Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
March 23, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today for our special announcement that we have. I would like to ask everyone to please take a seat and please turn off your cell phones during this announcement. Joining us today are Peter Baron. Peter is the owner of SAMAZ Racing, which will field a car in Saturday's Grand Am race. We also have Felix Rodriguez, he is the president and CEO of CITGO; and Tony George, he is president and founder of the Indy Racing League, which is the sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series. And driver Milka Duno. Milka, the first woman to win a major North American sport car race, has won three Grand Am races, including here at Homestead Miami Speedway, as well as a runner-up finish at this past January's prestigious Rolex 24. Also with us is Alejandro Granado, chairman of CITGO.
Let's begin today's announcement by chatting with Peter Baron. Peter, if you could just give us a few comments.
PETER BARON: It's my great pleasure with the folks up here today to be announcing the fact that SAMAX Motorsport in cooperation here with the support of CITGO and our driver, Milka Duno, will be entering ten Indy Racing League races starting at Kansas, and after that we'll be doing, of course, the 500, and so we're thrilled to do that.
Giving a little bit more details about the driving later on will be Milka. We're very happy and fortunate to be part of this. We know it's a huge undertaking. I don't know how many of the open-wheel series have followed our career in the sports car world, but then we have had great success in that. We are very proud of it. We know the 500 and the whole Indy world, it's a different arena, some different things. Our sports car team has been comprised of a fair amount of folks that have come from that world. We have a great group of guys on board that we are going to use some of those in cooperation with a bunch of new folks who we've hired up in Indianapolis.
And we have a person on board, I don't know if any of you have heard of John Cummiskey, but he's been with, I believe it's four and a half -- we'll put a little asterisk on the half with Indy 500 winning programs. He knows what to do how to get it done, and he has a great group of people there that once he got on board, he's been involved with. He was almost, about as close as you can get, about one yellow away from a 2002 500 victory with Paul Tracy out there. But he's a super guy.
Engineering the car is going to be Steve Challis, and he has been instrumental with the whole team here. We consider ourselves a good, solid team and his expertise has really helped us move forward and we are very happy to be continuing on with Steve. He has still to this day a very large amount of oval track records out there. So we are thrilled to have Steve on board and under that, we have almost everybody on the team has one 500 victory to their credit.
Some of the guys from our current sport car team that are very familiar with Milka and what she likes, how the car works, just the whole interaction of the team and the comfort level of what she likes, we're going to bring those folks in for the short term. And the shop will be out of Gasoline Alley for about two to three months, and then we are going to bring it back down here to in Florida. We are based out of Pompano Beach, and I think that's the general gist of it.
But we are very proud and very grateful for what we've accomplished and through Milka and CITGO and where we're going in the future.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now hear from Felix Rodriguez.
FELIX RODRIGUEZ: Good morning, everybody. Apologize for the delay. Today, CITGO, CITGO is very important for motor sports and important to represent CITGO today. Today is a special day for the Latin people. Personally I am proud that the Venezuela lady represents CITGO; Milka. Milka is not only a beautiful lady' is very smart lady. You know, that Milka is engineering, Milka have two Master's degree -- four Masters' degrees. She's a smart lady and she's a leader, too. Milka Duno I think is not only from Venezuela, from the Latin, represents the human and the Latin American people. This is special for CITGO chose Milka, but now that CITGO sign, it is a given -- indiscernible -- which is very important for us. And CITGO recognized she make many effort in order to reach the top in the United States because the market in the United States is very complicated, very complex. And Milka, can through -- for herself, make an effort to compete with the others.
And Milka, thank you for representing CITGO and for Venezuela that you would select this kind of situation. Thank you. I am sure that Milka, again, for a new leader in your team, my friend -- indiscernible -- I think it's a new step for Milka. It's a new step for CITGO, too.
Again, CITGO is a company in the United States that is -- but represents many, many things, but more than the people think about what kind of a company is CITGO. CITGO is not only the company for making money, CITGO is a company that they need to show even more -- indiscernible -- in this kind of event, involved in human performance, too, more important -- a new CITGO -- indiscernible -- a new performance in the United States.
Now CITGO are proud that Milka continue in the future of sport. Thank you Milka, thank you for coming. Again, and thank you CITGO and CITGO recognize that this is an opportunity for you.
THE MODERATOR: Now if we could hear from Tony George, he is in a bit of a hurry, he has practice to get to. If we could hear from Tony George very quickly before he heads to practice.
