Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
February 28, 2006
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for the Indy Racing League teleconference. We're joined this afternoon by three guests from Vision Racing. Vision is returning for its second season in the Indy Racing League in 2006 and has experienced quite a bit of growth this winter and our guests today represent that growth.
We have actor Patrick Dempsey who recently took on an ownership stake in the team. He currently stars in ABC's drama Grey's Anatomy and also does some racing of his own in the Grand American Cup sports cars. The team has also expanded from a one-car effort to a two-car effort. Driver Ed Carpenter returns to the team and the team has also added IndyCar Series veteran Tomas Scheckter. All three gentlemen are joining us this afternoon.
Ed, you've kind of been around the team since day one. Tell us a little bit about the atmosphere around the team shop the last couple months and all of the changes that have occurred.
ED CARPENTER: I think everyone's really excited. We did a lot of work just making it out to the test in Phoenix. That was right before we announced that Tomas was going to be driving with us. We went out there and had a really productive test, had really good results. Ever since we came home from that test, everyone has been really excited. We had so many new people on the team. Going out there and having a good test like that was really important to get everyone's attitude set, believing in what we're capable of doing.
TIM HARMS: You talked about the test. More specifically related to the addition of Tomas as a teammate, I know at the test he only really got in the car for a little bit of time. Obviously, he was very quick. I think probably he gave you some immediate help in the cockpit, as well. As a driver, how important is it to you to have Tomas as a teammate?
ED CARPENTER: It's going to be nice to have a teammate, period, again. But definitely having Tomas as a teammate is going to be great. I mean, we seem to like similar things in the car. Things have been going well so far. Me, Tomas and our engineer David Cripps all communicate really well together. I think that's going to be key.
TIM HARMS: Tomas, congratulations on landing with Vision for the season. Give us your thoughts on joining a new team.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, I think everything is in the right direction. Firstly, I'd like to say how happy I am to be involved with everybody at Vision, Tony, you know, Laura, Ed, and obviously Patrick, whose career has shot through the roof lately. We're very proud to have everybody on the team.
We all got the same goal, and that's to win races. I think if we achieve that, and hopefully we can achieve that this year, we can put a productive team and carry on for years to come.
TIM HARMS: For the past couple of years, there's been obviously three engine manufacturers. At times some have been stronger than the others. Now with the entire field going to Honda, your chance to get into the Honda, what does that do for you?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, I think what it does for the series, I think having a single-maker engine manufacturer just puts everybody on the same playing field. You know you're not coming off the races saying, "We should have had this or had that."
I think it puts everybody on an even playing field. We enjoy that as a driver because at the end of the day we want to show what our talents are, how we get on with the team. I think this just increases -- you need to work with the team, you need to get on with everybody for you to get the most out of every race weekend.
TIM HARMS: Patrick, congratulations to you on becoming really more of an integral part of Vision Racing. What is it about the IndyCar Series racing that excited you enough and motivated you enough to become personally involved like this?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I'm just thrilled to be a part of Vision Racing and everybody involved. It was great to be around the pits last year. With Ed, watching him doing an impressive finish at Indy, nice top 10 finish, and Laura and Tony, the atmosphere in the IRL is a very close one. I enjoy walking up and down the paddock. Last year with Tomas, I'm really thrilled he's on the team. I think it's going to add a lot to the team and it's going to help Ed certainly with the feedback. That he gets to bring his engineer over with him is only going to make with the continuity with the team a smooth transition with everybody.
I enjoyed spending time with him off the track last year and everybody. There's a sense of family in the IRL. I mean, I enjoy walking up and down, talking to all the drivers, all the team owners. There's a warmth in the league that I did not find in other series. That's one of the reasons. That and I just really enjoy Tony and Laura's company. I just find them to be very warm, down-to-earth people. What they're doing with the team is an extension of that. I'm proud and honored to be a part of the team.
TIM HARMS: Obviously shooting a top-notch television series like you are with Grey's Anatomy, you have a very busy schedule, we appreciate you taking time to be on the call today. How much time do you expect to have during the season that we might see you at the racetrack?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Certainly going to be at the opener March 26th at Homestead. Of course, ABC is covering that, so that's all in the family here once again.
It depends. I have to balance out my schedule with the Grand-Am racing as well as, you know, the IndyCar racing, and I'm also doing a movie at the same time. My schedule is extremely busy.
I will definitely be at the first two races. I cannot miss the 500. I really enjoy being around the track. I learn a lot just by watching and being there and listening to the feedback.
TIM HARMS: Should we expect to see Tomas or Ed as guests on Grey's Anatomy any time soon?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I think they should come in as my patients, I can operate on them (laughter). I'll do craniotomies on both of them.
TIM HARMS: We'll open it up to some questions from the media on the call.
