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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Michael Andretti
Carl Haas
March 4, 1997


T.E. McHALE: Thanks very much, good afternoon. Welcome to our second CART teleconference of the 1997 PPG Cup season. We'd like to thank you all for joining us today, and we'd like to extend a special welcome to our guests today, driver Michael Andretti and car owner Carl Haas of the Newman/Haas Racing Team. Michael drove the K-Mart, Texaco, Swift, Ford, Havoline, Cosworth to victory in last Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota, the opening event of the PPG CART World Series season. It was the PPG Cup debut for the Swift chassis which is manufactured in San Clemente, California. It marked the first victory for an American manufactured chassis in the series since Gordon Johncock drove a wildcat to victory in Atlanta on April 17th, 1983. Gentlemen, welcome to be with us today.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.

T.E. McHALE: A couple of notes from our crack research department before we get started. Michael's victory on Sunday adds to his CART career lead, giving him 36, and putting him five ahead of second place Al Unser, Jr., who has 31 career wins. Michael has now won three of the last four PPG CART World Series events, including victories at Road America and Vancouver last season. Michael came from a 14th starting position to claim Sunday's victory, and that's the furthest back on the grid he has ever started and driven to the checkered flag. It has also been 157 races since anyone has come from that far back to win a PPG CART World Series event, and that dates back to Al Unser, Sr.'s, victory in the 1987 Indianapolis 500. With that, we'll open it up for questions.

Q. This is for Carl. Last week or so, there was kind of a big fluff up when Roger Penske was reported as saying he'd like to enter the Indy 500. If you looked at it closely, I guess what he was saying was if you change most of the rules that you guys object to, does that shock you or bother you very much as a car owner?

CARL HAAS: No. Roger, of course, is speaking for himself. I think that he got trapped a little bit. I don't know. It's hard to say. I think it's very -- I can really only speak for myself. Yes, we'd all like to be at Indy, okay? It's unfortunate. We tried to make every compromise in the world to keep everyone together, which wasn't possible. At the present time I think it's a very difficult thing to put together right now, being they have a completely different set of rules, different chassis, different engines, et cetera, plus the qualifying problem they have. They're right whoever said that. I think also Roger was talking about one race, not his series. It's very difficult, particularly for not as well financed teams to be able to go out and have completely different cars and engines for that series. I think it's just a couple of one-liners that really don't mean too much. I just don't read too much into it. Quite a bit of press. I think it was just something thrown out.

Q. So it didn't really cause that much of a ripple among the owners?

CARL HAAS: Didn't cause a real ripple. We were all disappointed to see it, but you need the publicity just before the race. On the other hand, I don't think it means anything. I don't think anyone is losing any sleep over it. I'm convinced Roger's main focus is and will continue to be in the Indy car series, the CART series.

Q. By the way, congratulations on the victory with the new car.

CARL HAAS: Thank you.

Q. Michael, with the success at the end of last year, how uneasy were you getting in a new chassis and how surprised were you how well it worked the first time out of the box?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I was very excited about getting a new chassis. It wasn't easy in any way, to be honest with you. I felt that looking at the program and -- I was getting very excited about it. I couldn't wait to get into the car for the first time and to race against the other cars on the same track. There's a little music in the background and conversation.

Q. So you were pleased the way the car responded in spring training and obviously on Sunday?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I was very pleased on Sunday. Unfortunately we didn't get quite the amount of time we wanted to, even if spring training and then in practice Friday and Saturday, our practice time was very limited. We were really behind. We really didn't figure out the setup until we made a change overnight on Saturday. Then when I got in the car for the first time on Saturday morning, the car was very driver friendly. I was very excited after the morning warm-up. I thought we had a good shot at it then.

Q. Sell any of those cars back to the owner?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No. I got to talk to Carl about that one. I'm working on Carl. I don't think we should sell them.

Q. Thank you.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yes.

Q. Michael, congratulations, first of all.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.

Q. I'll throw more statistics at you. 14 year you've won two season opening races, this one and in 1994 when you debuted the Reynard chassis. I'm just curious whether you're going to get a new chassis next year?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think we'll get a new one every race. Yeah, it's funny the way that ended up. I got to say I felt more confident going into this year's race than I did even that one down there when I won that one. I think this program is a very exciting program. What's even more exciting about this than the Reynard program is I feel a development that's going to come with this program throughout the year is what really excites me. It's going to be a program that's not going to sit still. That car is going to be improving throughout the year. I think that's what's going to be really exciting for us.

