Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. We'll have three guests joining us this afternoon, Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver Nick Bussell is with us to start the call. In a few minutes we'll be joined by IndyCar Series drivers Buddy Lazier and Danica Patrick. Good afternoon, Nick, thanks for joining us.
NICK BUSSELL: Hi.
TIM HARMS: Nick is a rookie in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, a 22-year-old from Ionia, Michigan, where he grew up with a karting background. Really, this is just his third year racing cars. He's currently sixth in the points standings but 11 points out of third place. He's finished in the top five in four of the six races so far, including a third place finish at St. Petersburg. Nick, we're headed down to Nashville, which is basically the halfway point of the season. Give us your assessment of the first half of the year and your first go around here in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.
NICK BUSSELL: First half of the season for us has been fairly good. So far we've pretty much challenged a little bit of every type of racetrack we'll run on. The second half of the year, we're really looking forward to getting myself getting to, because we've actually -- we've done a road course, we've done superspeedways, we've done a short oval. The only thing different coming into Nashville, the track is concrete, a little bit more rougher than some of the tracks we've been driving on recently. But all in all, the first half of the year I think has gone very well, and I think that's going to help set us up for a good second half of the year.
TIM HARMS: I mentioned there this is your third year racing cars. Really those other two years were pretty limited schedule, so you're new to cars, you're new to the series. What kind of expectations did you have for yourself coming into the season?
NICK BUSSELL: I try not to have too many expectations. Obviously, as a driver you want to win and you want to win every race and you want to win it by a lot. Every driver comes in with that kind of mindset. That's a given. You're a race car driver. I really didn't know what to expect coming to the ovals. It's a different discipline than what my background is from. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the speeds and the close racing and things of that nature. The background that I've had is fairly limited in the cars. Actually, it's only been a year and four races that I've actually competed in cars prior to this season. Nothing compared to what I was doing with Infiniti Pro Series, being on the ovals; more power, bigger tires, bigger tires, more downforce. The package in general was a big step up. Then I was also switching disciplines to mainly ovals with obviously four road courses mixed in there. That's definitely a delight, having the road courses as part of the championship this year. It adds a new mix to the championship. Also, myself coming from that background, especially St. Petersburg, the Indianapolis Formula One weekend, coming into that the beginning of the year, it was nice knowing we had two road course races at the end of the year and two at the end of the year as far as the points are considered because my background is mainly from the road courses. I'm much more comfortable on that. I wasn't really expecting a lot out of myself, except maybe on the road course.
TIM HARMS: One of my questions was going to be if you prefer the ovals or the road courses. I take it the road courses, since that's kind of your background, is still what you prefer to race on?
NICK BUSSELL: Yeah. I mean, the road courses definitely are something that a lot of people have done, a lot of the background, people coming up in the open-wheel formula car, IndyCar, come from a road racing background. And I think a lot of guys prefer that. But the oval thing is definitely a new discipline that was exciting to learn that this year. It's not that I dislike the ovals by any means, but with my lack of experience so far, it's nice to go to the road courses and use my experience to my advantage there and just be a little bit more at home. But as time goes on, I'm definitely getting used to the ovals. Texas was a lot of fun down there. Looking forward to seeing more ovals this year.
TIM HARMS: You've got five drivers ahead of you in the points standings right now. It's been a very competitive season. As I mentioned, you're really only 11 points out of third place. Those other five drivers, though, all have the benefit of sharing information with teammates, while you've been kind of a solo act so far this season. Tell us a little just about that slight disadvantage you've had without having a teammate.
NICK BUSSELL: It's a little bit of a disadvantage. I'm not sure if I could quite quantify how much disadvantage it really is. But any time you have teammates, no matter what it's in, if it's go-karting, Formula One, IndyCars, NASCAR, whatever it is, teammates is always a beneficial part of your program, if you have it. But as far as our year has gone, I think without the teammates, we've still done very well. I don't know, we've just had some races that just haven't quite gone our way. I don't know if teammates really would have factored in there on a few levels. I know on a number of occasions, more than one occasion this year, it would have been nice to be able to compare data and compare information, not even so much looking for the extra help, but more of a confidence thing. Okay, this is right, this is right. Okay, what I'm feeling here is right or it's wrong. And I think that part of it, the teammate would definitely be beneficial. But as far as affecting our outcome of our results so far this year, I think maybe only one race I could think of that not having a teammate has affected our outcome.
TIM HARMS: What are your long-term goals? Obviously, you stepped in here to the Pro Series to move through the open-wheel ranks and get some more open-wheel experience. What do you see yourself doing the next couple years?
