Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing
July 23, 2013
J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Today we have the pleasure of being joined by part of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' all‑star lineup for Friday's Brickyard Grand Prix.
We have Tony Kanaan, Joey Hand, and Scott Pruett. Tony and Joey will co‑drive the No. 02 NTT Data BMW/Riley, and Scott will be joining Memo Rojas in the No.01 Telcel/TELMEX BMW.
Tony, no one has ever won two of Indy's major events in a career, let alone in one season. Obviously your victory in the Indy 500 in May was a major personal accomplishment. What would winning the Brickyard Grand Prix mean for you?
TONY KANAAN: Obviously it would mean a lot. When I got the phone call from Chip to do this, I was extremely excited. I've been watching obviously Scott and Memo for a long time. Joey, I mean, has so much experience. It would mean a lot.
But, to be honest, I've never driven one of those cars. I'm going to have to learn a lot in the first day. I will do anything I can do to help the team. If we're in a position to do that, for sure we'll take it.
It took me 12 years to win the 500. To win two races in Indianapolis, I don't know what to think yet. But it's early days. I know we have a competitive car. I'm just glad to be part of it.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, Tony.
Joey Hand, you've been busy competing in the German DTM as well as the American LeMans Series for BMW. You won the Rolex 24 for Ganassi in 2011. What are you thinking of your chances this weekend and what is it like to race at Indy for the first time?
JOEY HAND: Of course, for me it's a big deal. When I was a kid, I always wanted to race at Indy. I watched it a lot. I've been there a couple times for Indy qualifying, for the F1 race years ago. For me it's a dream. There's not many chances to win at Indy in a year, so I think it's a great opportunity for me.
Everybody knows when you're in a Ganassi car you always have a great chance to win. I've had the pleasure of running with Ganassi three years at Daytona, winning one there. Got to know the guys, teammates there really well. It's always a good time and it's always a learning experience for me.
Now I get to do it with somebody that actually knows how to win at Indy and has done it this year. I think it will be a pretty fun, pretty cool experience for me.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you, Joey.
Scott Pruett, you've had some bad luck this season that have hurt your chances for a fourth straight DP championship. Ganassi Racing is only three points behind in the team standings and also the North American Endurance Championship presented by VisitFlorida.com is on the line with your team in second, only four points behind. How are you approaching Friday's race at the Brickyard?
SCOTT PRUETT: First of all, thanks for having me on today. It's always exciting, even more exciting with the announcement of the 02 car, Joey and Tony, two great guys. Looking froward to that.
For us, it's a big weekend. Not only are we going to Indianapolis but we're also looking at making the engine change from what we have been running to the new engine we've been talking about, M3 derivative. We got a little testing with it at the Glen between rainstorms after the race.
It's going to be a good weekend, a great weekend, one to get things turned around. We have been hit with some bad luck lately. Hopefully that's in the rearview mirror and we can focus forward.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, Scott.
We'll now go to the media for questions.
Q. Tony, you never have driven a Daytona Prototype before. How are you going to deal with the learning curve on Thursday?
TONY KANAAN: I think I'm going to lean a lot on Scott and Joey to teach me. A couple days ago I got an email from Tim, our team manager at Ganassi, four pages that I had to learn, all the switches and stuff.
Of course, I think we have a little bit of time on Thursday for me to learn that. Even to learn the racetrack. It's funny to say that I don't know the track. The track I know runs the opposite way and only turns left.
We'll take it a little bit at a time. I've done a few ALMS races in the past where we didn't have a lot of testing. We did pretty well at Sebring, we won.
I think it's going to be a little bit of a learning curve for me. I'm willing to do anything it takes for us to perform. If that means that I got to sit out and just watch and learn, then that's what I'm going to do.
Q. Scott, you have had kind of a rough stretch the last few races. How much is it going to help you having a second car?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, it always helps having a second car. Two guys like that, we all share the data. We have an hour and a half, a half hour practice, then qualifying.
I mean, it's going to be a very steep learning curve across the board, now running a six‑speed box from a five‑speed box, higher rpm shifting. A lot the things we're learning in a short period of time. Having the addition of a second car, to be able to look at trying to cover that distance as quickly as we can is certainly going to help.
Q. Joey, is any of the new stuff that's going into the Daytona Prototype similar to your DTM machine?
JOEY HAND: No, nothing similar. DTM car is its own beast, engines are totally different. I think the only thing, it will be a six‑speed in the DTM car. We still use a lever to shift. The revs would be closer to what the DTM revs are. Instead of the low‑revving engine like we had before, it will be a little more high‑revving, like Scott said.
