Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 3, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indyâ Racingâ League teleconference. We'll have two guests joining us today, and in a few minutes we'll hear from Dario Franchitti.
And joining us now is Indy Pro Series driver Bobby Wilson. Good afternoon, Bobby. How you doing?
BOBBY WILSON: Doing great.
THE MODERATOR: Last year he finished fourth in points, recording five Top 5 finishes including a victory in the rain at Watkins Glen. This year he's finished in the Top 10 in seven of eight starts, including three Top 5's and a victory on the road course in Indianapolis. He's currently third in points.
Bobby, I kind of laid it out there. You've had a season with mostly Top 5 and Top 10 finishes this year. But up until the win at Liberty, I kind of got the sense from you that maybe you weren't really too happy with how the season was going. How has the win changed that for you, and how much momentum can you take from that win going to the Glen this weekend?
BOBBY WILSON: Well, you know, it's been a year of ups and downs. And, you know, I was just glad to record a win this year and, you know, kind of boosted morale on the team. And, you know, it's kind of aâ -- kind of been a pressure cooker lately. So it's, you know, I'm looking at it from a positive point of view.
And I think we're going to keep the ball rolling, and just getting back on to the road course is going to be a good thing. I know our outing didn't go so well, but it was a new track, it was our first time there. And we didn't really record a stellar finish, but, you know, it is what it is, so I've got to keep going with it.
THE MODERATOR: You're going back to the Glen, defending your race win there. Are there things from being a veteran of racing at the Glen and winning there in the Indy Pro Series that you take from last year's race and apply to this year's that can help you as we head back there?
BOBBY WILSON: I think just knowing the track and knowing the layout and all the little bumps there. Just grabbing every reference point on the track and being consistent, I think that's what's going to win the race, so, yeah.
I think having a little bit of experience at that facility and winning there, obviously, I'm going to have the upper hand. So I'm looking to have a good outing. I know that the team's going to be ready and prepped, and we're just going to put on a good show.
THE MODERATOR: The Glen starts the second half of the season. And, really, in the second half there are five road courses, only three ovals that might play a little bit more to your strength. What type of goals do you have for the rest of the season?
BOBBY WILSON: I think winning on an oval is definitely one of them. I know I've been kind of labeled as a road-course guy, but, Geez, I'm actually hungrier for an oval win than anything right now. I just want to, you know, chalk one up under that category.
But I think we're going to come on strong toward the second half of the season here, and try to give Alex a run for the money. I know he's pretty far out right now, but going to do what we can to chase that points lead and hopefully a championship.
THE MODERATOR: Having said what you just did, kind of about wanting to win on an oval, the three that we've got this year, Nashville, which is the 1.3-mile track, then we go to two more 1-and-a-half-mile tracks, which is probably the type of track that we run the most at, you know, from season to season, Kentucky and Chicago. Looking at those three, is there one that would stand out to you as the one that maybe you've got the best shot at getting that first oval win?
BOBBY WILSON: Well, I'd have to say probably Nashville, because it's a little hairier than the rest. And the other two, they're just wide open, flat out. And a lot of the times there's, you know, guys running up front that are overanxious and can cause some problems.
So I think patience is key in these oval races. But then again, you have to be on the limit the whole time. So I'd have to say Nashville, because it is pretty bumpy and pretty challenging. And I just remember the race last year was pretty wild, so hoping to have a good finish there.
THE MODERATOR: One more question: You alluded to, you know, Alex really has kind of dominated the first half of the season. He's got a pretty good lead in the points race as we head into the second half. How do you, or, for that matter, really, anybody else in the championship race, how do you enter the second half and start narrowing the gap and put yourself in a position to have a shot at the championship, you know, when we come back to the last couple of races?
BOBBY WILSON: A lot of it has to do with luck. I had some bad luck in the beginning of the year and other drivers have as well, so it can happen to anybody. And I think just knocking off some good finishes and being consistent at, you know, being on the podium or winning, that's going to be the key.
So anything can happen. I wouldn't count us out at all. I know the guys on the crew are working very hard, and all they want to do is win, just, you know, just the same as me. So I'm looking forward to the second half.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Let's go ahead and open up for some questions for Bobby.
Q. I've told a couple of people, and I don't think I told you, one of the proudest moments of my summer was listening to the Star-Spangled Banner playing as you stood on the podium. And Tim mentioned the Liberty Challenge, so I just wanted to tell you again what a thrill that was.
