Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
TOM SAVAGE: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League's teleconference. Just a note to the media, there are high-res photos available on the Indy Racing media site. To access the photos go to Indyracing.com/media. The user name is media, the password is Indy Racing. Joining us today on members of the Red Bull Cheever Racing team based out of Indianapolis. Earlier today the team made some exciting announcements which includes the addition of driver Patrick Carpentier who will join Alex Barron on the two-car team. Red Bull Cheever Racing also announced that the two-car team will be powered by Toyota engines. We'd like to join Eddie Cheever, Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier. Eddie, first congratulations on today's announcement. You've got to be excited about how things are taking shape for your team in 2005. Can you talk about today's announcement?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: We've been working very long on putting all these pieces together. It ends a long relationship we had with General Motors, but it also starts a new one with Toyota. The IRL has become definitely a battle of Titans in the engine department, and we feel that with Toyota, it will put us back to the front again. As for our drivers, I couldn't be happier. We have two seasoned, experienced warriors. They seem to be very comfortable with our company's philosophy. I'm very much looking forward to the season.
TOM SAVAGE: Thank you. Alex Barron had five Top 10 finishes in the 2004 season for Red Bull Cheever Racing, including a season-best third place finish at the Bombardier 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in June. Alex returns for a second season with the team. Alex, give us your thoughts on today's announcement
ALEX BARRON: I'm very excited. I've been with Toyota off and on since '97. I know that everything that we've heard, they're very dedicated for the 2005 season. The team I think is, again, improving its strength. I think Eddie has put a lot of key people in the right places. I'm just very excited to extend my relationship with Red Bull Cheever Racing for another year.
TOM SAVAGE: The newest member of Red Bull Cheever Racing, Patrick Carpentier, is an eight-year veteran of major open-wheel racing. After making his CART debut in 1997, he won the Toyota Atlantic championship in 1996, a feat his new teammate Barron did a year later in 1997. His first career CART victory came at Michigan International Raceway at 2001, which is a current stop on the IndyCar Series schedule today. Patrick, congratulations. Can you give us your thoughts on today's announcement?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I'm extremely happy. Like Eddie said, we've been working very hard. To be teammates with Alex is a good thing. I know him a little bit because he (inaudible) the same team as me in Atlantic, and I think we're going to get along really well. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm very anxious. I want to start testing we soon. I think with the team, the way it's heading, with the Toyota engine, for sure for me coming in with Mecachrome and Red Bull and all these guys, I'm really excited. I love ovals and I've been wanting to do it for a few years. I've never done the Indy 500, for me it's going to be a new experience, but I'm really looking forward to it. I love closed-wheel racing and I love oval racing, so it's fantastic.
TOM SAVAGE: Eddie, is there a reason behind the No. 83 in the race car?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Red Bull can is 83 -- that's the size of a Red Bull can. I'm amazed you picked up on that. Well done.
TOM SAVAGE: Thank you much. I got an assist here from folks in the office. Can't take full credit. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Patrick, congratulations on the move. It seems to me, we're not going to look back, in the statements we've had from Forsythe that you may have jumped the gun here and made a decision too quickly, that there was a possibility of you staying there. I know before you made this decision, that probably wasn't forthcoming to you, and this may be some backtracking on their part. What is your comment on that?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Honestly, I'm not going to really comment on it. For me, I remember sitting last year, last winter, before the season started, and I was talking to Al. We were talking about it. I said, "You know, I would like to go race some ovals. I would like to do the Indy 500. I think next year I'm going -- I'm most likely going to be looking towards the IRL." It started fairly early. I was not allowed to negotiate until later in the year this year. Gerry knew about it. Everybody knew about it. Had a talk with Gerry. I know they were looking for something, they wanted me back. But for me it's a personal choice. I've always wanted to do the Indy 500. I've always wanted to race ovals. You know how much I love oval racing. So for me it's a personal decision and a choice that I've studied and looked at very carefully. I think here with Red Bull Cheever Racing is going to be a pretty good partnership.
Q. Eddie, what are you seeing in Patrick as a driver? You've worked with all kinds of talent over the years. What are you seeing in Patrick that you like and why the hire?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: I think he's at a perfect point in his career, both from an age point of view and experience he's had. I cannot say that I have spent a lot of time with Patrick, but he seems to be extremely motivated. Something that you can always judge, a driver's motivation, is by looking if they're in good physical shape or not. He seems to be in incredibly good shape. His enthusiasm. The guy finished third in that other championship, which I don't even know what it's called any more. He has done very well. He's a professional. We expect him to deliver results. I'm sure he will do that. I put him on very much of an equal par with Alex Barron, who I have a lot of respect for. He's put a lot of work into this team. I think between the two of them, they will do a very good job working with each other. It is important that we found somebody to work with Alex and somebody that they could push each other on. The time I have spent with Patrick, I have been very impressed with his dedication to his job. The whole team is very much looking forward to starting to work with him.
