A media conference call was held today to discuss ESPN on ABC’s live telecast of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Participants on the call were ESPN vice president, motorsports, production, Rich Feinberg, along with the three members of ESPN’s booth for the telecast: lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid and analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. This is the 49th consecutive year that the Indianapolis 500 will air on ABC.
RICH FEINBERG: For myself and my colleagues on the phone and the rest of our team behind the scenes, we’re really excited about being able to broadcast the Indianapolis 500 on ABC at 11 o’clock this coming Sunday. It will be the culmination of months of planning. We’re really, really excited about it. What we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks and this past weekend from the story line point of view really gives us a great opportunity to put on a tremendous show for our fans and viewers. Speeds at over 228 miles an hour, a great front row with Ed Carpenter on the pole, the first owner driver to do so since A.J. Foyt in 1975. The rookie, and the youngest driver to qualify on the front row ever at the Indianapolis 500, Carlos Munoz, and of course one of the great names in motorsports and in Indianapolis Marco Andretti also on the front row.
So we’re blessed with tremendous story lines. It’s a privilege and an honor to do what we get to do, so thank you.
EDDIE CHEEVER: I think we’re really having a continuation of what we had last year with these new cars. There is no single group or two groups, which in the past have been Penske and Ganassi, that have a monopoly on speed. If you look at the front row, it’s a very diverse group with Ed Carpenter on pole and a rookie, and Munoz and Andretti in third place. It’s been amazing to watch all these different teams running as competitively as they have. Definitely Chevy came back after the loss it had last year with a vengeance. They have really dominated qualifying. It will be interesting to see how Honda fights back from the technical perspective over these very tough 500 miles.
I’d say the biggest story that we’ve seen so far is the almost dominance of Andretti Autosport. All their drivers have been fast throughout the month. They haven’t put one foot wrong. They have two drivers on the front row, and of course, Marco Andretti being out there, and he’s no longer a young driver. I think he’s done seven of these 500s so far.
You can expect a lot of the younger drivers pushing for a win. I think, obviously, every year we witness history. But I think this time it will be a very difficult race to call because there will be so many cars competing for the win. They also have the nuance that is sitting there that this might be the first time in many, many years that we’re going to add a driver to that very rare group of racing drivers that have won the Indy 500 four times. So Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves will have to get everything absolutely perfect to join that very elusive club.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: First off, let me say I always enjoy coming back for this event. And as a driver, I always said it was a team effort because the driver drove the race cars and very much the same way for the television group that, although they see us in the booth, there is a whole team of people behind us in the hundreds that are there to make the event happen. So I’ve never lost on that.
To follow up something that Eddie was saying; the second year with these new cars, tremendous running again. We saw that last year with multiple passes and drivers being very comfortable being able to run in traffic. Speaking to most of them again here this month, they’re saying the same thing. Also witnessed on Sunday, which is after pole day being Saturday and bump day being early on Sunday, a lot of drivers out there running in traffic, in packs, getting prepared for the race in groups of 12, 14, 15 cars. It was almost like a mini race going on there for about 20 or 25 minutes, people doing full tank runs. So very encouraging that we’re going to have another tremendous race again this year much as we saw last year.
The four time winner, obviously, we might have a fourth four time winner, which we’ve talked about this month, which is very exciting. I’m also thinking a little of the changing of the guards. We’ve talked about, and Rich mentioned it, a rookie on the front row; the youngest driver ever to sit up there. Well, he’s 21 years old, the youngest driver in the field. Buddy Lazier is back, and he’s 45. 16 starts, if I can recall for Buddy.
Just wondering if there’s a bit of the changing of the guard happening here. The young drivers are very aggressive. They are very much up in the front each and every weekend. Dario just turned 40 on Sunday, if I’m not mistaken, Helio is 38. Starting to see a little bit of the changing of the guard for these young drivers which is exciting to watch because they’re always aggressive and always put on a great show.
MARTY REID: A lot of yellow cars. I don’t know if anybody’s noticed. Every year there seems to be another color that is predominant on the paint scheme, and shades of yellow seem to be this year. The thing that excites me is I started coming to this race when I was working at the local NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio in ’82, and started working with a company covering qualifying and Carb Day in ’91, and it’s now my 8th year now of being in the play by play seat. I still get the same feeling every time I pull through that tunnel, and for all of us that love motorsports, this is hallowed ground.
As Eddie mentioned, we’ll write another page of history, and it may be very significant history because, obviously, with Dario and Helio going after number four, it could be a monumental day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I get so excited thinking about it.
