Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
May 23, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have three guests joining us today. In a few minutes we'll hear from Indianapolis 500 starters John Andretti and Davey Hamilton. Joining us now in Indy Pro Series points leader Alex Lloyd. Good afternoon, Alex.
ALEX LLOYD: Hi, Tim.
THE MODERATOR: Alex is in his second season in the Indy Pro Series. He finished seventh in points last year recording victories on the road courses at Indianapolis and Infineon. This year he's become the first driver to open the season with three consecutive victories and could tie Thiago Medeiros for most consecutive wins if he can win on Friday in the Freedom 100.
Alex, as I mentioned, you have won every race this year, but obviously it hasn't been that easy. In fact, in two of the races you led less than half of the laps. Tell us a little bit about the season so far.
ALEX LLOYD: Well, I mean, obviously results-wise it's been perfect for us. Three wins out of three is everything we could have hoped for and more really.
As you say, it's not been easy for sure. We've had a lot of tough races. Homestead was difficult because it's always going to be a very close race at Homestead with the nature of the track. Obviously we had a couple of accidents during the race. It was a tough one to win at.
Obviously the second race, St. Petersburg, with the reverse grid, had to come from sixth on the grid. There's always a challenge. Every race has its own little challenges. But we came through the first three okay, so we're extremely happy about that. Of course, we have to keep working hard to make sure we can try to carry on the momentum for the upcoming races.
THE MODERATOR: I mentioned only one other driver, Thiago Medeiros, he also happened to drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, has won four consecutive races. That was three years ago. I think the series is much more competitive than it was three years ago. How tough is it going to be and what do you think your chances are pulling off another win on Friday?
ALEX LLOYD: For sure it's going to be very tough. Like you said, the competition this year I think is greatly improved certainly from last year. I know last year was a very strong year. It's going to be very difficult.
I think at the same time we know we've got a good car. I know I've got a good team behind me. I think I'm in a good position to go for it again. I'm sure we're going to be very quick and be able to challenge for the win. But, of course, that doesn't always mean you're going to get the win. It's going to be a hard-fought win but we're certainly going to be in a good position I think to try to get that other win.
The Freedom 100 for us is the biggest race of the year. It's really one I'm going for with 110%, going to give it everything I can to get the win there. I know the team are with the same idea as well. We're certainly going to be pushing very hard.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk more specifically about Friday's race. Obviously your one-and-a-half-mile high-banked ovals tend to have a lot of packed racing, things like that. You've been through the Freedom 100 last year, finished fifth in that race. From that experience, the testing that you've done here at Indianapolis, what kind of race should we expect to see?
ALEX LLOYD: Well, I think you're going to find it's certainly not going to be packed racing like we saw at Homestead like you said. I think the front-runners are really going to be quite close. Obviously this year we have a lot of new teams involved, new in the fact they haven't raced in the Indy Pro Series before this year. They've got a lot of experience. They put together a very good car straightaway.
The competition is going to be strong. I think there's going to be five or six guys capable of winning the race. With the nature of this track, I think there will be some breaks made. Certainly it will probably spread out a little bit. But then it all depends on whether we have yellows. If we have a yellow with five laps to go, it's going to bunch everybody back up and it could really be anybody's guess on who is going to win. It really depends on where those yellows fall.
But I would expect another close race. Last year was very close. Unfortunately for me it was kind of almost a dull race for the fact I was really on my own, not quick enough to catch the guys in front, but quicker than the guys behind. I really had 40 laps of just driving around and enjoying the scenery and the great day really.
I think the one thing with Indianapolis, the concentration required on this track is far superior to any other track I've driven on, be it road course, oval, street course. You're going so quick on such a strong straightaway, your mind almost wander it's such a long straight. You've got such a precise turning point you need to hit every single lap that it's very difficult. We're only doing 40 laps, a hundred miles. If you're doing a 500-mile race, I could see it being even tougher. There's a lot of challenges for the event.
THE MODERATOR: If you can win on Friday, you would also become the first driver to win both on Indy's road course and on the oval. What would that mean to you to be the first person to achieve something like that?
ALEX LLOYD: It would mean a lot. I'm trying not to think too much about it because I'm taking this race as any other race. I'm going in there as I would approach every race with the aim to win it. I'm not trying to let any other outside things distract me or lose my focus a little bit. But for sure if we did get the win, got that record, that would mean a lot to me. To be the first driver to win on the road course, the oval, would be something really special.
