Q&A w/Carpenter, Saavedra, Munoz, Bourdais, Kimball
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Ed Carpenter.
Ed, tell us about that transition in ownership and driving, the main reason for that with you and your sponsors and the rest of the team.
ED CARPENTER: We started the team two years ago. I want to be able to race as long as I can and do it well. At the same time the race team is something that I see as my future beyond driving, whenever that day comes. It's certainly a business that I want to be successful for long after I'm driving.
That's kind of where the decision came from, just to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly could to position the team well and in a strong place to deliver for all our current partners, Fuzzy's, Chevrolet, and hopefully to grow the team in the near future.
THE MODERATOR: Your team tested last week both at Fontana, then Sonoma with Mike. What did you learn from those manufacturer test days?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, we've definitely been busy testing the past month. It was nice to get back on the track for me. It's always fun to work with Chevrolet, developing some new things, it's fun to be part of that process. To go back to Fontana, run there, continue working on that track is fun.
A lot of what we've been doing is really getting Mike comfortable with our team and at the same time us getting comfortable with Mike. It's gone well. He's been in the car four days now since he joined us, which other than Juan is I think as much as anyone has tested.
I feel like he's made a lot of progress. He came to Fontana with us when I was in the car. I think that was a good exercise for him as well, just to see me not as a half driver/half owner standing on the timing stand, but to see me interact with the guys. I think it made him feel more comfortable seeing me in that element rather than seeing me as kind of an owner and a driver. I think it's been different for both of us figuring out that role, but it's been a fun process.
THE MODERATOR: Last year you finished second in Fontana. You sat on the pole of the Indianapolis 500 last year. Going into this season with Pocono, Indianapolis, Fontana, what are your thoughts about those big ovals, those super speedways with the Chevy power, what you think you can do?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, 500-mile races are fun. They're more fun than the shorter races just because of how much more that goes into it. You have more opportunities to figure out how to win the race and you also have more opportunities to mess it up.
It definitely has a higher degree of difficulty. Really happy to see Pocono being a 500-miler. I needed an extra 100 miles there last year. Looking forward to having the extra mileage. Hopefully we can reclaim that one for Chevy after Honda kind of put it to us with Ganassi last year.
Just looking forward to getting started. Like you said, we have those three 500-milers. The rest are all great racetracks and races as well. So excited for my schedule.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Ed, it's been alluded to with the strength of you on the ovals and Michael on the road and streets that you could challenge for the entrants championship this year.
ED CARPENTER: It's been talked about definitely. I think that Mike and I are both capable of winning in our respective disciplines, so to speak, or strong suits. I feel really strongly about the capabilities of our team. I feel like we should be in the mix everywhere we go.
With that being said, the strength of the series, teams and drivers right now, is at a really high level. It's no easy feat, but we're definitely going to give it our best shot.
Q. I don't know if you've had a chance to do any testing, but I'm curious to know whether you see a difference in the Chevy engine.
ED CARPENTER: I've been on the track twice, both times with the new 2014 Chevrolet. It's hard to really have a direct comparison because it had been several months since I had been in the car before. To be honest, both engines operate at such a high level. Chevy has continued to do a great job for all its teams and us.
Until we get to St. Pete, then Indianapolis for an oval, it's really hard to know where it's going to shake out. I don't know that Honda has shown their hand yet. I don't think we've shown our hand yet either.
I definitely feel good about where we are as a team. I feel really confident in Chevrolet, the work that they've done and continue to do, that they'll put us in a position to be able to win races as a team.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Ed.
ED CARPENTER: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Sebastian Saavedra.
Sebastian, the team has been joined by Gary Peterson. Tell us a little bit about that relationship and how it has transferred now to the IndyCar Series.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Well, it's something that has been working for a while now. When I came from Europe in 2009, Gary was pretty much like my second dad, having my first dad present here of course.
We built a very strong relationship. He took me below his wing to develop me inside his driving development program. We come through since then. Last year, of course, having a great sponsor. Dragon Racing was one year we got slightly separated. As soon as the season was over, we wanted to continue the great path we have.
Together with Jimmy Vasser, we got stuck on a flight going on our way to Toronto. We were side-by-side speaking for everything, future plans. Since then everything start to move forward.
