Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League, KV Racing Technology
April 17, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome you all to the KV Racing Technology media conference. Just to introduce everybody, and then we'll have some remarks by Mr. Kalkhoven, Mr. Tracy and Mr. Vasser, and then we'll open it up to questions. Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of KV Racing Technology on the far right, Paul Tracy next to him, our special guest, the Geico Gecko, and then the other co-owner Jimmy Vasser.
KEVIN KALKOVEN: Thank you all for coming. It's really with great pleasure that I announce that Paul Tracy, one of the most interesting and fun drivers on the North American motor racing scene, is going to be racing for KV Racing Technologies at the 2009 Indianapolis 500 with support from Geico. Geico Insurance is an outstanding industry leader in the industry, and I'm confident that Paul, with the support of Geico and the KV Racing team, is going to provide a competitive, exciting and fascinating, if you know any of his history, entry into the Indianapolis 500. So it's with great pleasure I make this announcement.
We're now actually going to demonstrate, if you've seen the advertisement, Paul demonstrating his confidence in Geico by falling backwards into the arms of the Geico Gecko.
PAUL TRACY: For me it's a very exciting day. Obviously it's been extremely, extremely frustrating to have only raced one time since the merger of the two series back together. It's been a year since I competed here at Long Beach, and I only did one race last year in Edmonton. I felt that I did enough job to warrant being back in a car, but that didn't transpire, and I'm very fortunate to have the support of this Indianapolis 500 effort of not only Kevin and Jimmy's team but also Geico.
I need to thank Doug Barnett for putting that deal together with Geico, and I'm excited. For me to go back to Indy after '02, I only have one purpose in going there, and that's to win the race. That's why I chose Jimmy's team and Kevin's team, because I feel they've got the most competitive package out there that is available.
Jimmy and I have known each other for more than 20 years on and off the racetrack and have a good friendship with each other, live in the same town, so it was just a natural fit, and I'm excited. Obviously it's going to be a big month of May for me, and it's going to be pretty exciting.
JIMMY VASSER: Well, to echo what everybody said, this is a great thing not only for KV but for IndyCar racing. To get PT back out there I think is going to be phenomenal for the month of May. Hopefully this could lead into some other things for the future, as well. He's a great champion, done so many great achievements. If you look at his numbers, they're phenomenal. He's in the Top 10 in every category that there is in IndyCar racing, and I'm really excited. He usually calls me about five times a day on the telephone, and so I'm going to be able to get to call him from the radio and from the timing stand.
The real reason he got this deal with Geico is he's the guy that looks the most like the caveman (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We're going to open the floor to questions.
Q. Question for Paul: Your friend Max Papis is sponsored by Geico, any chance he would come to Indy with you?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it would be great. Obviously Max and I have both had a relationship with Geico for a couple years. I drove the Geico NASCAR car a couple years ago. But I don't really know what Max's plans are right now. It would be great to have him as a teammate. He's always telling everybody he's got the heart of a lion. But I think I would really show him who has the heart of a lion, but that's a question you'd have to ask him.
Q. Paul has been away from oval racing for quite a while, and you guys with the transition last year, everybody came over and had some difficulty getting the cars to be competitive. How competitive do you feel he's going to be able to be at Indy?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, I think Paul, it's not going to take him long. He's going to be able to get right up to speed. I have every confidence in that. You saw what he did at Edmonton last year. Although it was on a road course, Paul has shown himself to be one of the toughest competitors an ovals, and I think he's going to be a great addition to our lineup and help Mario along, as well. He's going to be a good teammate for Mario.
We've done a lot of work on our cars over the winter. I think you've seen it at Homestead with our times on the oval. So I think all the stars are lining up and we're going to have something pretty special here.
Q. Paul, are you going to get any extra time at Indy to get back up to speed? And also, any possibility of Toronto and Edmonton?
PAUL TRACY: We're not going to take the rookie orientation program. I don't think they let past winners do that there (laughter). You know, for me, I mean, it's been a couple years since I've been there, but it's -- the track is the same. The tradition of Indy is the same. It's four corners. If the car is right, and Jimmy has promised me their cars are right right now, they had a great practice --
KEVIN KALKOVEN: It has four wheels right now (laughter).
