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May 16, 2014 - 04:17 PM
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2014 Indianapolis 500 Q&A: IndyCar - Ganassi
Posted by: ASkyler on May 16, 2014 - 04:14 PM
IndyCar News
2014 Indianapolis 500 Q&A: IndyCar - Ganassi


CHIP GANASSI - TEAM OWNER, MIKE HULL - TEAM MANAGER, .SCOTT DIXON - NO. 9 TARGET CHEVROLET, TONY KANAAN - NO. 10 TARGET CHEVROLET, RYAN BRISCOE, NO. 8 NTT DATA CHEVROLET AND

CHARLIE KIMBALL - NO. 83 NOVOLOG FLEXPEN CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Chip Ganassi Racing, their fleet of drivers. We have Chip Ganassi with us, Mike Hull, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball, and also Ryan Briscoe.

A quick question to each.

Charlie, really nice finish in the Grand Prix. I'm going to roll back the clock to the last race of the year last year. I know there were some problems, but you were running very strong in the 500. Having come here now as a race winner in the series, a good performance, and at California, you have to be pretty confident.

CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, I think any time you show up to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Chip Ganassi car, you're confident.

The equipment we have is capable of winning. We all believe that as a team. That's the expectation every time you show up here.

 

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As a team, it's nice to have that opportunity. As a driver coming in with that confidence from my first race win last year, as well as the progress we made through the 500-mile races last year, part of the Chip Ganassi podium sweep at Pocono, then the 500-miler at California, leading near the end with a mechanical problem.

We definitely come into the month with a little bit of confidence in the whole team. But as I said, any time you show up in a Chip Ganassi Racing car, as drivers I think you believe you have the opportunity to go out and win the race.

THE MODERATOR: Ryan, we see you back in a familiar team with familiar folks around you. You have to be awfully happy about your opportunities this month.

RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it's great. It's so good to be here. It's a great team. I've got an unbelievable group of guys around me. A lot of familiar faces, great teammates.

So far the month has been going really well. Car has been feeling strong out there. Yeah, it's been good.

We're just going to keep that momentum going, just looking forward to the new qualifying procedures this weekend and getting ready for the race.

THE MODERATOR: Scott, I look back to your championship year, I often think back, how many championships you could have under your belt with a cup or two of extra of fuel. You come back to a place where you tasted the milk.

SCOTT DIXON: Last year was one of the most enjoyable ones. It was very hairy through the mid part. The start of the season was a bit soft. To come back the way we did as a group was a tremendous feat. Really excited about that.

This year we tried to kick it off a little smoother. It hasn't gone to plan as of yet. But I think the team has great speed. We've come up short in a couple different places. But excited for the month of May as always. We would have liked to have started the month a little stronger on the road course without the collision that we had.

This month is one of the toughest, but also one of the most rewarding in many ways. Our plan is obviously to try and come as a team, and one of us be drinking the milk.

I think we've put ourselves in a good position so far. Once we get to qualifying we'll see where we really stand. As far as the racecars go, we've been pretty happy so far.

As always, excited to be here. Hopefully we can come through.

THE MODERATOR: Tony, I don't think there's any question that your victory is one of the most popular we've seen at this place in a long time. Fan reaction was clear. Then we have the unusual situation where your future is a little unsettled as an Indianapolis 500 winner. You have to feel awfully good about where you landed.

TONY KANAAN: Oh, for sure. Chip made sure my future was extremely settled after that. I can't thank him enough for that.

The win helped us big-time. There's no secret how much we struggled with sponsorship last year. We didn't even know if we were going to continue after this race at this point. It was extremely important, really cool. Because of that I am where I am right now.

I'm in a good place, happy to be here, working hard with my teammates to give Target Chip Ganassi Racing another win.

THE MODERATOR: Mike, when we talk to individuals who have had experience in Formula One, one thing they mark as very different is the notion of sharing information, the teamwork that goes into IndyCar-style racing. You have a driver in Scott Dixon who has had a remarkably long relationship with this team. You lose a guy like Dario Franchitti, but you add a guy like Tony Kanaan. How important is experience and leadership among drivers when you're trying to orchestrate a team effort?

MIKE HULL: I think what's in common with all four of the drivers we have here is they're closers. That's what you need. You have to have drivers that when they have the opportunity they get it done.

The information they share among themselves, we do it we think in an unselfish manner.

You put those two things together, the information stream, the fact they can get the job done, if you put yourself in a position to win the race, then it's up to you from that point onward.

THE MODERATOR: Chip, in any successful business you surround yourself with the best possible people to be successful. You come here with one objective like all the teams, and that's to win. I take a look at the lineup of the guys you have. In your perspective, I would think, You've come here with a squad winning the Borg-Warner again.

CHIP GANASSI: Thanks. Each year you make improvements to your team, you add people, you look at your competitors. They're not standing still either. I think that's important to keep in mind. Everybody improves in the off-season.