Very happy that the KV AFS Racing program has come together. Now to put it in papers and make it a reality is something that makes me very excited and, of course, gives us a lot of positive energy going into the season.
THE MODERATOR: Moving from the IndyCar Series to the Firestone Indy Lights help you?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Totally. It was not an option. It was that or doing nothing at all. But it came the opportunity to make our stronger with AFS and Gary Peterson, trying not only to prepare, but keep learning. At that time, being 20 years old, I had the opportunity to take chances, and still can.
Now looking back, this is a reality because of those days. Because of the not only trust that the Indy Lights Series had in me, but, of course, the trust of Gary Peterson and Michael Andretti. Everything is just a building structure.
THE MODERATOR: You made your Indianapolis 500 debut when you were 18.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I was just turning 19, yes. I think I was the first driver from 1990 to be in the great Indy 500.
I think that first time, maybe being young, it was everything a bit too overwhelming, not understanding where I was in. But the second time everything becomes so clear and so real.
I've been blessed to be able to do this for a while now. This is actually going to be my second full season. I already had a long round with Conquest Racing. It's something that makes me very proud to be around this great series, seeing its development throughout the years.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Sebastian.
Q. Were you getting nervous at all as time was going on that you weren't going to have a ride for this year?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think as soon as I knew that Dragon Racing was not going, it was a bit late for sure. I had a three-year contract with Dragon. This was something that give us a little bit of relief, knowing I had somewhere to be in.
When they decided not to go, it was a late call. But fortunately enough, as I said, something was brewing very slowly inside KV and AFS. I was nervous in a way of not being able to race, but how quick could we make it happen. Now that the series has opened up testing a little bit more, I wanted to be part of that.
But at the end I think I knew I was in the hands of great people and that things were going to come through, the question was when. It came right at the time that we were expecting.
Q. The flight you were next to Jimmy, was it to the Toronto race?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I'm pretty sure it was. We got stuck in New York. We had to change flights and go somewhere else. It was just a big mess.
So we had a good six, seven hours side-by-side. Then we arrived to Toronto. He took me to the track. I had to go to the track to sit fit. He was ready to go to the hotel, but he took me in the worst traffic ever of Toronto.
We had an interesting relationship there. Before it was, Hey, Jimmy, bye, Jimmy. That was as long as our conversations went.
But we learned a lot from each other that day and opened what we are building today.
Q. Do you like working with Bourdais?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I'm actually being forced to (laughter).
No, we built a really great relationship last year. I think I respect Bourdais a lot and he respects me. I think that's the key to building a great partnership with your teammate.
I think we were able to understand each other and see development-wise that we needed each other to move forward. So I think it makes it a lot easier to have somebody by your side. As Jimmy said, you broke those barriers of who the heck is by my side. Definitely it's a plus to have him on my side, something that is already natural. We already get along very well.
Q. I know Juan is a lot older than you. He's told us in the past he's not that popular amongst Colombian racers. Did you watch him when you were growing up? Was he not someone that you followed?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: He's one of the reasons I'm here. I was only eight years old when he won Indy 500. I was just starting my go-kart career by then.
It surely gave a little bit of, Hey, if you're a Colombian, you can make it happen.
Since then we've had a couple of contacts. I raced in the 500 miles of Brazil. He was there. That was actually the first time we actually get to speak. I was 13. Since then we never spoke again until the Race of the Stars at the end of the year, when we became a lot closer.
I do accept that he's one of those guys that came through on a very important time of my life, thinking, Is this what I want to do for my whole career? And it was, and of course, Roberto Guerrero was another guy that came through on my first Indy 500.
I've been very blessed with very good people around.
Q. What have you learned from Bourdais?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: He's a very technical guy. I think we've learned from each other a lot. We do not have the same driving styles, so that's something that leaves us to develop different paths throughout the course of the weekend. We are pretty much able to see what works, what doesn't, pretty much adapt it to our specific cars.
What I've been able to learn from him is just experience. He has plenty of experience. He just portrays that very easily. It's good when we were sitting with all the engineers for me to say my thoughts, listen to his thoughts, of course complement on those lines.
It's been a good relationship. I've pushed him to different limits. It's good that you don't feel comfortable at all anytime. You always start to push when you have somebody behind you all the time. That's the development; that's how it works.
