Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
February 17, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to today's Izod IndyCar Series conference call. Our guests today are Firestone Indy Lights driver Charlie Kimball of Andretti Motorsports/AFS Racing. And later we will be joined by Izod IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is filling in for his Andretti Autosports teammate Tony Kanaan, who had some travel problems and could not be with us today.
Charlie, thanks for joining us.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Thanks for having me, Arni.
THE MODERATOR: Charlie finished 10th in his rookie season in Firestone Indy Lights last year with Team PBIR, but moves to AFS/Andretti Autosport, the team and car that won last year's title.
Charlie, first question: Do you feel much pressure entering the season going into that car and that team?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think I always put more pressure on myself than I feel externally. Obviously, jumping in the No. 26 car means that I know I've got some of the best equipment out there. At the end of the day, it comes down to me to perform. I think that testing has been going really well. I'm really excited. The crew is a lot of fun to work with. I can't wait to get to the open test next week and the first race at St. Pete.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned you tested with the team. What have you learned about yourself and the team going into next week's test at Barber, which is essentially like a race weekend?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: You're right, going into Barber, we're sort of treating it like our first competition. There's no prizes or rewards for results at Barber, but it's a chance for us to unveil the new paint scheme for the No. 26 Levemir car. We have a line item list of stuff to test. Hopefully we'll end the day near the top of the charts.
I've learned a lot this year just about how a professional team works. Stepping into Andretti, having someone like Michael Andretti with his hand on the tiller, giving me the benefit of his experience has allowed me to learn a lot more quickly than I have in the past.
THE MODERATOR: The test is at Barber Motorsports Park. Have you been there? What are your thought on that facility?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I actually did a test day at Andretti/AFS Racing last fall down at Barber. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was surprising how much fun it is. It's very technical and pretty quick in places. It's got a really good mix. I think it benefits a driver that's on top of it as well as a good car.
So not only am I looking forward to the test next week, but also to the second race of the season.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned your sponsor. You're the first Indy Racing League driver to compete with Type 1 diabetes. Does being diabetic affect the way you go racing?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Having diabetes definitely affects how I prepare to get in the car. From the moment I get up in the morning, before a test day or a race day, I'm preparing. I'm checking by blood glucose levels. I'm injecting Levemir and NovoLog, the two insulins I use as needed. Everything is getting ready for the moment I put my helmet on. I check my blood glucose level 15 minutes, 10 minutes, five minutes before I get in the car. It's the last thing I do before I put my gloves on.
That management routine allows me to go out and compete on a test day or race day equally and not have to worry about the diabetes.
THE MODERATOR: Can you talk a little bit about what your sponsor does using your car as a platform?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: A lot of what Novo Nordisk, the company that makes Levemir and NovoLog, the two insulins on the car do, the at-the-track promotion, telling my story as the first driver in the history of the IRL with diabetes to compete. But we also do a lot of at-event appearances, the ADA, the American Diabetes Association, expos, where people come and are there to educate themselves about diabetes and hear my story, talk to me, interact with me.
I'm there proving that diabetes doesn't have to slow you down. It doesn't slow me down on the track or off the track. Together, partnering with them allows me to get that story out there and be proof that you don't have to have diabetes in the drivers seat; it can be in the passenger seat while you drive your life.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open for questions for Charlie Kimball.
Q. Charlie, how did all of this come about with Andretti Racing?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, funnily enough, it started with a phone call at 4 in the morning on a Wednesday before a race weekend in October of 2008. I was here in California at home. I got a call from Andretti about their program in the A1 GP, the Team USA car. They asked if I would come to Zandvoort, in The Netherlands, for a last-minute drive in the race that weekend. Like five hours later, I was on a plane from LAX headed to Europe. I had a great time. It was a really good opportunity to work with them.
We just sort of kept in contact. After my results last year, developing the team, the results throughout the season, we kept in contact. As my commercial package fell into place, the discussions with Andretti led to a ride.
Q. How is Michael to work for?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: He's a brilliant guy. His experience all over the world in racecars everywhere allows me to learn a tremendous amount. He is always there with a word of encouragement, a word of advice, and very helpful for a young driver hoping to make it to the Izod IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
Q. Charlie, did you have to convince people when you were starting out in racing that you could do this with diabetes and still manage it? Also, the notes say that you're able to monitor your blood sugar during the race and adjust it if necessary. How does that work exactly?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I'll hit your first question first.
