GRAND-AM DRIVERS GEAR UP FOR INDY
Grand-Am Press Conference Transcript: Chip Ganassi Racing
July 26, 2012
THE MODERATOR: I'm really pleased to have everybody here joining us today. For our press conference here with the Chip Ganassi-Felix Sabates Racing Team. This is in advance of tomorrow's Brickyard Grand Prix, the Indy debut, here for the GRAND-AM Rolex Series finale of the North American Endurance Championship presented by VisitFlorida.Com.
Chip's team are going to field two cars in this attempt to win both the Endurance Championship and the race itself. We're joined by the co-drivers, No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley, reigning Rolex Series champions in the DP class, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
We have the co-drivers of No. 02 Chevron BMW/Riley, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray. Juan, as many of you know, former Indy 500 champion and Jamie's a former Brickyard 400 winner. Third co-driver in the 02, Scott Dixon, has won the Indy 500. He, unfortunately, couldn't be with us today.
We have the team owner, one of the most successful owners all time in this facility, Chip Ganassi. We'll start off with a quick opening comment from each gentleman and then take questions.
Chip, we'll start with you. You brought out the big guns again. Looks like a Rolex 24 approach, but tell us about it.
CHIP GANASSI: First of all, I think we're happy to be here and great to see everybody. Thank you for coming out this afternoon. I think you have to go back to when they announced or were even thinking about having a GRAND-AM race here at the Speedway. That perked up everybody's ears on our team, I know. And we couldn't be happier that it came to fruition to bring, what I think, is a great series brought together with one of the great circuits of the world, if not thee greatest.
So it's a great honor to be able to bring the team out here and especially being the reigning champions and leading the points with these two guys.
Then layer on top of that that we had a pretty decent 24 Hours of Daytona. We didn't win it, but we scored big points there with both cars, and that helped us in the Endurance Championship. So this being the third leg of that, we're pretty excited about that opportunity to possibly put -- if you can put another championship under your belt, you've accomplished something, and so we were certainly happy to hear about the formation of the Endurance Championship with Jim France and the GRAND-AM people when they announced that. We were suddenly, like I say, it got our attention.
So coming into Indianapolis with Memo and Scott leading the points on my right, and these two guys on my left that have obviously won here before, and they've done very well in the GRAND-AM car when they've been at Daytona. It's really the only place Jamie and Juan have been in it other than some testing.
The schedule works out really well, too, where it doesn't really interfere much with what they're doing the rest of the weekend. It's not a situation of going back and forth between cars which I think is a big help.
I'm honored to be here. I'm honored to be up here. We also have Scott Dixon joining the team. Scott and Dario are over at Mid-Ohio today testing the IndyCars. They couldn't be here. But we're glad to fill up our second car with some guys that know how to win at this place.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for that opener. Juan, tomorrow you'll become the first driver to race here at NASCAR, IndyCar, F1 and now GRAND-AM.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Everything. Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about it a little bit.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's exciting.
It's kind of funny how Indy started for me. We were running the CART series, and Chip tells me we wanted to come here and do the 500. At the beginning of the year I was a little bit against it because it was outside the championship, and I wanted to stay focused on the CART season, and we did it, and it was great. You look back at it, and that was the highlight of that year. It's one of my highlights of my career. So I think it was great that we did.
I've been lucky enough to run this. As Chip said, this place is one of the biggest names of racetracks in the world. This is one of the places you want to race and be part of. I've been lucky enough to be in every series. So hopefully tomorrow, I felt like in the test we had pretty good speed. So we'll see.
CHIP GANASSI: No plans to have him in the GP bikes in August.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I've been in a two-seater, and I definitely wouldn't like to be in control of one.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie, you have a habit of coming up big in big time races here, at Daytona, the first one at Charlotte. Big events seem to bring out the best in you. Do you think you can come through again?
JAMIE McMURRAY: First off, like Chip said, it's an honor to get to be in this race. When he called and asked if I wanted to do this, it's a super cool idea, and it's definitely one of the perks of getting to drive for Chip is that the Rolex Race, the 24 hours of Daytona and then this coming up, it's super cool. I know that Juan and I are really excited to get to be here and be part of it.
I've watched a lot of Formula 1 races on TV from this track, and my motorhome has been parked on this track in the infield circuit, and I've wanted to run on it forever.
