Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests on the call with us right now. Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon and ABC Sports and ESPN play-by-play announcer Todd Harris are with us. Good afternoon, Dan and Todd. Thanks for joining us.
DAN WHELDON: Good afternoon. How are you guys?
TODD HARRIS: Good to be with you.
TIM HARMS: Dan drives the No. 26 Klein Tools Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Andretti Green Racing. He was the IndyCar Series Rookie-of-the-Year in 2003, finished second in points in 2004 and leads the points race right now after 10 of 17 races in 2005. He won four of the first five races this season, including, of course, the Indianapolis 500. Todd is covering the IndyCar Series for the second season with ABC and ESPN. Last year he was a pit reporter on the network. This year he's been calling the play-by-play. ABC's last IndyCar Series broadcast was the Indianapolis 500 in May, which experienced a 60% ratings increase over 2004. And the next race on ABC is this coming weekend at Michigan. In fact, five of the next six races will be broadcast on ABC. Dan, let me start with a couple questions for you here. We haven't had you on since you won the 500 on our national teleconference. Tell us again about the thrill of winning that race and accomplishing a lifelong dream.
DAN WHELDON: Obviously, Indianapolis, the Indianapolis 500, is the biggest race in the world. I think it's certainly the biggest race or biggest-attended race in the world from a fan standpoint. From a driver's standpoint, I think it's the best race in the world. I think anybody across the globe would agree with me on that one. People that have participated in it and people that haven't . For me, you experience a complete range of emotions at the Indianapolis 500. I mean, I started off on opening day being quickest, and I ended the month winning a race that I've been dreaming of winning for a long, long time. But what that story doesn't tell is the whole range of emotions that you experience, you know, through that month. I mean, there were some real low points for me, and qualifying was one of them. There were some real high points, too, obviously the highest point being winning the race. There's so much that goes into that race. There's so much effort, not just from the driver but from everybody down to the guy that sweeps the shop at Andretti Green Racing. To actually achieve that victory when so much can stop you from winning it, you can have the best car in the world, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win the race. Look at my boss, Michael. He's had very, very good cars at the Speedway, and not won the Indianapolis 500. I'm still on a high having won that race. You know, I don't think that's ever going to go away, that realization of drinking the milk after the race, that will be a very, very clear memory to me for a long time. I'm still very excited about it, but still very determined to finish off the season strongly.
TIM HARMS: The four race wins and seven top five finishes in the first 10 races have given you a 68-point lead in the championship. Five races without a win, do you feel any extra pressure now to get back in the winner's circle as you try to maintain that championship lead?
DAN WHELDON: I feel less actually. I think I've achieved certainly my dream of winning the Indianapolis 500, and that somewhat takes the pressure off. But I would say from a personal standpoint, I'm not just going to be happy finishing fourth, fifth, second. I want to win as much as I possibly can. What you guys have to remember is as the championship progresses, is the people get more and more competitive. I certainly think from a team standpoint, and I think they will agree with this, they've been conservative with me from a strategy standpoint on some occasions, and you have to do that. If you want to, you know, contend for the championship, you can't make brash decisions and brave decisions that you perhaps have made earlier on in the season. Do I like that? That's not really my style, no. I like to win as many races as I possibly can. I think in doing that, I think the championship will take care of itself. But at the same time I'm not just driving for myself, I'm driving for a big organization. A lot of the people in that organization want to win the championship. I think it's been obviously the five races since I've been into Victory Lane, but the one thing that I will say is I think some people thought earlier on in the season that perhaps I'd been a little bit lucky with some of those wins that I had. I feel like I've also had some taken away from me. Certainly Kansas, we were very strong, and unlucky not to win that one. The same with Milwaukee this weekend. But that's motor racing. I think that's why everybody loves motor racing. I'm certainly going to be looking to get into Victory Lane Michigan. I tend to be luckier when ABC are covering the races, so I think that's a good thing for me.
