Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
May 14, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to conference with three deals that have come together to give them a shot at making the starting grid for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. That's always a good thing to say. The gentleman in the middle is familiar to many of you, John Andretti. I smile a little bit John because one of our staff talked to you at one point during the week and you said maybe well maybe I should have gone to Darlington. Looks like it's good that you stayed here at Indianapolis and something worked out for you. Jeff Simmons who I talked to during the week about the possibility of something coming together and he was helpful. And Phil Giebler with really in some sense seems to be an entirely new arrangement, new team kind of coming together for you. Had a great rookie year one season ago.
John, we'll start with you. You decided to stay around Indianapolis. Tell us about your opportunity.
JOHN ANDRETTI: It is a little bit different from what I expected, but from the standpoint you can't really think I'll get another car and actually the circumstances I would have said two weeks before were totally different than when I got here. Really planned to be here the whole month then some other things happened and that didn't come together. And when I got here it was really not looking good because of, you know, you think you lap and you see so much of the car count, the cars that are available that they got to race next weekend and you're not racing 18 cars, you're racing 27 or 28 or whatever number of cars. So then you got that allotment for next weekend. So it was really difficult for a lot of teams to commit. (Audio interference.) So obviously going to be catch up a little bit. Work on it with the weather. And I'm looking forward to it. I think we found a good direction (audio interference.)
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, when I spoke with you in Maryland it was a little bit of a glint in your eye, I thought you might have something working in your favor. Was it with your current team for the 500?
JEFF SIMMONS: I was talking to a lot of teams, but you know there's a relationship already there with A.J., and I'm glad that he's taken the chance to give me another opportunity and echoing what John was saying certainly there were a lot of teams that were maybe considering, you know, running a second car once they got the first car in. But with the way the weather worked out they're taking a bigger chance now. And I'm just really excited to be back with A.J. and the team and work with Darren Manning trying to get our cars up front and we work really well together I think. We've been talking quite a bit since we announced this and we're really excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: From the outside many of us are not on the inside of an operation but on the surface it would seem that Darren Manning would be a good teammate. He is a gregarious guy. He is funny. He is very articulate. And he's done a nice job for that particular squad.
JEFF SIMMONS: Absolutely. I'm really looking forward to it. I always got along with Darren, except for in Kansas in 2005 when he decided to make it three-wide and he was the only one that made it out of the corner.
We're looking forward to this week. We hope we get a lot of track time and can work together. Because obviously right now you still have to worry about the qualifying set-up. But we've really started start getting a handle on the race set-up as well. With limited time that's going to be a tough thing to do. But with the two-car effort, that should be a little easier.
THE MODERATOR: You all come from different racing disciplines. And you John at one point in your career you raced for Hillman a guy who's put a lot of great guys in great cars in situations. You came through sort of a formal situation in America Jet. You spent quite a bit of time in New York and came over and ran the Pro-series. It's been scurrilous route for you to get to Indianapolis. Tell us about your team and how this all came together for you.
PHIL GIEBLER: It's been quite an adventure trying to get here. The American Dream Sports has come together through guy name Eric Zimmerman. He contacted me before he actually had a car and he tried to get everything going. So it was really nerve-racking trying to know what's going to happen for the month. And I had a lot of things coming together that I thought was going to take off.
But in the end everything's slowly coming together. Its been a tough fight. And we're still trying to piece the car together. So this rain is really helping us out. So everybody else is maybe a little, you know, upset about it but I'm really happy that it's raining.
THE MODERATOR: It's always raining at Indianapolis. So everyone has different agendas and this one is working out for you. How about questions for these three gentlemen?
Q. John, I'll start with you. How much advantage do you see in the fact that there are still 22 spots open and you can qualify maybe even in the top 15 this weekend?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Well I look it and see the length of track time for everybody obviously puts us all in the same boat. I think that's maybe a good thing. But on the other hand, obviously the teams, at least these two teams have already been on the track. Sorry, Phil. So they got limited track time as well. And both of them are, you know, they've been trying to work through things. With a limited amount of track time it's been difficult as well.
So I think, you know, the big team like say an AGR they gain so much more data and so much more quicker. And I think that now having two cars, I mean, you got to know when the track opens there's going to be a lot of people that geared up and ready to go. I think the weather's going to play havoc the rest of the week is what we're all hearing. So I think it's more about thinking about being solid and also thinking about the race than it is thinking about just, you know, going out there and really hammering down. Because I don't think that's the big picture at this point.
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF SIMMONS: I guess along the same lines. I know Darren would like to put the car in on the first weekend. That would have given him chance to work on the race setup. He could have been doing that while I'm still getting ready for qualifying.
Like John said, I think you really have to concentrate on the race more than anything. Because you can win this race from pretty far back. There's guys that have the done it before and you can make your way forward.
I think that our qualifying car is going to have come on a little bit out of a race car and getting a good solid car that we can then trim out fully well and put in four solid good laps. Hopefully we can get up into the top 15 but you can go from anywhere here.
PHIL GIEBLER: I think with the rain being a second week program it's an unusual to have the chance to get in the top, you know, in the teams.
You know, a lot of people are pumped up. But realistically we're the only Panoz out there and we're just going to try to stay on course and do our thing and not really worry about too much of the race at first. Obviously we have to get in the race that's our biggest goal. And it's kind of nice to have the possibility of getting up there.
But really we just want to get in the field and go out there and race. I think we'll have a good race car and unfortunately we don't have a car, another teammate or anything to get data off of. So it's going to be an interesting couple of days to get up to speed.
Q. Question for Phil. You just touched on it. You mentioned you don't have another teammate. Will you have a teammate, does the team have a second car in the garage just waiting in the wings?
PHIL GIEBLER: I really don't see it happening. I don't think another car will coming into the team.
Q. Question for Jeff. Are you going to run the freedom 100?
JEFF SIMMONS: Yes I am. I am going to do the double. All I need is a NASCAR ride and I can do the triple. I'm going to come back and do the Brickyard and maybe do a bike race here.
Q. Is your attempt to try to stay in IndyCar or will you go back to the IndyLight series with team war?
JEFF SIMMONS: I would love to get another opportunity for the race to be here in the IndyCars. But if that's not there even my IndyLights thing is kind of a race to race deal. So know I need to make lot of money this month in case I don't make anything for the rest of the year I guess.
Q. Tell us more about the Panoz thing. That you really are kind of alone out there. How strange is that
PHIL GIEBLER: I don't think it's as bad as maybe people think. I think Panoz is a good car and we have a better car than last year. We learned a lot last year it was my rookie season. So I think it's quite difficult to make this your debut race in the IndyCar Series. I think I really learned a lot. I'm bringing that to the team. A lot of the same people that I'm work with last year. So at least we have something to build off of.
Q. John, at this point in your career, what would you like to be doing? How much would you like to be in a race car and what kind of car and where?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I'd like to be in Victory Lane at the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, (inaudible) and the Brickyard 500 and the U.S. Nationals and then take the rest of the year off. (Laughing).
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN ANDRETTI: (No microphone.) We're on target for that. I'm ready. A second round qualifier would be more appropriate.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN ANDRETTI: I'd actually like to try a fuel car. I think they look like a lot of fun. So, you know, I'd like to go out there and do that. We'll see. I still have a life that-- you can't write any of this -- because that will kill my chances. (Laughing).
THE MODERATOR: Good luck guys.
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