What’s really been neat and we haven’t mentioned Lindsay Czarniak who is going to be our host this year, and this will be her first, And she’s wide eyed. She was here this past weekend for qualifications, and she’s absorbing everything and really just been a sponge, she loves it so much. That really excited me also, because I knew she knew Motorsports and loved it, but she’d never been here for the 500. Now she’s got the same kind of fever that we all have. So we’ve got a great team and looking forward to a great day.
Q. My question would be for Eddie and Scott. Just looking at the performance of the American drivers with Ed Carpenter on the pole, and A.J. Allmendinger qualifying fifth and with Hunter Reay in the fast nine and being the defending series champion, I’m wondering is there any significance that could be ascribed to that? Is that indicative of a resurgence of an American driver trend? Just want to get your thoughts on that if there’s something bigger going on there?
CHEEVER: I was really hoping somebody today would ask that question, because this morning I was going through all the nationalities that are racing at the Indy 500. And if I’m correct, there are 11 American drivers, there are two American drivers on the front row. There is a certain point in time when A.J. Foyt didn’t exist, nor Rutherford, nor the youngsters. And they became what they became through the 500.
I think like Scott alluded to before there is a whole new guard of drivers that are on their way and the Americans are, I would say very well positioned to win this 500. It’s great as the next American driver who has raced all over the world in all sorts of races to come here and be working at ABC and assume this resurgence of American drivers.
Who knows. We might be starting a brand new dynasty on Sunday. And anybody who is going to win this race is going to have to beat a very large contingency of American based drivers, and that is great. I have many friends all over the world that I have raced with from Brazil, France, Italy. There is nothing to say against them. It’s great to see so many drivers are representing America in this year’s 500.
GOODYEAR: It’s very interesting to see how the American drivers are putting themselves in the right place at the right time. A lot of times we’ve had drivers that maybe weren’t placed on the right team with the right equipment and in the right situation, and that’s certainly changed here. It’s been changing for the last couple of years, obviously, with AJ Allmendinger who is noted as a rookie, but has a lot of open wheel experience along with his NASCAR experience, is with the right team, there is no doubt about it. Very impressive how he’s adapted to the new cars and gotten up to speed with all of the pressures that he has on him for running for Penske and some of the things in the outside world that have gone on in his life.
But you think about JR Hildebrand, over 25 years old, if I’m not mistaken, and just a driver that has a lot of talent and wealth and has gone through the feeder system that the IndyCar Series has put in place. I think we’re paying more attention today to the junior formulas for young race car drivers and they now have an outlet and a ladder system that the IndyCar Series has put together, whether it’s the form of a Ford, now the form of the F, the Mazda series, the Indy Lights series, they now have a stepping stone and they have something that they can set their eyes on.
I know when I got involved in racing there was not that type of series, and you hoped that you were in the right series that was getting the right amount of attention drawn to it and that the team owners were paying attention to it.
You know, we’d send letters after every Sunday sending a note out to all team owners. I would, anyways, including Roger Penske, that this is how we did this weekend. We didn’t have social media back then. That probably makes it a little easier. But the drivers today have to go out there and market themselves just as hard off the track as they do competing on the track.
One other note on that: We talked about the American drivers and you mentioned Ed Carpenter. Let’s not forget, that is a single car team, a single car team with a good budget, not a massive budget like Ganassi or Penske. And they have multiple cars and multiple information packets coming to them. That’s why this is so impressive by Ed.
If you watch that run, 229 and the car starts to slide, he doesn’t take his foot off of it. He has now arrived as an American race car driver that is competing at a top level he can compete in around the world. So I think we need to really give him the recognition he deserves.
Q. Following up on the American drivers. What about Graham Rahal? Can you talk about him reuniting with his dad, what kind of chance that gives him, and just the chance to have a second, talk about history, a father son combo to win this thing?
CHEEVER: I never drove for my father, but I would have said I would have dreaded driving for my father because it would be difficult to differentiate business from personal things. But seeing him raised with his dad, I think it’s great. His dad is definitely a thinker driver, and if he can pass that over to his son, it will be a great team.
I always enjoy listening to Bobby on the radio when he’s talking to his race car drivers, and I think it’s great. I think it’s really important that those relationships continue and that the public can embrace this whole new generation of drivers.
If we look at what happened inside and how successful the Unser family was, again, we might be starting that same opportunity here with the Rahals. What I have found interesting was he raced in many a team before he returned to his father’s team; whereas, Marco Andretti has only raced in Andretti Motorsport. It’s just a different way of approaching your son’s career if you’re looking at it from a father’s perspective.
