course I've had -- you know, unfortunately for you guys and for most of the people, you know, the public and everything you only see it right there, but you know, I started testing back in October and so I've, you know, kind of got back a little bit in the swing of things. But to be back and be out there and have qualified 6th and stuff like that was pretty spectacular for me. Just to be back was a great, great feeling, and I can't tell you how much it meant to me. I mean, it was a super feeling and it's -- it was nice to be back and welcomed back by everybody. It was in a very nice manner.

Q. Danny, how are things left with Galles, have you guys settled all that or --

DANNY SULLIVAN: No.

Q. -- is that still hanging?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Yeah, just waiting actually for the -- we're still in the lawsuit and in fact I get deposed in about a weeks time, and that should be the last depo. Where it is? I don't know, I mean that's just really down to the lawyers and I just kind of not trying to pay attention to it. It's a little bit strange in Australia, I was in the pit right next to Galles.

Q. Is that right?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Yeah. Hey that stuff's going to happen, you know just go on.

Q. Danny, what did you do in that 16 months you were away and what do you think about stock cars anymore?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, I've got to tell you, stock car racing I think is great. I think NASCAR Winston Cup racing is, you know, tremendous. But for me at the stage where I was in my career, and I went and did NASCAR and I went over and did the German Touring Car Championship and I drove for Porsche and I did the IROC; I drove everything with a tin top and no open wheels last year, and it was great to qualify for the Brickyard 400, but it's a racing that for me to go into it, it was going -- you had to do it full-time. You couldn't come in there do five races; first you couldn't get on the right team, you couldn't get the right equipment, you couldn't get the right anything, so for me to do all of that stuff was going to be very, very, very difficult. And then I had an offer to do IndyCar so all that kind of went out the window anyway. I'm also at that stage in my career where I probably didn't need to be starting a new career down in Winston Cup racing.

Q. What did you do in the last 16 months?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, I did those other races and I did IROC and some NASCAR and Touring Cars and everything else, you know, to do all that sort of stuff. I just, you know, was busy but was really trying to focus back on the IndyCars.

Q. Danny, is there anything else -- now that you've been exposed both ways, is there anything that IndyCar can learn from Winston Cup or vice versa?

DANNY SULLIVAN: I think the that racingwise and promotionwise, IndyCar can learn a lot from Winston Cup racing and we've probably got some stuff to show them. Whether it's drag racing or even the German Touring Car racing, they were doing some pretty exciting stuff over there, there's stuff to be learned in all of them. But not everything in NASCAR or IndyCar would adapt to the other series either. But I will say that Andrew Craig, since he's coming come on board he's made great strides in IndyCar Racing and I think we're all going in the right direction. And hopefully there will be peace and harmony throughout. And our series is growing attendancewise, and ABC is -- now what are we do doing, 11 of the 17 races, one of them on CBS, that's 12 and the other five on ESPN. It's a pretty strong TV package for a 17-race series.

Q. Danny, speaking of that, do you see any positives in Tony George's proposed league?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, I don't think that the two kind of adapt right now. I think if that league had been proposed maybe three years ago it might have had some merit. But IndyCar Racing is so strong right now, and I kind of go back to that old thing, if it's not broke don't fix it. And we've got a thing, I want to have harmony with Tony in the speedway and have a good series, but, you know, that's a little out of my division. I mean, it's -- that's kind of for the powers to be. You know, so maybe we can all make some -- you know, some positive steps forward and some comprises on both sides.

Q. How do you feel that the cost of IndyCar Racing has effected the overall quality or competitiveness of the sport? I guess what I'm asking is is IndyCar Racing as competitive maybe as it's been in the past because of the cost.

DANNY SULLIVAN: I think IndyCar Racing right now today as we see it is more competitive than it's ever been. I think last year you had a domination by Penske, but this year it seems to be -- you show up and there's ten, 12 guys, maybe more, that can win on a given weekend. I think there's also a little bit of a fallacy, not that IndyCar Racing isn't expensive, but I think the direct comparison is that NASCAR racing is less expensive. I think if you ever went and found out the truth to the budgets of people like Penske, Felix Sabatas (ph), Richard Childress, you know Yates, Mark Martin's team with Rousch, Hendrick's teams, if you ever found out what they were really spending including what the manufacturers were spending with them, which we don't get, we pay our manufacturers, we pay Mercedes and Ford for our engines, if you went and found out what those guys were actually giving, I don't think you'd find the budgets are very far apart. I know for a fact Childress has as many people working for him as we do to run a two-car team. I can't believe that the payrolls are that much different. Our guys don't make, you know - just because they're in IndyCars they don't get paid an outrageous amount of money. So I'm not so sure that the guys at the top in every league -- racing subpoena expensive and that's the way it's going to stay.

