Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
December 16, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Economaki Press Conference Center in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for what we believe is a very, very exciting announcement. An exciting announcement about the expansion of the Chip Ganassi Racing teams, an exciting announcement for fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
With us, Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing teams. Graham Rahal, who will be the driver of the No. 38 Service Central car. Charlie Kimball, driver of the No. 83, Novo Nordisk car. Also with us, Mike Hull, the managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing. We also want to welcome Bob COSTAROSA, the senior vice president of marketing and advertising of TBC Retail Group as Service Central, and Camille Lee, vice president diabetes marketing of Novo Nordisk.
We also have a variety of dignitaries with us today, Steve Lauletta, the president of Chip Ganassi Racing teams, Mitch Davis, the team manager of Chip Ganassi Racing teams, Orland Wolford, the president and CEO of TBC Retail Group of Service Central. Ambre Morley, associate director of product communications, Novo Nordisk. Randy Bernard, the CEO of IndyCar. And very important people, certainly to one of the members of our group, Gordon and Nancy Kimball who are parents of a very happy driver right now.
I can't help but thinking another gentleman with us tonight if he could get down to the end of the famous front straightaway here and go all the way down the first turn, he would make some fast times, that is Don Prudhomme, the drag racing legend with us here today.
Chip, we're heading to the holidays. When we get to the new year, that is always a melancholy time for some, I would think for you particularly. 2010, a season of epic proportions. We'll be talking about it for years.
But today we're talking about another exciting development and expansion of your racing operation. Tell us about it.
CHIP GANASSI: Thanks, Pat. You know, I think everybody throughout 2010 and coming in as we approach 2011 we're in a new era of IndyCar Racing and it is an exciting era. There are a lot of exciting things going on, and I couldn't be happier here today to be a part of the announcement, our expansion here with Charlie and Graham, and two new partners we're bringing on to the series.
It's an exciting day for us. It's a very exciting day for our team, and I couldn't be happier looking around the room and seeing all the people here from our two new partner companies and all the press. It's great to see you all again. Glad to be here and glad to add to the IZOD IndyCar Series this year.
THE MODERATOR: We're all very excited. Mike Hull who has been with you for a long time. Mike, this is an exciting time. It's also a time that I would think for someone in your position, exciting and a little daunting at the same time?
MIKE HULL: That's why I like working for Chip Ganassi. You know what's really great about this is the fact that what's going on today with IndyCar Racing, and I know a lot of people in this room understand this when I'm going to say this, and a lot of people globally are starting to understand this about IndyCar Racing is there is a feel and momentum about IndyCar Racing. There is a lot of opportunity that's being created toward the future. I think with opportunity comes partnership. That's what our race team is all about and always has been. That's what this opportunity for us collectively is all about, so we're excited about this.
THE MODERATOR: Should be excited. Graham, look at the smile on Graham's face. Graham, you have been looking for an opportunity to really show your talent. We've all been excited about you from the first days you got behind the wheel. This is a big day.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I mean, it's the best day other than probably winning the Indy 500 or a championship, it's the best day that a driver can have. For me, it's an honor to be here with Chip Ganassi Racing and Service Central. Obviously I've got to thank Bob, and Orland and everybody at Service Central for their belief in me.
It's something we've been working on a very long time. As both Chip and Mike said, we feel that the future of IndyCar Racing is very bright right now. I mean, I think that we're very proud to be here, very proud to be a part of it.
We do have a big task ahead, but there is no doubt these next few months are going to feel extremely long until we get to that first race in St. Pete.
THE MODERATOR: Charlie, we had an opportunity to watch your talents in the Firestone Indy Lights. Just a couple weeks ago I did a banquet with drivers who had won quarter midget champions, 5-, 6-, 7-year-old children. To get to this level it requires a lot. A lot of dedication, you have to surmount a lot of obstacles. But your story is a special one, and what a day this is.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, today is a dream come true in every sense of the word. It's a culmination of a lot of years of hard work and a lot of support. My parents are here today, and my sister who couldn't make it today, I have to thank them because they've been behind me and they're as much a part of today as I am.
I have to thank everybody at Novo Nordisk for being behind me. Not only do they make the insulin I take every day to manage my diabetes and stay healthy. But together we've partnered to prove that diabetes doesn't have to slow you down and tell the story.
Finally, Chip. My history goes back a long ways with him. My dad and he worked together. To be running the No. 83, a year that is special to Chip for his success here at Indianapolis, it's nice to pay homage to that. The opportunity that we've worked together to make happen today, it's exciting. I've got a lot to learn.
