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IRL Teleconference Transcript: Oriol Servia and Bud Denker

An interview with Oriol Servia and Bud Denker
(Note: Numbers in parentheses are the approximate time codes on the audio MP3)

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guests today are Oriol Servia and Bud Denker. Good afternoon, gentlemen.

BUD DENKER: Good afternoon. Thank you for having me on today.

ORIOL SERVIA: Yes, good afternoon.

THE MODERATOR: Oriol is in his first season for KV Racing Technology following eight seasons in Champ Car. He's ninth in points and is the highest‑ranked drivers among the drivers new to the IndyCar Series and who is not a member of the Ganassi, Penske or Andretti Green Racing teams. Oriol has three top‑five finishes this year, and in the past, he competed at Belle Isle in 2000 and 2001, finishing third in 2000.

Bud is the chairman of The Raceway at Belle Isle Park where the IndyCar Series will race for the second time this coming weekend.

Bud, the IndyCar Series had a great debut at Belle Isle last year. We saw our championship contenders, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti engaged in late‑race controversy. We saw Helio Castroneves getting knocked out of the race; he was the polesitter, and of course we saw Danica Patrick finish second.

So who knows what will happen on the track this year, but tell us about what we'll see off the track and the event itself. .

BUD DENKER (1:30): We had a terrific event last year in our debut of running this, myself and, of course, Roger (Penske) is chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which is the parent company of what we've done here.

You're going to see another great spectacle on Belle Isle. It's a beautiful park here in the middle of Detroit near Windsor, Ontario. We grew our grid from 17 cars to 26 cars, and as Oriol knows, this is a very technical track, a very tight track in certain spots. You have to look for your passing zone, and in certain places, a track that requires really tough focus and concentration because it is a road course.

It's not being used 51 weeks of the year, but the good news is we have a great show lined up in terms of fans. Our ticket sales are 20 percent higher than this time last year. On Sunday, I'm sure we'll sell out every single seat in the grandstands, and we expect about 40,000 people on Sunday, and about 40,000 also on Friday and Saturday.

So a great event planned, a lot of entertainment planned with concerts going around, but with three great races planned this weekend and the IndyCar Series being our big event on Sunday, it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase Detroit once again.

THE MODERATOR: And Bud, did you have a question to lead us into Oriol?

BUD DENKER: Oriol was here a month and a half ago, and we had him here helping us out taking him through Belle Isle. I think he's doing going to see a very different Belle Isle now vs. when he was here in 2000. We have put over $6 million or $7 million in improvements to Belle Isle last year with road improvements and paddock and bridges and everything else that we did here as part of the investment of improving Belle Isle.

You're ninth in points and only 32 points out of sixth place, really tight there between sixth and 10th now, 35 points total, and Oriol is 32 out of sixth. A couple of questions. First of all, give us your perspective on coming back to Detroit where you had success in the past, and secondly, what you expect from the race this weekend being 26 cars on a grid on a very difficult track?

ORIOL SERVIA (3:30): Well, from what I hear, it's a perfect race to win this weekend. You guys have prepared a great show and expect a lot of fans to come. And as you said, I got a podium in 2000, it was actually my first podium ever, and the first podium for PPI, the team I used to race for back then.

I think this race comes at the perfect time, KV Racing Technology, we have been running extremely strong. For one reason or another we just haven't been able to really get to the podium, so finally we get to Detroit and we are hungrier than ever, and it's a racetrack where I have had success and we are really, really excited to come and show that the team is ready, and I think it will be a perfect scenario before the season ends.

THE MODERATOR: If I can follow‑up one question real quick, just staying with Detroit, and Bud mentioned it's a tight track and things like that. We saw some interesting things happen last year there with our championship contenders. From your perspective, just looking at the championship battle between Scott (Dixon) and Helio (Castroneves), how does a track like Detroit play into the championship? Do you see either one of them maybe having an advantage?

ORIOL SERVIA (5:15): I don't see ‑‑ Helio has always been fast. Actually in 2000 when I got my first podium, it was his first win. It's a racetrack also being promoted by all of the best organizations. I think it's a special weekend for Helio obviously.

But Dixon as we know, is like the Iceman. He doesn't make mistakes, and he's always there. And in a big race like Detroit, that's what you need. You need to be solid and strong in qualifying, but definitely super, super concentrated during the race, because it's really easy to make a mistake. It's really tight, very technical, and you really have to be aggressive to make overtaking maneuvers, but that's when you're taking risks.

So it's all about balance, and Detroit is definitely a place where we'll see, I think, whoever is going to be a champion is going to have to shine this weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Let's take a quick look at your season. Bud mentioned some things there about ninth in points and really within striking distance of sixth. Really doing better than anybody else of the drivers that came over at the start of the year. How has the season measured up to your expectations from when you first learned about unification and the fact that you would be in the IndyCar Series this career?

