Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League, RLR Andersen Racing, Rahal Letterman Racing
February 21, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We have two Indy Pro Series briefings scheduled here. First off a Rahal Letterman/Andersen Racing press conference. I'd like to welcome Scott Roembke, chief operating officer of Rahal Letterman Racing, and Dan Andersen, the president of Andersen Racing, and drivers Andrew Prendeville and Joey Scarallo.
To get started, I'll give the microphone to Scott Roembke for the announcement.
SCOTT ROEMBKE: We're here today to announce the formation of RLR Andersen Racing, which will compete in the IPS Series this year. Dan previously announced he was going to run two cars in the series. We've combined our efforts. The new entity will compete with these two young gentlemen. We'll expand Rahal Letterman's reach into the support series once again. We look forward to working with Dan and his drivers, the rest of his staff, supporting the IPS Series.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, how about you?
DAN ANDERSEN: I'm very delighted to have this partnership come to fruition. Bobby and I have some history with Graham Rahal running in our Star Mazda team in 2005. Bobby and I talked during the off-season. We share a lot of goals and ideas about how to run a team. We're absolutely ecstatic to be part of this Rahal organization.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, why don't you introduce us to your drivers.
DAN ANDERSEN: To my left is Andrew Prendeville. Andrew actually drove for my F-2000 team a number of years ago. Very accomplished open-wheel road racer. Only did a few races last year, but he's coming back into it, right into the deep end with Indy Pro Series. Tested well yesterday. We're gaining on it. Not as fast as we want to be, but we'll get there.
To his left is Joey Scarallo, a veteran Trans-Am driver. Got to make the transition from big cars to little cars. He'll do fine. We have every belief in both of these drivers they will be at the front end of the field sooner rather than later.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to some questions.
Q. Can you talk about the big surge in car count now in the Pro Series? Seems like a lot of the full-time IndyCar teams have decided to branch out and support the Pro Series.
SCOTT ROEMBKE: For us it just had to make sense on a lot of levels. We've talked to informally quite a few Pro Series owners and teams over the last couple years. There's got to be more to it than just extra test days for us. That's obviously a big carrot that's out there. For us it goes a lot deeper than that, us being able to be involved with young drivers.
Bobby has a history, whether it was the Stars of Tomorrow karting program, him and Bryan Herta started, we've run in Trans-Am, Formula Atlantic. For us being able to go back to a developmental series for young drivers, young mechanics, young engineers, hopefully all of these things we can draw from Dan's group as they progress.
The fact that Bobby, when Graham Rahal was running for Dan, was very comfortable with the type of organization he ran, for us it was just a way to get back into a series where not only can we draw on young talent, but Bobby can mentor the young drivers and be a benefit all the way down the road.
DAN ANDERSEN: We view our role in the ladder as a training ground. My partner, Mike Foschi and I, actually started the Formula Ford 2000 series back in 1992. We've been involved with young drivers for a long time. We sold that series in 2001, then decided to try losing money on the team side of things. I keep thinking there must be money somewhere.
Anyway, we've got a long history with young drivers, a lot of whom are in the IRL right now. We think we can do a good job with that, and with the three tiers that we've set up we think this will work.
The Rahal Letterman side of things is really exciting for us because they're like a big brother to us. They'll offer us assistance on the engineering and technical side. Bobby has been great to deal with when his son was running with us. I'm sure he'll give us a lot of pointers and advice. Scott has been very helpful so far. As long as he doesn't steal those mechanics and engineers quickly, we're looking forward to it. It will be a great relationship we believe.
Q. Scott, you have to turn your IndyCars over to these young drivers. Is that a concern? Is that part of the process you're looking forward to?
SCOTT ROEMBKE: Well, it's not a concern. We won't turn them over to these young drivers unless these young drivers prove they're ready for that. What we have found in the past, whether it's Jeff Simmons, who was an IPS stalwart that we gave the opportunity to last year, this year we tested another young IPS driver and he came in and did a good job for us. That's Dan's determination to us to make sure these guys are ready. If he says they're ready, we'll put them in the race car. They get the opportunity to taste the more horsepower in the bigger car.