Q. Patrick, when will be the first time you get a chance to test with the Dallara chassis?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I haven't had the testing schedule yet, but it's going to be around mid December, probably 13 or 15. I think my first, funny, it's going to be on a road course. Looking forward to that. Then I'm really looking forward to going on the oval circuits with it.
Q. Patrick, after eight years with CART/Champ Car, the solid season this year with the victory, can you sum up for me your past eight years and what it's been like for you, how long you've had your eye on moving to the IRL?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Actually, it started a few years back. But the last winter is the time when I really started looking into it. I looked at pretty of all the races this season before I made the final decision. I've always been a big fan of oval racing and closed-wheel racing. I looked for it. I think this project is coming together at the right time. For me I spent eight years in CART, and it was a big learning process. I'd say when I first started, I was very soft, just learning quite a few things, very easily influenceable. Over the years, I got hit on the head a few times, not only because I crashed, but outside the race car. I just learned from that. You know, you learn, you get tougher, thicker skin. Every year got better and better and better. This year was actually the first year for me where I really felt like I was a championship contender, championship winner, race-winning capabilities, strong and devoted to actually guide the team and lead the team. I actually like that position. I'm not saying I'm going to lead the whole team, because Alex is going to lead his side of the team and we're going to work together quite a bit actually to both of us be at the front. But to lead a part of the team, I'm really looking forward to it. I think I've had great experience with that. The reason we had success this year was in major part because of the attitude change and the attitude that I have. This is what I want to bring here, this is what I want to do with the team and winning races.
Q. Did you talk to Paul over the last few days?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, I haven't talked to him over the last few days. After the season, he came to see me. I really enjoyed Paul, and I'm going to say this, I have enjoyed the time with Eddie also because they're strong penalties, strong person. One thing I like about that is what they say is what it is. What they tell you is what they think and what they have on their mind, what it is. It's very straightforward. For me, that's one quality that I really enjoyed of working with Paul Tracy. He came after the last race and he said, "Congratulations, you had a fantastic year." I said, "You know what, Paul, I learned a lot of stuff from you." He's a very aggressive driver. He will fight for every corner, anything he can find to fight and to get an advantage, he will do it. In racing, that's the name of the game. That's what I learned from him this year.
Q. Alex, what is it like now, you're going to have a more experienced teammate, can you tell us how that change is going to be?
ALEX BARRON: I think it brings more strength to the team. Any time you can go out on a circuit and have two cars that have a lot of confidence, you can bring two things back to the trailer to debrief, you have more angles to attack the race car. I'm very happy for that, and I think having, you know, two drivers that are very experienced and have won races, they have a tendency to push each other. I think that's something that we definitely need to put in place. I think the team, we're constantly moving forward in the right direction. With Toyota on board this year, with two seasoned drivers, I think it's going to be fantastic. I'm very happy and I just can't wait to get started. It just seems like the off-season is longer and longer every year. I'm very excited to go testing in December.
Q. Where is that test going to happen?
ALEX BARRON: I believe it's going to be in Florida.
Q. Eddie, you had a question about testing his Dallara Toyota. Does that mean you are staying with a Dallara chassis for the coming year?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Yes, that's correct. We'll be staying with the Dallara chassis.
Q. How long have you been talking with the folks at Toyota to make this change?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: (Laughter.) A lady would ask me that. We have always been proactive in making sure that we set our programs up as early on as we could. But this season it was very difficult because we were going through difficult times with General Motors for a variety of reasons. So we really only initiated discussions with them very late on in the year when it was clear to us that GM wasn't going to be able to give us the support that we required. It happened pretty late. I should be a politician. I just spoke for five minutes and said nothing (laughter).
Q. You got it through to me.
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Okay.
Q. Can you speak a little more about your desire to race in the Indy 500, how that played into your decision to change series.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, for me it's something that I've wanted for quite a long time actually. I was watching the race when I was still in Atlantic, back when Jacques Villeneuve and Scott Goodyear went at it. I guess Jacques won the Indy. It was a great race. Everybody always watched it back in Canada. I love ovals. It's a race that I've came to see and look at many, many times. It's something that I would like to do. It's a track I would like to race on and in front of the giant crowd, the people. It's a different race. For sure for me when I came into open-wheel racing, that's the year that I guess the two series went separate ways. I never had the opportunity to do it. So for me it's something that I've been wanting to do for quite a while.