I think it's going to be fun to have a new engine in the car. It's always fun, especially if it goes well, to have something new, try to learn quickly what's going on.
I have to learn the track also. I know the car at least. I do know the switches. I drive a lot of different cars. I drove DTM two weeks ago Norisring. I did Mosport two days ago in the ALMS car, now into the Daytona Prototype.
For me, it will be about familiarizing the switch panels, getting it all right so I can be the best I can be.
Q. I'm wondering what you think this first trip back to Indianapolis since winning the 500 is going to be like for you, Tony?
TONY KANAAN: I was thinking about that on the way here. I haven't been to the track since the 500. For sure it will give me a great feeling when I drive through the tunnel for the first time, look at the pagoda, all the things. It's very emotional for me every time I go there, even before. So it's awesome.
I got so lucky, my kid is on vacation with me this month from Brazil. This deal came up a week ago. Coincidentally he gets to be here. He wasn't here at the 500. As you guys all know, I promised him the trophy, he was going to get the Borg‑Warner. He's all excited. He's never been to Indianapolis. It's a great fit.
I think it's going to be a great weekend for me with a lot of good memories. My fan base here at Indy, it's huge. A lot of people got extremely excited when they heard the news. So I can't wait.
Q. Tony, one other thing. There's a lot of talk about your contract. Should we read anything into what's going on with the Ganassi team at this point?
TONY KANAAN: No. This deal is a GRAND‑AM deal. Unfortunately, Briscoe got hurt in one of the IndyCar races. He was the guy that was going to co‑drive with Joey. They invited the Indy 500 winner to do it.
That has nothing to do between IndyCar or anything like that with Chip. It's a one‑race deal. I'm glad to do it.
Q. Tony, when you were negotiating with Chip back in '08, did you ever make it to the shop?
TONY KANAAN: No. I have never been here actually. I came in for the first time today. Obviously Kelby was directing me around. I can't look at the IndyCar stuff. We're still in the middle of the championship (laughter).
So, no, back in the day we talked, it was over the phone and I wasn't here at the shop, no.
Q. Do you feel a little bit of awkwardness being in enemy territory? How is Jimmy about this? I know he's a Ganassi guy at heart, but still...
TONY KANAAN: Jimmy was excited for me. Apart from being my team owner, Jimmy is my friend. He's Chip's friend. He was definitely excited about that.
As far as the enemy, I think they have a lot more to hide for me than actually I have from them. Obviously I kept it as much professional as I could.
I'm not here to spy or to do anything. I'm here to do a job I got hired for, which is on the GRAND‑AM side. We're all laughing. But it's pretty weird.
I got a visitor pass when I came in here today, so that's pretty cool (laughter).
Q. Tony, you haven't had many extra hours to prepare for this. Did you have videotapes? What kind of preparations have you made in anticipation for this race?
TONY KANAAN: I watched last year's race obviously live. Then I actually went back and got it. In the past two days I've been watching just to see a little bit how it works.
But things change over the course of a year. When Scott gets here, I'll sit down with him, ask him a couple more questions. I just got to the team right now, so I'll probably have a little bit of a chance to talk to Chris, my engineer this weekend, get a little bit more hints.
But that's the only thing I can do. I watched a couple in‑car cameras to learn the racetrack a little bit. Everything else will come on Thursday probably after I drive the car for the first time.
Q. Scott, can you talk a little bit about the new engine without giving away any secrets as to what you either found in it or are expecting it to do that will make it better than what you previously had?
SCOTT PRUETT: Just the latest technology from BMW. There's been a lot of talk, a lot of discussion over the last year and a half to two years about making this transition from the current M5 derivative to the M3 derivative.
The current engine we've been running, it's the end of its life. It's seen everything it can see. It's done a great job for us. We feel making this next step is just the start of a new long future that we'll have together with it.
We did a little bit of a test at Watkins Glen. From my point of view driving it, the biggest initial challenge was shifting at the higher rpm. We've been used to shifting at 6800 to 7000 for year after year, and that's significantly different. Shifting into sixth gear, as well.
A number of those things that don't seem big, but when you're used to doing it year after year after year end up being pretty significant.
We're looking forward to it as a team, as an organization, feel this is the next step in the development and relationship we have with BMW and one we're looking forward to for the rest of this season and beyond.
