Q and A with Wilson, Kanaan and Archer

Justin Wilson

Welcome, everyone, to today's INDYCAR conference call. We're pleased to be joined today by Dale Coyne Racing driver Justin Wilson, and KV Racing Technology to make a sponsor announcement. First we'll start with Justin. Justin, the season has been super competitive so far, featuring six winners in seven races. With the momentum your team has coming out of Belle Isle, do you think it's possible to make it seven race winners in eight races at Texas.

JUSTIN WILSON: We're definitely approaching it that way. We feel we're having a good season. We feel we have a good chance at the next three races, Texas being where we won last year, but we're quick in Milwaukee and Iowa. We're actually looking forward to these, seeing what we can do, seeing what we can achieve. But definitely it's competitive. There are so many good entries out there that are capable of winning. We have to be on our game to make sure we don't make any mistakes.

Q. How much confidence does a weekend like last week give to a team like Dale Coyne Racing? Even though race two didn't go for you, Mike Conway and you were strong all weekend.

JUSTIN WILSON: It was great. Everyone at Dale Coyne Racing has been working so hard. It's nice to have two cars up there and get a win this season. We're looking for more. We were disappointed with Race 2, only getting one car on the podium. It was a big disappointment. That was a nice way to look at things. We felt, if we weren't involved in that big pile-up, we had a reasonable chance of being in the top five again. You never know what happens. That's just racing. That 10-car pile-up was frustrating for a lot of people. That's just part of it. We want to regroup. We think we're going to be quick here in Texas, see what we can do.

Q. Looking forward to this weekend, obviously last year you came away with the win. It also featured the new aero package that really put the racing back into the drivers' hands. What kind of racing do you expect this weekend at Texas?

JUSTIN WILSON: It's going to be interesting. They took the downforce away, made it harder to drive. But that was good because we weren't flat out. This year, I've been told they've taken even more downforce away, so I think we've lost another 300 pounds, if I'm correct. I think that's going to make it challenging again. I know Firestone has changed the tire slightly. All the team has to readjust for that. We're going to be working on our setup, trying to get a good balance. It's having that balance that saves the tires, and you can run longer in the stints. That's what we're looking to do. We did that quite well last year and won. We weren't the quickest car outright, so people would pull away at the start of the stints, but we tried to manage it and be quicker over the full stint.

Q. Justin, it's been about a year now since you won here. Can you put in perspective what the victory meant to your career as you've gone forward.

JUSTIN WILSON: It meant a lot, not only with the recognition but in the confidence. That's the biggest thing, is having the confidence on an oval. I felt like I knew what I was doing, but I still wasn't classed as an oval driver. I was kind of disregarded. From that point on, I felt I had the confidence to go out there. I knew what I was doing, knew what I was trying to achieve with the car in the race. Like I said, we backed up Texas qualifying second at Milwaukee, was coming through after a penalty from a testing engine problem, moving to the front and another engine let go. I thought that was a missed opportunity to win there. Same at Iowa, very similar story. I think it just gave me that confidence to go out there and attack and believe in myself.

Q. What is your theory or your take on the reasons behind so many different winners so far this year?

JUSTIN WILSON: The obvious one is just the competition level. Everybody is stepping up. There's a limit to what you can do with the car. So when you get everything just right, you're going to be in the top five. Then whoever has that little bit of good fortune, things go just their way, will win the race. I'm not saying it's down to luck. It's down to a lot of hard work. You have to have the perfect weekend to be in the top five is the way I look at it. From then on, it's just the way things break out. Just the competition level, the restrictions in what you can and can't do with the car. Everybody is in the same little window. It makes it intense. There's a lot of stress for the teams and drivers.

Q. Justin, you talked about what the win did for you personally last year. What did it do for the team, the crew and the engineers? What did you see in their body language the rest of the year?