Q. Patrick, could you elaborate a little on your commitment to this? Did you have to cough up some dough, promotional commitments, free pit pass? Can you give me a little bit of a sense of what your commitment is?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah, a little bit of everything. Certainly I think it helps on the press side of things and that kind of thing at certain events. I think my role will just continue to expand as the team expands.
Q. Talk I guess about a little bit of the change. You went to Indy and watched last year. This is sort of a different risk/reward for an owner. Talk about it from that perspective more.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Well, it's certainly much more enjoyable to go to the track when you have a vested interest in the team. Since I started racing, it's hard to go to a track and just watch. You want to be in the car or you want to be participating with the team. I really am very confident with Ed and Tomas this year, especially with Honda, after the test, you know, we have a really good chance of getting up there and getting some wins. I mean, Tomas last year had, what, three poles, six top 10 finishes, two fastest laps. I mean, he's just a phenomenal driver.
Ed did a great job at the 500 last year. Just never had the motor to really get him where he needed to be. Just listening to him on the radio and his feedback, his professionalism, his drive, I just think now with both of them working together and giving each other good feedback, we're going to be very competitive. If we can stay in the top 10, it's just a matter of time before we win some races and definitely get on the podium. That's exciting to be a part of.
On a personal level, I really like Ed and I really like Tomas. I mean, these are great guys who are very driven. I think it's important that we have a lot of fun and keep it loose and professional. Hopefully get up there to win the 500, would be a complete dream. We have a lot of work to do this year, a lot of building. I think we can get there.
Q. Indy was the only place you went to last year?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: No. I was at Texas. I was at Texas. That's a race I believe you won, didn't, you Tomas?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yes. You threw the after party for me, which was pretty good.
Q. Tomas likes after parties.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: He likes to relax and celebrate (laughter). Rightfully so.
Q. Patrick, I was wondering how a guy from Maine gets involved in racing. Were you a speedy guy from day one?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I was a ski racer in Maine, won the state of Maine championship, alpine skiing. I won the state of Maine championship in slalom. My father was always into car racing. We religiously watched the 500 and Formula One racing, any type of racing, NASCAR. I got the bug early on with him. Finally getting the opportunity, I was invited out to the Indy 500 one year to go with Tony and Laura. I just really enjoyed the environment of it. I find that race so magical.
Now to be a part of the league and be a part of this team with Ed and Tomas, I'm very proud to be a part of it. I think we're going to be extremely competitive. I think they're extremely talented drivers. Them working together, once again, David coming over, who was Tomas' engineer last year, I think it's going to add to the continuity of the team and the family aspect of the team. It's a real pleasure to be a part of.
Q. You mentioned alpine skiing. How do you compare race car driving to alpine skiing?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: More concentration on the line, managing your emotions. I have a lot to learn. I won't speak on behalf of the guys. I'm definitely a beginner, have a lot of to learn and want to learn.
I think what's helping me racing is the visualization, where you're going, what the apex is, what your exit is. That's all very similar in feel to when I was ski racing. There's something about coming full circle, back to that period of my life where I was racing, and I enjoy getting to the track, being around it. It's a sense of relaxation for me. I like getting away from Hollywood and being around the racers and the racing community. I find them all a lot of fun to be around and I enjoy the camaraderie.
Q. What is the motor oil of 2006? What should the people put in their cars and do you have to change your oil every three thousand miles?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I don't know. Tomas, what do you think? Ed? Any comments?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'm not completely sure. I think we'll have to speak to some people before we start throwing names out there (laughter). But certainly going by last year, it's Pennzoil.
ED CARPENTER: I think now at Honda, they spec us on Mobil 1. I think we change like every 200 or 300 miles.
Q. What are the benefits of fuel injections over a carbureted engines?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Two drivers and an actor, that's not good. We just know brake and accelerate. We mostly are accelerating.
Q. How do you race car drivers, you sex symbols, how do you feel about that, knowing that women, they don't care about the racing, they just care about the suits you're in? Take it away, Ed, you sex god.
ED CARPENTER: I think you've been the only guy that was the sexiest man in People Magazine.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I'm got to improve my abs for next year.
Q. Do you remember Tom Cruise in The Days of Thunder? Do you ever take a whack at one of the drivers?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Certainly not in open-wheel racing. I wouldn't advise it.
Q. Do you ever think of demolition derby?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: We're working at Vision Racing, we're going to be doing bus racing. I know Tomas and Ed have been talking about the setup on the bus.
Q. Tomas, I'd like to know what do you think is realistic for this year? Are you thinking of, I don't know, finishing top 10 in points? Do you think you can win a race, multiple races, contend for the championship? What do you think can realistically be done?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think I would rather go home and go work on my dad's farm if I didn't think I had a realistic chance of winning. I think I'll only be involved with people that I know that they'll give me this opportunity. I think everybody at Vision Racing, from when they've started, have developed a lot. They've got good people around.
