Highlights: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, KV Racing Technology teleconference Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson and KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser and drivers Oriol Servia and Will Power were guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
Background on Graham Rahal: Graham Rahal is competing in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
a. Age: 19 (Birthday is Jan. 4, 1989)
b. Career Starts (Champ Car): 14
c. Best Finish: 2nd (Houston)
d. Career Top-Five Finishes: 5
e. Career Top-10 Finishes: 11
f. Best Start: 4th (Cleveland, Edmonton, Elkhart Lake)
g. Career Highlights: Finished second in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic championship, becoming the youngest race winner in series history
h. 2007 Highlights: Finished fifth in Champ Car
Background on Justin Wilson: Justin Wilson is competing in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
a. Age: 29 (Birthday is July 31, 1978)
b. Career Starts (Champ Car) / 2007: 54 / 14
c. Career Victories/2007: 4 / 1 (Assen)
d. Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 29 / 9
e. Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 41 / 12
f. Career Poles/2007: 5 / 2 (Portland, San Jose)
g. Career Highlights: Finished second in Champ Car in 2006 and 2007. Competed in Formula One in 2003.
h. 2007 Highlights: Finished second in Champ Car, recording a victory and two poles
Background on Oriol Servia: Oriol Servia is competing in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for KV Racing Technology.
a. Age: 33 (Birthday is July 13, 1974)
b. Career Starts (Champ Car) / 2007: 126 / 13
c. Career Victories/2007: 1 / 0
d. Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 34 / 5
e. Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 66 / 11
f. Career Poles/2007: 1 / 0
g. Career Highlights: Finished second in Champ Car in 2005, recording a victory at Montreal. Won Indy Lights title in 1999.
h. 2007 Highlights: Recorded five top-five finishes en route to sixth-place finish in Champ Car.
Background on Will Power: Will Power is competing in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for KV Racing Technology.
a. Age: 27 (Birthday is March 1, 1981)
b. Career Starts (Champ Car) / 2007: 30 / 14
c. Career Victories/2007: 2 / 2 (Las Vegas, Toronto)
d. Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 11 / 8
e. Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 19 / 9
f. Career Poles/2007: 5 / 4 (Las Vegas, Edmonton, Surfer's Paradise, Mexico City)
g. Career Highlights: Earned Champ Car Rookie of the Year honors in 2006. Finished fourth in Champ Car in 2007.
h. 2007 Highlights: Finished fourth in Champ Car, recording two wins and four poles.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today's teleconference, with the approximate time code from the audio MP3 in parentheses.
Q: Graham, two parter. Considering you joined the IndyCar Series, you'll be driving along side Marco Andretti and A.J. Foyt, IV, have you given it any thought you'll be part of a second coming of sorts for many of these great oval names of the past? And if so, do you feel like you've got some outside pressure for that fact, or are you just trying to focus on yourself and just sticking to your own ways here?
GRAHAM RAHAL (12:30): For me at this point I'm just trying to focus at the task at hand. Obviously for the fans it's exciting you have the Foyts and Andrettis and Rahals racing against each other once again. To be completely fair, do I expect to run with them initially? No. Obviously I'd love to be able to say yes, I can go out there and do that.
But with my lack of experience on these ovals, it's certainly going to be a tough thing. I'm looking forward to getting back there with Marco (Andretti). I've raced with him in the past. He's obviously a very good driver and looking forward to racing with him again.
Like I said, at this point we need to focus on our job as a team at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and look at certainly put aside things like beating Marco and A.J. (Foyt IV). As much excitement as that may offer for us, at the end of the day we want to go out there and beat everybody. That does include beating them as well.
Q: Looking ahead at 2008, obviously you had a real successful career in Champ Car especially finishing second in the last two years. With the loss of Sebastian (Bourdais) you would have been considered the favorite this season. What do you set your expectations and goals for 2008?
JUSTIN WILSON (3:30): Like Graham said, it's going to be tough. We've got a long road ahead of us trying to work everything out. The guys are working very hard right now. So it's hard to understand what kind of goal to put on it. But our aim is, or my personal aim is, to do the best we can, whether that is trying to get a podium or pick up race wins. I don't want to overestimate and I don't want to underestimate. We've got to judge the competition when we get there and be realistic. And not get carried away. These first few races will be very difficult. The short time we've had to get the cars prepared and the lack of information we have as far as set up wise, we don't have years of experience setting these cars up.
So that takes time. And I'm pretty confident that I'm in the right place being with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, that we can work it out.
Q: Can you give us an update of how things are coming together since the unification announcement a couple of weeks ago.
JIMMY VASSER (22:30): As you can imagine, having just spoken with Justin and Graham, that all the Champ Car teams are absolutely flat out, it's a huge undertaking, and we're working around the clock seven days a week just to get prepared for first the test at Sebring, which I think we'll make but it will probably be difficult for all the Champ Car teams that are switching over to be there. And then subsequently on the road for back to back races at Homestead and St. Petersburg. So it is what it is and we're working real hard.
I think there aren't many people out there that won't agree this is the best thing for the sport of IndyCar racing, for the future. The timing probably wasn't the best, but we have our heads down and we're looking forward to getting on track.
Q: Oriol, you had an opportunity to race on a few ovals. I know Milwaukee, as Will mentioned, and maybe Phoenix and a couple of others. Will it take a while to feel comfortable getting up to speed on the ovals?
ORIOL SERVIA (27:30): For sure I'm a little rusty. I must say I was good in the ovals in Indy Lights in 1998 and '99. In CART, we had ovals there. I have good experience in ovals. I always enjoyed them and had a great time.
But, again, it's going to take a little bit and myself and the team to remember all the important things and make sure we don't make mistakes, which is what, in an oval, we'll go through the most.
So I'm excited. I'm excited to start. Maybe I would like, I would prefer to have a street or road course before we hit the oval, but the schedule is what it is going to be. This is going to be our first one. Hopefully we'll be ready. And, like I said, we're not going to make mistakes, which would be the biggest problem for us at the beginning of the season.
Q: Will, you're coming from last season, you had a rookie teammate and familiar surroundings with the crew and the team. And now you're moving to a brand new team with two members you don't know. At least Oriol is a seasoned driver, with experience on ovals and road courses. If you could talk a little bit about what it's like to move into such a brand new situation because you also have new cars and new tracks as a challenge.
WILL POWER (36:00): Yes, makes me feel like a rookie again. It's tough leaving a team where you've had a group of guys around you. And the good thing is that my engineer has actually, he's moved across and that will be good to work with him again. But I'm looking forward to the challenge. And I think it's good having Oriol as a teammate with a lot of experience on ovals and road courses.
And I think between us we'll be able to speed up the transition and really get the hang of these cars. So it's all coming together at the last minute. It's going to be tough. But I'm up for the challenge. And at the end of the year I want to be running like the sun.