Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
August 31, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. We are joined today by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Paul Tracy who earlier today was announced as the driver of the No. 24 car for the events at Kentucky and Motegi.
Paul, thank you for taking the time to join us today.
PAUL TRACY: Thanks for having me on.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk a little bit about the announcement today. I know when we last saw you at Edmonton you thought maybe your season was done. Talk about getting back into the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team.
PAUL TRACY: Obviously, working with Robbie and Dennis and the whole team was a great experience for me at Watkins Glen. I felt we had a pretty good weekend and a good result for just jumping into the car last minute.
We've had some ongoing conversations of what their options were going towards the end of the season and where Mike was at with his rehabbing to get back in the car.
You know, an opportunity for both myself and my sponsor, Motegi Racing Wheels, was presented to us from D&R. It really just kind of made sense to keep trying to build the brand of Motegi, get the awareness out there about it, you know, from there, just get an opportunity to get a couple more races in.
THE MODERATOR: You were mentioning to me before the call you have never been to Kentucky Speedway. What have you heard about that track? How long do you think it will take you to get up to speed?
PAUL TRACY: You know, the rules have changed a little bit over the last year. Looked like last year's race was a little bit more spread out than, say, Chicagoland was this weekend.
You know, from what I saw from Saturday night, it was pretty wild racing, a lot of wheel-to-wheel, a lot of action, a lot of really close racing, a lot of tactician stuff going on where you've just got to make the right move at the right time and have a partner to do it with.
Whether that happens at Kentucky, a little bit more of a bumpy track from what hear, has a little bit less banking, we'll see on Saturday night. But I'm expecting a barn burner.
THE MODERATOR: I know sponsorship is a big part of racing. Obviously your relationship with Motegi Racing Wheels is good enough that they were on the car in Canada and now they're coming on as the full-time primary for these next two races.
PAUL TRACY: Well, it's great. It's a brand of wheel from the parent company called Wheel Pros. They've been kind of a long-term sponsor with me. I've been involved with one of their other brands for about four or five years. You know, really came about in the middle of the summer. Tanner, my costar on my TV show, is sponsored by Motegi. Just an opportunity came about for them to want to get involved more in motorsports. They've been supporting Tanner in his rally cross racing. They want to build this brand and make it a bigger brand in the United States and worldwide, and felt that IndyCar was the right platform for them to do that.
Obviously, you know, it's a performance-type wheel. They look to what their options are. NASCAR really didn't suit their business model, profile of the company. It's more road racing, performance-type cars. Obviously, the road racing, street racing, IndyCar model kind of fit what they were trying to do.
So from that standpoint, we talked about what we could do together. They got onboard for Watkins Glen, then obviously Toronto and Edmonton, and now these next two races as the primary full sponsor.
It's been great.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Let's open it up for questions for Paul Tracy.
Q. Paul, just wondering how you had to change your approach in putting together the sponsorship packages, keeping your career on the move. It seems like it's required a lot of work. Is it something that you really try to keep up with every day?
PAUL TRACY: Pretty much. I mean, nowadays, you know, for a lot of drivers, if you're not a Dario Franchitti or a Scott Dixon or one of these guys that's on the big teams, I mean, you've got to find a budget to go racing.
Kind of been fortunate enough that I've got some good guys working with me. I'm not a marketing guy and I'm not a sales pitch by or a boardroom pitch guy. From that standpoint, a lot of the companies that I've been associated with, you don't really have to go in and throw a big pitch at them.
But, you know, it's difficult now to find sponsorship. I've got a team of people. I've got a group in Canada called (indiscernible) Marketing working on Canadian sponsors, I have a guy by the name of Allen Jay and Brandon McManus who worked with KV Racing working on sponsorship. Another guy by the name of Doug Barnett who handles the GEICO account.
From that standpoint, got many relationships to juggle, a lot of phone calls and a lot of faxes and emails to shake the bushes to see how do we put together a full program for 2011. That's what I'm really focused on right now.
It's great that we're getting the support from Motegi to build some more continuity, get some more racing in, build the brand for them. But, you know, our focus now is having a couple good results here and then build for 2011.
Q. Were you intimidated by some of the driving you saw going on at Chicago? Were you encouraged by Justin getting a seventh-place finish?
PAUL TRACY: I am obviously. You look at the qualifying order, where cars qualify, and it really doesn't give you an indication. Obviously, Penske and Ganassi always seem to be towards the sharp end of the grid on those type of tracks.
But from the standpoint of watching and analyzing the race, seeing that even when the Penske and Ganassi cars, when they got back in the middle of the field, you know, they weren't really as strong as they were when they were at the front end of the field.
It's encouraging when you see teams like D&R, much smaller operation than a Penske or Ganassi, who come from the back and race their way to the front, just watching guys like Tag having a fantastic race, starting way in the back, tiny little operation, handful of guys, work their way right towards the front. It's the type of racing that can be done if you get the car right.
You know, I talked to Justin on the phone. He was encouraged by the end result. You know, they've got a couple of ideas for qualifying. I talked to my engineer, Yves Touron, a couple times at D&R. They have some things they learned from the final practice and the race that they think are going to help the car in qualifying trim. Hopefully we can have Justin and I have good starting positions and race well together and both get solid top-10 finishes.