I tell you what, you go in the shop, every single day there's more and more people. We're getting all the best equipment. I think in the beginning is to concentrate on winning races. As soon as you start winning racing, you start thinking about championships. I think the first step is let's get some race wins under our belt and I think that will lead us on to many more things.
Q. Patrick, as a celebrity, I assume you're bringing extra media interest, but are you involved with this whole sponsorship seeking? Vision still doesn't have a title sponsor. Are you actively involved with that?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yeah. I think it's tough for everybody right now, getting sponsorship with what's happening. I definitely help in that aspect of things. Hopefully we'll be landing something very soon.
Q. Patrick, I'd like to know, what was your first car and what is your favorite song to drive to these days?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I had a Mercedes 240-D diesel in Maine which never started in the cold. That was the first one.
Q. What is your favorite song to have on while you're in the car?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I just picked up the album Arctic Monkeys. I have that in the car right now. I enjoy that.
Q. What kind of car do you think your character on the show would drive?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: He drives an old Rover right now.
Q. Are you happy with that?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I think it's perfect for his character.
Q. Can you tell me what intern is going to be killed off?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: We don't know. She keeps us on the edge with that. We don't know. Not going to be killed off; going to leave the program.
Q. They can come back then?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yes.
Q. We read a quote about you stayed away from movies for the past 10 years, got involved with sports.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: I wasn't intentionally staying away. I wasn't getting hired. Now it's a little different. I just finished a movie with Hillary Swank called Freedom Riders, which is good. I'm starting a movie called Enchanted in the summer. It's just like anything else, you go into favor, then out of favor. Right now things are on the upswing.
It's all to get away from that and the pressures of Hollywood, I really enjoy being at the track. Now with Vision Racing, you know, having Tomas and Ed as drivers, you know, it's a great way to get away and enjoy life a little bit more.
Q. We have the big NASCAR race coming to Las Vegas next week. For fans that are new, what is the big difference between the two?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Well, open-wheel versus sedans. I think that's the big difference. They're both enjoyable to watch. Oval racing is very exciting. I certainly think the IRL is extremely exciting, very competitive. More people need to come out and check it out. If they like NASCAR, Nextel Cup, they should come out and watch the race firsthand. The drivers are accessible and fun just like Nextel Cup.
Q. Have you ever been to Mexico?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yes. I ran the Baja 1000 this year this year and had a great time.
Q. What is the strangest thing you've ever seen in Mexico? Have you ever seen the donkey in Tijuana and that drinks the beer?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: No. I stayed away from Tijuana.
Q. I take it you don't have a primary sponsor for the two cars yet.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Yes.
Q. You said it's tough for everybody to get sponsorship with what's happening. I assume by that you mean the fact that we still have two series in open-wheel. Is it your hope as a part owner of this team down the road that these two series will get back together?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Sure, I would just like to see, you know, open-wheel racing to return to where it was. I think it's a matter of time before that happens. I know that people are working hard at trying to see that happen. I hope it happens for the fans and everybody involved. It's just going to take a matter of some more time for that to happen, I think.
Q. Ed and Tomas, can you talk a little bit about going down to Homestead and what you are looking for on the racetrack.
ED CARPENTER: Our second race is a street race at St. Pete. The first two days of our test, we're going to be on the road course at Homestead. We'll be working on some different things geared towards the St. Pete race there. Then the third day of testing is on the oval. We really have more stuff to test for the oval since we're actually racing at that course.
There's going to be a lot of work with our team, Tomas and I kind of building some chemistry, make sure we get started off on the right foot.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think that's exactly it. I think it's, again, gelling. We're doing the road course stuff. We have a sweep of things to do. Just get a lot of data back, get everybody working together, hopefully get some decent results in the test so it gets everybody pumped up, ready to go, really start winning races when the first race comes around at Homestead.
Q. How important is it to get off on the right foot down in Homestead on the first race?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, our season is a little shorter this year. It's only 14 races. Really you have to start strong and go strong all year if you want to have a chance to finish high up in points, obviously be contending for races. It's important to go down there and have a strong test, to go back and open the season on a high note.
Q. Patrick, how are you going to be able to balance Patrick Dempsey the movie star with the team owner, race fan? Will that be difficult?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: The most difficult time is getting there. I have more stress trying to get to everything on time. Once I'm wherever I'm at, I certainly start to relax and then enjoy it. It's just getting in and out. Flights are the most difficult part of it.
But it's nice to have a lot going on. I don't get stressed out by it. I find it really charges me up, staying in shape, training, keeping myself mentally and physically up for it.
Q. Ed, the switch in horsepower and then also bringing Tomas in, do you think that's going to help you mostly on the road courses or the ovals for 2006?
