Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
February 28, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests with us today. Joining us in a couple of minutes will be IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti. To start the call, we're very pleased to have Indy Pro Series rookie Robbie Pecorari.
Good afternoon, Robbie.
ROBBIE PECORARI: Good afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Robbie is a 19-year-old from Aston, Pennsylvania, which is just southwest of Philadelphia. He grew up in karting, winning several championships. He moved up to cars in 2004, and was a Red Bull Driver Search semifinalist. In 2005 he finished second in the Star Mazda Series, recording two victories. Last year he won on the streets of Toronto in the Atlantic Series.
This year Robbie will be driving the No. 13 car for Team KMA. The car is co-owned by rock'n roll legend Sammy Hagar.
Robbie, you've had a couple of chances to drive the Indy Pro Series car, most notably at last week's open test where you were seventh quickest on the oval. Tell us about coming over to a new series and driving for a new team.
ROBBIE PECORARI: For me, you know, driving for a new team is nothing new since so far in open wheels I haven't actually been -- I've always been a rookie. For the series itself, it's great. Indy Pro Series car definitely has a lot of power in it. It was really fun to drive last weekend.
THE MODERATOR: It's not just a new team to you; it's also kind of a new team coming into the Indy Pro Series. Was the test kind of just a shaking out of sorts for you guys?
ROBBIE PECORARI: Yes. The test itself was more of a shakedown since it was the first time we had the car on the track. In that case, it was a good test.
Team-wise, it's hard for everyone to be getting along since it is the first time the team is on track and everyone was working together. For a rookie team, it was really hard itself with some of the other guys having a lot more experience. But we do have some pretty good engineers and everything behind the team that's been there for a few years. I think it should be a good season.
THE MODERATOR: We saw a very tight field at the test, especially on the oval. 22 cars were separated by less than 7/10ths of a second. What kind of a season do you expect out on the track?
ROBBIE PECORARI: Right now the goal is to get comfortable with the car, for me to basically learn the car on the ovals, since it's pretty new to me. As long as we get a couple wins, I think that would be a good season. If we could win the championship, that would be great. Only one driver gets to do it. That's everyone's goal.
THE MODERATOR: We mentioned Sammy Hagar as a co-owner of your car. Actually yesterday afternoon he also announced an associate sponsorship with AJ Foyt's team in the IndyCar Series. Have you had a chance to meet Sammy yet? Should we expect to see him at some races?
ROBBIE PECORARI: I haven't met him yet. What I heard, he is going to be at some of the races. He may throw a concert at one of the Indy races, which would definitely be received very well. It's great to have someone like that backing the car since it's a well-known name, sponsorship behind it.
THE MODERATOR: I noticed Thursday during the lunch break at the open test, Marco Andretti stopped by your garage area for a few minutes. How well do you know each other, growing up within the same state, being about the same age? What kind of advice was he maybe giving to you?
ROBBIE PECORARI: He was just coming out and hanging out as a friend since he didn't really have much to do that day. Growing up fairly young in go-karts we met each other and since then we kept in touch. He lives in Nazareth, which is about an hour and a half away. Every now and then we'll hang out a little bit. But since the last three or four years through Skip Barber and Star Mazda, we raced against each other. It's a pretty good friendship.
THE MODERATOR: The Indy Pro Series will have three races at Indianapolis in 2007, one on the oval and the doubleheader weekend with USGP in June. For you is that a dream come true to be able to race at Indianapolis?
ROBBIE PECORARI: Yeah, it's definitely a great track to race at. I did one BMW race there I believe it was two years ago, just to learn the track and everything, which was awesome. For the Freedom 100, that's going to be a great race. So many people there. It's almost like a dream come true. Hopefully we'll be able to put a package together for the 500, which would be great.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for some questions for Robbie.
Q. Right at the end you mentioned the Indy 500. What kind of possibility is that for you? How good are the options?
ROBBIE PECORARI: Right now it's just through the talks with the team. John Lewis and Ingo have a lot of people they know, trying to find a car, something that's affordable just to get some track experience. It's only in the talks right now. There's nothing definite at all.
I think it would be a great accomplishment if we could get that through the team.
Q. Is that rushing things a bit? You've not had the first Pro Series race of the season. Is that something that's a necessary evil you have to think this far in advance?
