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A Conversation With ... Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, a big moment for a variety of reasons. Our friends from UPS did something that has never been done before, the Harley J. Earl Trophy for the winner of the Daytona 500, this is the first time it has ever been out of Daytona. How about that? We've got a couple of gentlemen here who know something about winning both of the trophies. One gentleman who has a chance to do so in the same year.
Mr. Penske, you're looking at that thing and 15 times you've been on that Borg-Warner Trophy, I know you're interested in changing your license plate yet again. But that is something to be in that company, is it not?

ROGER PENSKE: Actually, it's great to be here and obviously the guy sitting next to me is the one that we have to beat every weekend whether it's here at Indianapolis or certainly at Daytona or Charlotte. But I've never seen these two trophies side by side. I just asked Chip which one does he want because I don't care if I get two, I'd just like to have one. Anyhow, it's great to be here, and we've had a great month, very competitive. As I said to a number of people in the last few days that something's different here this year. We have a sponsor, we have four women in the race, the field is probably as tight as it's ever been and the great thing was we had bumping on the second day which I think brought a lot of interest to the sport, a lot of notoriety. So we're going to have a great race. To me this is the guy I know we've got to beat for sure.

MODERATOR: Chip, you know I suspect Helio Castroneves going in has had to field the question, "Can you win No. 4?" You're fielding the question, "Can you win the two great races in one year?" Now, that might be a question that gets old but it's a good problem to have.

CHIP GANASSI: Certainly it is. You all know me, it's not something I think about, this is a race I want to win right now. On that day that was the race I wanted to win. But we all know why we're here, our team's here to win the race. I don't look at it in terms of winning the two races in one year. It would be a huge thing, but right now my focus is like he said, to beat this guy next to me. You know, he's the guy I have to beat. He's the team we're going to have to beat on Sunday to walk away with the Borg-Warner Trophy.
It's, I just have to tell you all something. The night of the Daytona 500 I got a little text on my phone, it said, "Welcome to the 500 Club. RP." (Laughter)
I just wrote back, I said, "Thanks." Then kind of the next day it hit me what that was, the 500 Club. I thought, “Jesus, that's a tiny club.” (Laughter) It didn't even hit me at first, you know, what it had meant to win.

PENSKE: That's the Augusta racing, I guess.

MODERATOR: Both of you have mentioned competing with each other, but I'm curious about the approach to that. Does that mean you're actually watching the other guy the entire time or is it a matter of simply focusing on what you do. How does that --

GANASSI: It's both. It's certainly both, isn't it? We -- everybody's out there looking at everyone else's car, but these days the things you, you know, certainly some things you can see, some things you can't; and certainly, we're looking at their car, they're look at our car. That's what keeps us sharp. I think that's what keeps us sharp is having a competitor like that, having somebody that wants to push things, you know, and drive his team to a higher standard. I think that's what the sport, that's what sports is all about, that's what this sport is all about. You know, there's no question Roger sets the pace in raising the bar and pushing hard on his team; and that's who we're here to emulate here right now, it's that simple.

MODERATOR: Mr. Penske, when I listen to the two of you and I have an opportunity to listen to a Tim Cindric and Mike Hull, one of the things I take away from it is the lesson you learn in all businesses is about managing the people, getting the right resources and people in the right spots to be successful, that's what it takes to win either of these two events it would seem to me.

PENSKE: It's the human capital, it's the people we surround us in our teams, whether it's the Daytona 500 or Charlotte this weekend or here, and as far as I'm concerned, Chip's been the one that's been successful winning these championships. Obviously last year we thought we had a great chance but mistakes, we didn't get there. And I think tomorrow or Sunday when we race here, it's got to be about who doesn't make the most mistakes. There's another 28 cars out there that can win this race, many drivers out there probably in the first three or four rows. So it's going to be the one who doesn't make mistakes. We look at their cars every day, they look at ours. I think it's a level playing field, very transparent the way the rules are today. We've been racing these cars now for seven years. I think the reliability has been good on the cars and the engines and I think it comes down to team strategy. Obviously, we've got some great drivers, Scott Dixon and Franchitti; they could ride in our team any time. I feel that way about the two drivers he has. We're just fortunate to have these kind of guys associated with our teams.

MODERATOR: We heard a presentation many of us from the folks from IZOD yesterday, Mr. Ganassi, and it was, I have to tell you it was exciting. Mr. Penske hit on this, that there seems to be something different in the air. Boy, it feels like a lot of momentum going into the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500.

GANASSI: I couldn't agree more. My barometer is the traffic coming in this morning, and there was plenty of traffic. I think we put on a good show this past weekend for the fans during the qualifying procedure and the new, the new way of doing things. I know Roger and I looked at each other a lot that day wondering what was next and what was, you know, what was happening next and did we have all our bases covered or not. So, yeah, it's true, there is something different about it. There's certainly an uptick. It's because of IZOD and now it's because of Sunoco and these people getting involved. They see that we have a property that has value to it. So I think that's important.

MODERATOR: We'll take some questions and be patient. This is being transcribed, so I want to repeat the question when I get it. Striped shirt.

Q: This question is for Roger. You guys mentioned there's been an uptick and momentum for this race, but at the same time it seems like there's maybe some missing elements and some former elements could accelerate this process of bringing this sport and the race back to where it used to be. From your perspective, what do you think those elements could be? Where do you think we should find the different --

MODERATOR: The question is, are there dormant elements and things that could be revitalized to bring the sport back strong.

PENSKE: No. 1, we need to get more TV exposure. I think that the ratings where they are, we need to get better. I know all sports are under some pressure today, but I think if the show and the ability for us to have full fields is going to make a difference, I think the weekend, this past weekend was good with a new format and we have to look at other things that we have to look at. We even talked today, it was brought up in the drivers' meeting, do we have a situation like NASCAR where if you're running fourth and you're 17th in line, do you get up to line up fourth to take the restart? Those are things I think the League has to take a look at. I never had a bad feeling copying the guy that was winning, and there's some good things we see out of NASCAR. They've taken our idea of bringing the cars back around and letting them go to the back of the field, that started here. Those are things I th

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