BOBBY WILSON: Well, thank you. Believe me, it almost brought a tear to my eye.
Q. Well, I'm sure it did. This is the time of year where people start thinking about next year, projecting who is going to move from the Pro Series to IndyCars. I'd like to know, from your perspective, what are the differences between the Pro Series Car and the IndyCar? And how difficult of a move is that? And, last but not least, besides yourself, who do you think has a really good shot of achieving that at the end of this year?
BOBBY WILSON: Well, I'd have to say I don't think the differences between cars areâ -- you know, I think the top drivers in Indy pro Series will not have a problem adapting to the cars, you know, the IRL cars.
I think it's a situation where you have to look at patience and race craft. Because, you know, the races are longer, and you can't really lose your cool. You have to have an outlook of, you know, hey, I have to finish. In order to finish first, first, you must finish. And if the car's going to finish second, well, drive it to second. You can't force it. Because when you start forcing things that's when you crash. And sponsors and teams and crew guys don't like you when you start crashing cars. So, I think that's the biggest difference.
To answer your second question, who is capable of that? I think I started out by saying that any of the top eight drivers in the points can do it. So, you know, they're there in the points because of either finishing races or being fast. So, I think that's what you really have to look at.
Q. Thanks so much for clueing me in on that. I've heard people talk about what a difficult leap it is. And I wondered does that 30 miles an hour really make that much difference?
BOBBY WILSON: Not at all. I don't believe it does. Everything's relative. The down force and the cars are more of you're going faster, so there's more stability. It's just, you know, if it were 100 miles per hour, yeah, but 30, I don't think so.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Bobby, that looks like the questions that we've got for you this afternoon. So thank you for taking the time to join us. And good luck both at the Glen and the rest of the season.
BOBBY WILSON: Sounds good, Tim, thanks.
THE MODERATOR: All right, we'll see you there.
All right, ladies and gentlemen, if you hang on the line with us just for a minute or two, we should be joined very shortly by Dario Franchitti. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: All right, we're joined now by Dario Franchitti. Dario's in his fourth full season in the IndyCar Series. Driving the No. 27 Canadian Club Car for Andretti Racing. Off to a strong start this season, recording Top 5 finishes in eight of the first nine races. And he's won three of the last five, including the Indianapolis 500. And he currently holds a 65-point lead in the standings over his teammate Tony Kanaan.
Dario, it's your fourth season in the IndyCar Series, but you're 11th overall. Really, at the top level of Open Wheel Racing in America. This year you've tied your career highs with three wins in a season. You're leading the championship. You've won Indy. Can you put this season in perspective for you how it ranks overall in your career?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, this -- as far as the on-track results this is, I would say, the best. The best season I've had since I came to America, you know. '99 was certainly, you know, it was a good season results-wise. But this, I think, with winning Indianapolis, this one really takes on a special significance.
THE MODERATOR: Heading into Richmond, you said it's really kind of too early to start thinking about the Championship. We've got eight races left. At what point does that start to really enter your thinking?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Not at this point. Not at this point. You know, it's stillâ -- it is, it's too early to be thinking. I mean, you're always sort of, the Championship is always in the back of your mind, but I think the best way to achieve success there is just to take it one race at a time, and just do the utmost each week to win each race. And if you can't win it, try to finish second and get the maximum each weekend.
THE MODERATOR: These final eight races, four of them are on road or street courses. How important is that to you? How much do you think you'll enjoy that second half with it being so heavy on the road and street courses?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I'm hoping it's going to be a good time for us. I really enjoy driving on the road and street courses. That's what I grew up doing. I really have a great passion for it, so I'm going to enjoy that part of it. But I need toâ -- I need to pick up my results on that part, you know.
When we were racing over in Champ Car, I was definitely strongest on road and street courses. And I think I won 9 of those or something, and I haven't won one yet. In the IndyCar Series. So there are various reasons why that hasn't happened, but, myself, and the Canadian Club Team need to get on with it, and get winning on the roads and streets, as well.
THE MODERATOR: As we head to the Glen this weekend, is there a key to you that you're saying this is the one thing that could really make it happen for us to win this weekend on the road course?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think we need to understand the changing conditions better. I think we need to come to the Glen with a better car, And I need to do a better job. You know, I get on well with most, very well with most road and street courses, and I love driving the Glen. But I just haven't, maybe, you know, got it absolutely nailed yet, you know, as far as doing my best there. So I need to get that figured out.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go ahead and open it up for questions for Dario.
Q. You mentioned a moment ago that you're not as good or have not had the results on road and street courses in the IRL that you had in both Champ Car and growing up in Europe. Why is that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think there's certainly been the luck factor. You know, if you go back to last year at St. Pete, we were dominant all weekend there, and we had the car break. So, I've made a couple of mistakes. Certainly it's the first year we were by far the quickest car, and I spun in qualifying and relegated us to the back of the grid.
So it's a combination of factors. You know, just bad luck, sometimes the car not being fast enough, and sometimes me making mistakes or not doing my job. So we all, as I said before, there's not just one thing to point the finger at. We all need to step up and we can.
I know my engineer, Allen McDonald, we won a bunch of road course races between the two of us. I know the team can do it, and I know I can do it. So it's notâ -- you know, it's not something we're not capable of.
Q. Would one of those factors that -- you mentioned many factors, could it be that you spent these past few years on ovals, and up until a couple of years ago, you didn't get back on road courses? Could you have lost a little bit of your touch, and now you're looking to try to regain it?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, no. I mean, I think if you look, you know, if you look at the speed that we've had on the road and street courses, I don't think that's in doubt. You know, we were in there fighting with the best of them. So I don't think that's in doubt. I drove the Sports Car and went to Long Beach with the Acura. And, you know, in the MP2 Car and put it on pole position overall. So I don't think that's an issue.
Q. When you look at the standings, even though you've said you're not counting, how does it feel to see Dario Franchitti's name above everyone else?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's a nice position to be in. I won't lie to you on that one. It feels good. But, you know, this surge that we're on, these good results we're getting, I love it. What can I say? This is why I go racing.
Q. You mentioned you love the Glen. Is there a favorite part of the track, or what do you like about it the most? And, maybe, what do you need to work on?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: What do I? I love the whole track. It's such a flowing road course. It's got the undulations there, the fast and slow corners. It really challenges the driver, and I really enjoy driving around there. As far as what I've got to work on, just a couple of small things, I think, will make all the difference there.
Q. Obviously, you're having a great season. Was there any sense at the beginning of the year that there could be something really special about it? I know everybody wants to be in the spot that you're at right now. But going into this season, did you think that, you know, that the stars were aligned, that something could really special happen?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, not particularly. You know, we had such a difficult season. And '06 with all of the Andretti Green cars it seemed when we were in position to win races, we had problems. Or we weren't in position, any of us, to win races very much.
So, you know, we weren't sure of where we were going to be in this season. We knew we worked very hard over the winter to close the gap to Ganassi and Penske. And, I guess, with that hard work it has paid off.
Q. Just in looking through some stories about your season. Obviously, with your marriage, that gets mentioned a lot. And some stories, I think, it said Franchitti probably remains most famous for his marriage to Ashley Judd. Does that bother you? Does that stuff bother you? Do you hate it? And, conversely, like this season, is it kind of nice that this season, the attention's about the driving instead of who you're married to?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think that people that say stuff like that are probably misguided and don't really know anything about racing. So I don't really have aâ -- I don't put much stock in what they write.
So, you know, it's, for me, it's alwaysâ -- it's always about the racing. Because I'm a private person outside of racing. And I, you know, I like to be known for being a racing driver. That's what I do. That's what I love to do. When we win races, that's my job. I feel at that point that I've done my job.
Q. Back in 2005, Kyle Moyer won the True Grit Award. And he said to me, "My last goal is to have a championship with Dario Franchitti. If I don't do that, I think I'll have missed something."
What are your thoughts on that comment?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Oh, Kyle isâ -- Kyle's a huge part of Andretti Green Racing. And, you know, he's not onlyâ -- he's been my crew chief, my strategist, my team manager. He's a general manager, and he's one of my very best friends. Regardless of the fact that he now does the strategy for Marco. We always talked about, you know, we wanted that championship.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: And him and Barry Green told me when I first joined the team, they said if we ever get the chance to run Indianapolis, we think you'll do really, really well there.
You know, in '05, when Kyle won that award, and I don't think anybody deserves it more than him, we had such a fast car. All of us were doing such a good job, week-in and week-out. We just had the worst luck imaginable.
So it's nice to see that we're going to be getting the flip side of that now. And we're doing the same good job as we did in '05. But things are going our way. So I'm hoping by the end of the season we can, you know, Kyle and I will have that championship together.
Q. Hopefully. And how much is having Ando, John Anderson, on your team made a difference in strategy and fun?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Ando is the funniest guy to work with. When days aren't going well, he just lightens the atmosphere. And the thing that he's really good at is just day-in and day-out in the shop, just making sure that everything is done right. Making sure that when the cars come to the track they're, you know, they're in the best condition they could possibly be in.
He's a big help to Jeff, and all the guys on the Canadian Club Car in that way. Fortunately, it was Kyle getting so far up in the management tree, that he didn't, maybe, have the time to focus on that anymore. And that's one of the big advantages that Ando brings, as well as, as I say, he's just been such a good guy to work with. And he's bloody smart with the strategy.
Q. He certainly is. He's sure helped you get to the front, especially at Indy.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yep.
Q. The right call really makes a difference. Best of luck this weekend.
Q. Congratulations on your Indy victory. I think it was one of the most popular of date.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
Q. I'm wondering about the level of concentration that you take going into a road course versus an oval track? Is it about the same?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes, it's almost identical. There is nothing different in mental preparation for either of them. You know, physical preparation-wise, I think, a road course is very similar to a short oval like we just had at Iowa and Richmond. Mentally, same deal, I would say.
Q. Do you worry more about the cars capability of surviving the race on a road course rather than an oval?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, no, not really. You know, the way the Championship has gone with everybody running the Honda engine, it's almost you take it out of your mind now, with no faults. But Honda has been providing, you know, engines that just run all day for everybody.
So I haven't been too concerned. That's not to say things don't happen. You know, St. Pete last year, we were running away with the race, and we had a bearing fail on the suspension, so it can happen.
Q. Well, sure. And the transmissions will take the road courses today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Transmissions, yeah. They do very well. Though you can break, you can still break a transmission. You know. In Texas, for instance, I broke fifth gear. Right after the pit stop, I broke fifth gear and had to run the race without fifth. I managed to hold on, but you could have easily blown the box up. So you can damage things, for sure.
Q. I want to talk about, you know, Jimmy Clark being kind of a hero of yours from his Indy win. I just want to touch on traditionally the Scots have always gone well there. Jimmy's won three times in F-1 and Jackie had a couple of wins. I'd just like to know how much, in that historical context, how much a win would mean to you at one of the hallowed grounds of American road racing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it would mean a lot. It would mean a hell of a lot, actually. Because, I reallyâ -- I guess I'm a part of the history of the sport. And I hold the drivers of the past in the greatest esteem. So, to follow and just to win it at Watkins Glen, because it is such an historic track, would mean, yeah, a great deal to me. More so than just a normal victory, if you know what I mean.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Because of that side of things. It doesn't mean I'm going to tryâ -- you know, I always try 100%, but it would mean that bit extra.
Q. We've seen it before where a driver, all of a sudden, gets hot for one reason or another. And I figure, right now, you're as hot as anybody has been in a long time. Have you looked at what's gone on this past month and a half and figured out? I mean, you've been good for so long, haven't won races. Now, all of a sudden, bang, bang, bang, you've won three out of four. What goes into a streak like this?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: There is a certain intangible that happens, for sure. But again, I'm going to go back to '05, and I think, in '05, we were, week-in and week-out, we were the car to beat. My crew were doing a great job, And I think I was doing a good job. Really at the top of my game and driving as well as I ever had.
And, as I said, things just conspired to, you know, we didn't win the races that we should have. And this year, I think we're all doing that same job again. But those things are clicking, and that can be the difference sometimes.
You know, that's notâ -- I'm certainly not putting it all down to luck, but all I'm saying is we're doing a very good job as a team. But we've done this before, but we haven't had things go our way. Now, they are going our way, and that is the difference.
Q. This is a little unusual to get in one of these, though. Just to -- when, you know, you've been good in the past and things haven't gone. And all of a sudden, it just clicks all the way around. I don't know if you're superstitious, or if you read into these at all, but it is unusual.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, it is. And Iâ -- I'm well aware of what's happening. I'm not taking it for granted in any way, shape or form. And I'm really enjoying it, you know, I really am. So, you know, like I say, I'm certainly -- and I don't think anybody on our team has taken it for granted. Because we've been on the other side of it, too, and we know how quickly things can change.
THE MODERATOR: All right, Dario, thank you, again, for taking the time to join us this afternoon. And good luck the second half of the season.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thanks, everybody.
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