For us, if and when we do these test days, we don't want to do them just for the half of the day that Jeff and Scott can drive the car. These two young guys got to be good enough that we can learn from them also. You don't get a chance to learn unless you get a chance to drive the car. I'm quite sure they'll be up to it.
Q. Andrew and Joey, how excited are you to climb into one of these IndyCars?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: I'm very excited. Dan keeps telling me it's not going to be a joyride. I'm very happy to work with Rahal Letterman Racing and also on the IPS side with Andersen. Now that we're combined, I think it gives us a very strong position in the series. I look forward to working with the engineers up at the IRL level. I think it's going to be a really good year for us. I think we can do well.
JOEY SCARALLO: Obviously 2007 is going to be quite a great year for us. There's a lot of exciting things happening. We haven't even hit the first race yet. I'm just real excited to be running in the Indy Pro Series this year. My Trans-Am background, it going to be a bit of a learning curve getting into an open-wheel car. There's no one else I'd want to be doing this than with Dan Andersen. I'm real excited about this new situation with Rahal Letterman. It's going to be great. When we get to get in the IndyCars, it will be another great step again.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you.
At this time I'd like to welcome Roger Bailey, the executive directory of the Indy Pro Series, to come up to the podium, and Bobby Wilson of Brian Stewart Racing, who finished fourth in the Indy Pro Series standings last season. As I said, Roger Bailey, if you would, touch on the Indy Pro Series, how things are looking, shaping up for the series heading into the 2007 season.
ROGER BAILEY: Somebody asked me this morning how it was going. I said, We've been invited to the press conference, it's obviously going in the right direction. Last year we didn't even make the stage. Last year two days before the event we had 12 cars and there was considerable dialogue going around that maybe we should cancel this test. You know, with an increase, a hundred percent increase, it's certainly a significant change over what we were experiencing or not experiencing last year.
I think if yesterday is a true indication of what the series is going to be, it's going to be a very exciting year. I really, from what I saw yesterday, think there are multiple teams, driver combinations, that are going to have more than a good shot at winning this thing next year.
In years gone by, you've been able to look at the entry list and say one, two, three, out of those is going to be the champion. Those days are long since gone. I think we've honestly got probably 10 or 12 guys now with a more-than-equal shot at the championship. That to me is probably the most exciting.
Clearly to see the numbers up was the biggest part of the day for me. There are two issues: the numbers and then the quality of the teams. I think the quality of the teams is probably as significant to me as the numbers, that and the age of the drivers. When we started this thing seven years ago, we had drivers on the way up, drivers on the way down, and drivers going nowhere. Now things have changed. We now have a group of drivers, across the board we're looking at an average age of somewhere 25 years. That's very exciting for me.
THE MODERATOR: Roger, if you would, talk a little bit about the doubleheaders, the increase in the number of races this year.
ROGER BAILEY: Yeah, I think thanks to Tony we were able to raise some more prize money. I think that's very significant. I think the prize money on its own is a very important part, but I don't think it's everything that's encouraged people to come here.
I think with any series, when you start a program, as Dan would probably attest to, the first two or three years people sit around and think, Are they going to be here, are they not going to be here? Very few people are prepared to take the leap that they've taken this year and commit to a program, just in case it doesn't work and you're left with a couple of cars. Not so long ago someone started a Formula 3 series over here. I think they sold six or eight cars, series didn't get off the ground, people were stuck with those cars. I think that's probably at the back of most people's minds.
I think when the series was started, everybody thought next-generation IndyCar driver was coming to from the ranks of USAC, from the oval brigade. We still got some very good people coming from there. Most of our guys clearly now come from a road racing background.
I think adding nine road races, four of which are doubleheaders, gives the teams the opportunity to get the miles but at the same time keep the costs down. You're already there. The additional race on the following day is a very small part or a very small increment in the cost of doing business. That's been very good.
I think those two things are primarily what's driving the program.
From the league standpoint, we're trying desperately hard to keep the costs under control. I know some of the people sitting here now think that's under control, but it's all relative. I think if you look at the performance per mile, performance per dollar, I'm a little biased, but I think the Pro Series is probably the most cost-effective series in the world right now for the cost of doing business.
