Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
August 6, 2008
SKIP BROWN: Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests, going to be joining us today. We're going to start the call with Firestone Indy Lights driver Daniel Harrington, and in a few minutes we'll be joined by IndyCar Series driver E.J. Viso and Kentucky Speedway's director of communications Tim Bray, and finally we'll be joined by IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher.
Daniel Harrington is on the line with us right now. Good afternoon, Daniel.
DANIEL HARRINGTON: Hey, how you doing?
SKIP BROWN: Doing well. Daniel has made four starts in Firestone Indy Lights this season. His best showing was an eighth at Watkins Glen, and he recently signed with RLR Andersen racing to compete in the remaining four Firestone Indy Lights races of the year. Just to get us started, you'll be making two debuts this weekend, your first race with RLR Andersen Racing and your first race on a big oval anyway. How hard has the anticipation been since the deal was announced?
DANIEL HARRINGTON: Well, I've been extremely excited ever since it's happened. I've actually been trying since early in the season around April or May to get my rookie test on a big oval done and give myself an opportunity to get out there and race, and it's taken this long to do it. But I couldn't be happier about the way it's worked out with RLR Andersen, and I think this is the right opportunity to come out and show well kind of at the end of the year.
SKIP BROWN: One twist, I don't know if everyone is aware of, I actually confess, I wasn't, you've been spotting for Justin Wilson since May. What have you learned from being a spotter, and has the Newman/Haas/Lanigan racing team given you any tips about ovals going into Kentucky this weekend?
DANIEL HARRINGTON: Well, you can actually learn a whole lot from just sitting there watching people. Starting with Indy, I had the whole month there to watch drivers kind of progress and learn and adapt, including Justin Wilson. It's their first year really tackling a lot of these ovals, so watching him go through that learning experience and the team go through the learning experience has been very valuable.
We went to -- we were at Indy, Milwaukee, Texas, Richmond, Iowa, so all sorts of different types of ovals that you can learn a different thing on each one and try to apply it to your own driving.
I must confess, it's been quite difficult to sit there and watch people drive around and have to sit on the sidelines, but at the same time, I think I've learned a lot that should help me be more prepared for my debut here at Kentucky.
SKIP BROWN: And as I mentioned, you're signed with RLR Andersen Racing heading into the last four races. What are your goals for these last four races, and do you consider it sort of an audition of sorts for 2009?
DANIEL HARRINGTON: I do. I always consider racing as an audition because you know you only have a few opportunities in the racing world to make a good showing and kind of get the right impression for people.
I've got kind of two separate goals. On the oval, since I'm very much a rookie at ovals, my goal was to learn as much as I can, do as well as I can in traffic, learn how to manage that aspect of the racing, and hopefully we can get some good results. I did an oval race at Milwaukee Mile at the start of 2006, and that was my first oval then and we finished second, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity, and I know that they worked really hard to prepare a good car for the ovals.
And the second kind of goal of mine is we've got a road course there, Infineon, and even though I've never been there, my background is in road racing, actually as well as some of the engineers on the team, so I think we can have a really strong showing there.
Unfortunately these four races I've had earlier this year, the results have not shown kind of the speed we've shown. At Mid-Ohio we were running there in the top three or five pretty consistently, and then we had some things go wrong in the race. But last year we finished third and sixth at Watkins Glen when we raced, and that was only my second weekend in the car.
I think we can go out and be strong right away, and absolutely I'm looking forward to working and getting integrated within the RLR Andersen team and kind of exploring possibilities to grow with them over the next few years.
SKIP BROWN: We can take any questions for Daniel.
Q. You had a chance to test at Kentucky last week or the week before, I can't remember which. What did you learn from that test that surprised you?
DANIEL HARRINGTON: Well, I've told a couple people this and some of them give me funny looks, so bear with me for a bit. Actually when I raced in Milwaukee I had the sense that I was getting into the zone, as we call it, very quickly. There's so much rhythm to the ovals. You've got essentially four separate corners and that's all you have to worry about. So every lap you can try a little tweak here and there, and you get a lot of laps and can end up trying a lot of things and learn a lot in a short amount of time on the ovals.
That same feeling I had at Milwaukee I had here at Kentucky. Just kind of the rhythm and the pace of running around there kind of affords you the luxury of being a bit more patient in traffic and sitting back and learning for a bit and kind of working my way forward during the race. That's really what I'm looking forward to with the race.
But it was definitely a new experience on a superspeedway like that where it's just flat all the way around because Milwaukee you have to drive the car.
SKIP BROWN: I know you're about to start your final year of college at NC State. I was wondering how your engineering studies have helped you in the car.
