Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
May 30, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests joining us today. In a few minutes we'll hear from IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon. Joining us now is Indy Pro Series driver Andrew Prendeville.
Andrew is a 25-year-old rookie in the Indy Pro Series, driving for RLR Anderson Racing. He's returned to racing for the first time since 2004 when he was the runner-up in the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 championship. So far this season he's recorded two top five finishes in the first four races. He ranks seventh in points.
Andrew, you've come into the Indy Pro Series as a rookie. Your team is also in its first season in the series. Just tell us a little bit about how things have gone from your perspective and also from the team's standpoint.
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: Things this year have gone incredibly well for us given the time that we've had. We've really only had since about mid January with the car. Didn't get all the testing that I might have needed, especially compared to some of the other drivers. But Dominic Cape and all the other guys at RLR Anderson, they've really done their homework, they're working their tails off. We keep progressively getting quicker and quicker every time we get on track. We're really learning a whole lot about the track. Especially after this Indy weekend, I feel a whole lot more comfortable with the race car.
THE MODERATOR: You were out of the car for a couple years. What is it like to get back into the car? Do you still kind of feel like you're getting comfortable yourself, not only because it's a new car to you but just because you weren't necessarily really actively racing professionally for a couple years?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: I was a little concerned with it at the beginning. Really what I've been doing, I mean, for the last six years, I've been instructing at the Roos Racing School. That's actually helped me keep sharp because I get to run those cars. I'm always teaching the basics to new people. I haven't really been off the racetrack, I just haven't been in a competitive championship in two years.
Last two years I've tried to do at least one or two races a year just to keep myself sharp. But the Roos Racing School has really helped me stay sharp.
THE MODERATOR: Right before the season Anderson Racing announced a partnership with Rahal Letterman Racing. Have you had the opportunity to spend much time around the Rahal IndyCar program yet and is there a chance you could test an IndyCar Series car later this year?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: Initially at Homestead we had a press conference. I got to meet Scott Roembke, Scott Sharp, also Jeff Simmons. I tend to see Jeff Simmons a bit more frequently than anybody. But right now both the Indy Pro Series team and the IndyCar team, we're really focused on getting our cars quick. That's really kind of taken priority over everything. But we will be meeting each other. I'm trying to make an effort to get over there and meet some of the mechanics and engineers and other people. Met Bobby Rahal briefly this year. I've met him a couple times previous to this year.
In terms of getting in an IndyCar, I believe it's definitely a possibility. One of the things that was presented to me at the beginning was you got to earn it, you got to get results in the Indy Pro Series, you got to show -- I have to show Rahal Letterman that I'm capable of finishing races and that I'm not a crasher. We'll see how it goes.
THE MODERATOR: We have Milwaukee coming up this weekend. I know a lot of teams tested there a few weeks ago. I don't believe you guys were up there with them. It's got a reputation as a challenging track. What are your thoughts as you head into the weekend?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: Well, yeah, we didn't go up there and test. I've never been to Milwaukee. We kind of had to prioritize things in the month and a half we had in between St. Pete and Indy. Given that the team didn't have a whole lot of time to get comfortable with the car, get used to the car, learn the car, we felt we would do some testing. We did the Indy test. We did a two-day test at Mid-Ohio, which is a place we know. The rest of the team was tying up as many loose ends as we can go into Indianapolis.
I'm not too concerned, though. I'm very confident in the car. Dominic Cape has given me a car that I'm comfortable with. He knows what kind of changes need to be made when I relay him some feedback from the car. It's just going to be a matter of getting used to a new track for me.
THE MODERATOR: It seems like a lot of the Indy Pro Series weekends, really on the IndyCar side, too, it's a very crammed, not a lot of down time. Milwaukee will be the first time that the practicing, qualifying and race are all on the same day. Any concerns on that or is that something that's good? What are your thoughts?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: I don't know if I'm really concerned. Certainly with an event like that, you have to have a car that's quick right off the trailer. Though there are other teams that tested there that might be in a better position, again I have full confidence in Dominic. He's ran race cars there before. He really knows what the Indy Pro Series car needs. I think we'll still be competitive.
