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Indy Racing League Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Racing League Media Conference

Helio Castroneves
Danica Patrick
January 31, 2007


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Helio Castroneves of Team Penske. Helio, you had the second quickest speed out there today. Tell us about your reaction to the track and what you thought about your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No question, it's a challenge, especially coming from a 24 hour to make the change, you know, from the DP car to the IndyCar, it's a big change, you know, you can ask anyone that did 24, it's kind of relearning. The only time I ran here was with a DP car so for me to find the breaking point and turning and everything, IndyCar three times faster than what I was used to, but, again, after a few lapse I got used to it and back to the same rhythm. But, again, the track has obviously high speed, low speed and intermediate bumps and everything you can have. A little bit risky, you know, as you can see a lot of people having trouble in turn 5 which is a very hard corner, and people need to be really careful. In fact, this morning I clipped the right side tire, my right front to the tire wall that they had there and broke my steering arm so it's kind of a little -- I would say it's a dangerous area, that you to be really careful, but it seems that everybody trying to take it easy, trying to be careful.
Other than that, the layout of the track is really fun, I have to say, you know, the bus stop -- with the bus stop and the view, it is nice. It's just massage a little on the safety area, which is fine, and for our type of cars -- and I tell you, to come back here with a better area, run-off area, it would be really cool to race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Helio. Andy is up front here with a microphone. Anything for Helio? Helio, what are your Super Bowl plans this weekend?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Wow, we have a lot of parties. First of all, coming back after the task that we have here, we have a Maxim party on Friday night; Celebrity Poker with Jay-Z, Bionce, Jennifer Lopez, and I don't know what I am doing there but I will go there. And also we have Jeff Gordon's party. He's throwing a party after -- I guess it's party after party, you know, so Saturday we have dinner -- a lot of -- I will say a lot of commitments, which is fun. So that's the -- I might charge the guy living at my house, I understand they charge $600 a night but minimum one week, so I might charge him that, too, but other than that, enjoy the Super Bowl.
THE MODERATOR: Good job throwing names around, there. Questions?

Q. If you had a race, how would you compare it to the other road course races that are on schedule right now?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's a unique place, with a banking like that it's hard to compare with anyone else. You know, when you're going through -- after the bus stop and coming to the oval 3 and 4 it's incredible. Bumpy and it's hard to keep the car in a straight line but that's the nature of the track, you know, you will have to be really -- you need to have to be cautious if you want to pass someone out there, but other than that, like I said, the layout is really cool. Hard braking, very difficult braking and turning; it's a challenge. I don't see it compared to any other place.

Q. What would they have to do to the track to make it -- to have a race here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Which aspect? You mean the layout? I think it's fine. I believe just the safety run-off areas you need to improve quite a bit. Turn 1 would have to do something like that, even leaving the pits you have to make a wider turn getting out of the pits. Turn 5, which everybody has been spinning out, those tires shouldn't be there. Make some curves into the bus stop, like St. Pete area, if you can go through high speed turns like that. And I believe you have to have like Talladegha, and on the rebanking you have to resurface the area for us because it's extremely difficult, where one car will go high and one in the middle kind of low, so you have to have some things but it definitely would be a great thing.
THE MODERATOR: One more question.

Q. Helio, you talked about changes to the track, but what about the car? What about the packages? Would you like to see changes in that to make this a little more of a racier place, to make it better, especially on the high banks to be able to get more speed there, make it a little more racier on the road course? Is the package suitable for this kind of a race course?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think so, if you're talking about down force and things like that is correct it's not a problem. Certainly I would like to see the car going into peddle shifting or, yes, coming back to traction, however, the power that we have now, Honda did a great job of increasing the power. First time on a road course with two and a half liter. After 15, 20 laps you have extremely to be careful with the tires because you will be sliding all over the place, and that's where it will be fun, you know? But things like that, you don't know yet. Obviously it's first time, everybody is trying to work together with Honda, but I have to say, right now it seems to be very positive, two and a half liter, it seems to be much more fun to drive, much more of a challenge, as well, and just a matter of time will tell but so far for sure, those peddle shifts will be very necessary right now.

