Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.
Eddie Cheever on Danica Patrick: 'a childish tantrum'
It is difficult to convey to sports fans under 30 how big of a deal the Indianapolis 500 was in olden times.
But big it was when I was a lad - much bigger than NASCAR. I paid to see the 1971 race live on closed circuit in a theater!
In honor of that legacy, and in recognition of ABC's 46th consecutive year showing the race, here is a transcript of a conference call to discuss Sunday's event that featured ESPN VP Rich Feinberg and on-air personalities Marty Reid, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever.
Sure, it's a little long. So is the race.
Q – Rich, you've been working on the Indy 500 project for quite a while now. What kind of show do you have in store for Sunday?
RICH FEINBERG: We're excited … we've been working behind the scenes on the planning of our coverage of the Indy 500 for many months now, a small army of production folks, talented operations crews headed into town to get ready. Looking forward to doing this for what's now the 46th year now on ABC.
Q - Marty Reid, you'll be in the anchor booth. This will be your fifth‑year calling the Indy 500. What do you look forward to for Sunday?
MARTY REID: A great race. There's so many great stories. Obviously, Helio Castroneves going for number four, the battle between Ganassi and Penske. The ones that intrigue me is people like Alex Tagliani who has been fast, Graham Rahal in a car that hasn't been on the track for one full year. The last time that car raced was last year at Indy. He goes out and puts it in the No. 7 position. Then you've got the four women led by Ana Beatriz. You want to talk about personality, she and Simona De Silvestro upstaging Danica at Danica's best platform. I think it lends itself to so many interesting stories that will develop throughout the day. I really can't wait for Sunday to get here.
Q - Scott Goodyear, of course you raced at Indy many times, had a lot of great runs there. What are you looking forward to about Sunday?
SCOTT GOODYEAR: To add on to what Marty was saying, all those interesting stories. It's interesting to see how we really expected a lot out of Andretti Autosport with their four usual drivers, the addition of John Andretti, then KV, a team growing, really took over the third slot as far as the top three teams were concerned behind Penske and Ganassi. Andretti Autosports seemed to fall out of favor and KV was getting stronger.
Both of them have really not put their best foot forward here in the month of May. As we've seen, both teams crashing cars. It's given teams like Marty spoke about, like Alex Tagliani, then also Graham has come along, even Ed Carpenter joining up with the Panther folks to really have an opportunity to show through and shine through here.
I think that's the interesting side that I see from a driver point of view, that there's some drivers here with equipment that probably isn't at the same level as Penske and Ganassi, and qualifying is a day all to itself, but race day is something separate.
I'm sure as Eddie could attest to, you might not have the best package underneath you in a qualifying format, but come race day over 500 miles, sometimes you don't necessarily need that to be able to stand in Victory Lane at the end of the day.
Q - Eddie, the 1998 Indy 500 winner, has tasted the milk in Victory Lane. Your thoughts as we head into the race on Sunday?
EDDIE CHEEVER: I agree with what everybody said. There's always a million different stories that develop. I really think it's going to be a battle between Darth Penske and Darth Ganassi, who is going to control Indianapolis. Both of those teams are so strong. I think Ganassi is going to do everything he possibly can to make sure he trips up the Penske drivers. Helio has won three of them for the very specific reason that he is with the best team and he tends to avoid problems. I would not bet against him.
As always, so many things develop during the race. This is a race you can prepare for years for that one special moment and something out of your control can get in the way. It will be quite an event. I think it will be an historical ending to all this. My money is on Helio Castroneves being the one to beat.
Q. Rich, what, if anything, is sort of new about the production? Looking at the release, it talks about the track cam, which I think you've had before. Tell me about anything that might be different about the production.
RICH FEINBERG: Yeah, as I said in my opening statement, we've been working for months now in planning, deploy our sort of historical package, which is quite substantial. In total, 51 cameras will be used to document this year's Indy 500.