GOODYEAR: I have to say, my youngest son, Michael, started karting just a couple years ago, and Eddie and I have spoken about this because his son is also racing karts in Europe. There is a lot of pressure on younger drivers whose fathers have competed in cars. I have always felt for Marco, because I could always see the pressure on him, the strain on his face. Then four years ago when my son started karting, I think it became apparent that it might not be the best thing for young drivers. It can be the best thing and the worst thing, and I guess it’s how you accept the pressure.
Marco has always said he’s his own driver, and I know Michael during his career, because we raced against each other even starting Formula 4 at a young age through the IndyCars. All the interviews Michael said, I don’t feel the pressure; I’m going to do my own thing. And since he’s been out of the car. I have seen him comment that he did know there was a lot of pressure on him. He was very conscious of it, and it has to play a part when you are walking around the pit lane or especially when things are not going well.
For that, I really congratulate Marco because for him to go out and run and be able to compete well as he’s done, especially this year. I think he’s now getting comfortable in himself. It’s taken quite a few years. To Eddie’s point about Graham, maybe it would have been better for Marco to go off and go somewhere else. Maybe he would have reached this level sooner than what he has done.
But he’s matured. He’s becoming a thinking driver. His off season preparation this year, I think, also going off and looking at his performance and getting a driving coach, I think he’s become as serious as he maybe should have been a few years ago about trying to get the job done and trying to go outside the box as far as what he needs to do to do that.
With Graham, I’m surprised he’s not running better. I think if you ask him, he would say that he’s disappointed and probably shocked that they’re not running better. He wasn’t very happy the last couple of years and the spring time before the first race he did speak on interviews and a lot to say about the team before he was left, and how this was going to be much better.
With the exception of a second at Long Beach, it’s not been great. So this is, hopefully, the first race where he can make the car run up front and improve his standings in not only the series but each individual race perspective.
But there again, as the son of a former race car driver, the pressure on these drivers is intense.
Q. Scott and Eddie, the Foyt name will always be huge in the state of Texas, but nationally and internationally it’s hit a little bit of a dry spell in the last decade. What’s it mean to the sport to have Foyt’s team making a resurgence this year?
GOODYEAR: I would just add a quick comment on that and then I’ll let Eddie because Eddie drove for A.J., though I had an offer from A.J. when I was competing in CART. I went a different direction. But there again, I think if you drove for A.J., there’s going to be a lot of pressure there. There is probably no doubt about that.
I think everybody still knows the name A.J. Foyt like they do Mario Andretti, but it’s great to see that their names are still involved in this sport because the changing of the guard happens often.
When I got involved, the guys that started to retire were A.J. and Mario, and the next wave seemed to be Rahal and Sullivan. There is no doubt the sport is getting younger. But I think for the fans out there, they love to see A.J., Mario, and the Unsers around. If they’re still competing, I guess their names will be out there.
And that is the trick of this business right now is continuing to create stars, and I think we’re on that road now with the American drivers, as we discussed, and it’s getting a resurgence back to having Americans competing at a high level in IndyCar. I’ll pass it along to Eddie.
CHEEVER: I’ve always been a firm believer that the allure of the 500 was based not only on the circuit and the prize money and all the noise that surrounded the Indy 500, but on the characters of the drivers that were driving in that era. I think it’s not too big of a sentence to say this sport was built on the shoulders of the A.J.s and the Unsers and the Rutherfords, and I could go on and on and on.
Anywhere I’ve gone as a race car driver as I talk about the Indy 500, all over the world, they all understand what the Indy 500 is and they will inevitably ask me about A.J. Foyt. He is an American icon.
I ended up racing for him in the ’90s, and it was a great experience. I’ve walked through airports with him, and I’ve seen grown men drop what they’re doing and go grab a piece of paper and get in line like little kids to get his autograph. I have to say seeing his son doing as well as he is running the team, I think it’s great. I think it’s great for the series. I think it will be great for the 500.
He is very eclectic. You might see him throw a computer farther than they throw the discus in the Olympics if something goes wrong in the 500. That’s him. There is no filter with Foyt. He’s lived his life exactly how he wants to. I believe, and Scott can correct me because he probably has it all written down in front of him, but Foyt qualified for 36 Indy 500s and has won four of them. I think qualifying for 36 times in the Indy 500 in itself is a record that will never be beaten.
So getting back to your question, is it good for the sport? I think it’s tremendous for the sport. I’m convinced they’ll do a great job. And if things go their way, they’ll be in the hunt for the win. And it will be an emotional win because it will be a big thing for everybody, and especially for A.J.
