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Indy Racing League Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Racing League Media Conference

Robby Gordon
Thomas Knapp
Gary Peterson
March 9, 2004


TOM SAVAGE: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome two new names in 2004 to today's IndyCar teleconference. Menards Infiniti Pro Series owner/driver Gary Peterson, who last week announced its team would make the 2004 season debut in Phoenix next week, joins us to on today's call. Later Indianapolis 500 veteran Robby Gordon will talk about his plans to run the 88th running of the Indy 500 in May. Gary, let's start with you. Thank you very much for joining us today.

GARY PETERSON: Okay.

TOM SAVAGE: We've heard you have an interest in fielding a two-car team in 2004, but at this point only one car with you behind the wheel will be entered in the Phoenix race next weekend. Are there plans to have a second car in 2004 at some point?

GARY PETERSON: Yeah. We ran two cars last year, 2003 series, GJ Mennen was my driver and then myself. And we are actually close to having somebody in that second car for Phoenix. That's why I was a little bit late getting to the phone, I was on a conference call. We probably will have an announcement tomorrow for the second driver for the Phoenix race.

TOM SAVAGE: You will have a second car at Phoenix?

GARY PETERSON: Yeah, looks like it's going to happen.

TOM SAVAGE: Any chance we could get a second name out of you or not?

GARY PETERSON: No, can't do it. I was trying to, but they have to wait till tomorrow morning.

TOM SAVAGE: I understand. You've obviously been a successful businessman with AFS. How has that helped you become a team owner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series?

GARY PETERSON: Helped a lot. We have 350 employees here, with the different departments. Trying to keep everything together, keep everybody happy in the organization, it's a tough situation in running this business, and also trying to run the race team. I'd like to step out of it a little bit more and have somebody else be involved a bit more, so I've been working towards that. But all in all, they're both a business, and you have to treat them as a business. That's about all I can say about it.

TOM SAVAGE: What are some of the challenges of being an owner/driver in such a competitive sport?

GARY PETERSON: Well, just like this, I was two minutes late for your press conference. I had another call coming through I was trying to get off. It's just last minute trying to catch an airplane to get back to Indianapolis to get everything organized. Just things change constantly in a business. Meetings come up that are important. You have to rearrange your schedule. As far as the racing part of it, driving the race car is the easy part. I think everybody that owns a team or runs a team would say that. It's hard to keep both things going at the same time.

TOM SAVAGE: Very good, Gary. We have a few people on line with us today. Let's go ahead and open it up for questions for Gary Peterson.

Q. Gary, have you ever talked to Eddie Cheever and compared notes on what it was like to be both a businessman and also a driver? He last year finally stepped out of the car.

GARY PETERSON: Yeah, I haven't talked to Eddie directly on that. I've talked to him. I've talked to numerous other drivers in the past in my former Atlantic career that I had for 10 years. I haven't talked to Eddie. But I know exactly what he went through. This was supposed to be my last year of driving. I am going to step out of the car after this season. Hopefully that will ease up everything that goes with it, a little more pressure, and we can do better with the two-car team next year.

Q. As an older driver, do you kind of get pleasure out of running with the young guys like Arie Luyendyk, Jr.?

GARY PETERSON: I really do. I've got such support from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the safety team. I do. I would step out if I wasn't competitive. Other than the accidents I've been involved with, which are out of my control, we run right up at the top with them. I do enjoy it. But I think I will enjoy stepping out, getting a young driver, working with him, bringing him up through the ranks.

Q. Would you like to get one through the ranks to the Indy 500? Is that kind of your goal?

GARY PETERSON: Yes, it is. My goal, my dream, like everybody else, was to run the Indianapolis 500. But just with what it takes to do it, finances, the time, it isn't going to happen with me. So I think that's the only way I'd be able to live my dream, is to do that. I have a great friend of mine passed away last week, Louis Unser. Louis and I were tight. He started me in this racing career I have. You know, we talked about it. Louis wasn't able to drive it, but he lived his dream in bringing up his brother, other people he's been involved with.

Q. Good luck at Phoenix.

GARY PETERSON: Thank you very much.

