Q and A with Ganassi IndyCar team
MODERATOR: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, for a traditional stop by for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Chip Ganassi and Mike Hull and a talented group of drivers who not only know how to win here; they know how to win championships. And as I've take a look at things over the years, Chip, I think one of the things that makes an organization strong is consistency. I thought to myself how long some of the key players have been with you, and all of them know a little bit about winning. You have to feel good about your chances again.
CHIP GANASSI: Certainly. Yeah, I mean, that consistency starts with the guy to my right, with Mike, you know, and the group of people he puts together. And, yeah, I mean when you look at how long Dixon has been around now, it's quite a long time. And Dario, of course, and Charlie. And obviously bringing back Ryan.
It's -- I was surprised after we -- after we did the deal with Ryan there a month or so ago -- not even a month ago -- it was pointed out to me that all four of these guys finished in the top eight last year. So I didn't realize that beforehand, but certainly consistency is a big thing. And, you know, I think this sport sometimes rewards longevity. Experience.
So, yeah, I look forward to this weekend and next.
MODERATOR: Mike, you have a talented group of drivers, obviously, that you each are different, each have different styles, each have different things they want, I suspect. You know if you at least come somewhat toward making them happy, they have a chance to deliver the goods, that's one of your tasks.
MIKE HULL: I think keeping them unhappy might be better (Laughter) to be very blunt about it because unhappy race drivers are ones that work really, really hard to be better.
But I think as a group what you see in front of you is a definition of partnership. Certainly this month, partnership is good because one day somebody has a really good day, and his teammate doesn't have a great day, you compare notes and come back stronger the next day. I think that's truly what we're all about.
Particularly Indianapolis because you have enough time to be able to get everything right when you work together.
MODERATOR: No question about that. We've got a lot of interest in these guys. We're going to open it up right away to some questions.
Q: Question for you, Ryan. What's the situation -- how are you doing more races and what kind of races you have done?
RYAN BRISCOE: I'm just doing this race at the moment. I'm doing the American Le Mans series this year, including Le Mans next month. So from here I will be moving to France for that. So we're just taking it one step at a time here.
It's been great to be on board at Chip Ganassi Racing again. It's an amazing feeling. It's great to team up with Scott again and get to know Charlie and Dario. Working with them on the race car. And I think that longevity that Chip was talking about, it's certainly made this transition a lot easier, in the fact that I know pretty much everyone on the team. It's just been seamless. I feel like I've just slotted right in and it's been all business.
It's felt great, and I think we're just working hard here to get better and better. Hopefully we'll get a repeat of last year what the team did.
Q: This is for Mike and whichever one of the drivers wants to chime in. Since they took the second week out of the schedule, are you working more backwards, but all of your race stuff the first five, six days and then really start focusing on qualifying trim yesterday and today.
HULL: Yes. The obvious answer is yes, we do. And I think you've seen that for the most part. Most of the team have -- you want to work to be at the front at the end of the race and have the opportunity to win. It's an intensified week, but you have to wait for a couple of days for the place to rubber-up a little bit. Then you really start working. And I think that was evidenced again yesterday when you saw people out there doing runs together and trying to find traffic so you could do that. You might see a fast a lap because of the tow, but you're more interested in what your car's going to be like when you have about 40 percent left in the tires. That's really the difference-maker in how you win the race. That's what we work on.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I agree with Mike. Obviously it's a balancing between the engine miles and the sets of tires you have, as well. Obviously with the qualifying setups you don't get full boost until today, so really today is really all about qualifying. Up until now it's really been about general stuff.
SCOTT DIXON: I totally agree. Biggest thing this week already from the start of -- with testing we've been pretty lucky. Some years you can come and you don't run three days in a row. So this year it's been about managing time a lot more because you have a lot of on-track. As Dario mentioned, tires and engine miles. Still very limited. You got to pick the right time. Obviously for us it's trying to find paths recently in the heat of the day. That's about it.
Q: Chip, your thoughts on where the series is at. Do you feel good about with fans, with sponsors, television? Do you like the direction?
GANASSI: I think, you know, it's kind of a broad question. You know, can you bring that down a little bit?
Q: Do you feel like you're going forward?
GANASSI: Obviously the front office is in transition mode, I guess. I'm certainly happy with who's at the helm there now, whether it's Mark Miles or Derrick (Walker). I think that's a good -- I think that's a good addition, great addition. In fact, I think, you know, they still have some work to do there. I think freely admit that.
What else? Fans? I think we have some work to do with the fans. We need to do a better job of explaining -- of being relevant to -- relevant to fans and relevant to the people who put the money in this sport, whether it's sponsors or manufacturers, whoever. We can do a better job being a little more relevant. What else?
Q: How is, sort of, the direction different this year from last year?
GANASSI: I think there's a longer view of things. Which I think, you know, it was my opinion that the prior administration was viewing down their nose, and these people seem to be looking a lot farther down the road.
