The Racing Capital
of the World
May 26, 2012 | By
96TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Saturday, May 26, 2012
MODERATOR: Obviously, Guy Fieri does not need a moderator here, ladies and gentlemen. This is our celebrity Pace Car driver for the 96th Indianapolis 500, Guy Fieri. Guy, you showed up here yesterday morning, we treated you like a race car driver. The first thing you got to do was give a physical at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. How was that first impression here?
GUY FIERI: I didn't go through all the physical that the guys go through. They said they have to strip all the way down, I'm like: "Wow, that's great. I'm glad we're passing that piece." It was great, though. Everybody has been so friendly. I understand why this is such a popular race, not just by the fans and the media, but by the drivers. Everybody is so hospitable. Indianapolis just rolls out the red carpet. I've been texting my friends and emailing and tweeting and everybody. They're like, "What's it like?" And I said you just can't get it. From television, it just gives you like one-tenth of what the experience is, and if you haven't been to a race, then you are missing it. This is a lifetime event to come to. Someone asked if it was on my bucket list to be a pace car driver, I said, "Listen, it was on my bucket list to make it to the race." So I don't even know what level of bucket this would be to be the Pace Car driver. I was nervous, I'll be very honest. I mean, it was a nerve-wracking two weeks or three weeks that I have been really thinking about it. Because I thought you just drove around and waved. The car doesn't look like it's going that fast on TV. Then I talked to a few of my buddies and they said, "No, no, it goes." But I got great training and it's been awesome.
MODERATOR: So Johnny Rutherford, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, gives you some training. Two questions: What did he have to say to you? And then we were waiting for you to come in Pit Lane. Photographers wanted to get a picture of the exchange. Next thing we know, somewhere on the track where we couldn't see you, you must have convinced him to let you drive because you came by with your hook and horns out the window.
FIERI: It happened a couple times. So JR and I -- and what a great guy. Talk about a legend of legends. And he's so in it and understands it and gets it. I was joking yesterday, saying, “Just let him take and run that car with everybody.” I would just love to see he could run that ZR1. We came out of the pits at about 80 and came into that little side track there, and we were flying. I'm stuck to the side of the window not knowing if I was going to make the first turn. It was just a really cool experience. We talked about the track. We talked about the lines. We talked about when to get in it, when to get out of it, just all of these key things. It was like driving school 101 times a thousand. He just took the time with me and explained things. And I've always been a car freak, so I understood a lot of the components. But then what happened is we were driving around, he says, "OK, now you do it." That was quick. So we go through it, I drive. And he kind of, he says: "Really good. I like that." And he says: "All right, now you're done. Get out." So we stop in the middle of the track and he says, "Now let me show you." So he gave me like a little beginning driving lesson. I drove, then he gets in it. That's when we took Turn 4 at 125, 130 miles an hour in a street car; a ZR1 but a street car. I'm like, "We're never going to survive this corner." Came right out of it. He looked at me and said, "That's how you do it." Amen.
MODERATOR: Have you thought a little bit, or has anybody talked to you a little bit about what you'll see tomorrow morning? Obviously, the place has been relatively empty. You're going to come here tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of --
FIERI: Empty? Were you here yesterday for Carb Day?
MODERATOR: Wait until you're here tomorrow, I guess is my point. So you're going to go into Turn 1, and have they explained to you this place that's so big is going to feel small and intimate?
FIERI: It was a cross between Disneyland and a Rolling Stones concert yesterday. I mean, everything from kids to rockers yesterday. It was out of bounds. So many people. As we were driving around, my team from Chevy, who has been super-awesome about this whole experience, as they're were driving giving me like some real culture, went to the Museum and did all those pieces, and went to the basement of the Museum, by the way, it was just, oh, man. We got to see it with the lights on, which is I guess is not how it normally goes. But they said, “Oh, yeah, this knoll and this golf course and that area and this thing and that tree people will be in.” I'm like, "Get out." They said it's going to be just packed, over 300,000 fans. And, listen, if it's already not nerve-wracking enough, I've got the greatest race car drivers in the world behind me. I'm driving the Chevy car, doing four laps, maybe five or six or 12, depends on how I feel. (Laughter) This might be the longest Pace Car driving that you've ever seen. I was thrown off the track today. They said to me: "You're done. Johnny gave you the gold star, you're finished." I said: "No, I don't feel comfortable. I want to do more." They're like, "We're not buying it; you're off." But I heard it's just crazy. I heard the colors in the stands and how it's just filled up and all the people and all the flashes, I can't wait. I'm really excited.
MODERATOR: We'll take a couple questions.
Q: Guy, when you hauled off into Turn 1, was that like eating those Triple Six wings from Minnesota, the same kind of shock?
FIERI: (Turn) One is not what gets me all freaked out. (Turn) One I really enjoy. But I don't know, tomorrow when it's filled with hundreds of thousands of people. It's (Turn) 4 that's really kind of -- that's the one where you really kind of -- how good are these tires? It's that kind of thing. I know the car is going to be fine, but it's just getting that. Because there's not a time in life, you don't go driving around in your street car at -- and I've got some great Chevies. You don't take a corner at 105, you know. That's just not normal. Well, maybe it is, but now it is. Now I'm probably in trouble at home. But they're all -- I mean, just thinking about that. And watching how these guys take them, passing on the inside and then coming into that corner and making it look so simple, it gives you a whole different respect.
Q: Two questions: How do you keep the sunglasses on the back of your head without them falling off? And what's in your personal car collection?
FIERI: Well, if they'll stay on my fat head this way, then they will stay on my fat head that way. There's just not a nose there. It's a funny thing: I'm a chef, and I own restaurants. So when I go into my restaurants, if I hang my glasses on my shirt, then I lean over a pot or something, they fall in. Or if I set them down, then I lose them. And I can't wear the dangly thing; I'm not rolling that way. That's just kind of how it started. It was funny, because I never knew that it was like a thing until these little kids showed up for Halloween all dressed up with their spikey, blonde hair and sunglasses on the back of their head. I'm like, "Uh-oh, that's what I'm getting known for?" I'm a big car freak. When I bought my first car was right after I opened my first restaurant, and I was 26. I had a bunch of cars before then, but like my first real hot rod, I bought a '71 big-block Super Sport Chevelle. I remember showing it to my dad when I first got it. My dad looked at it, he says, "How much did you pay for this?" I said, "I think paid like 25,000 bucks." He said, "25,000 bucks? You could have got a down payment on like a two bedroom, one bath, made a real estate investment." I said, "Dad, did you ever try to do a smoking burnout in a two bedroom, one bath?” (Laughter) You can't cruise a two bedroom, one bath. But I've got a reproduction Carroll Shelby '65 Cobra that Carroll gave me. Rest in peace, great man. I've got the Chevelle. I've got an '07 C6 Vette. I've got a 2011 Super Sport Camaro, the first yellow one that came off the line, which we supercharged. I've got a Kodiak 4500 truck. If you've ever seen one of those, awesome. Most of my cars are yellow, by the way. I've got a big yellow car thing, don't ask me why. It started out with the Chevelle; I never would buy a yellow car in my whole life, and then I bought the Chevelle and that got me stuck. But that 4500 runs on 44s, big old monster truck. I've got a 3500 HD -- 2500 HD crew cab that hauls the “Diners Drive-ins and Dives” '68 Camaro around the country. And then I've got a bunch, I've got Jeeps. I've got a'76 CJ5 2012 Rubicon. I've got a Cadillac. I've got a '67 C10, blah, blah, blah, and it just goes on and on. I'm a man that's short of garage space.
MODERATOR: I'll ask one more question and we'll take you out for a photo op real quick with the car. I'm sure you've been asked this a lot. You were here with D3 last year to do some stuff.
FIERI: Yeah, a year and a half ago, I think.
MODERATOR: Have you had a chance to sample any food while you've been here? Anything that when you think Indianapolis you think about in terms of food?
FIERI: Well, you know, when we shot here -- and this is kind of my theory on places like Indianapolis. When you find an area that has a chance to get real cold, and we were here for the Super Bowl with no snow, which was crazy, but people spend time indoors when you get an area that has a lot of history. So when you start compiling those kinds of pieces and being in the Midwest and start adding it up, you really start to find some real culture in food; and not just like Midwestern culture like a steak-and-potatoes place. We went to St. Elmo's last night, which was really good. Had a great dry-aged steak, 28-day dried steak. If you haven't had that, by the way, dry aging is the way to roll. The culinary tips will now start coming out. But it's been great. We've had a really nice experience. Everybody is so genuine and so cool. Like when we came for the Super Bowl this year, although it was just pandemonium, it was just a really nice environment and a lot of real friendly people. I'm always encouraging people to come here and try out the DDD joints.
Q: Did you get to try the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo's?
FIERI: I'm sorry, did I try it three times did you say? (Laughter) Have I completely cleansed my sinuses from 400 pounds of horseradish?
Q: Did you get to try 1933?
FIERI: I did not get to try 1933. I was there with my buddy, Brandon Bernstein, who is a Top Fuel dragster and drag racer. It's his favorite place. So every time I come to town, Brandon says, "We've got to go to St. Elmo's." So we enjoy it so much, we're going back tonight, so we'll be there for round two.
Q: Have you gone to any of the iconic Mug-N-Bun or Charlie Brown's? Those are kind of iconic for the race itself.
FIERI: Are they here at the track or are they outside of the track? The only difficulty that happens with my schedule is I get like a schedule. I don't get to get up and have like a free day and just wander around town. Everything is always to the minute. So we'll be packed until we leave on Monday. And then we go Monday to Providence, Rhode Island, and start shooting DDD and then some charity events that weekend. It just goes like that. So no, I don't get a chance to. I'm adding them up, though, because when I get done doing all this, I'm going to come back around and go, “I'm supposed to go to that place.” But I had like 12 people tell me about Mug-N-Bun today. I'm like a name like that, and then a bar called the Angry Beaver or some Wild Beaver or whatever? Crazy.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for taking the time. Let's go out and get a photo op.
FIERI: Nice to meet you folks. Thank you.