A couple of those we're going to try with super slow‑mos which we haven't had in the past few years. As you mentioned, we call it back cam, which is a cable cam going from the frontstretch all the way to turn one, back again this year.
We have at least as of this morning 9 of the 33 cars will have high‑def onboard, 360 cameras, and those will include Helio Castroneves, which we're excited about, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, John Andretti, Marco Andretti, Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick, and Ryan Hunter‑Reay. Brent Musburger is going to host our pregame show. We have a number of features we've been working on there, Helio Castroneves reflecting on his journey. Last year in 2009, some would say a storybook ending. Danica Patrick did a lengthy sit down with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts who will be driving the pace car this year. We've been working on a piece that does a sort of technical comparison between Indy drivers and jet fighter pilots, some of the humanistic characteristics they go through in doing what they do, the similarities.
So we're excited. As always, the pregame is one thing but the race is another. We look forward to just great competition. I think you saw over qualifying and practice weekends tremendous speeds. Hopefully a lot of side‑by‑side racing.
Q. A lot was made last week, booing of Danica Patrick at the track. Are we seeing any sort of Danica backlash at this point? Is this the start of something?
MARTY REID: Truthfully I talked to some of the fans that were there. There is a bit of a resentment she went over to NASCAR by some of them. There's those that felt like she threw her team under the bus. As Tony Kanaan pointed out, that's the same group of guys that helped her to fifth in the championship last year, and a lot of those guys were on her car when she won at Motegi. Yes, I think to some degree there is a bit.
Our sports world is just like everything else in business: What have you done for me lately? I think there are some fans out there that are going to be demanding her to do well and not just to finish in the top 10 but she's got to have podium, she's got to win. They're going to keep putting that pressure on as time goes on.
Q. You mentioned in other parts of the world. Is this like with a celebrity who gets way too big and all of a sudden the media starts turning against them?
MARTY REID: I haven't seen it so much in the media. Honest to goodness, I was really surprised when I talked to a number of traditional IndyCar open‑wheel fans and they didn't like the fact she was dipping her toes in the waters of NASCAR. They're looking ahead and saying she's already gone. As far as they're concerned, she's made her jump to NASCAR.
You know, I was really surprised by that because I would have thought that, like myself, and I think many others, she's bringing attention back to IndyCar after being over there. Some stock car people that I've talked to when I've been at those events covering the Nationwide Series are actually saying, I'm following IndyCar more because I want to see how she does so when she comes back again, I know more about her. It's really an interesting dichotomy.
Q. Scott and Eddie, could you tell fans what goes through a driver's mind when they're told, Gentlemen, start your engines. What is your emotional tone, the set of your mind at that point?
SCOTT GOODYEAR: I guess for me probably over the years of being there, it was really relief. I say that from many different angles. We used to have a couple weeks there of running before you would have the week off before the race, so a total of three weeks being involved in the city, doing a lot of great things, but being very busy.
If you had a great month of May where you had a good car underneath you, you were still very busy. Can be somewhat slowed down or drawn down just from getting tired from all the activities. You're sort of happy to get into the racecar.
If you have had a month, almost like Tony Kanaan has had at this point in time, I've had some of those months before in the 11 years that I did it, you know, it really honestly is sliding inside the cockpit, putting your helmet on, just sitting there quietly by yourself amongst 300,000 plus other people, but you're really inside your cockpit, inside your office, and it really is relief you now get a chance to go off and race the car, because that's what as a driver you're there for. You've enjoyed everything else and all the fanfare that goes with it, but now it's time to get down to business, go off there, take the thrill of going around there at high speed and entering into turn one at the start.
EDDIE CHEEVER: I think what you feel as a driver really evolves from your first race to your last race. My first race I had no idea what it meant to do 500 miles. The most laps I had done without coming in for a pit stop I think was 30 or 40. I was very anxious of the length of the race.
The last race I fell asleep before the start. The guys had to wake me up. Okay, here we go. Really, it just depends on your frame of mind.
