Indy Racing League Media Conference
August 30, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. We appreciate you joining us for the Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll have two guests joining us today. Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Performance, Incorporated. We anticipate having Mike Hall, team managing director for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in just a few minutes. We're having a hard time reaching him in Utah, where he is with the Grand-Am folks.
Tim, thank you for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Appreciate that.
TIM CINDRIC: Thanks for having me.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously you're faced with kind of a big challenge in the next 10 days as we prepare for the IndyCar Series season finale at Chicagoland. You have two drivers. One point separates them both. Obviously, you're trying to send off the two Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers. How in the world do you balance all of that as you prepare for Chicago?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, I guess it's a good position to be in. We just have to execute here next week.
Definitely both the guys we have deserve to come out on top. It's just going to be a matter of who has the best day in Chicago is what it comes down to. At the same time while they're looking at each other, we got to be sure that the Ganassi guys will at least be very conscientious that it needs to be one of our guys that wins this thing, at least in our mind. That's really the challenge.
We're looking at two things. One is making sure we win as a team and the other is to sort out which one of the two is going to be the guy.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously those guys have somewhat different personalities as well. Does that affect anything as you approach this? Really I guess overall, is the preparation this week any different than weeks in the past or is it kind of business as usual?
TIM CINDRIC: I would hope not. You know, I would hope that the preparation for this race is no different than every race we go into. That's what you strive for, is to prepare each race the same way, just see how the race plays out.
I would hope that it's no different than any other time really. We might take a few extra precautions just to be sure that -- no different than any time at the end of the season. You're taking your absolute best parts that you have at the end of the year in terms of mileage, reliability, so forth, trying to utilize all those parts I guess the most efficiently, if you will.
THE MODERATOR: Now on a typical race weekend, there's a lot of sharing of data between teammates throughout the weekend, whether for practice or qualifying, things like that. You go into a situation like this. Does that stay the same, these guys sharing information, or do they teleconference a little bit more selfish maybe with what they share?
TIM CINDRIC: I would hope not because the end game is to be sure that, like I said, that Marlboro Team Penske comes out on top. If you're sitting there and you're just racing each other, you might have some of those type of discussions. But the fact that those guys are racing two other guys as well, you know, I'm confident they'll work together to ensure that one of those guys has the best chance.
THE MODERATOR: I see now we're joined by Mike Hall. Mike, thanks for joining us, how are you?
MIKE HALL: Fine, thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're talking with Tim Cindric. Obviously a big challenge for you guys, maybe even a little more so than what Tim faces in the fact that you guys are in a bit of an underdog position with two guys. You have two drivers not only kind of battling themselves for the championship, but they've also got to make up the deficit on the Marlboro Team Penske guys.
What is the approach this week for you guys?
MIKE HALL: The same as all year really. We have to race to win like we do every week. When you finish at the front by trying to win, you gather maximum points. So I think our approach to this race will be exactly that. We'll race hard. I'm sure we'll race with the Penske guys all the way to the end of the race like we've done on these larger ovals all year, which has been very exciting for all of us.
THE MODERATOR: It sounds like a business-as-usual approach. Is there a noticeable change in the atmosphere at the race shop? Is there more excitement, more nervousness, more of a determination of Let's get this done or business as usual?
MIKE HALL: I think it's validation actually for what we do. The guys worked extremely hard before the season began with the Honda changeover, with the Dallara changeover, with some personnel changeover, and with the addition of Dan Wheldon of Dan and Scott together, the whole package. Really Chicago and all the rest of the races this year are really a validation for the hard work that the guys in the building have done to make this happen for us.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions from the media.
Q. It's easy for your drivers to watch the guys on the other team, see where they are on the track. While you concentrate on what you're doing at individual teams, how closely do you watch what the other is doing? Obviously you have been real close all season long.
TIM CINDRIC: Mike, you watching us?
MIKE HALL: A little bit (laughter).
I think that we watch each other. But I think that there's -- if you have a tendency to do that too much, you get caught up in what the other guys are doing and you kind of forget about all the other quality drivers that are in the race, first of all, and secondly what your strategy might really need to be at the end of the race.
We actually breathe. We inhale and exhale on this deal. I'm just hoping that it works out for everybody concerned at the end of the race.
TIM CINDRIC: From my perspective, it depends. You come down to the last race of the year, you might be looking at those that are close to you in the points, maybe closer than you are throughout the year. This race for us is a race of relativity. Yeah, everybody wants to win it, but the ultimate prize is to be sure that we keep some type of margin in the championship. That's the game for us this week.
Q. This late in the season, is there any last little edge or breakthrough for your really smart engineer types to make to break this sort of logjam with these two teams or is it not there now, it is what it is?
