Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 4, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today. Starting the call with us is Firestone Indy Lights driver Ana Beatriz . In a few minutes we'll be joined by IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira.
Good afternoon, Ana.
ANA BEATRIZ: Good afternoon, everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for taking the time to join us.
ANA BEATRIZ: Thank you for the invitation.
THE MODERATOR: Ana is a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. She has three top-10 finishes in the season's first six races, including a best finish of third on the streets of St. Petersburg, where she also led seven laps.
Ana, kind of been a season of mixed results for you. Three solid top-10 finishes and three races outside of the top 10. Can you give us your perspective on how things have gone so far?
ANA BEATRIZ: It's been good. The first three races of the year, did really good. Homestead and then St. Pete was really good. Almost won a race, the second race of the weekend. Then the start of the ovals, my lack of experience. Then Kansas, I done a mistake. Indianapolis was pretty good. I could do better, but fifth was very good. Milwaukee, I just struggled. Just a really bad weekend I want to forget.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned a lack of experience on ovals. What has the learning process been like for you so far?
ANA BEATRIZ: It's hard. After Homestead, I was thinking to myself, Oh, that's pretty good. I think I learned a lot of things. Then you go to an oval that is totally different so you have to learn a lot of things again.
I think that's it: the lack of experience. Every oval is a different oval. Then I think I just have to put it together. Right now I kind of know a lot of things, but I think I have still a lot of things to learn.
THE MODERATOR: Sam Schmidt Motorsports has traditionally been one of the strongest teams in Firestone Indy Lights. What is it like working with Sam and the crew? Secondly, how do you and your teammates get along?
ANA BEATRIZ: We do pretty well. It's the first time racing internationally. Sam Schmidt crew, they are amazing. They been teaching me so much, so many things. Sam, for me, he's an inspiration for life, as well. And my teammates, we get along pretty good. We each have a lot of experience in road courses. In ovals everybody struggling a little bit. But I think we all work together and put Sam Schmidt like in a very good position again in the oval races.
THE MODERATOR: You hinted this is your first season in the United States. How has the general adaptation been from being out of your home country for the first time?
ANA BEATRIZ: It's been amazing. Last year I lived four months in England. I just am loving living in the U.S. American people are so nice with me. I have a lot of things to do here already. I have friends in Indianapolis. I'm really enjoying living in the USA. I almost don't miss Brazil any more.
THE MODERATOR: Almost, right?
ANA BEATRIZ: Yeah (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We're not even halfway through the season. We have a busy rest of the year ahead of us with four more ovals, six road courses. What are the goals you have for the rest of the year?
ANA BEATRIZ: I think now I still have Iowa and then after I have the road courses. I really want to turn it over like from Milwaukee in Iowa, do a really good result over there. Then we start the road courses that I have more experiences, and I hope to do really well. I think at the end of the season, I really want to stay in a very good position for the championship, so we can do another year maybe in Indy Lights and fight for the championship.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up for some questions for Ana.
Q. In the race at Milwaukee you spun before the event really got started. You weren't sure at the time what happened. Have you been able to review the data and have you learned what may have caused that?
ANA BEATRIZ: Milwaukee I spin on the second corner. The race had started already. I think Milwaukee, it was really windy that day. Milwaukee doesn't have any banking. It was a new thing for me. I think maybe I pinch a little bit the car to the inside and it upset the rear.
But I don't really know what really happened, if it was really the reason of it. It was so bad that happened first lap of the race. It was pretty bad. But I don't know really what happened.
Q. What's the mood of the team going into Iowa? Is everybody pretty upbeat despite the bad weekend?
ANA BEATRIZ: I think Sam Schmidt, they like to win races, for sure. After this weekend, the good thing is everybody is working hard, and I know they will turn it up for Iowa.
THE MODERATOR: Ana, thank you again for joining us. We appreciate that. We wish you the best of luck this season.
ANA BEATRIZ: Thank you very much, Tim.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira. Good afternoon, Vitor
VITOR MEIRA: Good afternoon.
Q. Thank you for taking the time to join us. I know you have a busy day right now. Vitor is in his seventh season in the IndyCar Series. He has 51 top-10 finishes in 81 career starts, including 26 top-five finishes. He's led 19 races for 396 laps. Vitor is in his third season with Panther Racing.
Vitor, let's talk a little bit about this season. You opened up with a 10th-place finish at Homestead. Of course you had a second-place finish at Indy. Seems like you've also been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time a couple times. Give us an overview of how things have gone so far this year.
VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, I mean, so far this year has been a little bit up and down. We started, as you said, in Homestead with a 10th place, which was okay. Not what we were looking for, but okay. Then we had Japan, Kansas, which we were at the wrong place in the wrong time. St. Pete, too. We were doing pretty good there until we got caught up in an accident.
But then Indianapolis, I mean, we made up for every kind of bad luck we had. The car was very good there. The Delphi National Guard crew did a very good job in the pits putting it in the position I finished.
Then Milwaukee we had a very good car. I made a mistake in qualifying, pushed too hard, ended up crashing. Then during the race, I got caught up on the compact in between Marco and Carpenter. It's been up and down.
But the good thing about it, after Indy, with the new crew members that we added to the team, things have been going pretty good. We were fast in Milwaukee and I'm sure we're going to be fast in Texas.
THE MODERATOR: A little bit more about Indy. You finished second there twice, obviously two weeks ago, also 2005. Can you compare and maybe even contrast those two races a little bit.
VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, I mean, the first time always sticks in my mind. But I will tell you one thing, this time it was much more special, not only because I was more competitive and I really felt I could win, but it was a very good weekend for our sponsors.
One day, for example, the National Guard, the race was one day before Memorial Day. So that was very good for them. It was very good for Delphi as a sponsor.
Again, I just felt we came back from far. We were far away. We were struggling a lot in 2007, not where we wanted and not where we deserved to be. This year was much better because we needed that. The whole team needed that.
We're going to definitely take advantage of the momentum and the upbeat atmosphere that we have at Panther Racing throughout the season.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously the next stop is Texas. You've done well there personally with a pole in the past and seven top-10 finishes, four top-fives in eight starts there. Panther has five wins at that track. Seems like a pretty good combination to put together. What will it take, do you think, to get to Victory Lane on Saturday night?
VITOR MEIRA: Texas is always kind of a complicated race a little bit. I mean, it's a track that is very fast and everybody runs really close. What it's going to take is, first, good pit stops. First, actually a fast car. Second, good pit stops. And, third, putting yourself on the best position possible till the end of the race.
I mean, it's a race that sometimes you'll get caught up in somebody else's mistakes just because everybody runs so close and so fast. But, I mean, those three items are the ones that are going to be vital to win the race in Texas.
THE MODERATOR: You've been able to add a very active and high-profile sponsor in the National Guard this season. Today I believe you're at the Brooke Army Medical Center visiting some wounded, injured soldiers.
VITOR MEIRA: Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us a little bit about the sponsorship and some of the other things you've been able to do tied into that sponsorship.
VITOR MEIRA: I mean, it's very, very good. Every race I'm surprised on how much activation and how much into the program they are. The bottom line is we have to give back to the soldiers. I mean, they give so much to us. They let us live the life we are living right now. And I can see this up close, their dedication, how much they give to the country here at the Brooke Army Medical Center. I mean, there's a lot of injured soldiers here that gave a lot to the country.
It's a great sponsor. It's something that I get to know a lot of people. I get to know a lot of stories. It's not only better for the race team, but it's made me better as a person, just to learn all these things, to be in touch with all the soldiers.
THE MODERATOR: We're certainly glad to have them on board, that's for sure. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions for Vitor.
Q. You went through this a little bit earlier, but what advice would you have for Graham Rahal right now? He's found the wall three times in the last four races for different reasons. When things aren't quite going right, for a young driver, what is the advice you would have for someone like that going into a place like Texas?
VITOR MEIRA: I mean, thanks for the question. I think Graham, first of all, he proved he's very fast - not only on the road courses and street courses, but on ovals. I mean, he was doing very, very good there in Milwaukee. I was actually impressed.
He has a very good adviser, by the way, his dad. I just think he has to be patient. He has the speed. That's the most difficult part. To control it and when to push it and what to do and what not to do. I mean, sometimes you're going to make mistakes. It's racing. I mean, if you don't make mistakes, it's because you're not pushing hard enough. And he's pushing very hard.
Again, it's just a matter of time. He's gonna have very good results. He had already one very good result. It's just a matter of time and learning what to do and not to do. Again, he has the speed. He has a very good adviser, again.
Q. Are you noticing, are drivers adhering to the blue flag like they should be this season? Obviously now with so many cars, you have some jammers out there that you didn't have a year ago. Do you think there should be a refresher course on what the blue flag means?