Q. If I could ask Mr. Haas to bring us up to date on his interest in holding a CART race in Houston, where that stands for '98.

CARL HAAS: Sure. You know, we haven't announced anything on that yet. It's not official. The probability is very high. It could be a street race in downtown Houston.

Q. A quick follow-up. Could you briefly talk about what the Houston market or Texas in general would do for the CART series and why the interest in adding that to the schedule.

CARL HAAS: Maybe let me just comment on that before Michael does. I think Houston is a very large market. I think there's a lot of fans down there. It's shown by the TV ratings, which are very high. For example, I think their TV ratings were higher than Cleveland and they don't have a race. I think there would be a lot of interest down there. Obviously, we also have some interest because Texaco, our sponsor, is located, part of it is located down in Houston.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think that was your question, actually, Carl.

Q. First of all, congratulations on your win. I want to refer to Michael's response when he talked about how he sees this new chassis continuing to develop over the season. I'm wondering how much influence or input did your team or did you personally have in the creation of this chassis in bringing it to where it is right now.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Are you talking to Michael or Carl?

Q. Either one.

CARL HAAS: Why don't you let me pick it up. You can add to it, Michael. It's fair to say it was a joint effort between Newman/Haas and Swift. The chief engineer on the project is David Bruns, did a great job. The heart of the program, of course, is the aerodynamics which was done by Mark Hanford. Mark Hanford, with Newman/Haas, transplanted to -- actually, he ran our aero program in the UK previously. There were only a minimum amount of things we could do. He came over here in the new year from California and did that. There were a number of other people obviously. They have a big staff. They deserve credit. I won't give all the names right now at Swift. Then, of course, a lot of the input and ongoing input had very much to do with a lot of people, a lot of people going back and forth to Swift, particularly our engineers, including Peter Gibbons and Brian Lisles, other technical people we have. I think the project could not have happened as quickly without that. From really inception, which the program wasn't started but ten and a half months ago, so it was a real miracle to be able to get everything done. I think Swift would be the first ones to tell you without our assistance it couldn't have happened.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You know, all those people, it's the people. It's a people business, this game. When you look at the people we have behind this project, when you put the marriage together of Swift and Newman/Haas, it was just, in my mind, a win-win situation. When you have that many people that have done what they have done in the business, their experience, you know, you feel like it's not a big chance what you're doing. Along with the facility, the wind tunnel they have there to work with, you know, a guy like Mark Hanford can really show his talent working with something like that. I don't think it was a huge risk. I think the biggest problem that we had was just racing the clock to get it done. Everybody put in a huge effort. I mean, it was on both sides. My hat's off to both sides for the effort they put in. I'm just so happy we were able to reward them with a win the first time out. But as for my contribution, I can't say -- my contribution maybe came more throughout the years before and just saying what I feel a race car needs. Then a guy like Peter Gibbons takes that information from me and tries to put it into the race car, into the design.

CARL HAAS: I think Michael is being very modest. He said it's a people's business. I guess on the top of the list comes the driver. Michael is in a category of his own. He's a terrific driver. He has tremendous rapport with Peter Gibbons. Peter Gibbons is much more than a race engineer. He works with Michael. Michael's input (inaudible) involvement goes even into the design stage of the car.

Q. I'll ask Michael, we have three Canadian drivers in the series now, which is more than I can ever remember, especially doing as well as they are with Paul Tracy, Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier. I'm curious what Michael feels about this influx of Canadians and how these guys are doing.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think they're doing very well. I think Canada has a really good system for setting up drivers to come into our series. They have a nice training ground to set them up so they're ready when they get here. Players has a lot to do with that development of younger drivers. It has really worked with them. You have some real talent there. It's been going on for a while, you know. It goes back a while. Scott Goodyear, Jacques Villeneuve. For whatever reason, you guys put out a lot of good drivers. I think when you look at it, that's what it's got to be, that the training ground that they have, that Canada has to offer for Canadians, I think is very good. I think it's showed in our series. They're very good drivers. Each one is capable of winning a race on any given day.

