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Indy Racing League Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Racing League Media Conference

Gil De Ferran
Scott Goodyear
Todd Harris
Tony Kanaan
Jamie Little
February 22, 2005

THE MODERATOR: Welcome everybody to the Indy Racing League's weekly teleconference. We'll be joined by five guests on the call this afternoon. Our 2004 Indy Car Series Champion, Tony Kanaan, will be along with us in a few minutes. First we're going to start the call with four members of our ABC/ESPN broadcast team. The broadcast lineup is being announced today, and sitting in the broadcast booth will be Todd Harris, who will be doing the play-by-play, Gil de Ferran and Scott Goodyear who will be providing the color commentary, and Dr. Jerry Punch and Jaime Little will cover the pits for both networks, while Jack Arute will be in the pits for the ABC broadcast, and Vince Welch will be in the pits for ESPN. And last week, of course, it was already announced that Brent Mussberger will be hosting ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500. Just a little reminder, the Green Flag Tour with Jack Arute kicked off yesterday and Jack is in Denver today as part of that tour taking the Green Flag which will be used to start the race at Homestead Miami March, so 13 cities over the next 14 days. So joining us on the call right now from the ABC/ESPN team are Todd Harris, Gil de Ferran, Scott Goodyear and Jamie Little, and welcome all of you. Thank for taking some time to join us. Todd, let me start with a question for you, as you're going to be kind of anchoring the broadcast in that play-by-play role. You joined the team last year as a pit reporter, just tell us a little bit about the fact that you have been moved up into the color role, and the transition that will take place for you to be to being the play-by-play man.

TODD HARRIS: Well, with one year under my belt so to speak in the pits, I'm probably somewhat of a rookie here. But I've surrounded myself or they have surrounded myself with a lot of great people, like Terry Linger and Conrad Figurella (ph) who will be producing and directing, and Curt Goudy (ph) up at ABC will keep a close eye and make sure I don't mess things up too bad. But surrounded by two formers drivers in Gil de Ferran and Scott Goodyear is fantastic. I have got great pit people, and some of the best camera and technical people in the business. So I really kind of feel like it's a no-lose situation because the racing is going to be fantastic, we have some good road courses this year and we have a fantastic schedule this year both on ABC and ESPN.

THE MODERATOR: Gil, you are also making a transition from driver to broadcaster. Obviously last year you got your feet wet with a handful of broadcasts, but this is going to be your first full season in television. Tell us a little bit about the expectations you have about the experience ahead of you.

GIL DE FERRAN: Obviously, I have a lot to learn. I think there's one thing knowing what is going on on the racetrack, which I think I've got a pretty good idea; and the other thing is being able to talk about it in a format that people can understand and relate to very well. Like Todd, I feel that I'm surrounded by probably the best teachers I could hope for, including my friend here, Scott Goodyear, and you know, so far, I have enjoyed the experience tremendously. It's really been a lot of fun working with these guys. I've particularly enjoyed interacting with ALL OF them off the air, believe it or not and I'm looking forward to this year.

THE MODERATOR: Now, Scott, you've made that transition before, you're coming back for your fourth season with the network since retirement as a driver. Any advice for Gil as he makes the transition?

SCOTT GOODYEAR: Actually, you know, we are here in Bristol, Connecticut right now just doing some rehearsal work, and I can see Gil going through a couple of things that I went through when I first got on board, and there is a transition time. I think one of most difficult things that anybody would find, and I think that I found it and I'm sure that people at home don't realize what goes on in a broadcast booth is that, you know, while we're talking, there is generally some chatter going on in our headset from the truck or from some other things that's happening. And what ends up happening is that, you know, you have to learn to be able to talk past that; and I've only done this for three years and I'm not even used to it. It's just a very, very difficult thing to be able to speak when somebody is talking into your ear without making an interruption on yourself. So I still feel like a rookie at it, and, you know, I'm learning as we go and I think that we're going to have a great season.

THE MODERATOR: One of the things, obviously, that's a key to successful broadcast is for the three of you in the booth to have a good rapport. Can you tell us a little bit about how well the three of you know each other and the rapport that you've developed so far?

GIL DE FERRAN: We love each other.

TODD HARRIS: I think this might be the first tri-international booth that we've had on the network ever with Gil from Brazil; Scott, our neighbor to the north; myself being the lone American. But I think we have great rapport in that we bring something different to the table. Gil's personality and Scott's are, I don't want to say polar opposite, but they are opposite enough that it's really going to be fun in the booth. Oscar Madison and Felix Unger come to mind; I won't say who is who, but I think it will be very fun and I think we're provided with some great racing. I think, just with our rehearsals and our time together at ABC New York and up here in Bristol, there's good chemistry. I think we have good flow in the booth.

