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May 11, 2004

Rick Mears

Jeff Simmons


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is well underway as today marks the third day of practice before the 88th running of the 500 on May 30th. We have two guests on today's call, one trying to do all he can to get into his first 500, the other a four-time champion of the greatest spectacle in racing. Joining us to start the call is Menards Infiniti Pro Series veteran Jeff Simmons. Later in the call we'll be joined by Rick Mears, whose first of four Indianapolis 500 victories came 25 years ago this month. Let's begin with Jeff Simmons, who two weeks ago climbed in the seat of an AJ Foyt IndyCar Series ride and immediately got the car up to speed, turning in laps at 212 miles an hour in just 19 laps at Rookie Orientation Program. He's passed three of the four stages of the Rookie Orientation Program at the speedway and can complete the final stage before the month is out. Jeff, thanks very much for joining us today.

JEFF SIMMONS: My pleasure.

THE MODERATOR: It must be quite an emotional month, month of May for you, knowing you're so close to having the chance to participate in the 500, but nothing solidified yet.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yes, it's difficult, you know, coming to the track every day, just trying to talk to people and see if there's any possibility. You know, it seems like there isn't going to be too much more that I'll know than I do right now until after some of the teams get their cars in this weekend and a few spots might open up.

THE MODERATOR: You always hear about people in the past saying you see drivers walking around with helmet in hand. Is that actually the case, are you here every day ready to jump into one if something becomes available?

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah. Actually the way the ROP happened is the same way. It took a lot of people, a lot of things to come together to get me in the car that day. I have one team that allowed me to take one of their cars that they weren't using and make a seat, figure out all of the pedal measurements and belt measurements and all that sort of stuff. Then Brian Barnhart was working real hard to try and help me get a team that would allow me to do the ROP. Finally came together in AJ Foyt, allowed me to do it in the afternoon after he had gotten his son Larry through. It took a lot of things to get that together. It was great once I finally got out there. It was probably the best day of my life.

THE MODERATOR: I think a lot of people were surprised. You got the thing up to speed three laps into it, at 212. Were you surprised at how quickly you got it up to speed

JEFF SIMMONS: I was a quite surprised when I saw that speed that quickly. I knew I had to get it up to speed quick as well because AJ had spoken to Toyota. That engine was actually over-mileage. Toyota was nice enough to allow us to run about 20 more laps on it. So AJ told me before I went out that the car was going to react in this sort of way because that's how it was set up. I asked him what the wind was going to do, because it was pretty breezy that day. You know, I just went out there and tried to get up to speed as quick as possible because we have limited laps. When I came across the line on the third lap, I wouldn't have been able to tell you it was 211 or so. I was still comfortable. I was still building up speed. Once I went that quick, that's as quick as you have to go. They just kind of told me to hold it there for a while.

THE MODERATOR: Before those 19 laps at Indy a couple weeks ago, had you been in an IndyCar Series car before

JEFF SIMMONS: No, I'd never driven an IndyCar Series car, and I hadn't been in a car actually -- I drove about 30 laps in the Pro car a few days before because we had the Infiniti Pro Series open test about three days before that. Before that, though, I hadn't been in the car before the season-ending race in Texas last year.

THE MODERATOR: Did you sense a big difference in those two cars? You were a couple days apart between a Pro Series and IndyCar Series car.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, there's certainly a difference. You feel more power, but you also feel more grip. It just takes more effort. You have to get your mind moving at that quicker speed and trying to judge what the car is doing a little quicker than you would have to in the car that's going a little slower.

THE MODERATOR: You obviously have had a lot of success in the Pro Series. You won twice last year, finished fourth in the Freedom 100, 12 Pro Series starts overall. Do you feel this experience in the Pro Series has helped you get ready for the IndyCar Series?

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, pretty clear to everybody actually after I got into the IndyCar and was able to go that quick, you know, in such a short time. You make me sound old when you call me a veteran. I only did one season.

THE MODERATOR: The league is young.