THE MODERATOR: Bobby, you finished fourth in championship points last year, had a victory at Watkins Glen driving for Brian Stewart. Going into the 2007 season, a team that won the last two entrant championships, tell us about your expectations for the upcoming season.
BOBBY WILSON: Well, I'd have to say I'm pretty excited for the opportunity to race with Brian Stewart this year, take over the No. 1 seat at Brian Stewart, Wade having left the team. I think I have a pretty good chance to win this year. Hopefully I can give Brian the championship, the points, see where it goes.
THE MODERATOR: You've been living in Florida, testing here this week. Our first two races of the season are in Florida. A bit of a home-field advantage?
BOBBY WILSON: Yeah, I think I really like street racing, that's my background. I come from road course racing, as Roger mentioned previously. I think I'm going to do great at a lot of the road course events this year. I need a little bit of work on the ovals. I don't think it's out of reach by any means. I have a great team behind me. I have high expectations.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Roger or Bobby.
Q. Roger, for the IndyCar Series to grow, how important is it for your series to basically have that solid foundation to funnel young talent going up there so it can truly become a feeder series?
ROGER BAILEY: I think it's very important. I think that's probably the thing that we all as a league need to concentrate on now. By no means getting 23, 24 cars yesterday is the end of the line for us. Talking to some people this morning, getting the cars is probably the easiest part of the whole deal. Keeping them is the secret. And then once we found a way of keeping them, I think we can expand the field by a few more cars. We don't want too many, but a few more cars. That will come slowly.
But I think the biggest thing facing us right now is to find seats in the big series so when these guys do make it to the next level, there's somewhere for them to go. I think that's probably the most significant thing facing all of us at this point in time.
Q. Roger, when you talk to a team like Andersen Racing, what is the first question they ask you? Is it, How expensive are the cars to maintain? Is the purse money an issue? How do you recruit teams?
ROGER BAILEY: I think first and foremost you've got to identify who your target audience is. Somebody like Dan Andersen and Mike that have been doing it together from the '90s or even before that clearly are a good target. Calling somebody that's currently playing lacrosse is probably not going to get where you want. You identify who that target is and then make numerous phone calls. That's all we've done since last September, is call, call, call, call, call. You're not going to get a hundred percent, but every now and again you get a home run. We certainly struck one here today.
It's just a matter of persistence. I don't think there's any one thing. Once you've identified who those people are that are interested, then you start to put the pitch, We're going to do nine road races, four doubles, so that will save you money. We're going to pay you to be there. That's another good thing. But I think primarily you've got to find or identify the kind of people that really want to be there, whether you sell them it or not.
Q. Talk about how some of the big-time IndyCar teams have found value in the series, guys like Rahal Letterman and Ganassi getting involved.
ROGER BAILEY: I think Scott, and Mitch isn't here from Team Ganassi, I don't think it's just a testing program. Certainly the testing program is important or will be important if things get really tight in the IndyCar Series, which I'm sure they're going to this year. It's something like you got a lot of good teams, a lot of good cars, I think it will be a tight points battle. Maybe as the season progresses there will be those teams out there that didn't align themselves with a Pro Series team that will wish they had.
But that on its own I don't think is enough. I think the costs involved probably preclude you from just saying, Well, we have an Indy Pro car, get five days of testing. Once you got the team, the five days of testing are still very, very expensive. There has to be a lot more to it, as Scott said, than just saying, I now get five extra days of testing. Those five extra days of testing don't come too cheap. If they're not productive, then they haven't done you any good at all.
I think this year, and in years gone by, we've had one or two, Tony's own family team, it's hard to count that as a bona fide effort. Any effort is welcome. But now we've got teams, big IndyCar teams, big Pro Series teams, joining forces. I think that is significant. I think you've got to look at it, well, you know, clearly in the big series now, we're looking for teams. Hopefully some of the teams that we recruit for the Pro Series will be I won't say next year but will be future IndyCar teams. If we don't look at that, then we're all in trouble.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
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