Obviously I've only been in the country just over a year. I was lucky enough to get my first win in the Indy Pro Series at Indianapolis on the F1 road course event. That was a fantastic feeling, to go in Victory Lane. I really want to get there for the oval on carb day. That's the really important place I want to be. We're going to be trying very hard. There's certainly a lot of good perks to go with it, like you say, with records. I'm just trying to take it as it comes, take the race day on how it is. If we've got a good-enough car, we're in a position to win, hopefully we can pull it off. We'll just see how the race unfolds on Friday.
THE MODERATOR: Let me ask you about your goals. What would you say your goals were coming into the season and have you adjusted them now that you've gotten off to such a great start?
ALEX LLOYD: No. I mean, really I'm doing what I wanted to do with the goals. I set out with a very high expectation which I think is something that I tend to do most years, is set really a high bar. I was always told to aim for the stars. If you don't quite make it, you'll reach the moon. I wanted to win over 50% of the races this year, was my ambition, to win the championship in a dominant fashion.
It's still going to be very tough but we certainly started off the way I wanted to. To be honest, maybe I exceeded a little bit more than what I thought with three wins in a row. I was hoping maybe I could come away with two wins and a good solid finish in the third race. Yes, probably slightly better than where I thought we'd be. Like I said, I'm setting high goals because for me this is -- I consider it my year to try and shine and hopefully step up into the IndyCar Series for 2008. To do that I think you've got to be clear that you have to try to separate yourself as a driver from the rest of the field, which in today's day and age, the Indy Pro Series this year with the level of competition, it's going to be very difficult. But I'm certainly aiming high. We're going to keep trying for more wins.
People keep saying all these little records that could be done, like tying the number of victories. I've got that in the back of my mind I want to try to beat those as well. It's really setting yourself targets as you go down the year. To be honest, I'm not really thinking too much of the championship at the moment. We're just taking each race. When we get closer to the finish, we can see where we're at, where we're going in relation to where I want it to be.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it for questions for Alex.
Q. Beyond getting quality equipment and a solid team from Sam Schmidt, what has it meant for you to be around Sam?
ALEX LLOYD: It's meant a lot. I mean, like you said, he runs a great team, he runs a first-class operation, with great individuals in it. Sam as a person, he's got to be an inspirational kind of guy. You look at what he's been through, the way he goes about his life at the moment, helping others. He's certainly an inspiration to me. Not only that, he's a great driver. I can get a lot of advice. I really try to talk to him a lot before each race and each time I get in the car to discuss the best way forward because I take on board a lot of what he says because he's been there and done it, was extremely good at it. He's got a lot of experience that he can share with me.
What can you say about the guy? He's just a very nice person, very down-to-earth, does a lot to help out a lot of people. For that, you've really got to respect him.
Q. Are there any tracks in particular that you're really looking forward to this year?
ALEX LLOYD: I'm looking forward to this, the Freedom 100 here at Indianapolis probably more than any other just because it's the carb day at the Indy 500. That's got to be our biggest event.
On top of that, I'm looking forward to Sonoma again, going to Infineon. I really enjoyed that race. I love the place there more than anything. The track is great, lots of undulations. Really any of the road courses that are like that, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio which I've never been to, heard great things about, I'm looking forward to all those. I'd have to say the one that stands out is here at Indy, even more so than when we raced with the Formula Ones. Being here and racing on the oval in front of hopefully a hundred thousand people on the carb day of the Indy 500 is something really special. That's what I'm looking forward to the most.
Q. Do you have various strategies to bring the best out of yourself or do you just race?
ALEX LLOYD: Well, I mean, I do. I don't go into too much detail. I always sort of go with the fact that this is what I've been doing since I've been nine years old. I know what works for me. Working for me really is just relaxing a few days before the race, try to keep myself nice and calm. I don't have any particular routines or superstitions or anything. I don't have any focus techniques before I get in the car you hear about with some drivers. I just try and keep myself as relaxed as possible during the weekend.
Then when we get into the race, I don't know if it's the same with every driver, I put my helmet on, strap it on, and immediately you sort of change from the person you are out of the car to the person you are in the car. I guess you get that level of determination, aggression that comes inside you, which you need as a driver. That happens really for me the moment I put my helmet on automatic. I don't need to do anything about it, it just comes and I'm in race mode then.