Q. Just looking at your team, times standing, people looking at data. Will you sit together with Sebastien's engineers to look over the car data at race weekends? Will it be independent with separate engineers?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: That's definitely one of the key points for this season: we're going to be one team sharing completely everything. Very good relationship between our engineers. That's something that helped to see what is the next step in every session that we are out.
I live in Indianapolis. I'm pretty much every day bothering the mechanics and engineers at the shop. That also makes a huge help. But we are meant to be just one.
Q. Sebastien also tested yesterday at Sebring and Sonoma late last week. You mentioned about Bourdais. Have you received any information or had conversations with Vasser on his input, on his style of management, how he relays information to the drivers?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Jimmy sees Bourdais with a lot of respect, of course. He saw me as the youngster that pretty much still has no limits. So that's great to keep the development and pushing Bourdais.
He has a lot of positive attitude around us. Demanding a lot, of course. That's something we're very welcome to. When he says he wants to see trophies in his trophy case, that's something we've heard a lot, not only in a couple interviews. That's, of course, one of the opportunities that KV AFS Racing is giving us.
We just need to keep focused. We know what we have. We know what we're capable of doing last part of the season last year. We just need to continue that same path, already having knowledge from two sides. Having the great oval package from KV, then having great knowledge from street courses from Dragon Racing. That's what we're trying to combine and make a strong overall performance.
Q. Have you raced against Montoya before?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Non-professional events.
Q. What do you think it's going to be like?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think it's going to be interesting, mostly for Colombia, for our country. Now having three Colombians already signed. I don't see it definitely. When I put on my helmet, I don't care who is by my side. I just focus on the cars, the track.
But it's something definitely very big for history as Colombia has never had three Colombians ever in the same series or ever in the professional level.
It's going to be a very proud moment for all of us.
Q. It has to go through your head that you watched that guy growing up.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Definitely. But I also watched Helio, Dario, T.K. I've had the opportunity to work by their sides the past three, four years. So I think that moment passed 2009, 2010. That was the moment of saying, Helio is by my side.
I've been able to build a great friendship with them and not look at them as the professionals as they are, but more as friends and competitors.
Q. Is it a big deal in Colombia to have three Colombians in the series?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It's insane. It's huge. Sports in Colombia has been growing exponentially in the past 10 years. Last year we won our first gold medal in BMX actually. It's something that we're very proud of our athletes.
It's starting very slowly to portray the support from the government, from the public and private enterprises. So it is huge to have three Colombians in the same roof, the most professional series in America at IndyCar. There's a possibility of having a fourth. That's something that has never been even thought of in the past. We have Roberto Guerrero. Right now we have something like about 50 Colombians worldwide trying to make it.
Q. When you compete you want to do well for yourself. That's pressure for you to win for yourself and your sponsors. Do you ever feel that you have to do well for your country?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think in general you just want to be the best of the best. That's my thinking, just winning the race or the season. In the end you want to be the best.
In this case, yes, you want to be the best of your country, but you also want to be the best in North America. I see the big picture more than just this regional goal.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastian Saavedra, thank you very much.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by IndyCar Series rookie Carlos Munoz.
Carlos, last year you started second and finished second in the Indianapolis 500. Now you're going to be in a full season. Talk about your thoughts about making the transition to the full-time ride with Andretti Autosport.
CARLOS MU¥OZ: Yeah, Michael give me the opportunity to race for his team this year a full season. It's my first year. Last year I did the Indianapolis 500 and replaced E.J. Viso for Fontana, and for one race I replaced Ryan Briscoe for Panther Racing. So first year.
THE MODERATOR: We just had Sebastian Saavedra here. He was mentioning with you, him and Juan Pablo Montoya how excited your country is. Could you talk about that, how you see that.
CARLOS MU¥OZ: What can you say, me and Seb, we're lucky to have Juan. Is great for us. For media star, for name, a lot of Colombia people follow him in Colombia. He's been one of the best drivers Colombia ever have.
A lot of people are going to follow IndyCar. Maybe there's going to be another Colombian, too. People start to talking a lot that there's three Colombians on IndyCar, like back to Juan Pablo. When he won the Champ Car, the Indy 500, there were a lot of people following him. It's going to be great for me and Seb, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Did you ever race against Juan?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: We did a go-kart race in November for his foundation, but I never race against.