TOM SAVAGE: Going back to kind of the balance between being an owner and driver, do you feel on race weekend it's almost a sense of relief, if you will, to get to the racetrack and finally get in the race car? Is that really your get-away time, if you will?

GARY PETERSON: Yes. That's exactly right. When I get to the racetrack, you go in that zone every driver talks about, and I forget about the business. Basically I focus on racing. For me, I mean, blood pressure drops, everything gets in slow motion. It's great euphoria. It is a release for me from this business.

Q. Did you become a race car driver and then an owner? What was first, what was second there?

GARY PETERSON: Well, they kind of started at the same time. I started racing in the desert off-road racing, motorcycle racing, most of us did in California, Rick Mears, Roger Mears. A whole bunch of us started here. I had a sponsorship, but it wasn't enough. So I actually started my own business to go racing. That is kind of how I did it. Business got larger and larger. What always happens in the business, you run out of time, have the money, but you don't have time to do what you love. Time just slipped by since I started.

TOM SAVAGE: Thank you very much, Gary. We appreciate you joining us on today's call. See you next week down in Phoenix.

GARY PETERSON: Thank you.

TOM SAVAGE: Last night on the television show Wind Tunnel on the SPEED Channel, Indianapolis 500 veteran Robby Gordon announced his plans to run in this year's 88th running of the Indy 500 as an owner/driver, sponsored by Midwest retail chain Meijer. He will pilot a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in this 500, his 10th overall. Highly regarded engineer manager Thomas Knapp will lead the effort. Robby, thanks for joining us on today's call.

ROBBY GORDON: Thank you very much. I have Tom here, as well.

TOM SAVAGE: Very good. You've been so close to winning the Indianapolis 500, leading in 1999 with just two laps to go before running out of fuel. Yesterday's announcement is obviously a sign of your commitment and desire to try to win this race.

ROBBY GORDON: Yeah. I've always enjoyed competing at Indianapolis. As young child, man, growing up, I always wanted to be able to compete there. I've been very fortunate the last nine times to compete. We've been competitive there many times. I thought if we were going to do a 2004 program, we need to try to align all the same stars we had back in '99 when we came so close to winning the Indianapolis 500.

TOM SAVAGE: Obviously, the story this May for you will be to run the double with the running of NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 later in the evening. Can you talk what it's like to race 1100 miles in one day?

ROBBY GORDON: To do 1100 miles is pretty tough. As a driver, Indianapolis, if you get your car right, I drive the car like a video game actually. Because if the car is set up right and you got it handling, that's what we work on for the month long, and I think that's why Indy is a month long, gives you time to get your car dialed in for qualifying and for racing. If you get your car set up right like we had in '99, like we had in 2002, the cars drive good, and you can do that race. It's almost more mental than physical. Even though you pull a lot of Gs in the middle of the corner, it's a very mental race. I've been able to do it, slide over to the Coca-Cola 600 and be very competitive there, as well, even though we have to start last.

TOM SAVAGE: You've obviously qualified well at Indianapolis over the years, starting in the Top 10 on five separate occasions, including two starts on the front row. It's been said the four qualifying laps at Indianapolis are the most pressure filled in all of sports. Can you talk about that?

ROBBY GORDON: We've come close to being on the pole there I'd say three times now. You know, you give it all you have, basically. It's probably the toughest part because we trim the cars out so much. There's no spec like there is at Texas or Atlanta. You know, if you feel you can run maximum negative rear wing, and hang on to the thing for four laps, so be it. And pretty much it's the driver, the team that get the setup and balance right. Last year I think we definitely had the setup and balance right. We stuck our time out there at I think 11:30, 12:00 in the afternoon, stayed all day until the last 45 minutes of the day. So, you know, we know how happy hour is at Indianapolis. Track always picks up from 5 to 6. I think we'll be able to assemble a group of guys and a team that will be able to go for the pole. But the pole is obviously not the most important thing for us. For us, we've qualified well before, we haven't been on the pole. But the Indy 500 is the Indy 500. It's all about the race. I don't know if I would call it fortunate enough, but with the NASCAR schedule the way it is, I can spend a bunch of time down there during the month of May without, you know, losing focus on the NASCAR program, because there is a week off there, and we can go down and do a good effort for both programs.