TIM HARMS: Looking ahead at the schedule with Michigan coming up, obviously seven races remaining, obviously you want to win at every track we go to, but is there one place here of the seven remaining tracks that we go that really stands out to you as somewhere that would be really special to win?
DAN WHELDON: Well, there's two. I love obviously California Speedway. I don't know why in particular I love that one. It's one of those races that I think is certainly -- it's going to be very important this year. But it's been important to me in the past. Certainly in Indy Lights, it was good to me. Then I think Chicago, both of my sponsors are based there, Klein Tools and Jim Beam. It's a well-attended race for my sponsors. I think everybody in the company seems like they're there. I get great support. Those two would be particularly special. But I think right now with the series as competitive as it is, I would take a couple from any of those.
TIM HARMS: Let me ask Todd a couple questions here, too, then we'll open it up to the media. Todd, you've transitioned this year from being one of the pit reporters to calling the play-by-play. How has the transition gone for you so far?
TODD HARRIS: It's been fantastic. They've surrounded me with such good people, it hasn't been as difficult as I had initially thought it would be. And the drama on the track, which is really the most important thing, has been fantastic. Dan's run in the early season has been intriguing. He's such a great personality that it's brought a lot of people out. Obviously, Danica being who she is and what she's been able to do has been a plus as well. But I think our focus this year has really been on the personalities. For me, that's made it a lot easier, not having to do a lot of the technical aspects and focusing on more mechanical things, but more or less pictures, people, stories and drama. I think we've had plenty of that as you've seen in the first seven to 10 races. It's been fantastic.
TIM HARMS: Part of, obviously, a good broadcast and good production is the flow between the folks in the booth, between yourself and your fellow analysts, in this case Scott Goodyear, over these first seven, eight, nine, 10 races, how are things with Scott? Do you feel like you're in sync, feeding off each other, anticipating what the other is going to say?
TODD HARRIS: We've gotten better I think every week. Scott is a good friend, so that makes it a lot easier. It was a lot of fun the first three or four races having Gil de Ferran up there, because I think he and Scott are so polar opposite, that it was kind of like an odd couple. I just sat in the middle and kind of fanned the fire. But Scott I think really this year has come out of his shell a little bit more. He's kind of a reserved Canadian as it is. But this year he is so on the spot with his analysis. He is just so willing to get in there and say, "This is what I think. I'm a former driver. I am a former winner." He can say those things and say those things. I think he feels more comfortable doing that. I'm a better person for it having him be able to do it. It makes my job so much easier. I throw out things for him, give him ideas, points about -- questions that hopefully the home fan will be saying, "Why is Dan Wheldon doing that? Why is Danica choosing that line?" If I can get that to Scott and he can deliver, "Oh, that explains it," it helps out. I've had so many friends and family say, "I'm learning a lot in these broadcasts. Why do they do? Why do they do that?" Scott is able to follow it up. I think it makes it a lot easier. I think the flow this year between the pits and the booth is very smooth. That is something we've tried to work on, being less mechanical, making it more of a five-way conversation between the group than just one person dominating and having salt and pepper from people down in the pits.
TIM HARMS: Obviously with Indianapolis, we saw the huge surge in ratings on ABC. That's kind of continued over on to ESPN and the one broadcast on ESPN-2, a building of the ratings over last year. Now we go back to ABC with five of the next six races. What is the mood there among the crew that does every race and among the network as they get ready for these next races?