THE MODERATOR: Todd, obviously, you touched on it earlier about the pit reporters that you'll be relying on, obviously Jerry, Jamie, Jack and Vince, they all have been covering motorsports for a long time and have a lot of experience; that really has to be an asset for you guys.

TODD HARRIS: Oh, no question about it. The fans have said in focus groups that they like to hear from the pits. They like to hear strategy from the pits. And having been in the pits for a year, I think it's one of the most exciting places to report from. I had the chance to work the National Championship sideline this year with USC and Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl, but I tell you what, to be on the pit row for the Indy 500 in the waning moments when Buddy Rice is out front and there's a yellow flag, it doesn't get much more exciting than that because you see the culmination of so much work and time and effort go into it. And the people in the pits are sharing the same passion and the same stress that the drivers are, maybe not to the same physical degree, but they certainly they have a lot on the line there and we have some great pit people reporting for us.

THE MODERATOR: Jamie, you're down there in the pits, did Todd capture the essence there of what it's like in the pits? Describe what it's like for you during a race down there.

JAMIE LITTLE: Very intense is a word that comes to minds. I just had the time of my life last year. I come from motorcross and supercross background, and although it's intense, it's not live TV like Indy Car racing. And the speed that these guys carry, the intenseness of being around what happens at any given moment; when those guys come into pit road, you have to be ready for anything, like we saw last year. And I was just hooked from race one at Homestead last year. I'm just so happy to be back this year.

THE MODERATOR: And yourself as a pit reporter, you obviously talk about rapport. You have to develop a rapport with all of the team officials down in pit lane, so that you can get that information. And I see you working hard usually all weekend, not just on race day. Tell us a little bit about that.

JAMIE LITTLE: It does take a lot of work, especially being the only female on board last year, and this year as well, and being the new face. You have to make the rounds. You have to let everybody know that you're there because you're passionate about what you do. You love the sport, you're covering and you're there just to add to the show and make it better in any way possible. So I think that you have to gain trust from everybody you're working with, and as you gain trust, you get better information; and the better you are, and the better the broadcast is, so it all works.

Q. Todd, I noticed you've been doing a lot of calling the play-by-play for the motorcross events. Has that been good practice for what you're preparing for this year? Was that kind of planned or was that already in place before you found out about this gig?

TODD HARRIS: I've been calling the motorcross, the supercross, this is my third year doing that. And absolutely, I think any time you can call racing of any kind, it's going to help you. It's kind of a different animal in that supercross and motorcross, you can have 20 riders on the track at different spots on the track at one time, and a lot of times, it's out of view of you and the camera, especially in the motorcross season, the outdoor circuit. But at Indy car racing, it seems like the drivers, the battles are at much closer quarters and the speeds are, you know, tenfold on what the motorcross is. But I think the essence of racing and the essence of anything dangerous can happen at any time, really, I think is my job is to convey that to the audience. Yeah, to answer your question, supercross and motorcross has been absolutely beneficial in my move up to play-by-play for the Indy Racing series.

Q. For Gil and Scott, you guys in the booth there, have you developed kind of a go-to guy to help you out when things get tough?

GIL DE FERRAN: What do you mean? I don't really understand your question.

Q. Well, when things are happening so fast in broadcasting, you have somebody that you kind of rely on to maybe give you a key into?

GIL DE FERRAN: I think -- this is Gil speaking, by the way, if you can't make out the accent, Canadian. (Laughter.) You know, I really don't have a hard time understanding what's going on on the racetrack, because like you said, it's obviously happening quite fast, but I don't really struggle with doing -- with understanding what's going on and really picturing in my mind about how the race is developing. I think what we've been working on on these winter months is really coordinating with the producers and the directors and everybody that's involved in the broadcast so that we can actually put that picture out to the public, and it's really been an interesting concept. Obviously, it's the first time we've all worked together and I'm sure we'll get better as the year goes on. But, you know, there is not one person that you sort of go to. I guess I feel like it's a big team and we all rely on each other's experience and expertise to make everything better and better.

SCOTT GOODYEAR: This is Scott. I would echo that in its entirety. We have so many good people here between ABC and ESPN that we have an opportunity to speak to them. And the thing that I always ask even -- throughout even my third year last year is that, you know, you always need some guidance and some help and some assistance, especially when you don't have a background in television. We sort have got under the seat in retirement, and then getting into television, you sort of ask all the time to have some input and constructive criticism on just really how you can be better from the experts that we are surrounded by, because as Gil mentioned, it's just a very large team.

Q. We saw over this past weekend just how good television can be in conveying a race with NASCAR. I wonder what you guys can do, and girls, can do to promote the personalities, to show how interesting all of these people are and how darned good they are in the car and convey that, because I really don't think it's been done as well as it could have been in the past. Do you have any concrete programs in mind?

