Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 20, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome you to today's Indy Racing League teleconference call. Today we have Indy Cars Series drivers Ed Carpenter and Helio Castroneves. Ed Carpenter has had a great season thus far, his last three races in particular, he has finished 11th in Indianapolis, sixth at Watkins Glen and ninth at Texas, and is entering this week in Richmond as 16th in overall driver points' standings. Talk to us about these last three races, the team has really come together since Indianapolis with that third car and your last three races, you've really gelled.
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I got off to a rough start of the season missing the first two races, so I'm kind of in a position where I'm trying to dig myself out of a hole. Went to Japan and had a little bad luck there and got in an accident we shouldn't have been involved in. So Indy was really kind of I felt like my first race of the season, and came out of there with 11th and I was okay with that. We were better than that 11th. Made a mistake on the first pit stop but seems like we really have been building well as a team and definitely building momentum and really looking forward to Richmond this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about Indianapolis, there's a place where you run very strong. You have two 11th place finishes back-to-back, certainly suits your style.
ED CARPENTER: Oh, I love racing the 500, we all do, you know. We've driven decent races the past two years and I really would have liked to have been in the Top-10 this year. We had a good car all month long. I mean, Vision Racing and Rocking Republic, they did a really nice job all month long with all three of our cars, and, you know, I came out the best one of our cars, but I felt like we were a little bit better than 11th. You know, it's a 500-mile race, and that's just where we ended up.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about Watkins Glen, you're not a road course guy, USAC background, a lot of oval racing, finished a team best 6th, talk about that race that day.
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I got out of the car and it wasn't pretty, but I'll take it, like you said. I've got a long ways to go with my racing skills. I've got a lot of work to do with that. At the same time I knew it was going to be a tough race going there, wet tires, going into slicks. Luckily I made it back to the end of the race. It was quite a challenge for me. I had never driven a race in the rain, and I really just wanted to come out of there and made sure I kept all four tires on the road and figured we'd get a pretty good finish and that's the way it worked out.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about Richmond real quick. Like we mentioned a second ago, USAC background, short track oval background, have you ever raced a USAC car there, and what are your expectations going into Richmond?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I ran Silver Crown cars there for three or four years, I can't remember. But the last two times there, Silver Crown cars there, I finished second, third there the last two years. So it's a track I always look forward to going to my first year there in an IndyCar with Cheever, we ran in the Top-5 most of the day and got caught up in an accident with Greg May (ph) late in the race with five laps to go, and last year I just didn't have that good of a car. It's a place I always get excited to go, and the way our car has been driving and the way the past couple of races have gone, I really feel good going in there.
THE MODERATOR: Just got to ask you real quick about your sponsorship at Indianapolis and Texas, I'm sure they are on board for some other races this year, but talk about the Rocking Republic sponsorship and how that's been going for you guys?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah it's been turning into a great partnership. Townsend, he brought the people to us for the 500, and they have really come on board with our team and they really like what Indy Racing is all about and they want a part of it. They want to be a part of it. I don't think we saw the last of them at Texas. I think they will be back some more this year and hopefully all year next year.
Q. I want to go back to the way that this team turned itself around. I mean, that's a pretty drastic move up. Can you put a finger on how you guys were able to do that?
ED CARPENTER: Well, I don't think there's one thing. You know, last year we got started really late. We hired our first people like the second week of February, and we were down in Homestead racing February 28th. So we came together really quick last year. We were unsponsored with the Toyota engine package, but we were just a really small team. We knew we were not doing a lot of things right, but we were just doing it the best we could with what we had.
You know, we took the off-season to grow and change a lot of other things that we learned and saw that we needed to improve from our first year as a team. Obviously we got Honda on board, that was great for us, as well as a lot of other cars in the series.
So that was one thing, and we just upgraded a lot of areas of our team, especially engineering, brought in a chief engineer and just some more people in that department and brought in more mechanics and we had people to stay home now, and, you know, the Richmond cars were basically when the guys got home from the Kansas test and stuff like that. We just filled in all the holes where we saw we were weak after that. It's not one thing we did, we saw a lot of areas we needed to improve our team and obviously Honda help and we just filled in a lot of on the team whether it was mechanics, engineering and everything else. Really happy with the way the team has grown and the progress we made over the last season.