You cannot get involved in all of the emotion of all the team, the fans and the race and everything because you have a job to do. So when you're sitting in the car, you're going to be busy for three and a half hours. I always tried to just harness whatever energy I could and aimed it at driving because it was going to be a long and grueling race.
Q. Scott, could you put Helio going for four in a row, put it in a historical context, how he stacks up with Mears, A.J., Unser? Eddie, having been on the track against him probably most recently, talk about what makes Helio as successful as he's been and so tough on the track.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: I think that for Helio it's remarkable in the sense that he has an opportunity now to really hit his fourth. When you think about when he arrived here back in 2001, just how special it was for him finishing second, if I'm not mistaken, in 2003. He's been very close every time he's been there unless he's had a problem, like, for instance, the crash.
Overall he's with the best team. He knows that. He expects a lot out of himself. He knows he can get everything he needs out of his team. I've spoken to him many times this month. He is firing on all cylinders. He has a total belief, total belief, in his engineer Ron Ruzewski. Anything that Ron tells him is going to happen with the car, there is no question in Helio's mind that the car is going to go out and do that. I think we saw that in the weekend with changes getting ready for qualifying, especially phase two. That's very special for a driver because you know you're putting the life in the hands of the engineer and team every time you strap into the car.
At the length of a football in under a second around that place, you have to have full trust and full confidence. I think that's what he has now more so than ever.
I asked Tim Cindric what made him click. He says, he just sees a different Helio when it comes time to come to the Indianapolis 500. He said, don't know what it is, but he just loves to be here. He probably could come here three or four times a year. It does not drain him like it does some other people and take energy away from him. Helio actually thrives on it.
Q. In a historical context, how do you rate him with the greats?
SCOTT GOODYEAR: Always different eras. I always shy away from answering that simply from the fact that I don't think you can do that justice and go against other drivers in different eras. I don't think it's fair with that. I see that in all different sports. We've heard that with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, what have you.
The game obviously evolves, is different. The same with racing. We have different equipment now. Some people say this is more impressive because everybody has pretty much the same car, same package, there's no advantage of a Penske‑tuned chassis that he made himself or going off and doing the tire testing like he used to do for many years for Goodyear, then getting those tires developed around their current chassis, to having no testing rules where those guys were out all the time compared to other teams that could for the afford it. How do you rate and stock all those up.
Some people think Helio has done just a tremendous job. I would argue the point he still has Penske in his back pocket and Penske probably is being able to spend more time and money in wind tunnels, shaker rigs getting the most out of their cars. I was in the Penske wind tunnel just a few years ago. I said to the guys when I was visiting over there, How long would you spend with this car in here working on things? The guy looked at me like I was crazy to ask the question. He goes, Well, as long as it takes. We're here to perform our job. Whether it's three days or seven days, we spend as much time in the tunnel as we like to. That's because they have their own wind tunnel. Ganassi has access to his own wind tunnel, too.
I can't give you an honest answer. Is it a yes, probably so. To win it once, as Eddie will tell you, is very special. To be a multiple winner, is incredible. We're talking about his fourth. But I think once Helio has this, I don't see anything standing in way of his fifth or more.
Roger Penske made a very interesting comment at the press conference one morning last week when they had all the drivers and Tim Cindric. He said, We will always have a car available for Helio to go and chase his fifth. I think they're planning on big things.
Q. Eddie, what sets Helio apart?
EDDIE CHEEVER: I'm going to look at it from a different perspective. If you take all of the three current Indy 500 winners that have won it four times, they've all done it in different circumstances.
Rick Mears was the first one to totally under the might of Penske to start an incredible run of wins, and he won four with that same team.
If you look at A.J. Foyt, he did it in a different period, but three of them as a team owner. Again, he had a different set of circumstances to deal with.
If you take Al, Sr., I'm not sure how he won them, but I'm sure he won them in multiple teams, different environments, and systems.