Q. Joey, you've been running in DTM for the past few years. Have they been following what's been going on in the United States as far as the merger?
JOEY HAND: Yeah, I mean, you hear a lot of stuff all over the place. I know from my standpoint in Norisring two weeks ago, there were a lot of guys from the U.S. over there checking out the DTM racing. Jim France was there, Ed Bennett, Scott Elkins. There were people over there having meetings, talking about the U.S. DTM, things like that.
For me, I'm just a racecar driver. I try to keep my nose out of that stuff and drive racecars when they ask me to drive racecars, try to do it fast.
I'm hearing about DTM in the USA. From where I sit, of course it sounds good to me because it means job opportunities. But as far as what's actually happening, I don't know really know.
We'll see what happens. The DTM format over there that I race in every week, it's different for sure. It's an hour and ten minute sprint race, standing starts, the cars are different. There's a lot of cool things about it that maybe the U.S. fans would like.
You never know. You're hearing about 2015, 2016. So still a ways off. Right now I'll stay focused on my DTM project over there, try to get a podium. As far as this week goes, I'd love to be up front at this race in Indy. That's where my head's at.
Q. Scott, you talked a little earlier about this engine being in development for a while. What was the reason why the development cycle was so long for this?
SCOTT PRUETT: With BMW and with Steve Dinan, they never want to move forward with something until they're absolutely sure it's where it wants to be performance level and even more so on the development and durability. With that I know going through this process there were some issues with some of the components they had that they wanted to go back and redesign, improve, make stronger.
I think that's one of the things I've been so impressed with BMW over the years. Instead of rushing something to get to the racetrack and then continually trying to fix this, that and the other with the engine and/or whatever, they jump in saying, We're not going to introduce this thing until it's able to be introduced right. The worst thing we can have happen is go out there and have some sort of an engine failure.
That's been the biggest element to get this thing into the racecar and going racing. I'm excited about it. I think this is a huge opportunity, a great move forward.
Q. Tony, we've seen you in the ALMS before. This is your first appearance in GRAND‑AM. Moving forward, do you think we'll see more of you in the unified series?
TONY KANAAN: I'm a racecar driver. Anything that has four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine, the right opportunity, yes. I love the sports car racing. Like you've said, I've done not enough, but I've done three ALMS races in the past, we won two of those. It's been a pretty successful career, if I may say.
But it's something that is definitely maybe for the future. Right now I'm committed to the IndyCar Series, but you never know. The way things are shaping up with the two series, the merger, never say never, that's for sure.
Q. Scott, Starworks announced this week they're going to a BMW engine. Do you know if they're going to get the same thing?
SCOTT PRUETT: There are going to be two cars. They're going to do one with the current generation engine and one with the new engine same as us. All the components in our car as far as the engine are concerned will be the exact same thing as them.
I have to say we're excited. To have more BMW cars out there is just better for us. I think it's going to be just a great move forward and certainly shows the direction and commitment of BMW, where they're at as an organization, the belief with other teams jumping onboard as well.
Q. Will there be any shared information?
SCOTT PRUETT: No (laughter).
Q. Tony, your a workout warrior. Sports car racing is a lot different. You're in a closed environment versus an open cockpit. The longer stints and races, is this going to try your workout regimen?
TONY KANAAN: For sure. The thing is, I don't know what to expect. The unknown, it's good, because then I don't get to worry about it till I get to do it.
The way I prepare myself, I always try to overcompensate on the workout so I'm ready to do and drive anything I can. Obviously I think the heat, it will be my biggest challenge. But I've done a couple stockcar races back in Brazil the end of last year. I kind of felt it a little bit.
Hopefully Joey will be doing all the driving and I'll be watching (laughter).
Q. Tony, how do you prepare for heat? What is your workout regimen to prepare for additional heat in the car like this?
TONY KANAAN: I live in Miami, Florida, so it's extremely hot and humid there. What I do especially during the summer, like right now, I have a tendency to go out and work out right in the middle of the day, whatever workout I need to do, either a bike ride or a run, I try to do it at the most heat of the day to try to get used to it. I hydrate a lot.
You can never simulate anything like a racecar, so the best thing is to drive the car. Unfortunately we don't get to do that as much nowadays. But that's what I try to do.
It's been working well for the IndyCar races. Last weekend in Toronto, we had a doubleheader there. It was 90 degrees on Sunday on the second race. That was pretty brutal.