TODD HARRIS: We had a great conference call which we always do Tuesday before the race. There's a lot of enthusiasm, anticipation to get back on ABC where obviously we'll have more viewers that will be tuning in. I think we're going to keep people up to speed, and I think that's the first matter of business for us. We have not been on since Dan's great victory on the 29th back in May. What we're going to do is if you haven't been watching us since then, here is what you've missed, and here is what we have as we move forward on ABC, recapping some of Dan's great moments, Danica's, Sam's, Helio's, Tomas Scheckter winning Texas, bringing everybody up to speed, so we hit Michigan full speed on ABC on a great time slot on the East Coast and the West as well where people can re-immerse themselves and let them know we're with you through Kentucky, Pikes Peak, Sears Point, we'll be back on ESPN, but for the next three or four races you can catch all the action on ABC. Dan said this before, people have gotten hooked on open-wheel racing, whether it was his win maybe in St. Pete, which was such a scenic race, or the Indianapolis 500, and the ratings increase there. People are really starting to take notice of the IndyCar Series. We just hope that we can kind of get out of the way of the rolling ball and just keep building it.
TIM HARMS: Let's take some questions for both Dan and Todd. I do have an announcement. I would like to ask the members of the media, that you do not ask questions of Dan about the Milwaukee autograph session. The team has requested that questions about that matter go through Andretti Green Racing, their PR person, Al Larson. We'd ask you to contact Al on that matter. Anything else, feel free to ask both Dan and Todd. Thank you.
Q. Dan, are we working on changing your salutation to Sir Daniel? Is Her Majesty fairly excited about her loyal subject having such a great year?
DAN WHELDON: Thank you for congratulating me. I think you're right, I think in Europe right now they think I'm bigger than Beckham, so that's a good thing (laughter). No, I think truly England really respects the Indianapolis 500. I mean, the race, like I've said before, is the biggest event in the world. Motorsport in Europe is very, very prominent. With the coverage that the 500 gets, not just on TV but in magazines, people really want to know who has got good chances of winning, who has good chances for the pole, strategy, and more importantly overtaking. You never see overtaking in Formula One. That really draws the English fans, and European fans, to watch the Indianapolis 500. I think when they saw an English winner, it was the first time in 39 years since the late great Graham Hill. He was very well-respected. To have another Englishman do that, I mean, you've got some strong Americans here right now in Sam Hornish and Bryan Herta and others. It was good that we brought home the flag for England. I think they're looking forward to more wins in that race.
Q. Obviously your country has suddenly become the frontlines in the war on terrorism. I thought it was a powerful thing that you had Justin Wilson, one of your countrymen, won the Champ Car Toronto race, that following Sunday and there was a full house at Silverstone. Do you get some sense that you can lift your countrymen's spirits right now?
DAN WHELDON: I think any figure head in sport that is able to utilize a time to be able to say stuff like that, I mean, even if you don't say just do very well and uplift the spirits of people, because I think what happened there was an absolute disgrace, when innocent lives are taken. I mean, it's a tragedy. I hope those people get reprimanded, if those ones in particular can. It's just one of those situations where I think the more the English people do well in sports, it really can. English, in general, love sport, and it doesn't matter what sport. They really enjoy that. I mean, people know that the English people like to hang out in the pubs. That's typically what is on the TV in the pubs, is sport. I think certainly everybody involved in some kind of sport, and it doesn't have to do that, but are doing well, that does certainly raise -- it certainly helps the situation. It doesn't harm the situation. It can perhaps give back something. But certainly I think everybody's thoughts and prayers are with those families that lost loved ones.