Q. The IndyCar Series is the only series that has road courses, street courses and ovals. Why do you think that so many of the drivers who grew up driving in road racing, street racing, that type of situation have such a problem adapting to the oval?
GOODYEAR: I almost think it’s the opposite way. I came from a road course background, had never gotten into an oval car in Junior Formulas until I sat in an IndyCar at a test at Phoenix and getting prepared for the 1990 season. You have the utmost respect because of the speed, because of the high G forces, and essentially you will learn very soon that if you make a mistake or something happens in the car that you have really no control over your car and you become a passenger.
In a road course setting or street course setting, sometimes you’re a little luckier. You may still end up hitting something, but obviously at a much slower speed. I learned that in my second day of driving IndyCar for Shierson Racing in 1990 at Phoenix where I knocked myself out and crashed a wall. So I went off and made sure I could understand how to make the IndyCar work on oval and really examined everything that Rick Mears did.
If you look back on it, I would think you would say Emerson Fittipaldi, Eddie Cheever, obviously, and myself, and people who really just did road courses, adapted to the ovals. I think what you’re seeing now is that it’s a little tougher for people to go from oval experience to road course experience.
Probably the big question there would be for Ed Carpenter. I mean, absolutely ultra fast on ovals. Came up through the midgets and through USAC and dirt tracks, clay tracks, paved tracks really the old American way like A.J. did. He is usually a second and a half or two seconds off on a road course and will admit to you that he struggles. It’s a trained talent, if you will, to be able to do that, which takes years of development. So if I was a driver getting into it today, I’d probably rather have the road course experience and knowing that you’re getting on to the oval and you will adapt. On that, I will say that a driver can make up for inefficiencies in a road course car by driving it hard.
On an oval, if it’s 75, 25, 75% the car, 25% the driver, in race conditions, but you have to have a great car on the oval. And as a driver, you have to make it perform that way.
CHEEVER: That’s a great question, and we’re asked that question very often. But let me give you an analogy. If you were to build an oval, say if you were to build the Indianapolis 500 the exact same photocopy of that in the middle of the desert and there was a white line on the outside of it that showed when you were going off the track, I think anybody could drive the Indy 500. You went over the white line, the whistle blew, they brought you back in, and you’d be okay.
Technically, it’s difficult, but it’s not impossible to do. You learn what your balance and what your car’s capable of doing. You keep your foot on the throttle and do all the things that you have to do. The problem is it doesn’t take Einstein to understand what happens to a car and its driver when it hits the wall at 250 miles an hour. It’s a very unfriendly environment. So a lot of the drivers of my generation, many of which had won, even somebody like Allen Jones who won the Formula 1 championship in 1982, came here, did a lap and said I’m not going to do this. This is crazy. For somebody that spent all of his life driving on road courses where if you make a mistake you go through 30 feet of sand, then you hit a tire barrier and then a guardrail, it’s a lot different. You absorb the energy over a space of time.
Driving on an oval is exactly like Scott said, you spin, anything happens. It’s the luck of the draw. So it is more of a mental state than it is the physical attributes to drive one or the other.
And Ed is a very good example. Ed is a USAC driver who came up on ovals who, I think, can take on anybody when it comes to courage and skill and on the 500 this coming weekend. But he struggles on the road courses, because that’s not what he did. And I think a lot of that applies to NASCAR drivers right now. They spent most of their careers racing, going down the straightaway, turning left. So it’s just a different mental state, and it’s a different preparation for driving one or the other.
The greatest road racing series in the world, you’d have to say is Formula 1, but all they concentrate on is road circuits.
Q. The reason I asked the question is because a couple weeks ago I talked to Will Power. Will was saying I know a lot of people are excited about Indy, and I’m excited about Indy. But for some reason, you know, ovals have not been my friend.
CHEEVER: It will be. Will Power is one of the most talented drivers I’ve seen in the past decade. It’s amazing he would admit that, and what he’s telling you is he’s still not gotten his arms around it. You put him on a road course and he is blindingly fast.
Again, he’s not somebody that I would discount from the 500. But if I were to compare Ed Carpenter to Will Power with an equal car on this Indy 500, I would wager that Ed will do better than Will would do because he’s spent more time on ovals.
You know, you can win Long Beach, Barber, and all those races, you can win five of them in a row, and they don’t have the same stature that winning an Indy 500 does, and I can say that through experience. When it comes to American open wheel racing, the event is the Indianapolis 500.