I was diagnosed in October of 2007, so in the middle of a race season. I'd already been racing. The road back to recovery, it was about six weeks before I got back in a racecar. In that time, you know, I sought out the best medical care. I work with an endocrinologist here in LA, Dr. Anne Peters, who is Gary Hall, Jr., the swimmer's, endocrinologists, as well.
So her experience with athletes gave me the confidence to get back in the car and be able to compete.
So I have found a huge amount of support in the racing community. The IRL, the medical staff there at the IRL and IMS medical team, has said to me, Look, you obviously know a lot about diabetes and diabetes management. Pardon the pun, but we'd love for you to be in the vehicle for you to tell your story, being successful with diabetes.
As far as managing my blood glucose and monitoring that through the race, I wear a continuous glucose monitor, which is a sensor injected in my body and has a wireless transmitter on my skin that looks like a pager-like device that's Velcro'd to the steering wheel right under my dash. It graphs might blood sugar every five minutes and gives me a reading so I can keep an eye on that while I'm driving. If I'm getting lower than I want to be, I can drink orange juice that runs through a drink tube that runs through my helmet. Orange juice is very glucose rich so it brings my sugar levels back up to a range where I can compete at optimal performance.
Q. What is some of your background? Where have you been racing?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I started karting in Southern California when I was about 10, in '95. Got into cars at the age of 16. After I graduated high school in 2003, at the end of the 2003 season where I competed in the USS 2000 championship, I delayed entry or deferred admission to Stanford University to move to Europe and race, where I competed in British Formula Ford, British Formula 3. I was the first American in 13 years to win a British Formula 3 race, was Rookie-of-the-Year. 2006 I stepped up to the Formula 3 Euro Series, where I won a race at Zanvoort. In 2007 I was racing in the World Series by Renault when I was diagnosed with diabetes in October of that year. 2008 I did a partial season in the Formula 3 Europe Series. And last year I competed in the Firestone Indy Lights Series with Team PBIR.
I got started in karting because my dad is a mechanical engineer. The car he designed won the Indianapolis 500 in the late '70s. I was in Europe as a kid because he was race engineering for a Formula One team.
Q. I wanted to know if you have, stepping into big shoes at Andretti, is there a timetable before you make the next step to the Izod IndyCar Series and what would you be looking for in terms of what you would call a successful season this year in Firestone Indy Lights?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think I have to judge this season by the same yardstick that any good driver does. A good season would be one where I sit on pole for every race, have the fastest lap, win every race and win the championship. Obviously that might not be completely realistic.
But, like you said, I have some big shoes to fill in the No. 26 car. I think I can step up to that. My experience last year, I learned a huge amount about racing on the ovals, learned a lot of the tracks. So coming back to them, it will be my second year seeing them. I'll be able to leverage that into solid results.
As far as the timetable stepping up to the Izod IndyCar Series, obviously it comes down to partially commercial, partially on track. If I can provide the results this year and sort of prove my worth, Novo Nordisk believes that we can be the first driver on the grid at the Indianapolis 500 with diabetes.
THE MODERATOR: That's all the time we have today for Charlie. We appreciate you taking the time to join us today, Charlie.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Absolutely. If anyone has any follow-up questions, have them get in touch with you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Charlie.
We're now joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan, thanks for joining us on the call, especially on the short notice, filling in for T.K.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan is going to drive the No. 37 Izod-sponsored car for Andretti Autosport in 2010 after splitting 2009 between Vision Racing and AJ Foyt Racing.
Ryan, talk about the change to Andretti Autosport. This is the first opportunity you've had with a team of this caliber.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's an amazing opportunity. I have everybody at Andretti and Izod to thank for it. We've already got to work. The atmosphere on the team is unreal. I mean, they're really pushing to get back to form to where they were winning races constantly. That's what matters most.
It's been an easy transition. We're working really well together. I'm really looking forward to having three other teammates, too.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned some of that pre-season testing you've done with the team. I asked the same question to Charlie. You have to be chomping at the bit to get to next week, can't come soon enough for you.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Oh, yeah, for sure. The Barber test is something I've been really looking forward to. I haven't been to that track yet. I wasn't able to make that test last year because of my ride coming together late with Vision. I've looked at it on videos, seen it on TV, I've done some iRacing with it.
I can't wait to get there and get on track and see where we are stacked up against everybody else. Most importantly get to work with the team, with everybody being there, all three teammates on track at the same time.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned having not been to Barber and the iRacing. What do you do to prepare yourself for a place you've never been to? I know the iRacing has to be pretty accurate, but do you talk to your teammates and things like that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Oh, yeah, for sure, I talk to them. It's definitely very useful when you have in-car cameras to look at from the past. That's the number one thing I always look at, regardless of which track I'm going to. I go over video from previous years, kind of study it.