JUSTIN WILSON: It did a lot for them, as well. I'd been saying to them, ‘We're going to win a race this year.’ They kind of didn't believe me. When we did win a race, they understood, OK, we're in the game, we've got a chance. Every weekend we've just got to approach it as an opportunity to win. If we do everything right, we'll be at the front.

It's just the circumstances that make a difference on the weekend. Like I was saying before, with everyone being so close, it doesn't take much to fall in and out of the setup window or just getting that little bit of racing fortune to go your way. The confidence for everybody on the team, the mechanics, the engineers to know that we're doing the right things, we're moving the right direction, had good race cars.

Q. Have you been looking forward to this date for the whole year?

JUSTIN WILSON: Actually, at Detroit, after the frustration of the second race, we had a great car there, we should have been in the top five, but would haves and should haves don't count. I sat there with my engineer, Bill (Pappas), and the other engineers. Frustrating as that is, we're now getting into our strong points. We're going to Texas where we were strong last year, and some of the other ovals. So we're pretty motivated and looking forward to this one.

Q. One of the things that got introduced last weekend for the umpteenth time was the aero kits. How do you think INDYCAR can, going forward, strike a balance between how competitive it is now and technology such as aero kits? Would it worry you that any advances might price a smaller team, such as Dale Coyne, out of the market?

JUSTIN WILSON: I saw INDYCAR’s plan. It's great. They've got a plan. They're working toward that. I think that was really interesting to see. Personally, I'm looking forward to the aero kits. I think it's going to spice things up a little bit. I know some people think all it's going to do is change the look of the car and everyone is going to migrate to that one look. But I think it will be a good talking point, interesting to see what the manufacturers come up with. I don't think it will be a negative. Then again, I'm not paying for it. I'm looking forward to it, but I also understand for smaller teams that can be a problem, paying for it, and also if you have the wrong aero kit, you're behind and trying to catch up. Realistically, that's just the way racing is.

Q. Last year's aero package at Texas wasn't decided, as I recall, until after the last practice. I'm wondering, what was it like going into that race last year with relatively untested package?

JUSTIN WILSON: It was strange. It was changing all the time. That's how the mix-up happened on my car, just lack of communication, things changed at the last minute. We still believe it didn't make any difference. But everyone's going to have their own opinion on that. So we're looking to back it up this year. It's just tough. Everyone's in the same boat. We had to try and guess a little bit at what the car needed, what you needed to do to deal with that downforce level. But, like I said, everyone's in the same boat, so we just had to deal with it. We went for the conservative side with our mechanical setup just to try to make sure we didn't get really loose and lose the tires early on. That was just our rough stab at it. It was one of those weekends where we didn't think we were that good until I was driving by people. My car is a bit of a handful, but everyone is worse than we are, especially late in the stint. It's going to evolve this year. Everybody will have a better idea and you can prepare better for it. It's going to be different again.

Q. You said earlier there will be 300 pounds less downforce, is that right?

JUSTIN WILSON: I believe so. Again, someone told me the package changed a couple weeks ago. I think there were a few guys that tested there right before Indy. I think from that test, they've taken off more downforce. For that test, I think there was a new tire from Firestone. It's all kind of moving as we go along. I'm sure the teams know the information a lot better than I do.

Q. This is going to be three weekends in a row that you've had a different teammate. How has that affected the Dale Coyne operation this year or has it at all?

JUSTIN WILSON: No, it's been fun. Just seems to be the way things go.

I had the same thing before. When Mike Conway got hurt in 2010 at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing it kind of set things off changing teammates every weekend. Kind of getting used to it now. It was great to have Mike back. He had a fantastic weekend in Detroit, just did a fantastic job. So that was cool. Back to what we're doing with the car setup. It was a great weekend. We keep gaining more information. Pippa Mann was also with us with Ana (Beatriz). She's been with us before, so she has an idea of how it works. But I'm not sure who is driving the car after Texas, not sure who is in it Milwaukee and Iowa.

Q. Like you said, you were Pippa's teammate at Indianapolis. Do you two share a similar setup or are there any similarities at all to your style of driving?