JEFF SIMMONS: Exactly (laughter). But, yeah, it's certainly a great series to learn in. You know, I mean, in a way a lot of the tracks are actually kind of similar, even though the speeds are quite different. At a place like Pikes Peak, for instance, last year we were flat out around the track in qualifying, but when the race came, we weren't able to do the track flat. I had talked to some of the IndyCar guys and they said it was exactly the same for them. It's very similar sort of thing. You know, you just have to deal with the quicker speeds. When you lose grip in the IndyCar, obviously since you have more grip, when you lose it, it's going to be a bigger loss.

THE MODERATOR: We have a lot of media on line. We'll open it up to questions for Jeff Simmons.

Q. Many new things to you, is it going to be a problem to get a ride in the 500?

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, I mean, I don't have much money, if any, that I can really bring to a ride. So it's going to depend on one of the teams wanting to put another car into the race and choosing me out of the available drivers around here. You know, I mean, when I was here during the open test, that week, there were really only a couple drivers around. Now as the days go on, you see more and more guys around that. For instance, I saw Memo Gidley today and yesterday, as well, Oriol Servia. There's several guys around that are qualified drivers. It's going to be difficult. I think the test last week or the week before certainly opened some eyes. Being in the Pro Series last year, a lot of the owners have seen me drive before and know that I can take care of the car, that sort of thing. I'm just kind of keeping my fingers crossed right now. If something does happen, it's going to be -- it's certainly going to be a quick learning curve, not having done pit stops before and that sort of thing, so...

Q. How many cars do you think might be available?

JEFF SIMMONS: It's hard to say. I mean, that's why it will depend on what happens this weekend during qualifying. You know, I mean, if there aren't a whole lot of guys that crash the car this week or anything, there should be a few more available than if some of the guys do.

Q. How much hands-on AJ Foyt as an owner

JEFF SIMMONS: AJ is really hands-on. In fact, when we did our test in the Pro Series car, you know, we basically didn't really make any changes. We just kind of shook it down because it hadn't run since Texas. AJ couldn't be here on the day of the test. You know, we didn't do much to it because, you know, he certainly likes to be here. He's been around so long that when I relate something to him - when we did the ROP, we had rain after the first four laps - I related to him what the car was doing in those first four laps, and he started making changes right away. I mean, if you watch the television or anything like that, you'll see him working on the car constantly. He's always there.

Q. Is that a little bit intimidating for a newcomer?

JEFF SIMMONS: Actually, I really like it. I've been getting along great with AJ. I've learned a lot from him already. You know, we haven't even really had any time where I've been driving and relating too much to him except for those 19 laps we did on the ROP day. But he has, you know, such a vast wealth of knowledge that, you know, I wish that I had a mentor like this earlier in my years of racing because I think that it really could have helped me progress, you know, even quicker.

Q. Only three guys can say they've won the greatest race in the world four times, and one of them is the guy you're hooked up with for this thing.

JEFF SIMMONS: Absolutely. And Rick Mears, as well. You know, I talk to them every day about the track and about wind conditions and the different light and how the shadows will affect you. There's just so many things, such a dynamic place being two and a half miles and four corners that are, you know, theoretically pretty much the same but are, you know, in reality quite different. I've gone around the track. Also talking to Al Unser, Sr. and Johnny Rutherford, all those guys have been extremely helpful. I couldn't ask for more.

THE MODERATOR: Jeff, when we saw you in Miami earlier this year, I know you were close to getting a deal done in a Pro Series car. Obviously, that didn't happen. How frustrated are you not being able to get in the car yet this year? Especially this month, you must be going crazy.

JEFF SIMMONS: Yeah, it's really frustrating, especially after -- I mean, last year coming into the Pro Series, I hadn't been in a car for over two years. You know, we came with a team that had, you know, very little oval experience. It was their first year with the Pro Series cars, as well. Finished second in the championship, two wins. You know, we had more points than anybody in the second half of the season. I think we're pretty much one of the most consistent teams out there, for sure. It was really disappointing that I wasn't able to at least be back in that car or have a full-time ride in the Pro Series. I really thought after last year that I would have that. It's been difficult.

THE MODERATOR: Going back to the 500 real quick, Jeff. I know you certainly would like to parlay a 500 start into a full-time ride for the remainder of the season and beyond, but just the 500 alone, how much would it mean to start that race, one of the few people who can say they raced in the Indianapolis 500?

