Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
January 29, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to today's IndyCar conference call. Joining us today are officials from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who have a special announcement to make.
We will welcome team owner Sam Schmidt to the call and turn the floor over to him.
SAM SCHMIDT: Thank you very much.
I want to thank everybody for being on the call. I know everybody is busy here post the 24 Hours at Daytona. We appreciate the coverage.
I'll jump right into it. The announcement just went out, something we've been working towards obviously going back as far as Indy Lights and the multiple seasons we ran there building the team, building the team members, the Indy 500 pole, fabulous year last year with Simon Pagenaud winning rookie of the year, successful on-track experience.
Quite frankly there were a lot of reason to continue to bolster that one-car program, to do a good job there, after delivering quite a bit with Rob Edwards, staff, Simon, just trying to get the most out of it.
Kind of made a decision three or four months ago to really push hard and try to get to a two-car team, whether it be for data collection or chemistry or growing the organization, any number of reasons.
It's becoming apparent if you're really going to compete week in and week out with what is the foundation of the IndyCar Series, whether it be Andretti, Ganassi, you pretty much have to be a two-car team.
Certainly wouldn't be here today without Ric Peterson who is also on the call. Spent a lot of time with him the last half of the season. He's a fantastic individual, Canadian businessman, brings a lot to the table and the team. We certainly wouldn't be a two-car effort without his input.
Anyway, today we're announcing we're expanding a full-time two-car IndyCar team with Tristan Vautier who did an incredible job in Indy Lights this year. The talent has always been there, but we know it takes more than that to be successful in the IndyCar Series. We firmly believe he has the talent and the maturity and the experience to be successful there.
So with that, I don't know who the next person will be.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Sam.
As Sam mentioned, we have several members of the team. Ric Peterson, Rob Edwards, and the two drivers who will contest the IZOD IndyCar Series for the team, the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Sonoco rookie of the year Simon Pagenaud and the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier.
Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
Tristan, we'll start with you. Congratulations on today's announcement. You have to be pretty excited for the 2013 season to begin in a few weeks.
TRISTAN VAUTIER: Thank you. It's very exciting for sure. It's been three years now that I've been in USA. It's pretty incredible the good things that have happened since I first came over here.
I was in discussions with Sam since the end of the season but things got more serious after the test that I had. I have been really wanting that opportunity. I wanted to stay with Sam, to step up to the big cars. It's a great day today for me to announce this news.
THE MODERATOR: Last year you won four races as a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights, won the title, won the Star Mazda title the year before that. How much has the time in the Mazda Road to Indy and that program gotten you to where you are today?
TRISTAN VAUTIER: It's pretty simple: I wouldn't be here without that program. I'm thankful to Mazda for everything they did for me in the junior formulas. When I first came over here my first goal and gamble was to win Star Mazda, win this Mazda Road to Indy scholarship, to step up to Indy Lights, because the budget is over half a million dollars to run an Indy Lights program. I knew it was my only chance to step up.
I can really say today the Mazda Road to Indy made things happen for me, along with the help of Sam and the team's partners and my partners.
THE MODERATOR: Simon, it wasn't that long ago for you that you were moving up from a junior series championship to the top level of the sport. What kind of advice do you have to offer to your new teammate?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't think I have any advice to give him. I'm really glad he's joining us in the team. It's a great prospect, great expansion for the team.
It has been a tremendous season we had last year. Now having the opportunity to be a two-car team is definitely an opportunity for us to be fighting upfront. It just shows the dedication Sam and the partners have on the team.
It's really enjoyable. I think Tristan knows exactly what to do. Obviously there's a few things he hasn't done like pit stops and things like that that he's going to have to learn. But he's a quick learner, a quick Frenchman, as well, so...
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned the success in 2012 you had working as a single-car team. What does the dynamic of the team change, how does it change, with a teammate after being like an only child last year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, it's definitely, as I said, an expansion for the team. But it's exactly what we needed. Rob Edwards, he knows exactly how to do this, he knows how to manage his people. He selected wisely who he needed before, and again who he's going to need this year.
I'm very excited. I think everybody on the team is very excited also to get bigger and to work together and try to go fight with the big guys. We've already done that quite a bit last year, but now we can say we have everything we need, all the tools, resources, to go out and do the best we can.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, just a follow-up question for you. Is Davey Hamilton still involved with the team and what role will he play?
SAM SCHMIDT: Absolutely. We've known each other for 20 years, raced against each other, participated together in a lot of things over the last 20 years.
We absolutely, positively wouldn't be where we are today without Davey's involvement. As far as I'm concerned, we have an agreement, we're headed forward. I think that association this year with the loss of the turbo (indiscernible), everything else that's going on, is an extreme opportunity for Simon and the squad.
We're very much looking forward to raising the bar even to another notch in that program. There's so many people that have come into this. I mentioned Ric's involvement. You'll talk to him. But Honda, HP, Firestone, Mazda. Everybody has worked together to get to this point, a really incredible group at our shop back in Indy. I want to thank everybody for our opportunity.
I've said it here, I'll say it again: I don't turn any wrenches on this deal, we wouldn't be where we are today without just a fantastic group of individuals on this team.
THE MODERATOR: Ric, I know this is the first time we've had a chance to talk to you since you became Sam's equity partner. What brought your interest to the sport of IndyCar racing and more specifically to Sam Schmidt's team?
RIC PETERSON: I'm an ex-racer myself. I didn't race IndyCars, but I raced Toyota Atlantics. I've always followed racing, have always wanted a chance to get in on the ownership side of things.