NICK BUSSELL: I'd like to be part of the IndyCar Series. I have no aspirations of taking part in Formula One or anything of that nature. I'd like to be in the IndyCar Series. That's one reason why I've chosen the Infiniti Pro Series as the next step that I took in my career because basically it's simple as this: if you want to get high-speed oval experience, to compete with guys in the IndyCar Series, Infiniti Pro Series is really the only way to do it. That's your best chance of learning what you need to learn when you go to the IndyCars, as far as the ovals are concerned. You're running a car that basically dimensionally is very similar to the IndyCar, is about a hundred pounds lighter, and about 200 horsepower less. But everything else; you're running on the same tracks, you're running on the same weekends, same environment, same conditions. You're really learning a lot. As you go through the year that will help you if you wanted to move on to the IRL. That's one of the biggest reasons why I chose to run in the Infiniti Pro Series this year. My long-term goal is to make it to the IndyCars.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and take some questions for Nick.
Q. How did you get from Ionia to road courses to begin your career?
NICK BUSSELL: I raced go-karts since the age of 12. I began racing at the East Lansing kart track just outside East Lansing city limits. Did that for a number of years, traveled the country racing go-karts pretty much all over the eastern side of the country, but have gone into Canada and California areas on several occasions. From there I went on to the Fran-Am championship, traveled around North America running that. As far as how I first got into road course racing, I began racing go-karts at East Lansing in 1995 at the age of 12, and just did that till I was -- 2003 when I did my first year of cars.
Q. You just said that you were into Fran-Am. Did you participate in that in both 2003 and 2004 or were there other series that you did during that time?
NICK BUSSELL: No, the only car racing I've ever partaked in was in 2003, I ran the Fran-Am 2000 championship, I ran all the races that year, finished 10th in the series standings, the highest ranking American driver. Ended up having a pole at the end of the year and a couple of fourth place finishes. The next year I decided to run that championship again. Unfortunately, there were some problems with the series organizers, as some people are aware. I did a couple races at the beginning of the year in 2004, and the series really wasn't going in the direction we wanted it to. As a family and myself, we made the decision to cut our losses and get out of the series early in 2004. We spent the end of last year preparing for this season. That's my car experience right there.
Q. Is the Menards Infiniti Pro Series going to be included in the Argent Indy mortgage Grand Prix at Infineon the end of next month? If so, are you looking forward to getting onto a road course?
NICK BUSSELL: Yes, we are going to be at Sonoma with the IndyCars. I'm really looking forward to that event. I've actually been there before driving in the Jim Russell racing school out there. I actually -- I was part of a driver development scholarship at the end of 2002. I was selected and did a runoff with a bunch of other people, not just from go-karting, but other disciplines. I actually drove around that track for a few days and really enjoyed the area. Looking forward to going back.
Q. This should serve as an advantage for you over your competitors because you have familiarity with the course.
NICK BUSSELL: Yeah, definitely I'm looking forward to going there. It definitely is a fun track. It's challenging. A lot of elevation changes. I've seen it. I haven't driven it in these cars. But you still have a very good perspective visually on how the hills are, what your visual fields are. A couple years ago when you go out there, you kind of remember what happened when you did it. I'm really excited about that one. Actually the Watkins Glen event at the end of the year there, second race from the end, I've actually driven there in the Fran-Am car. The last two races of the year on the road courses, I've had the ability -- I've actually been there, so I'm really looking forward to going to those tracks.
TIM HARMS: Nick, thanks a lot for joining us. Good luck down this weekend in Nashville.
NICK BUSSELL: Appreciate it, Tim. Thanks a lot.
TIM HARMS: We're joined now by Panther Racing driver Buddy Lazier. I also believe we have teammate Tomas Scheckter. Are you there, Tomas?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yes, I am.
TIM HARMS: Welcome to both of you. Let me ask buddy a couple questions first, then I'll have a couple questions for Tomas, too. Buddy will be driving the No. 95 Dallara Chevrolet Firestone this weekend for Panther Racing. Buddy won the Indianapolis 500 in 1996. He was the IndyCar Series champion back in 2000. Buddy, the race this weekend at Nashville, the first of several more races for you this season, give us a reminder on which races you've got lined up for the rest of the year.