JUSTIN WILSON: We all started with the same car in Indy. We're going to be starting with the same cars here in Texas. It will be interesting to see how the weekend goes, if we go different directions, trying to work out what we want. Texas is tough because we get so little track time. You get one practice, qualify, another half-hour warm-up session, then the race. It's kind of the opposite of Indy where you've got a lot of time to think about it. We're just going to focus on the race. We've already decided we're not going to do anything special for qualifying. Wherever we end up, just like last year, 17th, 20th, wherever, we're going to race from there. We'll use qualifying as another test session for the race to make sure we have a car that's good in race trim.

Q. Being so close to Mike Conway, being his teammate several times, was there ever a time with your road background, did you kind of feel the same way that Mike did about the oval situation? Was there ever a point where you wanted to stop doing it, too? Now that they have changed the downforce rules, do you consider this style of racing considerably safer?

JUSTIN WILSON: The one-and-a-half-mile ovals, when we're flat out running on the white line, I wouldn't say it put me off because I still enjoyed the racing. But it was frustrating, really frustrating, especially when you're doing everything you can, someone drives by you. It's like being on the highway and someone has a more expensive car, blows by you in the fast lane. Hang on a minute, what am I supposed to do? That's what it was like. I really enjoy the style now. But I wouldn't say I ever got put off or didn't enjoy them. I've experienced some really good cars on the ovals. I've experienced some really bad ones. I know what the extremes are like. I've had times where I think, This is miserable. I've had times when I think, ‘This is the best race ever because I'm driving by everyone.’ I get what Mike did. I saw a couple comments, people were calling him a coward, whatever. Well, kind of the opposite. He's pretty brave to do what he did, have that confidence in himself to say, ‘No, this is just not for me.’ That's something I totally respect. I know he's not afraid of driving a race car at the limit because he showed that again last weekend. Some of the stuff he was doing inside the car, that's not a guy afraid of hitting walls. It's a guy that knows what he wants to do.

Q. A lot of IndyCar fans in Texas now know your name. Would you like to have a better-known name in the series, maybe the world, back home?

JUSTIN WILSON: I'm just working and trying to win races. I've always been of the philosophy that winning races is what I'm about. If that builds my reputation, then that's what it does. I wouldn't say I go racing for the fame. But it's nice. I love the response that we get when we go to Texas from the fans – not just me, but the whole of IndyCar. It's really cool to see the passion they have for the racing. It's a lot of fun. Hopefully we can have some good results and build my reputation up around the rest of the races we go to. But we'll take it one step at a time.

Q. You mentioned earlier that Firestone might be bringing a little bit different tire to Texas this weekend. How much of a wild card is the tire compound? Do you worry sometimes that you might miss on the setup because of the tire compound? How does that factor in?

JUSTIN WILSON: It's going to be interesting. Things are always changing. It's not just the tire. Like at Indy, we ran the same tire, but it felt so different. We put that down to the track in the end. It had NASCAR testing there two or three times, racing there. I think maybe the weight of those cars just ground down the track slightly, because it was a very coarse surface after it being ground. Maybe it lost some of those sharp edges that we grip onto. It lost grip. We definitely felt at Indy less grip to the year before, even though everything had stayed the same. You never know if it's just the tire or it's the track. As the track ages, it loses grip. New asphalt has more grip. There are so many different factors. We're always adjusting every time we go back to a place, trying to get it right. I wouldn't say we get stressed out for what Firestone brings because we know they bring a great product, we know it's going to be safe, we're going to be able to work it out. It's just the level of competition between ourselves and the ever-changing conditions, whether it's track surface or temperature or the car. It's everything that goes with it.

Q. Last year it appeared that Graham Rahal was on his way to his first oval track victory, brushed the wall, opened the door for you. Have you ever discussed that moment in the past year, what it's meant to him and you?