Q. What do you think of the media attention that Danica gets? Does it ever get in your way? Does it ever feel like that?
DAN WHELDON: No, I don't think so at all. You know what, what you've got to remember is what Danica has done for the sport. She was a big part of raising those TV ratings for the Indianapolis 500. What you have to remember is the Indianapolis 500, the TV ratings that compared to the Coca-Cola 600, which isn't the greatest for NASCAR. We totally blew those guys away so from that standpoint, you have to be very, very grateful to Danica. I will also say the other 32 drivers on that grid that raced in that race put on a show that really I think captured the attention of the media, too. Sure, Danica was in there and doing very well. There was a lot of overtaking in the race. There was a lot of exciting kind of moments captured by ABC. That's just not one person that does that. But I think she's also brought a lot more fans to the racetracks, filled those grandstands more and more. There's not often races we go to now where you can actually see seats left open. I think she's handled it very, very well. I just hope you guys -- I think what you've got to remember right now is the IndyCar Series is very, very difficult. I remember what it was like when I came into the series in 2003. You're up against people that have a lot of experience. If you look at my teammates, for example, they've been around for a long time. No matter how fast you are, no matter what team you're with, it takes time to build up that bank of experience and knowledge. Until you have that, it's very difficult to compete against those guys. I think she's doing an absolutely excellent job right now. I think a win is going to come. If it doesn't come this year, it certainly will in the future. I would just not put too much pressure on it from a media standpoint to expect it to come very, very quick, because I think the circumstances are difficult, especially with as competitive as the league is. She's better than any other female I've seen. I've seen other championships trying to hype up their female driver now. I guarantee you, you could put any female against Danica, and Danica would blow them away. That's what's very special about her. She's very determined. Certainly when we're on track with her, I don't treat her as a female, and none of the others don't. She's another driver that's very, very quick that we want to beat. I give her lots of credit and love having her around.
Q. Was there a moment in your life that compelled you to become a race car driver? Was it something you always aspired to do?
DAN WHELDON: It's something that I've just been involved with all my life. My father raced go-karts and was very, very good. Through that is how I got into it. It got into it as young as four. My mother was one of the ladies in charge of timing and scoring when my father was racing. It's just a life I've just been brought into. I certainly without motorsport would be a miserable person. It's something that really keeps me very, very happy and very motivated in life.
Q. Dan, given the conditions you raced in at Milwaukee, a hundred degrees, certainly more than that on the track in the car, what kind of things do you do to prepare yourself physically for the demands of racing, the kind of stamina you need to have to get through a day like that?
DAN WHELDON: Well, that's a good question. That's an interesting question. So thank you. The biggest thing for me is I've actually been spending a lot of time in Florida recently. I often do a lot of my training regimen in a gym, whether it be running or lifting weights. But what my trainer's really got me into doing now is running outside. I'm currently in Indianapolis, the guys at St. Vincent's Sports Medicine looks after me, a guy called Shane White and Ralph Reese. And that's what they've been doing with me right now because these next few races are going to be particularly hot. Sonoma could be very hot. That's a very physical track, too. We've just been doing as much as we can outside and we've not been -- when training, dressing particularly cool. We've been trying to make it feel as hot as possible, to what reciprocate the conditions we'll go through in the race car. Other little things that people forget about that are very important, it sounds crazy, but just sleeping, making sure you're eating enough, consuming the right foods, and then hydrating yourself. That's pretty much what we've done. It was very, very difficult, not only because Milwaukee was very, very hot, but the cars were very much on edge there. The people that were tuned into the race, you would have been able to see the cars moving around. It took a lot just to keep them on the track. I certainly found myself being very, very loose into turns one and two, and consequently was having to steer very, very lightly to try and prevent the loose moments. Fortunately, I think, like I said earlier, the boys at St. Vincent's had me dialed in because fatigue wasn't a problem, it was just when we got out of the car, we were very hot.
Q. What kind of challenges did those conditions present physically? Were there cramping issues? How hot was it in the car?
DAN WHELDON: No, I didn't have any (inaudible) prepared for that. I think particularly with the situation I'm in competing for the championship, it makes you determined not to have any problems like that with cramping and stuff. No, I didn't have any issues at all other than just being hot when I got out of the car.
Q. Hornish is going to be strong at a couple of tracks, but he has a couple road courses where he might not be as strong as some of the other guys. Could you assess his chances? You obviously looked at the other four or five guys chasing you.