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, first of all, it's really nice to be with you today. Hi, Tomas. I just got -- somebody had music coming over my line, so I don't know if that was a problem with my connection or not. But I'm really excited about, in IndyCar Series racing, multiple car teams, looking at what Andretti Green has done over the last two years, is a formula that helps everybody in the success. I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity with Panther to have teammates like Tomas and Tomas, two very talented drivers that are my teammates. I'm really excited about the opportunity. Nashville and Michigan is what has been announced. We're working really hard on getting some more races, so we'll just keep working. But I'm pretty excited about this weekend.
TIM HARMS: I would guess so. Obviously, as a winner down at Nashville, you won that inaugural IRL race there in 2001. Tell us a little bit about that race and just about what makes Nashville such a unique track.
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I mean, it's a concrete, you know, racetrack. I remember a long time ago we used to run at Dover, another concrete track. It seems like the concrete tracks have a little different characteristics than the paved tracks. It's a bumpy racetrack. It's fast for how short it is. It's extremely fast. You know, good cars will find their way to the front there. It's kind of a combination handling/horsepower track. You really can't do without good handling and you can't do without horsepower there. It just takes everything. You know, I'm pretty fortunate with this team to have everything that I'm going to need.
TIM HARMS: The winner at Nashville, they always give the winner a Gibson guitar. What is the status of your guitar? Is it locked away in a trophy cabinet? Do you get it out and play it?
BUDDY LAZIER: I play every once in a while. I notice they've really improved them since that inaugural year. Mine doesn't have a lot of fancy paint work on it. I've been pretty envious looking at all of the current winners' trophies. It's a very unique trophy, and one that anybody who has a guitar, you know, that means a lot. It's a very unusual trophy. It's a special thing to take home. It's kind of hard to fit on the airplane, so it's difficult to ship it home. But it doesn't really fit in your -- above your head, luggage department. It's a special place. It's very grueling this time of the year. The temperatures are up. Being a night race, it's unusual. It's just a special part of the country. I know we go down there and there's a lot of country western background, so many different musicians come out to the event. It's just a special event.
TIM HARMS: You were the highest finishing Chevy at the Indy 500 this year. Since then, the Chevys have run very strongly. Tomas won at Texas, has been in the top five at Richmond and Kansas. Tomas Enge also running well lately. That has to give you a lot of confidence coming back into this race.
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I mean, it does. But it has been a while. You know, I do a lot of training at home. I feel like I'm very sharp. But it has been a little while since I've been on Nashville, the racetrack, and competing. You're right, I have two great teammates. We worked really well together. Indianapolis, unfortunately my two teammates got caught up in an accident and didn't have the opportunity for a strong finish. It's very important as we're trying to build, I'm certainly -- my intention is to try to build an opportunity for myself and a third car at Panther. It's very important that I don't interrupt what is a winning formula because obviously what they're doing is winning. So my job is really to contribute to what they have going. If I can podium or do better, I certainly am going to give it everything I've got. But I'm thrilled about the people they have around me there. I'm thrilled about -- I believe I have the capacity to contribute to this team and hopefully all three of us are able to perform higher levels because we're all three together. You know, there's a very good chemistry there. You look at what it takes, the limited amount of time we have on the racetrack on any given weekend. The more cars that you have, the more engineering and race driving experience that we can all throw down in our team meetings, you know, really hopefully the key is to -- in my involvement, is to help bring more information into that process, but not to distract from obviously the successes that the team is having.
TIM HARMS: Tomas, thanks for joining us today. I know we weren't sure if you were going to be with us. Are you here in the States or overseas?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: No, I'm in Germany. I'm in Germany. I just finished a test. I'm getting into a hotel.
TIM HARMS: Your success the last few weeks has really been good news for you and for the team. The win at Texas, fourth at Richmond, fifth at Kansas. I think you even mentioned after the win at Texas that the confidence level was slipping a little bit. Certainly the wins was a huge boost. Then to follow it up, I guess expound on that a little bit more. The confidence really has to be back at the top right now after three great runs.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yes, for sure. I think both Richmond and Kansas, we both had a shot at winning. But, you know, the qualifying at Richmond is really what hurt me. I had a warm-up lap that would have put me in the top five, then one lap that just threw me off completely. When you sit at 19th at Richmond, the first thing is to finish the race. You know we're get a lot of races in a row. We need to make sure that the guys are not getting crashed cars. That was the first thing. I achieved that and managed also to get a top five finish. I was definitely happy with that. At Kansas we also had a great chance of winning. We were running right up the front. I think, unfortunately, we got in a little bit of a race situation with Dario Franchitti in the end. We sort of messed each other up. When we came out of the pits, we were out of the race. But it's definitely been good. Chevy been working hard, Panther guys have really come together. Especially the four car guys. We really got a tight package. It's definitely helped me. There's not as much pressure going to each race, "You need to win this one." If we're in a position where we can't, we'll collect what we can. When we're in a position where we are, we'll make sure we take advantage of it.
