Also see video at end…..
THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Earlier today Andretti Autosport confirmed that six-time Indy Lights winner Jack Harvey will be joining the team's lineup for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.
We're joined today by Jack and Michael Andretti. In a few moments we'll be joined by our sponsor representative, as well.
In the meantime, Jack, we'll get started with you. Your obviously no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, having won both the Grand Prix and the Freedom 100. Tell us how the Indianapolis 500 is an important steppingstone in your career.
JACK HARVEY: It's one of the biggest races in the world. I think for any driver trying to compete in the 500 would be a bucket list race. I came in 2014 for the first time. I honestly didn't really realize what the 500 was all about, the significance of it, the grandeur of it.
I went in at the 2014, fell in love with it. It is truly the greatest sporting spectacle I've ever seen.
To get my first opportunity to drive with Andretti Autosport is a dream come true because everybody knows what a great team they are. Even people from the UK who don't know much about the 500, they absolutely recognize the name.
When I told my granddad, he reminisced about some other stories about what he knew.
I think as a single-car entry for the 500 this year, there's nobody that has a better opportunity than what I've got. I think a lot of the regular-season drivers would like to have this also.
I feel extremely lucky. Don't get me wrong, I feel like we've worked extremely hard to create this opportunity. I have to say a big thank you to Michael, JF (Thormann) in the back, Rob Edwards, who is not here. I can't see him anyway. Really helped pull this together.
Mark is not here yet, but the guys at AutoNation were extremely instrumental in helping me get to this stage. AutoNation have been with me now for 18 months. The last 18 months have been the most difficult I've had to go through racing-wise without having a regular-season to drive. To come through all that, where we are now is an incredible achievement, I think.
Super excited. A little bit nervous with a team that has a great record, obviously, two of the last three victories. Last year they recovered the strategies both ways. They set the bar pretty high. Just going to do my best to do what I can and deliver a strong performance.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, you have five entries in the Indy 500, with four full-season drivers, and Jack joining that team. Tell us how important it is to have a team, that collaborative effort, going into such an important race.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think we pride ourselves, we always planned on having five cars at the Speedway. I think one thing you can see, we've proven, it's not just an add-on entry, it's an entry that contributes to the overall of the program. I think if you see how competitive that car's been the last three or four years, it shows that.
So we're excited that we were able to get a driver that we felt is capable of being competitive with that car, because I think it's going to be a strong effort.
So we're really happy that we were able to get Jack nailed down for the car. OK, he hasn't driven IndyCar, but he's won in Indy Lights, he's won the Freedom 100. We know what Indy Lights are all about. We know what it takes to win those races. If you can win there, you can be competitive in the big cars.
We feel very confident that Jack's going to be able to do a good job for us, contribute to the effort of the other four cars. I think the other thing is, we've been able to bring up rookies, as well. I think a fifth car is perfect for a rookie because he's going to have a lot of information from the other four cars, as well as the other four drivers helping him out. For a rookie, I don't think you can be in a better situation.
We're excited about the effort. I think Jack's going to do a great job. Hopefully we'll be as competitive as we were last year. I think he has a shot at winning at least Rookie of the Year, outside chance at winning the race. We saw a rookie won there last year, right? You never know.
THE MODERATOR: Speaking of rookies winning, Jack, you have two Indianapolis 500 winners amongst your teammates. How important is that experience, knowing you'll be able to share with them throughout the month?
JACK HARVEY: Well, central I think really. That's one of the things that really pulled us wanting to get this deal done. Not just with Ryan and Alexander winning, Takuma has been strong, Marco always runs well at the 500.
I mean, yes, there's two guys that have won the race, have experienced what that feels like. It's a strong team across the board. The engineering department is extremely strong. It's just a strong situation, obviously.
I don't think it necessarily makes a great difference, Alexander and Ryan, because everybody has been extremely competitive for many, many years. I think the biggest challenge I've got now is to come into a team with drivers that have immense success at the Speedway.
Like I say, try to absorb as much as I can, as quickly as I can. The expectations for the team are incredibly high, but they're high for a reason, because they've done such a good job.
I think Michael said it really well. Their rookie situation has always been extremely strong. So me going there, this is the most confident I think you could be for a single-car entry, especially being a rookie, with Alexander winning it. I remember the first year I came, Carlos was extremely fast. I mean, honestly was half a lap away from winning the race.