DANIEL HARRINGTON: Well, it's definitely been helpful because as an engineering student you can kind of understand where your race engineer is coming from when they ask you questions. If they ask you how is the car and you say it's loose, that doesn't help them any. They need to know more specific details about how it's loose and where it's loose. So that's been pretty helpful to me.
Included with that is kind of a better understanding of the mechanical workings of the car, so when I feel something, I might be able to diagnose it a bit better than someone that hasn't been through engineering school. But it's definitely been a pretty tall task doing both engineering and trying to survive as a race car driver.
Q. I just wondered if you could explain a little bit your relationship with Ross Bentley of Speed Secrets and some of the things that he helps you with.
DANIEL HARRINGTON: Yeah, Ross has been a good friend of mine for three or four years now. I got to know him back when I was running Formula BMW and since then have been trying to find as many ways as possible to work with him. And every time he shows up at the racetrack I go fast and do well. He's fantastic about working with drivers, and he's worked with a lot of them over the years. He really helps me a lot.
It goes beyond the point of just saying, turn later here in Turn 1, something like that. He really helps you work on the mental aspect of racing and all the kind of actual things that many coaches avoid or miss, and he's really focused on those, which is kind of part of what I'm working on to help complete myself as a driver and make sure I have all those little extra qualities and intangibles which help you make it to next level. So I'm really excited about him coming to the race.
Q. Is he going to come to any of your races, Indy Lights races?
DANIEL HARRINGTON: He'll be at Kentucky and Infineon. He had a prior commitment for Chicago. He literally calls me once or twice a week and is asking, where are you racing next so I can come be a part of it and work with you. It's fantastic to get him there.
SKIP BROWN: Daniel, we'll let you go. We appreciate your time, and best of luck this weekend at Kentucky.
We are now going to be joined by IndyCar Series driver E.J. Viso and the director of communications at Kentucky Speedway, Tim Bray. E. J. And Tim, are you on? Good afternoon.
Tim, I'll start with you. The IndyCar Series is set to compete for the ninth time at Kentucky Speedway's mile-and-a-half oval Saturday night. Tell us how things are shaping up for this year's race.
TIM BRAY: Certainly we have an awful lot of excitement here at Kentucky, and we just announced about a half hour ago that there are only approximately 2,000 grandstand tickets remaining for the race, so we've had some brisk sales and it's placed the venue on pace to entertain. It's the first IndyCar Series capacity crowd. The official speedway grandstand capacity is 66,089, and we're very happy about it, and we're certainly excited to hopefully get this thing completely sold out.
I believe our best crowd was 62,595 back in 2005, so we are definitely moving past that. It's going to be a big event, and we have to thank Meijer and Pepsi and Edy's. Meijer has been such a tremendous sponsor for this racing venue over the years. Not only do they sponsor the IndyCar race here, but they also sponsor the NASCAR Nationwide series event in June. Kudos to them. It's one of the longest standing sponsorships in motorsports.
In addition to that, gates open at 3:00 on Friday and 2:00 on Saturday at the venue. We've got the practices and the qualifying, of course, on Friday, and then we've been very successful with a Fan Fest, which incorporates the autograph session from the IndyCar Series drivers and the Firestone Indy Lights drivers on Friday night starting at 8:00 o'clock.
And in addition to that, we partner with Disney Radio, and they bring in clowns and face painters and all kinds of fun things for the kids, and so we make it a big event. So that's on Friday night. So that will be a good lead-in to Saturday, which seems to be becoming kind of a big popular item.
We've had a tremendous opportunity for fans to see just great racing and the fastest event here at the track. We've added a few things to it this year. During our pre-race we have the Can-Am freestyle ATV four-wheel jump team out of Los Angeles. That ought to be some high-flying excitement, and that starts at 5:30. And then we have Team Fast Track coming in. They're the skydivers from Wilmington, Ohio. The Apache helicopters of the U.S. Army Reserves will do their flyover. And we're handing out 60,000, or perhaps even more, I'm not sure, but 60,000 rally towels, and that's similar to what we've done in the past here at the track. First time we've ever done it for the IndyCar Series event, but every green flag throughout the event will see that. So we're happy about that.
Our grand marshal is Miss America Kirsten Haglund. She's from Farmington Hills, Michigan, also studied at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, and she will go back there after her reign, and she'll also sing the national anthem, and we're happy to have her, as well.
Josh Kelly is our pre-race concert. We always seem to do a pre-race concert. That's kind of the theme here, and it's just not a race, it's an event, so Josh Kelly starts at 4:30. We're very pleased with how it's all come together, and I'm looking forward to a big event both Friday and Saturday.