TIM HARMS: You had the opportunity to run with Buddy as a teammate at Indianapolis. What does he bring? With that third car? How does that help the team?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Firstly, it's an honor to be his teammate. He's achieved a massive amount in his career, not only at Indianapolis but in the IRL. He's very, very intelligent. He brings a lot of information when he drives the car. We seem to agree on a lot of things, which is good in the way the car is feeling, what it's doing. We only started the relationship at Indy. But, you know, I think no matter which team Buddy goes to, he's going to be a help for everybody, and definitely not a hindrance. It will be great to have him at Nashville. We can sit down, work together, make sure -- Nashville is not one of my best tracks, I have to admit, but we can sit down together and come up with a good setup that gives us both a chance of doing a good job, all three of us a chance of doing a good job.
TIM HARMS: Let's take some questions for both Buddy Lazier and Tomas Scheckter.
Q. Tomas, it's a very busy stretch coming up here. I guess there's about five races in six weeks. At the end of that, you're coming to the road course at Infineon. What are the chances of the Chevy out there? Did you practice out there? What did you think of the track?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, I didn't practice out there, unfortunately. My teammate did. It's really put me behind, really behind, especially at this track because every driver I've spoken to says it's not only massively physically demanding, you really have to go to the track to feel the line. I'm trying to get in some car so at least I get some sort of feel. For us and for Panther Racing, you know, our main objective is the ovals because it consists of most of the races. We haven't done a massive amount of road course stuff, although we performed unbelievable at St. Pete. I think some of these other tracks we're going to have to do some work and certainly I'm going to have to do some work to make sure we can run up front there.
Q. Tomas and Buddy, Danica has become such an overwhelming story during the course of this season. Obviously, her progress is being measured every week almost separate from the races themselves. Could both of you talk about this, whether you feel like as a competitor and both one-time rookies, whether you feel this is somewhat unfair, the expectations that have been placed on her.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: You know, I think she has to deal with it, and she's been dealing with it in a very, very good way. She's been driving very sensibly. She's been finishing races. The other thing is, I've done quite a few of these conference calls, and I've never spoken to someone from the New York Times. Obviously she's bringing a lot of media and press into the sport that's much needed. For sure, IRL's racing is a recipe for success. We really needed something to attract the mass of people to start watching it. So for whatever reason, to see what a good racing series we've got. For sure it seems to have caught on. I think Danica's played a big part in that.
So far I think she's done a great job.
BUDDY LAZIER: I would completely agree and add the fact that I think for a lot of people, it feels like she came out of nowhere. You know, those who are students of the sport have been watching her develop in the lower formulas. You know, she spent a lot of years in Atlantics and all different forms of racing. Though she's a rookie in the IndyCar class, IndyCar Series at this level of racing, she has a great background of amateur and professional racing for many, many, many years that gives her the foundation I think to be successful. Definitely the pressure of being a rookie with this sort of attention is very unusual and uncommon. It probably is a little bit unfair. But she's handling it so well.
Q. When you go back to your rookie seasons, do you feel there was a big learning curve there? You had different kinds of tracks you were running on.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yes, for me there was a learning curve. I was able to win a race in my first year and also lead a whole bunch of laps and also lead Indy for a bunch of laps. But for sure there's a learning curve. For me it was more of a learning curve on ovals than it was for racing. I hadn't come from an oval racing background, and that was the biggest thing for me.
BUDDY LAZIER: When I was a rookie, it was maybe a little bit different than maybe both Danica and Tomas in that I didn't have very good equipment. I came in sort of trying to find a way to break into the series. I think something that's very special is when a rookie can step into a very good race team. Certainly Rahal Letterman is that. With her experience in the past, the race team she's with, I think she has everything she needs to get through the learning curve. But it is a huge learning curve as a rookie year. I think we can all anticipate bigger and better things from her after she's sort of got her bearings in the series.
Q. Buddy, a proven driver like yourself, a former Indy winner, IRL champion, how frustrating is it to kind of have to stop and start, sort of reestablish your career? Also, the pressure or sense of urgency you might feel in these couple of races to do well and reestablish yourself.
