TRUE VALUE IROC-INDY RACING
Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr., Buddy Lazier, Scott Sharp
FONTANA, Calif. - The transcript of the videoconference Feb. 5 featuring
drivers Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr., Buddy Lazier and Scott Sharp,
who will represent the Indy Racing League in the True Value IROC series this
year. The four drivers were speaking from Daytona International Speedway,
where they were testing IROC cars:
RON GREEN (Host, Indy Racing
League Director of Media Relations): Ladies and gentlemen, it is great to
welcome these four to the media here at California Speedway. Looks like you
have a beautiful day there. Lets start with Buddy Lazier, Indy Racing League
champion. He is the all-time career winner in the series and, of course, is
from Vail, Colorado. Next to him is Sam Hornish Jr. Sam is the pride of
Defiance, Ohio, and is the 2001 and defending Indy Racing League champion.
Next to Sam is Helio Castroneves, one of the hottest, sexiest drivers in the
world according to - what is that, Helio, did you pay them for that honor or
is that something they told you about?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, my goodness.
SCOTT SHARP: He lobbied for that.
CASTRONEVES: Working all my life for that. I think the guys need to use
eyeglasses. What can I say? You know, Ron.
GREEN: Winning the Indy 500 is big, but not as big as being voted one of the
sexiest, at least, right?
CASTRONEVES: Every time I get out of the car I put my hair in order, and
they mess it up.
GREEN: Scott Sharp sitting next to Helio, and Scott was the co-champion of
the Indy Racing League in 1996. Scott, you have won a race in each of the
last four seasons, and one of the winningest drivers on the circuit. Of
course, the reason we're here to talk to them, all four of these drivers
have received invitations to participate in the True Value International
Race of Champions this year. Al Unser Jr. is the fifth driver to participate
in the series but is not available for this uplink. Guys, we got a lot of
folks gathered here in the media room at California Speedway. This is being
transcribed. We're going to turn over the wireless mikes for questions so
they will identify themselves, and there will be a slight lag because of the
satellite time, but let's go ahead and open it up for questions. We have a
good 40 minutes right here up front.
MEDIA MEMBER: This is for Sam. Have you gotten any special advice from any
of the NASCAR drivers in working in the IROC so you would be able to do more
drafting and that kind of stuff?
HORNISH: I haven't got anything other than what the drivers, the test driver
of IROC cars test drive so far, so I haven't talked to the NASCAR drivers,
nobody too much.
GREEN: Follow up?
LAZIER: I would add that lot of the Winston Cup teams and drivers are just
moving in right now. It is the first day of practice. I am guessing Sam will
probably get - I know last year as a rookie I got a lot of advice from those
guys. They are really helpful and just not here yet. It is too early in
Speed Weeks to be here.
GREEN: Questions? Raise your hand.
MEDIA MEMBER: Stand by, guys. Buddy, there is strength in numbers, but as
the five IRL drivers in the field, you plan to work together as a team with
the NASCAR drivers that have always dominated there?
LAZIER: They have a lot of miles here, and we're competing in a race car
that they are familiar with. Driving a stock car, closed-race car, they have
much more narrow tires, they are heavier, less downforce, less grip. So
there is a lot of differences. So we really do need to work together. The
Cup guys work together with one another, and for us to have success we need
to all work together.
MEDIA MEMBER: What does it actually mean to you guys both personally and
career-wise to be invited into IROC?
CASTRONEVES: For me, for example, my experience is kind of nothing over
here, and so, to be honest, it is an honor. Especially with all these
champions and great athletes, I would say. I am very happy to be the chosed
one actually to be selected after winning Indy last year, so I am sure I am
going to have a lot of fun. I am sure it is going to be great to all of us
here, and it is something always to learn in our career.
GREEN: All four of the drivers to respond to that question. Guys, let's go
to Scott Sharp next. Scott, how about you being back in IROC, what is it
SHARP: It is a great experience. It is a chance, like Helio said, competing
against top-notch drivers all the way across the board. I think it is a
chance for all of us to come down here and catch up all week and the next
week, week and a half, gain as much experience as we can. Obviously, those
guys are so experienced in their cars in Daytona. We're trying to learn
every bit as much we can and hopefully once race time rolls around give a
really good show.