ROBBIE PECORARI: It's something that you have to work up to. I definitely agree it could be rushing it a little bit since I've only done two oval races and one test in the IPS car. Thinking of it that way, it would definitely be great to be able to do it this year. If it doesn't happen this year, hopefully next year.
Q. The team you'd be working with, which are you having talks with?
ROBBIE PECORARI: It would be the Indy Pro Series team that I'm working with this year.
Q. Could you give us more on what you thought of the cars during both the oval and road course test.
ROBBIE PECORARI: Yes. The most powerful car I raced so far was in the Atlantics last year. Comparing those two cars, driving-wise it's completely different. The Indy Pro Series car is a little heavier, a little less downforce, a lot more power. Comparing the two, it's pretty hard.
On the ovals, it's definitely all new to me. To me it was a great test. The car itself was very stable. Definitely seems like a very well-built car.
Q. What vehicles have you driven as far as competition?
ROBBIE PECORARI: I started in Skip Barber, did the National Series. Went up to the Star Mazda Series. From there I went to the Champ Car Atlantic Series last year. In between that I've done some Formula Ford 2000 stuff. Besides that, that's pretty much it.
Q. 19, you've done quite a bit.
ROBGBIE PECORARI: Yeah, it's definitely going good.
THE MODERATOR: Robbie, thanks for taking time out with us this afternoon. Good luck in 2007.
We're joined by Marco Andretti. Marco returns for his second season in the IndyCar Series in 2007 after capturing Bombardier Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2006. He had four top-five finishes, including becoming the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race at Infineon and a second place in the Indianapolis 500. He'll once again be driving the No. 26 entry for Andretti Green Racing.
Marco, you're about to go into your second season here in the IndyCar Series. How are you approaching the start of the season differently compared to last year now that you've been through it once before?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, in my mind, I just have a little more of that quiet confidence because last year. You know, I just kept an open mind. I had no idea what to expect. I mean, that's the beauty of being a rookie. Having raced at those particular tracks in an IndyCar is going to help me substantially. I just can't wait.
Now, you know, coming off I think a pretty strong test on a bigger oval, which is the only place that we were really lacking last year, just gives me a little bit more confidence as well. I think Andretti Green is going to be pretty good across the board on short ovals, road courses. I don't want to speak too soon, but I think we might have found it on the bigger ovals. I'm definitely looking forward to the championship.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned a bit about the quiet confidence. Obviously you came into last season with some confidence as well. Where was the point really for you where it mentally went from getting comfortable with the whole situation, being competitive, to truly believing you were ready to win a race?
MARCO ANDRETTI: You don't gain too much confidence with two broken drive shafts. I was just happy to finish Japan. I think we finished 12th. Really for me what did it is having a month at the Speedway really. It just sort of gives me a lot of time to get my act together. I had four of the best out there. I was able to follow, line up my data against them. If you figure out how to beat them, it gives you confidence to beat anybody.
Definitely just learning from them, having a whole month, I just needed laps. I didn't have that many until the whole month of May. Before the race I said the NYC car can be a potential winner. I won't just say that to make me look good, it's really what I felt. That proved it. So that gave me more confidence, too, finishing second. From then on, it was just getting more experience and getting more comfortable.
THE MODERATOR: The Andretti Green team has seen a change in makeup with Bryan Herta leaving and Danica Patrick coming in. Has there been a change in the level of camaraderie among you four?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's too early to tell right now. I definitely lost somebody who I definitely looked up to and stuff like that. The guy knew how to step up a car, too. Whenever things weren't working out with mine, I'd always have a very comfortable be it fast setup to work with.
I think so far so good. I mean, Danica's fit in really well. She's not used to having three people to sort of lean back on, you could say. I think, like I said, so far so good. We've only had two days to really see. It's all new to her, as well. It's pretty easy to I guess fall into the camaraderie of that team. It works so well.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for Marco.