Q. You were a fan of his when you were younger. Before the Indy 500 he called you and you got to talk to him. What will it be like for you now racing against him, somebody you idolized?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: I don't like the word 'idolized,' but he was a symbol for me when I was a kid, an example for me and many Colombian drivers, to follow him. He was the only Colombian whoever won a Formula One race.
We have a great relationship. He called me last year. We have known him a lot, giving me some little tips about the race and everything. I have some pictures of him when I was small. He was at a go-kart race with his brother when I was small. It's a strange feeling when you're small, you're looking at him as a big driver.
But once I'm here, you just put your helmet on, everyone is the same. You don't think, Who is this guy, or what he's done.
Hopefully going to be great. Hopefully we going to be fighting in the top position. For sure it will be great for us to be fighting each other in the top positions.
Q. On the NASCAR side there's a lot of talk about the younger drivers. Do you think your participation and Sebastian's participation, the way you drive with reckless abandon, do you think it can bring a younger fan base to help build this thing up?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: Definitely. I hope that we can help to bring young people and more fans. IndyCar, as you say, like me and Sebastian, are kind of aggressive. IndyCar wants drivers really constant that don't do a lot of mistakes, to finish all the races.
But now they're giving the opportunity to young drivers, the people in Colombia are following the IndyCar again. We can attract more people. That's the goal not only for me, but all the drivers, to build IndyCar as it was back then.
Q. Not many drivers had their first IndyCar Series start go as well as you did. When you look back on the Indy 500, what do you think about how well that went and how it almost turned out to be a victory in the biggest race?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: That race just give me the opportunity to be here, no, in a full season. It was an awesome race. I didn't cross the finish line first, so I never will know what would happen without the yellow flag. That was 2013. Now is 2014. I have another chance to go get that race.
I'm focused on this year. For sure all last year race going to be in my mind for all my life. But now I have my chance and I have to think and work for it.
Q. What is the working atmosphere like at Andretti versus last year when you were with a smaller team?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: All the drivers, we are really close. We see a lot each other when we go to lunch, the hospitality or something. I have great teammates, three teammates. All of them, they are really nice.
If I ask him, they will say the true, no? Not a lot of driver does that. But we help each other a lot. If they ask me, I also say the true. Ryan is an IndyCar champion, Marco has a great feeling, and James also is a great driver. We're going to have fun this year. I'm going to learn from them this year. We'll see what happen in the end of the year.
Q. About your teammates and Andretti. It seems to me they have been known to play practical jokes on each other. You seem to be a serious guy that wants to learn. How do you fit in with the other guys?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: Yeah, I'm really quiet guy. I'm really shy. That doesn't mean I'm - how you say - bad person. I'm quiet and shy compared to James. He's always talking, making jokes, completely different mind.
But they treat me as one of them. They treat me really well. After Indy they treat me really well (laughter). But it's great to have this combination of drivers, no?
James talks a lot. Ryan is in between. Marco, I think we're more quiet guy. I think it's a great combination for all the team.
Q. They haven't played any practical jokes on you yet?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: After Indy, no (laughter).
Q. Last season you had the opportunity to take the ride and replace Ryan Briscoe. You came to the media center in Toronto and seemed very serious because you were basically thrown in the fire to work on a street course. Do you think you have learned things from that experience at Toronto to be in the IndyCar race and will that help you for the start of the season at St. Pete?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: It was a crazy idea to go straight to the race, but the main goal was to learn. Even though doing this race, I was not really competitive because I went straight to the race. I learned from black tires to red tires. In testing we are not having any red tires. That give me an idea what I'm going to feel in the pit when I'm going to have these red tires for the race.
Give me a lot. I learn a lot, that race. I knew was going to be a long race. You have to really think when to push, when not to. On that race I learn a lot. Everyone say was a crazy idea, but the main goal was to learn, and I did.
Q. You mentioned James as a joker, talks quite a bit. When does he switch modes into race mode?
CARLOS MU¥OZ: I think he gets serious when he puts his helmet on. Even if you have bad session or something, but when he puts his helmet on, he's a serious person. You see last year, he won a couple races. He know how to change the mind, the mentality.
I'm not really good at it. I like to stay focused because I lose a lot of concentration. When he puts his helmet on, he's another guy.
THE MODERATOR: Carlos, thank you.
