Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guests today include Travis Gregg, the winner of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Miami 100 on Sunday, and Red Bull Cheever drivers Patrick Carpentier and Alex Barron, who finished 7th and 8th, respectively, in Sunday's Toyota Indy 300. Alex and Patrick will join us in a couple of minutes and we're going to open the call with Travis. Travis is a rookie of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. He competed at three races last season with Sam Schmidt Motorsports winning a pole position and recording two Top-5 finishes. He led all 67 laps on Sunday to earn his first career win in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. Travis, thanks for joining us today and congratulations again on a nice win.
TRAVIS GREGG: Well, thanks, Tim. Thanks for having me on today.
THE MODERATOR: Take us back a year or so. You tested the Pro Series car a couple of times before you signed with Sam to race in Kentucky last August, at that point coming into the series, what were your expectations? Did you really expect to come in and post such strong results right off the bat?
TRAVIS GREGG: Well, I knew I was getting involved with a pretty good team with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. They are a high-class operation and with  Thiago last year, they can certainly posted great results. At the test, things felt great in the car. I knew if the car was good that I had a good chance to be competitive, and that's what I was looking for. And things worked out to where we could race with Sam, and that's where we are today and I'm happy to be here.
THE MODERATOR: There are a lot of similarities between your debut at year at Kentucky and Sunday's race at Homestead. Both tracks are 1.5 miles, you qualified on the pole for both. In that Kentucky race, you led for the first 57 laps, and of course, Sunday you held on for the entire 67 laps to get the win. What do you think was the difference between those two races that let you maintain your lead and take the checkered flag Sunday?
TRAVIS GREGG: One part of it would have to be experience, my fourth start. And another part, I had my teammate, Jaime, working with me, as opposed to battling it out for 67 laps. You know, he was saving his car for the end, and I was trying to save my car for the end. So we worked together to develop a lead between us and third, and he was going to try to do whatever he had to to get around me the last ten laps, and that's how it ended up, 1, 2 finish. You know, I'm just happy that we worked together and we didn't take each other out.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned, you guys were nose to tail throughout the entire race, and I expect as you guys are teammates, both having strong Sam Schmidt cars, that we'll see some battles like that between the two of you guys probably all year long.
TRAVIS GREGG: Yeah, I think that's going to be an indication of what the season will be like.
THE MODERATOR: Now your other teammate, too, Chris Festa, in some ways it was a disappointing debut since he had an accident halfway through the race, but at the same time he started out 9th and was up to 4th by Lap 23. I would guess he's going to be some pretty tough competition for you, as well.
TRAVIS GREGG: Yeah, he is. In testing over the winter he was pretty quick and -- really quick, actually. And before the race on Sunday he told me, "You know, I'll be coming up there for you guys, so don't get too far ahead."
THE MODERATOR: Let's take a look ahead real quick at the next two races. Obviously you've been to Phoenix, tested there, never raced there. It's a pretty tough one-mile oval. Last year Thiago Medeiros was very dominant there lapping the entire field. What are some of the keys for you as you head into Phoenix?
TRAVIS GREGG: Some of the keys, just be a little patient. And make sure you get a good race car setup; that way, you know, it's comfortable, you know, turn 3 and 4; and 1 and 2, it's a little bit tighter and has a little bit, you know, a tight corner coming of off 2. But I think to just, you know, stay focused on being smart and not trying to do anything silly, it's only the second race of the year and just try to do that.
THE MODERATOR: Do you think we could see a dominating performance like that again, whether it be from yourself or someone else?
TRAVIS GREGG: I think so. At the Phoenix open test, Jaime was the front runner and Simmons was up there, too. So I think it's going to be a very competitive race.
THE MODERATOR: In three and a half weeks, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series will compete on the streets of St. Petersburg, first street course race in history. Tell us a little bit about what you're looking forward to in that race.