DAN WHELDON: I think certainly you can never discount Marlboro Team Penske. Certainly at the first street race in St. Pete this year, I was somewhat surprised, certainly was very surprised at Sam's qualifying performance. I thought he did a very good job, certainly much better than the one I did because I completely screwed my qualifying performance up. But I think Penske are going to do whatever it takes to be able to try and beat us. I have no doubt of that. If I can keep surrounding myself with my teammates, and we can try and keep it in the house, that's what we're going to try and do. But I think he'll be very strong at the Superspeedway at Michigan, I know he likes that place. I think he'll be very strong at Pikes Peak. But that's going to be the interesting one, to see how he goes on the road courses. I know certainly our team are working very hard on making sure that we perform very well on them and they're working on developments right now. But, you know, so are Penske. Penske did some stuff in the winter to help Hornish get up to speed on the road courses and I'm sure they're going to continue with that. I expect him to be pretty good. The main thing for me is just to worry about myself. I can only control things on my own, whether it be the right attitude or not, I've always been the kind of guy that believes if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I've just got to do the best I can. I was disappointed with the result we had at Milwaukee because I felt that we had a car that was capable of winning the race. I think with the strategy that played out, we needed -- we should have thought that out somewhat clearer than what we did and we could have had a better result. It's disappointing when you felt like you had a car good enough to win, bringing it home fifth, especially when you've got people with the likes of Hornish and Dario coming in first and second. That was a shame. But I think that's somewhat out of my control and we'll worry -- I'll worry about what I can worry about. But he'll be strong for sure because he's very determined.
Q. Dan, I want to go back to part of what you just said at the end of this last comment and an earlier comment about the setup on the car, make sure I understand. Because of where you sit in the championship, are you guys running a little conservative to make sure you have at least a top five finish?
DAN WHELDON: Well, that's not strictly true. Certainly from a setup standpoint and from a car standpoint, we're doing everything we can to go as quick as we can. That's the same for Honda, as well. Sometimes when you're leading a series, and we have a 68-point lead currently, there's certain risks that the people will have to take that are behind you to try and catch you and bridge that gap. But there's also instances when we can't - and when I say "we" I mean the No. 26 side of the team - we can't afford to do that. Certainly Dario and Tony, when they stayed out at Milwaukee, if that race had remained green until the checkered flag, they would have had to pit again under green, and they could have lost a lot of time. We couldn't afford to take that risk. Certainly the people that call my race didn't think that was a feasible risk because of the championship position we're in. Now, do I necessarily agree with that? Not entirely. But, see, I'm not racing for myself. I stressed this earlier, I'm racing for 95 employees of Andretti Green Racing, and the championship's very important to them. So the opportunity to win sure would have been very good, but the risk factor outweighed the chances of winning, so they opted to come in and fill me up. That's just one of the things. You win as a team and you lose as a team, there's no doubt about it. Calls in the past like that have helped me win races. I was just on the receiving end. But at the same time that's a good thing in a way because you know you're in a strong position from a championship standpoint. It's just disappointing for everybody involved when you have a car that's capable of winning and you bring it home fifth.
Q. I haven't heard you personally comment, but I've read stories that quote you. I don't necessarily believe everything I read. Your future, you mentioned your agent has talked to a couple of Formula One teams, then there was a story that maybe you were looking at NASCAR. Where do you sit right now? More importantly, where does your heart sit?
DAN WHELDON: Right now I'm standing, I'm not sitting. Just kidding. English sense of humor (laughter). My management have been approached by not only Formula One teams but some NASCAR teams and some other IRL teams. You know, right now I've yet to conclude a deal with anybody. I'm just making sure that I know what my options are and what's out there. I'm very happy with the team I'm with right now. We're certainly very successful. We're focused on trying to win the championship. And I'm not just, you know, trying to get around answering the question. I mean, the facts are that I am -- to me winning the championship and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year would be a very, very big achievement. If I can, without being greedy, would like to beat Sam Hornish's win record in a season. That is purely my focus. Not many people have that chance. So with my future, I've not, somewhat put it on hold, but we're just waiting to see exactly what our options are. I'm going to assess them and I'm going to do what's right for me. It's as simple as that. And I haven't decided that as of yet.
