96th INDIANAPOLIS 500 BUMP DAY PRESS CONFERENCE
S. Fisher, W. Hartman, A. O'Gara
Sunday, May 20, 2012
MODERATOR: What's it like? You've been your whole squad has just absolutely been through the spectrum, obviously. You had Josef doing well. You've had Bryan running well. And this whole process. Just take us through it both from your owner's hat and your former driver's hat, really.
SARAH FISHER: Well, I think it would be probably a little less intense and less uneventful if we had a day or two of rain. You know, it sure does it takes a toll on everybody when you're thrashing every single day for seven days straight. So we have an incredible team. And they've bounced back extremely well from yesterday. And it's nice to look forward to a day tomorrow to kind of regroup and refocus on Carb Day.
Q: Andy, from the perspective of putting a team together and racing, going through the week, interesting comment about the rain. Sarah mentions the rain in terms of a break. We've heard a lot of conversations about not lack of rain resulting in the track continually to take rubber and to be slippery. Do you think that has anything to do with what we saw happen with the incidence?
ANDY O'GARA: I don't know for sure. But, I mean, we've certainly seen the track take a lot of rubber the last couple days. I haven't been doing this too long, but this is my 11th Indy 500. I can't remember a month of May in which we've had no rain like this. And certainly our setups have changed immensely since we've rolled off the truck. We've tried to keep up with it every day; and for the most part we've done a pretty good job there. I think yesterday's crash and combination thereof, it's just a typical result of trimming a car for qualifying and putting it on the edge and just bit us out of the blue a little bit.
Q: We hear the stories, obviously, from years past. Doesn't make a difference. We can roll back the clock a decade, two decades, 40 years ago, there's always the stories of the thrash, the thrash to try to repair a car to get a car in position, and is that a character-builder?
WINK HARTMAN: Yes, to say the least that's a character builder. I'd like to state that I've got Andy beat. This is my 45th "500." So I don't let him get away with that 11 comment over there. But it's very exciting. We've got two rookies in the show. Bryan had a small mishap, which the "500" will bite you, sooner or later, if you stand around the lady will get you. But we got in the shop. The staff got together, all the crew. We put that car back together in pretty good shape. And the smart thing I did in that situation was to get out of the shop and get out of the way.
Q: Now, Sarah, we've asked Bryan this question, you've sort of been in the same scenario as him in this regard: Earlier today I pointed out, you'll recall Steve Butler, the sprint car driver, years ago, he said, after trying to make Indianapolis: You know, I had to support the entire sprint-midget-Silver Crown community, but I also felt the weight of the world of that same community on my shoulders. Bryan sort of admitted he had a little bit of that going. Nothing quite prepares you, I don't think, for trying to make Indianapolis, would you agree with that?
SARAH FISHER: I think was it 2001 the whole female gender on my shoulders. I was the only one here. No, I can feel exactly what I can tell exactly the kind of pressure that Bryan's under. And he knows he has a fast race car. And he knows the fans know that. But they're going to be behind him 100 percent. I mean, you heard the cheers when he came down pit lane after putting it in the show. And that support is so neat, because that's just the demographic that I think this sport continues to appreciate as we grow that demographic.
Q: Andy, he was mystified still by what happened. He seemed to think the laps mirrored each other; and seriously, I know Bryan very well, and I would think that is like, oh, my gosh, I don't know. Do you have any greater sense of what happened?
ANDY O'GARA: No. I mean, our engineering staff has taken a hard look at the data overnight. And, like I said, when you get in that position, we were honestly gunning for the Fast Nine with him. We thought we had a legitimate shot at it. Turns out, if we would have completed that average, I think we would have just been outside of it. Certainly inside the top 15 there and competing with the likes of teams like Ganassi. For his first time in an open-wheel car, the kid has done a fantastic job all week. And he's represented SFHR to the hilt. And we couldn't be more proud of him. As far as what happened with the race car on that run, it's one of those things, maybe we'll never know. But it doesn't keep us from trying to investigate further and not let it happen again and learn from it. But we were going for it there. We didn't come here just to make the field like we did today. We came here to compete. We come here to win. And Bryan didn't let us down. So I don't know. We'll look further into that and figure out more in the next few days.
Q: Josef certainly lacks poise and personality. What are we going to do with him?
WINK HARTMAN: Yeah. Oh, wow. He's something.
Q: Isn't he something?
WINK HARTMAN: We're very fortunate. The team has picked up what I consider to be a superstar in the making. He's right on the edge. I expect this year a couple of podium finishes, and I expect next year haven't bothered to tell him yet but more than one win. He has a lot on his shoulders, too. Very talented young man. Bryan is a very talented young man. And I think the three people here are so excited about not only putting two rookies in the show but having the opportunity to work with rookies of that caliber. They don't come around every day.