TRAVIS GREGG: Yeah, I'm looking forward to that, St. Petersburg, a great place. We going to be right by the bay. I think it's going to be a challenge. I've never raced on a street course before and it's going to be different variations in pavement and concrete. I'm looking forward to and just have to take it one step at a time.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Travis.
Q. Travis, could you take us through your career to date, like your previous experience, I know you ran some Sprint cars and did some road racing. Could you be more detailed on what your background is like?
TRAVIS GREGG: Sure. I began racing go-karts at age 7. I did some OBKA Club races, Camden, Ohio, G&J Kartway there; and did some WKA races, two-cycle Sprints; and also started racing Formula Atlantics in '98 and '99, and did some races at Gingerman, Mid-Ohio, IRP. And then from there on did four years of Sprint car racing, non-wing four-ten Sprints, mainly in Indiana, like Lawrenceburg, Bloomington and Terra Haute.
Q. So all of these Formula Atlantics races were on natural terrain road courses?
TRAVIS GREGG: Yes.
Q. The sponsor, Lucas Oil, Sam brought him on last year at the Indy 500, and all of a sudden he shows up with your car for the year. Quite a great find for a sponsor.
TRAVIS GREGG: Yeah, it is, and I'm happy that Lucas is going to be a part of the program this year. I know Sam was a big part of that with the sponsorship last year they received from them at Indy with Richie Hern (ph). And I had a brief chance to talk to Forest, and he seemed excited on Sunday and looked forward to meeting him, and maybe even working up things better in the future with Lucas Oil.
Q. Now you talked about the road racing and the Sprint car racing, what do you think, which one has more of an effect in your racing now in Menards Infiniti Pro Series?
TRAVIS GREGG: I think it's a little bit of both. I mean, Sprint car racing, you know, you're only turning left and that's a big part in racing on ovals. But the Formula Atlantic racing, it's more of an Indy-type style of car. So I think that they both kind of relate to helping me a little bit better on the track.
Q. Could you tell us what having Sam is a Sam Schmidt around you means to you and what he's been able to do for you both on and off the racetrack?
TRAVIS GREGG: Yeah, Sam's a very dedicated individual. He travels, you know, many days out of the year for his paralysis foundation and also the race team. And just having him there at the track, because, you know, I'm sure he would give anything to get back into a car. So you know, I take that time to ask questions, and he lends support to me. Anything that I have questions about, he's there always with some advice.
Q. The fact that Sam has never given up on his life, is that, not a morale booster, but does that give you an extra, "boy, my day's not so bad"?
TRAVIS GREGG: Yeah, you know, you can give 100%, but in his perspective, I can give 110% because it's hard for him to make it to the track and so I look at that. You know, hey, things aren't going great for me, but they could be worse, I guess you could say.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for joining us today, Travis. Appreciate you taking the time and we'll see you out in Phoenix. Joining us on the call now are Red Bull Cheever Racing drivers Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Let me start with a couple of questions for Patrick. This was your IRL debut, you qualified 19th and led four laps ended up finishing 7th. Just give us your overall impressions of your first race this weekend in the IRL?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: For me, I'm very happy I'm really excited I'm really happy. I enjoyed the race. I had a good time. The weekend was a bit tougher than what I thought it would be. We wanted to be a little bit more ahead up front and we were disappointed with qualifying when they gave us -- we got stuck in fourth gear there, and so we started further back. But the goal for the weekend was to stay clean and bring the car home and then improve from there. So we know we have a lot of work to do, but we are thinking that we are going to really start moving forward. I'm looking forward to the next races, but let me tell you this race was really exciting. I feel like I was pretty lucky to escape the crash with the help of Davey Hamilton as a spotter. He guided me through the debris and we ended up 7. It was good, and it was good to lead a few laps. Overall, I'm very, very happy with the experience.
