Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 27, 2007
TIM HARMS: We have two guests joining us today in a few minutes we'll hear from IndyCar Series driver Milka Duno.
And joining us now is Indy Pro Series driver Brad Jaeger. Brad is a rookie in the Indy Pro Series, driving the No. 3 Brian Stewart racing car. He started out all races this season, recording a top 10 finish at Milwaukee earlier this month. Last year Brad made seven Star Mazda starts, winning the pole at Sebring and in 2004 he was the Pacific Formula 2000 champion.
He's originally from Cincinnati but recently graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Brad, we're about halfway through the 2007 season. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your season so far.
BRAD JAEGER: It's been a little frustrating compared to what we were sort of hoping for. We didn't have a top 10 finish up at Milwaukee. We were on our way to a top 10 finish at St. Petersburg until I get hit from behind, which is just all part of racing.
So it's been a little frustrating. But I'd say, looking towards the future, hopefully we'll definitely be able to maybe get a top 5 finish in some of the road courses coming up.
TIM HARMS: How has the transition been from what you've run in the past, moving up to a little bit bigger car in the Indy Pro Series car?
BRAD JAEGER: The transition between the car, there really wasn't that much that I had to learn. It was pretty similar. The speeds are definitely higher or going at a faster speed.
I'd say the biggest transition, though, is going from an all-road course series to racing on both road courses and ovals. Learning how to race on an oval has definitely been the hardest transition I've had to go through so far this year.
TIM HARMS: And, obviously, when we look at the second half of the season, I think we only have three ovals left in the eight remaining races. So I would assume that would probably play then a little bit more to your strengths?
BRAD JAEGER: Yes, it's definitely going to play into my strengths. I'm not quite up to a level of comfort that I want to be on the ovals yet.
But every race we're seeing some improvements. So hopefully in the last three races this year we can get over that last hurdle and I can really start feeling comfortable in the car on the ovals and go for running up top.
But, yes, definitely having the five road course races, it's going to definitely play into my favor.
TIM HARMS: You graduated in May, as we mentioned. How does the background in mechanical engineering help you at the racetrack?
BRAD JAEGER: It helps so much. Just being -- it really helps with understanding what the car is doing, having that background. Also part of Vanderbilt Formula SAE team, we actually finished 24th out of I believe 140 teams entered. I think there were 129 teams that made it to that competition.
So the 24th was pretty good for a fairly new team. And just having that engineering background, it helps in relaying information to the team engineer and not only that but just feel for the driver, it's real important to know what the car is doing when you're out there. And I'd say having that engineering background definitely helps out with that, too.
TIM HARMS: Two weekends from now, our next Indy Pro Series is at Watkins Glen. Double-header there July 7th and 8th. You're testing there with a handful of other teams. What's the key to having a good weekend, not specifically at Watkins Glen, but also the fact that there's two races in one weekend, what's the key on a weekend like that?
BRAD JAEGER: I think the biggest key for the whole weekend in general is going to be the qualifying session. Obviously with a double header, where the second race where you start, how you finish in the first race, it's so important to just get up front from the start for the first race and that we can hopefully guarantee a top 10 finish in the first race which will give you a top 10 start for the second race.
So I think going there this Thursday is definitely going to help out with just bringing me along. Because I've never been to Watkins Glen. It will be my first time running up there. So just being able to see the track for a day and getting the car a little bit closer to where it needs to be for the qualifying session will be the biggest help.
TIM HARMS: Brad, we're going into a stretch here, what we could call three hometown races for you. Obviously you're living in Nashville now. We raced there July 14th. And then close to your hometown, the Cincinnati area, mid-Ohio on July 22nd, Kentucky Speedway on August 11th. Just talk about those races and the opportunity to race in front of friends and family.
BRAD JAEGER: It's definitely going to be an enjoyable experience. Ever since I started racing go-karts back when I was 14, I've always had friends that have been asking, hey, let me know when you're going to be racing close by, I want to come see you race.
Unfortunately, until now, they've always been far away. Mid-Ohio, I've raced there before, but it's still a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cincinnati.
Being able to race in Kentucky is going to be so much fun. I've had so many friends and family that are planning to come down. So just having that extra support may be what I need.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and open it up and take a couple of questions for Brad.
Q. You had a very vigorous schedule when you were in school with Star Mazda and racing at Daytona. How did you manage to balance the demands of a racing schedule and the challenging academics at a school like Vanderbilt?
BRAD JAEGER: Since I started going to Vanderbilt as a freshman, I made it my goal to talk to all of my professors from the get-go. If there was a new professor I hadn't had for whatever reason, I would go up the first day of class and let him know what I was doing and that I wasn't going to be slacking off, I wasn't going to be skipping school and sleeping in, that I was going to be taking the red eye back from California on Sunday night and I'd be in class Monday morning if I could manage it.
But at the same point, I was going to be missing classes. There's no way you can race full time and go to school full time. There's got to be a little give and take.
So I think the biggest help I had was just having an understanding with my professors. They were great. If I had to miss a class and was going to miss when an assignment was due or maybe even a test, they were usually very helpful in letting me make it up or try to get it done ahead of time.
So I had -- I had a lot of help from the professors and to a certain degree I think it may have helped with classes, because going to school -- while it is full time, you still have a lot of free time. And I think that can be dangerous for some students. They just get into a rhythm of sort of slacking off, sleeping in and then all of a sudden school doesn't become important. But for me it was a struggle to balance everything. So I always had to be focused and on my game.