E.J., all you have to do is drive and win, right? But I guess it's my pleasure to ask the first question. I understand you were here for some testing last week. Kind of tell us how important tests like that are to your program and the transition and just how it all fits in as you progress through your first year here in the IndyCar Series.
E.J. VISO: Well, it's really important to have some base of testing. That was our first testing day of the season, and it's really important for me as a driver and for the team. The team had time to try different parts on the car that they wouldn't take the risk of doing during a normal test day or a race weekend. So it was great. Yeah, it was nice to try the spot, and I think right now we're in a better position for this coming race.
SKIP BROWN: Thanks, E.J., and thanks, Tim, for your insight on the race coming up. As you said, it's more of an event than a race, a lot going on.
E.J., I wanted to ask you, with the oval event coming up you finished as good or better than where you started on all the ovals you've competed on this year. Do you feel more and more confident with each oval race as you transition?
E.J. VISO: Yeah, for sure. Every time we go out in an oval, I think I'm learning every time. So for sure these races I have a bit more experience, and we develop the car every time more, and yeah, I feel more comfortable in position. Yeah, I think we should do better for this one.
SKIP BROWN: And you've got, counting Kentucky this weekend, two ovals and two street courses left to finish out the season. Which of the courses remaining on the schedule do you feel gives you the best shot at capturing a strong finishing position?
E.J. VISO: Well, it's going to be Australia and Infineon. I mean, that's what I know to do best, and for sure the team has experience, as well. I think we're going to be in a better position, yeah.
SKIP BROWN: We can go ahead and open it up for questions if anyone has questions for E.J. or Tim Bray.
Q. E.J., you've gotten some heat from your competitors this year because of your very competitive driving style. Do you think it has more to do with the fact that the U.S. way of racing is a little bit different than what you're accustomed to in Europe?
E.J. VISO: Well, it's very strange. I mean, it's a question that for sure I've asked myself a couple of times. But I don't know. There are many drivers here that they drive like that, and at the same time they go and complain. So I don't know, I just try to be as clean as possible, just do one maneuver on the track, and that's what I do.
Yeah, maybe coming from Europe, over there the kind of driving is a bit more -- maybe a little bit more risky and aggressive because the races are shorter and it's more a sprint race. Maybe the races here are a bit longer and you're able to take it a bit easier. Yeah, that's my point of view.
Q. Do you think that you've gotten more toward the American style as your season has gone on, and do you think it's going to take anything away should you go back to Europe?
E.J. VISO: Well, I think it's little by little. For sure if I'm going to be racing here in the States I need to adapt to the system. Yeah, at the moment, if I ever go back to Europe, I just need to focus on the European way. I really like being here, and hopefully I change to the American way of driving.
SKIP BROWN: E.J., I would ask, I know last week the IndyCar Series released its 2009 schedule. Have you had a chance to see it, and what were your impressions?
E.J. VISO: Well, I had a quick look at the card, and for sure it looks much better to me. There are more road and street courses. That's what I love to do. I think, yeah, I'm going to be in a better position for next year.
SKIP BROWN: Is there a particular race next year that stands out as the one you're most looking forward to, or are there any that maybe you're not looking forward to?
E.J. VISO: Well, I like all of them. Maybe Long Beach is a great race where we're going to be racing. Just all of them. I mean, Toronto is going to be a good one; Edmonton, I really like Edmonton, just all of them. I think it's going to be a great calendar. We're going to miss Australia, but it's okay.
SKIP BROWN: Do you feel like you've learned a lot this season? I know it's your first season competing in the IndyCar Series. Do you feel you've learned a lot this season that will pay off for you and the team next year as you guys start fresh in 2009?
E.J. VISO: Yeah, for sure I've learned a lot. When I did my first race in Homestead, that was my first time ever in IndyCar and in an oval, so it was pretty challenging. I just jumped in the car, and my first thoughts of the oval, I thought it was crazy stuff. But little by little, I got used to it.
Yeah, now it's just going with the flow. Everything is getting -- is coming together, just working hard with the team, and just being focused and trying to get some points.
Q. You've got a long off-season ahead of you starting in September. What are you going to do during the off-season, any racing in mind?
E.J. VISO: Well, it's early to know for sure. I might do a race that I love, it's my favorite one, one of my favorite races, is the 24 Hours of Spain in Barcelona. So I might do that one for fun with my friends over there. And other than that, it all depends on what I'm doing for next year. For sure if I'm going to be here in the States, I'm going to be testing. If I go back to Europe, I'm going to be testing. I hope the first option is the one that is going to be happening.
SKIP BROWN: E.J. and Tim, thank you guys both for your time, and best of luck this weekend, and we'll see you at the track.
Thank you all for joining us. Our next teleconference will be Wednesday, August 13, at 2:00 p.m. eastern.
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