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July 25, 2007

Chris Festa

Tomas Scheckter

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have two guests joining us today. We'll hear from IndyCar driver Tomas Scheckter and joining us now Indy Pro Series driver Chris Festa. Chris is in his third season in the Indy Pro Series and in 35 career starts, he has ten Top-5 finishes and 23 Top-10 finishes. This year he's driving the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing entree. He won the pole at the season opener at Homestead, and he has best finishes of second at Homestead and Indianapolis.
Chris, this is the first season that Ganassi Racing has competed in the Indy Pro Series. Tell us about how things have come together and how things are going so far this year.
CHRIS FESTA: Well, they started off pretty well at the pole at Homestead, a second place finish. But during the race down there, definitely put a damper on the program with Pablo's unfortunate crash, but we are working it out so we can have a very strong race or remaining four races.
The MODERATOR: Is it something, obviously a lot of teams, you'll hear it at any level of racing, the fact that you have a teammate and can share data and can work back and forth through some things is a real benefit; has it hurt not having that second car as the season has gone along?
CHRIS FESTA: It's huge. The whole point of having two-car teams is like you said is one car can go off in one direction and have another car to get more information coming in. And we have lost basically twice the information we could have possibly had with that. And also for racing, as far as the ovals are concerned, I've lost somebody to work with and to draft with.
But you know, it is what it is and we just have to make the best of it and still go out and win races and try as hard as we can.
THE MODERATOR: You've had a very, I guess, in some respects a unique career. In 2005 you drive in Atlantics for Bobby Rahal, and last year you drove for Eddie Cheever and this year for Chip Ganassi. You've had the opportunity over the last three or four years to work with some of the biggest names in racing. What are some of the things you learned from guys like that and the benefits of seeing three different personalities, three different types of operations; tell us about having worked with those guys.
CHRIS FESTA: Well, each team has their own system of doing things, and Ganassi is no different. One of the best things about being with Ganassi they have so many tiers: IndyCar Series, Indy Pro Series, Grand Am series, they have tons of different information in the building which I can learn from people like Scott Pruett, he's been racing for almost 30 years. For somebody like me, that's a great place to be to be able to learn from people like him and Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon on their experience to help me develop as a driver.
THE MODERATOR: And this year, obviously part of the benefit with the Ganassi program is you've had the opportunity to drive the IndyCar Series car a few times already as part of the bonus testing program, and, in fact, you're scheduled to do another test tomorrow. Just talk about the opportunity you've had to test the IndyCar Series car.
CHRIS FESTA: It's definitely been an eye-opening experience. The IndyCar is quite different and less forgiving than the IndyCar Series is. There's so much more downforce and speed is higher that small mistakes are so much bigger on the IndyCar than the Indy Pro Series car. It taught me about how much more precise you have to be to succeed at the IndyCar level.
THE MODERATOR: And along with that you mentioned that you've -- part of the Ganassi operation and having so many -- racing in so many series there, you mentioned Scott Pruett; what about Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, Indy Car Series Champions. What kind of interaction have you had with those two guys?
CHRIS FESTA: The Richmond bonus test that we did back there in June, Scott came, as well, even though we were testing with Dan's car. And Dan went down to turn one two, and Scott went down to turns three, four and I had to do a run out and come back in and give my feedback to the engineers and Scott and Dan would be like, come in and talk about, some of what you're feeling is affected by your line; held it down a little lower coming out, a lot of that problem will go away and you'll be able to go much faster.
THE MODERATOR: So it's been a big benefit obviously to have those guys around like that.
CHRIS FESTA: It's been huge.
THE MODERATOR: This is your third season in the Indy Pro Series, and you're wrapping up here with our last four or five races. What's in the card for you in the future, anything lined up for next year already.
CHRIS FESTA: Well, right now my main focus is on winning the remaining four races. We are working really hard to get that done. Right now as far as the future is concerned, that's why I have my manager; he worries about that and I worry about racing.
THE MODERATOR: One last question from me, a couple off weekends after a pretty busy stretch, what kind of things do you have planned to keep yourself busy?
CHRIS FESTA: I went to the Buffet concert last night and that was a good time. Mainly we'll be testing in Kentucky next week and then Putnam park not too long after that with the Indy Pro Series car. And other than that, I'll be training as much as I can to be in the best shape I can be to work with the engineers and the team to come up with the best course of action for Kentucky.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for taking the time out for us, I appreciate that and good luck as we continue to the '07 season. Thanks very much. We'll see you in a couple of weeks.
