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INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 9, 2011
ARNI SRIBHEN: Welcome to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. We're joined today by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner Bobby Rahal, and IZOD IndyCar driver Pippa Mann. The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will return to the series with Pippa Mann.
Bobby, I know you won the inaugural race at New Hampshire in 1992, and I'm sure that place has a special place in your heart not only for the reason I just mentioned, but for this weekend as well returning to the series.
BOBBY RAHAL: It does. It's great to go back there. I don't know, when was it, Pippa, about six weeks ago we did a test up you there with Pippa, and it reminded me what a great circuit it is. Of course to win the first race at anyplace is always special.
But I just really enjoyed that one mile oval. I love the one mile ovals anyway, but I think at New Hampshire it's a very good one. Yeah, that's one of the victories on my way to my last championship in '92.
I've had good memories, but it's good to be coming back. I'm really glad IndyCar is back at that track because I think it produces great racing. We're real pleased to have Pippa with us. We had a productive test, I think. Driving an IndyCar on a one-mile oval is very different, as she can probably attest, as it is to drive at Indianapolis or a high-banked track.
So I thought the day went well, and so we look forward to a great weekend up in the northeast.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Before we get to Pippa, I understand you have an announcement to make about her entry for this weekend.
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, we do. We're really pleased. It's kind of a continuation of a relationship between Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the QVC Retail Group, which, of course, is my son, Graham's, sponsor as well, but sponsored with us Jay Howard at Indy this year and also in Texas for us.
So we're really pleased to report that QVC Retail will be joining with Pippa at New Hampshire this weekend, and we're very appreciative of that kind of support. Paul and Will Frazer is the president and CEO, is a great supporter of Motorsports.
And Patrice Kelty from QVC Retail is on the line now. And just want to thank Patrice and everybody there for their continuing support of IRL, but also of Pippa and her efforts here in the IndyCar Series in 2011.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Patrice, welcome to the call. I know as Bobby mentioned you've been involved in the series all year long with Graham Rahal. But talk about getting back together with Rahal Letterman Lanigan and continuing your relationship with them this weekend?
PATRICE KELTY: When this opportunity came up we just saw it to be a great opportunity to help someone develop, and continue to develop their skills as they move through the series. And Pippa has some great skills behind the wheel, and she's building a solid reputation as a go-getter in the sport. We look forward to watching her climb the ranks in racing.
As far as being involved with IRL, this is just another opportunity for us to help increase the branding of Service Central Racing and all of our tire and automotive service centers, including NTB, which is right there in New Hampshire.
ARNI SRIBHEN: All right. Pippa, first, we will back to the IZOD IndyCar Series. I know you mentioned it earlier when we were waiting for the call do begin, but you have to be really excited to be behind a IndyCar wheel again?
PIPPA MANN: I am so excited. Anytime anyone introduced me as Pippa Mann IZOD IndyCar Series driver, I have to stop myself from giggling. I still can't quite believe that I've made this leap up. I'm just so excited to get back into the car and to have the support of the QVC group on board running with the National Tire and Battery brands up there in New Hampshire. It's going to be fantastic.
I met Owen just under a week ago now. And we were admiring my new car in the shop when I was doing my seat fit. We both thought she was looking racy in her new color scheme, but it looked like there was a little something lacking, and luckily Owen agreed with me.
I'm extremely pumped up, and I just can't wait. Can we go yet? Is it Thursday yet?
ARNI SRIBHEN: It's not quite Thursday yet, but you are one of the few drivers who have laps around New Hampshire in the current IndyCar. As Bobby mentioned, you tested about six weeks ago. What kind of track is it like and what kind of race do you expect?
PIPPA MANN: It's a really, really cool little track. It it's a one mile oval that's fairly flat. There is very little banking in the corners. Compared to somewhere like Milwaukee, the straits are a little longer, the corners are a little tighter and a little more bank. It is going to be a bull ring around there.
I describe it when I was writing about it because it was like trying to ride a motorcycle round and round in a laundry room. Now there are going to be 26 other motorcycles out there joining me to ride around and round in the laundry room, so it's going to be a very busy track.
But I just think we're going to put on a fantastic show out there. It's very bumpy. It's going to create a lot of difference between the cars. I think we'll see cars that will stay over stints or go up over stints. And I think pit lane is going to be a part of the race. It's a fairly short pit lane, the pit boxes are fairly short so getting in and out of them is going to be interesting.
Q. You've got in Indianapolis and now you come into a different format as you were talking about in the laundry room thing which is a great way to describe hal ham. So much to learn and the learning curve is so steep and that's a cliche, but how do you as still a non-full-time driver, how do you pace yourself in trying to absorb all of that without getting snowed under? You've got so much to learn, so much to absorb, how do you learn it without getting overwhelmed by it?
