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Overheard at Indy - Carb Day
Sponsorship boost for Andretti Team Andretti Autosport signed an associate sponsor agreement with Virgin Mobile USA for driver Ryan Hunter-Reay's No. 37 Team Izod car during the Indy 500. Meanwhile, Andretti Autosport also signed Boost Mobile to a sponsorship agreement in support of the team's Izod IndyCar Series program and drivers Danica Patrick and Adam Carroll.  Boost will be featured as a major associate sponsor of Patrick's No. 7 GoDaddy.com car for the rest of the '10 season, and as the primary sponsor on Carroll's car when he makes his IndyCar Series debut at the July 4 Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen

Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi pose with the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 trophies
Scott Morris/AR1.com
"The 500 Club" Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi met the media here today as the only team owners to have ever won both the Indy 500 and Daytona 500.  The Harley J. Earl Trophy for the winner of the Daytona 500 (see Photo) was side-by-side with the Indy 500 Borg Warner trophy.  UPS shipped it in and this is the first time it has ever been out of Daytona.  "I've never seen these two trophies side by side," said Penske. "I just asked Chip which one does he want because I don't care if I get two, I'd just like to have one." ....."I don't look at it in terms of winning the two races in one year," said Ganassi. "It would be a huge thing, but right now my focus is like he said, to beat this guy next to me. You know, he's the guy I have to beat. He's the team we're going to have to beat on Sunday to walk away with the Borg-Warner Trophy.  It's, I just have to tell you all something. The night of the Daytona 500 I got a little text on my phone, it said, "Welcome to the 500 Club. RP." (Laughter).  I just wrote back, I said, "Thanks." Then kind of the next day it hit me what that was, the 500 Club. I thought, "Jesus, that's a tiny club." (Laughter) It didn't even hit me at first, you know, what it had meant to win."

Did you think you would ever have the chance to win both of the marquis 500 mile races in both series?  "That's something you can only dream about. In your wildest dreams you don't think that is even possible," said Ganassi.  "Even to win a Daytona 500 or a Indy 500...and now to have the opportunity to win both in one year, I don't even think about that. It's so far out of the realm of thought. I am just trying to focus on the job at hand. You gotta have a clean day out there, do the obvious things right, and let's get to the last pitstop and make a run for it."

Pushing on Each Other "We -- everybody's out there looking at everyone else's car, but these days the things you, you know, certainly some things you can see, some things you can't; and certainly, we're looking at their car, they're look at our car," said Ganassi. "That's what keeps us sharp. I think that's what keeps us sharp is having a competitor like that, having somebody that wants to push things, you know, and drive his team to a higher standard. I think that's what the sport, that's what sports is all about, that's what this sport is all about. You know, there's no question Roger sets the pace in raising the bar and pushing hard on his team; and that's who we're here to emulate here right now, it's that simple."

Freedom 100 - Driving the Sam Schmidt Izod sponsored machine, Wade Cunningham just held off Charlie Kimball to win the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race.  “The car was great in the draft and it was pretty easy for me to pass Charlie, and both times he got in front I didn’t panic because I knew in a couple of laps I’d be back in front,” said Cunningham, the 2005 Firestone Indy Lights champion. “I never gave him the chance to get by.”

Things looking up Mr. Penske hit on this, that there seems to be something different in the air. Boy, it feels like a lot of momentum going into the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500. "I couldn't agree more," said Ganassi. "My barometer is the traffic coming in this morning, and there was plenty of traffic. I think we put on a good show this past weekend for the fans during the qualifying procedure and the new, the new way of doing things. I know Roger and I looked at each other a lot that day wondering what was next and what was, you know, what was happening next and did we have all our bases covered or not. So, yeah, it's true, there is something different about it. There's certainly an uptick. It's because of IZOD and now it's because of Sunoco and these people getting involved. They see that we have a property that has value to it. So I think that's important."  Although the Indianapolis 500 "isn't quite the cash cow it used to be," it is "still the land of milk and honey when it comes to the IndyCar Series." With corporate suites "sold out for Carb Day and nearly sold out for race day and a crowd of near 300,000 expected" for Sunday's race, there is "reason for optimism"