THE MODERATOR: One quick note, you mentioned Davey Hamilton. I just wanted to point out to the folks listening on the call, Davey also was the spotter for Travis Gregg, kind of an interesting coincidence. Patrick, you are adjusting to a lot of new things this season, the league, the team, all of the folks that work on the team, the engine, the chassis. Now that you've been through a couple of tests and a race, how comfortable are you in your new surroundings?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Getting more and more comfortable to know the guys. One thing that I like about the team is that they really want to win, and we don't necessarily have the biggest, biggest sponsorship out there, but they really want to win races and they are working toward that. I'm looking forward to work some more with these guys. This was a good experience, it was a lot of learning more for me this weekend. It's a completely different game than from what I'm used to. The cars run one inch from each other at 220 miles an hour, and the focus that it demands in the race is unbelievable. So anybody that says that they just put it flat-out and just leave it there and it's easy are completely wrong because it's one of most difficult things that I've done. You know, you need to set the car up so that can stay wide open all the time to keep up with the top runners. It was quite a learning experience for me on many different faces, with the car setup and the gears and the restarts and the pits and everything. It was a lot of stuff to learn, and I will be honest with you, I was a little bit more stressed than usual before that race. But like I said, you know, for us, the objective was to run well, but to finish the race, get some points. We knew the weekend had not been going our way and that's what we did. It was overall a good weekend at the end, so I'm looking forward to spending a few races.
THE MODERATOR: And looking forward to the next stop, Phoenix, which you've tested there, but that's a pretty tough one-mile track. What are your thoughts there specifically as you prepare for that race?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it's always tough. You know, any weekend you go, Indy Racing League has become in the last few years extremely competitive. And whether it's a road course or an oval, we already had a test on a road course, it's within hundredths of a second and thousandths of a second; it makes a big difference. So if you can begin one-tenth of a second, you'll gain six or seven positions. It's all of the details, the attention to details and preparing the cars and so forth. And I'm looking forward to going to Phoenix. I've always enjoyed racing one-mile ovals, and so I'm forward to this one and I'm looking forward to have a bit of a better week and to qualify.
THE MODERATOR: Alex, let me ask you a couple of questions. First of all, congratulations on an 8th place finish Sunday. You seemed to run in the middle of the pack most of the race, but one of the keys is making it through all of the trouble and getting to the checkered flag. What do you take away from a race like Sunday?
ALEX BARRON: Well, it's been running through my mind ever since we raced on Sunday. I think that the setup was very reasonable. We started off with a pretty good balance. We made the car very good after the first stop, and I was able to run high and low and I just didn't seem to be able to overtake quite as quickly as would I have liked to. Our pit stops were average. We have some things that we need to work on, but we did get points over the weekend. To be honest, I had higher goals for the weekend. I thought we would be up further than we were, but, you know, we finished the event and we got some good points and we have actually a lot of things that we have to look at. The event that we are going into at Phoenix I think is a lot different than what we just did in Homestead. Last year we finished fourth there, and it's because we had a very good balance with the race car and the heat, and I'm looking forward to going there. I think it's neat to run the series now with five different kinds of venues with the road courses, street courses, Super Speedways, Speedways and one-mile ovals. I think it brings more excitement to the series, and I look forward to the races to come.
THE MODERATOR: One of the biggest changes for you in the off-season was the switch to Toyota power. I assume that's been a positive move for you guys?
ALEX BARRON: I think so. I mean, I was able to win a win a race at Michigan with Toyota in 2003. I know that here in 2005 they are really going for it. They are putting a lot of effort forth to win the championship. I know that there are some things in the works, and I hope here in the next couple of races, you know, we can run in the front and be on more of the offensive side of the racetrack instead of defense. You know, that's what I'm something I'm looking forward to, and that's where you really enjoy making passes and either that's when you get really good results. But we have to work on some things all together, and hopefully we have a good package here before it gets too far into the season to start winning some of these events.