Q: Andy and Sarah, what was it about Bryan's driving skills that you saw that made him a person you wanted to talk to and look at as a driver for the team?
ANDY O'GARA: I'll be completely honest: I've known who Bryan was for 10, 12 years. I watched him grow up in the open-wheel community, kind of sat back out on the outside and seen what he was able to accomplish on the track. But that wasn't all that put him in the front running for our second car effort here at SFHR. Probably his hard work and personality and family atmosphere that he brings to the table was first and foremost why he fits our group and why he deserves a chance to be in this race. As far as his last two USAC championships and previous midget championships and all that he's done in the sport of open-wheel racing, that happens to be an added bonus. No doubt about it: He has raw ability that we haven't seen on the open wheel side for quite some time. And Sarah and I are extremely proud of our USAC roots and what we've been able to do there in the past, and to have Bryan here and give him the chance to run a race of this caliber is an honor for us, too.
Q: Sarah, you were talking about the weight of the world being on your shoulders back in 2001. It's the 35th anniversary of Janet Guthrie becoming the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. We now have nine women. Talk about how things have changed and how have you seen the Speedway through your eyes first as a driver coming here for the first time and now it's being a car owner?
SARAH FISHER: You make me feel old. (Laughter). No, that's fine. I am getting older. You know, it's changed in that there were a lot of, I guess, being a part of that start, Janet, Lyn (St. James) and myself and then Danica (Patrick), of course, giving little girls the hindsight, the forefront to say, hey, I can get in a car and I can do it. I think it started a trend of younger girls getting interested in racing. And I think that's the talent pool we're starting to see get an opportunity now to get in these cars. Because it takes some time. It can't happen overnight. And there are a lot of younger girls right now in the feeder ranks starting to come through. So I think it's going to continue to get better and better for opportunities. I've always been a huge advocate of it's the best person for the job, regardless.
Q: Sarah, you may have answered this already. But last year I remember when Ed won and you said I believe in an interview right after that Dollar General was not coming back and maybe this will convince them they want to stay. And over the winter what was the process of convincing them, or did they convince you that they wanted back in?
SARAH FISHER: I'll answer that before Wink jumps on it. We still don't have a primary sponsor for Josef. That's at the top of our minds. And going into the Indianapolis 500, it's real important not to run a blank car here. So in trying to make it have a color other than our team colors, you know, I was trying to pull every string that I had and every partnership and association I've had in the past got a phone call from me. So the way it wound up wasn't that Dollar General came waving their flag saying I need to be back in, it was here's the opportunity, you're going to see this, you might want to be a part of it. So maybe if we go out there and we do well, who knows what will happen, but certainly we need to start looking toward the rest of the season for the 67 car side pods.
ANDY O'GARA: On a side note there, if you followed SFR the last couple of years and now SFHR with what Wink and Libba have helped bring to the table and build organization, you certainly know that Sarah and I can't afford to give away sponsorship on the race car. We couldn't afford to get, even to build a team where we've been able to build it the last three or four years. So there's been certain teams in the past here that have enough personal money to where they can afford to give away side pods at the last second for minimal dollar amounts. We believe in our product and our people way too much and our talent pool that we have at the race shop way too much to be able to do that. We're here for long term. And I think Dollar General, they get that. They understand the Indianapolis 500. It's still a very important race to them as it is to us. And they wanted to be a part of it this year. So we're very fortunate for that. But after Indy, that car goes back to blue and we will continue to search for a primary sponsor.
Q: Wink, we have a variety of very successful teams. As someone mentioned, this team is a team that won a race. Oh, by the way, last year. So the results have been there. But we have teams that are very buttoned-down, very corporate in the way they approach them. I'm not saying it in a critical way. That's the way they operate. And I know you take your business seriously. But Josef says it and Bryan says it and they talk about this being a family like atmosphere in the team, which both have underscored is very important to them. Is that something I remember one time Sarah famously said: There's a lot of O'Garas in the garage?
SARAH FISHER: Still is.
Q: Is it because there's O'Garas in the garage, or is it an approach or culture that you want to create?
WINK HARTMAN: Being in the corporate world as long as I have, you have an opportunity to see many, many structures on how to run a company. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing is a company. We're in a position today, we're truly beginning to come on the cutting edge of what can be done. Small team, yes. Big hearts, big things are getting done there, and, quite frankly, the main reason is exactly what you said. Everything you turn around in the shop, somebody's related to somebody and somebody's cousin or uncle or father or mother. I mean, you can't turn around without some positive reinforcement from a family member, because there are truly many, many of them. Very important to me.