TOM SAVAGE: We'll go ahead and open it up for questions. Robby, did you say Tom is with you?

ROBBY GORDON: Tom Knapp is with me, as well as my general manager, John Story. I thought it would be important to have these guys here because I want everybody to know that it's not me trying to run the car and race the car and drive for Richard Childress Racing. We have quality people in every position at our organization.

TOM SAVAGE: Very good. Questions for any three of these gentlemen. We'll open it up now.

Q. Robby, you've always been a guy who has been unafraid of jumping into something full tilt. I'm curious, wouldn't it have been a whole lot easier to just try to do this in somebody's second or third car instead of the owner/driver deal or was this more appealing to you?

ROBBY GORDON: I have to be honest, how do I say, you guys know me pretty well, I'm pretty high maintenance. For me to be a second and third driver, I don't look at myself at that level. I look at myself as a guy that can go to the Indianapolis 500 and have a shot at the pole, win the race. If we were going to do a program and just be someone's second or third driver, that wasn't really my interest. And I don't think it was Meijer's interest or Chevrolet's interest. I always wanted to get hooked back up with Thomas. He ran Team Menard. He knows how to do this game. He's very experienced in the IRL, has a great relationship with Dallara. I think we can do our own program and be just as competitive as doing someone's second or third program, and hopefully even be more competitive. But there's some good teams out there that do have cars available. Obviously, we had conversations with Panther. But our final decision came down to the guys like Thomas Knapp and my car chief. These guys have all done this game for a long time, and they've played in the IRL. They know that spec. I've been fortunate enough to drive for some great teams over the years, you know, from Derrick Walker to AJ Foyt, Andretti Green last year, and even Team Menard. And that's how Thomas and me got hooked up. So I felt provided the players that I wanted to put on our team could be available and come and play with us, I felt that we could orchestrate a team to be as competitive as any out there.

Q. You spoke of the pressure of going for the pole at Indy. In your case, when you're going to do a double-duty thing, is it more a matter of playing it maybe slightly safe just to be sure you're in the show and get that one part of it out of the way?

ROBBY GORDON: I don't know. I mean, you know, we put a program together this year that gives us obviously all the tools we need to be competitive there. We will have two cars. We will have all the stuff. Is the pole the most important thing and is it worth getting hurt for the rest of the season? Absolutely not. Did I hang it out there last year? You bet. When there was 40-mile-an-hour winds, the time was the quickest all the way till the wind started to die down late in the day. You guys know I'm going to hang it out there and do everything I can to go for it. But at the same time, I got to look at the other sponsors we have involved with Cingular Wireless, Fruit of the Loom. We have Busch programs and Cup programs with them. And then not forget about Meijer, and know their goal is to be on the pole at the Indy 500. It's a fine line we got to walk there.

Q. I wanted to know if you could take me back to when you were a kid, what was the most memorable Indy that you ever watched? What made it so memorable?

ROBBY GORDON: I think, you know, I may be wrong when I say this, but I think it was '84 when Rick Mears won. I'm pretty sure. You know, he got a lap down early. I think, you know, he kept working on his car, kept working on his car. He finally got it where he was the fastest car at the end of the day. That's what Indianapolis is all about, because the track changes so much during the 500 miles, and the tires and everything else. You know, that's something that Thomas and myself, we've had a good relationship on being able to work on the car and fine tune it, make it better the later the race went on.

Q. I know it's early to tell, but are the Penskes still the favorites team to beat out there, either Hornish or Castroneves?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, you know, Roger's built a reputation at Indianapolis. All you have to do is go to the score board and look at all the wins he's established there. He's done it with different drivers, different managers, different engine packages. The guy is very buttoned up. You know, I think every team desires to be at that level. If you look at how Roger has done it in the past, he's obviously brought in the best drivers he could hire, hired the best team managers, put the best packages together to win. That's what we've tried to do. I think that the Chevrolet engine is really strong right now. Obviously, the Hondas and Toyotas are good, as well. The Toyota won the last race with Penske. Hornish is extremely talented, and Castroneves knows his way around the 500, as well. We're going to have our work cut out for us, but they are definitely the team to beat. You know, he does it right. Got a lot of respect for Roger Penske.