Q. Patrick, was it everything that you thought it was going to be going to the IRL?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It was more. It was more because it was definitely more exciting than what I thought it was. You know, I knew it was close racing and we're really close to one another, but I never thought it would take that much focus and run side by side like that, but it's pretty exciting actually. I'll tell you that I had a really good time. I really enjoyed the race, and there was a few close calls, but I guess there always is; there always are at every event. For me, when we did the practice, I was like, "Man, this is crazy." Everybody told me, "Oh, the race is worse, the race is worse." So I was a little bit nervous before. Race, I said, "How can it be worse?" In the race, it was actually pretty good. Once it settles in, then you get into a rhythm and then it runs really well. But imagine it's really exciting for the fans. I was excited watching it last year, and seeing it now from the cockpit inside the car, believe me, it is adrenaline.
Q. When the race was over with and you were just sitting there, what was going through your mind at the end as you started to get out of the car? You were so focused; was it hard, let me create a word, get unfocused?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, actually, normally at the end of a race, I stay out till two o'clock in the morning because I'm still like excited and stuff like that. But with this one, it demanded so much energy and so much focus, that by the time ten o'clock arrived I was drained out and tired. And my wife said after the race that I looked very different, very alert when I came out of the car compared to before. But, you have no choice, you have to be extremely alert and be aware of what's going on around you all the time.
Q. And for Alex, I'll ask you, you said there were some things that you needed to work on, especially on the pit stop. Was there any one thing that stands out in your mind that the team needs to work on?
ALEX BARRON: Well, I think all the teams, we analyze everything when we get back to the shop. We were just a little bit slow in the pits, but, you know, I think we know what it is and we've just got to work on it. But there's so many things with the new fueling rig this year and things that we have to look at to speed up the process. But, you know, in the pits and then being on the racetrack, too, we are trying to find out why we didn't quite have the speed to run with the leaders and we are working on that right now. But it was a long race because, you know, Patrick and I and the Ganassi guys, we were running together quite a bit and things got strung out. It just seemed a lot different than what I thought it was going to be. But we know what we have to do and we got some points in the race, and we just need to make sure that we carry on with making progress with what we need to do on the racetrack and try not to let some of these other cars get too far out in the championship, because that's ideally what we are looking forward to is to run with the championship throughout the season.
Q. On a one-mile track such as Phoenix, with Toyota chasing Honda, does that work to Toyota's advantage or disadvantage or does it matter?
ALEX BARRON: Well, I think, you know, Toyota and Honda are quite the rivals with each other, and I know they want to beat each other really bad. It's hard to say what's going to happen during the season. But I'm a firm believer in Toyota as a company to win races. I've been with them on and off since '97. I won a championship in Toyota Atlantic with them. I know that when they are dedicated like they are, they are going to get some things done. I know some things are in the works, and we have to work together with them to try to go after the championship.
Q. For both drivers, I guess you guys would agree that last year Kosuke Matsuura made quite an impression on the positive side, but he may have hurt his reputation Sunday with his move against Scheckter. I'd like your opinion on what you think of Matsuura's move and the result?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think for me it was one of the first experience with these guys. You've got to be extremely careful. You've got to race really hard and race three cars side by side on the corner, it's not a problem, but you have to be careful with where you are at. But I think I what happened with the Matsuura, because I had the first seat in there, I think he started going sideways a little bit and he didn't quite counter -- counter, turn the whatever you call it, the steering wheel, right away. His car kind of went down on the track and it seemed like he caught -- he was cutting off Scheckter, but I think it was not his intention. I think he was running a bit high and it started getting loose and the car started going down and that's how everything happened. At the same time as that happened, Scott Sharp started spinning at the back, also, having exactly the same thing. His rear end got loose, I don't know if he got touched, but that's what it did. So I'm not too sure. I'm not sure if it was intentional. If it was intentional, I think it's really bad because once you cut the air off, then it's very hard to guide the car around the corner.