Q. I was talking to your grandfather the other day. We were talking about your progress over the season. He mentioned the same thing you were saying, getting some seat team, helping your confidence. He said the amazing thing about you is you might make a mistake the first time but you won't the second time. You figure things out pretty quickly just as long as you're getting that seat time. What do you attribute that to?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't really know. It's a combination of things. I think number one is just really watching my father and grandfather, mainly having the three teammates that I do in my rookie year as well. Just watching them, I mean, they don't crash cars, you know what I mean? They don't do stuff like that. They're always up front. You just learn. They're not telling me, You need to do this, you need to do this. It's more lead by example where they just do their thing and I just see how good they are at it. I'm like, Man, I got to do that. Basically just learning from all the mentors I have.
Q. Going over to Spain, how did that go? I know you're focused on the season coming up, but what are your thoughts on the possibility of F1 in the future?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I mean, I wouldn't doubt it out. You said it, right now I'm just thinking totally I know where I am the next couple years and I'm completely content. I think I'd be cheating myself and the team even if 1% my mind would wander, Maybe I should be doing this. I'm cheating myself. I'm not going to be able to achieve my goals.
But, like I said, I wouldn't count it out. Everything has to be right, the right circumstances and everything like that. But yeah, I mean, I can't thank Honda enough. If they need help in the future, I'll go over and drive the cars. I had a lot of fun. But I know where I am the next couple years.
Q. When you say you know your goal, what is No. 1 on your priority list? Is it the 500 or winning the IRL championship?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think it's the 500 really. I think both of them are a reality this year, I really do. Like I said earlier, I think we found, I don't want into speak too soon, but I think we found a little bit of what we needed on the bigger ovals. I think a championship is definitely possible, if we find that consistency. In Indy there's one thing left to do.
Q. Would you elaborate a bit more on the mile-and-a-half's. I know you were confident the end of last season not necessarily on those tracks but that you could be a title contender, because you said so. Anything more you can say about that?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, I just think there's not much more to say. We were lacking a bit of speed on the bigger tracks that we seem to have found. That's all I said through last year, that we were lacking. If we could find that, if we could find that, we'll be there. I think we're going to be there across the board now, which just gives me a lot of confidence.
I had all the confidence and the trust in the world in that team that they would find it, you know. So far, it looks like they did. We'll see. I mean, we'll find out in a couple weeks, I guess.
Q. Just straight line speed, corner speed? Where in the lap is that most significant?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, it's everywhere. It's just speed. Andretti Green handling-wise is always going to be up front on the short ovals and the road courses. I don't know where they found it. I just drive the car.
Q. You also had to be excited when you found out there were going to be five non-ovals. Five of the 17 on street are road courses. Will you be circling all five of those thinking you really think you ought to be good at all five of those?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I think so. It's what I've grown up doing. I think for me I love road courses. Having said that, I'm learning my oval race craft. I'm learning to enjoy it. If we have the speed, I had a fun test, and now for once I'm looking forward to the ovals, where last year I kind of dreaded them.
I don't know. I mean, it's a very diverse series. That's what I love about it. I think you got to get your car working, like I say, across the board, all different circumstances. But yeah, I mean, of course I look forward to the road courses. That's what I feel most comfortable on now. Hopefully, like I say, we're finding some stuff on the ovals.
Q. Could I get your thoughts on the new Honda engines? Do you notice any changes in the engines and cars compared to last year? What are your likes and dislikes so far?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It's all likes for me. It's more powerful, number one. It's hard for me to compare. I was out of the IndyCar seat for about five months in the off-season, which is a ton for a driver. When I got back, it was at a road course at Daytona. Just felt like a bit more torque bottom end. Of course, we were quicker top end. It's a 3.5 instead of a 3.
Q. Do you like the fact there's only one engine manufacturer in the series or would you like to see more competition, at least having a choice in the powerplant you can use?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, I think even Honda would agree with me that, yeah, they want competition. They're here to race. They're going to win the race regardless. I think Honda would put themselves up against anyone, and I would too. I wouldn't change Honda for the world.
But, yeah, I mean, it would definitely be a bit different. I think definitely a bit better if they're able to compete. Then it just pushes them to be better also, where now they're just racing themselves. Even Robert Clarke said at the last Honda meeting, he would like that as well.
Q. Last year Team Green spent a lot of time chasing red cars. What besides the normal thing of coming out of the box at Homestead, then the back-to-back road courses, St. Pete, you have to have in mind you're going to be measured up against Penske and Ganassi?