Q. Was it a long decision to make between the Dallara and the G Force?

ROBBY GORDON: You know, I kind of have to leave that one up to Thomas. He's sitting here. We've been trying to watch winter testing, Homestead. I think it comes down it was Thomas' decision. I'd like to let him comment on that real quick.

THOMAS KNAPP: Robby and I's working relationship at the 500 has always been based around Dallaras and running Dallaras. They continue to be a beyond-reproach firm to do business with, excellent engineering support. For what we need to get done in the short-term, they deliver very high-quality cars to you in the first place. So we certainly spoke to the G Force people and respect the effort that they have in the IRL, but in the end it was probably always going to be Dallaras just because it keeps our learning curve with the new car short.

Q. Robby, something different I think this year as opposed to past years when you have done the double, the Grand National car, are you planning on running that car in Charlotte for the 300 or are you going to forego that race this year?

ROBBY GORDON: The Busch Grand National car. Right now it's not on our schedule.

Q. My follow-up to that is, this year seems like, in my opinion, as far as the schedules go, the Nextel Cup schedule seems lighter than normal in May, but that could only help you in getting prepared for the 500.

ROBBY GORDON: I believe it's a little more difficult just because of the Richmond race on pole weekend. You know, it frees me up a little bit going into Richmond. We will run the Grand National car in Richmond on Friday night, and the Cup car on Sunday night. But, you know, it will be tough. But I think the biggest thing we have going for us is great supporter like Textron that have Bell Helicopters, Citation Jet, will help me get back and forth between the races.

Q. Robby, you said last night with Dave, are you serious about running Paris-Dakkar?

ROBBY GORDON: I love off-road racing. You know, I've been fortunate enough to drive some pretty awesome cars over the years from, you know, CART cars when they were a thousand horsepower racing machines to the IRL cars now, Cup cars, my trophy truck. Paris-Dakkar is really the only thing I haven't done. If an opportunity opened up there, obviously the stars would have to align with the Cup effort. Everybody would have to be on the same page with it. You guys know I love to race. I think, you know, if it's not next year, in the near future, it's something I want to do.

Q. This question is for Thomas. With the new engine coming along, the new rules for the 500 this year, do you think that maybe helped you? You are going to have the same rules everybody else does.

THOMAS KNAPP: The IRL for reasons has instituted testing mandates that are fairly restrictive this year anyway. But, yes, certainly no matter who you are, the three-liter introduction at Indianapolis is going to have everybody back on their heels a little bit. Yeah, it certainly levels the playing field going into the event.

Q. Do you have any knowledge of the new engine? Are you (inaudible) with the chassis?

THOMAS KNAPP: We're letting GM -- Robby has excellent relationships with Chevrolet. We don't have any question that we'll have excellent power from them. Yeah, I like to -- I'm a tune-the-chassis, gain-a-hundred-horsepower guy. But we expect to have excellent V8s in our car when we begin practice at Indianapolis.

TOM SAVAGE: Robby, there is an open test at Indianapolis at the end of April. Are you planning on attending that?

ROBBY GORDON: Yes, we will be there. It's the 27th or 28th, something close to that?

TOM SAVAGE: Right.

ROBBY GORDON: We will be there for that.

Q. What is it about Indy and doing the double? Is it the challenge or is it the fact that the speedway is just in your blood, and no matter what you're doing, you're going to try to race the 500?

ROBBY GORDON: You know, first things first. I do have the blessing of Richard Childress, so it doesn't matter. I wouldn't say no matter what I'm doing, because I wouldn't risk the opportunity I have there with RCR, Cingular Wireless. Indy is Indy. You know, for me growing up, like I said, as a young kid, always watching the Indianapolis 500, having a hero like Rick Mears to look up to, because we both came from similar backgrounds with off-road racing. I love that place. I have a saying, I say I wake up for Indianapolis. It's true. I mean, doesn't matter if it's the stock car there, we've been competitive the last two years, had a shot at winning both years there, or an Indy 500 car, we seem to get around that racetrack real well.