And I think one of the busiest semesters I had, which was I think the start to the 2007 Star Mazda season spring semester for me that was one of the most demanding semesters I had academically speaking and it was one of the busiest times as far as the racing goes. And that was one of my best semesters as far as my grades came out.
So definitely I think just having a demand to live an organized life helped out a lot but also having the support of my professors helped.
TIM HARMS: Brad, that looks like the questions we've got for you today. Thank you for joining us and good luck.
From one college graduate, now, obviously, we transition to Milka Duno, who we know you've got several degrees that you hold.
Milka, obviously a rookie in the IndyCar Series this year. She debuted at Kansas in April with a 14th place finish. Since then she's competed in the Indianapolis 500 and at Texas where she finished 11th and last weekend at Iowa.
Milka, obviously we can tell by looking at your background, both in racing and outside of racing, that you're not afraid of challenges.
Tell us about the challenge of adapting to racing in the IndyCar Series and how things are going so far.
MILKA DUNO: It's a very, very big challenge. I like a difficult challenge. Everything in my life is difficult because I like every difficult challenge. I like when I have to stay and work so hard to get what I'm looking for.
And Indy cars is, the championship is what I wanted for a long time ago. I always wanted to compete in the 500 and feel so good to be part of this great event, this great championship. But it is very, very tough. Very difficult.
I was racing in road cars all the time since I started in 1999 in racing. I've now transitioned. I'm adapting. This is a year for learning. It's a process, I'm learning in every single race. All the time I'm asking the instructor or the super drivers like Al Unser and Rick Mears and Johnny Rutherford and all the people that surround me, I try to take full advantage of the spirit they have for learning in a fast way.
TIM HARMS: You talk about learning. It's also a learning year for your team coming to the IndyCar Series. Tell us about how the team is making improvements as well from race to race.
MILKA DUNO: My team, there are many guys, many people that were in Indy before and they have a lot of experience in Indy.
We were racing last year in the World Series with the (indiscernible) prototype. Close to everybody moved to Indy now. I have a super engineer (indiscernible) my team manager, my crew chief, everybody, the mechanics, everybody has experience.
And we are learning at the same time about the car and everything because we were racing in another car and now we have to make the transition and learn all the process. And we work very hard and we are just learning every race and every practice, every race.
TIM HARMS: Obviously this weekend we head to Richmond, the shortest track we race on. But we're coming to Iowa, which also was a short track, less than a mile. What do you take from last week's race at Iowa that you can hopefully apply to this weekend's race at Richmond?
MILKA DUNO: It was difficult for me, the shorter oval, because it was another thing I was racing Kansas, Indy, it was a fast oval. The short oval is different history, everything is different. And it's very, very tough, very hard for me.
It was very hard, because the first time, my first oval, only a few practices, I have to adjust so fast and so quick. Every time I'm on the track I'm learning about everything, looking for the (indiscernible) of the car and learning to understand the draft and know how it races in an oval.
But I think this experience I have this weekend is going to help me for Richmond in the ovals again.
TIM HARMS: The Indianapolis 500, I think that was probably one of the biggest reasons that got you into racing and really into the IndyCar Series, what was it like this year to compete for the first time in the Indianapolis 500.
MILKA DUNO: This is one of the amazing things that happened in my race, in my life, like race car driver. I have good races, like 24 hours Lemans, 24 hours (indiscernible) I finished second this year. But in the east, something huge, everything is bigger, everything is fantastic to enjoy all the demands, the different activity, the fans, the environment, the hard pressure that you have during the month in practice, qualifying, the race.
I think in the end it was one of the races I was doing very good until we have the problem. But I was doing so good race, I was in position 17 when I have the penalty. And after I have the incident (indiscernible) it was coming really good of all the races I did this year.
TIM HARMS: Let's go ahead and take a couple of questions for Milka.
Q. Your graduate education, would you talk about how your education informs what you do behind the wheel, if you think it's helpful for drivers to have training in engineering and disciplines like that?
MILKA DUNO: My case is different. I never thought I would be a race car driver. I was studying all the time. I wanted to be an engineering, went through personal development. After I earned my scholarship for studying in Spain, in two and a half years I did three master's degree simultaneously. I was in two universities.
So my focus was in another direction in my education. But when I started racing, I started to understand everything easy. I checked the telemetry, talked with engineer. All my background helped me in racing. One of the big advantages I have for improving so fast and so quick because I started in 1979, I never knew nothing about a car, nothing before about racing.
And I think it was one of the secrets, one of the big advantages for improving so fast in racing is because when you understand what happens, you can just make the right information to the engineer and he can make the right adjustment so you don't delay the process.
I like to learn all the time. I learn so much from my engineer. I understudy him all the time about racing. The education I have seen is the most important thing that you can do. I was in the educational programs with these young people visiting the school. I work with my sponsor (indiscernible) vocational program. Because I think I can do positive measures about how important is going to school. Education is forever. (Indiscernible). And I feel so glad when somebody tells me my daughter want to be like you but also she want to study so much like you.
I feel really happy now because I hear different comments about, oh, my son, now he's starting because he saw interview about you and he was so impressed, now he's starting the university and he changed because he saw your interview.
When I heard the history about that, I feel so glad because I say, okay, these young people are understanding what I try to tell them about education. And I feel really happy with my little contribution with the young people in the schools for the positive message.
TIM HARMS: Milka, thank you for joining us. Looks like those are the questions we've got for you this afternoon. We appreciate you taking the time and good luck.
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