By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. If You Missed It: Paul Tracy & Jay Penske Teleconference
2. Road course qualifying procedures altered for Long Beach
3. Commute for Europe is first race for Daly
1. If You Missed It: Paul Tracy & Jay Penske Teleconference: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Paul Tracy and Dragon Racing owner Jay Penske participated in a teleconference today discuss Tracy’s 2011 season debut at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with Dragon Racing. Below are selected quotes from the call. A full transcript and MP3 audio of the call is available at www.indycar.com/media.
Q. Paul, how excited are you to get behind the wheel of a car finally.
PAUL TRACY: I’m really excited to get the opportunity to work with Jay and his crew; to come back to Long Beach, which is really the place where I started my IndyCar career. My first ever start was there with Dale Coyne, and then my first‑ever win with Roger and Marlboro was there.
It’s been a fantastic venue for me. It’s one of the crown jewels of the series and I’ve been lucky enough to win it, win the race four times.
So you know, from that standpoint, it’s been extremely difficult having to kind of sit and watch the last couple of years, and I’ve been there the last couple of years making press announcements for other races that I’ve been doing but having to walk the paddock has been extremely frustrating.
So I’m excited for the opportunity to work this weekend with Jay. And like I said, we’ve got a whole fleet of new sponsors on board with Ralph’s and Pepsi and Frito‑Lay and Rock Star and the list goes on and on of people that have come on to support us. It’s going to be an exciting weekend that’s for sure.
Q. You talked about your history at Long Beach, obviously winning there four times and getting around the place as well as you do. How confident with the other teams having two races under their belts are you that you can get up to speed this weekend?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I don’t think it’s going to be any problem I think for us. We have got Jay’s group of guys and he can touch more on it, but he’s got a core group of guys that have been in the Penske organization a long time. They are guys that I have all worked with in the past and know we are not just hiring on a bunch of guys that nobody has worked with before. I’ve worked with all of the guys on the team at one stage of my career. I’ve known some of the guys on the team for 20 years.
So you know, the engineer on the team, Eric Zeto, has been my race engineer when I was with Forsythe, we won the Long Beach race a couple of times together. I think he understands exactly what I need and I understand exactly how he works.
So really it’s just getting back on track and getting back in the groove of practice sessions and qualifying sessions.
Q. Your record at Long Beach, do you feel any realistic goals or expectations when you come in or do you look at trying to get a Top‑10 or Top‑5 your first time back?
PAUL TRACY: Honestly, I’m looking at, you know, just the best result that we can possibly get, and I think, you know, I always go into any race with the expectation of, I’m going to do everything I can possibly do to try to win. Is that realistic? Sometimes, no.
But I think in any sport, if you’re going out there, noting a 110 percent and giving everything you have, it’s time to get off the field or get out of the game. So.
From my standpoint, I’m going to go out there and from the time that the green flag drops till the checkered comes out, I’m going to give everything I have to try to get the best result. If that’s a Top 3 or a Top‑5 or a Top‑10, we give 100% all the time and we’ll focus on the next race as we go along.
Q. Jay, can you talk a little about how the off‑season was for you with having Tony Kanaan and having that partnership dissolve and then having your team kind of have to be reborn?
JAY PENSKE: Sure. I certainly think we have tried to rip the rear‑view mirror off and just trying to look forward. But I think it was a very difficult off‑season. We had a lot of ‑‑ I think we were very close in establishing a full‑time ride with Tony and when fell apart instantly we were looking to put together for either a limited run or build something again for the entire season.
We were very close with Paul trying to get this whole thing wrapped up for a full season this year but unfortunately we got these five races which we are going to try to do our absolute best and try to add races as we go throughout the rest of the year.
Q. And just talk a little about having a team start late and having the driver the caliber of Paul available for you to build your team around.
JAY PENSKE: Sure. I think first of all, they have not only done the open tests, but they have had two races under their belt. I think that’s one of the reasons we thought this was a great place to start with Paul. It’s a place he’s clearly had a ton of success in the past. He’s one of the most tenacious guys and who can get the most out of every car he drives.
We have reasonable expectations here. This is a place we want to build from. We have four other races that we are confirmed for this year, three others on road courses, street courses. So I think this is the beginning of Dragon Racing and we have great expectations for the future.
Jay, if you could talk about what your Indy 500 plans are, because I know Paul already has a deal already committed for that race.
JAY PENSKE: Sure. Two things, I think we are still aggressively looking to put someone in the seat for the 500. We have got the cars available. We have got some sponsorship lined up I think at this point it’s just trying to find the best person to take us 500 miles come May 29. We are in discussions but nothing has been finalized yet. We are hoping to do that probably right after Long Beach.
2. Road course qualifying procedures altered for Long Beach: INDYCAR officials have modified the IZOD IndyCar Series road course qualifying procedures beginning with this weekend’s race on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif.
Friday practice sessions will play a key role in determining the starting lineup for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
The times from Friday’s practice sessions will be used to determine the qualifying groups with the driver posting the fastest combined practice lap time having the option of selecting qualifying group.
All odd numbered positions in practice (fastest, third-fastest, fifth-fastest, seventh-fastest, etc.) will be in one group and all even number positions in practice will make up the other group.
“This change was made at the request of the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers, who were looking for a system that enhanced the competition,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series. “It puts a premium on Friday practice sessions and helps even out that groups, which couldn’t be achieved with a random draw.”
3. Commute for Europe is first race for Daly: Before Conor Daly can record his first laps around the famed Long Beach Grand Prix street circuit, he’ll have to rack up some more frequent flier miles by racing nearly halfway around the globe.
Daly, who is competing in a limited schedule of Firestone Indy Lights road/street course races for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, has been “commuting” between Europe and the U.S., as he prepares to compete in GP3 this season.
“It hasn’t really been too bad, so far,” said Daly, whose itinerary since the St. Petersburg season opener has included GP3 tests in England and France, the Firestone Indy Lights race in Birmingham, Ala., and another GP3 test in Spain. “If I keep up with a bid of sleep and get some nutrients in me, I think I’ll be all right.”
After racing at Barber Motorsports Park on April 10, Daly left Alabama for three days of testing at Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain.
On April 14, he’ll leave Spain for Los Angeles and arrive on the following day, where he hopes to jump behind the wheel of his No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car for the day’s only practice session at Long Beach.
“If the airlines mess up, then I might miss the first practice, so I’m hoping they don’t mess up,” said Daly, who joked that he may have gotten rid of his bad travel luck by arriving in Barcelona without his luggage.
“I’d really like to be there for the first practice. If I’m not, I’m not that worried because I have good teammates and I’ll have plenty of data to look at and some video to watch. I love street courses, anyway, so I think we’ll get to pace quickly either way.”
But the main issue out of the car for Daly is rest and recovery.
Most experienced travelers need about a day of recovery per time zone crossed. The 19-year-old Daly said he hasn’t really tried to stay on European time or U.S. time over the last month.
“I’m trying to sleep whenever I can, and after that, we’ll sort out what time it is,” Daly said.
“I think going over (to Europe) is not as hard as it is when you come back home. When I come back (to the U.S.), I seem to be more jet lagged. We’ll see have to see how that works out this week at Long Beach.”
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series continues with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17 on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 17 on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif. with the Long Beach 100. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.