Q. Danny, when you were trying Winston Cup, I guess, what was the most difficult thing to adjust to in moving to that circuit? What was the most difficult adjustment?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, there were probably a couple things. One was just the size of the cars. I went from a, you know, basically a 1500 pound car to a 3500 pound car. It was just different. I had to learn some tracks which wasn't particularly difficult. But, you know, I only qualified for the Brickyard Tour, but to deal with the spotters and that type of thing -- and the technology is just different. I mean, how they set their cars up, what they do, putting a wedge in it, you know, that type of thing, even though we do a similar thing we call it something different. So the communication to the team and so forth was just a learning curve. So that's why for me to go -- I needed to go with a strong team or somebody that could really help me learn those things and we just didn't have it. This was a small team that was a shoot off from SAPCO (ph) and -- Christ, those guys were struggling enough as it was, so all-in-all to get the equipment and so forth. But it was a good experience. I don't regret what I did. I think it was fabulous and I just wish I could have run stronger.

Q. Danny, I know you're a good looking guy, but you've got a lot of these reporters breathing awful hard. If he'd please hold his breath so I could get this question in, we'll be able to broadcast it.

DANNY SULLIVAN: Okay.

Q. How about the sequential shift, do you like it better than the old H kind?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, with the cockpit size and so forth, it makes it a lot easier on my elbow, and I do like the sequential shift better. It's just -- it's quicker, it's a little bit easier to do, but you've got to have a little bit of a memory to. You can't just reach down and feel where you are and feel which gear you're in, every now and again you've got to go wait a minute, did I go up to 5th or was that 6th? Did I go down three or did I go down four? They've got a number on the dash but it's not -- you know, when you're braking hard in the corner it's not always the easiest thing to find.

Q. You can't always look at that number.

DANNY SULLIVAN: That's right.

Q. Thank you Danny and thank you for holding your breath, whoever that was.

DANNY SULLIVAN: That was me.

Q. Oh, that was you.

(LAUGHTER.)

Q. Danny, between NASCAR and IndyCar was the contact -- it seems to be a lot more contact in NASCAR, does that bother you?

DANNY SULLIVAN: No, not really. I mean, they've got a little bit more sheet metal around them and they use it, you know, and they're not afraid to get up there door handle to door handle, bump a little bit, but we get it rougher in IROC than I ever saw in the Winston Cup racing. And it was -- it wasn't a big deal. I mean, that never seemed to bother me.

Q. Danny, talk a moment about coming to the Bruce McCau Pac West team. Was that almost a perfect situation for you coming back into a team that had just been created for a year?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, in some ways it was good because it was a clean sheet of paper and they'd been there just for a year, but a lot of the guys from Alan Martins (ph) to Paul Harcus, my crew chief and Lematta -- they all worked over at Galles Racing, so I had a relationship with a lot of the people in there. But it was nice and it was a challenge because there was a lot more to do than just step in, as I said earlier, to one of the real well established teams that had all the bugs worked out. These guys were still trying to sort a lot of the stuff out that you do with the new team even though you've got experienced people. So in that way it was a challenge and

Bruce McCau has been great and everybody there -- everybody is working real hard. The enthusiasm is high and I'm really happy to be there.

Q. Were you surprised with the results so far because you were running up front at Miami until late in the race, and then you finished fifth this week?

DANNY SULLIVAN: I think that for a lot of people it's probably a surprise but we had a pretty good -- I was more surprised at the beginning of the year because we had a pretty good off-season testing and -- on the road courses and everything, so I knew we had a pretty good setup. We had a pretty good car and everybody was working well together. So I wasn't quite as surprised. I was surprised how competitive it is and I know how much more work we're going to have to do before the end of the -- you know, the end of the year. It's one thing to go do the first couple of races and be semi-strong, but we've got to get more competitive and stronger and be a bigger threat for the pole. So we can't be starting 19th and hoping to win race.

Q. Danny, do you sense that Team Penske is in trouble or is it just wait 'till the first oval and we'll we find out or is everyone caught up with this team?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, don't forget, last year, you know, they struggled -- little Al struggled real hard in Australia and, you know, they've got a new car and unlike a Reynard or a Lola, they don't have ten teams out there testing them. They're testing them themselves. And I think they struggled a little bit at the beginning but don't forget little Al and Emmo qualified 3rd and 4th out there, and the change that they made from Miami to Australia in that two weeks was a huge change. And not in terms of what they did but just the huge gain in terms of speed and competitiveness. You can never count Team Penske out. That just means Roger is going to work harder. And they're going to be strong next week and I'm sure they're going to be strong -- and don't forget, 5 of the last six years little Al has won Long Beach, so I don't think we've got to worry about them a lot down there.