Q. Paul, how do you think it will affect you in working with different teams on the ovals as opposed to what you would do regarding setup for a road course? Obviously it's going to be a lot colder for you to come in, especially on a specific track like Kentucky, where some of the other teams might have a marked advantage.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, I've just got to do what I can do. Obviously, talked to the team. They said, Our cars are pretty solid. We don't do anything that's way outside of the box. Mile-and-a-half cars when you're out there qualifying, running, not too difficult. There's quite a bit of banking at Kentucky. The cars are fairly stable with the bigger wings on them.
In the race, if it's like Chicagoland, you know, for sure the first third of the race, because I haven't done that style of racing in a while, it's going to take me a little bit to get my feet back under me and get used to whatever situation you have to get into. But as the race progresses, you know, hopefully we'll be running towards the front.
My goal is, are we going to come there and win the race? It's a pretty lofty goal. But I think a realistic expectation is to finish in the top 10. If things go really well, have a good, solid finish like Justin had, maybe even a top five or six.
Q. Paul, this is not your first time with D&R. At Watkins Glen, after the first day, you seemed to click pretty well with the team. Is there anything specific you can count to and say why you seem to click pretty fast with them?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think just the general atmosphere of the team is pretty calm, which I like. You know, I've known Robbie for a long, long time. We raced against each other in the '80s. So, you know, we've known each other for a long time. We have mutual friends that we've known each other for many, many years.
You know, working with Justin, obviously I get along well with Justin. I've never got into a problem with him on the racetrack. From that standpoint, you know, right away our feedback was very similar to the engineers. Really just the weekend went pretty nice. It was a pretty nice atmosphere to be in. Great working with Honda on that race, Motegi. For that race there, for Motegi, we've been able to build this program.
Hopefully we can, you know, have a good couple of races here and then build on our program for next year.
Q. Is Miami still in the conversation at all?
PAUL TRACY: You know, I'm hoping for that to happen. Obviously it's kind find on a holding pattern from Mike Conway. There's a possibility that he could be ready to run. It's his car. You know, from that standpoint, if he comes back, that's great for him. But if he doesn't, then I hope that we can have a good couple races and hopefully the natural decision will be for me to continue.
Q. Paul, can you discuss where you might be in getting a ride for Indy for next year?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, as of right now this exact moment, that's all still up in the air. Obviously, we've got a lot of sponsors that are onboard that are talking about what they want to do for next year. You know, but none of those deals are signed and contracts aren't signed, money to do these programs hasn't changed hands. From that standpoint, it's not a hundred percent yet.
I would hazard a guess that I will be running next year in some capacity, whether it's one or five or maybe the whole season, I don't know yet. But my focus right now is to try to put together a full-season program. I'd like to run another year or two and have some type of a farewell tour for myself to finish my career off after putting 20 years into the sport.
So that's what I'm focusing on. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn't, then we just pick and choose the races that we can put the programs together for.
Q. I wanted to ask how excited Motegi Wheels have been to be working with you and are they enthusiastic about perhaps bringing you back for a full season in 2011?
PAUL TRACY: You know, obviously Motegi is excited. The two owners of the company came to Toronto. They really enjoyed the weekend. Jody, who is the CEO of the company, has been a long-time IndyCar, CART fan. Obviously being based in Dallas, being in the heart of NASCAR country, obviously they've looked at what they can and can't do there. They just feel that for this brand, Motegi, it's more of a natural fit for road racing, open-wheel style racing. They've been involved with Tanner for a few years with what he does in drifting and rally.
From that standpoint, I feel pretty confident that they're committed to building a brand and building the brand with Paul Tracy involved. A full season for them is probably, you know, more than likely not capable. But I know that they'll be involved in some capacity in whatever I want to do. You know, that includes even if I wanted to go off-road racing or do some truck racing, short course stuff. They're quite heavily involved in that, too, and in other wheel brands.
From their standpoint, I like them and they like me. Hopefully we can make a great working relationship.
Q. But your priority for now is to try to do as well an open-wheel season next year?
PAUL TRACY: That's the goal. We've got to find the budget to do that. We're working hard at it.
Q. Paul, when you go back to Indy, how much does that Castroneves finish several years ago weigh on your mind? Does that drive you?
PAUL TRACY: I mean, it does. Obviously this last year at Indy obviously was such a disappointment that that's really the thing that just drives the stake right into my heart (laughter).
You know, that cuts deeper than any loss. I didn't realize how much, you know, hurt that would put into me. So, you know, from that standpoint, that's what's driving me for a lot for Indy next year. It's not the controversy over who won at Indy eight, nine years ago.
We made some critical mistakes this year in the final qualifying day, got ourselves pushed out of the Indy 500. I want to go back there and, you know, do what we were going to do this year, and that's have a challenge and have a good result there.
Q. How about you and Helio, do you talk?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, we talk. We don't have any issues with each other.
THE MODERATOR: That will wrap-up today's IZOD IndyCar Series teleconference. Paul, we appreciate you taking some time out of shooting the television show to joins us again.
PAUL TRACY: Thanks, guys. We'll see you in a couple days.
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