JUSTIN WILSON: We've talked a little bit about it. We haven't discussed what it means to us. I remember sitting there at the time with four or five laps to go thinking, ‘OK, I'm getting closer, but I'm only going to get to his rear bumper if I'm lucky.’ Then I saw him go wide. Four laps to go, ‘Wow, he's hit the wall.’ Came out of the corner, ‘No, OK. No, he made it, wow.’ Few laps to go, I thought, ‘OK, he hit the wall.’ It took me by surprise. It was just one of those things. The track was getting slick. It was so easy to slide up there at the end. Like I say, when it finally happened, I didn't really believe it because of how close he'd been running the previous few laps.

THE MODERATOR: Seeing as there are no more questions for Justin, we'll thank him for his time today and wish him best of luck at Texas Motor Speedway. We're now pleased to be joined by Cynthia Archer, the vice president of marketing for Sunoco, who will make an announcement regarding Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan.

CYNTHIA ARCHER: We are here today to talk about an exciting partnership with Tony Kanaan as part of our work to promote the upcoming movie this summer with DreamWorks about a snail that wants to win the Indy 500. So, Tony, there's a Sunoco car in that movie. Tony has agreed to be the driver of that actual car in four races that are upcoming, starting in Texas. We're very excited about the movie and we've been excited since returning to IndyCar in 2010 as the official fuel partner. We have a long history with IndyCar, and it means a lot to us and our employees. It turns out it seems to mean a lot to IndyCar fans when they saw the Sunoco car we had at the Indy 500. We're teaming up with Tony and KV Racing, wishing them good luck. There could be nothing more appropriate really than having the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion driving the actual Sunoco car that will be appearing in ‘Turbo’ in July. We're grateful to him for being willing to do it and happy to make the announcement.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to you on that. We are pleased to be joined by the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. How excited are you to carry those Sunoco and Turbo colors on your car in four races?

TONY KANAAN: There are plenty of reasons I'm excited. Obviously the Sunoco history in IndyCar, we obviously all know that. When (Mark) Donohue won the ‘500’ in 1972, I wasn't born yet. But seeing that yellow car with the Sunoco colors for all those years when we go to look at Indy 500 classics, I'm excited. Second of all, I have to say, my kid is the most excited kid at home right now. Apart from getting the Borg-Warner Trophy that I promised him, he's familiar with the ‘Turbo’ movie. Now my car is the Sunoco ‘Turbo’ car for him. That, for me, is big. Obviously, as everybody knew, we were struggling to fill up some of the races with the sponsorship this year. Sunoco came onboard. I can't thank them enough for picking up the races that were left for us to be able to finish the season. I'm excited about that. Hopefully we'll bring them a win soon.

Q. Obviously the Indy 500 was big for Sunoco. Why is this a good platform to be related to KV Racing and the movie ‘Turbo’?

CYNTHIA ARCHER: As Tony said, a lot of people have a lot of little kids that are going to be excited to see this movie. We've seen clips here and there. Looks like it's going to be great. It's one of those things that makes a whole new generation of people get excited about racing. We can see it at the Indy 500, all the other races we go to, how excited the IndyCar fans are, how passionate they are. The sport needs more of them.

It was just incredibly cool when Jeffrey Katzenberg and the DreamWorks guys decided to do this movie, which is a realistic depiction of the Indy 500. The graphics are great, the story is great. Then to have Tony who just won the race in the same year that the movie is coming out being willing to drive the car that's now appearing in real life, not just on the movie screens. It's just a really cool thing for us to do. We've got a lot of excited employees and customers. We are rooting that Tony is going to win a race in the Sunoco car before Turbo hits the movie theaters. That's our plan and we're looking forward to supporting him in doing that.

Q. Tony, I guess that puts a little pressure on you heading to Texas this weekend. You won there in 2004 on your way to the IZOD IndyCar Series title. Can you make it two-for-two on ovals at Texas?

