Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti and reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay participated in an INDYCAR conference call to discuss a variety of topics heading into the 2013 season.
They were in Milwaukee, where later in the day Andretti hosted a special viewing of the documentary "Super Speedway." Andretti Sports Marketing is the promoter of the Milwaukee IndyFest scheduled for June 15. Hunter-Reay is the race defending champion. GET TICKETS
Selected quotes from the interview:
Q. Michael, obviously 2012 was a bit of a dream season for Andretti Autosport. The team won its fourth IZOD IndyCar Series team title. So the question is what does the team do for an encore in 2013?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was an incredible year for sure for our team. I'm really proud of everybody at Andretti Autosport and also proud of what we were able to do with the Milwaukee IndyFest and also (promoting the event in) Baltimore. It was a huge year for us. But what do we do for next year?
We just got to continue to keep our heads down and keep going for it and hopefully win more races and hopefully win Indianapolis and the championship. It's our goal, like I'm sure every team out there and every driver has. So that's what we're going to try to do.
Q. You mentioned the Andretti Sports Marketing side of your business and the success you had as the event promoter at Milwaukee with Milwaukee IndyFest and Baltimore Grand Prix. From the promoter side, what did you learn about race promotion in 2012 for those events and how do you build upon the success that those events had?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We learned that there's a lot of great INDYCAR fans out there, and the problem we had was time, because both events, when we took them over, we only had like 100 days out. So we didn't have time to do everything that we'd like to do, but now having the year under our belt, there's a lot of things that we're going to hopefully do different and better.
Overall what we learned is that there are great fans out there. If you do a good job and you give them an event that they can come out and have fun with, they're going to do it. And that's what we learned.
Q. Ryan, I know yesterday (a Jan. 14 test at Sebring) was your first day back in the car for the year. Does it seem like the season's just around the corner now?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Absolutely. I mean, it's always just around the corner. That's how we've been thinking since our last race at Fontana. We've really been focused on 2013. There's really never any sense of sitting still at Andretti Autosport. We're always really planning for the future and making sure that we're moving forward at all costs. So we knew that we had that one night after Fontana where we had some fun with the team and everything, and we were on to 2013, focused on the future. So looking forward to getting back in the car again even though this is the first time we did it in 2013. I feel like the testing is a little bit too thin this year really for anybody. I think we're going to have a total of like three chances in the car before St. Pete, which is a bit drastic, but everybody's in the same boat.
Q. Obviously this year your car will be the No. 1 to honor your championship. I know race drivers can be superstitious and some have tended to shy away carrying No. 1 after a championship season. Do you feel any pressure carrying that as a target kind of this year?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: We have a target either way. I mean, and the biggest target comes from within our own organization. We put the most pressure on ourselves. Really don't care what anybody else thinks. We want to go out there and win and deliver for our team and our partners and sponsors. That's what really matters most.
And I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself as well. So we've got a lot to do. We've got to redouble our efforts to even have a shot at defending our championship. But when it comes to the number one, it's all about the history of that number and it's been an IndyCar tradition for years. I remember as a kid as an IndyCar fan, watching the championship take the No. 1. So it brought it full circle.
Certainly our team and sponsors deserve that. DHL, Sun Drop, Circle K and certainly Chevrolet deserve to run that No. 1 in 2013.
Q. Ryan, were you able to totally get away from the racing thing in the offseason, forget the cell phone, forget the tweeting, just try and enjoy the family in the off season? Some drivers aren't actually able to do that, were you able to do that?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Certainly very busy. And I feel very fortunate that I've been as busy as I am. But I was never able to really unplug completely. But I had my time at home enjoying living in South Florida a couple of weeks here and there. And that's really all I need. I love racing, and anytime I'm sitting there at home with a remote control in my hands all I'm thinking about is getting back in the car, going out and taking my go‑karts out or whatever it is. I've always got to be doing something.
Q. Ryan, as you enter the 2013 season now you're a father; you've got a new number on the car, of course you're now the champion of the IZOD IndyCar Series. As you make your first start coming up shortly in St. Petersburg as you attack Turn 1, any different strategies this year to keep you on track at St. Pete?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Not really, no. I think we go about it like we did last year, which is to race smart but with a lot of aggression. I'm not going to change that about my driving style. That's for sure.
And I think it's just a big picture racing, when you think about it about the whole season, banking points, really driving to the capabilities of your car and not over it. But taking the necessary risks you need to to move yourself up in the points. Much of the same approach as last year, but things will be different in that we're going to have to work quite a bit harder to make sure we're extracting our full potential every weekend, to repeat or to defend our championship.
And we've got a lot to do in the series. We still haven't won at a lot of racetracks. We haven't won the biggest one yet. I should say I haven't, the Indy 500. I know Michael has won it as a team owner.
But we've got a lot to do. So we've got a lot on our plate as we do every year, and we're proud to be running the No. 1. But every time we looked at that No. 1 we realized we've got a lot to live up to and that we better be working around the clock to make it happen.