PIPPA MANN: That's a really great question. One of the nice things for me is although the track is obviously so completely different from the tracks I've already driven on in the IndyCar, which are the Texas Motor Speedway and of course Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is that I've actually already done a lot of learning about the procedures and things I need to know at Indianapolis before the race there.
So at least I've done one race now and I've been through all of that stuff before. So it's mainly just learning about the nuances of this track, how to get up to speed quick enough, getting in and out of the boxes, all of those tiny things that are going to make a big difference.
I'm well aware this is only my second race and the other rookies have been out there all year. But if I was one to back down from a challenge, I wouldn't have been out there trying to get myself in the show at Indy.
Q. Bobby, the last time we chatted you really wanted to make sure that your team was going to get back involved with more events on the IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis, and of course you've got Kentucky and Las Vegas coming up and certainly New Hampshire here. Can you see this thing growing? It all depends on on sponsorship, but can you see it getting back in 2012? You've got this organization in the series back in full-time?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, that's certainly our intent and our goal is to be back in IndyCar on an annual basis. In the past few years we've not been able to do that because we haven't been able to find the level of funding that is really necessary to put forth a first-class effort. I see no reason to do it otherwise, frankly.
So that's why we haven't been able to do it on a full-time basis. But I think by the performances we've had, for example at Indy this year with Bertrand Baguette we've shown that the team hasn't lost any of its capability. So, yeah, we definitely want to be back full-time.
I think next year will be very exciting with the new car and the new engines. This could be the start of something. I have a lot of faith in Pippa. She's shown that she has the work ethic. She's obviously won races on ovals. I think a one mile oval will be a big challenge for anybody, especially being the first race there in some time, so it should be a very exciting weekend.
By having test there and by having another test day on Thursday, I think that's really going to help the drivers like Pippa, because it gives them a chance and that much more seat time on a one mile track like New Hampshire in one of these cars.
Yeah, I'd love to think that this is going to lead to bigger and better things, but we're going to go one race at a time right now.
Q. I'm thrilled to see that you and Pippa will be racing here at New Hampshire. But I want to ask you about going back, way back to '92 when you had your first turn at New Hampshire during that test session that you came up. It's kind of uncharted territory because no other IndyCar driver had really taken a lap there. But can you take me back to what that was like? Was that a man on the moon type moment? You're the first guy to be able to turn the lap there? How did you think you were able to draw from that experience in your win there in '92?
BOBBY RAHAL: I think, again, going there, it was a brand-new track. The bear family had done just a great job with it. And what I loved about it, it was pretty much flat. I don't think there is any banking at all, it's very similar to Milwaukee, but it was much smoother than Milwaukee at the time.
As I said, I always love the one-mile tracks like Phoenix and Milwaukee, and Nazareth was almost a mile long. The racing is just so phenomenal on the one-mile tracks and we saw it again this year in Milwaukee where I thought these guys put on a great show.
Yeah, when we first went there, we were excited. We had a good test, obviously, because we went on to win the race. I don't know. When you race against teams like Penske and at that time Newman/Haas and others, I don't know that you get an advantage by being there first or not.
But it's always good, especially when it's a new track, it's always good to go see it and learn from it a little bit. That's why we went back with Pippa a couple weeks ago. Because it's a different track. There has been some banking put into it for the stock car guys, so the nature of it changed a little bit. But in the end I think it's going to be pretty similar to what we raced on. And as I said, it should produce a fabulous race.
Q. When they first put this on the schedule, what were your initial thoughts? Were you thrilled to see that they were expanding to this area again to return to open wheel racing back here?
BOBBY RAHAL: For sure I think the northeast is a pretty popular place. We were there in the early '90s, and mid '90s, and I think it's important for us to be in the northeast. There is a lot of business and what have you there. But I think even more so or equally at least, as I said, I think the more one-mile tracks the series would run on, the better in my estimation. And tracks like Milwaukee just produces fabulous racing for the fans and for the drivers. So I think it's all good.
Q. When you won that race in '92, did you view that as an important pivot point in your championship?
BOBBY RAHAL: Any time you win is good. Yeah, I think it was. You know, we beat Michael. I think we lapped him, in fact. I think I was the only car in the lead lap. It was kind of putting an exclamation point on our year. The next race I won was Nazareth, which is another mile long track, and that was kind of the nail on the coffin so to speak for our championship.
But, no, that was a great day for us. Any time you beat the Penske team and Newman/Haas in those days or all the others, you know, Ganassi -- I guess Chip's team was just starting out then -- it's always very satisfying.
Q. It seemed like you and Michael were waging a type of fight that maybe was analogous to what Dario and Will Power have engaged here in the past few years. Would you agree with that?