Q. Alex, do you have any thoughts on that?
ALEX BARRON: I haven't seen -- I saw the highlights on TV on the way home when I was eating dinner, but there was just a lot of movement that was quite quick in the corner on the restart. I think it just caused a lot of turmoil. It just, when you are running side by side like that, people get high and they go loose, and to make aggressive moves sometimes, I think it can catch some people out. But, you know, it took out like eight cars and you know that was a pretty big wreck. It took them a long time to get all that mess cleaned up. I'm glad that nobody got hurt. But again, we've just got to be careful of the aggressive moves. I think that sometimes that happens at the wrong time and sometimes you have to worry about people getting hurt and we have to evaluate it and try to make it better for the next time.
Q. In a drivers meeting before the race, I'm assuming that Brian Barnhardt addressed everybody, what was the mood of that meeting or the key thought that was passed along?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It was good. I think Brian's main concern was that nobody take the whole field out on the first lap, you know. It was pretty clear that if you want to race, guys, try to wait until later in the race, and that's exactly what happened. But in racing, I think you're going to have some good racing and you're going to have some bad crashes but at least, you know, it's never good. But it was at the end of the race where the guys really started fighting hard for position, so it's not like it happened on the first lap. As Brian said, when it does, it's really bad.
Q. Do you guys think anything ought be done to Matsuura or that Brian will do anything? Scheckter promised to do something, I don't know what.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, that was pretty exciting to watch that. I don't know, I think it's racing. They have to look at the tapes to make sure that nobody tried to play dirty on one another. But they have to make the decision to see what, if it was bad or if it was good.
Q. Was it disheartening to watch Penske get that far ahead of everybody else; and you had a similar package and you were not quite able to keep up with those guys.
ALEX BARRON: Yeah, it was. It was pretty much that way all the weekend. We were trying to figure that out, what's going on, but at the end of the day, you can always improve and we can do some things within the team to make further gains. We were talking about strategy for the event with the engineers, what we can do strategically to run in a pack and things like that. But yeah, I mean, there is a few cars out there that seem to have quite a bit more speed than us. You know, we have to figure some things out of why that's going on. But at the end of the day, that's the way it worked out, and it's kind of been a long couple of days for me because that's all I've been thinking about. I had higher expectations for the event and we were fortunate to come out with some points but we cannot let them get too far ahead. I know Pat and I, we both want to win the championship, and you start letting some of the cars check out on points and it's a long season to try to catch back up.
Q. Do Toyota teams share any of that kind of information, if Penske found something in their setup?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Not setup-wise. I think it would be wrong to do it anyway, because if we ever find something, I don't want them to go and see Penske and tell it to them. It works the same way. If they find something with engines, for sure you want to know as soon as possible, but I'm sure they are doing that.
Q. Can you compare this year's car in the IRL to your Champ Car from last year?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, when you run by yourself, I would say it's very similar. It behaves very similar. I had the opportunity last year to do a test at Homestead with the Champ Car and the speeds were pretty much the same. The car was the same, but where it's extremely different is when you start running in a pack. The IRL cars, you have to run very, very close to one another, and you try to stay wide open as much as you can as much as it will let you do. It's much, much closer racing than from what I've ever been used to in Champ Car. It was close racing in the last week at Speedway, but this is extremely close and you have to stay with the three-litre engine; you have to stay really close to the guy's gear box in order to stay in the draft and keep moving forward. So it's a different game. It was a completely different game to get used to for the weekend. Like Alex said, we are hoping to get a little bit more speed in the next one. Besides that, by yourselves, pretty much the same. It's just the way of racing is extremely different.
Q. Is there a noticeable difference in the power between the two?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's a little bit different between the two, but I think that top speed, the Indy car, the IRL car has more top speed than what we had on a similar track at Las Vegas. Power-wise, it seems like it has a little bit less, but around the corners it's really fast. I think we are easily pulling over four G's in Phoenix when we tested there, and I haven't seen that in quite a while. So it was two different animals.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking some time to join us this afternoon. Wish you the best of luck this season.
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