When Sam and I met at Indianapolis last year, we kind of hit it off pretty good. Everything kind of fell into line. So I'm very excited. Can't wait for the race season to start.
THE MODERATOR: Rob, how does the team personnel change as you evolve into a two-car IndyCar team? Does it involve bringing on new employees?
ROB EDWARDS: It involves taking advantage of some of the people we have from the Indy Lights program and giving them an opportunity to progress to IndyCar along with Tristan. Then there are a few key people from outside the team we have highlighted that were important for us to grow, to add to what we had already. We've been fortunate in being able to attract those people onboard as well.
Our ability to grow and to continue to be as successful as we were last year with Simon is really down to the people. Very, very happy where we're at on filling those roles at the moment.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
Let's open it up for questions for any of our guests at this time.
Q. Sam and Tristan, in speaking with Simon over the weekend at 24 Hours, he indicated that he's ready to race for the championship, that the team is ready to race for the championship. From Sam, what can Tristan do to reach the larger goal of being a championship team? And, Tristan, what do you envision your role being?
SAM SCHMIDT: I mean, to me if there's one thing I learned, I keep putting in the back of my brain from the many years of Indy Lights competition, is chemistry. Even though we have a new chassis package, it's still a relatively spec format in that same tires, same chassis, similar neck-and-neck power situation. When you have that format, it all comes down to the driver and the chemistry with the people who are on the team.
I think we definitely had a lot of that really good momentum and mojo last year with Simon, the group of guys that he has. The strategy and the situation is not to mix that up, not to take a step back with that, but really to fill in some gaps.
I'm the type of person that never likes to look back, always likes to look forward. But it was beneficial to look back and reflect, even though we finished fifth, which is great, what's the difference between finishing fifth and winning the championship. We took a really deep look at that. We made little mistakes here and there.
One of the things, a couple races, we went there, unloaded, were completely out to lunch. We spent all of practice and qualifying trying to get back to a point where we could be competitive. Ironically Long Beach was one of those places where we were horrible when we unloaded, through practice, didn't get it done in qualifying, then hit on something race morning and wound up finishing second.
It was a horrible weekend from a process standpoint. If we would have had a second car there to retrieve data from, I think we could have got to the place we needed to be a lot quicker. We were struggling all weekend thinking it was setup and speed, when in fact we had an electronic malfunction. If we had another set of eyes, another car, it would have been pretty apparent.
I think last year a second car would have helped us a lot quicker. The series is just so competitive, you have to roll off and be fine-tuned. You can't be testing. I think the second car really allowed us to do that.
TRISTAN VAUTIER: I mean, I think arriving to Schmidt Peterson and having two cars in this team, the team has proved last year they were already great. I think it's going to add a lot of value to the team to get more information, as Simon and Sam said. I think Rob is an amazing team manager and he selected the right people to make this team a title-contender team.
On my side of things, I don't want to arrive and call myself a title contender or anything like that. I don't want to arrive and set myself any precise goals. I think I have a lot to learn. I have an amazing teammate in Simon. I hope I can learn as much as I can from him and then get up to speed and hopefully both of us can work together and bring the team higher.
On my side of things, it's all about learning and trying to get up to speed as quickly as I can. I will really focus more on what I have to do to learn and go faster.
Q. You said you don't want to set any goals. Based on the way that the team performed last year, do you feel any pressure to perform at a certain level?
TRISTAN VAUTIER: Not really. I don't usually put myself any kind of pressure with results. In Sebring, I knew from the past season and Simon's performance that I was helping in a car that was going to allow me to do the job of being upfront. I always try to get that out of my head and focus on the process, what I have to do to make that happen.
I really don't put any pressure on myself. I'm a rookie. I don't set any special goals to myself because I think it's the best way to create useless pressure in a way. So I just try to get that out of my head and focus on my job.
Q. Tristan, if I'm not mistaken, you won your series debut in Star Mazda and also Indy Lights. I imagine you're hoping to get a win in your rookie season in IndyCar. What are you expecting? More specifically, who have you been talking to in terms of other drivers in the IndyCar Series that have been helping you prepare for what to expect?
TRISTAN VAUTIER: I had the chance to talk to many drivers. That's a good thing in USA, everybody is very helpful. I talked for sure to Simon who is going to be my teammate. I talked with Will Power, Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, many other drivers. I'm sure I'm forgetting some.
It's good because they give you some tips and they're always very helpful here. They give you some information on what to expect from the season. But that certainly doesn't really change anything to the expectations or the goals you set yourself.
Q. Simon, speaking about having a French teammate, the impact that France is having in motorsports, especially in IndyCar, is that something that you take pride in or is it something you've seen grow over the past few years?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's certainly something we've seen growing, especially with arrival of Sebastien Bourdais in Champ Car. I follow his footsteps and Tristan did the same with us. I take a lot of pride in what Tristan has done, but he's done it by himself. I certainly don't want to take anything from that.
It's great to see Frenchmen moving out of Europe and coming to the U.S. and trying to do their best to do a good job here. Yeah, I mean, it just shows in France we've got some good schools, driving schools, and we shape pretty good drivers. It's interesting to see. I'm pretty happy for France.
But in the meantime we're here in the U.S., and nationality doesn't matter. The most important thing is to do well. We're here and we enjoy being in the U.S.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as we have no further questions, we'll wrap-up today's IndyCar conference call and thank all of our guests for their time today.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|