Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the Indy Racing League's weekly teleconference. Today's teleconference features driver Brad Pollard from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, and driver Felipe Giaffone from the IndyCar Series. Brad Pollard joins us on the call first, and Felipe will join us soon. We'll start the call with Brad. Brad was the Southwest Formula Mazda series Rookie-of-the-Year in 2002. He joins the Menards Infiniti Pro Series for the final two races of the 2003 season, and is back for his first full season here in 2004. Thanks for joining us today, Brad.
BRAD POLLARD: It's great to be here. Thank you so much for taking the call.
THE MODERATOR: Brad is the cousin of six-time Infiniti Pro Series five qualifier Art Pollard. As I understand it, watching Art race was really or inspiration to get started in racing, wasn't it?
BRAD POLLARD: It really was. I was a young boy at the time watching Art race, and my father would take us to the races that he could out on the west coast. We were from Bakersfield, California. We would go to as many races as we could on the west coast. At the time they were running at Hanford, California, Riverside. So we would go out and watch Art race as often as we could. It definitely influenced me as a young boy, especially the times when he would let us run into the pits and get into his car. I can remember as a little five-year-old guy hopping into his car and putting on his helmet. That was the way he used to sneak us into the pits. We would pretend we were drivers. Those were great times. That influenced me to want to race someday. That's exactly why I'm doing what I'm doing now.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously, you started as a lot of kids do racing karts. Was there always kind of an ultimate goal of someday getting into Indianapolis and the 500?
BRAD POLLARD: It was always my goal and always a dream as a child, to be as much as I could like Art. That's all I ever thought of, was getting into an IndyCar someday. That's exactly how that all started.
THE MODERATOR: Compared to a lot of drivers, it seems like you stayed in karts for a long time, made a late transition to cars. Was that due to pursuing other off-track activities? Was the dream still always there? How did that come about?
BRAD POLLARD: The dream was always there, so I started go-karting at a young age, then kind of stopped actually. I didn't continue on with go-karting as much as I had wanted to. Then at a younger age, teenager, got into some auto-crossing. Just tried to stay in as many kinds of cars as I could. Budget didn't really permit me to stay racing. We were so focused in our family on sports, I played football, I was a pole-vaulter in college, so really focused on that kind of sport rather than racing. When I finally got the chance to start running a shifter kart in 1999, I realized there was something I should be pursuing, and that's kind of really why I started to back up. As of 1999, I just went after racing, you know, wholeheartedly. Moved up to Formula Mazda, had great success our first season. It was very exciting for us to bring the Pollard name back into racing alone, let alone back to the Speedway. Once we had some success in the Formula Mazda, we realized there's something there and I want to keep pursuing it. That's exactly how I got into the IRL.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously, you mentioned the goal here to be at the Speedway. We recently had the Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars at the track for a test about a week and a half ago. What was it like for you to take the track here the first time?
BRAD POLLARD: It was exciting. A lot of people have asked me, "Was it emotional, anything like that?" It really wasn't. It honestly felt like coming home to me. I know that sounds a little odd, but it just felt so familiar. Maybe that's from all the years of dreaming of finally driving the Speedway. I got out there. The car was set up perfectly. Everything was in slow motion. It was just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be out there, driving on the Speedway, bring a Pollard name back to the Speedway. A couple of times when I went through turn one, where Art had his accident, I looked over at the wall, I saw that, I said, "That's not for me. This is the time for the Pollards to bring the name positively back to the Speedway." My goals are to pick up where Art left off, get up there and win the 500, I don't want to say as quickly as possible, but get the name back into the IRL, work really hard to win the 500 and do the best that we can do.
THE MODERATOR: What about the extended family, when you come back here for the Freedom 100 on the 22nd, does the family have any type of special plans for that day or the race here?
BRAD POLLARD: They do. My parents will be there. Art's son Mike Pollard will be there. He always helps me out. So we'll have quite a few of our family members there. That will be a real special time for the family to get back to the Speedway. We're all looking forward to that.
THE MODERATOR: After what we hope is a great run here in May, the rest of the year, I know the next goal then is obviously to continue up the racing ladder into the IndyCar Series. I know you've been working on some plans to move into that series for next year. What can you tell us about your plans and progress on that front?
BRAD POLLARD: I can tell you we're continuing our alignment with XBOX, which is very exciting for us. They've been a great sponsor and continue to be a great sponsor. We will run the last three races of the season in an IRL car. We haven't aligned with a team yet, but right after the 500 we know lots of equipment becomes available, and there's lots of different strategic alignments that can be made. We're going to work really hard after the 500 to get with a team, get with the right team, run the last three races of the season in both cars, because I'm going to finish up the Infiniti Pro Series, then the last three races the year, Chicago, Fontana and Texas, I'll be jumping back and forth between IRL cars and Infiniti cars. We're working on a plan for '05, aligning back with XBOX for the full season in an IRL car. There's still a few partnerships that we're working on that we can't announce yet, but there's some very exciting things coming. I can't wait to share those with you as soon as I can.
