INDY RACING LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 5, 2012Eastern Indiana Sports
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to our press conference. Big plans for AJ Foyt Racing for the 2013 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, and I would like to introduce the participants.
First is A.J. Foyt, seven?time national champion, 67 IndyCar wins, four Indy 500 wins as a driver and one as an owner in 1999 with Kenny Bräck.
We have got Chase Austin from the Indy Lights series, two?time participant of the Freedom 100 and as recent as this year, eighth in the Iowa Indy Lights race. Larry Foyt is the team director for AJ Foyt racing, and Chris Miles is the owner of Starting Grid, Inc.
And we will start off the announcement, A.J. Foyt, why is Chase Austin your man for this endeavor?
A.J. FOYT: Well, actually I've dealt with a lot of young drivers through the years and I've watched him run. He's run some Sprint cars and he's run pretty good. I just think he would be good to go to Indy with, and that's mainly the reason that we picked Chase to come race with AJ Foyt, Enterprises.
I've had a lot of young drivers through the years, if you look back, and took them to Indy and I think he can do a fine job for us.
THE MODERATOR: Chase, what is it like to drive for the legend, A.J. Foyt? He obviously knows his way around Indy as an owner and as a driver. He's got some big expectations, and what are you looking forward to?
CHASE AUSTIN: It's A.J. Foyt; I can't really say much more.
I'm really excited. Chris over here told me what he had in the works, and I got excited about it. And, you know, sometimes things fall through, but A.J. really came through for us and he picked me, and I'm just really excited to get next year started.
THE MODERATOR: Larry, talk about how this came together. This obviously did not happen overnight. Talk about the process that made this all come together with AJ Foyt Racing, Chase and Chris Miles?
LARRY FOYT: Sure. I actually met Chris a while back, back in February we started talking. So this has been a lot of communication and we had some mutual friends at Honda who is a part of this program and that was?? they kind of hooked us up and we just hit it off great. I loved everything they were working on.
I had actually heard of Chase many, many years ago. I have some friends from the Kansas area who were watching him coming up and winning everything at the local tracks in Kansas. So it was funny?? and then back in February, I told Dad, hey, you need to watch this kid, he's going to run Indy in the Lights car and got some good experience coming up.
That's kind of how it started. And Chris and I just love the program they are putting together, and I'll leave to that to Chris to explain but we are really excited about it.
THE MODERATOR: And Chris, you were very instrumental in all of this. Take us through the process of how this all came together and the opportunities for the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
CHRIS MILES: Well, it's been amazing and first, let me be a witness and testify that, you know, God's things come to those who wait. And this has been a 24?year odyssey for me in regards to what I've been doing in my professional racing career.
And over the last three years, I've been fortunate enough to have Honda, American Honda step up and support Starting Grid's Motorsports Diversity Initiatives. Our goal is to facilitate equal opportunities for minorities in motorsports and we have had that privilege of having Chase represent us extremely well.
We have had Wyatt Gooden, another young driver and he gave us our first wins here at Mid?Ohio last year in the F16100 with Honda power with Quantum Racing. So we are very excited with the future of Starting Grid and where we are going.
And I just knew that Chase was the guy. I've known Chase since he was 14, spoke to his parents, his parents are phenomenal people, and we knew that we had something here.
So when I reached out to Larry and we started discussing some opportunities, I extended far beyond motorsports, and that's what got Larry excited knowing it's not just motorsports and not just diversity, but there's a lot of impact that's yet to be seen.
We are pretty excited, and 2013 will be a tremendous opportunity for us all.
THE MODERATOR: And I would just like to add that Chase will be the third African American driver to attempt to qualify. There have been two, 1991, Willy T. Ribbs; 2002, George Mack; seems like everything follows an 11?year pattern. So, good luck to you.
Q. You started out in NASCAR?? what about the process??
CHASE AUSTIN: Well the last two years I've mainly focused on Indy and NASCAR has really just been a side deal. I mean, that's in the part. I'm really focusing on Indy, especially the Indy 500, but thanks to Chris, Starting Grid, the testing that I did with the Indy Lights car and then the four races I've ran over the two years has mainly been my focus.
CHASE AUSTIN: With the testing we are going to wait until the end of season to evaluate far as races next year and just see what we can do for that.