Really for me the biggest thing is just relaxing, keeping calm, especially if there's any nerves or if it's a tight battle for the championship, this is the last race, to try to win it, those type of feelings which are normal, if you let them get to you, they can affect your performance. Really it's just relaxing and not letting anything, any of the hype of the expectations, get to you, just doing your job. That's really what I try to do, get my helmet on, get in the car, do what I've done since as long as I can remember really. That seems to be the best way for me to go about it.
THE MODERATOR: Alex, thank you so much for taking some time to join us this afternoon. Good luck on Friday.
ALEX LLOYD: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Indy 500 drivers John Andretti and Davey Hamilton. Both of these guys have returned to IndyCar racing this month in dramatic fashion. John Andretti is back at Indy for the first time since 1994 when he finished off a stretch of four consecutive top 10 finishes in the Indy 500. He's set to start 24th in Sunday's race. Davey Hamilton is back in an IndyCar for the first time since 2001 when he was injured at Texas Motor Speedway. After several years of recovery and driving the two-seater most recently, Davey is set to start 20th on Sunday.
Guys, a couple of questions of each of you. John, you've raced just about anything with wheels on it, it seems, and most recently been over on the stock car side. We've seen other drivers as well who have left IndyCar racing for other pursuits, only to find them back at Indy a few years later. What is it about Indianapolis that lures so many drivers back?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I think for me it's heritage, what I grew up with. I used to go to high school down the street here, Cardinal River High School, pass it every day. When they took roll in the middle of May, they would just say Andretti because everybody else was allowed to jump out the windows and go to the track and I had to stay in class. I figured I had to give the teacher some passes to practice so I could get out, too.
Indianapolis has always been I guess the pinnacle of any open-wheel driver's career and the focus of I guess the Andrettis since the beginning, my uncle and my father. To come back I think for me is a lot of the same reasons other people come back, but I think additionally Indianapolis is something that's been so good to our family and has also been very difficult on our family. Jeff got hurt very severely here one year. Of course, Michael has led a lot of laps and hasn't seen Victory Lane, which he's probably the most deserving guy out there to do that. Mario, of course, only winning once when he should have won several times. Of course, I've had my share of bad luck, too, probably a little less documented.
The place, the whole month of May, everything that goes on with it. Every night I tell my wife, I'm having such a good time. It's such an important place. So much fun. There's so much energy around it. Even the days you're not on the track, you're busy doing things. It's the power of Indy. It's the greatest racetrack in the world.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk a little bit about Sunday's race in particular. You're in a bit of a different situation than some of the other second-week programs. You've come in with a very established team with a history of success in the 500. You obviously were very quick in practice and very quick in qualifying. What do you think Sunday will bring for you?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I hope just a real consistent day. I have yet to do a hot pit stop. Hopefully we do that on carburetion day. The weather seems to be beautiful all week, but uncooperative when we're getting up to our track times.
Needless to say, that is going to be the big thing for me, just to not make too big of a mistake, stall the engine, understand what the car does in traffic better. I think it's going to be a real learning experience for me. I'd like to think I could go out there and be a solid dark horse because there's certainly guys, 10 other guys, that have to be the prime candidates to win this thing.
I think from my point of view, I'm looking at just trying to put together a solid race and hope to see the finish line at the end of it. We'll reevaluate, look at where we're at, maybe look at next year again. It would have been nice to get a lot more race runs in. But when you're in a second-week program, it's one of the deficits that you have. These guys race every week. We're going to go in it with eyes wide open and hope for a great finish.
THE MODERATOR: Davey, we heard John talk about some of his reasons for coming back, what makes Indy so special to him. You really didn't have a choice in your leaving IndyCar racing with the injuries and stuff, but talk about being able to make a comeback, being able to do it here at the Indy 500.
DAVEY HAMILTON: It's been quite a ride, I'll tell you. It's been a long time coming. I've wanted to get back in IndyCar racing for actually about three years now since I was physically ready to get back in the car. It was very difficult at that time to have the owners or the sponsors have the trust and faith in you since I've been out of the game for so long. Rightfully so. There's so many talented drivers out there, it's a big gamble to take somebody that has been injured and out of the game for so long.
I kind of went about it a different way. That was just to go out and try to market myself, try to get somebody behind me, which Hewlett Packard fortunately believed in me and my story. It's like John says, Indy is just everything. As a racing driver, this is the one that you always dreamed of coming to. I remember as a kid, I always said if I could just make an Indy 500, my career would be set, if I could just ever get there. You never brought up any of the other races in the series, if you could make those, it was always Indy. Once you've been here and experienced this event, you just can't get it out of your mind, especially when you have had success here and had opportunities to win the race this the past. It's just a feeling like no other.