Q: Dario, going for your fourth (win). Any thoughts on adding any members to the four-time winners club? Any pressure on you?
FRANCHITTI: There's no more pressure than there is on anybody else in the field. Doesn't make you any faster. Doesn't make the team work any harder. It's simply right now about the mechanics of trying to put ourselves in a position to challenge on Race Day, trying to make sure the Target car is fast, consistent. And then try and qualify well, ourselves -- as I say, when we put ourselves in that position, go race and see how it all works out. Do the best job we can on that day.
There's no more pressure. It's a great position to be in, trying to win that fourth one. Scott is obviously trying to win his second, and the guys here trying to win their first. And it's great memories of last year. And looking forward. Hopefully we do have a job -- today, tomorrow, and then next Sunday.
Q: Chip, when you were filling out the team and deciding to bring Ryan on, what was kind of the decision factor to bring him on? Second, is it maybe like an interview process for a permanent position?
GANASSI: I think it's safe now to tell the story. I was on the plane with Mike Hull one day, en route to another function. And we got in a discussion. I said, "Where's Briscoe?"
He said, "I don't think he's anywhere."
I said, "What? Well, we got to get him." He said OK. And that was the whole conversation. (Laughter)
We can't leave a guy like that -- if a guy like that's available. We got to get him.
It worked out well with some of our staffing. You know, we obviously had the cars, we had the staffing and it was a pretty -- pretty -- I don't want to use the word "seamless." It was something done fairly quickly in about two or three days it seems like. And quite frankly, I didn't know Ryan was available. When I fought out he was, it was just a matter of Mike and I having the conversation. It took, like I said, about five minutes, maybe.
BRISCOE: Didn't take long to say yes. (Laughter). That's in this case.
MODERATOR: Can you quantify it? A second, five seconds, or 10?
Q: Dario, you talked a little bit about going for a fourth. Far more than you probably could have ever asked for to win three of these things. What's it been like just hanging out with the three four-time winners and stuff like that? Kind of say wow, they consider me one of the all-time greats of this racetrack.
FRANCHITTI: I am very happy to have won one. So difficult -- look at some of the great drivers that didn't get the opportunity even to win one, so I was happy. Three is beyond anything expected. But I really want the fourth.
But hanging out with those guys has been a lot of fun. We see a lot of -- we see JR at the track, we see Bobby occasionally. And Helio is still competing. Rick's here all the time with the Penske guys and A.J. is here and occasionally Al Senior, to hang out with those guys is fun. When they start telling stories, Helio and the younger guys have to sit and listen and laugh. The rivalry those guys had, you know, 40 and 50 years ago are still going on. It's really a privilege to hang about with guys that I consider my heroes.
Q: Charlie, you're on the uptake, it looks like. How do you feel about chances this year and about this season and a minor question. What is the significance are your number 83?
KIMBALL: Well, it's always great to be back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and to have the opportunity to just compete in the Indy 500. It's very special. But to do it with a team like Chip Ganassi Racing has been fantastic.
The season started out really well, and we're seeing some momentum and seeing some results that, frankly, are necessary. Are expected as we gain experiences.
So predictions, ideally, as a team, I think every single one of us is here to win. We don't come to a racetrack to finish second. So the idea is that we're doing everything we can this week to prepare ourselves.
And this weekend to be in position, as Mike said, to race for the win at the end of the race. So, that's our goal and that's kind of our expectation.
As far as the number, it's 30 years, this year actually, since Chip's best result as a driver here at the Indianapolis 500. And he happened to be driving a car that my dad had a hand in designing. So it's important for me to recognize Chip's history as a driver and his success here by running the number 83.
Q: Scott, as a former winner you've been very close to being a multiple winner here the last couple years. Last year looked like you might have a great shot. Just that kind of magnifying, just how difficult it is to win here, as many second-place finishes that you've had since your victory.
DIXON: I think would two of those have been behind Dario. When are you retiring? (Laughter).
That that was five years ago.
You know, I love this place, everybody loves this place. It's good to be back here. Everyone here, Charlie and everybody up here has mentioned, the goal is the same. We want to win the race. I think we're very fortunate to be with a great team that can put you in that position.
Yes, we've come up short a couple times. I think probably 2011 was a clear race that we maybe stood on our own feet and should have had a great shot at it. Luckily it went to another great driver. As long as you keep fighting and keep knocking on the door -- last year was the perfect scenario, obviously, have a one-two finish. Especially on Target's 50th anniversary. But that's what we strive for, to be in that position, every time we come here. Nothing's changed on that. Nobody remembers the second-place finishers, so we need to try to bump up a couple more.
Q: For all the drivers. Talk about road race driving as opposed to oval, what's your strengths and what do you enjoy?