When you take a current Penske team, you take a driver who is a consummate professional like Helio Castroneves, he becomes a final ingredient to make all of that go even better than it has in the past. To develop on what Scott was just saying about the wind tunnel, Penske takes that approach to everything he does. All the work they put together, if you have a driver that fails when he's under pressure or makes mistakes, it goes out the window.
If Helio can win last year after all the problems he had coming up to the race, to survive, winning his third, I think this year is going to be I wouldn't say a walk in the park but easier than last year. The Penske organization is stronger than the year before. Every year they come to the track, they're a little bit better than they were before. It's a very different combination to beat.
Q. The drivers were in Bristol yesterday, today they're in Midtown Manhattan. How important is the introduction, the presentation of the drivers and the personalities, to getting people tuned into IndyCar racing and reestablishing the brand of the Indy 500 as the preeminent race in America?
MARTY REID: It's essential. I don't know who gets all the credit. I'm sure it spread around. I think what happened at corporate headquarters in Bristol was absolutely spot on. I think exposing everybody, when you can get the Brazilian drivers on our ESPN Deportes, I was watching Mike and Mike trying to do a tire change, I think it took Greenie about 10 minutes to do a tire change. Man, I tell you, the field would have lapped him, believe me. That's the kind of stuff.
It's a dual thing. Auto racing is one of those sports where a lot of our guys up in Bristol, our staff, you know, they don't get exposed to a lot of races. Everybody grows up playing football, baseball, shooting hoops. How many actually climb behind the wheel of a racecar and hang it out? That's always been one of those interesting things. For our people to get exposed to these 33 talented drivers, the country gets exposed, what Izod is doing with the commercials, all the promotions, all the things they're driving from their end, that's what this whole project has needed for a long time.
NASCAR has proven you are driven by your personalities. I think yesterday was just an absolute home run for the series, for everybody involved.
Q. I think it's a wonderful opportunity. When I was a kid, you took your transistor radios with you to school with you to listen to the Indy 500. I hope someday it gets back to that.
RICH FEINBERG: First I'll comment on the day in Bristol yesterday. I was there all day yesterday. I just came to Indianapolis today.
The energy and environment that sort of surrounded those drivers wherever they went, whether it's our dot‑com folks, ESPNEWS, morning shows, SportsCenter, ESPN First Take, I think there was a moment on SportsNation where all 33 drivers were in the show at the same time. It was just a very, very exciting day, not only from a marketing point of view which is critical in this day and age when there's so many entertainment choices folks can make in their lives, but it was really exciting to see the drivers together, their interplay between each other, the camaraderie between them.
I know that gets put aside when we get to competition on the racetrack. But for that one brief day, the energy was as high as I sort of felt it, and I've been around this for a bit.
One of the other pieces we're doing is we went back through the decades and cherry picked a bunch of special moments through the years that ABC viewers have experienced watching the Indy 500 and the great tradition of Memorial Day weekend. Some of those clips you'll get a chance to relive with a bunch of different and familiar faces as we proceed through the show on Sunday.
Q. Eddie and Scott, when you move from the car to the broadcast booth, what happens to the relationships, the friendships, the rivalries that you might have developed with different drivers during your careers? In other words, do you make an effort to filter those out of your comments or do you feel, I'm being paid for my opinion, and if my opinion is this person might whine a little bit or this person might cut you off, then I should say so? How do you handle those personality things you might have from your career?
EDDIE CHEEVER: I've had quite a few of those, so I've had to work very hard to ensure that I park those.
I never raced with the intent of making friends. I was very good at not making them. But watching the races and trying to add value to what people are seeing on the screen, there is so much coming at you, you have to be so quick at analyzing and adding something to that picture, there really is no room at all for anything but what is coming at you on the screen.
I think it's an honor to work with ABC. It's such a great group. More than that, I like the fact we're a conduit for all the millions of people around the world that watch the race. It is truly an example of an American sport being an icon because there is nothing like the Indianapolis 500 anywhere in the world. There's just so many things going on, we're so busy, that I think you'd have to be very slow if you were to go back in your past history and wonder about somebody that cut you off at a corner 25 years ago.