JEFF SIMMONS: It would be huge. Obviously I always go out there trying to win a race. But, you know, I mean, I'm well aware of what it takes to be competitive here. You have to run the 500 miles. I would love to just get in and get that experience and be able to move forward, maybe open a few eyes with a solid and professional drive. If that doesn't happen, then I'll try to get into an IndyCar a little bit later in the season and just try to be ready to get a full-time ride for next year.

THE MODERATOR: I know we talked about it a little bit, but we'll have Rick Mears on later in the call. You talked about Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, AJ, as well, but how has Rick helped not only you but, do you think, the series, the Pro Series in general, helping to develop young drivers getting ready for the IndyCar Series?

JEFF SIMMONS: Well, I mean, I can tell you in Phoenix in particular this year, I was spotting for Leonardo Maia, who drove a great race. I think it was his second oval race ever. He spoke to Rick quite a bit. I was standing there quite often, you know, conversing with both of them as well. You know, Rick, as you would expect, pretty much never says anything that you can disagree with when it comes to driving a race car. I mean, he's just got all of that experience. He can relate to what you're saying. Even not having been in a car for quite a while, you know, he can still relate to what a car's going to do. Four wheels, still got a steering wheel in the driver's hand. I think if you talk to Leonardo Maia, he would say the same thing, that Rick is a great asset to have.

Q. As a newcomer coming to the track, are you aware of the fact there's an 18-hole golf course on the backstretch? People talking about turning into drive one, almost like a Holland Tunnel. What is that like for a young driver? Take us around a lap.

JEFF SIMMONS: When I first came here last year, that was the first thing that struck me. You have those grandstands just all around you. You're immediately aware of exactly where you are. You know you're at Indy at all times. The golf course, I never really notice it when I'm driving out there. Certainly I've gone around the track to watch some of the other guys driving around. I'll be up in the grandstands over in turn three or something, you know, when the cars aren't out there, I'll turn around and watch some guys play golf for a while. But absolutely, going into turn one, you know, especially if the wind is behind you, giving you even a larger straightaway speed going in there, it's a pretty intimidating corner. It always seems to tighten up on you. It seems like it's the longest corner on the track to me. Seems like you just keep turning, turning and turning. Then turn two, you know, you try to get a little -- you try to get in there a little bit late so you can let the car release and get a good run down that back straightaway. Turn three, you know, you would think it would be quite a bit like one, but it actually seems quite different just because the grandstands and everything aren't really surrounding you as much there. You have a little bit more open feel. You have a little bit better line of sight, I think, into the corner. But it's still a difficult corner. Also if the wind happens to be coming down the opposite way, pushing you down that straightaway, it will make three a very difficult corner. Four is obviously quite a bit like two. You try to get in there a little bit late and release the car coming out, shoot down that front straightaway.

THE MODERATOR: If a ride does present itself, are you ready for this? How are the nerves getting ready for a race like this?

JEFF SIMMONS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think that I'm ready for it. I think I've been ready for it actually. I mean, certainly nerves play a part. You get a little bit nervous before getting in the car. I mean, it was like doing ROP, you know. I knew I only had 20 laps, if I didn't pass that I didn't have a chance at all of competing in May. There's no more pressure than that. I think once you get in the car, you're so focused. I'm able to tune those sort of things out, the emotions and all that stuff, be able to concentrate and not even think about it.

THE MODERATOR: Jeff, thanks very much. Appreciate you joining us today. Hopefully we'll see you in a couple weeks here on the starting grid.

JEFF SIMMONS: Thanks very much.

THE MODERATOR: Notably, this May marks the 25-year anniversary of Rick Mears' first of four victories at the Indianapolis 500. I know you're busy working with the Pro Series, and also a consultant for Marlboro Team Penske. It's a busy month, so I appreciate it very much for joining us.

RICK MEARS: Thanks for having me.

THE MODERATOR: Can you talk about everything you're doing at IMS during the month here?

RICK MEARS: A little bit of everything. As you said, we're pulling double duty. Working with the Menards Infiniti Pro guys, with our guys, too, the Marlboro team. I still do a lot of what I always did, even when I drove, because I always enjoyed the technical aspect of it - working with the chassis, the setup of the car, working with my teammates, the other drivers, the engineers to help try to build a better mousetrap. I still do a lot of that, and the promotional work with the sponsors. Really about the main change is I no longer sit in the seat.