Q. How much does that second place, the year you got so close to winning the Indy 500, still stick in your craw?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, I think, you know, that year was new for us because we were a CART team, and we came over and played with Thomas' IRL team at Team Menard. That's where Tom and me got hooked up. You look back and learn from your mistakes, I guess. It was so easy to come down pit lane and just take fuel, still would have been the first car out. I think this fuel strategy thing, the older you get, the more experience you get. That was a huge mistake on our part. The key to the whole thing is we are competitive when we show up there. We do have a shot at winning every time. So learn from your mistakes, go back and try to eliminate as many variables as possible.

Q. You'll have to do some stuff at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Richmond. Do you have someone who will be standing in for you and maybe doing some extra setup work for you at the speedway?

ROBBY GORDON: At the speedway right now, our sole focus is the No. 70 Meijer Chevrolet. We don't have plans on running a second car. We don't have plans on bringing a second driver as are right now.

Q. You will be doing all of your own setup and everything else; you don't have somebody in there to maybe help you out in you need it?

ROBBY GORDON: I'm pretty confident, looking back at how we did last year with Andretti Green, I did most of the qualifying setups there, and race setups. You know, I worked with those guys real close. I'm pretty confident that we'll get it right. Thomas' experience in qualifying has been very good. His race setups have been very good in the past. The relationship that we've established with Dallara, Tom is going to go there and do a wind tunnel test just to understand the car better, spend some time in Italy with their engineers. We feel we'll be able to hit it. Just shocks, springs, front downforce, rear downforce, roll centers. It's the same stuff we play with every weekend, even though it's a Cup car or IndyCar. You have to find the sweet spot in the chassis and get it around the racetrack.

Q. Other than Tony Stewart and John Andretti, do a lot of the other driver think you're kind of nuts doing this?

ROBBY GORDON: I don't know about "nuts". I think a lot -- the ones that may think I'm nuts haven't been fortunate enough to drive one of these cool cars and understand why Tony and myself and John still like to do it. I'm just a racer. Like I say, it doesn't matter if it's the car parked outside our shop, I'll race you around the building twice, if you want. Don't get me wrong, it's Indianapolis. It's a great opportunity. We're going to have a lot of fun with it. Just got our fingers crossed that we get it right and make the right decisions. Now with only one tire manufacturer, there's not much decision there. Dallara, G Force both really build good cars. But we've had good experience with Dallara in the past. Chevrolet, we've seen how hard they've worked on their IRL program, so we look at it more as a picking-your-package program. We feel our package is competitive enough to go there and be competitive.

Q. This will be your 10th Indy. You've driven in the Daytona 500 seven times. You have done the Baja. Also you won two road races last year. Do you feel you're probably the most versatile driver in the world right now?

ROBBY GORDON: I don't know. There's a lot of really good race car drivers out there. You look at -- I was watching last night before I went on Wind Tunnel, Jeff Gordon, they were talking about him driving the Formula 1 car. There's a group of us drivers, IRL drivers, Cup drivers, obviously Michael Schumacher is probably the man of the men right now, the men of the men, however you want to say it. I'm sure he could drive a Cup car or off-road, anything else. I've been able to adapt very quick from one car to the next in the past, get up to speed right away, hopefully not making too many mistakes. The Cup car has probably been my most difficult car that I've ever had to adapt to just because they don't make a lot of downforce, they make a lot of power. Small tires, they are heavy, everything you hear on Days of Thunder. It's amazing what you can learn on ESPN. Isn't that how they say it? But the Cup car has been the most difficult car to adapt to just because the balance changes so much as it goes through its fuel load. Obviously, I'm with a very established team there, and it's still not easy. The Indy cars, I have a lot more experience with. Aero balance that I like is 39% front. If the car is much more than that or much less than that, I'm complaining about it. You just learn what that balance is and you get it right. Yeah, I just like to race. Doesn't matter, like I said, if it's the golf cart or the trophy truck. Heck, I even raced a Class I buggy, which I haven't done in years, about half a month ago at Laughlin. We won day one in that, first time sitting in that. I don't know. I'm just fortunate enough that I grew up racing off-road cars and it taught you a lot of car control.