Q. Helio, you've gone into a lot of seasons before, did you do anything special, looking forward to the 2007 season? Or is it business as usual for you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, one of the reasons that I was joining the 24 of Daytona and the Porsche group is to keep my mind racing. Unfortunately we have too much of a long gap in the off-season. We stop racing September and just coming back in March, but few tests, only. It's not enough, you know, you need to keep like doing something to make sure that your mind is still racing, you know? But this year I tried to do that, seems to be working so far, but right now it's -- I'm always -- you can see my group, you know, my guys coming back to new season, they are pumped, they are ready, they've been doing a lot of pit-stop practice, so everybody is doing their homework. Now it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Q. Because you don't race here this year, talk about what you've learned during the test that will translate to anything that you will be doing this season.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, through turn 5, 6, 7, it's bumpy and slow speed. I would have to say that that was most close to St. Pete, because I believe that is the last test that we have before St. Pete, so basically we kind of trying some little things here and there and will not focus on the lap time, obviously. Driver always want to be in the top but we trying to make sure we find a good spot, especially this year, even though I won the race I still think there was challenge out there, it would have been difficult. So we focus on that, trying to make some change and we're not just here to post a fast time, we're here to work on the car, to -- for saint Pete.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Helio. Appreciate it.
We're now joined by Danica Patrick. Danica, new team, not your first time on the track here, obviously with your appearance at the 24 hours, last year, but, if you would, tell us about your day. I guess this would be your first official day with Andretti Green Racing on the racetrack.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, we did one day on the home stand oval last year but that was it. You say that I've been here, but I went out and as soon as I got to turn 4, I turned, and I didn't know where I was going after that, so a lot of the track is different. But you've obviously still got the front part. It was a tough day, you know? We didn't make a very good seat for this road course car, so we put it in last night and thought we made some good adjustments, and then I got in the car AND did a leak check and didn't get out until after lunch because it didn't fit right. On a road course, especially it's important to be comfortable, because you're constantly pushing the limit it's not like in a mile and a half where you put your foot down it's important when it comes to race time but you can still drive it. So we put the old seat in and I sat back in the car again. We made progress all day. We kept going faster and faster all day, but we started behind, you know, behind everybody else trying to make it all up. I have no doubt that we'll make even more progress tomorrow and hopefully catch up to the guys. I never claimed to be the most experienced pro with these big cars on a road course, so I know that, especially Tony and Dario are going to be able to teach me a lot so after I'm done here I'm going to go grill them.

Q. Danica, it's a two-part question. First of all, what did you want to accomplish this season? Also, what do you think you need to accomplish?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I obviously want to win. I want to win soon, and I want to get it over with, so I don't have to answer anymore questions and so it doesn't have to be sitting on my shoulders, you know, being that burden. But I can't imagine that I feel any different than anyone else who hasn't won their first race, too. It's one of those things when you finally do it, it's such a relief, for me. What do I need to do? I think that I'm hired because I'm a driver and because I can do a good job for them and so what do I need to do? I need to do my best, but I don't necessarily know what that's going to give me. I hope a win. I hope running up front. But I don't think there is anything in particular as far as rules or set goals that I have to do. I think that -- I don't think that's an issue. But I have to give it my all. If I fall short there then that's my fault.

Q. I would like to ask same question, like earlier in the day, your teammate Marco Andretti, is formula 1 option a long-term for you?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, it's an option long term, but at this point in my life it's not something that I want to do, really. I respect formula 1, I respect it's world class racing. When I moved to England years and years a I wanted to race formula 1 and that's all I wanted to do, but as time went on I started to realize what's also important in my life and that's having fun and that formula 1 isn't the be all, end all, there's amazing racing here in the states, especially in the IndyCar series, and it's good to be home and by friends and familiar and I also, in turn -- I also need those people to do well. I find when I'm happy and when I'm comfortable and, you know, have creature comforts, I feel like I have better success on the track. So there's a lot of pivoting things there. In the future it might be, may be. You know, I we want to Monocco this past year and it's quite a beautiful place, so, you know, for me to do well on the racetrack I have to make sure all the elements are in place. So may be in the future but definitely not right now.