I'm not underestimating the task ahead, but every step of the way it's going to be a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: I can't help but reflect on the 100 Anniversary celebration coming up. In 1933 we took a driver off the line because of diabetes, so we've come a very long ways.
Bob, we've taken a look at your operation, it's an interesting operation in terms that your partners and your vendors with a variety of companies across the land. With the travel and the circuit that comprises the IndyCar Series, what a neat opportunity to do a lot of innovative things on the marketing side of things.
BOB COSTAROSA: Yeah, it is a great opportunity for us being in the automotive business. Our entire organization is focused on cars. Indy, and the IRL is an opportunity to go as fast as you can go. And we think aligning ourselves with the IRL and a great team like the Ganassi Team and the great future of the race with Graham gives us an opportunity to get our brands out in front of everyone else.
Service Central is the brand that will be on the car, and it really represents part of our 1300 store chain, which comprises Tire Kingdom, NTB, Merchants Tire, and Big O Tires.
So the opportunity to get that brand out in front of everyone with a championship team with the future of the series, we think it's a wonderful chance.
THE MODERATOR: Camille, interesting question. We chatted just briefly in what is our make shift green room. A pharmaceutical company, why Indy, why racing, what was the attraction here?
CAMILLE LEE: Really, the attraction is sitting right next to me on my right, and it's Charlie Kimball. The fact that he has overcome many things to be where he is today, we think he's a great driver. We think Chip Ganassi is the best partnership.
This is really about supporting people that have diabetes that have hopes and dreams and sending a message out there that having your diabetes doesn't mean you can't fulfill those dreams and you can't have an active lifestyle, because you can.
Charlie uses our products, the Levemir FlexPen, and Novo Lock FlexPen, and it's helped making him successful in fulfilling those dreams and that's why we're here supporting him.
THE MODERATOR: That's great news. Chip, I know one of the things I would imagine that makes Randy Bernard very happy is the fine folks from IZOD have realized a real return on investment with their involvement in IndyCar Racing. You've understood the importance of partnerships all throughout your career. Not only do you bring a couple of exciting drivers, one from Ohio, one from California, I might add, but also some very interesting partners along with you to this stage. Talk about how important that is not only for your team, but for the series?
CHIP GANASSI: Obviously, it's important. Obviously, sponsorship we all know is the life blood of motor racing. And to have people that think alike along with you along the way and understand how you operate and how you sort of have a coming together of how you want to operate your business. You sit down and you talk with them, and you find some congruencies that are nice.
So to have them, both companies have obviously had their toe in the water, I would say, in racing for a while. So to have them sort of come to the front and center stage is exciting to bring them both along as partners.
THE MODERATOR: One thing I think we want to make clear is we're talking about an expansion here of your team. In other words, this is an operation that is getting full effort, full value, everything that Chip Ganassi Racing brings to the table.
CHIP GANASSI: Correct. I would say for most of you, it's not a four-car team, it's two, two-car teams. I would compare it much like the Hendrick NASCAR operation where they have the 48, the 24 and the 5 and the 88. So they sort of have two two-cars. But we think that's a model that might work a little better than just doing straight four cars.
So looking forward to it. We have a great group of people headed up by obviously Mike and his right-hand man Mitch Davis. We're working out of our new -- our facility. Our landlord's in the room here today who you mentioned earlier, Don Prudhomme. We always like to have him along with us.
So it's going to be an exciting opportunity for all involved. We have some great people from our current facility we've integrated into the new facility, and then obviously hiring some people and creating some jobs here in Indiana.
THE MODERATOR: That's always good. Let's open it up to some questions.
Q. Chip or Mike, can you address how the two, two-car teams and their drivers are going to interact or exchange information, and what tools they'll be given to work with?
MIKE HULL: In a similar fashion to how we operate now or the same fashion. I mean, John, you know Chip as well as anybody in the room and you know how Chip is. What we're all about is direct communication, and that is the culture at Chip Ganassi Racing, plain and simple. It's an open dialogue from the time we get up in the morning until we dream about it at night. So it will be a very open book situation between everybody that works for Chip Ganassi.
I might say it like this: Under our roof here in Indianapolis, we currently run two programs. We run a Rolex Sports Car team and an IndyCar team. Those people totally interact with each other. What we're doing today and Chip said it the best way, I think. What we're doing is creating a new team. It's an expansion of what we currently do at Chip Ganassi Racing.
So this team will be treated in exactly the same manner as the other two teams. We simply have three groups of people that operate as one.
Q. Chip, you're going to be housed and your landlord, as you indicated is the legend, The Snake. Will snake be involved other than getting a monthly rent check from you? Will he be around, will you get to see him?
