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INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 6, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have three guests joining us today. In a few minutes we'll hear from Vision Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt, IV, and joining us now is Indy Pro Series driver Ryan Justice.
Ryan is a 21-year-old rookie in the Indy Pro Series, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He got his start in karting, then competed in Star Mazda for several seasons, finishing third in that series last year. He made his Indy Pro Series debut last August in the doubleheader at Infineon, finishing eighth in both races. This year he's made three starts and is coming off a sixth-place finish at Milwaukee. Also on a personal note, he recently graduated from Loyola Marymount University.
Ryan, let's kind of first talk about the transition from Star Mazda to the Indy Pro Series. What has been the biggest adjustment so far for you?
RYAN JUSTICE: I'd say the biggest adjustment is just the overall power and grip that the IPS car has. I mean, it's just a fantastic platform with the Dallara chassis and the high-horsepower V8. Other than just the overall power and how you drive it from a road course perspective, I'd say just the speeds and how close you race on the bigger superspeedways.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned to me before we started the call you got a Star Mazda team you're involved with still to this day and, in fact, it sounds like you'll be driving this weekend.
RYAN JUSTICE: Yeah. Unfortunately our lead driver who just won the last round at the Utah Grand Prix fell short with his sponsorship. I'll be filling in the seat here at my home race here in Portland. Hopefully we'll have a good run there. We'll use that momentum moving into the Indy Pro Series race doubleheader next week with F1 and Indy.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about that a little bit. The Indy Pro Series is the only series that runs on both the oval and the road course at Indianapolis. What does it mean to you to be able to run not only once at Indy but twice at Indy?
RYAN JUSTICE: Oh, I think it's just fantastic because in road course racing, quite a lot more than just oval racing in general, you know, you can have a bad race, there's definitely a lot more opportunities to have a bad race. To be able to run a doubleheader I think is just fantastic because, you know, if we have a bad day Saturday, definitely going to come back and show what we can do on Sunday.
The flipside of that coin is, you know, if we're having a really good weekend, it's a really good opportunity to catch up on points and show really well twice in one event.
THE MODERATOR: Your season kind of got off to a little bit of a rough start with the accident down at Homestead. That kind of forced you to miss the two races at St. Pete. Obviously you've rebounded well, getting the sixth place at Milwaukee. What are the goals for you for the rest of the season?
RYAN JUSTICE: Well, unfortunately mathematically we're now pretty much eliminated from any shot at winning the championship. But definitely, you know, in testing, all the pre-season testing, even the test we just did two days ago at Iowa, we've shown that we have the speed to win races. And I think qualifying third and finishing sixth in Milwaukee was a big step forward for us because for me, you know, I view Milwaukee as really my first race back because we cut a tire straightaway at the Indy race, the Freedom 100, really didn't get an opportunity to show what we could do there. I feel like coming off the sixth-place finish and a really good qualifying, definitely my season unfortunately is just starting now.
So the goal for me for the rest of the season is just to win races and sort of take more chances than I would have if we were in a championship fight, just try and steal the show a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: The story so far of the season obviously has been your teammate Alex Lloyd winning the first five races. Along with you missing a couple races, he's kind of put a lot of people out of the championship race. What has it been like from your perspective to be a part of that on the inside of what he's done? Secondly, how does someone like yourself or any other driver put an end to that streak?
RYAN JUSTICE: Well, Alex has definitely done a good job hitting the ground running this season, after running a limited schedule last year. We knew from testing and everything that he was going to be really strong. Obviously running for the same team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, who have won championships before, and look like the favorite to win the championship this year with Alex.
I know and I can say with confidence we all have similar equipment. I know that his car, you know, may not be any better per se than mine. Right now he's just doing a really good job navigating the weekends and putting himself in a position where he's making his own luck.