CARLOS MU¥OZ: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're ready with Sebastien Bourdais.
Your thoughts about testing at Sebring and the testing overall so far this off-season?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: First off, good morning, everybody. It's really been a great winter for me, obviously signing with KV, joining Jimmy and the whole crew. It's been quite an experience. Really feeling very fortunate because I got a great group of guys around me. They've been working really hard all winter. It's really paying off.
I think it's needless to say that work is rewarded. As far as we're concerned, it's been the hardest winter in terms of work that I've seen my team go through in a long time. It makes you feel great because you know the level of preparation is quite high. We've been able to test four times. Another one at Barber before the season starts.
Couldn't be happier. We've made a lot of progress on all fronts. It's probably not going to be perfect right off the bat, but it's a two-year deal and I'm excited to see the progress we made. Hopefully we can hit the ground running and just keep on getting better.
THE MODERATOR: St. Petersburg being the town you reside in now, your thoughts about racing there.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, St. Pete has been home for me since 2003 kind of on and off. It was my very first race in open-wheel in the U.S., started out on the right foot. Great memories from that. It's been really a great place for me to spend time, obviously bring the family over.
When I arrived in the U.S., I was a kid kind of. I evolved from being married, having a child, then another one. We're raising the family in St. Pete in a great neighborhood. Starting the season at home is a great feeling. Hopefully we can get things going right and have a great weekend in St. Pete, because it's not been so great so far since I returned to IndyCar.
Hopefully we can have a better showing this year.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You have been top three every time you've tested. That's caught people's attention. Chip Ganassi said, Who is his engineer? Do you feel people are noticing and people are remembering that you are an elite driver who can win races and challenge for championships?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's funny, we were having that same conversation last night. Somebody was like, Why did you not get picked up by a big team? The common thread in racing is short-term memory.
I don't look at what people say, write or think of me. I try to be myself, do the best I can, and hopefully eventually it pays off and works out.
For sure this year I do feel like there is a lot of potential, unexplored potential at KV. Last year was an eye-opener when Tony won the 500. I think it's pretty much to the credit at KV. They worked very hard. They have a great group of guys who really love racing, which is not so easy to find. I could not put a strong enough point on saying that this group can win, that's for sure.
I don't know how long it's going to take before we do it, but only because competition is so difficult in IndyCar these days. You look at the number of cars you need to beat to just get there, it's really hard. But at the end of the day everybody has the same equipment pretty much. It's just a matter of how you use it, how much work you put into it to get it right.
Every time we've unloaded the car, it's been a bit of a struggle at times, but we just kept digging in, kept digging in. As long as we know and understand what actually makes the car faster, I think we've done just that during all these tests this winter, we end up finishing the test in good shape. That's making me feel very hopeful.
It's not a moving target. You might struggle a little bit to find the answers and solutions, but we do find them eventually. They know what they're shooting for and why they work so hard. It's great. I haven't felt that way in a long time. I feel like there's something pretty awesome to do and am really pumped about it.
Q. When the season was winding down, you weren't sure what you were going to do, you knew Dragon was going away, did you think you would land on your feet and it was as good as it's turned out?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. I was getting pretty not scared, but I didn't really have any idea how that was going to turn out. Maybe it was going to be sports car racing for good or something else. I didn't know which way it was going to go.
You don't control the opportunities that present themselves to you. I think it's about as good as it could ever get. Obviously the only other thing could have been the 10. I don't think I really ever was on that list, and that's fine. Just going to do the best we can with our group and try and beat these guys and show them.
Q. In the last week your teammate from last year will be your teammate this year. Is it helpful you worked with him last year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: He's a good kid. It's helpful in the way it helps the team set all the base work, have a two-car team, know all the people, keep everybody onboard. Otherwise you have to start to lay people off, do all sorts of things that disturb an organization and are painful to do because you don't want to see anybody go when everybody has been working so hard through the winter. That was a relief for everyone.
The guys never really doubted it was going to happen, but the longer you wait, the more questions come up. As far as I'm concerned, you know, I have a really good relationship with Seb. But I've never been one to rely on my teammate.
The way the weekends go, it's really hard to feed off each other. You can look at a couple data and see, He's done this in that corner. It happens. But it's not the big picture. You need to find the answers you're looking for within your group and make the best of your car.