GREEN: Sam, what about you?
HORNISH: Pretty much excited to get out there and get time on the track. As
far as being invited to the IROC series, it is something that I always
wanted to do and really can't wait until the first race. We go also to
California, Chicago and Indianapolis. So those are all races that I would
like to compete at and get a little more time on those tracks, because we
run all those tracks on the Indy Racing Series.
GREEN: Buddy, great for you being back at the series a second straight year.
LAZIER: Huge honor, International Race of Champions. It is a lot of fun, it
really is. It is about fun as much as it is competitive. Everybody wants, I
don't know about braking lights, but everybody wants to be up front, but the
cars are so equal. The Signores does such a great job preparing the cars
equal. It is a lot of fun and tremendous, tremendous honor to be invited to
this IROC and really looking forward to it.
MEDIA MEMBER: To all four drivers, tell us about the upcoming IRL season and
what kind of season it figures to be. It should be a very exciting season, I
SHARP: Starting from the beginning, I mean, first-year race, and I think
every year the series takes one sep forward, another step forward, sometimes
two steps forward, and I think -- as we go into the 2002 season. So it is
the best year we have, 15 races and some great markets. Obviously very
competitive new teams. It is the front group, you know. The group that maybe
was 10 or 12 strong just grew to 14 or 15 strong. That is going to provide
some fabulous races, especially on the high drag, big tracks. The series
gets more and more competitive and poised for a very exciting year.
CASTRONEVES: Be new for me. Basically, we are starting a new challenge in my
career and in our future ahead, hopefully. We race Indianapolis and finish
last year, and we had a little bit of taste. I basically raced with these
guys a long time ago. I am sure we're going to have to adapt to different
tracks that especially team has never been and even the tracks that we have
been with the CART series. The cars and equipment is a little bit different.
So basically have a little adaptation and little time to make sure we get
comfortable. And when we get there, we try to do our best, but so far it is
a very competitive field as I had experienced last year. Definitely I am
very optimistic. Hopefully, I am going to learn a lot, and I am really
looking forward to start right away.
HORNISH: I am looking forward to hopefully another good year at Pennzoil,
and they are racing, pretty much, go out with the same deals we had last
year, finish the first couple of races high in the order and establish a
good points race for Indianapolis 500. Basically do everything we did last
year, go out and try to win as many races. IRL is going to be lot stronger,
tougher for us, but if we have any kind of year like we did last year, we'll
be pretty well off.
GREEN: Since you did better in last year's performance, winning four or five
races in one stretch, I know that you are excited for a lot of reasons. You
got the new primary sponsor and coming off a strong 2001.
LAZIER: Yeah, really proud to have Coors Light grow to a primary sponsor,
and being a Colorado native and being sponsored by a Colorado corporation is
wonderful. It is so fun with the Indy Racing League because each year there
is a growth. And every time we've gone into an offseason, we're looking
forward to the next season with such anticipation because there is so much
to always look forward to. It has been a wonderful ride. I think everybody
that is involved with the Indy Racing League is very excited for the future.
And from a competitor's point of view, you can't help but be excited because
you know that the playing field is equal and going into racing is a fresh
sheet of paper. All the race cars are very competitive. All the race teams
are going to be competitive, so anybody who enters a car and any race driver
has a chance to win any of the races, and that is motivating and pretty
GREEN: Yes, ma'am, down front.
MEDIA MEMBER: First question is for Buddy Lazier. Buddy, as a driver who has
been through IROC first, open-wheel racing, what has been the toughest bar
in learning to drive draft with a full-body car in the races? I have a
question for Helio, also.
LAZIER: I think the more difficult thing is getting used to the level of
contact. There is definitely rubbing, and you know we can't do that with
open-wheel cars. If you just slightly touch, that is about all you can get
away with in an open-wheel car, but you know, honestly, it is really lots of
fun. And the thing we keep reminding ourselves is we are doing this for fun,
and it is an honor to be in the series. They take care of us, we take care
of them, taking care of one another, because we're out here for a good show
and to have fun. But we are all making a living doing our racing away from
IROC, so nobody wants to get hurt. But it is good competition and getting
used to the rubbing takes some time.
