INDYCAR CONFERENCE CALL WITH FRANCHITTI AND SERVIA
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. We'll be joined today by two guests, Oriol Servia, the driver of the No. 2 Telemundo car for Newman/Haas Racing, and two-time Dario Franchitti, IZOD IndyCar Series defending champion of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.
Starting with Oriol, Oriol is third in IZOD IndyCar Series points, 73 points behind the co-leaders Will Power and Dario Franchitti, after his third place finish at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday. Oriol has been to Iowa Speedway one previous time finishing 16th in his only start in 2008.
Oriol, first question, what do you remember about that race at Iowa Speedway and the facility, and how much are you looking forward to getting back to that oval?
ORIOL SERVIA: I was very surprised how that oval is, because I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was a short oval, but the high banking makes it still like a Super Speedway, but with no straightaway. I thought it was very difficult with the high banks and it's very intense. It's like you're on it all the time.
Q. Talk about the 2011 season so far, you and the No. 2 Newman Haas Racing team have been right there with the No. 10 and 12 car this season. How did you and Newman/Haas get to where you are after last season with one car; they were not as strong as they are this year with you.
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, I think it's just a lot of hard work. I think, you know, we all know Newman/Haas has always been a great team with a lot of success, and last year when things didn't work out and then they decided to hire me, you know, that was the goal, bring it back to the front. We didn't know how soon we were going to be able to do that, and to be honest, we've been a little surprised to be third in points at this point in the championship.
We are very happy. There's still a big step to go to catch Ganassi and Penske and we know that, but we are very encouraged of the work done so far and ready to keep doing it.
Q. You mentioned after the race at Milwaukee, you got your first podium in Milwaukee with Newman/Haas Racing in 2005, and last week, almost a carbon copy, you came from the fifth row and finished third. Has much changed from 2005?
ORIOL SERVIA: They have had a different turnaround of people. It'S not exactly the same people, but I would say that the core of the team is the same. They have some of the same engineers, some of the same mechanics that have been there for 20 years. So the way they do things is exactly the same. You know, the way they approach the weekend, how hard they work, how well prepared the cars are, how behind the driver they are.
So all of those things are exactly the same and it just makes it easier, like for me, jumping in this year, we continue racing, so it's been one of the reasons FOR the success we have been having for sure.
Q Let's turn to Dario. Obviously Dario is the driver of the No. 10 car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and as I mentioned earlier is tied with Will Power atop the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings, entering this weekend's race at the Iowa Speedway. Two wins in three starts at Iowa, and with the Milwaukee 225 at Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, and tied Rick Mears for ninth on the all-time IndyCar victory list.
I know you get asked this a lot and especially with your name being mentioned with a lot of the greats of the sport: Does that ever sink in that you're mentioned alongside Mears and Rutherford and some of those names in the pantheon of Indy car racing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, it doesn't really sink in. It's almost, sometimes I hear somebody say it, and I think, they are just kidding; in a couple of minutes, they will tell the real story.
But I'm obviously very proud of all the wins, and I never thought I would get to this stage of having won 29 races now. Something I'm very proud of, and it still comes as a shock when they talk about guys like Johnny Rutherford and Rick Mears. When I first came over here I was driving for Carl Hogan. He took me aside on my first day on the oval, and took me aside and said, "You don't do it like that. You do it like this." He really was helpful. It's kind of a strange feeling to be in the company of those two great drivers.
Q. I mentioned the two wins at Iowa Speedway in 2007 and 2009, you were in contention for a third win last year when you had a mechanical issue. What is it about Iowa that suits your style so well?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think I've been lucky to great cars at Iowa. I know what I need out of the car, from the first year, I have a feeling -- I know what I need to have. And with my engineer and all of the guys on the Target team, we have managed to find that the last couple of years.
Last year was kind of weird. It's very unusual to have mechanical failures, especially in the gear box with the paddle shift now. So that was a tough one to take. But up until that point, it had been a great race with Tony and he was a very deserved winner at the end of that race and we were having a mighty old fight in the middle of the race.
But I think Iowa really puts on good races, and it's been a night race, it will add an extra dimension to it this year.
Q. And finally, you're level with Will on points, and there's nine races to go. Is your mentality just race, do the best you can, and just let the points fall what they may, or at some point, when do you say, 'I'm racing Will'?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think you're racing everybody out there. I just look at it as one race at a time. Just Iowa this weekend, go out there and win that, and if we can't, try and finish second. Just try and do the best you can every single weekend.