THE MODERATOR: Very exciting. I know last year Ed Carpenter was the first Pro Series driver who on the same weekend competed in both series. Have you talked to him at all about that or is that something you would plan to do in the future, get his thoughts on it?
BRAD POLLARD: That's absolutely something I would plan to do, sit with him as soon as he's freed up. I know he's been very busy, so I didn't want to bother him. My plan was to ask Mark Taylor and Ed what it was like to make the move up, what was the difference between the cars, what should I pay attention to. Also I've aligned with Phil Kruger, if anyone remembers that name from the Speedway years ago. He's been mentoring and helping me. He will also help me make the transition to the big cars. As soon as we can get ourselves aligned with teams, we're going to actually start testing in the big cars so I can be prepared for September.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned XBOX as a sponsor that has been with you for a while, will be helping you in the IndyCar efforts. How did you develop a relationship with that company, with XBOX?
BRAD POLLARD: We've been very, very fortunate. I can't tell you how thankful I am that they're actually even listening to me. It was a little bit of a challenge at first. Everybody out there who raises the sponsorship, they know you hear a lot of "no's" before you hear the final "yes." Lucky for me, I actually work for XBOX when I'm not racing. I'm a consultant. I help out -- I'm an art director actually what I do for them. I help XBOX developers all over the world make better games. I help guide them both with their technical pipeline and their creative pipeline to make their XBOX games as good as they can be. I was already sort of inside, just knew the right people to call. We just kind of kept working on deals that made sense to XBOX. It had a lot less to see with, "Let's take all your money," a lot more to do with strategy alignments with outside groups into XBOX to make it advantageous for them. Finally, come November last year, they decided to jump in and help and said, "Okay, we'll do something for '04." Luckily they've been happy with the results. We're working on something for '05. We're very, very fortunate, very, very thankful.
THE MODERATOR: Seems like you get an inside look at some of those games before they hit the marketplace.
BRAD POLLARD: I do. I get to see all the stuff before it hits. That in itself is really a neat job. Of course, now when the racing games come by, those are my favorite games to work on. But it's a really neat relationship. That's something that we're very thankful for.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions at this time for Brad.
Q. When it became evident and apparent that your road in life was going to take you not only to the Speedway but into racing, what was the first reaction from the family?
BRAD POLLARD: That's a great question. My father was upset at first. He wasn't really sure. Of course, you know, losing Art which really was like a brother to him, because my father was raised with Art, he was a lot closer to us than a cousin would be. My dad was like, "Oh, my gosh, why are you going to do this? It's so dangerous." I couldn't really explain why other than it's just been a calling that I felt my whole life. You know, had I not jumped in a Formula Mazda and been so successful the first year and won, I probably would have kept it as a hobby. But I have to pursue these dreams. I feel like it's my responsibility to the Pollard name to pick up where Art left off. I'm very thankful everything has worked out. Now my dad is much better. You'll see him at the Speedway. He's very excited about the whole thing. Of course, he's very excited if I don't crash. But the family, Art's son has been completely supportive and has been helping me out left and right, my cousin Terry. I've got a lot of people in my family that are helping out now. But at first they were a little bit concerned, but they're much better now.
Q. Not to put a religious tone to it, but listening to you talk about returning to the Speedway, taking those first few laps, it's almost as though somewhere within you you felt you were returning on a pilgrimage, almost to Mecca?
BRAD POLLARD: That's how it feels to me. That's exactly how it felt. You know, after Art's tragic death, that really affected me as a young boy. I got out there and I just felt like, "Okay, let's go to work. Let's get this name back where it belongs, let's get a Pollard an and Andretti and Unser and Foyt back on that track together, let's keep going." That's exactly how it felt. I felt like I was coming home. I felt like I'd driven that Speedway a million times. I can't explain why that happened. But we were pretty quick right off the bat. I felt, "It's just supposed to be that way." It felt easy to drive. I kept thinking, "Why does it feel so slow?" I don't know. That's a testament to how great a car that Ken set up for us. I'm very thankful.
Q. The year that Art died?
BRAD POLLARD: 1973, May 12th, in the morning. All I remember is I was a really young guy and I was eating cereal. My mom was crying and I couldn't understand why. She had said Art was tragically injured. I think it was maybe about 10 a.m. I remember it being really early in the morning on the west coast.