Q. Marty and Rich, I’m curious. Obviously the ratings are going to be there for the 500. But I wonder if there’s anything in the works to prop those up for the package the rest of the season. And secondly we saw this past week and the fast nine was sort of preempted for post race coverage for the Preakness. I’m kind of curious what you guys think that says about the state of IndyCar and the pecking order right now? Well, I guess in terms of the ratings, the ratings are going to be there for the 500, but we’ve seen them go up and down at other races obviously. Texas is one that’s going to be in primetime this year, so that is sort of new and exciting. But I guess what are some of the things that ABC and ESPN are doing to sort of build that fan base up right now for open wheel racing?
FEINBERG: Well, I think the best way to put it is our role in production is to document the event. We try to do so in an entertaining way, in a creative way with voices of knowledgeable and expert announcers, all of whom are on this call today and will be doing the rest of our races.
The racing itself in IndyCar is absolutely tremendous. One would hope that through marketing and promotion and other efforts as people sample IndyCar Racing, they’ll be more attracted to it. I’ve long ago learned that it’s an exercise in futility, really, to predict ratings, so I’m not going to do that.
I know the IndyCar ratings have been challenged in certain areas, but as a production team, the best thing we can do is tell the stories of these tremendous drivers. Certainly as it relates to the Indianapolis 500, it’s an opportunity for us to touch people who don’t watch other races. In our production discussions, we discuss how we can hopefully turn people who sample the Indy 500 into fans who will watch the other races, but ultimately that’s the viewers’ decisions.
I do think that last year’s 500 was tremendously successful. I think it was the most passes ever in the race. We have, as I said, earlier in the call today, a great front row, a lot of tremendous stories we’re talking about. Two drivers attempting to go for history and winning their fourth, so those are all the pieces that we can do. At the end of the day, the viewers decide, and predicting ratings is not something that behooves us.
Q. My question is about two drivers. One, Carlos Munoz, you talked about him. The youngest driver to ever be on the front row, and the comparisons to Juan Pablo Montoya back in 2000 when he had accomplished a lot and came to Indy, and pretty much did things that hadn’t been seen before. He had a very dominant win. What are the similarities, both Colombians, but do you see in those two guys because Munoz’s lines that he had on Saturday in qualifying were as aggressive as I’ve seen from anybody in qualifying in a long time. And James Hinchcliffe who has won two of the first four races, what are his prospects? Something has clicked for him this year. Is it Craig Hampson? Is it that he knows he can win now? What have you seen in James Hinchcliffe that could possibly see a Canadian win an Indy 500 on Sunday?
GOODYEAR: I think the comparison to Montoya would be that Carlos Munoz is fast, just as Juan Montoya was. We’ve all been impressed how quickly he’s gone. His timing is right, and I mentioned that earlier on the call about American drivers now being with the right teams at the right time. Would he be talked about, would he be on the front row if he was with another team other than Andretti? Because Andretti has certainly brought themselves back being into what we always refer to in this business as one of the top three teams. They were there for a long period of time, especially back when they were winning and winning championships and Indy 500s.
They went away for a little while because they certainly didn’t have the results that we would expect of them, and we only start talking about Penske and Ganassi. But you almost have to say now with Ryan Hunter-Reay winning the championship that the guys that are the best out there week in, and week out certainly seem to be Andretti Autosport led by Michael Andretti.
So I think with Carlos right now, right place, right time, the right talent, the right attitude, and he’s fast. As Eddie and I have talked throughout this week that there are race car drivers who have hit the wall at Indy, and there are race car drivers that are about to hit the wall at Indy. We hope he makes it all the way through.
But the 500, I always went into that race with the mindset that it is five 100 mile races, and if you think about it, it’s a long time to be in the car. It’s a long time to focus mentally. It is very difficult to come in and make seven or eight perfect pit stops in traffic and pit lanes, making the right decisions on restarts. He has a lot of weight on his shoulders. He has the equipment, he has the speed, he has the talent, and now he’s going to put the package together.
With my fellow Canadians, we’ve known James and his family fair long time. They’ve spent a lot of time and effort to get to this point. I think in speaking with James, he will tell you that he is more relaxed, more comfortable, settled into a team for the second year in a row, and I think he’s now just getting a chance to showcase his ability and talents that we probably saw on the tracks in Canada many years ago.
But there again, they took a shot at qualifying, wanted to have the front row, wanted to have the pole position, and went too far. So he’s probably going to be a lot more racy on race day than he was showing in qualifying.
CHEEVER: I’d like to add something about Carlos Munoz, if I can. Scott covered all of the qualities, the timing and everything. I’d like to just add one other, and that is the quality that comes with youth, especially not having hit anything beforehand, he is incredibly brave. This kid has so much talent. His hands are so quick, and he’s afraid of nothing that he’ll put the nose of his car anywhere and still get out of trouble.