THE MODERATOR: Does it seem like 25 years ago you rolled into Victory Lane for the first time?

RICK MEARS: No, it sure doesn't. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, try to get out of bed, it feels like 25 years. But it doesn't seem like it (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: When you come to this place each May, do you still get that lump in your throat when you drive underneath the tunnel, come into the infield? For many people that's the case. I imagine it's similar for you.

RICK MEARS: Yes, very much so. This place, it's obviously special, always will be. It's our Super Bowl. I think it always brings back the first time I came through the gates, like you're talking about. The first thing that jumped out at me was just the physical size of the place, the size of the track, all the grandstands, you know, even before all the people came in. No, still definitely get that feeling.

THE MODERATOR: You worked with the Pro Series drivers for a couple of years now. Can you talk about how much you've enjoyed working with them, helping develop their skills in the IndyCar Series.

RICK MEARS: I've enjoyed it a really lot, I really have. I've always kind of had that reputation, when I was driving, when somebody new would come in, you know, their team owner or team manager would send them down, say, "Go talk to Mears, he'll help you out." I appreciated the help that I got when I started out from Parnelli Jones, before I got into Indy cars, Bobby Unser from Pikes Peak. When I signed on with Roger, with Mario and Tom. I received a lot of help when I first started. I really appreciated it. I've enjoyed trying to do the same with these guys. It's really a lot of fun to watch them grow, watch guys grow, watch the wheels start turning when you're explaining things, you see them go out on the track, try some of the suggestions you've made. You know, if it's working with them, it's a lot of fun.

THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up to some questions for Rick then let him get back to work.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about Sam Hornish, what you've noticed in particular since he's joined the Penske team as far as what makes him such a strong competitor in the Indy cars.

RICK MEARS: Sure, I think one of the first things that really jumped out at me was he has a good understanding of the big picture. You know, he realizes the race isn't won on the first lap. You know, you've got to position yourself to be in the right spot at the right time at the end of the race to lead the last lap, that's the most important one. He really has a very good understanding of that. He looks ahead. He plans ahead, whether it be working traffic, you know, looking ahead, you know, trying to figure which way is the best way to go once you get there so things don't sneak up on him. He just has a very good understanding of the big picture when the race is going on.

Q. Have you talked much as far as strategies or game plans leading up to qualifying and for the race itself? It seems like Indy is the one place where he hasn't had much success compared to the other tracks in the series.

RICK MEARS: We haven't done a lot of it yet. We will. Right now we're just kind of working with the car. Really it's only the second day. We're just kind of figuring out where we're at, you know, in comparison with everybody else right now leading towards those days you're talking about. But we will talk more about it as time goes on here. You know, maybe he hasn't had success here as in other places. But, you know, that can just be timing as it's worked out and not any particular reason. This business is ups and downs and peaks and valleys. You go through those things constantly. We're going to talk a lot more about it as time goes on here. The main thing for him is that this is another race on another track, and that he keeps it that way, and no different. Last year was last year. Year before last was year before last. Every time we come to this race, I know myself, it wouldn't matter if we had won it once, twice, never, whatever. We come into this race, it's a new day. We got to try to win this race today. That's part of the things that we'll be talking about.

Q. You talked this being another race, but I don't think Roger approaches it that way over these years, giving all the success there. Has it always been for him, "This is the race we must excel at, above all others"?

RICK MEARS: I don't know. He wants to win every race, just as we all do. That's the common thread through everybody in our team, is we're all here to win the race, whatever race it is. I think this race excites him a little bit more than others, without a doubt. But, you know, I don't think -- it's nothing, you know, out of the ordinary. It's kind of the same game plan. You know, not that we don't focus on the others. I guess maybe your focus becomes a little sharper, a little crisper, you try to dot your I's, cross your T's a little bit more. I don't know how to explain it. We try to do the same job here as we do everywhere. You know, but, this is Indy. We all do get a little more excited. That's why I say from a driver's point of view, driving the car, you know, you try to keep it -- you try to act like it's not Indy when you're out there so you don't get excited, but it's tough to do.

