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A Conversation With ... Target Chip Ganassi Racing

MODERATOR: We're delighted to have Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chip Ganassi and Mike Hull with us; Mike Hull, the managing director, individuals who know something about winning here; along with two drivers who know about not only winning here at Indianapolis, but also winning IZOD IndyCar Series championships.

First of all, Chip, thank you for taking the time with us. Chip, I was thinking about this conference today and I thought, wouldn't it be something if you could -- you know where I'm going with this, don't you?

CHIP GANASSI: It would be something, wouldn't it?

MODERATOR: Obviously, started the year in just fabulous fashion winning the Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray, and you've got two guys that are capable of doing it. That has to have crossed your mind with some regularity.

GANASSI: It's certainly crossed my mind, and I try to stay focused on the job at hand and let other people think about those kind of things. I'm just worried about the task at hand. That's kind of the way I look at it. It means nothing, so let's just focus on what we're supposed to be focused on here.

MODERATOR: It's a big prize, indeed. Mike, I was thinking about you today as I walked up, and there were two things that came to mind for me in terms of this month. One is we've got a new qualifying procedure, which is going to be very interesting. Secondly, I was thinking from an engineering point of view, we've had this kind of weather constantly days on end, and then discussions about sunny and 75, 80, depending on what forecast you look for the weekend. I can't pull much hair out, but if I had hair, and I was in your position, that's exactly what I would be doing now. So how about those two challenges for you?

MIKE HULL: I think it's actually a lot better. Normally we run -- I know the weather is always a factor at Indianapolis, but it seems like for the last few years every Saturday morning we've been sitting here wondering is it going to rain, is it not going to rain, is it cold, is the wind going to blow? At least it's going to be a great day. So I think the people sitting here as well as everybody up and down pit lane and the people that are going to come and watch this thing unfold on Saturday are going to be excited about the fact they can wear a T-shirt and come out here and watch this thing happen. It's great for us that the weather is going to be conducive to being able to run all day long.

MODERATOR: Good deal. Dario, a couple days late, but happy birthday. You've had a very solid month so far, and talk about your thoughts going into pole qualifying day.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think today is the day for us that we're really going to find out what we've got in terms of a set qualifying setup. We've worked really on race stuff up until now. Yesterday, Scott and I were doing race runs together right up until the last minute, and then we swapped over to qualifying trim and the rain came. So we don't quite know what we've got yet for that. We feel quite comfortable with the Target car, both the 9 and the 10, I think, in race trim. We don't quite know what we've got for qualifying yet. So today is going to be an interesting day. The forecasters are getting it wrong almost a hundred (percent) of the time it looks like because they said yesterday was going to be dry, today was going to rain, and it hasn't quite come that way yet. But, as we know about Indianapolis, it's kind of like Scotland; if you want the weather to change, just hang on five minutes and it's liable to happen.

MODERATOR: Is that true as well for New Zealand, Scott?

SCOTT DIXON: It is, actually. I think we get four seasons in one day, as well. It's been a tough week, I think, obviously with the compressed schedule and then trying to work out what we need to attack first-hand. Obviously, race setup is the most important I think on our side just to make sure we have great cars in the race, qualifying. Hopefully we can trim out a good race car and it's going to work fairly well in qualifying trim. But we've really only done kind of a half go and attempt maybe not yesterday but the day before. So there was definitely a few cars yesterday getting some qualifying trims in, attempts in which looked pretty interesting. But I think all the speeds that they were doing were definitely achievable for us, and hopefully we can have a good run at the pole tomorrow.

MODERATOR: One more thing for you, Chip, before we open it up. You're in this because you want to win, and that's the goal in anything that you do. What drives you? As I think about this, you've got two guys who have done just that as drivers, guys who have won championships for you. You've had a long relationship with Mike and people are pointing to you. You have to feel good when you have that kind of lineup about your chances.

GANASSI: Well, you do. It's true, I have a -- obviously you know, I'm the guy that I like to be down on the inside. You guys probably all know by now I like to be down in the pit lane and in on the racing side of the business, you know, as opposed to the hoopla side or the merchandise side or the -- and I love to be down asking about the cars, finding out about what the guys are into. It's just the way I've come up in this sport, I guess. I like being down in the action. And I don't mean to be short with you about talking about Daytona versus Indy or whatever, but that's not why I'm here almost; I'm here because I want to win, and I want to win the next race. I want to win the Indy 500, and after the Indy 500 I want to go in Texas. And, you know, after Texas I want to go win --

DIXON: Iowa.

GANASSI: Thank you. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: You've got your guys on the board with you.

GANASSI: So that's why I'm in it. That's what it's about. At the end of the day it's about, for me anyway at the end of the day, it's about, you know, we've come to so many races and how many did we walk away with the trophy? I think that's important in today's world, especially because I think we lose sight of the fact that racing is about, you know -- I don't want to sound like a purist, but racing is about passing other people and being at the front and getting to the checker flag. I don't think there's enough talk about that, you know. In sports today, we talk about so many other things, but let's get back to the reason why we're all here in the first place, is to win. And I think if you -- and that's what I like about having these three guys to my right, in their each own respective way, they understand that and they understand the level of commitment, the level of performance, the level of just general activity it takes on their particular part to accomplish that. And that's why I'm lucky to represent these three guys when I go talk to sponsors or whatever, you know, is because the three of them understand what the commitment is to this team and to -- and that's what it is, a commitment to the team. It's not a commitment to me or, you know, the mechanics, it's a commitment to the team. That's an important thing.
I'm very lucky to have these guys. It's that simple. There are a lot of people in this garage area, these three guys can probably all go get jobs in the next hour if they had to in the garage area, and probably get paid more money. That's why I'm fortunate to have them on the team. (Laughter) So, you know, but they've chosen to be a part of a group of people that have a common goal and that common goal is winning the next race.

MODERATOR: Very good. Questions?

Q: We're working on a new format this year, shorter practice, different qualifying situation. Talk about how those changes affected the way both of you have kind of form your outlook on what you need to do tomorrow and perhaps next week, too.

DIXON: I think everybody takes it in different strides. Everybody is on the same page as f

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