Now, having said that, if I’m sitting and his team manager’s chair for a minute. I’m trying to think of how I’m going to manage so much talent and so much speed for a 500 mile race. At this point we really can’t do anything. You’d have to have him go on his instincts, and they’ve provided correctly. But I can guarantee you he’ll be creating a lot of anxiety for the other drivers that have done five, six, seven, eight, nine Indy 500s that are sitting behind him because he’s never gone through turn one. It’s a whole new experience.
He’s going to have all these brand new experiences being thrown at him in the first half of the race. If can he get through the first half of the race without getting caught up in somebody else’s problems or without creating a problem of his own, he has as much chance as anybody else does.
I really take my hat off to the whole team for having let him run like they did. And staying out of trouble. It’s been a great effort until now, and it can continue but it is high risk.
When it comes to Hinchcliffe, he’s almost the de facto leader of the Andretti Autosport team. They all seem to get along well. There is a great chemistry with the team, and most importantly, he’s won two races. So he’s coming in here into this race with a head of steam. And all of them know that to put themselves on the map, they have to win the Indy 500. So they have five drivers there that have all the same aspirations, and it looks like the same equipment.
GOODYEAR: If I might add something, as a rookie, you’re going to be told by your team managers, as Eddie was explaining, what you need to do. As a driver, you listen to everything like that. But once you slide in the cockpit and put your helmet on, you’ve preprogrammed yourself. You’re in your own world, and you’re not going to change the nature of how you drive your race car. That might be a little worrisome for turn one, lap one, especially when you’re on the front row and the pressure that comes with it.
He won’t realize the pressure until he gets in the car and starts doing a couple of parade laps and sees 250,000 plus people there. He’s been here and seen the speedway, and we might have 10, 15, 20, 25,000 people here maybe on qualifying day. It doesn’t put a dent into the speedway.
When you’re out there throughout the month practicing and qualifying, it’s really upon a stark, gray grandstand with no color, no movement. He gets in the car on race day, and that place becomes alive from the moment you leave your garage, and you walk out and you see all the people that are 10, 12, 15 stories high to the massive amount all the way around the racetrack, then there is color and there is movement. It’s very emotional for a driver, especially the first time.
I mentioned the front row on lap one, because I saw ’95 on the front row qualifying third and had the same conversation with Steve Horne. Let’s just get in, get to turn one and we’ll start to run our plan.
Well, that was the plan until we got in the cockpit, and then you get going around there and think I’m getting to turn one in first place. I’m going to lead the first lap of the Indy 500. And although it happened for me and took the lead in turn one, but I had quite a few years of experience at that point in time. So that will be the biggest hurdle that Carlos needs to get through on race day.
Q. I wanted to ask Marty Reid. Marty, we’ve got two guys in the field that could become four time winners of this race. What do you think the overall impact on the sport would be if that were to happen?
REID: Well, obviously for race fans, no matter what their favorite form of Motorsport is it would be huge. I mean, it hasn’t been done since Rick Mears back in 1991 when he won his fourth, and for it to happen with one of these two, which both are very likeable, both have a fan base, both have a huge following. What was interesting to me was I caught up with the guys early in the season back in St. Petersberg.
Helio at the time, I said to both of them in individual interviews, I said you’re going to be the focal point here. That means a lot of distractions, and Helio being Helio said bring it on, I love it. It comes with the territory. And Dario at the time saying I’ll do what I have to do to win the race, and I’ll do my commitments. But when it’s time for me to focus, and right now as we’ve seen how many laps they’ve turned on Sunday between he and Scott Dixon trying to find more speed, it is all about business for Dario.
I feel like between the two of them he’s a little more of the distraction side of it than Helio. But when it comes to the race, they’ll both be ready, both be focused and who knows? We’ll know more on Carb Day as we did last year, when Honda found some life, and the Ganassi guys started to run faster. We’ll get a better picture of whether or not Dario has a real shot at this, I think, on Friday.
Q. Rich, tons of cameras covering this event, aerials, slow mos. I mean, you’ve got pretty much it all. Where does this rank in the amount of production elements and toys that you’ve gotten to use as opposed to previous years that you’ve done this race?
FEINBERG: Yeah, it’s right up there, not only the biggest that we’ve ever done in IndyCar, but it’s into the category of the biggest we’ve ever done in motorsports. While I don’t know every show my colleagues here do at ESPN, but for a single day, single sport event, I would think that the 84 cameras is pretty high on the list for the biggest show that ESPN does period.
Q. As far as your infrastructure goes, how big is the production compound? I’m sure you don’t have an exact number. But I’m sure you need a lot of cabling to get this place set up?