MEDIA MEMBER: Helio. What different steps are you going to find bringing an
IRL car to the (California ) speedway from the car that you have driven in
CASTRONEVES: Obviously, the car is different than we're used to. Last year,
running 230 or 220 something, and this year I believe IRL was rated 219,
220. I guess it is a little bit different that we expect. Again, my
teammates have already test over there and try to make a good job and the
setup to me. And later on, I go there and kick his butt. But I am sure it is
going to be interesting. I haven't raced yesterday, to be honest, with the
IRL car, tomorrow is going to be my first time. I am just going to take it
easy and hopefully I will feel different.
MEDIA MEMBER: This question initially to Sam, but also like to talk to
anyone with comment. Sam, the arrival of Penske raises the buck in terms of
finances and resources. What are you and your team going to do to sort of
ward off the Penske powerhouse?
HORNISH: I don't think there is a whole lot more that we can do than just go
out there and do the best job that we can. We know that last year that we
had a lot of good teams to race against, and now we have more. As long as we
keep our goals focused wherever they are supposed to be and going out there
and trying to not do anything spectacular, but to be up front as long as we
can at as many races we can. I think it is just, you know, a matter of
planning. As long as we keep all of our goals focused and not try to do
anything more than what we planned on doing at the beginning of the year. We
have Chevrolet engines of this year and also Firestone tires, Dallara
chassis, same thing we ran last year, so we're very familiar with the
package and that could be our strong suit this year.
GREEN: Scott, what is the schedule for you? You are on the track today, and
all four of you get on a plane and come here today?
SHARP: We are waiting for them to pick us up and fly us out there to Fontana
and test tomorrow. And most of us are going to Phoenix, find our way down to
Phoenix. I know myself, get back here as early as I can, keep getting more
experience. Next Monday, back on the track, actually a day that has a couple
more practice sessions and the rest of the week. Try to get back here Monday
and grab seat time whenever we can throughout the week.
CASTRONEVES: We asked Scott to be our flight attendant today.
SHARP: Helio is going to be co-pilot.
GREEN: Have you been back on the track today?
SHARP: We just finished a session, about an hour session. Buddy just got
here, but the three of us were able to hook up along with Danny Lasoski and
working together and feeling the draft out and starting the whole process.
GREEN: What kind of speeds did you run, do you know?
SHARP: They gave us stopwatch speeds; 52 seconds.
MEDIA MEMBER: Sam, since this is going to be a new experience for you. How
much time have you spent practicing getting in and out of those cars? That
is a different deal, isn't it?
HORNISH: It is a little bit different. Basically, the hardest thing about it
is fitting through the window with the HANS device and a big closed-face
helmet that we run in Indy cars. I haven't had any problem with that yet.
The biggest thing we have to do as far as the team of open-wheel drivers is
go out there and learn to work together, because that is the only way that
you are going to have any kind of friend on the racetrack is somebody else
that has the same purpose. We all want to come here and do things that
haven't been done before, and a lot of time you have seen in the past guys
haven't tried to work together too much, and we're working on that already
so we can figure out who will be at the Winston Cup.
GREEN: This is the only time you have driven something with a roof over your
HORNISH: Second time I have driven the IROC cars; first time in Daytona,
second time about 40 laps with Dave Marcis and Jim Sauter. They get out
there and tell us how to use the draft and how to use the air to our
advantage and slow the air down with the air coming off our cars. There is a
lot of things to learn yet, and it is going to take some time, but hopefully
by the last couple of races of the year we'll be up front all the time.
MEDIA MEMBER: Scott and Buddy, can you address the questions I asked earlier
about what you and your teams are going to be doing to be competitive with
LAZIER: You know, we know Penske has deep resources, huge history in
open-wheel Indy-car Racing. You can tell by the equipment purchases and the
way that they are approaching it very seriously. So knowing that they are
going to be very tough competition, we don't want to do a whole lot
different. We want to be the best that we can do. The series is so good.