Will is a terrific competitor, there's no doubt about it. And his team are backing him up 100 percent. So I think he's ultimately been very consistent, as well, but on a performance basis, there's so many people now that can go out there and win any race. We have seen obviously the Target, the Penske guys, too. You've got the satellite team with Chip now. Certainly Newman/Haas have come on very strong this year and the KB guys, as well, and there's multiple other teams out there that week-in and week-out challenge for victory.
The competition is not getting any easier and it's definitely making our job harder, which that's what we like.
Q. How important is this weekend's race at Iowa, given where you are in the points standings, and especially given that coming up after Iowa, five of the next six races are on road courses where certainly Will has proven that he's so strong?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, the whole point of the championship, the points at the end are the same at the end and all races in between. Like I said, you focus on each race weekend and try to get the most out of that. No race is more important than another, except for the Indianapolis 500. That's the one that really stands out to me as the one race of the season that's any different than all of the others.
And Will, yeah, Will's done a great job on the road and street courses but we beat him at St. Pete this year, and we are working very hard to put ourselves in a position to beat him in this next road course stretch coming up. And also the oval this weekend, I think he's going to be very strong at Iowa.
Q. When you left Texas, you were very down because of the way things played out with everything. Would you ever have believed that you could have made up 21 points in one weekend like that, because you were very distraught, I guess, ticked off when you left.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't, I don't think I was distraught or down. I think I was pissed off. I think that's a big difference. I was definitely angry at the situation.
As things have gone, basically Randy called me the next morning and said, yeah, we screwed up on that one, we won't do it again, and sorry.
So I absolutely believed that we could -- if we did our job right, we could win at Milwaukee, the same as we could win at Iowa this weekend if we do our job, and what happened in Texas, just served as extra motivation.
Q. After reviewing what the penalty that wasn't called, and I don't think there should have been a penalty, but I think people would like to hear from your side, when you made contact with the Power tire. Tell me from your perspective why you didn't think that should be a penalty.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I've looked at it on tape a number of times now because there's obviously some questions about that.
In the pit lane, there is an etiquette, and it's something that Brian Barnhart actually talked about in the drivers' meeting and frequently does talk about it, especially in tight pit lanes like Milwaukee. And that is: The car, in the situation where we were, the car behind us was Will. Now, the etiquette is, if it's not going to affect Will's pit stop, which in both instances in the last two pit stops, it wasn't, Will's right front guy should lift the tire and allow me an easier entry into my pit box. And we, my right rear guy, would do the same for Will on the exit to allow him an immediate exit out of his pit box. And that's something that goes on up and down pit lane; regardless if we have been fighting for championships or whatever, with the Penske guys, we have always done that with each other.
For some reason on Sunday, in two stops, the tire was left out there. And that was, I believe, the reason there wasn't a penalty because there was no need for the tire to be out there. And I think there was some gamesmanship going on there, which is not something we have seen from those guys before, and hopefully it's the last we'll see of it. Because if one starts doing it and the other starts doing it; pit lane is dangerous enough without playing stupid games like that.
Q. Good answer. I think the first time, he did move it and put it back; it was the second time he stood on the tire.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm saying second and third ones. Second and third he didn't move it. First one, I believe it wasn't there, but the second and third, it was. And I believe it was a six-second difference between when I made my pit stop and when Will did, which is more than enough time to move it.
Q. The other thing, your frustration with Helio in the post-race discussion, IndyCar said that for the first few corners of a restart in the double-file situation, it's kind of not a free-for-all, but every-man-kind-of-for-himself for a couple of corners. Do you feel differently about that now that you've at least had time to hear their side?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, I don't. Because on the one hand, I think Helio was actually -- he was on the inside on a double-file restart, so, yeah, definitely, he was correct. Took the whole back line. And that point, I was wrong.
So I chose to go to the outside, and had a run on Helio and was alongside him and started to become further alongside him as he then saw me and swerved towards me on the outside. So I don't change my view on that.
You know, it's something that we all grew up in series throughout the world, and Oriol can probably talk to this, too. We all grew up in series where blocking was allowed for years. We watched guys like Schumacher do it. And then at some point, the IndyCar Series and Champ Car, actually, made a stance that blocking is no longer allowed; it spoils the race, blah, blah, blah.
We have all had to adapt. And in a lot of cases, the first instinct is to block. But we have all managed to adapt, I would say. Helio has not really, and he continues to do it, and it's frustrating. I kind of voiced my frustration after the race, and that has not changed, and it needs to stop.
Q. How much does the win in Milwaukee provide you with momentum going into this week's race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's always good to win, absolutely and it brings everybody up. We won that first race in Texas, too, which I think in all of the coverage at the second race and the blind draw and my reaction to that this season, it's been forgotten that we won that first race there. We won a couple of races in two weeks now and we would very much like to keep the ball rolling, but it's going to be very, very tough. I think particularly, as.