Q. Do you Andretti Green drivers plan to be at the autograph session Friday in Michigan?
DAN WHELDON: That was a nice question, a good way to get around it (laughter).
Q. I'm just asking.
DAN WHELDON: As far as the autograph sessions, I'm assuming, as an Andretti Green driver, that I will be there. But obviously any time that your boss either tells you 'yes' or 'no', you have to respect their decision. It's no different to a lot of the drivers at the Formula One race. I'm sure a lot of them wanted to race, but at the same time -- in fact, a guy I know, Kimi Raikkonen, he was desperate. But when your boss tells you 'no', you're an employee of that particular team, and you have to listen to what they say. If my boss says 'yes', I will be there. If my boss says 'no', I won't be.
Q. You had the problem with the uprights at Nashville. If I'm not mistaken, I think occasionally people have had those kind of problems at Michigan. I don't know if that's true our not, because those tracks are similar or because of the stresses. Did y'all get that ironed out pretty quickly, what the problem was?
DAN WHELDON: Obviously, the team is very, very good. It's one of the best teams in the world. I think they investigated it very, very diligently after that race and made sure that what they thought the problem was, it was, and then fixed it. The biggest thing at Nashville is the bumps. That's pretty hard on the suspension, especially with there's not a great deal of banking and they're pretty high speeds. There's a lot of high-frequency bumps that are pretty harsh. That just put a lot of load on the suspension. Actually, I think it happened to Helio Castroneves at Richmond, and shortly before us it happened to Tomas Enge in the race. Hopefully our team has it worked out. I know they do their best to make sure it's worked out. Fingers crossed.
Q. Does it make you a little bit leery the first time you go over 200 miles an hour following something like that? Obviously y'all weren't going that fast at Milwaukee.
DAN WHELDON: Well, call me crazy, but, no, it doesn't bother me one bit. (Inaudible) it's okay now and the problem has been resolved. The people that I'm with at the team, they're very, very good. If mistakes happen, I mean, you can't expect to race race cars at over 200 miles an hour plus and expect never to have a problem. That's just part of the job. It never crosses my mind.
Q. You talked a while ago about having your guys around you, made it almost sound like Lance Armstrong. I get the impression that once y'all are on the track y'all want to kick each other's butt. How much does having your teammates around you help you? At Kansas, you're competing with those guys for victory. How does that all play out?
TIM HARMS: It looks like we've lost Dan Wheldon, we're trying to get him back for a few more questions. I want to let you know that Danica Patrick had a conflict arise on her schedule this morning. She will not be participating in this call. However, she will be available on a separate call later this afternoon at 4:00 eastern time. The call-in number for 4:00 is the same, 866-475-2663. Apologize for any inconvenience that may cause you. But Danica will be available at 4:00 this afternoon. We thank you for your understanding on that. It looks like we have Dan back with us. Are you can us, Dan?
DAN WHELDON: Yes. Sorry about that.
TIM HARMS: I know you were being asked a question, then we have one or two more after that.
Q. I was asking, you made that reference about having your teammates around you in these races. Made it almost sound like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. On the track, does it feel like Lance Armstrong or do you feel they want to kick your butt really bad? Kansas, for example, there was a win you almost had.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, no, I mean, definitely they want to win. There's no doubt about that. But the good thing is -- the biggest thing with us four, we're all confident enough in our own abilities where we realize the fact that, okay, Dan might have the better car today, Dario might have the better car today, or whoever it is. Whoever's got the best car, you know, will eventually get to the front, and we won't hinder that person's chances, but we will race as hard as we can. I certainly feel more confident having my teammates around me than anybody else because I know they're obviously not going to do anything silly. At the same time I do know they're going to race me a hundred percent. It's just kind of -- it's a very, very high respect that I certainly have for those three. You know, just as individuals and friends, I love having them around as well, because they keep you very level, they keep you focused on-the-job at hand. I mean, Dario is somebody to me that is very, very professional from that standpoint. He cannot only race you very hard, but he can also really drive the team forward in terms of a setup that helps everybody. I mean, he has a very good car for him on the short ovals. He has no problem at all, you know, helping people try and get that same feel from their race car. People laugh about it, but they're like my three older brothers that I never had. They do make sure I'm always very well taken care of and if everything is okay. I respect them immensely for that. I know they're going to be strong contenders from a championship standpoint, there's no doubt.