ED CARPENTER: Both. I mean, I don't have near as much road course experience as Tomas does. I think I'll get a lot out of Tomas on the road courses. When it comes to oval racing, especially the speedway tracks, it's a big help to have a teammate. I think we'll be helping each other equally on the ovals just having a teammate to work with up at the front of the pack.
Q. Tomas, who do you think are going to be the other guys up at the front of the pack this year?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think there's going to be a lot of people. But, you know, it's the same. This is why IRL racing, when people give it a chance and come see it, that's why they're going to love it, because we are going three abreast. It comes down to the last 10, 15 laps, you never know who is going to win.
I think it's going to be closer this year than ever. If you looked at the times at Phoenix, they were unbelievably close. I really think from race to race it can be different people. I think it's the same group. They're really the same group that was there last year. I'm looking forward that Ed is going to be up there and we can be side by side right up at the front. If we start building a good relationship, there's no reason why we can't win as many races as any other team out there.
Q. Patrick, do you expect to be able to take some racing skill out of this relationship?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Certainly. Yeah, I think to be around the track and to listen in, to really just be a fly on the wall, get out of everybody's way, but when the time is right, I will pick their brains, certainly.
Q. Ed, you came out of USAC open-wheel competition, then went through the Pro Series. Do you feel there is any way a driver with a similar type background could go straight to the IRL, skipping the Pro Series?
ED CARPENTER: I think it's possible. You saw Tony Stewart do it a long time ago. There were some other USAC guys that had some time in IRL. I think the Indy Pro Series is a nice intermediate step to get used to racing a rear-engine car and to get used to drafting and working with the aero balance and stuff like that on the ovals.
Going from a USAC car to an IndyCar is not only a big step in speed, but the car has completely different mechanics, the way they operate. It's nice to have the Indy Pro Series there as an intermediate step.
Q. Are you going to enjoy the additional horsepower this year? You were in the top seven or eight at Phoenix.
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, Tomas and I were seventh and eighth. I think it's going to be make the racing more competitive for everybody. It's going to allow more teams a chance at getting up and fighting for a win. I'm going to benefit from it, along with everyone else, I think.
Q. Tomas, great to hear you landed a ride with Vision. They've upgraded their engineering. I think you can't see anything but growth out of that team. You have to be excited about finally having a competitive engine after the last couple years.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: It's great. But I think the whole package, everybody keeps working in the right direction. Just, again, having someone like Patrick to help on the sponsorship side, I think we're very close with a couple of people now that we might have a title sponsor done.
Most probably one of the biggest mega stars in Hollywood, but so down-to-earth as well. He's been on the phone for half an hour now, everybody is trying to get to him. As he says, he walks town to pit lane, he speaks to everybody. That's just the way he is, extremely down-to-earth.
To have a group of people from the engineers to Tony to Ed, to getting Dave across, if we put this all together properly, I think without a doubt we're going to be winning a lot of races. I'm just extremely happy and just looking forward to the first race.
Q. You came to the IRL with a great deal of background. You didn't have any oval driving experience. Would it have been beneficial for you to spend a year or so in the Infiniti Pro before coming up?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Oh, 100%, especially the amount of encounters I had with concrete at high speeds. It's most probably the best idea to start off. But, you know, you get an opportunity, and that's it. It's racing. Somebody gave me an opportunity. I was very quick in a couple of tests. My first year, I led the 500 for I think 70 or 80 laps. I wouldn't swap it for anything.
I think, yeah, it put a little bit more pressure, I had to learn a lot more. I think the biggest thing is understanding on how to race, how mentally to run the race, when to push, when not to push, and also how to set up a car.
I think it's taken me two or three years to really say, "Okay, this is how you do it," where you see a lot of these other drivers, they spent a lot of time growing up in America, racing on ovals, and they don't need that learning curve. Unfortunately, I've had to that have learning curve in front of the public's eye. But I think, as you've seen last year, it's a lot more consistent, a lot more running up front, a lot less mistakes definitely on my part.
Q. Patrick, I understand Vision is a new team. They have a lot of building yet to do. Have you even broached the subject of getting in one of these cars on a test day, trying it out?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Oh, I haven't. But I have no business getting on the oval. Road racing, I would love to get in the car. Certainly in the Pro level, I would love to do a test in that. But oval racing, I have no business getting involved in. It's so dangerous. It's such a competitive field. If I was like 20 years younger, I might try it, but not right now. Just to be there and to watch it, the competitive nature of everybody out there, it's I think one of the most competitive and exciting forms of racing to watch.
Q. Stay off the ovals.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Road racing, I would love to give it a test, absolutely.
TIM HARMS: Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking the time out to join us this afternoon. We really appreciate that. We wish you the best of luck this coming weekend as we start with the open test, then later in the month of March as we get going with the season.
ED CARPENTER: Thank you.
PATRICK DEMPSEY: Thank you.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Thank you.
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