Q. When you speak about running all these different types of cars, is it a personal challenge to you not just to run them, but to be very competitive in them? Is that like a pride thing for you, the fact that you can say, "I haven't just participated; I've managed to shine in each one of them"?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, that's -- it gives you a good feeling. I race to win. You know, sometimes my attitude maybe in the past has shown a little more. It's all because I want to win, and I have so much desire to win. I think as you get older, you learn how to cope with the not winning a little better. But it drives me absolutely crazy when we're not competitive at the racetrack. You know, this year we told our sponsors, Fruit of the Loom people, we'd be competitive in the Busch car. We've been competitive right out of the box. Came close to sitting on the pole, winning Daytona, in our first Busch team. As a group, we work really hard, try to dot all our Is and cross all our Ts. The building process, the management process. As a race car driver, I try to surround myself with the best people I can in the business and then just drive the car from there. That's why we've gone off and hired guys like Thomas, John Story, Bob Temple that run the Busch car, and just have a lot of fun.

Q. When you do have success in each division, as they come and go, is it something where you kind of cross it off in your mind with a little bit of pride and say, "Did that"?

ROBBY GORDON: You know, I got to be honest, last year at Indianapolis, we didn't test or I didn't test at all. To go there and not drive a car in a year and sit on the front row at Indianapolis was -- that really made me feel good, especially because we sat on the pole most of the day. If it wouldn't have rained, we would have been on the pole for the Indy 500. Only drove the car five days before qualifying for the first time in a year. Yeah, it's fun that I can go and be competitive, but it's not all me, it's obviously the people you surround yourself with. When I was driving for Andretti Green, you know, they gave me good cars, good engineering, all the stuff. In this sport, the race team is so important. You know, the cars and the setup and the engines and the transmissions, the drag, everything that goes along with it can make a great race car driver look bad or can make a bad race car driver look pretty good. You look at how the setups and the balance can make someone look good and bad, it's amazing. I think downright driving I wouldn't say is not as important as it used to be, it's still important, but it takes a whole group of engineers, mechanics, team members to have good setups and have good race cars.

Q. If I give you a choice right now, I've missed part of the teleconference, if you get a choice right now to win the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, what does Robby Gordon choose?

ROBBY GORDON: 2004, we missed the Daytona 500.

Q. I mean, in your career. One more shot in your career to take one of them.

ROBBY GORDON: Come on, you guys a long time ago said it was my last chance back in 1998. I saw the magazine the other day. I don't know. That's such a difficult question to answer because obviously Richard Childress wants me to say the Daytona 500, Cingular Wireless wants me to say that. I have Chevrolet and Meijer here at the Indy 500 saying, "You better say the Indy 500." I just want to win. If I could ever be fortunate enough to win both of them, it would put me into a category that only Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt are in. We're going to try to do the best job we can every time we get behind the wheel of any race car.

Q. 10 years now of Tony George's announcement for the IRL. Do you think over this 10-year period that open-wheel drivers as a whole have been helped or hurt by having two divisions?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, I'm a little confused on the 10 years, because I could have --

Q. His announcement was 10 years ago this week. Started in '96.

ROBBY GORDON: It's 2004, that's eight years.

Q. Whatever. Let me do the math, you drive the race car. Have the two divisions helped or hurt drivers as a whole?

ROBBY GORDON: Man, if you look at Indy cars as a whole, obviously there's more teams because you have the WORC or CART or whatever, you have the IRL. I don't know. I think -- not do I think, but I know Tony's package and mindset from the beginning was to reduce costs and put on better races. He's done both of those. You know, my hat's off to Tony there. Myself, I love racing Indy cars on road courses, as well. I think we've hurt Indy car road racing. Is that something that Tony can pick up in the future? For sure. When he does, I think these cars will be just as exciting as anything we've had in the past, except for the thousand horsepower and the three thousand pounds of downforce, whatever they made back in 1995. But I think he has a good spec. I think it's hard to judge all of it based on the making of the IRL because the economy has obviously taken a turn. TV coverage for open-wheel racing probably has taken a bit of a turn. There's so many variables. I'm just glad I get to do both of them. I still get to drive the Cup car and the IRL car.

Q. The cost of putting a team together for one race is massive. Two cars, engines, not only personnel. Is there a chance that the team would stay together with another driver for the rest of the IRL season?

