Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
August 31, 2011
ARNI SRIBHEN: Welcome, everybody, to today's IndyCar conference call. We're joined today by two guests, Firestone Indy Lights driver Conor Daly of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and a little bit later we'll be joined by IZOD IndyCar Series driver Tomas Scheckter of SH Racing/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. First we'll start with Conor Daly. How are you doing today, Conor?
CONOR DALY: Not too bad. Happy to be back in the States.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Conor is the 2010 Star Mazda champion and is currently competing in his rookie season in Firestone Indy Lights. Conor drives the No. 77 Mazda Road to IndyCar for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Conor is from Noblesville, Indiana, and won earlier this year at Long Beach and had a pretty good weekend in Spa in his other series he races in, in GP3. Conor, just talk a little bit about coming back to Baltimore and racing for the final time in the 77 car.
CONOR DALY: Well, I mean, I'm really looking forward to it. I think my year in Europe has kind of -- it's been a struggle and it's been difficult. We keep improving every weekend, but it's been nice to -- it's been really nice actually to come back and jump in the Indy Lights car because it's gone well for us. To me it's a lot of fun car -- quite a fun car to drive, and yeah, I mean, the Sam Schmidt team gives me a great car, and I'm just really looking forward to the weekend. I love street courses, and I hear this one is pretty good.
I think we'll have a good car, as always, and I'm just ready to get to the track.
ARNI SRIBHEN: You mentioned it's another street course and that you like street courses a lot. What do you know about the Baltimore circuit and what do you do to prepare for a course that you've never been on?
CONOR DALY: Well, I had a good meeting with my engineer yesterday. We went over the track map and all the kind of geographical data that we could get. It looks pretty interesting. I think there's a few spots where we have to jump some railroad tracks, and yeah, I mean, it looks good, though. I hope it'll be friendly to overtaking. It looks like with the bit of a bus stop chicane on the main straight, that might make it difficult for overtaking.
But I think overall it'll be a fun drivers' track, but we'll know a lot more as soon as we get there tomorrow and start walking it.
ARNI SRIBHEN: I know that you're not in the championship hunt, but two of your teammates are battling for the championship. I know when we last saw you at Paul Revere you had a car that was capable of winning, actually went for the win there in the wet and had a little mistake. Do you take that same mentality into this weekend, that you're just there to try to win the race?
CONOR DALY: Absolutely. Paul Revere was going great for us, the car was fantastic. Esteban, my teammate, is very, very good in qualifying. He seems to really be able to pull a good lap out when he really needs to, and I just didn't quite pull the best lap out of it and ended up second, and I think that really determined the race because it was almost impossible to pass. But you know, it was great to run up there with him and be nose to tail the whole race and just went for it there in the end and just didn't really have enough experience in the car to really understand how much torque it had in the wet or how much grip it had in the wet at all.
You know, it was my mistake for sure, but I learned a lot from that. I'm just ready to go again. I think those guys are getting quite -- not necessarily conservative, but they definitely know a championship is on the line, so for me it's go big or go home. I'm going for the win.
Q. Conor, about your progression through the Mazda Road to Indy program, what are your thoughts on how important it is for developing the next generation of young driver?
CONOR DALY: I think it's extremely important, and I think Mazda has done a great help to all the young drivers in America and the world now really because I think we're getting a lot more Europeans coming over. It's just great what they've been able to do. To have a prize system where if you win you get to go to the next level, there's no other system like that. So I'm just -- I've just been happy to be a part of the whole Mazda Road to Indy, and it's definitely helped me out immensely.
It's very important. I think it'll only get stronger, and I think next year will be even better. I know this year has been great. I've been a part of it. And next year I won't necessarily be involved, considering I won't win any of the Mazda championships this year. But I'll still be a part of the Mazda family, and that's a great thing to be a part of.
ARNI SRIBHEN: While we're talking about the Mazda Road to Indy and the program, it's the last weekend that all four series are going to be together, including Star Mazda and U.S. F2000 along with Lights and IndyCar. As a young driver, how good is it to actually run in front of some of those owners that you want to run in front of in the future?