FEINBERG: Yeah, we’ve actually had both people and facilities roll into the speedway back to last week. I was there this past weekend, and we were beginning our technical set up. We’re very familiar with Indianapolis Motor Speedway having gone there the last 49 years, and we get there twice a year with the Brickyard 400. We have an incredible group of engineers, many of whom have worked Indy and motorsports for our company for a very long time.
So it’s a very large, challenging undertaking with hundreds of engineers and production people coming to town for the show. But at the same time, given that we do a lot of racing and big motorsports shows, it’s somewhat of another week at the office for us.
Q. Which production trucks are you going to be using on site?
FEINBERG: We use NEP Supershooters 21 fleet.
Q. Eddie, Scott, and Marty, there is an observation amongst NFL players, Pro Bowlers, especially, fast brain, fast body. Over in motorsports, you’ve got to have a fast brain to have a fast car, but you have to have fast engine and fast parts. Could you maybe just be able to explain for a fan what the hand eye coordination and the reaction time that it takes for an open wheel driver to run at IndyCar and especially to run IndyCar at Indianapolis?
CHEEVER: Wow, I think the first thing when you’re racing at IndyCar at those high speeds is you have to absorb and process a lot of information quickly and you have to do it almost automatically. When you’re in a group and you’re in the middle of the field and starting the race and turning into turn one and you’re now 280 miles an hour, and the car isn’t doing what it should be doing, not only do you have to go through the process of keeping your car on the track and not spinning, you’re also looking at 300 yards, 250, 300 yards ahead of yourself because you’re going to be there shortly. And if something is wrong, you have to anticipate where you should place your car as all of this happens in front of you.
So your analogy, NFL analogy of a quick mind is a prelude to a fast body reaction is, I think correct. I’ve raced a lot of places. In Monte Carlo, I qualified in Monte Carlo with 1200 horsepower, and I thought nothing would be more physical than that. But that paled in comparison to racing at Indy when you’re in a cluster of cars and something goes wrong in front of you, you don’t have time to ponder should I go right or should I go left? You have to make a split decision which could mean hitting a car at those high speeds or making it through and going on and winning the race.
So I don’t really know if you can measure the physical attributes that are required, but I would say that eyesight is very good, very important. I would say that processing information that can be measured is very important. But above all, what I think you have to have is the mental endurance to keep putting up with abuse which will be thrown at you in the three and a half hours that it takes to run the race.
To do that and still be aware and angry and hungry and aggressive on those last 20 laps is not easy. It takes a lot of training. I’m interested to hear what Scott has to say.
GOODYEAR: I would echo a lot of what Eddie says. I hate to say it’s as simple as this. But I found it automatic, almost easy to a point. Because when you are in the zone, I’m sure other players and other sports find this and other athletes I’ve talked to in other sports say this, the world is going by slow.
Not that it feels exactly like this, but when you’re running at Indy and you are in your prime of your career and the car is good and you are in the zone, you almost feel like you could step out of the car and run beside it. I say that because it really does feel that way.
It’s odd because you’re at a place like Indianapolis that is very narrow. Obviously, a 100 year old facility, and they start the race three wide as you saw last year. Sometimes you’re four , five , six wide going down the straightaway. I compare that to a place like Le Mans when I was over there a few times with the Porsche factory, doing speeds of 240 miles an hour down the Mulsanne. You don’t realize how fast you’re going until you look out the side. It sounds strange to say that.
But one of my teammates one time, Hans Stuck said to me when I was going there for the first time, he said, whatever you do, Scottie, don’t look out the side window.
Well, the straight is so long, and you’re going for like a minute or something like that. It’s an 8 and a half mile track, you almost get bored that you’re going down the straight and not much is happening, because you check the gauges and you’re going along.
And I remember him saying that to me, and I looked out the side window to see how fast the guardrails, the trees, and the houses are going past and it was like, wow. I will never do that again. That is easy in comparison to going to Indy because, as Eddie said, you have to drive the car through the turn.
Don’t forget, you’re one of 33 people, so you’re going into a turn and trying to hit the same spot of six inches consistently to put your car on the right spot on the line. Maybe driving in dirty air because the cars are in front of you contending with people biting at your back wing, trying to pass you on the right or left or what have you, and the wind conditions and track conditions changing. It’s just very, very difficult.
For me, I always knew that the day it started to seem like it was going by a little bit too quick or you had to think about it was the day I would get out.