VITOR MEIRA: This is always a touchy subject. It's something that we always touch during the drivers meeting. If you get the blue flag, you have to let the car that is going faster and worked for it overtake you.
But it's a driver's judgment until the league comes in and steps into it, giving either a black flag or coming in on the radio and warning the driver that is being passed to get the car behind to pass it and everything.
And also sometimes, for example, in Milwaukee, I know we were talking about this, in Milwaukee sometimes it's hard to get close to the car. Even if the car in front is very slow, it's sometimes very hard to get close because of all the drafting and the dirty air the car behind takes it.
It's a touchy situation. But, yes, every driver has to be reminded constantly of the blue flag, how to proceed when you get one. But also the league has to step up and say, Hey, what you did was wrong, next time you're going to be black flagged, and do it.
Q. What is it like to actually fly in an IndyCar? Was it at all fun? Dario did it last year.
VITOR MEIRA: I mean, the flying part was actually pretty cool. The landing part was hard. It was actually funny. When we were flying here to Texas, we were joined by General Umbarger from the Indianapolis National Guard. He gave me a set of the pin that he gives the pilots, the wings that the military uses. He gave me one that says I'm approved, now I can fly.
Q. With kind of the renaissance of the Panther team this year, basically more effort being involved all the way around from wind tunnel, the shaker, even what happened on Sunday, it was a bad luck deal, do you sense y'all are on the cusp of a breakthrough? What's your sense of that? Do you sense you are close to a breakthrough this season?
VITOR MEIRA: I think we are breaking through already after Indianapolis. Milwaukee didn't really translate to a performance, but we had a very good car. We are breaking through already. From here on, I think we're going to be charging every race. Obviously it's going to depend on the work we do back in the workshop and also engineering the car at the races.
But we are now starting to have the tools that those big three had for years. So we are breaking through already. I think we started that in Indy. Definitely the Delphi National Guard crew and car is stepping up and we'll be among those big three.
Q. Considering the incidents that happened in Milwaukee, were you surprised how clean, at least from the TV angle, the driving was, how all the drivers seemed to be on their best behavior?
VITOR MEIRA: I was very surprised. We were planning for much more yellows. Actually we needed more yellows since we crashed during qualifying. Obviously I had to adjust the car as the race went. So the more yellows, the better it was for me, because I knew I was going to lose a lot of time at the beginning of the race. I was expecting much more yellows.
I think the reason of not so many yellows is Milwaukee is a track that you can actually really drive the car. So if it steps out on you, you can save it actually save it two, three, four times. Another thing is the drivers and teams are getting better. Everything is getting harder, but the level of professionals from the teams, from the engineers, from the drivers, everything is getting better. I think you're gonna see a lot of hard racing there, but also clean races. We're not going to have as many car failures, parts breaking, or drivers doing mistakes because everything is getting that much better with the unification.
Q. Does that give all the drivers confidence? The next three tracks are really difficult in terms of traffic, accidents, what can happen out there. Was Milwaukee a good first test as far as the number of cars and everybody running close?
VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, a little bit. To be honest, nothing can compare to Texas. As you know, Texas is very hard racing, close racing for a long time. I think everybody's going to be on their best behave. We've been to Homestead and Kansas already, so they got a taste of it. We have three days here in Texas, it's a three-day event. We have two days to prepare for the race with a lot of track time. Mostly this track time we're gonna be doing race trim, since qualifying doesn't matter that much. So a lot of people are going to be experiencing during practice so they don't have any surprises come race day.
I think it's gonna be -- everybody's going to do fine there.
Q. Considering what Ryan has gone through the past couple years in IndyCar, he broke through for his first win, does it give the team confidence going into Texas, especially with the success there that you can break through?
VITOR MEIRA: Yes, I mean, if there's one team that can break through, it's Panther Racing. I mean, we won many there. Panther won many races there in the past with Sam, with Scott, Scheckter, you name it. We definitely can win there. Panther has the stuff to win there. We have just to put it all together. We have a great crew and a great sponsor that's gonna be behind us. Now it's just a matter of getting it done.
THE MODERATOR: Vitor, thanks again for joining us. We appreciate you taking time out of your day. Good luck this weekend.
VITOR MEIRA: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, our next teleconference will be next Wednesday, June 11th, at 2:00 eastern when we'll be joined by Ed Carpenter and Will Power.
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