Q. You had obviously this incredible amount of attention since winning the Indianapolis 500. Can you understand the pressures that Danica is going through that some other drivers aren't just from the phenomenal aspect of her situation? Do you feel for her a little bit from that standpoint?
DAN WHELDON: No, I understand completely. I said it earlier in the teleconference. I think what people have to understand is the experience level of a lot of the other drivers. I still feel very inexperienced. I'm in my second full season. When you compare my level of experience to Dario's, Tony's, Bryan's, I mean, we don't even have anywhere close. That makes it very difficult. And I know what it felt like for me when I was a rookie in 2003, and I didn't have the media attention anywhere close that she had. To know what I felt like and then on top of that she's got all of this media, it must be very difficult for her. Unfortunately, in motorsport, bosses want results right away. They don't understand the learning process to some extent. They've kind of got so much money invested, they need results delivered. It's going to be the same for her. To her credit, I think she handles it absolutely excellently. I don't think anybody could handle it much better than the way she has. I stress to the media out there that you can't consider her a failure for not winning a race this year. That would be completely unfair to her because, you know, just her achievements to this day have been fantastic. I mean, for somebody to come fourth in their first Indianapolis 500 and be leading, even given her different strategy at the end, but be leading, is pretty special. I just hope you guys give her enough space to let her do her job because I have no doubt that she'll deliver. I said this earlier also, there's other championships now that are promoting their female drivers. I don't think any of them compare remotely close to Danica. It's good to have her in the series. When we're out on track, it's not like I'm racing Danica Patrick. It's another driver. She handles herself in such a way that (inaudible). I give her a lot of credit for that.
Q. What is it going to take to win at Michigan? How do you win at Michigan? Do you think you'd fit in with the NASCAR crowd at Daytona or Talladega, with your wit and humor?
DAN WHELDON: Are you saying this on the assumption I'm going to NASCAR?
Q. No. It's a little different spectator base. Do you think you'd have fun down there?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, well, for one, it doesn't matter where -- I'm going to talk about fans in particular, it doesn't matter where they come from, who they are, in racing it really doesn't matter to me. The biggest thing for me and the way I've been brought up is if it wasn't for the fans, there wouldn't be motor racing in general. They really make our sport. I think my personality fits in with anybody, in answer to that question. That's not to say that I'm going (inaudible). That would be my personality in general. But in order to win at Michigan, I think right now the way the championship is so close, I think people are going to have to make sure that their race cars are very, very fast. You know, when we run in packs like we do, there's often the need to balance speed of the race car with handling in traffic. I think people are going to be -- I think people are going to be so desperate to be quick that they're going to perhaps compromise that and perhaps not be so good in traffic. I think that's going to be a mistake. For me personally I'm going to want as quick a race car as I can have with a (inaudible) handling in traffic. That's what I'm going to be working on. Honda have been very, very strong on the superspeedways in the past. I don't expect them to be any different this time. I expect certainly Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge to be fast, as do I expect Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish to be fast. I'm going to try to stay clear from Sam and Helio, because I saw what happened to them last time they raced together. I don't want to be involved in that little mix.
Q. You did say that you had been contacted by Formula One, NASCAR, and then you said other IRL teams. Other IRL teams have called you?
DAN WHELDON: Yes. They've shown interest in what my situation is for next year. I mean, let's not get too distracted.
Q. I'm not too distracted. I'm just clarifying that's what you said.
DAN WHELDON: Yes.
Q. You're a little naive on Talladega fans. If you're not Earnhardt, they don't care.
DAN WHELDON: I'll try and make them care. How is that?