Roger Penske
Scott Morris/AR1.com
What is needed to improve IndyCar Racing?  "No. 1, we need to get more TV exposure," said Penske.  "I think that the ratings where they are, we need to get better. I know all sports are under some pressure today, but I think if the show and the ability for us to have full fields is going to make a difference, I think the weekend, this past weekend was good with a new format and we have to look at other things that we have to look at. We even talked today, it was brought up in the drivers' meeting, do we have a situation like NASCAR where if you're running fourth and you're 17th in line, do you get up to line up fourth to take the restart? Those are things I think the League has to take a look at. I never had a bad feeling copying the guy that was winning, and there's some good things we see out of NASCAR. They've taken our idea of bringing the cars back around and letting them go to the back of the field, that started here. Those are things I think we can do to make a better show."  "Yeah, I agree completely," said Ganassi.  "I was telling some guys earlier this morning, you know, when you watch racing on television, it's like watching any other sport. If you watch major league baseball and then you watch Little League baseball, it's the same rules. And it's the same visual show. I think we need to do that in racing. So we may need to adopt some things, whether that's, you know, side-by side starts, like Roger said, having the fourth-place guy has to line up behind the third-place guy. There shouldn't be six lapped cars between them. But when people look at a show on TV, I think they need to see the same thing. I think that's important. And so they understand the rules quickly. I don't think we need to be too different in that area. So certainly, I want to repeat certainly the television exposure. You know, there are dormant things but this is like it's a step thing, it's one step at a time. I think we're making steps, management's in place to make those steps and given the edict to do that and I think it's moving along at the right pace.  And IZOD, when I saw those TV commercials during the NFL playoffs and over the winter, I thought that was big. So we have a willing partner, that's 90 percent of the way there."

Does IndyCar Racing need chassis variety again?  "I think the fact that the committee is looking today at an engine formula that will hopefully attract multiple suppliers, will be good for the sport," said Penske. "We've got to be sure that the specifications on whatever it is are realistic because we can't get into all fancy metals and things and I think that's got to be important or we get the cost out of sight on the chassis side.  If there's the ability to have one chassis supplier, I'd like to see multiple. But again, we've got to be sure that the price of these vehicles, the race vehicles are at a level that everybody can afford them. I think that's got to be the ceiling. If someone wants to buy one and subsidize it, fine, but it costs the same whether Chip buys it or I buy it or someone wants to get in the series. So to me I think this is a watershed time for us. The fact we have so many cars in this field in a time when the economic and the world is where it is, I think shows that there's some strength here."

What makes Penske and Ganassi so dominant here?  "Experience," said Penske. "Working together, and the respect for each other's ability, whether it's Will or Briscoe or Helio. I think their ability to communicate and see what the other is doing, and go as quick as they do. And then behind that is the engineering people who are running the cars have complete transparency."......"You have to have a clean day," said Ganassi. "We have seen time and time again here that the fastest car doesn't win the race. You have to have a clean day. You have to get in and out of the pits, you have to have good restarts. You know, you can't ding a little wing or ding something. It’s the same thing down in Charlotte. The guy who going to be around at the end of the 600 isn't going to have any marks on his car. You have to have a clean day."

What's next for the Delta Wing Project?  Penske responded, "Well I want to see it run. I told that to Chip, and I am certainly supporting it. It's something new, and you know, why wouldn't you? I think that's how we get ahead, by looking at different things."  Is the money there yet to build it?  "I don't know yet. I have said to Chip that if I have to "Chip" in, you know to see the development piece of project through...there's a lot of things going on now, but I think there's a number of teams that would like to support that first car, but then after that it’s got to be a commercial venture that's viable."  How close are we to actually having a prototype Delta Wing car built and track tested?  Well Roger has his money in there, so people are getting behind it, and hopefully it's moving along to the next step," said Ganassi.  "So will we see the car on a track within the next year?  I hope so. I sure hope so. I am not at liberty to tell you who is funding what and how and where and when. I don't think that's important to the project right now."

Is Bruton Smith's idea of a big prize for a driver to win both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 in the same day?  "You know I haven’t had a chance to fully digest it," said Ganassi. "You know, Montoya said it best when he said even if you have the best car with the best team, you are still going to have to beat the people who do it week in week out, and that’s a tall order in today's motor racing."

IRL vs. Champ Car  It came down to the top team in the IRL against the top team in Champ Car,

It was a good crowd on Carb Day
Scott Morris/AR1.com
Penske Racing vs. Newman/Haas in the final round of the annual Indy 500 pitstop competition.  The Penske Team prevailed 8.0001s to 9.548s.  Mutoh and his pit crew beat the drivers/crews of Dan Wheldon, Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson to advance to the final round and earn $15,000 for second place.

Good Crowd  The attendance for Carb Day was close to 100,000 by our estimate and definitely up from previous years.  Mark Cipolloni reporting from Indy

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