I don't think it's going to play a big factor.
Q. You don't strike me as the kind of guy who believes in karma or fate. Opening the year with the win in the Rolex, do you allow to think, This is going to be a really good year for me?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I'm not superstitious. I don't believe in momentum or anything like that. But starting the season on the right foot never hurts.
It's helpful. When I was in Champ Car, everything was going our way. Didn't matter. Everything was working out. Maybe because we were in the best team, working more than the others, generating our own good luck.
For sure for the longest time in the last few years it felt like, heck, you know, when is it going to work out. Yeah, finally we kind of clicked at the end of the season, got a few podiums, things looked like they were turning around. I was kind of looking forward to building on that. It all went away. Well, where do we go now?
Now this new program with KV has come together. I'm definitely very much looking forward to these next two seasons and very excited about the prospects.
Q. You touched on how much of a struggle it was coming back to IndyCar racing. Do you ever question whether you can get back to the top of the mountain?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, you always question that. Obviously you're only as good as your car is. That's always been true for me. I'm no super hero. I can be very fast in a good car with a good team around me. On my own, I'm no better than anybody else.
Yeah, I guess that first half season when I decided to give it a shot and do the road courses, we had some strong showings, but were never race-winning material. Maybe once in Toronto. Apart from that, we were not quite strong enough. It felt like it was going to be a very steep mountain to climb.
You don't question whether you can do it or not, you just know you can't do it alone. You never know whether you're going to get the opportunity to get back in the winning seat. That's the thing.
Like I said before, when I left Newman/Haas to go after that dream of mine in F1, there was no guarantee if I ever tried to come back getting a top seat. I knew that. It happened before with Zanardi and Cristiano. I knew once I left, I had taken a one-way ticket. It's not that I couldn't buy a return, but nothing was guaranteed.
Yeah, for the longest time it just felt like it was not meant to be. Hopefully I'm going to prove myself wrong.
Q. Could you talk about how things developed with Dragon Racing last year when you sort of realized there wasn't going to be a full-season ride? When did the interest from KV occur?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, it was kind of difficult really because, like I said, it felt like the IndyCar with Dragon was still very much steering in the right direction. But then all the sponsor money was on this two-year deal, which was coming to an end.
To Jay's credit, he had put a great program together. Unfortunately circumstances with the Lotus at first, it was just one step back after another. Not really anything that Jay could control.
Then when you start obviously exhausting all the options, very soon, in the middle of the season, I got to understand through talking to Jay that there was going to be a 30% chance it was going to happen again. As time was going on, there were a couple of sponsor issues and stuff, it was pretty clear it was maybe going to be an Indy-only deal. Then we started talking with Jay. He got all my attention. I got all his attention when we started talking about it. It was really an open discussion.
At the end of the day, he had an option he could have executed. He didn't. He really understood what was a goal of mine, which was to, you know, stay in IndyCar and try and be a champion again. He knew he could just not offer that to me.
We decided to keep the relationship, obviously. I'll probably end up driving his Formula E once the IndyCar season is over. We'll see how that works out. He let me go to chase my main target. It kind of all happened at the same time.
When Tony announced he was moving to Ganassi, the next choice for KV really was James. James was going back and forth between Andretti and KV. At some point KV really needed some commitments from a driver to finalize the sponsor deal. When James didn't commit to it, it was me. That was that.
It was obviously very straightforward. All along I knew exactly what the deal was. I was kind of third in line. That's the way it was. When they didn't take it, I was like, Yeah, I'll take it. We went for that.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastien Bourdais, thank you very much.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Charlie Kimball Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. You're not as gregarious as James Hinchcliffe, but if you are shy or retiring, does that make you a bad person?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: No. I think there are certain drivers with bigger personalities. Part of it is I think my upbringing has never been real outspoken. I've always tried to be pretty quiet.
Growing up my dad always had a saying, I will inevitably screw this up, But, It's better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than open it and confirm the fact.
I think I've always tried to live by that and as much as possible let whatever it is I'm doing, be it on the track, young at school, on the tennis court, let my driving do the talking for me.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Charlie.
Q. Charlie, do you have any special memories of savoring the win in the off-season?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Definitely. You get more of a chance to let it soak in, for sure. Funny enough it was more of a poignant moment that I enjoyed most was looking back on that day, the podium ceremony. I guess it was Wednesday or Thursday after Sonoma, the week after the next race, I got an envelope from the team with all of Floyd's photos from Mid-Ohio. It was his last race before he passed on. For me it was very special.