MARCO ANDRETTI: This year I just come back with even more confidence. I would have measured myself up against them last year. Now, you know, we found an element that I think we were losing last year. Now we're ready. We'll put ourselves up against anyone. I wish I could guarantee we won't be chasing red cars this year. I think if you ask me, it's going to be the most competitive year in IndyCars. It's not just going to be three teams in my mind. I think anybody out there is going to be able to win a race. It's going to be very tough.
Q. As you look back into your first year, you still were young, your capacity as far as driving a car developed, you came in with experience. You were thrown into a really high-end cut-throat business both on the track and off the track. What was your experience with that? Was it surprising how cut-throat or hard the business is? What were the facts of life you had to learn in that regard?
MARCO ANDRETTI: As a rookie, I definitely didn't think I'd come in and dominate, I could tell you that, which we didn't. The reason I was even there at 19 years old, I think everybody knows, is first of all just the team's background, my dad knew exactly what they could give me. I'd always have a secure race car on the ovals, which is only what I can ask for, no surprises as a rookie. And my three teammates, to be able to measure myself up against them. Having three teammates who in my mind are the best in the business, I mean, that accelerates your learning curve that much more. That's the beauty of the team really. I'm just fortunate the way things have been going. I'm very happy with the way my rookie season went.
As a competitor, I think it could be better. I think everybody sees it could have been better. I'm very happy with the way things went. And now, you know, after some testing, I can't wait for the Homestead race.
Q. We've had almost a year pass now since last May. I think once we get into May, springtime, people are going to be buzzing about the incredible finish at the 500. You've had a lot of things happen through the season since then. Sort of dims as time passes. As you look back, what really stands out in your mind of those last 10 laps, frenetic finish when so many things changed? What do you still remember vividly?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I mean, a lot of things in the last 10 laps. Man, I mean, Andretti Green was one, two, three, four. The pass on dad. You know, seeing a Penske coming up behind me, you know the race is never over.
Would I have changed anything in the last 10 laps? No, I really wouldn't. Having said that, there's a million things in a 500-mile race that could have won me that race. You can't really look back and say, Oh, bummer, I wish they would have did this or that. On the last 10 laps, I wouldn't change a thing really. The only thing I could have did, we went over this last year, is crashed us. There's no way I would put either of us at risk.
I said it post race interview last year. I don't want to wait a year to compete again to have another go there. I can't wait. That race has gone through my mind every hour of every day since. It seems like yesterday. Now we only have two months. I can't wait. It's coming up.
Q. Are you surprised at how many people throughout last year brought that up to you and talked to you about it?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Not really. Yeah, it definitely I think was a big deal. We almost won in my rookie year. No, I mean, I definitely wasn't surprised. I knew after the finish that's all we were going to hear.
Like I said, I'm definitely happy with the way things worked out. For a 19-year-old rookie, yeah, it's awesome. As a competitor, I wish we would have won because we just lost the biggest race in the world.
Q. As you try to help promote the IRL, how do you feel about being someone who is going to be highly visible? What sort of ways do you try to sell the series? What are some of the things you try to do to help attract more people?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, winning races helps. Definitely, like I said last year, the win felt so good at Sonoma. I'm definitely going to get greedy and try to keep doing it. I think me having success, Danica having success, is going to help definitely the series.
I'm not in marketing, so all I can do is really the best I can do. I'll do as many appearances as I can to try to help the series.
It's a good question. I think definitely it could be a lot better. What we should do, I don't know. It's not really up to me. I'll do all I can to help for sure.
Q. Have you found you have a lot of demands on your time to try to do those things? I assume when you're out of the car for a few months, you're making appearances.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yes and no. I don't know. I mean, I think we're seeing a difference. If I know the appearance I'm about to go do will help, then yeah, I'll be there. I don't know. I had five months out of the seat. I can't say there were too many demands on my time. Like I said, if I can help, I'll be there.
Q. Tell me if it's your father or who might contribute the most to keeping you grounded with success at such a young age, not to get distracted by all the people that pull you in various directions.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I mean, it absolutely is him. I think it's both my parents really. Being able to watch dad's career, sort of it comes back to lead by example again. He never told me, You need to act like this, you need to act like that. I just saw the way he handled himself with the media.