GIL DE FERRAN: I guess that's more of a question for the producers and the directors and everyone that is going to be there. But, you know, I feel like obviously this is a priority. I think we are going into the year trying to convey the excitement, the danger and the personalities that are involved in the series, and I guess we'll do the best we can.

JAMIE LITTLE: I can add to that. You know, last year I hosted a show called "The Fast Life" and we did five specials on that, showing the drivers with their helmets off, showing them in their natural environments,, at their houses, out having fun and playing. We got great response. Problem is nobody knew when they are going to be on. But this year we are going to do that again, but we are going to have eight half-hour shows and they are going to air on the race weekends, and I believe it's going to start around the Indy 500. But that's a great way, the best way that we can convey who these drivers are, what their personalities are like and get people to latch on and want to watch them race. Things like that need to be done and I'd like to see more of it within the shows if at all possible. Thank you very much.

Q. Jamie, you're stuck down there in the pits. Do you think they will ever let you up in the booth there?

JAMIE LITTLE: Oh, geez, that's a great question. I'm not even thinking that far ahead. You know, honestly, I have so much fun being a reporter. I don't even know if I would like it up in the booth. I like being in the middle of the action and the excitement, things always happening around you. I think when you're in a booth, you're more isolated and you actually have to work harder to convey the excitement and what's really happening. So I'd love to get there maybe one day, but right now, I love being where I'm at.

Q. It's a great passion to be down there. It's a great feeling.

JAMIE LITTLE: Nothing like it.

THE MODERATOR: That looks like all of the questions that we have for you guys, Todd, Gil, Scott, Jamie. Thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your day to join us, and we look forward to seeing you throughout the season on the broadcast.

TODD HARRIS: It will be a great season, thanks for having us.

THE MODERATOR: I believe we have Tony Kanaan on with us now. How are you today?

TONY KANAAN: Good. And you?

THE MODERATOR: We're doing great. Thanks so much for calling us. Gosh, it's been a while since we've had the chance to talk to you since you took the Championship there in October. Why don't we just start with the off-season, the last couple of months. How did you -- how did you take the time to unwind and kind of recharge your batteries for the new season?

TONY KANAAN: It's busier than I have ever been. It's been crazy. Obviously it's a good thing but I've done a lot of, you know, media tours, and I had a lot of invitations to the races. I went to France, we did our go-kart race in Brazil that we ended up winning that one, too, that's 500 miles. Just it's been great. I mean, I have enjoyed the time off, which wasn't really off because I've been going everywhere, and just, you know, try to take advantage of winning the Championship; trying to promote the series, as well. We are growing every year. So working hard, just trying to -- you know, we set the standards pretty high last year, so we're working twice as hard to be able to at least do as good as we did, which I think is going to be very difficult for us this year with all of the records that we broke last year. But Championship -- defending the Championship is going to be definitely the goal.

THE MODERATOR: Well, you answered my second question there, but to go back to that first question, since you were so busy with all of those activities, busier than you've ever been, as you said, do you feel like you're refreshed? Are you coming into the season kind of feeling refreshed and ready to go?

TONY KANAAN: Oh, sure. Obviously it changed my lifestyle a little bit, my habits, all of the stuff, the routine that I had, I don't have it anymore, just because I'm busier. I was not expecting anything to be different. I think when you do such -- we accomplished such a good thing, you've got to be prepared to change a little bit. So, yeah, I'm not spending as much time as I wanted to at home, but the workout is still going great. I still have time to do that, but just need to be smart with my time now and plan my vacations and stuff, which is something that I could have done more easier in the past. Right now, I just have to really watch and plan because the requests are coming every week to do different things, sponsors and all of the appearances that I have to do. Just getting used to the new lifestyle.

THE MODERATOR: You mentioned of course it's going to be tough to improve on last year and you set the bar so high, but obviously the results from our first two tests down at Homestead Miami and Phoenix for yourself, they went well and it looked like for the Andretti Green Racing team went pretty well. What do you guys -- what are the expectations there on the team for 2005?

TONY KANAAN: Well, we're still strong. We're still working together as a team, the four of us, and the expectations, they are high. We are not expecting to match what we did. I think it happens once in every so many years, I mean, finishing every race, every lap, leading most laps, 15 Top-5. S. But I think we're a Championship contender, so we want to keep the Championship in the team again. I think our team, the whole Andretti Green, we are able to win another one, not just with me, but with all of my other teammates. So that's the goal, I mean, win more races and just go out there and defend the title.

THE MODERATOR: You guys have been so close, the group of drivers there on the team, when you're out on the track competing, trying to win the race, and you're in the cockpit, do you have a sense that you're up against 21 other drivers, or is it more the sense that you've got three teammates and you're really only up against 18 other drivers?