Having an even playing field, it really comes down to who gets it right on
race day, who gets it right on race weekend. We think that, of course, they
are going to be really tough, but there is a lot of tough teams that have
been in the Indy Racing League and continue to grow and improve in their
resources area. It is going to be a competitive season. It is great having
Penske back full time and two very talented race drivers, a lot of talented
engineers. I just think it is a great to have them on board with us. But at
the same time I think it is going to be tough racing all around.
GREEN: Scott, what about Kelley Racing?
SHARP: I am very excited for the Delphi-Kelley team. We had our best year
last year, won the race, of course, had five second-place finishes, almost
won a couple other races in those second-place finishes. Had that brief pole
position. As a team, took a big step up, and I think if you look back on it,
you know, Buddy and Sam were extremely consistent last year. You have to
take your hat off to them and their team. There is a few races where we
weren't able to get to the finish line whether it was for cut tires, bobble
in Indianapolis, whatever it was, it took us out of the championship. We
still finished third, and our goals last year were to get more consistently
competitive. Every race will be running toward the front. Being a factor, I
think we did that. In the meantime, since last year we worked hard and are
going to come out stronger. We are a cohesive group, been with the guys that
have been there three, four, five years getting the chemistry we need. The
whole Delphi team is poised for the best year we have had and have a shot
just about everywhere we go.
GREEN: Twelve or 15 minutes left with these guys. Other questions?
MEDIA MEMBER: Helio, you didn't volunteer for this. So what is your take on
CASTRONEVES: Are you talking to me?
MEDIA MEMBER: Yes, you. You are the only one called "Helio" there.
CASTRONEVES: A different accent, you know. Well, basically I decided to stay
with the Team Penske as everybody here. Everyone is talking about how the
resources and whole way they present Penske definitely is a captain of this
boat. And we say sometimes everything he touch turn to gold, but basically
that is what my decision, stay with a competitive team and everybody know -
race car driver knows that basically 50 percent of car or 60 percent of the
car demands on the performance of the driver most of the time, and if you on
the right team at the right time, obviously you are going to proceed and
show up with a good performance. So in my mind, when I notice that Roger
decided to make the change, I stood behind 100 percent. I had two great
years. My first year is good, and last year, and obviously everybody, even
the team, stayed together does say about this team. Basically that is what
is happening in our team, the same - everybody stays together, engineers,
mechanics. It is very important to have this good atmosphere, because
normally we spend most of this season together, and that is what took my
decision to go ahead and stay with Team Penske.
MEDIA MEMBER: Is the team this year under even more pressure to perform
because the expectation of them coming to this series would be much higher?
CASTRONEVES: To be honest, we're looking with the same way we saw when my
teammate and I started here, and I started on Team Penske in 2001. The only
big difference is that we know the team, and the team know us, so basically
we are going to start with new equipment, new place, new tracks. This is
going to take a little bit of time. Obviously, we are testing a lot to make
sure when start a championship we try to have a good performance, but it is
like racing, you can never count without the checkered flag. Some race we
might win a lot, some race we probably are going to suck. So hopefully we
will do well.
GREEN: Thank you for your candidness, Helio.
GREEN: That is fine.
MEDIA MEMBER: Still for Helio. Last year, your teammate won the
championship. Does that make it your turn?
CASTRONEVES: That is a good point. Two in a row, 2000 and 2001. Hopefully, I
will not trade my Indianapolis victory for his championship. If I have to do
it again, I will prefer still with Indianapolis, because that is such a
great track and such a great tradition, but obviously going to fight as hard
as I can. I do have a very fast teammate, and I guess that is why turns to
being a great team, because one push each other obviously, and we talk a lot
to set up the car, and I believe that is why we had a great success on the
two previous years.
GREEN: Let's go to Buddy for a second. Buddy, Sam noted - or Scott noted -
that you just arrived there a few minutes ago. You are about to become a
father here again pretty soon. Did that play in your late arrival there
because (son) Flinn is going to have a brother or sister, or do you know?
LAZIER: Ninety-five percent sure it is a sister.
GREEN: When are you due?
LAZIER: We're due any minute. Any minute. So we're kind of on standby. We
thought we had it timed, we just missed a little bit. Any minute, I will be
blessed to have two children. Wonderful month for us.
GREEN: How does Flinn feel about becoming a big brother?