Q. My question is to Michael. Michael, as we were down in Homestead this week, we watched you throughout the weekend up to the Sunday race day. Even though on the track it appeared that the car was struggling a bit, the entire team, including yourself, looked like they were just patiently going about their business. Was that the confidence that you had that weekend that we saw all through spring training and what have you, when it came to race time this car was going to be right?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Pretty much because we were still doing a lot better in the practice than what we should have been doing because we didn't have any track time. We knew that if we could -- we felt that the car was there. We just had to find the right setup to make it competitive. Because of that, we just never, you know, lost confidence in the race car itself. We just kept our noses down and kept grinding at it, throwing things at it, throwing ideas around. Saturday night between Pete and myself, we came up with some ideas. We put it on the car and it turned the car around, boom. Once you get the setup right, it was a dominant car.

Q. You told us last month that this car was change friendly, in other words, you could make a change and immediately see it. Was that proof of what you were talking about?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Pretty much. You know, I think the basic design of the car is very good. I think it's the best car out there from an aero dynamic and mechanical standpoint. I think now what we need is just track time and testing to just find the right setup for each given racetrack. I think once we do that, it's going to really be a dominant car. You saw once we found the setup Sunday, it proved that.

Q. Carl, a question for you, if I may. You talked a moment ago about how many people were involved in the ten and a half months of development. But for you, you were pretty much the leader of all of it. How much of a personal achievement was that win for you Sunday?

CARL HAAS: Well, you know, at the time it was terrific. It kind of restores your faith in what you got involved in was the right direction to go. It's fair to say it was one of the races -- all races that you win are very satisfying. Sometimes it doesn't last that long, you're too busy, by the next Tuesday you forget about it, got to worry about the next one. This one was very, very gratifying. I think something that was said earlier, kind of another interesting statistic, the last American-built car that won a race was in April of 1983, and that was the first race that Newman/Haas as a team entered Indy car racing at Atlanta there.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I also want to add about Carl. I think my hat's off to him as well for constantly trying to improve the team and making the decision to go with this program. Every program is a risk, and he weighed all the options and you saw that this was going to be a winning formula. He did what it took to make it happen. My hat's off to Carl for doing that. That's one reason why I like driving for this team, because we're always looking for that edge. Carl's always doing that.

CARL HAAS: We do things on this team just by consensus also. I'm not the Lone Ranger here. In some areas there's smarter people than I am or certainly smarter in specific areas than I am.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You do what it takes. If it's going to show that it wins, you're going to do what it takes to win.

CARL HAAS: I think everybody on the team is there to try to win. I guess that's what it's all about.

Q. Sound like a proud papa. Congratulations, guys. What took so long for an American chassis to win again?

CARL HAAS: If you'd like me to start that, Mike, I will.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Go ahead.

CARL HAAS: I think there's a number of factors. Most of recent history, cars for quite a while actually have been built in the UK. The reason for that is, it's a little bit like Silicon Valley. There's an area where a -- for racing cars that that activity occurs and is centered. People are available there. I'm looking for the right word here. The structure is there. The small outside people that can do things for us and so on. It's kind of happened there. Of course, it's still happening there. It really hasn't been -- and those cars that come from the UK are very, very competitive cars. It's really the right type of effort. Up until now that hasn't been no technical reason or whatever that the cars can't be built in the United States.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think one other reason maybe is that there really has never been -- all the best wind tunnels in the world for race cars have been in Europe. I think the Swift tunnel being here now I think was a big key factor in all this, because there is no other American tunnel that could do what the Swift wind tunnel has.

CARL HAAS: I'm sure that's right. Again, the whole thing, you know, is people.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yes.

CARL HAAS: There have been some efforts. They've lacked on one thing or the other. They weren't able to put the total package together. They didn't have all the right people in the right places to do it. I think that's what we accomplished here. We got the right people in all areas, their expertise, tools to do it with, such as the wind tunnel.

Q. Is it that big a deal to have this chassis made in America?

CARL HAAS: To me, that wasn't the whole focus. I think -- how should I say this? If I had a winner that came out of England, I wouldn't have no problem with that because that's what I've been doing for so many years. By the same token, having been able to build it in the United States, you know, gives me a good feeling. Everything being equal, it's nicer to have an American car because I do consider myself, you know, somewhat patriotic. The other benefit of it is it's much easier for us to be here in the United States and doing everything.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Less travel.