TONY GEORGE: Well, I would like to say that any day you can welcome a new driver, welcome a new team, welcome a new sponsor to your series, makes it a very good day. So I guess that makes today a very, very, very good day.
I'd like to welcome CITGO and SAMAX, and certainly Milka to the Indy Car Series. It sounds like they have given us a lot of consideration, certainly the speculation has been out for some time that Milka would be joining the IndyCar Series, and I think the way that you all have gone about it is to be commended.
I think that taking the time and being patient as you enter this new arena, certainly all of your accomplishments on the track speak for themselves, and while this will be a new experience for you, it should be a very good experience, and you surrounded yourself with good people. You're going to be warmly welcomed in the Indy Racing League, and there's certainly no shortage of experienced people here who are standing ready, willing and able to help in any way they can. We've got no shortage of three and four-time winners at the Indy 500 walking in the paddock and they will be here to help make the transition.
But I think Peter's done an excellent job it sound like of putting it together, so we welcome CITGO and Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Granado. Welcome to the series, and we look forward to seeing you in Kansas and all the best.
THE MODERATOR: Certainly last but not least we'd like to hear from Milka herself. If we could get some comments from you on this exciting announcement today.
MILKA DUNO: First of all, thanks so much to the media, they always support me, they always take care. All the news we receive and everything around me -- I heard Tony say a long time ago, Milka is going to Indy, yes or no; Milka is going to Indy, yes or no; finally I am here.
I am so happy and so pleased for the people that made that this be real. Because first, for my sponsor for CITGO that support me, that made everything possible for go to the next step; for Peter because they create a fantastic team and we have so good chemistry, my fantastic engineer, Steve Challis. I have a year working him and it is so special, the energy that we have around in my team. This is the best race car, we continue with the same people. I thank you so much to the organization and to the IndyCar Series for all the support and for making me feel so welcome in this series.
I know it's going to be very tough job, it's going to be very hard championship. But I like a difficult challenge and I have confidence in my ability, and I want to prove what I can do. I have to work a lot, but it's normal for me to work for the thing I want.
Thanks again to everybody, again to CITGO, I promise to do the best I can, and to my team and to my beautiful country Venezuela, thank you.
THE MODERATOR: At this point we will open it up for questions.
Q. If you could talk about the opportunity to run in the Indianapolis 500 and how daunting a task that could be.
MILKA DUNO: Sorry, about Indy?
Q. If you could talk about the opportunity to run in the Indianapolis 500 and how challenging that will be.
MILKA DUNO: Oh, sure a big challenge but the dream, it's coming true. It's something that I was dreaming for a long time for many years I was watching Indy 500 and now I can't believe that I am following this big chance I have in my life.
And I have to take the opportunity like everything I do in my life, when I have an opportunity I take and I work so hard to have the best results for me and everybody that help me to move to the next level.
Q. Peter, can you take us through some of the details and what other races you'll run and testing programs, etc.?
PETER BARON: We took the liberty of delivering our first car two weeks ago. We have an order in for another car; so it arrives early April. Our testing begins, we're going testing for two dates in Texas, and we'll have three dates already planned at Kansas in mid April, and we are trying to secure a few more dates.
We have a little delay in one of the cars that caused us to miss a couple of dates that were supposed to be right around now, but we're having to push that back a bit. Our goal is to get a day on track before we actually get to Kansas there for the race weekend. Let's see, the details -- naturally we're thrilled to be running the Dallara chassis and the support of Honda, and a lot of this is -- big thanks to Brian Barnhart and Tiffany Hammer have done just a fabulous job and a new team coming in and helping us get up to speed. I know we took a lot of time planning this out, but his folks did a real tremendous job there. And Robert Clark at Honda was instrumental, and it's pretty overwhelming to start a new team.
We did a fantastic job at the 24 Hour in Daytona, so to come from that and start preparing for what I think is one of the most sacred things in all of motorsports, turn one at Indy, we're going to go up against all the best teams in the world out there. To have all of the right equipment and everything, we've been on this for a few months now working with the Honda folks and different engineering teams. A lot of things to be done, but we're pretty on top of it.
Q. What race after Indy -- is there a particular type of track?
PETER BARON: Basically we have, I believe all of the high-speed ovals. So we're going through -- let's see if I can remember this here in order. We're going to obviously Kansas in the next one we're going to do is Texas. We are doing one short oval this year. We have two road courses, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. I believe we're stepping out of -- trying to think, Richmond and the Belle Isle race.
