NASCAR Media Conference
July 24, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today's three‑part teleconference in advance of this weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
We open with Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Pruett, the most successful driver in GRAND‑AM history, has four Daytona Prototype championships and leads the series with 37 DP and 38 class victories.
Pruett and co‑driver Memo Rojas currently hold a three‑point lead in the DP standings in a bid for a third consecutive DP title, and are also in position to capture the inaugural North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com with a victory in Fridays Brickyard Grand Prix.
Scott, how big is it personally and for GRAND‑AM to have the Rolex Series competing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
SCOTT PRUETT: First of all, thank you so much for having me today. It's exciting and certainly an exciting week build‑up to the race on Friday. And for me personally, it's huge. Especially coming from a position where I didn't really believe I would be going back to Indianapolis and racing, and, you know, racing there for a number of years on the IndyCar side and then just incredible race in 2000 on the NASCAR side.
Now to go back with the Rolex Sports Car Series is truly, for me, a dream come true. To get back to Indianapolis and just the center of it all and what it represents, and there's nothing like going and being a part of an historic first‑time race like that, and the magnitude that it brings.
Q. Are you surprised that maybe the all‑star lineup of teams and drivers has not been as great at Indianapolis as maybe you would see at Daytona?
SCOTT PRUETT: It's not a surprise. Because you know, when we look at Daytona for the 24, it's for the start of the season for the majority of racing globally, and it's always marked that first opportunity for drivers who have not really jumped into their series, come over and be in something like that.
So it doesn't surprise me in the least. There's always a lot going on, and you know, would we like that more? Absolutely. I think the majority of racing series throughout the globe would like that more. But I'm just looking forward to the race and it's going to be truly, I think an incredible show.
Q. And you get a chance to kind of do something that not a lot of people obviously have done. Your career missed out on some of the best‑‑ the best part of your career missed out on IndyCar at the Speedway. I don't know if you've received enough credit; do you think this just helps validate the resumé you've put together, just being in an event like this and perhaps winning it?
SCOTT PRUETT: From that standpoint, no. I'm more excited just the fact that, you know, having the opportunity to go back and race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
You know, for me as a kid, I remember when I was racing go‑karts, going to race on the same weekend as the Indianapolis 500 and we all saw where everybody was typically huddled around somebody's radio car and the whole pit area would be listening to the race.
So to me, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, even though I grew up on the West Coast, I grew up with what the excitement of Indianapolis is and was; and to go there Rookie of the Year in '89 in an IndyCar stint and then NASCAR. And then I really thought, I'll just show up as maybe, you know, working on the broadcast side or even this year, going there and just being and watching the race, supporting the Ganassi organization.
But to go back and race now, just for me, it's fun and it's exciting and to be back as part of this historic first‑time event and looks to be an incredible show as we move into the future.
Q. How suitable that track for your car? Is it a good fit?
SCOTT PRUETT: It is a good fit. You know, we did the first sort of test back in 2009 and we looked at the different configurations that were available to us, and this certainly was the best.
When you‑‑ whether they are going to call it 12 or 13, 12 is if you come on to the bank and 13 we know as the opposite direction would be the oval one, and then that lofty straightaway, because we are approaching speeds of 190 miles an hour, and there's going to be a lot of passing. It's a great passing zone in turn one.
There's a little bit of a back straight as we make that left‑hander, nine, ten area. I think there's going to be a lot of passing and the area to actually do some drafting as you go through turn one is just going to add a lot of excitement for the whole race.
Q. As I remember, most cars were passing in turn one; is that where you would advise people to sit for the most action?
SCOTT PRUETT: Absolutely. If you just sit in the stands, whether it's on the inside or outside of the course, as we head down what we would call fast‑start finish into one; and then you get an opportunity‑‑ so the other part of this is when the fans come, they are going to see that opportunity that a driver sees.
So we do that, that's part of our sport and part of what we do, have multiple drivers, and we can complete that in about 15 seconds so we change four tires, fuel the cars and driver change in about 15 seconds, and it's really a very cool thing to see. And for the fans who are not used to seeing something like that, that is going to adjust another element of something new and exciting that they will have the opportunity to see.