That being said, I know we'll get to a point hopefully here in the next couple races where we can do the same. I feel like it's not a question of Alex out-classing the field; I feel like he's really aligned the stars for himself to be able to do so. Having the same equipment, coming from the same team, which is just fantastic to work with, I feel like we can definitely hopefully end his streak next weekend.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned the team is fantastic to work with. How did you get involved with Sam Schmidt and the team? Give us your impressions of the team so far.
RYAN JUSTICE: Well, fortunately for me, towards the end of last season they had a seat open up for the two road course races at Infineon. We were able to find a way to get sponsorship and get in there for those two races. The relationship with Sam and myself just kind of built from there.
I mean, the team is just fantastic. Their shop is second to none. I feel like the level of professionalism and just their entire approach to motorsport in general is the reason why they've been so successful. I really feel privileged to be part of such a professional team.
When I'm there in the shop with the guys and everything, I feel like, even though we're in the Indy Pro Series, they're a team. Obviously they showed last month they were able to run a big car at the 500. They're a team that could easily be in the IRL competing with the big names up there. To have that kind of expertise brought to the IPS level, to that series, I think is a good thing. It's an even better thing for me to be a part of that program. I just can't say enough about them.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for Ryan.
Q. It's been a long gap since the last time you raced on a road course at Infineon. Although you're going to take up the wheel at the Mazda race this weekend, do you have any anxiety about hopping back into what essentially is your first race of the season on a road course when everyone else has a few under their belt?
RYAN JUSTICE: Well, no, I wouldn't really say anxiety. I'm anxious and very excited to do the race at Indy. Fortunately for us on Tuesday we'll be testing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I'll get a chance without the pressure of a race weekend to get back into the road course mode - permanent road course mode I should say - heading to Indianapolis.
Q. How much carryover is there with having a teammate that's so successful as Alex in gaining information from him and his setups, his crew? Do you guys share a lot of the information or each of you unique enough in your style that it's really not something that's shareable between the cars?
RYAN JUSTICE: I think definitely what you would be referring to would more than anything be applicable to a road course-type setting because on the superspeedways and the short ovals, it's quite a lot more important to get the car within the window where it can operate, you know, just by virtue of physics.
On the road course, where you're actually braking and having transitions from brake zones to getting on the throttle and everything, there is some differences just in driving style and whatnot. But that being said, there is also a certain style it takes to drive the IPS car fast.
So, yes, there's quite a lot of carryover. Everything's a team effort with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. We may find something one day and the 7 car team may find something another. In the end, the best setup that the team feels is going to give us the best result ends up going on the cars, then we sort of tune it per the individual from there.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, that looks like the questions we've got for you today. Appreciate you taking the time to join us. Best of luck this weekend and throughout the season.
RYAN JUSTICE: Thanks, Tim. Appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt, IV. They're teammates at Vision Racing. Ed is in his fourth full season in the IndyCar Series and his third with Vision Racing. In 53 career starts he's recorded nine top-10 finishes, including two this season. He finished seventh last weekend at Milwaukee.
A.J. is also in his fourth full season in the IndyCar Series but his first with Vision Racing. He's back in the series for the first time since 2005. A.J. also made 53 career starts. He's got four top 10s, including a ninth this year at Kansas.
A.J., I don't see you very often in the paddock area without a Texas hat on. How much do you enjoy going home to race at Texas Motor Speedway?
A.J. FOYT, IV: Yeah, it's definitely one of my favorite tracks. It's a good, fast track to come race on. It's good to be back in the hometown. It's about four hours away from where I live. Get some family up here. My sister I know is going to bring my nephew up, you know, some other friends coming in from Austin. It should be a fun weekend.
THE MODERATOR: You had a ninth place, as I mentioned, at Kansas this year, which is also a 1.5-mile oval like Texas, obviously the banking is a bit different. What's the key for you to have another strong run at Texas this weekend?
A.J. FOYT, IV: I think mainly we'll just do our best to qualify as far up front as we can. And then, you know, these races are always really close, really bunched up with all the guys, so just mainly bide our time through the first half or so of the race, just kind of hopefully settle in with the draft and stay on lead lap, then the last 50 laps, after our first pit stop, kind of go for it.