Q. Has Thomas Scheckter had any influence as far as changing things on the team because of his background?
ED CARPENTER: I wouldn't say single-handedly. I mean, Thomas and I work really well together. You know, I think we help each other out a lot. We have similar styles, and, you know, the team has given him good cars and they have given me great cars, too. I wouldn't say he's changed. I would say collectively we as a group have changed.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, thanks very much. Good luck this weekend and we'll see you Thursday down at the open test.
We'd now like to welcome the current IndyCar Series points leader, Helio Castroneves to the call. He's had a very strong year with three wins in the first six races, and currently holds a 22-point lead over second place driver Scott Dixon. Helio, thanks for joining us on today's call. Let's talk about this season. You've been on a roll, clearly the Honda power has been helping you a lot, these first six races this year.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's a combination of a lot of things. Obviously the team, Penske has been awesome. It's a good momentum for everyone and I'm extremely happy to be with this organization. Last year, the past couple of years seems for us to be struggling, but actually we're working harder than anybody else and the results seem to show up a little bit more now. In fact, not only in our team, but also Ganassi and I'm sure a few times also are going to catch up.
Right now we just need to focus on work and not worry about a championship or what you need to do to win the championship. Actually we need to focus step by step, it's been working for every race and hopefully that will make it happen.
THE MODERATOR: Talk real quick about Texas, the last race, I guess one of those places where patience just pays off. You were just sort of there all day and the things worked out for you there in the last few stages. Just talk about patience at Texas.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, Texas the finish is three-wide, side-by-side, by half a car length, and, in fact, every pit stop I was making adjustments thinking about that, especially when you're running with traffic or fuel mix, you want to make sure that your car is able to hold the low line, high line. I was very satisfied with that. I don't think we were the fastest car out there, but we were very consistent. Plus, the drafting was amazing, how I was able to suck everybody from behind. We were just waiting for the laps.
Obviously it was a rare race not having much yellow, especially in Texas. I guess that ended up changing the plan, instead of saving fuel. It turned out to be everybody had to make a third pit stop. It was good, we were very happy with a great pit stop. My guys are just doing so incredible. I can't thank them enough, not only for that race, but for everything they did for me, they always are there behind me, which that's what we need and I can probably speak for everyone, but it's a team sport and we win as a team.
THE MODERATOR: The last three years, you've done well at Richmond. Talk about how much you like it there.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: A lot. As a place that obviously you have to drive the car, you have to have good set up as well, and you have to be quick on the reflex in terms of traffic, make decisions quick and be patient as well at the same time. So when you're talking about a lot of laps on that place, it's a lot of laps and you certainly can misjudge sometimes because it's so tight. Even it looks really wide but when you go like close to that corner, you know, again, it's easy to pull, it turned out to be a challenge. But I enjoy it, yes, we feel very comfortable going to that place, especially what happened last year, but we know we need to do more. We know we need to continue working hard because all of the competitors are going to be tough as well.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, when everyone describes you, they talk about your irreverence and your sense of humor and your positive attitude, do you see yourself in that ride as kind of a breath of fresh air or do you think you're just a normal guy?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Obviously, I love what I do. When you do something that you love, obviously it's fun and it's saw some. But I do some sometimes dark days. You know, I'm a human being and I can be upset, as well.
But again, motor racing is stressful times, it's hard for you to get what you want, and when you make it happen, obviously it's great. But when you drag yourself down, because that moment is not coming, you're just going to make it worse. For me, what happened on the track, let's work, let's think what happens, and after that, hey, let's follow a normal life. I would say the principle is just I love what I do, I love racing and I enjoy what I do. So when you put all of those things together, all of those feelings together, I'm a blessed person to do what I love.
Q. The way the year has gone so far with you guys and Ganassi winning all of the races, do you think that's either a good thing for a bad thing for the league?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Obviously domination is something nobody wants. Everyone wants to see something at the end of the year competitive. Right now it's two teams and only one guy or two guys; it's actually four cars to be very competitive and sometimes other ones come in the mix, which I believe that they will. We only have six races, and we are not even half into this; it's going to be half of the championship. So it sometimes takes a little time for them to catch up, especially when you're looking for small details. But I don't think it's bad. I think it's good. I think the competition is still there, still very hard. Racing is still fun in my view, but obviously, if you have good results.