I mean, I know Scott and Joey can help me out on that. I know we have something that helps, air‑conditioning in the car, I guess, that will help a little bit. We'll deal with the heat and see how we do.
Q. Joey, we've talked about the DTM plans here in the United States, how much you want to race here in front of the American fans. Have the people in the DTM garage, when they hear about this, maybe come to you to ask about racing in America, how it's going to go? Do they look forward to it?
JOEY HAND: It's definitely a hot topic over there. A lot of drivers, a lot of guys want to come and race in the U.S., to be honest. So a lot of guys ask what I think could happen, is it possible. Again, I don't know if it's possible or if it will happen.
For sure, there's excitement. I think from that side of the world, everybody's on the same page as far as if you get a program like that that was pretty global, it would actually be quite cool, to have some of the best in the U.S., the best in Europe, they're starting the Japanese series also, there's been talks about having one big kind of World Series race, whatever you want to call it, somewhere.
There's definitely a lot of talk about it, which I think is always a good thing. It's just more about if it can happen or not.
For me, I'm learning a lot. It's a great opportunity for me from BMW to race in DTM over there. It really is just below F1. The style of racing is very similar, the competition is very difficult. I'm learning a lot over there.
No matter what happens with me, where I end up, I've learned a lot and have had a lot of fun. One of the biggest things for me is being the only American to contend for that championship, they don't have a choice but to have an American flag on the grid and that makes me happy.
Q. You made your Rolex Series debut at the Rolex 24 when you co‑drove with Rubens Barrichello. Rubens was just announced today as the driver of Kevin Doran's Daytona Prototype. What are your thoughts racing against Rubens in DPs for the first time at Indy?
TONY KANAAN: He just has to do everything I do, that guy. He's on vacation. What are you doing (laughter)?
No, just kidding. I'm happy. He's a good friend, almost like a brother to me. It was such a coincidence because I didn't know he was doing that. He didn't know I was doing it.
We were on vacation in Orlando a couple weeks ago. Like basically pretty much in the same day we got the calls. Like I said, Man, you can't believe what happened, I'm going to do this. He's like, You can't believe what's happening, I'm going to do that, too.
As you know, he moved back to Brazil after the IndyCar season last year. He's doing stock cars back home. He does have a little bit of an upper hand. He knows this track. He won the last Formula One race here. I don't know if it was the last one, but he won the F1 race here back in the day. He knows the track. I'm excited for him.
I heard he's testing today in Putnam Park. I'll talk to him at the end of the day and wish him the best.
Q. Scott, is the new engine going to be used in both cars?
SCOTT PRUETT: Yes, it will be used in both of our cars on the Ganassi side and one of the Starworks cars.
Q. Scott, you said you spend the first half of the season organizing the team for the charge at the end. You have a big charge now because of some difficulty in the first part of the season. New engine. Have you got everything organized now for this big push starting at Indy?
SCOTT PRUETT: We do. We're excited. We've had some difficult three races. It just shows how close the competition is, just how anything can happen, even things that are out of your control like we saw at Detroit.
You just got to shake that all off and focus on going forward. That's one thing I think the Ganassi team and specifically Telcel BMW team has been able to do: we focus forward, do what we can do.
Frankly, I'm excited. We're getting in the season, we're extraordinarily cautious about how we approach the races, what we do at the races. Now being back a little bit, second in the team championship, we're going to be more aggressive.
It's a little different place for us that I'm, quite frankly, excited about.
Q. You win about everywhere. Is there a favorite track upcoming where you feel like you can gain some ground?
SCOTT PRUETT: Indianapolis (laughter). That's one of the those races, man. You know, we all talk about it. Every driver talks about Indianapolis, going there. I've been fortunate to be there on the IndyCar side, the NASCAR side and the GRAND‑AM side. We ended up on the podium third last year. Hopefully we can improve a couple positions and be able to win Indianapolis.
There's nothing like winning at Indy, right, Tony?
TONY KANAAN: No. I mean, look at where I'm at. Look at the job I got by winning Indy.
Like I said, Scott, you're totally right. It doesn't matter what kind of race you do in Indianapolis, any driver wants to win, no doubt about it.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thanks a lot Scott, Joey and Tony. We appreciate you joining us today. We look forward to seeing you this weekend at the Brickyard Grand Prix. I'd like to thank the media for joining us, as well.
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