THE MODERATOR: What's been the most gratifying part of the month for you so far?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Well, number one is just the welcome that I've been accepted back into the sport by all my peers, the drivers, the owners, and especially the fans that have given me a lot of support, a lot of encouragement to do this. I think that's probably the most gratifying.
I'll have to say that was a bit of a tearjerker when I got qualified, qualified for the race again. Coming down pit lane, having the same thing happen with the drivers and the teams coming out and giving me congratulations for making the race. That was pretty special.
THE MODERATOR: You've turned a lot of laps this month. You mentioned earlier for three years you felt your body was ready to get back in the car. Now that you've been in the car, turned those laps, does your body feel ready for 500 miles on Sunday?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Actually, I feel great. That was an unknown when I came here for the first practice day, just how it would feel again, how I would adapt with the tools that I have with my feet and ankles and so forth. It's been fantastic. I've had no issues whatsoever. Actually John and I use the same trainer. As a matter of fact, John introduced me to him when I got hurt, got me together with Steve Hoffacker here in town. John and I both go daily and get beat up by this guy, getting us prepared for this race.
I feel well physically. Mentally I'm feeling strong. The car has been great all month. I'm excited about Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for both John and Davey.
Q. John, right after Davey's injuries, when he was going through rehab, you saw the pain he was in, could you ever envision him racing again in the 500 or any other race?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I have to say I had a cousin, Jeff, like I said, that got hurt here at Indianapolis. Jeff's injuries, though very severe, were pretty minor compared to Davey. I saw Davey actually at a NASCAR test session. I'd been through physical therapy myself for much smaller injuries. Needless say, IndyCar injuries. I knew this person, Steve Hoffacker. To me knowing Steve well and knowing that Steve is not easy to impress. I mean, Davey Hamilton, people will never know how far he's come, how much this is. To me, he's the real story of the month.
This is not just a mosquito bite or something. This is something so serious. His love for the sport, what he's done, the hard work that he's put in just to get back to this race, back in the racing seat, the things he's sacrificed to do it. I mean, Davey is a true competitor and a hero I think to a lot of people. Very talented driver. Through no cause of his own he got severely hurt, but he's built his way back.
I mean, I have a lot of admiration for him and what he's been able to do. I think it's actually amazing. I think if everybody knew the story as well as I do would be equally or more amazed.
Q. Davey, did I read somewhere where you had to give back $100,000 in benefits to an insurance company?
DAVEY HAMILTON: The insurance is great. Let me clear that up. The insurance I had, thank God I had it. All my medical was completely taken care of with the series, the tracks. They really did take good care of me. But I did have a disability policy which most of us drivers have in place. At the time of the injuries, two years actually after the injury, they declared I was complete and totally disabled with my injuries. At that point there was a disability policy in place that they paid to me at the time. All I really had to do was pay that disability policy back to get back in a competitive race car, a competitive situation. It was definitely more than 100,000. It was a bit more than that, but that's okay. We're taken care of. I'm reinsured, ready to go again.
Q. I'm imagining a year or so after the injuries, you would have given a lot more than that just for being declared physically able.
DAVEY HAMILTON: Yeah, that money doesn't pay for misery. It was a long, tough road. The first two years, it was definitely a life-changing experience for sure. A lot of mental anger, you know. Really just wanting to know why, then not knowing if I was going to keep my legs, if I was going to be able to walk, if I was going to be able to walk how well, how much pain. Mentally that plays on a guy that's active. Racing drivers, we do whatever it takes to make it to the next race, we're always busy. To be laying in a hospital bed with those injuries, it was tough mentally.
Then physically, you have to work hard. You just have to dig deep. I'll tell you this, the focus of getting back into a race car, the sport that I love, was a big part of the physical part of getting back healthy again. If I had the opportunity, I could get back in a race car again.
Q. Plus nursing care and support from your family.
DAVEY HAMILTON: Everybody actually. Friends, family, outsiders. Thousands and thousands of letters and emails of well-wishers. It's guys like John that sent me the right direction with Steve Hoffacker. I know we keep bringing it up. I was in a wheelchair going into his gym daily, trying to get healthy again. I had rods and external fixators in my legs. We couldn't do anything with my legs, but he was working on the rest of my body. He's an energetic guy. I needed push to do a lot of this stuff. With friends and family, my family, they just wanted me to get out of the house after taking care of me for so long. It was a whole group. Just like a team at Indy, you have to have a complete team to do this program from sponsors down to the guy changing tires, putting engines in the cars. It's the same thing with my recovery. It just took a team of us to make it happen.
Q. What is the top speed that the two-seater could get up to at Indy?
DAVEY HAMILTON: I think it's like 175 average speed. Top speed is probably 180 to 185, somewhere in there, right in that area.
Q. Davey, is this so far the extent of you coming back to race? Was it all about coming back one last time at Indianapolis in the 500 or are you hoping to do more than that?
DAVEY HAMILTON: That's an interesting question because I don't really have a clear answer for you other than from the sponsors, the team, everybody that's involved in this venture of mine coming back to Indy. I've just been up front and honest with everybody about I want, to first of all have fun the month of May, which that is definitely happening. I have to be comfortable in the car, which that's been the case. The third thing, I need to be competitive. I need to know I can still get in a car, be competitive, still enjoy it.
As I tell everybody, I'm going to race the 500 on Sunday. I'm going to evaluate it after the race is over on what I want to do next. I'll have to tell you, as much fun as I'm having right now, this is probably not the last time you'll see me in a car.
Q. Once you were physically okay to be driving again, maybe trying to convince somebody to take the gamble on you, was there a point that you actually felt like it wasn't meant to be, wasn't going to happen? Was that frustrating to come back from the injuries and feel like it was not going to happen? Was there ever that point for you?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Actually last year I was very close. As a matter of fact, I thought I had the ride one night, and the next morning I didn't. When it came that close, didn't happen, I was running out of energy, to be honest with you. It's a very tough job we have trying to get rides in today's world. There's so many things that go along with just being a race driver. You have to have a lot of things to go along with it, be in the right situation.
At the end of the day, it all worked out perfectly for me. I'm with a really great team. The sponsors I have are fantastic. I did feel at times it wasn't going to happen, but I just couldn't talk myself into it wasn't going to happen. I stayed positive really and kept working on it.
Q. I know everyone is supporting you on this. Did some of your loved ones, people close to you, say why get back in the car?
DAVEY HAMILTON: I hear that some. I definitely hear that sometimes. The ones closest to me understand the why and they understand that's what I did for not only an occupation but for enjoyment. I really truly enjoy this sport. I think it's some of the outsiders that don't know me as well. Are you crazy, why would you do that again? Some other athletes, they get injured, don't understand why they go back. I may not have the love of the sport they do. People that know me, truly know me, know I live it and I breathe it. Racing has been my life. Just as John, my father raced as well as his father. My uncles, just like him. We have family racing all over. It's just kind of like that's our life.
So everybody close to me understands why I want to be here and they're definitely supportive of it.
Q. Davey, what do you remember about the wreck itself at Texas?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Unfortunately all of it. The only injuries I had were basically from mid shins down to my ankles and feet. Not even a bruise. Didn't knock me out. No other injuries at all. I remember it vividly. Very painful. I do remember that part of it. Like John said earlier, it was just one of those racing incidents. Guy blew an engine. No fault of his own. Spun. I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I remember the entire accident.
Q. How did the deal this year come down? Did you approach them? What happened there?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Actually, back to the two-seater program. (Indiscernible) put the program on to be able to give media and fans rides in a real IndyCar. Tom Bradley from Hewlett Packard happened to be invited by one of their clients to go for a ride in the IndyCar. I just happened to be the guy that gave him the ride. We got talking. We actually just hit it off, got talking about some sports cars and some of his passions. One thing led to another. Todd made it happen through Hewlett Packard to make this venture.
Q. When the accident happened in Texas, did you feel at that point your career was coming into its own?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Not that it was coming into its own. I still felt I had a lot to accomplish, I had a long career left in IndyCar racing. I definitely didn't plan on ending my career on that day for sure. I felt I had a lot of time left in the sport. That changed life rapidly.
Q. Your trainer, how do you spell his name?
DAVEY HAMILTON: H-o-f-f-a-c-k-e-r.
Q. Is he a doctor or trainer?
DAVEY HAMILTON: A trainer here in Indianapolis. Started with John, and I think Jeff even was training with him as well with his injuries. He does a lot of athletes here in town. I was introduced to him by John Andretti actually.
Q. Davey, what track did you give Todd the ride on?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Q. About how many people do you think you've given rides to?
DAVEY HAMILTON: They told me the other day they've given over 10,000 rides in the two-seater program. They figure I have done over 4,000 of them. Definitely had a lot of laps around racetracks.
Q. What are you looking forward to most on Sunday?
DAVEY HAMILTON: I think I'm looking forward to just the event itself. It's so huge. If somebody hasn't seen it in person, it's hard to explain what it really means. I think at the end of the day my goal is just to put in a solid run and give the very best out of myself and the car, do the very best we can. I guess the other key thing we all search for is just to get that checkered flag. No matter where we end up, just as long as we get the best out of the entire team, I'd be happy.
Q. John, have you had a chance to talk to Michael and Marco about Sunday's race?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Yeah, I talked to Michael. Michael of course and I are really close. It gives me the opportunity. Plus he drove the cars then and now. I can talk to him about different things. It's just basically getting back into the rhythm of the speed of the cars, understanding even pitting correctly. Pitting is probably the hardest thing to do in any series, to do it well, especially under green. I have a lot to learn. I feel I know what's going to happen. I know I'm going to stand up in this car at the end of the race and go, Okay, now we're ready to start (laughter).
For sure, these guys do it every weekend. They're on their game. They all came in here and they just every day hit it hard. Certainly coming in, after being away for a year, and the other thing is coming in after being away, like in Davey and my's case, I think Davey's was six and I'm 13. It's a little bit of a challenge. It's like riding a bike, only this bike is a lot faster and has a little more gadgets on it. I have to figure all that out.
Q. Having more than a decade gap, what are some of the differences in the cars that you've noticed?
JOHN ANDRETTI: IndyCars are IndyCars, so they drive somewhat similar. I think in reality these cars, they give you a little bit more back than maybe the cars that I drove previously because we had a lot smaller wings on the cars, so therefore you got in traffic, it was much more difficult to get close to somebody. They had a lot more horsepower, but they also had I guess more drag because we didn't go that much quicker. We ran about the same speed. It's those things.
The tire is different now than it was then. The biggest thing, the biggest difference, is inside the cockpit. It's got flat shift. It does a lot of things for you that before you actually had to think about and do yourself. It's got a six-speed gearbox so you can actually have more gears to select when you're out there racing rather than trying to figure out what two gears you're going to live with for the 500-miler. It controls your pit road speed. Last time I drove here they didn't have pit road speed. You'd be flying in at 210 miles an hour and pray you got stopped. More than likely the guys standing in the pit lane were praying more than you were.
It's just a whole different environment. For me the difference between the Cup car on the pit stops is they lay the tires out, the stop is about seven seconds. The Cup car, a fast stop is double that. It will be a little bit interesting. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be an exciting day for me. It's already been way over the top expectation-wise. Couldn't be happier to be back with Camping World supporting me, the fans. You walk out there, you just feel special in a special place.
Q. What do you think of Marco's development so far?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Skyrocket really. To come out last year and do what he did, win a race, run second at Indy, it's just remarkable. Obviously he's got a strong team behind him. Marco has a lot of talent. He's very calm, it seems like. He lets things come to him rather than chasing something and getting beyond himself. He seems to drive within his abilities, which to be 19 years old last year and doing that, now 20, a whopping 20, can't even go in a bar yet, he's going into his second Indy 500 after finishing second in his first one, he certainly has every bit of talent his grandfather and father have. It's going to be exciting to see where his career takes him.
Q. Davey, your ordeal really put into perspective the inherent dangers of this sport. Having gone through it, does it lurk in the back of your mind or are you able to totally focus on the job? How do you deal with the risk?
DAVEY HAMILTON: The way I look at that, I've raced thousands of races in my career. I started in 1980 actually full-time racing race cars. Out of all those years, I've had a couple injuries, but just minor. I think I only had maybe one overnight hospital stay in that entire time.
They're very safe I think honestly. There is a chance that you can get hurt in these race cars. Any time you put a fire suit on and a helmet on, you know there's got to be some risk involved. But I think that the cars are very safe and today's technology has helped that. I really can put it out of my mind. Another thing that helps is a situation in my accident is I didn't go out and make some huge mistake that almost cost me my legs. It was just a racing incident that happens, but they don't happen very often. I'm really optimistic that you're going to have your days, good ones and bad ones. Majority of the times, they're good days in motorsports.