We feel the improvements we made are what we needed. We obviously had a curve ball thrown at us with Dario. But to have a guy like Tony Kanaan there to step in, I think it's been seamless and very good.

We haven't given Tony the car that he needs yet. We've had a few little issues in the first few races, but we feel those are pretty much behind us now. We're looking forward to the month of May.

In terms of Scott, same thing with Dixon. He never seems to come out of the blocks hard at the beginning of the season, but that's sort of our normal thing. But we're happy where we are. We're happy coming into May.

And Ryan, Charlie, Charlie coming back as a race winner, had a great run at Fontana. I think that's important to keep in mind. Ryan stepping up, coming back to a familiar group of people. We're very, very happy to have him a part of this.

I'm honored to have all these five guys sitting next to me, I can tell you.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.

Q. Mike, your team changed from last year to this year with the engine manufacturer. Installation-wise, was it necessary to modify the chassis or are they equal?

MIKE HULL: That's a good question, first of all.

If it would have been in the first year of the engine formula, then there would be big change, big teething things. When the engine architecturally is moving forward slightly, the installation is quite easy by comparison to what it was at the beginning. It's been a seamless transition.

If you look at that with the addition of the fact that the entire General Motors group works extremely hard to make sure that we hit the ground running. We did that at the very first test we did in the off-season. I think we looked at each other and didn't even realize we changed engines.

It's been a great opportunity for us with Chevrolet.

Q. Chip and Mike, you both talked about Scott's legacy at this point in his career. Why has he been so consistent for so long, been such a good fit for this organization, and where do you feel he ranks among the all-time open-wheel racers?

MIKE HULL: I think because he doesn't stop learning. He doesn't allow what he's just done to be the high point in his life, in his career. He only uses that as a springboard for the next day.

We sometimes say that he treats it like a tear-off. He just keeps going. He's frustrated when he doesn't do well. We feel the frustration. But he's happy when he does well. We feel that happiness, too.

I think his personality matches our group very well. We just do not stop learning together, and he represents us. I wish we could clone him, to be honest about it, moving forward because he's the kind of person you need driving your racecar.

He gets it done today. That's what counts.

CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, I would echo Mike's comments. I would only add that one of the things we liked early on about Scott Dixon was he doesn't seem to carry much baggage with him. We liked that about him. That might explain the longevity with the team, and I hope the other drivers are listening to that (laughter).

But, no, we're obviously very proud to have Scott. When you talk about legacies, you have to add the driver that was his teammate last year, as well, in that conversation when you talk about great drivers.

That will be something someday for you in the media to talk about. I don't think it's our position in the race team to talk about that. We certainly think his name deserves to be up there as well.

Q. Chip and Mike, how much of what you do and decide, how much of it is science and how much of it is gut?

CHIP GANASSI: Mike does more of the science thing and I do more of the gut thing (smiling).

Obviously from track to track that changes, I think. When your car is fast, you can start thinking about the science. When your car is slow, you're thinking about anything and everything. You lean more on your gut maybe when you're challenged in your performance that particular day.

So I think that changes. At a place like Indianapolis, that may change three or four times during the race. You may go from science to gut or gut to science or back and forth a few times.

I think if you rely on one too much you're going to be sadly left out of the celebration at the end. I think you need a combination of both.

MIKE HULL: Yeah, I think they probably go together much more so than what people might realize. It's about the people that surround your program. You can't make decisions from the gut without the reliance of the people that help you make that decision. That includes the race driver because the race driver is the integral part of what happens when the wheels are going around the racetrack.

But the way those wheels turn is all about making sure that it's eyes wide open with the people's input that you listen to when you make those decisions.

It goes from choosing the driver to then listening to the driver on the racetrack.

Q. For the drivers, managing the race inside the helmet, traffic, strategy, stress, against desire, is this the most difficult race to manage of the season inside the helmet?

SCOTT DIXON: I think it goes through stages. Obviously it depends a lot on how the race is playing out for you. I think if you're in a comfortable situation, your demeanor is a little more comfortable throughout.

I think with the style of racing we saw last year, it's pretty hectic for the three and a half hours straight up. Your emotions go through rollercoasters like anybody in a high-stress situation. I think the biggest thing is trying to concentrate on what's ahead, what you need to improve. You have to think about the big picture, keeping an open mind because things change constantly.

I think if you get too hung up on certain things, it's going to ruin your day.

When it comes down to the end, a little aggression sure does go a long way.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I agree. Obviously, this is the Indy 500, but I take every race as a race you have to win. It is a longer race than some of the others. The way I approach it is just other race we have to win.

Like Scott said, it's a longer race, so things could happen to you in the beginning, you don't lose your cool, things will come around and work it out towards the end.

If you use an extra pressure, you're going to put an extra effort just because it's the 500, to me you're not a complete driver. You should put extra effort every time you go on the racetrack. I try to take that pressure off and not think about it's the Indy 500, it's another race that we have to win. We're here to win every one of them if we can.