TONY KANAAN: When we're racing, we're racing. But obviously I feel a lot more comfortable when I'm around my teammates than when I'm around anybody else, because I know them, we respect each other. We race hard, but, you know, the integrity and the respect, it's always higher than any race in any championship that we can ever race against. But, obviously, I raced against 21 guys. Because once we drop the green flag, my teammates would just take care of each other, try not to do silly things, but we are all there to win. But, you know, again, if I can do anything to help my teammates, if I'm in a position that I can help, I will, and I don't hide that from anybody. I mean, if whatever I have to do to make my team win this championship, if I'm not the contender, I will, I will do it.

Q. I'm just wondering if you've had any chances to do any half-marathons or marathons or if you media has pretty much scratched that over the winter.

TONY KANAAN: No, not really. I haven't had a chance. My life has been a marathon lately. (Laughing.) So, no, I haven't. I've been training pretty hard, but, you know, there is no -- I have no time right now to do any of them. And then when it was one of them, I wasn't ready because I spent the off-season very busy. So now I feel ready to do it, but there is none, and the ones that they are, they are around my race weekend. So not yet, but I'm planning to do a couple. I haven't checked the schedule yet but, for sure I'm doing the Half-Ironman in Florida after the season ends at the end of the year. But maybe in the middle of the season we'll find something, and for sure I'll let you guys know.

Q. You've got the race coming up at Homestead but you've got the St. Petersburg coming which is a street course. Do you prefer street or oval? I know you've done a lot of oval but what do you think?

TONY KANAAN: I never hide that I love road courses, so obviously I've been very successful in the oval. I like them, but if you ask me to choose, definitely road course for a win.

Q. What's the latest news on the new Honda engine? Is it putting out a lot more power?

TONY KANAAN: They are doing a lot of work. I think we've definitely made improvements from last year, but it's hard to say how much. I mean, they don't tell us, either, but I feel confident that we still have a good engine. But for sure, other people are working really hard to catch us, so we've got to be careful. We'll see, as soon as the season starts, winter testing has been going great, but I want -- I would not discount any of the other engine manufacturers, because they are all very capable to beat us. We've just got to keep working, keep working.

Q. As long as the engine holds up with reliability, it's what you need, and speed is whatever the drivers can put into it. Thanks very much indeed.

TONY KANAAN: For sure. Thank you. I was very fortunate to have that last year, and you know, finishing every race, so hopefully we'll keep the same thing this year.

Q. You're going to have a lot of road races this year. Are you prepared for that?

TONY KANAAN: Oh, yeah. I can't wait. I've done a lot of go-kart, I always did, a lot of go-karting through the through the winter, a little bit of car racing in Brazil, we have the 1,000 miles there back a month ago, I finished second there. I think I'm ready; a couple tests that we did with the IRL, so, you know, you never know how ready you are until you get there. But I feel ready, more than ready, I can't wait.

Q. Are you actually concerned about that, sometime that streak is going to end when you're not going to finish on the lead lap or you're going to fall out of a race; is that in the back of your mind, hanging out there all the time?

TONY KANAAN: It's' there, it's going to happen. I mean, it's like a bomb; it's just a matter of time. (Laughing). That's racing. I was very fortunate. Probably I'm very spoiled because it's been more than a year that I finish every race, but I know it's going to happen. It's happened to me a lot in the past and I know it's coming, and whatever, you know, it comes, we need to take it and just move forward. I cannot expect to finish every race from now until the end of my career. I mean, if it happens, I'm going to be disappointed, but, you know, that's life.

Q. How much will past experience on road courses, maybe just have an overall positive attitude about taking on that challenge, how much of a factor will that be when it comes to those road courses, and will guys who approach it that way have a bit of an advantage?

TONY KANAAN: I think so. I mean, obviously, I'm a lot more confident than some of the guys that didn't race road courses at all. So I do think it's a little bit of an advantage at the back of your head, but good drivers are good drivers all the time. They might take a little time to adapt. But you know, I came from road course; I had to adopt to the oval. It took me a little time, but here I am, I won a championship in a series that's just ovals. So I think we'll have an advantage in the beginning, and then after that, it's going to be pretty much as competitive as the oval racing.

Q. You have a new lady driving for you or against you, is it ladies first or first one to the corner takes it?

TONY KANAAN: Well, when you have a woman -- when she's wearing her helmet, you can't tell if it's a girl. So I guess no ladies first at all. She's very competitive. I saw her, she knows what she's doing. She's very talented. It's up to us now to work really hard, and I think, you know, she's going to give us a lot of work. Like I said, when she's wearing the helmet, I can't tell if she's a girl or a guy. So same treatment.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot for taking the time out to join us today, and we certainly wish you the best of luck this season.

TONY KANAAN: Thank you, guys. Hope to see you guys soon.

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