ORIOL SERVIA (6:30): Well, it's been really difficult to gauge our results. I mean, we definitely want to win races, but we all know that especially in ovals, we have a huge gap to catch up to the big teams.

Every race we try our best, and as you say, we find ourselves ninth in the points with the possibility of being sixth. Actually last weekend, we really thought we were going to take a big step forward, because we were really quick all weekend. I got to fourth midway of the race, but unfortunately somehow things didn't work out our way so we ended up 15th, so we lost a good amount of points we could have got there.

Detroit is a race we really think we are going to perform well, and we'll know after Detroit. We can only go step‑by‑step and do the best we can. As I said, I really feel we are going to be contenders this weekend and after that we will see where we are.

THE MODERATOR: What's been the biggest highlight of the season for you?

ORIOL SERVIA (7:30): I would honestly say, I think the fact that we were quick on road courses and street races, people kind of really expected that.

But the race we had in Milwaukee and Richmond, where Milwaukee we got our lap back after going a lap down on the first lap and we finished sixth, and then Richmond, the full race racing with Ganassi and finishing sixth, I think it showed that we can race on ovals, too, something that I really wanted to prove and to show; a, because I like ovals; and b, because I know the team is working hard trying to give me a good oval car. And we showed at least on the short ovals that we were able to understand how to turn left. And it shows promise for the future.

THE MODERATOR: One of the areas where you've excelled, as you've mentioned and maybe it was expected obviously on the road and street courses, but the qualifying with the Firestone Fast Six, getting into that Fast Six session in three of the five races, what have been some of the keys to succeed in that format?

ORIOL SERVIA (8:45): I really enjoy the qualifying format we have now. I think it's very challenging for the drivers. You have to do it three times in three different segments, and it's all about putting it together when it counts. And so far we have been doing enough to get in the top six. We definitely are shooting for being at the top of the top six.

Again, I think we are just doing the right steps, and so far it's going pretty good for the first season. Honestly, my team has worked so hard because, we are just driving, getting the cars ready for the next race and then at the same time, they have to see how to make those cars fast, not just ready. And by getting the cars only two weeks before the first race, it's been a huge fight.

So any time we are able to mix ourselves with the big teams, it's a great accomplishment, and kind of gives us fuel to work even harder for the next weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Just two races to go in the season obviously, you mentioned that you really think you'll be strong this weekend in Detroit; what would you like to accomplish in the last two races to close out the season?

ORIOL SERVIA (10:00): We're going for the podium this weekend and then realistically in Chicago, I would say if we finish in the top eight that would be a great success; and if we accomplish both of those things, then we may be fighting for the sixth position in the points, which would be amazing considering how we started the season being five laps down in Homestead.

We'll see. As I said, we really just try to focus step‑by‑step. It's worked so far this season, and we only have two more races for the points to go.

Q. I know a lot of the transition teams have spent a lot of time this year transitioning into the IndyCar Series format. What are your goals as you have a fresh, clean slate to start with for next year, 2009?

ORIOL SERVIA (11:30): Well, first of all, I have to have a contract signed with the team to start having goals. But, I think I felt more comfortable than I even expected really with this car and on ovals.

So I'm pretty sure if I stay at KV Racing Technology over the winter and we do some work on the car for the ovals, we should be contenders for the championship. If we finish top five and everything goes well to be going for the championship, I don't see any reason why not.

Again, I'm trying to, for my own satisfaction, to really have a good weekend in Detroit. I really want to give the team and myself a podium and fight for the win, and I think our chances are much higher this weekend than in Chicago.

So I'm just really, really focusing on that, and then we'll see where we are for next season.

THE MODERATOR: Bud, tell us a little bit about the significance of being a race late in the championship for the IndyCar Series. Obviously we alluded to earlier the fact that we had some interesting events last year, but what does it mean from your perspective to have us in the real heart of the championship race here late in the season?

BUD DENKER (13:15): I think it means a lot more in terms of significance coming into the final event in Chicago, especially with what happened last week with the situation between Helio and Scott and then the points.

Helio picked up I think 35 points in one race, on Scott in that race, and based upon the finish of those two guys; Scott has been solid all year long and probably the only blip in his performance happened last week just when Helio won his first race. So that could happen again, who knows. Even though I work for Team Penske, I'm looking for a competitive race and a good race and a close championship to finish the year.

I think it's important. We love the fact that we are at this time. Labor Day is an important period here in Motor City. Labor obviously is very important to the people that are around us, the big three that drive things in this area. And that fact alone means that we are going to have a great event.

I said last year, we are going to have great weather, and we have great weather again this year. People saw the kind of event we put on here and typical Roger, detail, detail, detail, we'll ‑‑ Roger just walked by me having a conference call giving me the thumbs‑up, and he's on his way back to work.

We'll have great event and hopefully a very competitive race, which I'm sure it will be leading into the race next week in Chicago.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you both for your time this afternoon, and we're looking forward to a great weekend coming up in a couple of days. IndyCar.com

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