Seeing what those guys have been able to achieve in the fifth car is incredible. It gives us a confidence boost that it's achievable.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Marc Cannon, chief operating officer for AutoNation.
JACK HARVEY: It's important to be part of a successful team as this is with such drivers that they've had. Amazing situation. Literally couldn't have asked for anything more.
THE MODERATOR: Marc, I'm going to throw you right into it.
MARC CANNON: OK, go ahead.
THE MODERATOR: We are familiar with the AutoNation relationship with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Tell us about your new involvement with Jack Harvey.
MARC CANNON: The Andretti team, just top. You couldn't pick a better team. AutoNation is excited to continue the partnership.
As you all know, we are committed to solving the entire cancer equation. We're raising millions and millions of dollars. We just saw the opportunity with Jack to tie him into our entire program.
In May, we're going to launch a huge advertising campaign with Ryan. In June, we're going to be adding Jack to our advertising campaign. The whole drive there is to beat cancer. It's been a huge success. We think Jack will be a big part of it.
THE MODERATOR: You're referring to the Drive Pink initiative. Tell us a little bit about that.
MARC CANNON: At AutoNation dealerships throughout the country, we have a Drive Pink initiative. If you go in for service or you buy a vehicle, we put pink plates on there. If you make a donation, we match that donation. To give you an example, in the last three years, we are now about to break $10 million in our initiative.
Also tying in another sport, we have a huge commitment to football. Last year at one building AutoNation CureBowl, which takes place in Orlando, we raised $1.1 million that night, again, 100 percent of it going to cancer. The Andretti partnership has been a huge asset to this effort. You see AutoNation on Jack's car, on Ryan's car.
A little self-serving promotion. At Indy we're doing a big promotion with Ryan on Friday. It's a go-kart event. Every dollar raised at the go-kart event goes to the breast cancer initiative.
If I can add one thing. Michael's support has been absolutely incredible. There are other places we could have gone for the partnership. We're so excited to keep it all in the Andretti family.
Jack is a great, dynamic, young driver. I have high hopes this year that Ryan is going to kill it. It's just a great partnership and we enjoy working with Andretti.
THE MODERATOR: Jack, you'll be carrying the No. 50 on your car this year, celebrating the 50 million customers that AutoNation has served over the last 20 years. Tell us about that.
JACK HARVEY: We talked about a few numbers. This was the one that we could get and we settled on. I think what it signifies is what a great company AutoNation is to have that many customers over such a long period of time. People keep coming back. I think the fact that they're in the millions in anything is just incredible. I think it shows what a great company it is.
Honestly, again, America is so big, to be a nationwide company in any capacity I think is incredible. This is purely coming from a British perspective, how big your country is.
So they have done an amazing job. The Drive Pink campaign I think is just incredible. I was at the CureBowl event that Marc was talking about. It was great to see the way they interacted with our clients, with people who are benefited from the Drive Pink campaign.
So to be a small part of that, honestly, it's one of the best things I feel like I've done or been a part of. Looking forward to hopefully building a future with everybody.
I know there's been pink at the 500 in recent years. You'll see it this year for sure. On my car there will be a pink influence. Just excited to help out everybody as much as I can, where I can. I'm very happy and proud to be carrying the No. 50.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, Andretti Autosport will be returning to the Motor Speedway as the defending race winner. How does that change your mindset as you near the month of May?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Doesn't really change our mindset. We always put a major effort into the race. It's the biggest race of the year. We were working very, very, very hard over winter to try to improve on what we did because we know the other teams are going to be improving a lot. We know we have to continue.
I think we've found some things that are going to hopefully make us even better. We're really looking forward to it. I think we have a fantastic driver lineup. I think we're going to be strong.
MARC CANNON: If I can add one thing. AutoNation, a big Fortune 100 company, partnerships throughout the whole sports world. Working with Andretti is a unique partnership. Just the operation and the energy that they put forth to help us as a corporation is incredible.
In May we'll celebrate the sale of our 11 millionth vehicle. Nobody even close. My dear friend Roger Penske, but they're not close to selling 11 million vehicles.
In June, we'll be servicing or 50 millionth customer. Think about how huge and big that is. Andretti Autosport helps us to tie that in. It's not just a sale of a vehicle, it's doing something in life to make a difference. Andretti has been extremely helpful for us.