THE MODERATOR: Last year you took a year away from the IndyCar Series. When you came back this year, you've come back with Vision Racing instead of you'd previously raced for your grandfather's team. How has the transition been in both respects, coming back to the IndyCar Series in general and then secondly coming in with a different team?
A.J. FOYT, IV: It's been spectacular. You know, just thanks to Tony George and Larry Curry to give me the opportunity to get back in such a great series. It's also been great to be back around my grandfather all the time, getting to hang out with him, spend time together. You know, it's good to be back around the family.
It's a really good team we've got going at Vision Racing. Great teammates with Ed and Tomas. A bunch of information shared to make me better. It's just really a great opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: As you look ahead at the season that is still left, two-thirds of the season still to go, what is the race that you would say you look forward to the most?
A.J. FOYT, IV: Like I said, this one. I definitely look forward to this one. I look forward to also going testing at Mid-Ohio, trying to get better at the road courses. It's starting to become a bigger part of our series, to have good showing at the road courses. I had a good month at Indy. Look forward to going back there next year already.
Really this one. I like Richmond. Also looking forward to going and checking out the new track at Iowa.
THE MODERATOR: I know we just had Ryan Justice who tested there yesterday, said it was fantastic.
Let's get a couple questions in for Ed. Ed, tell us about Vision Racing. You've played a big role with the team since it was formed in 2005. Tell us about the growth of the team and especially this year the addition of the third full-time car.
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I mean, we haven't stopped growing since we started, to be honest. We started in '05 with just the one car with me. Last year we grew to a second car with Tomas. We started this season adding a third car, bringing on A.J. We just came out of the month of May, you know, where we ran a fourth car with Davey Hamilton.
The team has done an excellent job, you know, especially with the three full-time cars, but also stepping up and running that fourth car in the month of May was a big job. The team handled it well. That's how they've handled every challenge we've thrown at them so far. We always come out ahead, it seems like.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about your own development as a driver. The last couple seasons you really seem to have come into your own in the IndyCar Series. You finished last year with top 10s in half of the races. You already have two top 10s this year. Do you feel that way, that you've kind of really come into your own as a driver now?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, you know, I mean, we always talk about me coming into my own as a driver. I think more than anything you have to be in the right situation. And the team's coming a long way. We have very competitive cars. That's why you see Vision cars running up front. You know, this is a very, very competitive series. If you don't have all the things working, you're going to find yourself at the back of the pack.
But I definitely feel comfortable with the team, all the inner workings. I've been around all these tracks. I feel at home here in the IndyCar Series. We're getting closer and closer to finding Vision its first victory.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about Texas. Perhaps we'll see something there. You had a ninth-place finish this last year. What needs to happen to see you back up front again there this weekend?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, I think we will be up front. We've been very strong at the mile-and-a-half's this season. We were running up front at Homestead, finished sixth. Was running up in the top five at Kansas till I had an accident. I expect to be up front here. Like you said, we finished ninth here last year and were running higher than this, had a bad pit stop right at the end. I have big expectations for this weekend. We'll have to play our cards right. I think we've got a good shot at it.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for both Ed and A.J.
Q. Ed, how much day-to-day contact does Tony George have with the team or is it Larry Curry's job to run the team?
ED CARPENTER: Larry is the team manager. He's managing the day-to-day operations of the team, everything that goes on on a daily basis. Tony has a lot of things going on between the team, the speedway, all the races at the speedway, and the IndyCar Series. I think he's more active than most people think he is. He's probably just as active as most IndyCar owners are. Most owners have other business ventures, other business things going on, as well. But he never misses anything when we're on track. I'm sure he'll be at the Mid-Ohio test next week. He's on A.J.'s timing stand, calls his race. He's very active, as active as any other owner, but he also has a lot of other responsibilities. No different than Roger Penske or Chip. They both have a lot of other things going on, as well.