THE MODERATOR: One of the things about the Indy Pro Series schedule is there's nine road course races, seven ovals, and now beginning with Milwaukee we alternate oval and road course. No back-to-back events on the same type of track. What do you like best about that type of schedule diversity?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: I think it's actually a very good thing. Back when I was in F2000, we had some years where the schedule, you would go to a race, then you'd have a month off, then one more race, then another month off. Whereas here, if you start off a stint like this, if you start off well, you can build momentum. All of a sudden, as you build that momentum, you quickly get better and better each weekend. The confidence of the team, the confidence I have just keeps growing. All of a sudden, as you build that momentum, you quickly get better and better each weekend. The confidence of the team, the confidence that I have just keeps growing. So I enjoy that. I enjoy the fact that the season will actually be over in just about three months, and then you have really a six-month period to plan and coordinate for the upcoming season. I think it's a great thing that the Indy Racing League has done.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, one of the big thing from your standpoint in the last month has been introducing a new tie-in with a charity, the sponsorship prior to Indianapolis with Racing Laps For Best Friends. Give us some background about that program, how you're involved with it.
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: Really we launched the full scale of it at Indianapolis. What we've done this year is we've done it, the signage on my race car, to the Best Friend Animal Society. We thought that was a good thing to do. We didn't have a whole lot of other companies to put on the car, so we thought it was a logical thing to do.
Almost immediately after we made that decision and talked to Best Friends, we came up with the idea of Racing Laps For Best Friends, which is a program to help bring in donations for Best Friends. The way we've done it is that it's based off of the amount of laps that I complete. A person can go on to racinglapsforbestfriends.com or they can visit us at the donation centers that we'll have at the track, and you sit down and pledge, for example, $1 a lap. When we go to Milwaukee, if you pledge $1 a lap, I complete 100 laps, the donation is $100. If I complete 50 laps, the donation is $50.
Also tied into this, we're trying to build awareness for Best Friends. It's a whole bunch of different things. But we've just started at Indy. I think we'll progressively improve it as we go through the season.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for some questions for Andrew.
Q. Andrew, your car can run out of gas on the track. Are there any certain points during a race when you feel like you're running out of energy?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: No, not really. Indy actually wasn't too bad. I think St. Pete was the toughest one this year. Mid-Ohio will also be another difficult one. I'm in much better shape now than I've ever been in. It doesn't really concern me at all.
Q. If you could take a fan for a ride during competition, what would you tell them to expect?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: What would I tell them? Oh, I would actually tell them to just keep their eyes ahead and enjoy the weight transfers. The weight transfers is what you really feel, very similar to a rollercoaster. You get the G loads to one direction. It's a very enjoyable thing. But be aware of the weight transfer, how the car reacts to different corners, that sort of thing.
Q. It's easy for fans to be critics. They think they can drive. What do you think fans most misunderstand about driving at this level?
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: I think they misunderstand the physics behind driving a car. On the street the car's never really at the limit. Maybe the best way to explain it is that if they were able to drive on snow, that would be much closer to what it's like to drive a race car at the limit, when the car is always skating just a little bit and you really have to be in touch and aware of what the car is doing. People on the street, they drive in the snow, you can always notice they're very intent on their driving, they're not talking on the cell phone, they're not listening to the radio as loud. That's really more of the type of focus that you need to have to drive a race car at the limit.
THE MODERATOR: Andrew, that's all the questions we have for you this afternoon. Appreciate you taking some time to join us. We wish you the best of luck both this weekend and through the rest of the season.
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE: Thanks a lot. Thanks, everybody.
THE MODERATOR: We'll see you this weekend.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined by IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon. Scott has been the IndyCar Series most consist driver so far in 2007. He's recorded three second-place finishes and two fourths. He's moved into the points lead after the race at Indianapolis. He goes into the race at Milwaukee with a one-point advantage over his teammate Dan Wheldon. In his IndyCar Series career, Scott has six victories in 67 starts and was the 2003 IndyCar Series champion.