For me having that vision of him pushing through the crowd to get to Victory Circle to congratulate me, it brought home how special that was, to share that win with Floyd, everything he's done, not just for Chip, everything he's done, all the drivers. Every time at the track he would pull me aside asking me how I was, how my family was at home, knowing that racing is important, but it's not everything.
Having caught my breath after Sonoma, looking back at that, that was very, very special.
Q. You do have a sense of humor with the videos.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: We had fun. I felt like I got swept along with that. When you put James in front of a camera, couple with Josef and Will, maybe it's because Will is from the other side of the world, the humor comes out. We had fun doing those. James, JR and I did a video about who we were because we kept getting mistaken for each other.
It was a lot of fun. I hope at some point we'll be able to do more of those because I think the opportunity to show our personalities, show our colors outside of a racecar, out from under a helmet, is really helpful as a series, and also for us as drivers.
Q. How different is the organization going to be without Dario there?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think it's impossible to replace same with same when you come to someone like Dario as a driver. Tony brings a lot of different skills and a different personality, as does Ryan. I think going back from three to four cars will change the organization maybe more than what losing Dario as a teammate will.
Having said that, I think I will always miss having Dario as a teammate and competitor because of how much he helped me in the first three years, what his being involved in the team, being able to talk to meant. But gaining him as a mentor, assistant to the team, as a coach, he is invaluable.
Pull out another arcane saying here. He used to say, Just because I taught you everything you know doesn't mean I taught you everything I know. So having him as a coach, maybe he helped more than he did as a teammate because he's always at heart a competitor.
Q. Now that he's not in the driver's seat, it's only been a short time, but what has he been able to do in this short time outside of the car that has helped you?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: He has such a fresh perspective, having so recently driven the car, this iteration of the car. While he hasn't driven the Chevrolet we're running this year, he has a fresh perspective on what the racing is like. Being such a student of the sport, he understands the history and development of that. Just that wisdom coming to bear, the three test days we've had, four even before Christmas, he was there, so having those four days with him lending advice has been huge.
He has a good relationship with Brad, my engineer. Brad was the assistant engineer on the 10 car. They can talk data. He knew what he did in the car. Comparing that to what I'm doing, as he said, it's filling out my toolbox for the year. As things change and develop throughout the year, we'll be able to go through that toolbox and rifle and, for lack of a better analogy, pick the right tool for the job.
Q. In the test sessions you've been fairly fast. Do you feel you've made a large step with the victory last year? In your career you've had a good progression, maybe moved up to the next level?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I'd like to think so, for sure.
I think being part of the 1-2-3 at Pocono, not riding on the coattails, being second, not third, beating Dario - and any time you beat Dario, it's very confidence-building. Getting that victory at Mid-Ohio, not having had the experience, go there and get the victory, and get the win by going fast, not catching a yellow at the end, but winning by outright speed cemented my confidence level for sure, took that next step.
All the way along Chip's advice has been to build the foundation for a long-term career, not one year flash in the pan. Try to build a one-way street, so when I take that next step I stay there. I think that's helped.
Going away at the end of the season, having a little downtime, doing a lot of work with the Novo Nordisk allowed me to reflect on that and know coming into this season we've prepared as a team and we know we can win because we've done it. That lays the groundwork to have a great year.
Last year was good. Two wins would have made it great. We didn't get that opportunity at Fontana. To get that opportunity coming into this year is what we're aiming at.
Q. You mentioned why you think it's important for fans to see who you are with the helmet off. Talk about why you think that's important.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think as drivers it's easy to only know us by our car number or only know us by our car colors or our sponsors. With me I think maybe it's a little different because I have such a connection to Novo Nordisk and the insulin they make.
But for fans to have that connection to a driver at a personal level, no matter what car number they're in, what paint scheme they have, what suit they're wearing, what race series they race in, you create a fan. When you create a fan at a personal level, you create a fan for life.
Q. You talked about what you learned from Dario. What have you learned from watching Dixon every day?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: More than he'd like, not as much as I'd like.
