Background on Dan Wheldon: Dan Wheldon is competing in his sixth full season in the IndyCar Series, and his third driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Age: 29 (Birthday is June 22, 1978)
Career Starts / 2007: 80 / 17
Career Victories/2007: 13 / 2
Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 44 / 6
Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 61 / 11
Career Poles/2007: 5 / 1
Career Highlights: Won the IndyCar Series championship in 2005, recording six victories, including the Indianapolis 500. Has won three consecutive races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Finished second in points in 2004 and 2006.
2007 Highlights: Recorded victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas Speedway en route to fourth in the championship. Led 605 laps over 10 races.
Off the track: Married Susie Behm in St. Petersburg on March 16. Owns more than 300 pairs of shoes.
Background on Logan Gomez: Logan Gomez is competing in his second season in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for Guthrie Racing.
Age: 19 (Birthday is Dec. 16, 1988)
Career Starts / 2007: 17 / 16
Career Victories/2007: 1 / 1
Career Top-Five Finishes/2007: 3 / 3
Career Top-10 Finishes/2007: 9 / 8
Career Poles/2007: 0
Career Highlights: Finished 10th in his Firestone Indy Lights debut on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the age of 17 years, 6 months.
2007 Highlights: Earned recognition by the Guinness Book of World Records for the closest finish in car racing history when he closed the season with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway by 0.0005 of a second. Finished seventh overall, the second-highest rookie in the championship.
Off the track: Attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., a school that includes Roger Penske among its graduates.
Background on Homestead-Miami Speedway: Homestead-Miami Speedway will play host to the IndyCar Series for the eighth time in 2008. For the seventh consecutive season, the race at Homestead-Miami will be the season opener, and for the second consecutive season the race will take place at night.
They said what…? Listed below are select quotes from today’s teleconference, with the approximate time code from the audio MP3 in parentheses.
Q. You will have a bigger car count this year on a very fast track, and some of those guys maybe not being experienced on ovals. What are your feelings going into Saturday night about the increased car count and maybe having those less than experienced guys on the track?
DAN WHELDON (20:30): Hopefully it won't make any difference to myself because we'll be out front again and not worry about them. It will change the complexity of the race a little bit. I think certainly you're going to be in traffic more whether you're lapping cars or just having to come through the field because of strategy; and with the fact that there are more cars, the risks you're going to have to play with strategy might mean where last year or the year before you dropped back to fourth or fifth in the back, now you might drop back to 10th or 11th and have to come through. And there's more cars that will employ that strategy where they stay out and perhaps others come in. So you will have to work with your car from that standpoint, making sure that it certainly handles better in traffic.
But with these drivers we have coming in, I think they are all very, very talented and with that being said, their grasp of IndyCar racing and particularly our style of racing on ovals they will pick up relatively quickly. I have not raced with many of the people that will be part of the series, but like I say â€'â€' there's a lot of incredibly talented people within that group, and I think that because of that, you're not going to see too much of a learning curve.
Q. Talk about the excitement level around the merger.
DAN WHELDON (39:00): I've touched on this before, it's fantastic for everybody involved and also the fans because you know, IndyCar racing needed to get back to being where it was in the past and there's no doubt it took a steep â€'â€' time when there was a split in the two series or in the one series to make it two.
But it's back together now and I can answer from a driving standpoint, when you're a driver, the drivers â€'â€' you want to be racing against the best drivers and teams but you want to be racing at the best venues in front of big crowds, and the way the merger has been facilitated and everybody has gone about their business, it's going to happen as quick as it possibly can and that's exciting.
From a driving standpoint, I can't wait to get to Homestead and be racing against 25 other cars, and not just 25; there are some great names and it's going to be really fun to be racing against them but also to build up these different individuals that are racing in these cars and these teams. It's going to be good to hopefully getting back to having household name IndyCar drivers and to be a part of that for me is very special.
Q. Obviously you're on a new team this season. I just wanted to ask you, have you noticed differences in philosophy from Sam Schmidt to Guthrie Racing or other differences like that?
LOGAN GOMEZ (8:00): Philosophy is a pretty broad word. Big difference is they are both very professional teams, and if anything, I believe Guthrie Racing is a little more homey feeling. They make it more of a family. You can definitely tell the efforts they are putting forth. Sam Schmidt was run more like a business, and that's good, but I believe when you're a learning driver, it's really important to be very comfortable in your surroundings and Guthrie Racing definitely provides that.
Q. Curtis, can you give us an update on preparations for this weekend's GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 and tell us about what we can expect.
CURTIS GRAY (9:30): Obviously we are very honored to host the inaugural event again this year, and it's a heck of an exciting way to start out the year. We announced the unification here with Tony (George) with his big announcement, and that just got a whole lot of interest here in South Florida going. The promotions have been great and the drivers have done a super job promoting the event.
But this event has really taken shape and we are excited to host the event again this year. And what we have done is we have created Speed Jam to make it more than the racing activities on the track, it's become a whole festival. Besides the seasonâ€'opening for the IndyCar Series and Gainsco coming on as our new sponsor, we have also got the Rolex Grand Am series here in the afternoon, and we have got a concert by Three Doors Down and other concerts during the day, car show, Memphis barbeque festival, karting and remote control cars and things for people to do all day long.