BUDDY LAZIER: There is that. Human performance is always better, I think, when you're more relaxed. But, yeah, there is a sense of urgency I think within me. I feel like I am capable of getting the job done. I want to create an opportunity. I'm in no ways ever looking to take an opportunity from anybody. I just want to create an opportunity for myself. You know, really stepping back and looking at the way the industry is going, again, Andretti Green, we've seen it in so many other forms of motorsports, multiple-car teams I think is really going to be a key ingredient for the recipe of success. So I think that creates opportunity for me because a lot of these race teams need to expand. Opportunity comes and goes. I'm certainly not opposed to having to work hard. It is frustrating, but at the same time it's really gratifying to be able to have the opportunity to perform well and create new opportunities. Really it's a very exciting time for me in my career. I'm training very hard. I'm really excited about the opportunity I have with Panther because it's a very special race team. I'm just thrilled to be able to work with these guys.
Q. There was never a point, I'm assuming, when you thought that your career was over, threw up your hands and gave up? You never reached that point?
BUDDY LAZIER: It wasn't easy for me to get started. I didn't have an easy path. I was like my teammates in that I was a road racer by trade. That's all there was in Colorado when I was growing up. So it wasn't easy for me to break into the IndyCar Series. The Indy Racing League hadn't been formed. We certainly didn't have the dollars to perform well. We ran in two- and three-year-old race cars in a series that technology and being up to date on technology is so critical. We struggled for about a year. No, I'm very much used to working hard for opportunity. But when you're in a good race car and you have a possibility to win or perform well, you certainly want to take advantage of it. We're working very hard for the future. No, at no time, because I'm just not ready for that. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life and only getting better, training very hard, very hungry. I'm really excited about the future. Never was in the position nor did I feel frustrated to the extent that I felt like hanging up this. I feel like I have way too much more to contribute.
Q. Buddy, can you speak about coming to Michigan, the differences between Nashville and Michigan.
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I mean, other than the fact that they're both ovals, they're about as different as you could get. I mean, they both do have pretty good banking, pretty high banking. You know, obviously Nashville is a concrete racetrack. The concrete was sort of in sections, so it's a little bit bumpy, but it's still a wonderful place. Obviously, Michigan is very fast; much, much bigger racetrack, and asphalt. But Michigan obviously is a very special place. That's a place that I ran for many years, even before the league was formed. It's an unusual racetrack. It's such an important racetrack for American motorsports, being in Michigan and so close to Detroit. There's a lot of emphasis, I think, from a lot of race teams to perform well there. You know, Nashville, you really need to have a good car handling, and obviously the power, because we're flat out there a lot of the race, maybe all of the race if you have a really good car. Obviously, at Michigan we're flat out, but aerodynamics probably becomes another very important factor. There will be an enormous amount of drafting and how you work in dirty air at such a high rate of speed. Obviously, the average wide-open, flat-out, throttle-to-the-floor type of lap is going to be slower because it's so much tighter corners at Nashville, whereas Michigan is one of the fastest racetracks that we visit. Basically the big differences are the surface, the length and how important the aerodynamics are.
Q. Buddy, when they did the split back in '96 between CART and IRL, you were there, right?
BUDDY LAZIER: Yes, I was.
Q. Could you speak about some 10 years later now, obviously there's been a lot of changes, and when that first happened people were wondering how smart that was of Tony, whether eventually they would come back together. You've seen it all since that's happened. How has the IRL grown and why did it become the stable force it is?
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I think leadership is the No. 1 factor, leadership. I guess traditionally the big three, you have IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR, they're all run by an individual as opposed to -- whose individual interest is the growth of their industry or their business, their racing series. This is my personal feelings. I know there's a lot of theories on success, and the reason for success. I think those of us that were involved at the beginning, we really felt that. We felt that this was a committed, very serious step for the future, and it wasn't a whimsical sort of step. It had been very well thought through for those that were involved. You know, I recently saw an interview with Eddie Cheever. He said, "Race at Indy or not race at Indy". That made it a very easy decision for him. I think it did for a lot of us. Obviously, I was just really starting to make my way in the series, in the CART series, so I had an option over there that was pretty good. I had been struggling for a lot of years. I had a very good option in the Indy Racing League where I could win. So for a lot of drivers, it was a matter of picking where they felt they had the best chance to win. The Indy Racing League represented a huge opportunity for me to go from having equipment that was -- I was working my way up the field, but it was taking a long time. I jumped right into a race car that was capable of winning in an IndyCar race. I think all of us, in looking at the growth, it really is about leadership and having leaders that sole interest are to grow their business as opposed to -- I don't know. It seems a little tricky when you have a bunch of folks running a race team and all of them have independent interests because they run race teams. Looking at the way CART used to be formed, without that central leadership, I just can't help but to feel like that was a weakness. And looking at the leadership of the league, it really is a strength.
