Milka Duno-Davey Hamilton transcript 91st INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Milka Duno, Davey Hamilton
Sunday, May 6, 2007, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
MODERATOR: Welcome to the Economaki Press Room for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500. A familiar face and a new face to the Speedway here. Of course, many of us know Davey Hamilton's story. Suffice it to recall, he finished second in Indy Racing League IndyCar Series points and one of the really stalwart drivers in the early days of the Indy Racing League. We're delighted to have Milka Duno with us, who comes from a great deal of fanfare. Those of you who have been on the IndyCar trail will recall her win in a very exciting Grand American Rolex Series race at Homestead Miami Speedway a couple of years ago, so Milka also comes with some great credentials. Davey, we'll start with you. I talked to you this morning and you said, "We've got to knock a little rust off." Did you get that done this afternoon?
HAMILTON: Yeah, we did. We're going fast around here. I remember that now. It was good. The car was solid. We just went through one set of tires and just got comfortable, and I did that. I was excited coming into the day, and it's been a long time, like I said. Vision (Racing) gave me a great car and made it easy, so hopefully it just stays as it was today. It was really good.
MODERATOR: Milka, of course, you were at Kansas Speedway and went through all of the tests there and completed the race, which was your goal. Your first time out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, tell us about your first day here.
DUNO: I am so happy because the people here made me feel so welcome in Indianapolis. I didn't think I would have so many fans, so many people so fast. During the test, it wasn't so easy for me. Like Davey says. I was out there the first few laps and I was saying, 'Oh, what am I doing here?' Really, it's a tough track. I understand now when the drivers and the people say that it's the most difficult track, it really is. Everything happens so quick, so fast, the track is so tight. You have to be precise in every corner, and the four corners are so different. You have to drive with so much concentration and be so precise with the steering; it really is a very tough track. I have many people around me with a lot of experience and I take full advantage of that. The only way to learn and the fast way to learn is to ask all day to everybody, to all the guys on my team, to my engineers, to Pancho Carter, to everyone I see. To Rick Mears, to everybody, because I must take advantage of what I have around. I have many people with a lot of experience and I want to improve in a fast way, so I'm doing what I have to do. Ask, no? It's the only way I have to learn.
MODERATOR: I would think Davey, you could relate to that, the way you came through sprints and supermodifieds and midgets and such to the IndyCar Series, and there's similarities, but there's differences, as well.
HAMILTON: Well, the first thing she said, the track. This track is so unique. The corners, they're all different. They all look the same, but every corner has a different character to it. You have to learn them again, and what's helped me a lot is that two-seater program. I don't know if you guys have been for a ride with me or not in that thing, but I have a lot of laps in that two-seater program. That helps a lot because the line is the same, the track is the same, the walls are in the same place. So that helped me. I had a little advantage of today, I was more confident to get back into a car and do that, and the speed is a lot different. It was back to getting used to the speed and like I said, it was a great race car. The setup that we had today was our race setup, so I feel pretty good because it was fairly easy. It was fairly easy to drive, and now it's just one step at a time. I've got great teammates with Ed (Carpenter), Anthony (Foyt), and Tomas (Scheckter) helping me out here all month. The great thing for me, as well, is that I get to run the whole month. When I came back, I wanted to make sure I had a proper program and with Hewlett-Packard coming aboard and AMD, Vision Racing has let me have an opportunity to do it with a great team, which is a great thing and it's proper. It's done in a proper way.
MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions.
Q: Milka, you've won in road racing, but you've run, only by yourself on this racetrack. At the end of the month, do you think you'll be able to run for three hours, in traffic, at 200 and some miles and hour, and how different is that going to be from a road race for you?
DUNO: Even when I'm on a road course and I'm driving with another driver, I'm still driving on long runs. When we have 24 hours, I would be driving two and a half hours. Also, when I was racing in Le Mans, I was racing two hours and 30 minutes continually. This is good preparation. The road courses are very difficult and very tough races, you can imagine. To go flat at Daytona for example, you have to be so perfect with the car. Here, to go flat with the car and the banking, it's very easy because you have a lot of downforce. But every different car, you have to drive a different way. Here you are going quicker, but it helps you to go quick. And I think that a road course and those cars have helped me so much with this. With the temperatures, it was so hot inside. It was 120 degrees in the seat, you have to brake, and there's fast and slow cars. You have to work so much inside the car, that I think it was good preparation. I knew that at the last race in Kansas, because I didn't know what could happen. I raced two hours in Kansas, and it was OK. I have conditions that I have to keep, and even have to improve.