It's a very good question. The first year I did it, I struggled very much with that.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: Actually, the guy I had the most problem with I'm working with in the booth (laughter). I'll tell you a quick story. Eddie and I chuckle at this now. In 1990 when I came to IndyCar full‑time, Eddie transferred over from F1, he likes to tell a different version of this version, but I'll tell the correct version, the Detroit Grand Prix on the old Detroit course, not the one that actually has been until a couple of years ago currently on the island, I was probably third or fourth or fifth from pit exit, Eddie was somewhere in the middle. Friday morning the session starts. You go out there on a green, dusty, dirty track. We get down to turn one, slipping, sliding, warming up your car a little bit waiting for the engine and gearbox to warm up. I have this car slicing in front of me, driving over my wing, then taking off and going around a 180 and up the straight. I just couldn't believe it. A few choice words came out. I go a few more turns, I see a car going slow with a flat tire. It was my buddy Eddie because he had run over my wing.
That was the beginning of him and I not chatting with each other probably for umpteen years until we both got involved in the IRL and the high‑speed ovals. Eddie, and I give him full credit for this, came up to me in the pit lane, I can't remember what track it was, maybe it was Texas, said, Both of us have not been happy with each other over the years, words to that effect, just said, At these speeds that we're doing, 215, 218, high banks, 24 degrees, we can't have that because we're going to kill each other.
I said, Absolutely. I agreed. When you ask that question, I guess the guy I had the most problem with over the years is the guy I'm sitting beside in the booth.
But to echo what Eddie is saying, you don't think about that. I think probably for both of us, if we did have issues with drivers, there's been a changing of the guard happening right now, so there's not really any of those scenarios going on.
I will tell you that you can just tell from the personalities of the drivers and their body language when you've said something about them that they are not fond of at a particular event, you get to the next race weekend, you can certainly tell that they're not very happy with you, would rather not see you and would rather not talk to you. That goes away after another race or two.
Q. Scott and Eddie, there was a piece online today reflecting I guess the IndyCar version of the Car of Tomorrow is coming in two years. A couple of people, specifically Scott Dixon's crew chief and Dennis Reinbold were quoted as saying they thought the Indy Racing League could probably help itself best by reestablishing sort of a tie between the IndyCar and the kinds of cars that the average Joe drives. I was wondering if you could speak to that notion.
EDDIE CHEEVER: I think you're going to see we're in a period of evolution right now where there's a lot of ideas, a lot of opportunities out there, because IndyCar has said they're assessing their current designs, trying to come up with something to go forward with in, like you said, a two‑year period.
I don't think, this is just my opinion, one of many, I don't think IndyCars should try to make their racecars look like cars that we drive every day. That's NASCAR's domain. IndyCars to me are very technical. They have sleek aerodynamic shapes. They have one called a delta wing that's out there now, that my four‑year‑old son thought it was a Batmobile. There's a variety of other ideas out there.
I think we have reached a point in time, though, and I think the management of IndyCar are very wise in doing it, where they should assess the look of the car and come up with something innovative or something different.
Q. I don't mean to suggest the actual look of the car. What they were saying, things like maybe going with more green technology, smaller engines, lighter cars, things like that, not specifically the look.
EDDIE CHEEVER: When you reassess a formula, there's different angles you can come at it with. I'm sure there will be new designs on engines that are more fuel efficient. I'm sure there will be different fuels. IndyCars were one of the first to change their fuel. They've been very successful at it.
It's just so full of opportunities right now for them to decide what they're going to do. Being a very technically based series, they can have a wider deck of playing cards to pick from.