So it's super cool to get to come here and do the test. Juan and I came a couple of weeks ago, and I think the most unique thing that came up from the test here was the strain for Juan and I on our necks. We're so used to turning left, and all the corners here are to the right. I can't speak for Juan, but for me, turn one seemed about three minutes long to the right. It's just a lot of strain that is just different than what we're used to. So we spent the last couple of weeks working our necks out and our bodies to go a different direction. But the cars are a lot of fun to drive here. It's one of the funner cars I've gotten to sit in.
For me, it's fun to get to come here and race with a different group of guys. You have guys that have raced all different kinds of cars, especially, with Scott and Memo being the champions of the series for so many times over the past four or five years. It's just fun to come here and be part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll move over to our reigning Rolex Series champions.
Memo, first event at Indy? Must be exciting.
MEMO ROJAS: Yeah, so exciting to be here. For me, as opposed to Jamie, Juan and Scott, it's my first time here at the Speedway racing. It's a track you grow up watching and so many series like F1, Indy 500 and the Brickyard. For me, it's a dream come true. Coming here with Chip Ganassi Racing, with Scott and Jamie and Dixie as a teammate, it's a great opportunity.
We've been certainly working hard. It's an event we all want to win, and tomorrow's going to be a quick day. It's going to go pretty quick. Hopefully we'll have a good day.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, you've raced here in the Brickyard and 500 and now this. It must be a cool feeling?
SCOTT PRUETT: It's very cool. Very exciting to be here with Ganassi and the TELMEX BMW. The shop's only based about 20 minutes from here, so this is very much a hometown event further. Even more exciting what Dario and Scott did this year with the Target IndyCars, one and two at the Indy 500.
Even more exciting, this is an historic race. Having sports cars at the Speedway, doing what we're doing. Proud to be part of the Rolex Series. I think what we've seen over the years continues to get better and better. We got that opportunity to do a little bit of exploration with what circuit would be best back in 2009, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, closely with the Rolex Series. We came here and did three different tracks, trying to look to see what would suit our cars the best from a competition standpoint, but even more so from a fan excitement standpoint for the passing and all of that that goes along with the Rolex Series.
So we came away from there. We were hopeful to be here in '10, we were hopeful to be here in '11, and now it's '12 and we're here, and just the buzz and excitement and electricity of being around and being here now and getting on track tomorrow has been nothing short of exciting.
Q. You guys are racers. Anywhere there is a racetrack, you want to race on it. But, Chip and Scott, you were here when part of the reason this place was special because there was only one race a year. Are you conflicted at all about how things have changed? Any of that tradition or loss of exclusivity?
CHIP GANASSI: I'm certainly not conflicted. I think when IndyCars were the only cars here, yeah, you had some exclusivity about it. But when NASCAR came here, it became one of the great races. I think it just raised -- it raised if you could, it raised the profile of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and introduced it to a whole 'nother fan, which we're all clamoring for fans.
I see that same thing about the Formula 1 race here and then the motorcycles. Just raises the level of the entire sport having other Motorsports being able to participate here. It's still the world's center of racing, and still arguably the greatest race course in the world in any configuration.
I think Scott said it best. The electricity at this place, it doesn't matter what you show up in. It's a magical motor -- it's a magical center of Motorsports.
SCOTT PRUETT: I think there was the exclusivity up until NASCAR came here the first time, and I think Chip said it well. What we saw was a lot of people were conflicted about it. At the same time, we saw a whole new group of fans come here, NASCAR fans, to watch the first race back in -- was it '94? Is that right? '94? From there to the bikes and Formula 1 and now to us. What we can bring here as a group on the Rolex side, this series is something that the fans are excited about. We talked to fans at Watkins Glen. They came up and talked to us at the autograph sessions at Mid-Ohio, about how excited they are to come to the Speedway and be part of the event on Friday to see an historic running of sports cars here. Knowing what this series can do, the competition level, and what they expect and it being an iconic Speedway like Indianapolis. There is nothing else like it.
So the people and fans were coming to us saying we're going to be there. We're excited, and it makes it all that much more deserving.
Q. Juan and Jamie, prior to you guys running GRAND-AM, we all know that you guys are proficient road course racers. Since running GRAND-AM, has it made you guys better on the Cup side for the road courses?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don't know. I think the cars drive so much different. It's good to go do the road course racing and practice your passing. But the thing about the Cup cars is the brakes only last about three laps and you lose 25% of your braking power, and the GRAND-AM car just gets better because the fuel burns off and the brakes do the same, so you can continually drive it deeper and harder and be more aggressive with the car.