Having Scott to learn from, he's so very good at so many things. He's been with Chip Ganassi Racing for so many years, he's young as far as long-term career length. He's going to be a competitor for a long time.
Any day I feel I can get within a couple of 10ths of him on a test or race day, I know I'm doing a good job because that will be the benchmark.
As much as he's taught me how to do things in the racecar, drive style, technique, fuel saving, he's a master at that, he's taught me as much out of the car about how to handle myself, be a member of the team, develop and build the team, and also in the public eye, handle the media, handle the challenges and pressures of being a full-time IndyCar driver and a successful one.
A little bit back to the previous question. I've tried to lay the groundwork so when I take that next step, I'm prepared for it, all the things that come with it, not just the on-track success, but all the additional elements that are part and parcel of that off the racetrack.
Q. The St. Pete track, talk about how it starts off the season.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: It's incredible we get the opportunity to race at St. Pete to start the year because it is a crown jewel in the series. It's a little bit like coming back to the first day of school. While you see some teams and drivers at different test days throughout the years, Media Days like that, the physicals in Indianapolis, it's the first time you're there all together with the team and crew members. Inevitably you have friends on different teams, throughout the paddock.
To be in an environment where the weather is good or great, compared to the weather in Indianapolis this year, to a city that really embraces the Grand Prix, that has such a level of enthusiasm and excitement, really enjoys having us in town, it's awesome. It's really nice to start that way and keep that momentum building that whole year off that first springboard.
Q. This is your first opportunity since the season ended to now be with a new engine manufacturer. At the end of the season the engine manufacturers can go back and make changes. Can you talk about whether you noticed a difference.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I've driven a Honda engine for three years in IndyCar before switching to Chevy. I've had three days with Chevy. It's difficult to delineate all the differences, I'd say.
One of the things is while I've only had three days, it's been a lot of fun 'cause it is a transition period. It's not just unbolt an engine, slide another one in. There's electronics packages, so many mechanical parts and pieces to make it work. The transition has been pretty painless and very seamless. To be able to jump in the car the first day, do as many miles as we wanted, getting used to it, has been surprising, but also very, very nice.
Working with the guys from Ilmor, Pratt & Miller Engineering, GM and Chevy, getting a chance to go to the Detroit Auto Show as a member of the Chevy family was neat. Gave me goosebumps to see the championship-winning car and engine from NASCAR as well as from IndyCar with the same badging, bowtie, knowing I would get the chance to wear that bowtie all year, it was pretty cool. It definitely gave me goosebumps and a level of excitement I didn't expect coming into the year representing the Chevrolet brand.
I think it's going to be a lot of fun. The transition has been largely seamless, but there's still some work we need to do as a team. As I said, the whole back half of the car is different.
Q. I'm not sure exactly how this works out on a race weekend, but from what I know from the outside, Ganassi, when you had four cars on the team, you and Graham were on one team, then you have Dario and Scott Dixon together. From what you've said in the past, the data is there for everybody to share. Last year you went to a three-car arrangement, now you're going to a four-car arrangement. How does it work on a race weekend? Will you and Ryan Briscoe sit down with your engineers in a group or each driver does their own things with their engineers?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: You touched on it a little bit. Last year with three cars, that integration into more of a one-team mentality, it's always been an open-book policy, those resources, both engineering and drivers, crew members, all of that, have been available to all of us, all three, four drivers. Last year the integration was maybe a little smoother because there were only three data points, it was quieter.
I think the single best definition of teamwork I've ever seen is the number of crew guys in a tiny Mid-Ohio sports car garage rebuilding a car after I crashed in practice so I could go out for qualifying and qualify fifth. It didn't matter what color shirts they were wearing, they were all in working on the car getting it ready to go.
We rolled onto the 10 setup pad and rolled straight out for qualifying. I think that one-team mentality built very strongly last year and is something that will continue this year.
I don't know sort of how it will all work. I think that the four of us drivers, engineers and assistant engineers will all debrief together at some point. I think that will be very helpful in that we'll be able to hear what other people are thinking and pick up something maybe we weren't expecting.
As I said, that one-team mentality has only gotten stronger over the last couple years and will continue to get stronger. One of those things is getting the 83 car to a race-winning operation where we can contribute. Rather than just draw resources, we'll be able to give something back.
THE MODERATOR: Charlie, thank you.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Thank you.
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