CARL HAAS: Than having to do it by remote control in the UK or whatever. It's easier for our people to go to California or the people from California coming here than it is going to the UK. It's an easier operational point of view once it's underway as it is now.

Q. I'd like to ask Michael a question. We were talking about the American chassis. I'm thinking about drivers. You talked about the Canadian program. There are not too many American drivers in the race yesterday. What has to happen in the United States that more drivers will get into the CART series? What's the difference?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know what the ratio was.

CARL HAAS: I think we had a lot of them there.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I thought we had a lot of Americans.

CARL HAAS: Bobbie Rahal, Jimmy Vasser.

Q. I think there were five Americans.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: More than that.

Q. Maybe I counted wrong. In any case, some people do keep count and CART does keep score.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think American drivers are very strong. I think also what we have, our training ground here is very strong. You have the Toyota Atlantic series, then you also have the Indy Light series. I think the way the lower ranks of racing are set up for drivers now, it's a great training ground. I think now when they do get here, they're very ready to win races. I think there's a lot of good American drivers that have come out of that and have done well. Brian comes to mind, and others would come to mind if I sat here and talked. I've got to disagree with you there, Chuck. I think American drivers are doing well. We won the Nation's Cup last year and I think we're going to do it again this year.

Q. Good luck. I had a follow-up question, too. You people have had success in this race. When you go back and replay it, in sports sometimes early success breeds maybe overconfidence. What do you have to do now to be sure, "Hey, we tweaked a few things before the race, we blew them off"?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: That doesn't happen, especially with this team. It's so funny, I go back to when we won the '91 championship. Right after the race, we were having a meeting in the motorhome, the guys, crew out celebrating. All of us and the engineers and Carl, we're in there not celebrating. We're already working on next year. That's what this team is all about. There would be no complacency. There would be flat-out working and trying to make it better and better.

CARL HAAS: Just to add to it. We don't want to rest on the laurels of winning the first race because there's 16 races to go. There's a lot of areas, a lot of things to do on this car.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We have a long way to go. We will not be complacent in any way. We're going to work hard.

CARL HAAS: As an example, my guys were in here yesterday working on things. We're pulling out to go to a test tomorrow.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah.

Q. Thank you, gentlemen.

CARL HAAS: You're welcome.

Q. I have a quick question for Carl, two quick questions for Michael. Carl, can you take me back to last year at Vancouver where you had just -- Michael had just won his fifth race, the winningest chassis in the series? What was going through your mind knowing this year you would be driving a Swift?

CARL HAAS: I didn't know it at that time. Going back to Vancouver, we really didn't --

Q. The deal was consummated by that point, right?

CARL HAAS: No. The thing with Swift didn't really get serious until --

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Carl, I think you're off. He's talking about Vancouver, which was right at the end of the year.

CARL HAAS: Oh, oh, I'm sorry.

Q. September, Labor Day weekend.

CARL HAAS: How did I feel about it?

Q. Yeah, knowing you were going to leave the winningest chassis going to a Swift.

CARL HAAS: First of all, I felt good about winning. You always feel good about that.

Q. But you had no reservations?

CARL HAAS: No. We were committed to that program. Once you're committed, you go forward; you don't look back. You don't hindsight it. By that time also some things were really coming along at Swift. We were feeling pretty good about it.

Q. For Michael, two quick questions. First of all, congratulations.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.

Q. First of all, where are you with your street car setup; and secondly, will you ever be in an IROC race?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: My street car, I'm driving a BMW 750.

Q. Street testing -- I'm sorry.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We're going to be working on that. We're leaving tomorrow. Christian is going to be running a Firebird, working on, that I'll be working with it at Sebring around the 20th or whatever. I feel once we get there, we found a few things, we've been testing it on those types of courses. We found a few things that we feel are going to improve it. We feel pretty confident about that because we've had good street setups in the past. I think we have good data to go by. I feel we should be pretty strong.

Q. You are the winningest active driver in CART.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I have been asked every year. The reason I don't do it is I just don't want to interfere with my main focus, which is Indy cars. They have a great series and stuff, but there's a few races where I'd have to leave during qualifying and things. I just feel that it's not fair to my main focus to do that. That's the reason why I haven't done that.