CHIP GANASSI: I'm going to let him answer that question. I don't want to answer for him. But he's going to have to answer that himself. Obviously, at a later moment (laughing).
DON PRUDHOMME: I've been around IndyCar Racing since 1969 when Mario Andretti invited me over the ropes to say hi to me. So I've loved IndyCar Racing.
I've retired from drag racing last year, and I have a nice facility in Brownsburg, real nice. Chip and I are good buddies. I've had a big interest in IndyCar Racing, always have. Of Course, I'm looking at the 2012 season with all the big changes coming on, and that is going to be interesting to me.
And I'm just kind of, as Chip would say, I just got my toe in the water a little bit right now. And yeah, I'll be hanging out, that's for damn sure, but we'll see from there.
Q. Graham, you came into the league when you were 18 or 19, but it's been kind of a stiff period for you to get a full-time ride. What does this mean to you?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, the last year has been interesting, to go kind of through the ups and downs that we've been through. Certainly had a great opportunity in the past, then things quickly turned last fall or spring I should say. So this year has been a learning year for me.
It was a good thing in the way that probably this opportunity would have never come about if everything had come together last fall. But also because I got to see a lot of different things. When you getting to through four or five different teams in one year, you see how everybody operates, different mentalities, work ethics, all of those things. So it really makes you appreciate when you get an opportunity like this.
So it's a huge breakthrough. But as I said, now it's time for us to put our heads down. I think the easy stuff has been completed.
So while I'm extremely excited to get to the track in St. Pete and do the testing we're going to do, now we've got to manage expectations and make sure we keep our eyes down and focus on the task at hand.
I know we've got absolutely the best drivers in the business to learn from. As Mike said, it's really good to have guys like Dario and Dixie to learn from, I can promise you there is a lot of work to be done, but we're really looking forward to it.
Q. Charlie, millions of people have diabetes, but you obviously have a more severe case than most. How are you able to manage yourself, again, having probably as bad a case of diabetes and still function, because if you look at you you'd never know it?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: With my diabetes, I need to manage it through injecting insulin. Camille mentioned the FlexPens that I use. I just test my blood sugar constantly or very consistently throughout the day, especially on race weekends. Been balancing my exercise, my carbohydrates versus my insulin, stress, other things that affect my blood glucose levels.
Together as an athlete I'm that much more precise and accurate with it. As a result, when I get in the car, I'm good to go. I've got a couple of tools in the car. I wear a continuous glucose monitor to keep an eye on my blood sugar while I'm driving. If I need sugar, I've got a bottle mounted with orange juice.
I was talking to my engineer about how that process is going to work in the IndyCar, and it looks similar to the Firestone Indy Lights cars. So everything's a go.
I've got one of the best health care teams in the business as far as diabetes management. I work with Dr. Ian Peters at USD Medical who has treated Olympic Gold Medalists, tri-athletes, Iron men and women, I feel like driving a race car a couple hundred miles an hour, you know, 230 here at the speedway is a smaller challenge to her than climbing Everest.
Q. If you continue that, if you notice you're coming down the main straightaway and you're about to hit one, and you say how quickly do you react to that?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: One of the things I do is I'm always looking ahead and planning and watching the trend so as my body is developing as my blood glucose numbers are changing, I'm aware of that and treating that before it becomes a problem.
Q. Chip, why expand? Was the money just there? These drivers came to you with sponsors? How much of this is competitive with Penske having three cars last season?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I think it's probably closer to the second than the first there. We as a company need to stay competitive. We need to stay on the forefront. I think you have to constantly be looking at who is coming along, what drivers are coming along.
Let's face it, I'm not pushing Dixon and Franchitti out the door yet, but they are of a different era, you might say, than these two guys up here today. So I think it's obvious that we need to, as a company, we need to keep our -- we need to keep current with people coming along. Who better than to have two Americans come along like this that we wanted to make sure we had an opportunity, if at all possible, to work with them.
You know, I go back and Charlie mentioned that we have a little bit of a history with him, and we do. Mike came to me about four years ago, I want to say, and said, hey, this kid Charlie Kimball's coming along, and he needs some help over in Europe. I never hear anybody talk about this. But this kid's raced quite a bit in Europe coming up through. We were fortunate enough to be one of his sponsors for a year or two over there. So we've had our eye on Charlie for a while.
Then, of course, Graham who hasn't had their eye on Graham in the U.S. here the last couple of years? Obviously with Bobby Rahal Mercedes being right down the street from me, I get pretty much a daily reminder when I drive to the office of Graham's family. But we've obviously had our eye on him the last couple of years?
