Ganassi-Rahal-Kimball-Davis press conference transcript

MODERATOR: Chip, I don't know if this was the last time we were in this very place, but I do remember a press conference last year with you with the Harley J. Earl Trophy, you and Mr. Penske and the possibility of doing the double, and by gosh you did it. That has to be a great memory, huh?

CHIP GANASSI: Certainly.

MODERATOR: Since then, let's talk about this team. Kind of a blustery day in the early part of the spring we had a press conference downstairs where you announced the formation of this new team with Mitch Davis, very much a part of it. Talk about how it's gone in the early going and your feelings about this upcoming Indianapolis 500.

GANASSI: Well, I think, yeah, if you want to go right to how I think the team is doing, I think it's doing great. I wouldn't say it's mission accomplished yet or anything like that, but it's certainly a work in progress and we're right on plan, right where we want to be, right about where we thought we'd be.

Both Charlie and Graham are, I think, in their careers, in their young careers, they're right about where we thought they would be right now. You know, I couldn't be more happy with the kind of May that they're having so far. I think both drivers have shown a lot of maturity and a lot of, you know, just a lot of race craft that maybe you don't see much, you know, unless you look, unless you know you're looking for it you don't really know.

You look at Charlie, who's been creeping up, creeping up, creeping up on his speed, I think every time he's gone out he's gone faster, which is great. We're looking to increase those speeds today in a nice steady pace like he's been doing, nothing over-the-top crazy, exciting happening there. We know that's not what he needs right now.

Same with Graham. The first couple of races with Graham were a little challenging, and we got down in Brazil, had a second place, and it's nice to have a nice finish like that coming into May. So he's got a nice trajectory coming into this race. We're happy with that.

I think the team is doing a good job. You know, it's so difficult, people think you just sort of get some cars and get some drivers and all of a sudden you have a team. My hat's off to Mitch and Tim Keene for getting their teams jelled very quickly and getting a group of guys together that want to work together and are excited and interested about IndyCar racing. So I'd say it's right about where we thought we'd be.

MODERATOR: You made a very interesting point, Chip, and I'll turn to Mitch for this. You're a team that's had great success and had some good backing, et cetera. But, Mitch, he just made the comment it's not just about getting cars and people, it takes a while to build a team. Talk about that and the challenge of that.

MITCH DAVIS: Yeah, you know, Chip at the beginning of the year when he decided we'd put this deal together, you know, he called me and said, 'Hey, I want you to do it and here's how we're going to do it.' Since that day, we've focused forward on never looking back, just focusing forward every day, hard work and a lot of focus on what we needed to accomplish, our goals. In the first four road courses — first we had to get road-course cars built to the track. We did a little bit of testing, and it paid off for both guys. Charlie had a great finish at Barber, finished 10th. He raced hard the whole day. And then Graham at Brazil didn't miss a beat the whole weekend, qualified well and ran up front the whole weekend there.

So coming here, we had basically another task of building oval track cars. Luckily with Chip, the way we put the team together, Tim Keene came over to help on the management side. We had a whole group of engineers that came over from the big shop, and it just went smooth as can be because we know basically from like Chip's past history, that the team is structured well. It runs like a Swiss watch if you do it the way the playbook says. You don't make mistakes. The biggest thing we can do this month is not make mistakes and stay focused on what we need to accomplish. If you go out there every day and try to be P1, chances are with a team building like we are building from scratch, you're going to make a mistake. But we're really focused on where Graham is in his career and where Charlie is in his career and not making mistakes, and hopefully tomorrow we can show that we are one of the better teams here and we're building it for the future for what we want to do.

MODERATOR: Very good. Graham, this is a steady operation for you. A guy that comes in with all the talent that you've shown. I know it had to be frustrating at times, but this looks like to be the platform where you can start to do some great things.