Q. Buddy, heading into the 500 this year, there's a lot of focus on a lot of things, not much of it on you. That must have been a pretty special race for you to come in kind of quietly and run such a good race.
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I mean, I really owe it to my teammates. It's very easy to come in and you have a new person and not really be open. My team gave me the same, as good as everybody else. The teammates were very open to me. We shared information really well. I think they would have had really good performances at the end of the race. I mean, all three cars were capable of winning at Indianapolis. There's no question. I really do believe we worked well together. As a force for the future of a three car team, I think my feelings are, and it certainly would be my mission, to make all three cars capable of winning, and hopefully the whole team just gets better when it becomes instead of a two-car team a three-car team. It was a very enjoyable experience. I think I really do owe it all to my team. The team owners at Panther have really treated me first class. The engineers, I mean, they have four engineers there, any one of which could be a leader in any racing team. So the engineering staff is very strong. I really owe my run at Indianapolis to them.
Q. Tomas, this year there's only a couple cars running Chevy. Has the attention that they've been able to pay you as just one of a couple cars running in the series, has it helped you? Have they been able to concentrate their efforts on you? Is there any hope of getting them to reconsider their decision to get out of the league after this year?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, to answer your first question, we thought maybe it would play into our hands a little bit. Every press conference we went to gave us a list of disadvantages, what it would be like. But certainly the advantages are that when we develop something, we don't have to develop 10 or 12 engines. If we develop something, we can get two engines sent out immediately, and it can be in our cars. For sure that's certainly an advantage. That's definitely helped us this year. With convincing them to stay, I think the only thing that will convince them is we carry on winning and do a good job for Chevrolet. We've won one race for them this year. We've been in an opportunity where we could have won a couple or more. If we carry on doing a good job, I think that's the only way to do it. It's definitely not a case of asking nicely. I think the only thing that might change their mind is winning.
Q. Buddy and Tomas, the Chevrolet engines, they've obviously become more competitive this year. They've announced they're going away at the end of this year. What is Panther Racing going to do for an engine? Who are they going to go to in '06 if Chevy does go away?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'm not exactly sure. I think that's a question for the owners. I can tell you one thing, that Panther Racing is an unbelievable team. No matter what, they've got a huge future in racing, no matter where they go. They've got a great combination of owners where they're very good in each of their departments. I think one way or another, they're going to be a race winning team in the future, whichever route they decide to go, with whichever engine manufacturer they decide to go, as well.
BUDDY LAZIER: I would completely agree. And I don't really have anything to add except it is a race team that I think manufacturers, if Chevrolet is not, I think is very attractive to other manufacturers because it is absolutely one of the very best teams in racing.
Q. Tomas, you mentioned you did not participate in the test at Infineon. Was there a reason for that? Do they limit the number of cars?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think, you know, we were testing in Kansas. The team had made the decision that they would go down with Tomas Enge, he had some experience on that track, to get us a good setup, they would use him because he would need no time to get up to speed with the track. For sure I would have loved to do it. I love road courses. But one thing with road courses is you need a massive amount of time on them to make sure you are up to pace and have a good setup. We feel that we've learned enough. Hopefully I can get some track time there somewhere, somehow. With a good setup, we have a good chance of doing a good job there.
Q. It was not your choice?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: No, it was not my choice.
Q. Buddy, when I look at your family's legacy and your legacy in racing, you guys would be almost a perfect match because you both came up the blue-collar way, scratching and clawing. Do you think that helps you in this situation?
BUDDY LAZIER: I missed a little bit of the question. But I came up a difficult way. At the same time, it was the only way. When you're committed to doing something, you have a passion for it, you do whatever it takes. I don't know. I love what I do and I think if you really enjoy what you do, you know what you're able to do in an industry, you don't let anything stop you. You work hard to achieve your success. It's never perfect. You just need to make the best of it and opportunities will come if you have the ability and the desire.
Q. You and the owner of Panther Racing come from almost the same background. Nothing came easy to either one of you. Does this make you a better match as owner and driver?
BUDDY LAZIER: Well, I think we certainly (inaudible) well with each other. I worked with some people from the team in the past. That helps, yes. But times change. Over a 10 - or 15-year period, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I was really struggling. Yes, we both have come up the hard way. Fortunately it's gotten better for both of us. We've both independently had good success. I think we're all probably more hungry than we've ever been for future success. For sure, we have a lot more in common than we don't.