Q. John, coming from the NASCAR side, Dan Wheldon earlier this week said the Indy 500 is one of the reasons that prevented him from going over to NASCAR. Having experienced both sides of the fence, is Indy such a big race, big event, it would prevent an Indy guy from making the transition to NASCAR?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I'll tell you, it would weigh heavy in the decision I think. I was the first guy to do the double, then after that a couple other guys did the double, but yet our full-time job was in NASCAR. To want to go and do 1100 miles in a day in a race car, something's got to be pretty important. That's the magnitude of the Indianapolis 500.
I think for a guy like Dan Wheldon, only he can answer that question, just how critical it is. I think that it helps obviously that he is a past winner, so he's not leaving behind the idea that, Could I have won it. He's done it. He might be leaving behind, Could I have won it more times?
I think everything is in a different place. I don't think there's a driver on the planet that would ever question the significance of the Indianapolis 500. If you ask every driver what their most important race is to win, you're going to get the open-wheel guys to say one thing, the guys that grew up in stock cars say another thing, and people in Formula One to say another. It's just what they grew up around.
I think Indianapolis, though, as a sporting event, ranks among the very top. I think in motorsport, it has to rank at the top. The history of it, the number of years it's been running, the tradition, all the things around it. There's so many things that happen for a driver when you're here. They came over and measured me for another ring. I forgot you get a ring when you qualify for the 500. You get this, that. There's things that have been history and tradition that just makes it so much more significant. It's not something that from a racing standpoint any race car driver would ever look the and say, That's okay, I don't need to win there. I think Jeff Gordon felt like, I'm really glad that stock cars are going to run here because otherwise I wouldn't get a chance to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That's his relief. Now he's a four-time winner of the Brickyard 400. I think that is one thing you do get back, the Brickyard 400.
I think in reality, the Indianapolis 500 is something very, very special to me. If somebody were to lay out and say, What's the most important race to you, I would say the Indianapolis 500. I can say that and don't believe that everybody else would say that because they haven't been to the Indianapolis 500 and done it. It's probably not a fair question to everybody else.
Q. If Jack Roush went to Dan Wheldon and offered him $20 billion to drive NASCAR, Dan would say the Indy 500 is important enough to me that I want to stay in the series for the rest of my life and not transition over to NASCAR just because of the one race?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Would he do that for $20 billion? I think I'd go run NASCAR for a year for $20 billion and then I'd come back and run Indy as many times as I want whenever I want.
In reality I know what you're asking. I guess I can't answer that for him. For me, when I went down to NASCAR, I had to because once I did the double, all of a sudden it got on everybody's radar. Wait a minute, whoa, we haven't thought about somebody doing this. All of a sudden it started appearing in all my contracts. That's where my livelihood was, in NASCAR. I really enjoy NASCAR. I enjoy everything about NASCAR. It wasn't a case of one versus the other at that point. It was that's where I've been set, contracted to go, and that's what I need to do.
For Dan Wheldon, if he's going to make the change, I think he needs to put it in his contract. If he goes with Chip Ganassi, I'm sure Chip Ganassi will give him a car for the Indy 500.
Q. Davey, during your time when you were marketing yourself, did you ever flirt with the idea of NASCAR? Did anybody from NASCAR approach you?
DAVEY HAMILTON: Not really. That's a situation where I had an opportunity to do NASCAR earlier in my career, but basically at the same time I had an opportunity to do Indy. They both kind of came up at the same time. The Indy 500, I'm an open-wheel guy, from Sprint cars, midgets, super modifieds. The Indy 500 was my thing. I chose at that time to go with A.J. Foyt and do Indy.
I have no regrets about it because it's the love that I've had. I'm very happy I was able to do it and have been able to do it.
I have to admire some of the guys, especially John and Stewart, some of the other guys that have been able to do both and experience both. I think that's really a big opportunity, to be able to race in NASCAR and have a career in IndyCars. John, he's been drag racing. He's had his fingers in a lot of different things.
That may be a small goal of mine. I would like to do the 24-Hour Daytona race. I wouldn't mind doing something around Daytona 500 time here in the future but we'll play it by ear.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks for taking the time to join us this afternoon. We took a good chunk of your time. We appreciate it. Good luck to you.
JOHN ANDRETTI: Thank you.
DAVEY HAMILTON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Our next teleconference will be Wednesday, May 30th, 2 eastern. Guests will be announced later.
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