Q. When you look at this racetrack you guys will be on, you had an opportunity most recently to be on it. I see like four different things that are important. You've got the handling and the technical portion of the hand at one end and some quick turns at the other and then really fast straightaway speeds. What do you see as like the critical element in your car that's going to make mechanically and car‑wise give you your best shot; a lot goes into the race but what do you need from your car at this racetrack?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, what we noticed from testing, and it was real good having that opportunity to go test, because when we go there this Friday, we have one hour practice, qualifying and then the race; so you really need to be ready to go racing when you go on the track this Friday.
What we found during the test is it's a really fine balance between having enough downforce in the car to get through all of the tight areas, and then having, you know, enough straightaway speed to have the speed that you needed for the very long straightaway, because it's just not the straightaway, because as we come out of the last turn and as we work up into what they call turn 12 up on the bank. It's very long and we are in the throttle for a long time and approaching, this would probably be our second‑quickest track next to Daytona; but with that being said, similar straightaway speeds to Daytona, and you have to take that into consideration.
And that is a very fine balance getting those two together, because there is quite a bit of tight stuff you and need to get through that, but you can't give away the straightaway speed; and that is a fine teeter‑totter sort of balance to correct.
The other element that we had is that when we tested, it was 106 degrees down in pit lane. It looks like, at least as I look at the forecast this morning, it was about 85, 86 what they were expecting for Friday. That is going to have another big element of surprise for all of the teams as we head back there, in a positive way, as we head back there on Friday.
Q. When you look at throttle mass on this, when you are on the throttle, full throttle from the exit of 12 back to the braking point in turn one, is that the longest you're on the throttle of any racetrack?
SCOTT PRUETT: Except for Daytona. You know, we exit the bus stop at Daytona going down in turn one, they are somewhat similar. But those two are absolutely without a doubt the longest and the fastest tracks to go to.
So you can't, you know, you can't discount that fact. And when you get into the tight stuff, most all of it is second gear; first, second gear, all the time.
Q. We haven't seen you in NASCAR for a few years; do we plan on seeing you?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a very good question (chuckling). I've had a lot of opportunities where guys have wanted to come drive both on the Nationwide side and on the Sprint Cup side. However, with my contract with Chip, it says that he has to give me the blessing to go do that, and we had a real good conversation a couple years ago, because I had asked him about it every year, and I ask him, can I go do this and he says no; can I do this and he said no.
And a couple years ago, he says: Pruett, here is the deal. He goes, you want to go drive somebody else's car, which I did, he said, for me, as a team owner, if you get hurt, I've invested so much in the GRAND‑AM Series with BMW and with TELMEX that does me no good whatsoever.
So, no, unless it's one of my cars, you don't have ‑‑ I'm not going to give you clearance to go drive for anybody else. So that's why you have not seen me in any of those other cars in the last few years.
Q. So many race fans we have talked to have just said sometimes racing is just racing, so can you explain to these race fans the main difference, like in GRAND‑AM racing?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, there's so many elements that come into different levels, or certainly all the different series that are around, and I've been very fortunate to run within the IndyCar Series and then what was Winston Cup, now Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide; each of them have their own element of what you try and get out of them.
From a driver's standpoint, you have to, without question, be very specific and in your training. When we were in the Speedway testing a few weeks ago, it was 106, 128 degrees inside the cockpit, which were incredible temperatures and then we have our head sock, helmet, suits, and all that. So that's one element you have to be dealing with.
And within our races, the Rolex sports car series, there is a lot of strategy that goes into it; when do you change a driver; do you do one‑driver change or two‑driver change; when do you take on fuel and tires; double stint tires. There's so many elements going on at the same time. And then you add that element, again, within the Rolex Series, where you have two groups; you have the prototypes and then you have the GT cars, prototypes looking like something that you can't go to your auto dealer and buy, and then the GT cars, it looks like something you could go by or see on the road.
And that element has an incredible amount of passing in every lap and strategy that goes along with. It for me personally, we are doing IndyCar and NASCAR and now doing the Rolex sports car series, it has been‑‑ all of those different series has its own technical edge to it, you have to learn from the cars themselves right on through your racetrack and how you approach the races.
For me personally it's been a lot of fun and a challenge learning it but a welcome challenge trying to figure out how to get it done.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for joining us and we look forward to seeing you at Indy.
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