Q. What is it about the Brickyard, about the Indianapolis 500, that Bakersfield and its racing sons have such a reverence. Two years ago I was there for the Brickyard 400, Kevin Harvick won the IROC race, launched into this tribute to Rick Mears. I didn't know they knew each other. You know what happened last August when that was a complete tribute to Rick Mears. What is it about Bakersfield that has such a reference for the Brickyard?
BRAD POLLARD: That's a great question. My dad and I were just talking about that the other day. Rick is actually really good friends with my cousin Terry. Every time they see each other, they ran around together at kids. You know, I don't know what it is. I know in Bakersfield, it's a very sports-minded town, a very competitive town. You grow up looking up to your idols and looking up to the people that really count, your mentors. For some reason it seems to breed fast car drivers. I don't know if that's our competitive nature, if it's in the water. I really don't know. It's pretty neat that we have a group of guys that are gaining some success. If we could all be as good as Rick Mears, I think that would be fantastic.
Q. I know Roger has been outspoken about this. He'd rather see Casey driving with you guys on May 30th as opposed to being in Charlotte that day. It's kind of refreshing to see somebody like yourself whose interest is in that open-wheel. There's a family tradition, commitment to your family that's moving and poignant. That's nice to see because talking to Casey over the weekend at Fontana, I get the feeling he would like to do that double someday.
BRAD POLLARD: Yeah. I can understand why. In fact, I was just talk to Robby Gordon the other day. He does that. He goes back and forth between the IRL, goes to the Coca-Cola 600. I think that would be pretty fantastic to be able to do something like that. Right now, I'm going to stay focused on open-wheel and get as good as I can get there. But, of course, I'm always open to opportunities. If anything arises, to be honest with you, it's really where God leads me, where I'm supposed to be in racing. I know right now I'm supposed to focus on open-wheel.
Q. You have to focus on the next race here, the month at Indy, but have you thought about how cool it's going to be to have the home track advantage at Fontana? You know the way Bakersfield supports its native sons.
BRAD POLLARD: You're going to see a lot of us down there, absolutely. In fact, they all came out to Fontana last year. That was one of my first races in the IPS. Yeah, it's going to be exciting. Actually, they'll all kind of pile into Phoenix and Fontana. Close enough to the Bakersfield crowd.
Q. What do you expect from this race? It's going to be maybe a little longer than before. Do you prepare different for it?
BRAD POLLARD: You mean the Freedom 100?
BRAD POLLARD: Well, it won't feel like it's very many laps. It's a two and a half mile oval there, rectangle with rounded corners. You know, Phoenix felt, because it was so hot, like a longer race because it was so many laps. I kind of get the feeling that Indy is going to feel -- of course, we're going to try to get this thing to the front this time. We're going to work really hard to qualify well, get it up in the front, keep it up in the front. Honestly, I hope it feel -- it feels longer, but I have a feeling it's going to feel like it's over with pretty quick. I really wish we could be in the big show this year, but of course that's not set up until us next year. Next year we're come here and run for two and a half hours.
Q. You mentioned a while ago you will run some IRL cars the rest of the season.
BRAD POLLARD: The last three races the year I'll be running the Infiniti Pro car as well as an IRL car. I'm getting prepared for next year.
Q. When do you expect to announce what team you'll be with for those IRL races?
BRAD POLLARD: We're talking to teams right now. I thought we were going to get pretty close to being able to tell you something today, but we've still got a little bit of work to do. My goal is to get something up and running by June 1st because we really need to be purchasing cars and getting tests set up in order to get me prepared for September because I need as much seat times a I can get. My goal is not to just get up there and run in the back; my goal is to get up there, the first three races of this year, in an IRL car, it's just to do well an finish, but I really want to test as much as I can in the off-season and come back next year strong and doing a good job, be safe to the other drivers, just keep the integrity of the Pollard name.
Q. You talked about purchasing cars. Are you planning to be a part owner of a team?
BRAD POLLARD: Well, we're trying to decide whether we're going to use our sponsor money to purchase and build a team from scratch or whether we're going to just align with another team and do a turn-key operation. We still haven't decided what's the best path.
Q. Exactly how were you related to Art? Was he your father's cousin or your cousin?
BRAD POLLARD: He was my father's cousin. My dad's father and Art's father were brothers. My dad lost his dad at a young age, so Art's family helped raise my dad and his brother quite a bit.
Q. What is your dad's name?
BRAD POLLARD: Harvel, H-a-r-v-e-l, Pollard.