Q: Davey, when you did your ROP, it was a lot different. They held it a few weeks before Opening Day, but you came from an open-wheel, oval-track background. Can you talk about how difficult it must be for a driver like Milka, who basically just ran her first open-wheel, oval-track race a week ago, to be able to go through it so quickly, and kind of compare what it was like when you went and did it?
HAMILTON: I think that she has, coming from the short track, and those open-wheel cars, and it has the same feel of this race car, but coming to such a larger track and so much more speed, was difficult for me, but she has the endurance part. You know, she's been in three hours before. She's been in 24-hour races. Her races have been very long, so she should be very good at that. Yeah, when you take that roof off and you take the doors away and you're by yourself in that little cockpit, it's a whole different atmosphere for you get around here. Like I say, my first open-wheel race was in Kansas, and I think she proved to me and a lot of people that she did a great job. She did what she was supposed to do, which was bring the car home and she got a lap down, but if you look at the end of the race, so I think she's going to be fine. The fact is, this place is the most difficult racetrack there is. I don't know why I chose this one to come back. I guess it's because it's the biggest one in the world, but it is the most difficult.
Q: Can you compare it to when you did your ROP?
HAMILTON: You know, it's been a long time. The first time around this racetrack, I think I paid more attention to the grandstands and look around at the magnitude that I was finally here and the scoring pylon and the Pagoda, well the Pagoda wasn't here then, but the tower, and just soaking in where I wanted to be my whole life. Ron Hemelgarn gave me that opportunity and I was able to go through ROP in 1991, but I didn't race. 1995 was my first opportunity to really race, and my first race was in '96, I think. So each time, I just kind of picked away at it and got something, but it was a very intimidating place my first time.
Q: Davey, did you ever give up hope of coming back here and racing after your first accident, and for Milka, what did you know about the Indy 500 before you came here today?
HAMILTON: Yeah, I did lose hope, actually. You know, when you're laying in a hospital for two years, basically, and you've had 21 surgeries and not knowing how you're going to walk, it's kind of hard to know if you're going to have the opportunity. Then once I felt confident that I was healthy enough, that I could physically get the job done, it's not as easy as just going to a car owner and getting that trust that you can do it. It was just something that you have to try. That's when the Sinden guys gave me the opportunity in the two-seater, and it helped a lot. It also helped a lot to get my feet working on the clutch and the gas and the brake and getting out of the pits all the time. But everything happens for a reason. I almost got in this race last year. We were close, I mean, we were to the design of the car the day before I was supposed to get in it, and then the thing fell apart over night. It gave me a full year to really progress on that and get sponsors. I mean, when Hewlett-Packard came on board and AMD came along and Ken Thompson, Incorporated came along, it just happened and fortunately, I'm with a great team.
DUNO: My career is not like other drivers. They all, from a very young age, wanted to be a race car driver. Ever since I was 5 years old, 8 years old, I always wanted to be an engineer. My career had a focus in another direction. This is why I studied so much. I didn't follow racing. I didn't start following racing until I started racing in 1999. That was when I started to learn about many different championships. I was sitting here in 1999 when I started racing, I was sitting in the stands in Turn 4. I was watching the cars thinking, 'Oh, how impressive these cars are; how fast are they going?' That's when I said, 'One day, I want to do that.' Eight years later, I am here. I am so happy for this opportunity. I appreciate so much my people and my sponsors and everyone who has helped me to be here in the IndyCar Series. Just to everyone because it was a dream that has come true, after eight years, I'm here. I haven't had a traditional career like the other drivers, but it's something that, I think, if there's something you want to do, if you have the determination, there's a way. You don't let anybody intimidate you and prepare, and you can do anything.
MODERATOR: Any more questions? Well, thank you both very much.