Q. I'm pretty familiar with A.J.'s history of racing for his grandfather and all that, how difficult that was at times. When your father is not only the team owner but owns the league, founded the league, owns the speedway, do you think people look at you, This guy has everything going for him, he should win a race, should be a star?
ED CARPENTER: I think people -- for a long time people think the only reason I was here was because of that. I'd like to think that I'm finally gaining some respect, people are respecting me for what I can do as a driver.
But, you know, people are going to think what they want. I'm fine with that. I've been around this family and been a part of the family and raced under the family most of my career. It's nothing new to me.
Q. A.J., with your run at Milwaukee, you racked up I think your fifth race in a row you've been running at the end. It looks from the stands as though you've developed a consistency with your driving that might not have been there before. Do you think it's the equipment, a change of the team? What would you attribute your run of success here to?
A.J. FOYT, IV: Not to take anything away from my grandfather's team, it's just so much easier to have teammates around you to help you get through a weekend. Like a single-car team, you get off track, you come back to the hauler, you think to yourself, What's going on? Now I can go back to Ed or Tomas and ask them what they're doing differently, any kind of changes they made on their car to make it better. Just makes it a whole lot easier to make me understand what's going on on my car out on the racetrack to prepare myself for a better race, have a more consistent car throughout the race.
Q. On a typical weekend at the IRL races, guys, we're writing about Penske and Ganassi, AGR, who seem to dominate most of the news. How difficult is it for you to be at a racetrack and feel like no one knows you're there? I wonder if you've ever felt that and if that's a valid point?
ED CARPENTER: All the time. Obviously a lot of that's driven by ABC. They tell the same story lines over and over, talking about those three teams, Danica, Wheldon, Hornish. There's been races, I think myself, Tomas, even A.J., where we've had really good races going and the TV doesn't want to talk about you. But that's the way it is. They're winning races and they are the story. Once we do a better job, get our cars in Victory Circle, then they'll be talking about us.
A.J. FOYT, IV: Pretty much the same thing. It also could be motivating for us as drivers. I think seeing our team coming along, we know we're going to get there. Tomas and Ed have been really strong at some of these mile-and-a-half's, up there in the top five, top 10, when you feel like a lot more should be said about it, a lot more said about how good our whole team is doing. Just kind of motivating to know it's coming, to know when we start winning races they won't have any choice but to talk about us.
Q. Like other teams, are you open books with each other as far as setups and whatnot? Is there that kind of sharing going on?
A.J. FOYT, IV: Absolutely. We all go back to the same trailer once any practice session, whoever is having problems or whoever is doing good, we all talk to each other and figure out what the best setup for our cars are to make them all fast. All the engineers work very well together, communicate well to give us all really good cars.
ED CARPENTER: I think if you don't have that policy, you might as well just be a one-car team. The advantage AGR has of having four cars, the advantages we're seeing now with the third car, it's that much more information, that much more teamwork. It's definitely becoming more and more of a team sport than it ever was.
Q. Have you ever thought about getting into a fight on pit road to generate some pub?
ED CARPENTER: I'm putting my money on Danica in this fight between her and Wheldon. Dan has been pretty good down here in Texas, but I'm going to put my money on Danica.
Q. How about putting on a fight between yourselves to get some pub?
ED CARPENTER: This whole thing is funny. I think it's good. It's getting our sport more media. Even better yet, it's real emotions. It's not made up. I'm glad there's no fines handed down. It's real emotion. This is what needs to happen. Dan pissed her off and she went and told him about it, and that's the way it should be.
I don't know that we need to start any fights just to start a fight. But if someone makes you that mad, then you need to go talk to them about it. Obviously, like we were talking about before, something happens like that with those two, it's going to get on TV. There's conversations like that between drivers all the time, just most of the time it doesn't get put on TV.
THE MODERATOR: All right, guys, thank you for joining us. Appreciate you taking the time out of your day for that. Good luck for this weekend and the rest of the season.
ED CARPENTER: Thanks.
A.J. FOYT, IV: Thanks.
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