Q. Tony, Milka now gives you three women in the series, with Danica and Sarah, how good of a marketing opportunity is that for IRL?
TONY GEORGE: You know, I think it's great. I think she represents a couple of unique opportunities with both her nationality as well as her gender are something that -- something that could be marketed. But I think certainly I know the media wants to put a spin on everything. I tend to be more practical and stride and not put a lot of pressure on that.
I think it will develop and unfold over time, but certainly I think the league will do everything they can to be opening and welcoming to ideas with CITGO and SAMAX and work together to try and create the stories that are possible. I think they obviously are spreading their time between Grand Am and IndyCar, but it's a big investment of time and effort that they are about to undertake. The promotional part of it is just one aspect of it.
Q. For Peter and Milka, what is it, Peter, that made you think that this is the driver that you could make this big jump with; and for Milka, what is it that makes you feel that you can make this big jump.
PETER BARON: Our trailer isn't big enough, but I wish all you folks could actually sit in our trailer for a debrief session. Milka has probably -- I've worked with tons of drivers, and guys that are winning races in all different series. Milka, I think she has with her engineering degrees and everything, a fabulous ability to communicate both feelings and mechanical details on what the car is.
Another thing, she's very passionate about it. There's times where Steve Challis, the engineer, he will actually be at the hotel and get a call at 11:00 and say something, just thinking about it more and more, maybe something just wasn't quite right about the aero balance when they were at Daytona. You know, Steve goes back, checks, the guys -- they only do what they can, you get out to a track at a certain time; they scoured the front and they found the problem.
I mean, it's one of those things that I think everybody is quick to glance over is Milka is still very fresh as a driver, okay. A lot of the -- you know, the two other girls in the series, they started off as kids driving. Milka, she started -- you started a little bit later, right. And there's so much potential there.
On other days where we're out testing, you get a little bit jaded with the sports car stuff where you have the two drivers; you can only get a certain amount of lap times in. There's testing times where Milka does a phenomenal job. If she was maybe with a different team and they had another driver, they were pushing that, but you give any driver a platform to perform on with a good team and good engineer and she's going to do well. And she did that at Daytona and she did that last year when we were able to build a program around her and she's going to continue to do that, so we're thrilled about that.
MILKA DUNO: I think this is the best thing that ever happened in my short career like race car driver. I started in 1999. I drove about 13, 14 different cars, different teams.
This is the best team for me because Peter is very intelligent guy; he knows how to motivate people; he knows how to make everything work together. Everybody in my team have only one goal, everybody help each other and it's so good when you have so good energy, so good environment in racing. We feel just like one. Everybody help each other and we have good motivation. Peter is I think the leader for create all the situation in my team, and this what you need as a race car driver.
Q. Peter, did you think about maybe the IPS program for a couple of races to get her acclimated? And for Milka, have you ever driven an open-wheel car before?
PETER BARON: We thought about the IPS program. And doing a lot of research, talking to some of the drivers out there about it and some of the teams, you know, it was -- we felt the experience that they had is probably pretty equivalent to what she already has in the Daytona prototypes.
The whole concept is, you know, I have a fair amount driving history behind me, and I firmly believe that's no substitute. If you're going to go drive an IndyCar and that's what you want to do, figure out how to get it done. Figure out how to do as much testing as you can in there. If you want to be an IndyCar driver, if you can do it, the sooner you can do it, the more testing you can do behind it, the better off you'll be.
If we were to go in the IPS series, that might be a little bit of a sideline. If we could do this here, be better set up for things down the road and whatnot, I think that's going to make everything better. The more testing we can do and the more preparation, that's why we chose that route.
MILKA DUNO: I started in 1999 and from the beginning to 2003, I was driving an open-wheel car at the same time I was driving a sport car or prototype car. The people know me more for the sport car because my brother was in championship. The other people more about American LeMans series; now Grand Am in the road series.
But from the beginning I was driving in both championship at the same time, open-wheel car and prototype, because I was looking for earn the experience in short time. I am very competitive and I was in two and three championship simultaneously for have a quick -- a quick curve for learning everything in a short time.
Q. What are your short-term performance goals, Top-10, Top-15, Top-5? What's your goals to start out with?
MILKA DUNO: It shows me, I'm very ambitious. I want to be in front immediately but I know it's not the reality, because I need to learn everything. I need to work with my team with a new car, new tracks.
The ovals, before I did racing ovals maybe twice in the past, it was nothing, no, but I need to learn so much. I know I am. I can be patient. I want to be a quick, as soon as possible try to go to the front.
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