BOBBY RAHAL: Very much so. I don't think Michael and I ever punted each other to be honest. That didn't happen so much back in those days. But, yeah, it was a fight. It was an alley fight between Michael and I the whole year.
Q. In terms of just bringing Pippa here. Obviously you've made history here and she's done so as well maybe at Indianapolis sitting on the pole there at Indy Lights. Is there a sense that maybe catching lightning in a bottle again here at New Hampshire?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, we're certainly entering it with the intent to figure in the race. I think it's a lot to ask of Pippa or of any young person who has not had much experience to get in a car, a one mile oval and race to the lead. But we're going to do everything we can to help her do that.
But I think it's a big challenge. It's a big challenge for everybody, and a big challenge for her. Where we'll end up, I don't know, but we'll put our best effort forth. I can tell you that. I know she will, and we'll see where that ends up.
Q. Pippa, my last question to you would be drawing upon your experiences at Indianapolis, you kind of mentioned that. How much does that carry you now obviously being the only race you've been in, but having tested here at New Hampshire, how do you draw upon that experience?
PIPPA MANN: Well, the biggest thing is going to be when I go back there, as I already mentioned, the fact that there are going to be 26 other cars out on track with me. I feel like I was starting to get the hang of getting around that place, but I certainly didn't have 26 other cars around me while I was doing that at the track. So I need to learn how to drive the car in traffic on a one-mile oval because that will be something that is completely new to me.
But our whole intention is to go there and try to get the car up towards the sharp end. That's where we feel we can be if things go well, and that's what our goal is. We're not doing this to go out there and tool around. We're doing this to go out there and do a good job and get the National Tire and Battery car back up front where she belongs.
Q. Pippa, you've done quite a lot with promoting the New Hampshire race, kind of coupling your name with that race. How well do you think the area or all of New England will welcome the return of IndyCar or more specifically, you and your team?
PIPPA MANN: Well, I hope the whole area really welcomes us. We're really looking forward to coming back to the series. We're a completely different type of speed to what the guys have normally seen up there with the NASCAR racing. Our cars are going to be going a lot faster around that little place. Plus driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, there is a whole history of that team at New Hampshire coming back.
It's been fantastic to be involved with the media up there. I guess coming from England and the race being in New England, somebody figured there would be some kind of connection and put me in touch with people.
It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward so much to being back in the car. I had a great fun at the test there. But I sure hope the fans come out to see us because we sure put on a show at the one mile ovals and I think this is going to be another good race.
Q. Pippa, I wanted your comments on the fact that there are going to be four women on the track with you this weekend. I know that you've personally made it a point to focus on yourself as a race car driver rather than a female race car driver. But it does have to be exciting to have such a good showing of girl power out there with you.
PIPPA MANN: I actually think it's great. I'm one of those people who thinks as long as we're out there doing the jobs and the important thing about all of us girls in IndyCar at the moment is we're all race winners. We're all out there, we're all trying to do a good job, and everybody wants to be the next woman to win a race in IndyCar. And I think it's fantastic. The more of us female drivers that can get out there and do the job and mix it up, the better in my opinion.
Q. You touched on it earlier on. IndyCar and the series has been doing some on-track testing with the new car. It looks a little radically different in the back end. I'm wondering if I could ask Bob for a comment on what you think of it so far visually, and Pippa one from you as well, Bob?
BOBBY RAHAL: It's different, that's for sure. You know, I think, and I wasn't sort of privy to the whys and the wherefors in terms of the specs for the car. But for years there have been all kinds of discussions of having body work around the rear wheels so that wheel to wheel, no locking wheel to wheel contact would not be possible, and of course when that happens generally disasters happen.
So I think perhaps the way the styling of the car is in response to some of the safety concerns that have existed over many, many years, and this is a chance to kind of solve some of that.
It will be interesting to see what Honda ends upcoming out with in regards to body work as does Chevrolet, because I think they're all planning on eventually doing their own body work. But it is a unique looking car, and to be honest, I thought from the pictures on the track, I thought it looks better than it did standing still, so that's a good thing.
But I haven't seen the car up close, so it's probably a little early to make any real comment. Also in the end, I said I know everybody else is planning on producing their own body work, so what the cars will look like will probably be different than what the test car looks like now.
Q. Pippa, what do you think?
PIPPA MANN: As with Bobby, I've only seen the photo. I haven't seen the car in real life. As he says, I think it looks pretty unique, and it looks different. It looks a little futuristic to me and that's what IndyCar needs.
I saw an article and it generated something like 50 comments in an extremely short period of time. It's their most read article right now, and I think that's great. It's the resurgence of interest in IndyCar, and that's got to be good for everyone: Drivers, teams, sponsors, all of us.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Thank you for your time today.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports