KV Racing Technology driver Paul Tracy, team co‑owner Jimmy Vasser, and Barry Green, who will serve as the race strategist on Tracy's No. 15 GEICO KV Racing Technology Honda‑powered Dallara in the 2010 Indianapolis 500, spoke out Wednesday on their plans for the month of May.
Q. First for Paul, talk about yesterday's announcement that you would be working with Barry Green in the 2010 Indy 500. Was it as simple as making a call and saying, "Let's get this band back together?"
PAUL TRACY: Well, it really kind of was. Obviously, Jimmy and I have been discussing what our plans have been, are going to be, since the last 500 last year. Obviously, Jimmy and I talk daily, multiple times a day, living in the same town (Las Vegas).
Jimmy's concerns coming into this year's race with three young drivers is that he wanted to keep a more watchful eye on those three guys and felt that if there was anybody out there who could help us with our program, we should explore that. Obviously, I reached out to Barry and proposed that question to him.
At first I think he was caught a bit off guard. I think he may have been laying out on his boat suntanning. I think I caught him off guard. He called me back the next day and said, "I'm in, so let's go."
Q. Barry, you do have quite a successful resumé at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 1995 win with Jacques Villeneuve. Came back in 2002 with Paul and Team Green. Then in 2006 you came back with Michael Andretti and nearly won the race. What is it about Indy that keeps bringing you back?
BARRY GREEN: It's just the Indy 500. It's such a challenge, such a great challenge. To be honest, I missed IndyCar racing dearly. I'm not very involved at the moment.
Paul called me. When we first chatted about it, I first had a bit of a conflict. But once Paul laid out what Jimmy had lined up team‑wise, I really thought these guys are really serious, and it would be a great opportunity for me to come back and hopefully enjoy myself and work for Paul again.
I've never worked with Jimmy Vasser himself. I've raced against him on many occasions. We've been great friends. But if you look at the team he's put together, the engineering staff, his team manager, these guys are very, very serious. I think if you look back at last year's 500, they had a really good run. Paul might have finished even farther up toward the front last year had he not had a bit of an incident with the car. You know, everything seemed to line up. It sounded exciting. So I'm in.
Q: Jimmy, you went from one to three cars for the start of the 2010 season. Does adding that fourth car put any strain on the KV Racing Technology?
JIMMY VASSER: We ran three cars at Indianapolis last year. Things went pretty smoothly. I have all the confidence in the world of Mark Johnson and Dave Brzozowski over there. They tell me what's possible and what's not. They said, "Hey, we can do this, we can do it well."
Especially with it being P.T., he brings a wealth of experience to the table. We have some young guys, a rookie. Mario (Moraes) did a fantastic job last year. I think with EJ (Viso), everybody working together, the group of engineers that we have, I think it only strengthens our possibility to have one of those cars win the race.
Q. Barry, considering the years you and P.T. spent together, good, bad, ugly, a lot of good wins, a few shoving matches, is it interesting just to think he's still out there? Last year, he went from 13th to almost win Toronto. Is it hard for you to visualize him as tempering his aggression and being a mature race driver?
BARRY GREEN: No, I don't think so. I mean, over the years I think I remember mostly good times. We had a few disagreements. But, by gosh, we had some great races together. Had a little bit of experience with Villeneuve recently who has been around a long time. Seen him come back and jump in a car and drive with such intensity, I think Paul will be just the same. I think he proved that last year. It's tough to jump in one of those cars and do as well as he did do last year with just a couple of races.
Q. P.T., you probably watched Saturday's race in Kansas. It looks like the KV cars will be good on ovals. Who will your engineer be?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously, Jimmy has been telling me about it all winter, that they've worked really, really hard on their aero package, just all the small details that it takes to get these cars to go fast, especially on a mile‑and‑a‑half and a superspeedway. Obviously to see the job that Sato did for a rookie was pretty phenomenal.
My engineer for the race week will be John Dick, who is the head of engineering for the team. So Jimmy has assigned the team captain to my car. But the group works as a collective group. The experience that I had with KV is a little bit different than a lot of the other teams I've been on in the past where you're kind of in your own truck and you're kind of paying attention to what you're doing.
Everybody is together, everybody is trying to work together for the betterment of the team. That's how the team kind of operated last year at Indy. They engineer out of one truck. Everybody is in the same room together talking about the cars. You know, I think they've got a great group of guys.
Q. '02, the controversial finish, what happened there with the pass of Helio under yellow, not under yellow. Probably an obvious question. P.T. as well. There's some unfinished business at the Brickyard for you?
BARRY GREEN: I mean, for sure. It wasn't the only race I think I missed out on. There's a few others I think we should have won over the years. But 2002, I think everyone involved in the argument deep down really knows who won that race.
For me, I'm all about tomorrow. Tomorrow brings us another chance to be involved with a winning team. It will be hard. But, again, I come back to the engineering staff that Jimmy's put together, Paul in the car, got a good shot. That's what I want to focus on. That's what we'll be working hard toward.
PAUL TRACY: I think Barry just said it best. Deep down we know what happened there. We both don't have a baby Borg‑Warner for it. You know, this is a topic that I think will probably go down in history as one of the most fiercely debated topics over many, many years. You're coming up now on eight years, close to a decade, and people still argue this situation fiercely.
You know, I've been training like crazy. I feel I'm in the best shape of my life right now. Jimmy has told me all winter they're going to have a great car for me with great engineers. We've really now just put, I feel, the icing on top of the cake with bringing in Barry. We've just got to go out there and try to get it done.
Q. Barry, every year it seems like more engineers crop up on the timing stand, especially in support of race strategists. Since you were at the Brickyard last in a race strategist role, what have you seen that will be different for you this year? Will you have additional resources you haven't worked with, more staff, more predictive software, etc.?
BARRY GREEN: Yeah, I think the stuff has come a long way since a couple of years ago. But, yeah, I'm big on having a lot of input from the timing stand. I'm talking about, you know, the crew chief, everyone, being involved because you can't see absolutely everything out there. We talk a lot. I still come back to doing some longhand calculations, then relying on the fuel guys to squeeze the last little bit out of the car when needed.
Again, you know, Jimmy has got a team together that I think will be very, very supportive and very up to date on all that information. To be honest, I've struggled to keep up with that side of it after all the years I have been involved. It moves so fast. You just have to rely on your techs, engineers who are helping you, and we'll be fine.Q. P.T., what is the status of your sponsorship deals going into Toronto and Edmonton? Will you run Watkins Glen before you come to Toronto?
PAUL TRACY: Well, obviously Toronto and Edmonton are the big events of the year really for me. Obviously, Indy is a huge event. But, you know, we're buttoning up the details with our Edmonton and Toronto program. We hope to have that announced here in the next couple weeks. Obviously, it's going to be exciting. I think, again, what we've put together for that is going to be exciting for the fans and a real good opportunity for what we're trying to do.
Q. You ran two strong programs in Edmonton and in Toronto last year. Any doubt in your mind that you will be just as strong coming in a year later?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, obviously I would like to get a race in. It was really Jimmy's idea to go to Watkins Glen. It was my first time there. It was a bit of an uphill swim not knowing the track. It was a two‑day weekend. Very limited track time. It was really kind of a refresher for me to get used to the car, get my seat position right, what I had to do.
We showed up to Toronto and we were competitive all weekend. We would like to have that same opportunity again, but it's just really a matter of dollars and cents. We've got to find the budget to operate that car at the Glen. We're working on that.
Q. You're essentially the "winningest" active driver in IndyCar right now and can't get a full‑time ride. You're scrambling to get sponsorship together to run your home race. Mentally can you talk about what that does to a guy when you've got that fire in your belly but there's that obstacle there? What does that do to you in your head?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously, it's frustrating. That's for sure. You know, when you've been racing as long as I have, been doing it your whole life, it's tough to sit and watch the cars go around. It's especially tough to do it in person, having to go to Long Beach and stand around and watch the cars go.
But it's not for a lack of trying. Obviously I've got to do what I need to do to be ready for these races. Maybe a lot of people don't know this, but we have multiple people working on trying to find sponsorship for myself and KV to operate a car full time. We have a guy who works for Jimmy by the name of Brendon McMannis. He's a full‑time guy for Jimmy. We have Doug Barnett from Player Management who put this GEICO deal together for us and has done other deals for me in the past with NASCAR. We've done a deal with a firm in Canada, a marketing firm, to help us up there. You know, we're turning over every stone and looking around every corner, looking through every bush. But it's difficult.
Q. You look at kids like Robert Wickens, who is trying to raise money. He doesn't have the career or profile you have. What kind of advice can you give to these young kids trying to follow in your footsteps, seeing you kind of struggle just to make it to the racetrack?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, it's just tough. The problem that you have now versus what you had in the '80s and '90s, you don't really have a lot of development programs for these young guys coming up like Barry was involved with with Player's and KOOL, where you have young driver development programs. Those type of sponsorships with the tobacco companies have all gone away.
It makes it difficult. A lot of the money has been funneled toward NASCAR. But if you look at NASCAR, there's not a lot of young guys breaking into the sport there, either. The Nationwide and the Truck teams, when a car comes available, they put one of the big stars in it. They don't even really give the opportunity to a young up‑and‑comer. So it's hard nowadays.
Q. Paul, how difficult is it for you to not race this year, then get in a car and drive it and be ready to go?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I feel this year I'm more prepared than I was last year. Obviously, last year the deal to run Indy happened kind of last minute, about a month before. At this point right now versus where I was last year, I'm about 35lbs lighter than I was last year. I've been training. I've had this whole winter to get ready for it. Really that's all I can do other than driving the car. I feel I'm ready to go. Obviously I'll have to use my experience and knowledge of being in the car, being on the tracks to my advantage. That's all I can really do.
Q. Does the Indy 500 track change much from year to year?
PAUL TRACY: I hadn't been there since 2002. Maybe Jimmy can back me up on this. When I got in the car, it came right back to me within a couple laps. We were running over 220 miles an hour within four or five laps. Once I get in the car, I've done this before and I know what to do and I know when a car feels right. If the car's right, I'm gonna get the most out of it.
Q. Barry, I know in the last couple years you came back and did one‑offs when it was still Andretti Green Racing. The car has been the same since '03 with the exception of a few little tweaks here and there. How much has that helped you get your own thought process back up to speed in calling race strategy at the speedway?
BARRY GREEN: No big difference – it helps a little bit. But I'm just sort of the team leader in the group, you know. It's the engineers who have to keep up with all that. I certainly don't get involved in the nuts and bolts. I listen to everything being discussed between the engineers. I'm in every meeting between the engineers and Paul and the team meetings. I might pick up on something that might help, a suggestion one way or the other. But the engineers are the guys who make the decisions, put the tweaks on, figure out how they can make him more comfortable.
I think probably more importantly is Paul, Paul and Barry Green's relationship. We've had some great times together, great laughs. We've been through some tough times together which made us better friends and stronger friends. To me that's the easy part. I think that would be difficult going back and jumping in with a driver I did not know.
I know John Dick very well. He worked for me. Terrific guy. Terrific friend. Jimmy, I've raced against. I think my comfort is with the people and I feel very comfortable about that.
Q. I know the first time you came back there after '02 you said there's times people have a tendency to put too much emphasis on it. You'd like to remember '95 when you helped Jacques Villeneuve come back and win the race...
BARRY GREEN: That was a great race, a great one to remember for me. I have to go back to that was a team effort. The amount of talk that went amongst the group in the pits to come up with a plan and to keep Jacques focused. That's my specialty, are the people.
I think the engineering side we'll leave up to the engineers, and Paul and I will try to mold together and work with the group and see what we can come up with.Q. Paul, what are you doing training‑wise? 35lbs is a noticeable difference. What have you been doing in the off the season?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I really started, to be honest, about eight weeks ago. I've been pretty busy in the off‑season. I've been filming a TV show for SPEED Channel. It's a car driving show, a high‑end kind of super car show. That's kind of been keeping me busy.
They had sent me some raw footage to watch from one of the first episodes we filmed. I saw myself on TV and I said, "Damn, I got to lose some weight!" You know, I just started riding my bike, going to the gym. I hooked up with the trainer that I had in 2003 when I won the championship.
Really just been putting in about two, two and a half hours on the bike in the morning, training with a trainer in the afternoon for an hour and a half. Really just watching what I eat.
Q. That's 35lbs in eight weeks, or is that from last season?
PAUL TRACY: Eight weeks.
Q. What do you weigh now?
PAUL TRACY: I'm right at about 188lbs.
Q. What's your usual workout regimen?
PAUL TRACY: For me, the stuff I've been doing with the trainer, I ride on the bikes, I train with a couple different guys, train in the morning. They're all bike racers, doing it a long time. When I first started, I couldn't hardly keep up with them. You've got to push yourself every day.
Going to the gym in the afternoon, I really haven't been lifting any weights at all. That seems to put a lot of weight on me. It's really just been a lot of calisthenics. A lot of things you see on commercials on TV, the PX 90, sit‑ups, pull‑ups, not really lifting any weights or dumbbells or anything like that. It's all kind of calisthenics stuff.
Q. What kind of difference does that make in the car when you're 35lbs lighter?
PAUL TRACY: Maybe Jimmy can answer. He knows the difference between now with the weight center, the center of gravity on the car, those are the things that can make a big difference. Want to chime in, Jimmy?
JIMMY VASSER: It gives the race team and the engineers, as Barry was alluding to, another tool to tune the car with weight distribution, which has become very, very important.
There is an equivalency attempt by the IRL to even the weight out. It's really not as accurate as it could be. If you think of the difference between Danica Patrick, who weighs 100lbs, and P.T., who has admitted he was 240lbs‑ish last year when he told me he was 215, just the basic power‑to‑weight ratio is going to be a tremendous advantage.
Not to mention, don't discount all the hours he's putting in and the focus. He knows why he's doing it. He gets to think about why he's doing it. That's the goal of winning the Indy 500. I think that's kind of the intangible with all the hours he's putting in.
The actual science is factual. I can get the engineers to work out an actual lap time. I think Indianapolis, that kind of weight could be as much as a 10th and a half a lap. You just can't get that back.
Q. Paul, I read somewhere that you compared the situation in IRL right now to a bit of a brothel in that you have to show up with the money in order to get a ride. I was wondering, has that made the sport a bit more dangerous, especially on superspeedways when it comes down to cash and still in some cases?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it's just frustrating to sit back and watch. Obviously, you know, I know that my best years are probably behind me. Obviously, I'm not going to be racing forever. It's tough to see guys like Graham Rahal, [Ryan] Hunter‑Reay, the new generation of this sport. They're young, good‑looking guys. They can't sell the sponsorship in this country to get on the track. Especially with a guy like Rahal, you got a guy who has a father who is a legend in the sport of Indy car racing. He's a part‑timer. It's frustrating, I think, for everybody.
Q. Has it made the action on the track a little bit more dangerous or all the people getting into these cars, do you feel they're qualified?
PAUL TRACY: I haven't raced against the crop this year. Obviously, there's been quite a bit of action on the track. There's been some pretty wild accidents, especially in the first race down in Brazil. Whether that was the track or the condition or wet weather, whatever. But, you know, there's definitely a crop of guys who are experienced and have done this and have won races who are not racing and I feel they should be out there. But obviously it comes down to finding the money to do that.
Q. Paul, you've only experienced "push to pass" when you stood in at Mid‑Ohio last year. Will you be doing what a lot of the drivers are talking about doing, trying not to touch it till the final 20 laps in case there's a late restart?
PAUL TRACY: I think that's always the goal. I've had "push to pass" at various points of my career. Obviously. when you have something that has a time limit on it, you want to save it for when you need it the most. If you don't have to use it, don't use it.
How much difference it's gonna make on a superspeedway, it seemed to be, watching Kansas, a pretty good amount of help. Obviously, you didn't just pull out and blow by a guy, but it seemed to help enable a guy to just get that car just far enough ahead to where he was clear.
Q. Jimmy, when you raced against P.T., the "chrome horn," his personality, that's what we miss the most. Is it kind of ironic to think he's your team leader and the "voice of reason?" Really and truly, the last couple years, he's shown some amazing patience on the racetrack...
JIMMY VASSER: Patience? (laughter) At Toronto, I told him, "Moraes is your teammate at Edmonton, don't crash him out the first corner. He waited till the third (laughter). That's P.T.
PAUL TRACY: That's a big improvement, isn't it?
JIMMY VASSER: Barry knows what I'm talking about. I think Barry has been around the mountain with Paul. Here we are all still together committed and willing to go after it because P.T. is a guy who can win the race.
We don't need to talk too much more about it. He's exciting. He's got a lot of fans because of it. Maybe he's got some people who aren't fans because of it, too. But, hey, we're really excited about this. Yeah, maybe a little more patience, I don't know.
We had a great run in Indy. I think [Tony] Kanaan's ECU put a hole in the underwing. I don't think we had anything for Helio on the day. The car was up there. Paul definitely has the race craft. He knows what it takes.
We're really working hard, not only to put some more races together for this year, but Paul has expressed to me and others, too, that he really wants a couple of seasons or at least one good farewell season. We're working hard to try to achieve that.