Q. Danny, the other year out of Long Beach I believe belonged to you in 1992. Are you going to be doing any kind of special road course testing before Long Beach?

DANNY SULLIVAN: We don't really have any time, Paul, before Long Beach. We're going to Nazareth this weekend, weather permitting, to do some testing up there, and prior to the Phoenix we feel we've got a fairly good road course setup. I mean, there's just no time. I mean, the cars don't arrive back from Australia 'till tomorrow or late tonight or tomorrow and, you know, just to get them turned around and get them back out and do a test and plus get them back out to Phoenix has got the guys pretty swamped anyway.

Q. Danny, this track in Phoenix, how would you compare it with other IndyCar stops along the circuit? Are there any special adjustments that you have to make in order to drive here?

DANNY SULLIVAN: No. I mean, it's just an oval track setup -- I mean a short oval setup, but Phoenix gives a little bit different because of the banking and the high speed. But Phoenix is a great place because - that's where everybody does their preseason testing out there. If you get a good setup out there, you seem to be able to run well on the ovals -- on the other ovals around the track, and I know it's one of the favorite stops for everybody. We did not have a great test out there, we had an okay test, but that's one of the reasons why we're going back to Nazareth this weekend.

Q. How would you compare Nazareth and Phoenix?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, they're quite a bit different because there's more banking at Phoenix and there's three distinct corners at Nazareth. But logistically to get our cars back into Indianapolis and get out to Phoenix was nearly impossible. So I know Penske is going to be out there I think this Friday, but they actually flew a car back Saturday night from Australia themselves. So se didn't do that, we're going to go to Nazareth.

Q. Danny, how much more difficult is it for a young driver to get involved in IndyCar now than it was? Is the advice you give to a potential young driver now the same as the advice you got when you were coming up.

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, I think pretty much so. You've got to go find, you know, your sponsorship and you've got to have some experience and all that sort of stuff, so it's just something you've got -- unfortunately the sport, like all sports, you've got to have a certain amount of experience, but you've got to have a lot of sponsorship and that's never changed.

BOB ANDREW: We need to start wrapping up for Danny, we've got to let him go. So if we could take two or three more questions, feel free to jump in.

Q. Danny, final question on the IRL. There has been some talk that in 1996 there may be some pressure put on some of the teams and drivers regarding running the IRL season and the Indy 500. What would your stand be on that?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Well, I had this conversation with some guys before. My stance is I drive for Pac West Racing and my contract is with Pac West Racing, and so the decision's in Bruce McCau's lap. I mean, if he goes with IndyCar Racing, if there becomes a division or they want to run some of the IRL races and he tells me we're going to do some of the IRL races, that's where we go. I literally just have a contract with him, so I'm not -- I'm not in that position to make any decisions.

Q. How long a contract do you have with him, Danny?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Couple years.

Q. Couple years?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Yeah.

Q. Danny, have you gotten any comments about the new drivers such as Christian and de Ferran?

DANNY SULLIVAN: Yeah. I think they should all slow down and respect their elders and the more experienced guys in racing. (LAUGHTER) But they're learning fast, they're doing a good job, they're with good teams and they're going very, very quick and I've got a lot of respect for them. I've been at a lot of testings with them and they've done a very good job, very smooth and, you know, unfortunately just adds to it, it's going to make it a lot more competitive.

Q. Is that a lot more fun?

DANNY SULLIVAN: I think so. You've got to fight a lot harder for those positions right now than you did in the past.

Q. Danny, did you guys have any kind of super speedway big oval more than a mile test in your off-season or did you just concentrate at Phoenix for your oval setup?

DANNY SULLIVAN: We just went to Phoenix. Of course the biggest problem, Paul, is that most of those tracks - I think a couple people did get some tests done at Indy, but most of the tracks of the super speedway are in the bad weather neighborhood, so we couldn't -- you know, you didn't even bother to schedule that.

Q. Thank you.

DANNY SULLIVAN: Um-hum.

BOB ANDREW: Okay. Let's call it a day. We appreciate everyone calling in. Danny, we appreciate you taking the time.

DANNY SULLIVAN: Okay. Guys, it's my pleasure. Thanks again.

BOB ANDREW: I remind everyone that the battles on the oval starts at Phoenix on April 2, that's two weeks from this coming Sunday. If you need any information regarding that race be sure to call our office. If you need photos of Danny or any additional information on Danny or his team,

Scott Tingwald is available to answer those question. His phone number is 219-264-4995. Thanks everyone, have a good day.



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