LAZIER: He is happy about it right now. A month or so from now, he is
probably not going to be too happy about it.
GREEN: Questions? I want to mention that the four drivers assembled there at
Daytona, two of them were Olympic Torch bearers. In fact, kind of
interesting, four Indy League Racing drivers were involved in the torch run
to Salt Lake City. Sam and Helio, on one of the coldest mornings that I can
remember at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, actually drove the torch around
the snow-covered track in the darkness of morning. Helio, what was it like
to be a part of it - it was history, it was the first time the torch had
ever been around the Speedway.
CASTRONEVES: Not only history, but freezing. Oh, my goodness. I was freezing
my butt off over there, but thank God we have all the suit and - I tried to
use the flame, you know, to warm my hands over there. But it was amazing an
experience that is offered in a lifetime. I would never imagine driving in
Indianapolis with everything covered in white. The guys inside the car, they
were, like, come on, man, you have to go faster. Sixty miles an hour I was
going with the truck. Imagine if I crashed - the car and flame gone? I would
have been dead. But thank God, what a wonderful experience, and I really had
a good time.
GREEN: Sam, you were actually the driver that made history as the first
driver to carry the torch around the Speedway. It is going to be an asterisk
beside your name in terms of career accomplishments?
HORNISH: It was very neat we got to do that on one of the coldest mornings I
was at the Indianapolis Speedway. Every time you smiled for a picture, your
teeth started to freeze. They kept saying, "Go faster." Originally they
said, 'You need to do this in five minutes." What is about 40 miles an hour
and halfway through Turn 1, they said, "You need to go faster than this
because we're not going to make it in time." They ended up making us go
about 75. I said, "How fast can I go before the torch blows out?" They said,
"About 80." I said, "How fast do you want me to go?" "Oh, about 80." I said,
"I will keep it a little lower than that so it doesn't blow out." It was a
lot of fun and an honor to be asked to do that, and especially because it
was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
GREEN: The four drivers of the part of the torch run at the Speedway,
actually three, Helio, Sam, Eddie Cheever. Cheever actually ran, and in
Colorado, Buzz Calkins was part of the torch relay, as well. Let's see,
another question here?
LAZIER: The torch went by my house. I waved.
MEDIA MEMBER: Helio, I know you are a shy and retiring sort of guy, so
obviously it is a bit of embarrassment to you to be named a sports hunk?
CASTRONEVES: What can I say, you know? What can I say? I believe it has
something to do with the appearance or the way that I look, but I believe it
is more the way that I celebrate the race after victory. And obviously I
didn't plan on that, it was something with pure emotion when I did the first
time, obviously, and I guess that is why. I mean, the way that I talk, the
way that I probably celebrate and show my excitement, my emotion, it turns
to be called attention to everyone. But obviously I am an emotional guy, and
I believe everyone is. Some people show their emotion in different ways.
Some might kick the helmets, throw the steering wheel. I prefer to show my
emotion when I am happy. I believe that was the way. I have to also thank my
parents, you know. Guys, I am just a kid, just having fun, everyone.
GREEN: Helio, they are scribbling this down furiously, so you are going to
see these quotes everywhere tomorrow. I want to make a quick mention. I said
four Indy drivers in the torch run, and I omitted that both Sarah Fisher and
Davey Hamilton were involved in bringing the torch into Indianapolis the
night before they toured the Speedway. So there were actually six drivers
that were involved in the torch run. Scott, you just finished racing. Tell
us about the last 24 hours at Daytona.
SHARP: It was fun. Two days ago, I left here, and I came back in the
morning. It was a good race for the Riley & Scott and Jim Matthews team. We
came so close. When you have a strong run and you finish the full 24 hours,
you hope you are going to win the race. And we came about six laps short.
But you come into these races, those kind of 24-hour long distance races,
and you expect the bigger items to happen, lose an engine, gearbox,
something drastic. Instead, tiny issues that four laps to fix here, five
laps to fix here, and at one point with 22 laps down at 2 or 3 in the
morning, Billy said, "No matter if it breaks, it breaks, go for it." In next
16 hours, caught up 16 laps, but it wasn't quite enough to catch the
GREEN: Sam, I guess while Scott was down there racing, you and Eddie Cheever
were on the USS George Washington, watched them launch F-18s. What was that
HORNISH: Pretty cool, but not nearly as cool as getting launched off there
myself. They asked me to come down and visit the George Washington aircraft
carrier, and I said, "What, are we going to take a helicopter out there?"