It's just open?ended right now and we are just really focused on Indy and what's going to happen; that's the big one, and not really worried about anything else. That's enough for a 22?year?old to worry about, especially trying to support A.J. Foyt over here.
Q. With the diversity programs, what do you get out of this?
CHRIS MILES: That's a great question, thank you. That's what Starting Grid is all about. We were founded in 1994 to facilitate equal opportunities for minorities in motorsports and we have been doing that.
We have had several opportunities throughout the years. Wyatt Gooden, as a said is a young guy that's coming up; Austin Harris; there's a kid, David Simms, Junior, who is a go?karter out in California that we are taking a peak at, and obviously Chase. Chase's pedigree is the one that can step up right now. So we need a visible identifier that can engage these young people to be excited and motivated to get involved in motorsports.
So what do we hope to expect? To remain with AJ Foyt Racing, to allow these programs to continue to grow. Larry and I are looking at other programs that would enable that to happen.
As far as IndyCar, obviously that's going to have to be some continued dialogue. You know, everyone knows about the USAC initiative and being able to bring Ryan Clauson into the Indy 500 in two years.
So we brought Chase in, and we look forward to some great things down the road.
Q. Bringing a new guy in as a driver, can you assess the last couple of years, and is this setting things up for the future?
A.J. FOYT: That's quite true. I'm like you, I'm getting a little bit old to be going to all these races. (Laughter).
All in all, Larry has done a great job. I've been turning over more and more. He fits more in with the young generation instead of old, grouchy A.J. (chuckling).
But no, that's the whole thing, the AJ Foyt Racing future and with Honda being a big part of this with us, and we are running a Honda team. I'm so proud to have Honda that's really helped Chase and I've watched Chase, he's run Sprint cars and he's run a lot of different racing, and even NASCAR.
So he's a young driver and if you look back at my history, I've always brought young boys to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chase ain't the first one and he probably won't be the last one.
But we are happy working with him and our whole object is right now, is after the season, put our plans together and really do a lot of testing and things like that with Chase so when he gets here, he'll look like a professional.
So that's a dream, and like I say, I'm letting Larry do all the legwork.
LARRY FOYT: I think he hit it perfectly. That was very good.
Obviously part of my goals with this team is to grow the team, so getting a great teammate to the ABC car is something that's important, as well. Being able to do this early, some people say, why are you announcing this so early.
Well, now, this gives us time to prepare. Because Indy is always the month of May but it's always stressful when you get there. There's always a lot going on so. Knowing what we are doing now, early on, is a great opportunity and tool for us to prepare the best we can.
A.J. FOYT: Like I always say, my crew don't realize, it comes every year the same time. (Laughter) and they always say, "If we had one more week."
And I keep saying, for years, "It's been the same."
So that's the reason we are starting early so they can't have the "we need another week." (Laughter).
LARRY FOYT: I think for us, we more lately have been looking on what talent is available what we are going after someone. Doesn't always mean whether they are British or American, black or white, didn't make a difference.
We have been concerned with who we feel is talented and can do the best job and win races for us because that's our goal is to get back in victory lane.
And I think that's what our partners want with ABC Supply, Alpha Heat Treating, all of our sponsors and partners, we are ready to get in victory lane. I think you've seen, our speed is getting there, and we have come a long way. We have just got to put it all together.
Yeah, I think being, right now, the goal is just Indy for Chase. It doesn't mean it could expand. Our focus here is to get through the season with the ABC car and then we'll really start focusing on that car and Chase in the off?season and do what's best.
LARRY FOYT: Yeah, I think you do, and especially when you go to the Speedway, you have some time and here, they are very sensible, I think if you speak to the Indy Car officials they are going to give you what you need. They don't want anyone out there that's going to be not ready to drive at the speeds we drive at in the IndyCar. So the league officials do a really good job. You have got a lot of experience there watching the guys, and they don't put anyone out there until they are ready.
I'm sure he will be, and I'm sure there will be some modified testing rules after the season, and that's why we kind of want to wait before we make any definite plans, because I'm sure as engines?? as the engine deals come along, the new car stuff has come along, it will be interesting to see what the new testing rules are going into the off?season.