I don't think it hurts. But more than anything, it's about having a really good time and getting to race at this track and be in this series, which is fun.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: For me, personally, it's very different. When you drive a Cup car, you drive to what the car will give you. Here, if you drive harder, it will give you more. Cup car you drive harder, you push it further, and it will give you a little bit for two laps. Then you'll pay the price for the next ten laps.
So here it seems the harder you drive within the limit of the car, the faster you go. If you overdrive a car in this corner, you're going to slow down. But if you can brake deeper and get harder on the gas, use more of the track, it will respond to you that it's nice.
Q. Mr. Pruett, a few years ago Mr. Ganassi put you and Mr. Montoya in the same car at the Rolex 24 so as to alleviate any problems that you two may have resulting from leftovers from Mexico City. My question would be now that you both are in separate cars again, is it payback time?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's too many years ago. I'm too old to remember back that far. We're excited to have him for us as a group. We're incredibly excited to have Scott and Jamie and Juan, because that gives us in such a small amount of time, an hour, it gives us the opportunity to learn twice as much information.
So I think we're going to benefit from it without a doubt, and plus these guys are fun to hang around.
CHIP GANASSI: We're here to win. We're here to win the race and win that Endurance Championship. I don't hear anybody up here talking about that. But that is the real reason these two guys on my left are here, to augment these guys. If that wasn't clear prior to this.
Q. First of all, I'm wondering if history will show or reflect kindly on the versatility that Scott Pruett has shown through his career? The guy has done a little bit of everything, and maybe people don't really appreciate or realize that. Yes, No, maybe?
CHIP GANASSI: I think Scott's obviously one of the guys that's driven a lot of different cars and had success in a lot of cars as well. Most recently in this class of sports cars, you know, when it comes to versatility as a driver, I don't think anybody -- when you have NASCAR teams calling up, wanting him to drive their Cup car, and his name gets bandied around every time someone gets hurt in IndyCar, even to this day, I think that says it all.
Q. Your other super team here has three guys who can finish first here. Love to hear the conversation on who gets to start, who gets to jump in next, who finishes last, who sorts that out?
CHIP GANASSI: Mike Hull, and he couldn't be here today. I don't want to speak for Mike.
Q. That would be an interesting conversation. You have three guys who know --
CHIP GANASSI: Well, I think contrary to their persona's, I think you'll find these guys are pretty easy going when it comes to each other in terms of their egos or who wants to get in first, second or last or whatever.
Mike Hull is pretty good at picking. He knows a little bit about road racing, so I'm not worried. He'll be in the right order, and I'm also not worried that the drivers will be very happy with whatever order they're in.
Q. Chip, talking about what a magical place this is, I don't think that its prestige is ever in question for the competitors. But since the tire problem four years ago, the crowds did dwindle a little bit. Does adding GRAND-AM and Nationwide and having this excitement, is that a jolt, maybe, that this event that the Brickyard weekend may be needed? Do you think it will help going forward?
CHIP GANASSI: I don't know. I really can't speak to any of that stuff. But what I can speak to is that it's, for the GRAND-AM to be here is great for GRAND-AM, and it's great for the Speedway. It's great to bring two things together. I think the future of the GRAND-AM is exciting.
We're very bullish on it for the future, and you can look for these guys, again, at Daytona, at the 24 Hour race, and I think this Endurance Championship is going to grow.
I think you'll probably see some races added to that next year. I think I'm very bullish about it. I don't know. I can't speak to if this exorcises any demons from past challenges, but it's great for the GRAND-AM to be on this stage, believe me.
Q. I've known Chip for many years, I've known Scott for many years, I've known Juan for a few years, and Chip, as always, and you brought up the age, Scott. So are you going to be, if you win this, one of the oldest drivers to win at Indy?
SCOTT PRUETT: That's a good question. I don't -- hmm, I wouldn't.
CHIP GANASSI: Where's Donald Davidson? You have to ask him that. He's the expert on that.
SCOTT PRUETT: Yeah, exactly, the historian.
Q. But I know Chip has had a rule in the past that you can race each other, but don't take each other out. Does that go this weekend?
CHIP GANASSI: Absolutely.
Q. Chip, you talked about how the schedule is conducive to have Juan and Jamie do this. If they were going to have to go back and forth, would you hesitate in putting him in both races? Can you also just kind of assess where you feel like your Cup program is right now?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I didn't have to -- I'd hate to hypothecate about things that I didn't have to think about. I don't know how to answer that question. In terms of where our Cup program is, we started a program that was a deep, deep program and making a lot of changes in our program. We're in the midst of those, and things are going well.