Q. Good luck for the rest of the year.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.

Q. Good luck, Carl.

CARL HAAS: Thank you.

Q. Carl, do you ever have a little fantasy where you take a Swift chassis and go kick some serious butt in Formula One? Has that ever crossed your mind?

CARL HAAS: Well, you know, I had an involvement in Formula One back in '85 and '86. Didn't work out quite right, without boring you with the details. No, at the present time I don't have that ambition. I really enjoy the involvement with the Indy car racing, hope to continue that. I'm totally dedicated to our CART program. I think it's a tremendous series. I think it is very, very competitive in every way. It has some technology in it and it has great drivers. The races are pretty interesting because we race on all types of circuits, from long ovals to short ovals to permanent road courses, street races. I tell you, I really do love this sport. If I didn't, I don't think I'd be in it. I don't want to get out of it. I doubt if it would happen.

Q. My question was whether you could elaborate a little more, Carl. You mentioned Jeff Hanford --

CARL HAAS: Mark Hanford.

Q. -- moving to California from England. Also, Michael, you mentioned the wind tunnel, if there were other elements of sort of recreating that English setup that has allowed for successful car construction in the US, if there were other pieces you moved over here from England or maybe duplicated?

CARL HAAS: No, not really. We basically had -- all of the plant and everything is at Swift in San Clemente, California. They had to put a lot of that in. They've done that in the last year. No, there's not much. We have some of the internals of the gearbox made by Hughlin (phonetic) Engineering in England. I represent Hughlin. I think they make the best product. The actual transmission design, however, is from Swift.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: When it comes to all this. I mean, really most of it is American engineering. Even the wind tunnel was designed by David Bruns along with a lot of people help from a lot of people from Lockheed, I believe. It's all mostly done by American engineering. When it comes to that, it's not that we took anything out of England to make our product any better. I think the technology was definitely here. If you look at the shop there at Swift, it's beautiful. They did great work. They can go up against any other manufacturer. That's all-American design and stuff. When it comes to that, it was truly an American effort.

CARL HAAS: I think a lot of people thought, for what it's worth, we're going to start out with a Lola copy, and definitely that is not the case. That is not the case.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's a Swift chassis.

CARL HAAS: We knew some parameters of what we had to develop.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was our database.

CARL HAAS: Most of that database are things that we developed.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: As a team, right.

CARL HAAS: I think a lot of the success of Lola, from day one going back to 1983, has been from the feedback, the information that we have given -- that we gave to them.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: There's no question about it. Newman/Haas I think put Lola on the map. You can sort of see this year, without that data from Newman/Haas, how well Lola is doing at the moment.

Q. Fill us in a little bit on what your plans are heading into the Australia race with a little break?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: As we said, leaving tomorrow, heading to Phoenix. Running a Firebird for three days. Come back, turn around, head to Sebring where I'll be testing for three days, around the 19th or 20th. We have two tests before the next race.

Q. Couple questions for Michael. Michael, how much time did you spend in the off season down at Swift? Can you comment on what kind of involvement you had from the driver's perspective with the development of the new car before it hit the racetrack?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I was only there a few times. I was there probably two or three times. From that standpoint, there's not a whole lot I can do except for get in the way when that's happening. My involvement came more through Peter Gibbons, who was my engineer. My input I give him, he turns into incorporating it into the race car, the design, if there's a way. That's where my input came from, more through information I would give to Peter on what I feel the car needs or whatever. That's where my input was. I would never, like, be calling David Bruns and be saying this or that. It would all be done through Peter Gibbons.

Q. What did you do during the off season from a physical standpoint to stay fit?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I have a real strenuous routine that I go through now. I do weight-lifting and cardio exercise. I really put it to it this year to try to build up. I want to make sure I can give my best. I know the effort has been going on from their side, and I figure I have to put in my effort, too. I want to make sure I can compete against these young guys. I don't want to have being tired being one of the excuses.

Q. I just want to congratulate both you and Carl on your success. Good luck with the rest of the season.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.

CARL HAAS: Thank you.

T.E. McHALE: We'll wrap it up for today. We want to thank everybody for being with us. A reminder, there will be no CART teleconference next weekend, but we will be back on March 18th in preparation for the Sun Belt Indy carnival in Australia. Good luck for the rest of the season, Michael, Carl.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you.

CARL HAAS: Thank you.

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