Scott, we're only about a third of the way through the season. Obviously it's always got to be good to be at the top of the points standings. Just tell us about leading things this way through.
SCOTT DIXON: It's been fairly consistent I guess when you look at the results, but it's been a little up and down in performance for us. We've missed capitalizing at a few places. At least we are leading the points. It's good for the team we're 1-2. It's all very tight now with I think Dario, Helio, people like that. It's going to be a tough race to the end. We still have a few more races to go.
Generally the team's doing really well. Milwaukee and Richmond, the short tracks coming up, are going to be a bit of a test for us to see how we fare on those. Luckily there's not too many of them considering how we did last year.
Yeah, it's been an average start to the season I think for me.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned Milwaukee there. You finished 10th there last year, kind of hinted some struggles on the short tracks. You did have the opportunity to go and test at Milwaukee right before the month of May got underway. How much progress were you able to make? Do you think you'll go up to Milwaukee with a bit of an advantage there?
SCOTT DIXON: Hard to know. I think the problem with these tests, the amount that we get, we were the only car testing, it was sort of hard to benchmark ourselves against everything. Team Green were meant to be going to that test and pulled out at the last minute which made it difficult. I think we've time we've gone there and tested, we've gained a little more and when we've raced there, we've gained a little more. We're still nowhere near as competitive as we need to be on the short tracks. I think Dan (indiscernible) last year.
It's not a strong part of our team at the moment. Hopefully we can turn that around definitely this year and pick up some variable points that we left on the table last year.
THE MODERATOR: How about Texas? We have that in two weeks. That's a place for you personally, you have a couple second-place finishes there in your career. It also goes back to the high-banked one-and-a-half mile oval where the Target team has been strong. Tell us about expectations for Texas.
SCOTT DIXON: I think as you said the mile-and-a-half high banks are strong for our team. Dan was very fast at Homestead, sort of a league of his own. I think Kansas we just about had enough for him, and we would have had enough for him if we didn't have a fuel pickup problem and get that drafting penalty. I think the team is very decent on those mile-and-a-half's at the moment.
I think for us we look forward to because we know we should hopefully gain some good points out of them and we don't have to I guess try and catch up too much as we do maybe at the short ovals.
Texas is always a great race, always a great race for the fans. It's very good to watch. Also it's a night race. Looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Not too far after that, we go back to the Glen where you've won each of the last two seasons. Is that something already on your radar screen, looking forward to going back there?
SCOTT DIXON: Road courses for sure. I think this next little part for us is the hardest I'd say stint for our team. I think out of the next four races, we have three short ovals with Iowa, Richmond and Milwaukee. Hopefully we can gain points out of those. Obviously working towards the end of the season, we have quite a few road courses to go.
Definitely looking forward to those. Watkins Glen is probably the one I look forward to the most just because of the success we've had there. What a fantastic track it is to drive on. I think we've still got a little ways to work on the Dallara. This year we were fairly decent at St. Pete, maybe could have had something for Helio. He drove a great race and we were unable to pass him there. I think we still need to focus a lot on trying to get some front grip out of our road course car at the moment.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for Scott.
Q. With Chip Ganassi having a NASCAR team now and Juan Montoya a former open-wheel driver racing there, do you follow that at all? If so, what are your thoughts?
SCOTT DIXON: I think any racing that our team does with the Grand-Am, the IPS, NASCAR, Busch, actually follow quite a bit of it. Especially Juan is a good friend. I like to see him do well.
Yeah, definitely follow as much as possible. It's a little difficult at some stages to keep up with what is going on with all their testing and things like that. Good interest there. I know Dan has been talking a lot about moving in that direction. I think a lot of people are, just because of the success and the great competition they have in NASCAR.
For myself at the moment, I've got another couple years on my contract and definitely want to concentrate on the IndyCar Series because it's where my passions are.
Q. Are you surprised, given the success that Chip's teams have had, you mentioned Grand-Am and Indy racing, that they haven't been more successful in NASCAR?
