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A Conversation With ... Brian Lisles, Craig Hampson, Oriol Servia, James Hinchcliffe, John Tzouanakis

MODERATOR: Welcome to our next press conference. On the docket, this is for Newman/Haas Racing, and we’re joined by John Tzouanakis right here to my right; James Hinchcliffe, who had a problem planking, it looks like to me, earlier in the week; Oriol Servia, Craig Hampson, and Brian Lisles.
Brian has been the general manager of the team for the last 10 years. This is his 23rd year with the team, and he is the race strategy for James Hinchcliffe.

Craig is in his 18th year with Newman/Haas Racing and a senior engineer, and he is the engineer for James.

And John has been with the team all 29 seasons and is the race strategist for Oriol.
Let’s go first with Brian. Kind of take us through this year so far, and the team that you’ve got here, and what do you expect to come of the 2011 Indianapolis 500?

BRIAN LISLES: Obviously, we have two very different levels of experience here with our drivers. Oriol, who’s done a number of 500s here and a lot of oval races; and James, who is in his rookie season in the series. So we have obviously we need to be realistic in our expectations. We expect to have Oriol going to get in the Fast Nine for tomorrow. I think we have a good shot at that. And I think we expect James to qualify on the first day, also. It will be a little more difficult for him to make it to the first nine just because there is a lot of experience required to run that last, get that last mile-an-hour out of the car. So we’re very pleased to have both these drivers on our team.

We looked at what we were going to be doing for this year, started about last August. The first thing we wanted to do was to look for who we thought was the best driver to lead the team, who is the best driver available, and it was pretty easy for us to choose Oriol. And basically we came to an agreement last August for Oriol to work for us. We expect Oriol to be with the team this year and for a good number of years after.

Once we decided that and agreed to terms with Oriol, we started to look at what we were going to do for our second driver. We decided we’d prefer to go with somebody that we thought had the talent and promised to become a top driver. We looked carefully at what various people were doing around the world. And we liked very much what we saw with James. We talked to him before the end of last year, and he came to visit us, I think, for the first time immediately after the season. We decided to give him a run in December. We were very impressed, almost within the first 10 laps of his getting in our car – that was at Sebring – and decided we needed to work on getting him in the team for this year. Took a little longer than we expected. As we all know, the economy is difficult worldwide, so unfortunately we missed the first race, but we’re good now and, again, we expect James to be with us this year and for a good number of years going forward.

MODERATOR: Craig, entering the month of May, what’s the team’s plan been really to breaking up the workload between the two drivers and talk about having a rookie driver and a veteran driver at the Speedway, please.

CRAIG HAMPSON: Coming into the week of practice, it was pretty clear in the long-range weather forecast that we were going to lose some days due to rain and cold, and that sort of thing. So we tried to run a little more early, and I think we were doing more laps in the first couple days than most because we did expect to lose some practice. We've focused mainly on getting the car comfortable for the race, working on grip level, running in traffic, that sort of thing. I would say probably more setup work is going on with Oriol because of his level of experience. He's able to get more changes in because he can do shorter runs.

With James, I've focused pretty hard on just getting him a lot of laps in a lot of different situations around the Speedway, and we've also been a little conservative in terms of peeling off the downforce level. In this compressed format running just one week, the thing you really can't afford to do is crash the car. A lot of work goes into the Indy 500 cars in terms of their preparation, making sure the body fit is just so.

You probably have a gearbox that you like better than other gearboxes. If you go and wreck all of that, you really end up behind the 8-ball, and it's a difficult catch-up. So we have been somewhat conservative. That conservatism is going to have to go out the door as today progresses and certainly tomorrow. There wasn't a whole lot of point working on qualifying earlier in the week because the temperature conditions are so different than they're going to be today and tomorrow. Tomorrow's going to be the hottest day that we've run. It's also going to be windy tomorrow. So today is the best preparation we have for getting ready for qualifying.

MODERATOR: John, you've been with Newman/Haas basically since day one here at Indianapolis. What are your first Indy 500 experiences and what memories stand out most with Newman/Haas Racing at Indianapolis, please?

JOHN TZOUANAKIS: I grew up 45 miles west of here, and my father was a Yellow Shirt, so I came to the Speedway when I was very young. And I couldn't wait for May every year. You know, unfortunately for Newman/Haas we have not been able to win this event. We've tried many years. Probably a couple of the words that you didn't like hearing was Tom Carnegie saying, "And Andretti is slowing down on the backstretch."

You know, we had many good cars over the years with the Andrettis and had many chances to win this race, and unfortunately we never have accomplished that feat. You know, I believe now with the two drivers that we have and the team, that we have a very good shot possibly winning this race this year.

MODERATOR: Excellent. Mr. Servia, what's it like to be back with Newman/Haas Racing? This is your third Indianapolis 500, and you're also third in the points right now. You've got momentum going in the series and talk about Indy and talk about the momentum you've built so far this season.

ORIOL SERVIA: It's been great. It's been awesome since day one; it's been awesome since the first phone call I had with Brian about basically trying to be in this position today, a few months ago. So we're very happy. We're exactly doing the steps we were hoping we would be able to do. And we're third in points which I think we didn't expect, to be honest, to be that good this early. And we know we're going to be better from here on. So we even know we're going to be able to challenge the top guys for the championship or not. We didn't even know if we're going to be challenging for the top nine tomorrow. But this team, they always give you a great race car. So that is what I know for sure, that come 29th, we're going to have two great race cars and with attrition and, you know, things stay the way they should be, I think you should expect us to be contending in the top five, for sure, at the end of the race.

MODERATOR: Let's hope so.

James, what's your first memory of the Indianapolis 500? What's it like driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time? How has your month gone so far with the exception of your nose?

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: My nose is fine. I don't know what you're talking about. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: Asthmatic, right?

HINCHCLIFFE: It always looks like this.

The first Indy 500 memories is actually probably the '95 race. My family and I are big Jacques Villeneuve fans and, obviously, that's the year he won the 500. It was sort of a bittersweet day for Canada be

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