Are we where we want to be in the points? No. Are we where we want to be performancewise? No. But are we happy about the people that we have and the direction we're going? Yes.
Like I said, we're not where we want to be, but we're not finished. We're in the middle of a process right now, and that process is going very well. While all things are not apparent to the eye here on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I think back at headquarters in Charlotte with the NASCAR team, everybody is very excited about the direction we're going.
Q. Can you give us some things maybe that aren't apparent that you see?
CHIP GANASSI: No. We've always said we've done a little better here.
We do the best we can week-in and week-out. We go into every race with the thought of winning the race and nothing else comes to our mind. Every single thing we do is to do that.
I mean, I think everyone gets a little more excited when they come to a big event like this. I think that's obvious. Any athlete that doesn't get up for a big event is, I don't think, true to his sport, whatever that sport is. So I think this is a big event. Whether it's in GRAND-AM or Cup, these are both big events this weekend for both series. Anybody that's not up for that isn't about the sport as much as I think they are. I get up for big events. I wish they were all -- I wish they were Super Bowls every weekend.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: As Chip said, we've been working really hard to make things better. And I think it's a work in progress. When you have so many new people, it's going to be tough. I mean, it's been a hard season, but I think we're working on it. As I said before, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's just a painful process.
Coming here, I don't see -- I'm a guy that likes looking at the bigger picture. We've got to focus and do the best we can this weekend as we do every weekend. I think you can come here and work hard. You've got to work as hard everywhere you go, and come out with the best you can and learn from it and move on.
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think this has been a good track for us historically. We both ran well at Pocono this year with the new repave. Normally if you ran well at Pocono, you ran well at Indy. That's going to be more so now because of the track being so much further. As rough as Pocono used to be, I don't see how that would ever correlate.
But with the track being as smooth as it is now with the amount of grip, I think the guys that ran well at Pocono would run well here. We both ran well there. I believe this weekend they're giving us a little bit different engine package as well. It has more power. Obviously, as fast as this track is with the straightaways and all that will make a little bit of a difference.
So I think as a group, we were pretty excited about coming to Indy. A good track for both drivers and I feel like our car setup-wise and all that will be good here.
Q. This is a situation that's a little bit different from the Cup guys because you start a race and finish the race in the same car. But since you have to change drivers, I wonder what responsibilities or pressures there are in changing drivers to either protect a position or to improve a position, and most of all to bring the car back so you can pass it off to the next person?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I think what he said at the end is the last thing that comes out of Chip's mouth in every pre-meeting is to give the car to the next guy in the same condition that you received it in.
The whole order of the drivers, I don't know that that bothers anybody. I know that for our group it's been the same guys at Daytona the last three years. I don't think you even pay attention to that. It just kind of is what it is.
I think that the order has already been set. I know that order has already been set, and I'm not going to tell you what it is because I think everybody wants to know, so it would be good just to not say it. But that's kind of irrelevant to the guys.
This is fun for us. It's all about winning, like Chip said, and those guys make the decisions of who they think is going to be right at the right time, and you go with that, and you believe in that.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I agree. It's a fun event. Cars are fun to drive. Being with Chip is one of the cool things that you have the opportunity to come and do stuff like this. We do it in the 24 hours, and we always give ourselves a chance for the win, we feel like. I feel the same way here.
I feel that we're pretty competitive, and we'll see what it brings us.
MEMO ROJAS: First, it's the same.
We're glad to have these guys on board for this race. Like Scott said, it's fun to be around them, and we expect to have a good race. Also being a hometown race for the team, we're all excited about it. So we look forward to having a good race tomorrow.
SCOTT PRUETT: One thing we can't forget is when we do multiple drivers like this, it makes it exciting for the fans, too. Because we'll come in, and most fans are used to seeing four tires and fuel. Now you see four tires, fuel, and a driver. That is quite an orchestra to tie all of that together and to see.
For the fans that haven't seen that, it is quite exciting, because we can do it. Memo and I can do a driver change in about 16 seconds which is about the same time, within a couple seconds or so, that most stops in other series take place. So I think that's a really exciting element to it, that is new for a lot of people.
For sports car fans that have been following us, they're used to it. But now to bring it to a whole new venue, I think there is going to be just a whole new level of excitement and understanding that is different.
Q. For all of you, including Chip, would you like to see a longer race than what they've got scheduled here, being as there are so many drivers?
CHIP GANASSI: I think it's a great idea. I wouldn't mind seeing a six-hour or something like that. I think that would be great.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think running at night would be really -- finish the race at night would be awesome.