Again, racing a beautiful thing, but also doing something good helps.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from the audience.
Q. Michael or Jack, you're a rookie, when will be the first time you'll be in the car? Who will be the chief engineer on the car? Have you decided yet?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We're still working on that. I think the first time he'll be in the car is Monday that the rookies run. I don't know the exact date. It's the Monday after the Grand Prix.
Q. Jack, how is the driving style going to be different between the Lights car and the IndyCar? IndyCar has a lot more horsepower and speed. The Lights car is a momentum-type car, you have to go pretty flat out.
JACK HARVEY: I guess I'll probably give you a good answer to that Monday afternoon (laughter).
I mean, honestly, I've seen the video. Lights is a good, general learning tool of how to drive a strong oval technique-wise. I don't see it being too different. Whether you're in IndyCar or Indy Lights or NASCAR or anything, you just can't afford to ever lose that.
Hoping that Lights has been a good learning platform for me. I guess the specifics of it, I'll be able to tell you maybe after the first outing.
Q. Jack, what do you do to prepare between now and that Monday?
JACK HARVEY: Work as much as I can with the team, I guess. Everyone knows how good simulators are getting. I'm sure they will make a decision on the engineering department soon.
I mean, honestly, I'm just going to try to absorb as much information with the guys as I can, watch some old video, go through data. While I haven't driven the car, I'll be clear in my mind what I need to do.
Q. Do you have access to the Dallara simulator?
JACK HARVEY: Sure.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We have access to the HPD one.
JACK HARVEY: I think the next five weeks before we get to the track is going to be extremely busy in a productive way. Physically I'm ready. I've been ready for it feels like awhile. I guess, what is it, perfect preparation to prevent a piss-poor performance. Try to carry those six Ps with me.
Q. Jack, as a long line of British drivers that have come over to the States, you've raced all over the world. Tell us about coming to America and racing in this environment with such big names like Andretti, as so many other Europeans have done in the past. Is this where you want to be for your future? You're still only 23.
JACK HARVEY: Yes. At the end of 2013 when I finished GP3, I got the opportunity to at least come and explore Indy Lights. I did a test. I don't know, I just really enjoyed it straightaway. It still feels very pure here, I guess is the way I would describe it as.
People are friendly. I live in Indianapolis. Enjoyed that straightaway. I don't know, I guess the fact that IndyCar is still somewhat a spec car, I know you're going to get differences in engines, aero kits right now, but the racing's close. It's exciting. No one could argue that.
Yeah, F1 is fun this year because Ferrari seem to be more competitive. But I don't know, you never know what's going to quite happen in an IndyCar race. Every race, you know, there's probably 10 guys every time who could win that.
So the opportunity came up. I came. I loved it. I stayed. Honestly, I mean, we are putting every resource I have right now into a long-term career in America. I have no plans to go back. Happy here.
Q. Michael, can you talk a little bit about the decision to start Jack out on the oval versus maybe the GP, because he has such a dynamic and strong road racing background.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Actually I think for a rookie, Indianapolis is the best place to start because you get a lot of track time. At a place like the Grand Prix, you literally get two 45-minute sessions and you're getting ready to qualify.
Indy, you can take your time building up to things, things like that. I think it's a much better environment for a rookie. I never have a problem starting a guy at Indy on the oval because of that, because of all the track time you get.
Q. Jack, one of the hardest parts is the funding. What do you anticipate being the biggest challenge coming into the race with only a few weeks to prepare?
JACK HARVEY: I guess being comfortable going that fast. The first time I went in a pit lane on qualifying session, your head can't follow the cars going that quickly in qualifying trim, I guess. Most challenging thing leading up to the race is going to be comfortable going that quickly so close to the edge all the time.
I think naturally the hardest thing is going to be the race. We got to make sure we're there for the first 450 miles, make sure we're there for the last 50.
Again, that's probably a question I'd like to reflect on kind of at the end of the month, and go, The biggest challenge was something. Right now, you know, have to try to feel comfortable with the team straightaway, build that relationship quickly, as naturally as we can. Just make sure that I'm as well-prepared for any eventuality, should it arise.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us today. Jack, congratulations again.
JACK HARVEY: Thank you.