Grounded? I mean, there's nothing worse, I was just telling my friends, there's nothing worse than somebody having skill, and that person having to tell somebody about it. The last thing I want to be is big-headed. I want people to hear from other people that I have skill. It's not going to come from my mouth anyway. That's the last thing I want to be, is big-headed, boastful. I'm an IndyCar driver. I'm happy to be where I am. I love what I do. I just go out every weekend and have fun.
Q. You mentioned your teammates, how you appreciate having teammates. What were your thoughts about the possibility now of running against your dad again?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I'm so happy. Right after the race last year, I was pushing him to get a deal done for this year. Fortunately enough, things worked out. I learned so much from the guy. Even out of the car. But now having him, I said this last year, be in an IndyCar and run on that track the same day, then him being able to explain things to me, helped so much. A good example is me scaring myself last year to go quick. I was able to jump into his car. He was doing it comfortably. I learned not just car setup but, I mean, so much. We can't even go over it in an interview.
Definitely can't wait to be on track with all my teammates during May.
Q. Danica had a couple difficult tests for various reasons at Daytona and Homestead. How did you think she handled that? Did you have a chance to talk to her about it's going to take a while to mold into the team?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, yes and no. I don't think she had too bad of a test if you ask me. I know she wanted it to be better. I know it will be better. We have a lot to help her yet. The team is still getting better. I think beginning of the season we'll have all aspects ready to go for the season.
I think she'll be just fine. I'm not worried about that. I'm not disappointed with her first couple tests for sure.
Q. You have a raft of knowledge to learn from, a lot of good people around you. Is there anybody that you feel that's probably helped you more than anyone else?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, really. Every one of them, my teammates, are a little bit different in their own ways. Basically I try to take the best from each of them and try to put it into my driving. No, I mean, I can't pick one person really. My father and grandfather, I'm just so fortunate to have this many people of that greatness, you could say, in my corner. I'm so happy to have them on my side.
Q. Having witnessed dozens of Indianapolis 500s, I must say your 2006 effort was one of the more perfectly executed runs I've ever seen. I wanted did to know precisely, what was the prerace strategy?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Prerace strategy was it's a long race, stay consistent. Never, no matter where you're running in the race, doubt yourself. It's such a long race that so many things can happen. It's so hard to put yourself in a position to win that race. All you can do is just in pit stops, everything you have to do, just execute it the best of your ability, and it will pay off at the end. You'll be up front. That was pretty much the game plan for me. Nothing's changed this year.
I think what lost me the race last year was the speed really. He was seven miles an hour on average quicker in that lap, which is pretty unheard of. I think we might have found a bit of that back. I'm looking forward to this year.
Q. Are you living in the Miami area now, in Indianapolis, Nazareth, all of the above?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Kind of all of the above. I like to bounce around, stay busy. I just land the plane, go to my place, go to my computer, in a different location. That's kind of the way I am.
No, I mean, definitely Miami is going to be convenient for the first couple races, and also the weather.
Q. You're working out with TK?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, in Miami it's with TK. In Indy, I have a trainer. In Pennsylvania, I have a trainer.
Q. You did a couple of tests with Honda Racing in Formula One. Do you think that experience will make you a better IndyCar racer this year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: That's a tough one because for me the driving style in those cars are 180 degrees different really. I was out of the car for a while. I went in and I had to teach myself how to do it. I came to Daytona in the IndyCar, I had to teach myself how to do it, then back to Spain again. It's so different mainly because of the braking and there's traction control in Formula One. It's a huge difference in driving style, the way you have to drive the car.
I don't know. I mean, it's tough. Seat time is seat time. Yeah, I'd stay in the car every day, like I said. It's a tough one because it's pretty different.
Q. Are we doing anything special for grandpa's birthday today?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I'm actually in Scottsdale. I sent him a text. I said, How old are you, 26? He said, Close enough. In his mind, that's his age.
No, I mean, I'll be in Pennsylvania on Monday. I'll take him out.
THE MODERATOR: Marco, thanks for taking the time to join us and best of luck.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Our next Indy Racing League teleconference will be next Wednesday, March 7th, at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Our guests will be Marco's teammate Danica Patrick, along with Indy Pro Series driver Alex Lloyd.
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