TIM HARMS: Buddy and Tomas, thank you so much for calling us, taking a good portion of your time out of your schedule for us, especially Tomas, calling from Germany. Good luck to both of you this weekend.
TOMAS SCHECKTER : Thank you very much.
BUDDY LAZIER: Thank you.
TIM HARMS: We're joined now by Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 16 Argent Panos Honda. Danica, leads the Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year standings ranking 10th overall in points, and two weekends ago at Kansas she won her first career pole position. She went on to her fourth top-ten finish in the first eight races of the season. We'll open it up directly for questions for Danica.
Q. Coming into the heart of stock car country in Nashville, any temptation at some point to join NASCAR or are you pretty well content where you are at the moment?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I've been in Nashville before, but I've never been to the track. No, I'm coming there as an IndyCar driver, and that's where I want to be. That's been my goal since I was a small girl. Yeah, it's where I'm happy.
Q. What do you hear from the other drivers, any discussion about the kind of track waiting for you here at Nashville, the Superspeedway with the concrete surface and so forth?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, usually I just kind of ask the boys Buddy and Vitor when I get to the track, what it's like and everything. There's only a couple corners on it. I mean, there's categories for ovals; there's big ovals and there's little ovals. I'll do my research. I'll watch some tape and see what the track looks like from a driver's point of view. Other than that, get out there and turn left.
Q. Looks like you had a week off here, but now about five races in the next six weeks. Busy stretch of the season. Did you take time out to see any sports? Will you be looking at the All-Star Game tonight? Do you have a favorite team or player you'll be rooting for?
DANICA PATRICK: I guess I will, won't I? I think we were going to have dinner with Mark Mulder who was in it last year tonight, and that's probably why we're not, because he's not in it. You know, yeah, I'll probably take notice, I'll watch. For the most part, I'm kind of getting ready to go and be gone on the road for two weeks straight. I'll be getting ready to pack up and get everything in order. Definitely, take notice for baseball. I'm a fan of it. I'm a fan of a lot of sports. Probably watch the game for a little bit tonight.
Q. When you get out to Infineon at the end of this long stretch, will you guys be exhausted or something? What is it like to be in the third race at the end of a three-week stretch?
DANICA PATRICK: It's kind of our job. You know, we have time off during the week for a couple of days. I think it's more hard work for the team than it is for the drivers just from the standpoint of turning cars around and getting them to another track. For us you probably get more in a groove than anything.
Q. How do you feel about the expectation of being a role model for little girls all under the country? Do you think any of the activities you do off the track give those who look up to you the wrong impression or show them that they can be athletic but also feminine and girly?
DANICA PATRICK: What are you referring to? I feel very much the direction of this question is if I've done something that wouldn't be approved of.
Q. No. I know you modeling for FHM, that happened a couple years ago, but it's to the forefront right now. There are those who perhaps look down upon it, and then others who think there's nothing wrong with it. You're bringing great media coverage to the sport.
DANICA PATRICK: I'm not embarrassed by any means. I don't think there's anything in there clothing-wise that people of all ages don't see on the beach. I don't feel as if I was too scantily clad or anything. It's just the direction of the article was tougher than a bathing suit shot. I'm not embarrassed at all. I think as long as you're consistent in your character, you stand behind what you do and everything, that shows what kind of person you are. When you believe in certain things, follow through with it, and enjoy what you do. Everybody has a way of showing their personality. Everybody has a way of just reaching out to people. Whether it's through that kind of magazine or whether it's through charity events or anything, there's nothing wrong with it. It's just a different way.
Q. What kind of negativity, if any, have you received from your male competitors due to you simply being a woman? Does it bring you down or does it just push you harder?
DANICA PATRICK: I don't think there's anything that's really brought me down so much. Nobody can do anything that really brings me down. I think that it does push me harder. But in referring directly to that, I don't think there's negative attention from guys or from the competitors about me being in the sport. I mean, if anything, it's about the amount of attention that's been coming lately. Everybody has to understand that it's good for the sport, no matter how it comes and who it comes through, as long as the attention is on Indy Racing, then everybody kind of wins.
Q. I know your father was quite an accomplished midget, snowmobile and motorcross racer. Can you tell me what influence he had on your early career.
DANICA PATRICK: He was incredibly knowledgeable, obviously. I had a great crew chief on my go-kart all the time, someone who knew everything about carburetors, clutches, and just the will to do well, and what you needed to do. I didn't have a better teacher. I probably will never have a better teacher ever.
