Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
January 31, 2007
THE MODERATOR: At this time we're joined by Panther Racing John Barnes, team owner; Vitor Meira, team driver. John, you have a special announcement and a partnership you'd like to let the media know about today.
JOHN BARNES: We're very pleased to announce that Delphi has joined Panther Racing in support of the 4 car with Vitor as the driver. It's a two-year contract, and we hope to be many more after that. It's great to be associated with a great company like Delphi, the leading company in technology in automotive business throughout the world. They've been long associated with the IRL. I think this is their tenth anniversary, as it is Panther's. We're really excited about this today and excited to have this guy beside me. I think we signed a three-year contract. So that's it.
THE MODERATOR: Vitor, if you would tell us about your run out there today and what you think about the IndyCars on the track here at Daytona.
VITOR MEIRA: First of all, I have to thank not only J.B. for hiring me back and also Delphi to sign a long commitment like we did. It's not easy these days for anybody, so I really have to thank them and really hope for all the Delphi employees and everybody that works in the factories and everything that we're going to be riding along together. So that's going to be a very important thing.
Another -- well, that's a new car we have that we just put together with a lot of new pieces and a lot of new things, so we had a little bit of problem early in the morning, which is normal for the first test of the year.
But we went and we solved everything, started running on I would say like -- like half hour to go we started running pretty good, and with the afternoon coming, we're going to be like testing for real, like setting up the car and everything. In the morning we were just like going around problems.
Q. John, how about your reaction to being down here at Daytona and what you've seen on the track so far?
JOHN BARNES: Well, other than Indianapolis, this is the race you want to race. It's a great facility, and the France family have built a great legacy here to have these great events, these 24-hours and the 500. I raced at the Daytona 500 about seven times, I think, with different teams, and to come here with IRL car, I think it's a fit. I hope in the future we're able to put on a race here.
Q. This is actually for both of y'all. Early in the week Richard Petty had said that when NASCAR came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in -- started talking in '92 about doing that that really NASCAR needed Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than Indianapolis Motor Speedway needed NASCAR. As far as a potential IndyCar race here at Daytona, do you feel like IndyCar could use Daytona more than Daytona could use IndyCar? Or just your thoughts on that.
JOHN BARNES: Well, I think we've been wanting to for years run double headers with NASCAR at mini-tracks across the country. I don't think they've wanted us to do that because I don't think they want to see our product run next to theirs.
You know, I think we've got a great product. I think we put on a great show, and I hope sometime in the future we're able to run here with the Cup cars.
VITOR MEIRA: From my side I was always told that a good idea and a good event, it's good when it's good for everybody, and I think that would be the case. It's not one-sided or any other. I think it would be really good for Daytona for us to come back here, and it would be a good thing for us to be here. So it I think would be not good for one or the other; I think it would be great for both.
Q. John, last year when everybody went to Honda, Penske and Ganassi leaped out in front because of all the chassis development work they had done with Toyota. Do you see this -- do you think some of the other teams can close the gap this year on those two?
JOHN BARNES: Well, I think so. I think that AGR, you see they've made some great improvements and stuff. I know we have. The biggest thing we've been able to add is to be able to keep cash in the checkbook with our new sponsor: I think that it's going to be a lot closer this year than last. But last year you look AGR won a few races, we could have won a couple, so really as the standings turned out, it looked like there was a much bigger disparity than there actually was.
Q. John, this team last year was maybe a meeting away from closing the doors completely. Can you tell us about what has transpired inside the walls of Panther Racing over this last year and what it's like to go from nearly seeing it all go away to coming back with two fully-funded cars this year?
JOHN BARNES: Actually it was a nightmare. Last year was really tough. We decided to stay in business actually in I guess it was December. We lost all our support from GM and from Pennzoil and Rockstar, and we were lucky enough to sell enough assets, enough to keep going. From the efforts from Vitor and Bill Pappas, to be able to keep us running up front and getting sponsors and people in the industry to look at us again, I think it's just a testament to them, how we've been able to do that.
And now it's a new page. We're back running full bore with a wind tunnel program and a chassis program and all that stuff. It's nice to be back here.
VITOR MEIRA: Just emphasizing one phrase, when I get in the shop, there's no echo anymore. I can't hear any echo. It emphasizes everything that's going on in there.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
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