And they said, "No, tail hooked and launched off the other side." It was
definitely an experience. We toured from the time we got there until we
left. And we were on the ship 26 hours and slept for about six, so that was
about 20 hours of touring, and we saw only about 20 percent of it. It is
amazing how big those things are and to see them come in and land at night
and hooks sparking, and it is just a cool experience. You know, it is
amazing all the neat things you get to do when you get to be a race car
GREEN: What kind of aircraft did you fly in and out in?
HORNISH: Called it a COD. There is some long terminology for it, but
basically a twin-prop plane. And you sit backward, so when you land, it is
almost like backing into a wall lightly. And when you take off it is almost
like running into the wall lightly. Neither one of them are very pleasant
experiences after you have done them in an Indy car.
MEDIA MEMBER: Helio, you have not had a chance to test the new equipment.
How many times have you actually - other than Indy and Phoenix, how many
times have you been in an IRL car?
CASTRONEVES: The end of last year, especially beginning of December, I test
quite a lot. I went to Nashville, I went to St Louis, Phoenix, Homestead,
and that is so far what I did that I have in my mind right now. But I was
supposed to go to Texas, and, unfortunately, I got a little accident. I cut
my finger. But so far now it is much better, so they put Gil now to replace
me in terms of testing, and now it is his turn to do the job, which, in
fact, I did this last year when he crashed in Homestead. So basically we're
kind of even right now. But obviously I am so anxious to go back. I did one
test in Homestead a couple of weeks ago, and I was very, very good. I am
ready to go back. I am really optimistic. Again, it is going to be a new
challenge, and I am sure these guys here is going to give a lot of hard
time, and hopefully I am going to be with them and know the race, as well.
MIKE KING (Co-host): Three minutes left on the uplink, so we got time for
one more question of anyone else here in the media center who has a
question. I don't see any hands. OK, guys, before we let you go, the tough
question. Eight months from now who's going to be wearing the crown? Sam,
can you repeat?
CASTRONEVES: I guess it is going to be very competitive. It is a tough
question, you are right. Everyone here is going to try to do the best.
Obviously I speak for myself, I am going to try to make sure to be
consistent, be fast, but again it is going to be a new season for me. I am
going to meet new competitors and new tracks, so again I am very positive
and optimistic hopefully we go for No. 1.
KING: Sam, what about you? Can you repeat?
HORNISH: I already told Helio I will trade him next year.
KING: Scott, what about you? You obviously were disappointed with the 500
last year, but all in all, Team Kelley Racing is going to have a pretty
bright light shining on them this season.
SHARP: Yeah, we sure do, Mike. We luckily put Indianapolis behind us and had
a strong season and won the next race and went on from there. I am anxious
to get back to Indy and redeem myself. But as far as championship goes, what
is so great about IRL, like Buddy and everyone has talked about, you can
start anywhere on the field and have a serious shot of winning any race, and
at the same time that goes for the championship. There is probably four or
five guys that have very legitimate shots at the championship, and I am one
of them. And we aren't able to put quite the consistent year together, and I
think the last few years in the championship, consistency has played a major
factor. We go to 15 races, add two years, can that still keep going? We will
all try. Maybe everyone drops out of one or two races, but still with the
range of our whole package and how reliable it is, it is going to be big,
and I think our team is pretty poised to deal with that.
KING: Buddy, last to you. You won in 2000, really strong last year. What
does Hemelgarn have for '02?
LAZIER: We have a lot. We're coming packing, and we're loaded heavy and
ready to go. With this race series, it is anybody's championship. Everything
is recalibrated to zero now. It is 2002, and we are all starting from
scratch. I think we're going to be tough, but at this point, it is anybody's
championship. It is anybody's race.
KING: Buddy, Sam, Helio, Scott, be careful down there. See you tomorrow.
Thanks a lot.
to discuss this article