PAUL TRACY: They had a great practice this morning, so for me it won't take me very long to get back up to speed. I think I proved that in Edmonton last year, and I think that's probably the toughest track that the series goes to in terms of rough and fast.
You know, I'm excited. I'm ready to get back out there and show what I can do.
Q. And Canada?
PAUL TRACY: Well, we're working on it. Obviously it's a tough economic time right now, and I'm fortunate enough that I've got good sponsors that have helped me through this economic time. I've got some personal sponsors with Monster that have stuck behind me. I've been able to put together some small deals to do a couple little things, NASCAR stuff along with Doug.
So for Geico to come on board, we're going to do the best we can to generate as much media exposure, excitement around their product and their brand, and if that leads to more, then that would be icing on the cake. But there's been no promises made.
Q. Kevin, is there any chance you could run a third car at Indy?
KEVIN KALKOVEN: In answer to the third car question, we would love to; we could. It's just a question of sponsorship. But I suppose that's always the question.
But in the meanwhile, it's great to have Geico on board, it's great to have Paul on board, and I think it's going to make it just an entertaining month of May like only Paul could make it and only a gecko could help him.
MAX PAPIS: To answer the question, first of all, I just want to welcome Paul back into the Geico family. As you guys well know, I'm driving the No. 13 car in the Sprint Cup Series, and that's a great challenge in itself. We are going to be racing in two of the biggest races in the world at the same time. I'm still figuring out who is going to wear the gecko outfit. If I do that on the Coca-Cola 600 or in Indy, or maybe we're going to do it at the same time in the winner's circle.
But it's just a great opportunity, and I'm sure Paul is one of the most exciting figures I've ever met. Me personally, I'm really proud to share a common sponsor, and I think we share a lot of passion both for the sport, and it's good to see that Geico brought back Paul where he belongs. I know that people always said that I have the heart of a lion, but maybe you could say he has the heart of a tiger.
Q. It looks like another pretty important driver is coming back to the series this weekend, too. Helio has apparently been acquitted on one charge and then will be retried maybe sometime in the future on another, but he's supposed to be on his way here very shortly. I wonder if you guys could comment on getting Helio back in the series.
PAUL TRACY: Obviously it's all kind of up in the air. There's a lot of rumors flying around outside the pressroom before we came in here. That would be great if it happened. I'd love to compete against him, and obviously I'm going to Indy to win and so is he. I want to compete against the best guys, and that's what I'm going there for.
JIMMY VASSER: Fantastic news for Helio. I can only imagine the ordeal he went through. It really must have taken a toll on him. I'm happy for him to be acquitted and to be on his way here, I suppose, and potentially be in the race on Sunday. Yeah, that's going to be very exciting news, or it is exciting news, and it's going to be great to see him back.
Q. You've been absentee for about two years. (Inaudible.)
PAUL TRACY: Well, as I was laying on the couch watching the disaster of a race at St. Pete, I felt like I could get out there and clean everybody's clock, the way they were driving. So from that standpoint I feel I've still got the skills to do this. Like I said, my last race, you can only judge somebody on their last race, and the last race I came, I got off the couch and finished in the top five.
We're going to do the best we can, and we're going there to win. Nothing else really matters to me other than winning the race. Finishing second, third, fourth is really not an option in my book. So that's what we're going to try to do.
Q. You've worked with some owners that were a lot older than you like Jerry and Roger. If Jimmy is on the radio are you going to call him "dude"?
PAUL TRACY: I've called him worse things than "dude."
No, it'll be interesting because Jimmy and I have raced against each other since I think we first came across each other in '86 racing Atlantic cars. We've run against each other our whole careers, since we were teenagers. From that standpoint it'll be pretty fun working with Jimmy, and a lot of the guys on Jimmy's team are all from Forsythe, so I've worked with the team. I've worked with the engineer that's going to work with me. He's been an engineer for me before. From that standpoint it's not like I'm going to have to learn anything, and it should make getting there and doing it pretty easy.
Q. Who is the engineer?
PAUL TRACY: John Dick.
MAX PAPIS: If you want I can give you some advice. On my NASCAR career that I'm doing so far, when I don't want them to know what I'm saying or when I get really upset, I talk in Italian. I've got a couple words you can tell Jimmy, the major, the most important words.
Q. Any chance that you might put Paul in a car for Kansas just to give him some oval time?
JIMMY VASSER: No. No chance.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all very much.
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