Q. Todd, I wanted to ask you from your perspective what's the Danica Patrick impact been? What has it translated to in terms not just raw numbers for TV, but also in buzz and phenomenon and so on?
TODD HARRIS: It's certainly given us another angle, another story. The most important story is always the man or woman who wins the race. This year, Dan captured I think the country and racing fan's imagination when he got that victory, and hadn't done so for the Brits since Graham Hill. I think that was fantastic. I think Danica gives just I don't want to say another entre. She's another driver. As Tony Kanaan has said before, "If they're watching Danica, they're watching us," so that's a good thing for us. Our ratings are up. I think Indianapolis was up 60%. Ratings across the board are 30%. I think Danica, as Dan has pointed out, is partly responsible for that. But I think we're doing a better job this year in personalizing all the drivers. I think that's something that maybe has been missing. I know NASCAR does a fantastic job. You really can't venture into a supermarket in the States without seeing someone on the NASCAR circuit in a cardboard cutout hawking a beverage or some kind of product. I think they've done a great job. They should be congratulated for that. Their drivers are certainly reaping the rewards financially of that. I think our job on television is to kind of do the same thing in a less advertising way, but to bring out the personalities, because we do have fantastic personalities, and they're all so diverse. Someone like Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon, I don't know if they're going to go shoe shopping together, but they certainly have the same flair of driving and they're on a perfect team. That Andretti Team Green has great personality. Rahal Letterman, Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi. I think Danica has given us another entre is the best way to say it on the IndyCar Series, and one more aspect for people to tune in to watch.
Q. I want to know whether your trainer is getting you to lose weight so you're not handicapped being overweight?
DAN WHELDON: Actually, you know, that's a good English question right there.
Q. That's what I thought.
DAN WHELDON: I've certainly not been in any pubs recently for fear of being slow on the superspeedways. But, no, I think with the whole Danica situation, and people saying obviously with her difference in weight to some of us being an advantage, it has somewhat changed our training program. I know we focused a lot on not only cardio, but a lot on weights previously. That's somewhat slowed down a little bit. We focus a lot more on cardio to try to get me somewhat smaller, to help that situation. But it's one of those things where I think if you look at Danica's weight, yes, perhaps it is an advantage for the superspeedways, but I personally don't think that's enough to make a race win different. I think it certainly helps, but I think there's so many elements to an IndyCar race that you can't say that's going to make or break you. On the same token, I personally don't think that advantage should be taken away from Danica because I think at places like Sonoma, she's perhaps being smaller going to find it very difficult because it is a very physical racetrack. You don't see us being disadvantaged for that advantage. You know, it has changed our training program to some extent, but not greatly.
Q. Are we going to have team orders at the end of the two races this year?
DAN WHELDON: I have no idea. Certainly Andretti Green Racing, that's the one good thing, the one element of the team that is very, very good in comparison to a lot of other teams. I mean, in Formula One especially you see it. You can't get two individuals to have the same equipment. But I will say at the team, I think this is another reason why we get on so well, is the fact that everybody gets treated equally. I say that with great confidence. Not one of us ever feels like the other is being favored more than another. It's certainly not the case. If some drivers mathematically -- they don't have the chance to be able to win the championship, then I think we will perhaps get help. It won't jeopardize the other person's chances of winning. If that person can genuinely win a race, the team would never stop another from doing that. That's not their style. I will say that everybody gets equal equipment all the time. That's something for the bosses.
TIM HARMS: Dan and Todd, thanks a lot for taking the time out to join us this afternoon. We appreciate that. We'll see you up in Michigan.
TODD HARRIS: Thank you.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you. Todd, good to speak to you again.
TODD HARRIS: Take care.
TIM HARMS: Ladies and Gentlemen, Danica Patrick had a conflict this afternoon for this call, but she will be available in approximately an hour at 4:00 eastern. Call-in number is the same.
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