SCOTT DIXON: I think they will be. They've had some small parts where they have been somewhat successful. I think for a lot of changes they're trying to do at the moment, with the different cars, things like that, it has been a hard transition for that team. From what I understand, it just takes a lot of time to move new ideas into that race team.
I know they're definitely building up, they're definitely a bit stronger this year. Reed has had a lot of misfortunes, but the other two have been fairly consistent, not too bad. I'm sure they'll hopefully turn that around soon. I think it is a good, strong team. They're trying to find their sweet spot at the moment.
Q. You said Dan might be interested in heading to stock cars down the line.
SCOTT DIXON: I know he's spoken about it a lot. I don't know if he has been recently. I've read articles like everybody else. He's definitely interested in it.
Q. You have some momentum going. Is there any magic or science to getting momentum and keeping momentum?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, not really. I guess if you win races, then you're going to be pretty confident, that's going to carry momentum. I think you just need to be successful. The last couple years, the team has really had good confidence. I think that does give us the momentum. The easiest way you can do that is win races, start to be dominant, carry it all the way through.
Q. Do you have a different mindset as the points leader as to when you are being chased?
SCOTT DIXON: Especially not this early in the season. I think you want consistency. At this stage in the season, you want to go out for race wins. We've had I think three seconds so far this season. That's not nearly good enough for me. I think some of them we could have turned into wins. We definitely need to do that. We'll be as aggressive as we need to be.
Q. What would you tell a fan about the emotions you go through when you're running well in a car as opposed to when you're not running well?
SCOTT DIXON: Your emotions, I guess, especially on ovals, if you're having a bad day, it's just such a long day. You're constantly just thinking about trying to keep the car off the wall. Obviously you're a bit down and you don't think as clearly as when you are doing extremely well. Things seem to flow. I've gone through situations where you can just about not do anything wrong. You just think about things a lot more clearly. It just flows a lot nicer. When you've got a good car, it makes your day a lot easier, and you don't have to concentrate on as many things.
Q. The last month you've been focusing on Indy, everything has been about Indy, but in the month coming up you have four races in five weeks. How do you switch your mind focus to the different circuits coming up now?
SCOTT DIXON: It is difficult. I think you get into sort of a routine when you're at Indy, especially when you live in Indy, you get up, go to the track each morning, deal with it like that. You switch modes. Especially if you've had a bad time at Indy or if you have had a good time, you have to try to make anything positive out of what you have and just start focusing heavily. Especially with such hard tracks coming up, as I mentioned before, with short ovals, our team hasn't been that successful. We've been just looking a lot of data, setups, just stuff from the last test that we had there, just trying to zone in on that. I think I might go up a day early, try to focus a little more for these races.
Q. At the Daytona test you talked about sometimes there's a lot of gaps in the IndyCar schedule. This stretch coming up, is this the time of the year when you're ready to go to the track mostly every week? Do you think this is when the championship is going to be defined?
SCOTT DIXON: It could be. I think you definitely need to be consistent through this I guess hard time. We have three in a row, then a week off, then another four in a row. I'd have to look at the schedule. It is tough. If you do have a bit of a downtime and get yourself in a slump, it can ruin your championship quite quickly.
I think the series has done a great job on making the schedule quite tight, a lot of races until we go all the way through to September now. I think it keeps a lot of people interested, keeps us drivers happy because all we love to do is race. We definitely look forward to these times.
Q. You mentioned you've become a little frustrated that you've gotten so close to winning but you haven't yet. Are you frustrated right now or happy that you're so consistent that you are the championship leader?
SCOTT DIXON: We are happy. I think for the team especially, we're 1-2. I guess in many ways we would have liked to have turned those second places into wins. Obviously we'd be a lot happier. I guess I am somewhat frustrated at a couple of the places where I think we messed up a little bit. But if those are bad days, then we are still ending up with points like that, I think it's something to look forward to.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, that's all the questions we have for you today. Thank you for taking the time to join us. Good luck.
SCOTT DIXON: Awesome. Thank you very much.
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