ROBBY GORDON: Well, I think we could all dream of those types of things. I can honestly say right now we don't have anything. But if we do a good enough job with our sponsors we have now and the team, go there and be very competitive, you never know what happens. We came really close, John Story and myself, doing a deal with John Menard to run his IRL effort for 2004. We ended up losing that to John Barnes at Panther. But that program, we were real close to having that in-house, which would have helped our Indy 500 program as well because we would have had a team established and cars would have been running. But we lost out on that. It was something that we wanted to do, but we would only do it if we could have guys like Thomas Knapp run the program for us. With my Cup effort, Busch programs, stuff we have going, I would need someone at his level to manage that. Thomas and me, we haven't really talked about that. After Indianapolis, I'm sure if we established a good, strong team, you know, the guys worked good together, we would entertain the opportunities, but at the same time right now we are a well-funded Indy 500 effort where we can go there and be competitive.

Q. I know in talking to you both times when you've been at the track for the Brickyard and for Indy, one of the things I've always liked about you is I think you have a true appreciation for the speedway, the history there. How much does that weigh into your desire to run open-wheel at Indianapolis, just the overall symbolism of what it means to racing?

ROBBY GORDON: You know, I love that place. It's Indianapolis, and you have to respect the racetrack, because it will bite you if you don't respect it. You know, racing heritage, from the beginning, started around Indianapolis, just fortunate enough that we get to go back there with good sponsors and good people and have an opportunity to race there again.

Q. Every August, all of us ask, is the Brickyard closing in as being as big as the Daytona 500? That argument will always probably go on. Is the Indianapolis 500, some people nationally have said it's lost luster in the few years, is it still bigger than the Daytona 500?

ROBBY GORDON: I think maybe in the beginning of IRL when they didn't have the Penskes, Ganassis, the big teams, big drivers showing up at Indianapolis, maybe philosophy-wise people thought they may have lost it. But Indianapolis is still huge internationally as far as TV coverage. They still get great ratings here in this country. They still sell the place out.

Q. Is it still the most desirable race in the world for a race car driver to win?

ROBBY GORDON: Man, you put me in a real tough situation when I have to answer that one. For me, it is. You know, I look at Sam Hornish, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon. No, they're not Mario Andretti, Arie Luyendyk. The names and faces change as the years go on, just like back when Baratelli used to run a team there. Baratellis are no longer around the speedway. The game changes as years go on. The names change. It's still the Indy 500, though. It's still a very, very difficult race to win. You have to be a fast driver, but a smart driver, have a good team behind you.

Q. This question is more in tune with NASCAR. A lot of talk about field fillers. Relate that to the Indy 500. What is your opinion on field fillers on a whole? Do you think everyone who is fast enough is deserving of a right to be there in the race or are they just creating hazards?

ROBBY GORDON: In our sport, in NASCAR, there's so many things that happen. I mean, last weekend you could have called Robby Gordon, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. field fillers because we were junk at Phoenix -- Vegas, sorry. We missed the setup. We were all over the place. "Field fillers" is probably not the right term. You know, I think last night on Wind Tunnel, Rob said, hey, he would love to have 18 cars that could go there and be competitive. Formula 1 puts on a good race with 20 cars. Does it take 43 cars? Probably not. In NASCAR, though, there is 30 of those teams could win the race. It sounds crazy when you say those numbers, but it's true. Look at Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray. There's 30 guys that can win a Cup race on any given weekend. I think it's more because their spec is so similar, same tire. NASCAR does a good job at managing the manufacturers, so nobody has a big advantage, and they keep it competitive. I think that the IRL has done a really good job at that. I just think with the economy that we're in right now, I know it's starting to take back off, but at the same time Indy cars are very expensive. To run the Indianapolis is a million plus dollar program to go there and be competitive.

Q. You said earlier right now as it stands you are not planning on bringing in a second car for the 500 attempt, correct, it's just going to be you?

ROBBY GORDON: Right now we are entering two cars under the No. 70 Meijer Chevrolet Dallara.

TOM SAVAGE: Thank you very much. We threw a lot of questions at you. We appreciate you joining us today. We will see you next month at the open test in Indianapolis.

ROBBY GORDON: Thank you very much. Thanks for tuning in today, guys.

TOM SAVAGE: Thank you.

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