I’ll finish off with a quick story. The other thing you realize as a race car driver is when you’re competing, and I know this from retiring, when you’re competing the rest of the world doesn’t exist. I’m married, children, but there wasn’t an agenda list each and every day. You got up every day and all you thought of was your race car, and talking to your engineer, and there wasn’t a to do list.
The time to get out of the car is that when you get a little older, and there is a to do list, and you put motor racing second, third, or fourth on your to do list and you’re going to take care of family issues, business issues or travel or something like that. You start thinking, well, that can wait until tomorrow. I’ll call the engineer back tomorrow.
That’s why the changing of the youth that we’re starting to see. Because for me that started to happen in my late 30s, and that is when you need to not be driving a race car the length of a football field in less than a second. That’s why this is ultimately the greatest prize or ultimately the greatest sacrifice by sitting in a race car.
Q. Why do you think Andretti Autosport has come on so strong this year? Is there anything particular that they’ve done to make the entire team so competitive?
GOODYEAR: I would say chemistry. I have not seen the drivers as a group and Andretti Autosport as happy since the days back when Dan Wheldon, and Herta and that group were there. They all get along well together. I say that because you go out and you’re in cities and you see those guys hanging out and having dinner together. They hang out and train together.
I think it’s the chemistry and the focus of getting the job done, which is making the race car go fast. I think Michael has done a tremendous job taking over the team and brining in the people from an engineering perspective and to go ahead to give them free reign about letting them go, what they need to do as far as wind tunnel testing or seven poster shake rig testing. Because there is a change going on right now because of a lack of testing, And they seem to have dealt with it the best.
EDDIE CHEEVER: I’ve been waiting all day to disagree with you on something. They’re happy because they’re winning, and they’re winning because their cars are quick.
Michael has taken everything, it seems, from the outside. He’s taken everything he’s learned in his career, and he’s always managed to take advantage of changes. Like Scott said, there’s been a big change now an there is less testing and trying to save money. And this artificial testing that he alluded to has now become so prevalent, and he and his team embraced it.
But the chemistry that is in that team is because they all have fast cars. I guarantee you, if they had the 20th, 22nd, 23rd, and 25th place on the grid, the chemistry wouldn’t be as good. But they are technically extremely astute, and they give everybody exactly the same equipment, which is almost impossible to do. So not one driver in that group is feeling slighted, and they all know they have a good shot at it.
It would be so easy for Michael to give an advantage to his son, Marco, and yet that’s never happened in that team. That’s why I think they can attract so many good engineers and so many good drivers and so many good sponsors.
To run, Penske runs three cars, but normally they run two. To run five cars and to have all five of them with a crack at winning the pole is tremendous. I’m astounded that somebody in today’s age could actually pull that off in IndyCar.
Q. As a quick follow up, are both of you guys happy to go through one of these pre Indy 500 teleconferences without having a question about Danica Patrick, which she seems to have dominated these press conferences in recent years?
CHEEVER: I think Danica’s arrival in IndyCar had a social change of how America views motorsports. I think it was a big leap forward that so many more people were attracted to racing because a woman was competitive. There are so many stories right now and there are so many good things happening in IndyCar that everybody respects what she did, but they have moved on.
I think I saw one person in the pits with a Danica T shirt on, whereas last year you would have thought it was a Danica advertisement everywhere. Racing is a very fast paced sport, and it changes quickly.
But I have to admit, that she did bring a lot of people, many of which have remained, to IndyCar that would have not watched it if it had not been for her performances.
Q. Speaking of women, we’ve got four in the race this time which I guess is the first time since 2011. Of the four, do you like someone as a possible maybe Top 10 finish finisher? Is this something that Simona de Silvestro could do? What do you think?
GOODYEAR: I think you would have to put her at the top of the four. With Anna Beatriz and Katherine Legge and Pippa Mann coming at the last minute, very difficult to not be in a car on a continuous basis and be competitive. They’re in great situations with teammates and knowledge.
But right now Simona and watching her over the last couple of years and especially that duel she had a couple of years ago with Tony Kanaan at St. Petersberg, I think that if you did a poll in the garage area of all the other drivers, all of the other male drivers in the garage area, that you would probably find that they would say that given equal equipment that Simona could run with them or possibly even beat them on particular days.
She will be I think fast, competitive, and probably the most competitive out of all four.
CHEEVER: I agree. Also her teammate is somebody that’s been around her a whole bunch of times. She seems to be very confident. She seems to be aggressive, and she’s had some great races in her short career at IndyCar.
So it’s the same thing with everybody that races here. If you can get into your rhythm quickly and hit your marks and your pit stops work, and you go through those first 400 miles and you’re in that last little group, anything can happen. I think she might well find herself in the leading pack at the end.
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