THE MODERATOR: Brad, thank you very much for joining us today. We'll look forward to seeing you in a couple weeks here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
BRAD POLLARD: Thank you, everybody, for your time. I appreciate the opportunity talking with you.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by IndyCar Series veteran Felipe Giaffone, who was last week named for the Dreyer & Reinbold No. 24 car. Felipe is the 2001 IndyCar Series Rookie-of-the-Year and last year competed in 11 events, finishing a season-best third at both Phoenix and Japan. He has not been in a ride yet in 2004, and the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 later this month will be his first race of the season. Thanks for joining us today.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: My pleasure.
THE MODERATOR: I know you talked about this a last, especially over the last several days. Can you tell us again how quickly your deal with Dreyer & Reinbold came together.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Well, it was very quickly. It basically everything happened like in 24 hours. I mean, I wasn't expecting Robbie's retirement. All of a sudden Dennis called me, I flew into Indianapolis, look at the shop, you know. They have a great facility. At night I flew back to Orlando the same day, and were all signed up after a few hours. It was crazy.
THE MODERATOR: Indeed. It's had to have been kind of tough on you to watch the first three races from the sidelines. Have you been itching to get back into the car this year?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Yeah, it's been very hard for me. You know, I went to most of the open tests. I went to Homestead race, then to Phoenix. Just as I told you, it's just like you're like in the same place working, trying to find a job like in a place where you think you should be at, you know, but you don't have a job. It's like you've been fired from a place, but you still have to go over and over to that same place with the same people and try to get a job in the same area. It's not like any regular job, you know. But I definitely don't recommend it, you know (laughter). It's been very hard few months for me. I'm glad that everything came back and we should be racing from now on.
THE MODERATOR: "Racing" is definitely the word to describe it. You got into the car at the Indianapolis test last week and really got up to speed right away. There was obviously some good chemistry with your new team from the start. Can you tell us about the process of getting to know everyone on the team, how quickly you were able to post those solid numbers?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Well, I mean, as soon as I came here, when I first met everybody, they have a good facility, good people working for them. But honestly, I mean, I was also expecting something not as good, you know, just because it would be everything new. I was outside of the car for seven months. They've been struggling a little bit in the past. I mean, I was happy, but it was like we just sign for the rest of the season, so I was happy for that. I was thinking, okay, Indy, we're going to work our way through, and maybe in the middle of the championship, we're going to be where we should be. I was very well surprised when I first went out and I start pushing. It's one of those things, the track came back to me so quickly. After my third lap, I was just like -- it seems that I drove in that track like a few days ago, you know, not a year ago. The same with the car. It was the first time I was driving a Dallara. It just came very quickly. For sure, I mean, the team's setup had a big thing on that, you know, because they made me feel very comfortable with the car. For sure they gave me a fast car right out of the box. That's really good.
THE MODERATOR: Had you worked with any of those team members in the past?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: No, I haven't. It's a hundred percent brand-new for me (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We saw you walking around the paddock area in Miami, notice you still have a slight limp from the accident last year in Kansas. Physically where are you on the recovery? How are you feeling?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: I mean, I still have the limp, you know, but I don't think I'm going to be carrying this forever. It's going to be -- I think I still have like a big hardware on my right leg, and I think I spoke to the doctor. I think we going to have to remove this in the end of the season, the plates. I think it's the plate in my leg that bothers me. It's going to be a little while. But, I mean, as far as physically, you know, I just can't go jogging, which I used to love to do it. You know, so I've been cycling, swimming, all the weights. Physical just as good as anybody.
THE MODERATOR: One other thing here. I know last week on top of testing the car, you were moving back here to Indianapolis. Did that go smoothly? Are you all set for the month?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Yeah, no, but it's been crazy. I think this last week or two, you know, nothing happens for so long, for such a long time for me, and all of a sudden I had the deal going on, then the moving. I'm all settle in right now. I mean, it's still not the way it should be. I just finished testing in Indianapolis. Which day was that? I think it was Friday.
THE MODERATOR: Thursday.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Yeah, Thursday. Basically I flew back to Orlando. I got back home almost 1 a.m. The next day, people were packing everything at home. Then me and my wife, we drove back here on that night, you know. We drove four hours the first day, 12 the next day. We got back all right. We're just kind of taking our time to put everything where it should be in the apartment, you know.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to questions for Felipe.