Q. If I could follow up, how significant is it to have a couple of American drivers with teams that people would compare?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I've never made a big thing about having American drivers on foreign drivers. I've always liked drivers that can win. So I hope I'm continuing on that trajectory that I would like to have the drivers that are able to win.
The fact that they're both young Americans is a great thing for the series, and that's for you and Randy Bernard to take full advantage of. For me, I'm in the business of racing cars, and we want to be at the front.
Q. You're in a different kind of business, and listening to Charlie's story we heard a little about the reach of Bob's coming. Tell us about your company, and this is something that one would think would bring the IZOD IndyCar name front and center to a wider audience even?
CAMILLE LEE: Sure. Novo Nordisk has been in diabetes for 87 years. It is the foundation of which our company was started. It was actually started with a scientist's wife who had diabetes. So we're all about the patient and making sure we provide the best product for the patient.
In supporting Charlie, we believe that we've got the products for him. It's not just an endorsement that we do with Charlie, but it's a partnership.
When you see Charlie go out and talk to children with diabetes or their parents, it's really a heartfelt discussion and he gives them hope. He gives them hope that their children can live a very active life and a very normal life. He gives the children the dreams that, hey, just because I need to take insulin every day doesn't mean that I'm different than everyone else. It means that I can go on and do what I want to do.
He touches these people and makes a difference in their lives, and that's what makes a difference to us as a company, because we want people with diabetes to know that they can be seen as normal and they can live a very normal and active life.
Q. Chip, you had an incredible year. How hard is it? Like the Yankees have to come back and win, and they just lost a pitcher that they thought they were going to get. How hard is it to come back the next year and even halfway duplicate what you do?
CHIP GANASSI: That's a good question. We've been saying that for years around our team, like how do you. We thought in 1996 we couldn't top what we did in 1996 and we did in 1997. Then you come into 1998. Each year we've asked ourselves how do we get better? How do we do better? How do we perform?
Surely you can't win every race, and no one's ever done that, but that is certainly a goal that I'm sure a lot of race teams have in their mind, including ours.
I don't know. Mike has a great way of just focusing. We focus all of our efforts with one eye on the next race and one eye down the road. We just take each race one week at a time and do the best we can.
2010 was a great year, and that's just another record for somebody to go after and break. Like I've said, I'm sure somebody will do it some day. I just hope not too soon?
Q. Pat kind of talked about the guy, Don Branson was a hell of a driver in the '60s, and nobody really knew he had diabetes. It was kind of a stigma. I think Brad couldn't race in USAC for a while because he had it. Talk about there was one season a couple years ago in Europe where you were really sick. Just talk about it, and maybe did you think it was over then? Tell us what happened.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: When I was first diagnosed one of the first questions I asked the endocrinologist was am I going to be able to get back in a car? And there are moments in your life where it seems like someone's hit pause and the answer stretches out forever. He looked at me straight in the eye and said I don't see why not. There are incredible people doing amazing things with diabetes the world over. With the modern management techniques, the modern insulins and monitoring systems, there are so many more doors open now than there were five, ten, 20, 50 years ago.
Medication is better. The understanding of the condition is better. At that point I had to, pardon the pun, but drive down to get healthy again and get back in the race car. I think I proved I wasn't just going to be the kid with diabetes in the back of the field.
In my first race with diabetes I finished second in the F3 Euro series. In racing in Europe that is one of the most competitive championships out there.
It hasn't changed what I do. I think it's made me a better athlete because I'm more aware of my body. I'm better prepared physically, and I love each lap, each corner, each race that much more because for a moment there I was afraid I was going to lose it and never be able to do it again. So now I enjoy the opportunity to go out and do what I love. And I think everybody at this table shares that passion. Every morning we wake up and are grateful for the chance to go do that.
THE MODERATOR: In this era, the driver has to win or at least be up front to be successful and also has to represent your company. In your regards, you've got to feel awfully excited about this coming year with the guy that's right next to you.
BOB COSTAROSA: We're really excited. Last year, as Chip put it, we feel like we tiptoed into the sport, and this year we jumped in with both feet. Performance is what we're about as an organization. It's great to align ourselves with a team, and to bring Graham and give him the opportunity to really demonstrate. Everybody talks about Graham's potential, and now we get an opportunity to help him deliver on that potential.
We're just really excited about that. For us, it is performance. We looked at it last year and we enjoyed the sport last year. We think we're just going to be over the top ecstatic with the sport this year because we anticipate some great performances.
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