Again, no, I don't think it's a bad thing having two teams like last year. This year you have one team with four cars. So again, I don't think that's changed much.
Q. Do you have to have a different mind-set when you prepare to go to a racetrack like Richmond when everything is so fast and quick?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes. In fact, the first few laps do you there, you get out of the car, you're kind of a little dizzy. You're like, whoa, but that's normal. You know when you do laps under 16 seconds, you're kind of like, wow, it's pretty fast. Even like we do not achieve speed like 200 miles an hour, believe it or not, it is fast.
So you have to just get used to after you run that things are not going to have much time that you expect, so you just need to get used to. Again, during the race, so many things happening during the race, so many cars in front, behind, and people challenge each other. So sometimes you need to just breathe, and, okay, what's my break here, what's my window to make it go through, you know. And it's not like Texas, for example, just wait, wait, wait, okay, now it's time to go. So I have to go, sometimes I have to be patient. So, yeah, all of it mixed together.
Q. With so many cars around you, is it sometimes difficult for you to pick up where you are in the standings and the guy you're getting ready to pass, how do you keep all of the different cars in order?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Sometimes something you do not expect, you have to have a lot of push, have a lot of patience until you can stop and fix it. With that, there is not much to do. You know, you just have to wait, especially not just for track, and it's a lot of laps, so you have to hold a lot of your breath to wait until the opportunity happen. And that's what happens, the car shifting to the front, shifting to the back and mix with the others. So, it's a very tough place, but once you got in a good way, it's fun and I'm sure it's fun for the fans, too.
Q. I watched your win down in Texas and firing those guns, you don't seem all that comfortable firing guns, do you ever experience in that, are you a hunter or anything like that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, man, that was funny. When I was a kid, I did have like one of those -- I don't know how you call it here in America, but it was just like a small thing to kill like birds or a thing like that. I felt bad that if I hit a bird, I was like, oh, man, I can't believe it. So as you can see, I was trying to shoot something there, it was blanks, but my ability is not very good. So thank God I'm not a cowboy, otherwise I would be in trouble.
The good news is, I'm a driver and I was able to -- I don't think I even acted well, because my cowboy hat was backwards, and they told me later so. Great; national TV, my hat backwards. But the good news is we had a great time doing that.
Q. You look at your season and compare it to, say, some other seasons where you've been in the title hunt, you're getting the breaks now, you're winning races, you're getting breaks now, do you start to think about, okay, we've got everything in place now, we just have to try to keep this kind of consistency?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Actually, that's the deal, for example, Watkins Glen, we had a chance to at least finish fifth, probably fourth. And we decide to pit. When we saw other competitors behind us, like way out in the Top-10, so we decide to put two tires and be safe and run for the points, and that was a smart thing. I could be not in the lead or only a tenth or one point or two points ahead.
So consistency is the key. That's why Scott is right there, as well, because he's the only good driver so far that did not have any trouble, and so we need to keep doing that slowly but surely. Right now we have all the ingredients, all the tools, and there are so many things that we control in ourselves. But unfortunately there's a lot of things that we cannot control and that's what happened. Hopefully we stay away from those things.
Q. I know you've always had a good relationship with Sam Hornish, and we also know how much Sam wanted to win the Indy 500, now that he's done it, I wonder if your relationship with him has changed or stronger, if it's different?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, the relationship started actually at the beginning of the season, actually somehow some kind of vitamin he was taking, that was very good, he was really becoming a more sociable guy, and I believe you guys probably noticed, too. You guys been talking to him, you seem to be more open. And that for me is great, that's the relationship I had in the past and that's a good atmosphere we should have. Today it's benefitting both cars. Actually he won Indy because he was patient, as well.
So again, yeah, sometimes you want to win so bad, but because of that, you might jeopardize your victory. I'm glad he won, that means a lot to him, yes. I want to win, as well, but that's why I have such a great team. You know, if one doesn't have a chance, we have to have another chance with another guy.
So I think he understood the team's spirit now, you know, we're working together, when he is leading sometimes I'm behind or in front of him, he's behind, trying to work together, and this is just benefitting both cars again. So I'm happy, hopefully that just keeps going strong, and going the direction that we want. And hopefully at the end of the season, it's going to be me and him challenging for the championship, which that's what we're looking for.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much for joining us today and taking some time out. We will see you at the open test in Richmond on Thursday.
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