Q. I don't think you ever had any wrecks there at Indy until after your fourth win. What was special about that place for you? Was it just your style or did you adapt to it? What made you so great there

RICK MEARS: Well, first of all, I was with the right team, had the right equipment, had the tools to be able to do the job. Secondly, I think it did kind of suit my natural driving style. I found out over the years that it did seem like the faster the corner, the faster the track, the more it suited my natural style. When I'd go to, say, a street course versus a permanent circuit on road courses, the faster permanent circuit, I seemed to be a little bit better on than I did the tight, twisty street circuit. There I had to learn more, where the higher-speed stuff like the speedways came naturally for me. That was a big plus. Again, having the right tools to be able to get the job done here was really key.

Q. I know it seems like 25 years has been a blink of an eye for you in the winners circle, but does it seem like six years since an American has been in Victory Lane at Indianapolis?

RICK MEARS: Yes, it does. When you think about it, I -- I never really think about it. I know from a driver's standpoint, from my point of view, I didn't know the difference when I was on the racetrack. It didn't matter. I wanted -- I just wanted to beat the best, whoever the best was, that's who I wanted to compete against, however that worked out. I didn't really think about it in those terms. But, yes, I agree with you. When you do think about it, it has been a long time. But, you know, we go through cycles, things change. I remember when I first started racing motorcycles, the Europeans in motorcross were kicking the US's tails. By the time I got into cars, I remember watching some of the motorcross racing and it turned around after some years. Maybe the same thing will happen here.

Q. There's another Bakersfield native son, Brad Pollard. Seems like a long way, but what is it about Bakersfield that has had some remarkable success?

RICK MEARS: I think Bakersfield has always been an automotive-related town. I know growing up there, you're close to LA. We'd get into LA on business or fun, and LA was the Hot Rod capital. I think it would spill over the Grapevine into Bakersfield. You know, we always had racetracks there in town. Just seemed to be kind of a natural thing to do in Bakersfield. I think it just kind of created more opportunities, you know, with more people maybe to come from there.

Q. I know you seem to get a lot of enjoyment out of working with the young drivers. Do you have any advice that you give all of them, or maybe some of them have certain problems that others don't? What are some of the problems they seem to have?

RICK MEARS: Well, everybody's different. Some struggle with different things than others. I think usually the common thread, probably the first thing and foremost for me is to emphasize patience, you know, because this business is about going fast and going quick, as quickly as possible. It's the nature of the business. That can be a detriment at times if it's not controlled or at the right time. Usually, you know, you're young, you're eager, you're ready to go, you want to make an impression, and you try to do it. Sometimes you take bigger steps than you should. Probably the main thing and the first thing is to use patience. There's no substitute for seat time, laps around a racetrack. You know, take your time and get up to speed and it will come. A lot of times with the impatience of the drivers, you want things to happen quickly, and we feel like we should be moving along faster than we are. But actually there is no substitute for track time. So I think that's probably the most used thing that I work with them on, just patience, take your time, things will happen and you learn things as you go on.

Q. You're always good at the pole. Sam Hornish seems like maybe he doesn't get the pole too often. Are you working with him a little bit?

RICK MEARS: Part of that is hopefully we can give him the right horse, you know, to get that job done. I mean, he doesn't have any trouble going fast, believe me. It's a matter of us, you know, getting the car tuned properly, helping him -- when it comes down to qualifying, you're really splitting hairs so to speak. It's very easy to miss it just by a little bit. What is just a fraction of a second may look like a lot. So it's tough. But, you know, that's part of what we're working on now leading up to qualifying, is trying to, you know, get the balance of the car the way he likes it, just give him the best horse we can give him. Hopefully if we do give him the right one, he will be able to get that done.