TIM CINDRIC: I would hope to think there might be. At this point in the year, I don't know why you'd be saving it.
MIKE HALL: Our engineers, they continue to surprise us every week. I hope they have some surprises for not only Target Chip Ganassi Racing, but also Marlboro Team Penske this weekend or next weekend (laughter).
Q. I don't suppose you both would spell those out in great detail.
TIM CINDRIC: I didn't have anything else. Mike said he might. You have to ask Mike.
Q. He can explain it.
MIKE HALL: I hope they do (laughter). They continually surprise us with what they work on so we just hope we have a good surprise in a week or so.
Q. Tim, the goal is always not to crash out a teammate and things like that. In the heat of a battle, especially when a championship is on the line, how are you going to keep the reins on these guys if they're going at it?
TIM CINDRIC: You can sit there, it's going to be a long race for sure, at least from where I sit. You can watch those guys race wheel to wheel all year. They just need to sort it out. I don't know what else to say. It's down to those guys. Like Mike said, not just the four of them, but all of them. You got to pick your time to go, your time to stay in line.
The best we can do is just try and give the drivers a reminder of the big picture as they get the red mist in front of them, decide on lap 20 they think it's lap 200. But that's really the best thing that we can do is just try and coach them to the end.
Those guys, they're big boys.
Q. Will you be on them more this weekend in terms of being on the radio and talking to them?
TIM CINDRIC: Not me personally. I think I know what Helio needs to hear and what he doesn't. I can't speak for my boss. Mike can't speak for his either. My day should be business as usual in my pit.
MIKE HALL: I think we have quality race drivers because they have ability, they have a head on their shoulders and because they're aggressive. The one thing we want to do is race in Chicago like we've raced all year long. I think the racing between the two teams for the entire season has been very fair, very above-board, very representative of what the Indy Racing League is all about.
It's just about fair and equal competition and our guys are going to participate to try to win a race.
Q. Could get a little bit hairy at the end if your guys are going wheel to wheel.
MIKE HALL: I hope it does. I hope all four guys -- the best thing in the world for everyone here would be that all four guys would race to the end of the race. The best guy in Chicago on that day is going to then win the race. That's the way that we've raced all year long. The Marlboro guys have done a fantastic job because obviously they're up on us on the points, they've done a better job than we have, otherwise there wouldn't be one point separating four guys.
They deserve a lot of recognition for what they've accomplished. We're trying I guess trying to trump them a little bit here by winning the championship. That's what we want to try to do.
But we've got to get to the end, as you pointed out very clearly. At the end of the race, you just can't have (indiscernible) on your car.
Q. Mike, will you get more aggressive in setup or anything or go with a standard as if this were the first race of the year?
MIKE HALL: I think the important thing is to have a car underneath the race driver that will race like it's raced all year because the cars are specified by the IRL to a certain spec. There isn't anything new or trick or unusual that we can turn up with. We're certainly going to be up on the pike to race hard there, but it will be with the equipment we've had all year there.
Q. Tim, if you go to the last lap obviously and you have the 3 and the 6, one of them is going to win it, how bad do you want the 3 to win that, given you're on that car?
TIM CINDRIC: At that point in time I'll be worried about making sure they both make it around.
Q. Come on. You and Roger have a strong rivalry.
TIM CINDRIC: I think you make more out of that than we do.
Seriously, I think my nerves will be more on making sure they both make it around. Worst thing we could do is not make it on that last lap. That's happened before, too.
Q. Give me an update with Roger alluded to Hornish doing some ARCA and Busch stuff next year. Where does that stand?
TIM CINDRIC: We really haven't put any plans together. We've kicked it around. It's certainly a thought we've had. I think the New York Times reporter asked him that this past weekend. Really we've looked at it from day one with Sam.
There's no secret when he was with Panther, he was trying to figure out where to go next, that he was considering the NASCAR world. That never went away. We set at the right time, Let us know if you feel like trying it or whatever. Time might be right to give him a shot in an ARCA or Busch car sometime in the next whatever six months, year, whatever it might be.
We're still kicking that around. We've sat down and said we'll figure it out after the IRL season is over as to what our plan or approach might be for next year if we consider that.
He's absolutely committed to driving IndyCars in the near future.
Q. If either one of the drivers on either team emerges as having an advantage toward the championship as the race progresses, will the other driver on his team be told to support him and help him ensure the championship for the team?
TIM CINDRIC: I think it's kind of difficult when our guys are only separated by one point, as are Mike's points separated by two points. One finishing in front of the other really makes a big difference.
Obviously, if it comes down to having helped the other one and the other one doesn't have a chance, that might be a little different story.
Q. That's what I was referring to.
TIM CINDRIC: Certainly if one doesn't have a chance, I think it's in the team's best interest, as do the drivers, I think they'll be the first ones to tell you on either team, they have a loyalty to not only the guys that go over the wall for them but to their entire team.
It's important for them to bring it home as well.
MIKE HALL: To answer your question directly, I don't know if we need to hire a mathematician from MIT to help us all the way through the race. But the important thing is to do what Tim alluded to and basically said. This has been a team effort from the beginning. That's easy to see based on the separation in points.
If Dan Wheldon or Scott Dixon have an opportunity to win the race at the end, we're not going to stand in the way for either guy because that's why we're going to Chicago. We have to win with one guy or the other to have a chance to win the championship. So that's what we're going to try to do.
Q. How do you plan the final race? You plan your drivers separate or against the Chip Ganassi which has a chance to win the championship?
TIM CINDRIC: I think we look at it as the team comes first. Certainly bringing the championship home for the team, we haven't been able to do that in the IRL in I think our five seasons. We've done that numerous times in the CART series, but haven't been able to do that here in this series. It's important for us to maybe get that monkey off our back. So the team would come first certainly.
As far as how we operate on the weekends, it's our plan to go into it the same as any weekend and approach it the same way. During the race itself, really for us it's a matter of patience and making sure that we have an opportunity to in some ways defend our positions at the end of the race or to at least have a bit of a cushion. We don't have to be as aggressive as maybe as Mike's guys do to be sure that we finish in a certain spot because where they finish really dictates where we need to finish.
Q. The other three guys have an advantage in that they've won championships. Sam has two, Dixon and Wheldon each have one. Helio doesn't have any at this point. How do you keep him in check when he's kind an excitable guy?
TIM CINDRIC: The walls that surround the place are the best thing to keep him in check because the rest of it I don't think he really fears. He's certainly determined to give it his best shot. Some days it works out for you, some days it doesn't. These other guys, they have the experience of coming into the last race and coming away with it. With Helio, he's gone into the last race before with a chance to win the championship in this series and hasn't come home with it.
Basically what I told he and Sam this weekend after the race was I hope you guys race each other as clean as you did when you weren't teammates, referring to when they raced in Texas that year, where they were pretty much wheel to wheel for the last 20 or 30 laps.
If they can do that, one guy beats other guy by the nose at the end, it is what it is.
Q. It's going to be beauty.
TIM CINDRIC: I'm sure it will be fun to watch.
Q. Going into a race like this, we know at Chicagoland we've seen guys try and pass on the apron at the start/finish line at the end of the race. Is that something you go and check out with Barnhart, the IRL officials on every detail like that? Can I go below the line on the last lap for the championship, stuff of that nature?
TIM CINDRIC: From my perspective, Brian does a pretty good job of anticipating those questions. It's something that's come up, whether it's at Michigan or what have you. My guess is that you node to stay on the racetrack. Maybe Mike knows something different.
I don't know if they've repaved the racetrack. The Indy Racing League is very clear on the definition of where the racetrack ends. It's pretty easy on the outside as Tim talked about with Helio with the fence. But on the inside, it's a little bit marginal there on that white line that goes all the way around the racetrack. In the last year or so, Brian has been very clear about if you get below that line, you better make sure that it didn't gain you an advantage. So it's something, yes, that we do pay attention to, and the IRL officials in particular for this event I'm sure will do the same.
The problem with those kinds of things is that they change the momentum sometimes of the race. And it might not be one of our guys that does it. It might be somebody else. That somebody else could cause one of our guys to check up in the process. That Brian can't do a whole lot about.
But we'll certainly abide by the rules at Chicago.
Q. You mentioned somebody that's not necessarily involved. You have a guy like Vitor Meira who is desperate to get a race victory, he's been quick with you guys, intermixed there. Tim, how do you handle that as it comes down towards the end of the finish, a guy that might be too aggressive?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, I think that's a great point. We can talk about the Target guys, our guys, but they've proved they can race each other throughout the weekend. Some of the other guys you got to remember, you know, they've got nothing to lose in a lot of cases to where you saw a little bit of it there the last few laps of the Sonoma race where Vitor was certainly a man on a mission to pass as many as he could.
From our perspective, we just had to let him go, which really isn't in our racing blood. Sometimes it's a choice of letting him go or taking a bigger risk at not making it around to the other side, which it's not a big risk for them, whereas obviously it is for us.
The bigger concern, at least from where I sit, is not really as much the Target guys, because we know them, we've raced them, our guys have proved that they can race clean amongst each other, may the best man win. But at the same time, you know, some of the other guys, they're in different situations. Not that they're not qualified, but some of them, like you say, are desperate for success. That's just part of it.
We've been in that situation as well where you go into the last race, there's nothing really to lose so you take different chances in different situations.
I guess that's why we run the race.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Best of luck as you get ready for that final race in Chicago.
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