GRAHAM RAHAL: It's a fantastic opportunity here. I think we've said that time and time again. What Mitch, Tim Keene is on my car and what these guys have developed, we've got a great group of people around us. The team has jelled extremely well. I think as Chip mentioned, we're finally starting to hit our stride a little bit. Brazil went more the way we thought things would go. So far this month, I don't think, knock on wood, we haven't missed a beat yet. The car has been performing extremely well. We haven't done all that much, we came here, the car was extremely comfortable. We've done everything from race trim to qual trim, and it's been extremely good the whole time. So I can promise you we're excited to be out there and run some more today, try to do some work in traffic, and certainly qualifying is going to be exciting tomorrow. Yesterday we showed we definitely have the pace. It's going to be exciting to get out here and have an opportunity like this and be in a race where we really do have a chance to run up front and you never know what can happen. But it should be a great day both tomorrow and on the 29th.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

Charlie, when we made the announcement back here at the racetrack, I've seen some excited drivers, but you may have been maybe the happiest man I've seen in a long time. You fought through a lot of challenges just to be able to race and now you're at this stage, the opportunity to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, you've got to be thrilled.

CHARLIE KIMBALL: I am. It really is a special opportunity. And I think even in December, I didn't know how good it was going to be. It's been a revelation each time I get in the car, you know. I can focus on driving and that's my job, and the team has done a great job putting things together so that I can really concentrate on that and concentrate on the learning, because I do have a huge amount to learn. From my first laps here at ROP, I knew the car was going to be good and I had to go out and do my job, get comfortable and settle in. As Chip said, we've focused on making steady progress towards our run tomorrow, looking to make the field tomorrow, and I think we have the capabilities to do that. Mitch and the engineers, Tim Keene, everybody involved, has done a great job putting pieces in place, not just for this year for this race, but for the future.

MODERATOR: Very good. Again a reminder, we're on a tight schedule. If we could, any questions from the group?

Q: Chip, what's it say about the health of this series that you've got guys that are coming out here and running fast that are not just from, quote unquote, the usual suspects, you've got Alex Tagliani from Sam Schmidt and JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter and guys like that. What's it say about the series?

GANASSI: I think a couple things. I think, you know, obviously when you're in the cycle of this car, obviously we're at the end of a cycle and, you know, a lot of people have had opportunities to run this car, they've had opportunities to make mistakes running this car, so you know what not to do. So a lot of people know how to make this car go fast. And you're seeing that here this May.

And you're seeing how, you know, how close the sanctioning body keeps doing a good job of tightening down the competitive nature of it so everybody has the same sort of stuff and the same car, same engine, same this, same that. So it's going to be very, very tight, but it's down to car setup and then experience and so you're seeing a lot of speeds up there from time to time. It's not that hard to go fast, you know. I mean, I think a little bit will change when you're by yourself in qualifying and then, of course, you have the race.

But in terms of just one lap on speeds, tomorrow we'll see probably four laps, I think you're going to see some surprises, for sure.

Q: This question is for Chip. Tomorrow's Pole Day, and there's a opportunity say hypothetically all four of your drivers are in the top nine, and then there's that last 90 minutes at the end of the day. Could you talk a little bit about shooting for the pole, kind of the risk and the reward, because it's great for the entertainment but it's a long race and maybe it's not so important. What's your thinking on that?

GANASSI: Yeah, I think, you know, sure, it would be great to be on the pole. Obviously, we want to be in the fast nine and then if it's a matter of going for the pole, I think it's going to be more, a — you know, you sort of know where you're at and you know what you have and what you don't have. So we're looking forward to being in the Fast Nine, hopefully. We'll see what we have for the pole. I mean, if we don't have what it takes, we're not going to go out there and just take a risk of — I'm not going to trade second or third for scraping him off the wall or something like that. That doesn't make any sense because we feel pretty good about our race setup and how we race. So I want to make sure we're there. You hear these lines time and time again that this is our big weekend for qualifying, but the Indy 500 they always hand out the accolades and the trophies on the finish of the race, not the finish of qualifying.

MODERATOR: Other questions?

Very good, gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming in. Also want to welcome Don Prudhomme with us today. He knows something about going fast, as well.

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