But the cars have to be safe. Making an engine last for 500 miles is not easy. When you bring new engines in, you open up Pandora's box. Scott will tell you when we started racing this current formula, it was very difficult to get engines to do 150 miles, much less 500 miles. There's a lot of safety in the current system they have now that when you go to new technology you'll have to start all over again.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: I think IndyCar needs to be seen as a leader in technology because I think we have seen that in the past. We've got very technically advanced cars and engines. NASCAR still to this day obviously has carburetors on their cars and brakes that have a hard time slowing down a normal passenger car, let alone something that's doing 140 or 160 miles an hour, or high speeds they do on some of the ovals, the brakes are not state‑of‑the‑art on those things. I think IndyCar has to be the leader.
They've done that with driver safety, with the way they've done the technology of the foam around not only in the seats but also in the head surrounds that they've done, all the money they've paid to do studies to actually make that better, making sure the drivers are using the HANS device. Outside the car also obviously with Tony George and the George family, the Speedway funding and coming up with a SAFER barrier. That was all their program. They've asked for nothing in return, just that people pay for the materials to put it in all of the racetracks. NASCAR has implemented that in all their racetracks.
I think we have to be continuously looking at ways to be advancing the automobile, doesn't matter if it's safety belts or rearview mirror which first arrived at Indy. I think that's where the league is going at this day and age. I'm not speaking for them, but sort of reading between the lines when I think of the smaller displacement motors, turbo charger or twin turbos. You can see leading companies like BMW going away from big V8s and starting to put a twin turbo engine in some of their popular mainstay cars like the 3 series. You can already see it's going that way.
Where would we be if we designed a car wrapped around a fuel‑guzzling V8 today? Certainly there's going to be change coming in the future, whether it's two or three years, and there are going to be people that agree with it and people that do not agree with it.
Eddie said something about what his son thought about the delta wing car. I purposefully did a program with my son, Michael, who races go‑karts. I showed him in the computer a couple months ago, Look at these cars that the IndyCar Series is looking at for a couple of years from now. I showed him the new Dallara, the Swift, Lola. There's one more, Look at this here. The previous three he said, That's fine. Then I showed him the delta wing car. He goes, Dad, that is really cool.
Who are we trying to sell to in the future? Do we make small changes from the car or do a radical change? I don't know. I'm not sure that I have a final opinion on that. But I think we just have to be ready for change 'cause it's coming here in two or three years.
Q. Eddie, as a competitor and winner at Indy, how do you kind of put into perspective what Chip Ganassi could do this year by winning Indy as well as the Daytona 500? In terms of branding Indy, do you feel like it needs to get back to a point where multiple manufacturers are in so people can kind of root for their car brands like they do in NASCAR?
EDDIE CHEEVER: Those are two hard questions.
I have only the utmost respect for everything that Ganassi has managed to do in racing. If it wasn't for Ganassi, I would have to assume that Penske would be in the 20s with his wins here at Indy. He has put together a group that's capable of winning at the Indianapolis 500 and obviously winning on superspeedways like Daytona.
To accomplish that and to win both those races on the same day, occurring Memorial Day, I think would be incredible. It's never happened. The math is pointed against it, but it would be a great technical accomplishment because you're doing it from two totally separate perspectives.
There are very few things that are similar in a NASCAR (car) that you have in an IndyCar. To have a group so successful in both is incredible.
Getting to your question on the engine manufacturers, the IRL has gotten to the point it is because certain decisions were pushed on them, a changing economy, they wanted to make sure that all of the competitors had an opportunity to win races, so they ended up with a common engine and a common car.
I think it would be a lot healthier ‑ and this is very difficult to regulate ‑ to do exactly what you said, to have more manufacturers and technology that comes into it.
What NASCAR is very good at doing is making sure that the playing field, although certain teams do win more than others, the playing field remains relatively consistent so everybody can have a chance at winning races. In IndyCar, where technology is so prevalent, one of those engine manufacturers would have a big advantage on another. It's very difficult to regulate that. So all of a sudden you have Honda winning all the races and Toyota and GM not winning any. That proves to be a problem for the other manufacturers' marketing department.
I agree with you, it would be good to have more manufacturers involved in IndyCar racing.