Q: Instead of an organizational chart, we just have a family tree?
WINK HARTMAN: Well, that's very well said. I kind of feel bad like maybe they should call me Wink O'Gara Hartman, because I just (Laughter).
SARAH FISHER: No, it's Wink Hartman O'Gara, because you have to take the name, apparently.
WINK HARTMAN: I knew I did that wrong. (Laughter) But it truly is. The reason I got involved is because Sarah was nice enough to invite me to the "500." And when I realized, my wife and I realized that the opportunities for what they presented from the family, the environment, I want to be associated with winners on and off the track. And everybody says that, but it's very hard to find that. And thanks to these two and all of the O'Gara's around, I did find that. So I'm very, very happy.
SARAH FISHER: And it's really, I want to add to that, because I don't like leaving anyone out, because our whole team, everyone on there counts. And there's only so many O'Garas, because you can only have such a big family. Christmas is amazing. But a lot of those team members who aren't related to us. I mean, several of them have been in our wedding. It's such a tight knit family group that we're a family outside the track. We're a family at the track. And we operate very well like that. So just because this guy here is not an official bloodlined O'Gara like myself does not mean that he or she's not part of the family culture.
Q: Sarah, two questions. Number one, I think you are an ex racer, maybe you have tried yourself the new Dallara, and if you could get an impression, is the car different from the car you drove?
SARAH FISHER: I haven't stepped in that. Seeing the kids and amazing talent they bring and just their energy, I'm staying way away. It's their turn.
Q: But you're not curious to have a feeling for the car?
SARAH FISHER: I'm curious. But they both have really good feedback. So I'm just going to live through that.
ANDY O'GARA: I heard Dallara is putting an excellent simulator at the Speedway. We'll let her try that.
SARAH FISHER: OK.
Q: Second question, you know this in IndyCar, nothing is impossible in motor racing, maybe in the future is there a possibility you expand your racing activities as owner in other categories, maybe sports car racing, NASCAR?
SARAH FISHER: We've definitely had a look at it, especially when IndyCar was making the transition to these new cars. Now as a company you have to look at the big picture and long term. And that's something that Wink and Libba have brought to the team, is that big-picture thinking. When we were moving forward as a group, we absolutely looked around. My heart is solidly at the Indianapolis 500. So it's going to be real hard to pull me away from here. But as a business you always have to keep your eye open. And I would love to be able to run a car in 24 or something like that. It just has to be the right opportunity at the right time.
WINK HARTMAN: If I may interject, she left one very important matter out. Mid July we'll be starting the new shop in Speedway on Main Street. So that facility will have how do you say it? additional possibilities if they come along. So once again to plug the family, we do have Kyle's coming up. So I couldn't resist. So we really are looking to be a strong, strong, an ICS, but we also, if there's opportunities out there, I run the business side a little bit more now, and I will look for opportunities where they're presented. And so maybe some day, you never know, you might see a couple other things added to the Sarah Fisher Hartman team.
Q: (Off microphone).
WINK HARTMAN: Yes, hopefully. I don't want to brag too much. If all the stars align and all regulatory things are covered, mid July, we'll break ground and officially start up with a new race shop. We'll have an all inclusive shop right next to Dallara right on Main Street.
WINK HARTMAN: Well, that would be nice.
SARAH FISHER: Dallara has requested a walkway, right?
WINK HARTMAN: Plus, they have a cafe on their side. I'm trying to figure out how I can get across the street at the proper time.
Q: (Off microphone).
WINK HARTMAN: My game plan, so we don't interrupt next year's season, is to have the shop and everything moved in and hopefully somewhat organized before we start next year so we'll continue to build the base we've already started.
Q: Coffee shop of Dallara opens next Tuesday, officially.
WINK HARTMAN: It does? Well, I'm going.
Q: It seems to me the difference I'm getting is something that this [Inaudible] which is the fact, you're giving rookie a chance to further their careers that are coming up that don't necessarily want to guarantee the risk, but at the same time you're giving them a shot for their careers. Is that something you embrace wanting to do?
ANDY O'GARA: Honestly, I think it's about the future. I think it's about the future, and it's something we need to have a building block on. And from the moment that Wink and Libba partnered up with Sarah and I, and now obviously take on a side of the management role with us as we look forward, Wink has always been about the next big thing and not hanging your hat on somebody that may be on the downward side of their career. May still have a lot of talent. But we want to build somebody that really fits our brand and also has the talent. We studied Bryan and Josef all through 2011. Specifically Josef, simply because he was at more events with us than Bryan other than when Sarah and I traveled with Kyle and got to watch Bryan in a midget, which was awesome, too. It's just about the future and having somebody here that fits the core all the way around. But certainly there's more rookies out there right now that have caught our eye. Who knows, three, four, five years out where those people will be. And we've had serious talks of trying to get this to a two car operation sooner than later. We understand how important it is to get that data to our engineers and cut costs in other departments and add R&D side. So hopefully that can be a possibility.