Q. Was it a factor? How did it play in, the IRL being an American series, being a Canadian driver, Champ Car having much more of a Canadian presence?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, for sure I enjoyed very much the time that I raced in Canada and we got very good crowds. That's not to say that the IRL might not end up back there one of these days. But it's a great opportunity for me. For me I love to drive those cars, the race cars, and I love ovals. I've always for some reason done fairly well on ovals, whether it was in Atlantic and the Sprint car I tried or the IndyCars. It's always the type of racing I've really enjoyed. The closer it is, I was watching the IRL on TV, sitting at the edge of my seat. They've had some great races this year. I just like the spectacle. I like the race, the way it's done. That's why I decide to come to it.
Q. If you could explain a little more what about it is the ovals you enjoy, what challenges it presents, what you may have to learn in the coming weeks to be ready for the next season.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: The biggest thing I think I'm going to have to learn for next season as quickly as I can is the technical side of it, how to set up the car, what it does with the changes. I know with the IRL cars, very, very fine details will make a big, big difference. I guess if you lift on the straightaway, it makes a huge difference, and you get passed by a few cars. The way the car is set up, the way you can follow other cars is extremely important. But for me what oval comes from quite a ways back, not in racing actually. I've been a speed skater since I was four years old. I raced in Canadian and North American championships in the US and Canada. I used to go to Lake Placid in the winter for a few weeks to train on the outdoor ovals.
Q. At the Olympic facilities there?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Exactly. Very young I was doing that. My father raced actually snowmobiles, on ice. That's been in the family, even though it was not a race car, since I was four years old. I've spent time on ovals. Then when I started racing, I stopped for a few years. When I got back in Atlantic, we got on an oval. It was just like home, you know, the way you pass, the way you enter the corners. It's really similar to indoor speed skating. For me I've done that for eight years. I guess it was good experience that I acquired to use in the race car.
Q. You've almost been going in circles you're whole life.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Exactly. At times it seems like it moved forward, but circles pretty much all the time. I really enjoy it.
Q. What age did you start speed skating?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Four years old.
Q. Let me shift this conversation a minute. Eddie, quite recently you had Indian driver, I can't pronounce his name right now.
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Narain.
Q. How did that go and what can you tell us about that? My listeners in Chicago are quite interested in minority people entering into this field, what can you tell us about that?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: First of all, I thank you for the question. It was the first time that an Indian driver had actually driven on an oval. Narain is part of the Red Bull junior team. He's one of the younger drivers Red Bull is involved with. They have many different nationalities across the world. We invited him here to test on an oval because he's been looking at participating in the IRL. His options in his career right now are between trying to find a ride in Formula 1, which is very difficult to do, and just as difficult obviously as trying to find a ride here in the IRL. His test went well. The weather was not perfect. He did about 60 laps. Alex Barron warmed up the car for him. He came within half a second of Alex's time, which I thought was a very good test without crashing. There is an opportunity maybe that we will test him later in the season. At this point we do not have a plan for running him obviously since we've made our announcement today. But it is not impossible that we might run a third car for just the Indianapolis 500. I'm not saying it will be Narain. I'm just saying it might be an opportunity we might pursue. Our main focus right now is on Alex and Patrick.
Q. About three years ago a team of young drivers were introduced to us at a press conference at Indianapolis. At that time there was a note taken there weren't any women or minorities in this group. Without insulting your intelligence, is this move meant to indicate that Red Bull Cheever are at least looking at the diversity part of your program?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: As every American, I am always open to any idea. The ethnic issue, minority issue is not an issue we address, per se. I believe in giving everybody an opportunity. My race cars do not know if you're American, Italian, Indian or German. They just want to go fast. So I will always look in every nook and every cranny I can for a motivated employee, being a he or her, engineer, race car driver, or somebody that takes care of other parts of our race team. I cannot take credit and I appreciate you offering me that sentence, that we are doing something different. I do not take credit because I'm trying to offer opportunities to minorities or different ethnic groups. I'm just looking for the best employees I can. Often I find them in places one would not expect to see them in racing.
Q. Can you follow up on that third car?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: We're considering running a third car. I really don't think at this point in time it will happen in time for the beginning of the season. The might of Andretti Green this year kind of shocked everybody. But I think it's not something you have to do. If the opportunity presents itself, we will do it. I would like for just numerical reasons to have a third car at the Indianapolis 500, but it is going to be a car that will be a separate project so that it will not be a drain on our two primary cars.
TOM SAVAGE: Eddie, Patrick and Alex, thank you all very much for joining us today. We will see you down the road next year.
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: Thank you.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
ALEX BARRON: Thank you.
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