TONY KANAAN: Why not? I mean, my record there, it's quite good. Last year we were fighting for the win until we got blocked by Will (Power), then we broke the front wing. I'm excited. Again, I was so happy when I got the news about this. I think the racing world you love to be associated with sponsors that have been there for a long time. Sunoco is such a brand, even combined with the ‘Turbo’ and DreamWorks guys, a majority of them are kids, they relate to me because I play pranks and I'm happy all the time. I think it's going to be a win-win situation. Hopefully I can make justice for all the trust that Sunoco and everybody put on myself and bring them a win this year and extend the relationship for the years to go.

Q. You have gotten a lot of attention for winning the Indy 500 this year. This is the first prime-time race that ABC will carry. How important do you feel it is for INDYCAR and the series to have more big stages to perform on outside of the Indy 500?

TONY KANAAN: I think it's extremely important. Obviously, we're on the way, on a climb, as far as bringing other fans back. The credibility that ABC gives to us being in prime time, for sure it's helping that. It's showing that the series is growing. We can see people are making movies about us now. It's great we're on a climb. I think we have plenty of personalities as far as drivers. We have plenty of competition as far as the cars. It's a great product. This is some exciting news. For me, obviously I couldn't ask for more. I just won the biggest race of my career. I got so much out of the fans that wanted me to do that. Hopefully we'll keep this momentum, not just for me, but for the series as well, and we can keep it growing.

Q. Did you say this was a four-race sponsorship for the next four races, and that would round out the sponsorship package for the season?

CYNTHIA ARCHER: It is a four-race sponsorship for Tony. It covers Texas this week, Iowa, Pocono and Mid-Ohio.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, before we let you go, talk a little bit about what life has been like as the Indy 500 winner. I know you did the David Letterman show on Monday. You're going to do the Craig Ferguson show next week. Is it difficult to focus on your job of driving the race car?

TONY KANAAN: It took a little bit of time to adjust, of course. It took me out of my routine. But it is a good problem to have. We've been busy promoting the win, but also promoting INDYCAR, which is awesome. I can't complain. Obviously, having the doubleheader in Detroit, it was quite tiring for me. But, like I said, I can't complain about that. I’m looking forward to go to Texas now, and the next four weekends.

Q. Tony, a few minutes ago Justin said that he understood there would be 300 pounds less downforce at Texas this weekend. Last week you told us you thought it would be the same package. Is this something new that's happened in between now and then in making the car harder to drive?

TONY KANAAN: I think so. Obviously, I wasn't informed of that when we spoke. If it was a decision made before, probably I wasn't in the loop myself. I agree. I think we want separation. We don't want a pack race. The only way to create some of that, it's taking downforce out of the car. I think my biggest concern was always being in a pack race. That's going to help to spread the field out, so I'm excited about it.

Q. With all the talk of INDYCAR wanting to break the Indianapolis track record, aero kits, give me your overall impression of where you think the series is going over the five to ten years? Are you excited about the aero kits and increased speed?

TONY KANAAN: Obviously, I think when we built the DW12, it was after such a tragic event that we knew we were going to reduce the speeds to begin with, you know, to rebuild. Now it's time to do that. I'm excited about the aero kits, because it's going to create a lot more competition for us. I'm excited about increasing the speeds, as well. I remember back in the day watching those. It was quite exciting. I think the series is on the verge of doing that. I think in the next 10 years, you guys are going to see some big changes as far as the aerodynamics, some of them on the power, and maybe we can invite some other manufacturers come to not just build engines, but aero kits as well. Those are things we had planned all along, and we're going to start doing it. I think it's going to be exciting for the fans. It might change the race formula a little bit as far as the competition, when you open the series for more competition, for different aero kits and stuff. I'm not sure how much you're going to see equal cars. You're going to see some spread-out races, I think. This is the way it was in the past. Nowadays, we're used to having all the cars exactly the same. It will be a different kind of way to race, which I kind of enjoy that.

THE MODERATOR: Seeing as we have no more questions for Tony and Cynthia, we'll thank them for their time and congratulate them again on today's announcement. We wish Tony the best of luck this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in the Sunoco Turbo car.

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