Q. Which of your four victories gave you the most satisfaction 25 years later

RICK MEARS: Definitely the fourth. You know, I never really dreamed of coming here, let alone driving, let alone winning. This was way out of my league. I was racing just for a hobby and for fun on the weekend, it took its own course. I guess to put it bluntly, I probably really didn't appreciate it the first year that I won it in '79 because I didn't realize how tough it was. It was only our second year here. I said I hadn't been around the speedway growing up, my family hadn't been, so I didn't really understand it. Then as time went on and we ran a few more years, struggled, didn't win it again, it's like you get a little older, you get a little wiser; you start looking around and you say, "Wow, not too many people have won this things once, let alone more than once." The odds are getting greater of not winning it again. When we won a second time, I appreciated it much more, understood much more what winning Indy meant. Then now, okay, we've won it twice. You look around, there's even fewer two-time winners, so the odds are getting greater again. The same thing occurred with the third time. The fourth time was unbelievable for me. But the real difference on the fourth one was how we won it, what made it more satisfying. We went in with our same game plan we did every year, and that's spending the first half getting to the second half, trying to position ourselves, the guys making the changes on the car during the stop to get the car at its best after the last stop and be prepared for the shoot-out if it occurred. Well, out of the four wins, that only occurred one time. It boiled down to Michael and I. He was the fastest guy all day long. After the last stop, okay, now it's time to go. He was still in the hunt. There's been years when I struggled or had problems and wasn't there. So that is the only one that it boiled down to the shootout. That's what is fun. That's what it's all about. We got to have that shootout. So the battle he and I had, to be able to win it, it made the fourth one a lot more satisfying.

Q. Those two passes in turn one were just fantastic.

RICK MEARS: That was fun.

Q. You've chosen to retire at the height of your career. You probably could have been the first five-time Indy 500 winner. Do you think back with any kind of second-guessing on that decision?

RICK MEARS: Yes and no. You always think about it from time to time - not so much now. Realistically if I was realistic about it, thinking about it, it was the right time. It was the hardest part of my decision mainly because I felt like I was letting the team down. All four of them had been with the Penske team. I knew how much the team would like to have had that fifth win. That was the hardest part of my decision because I felt like I was letting down the team by not going for the fifth win. But then, you know, I would try to get realistic with myself and say if the desire's not there, I'm not going to put out the effort needed to get that fifth win anyway. That's not fair to the team either. If you're not willing to put your best foot forward and go the extra mile to make it happen, it's not fair to them that are, you know, doing the extra mile to give you the best horse. You know, all in all, it was the right time. In this business, if you aren't gaining, I never run a perfect lap, there's always something to be gained somewhere. If you aren't looking for that and trying to do that, you're leveling off. If you've leveled off, you're actually going backwards. Guys are passing you. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to get out before I leveled off.

Q. Could you compare and contrast Helio and Sam, what it's like to work with each one of those drivers?

RICK MEARS: As far as working with them and with the car, there's not a lot of difference. As far as personalities, they're different, totally different. Helio wears his feelings on his shirt sleeve much more than Sam does. They're really almost opposites in personalities. But in the race car, they're identical as far as desire and what they're here to do. One is just as competitive as the other. But as far as teammates go, even as different as they are, they both work well together because they understand the advantage of working together as a team, how it will help each one of them to try to get an advantage over everybody else. So they understand that, and they work very well together. But when the green flag drops, they also compete against each other as hard as anybody else. They both realize that your teammate is usually your biggest competitor, and that's who you want to beat the most. Working with them on a driving basis and with the race car, they're very similar.

Q. Knowing the type of person and gentleman that Gil de Ferran is, how he persevered over the accident in Phoenix, how meaningful to the company was it to have him drinking the milk in Victory Lane last year?

RICK MEARS: It was fantastic. It was great for everybody. I was so excited for him. You know, just the team, for everything you said, the persevering through the accident at Phoenix, missing a race, struggling a little bit there. To be able to turn it around and accomplish what he had been able to do, trying to accomplish for a lot of years, one of his major goals in life. It was just a fantastic feeling all the way around for everybody.

Q. Last year at the Brickyard, Kevin Harvick, Bakersfield native son, he talked about how he still has the framed picture of the autograph you gave him. I talked to Jeff Gordon. He told me about when you came to the fence and autographed a hat or program. When you hear these stories of guys who aren't typically associated with open-wheel racing, how do you react? Does it give you a sense of your own place in history?

RICK MEARS: It really does. It's just a really warm feeling, it really is. That's what I think a lot of people don't realize at times. You get distracted at times going through your career, and you don't realize how you touch people throughout your career. When those things come up like that, it makes you realize the things that you've done in the past and how you've helped, whether you've done enough it or whether you should have done more. It kind of puts things into perspective for you. It is a very warm feeling to hear things from guys like that. It's a great compliment.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Rick. We'll let you go back to work.

RICK MEARS: Thanks for having me.

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