CONOR DALY: It's great. I mean, especially for all the other guys that we're racing with, as well. U.S. F2000, Star Mazda, I remember last year in Star Mazda, we only got to do I think two or three events with IndyCar, but those were the most fun weekends we had. There's a lot of people, a lot of exposure, just a lot of excitement around the whole weekend. I love it.
And I mean, knowing that all the IndyCar guys are watching, as well, is a great thing. It just adds a bit of pressure, but it's kind of good to be able to deal with that pressure, and it's a good learning experience for sure. So I enjoy it, and I think every other driver you ask will enjoy it, as well.
Q. You're obviously very busy racing in different countries, on different teams. How does that affect the dynamic that you have with your teammates at Sam Schmidt Motorsports? Is it kind of hard to be here with one team and then somewhere else with another team getting to know your teammates at different times on different tracks?
CONOR DALY: Well, I think -- I know the guys pretty well over here. Joseph I grew up racing against. We were best friends forever. We've raced for a long time. And Esteban is a great guy, and Victor, as well, we all get along really well. They welcomed me back for sure.
But it hasn't been too difficult going back and forth to be honest. I expected it to be a little bit worse than it has been. I expected a lot of fatigue, a lot of trying to adjust to each car. But jumping back and forth in between cars now, I think after the first couple times -- I mean, even in Long Beach, I missed the first practice and I was still able to get in and be quite competitive. I think it's helped me for sure to become more adaptable to different situations, and gosh, I've learned so much this year about everything in Europe and so much over here, as well, that it's been a really, really great season for me, I think.
ARNI SRIBHEN: I know one of your biggest fans happens to be your dad, former Formula 1 racer and IndyCar racer Derek Daly. Talk a little bit about the relationship of being the son of a guy who raced, and what does that do for your relationship in and out of the car?
CONOR DALY: Well, I mean, me and my dad obviously have our fights every now and then. But you know, it's great to have him. It's been super important, especially over in Europe now. He knows a lot of the guys on the Formula 1 teams over there, and it's been crucial to kind of have him working through some deals. You know, it's great.
I think as a father he's been a great guy, and as a manager he's been fantastic. I think overall our relationship is pretty good. Of course he's difficult to deal with at times, but you know, I accept it and I know how to deal with him now. It's good for me. I have no issues at the moment, and he's definitely -- he wants the best for me. Even when we have arguments, I've got to -- I know in his head he wants the best for me. I'm pretty thankful for that.
ARNI SRIBHEN: With that we'll thank Conor Daly for his time today. We'll see you in Baltimore, and best of luck.
We've now been joined by Tomas Scheckter. Tomas returns to the seat of the No. 017 Redline Xtreme Honda-powered Dallara for SH Racing this weekend. Team is operating through a partnership with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Tomas and SH Racing made their IndyCar Series debut at Indianapolis in a partnership with a KD Racing Technologies. I know you had the race at New Hampshire, but you had to have been looking forward to getting back in the car, especially at Baltimore.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, it is, and from what I've heard it's going to be a great event, and I've heard they've sold a lot of tickets. It's always fun to race through the streets. I love street tracks. It really gets the city involved, and for me to be back on a street track after a year, I'm looking forward to it.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Same question I asked Conor a little earlier. It's a new course for everybody. How do you prepare for the street circuit in Baltimore without having ever driven on it?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, for me, a lot of it is just not being on a road course for a year, so I do a lot of -- some work. I spend a lot of time on a simulator. There's one here at MK 1 Cruden here in town in Indianapolis. Obviously we can't get on the Baltimore track, but physically it's very good for me. It's on hydraulics, it's pretty cool, and I was joined by Conor today, we had a bunch of fun on it. And then you've got iRacing, as well, which has got the IndyCar on it, and those are two things that sort of helped me out for road courses. And again, you've got to train a lot.
But getting to know the track -- and that's one thing with street tracks, that no one can test on them. Everybody really has to start fresh except for these guys that have been doing road courses the whole year. So I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage, but again, looking forward to getting back on the road course again.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Talk a little bit about your partnership with team Redline Xtreme and working with Dreyer & Reinbold after running Indy with KD.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, it's good. Everybody at Dreyer & Reinbold I know, Larry, Matt, and all the engineers, working with Len this weekend. They're a good group of people. Robbie and Dennis have been very good to me. So it's a good team, they're growing, they've got good people.
Subbing for Justin at Loudon, unfortunately as horrible as it was to see Justin get hurt, it was good to be back in with the team again, and again, Justin, a lot of credit on how the Dreyer & Reinbold cars have been going on some of these road tracks. At Sonoma you saw the cars perform very well because of all the hard work Justin has been doing.
Looking forward to this weekend. We've got Redline back on board, so great sponsor. It's an energy drink. It's an extreme energy drink, as well; I'm going to get you guys some. But it'll keep you awake for a couple days, that's for sure. I'll probably need one after the first session, though.
Q. I know that you mentioned being back with Dreyer & Reinbold after working with them previously, but how has it been with a growing team at SH Racing partnering with a team you're familiar with, how much of it is stuff you're familiar with and how much of it is something new that you're trying out with your team?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, SH is Sally and TJ Humphreys, and these are two great guys, been involved in other forms of motorsports, and they've got a great connection with Redline. I suppose working with them in Indy the whole month was great. These guys are really preparing for 2012, and we're working day-to-day on trying to make sure that that happens.
But to be partnering with both of them and Dreyer & Reinbold, these are both people that -- two organizations that I know very well. It's pretty good. I feel very at home around with the team, and it just hopefully will add to the comfort when I get to Baltimore, and hopefully can get up to speed pretty quickly.
Q. If you don't mind me asking a follow-up question to that, you've been popping up in the past few races for various reasons. How great is it to be getting these opportunities to be back in the IndyCar Series?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: It is great, but like I said before, it's not great to see another driver get hurt. It's so easy and it's so quick to just forget, oh, Tomas is in. Justin has been doing an unbelievable job the whole year for those guys, and a lot of credit on how that team has developed is because of him and what a great job he's been doing. But certainly it's been good for me to get back in.
I would like obviously -- hopefully 2012 is a little bit more solid for me where we're trying to put together a full season where you don't just have to jump in and out of these situations.
ARNI SRIBHEN: I have a question for you about the helmet you're using this weekend. Obviously it's been auctioned off on eBay and people have donated and signed their names. Can you tell us how many names will you be carrying this weekend and how much did you raise for the Indiana State Fair Victims' Fund?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'm not sure. I have to look at it to see how many names we will carry on. But unfortunately we put it on eBay, and the highest bidder didn't come through. We're either going to re-auction it or I'm going to donate some of the money that I won for the Firestone Award at Loudon, and I'm going to donate some of my own money instead of auctioning the helmet because it's really unfortunate that we auctioned it and someone didn't take it. But you know, one way or another, we're going to find to make sure that we get funds to the Indiana State Fair.
Q. You mentioned a little bit about looking towards next year in 2012 and being in the car full-time. How is that market shaping up? I mean, there's new engine manufacturers coming in, we know that. But from your point of view, how is it shaping up?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: It's shaping up well, I think. I think the series has got a lot of momentum behind it, and you know, it seems to be on the rise with viewership, and you just get the feeling when you speak to sponsors that there's a lot of activity going, and obviously it's a great sign to see manufacturers back.
I mean, people love to come watch a race and say, well, I drive a Honda or a drive a Lotus or a drive a Chevy. I think it creates definitely a connection with the fans, and I think the sponsors see that, as well, and plus I think the series is getting so competitive. I think it's just -- there's a lot of momentum now in the IndyCar Series, and it's great to be a part of it, and hopefully we can put something together full-time for me.
Q. Do you anticipate there being more or less seats for next season, or is it a little too early to tell overall?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: It's a little too early to tell, but I can just feel by the excitement that's around the series right now that they should hopefully be more. What we would really love as drivers is there are teams that are going out there with full cars that are funded because I think unfortunately, and you see this every series around the world, that drivers are having to become sponsorship and businesspeople more than they are driving to try to put these deals together. But hopefully with this momentum we'll see a lot more teams that are fully funded, and they can choose the drivers that they want to be in the car instead of putting drivers in that are bringing sponsorship or bringing their own money.
ARNI SRIBHEN: We will thank Tomas for his time and wish you the best of luck this weekend in Baltimore.
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