CHARLIE KIMBALL: Echoing what Scott and Tony said, also about what Mike said about what makes Scott so good, you have to handle things during the race that you can't let get to you. You have to pull that tear off mentally and focus on what's important.

For me in my fourth year here, the perspective changes a little better. It continues to evolve. The first year was about getting laps and building a foundation that we as a team and myself personally could build a race-winning effort on in the future.

The last year taught me a lot. The first 100 miles, we had an electrical issue. We qualified well, but by the end of the first lap, we were last. 40 laps in, we spotted the field a straightaway. You can't focus on that, you can't dwell on that. You have to focus on making the most of the racecar you have.

For me, the confidence in the team, the personnel on the stand, the pit crew, I don't worry about strategy because they have it covered. I tell them what the car is doing. If I can tell them what it's doing, they'll make it better. I have to focus on doing my job in the car and focusing on getting the best result possible as the race develops.

RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, this race is definitely unique. From the buildup, the ceremonies, everything, the three-wide start, there are a few more things to think about at this race that you don't have every weekend.

You have a lot more pit stops during the race. You just need to make sure you're getting in and out smoothly every time. It's a bit more pressure on the mechanics, as well. They've got a lot more work cut out for them, too, at this event.

Another unique thing is we can change wing angles. A lot of times you get into a race, you're kind of stuck with the speed you have. Here we can kind of adjust that during the race. That's something else to think about, you don't want to do it too late in the race and make the wrong decision, so sort of make changes early and know where you are in the race so you have time to come back on it if it wasn't right.

There are definitely a lot of things to think about, setting yourself up for the finish. Obviously if you're in the top 10 in the closing stages of the race here, you've got a chance to win.

Q. Chip and Mike, we have qualifying tomorrow, a lot of points available for the championship. You could fill half of the top nine. What is your strategy for tomorrow?

MIKE HULL: If I told you that, everybody would know what it is.

The way we'll approach tomorrow is the way that we're going to approach today. We're going to get the most out of it. That's the way that we work. That's really the simple answer.

The strategy is developed simply from there. Yeah, we'll have a very defined strategy internally for us. But we work really, really hard to get the most out of the day we have in front of us.

People in sports talk about process. That's what we're all about. We're about today's process. It's not a global view, it's a process view. That's exactly how we'll work tomorrow.

CHIP GANASSI: I think it's obviously qualifying. It's a big day in the month of May. Hopefully it won't be raining tomorrow like it is right now. We're going to play every card we have to play tomorrow for qualifying.

Q. Dream case scenario, last year we ended with three Andretti cars and a KV car in that cluster at the front. If there's four Ganassi cars up front, any team orders with three laps to go on the restart?

CHIP GANASSI: I've said many times there's only one team order around here, it's don't hit each other. Every man for himself.

Q. In years past it seems like blocking has been something that's been discussed by the folks in the tower a lot. This year we're being told you will be allowed to defend a position. Looking at last year's final laps, some have said if that rule had been in effect last year, T.K. would have had a hard time making the last pass. If the defense is encouraged this year and the blocking is not legislated against, how does that change what you guys do?

TONY KANAAN: If we going to go by if's, I should have won five Indy 500s already. If blocking was allowed, I wouldn't have made that move, I would have made a different move.

In such a big race like this, and the race last year with so close with so many passings, I think we all felt you should be able to defend because every time they made a rule of not defending, it wasn't really clear to us. What is not defending?

You talk about the biggest race of the year for everybody, you're in the lead, you're second, you're trying to win in the last few laps, this is not a gentlemen's race, You go ahead please.

We're going to try to defend. My opinion, it's the right thing to do. You're there, and if the guy is good, he'll go around you. We go from there, instead of leaving the decision up to the race stewards at the end of the race, who blocked who, why did that happen. Obviously, there has to be some discrepancy, in my opinion, about how good or bad you want to put a block on somebody, how safe or unsafe that is. But they should allow us to race. It's a race.

Q. For the drivers, Kurt Busch has put up some nice numbers this week in practice. What do you think of what he's trying to do? How hard is it? How would it reflect, if at all, on the series if he was somehow able to win?

SCOTT DIXON: Well, there's no doubt he's a fantastic driver, well-accomplished. He's with a great team. I think the speeds that we've seen so far, that team has been strong in race traffic, getting big tows, things like that.

He will be very racy during the duration of the 500. How it plays out, we have no idea.

To do the double, I don't really know how tough it would be. I'm sure it's extremely tough just mentally trying to figure out the difference between the cars and optimizing it. It's somewhat not easy, but you can get close. To close out either race is going to be extremely tough.

Maybe one day one of us will get that opportunity to see what it really is like.

CHIP GANASSI: Careful.

SCOTT DIXON: Maybe next year, all four of us (laughter).

So I don't know. I expect him to do well, being the good driver that he is, with the great team that he's with. We'll just have to see how it plays out. It's a very strange race.

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