I did the iRacing thing, something that just came up recently. The team has it. I was in Indy last week. I just gave it a shot. Yeah, it was extremely useful.
You know, a track that I hadn't been to. Yeah, it was pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Q. Ryan, of the four designs that have been released for the new chassis to come out in a couple years, obviously the most radical redesign of those would be the delta wing concept. Have you seen that and what do you think of that concept?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, I mean, I really haven't put a whole lot of thought into it. We've been so busy gearing up for this test. I've been traveling all over the place. I've looked at the designs here and there.
But, you know, what I've heard technologically about the delta wing car is intriguing, very cool. What they've done to go in that direction, you know, cutting edge, is very interesting to me. I'd have to take a closer look at it. I have haven't really taken it all in yet.
But the other concepts Dallara, Swift and Lola have come up with are very good-looking cars as well. I definitely have to put a little more thought into it. I wish I had a better answer for you than that. But some of the key items that the delta wing brings to the table is definitely something we need to keep in mind, look at for the future.
Q. I've heard some commentary about it. Apparently some people like it, some people really hate it. The people who don't like it call it things like the Bat Mobile, a tricycle. Are you worried it's so radical of a design that it might not go over well with fans?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, that's the thing, you always have to balance that fine line. I mean, for instance, you couldn't take a football and go change it into a different shape ball and say it's still football. It would change something.
So that's the fine line we have to walk here. It's definitely an entire series. It's not just one group of people picking this car and heading off. I hope it's a democratic process where everybody gets involved and we head in the right direction because this is a pivotal move for IndyCar, absolutely pivotal move heading into 2012 and beyond. It's going to shape the face of our series. I hope we make the right choice.
There's a few issues I see with it, you know, like, for instance, if it rains, the tires are right in front of you, right in front of your view, which would spray up into your face, into your helmet and everything else. There's a couple other items.
But I'd really have to give it a fair shake, I'd have to look at it.
Q. You've kind of bounced around rides here the last couple years. How does it feel to finally get one secured down with Andretti Autosports?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's amazing. I mean, we had this deal sorted out, you know, in the off-season, earlier in the off-season, which is definitely a change of pace for me. I'm used to scrambling last minute to get something sorted out. That's how it is for a lot of the drivers. That's just kind of the climate of the market at the moment and how things are progressing.
IndyCar is definitely an upward trend, but it's still tough. We're still working on a full season. But it's definitely the best opportunity that I've ever had. You know, that's not something I take lightly.
I'm really looking forward to getting to work with the team and just getting to what we do, and that's racing. I just can't wait to get in the car and get on track.
Q. Do you think being with a set team will enhance your abilities?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: A set team?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I mean, hopefully this is a full-season deal. I know everybody at Andretti Autosports is working hard to make it a full season. I sure am. Even if it is a partial season, it's a great team to be a part of. They have one aim, one focus, and that's to win races. And that's my focus as well.
It's a great organization to be a part of, very professional. Some of the best people in racing are with this team. So, hey, I'm looking forward, like I said. I'm really looking forward to getting on track and working with them.
Q. I asked Charlie the same thing here. How is working with Michael Andretti?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Michael is great. He's got so much passion for racing, it's contagious. He's pushing hard. He's in the office every morning before the sun comes up and leaves when the sun goes down. He's pushing the hours. He's working as hard as anybody else.
He's at the top of the team. There's no other partners, it's just Michael. He has a clear vision of what he wants to do. He's really determined to make it happen. It's a really good atmosphere on the team because of it.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, I know you got engaged last year. How are the wedding plans coming and if they are coming along, is it you or your fiancée Becky that has more say in that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, she has all the say. We've been just so busy with everything from moving, we just moved from California to Florida. My mom recently was very ill late in the season, into the early off-season. We're still in that moving process, in transition.
We're starting to talk more about it. I'll get a date here pretty soon. But, yeah, that's our ship, and she's definitely sailing that one.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned moving into the house. I guess the decorating lies with Becky or do you have some say?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I have some say. I'm happy to finally have a house. For the past, I don't know, gosh, six years, I've just been living out of my suitcase. We were living out there in California. It was temporary. I was bouncing back and forth from Florida to California. It's great to finally have a permanent home. It's exciting. It's my first house. So I'm enjoying it.
THE MODERATOR: All right. That's all the time and questions we seem to have for you today, Ryan. We appreciate you joining us on today's call.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you. I'll see you at Barber.
THE MODERATOR: That does conclude today's conference call. Thank you.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|