Q. This idea of separate road and oval course champions, do you think that's a good thing or do you think it's something that was done to maybe placate those who were followers of CART and those who liked the oval races with the IRL?
EDDIE CHEEVER: When I think of IndyCars, I think of Indianapolis 500. I'm not saying that a race at Long Beach has less value, but I don't think the public identifies with that, at least not yet. There is a history of road racing with CART and now IndyCars are going to road racing.
You know, I'm not really enamored with this idea of two separate championships or two divisions inside of a championship. But there are marketers that I'm sure have gone through all the various details of it. I am tied emotionally to the Indy 500 when I look at IndyCars, not to a road race in Brazil or a road race in Detroit or wherever it may be.
Q. Any of the announcers. You talked before about Danica Patrick. She appears extremely frazzled. I'm wondering how you think she could have handled things differently with her comments about her crew the other day.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: I think it doesn't matter if it's a male, female or if it's a driver at the front or the middle or the pack third of the grid, you want to go there and perform the best that you can. I think what we saw from her the other day was just the frustration of not being able to perform to her expectations and probably to the expectations of her fans and obviously her team and sponsors.
I mean, there's a lot of weight that goes on the driver. Although this is a team effort, driving a racecar, you know, you are still judged as an individual when you're in the racecar going around there by yourself. I think what I saw with her the other day was just the frustration coming out and the realization that this is the speed that I have and I probably really don't have a shot at being up the front couple of rows or especially being in the top nine. I think that was just the frustration level coming out from her.
EDDIE CHEEVER: I think it was a childish tantrum that she'll get over in a hurry. The beautiful thing about racing is you can go from being the village idiot to the world champion in one afternoon. She has a great race, it will all go behind her.
Q. Rich, I think in the past it's almost like a Tiger Woods effect with Danica in terms of whether she was in contention or not. Because of the audience, you had to keep tabs on where she was in the race. Do you feel that's still true with her? If she's out of contention, how frequently would you try to update her status?
RICH FEINBERG: I think she's one of the major stories in the race, a lot of them as Scott and Marty pointed out at the beginning of the call. Clearly her performance will dictate and the story which she goes through the event will dictate our volume of coverage.
I do think, as we think about the Indy 500, sort of balance it out with other IndyCar races we do, we feel confident there is a large amount of our viewing audience that this may be the only, if not one of very few IndyCar races, they watch this year. We bring to the production a sense of explanation and broader‑based story telling.
Danica has had quite a year, and it would seem to me in terms of interest levels, not necessarily on‑track performance, but in terms of the curiosity factor, we think there will be a lot of people who watch that race that will have that curiosity factor, just like when she raced in Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas in her Nationwide races. Our job is to balance that story with all the others but make sure we feed that curiosity factor in hope of building a larger fan base and bringing people to other IndyCar telecasts down the road.
Q. Scott and Eddie, when you talk about how similar all of the cars are right now, does that make Helio's accomplishments at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that much more impressive that he's been able to do that with bunched‑up fields, everybody driving similar cars?
SCOTT GOODYEAR: I touched on it briefly a moment ago, how do you come up and assess that when we were talking about the four‑time winners, if Helio wins a fourth? I think Eddie's comment was really right on head with that. Because he's still driving for one of the best teams, he is certainly having all the luxuries of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. As I mentioned, just being around their facility in North Carolina, seeing their wind tunnel, it is hard to realize how other teams that don't have all those tools at their disposal can compete on the same level as a Penske or also a Chip Ganassi, because he has much the same type of program in place.
I say that wrapped around going around in qualifying because the race is a completely different animal as we've always seen before. There's much talk right now about Tony Kanaan is totally out of it. Well, no, he's not. I started on the back row and ended up second, from 33rd to second. Tony is starting 33rd because he's going to have a change of cars.
All that said, it's 500 miles. It's a long day. For Helio to come through, be there, have a shot at winning the fourth, impressive as it may be, to say that he's done it and he's better at it because all the cars are the same, I just don't know how you answer that.