SARAH FISHER: If I can add to that, it's such a privilege to hire people, to hire drivers. Without when you look at putting people in place and Andy on the crew team side and on the driver's side, it's really such a privilege to be able to put the best people in place without having such a big financial weight. Well, do we have this to do that; is this person bringing this benefit, whatever it is, it's just such a privilege to be able to do that without having to factor that in like I've had to do in the past.
Q: This question really is for Sarah. Having two rookie drivers that I think being here at Indianapolis experience really helps, do you get involved from your racing experience to sit in on meetings and help coach them a little bit on what to expect here to kind of give them a little foundation to go forward?
SARAH FISHER: Back in the garage, not so much. I have such an incredibly talented group of people, that that's the guidance on making the car better. And when I was a driver, it was my feedback that making the car better. So I really can't coach there. But I can coach being on the spotter's stand at first. So I spent some time up there, a lot of time at the beginning of the week watching lines, watching timing, those kinds of things. That's a much easier thing to help with guidance and just little tips here and there, but certainly back at the garage that's all teamwork.
Q: Andy, I think you won an award the Clint Brawner Award several years ago. You'll be glad to know your chief mechanic is going to receive it this year. Just made the choice: Brad Larson.
ANDY O'GARA: That's phenomenal. That's a big honor.
Q: We'll be presenting it next Friday.
ANDY O'GARA: That's fantastic. Very, very cool. Brad has been an excellent addition to SFHR, really stood up in the seat here in the last 24 hours, and has had great support from the 67 side, too, with Anton Julian running that program. But Brad fits our core perfect. He's a model employee and has done an excellent job with the Second Program and that couldn't have gone to a better person. That makes my day. Those poor guys put in a hell of a night there. We were extremely appreciative. I think I bailed around just before two a.m. last night, went back and slept about four or five hours and came back this morning and that car was set on the setup pad. So certainly they worked their tails off. That was an incredible feat. And they rose to the occasion to get it done.
Q: Wink, can you let me know what's your previous or any case there was a previous involvement in motor racing and how you get in touch with Sarah Fisher Racing, how it came together?
WINK HARTMAN: I'll leave it short and story. Great story. Five, six years ago Sarah was here at the 500 and had a car ready to go and the sponsor at the last minute forgot to mail the check. And I happened to see the story on ESPN. I was sitting on the couch one Saturday morning with a cup of coffee reading the paper. And I heard the story about Sarah Fisher and something about a check and she didn't have any money, she's going to miss the deal, yada, yada. I woke up the next morning, and I thought I didn't understand that kind of environment where people say they're going to do something, I don't deal well with that. I Googled and Interneted and did all my things and for several days I tried to send money but they wouldn't accept it. I got very frustrated and so I said something probably very indignant. Lo and behold I find out later they went to Sarah and they said: Some fool is going to wire us money. Sarah said, OK, fine, she'd heard enough, give him the information and maybe he'll wire money. Lo and behold I got the information and I did wire the money. Of course by that time Sara's kind of like get this nut on the phone, we need to talk to him. That's how it happened. I saw it on ESPN. I felt sorry for the situation. She was nice enough to invite my wife and I to the "500." I stood on the bricks, and here I am.
Q: I've been in the Ganassi shop one time, seen cars lined up on pegs.
SARAH FISHER: Heard about that wall.
Q: In a different situation, in an entirely different situation in the final nine, would you have turned Josef loose, did Josef have a chance?
ANDY O'GARA: Absolutely. Absolutely. I understand the situation that's gone on here the last couple of days at the Speedway. Certainly the Chevrolet team has been strong. But our partners at Honda have put forth an amazing product and have stood by us through our troubles through the winter here and getting an engine. And from the first time they saw Josef on track, you know, have really been impressed with the program, the engineering staff and his talent, personally. Obviously, we had our struggles yesterday morning with Bryan's qualifying run. Had that not been the case, we probably would have went out there last night and given Josef a chance at the pole or maybe only the front row. But certainly we had to hold back a little bit. We had to be smart about it and turn to the business side a little bit. Josef understood that; the team understood that. But I'm extremely confident. We could have gone out there and ran a high 225. I don't know exactly if we could have gone much more than that. But we had to do the right thing. And we're here for the long term and we're here to win this race. We're not here to the pole would have been a great bonus. Being on the front row would have been a great bonus. But the board winner isn't awarded for that. We'll get it when it counts hopefully.
MODERATOR: Thank you.