Q. Talk about your relationship, because I know during the practice sessions at Indy last week, Robbie Buhl was very close by. Talk about that relationship as a driver who just stepped out of the car and you're the driver who stepped into his seat, how does that relationship work?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: It's been very good. I mean, Robbie, I think this is going to be a big plus for the team, you know, having Robbie right beside me or whoever. They're planning to run a second car here in the future. So I think Robby's input is going to be very good because he's like Michael Andretti is for Green. Penske, he always have some exdrivers, you know, helping them. I think that's going to be his job. I mean, he knows exactly what's going on. Like if the car is not going good, he knows pretty much what he needs to go to try to help the team, you know. So we've been talking quite a lot. I mean, he's really good with sponsor, as well. I'm pretty sure he's going to help the team finding more and more sponsors. I mean, from what I can see, he's happy right now doing what he's doing.
Q. Does it speed up the learning curve of communication, which is always so very important to have, someone that can almost work as the man in the middle between you and the team, to help both of you understand each other?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Well, I mean, he's doing a little bit of that. I mean, my engineer right now is Owen. He was with Robbie before. I think we had some good chemistry, you know, between the two of us right out of the box. I think he's trusting me as a driver. The more I run with him, the more I trust him as engineer, you know. Robbie, at the same time, it's been us, you know. I mean, we have nice people working there. I think, again, it's going to take a while for us to be where we're like the big, very well-formed teams are. But I think this is a target that the team here have. We hopefully like towards the end of the year going to be right there.
Q. Sorry to hear you're leaving Orlando, but hopefully you'll be here again soon.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Not really leaving. Indianapolis, the weather is one of the things that bothers me. But we just -- I just put in my mind, I told my wife that we're going to be here no matter what happens. I always been living in Indianapolis, and said, "When we have like a long-term deal, we going to go somewhere in Florida." Like once I was in Orlando, during the day you don't have anything to do, I miss going to the shop at least a couple of times a week.
Q. It's a long way to drive to the shop.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: It is (laughter). Basically for sure like we put in our minds that it won't matter what happens, we're going to be here for at least the next three years. I mean, we can settle things down here. If everything goes right, we can buy a house and just be here, you know.
Q. How is the leg coming on? Do you have problems going through the metal detectors at the airports now?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: You know, the leg's coming along good. It still hurts a little bit to walk and to run, but I think, as I told you guys before, I'm going to have to wait and take the hardware out, then I'll be 100%. As far as the metal detector, you know, sometimes it beeps. But I thought it would be a bigger thing for the guys, but I think a lot of people has metals on their body. Usually like if I go just through the metal detector, you won't beep unless it's very sensitive, because it's not like a regular steel, it's made of titanium.
Q. Carbon fiber.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: But whenever they scan me with that little bar that they have, then it beeps really loud (laughter).
Q. You came up to speed very quickly. You like the car and setup. You're familiar with Indy. Your relationship with Rubens, has he asked for tips?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: He was helping me, as I wasn't driving. He was trying to hook me up to a few guys in Europe to do a prototype race there. So we're always in touch. I had maybe after June, I would maybe go over to Europe and do some prototype tests. Right now we stopped everything, of course. I mean, I got a ride, you know. That's not in my mind. He knows that I'm not like -- I always want as a kid to go to F1. Not anymore. I would love to have a chance to drive one of these cars, but not to go and race.
Q. No relationship to Senna. Just a problem to Ferrari drivers. Probably one of your idols.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: My father knew him because they raced together back in Brazil. The only time I met him was he gave me like a trophy one time in '88, I think. I was like 13, 14 years old. I won, they had like an end of the year party in Brazil. All the kids would gain some awards. That was the first time. I never actually talked to him like as a normal conversation, unfortunately. I used to love him. It was the best guy for me.
Q. You got up to speed real quick in the car you hadn't driven. How much input do you have as a driver have into the setup of the car?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Well, not much, to be honest. We discuss before I got in the car. I just told Owen the way I like the car to feel like first time out. Basically whatever I said, either was a big coincidence or he was really good (laughter). The car was just the way it should be. It work out very good. The car, I went out, first time I was really taking my time. The lap times, didn't take long to be right there. For sure the car was very good out of the box.
Q. What do you expect from the race out of yourself?
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Well, I mean, when I first signed the deal, I was expecting just to finish the race and do the best job that we could, as everything's new. But I think the better you start to go, the faster you start to go, things start to change. You start to look more like, "Okay, if we have a good qualifying car, we're going to try to go for the pole." Of course, in the race, if everything goes right, we're going to try to win it. But I think we're a long way to go still from qualifying to race. A lot of things can happen in the meantime. I think we just got to take our time. As you know, everything is new. We're all excited because things are going good. I know Indianapolis, I know it's a tough track. One day you can be very strong, the next day you could be very easily last. I think we got to take our time and don't get too excited and then see what happens. We have to go day to day.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for joining us today.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We wish you a lot of success.
FELIPE GIAFFONE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us on the IRL's weekly teleconference.
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