Q. I know you raced at Sugar River for a bit of time. Do you have any memories of racing at that track?
DANICA PATRICK: I do remember my first win.
Q. When was that? Can you talk about that?
DANICA PATRICK: It was in the first season. It was probably about three-quarters, half or three-quarters of the way through my first year. I was third. I kind of inherited the win. For some reason, it was like I really believe it, you learn how to win. You just go, "Okay, this is what I have to do to win." I was third. The two leaders spun and I went around them and won the race. Soon to follow, I won so many afterwards that I almost won the championship.
Q. How old were you then?
DANICA PATRICK: I was 10.
Q. I know you raced Toyota Atlantic in Milwaukee. Will your experience in Toyota Atlantics help you? The IRL cars are completely different beasts. What specifically are you looking at, similar or different, in coming back to race in a couple weeks?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, it will be nice to get onto a track that you just kind of know where the bumps are, you kind of know where the seams are in the track, you have a good feel for the size of it. But it's going to be coming at me much faster now. It's just going to be nice to have been on a track before. I'm just looking forward to that, and to be near the hometown.
Q. As the publicity from Indy has resulted in magazine covers, et cetera, what has life been like for you just walking around, going to restaurants, supermarkets, being out in public? What kind of attention do you get?
DANICA PATRICK: For the most part I walk around pretty easily. I go to restaurants pretty easily. It's not a big problem yet. Who knows, might not ever be. But it's been okay. I don't know if it's because I don't act like I'm someone that needs to wear big sunglasses and a big hat. I just cruise around. I think you almost draw attention to yourself when you do that. I'm by no means trying to do that. Either that or it's because -- I don't know.
Q. It's not like you walk around with a body guard?
DANICA PATRICK: Goodness, no. Absolutely not.
Q. Are you asked for autographs when you go out and about?
DANICA PATRICK: Sometimes when you go to restaurants, there's somebody that -- some people do say things sometimes. Usually half, three-quarters of the time one person somewhere will say something. It's not by any means overwhelming. It isn't interfering with my life. But, yeah, you do sign autographs. I like that, because that means that that person's a fan and they're paying attention to the sport.
Q. You've done very well for a rookie in this series, yet of course you haven't won. People are saying you need to win to ratchet this thing up, the phenomenon that is you. Do you feel any pressure or is it unfair to go ahead and people saying that you need to start to win now? You're still in your rookie year. Certain people are talking about how Danica needs to be more successful. Considering your environment, is that absurd at this point?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. I mean, I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. By all means there's nothing that I want to do any more than win, I promise you that. But I think for people to draw such conclusions that I have to win to make, I don't know, to do anything in particular. It's like, hey, it's my first year. I'm learning a lot. Every track I go to is a new track. Everybody has a certain learning curve. Everybody has a certain amount they have to digest and become comfortable and current and have good instincts for everything. Everything has to be just a reflex. I'm learning so many of those things. For them to say -- I mean, I can understand how this sort of thing happens. When you get so much attention and everything, people seem to think this is what you have to do, you have to win. I don't go out there and say, "Put me in as many newspapers and magazines as you can." It's just what happened. It's just what people wanted to write. I don't feel any more responsibility or any more obligation to do better because of it. My desire to be successful and to win has been the same forever. Just because there's more things written, I don't feel like it's justified in having to do better. I think every athlete at the top level tries as hard as they can all the time.
Q. Is it hard to be patient? You've had success, won a pole, finished well. Is it tough to say you have to take it a little at a time?
DANICA PATRICK: Yes and no. I mean, I think as athletes and as professionals and as people that have so much drive to do well, you kind of set that bar at whatever you've done. Sometimes it's unrealistic. You're going to come down and then you're going to bounce back up, you're going to come down again, then you're going to bump a little higher. Every time you go a little higher, that's the new bar that you set. On the same hand, I think that's what makes you successful. Do I think -- I understand that sometimes there's going to be a downfall. Sometimes there's going to be a bit of backlash or something. I understand there's going to be some backtracking at some point. There has to be. I mean, not everybody wins every race. If you win, you know what I mean, that's what you would have to expect to do every time if that was the truth. No, I don't feel like I'm rushing. I'm also a competitor and I always want to win. I always want to do better. You walk that fine line of self-destruction if you expect to win every single time or if you have to every time.
TIM HARMS: Thank you, Danica, for joining us this afternoon. As always, we wish you the best of luck this weekend. We'll look forward to talking to you again next Tuesday as we get ready for the race up in Milwaukee.
DANICA PATRICK: Thank you.
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