FRANCHITTI: I think they are very different skill sets. Driving on an oval, whether is a short oval, that's one skill set, superspeedway, another road course, street course being another. And it does take some adapting to. We've all driven on road courses racing go-karts. It's something you definitely have to learn. Preferences, I think, it's one of the great thing about the IndyCar Series you have to be good at all of them. You can't have a preference. We all loving coming to Indianapolis, and this is the jewel in the crown in the IndyCar Series, for sure.
You have to be good on every track if you want to challenge for championship.
DIXON: I think to reiterate, this is the toughest championship to win. To be good at all the disciplines, short oval, super speedway, Indianapolis. It's one of the toughest series to get everything together.
And I think it's kind of what we like about it, the challenge, that we have a hand. I didn't come to race on an oval until 1999 when I first started Indy Lights. But it's a great mix. I love both for different reasons. They are both are very challenging. And I think we have a good mix right now. Maybe a few more ovals would even it up pretty good.
KIMBALL: I can't agree with Scott and Dario more. I mean the only other comment I have is that it's a testament to a championship-caliber team that the engineers and the mechanics are so versatile that they are able to come up with winning equipment, give us the opportunity as drivers to run up front and be successful on multiple types of tracks and types of races, throughout the season, throughout the championship.
That's a credit to them and to the management that has put them in place.
BRISCOE: They really said it all, but I mean honestly, for me, as well. I love them both. When you get to a track, you know, your mindset just changes to what that track is. And you know, that really is the most -- the best thing about IndyCar Series here is the diversity. It's tough on the drivers, it's tough on the mechanics and the engineers, because the engineering of the car is so different from a track like this to a Milwaukee and then to a Baltimore.
So that's the beauty and the challenge of IndyCar racing, and it makes it unique to anything else in the world.
Q: As kind of a follow-up, if each of the drivers can tell us their love for the Indianapolis 500, what it is about the lure of this race and why you guys love coming here.
BRISCOE: It's everything to do with it. It's something about this place when you drive in through the tunnel where it makes hair stand up on the back of your neck. It's a race that's known by everybody in the world. It's by far the most important race for any driver or any team to win in any form of racing. So I think it's all that, the history and how people are remembered for having done well at this track.
KIMBALL: Ryan hit on a couple of key points. Being lucky enough to live here in Indianapolis, even when I just drive past it on 16th Street, even in the dead of winter with snow on the ground, it still makes you feel special knowing that you get to come here and compete in the Indy 500 and everything that means for a driver, for a team. Have the opportunity to go out and try and win it.
Somebody asked me earlier in the week what it was like for my third race, third time here. You know, each year it just gets more and more special because you have your own history to add to the rich history of the race itself.
DIXON: It's the key point to the history that sums it all up. To be in a sport doing something very similar or the same for over a hundred years. Tradition is very important. I think those definitely stand out.
You know, I think for me personally, to be on a short list of 67 different who have won at this place, that's special to me. Dario is on a much shorter list of winning it three times. It's everything that's involved. You know, I think a lot of us have been lucky to go to World Cup, Super Bowl, Wimbledon, the Olympics, and nothing compares to Indianapolis. As an event and Race Day with so many people here, the sheer size of this facility, it's really special.
FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I absolutely agree with everything these guys said. But I think it's one of the few things I've done in my life the more you do it, the more it means to you. That's a very odd feeling. Each time you come back here you just -- it gets deeper, deeper. It's such a great event.
You think what a challenge it is to race here, to try to win. People take most of their life to try to compete in this race. It means so much to all involved. It's a special place. It's a great, great feeling to win it. It hurts like hell when you don't.
MODERATOR: You know, race drivers life in the now, but the two gentlemen who have won the race, do you have a moment to reflect? Do you reflect and say, "I am really part of the history of the sport, having my image on the Borg-Warner Trophy"?
FRANCHITTI: I think when you see your likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy, it kind of takes me back a little bit. Rocks me back on my feet. You see all the people beside you, whether it's great drivers that are friends that you know, and guys you consider heroes, guys from really the past who you never met that you are part of that whole hundred years of tradition now. And you're on that very short list. What did Scott say -- 67 winners. That's very, very special.
Not only to the drivers feel that, but every member of the crew and the team. I think Chip as a team owner there. We all feel it.
MODERATOR: How about you, Scott?
DIXON: As Dario said, I think in looking back at my youth coming from New Zealand and a lot of farmland and not big circuits and the occasionally sheep (Laughter), it's definitely, you know, special to be able to come through a long road and make it to the world stage and with such a prominent team and achieve -- I think that's what you dream about. So actually you know, make one of your dreams come true is very special.
So, yeah, I guess, you know, it's -- as I said, the whole history and the tradition and, you know, what this place means to you just racing. To win it is definitely the top piece, but coming back and trying to do it again after you've already done it, it gets tougher. But it also -- it makes you want it that much more as well.
MODERATOR: Thank you, as always, for your usual visit here. We appreciate you coming in.