We are now joined by Tomas Scheckter of Vision Racing. Let's talk about this season, things started off really strong with five straight Top 10's to start the season, kind of hit a little bumpy stretch in the middle, and you got back into the Top-10 last weekend at Mid-Ohio. How have things been going so far?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, I think that's exactly it when we've had a good car like at Indy. And a lot of these races, we've had these things that have happened to us, a lot of misfortune, and really have not made the most of the big cars that I've had at some of the races.
And then some of the other races, we've been really struggling. We've been struggling every time we've been at Watkins. And we struggled, silly things, we put the tires on the wrong way around at one of the pit stops, and just smaller errors that are really holding us back.
It was good at Mid-Ohio to get a Top-10 finish there, and just give a little more confidence to the team and hopefully we can build on that and get softly back into the Top-5 finishes that we were doing sort of later in the year.
THE MODERATOR: Yeah, you talk about maybe a place where you could build momentum and you come off a Top-10 at Mid-Ohio, the next two races are Michigan and Kentucky and places that should be good to you; you had the victory and the poles and you've also had two thirds and a fifth there. What is it about that track that has led to your success there?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I'm not sure. I think it's a combination. It's a good track, it's good racing and maybe we just got the setup right. You know, I don't know, I think a lot of times your success on the track is really, you get a good car and you make the most of it. And it's always just good racing and it's proper IRL racing.
I think that's what IRL fans like, and I think that's what the drivers like, as well, and I think a lot of the races we've missed a lot of the side-by-side racing, and I think Michigan is the perfect place for that.
THE MODERATOR: And that's a place, obviously that usually there is three-wide and two-wide racing. In a season, in the last couple where you have two or three dominant teams that have stuck out, is it possible for a team like Vision to stick up at the front of the race like Michigan and pull out a victory?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I tell you what, we're working hard and that's all you can ask for. It's extremely, extremely hard, especially going to tracks like Michigan where a lot of the top teams are just spending massive amounts of money on aerodynamics and getting less friction, and we really are just catching up all the time. Every time, we're catching up. We look at photos, we try and learn.
But one thing, everybody at Vision Racing is pushing hard. We're coming up with new things and I think certainly this year, which I've really liked and enjoyed, is that we weren't just trying to find a good setup with a car. We're trying to develop it in different ways and we're trying to figure out what other people are doing and how we can get the speed. And we'll be going to Michigan with a couple of development parts.
But, yeah, I mean, it's like you said, it's extremely tough. Everybody, as soon as you make a gain, other guys have made one or two more gains.
So it's just a game of catch-up, really.
THE MODERATOR: And then we go to Kentucky after that. Is that similar enough, obviously it's a one-and-a-half-mile like Kansas; is everything similar where you had a Top-5 finish there that you can do kind of a repeat performance there, as well?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I hope so. We've had a good car like that, and it really makes it also this year, no warmup, it puts more emphasis on really trying to concentrate on getting a good race car. And I think some teams are very used to just getting a good qualifying car and qualifying the car and then realized, hey, I didn't use my race car that much.
That's what we really try to focus on and make sure that when the race starts that we've got a good race car, it's consistent, and we can be flat-out deep in the toe, and I think that's what really happened for us at Kansas. Hopefully we learned enough there that we can bring some of that to Kentucky.
THE MODERATOR: You talked a lot about obviously the things the team has done this year. It's really the first year Vision has been a three-car team. Has it helped having the third driver and the extra information to dissect?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: For sure. For sure. But with every team, there's learning and there's, you know, how the team shares information between the three cars. And also, it's a process of, you know, Larry's working hard to get good people and make sure those good people are working with other good people.
I think that's the big thing. You know, you can have a great race car with a great engine, a great chassis and great ties and if you don't put them together properly, you don't have anything and I think that's the big thing at the moment is to try to get everybody working well together. We've done well so far with upgrading so quickly from one, two, to three cars. We've still lot a little ways to go to make sure that everybody is working and we're learning good information from all of the cars.
THE MODERATOR: One more question for you this afternoon. Obviously before we get to either Michigan or Kentucky, we finally have a very welcome week off after five races in a row.
THE MODERATOR: What kind of things do you have planned for the little bit of downtime here?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Oh, just rest. I tell you what, this year, it's been tough for everybody, for the guys, all of these weekends in a row and I think certainly everybody is just going to get away, jump in the lake, do some wakeboarding. Just relax, get all batteries recharged, spend some time with the team and figure out a good plan to see if we can win Michigan.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate you taking some time to join us and we do wish you some rest and recuperation and good luck the rest of the season.

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