I'm looking and thinking about some of the guys who we'll be competing against this weekend, and obviously my teammate, Scott Dixon, is looking to finally get some luck and have things turned around. I think Helio is normally very strong at Iowa, too. And Tony Kanaan has been very strong there the last couple of years. He's going to be tough there, as well, as he was in Milwaukee.
Q. How important are the next few road races for you?
ORIOL SERVIA: Sorry, you said the next road races?
Q. Right. Yes.
ORIOL SERVIA: They are important, for everybody, as Dario said. There's not one race very important than the others. They all count the same. But for us, we have Toronto, and then after Edmonton, we have been having a feeling that we are still third in points, but the next race, we are probably going to go back to fifth or sixth. But we are still third. We seem to be doing a good job.
I feel after Edmonton, if we are still in contention to be Top 3, we definitely have enough showing to prove that we can defend it.
I think Scott is coming very strong. I mean, he had a lot of bad luck. In a normal situation, I think he should pass us very soon, either Iowa or right after. And I think to be honest with you, not only to even think about getting closer to Dario or Power, but to defend our third position, we need to start winning races, and we are not.
So for some reason, Iowa, I think is going to be more of a survival race for us. I don't expect us to be fighting for the win. Although, you know, it would be a nice surprise.
But Toronto, we definitely have as many chance as anybody else, and that would be an opportunity to shine and see if we can get that win. That would definitely get us in a much better position in the points.
Q. The race this year is a night race. Just your thoughts on racing at night in Iowa, and as far as strategy, has it changed or stayed the same? Any thoughts on that?
ORIOL SERVIA: In my opinion, I always love night races. A, I think it gives the fans a chance to enjoy the race in a different environment. They can drink their beers and stay there late without thinking they have to work the next day. And in my case, I think Dario, knowing him, will agree, I always like the late schedule.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: (Laughing.)
ORIOL SERVIA: You can sleep a little more and relax and just have more time to prepare and not rush before the race. For me, I wouldn't have every race Saturday night, but I would definitely have more than we have. So I always welcome the ones that come this way.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I totally agree with everything Oriol said, especially the getting up late. That's always a nice surprise on night races.
But I think for the fans, as well, the cars -- actually watching night races, the cars appear quicker, too. So as a visual, it's different. The sparks with the skid plates, that adds to the spectacle. Let's be honest, it's just nice for the fans to sit when it's a little bit cooler at night rather than 90 degrees out or whatever. That's a bonus, too.
Q. Obviously Dario and some of the guys you're battling for third in the championship have veteran teammates, and your teammate is a rookie. How much does -- what does James bring to your program and how well do you two work together?
ORIOL SERVIA: He brings a lot. I think it's perfect the way that the team is working right now, and James, the first thing he brings is a lot of questions. Ask anybody that knows him; he's a guy, that, a, is very articulate and b, wants to know everything. He's like a little kid growing up. That's a great thing on a team, and especially a team like ours, we work so well together, the two engineers, the two drivers. And he asks a lot of questions that it's always good to ask yourself. You know, why do they would this this way and not that way. Sometimes you do things in a routine and when you have a guy like him asking you about it, it makes you think about it more. That's one thing.
But you know, I don't think James is a normal rookie, because he's had two years in Indy Lights and two years in Atlantic. Although it's his first year in IndyCar, he comes with a lot of experience in the ladder series where he has seen how important it is to work, to work at it, to find the setups, to look at the data, and I think that's what makes it better.
You know, at the end, to be fast, I think we were all fast when we were 18, or at faster now it. But through the years, just learn a lot of little things, and he comes with a lot of, you know that, knowledge with him. And he's very fast, so at the end of the day, whenever we are finishing a session, he picks up tips from looking at my data and I pick up tips from looking at his data, definitely. For me, it's been a huge help having him on the team.
Q. When you interact with fans, do you find that maybe there's a whole generation that doesn't know the history of Newman/Haas and Mario Andretti and Nigel man sell and that I be that that was IndyCar's first glamour team?
ORIOL SERVIA: I don't know. I haven't found that. Just because I think it was only like the last couple of years that they were not as successful.
It's been a stretch of 25 years that they were always up front and they were always up front, as you said, with big names, and the owners themselves, Haas had enough of an impact that I think they touched many, many generations.
If we are talking about kids now, you know, of course, if you talk to a ten-year-old, they don't know what Newman/Haas means and what it is. I would say when you start talking from 18 and above, they all still know and remember where we come from.
THE MODERATOR: We'll thank both of our guests for their time and wrap up today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call.