It's still impressive because he's still doing the job, but it's still very impressive because you have to weigh that he's with the best team. I think Eddie gave a great chronicled understanding of the other drivers that have won four. I don't know that I really can give you an honest black and white opinion on that. Maybe Eddie might want to add more.
EDDIE CHEEVER: I think we both covered it well. That's a really good question. We're at a point now with Helio Castroneves where you can go back and talk, in baseball terms, talk about Babe Ruth. Here he's being compared to three of the greatest American racecar drivers ever to drive on an oval, Al Sr., A.J. and Rick Mears. I think that Helio Castroneves just took the absolute advantage of perfect circumstances that were delivered to him. Many other drivers, maybe there were other drivers in the same circumstances that didn't achieve what he did. He's executed perfectly.
If he wins, he will be, first of all, the only non‑American to be in that group that have won four. What Scott said earlier, there's no reason that if he wins four he can't go win five. The team isn't going to get any worse. He's only getting better. It is true that it's 500 miles, but Penskes have executed this 500 miles so many times flawlessly, they have such depth, racing is never a foregone conclusion, but I would not bet against him.
As Scott said, Kanaan starting 33rd, he could win the race, I agree. I'm sure if you were to ask Helio Castroneves if he would rather start last, he'd probably tell you no.
Q. Scott, how much patience would it take for a guy like Tony to move his way up through the field and get to the front?
SCOTT GOODYEAR: Well, Tony has known when that when he's had to start at the back of other races he had to really work his way through traffic very quickly, on ovals when he has had a change in engine or car, what have you. But the mile‑and‑a‑half formats, the banking, are completely different track than what we have here at Indianapolis.
As I mentioned, I've started on the front row and back row and many in between. The back row, I think the first year I went there I started on the seventh row, I found it almost unimaginable, undriveable with your car. A couple years later after I started on the back row with changing cars, it was a scenario where you take your foot off the gas and you're sucked along like somebody is pulling you along in a vacuum cleaner, the dirt and dust coming up in your shield, the smell of fumes burning your eyes and throat, it's hard to get through a couple of laps. Although you want to be patient, you go for it. You still think as a racecar driver, I have to pass as many cars as I can at the very beginning. We've seen Tony do that numerous times when he started at the back. Like I said, the track is a different format.
This track can be confrontational at both ends. One needs to be very careful, as we saw at the beginning of the race last year with Marco. I think Tony knows that. He certainly has the patience. The team will do a good job on strategy to move him forward.
But irregardless, you can't take your time at some points in time because you don't want to go down a lap, obviously. It will be interesting just to watch Tony. I think we're going to follow him a little bit at the beginning because he is a driver that is aggressive.
I did a radio thing today and somebody asked me what I thought Tony would be thinking right now. I think he's mad. I think it's like going up and kicking a beehive. I think the bees are angry and I think Tony is angry. I think he wants to go out and prove something. Don't expect him to stay back there very long.
Q. Qualifying at Indy this year was a radical departure from years past, by all accounts very successful and dramatic. Given there's a new CEO in the IRL, some new marketing ventures, do you see further changes in qualifying and possibly even race format in the future?
MARTY REID: Well, I would certainly think they probably might consider tweaking the qualifying format. I don't think you're going to see a change in the race. That is a tradition that I don't think you will ever see change.
I think, you know, what they do with tweaking the system, there were a lot of ideas floating around there, like inverting the order so that Helio doesn't go out there and stand everybody on their ear, it's basically, holy smokes, can anybody match that.
There were other ideas if you do withdraw your time or if you do go out again, you have to withdraw your time. That would create some interesting situations. I'm sure they're going to listen to all the feedback. They may do a tweak or two.
As I told everybody from the very get‑go, it was great for television, it was great for the fans, and it was scary as you know what for everybody that had to climb behind the wheel.
Tags: Indianapolis 500