Q. Prior to this year you talked about your relationship that you built up with your engineer, Ray Letto, and now you're starting a new relationship at Andretti Green Racing and how long do you think it will take before you get your communication level where it needs to be with your new engineer?
DANICA PATRICK: All the changes that we made today were quite positive. I'm sure that we were applying some of the things that the guys had done earlier in the day, but he was able to hear me well and apply what I needed to the car. So I think we started off really well. He seems very intelligent and he understands me well so far, so, in other words, that only makes me look even more forward to when he can read my mind, then. (Chuckles.) There's always room for improvement so I think it will keep developing but I think we started in a really good spot. I don't think there was -- actually I'll tell you a story about my first test at homestead and we went through some large changes on the car, some old set-ups and getting a feel for what I wanted, and he took the transcripts from our radio transactions and he actually picked out what set-up he thought I liked best and he wasn't even there and I said "you know what? You're right, that's what I would have picked. " So I think we're getting along well.

Q. In NHRA Ashley Force turns pro in 2007 and she's going to be in good equipment, good team and she's going to be covered by ESPN, I don't know in that sounds familiar but what advice would you give Ashley Force?
DANICA PATRICK: That, you know, take it one step at a time, stay comfortable. I'm sure she'll do well, she's done well already and I think it's just staying within your comfort zone is the most important thing. When you try too hard and make mistakes is when you start to make large steps backwards, so stay within yourself and you'll be fine.

Q. Danica, when you're on a team it draws a lot of media attention and now you're at a team where you have a teammate in Marco who is going to draw a lot of attention. Is that something you welcome? You glad that the spot light, that camera click and go all the crazy questions we ask are now, hey, maybe go talk to Marco for a while? Are you glad for that so you can focus on the job at hand?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I don't think that I've noticed necessarily a decline to be honest, I think it ramped up over the winter and the excitement with all the new sponsors, and Motorola being on board, and I think the media hinges on performance, so I don't think there will be a difference provided there are good things going on the track. It's fun to be able to go to appearances now with someone that you get along with and that you can have fun with. You know? I tended to go alone or not have much fun, so it's a lot more -- it's a lot easier to do the things that we as drivers and public figures need to do for us and our sponsors. So, yeah, it's more fun.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else?

Q. What about the super bowl commercial? I know you were in one --
DANICA PATRICK: Not the one with Candice. I am not Candice, though. I suppose if you asked me five years ago maybe I would have thought twice, but in recent times I've had some amazing sponsors with some knowledge on how to really promote and Go Daddys is no different. They recognize the attention on the Super Bowl commercials, so I think this really is just following along with the sponsors that I've had and them being great and being able to recognize a moment that they can use someone and really make it work, so that all started really with Argent, so I look forward to the Motorola program, too, I wonder what they're going to do, so I think it's a reflection on the quality of sponsors.
THE MODERATOR: Go daddy is secretive about their ads, have you seen the final product?
DANICA PATRICK: No.
THE MODERATOR: I was hoping for a sneak preview, but I guess that's not going to happen.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, they taped a whole bunch of stuff so I'm want sure what's going to end up getting put on the cutting room floor and what's going to make it the two reel. I guess you have to wait a couple more days.
THE MODERATOR: Your teammates are known for pranks, have you fallen to a prank yet? Or are they waiting for an opportunity to get you.
DANICA PATRICK: I am still waiting, and I don't know if I should say that, I don't think anyone's in the room, so I'm sure that would egg them on if I told them I was waiting for it, but I can give back. But I'm not going to do anything until they do something first.
THE MODERATOR: Smart girl. Thank you for your time.



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