Guests: Lee Kunzman (Hemelgarn) and Ron Dawes, Rick Long and Milt Wood (Speedway Engines)

Host: Mike King

Mike King:
Welcome to Hemelgarn Racing. We want to say thanks to everyone here at Hemelgarn Racing for providing us with a great lunch and certainly with the perfect weather. It's been a super day and we hope you have all enjoyed yourself. If I am not mistaken, this is the final stop on the media tour. So it's been great having you all here. Look forward to seeing most of you, if not all of you, at rookie orientation and the Firestone Indy 225 that coming up at Nazareth on 21 April, and comes back here for the month of May. It should be a very exciting month.

We've got four gentleman that are going to be speaking with us during this final stop. Two representatives from Hemelgarn Racing, two representatives from Speedway Engine Development. Representing Hemelgarn Racing will be the veteran team manager, in fact, you've been -- what is this, you're approaching 20 years with Ron? What is this 18, '84 was your first year?

Lee Kunzman:
18 years ago.

MK:
Maybe something we can talk about with the incredible thing about Hemelgarn Racing is the small percentage of turnover that this team has seemingly had over the last decade. So many of the guys are here year in and year out, and maybe it is the reason for the team success. Buddy Lazier right now is in the book as the winningest driver in Indy Racing League history. This team won the 1996 Indianapolis 500. This team won the 2000 Indy Racing League championship, set a league record last year with four wins in a single season, winning four times in five weeks -- or in five events. It was just an amazing roll that this team was on last year.

But, when you put it in perspective, since the creation of the Indy Racing League, Hemelgarn Racing has always seemingly been the team that has been out front. Buddy sat on pole, the only pole that Buddy Lazier has won in Indy Racing League competition was the very first race at Walt Disney World Speedway January '96. That came as a big surprise to me the other day just thinking about it, the fact that Buddy has not sat on pole since that first event, but kind of shows the versatility with this team with what they've been able to do.

Buddy also became the first driver to start last and finish first in an event 2000 season. This team pulled out a car that had not turned a wheel at Phoenix. In fact, I believe it was a different chassis. They started the weekend I think with one car, went to the other because the car just simply wasn't working, and Buddy had to go to the back of the field, start dead last, and he winds up winning the race. And it was kind of what catapulted them that season to the championship. It was just an amazing start for Hemelgarn Racing.

What we're going to do, since we are transcribing this press conference this afternoon, since we do not have a wireless mic for you, we will just ask you once the Q&A starts just yell out your questions. I'll repeat the question so our transcriptionist can get that on record, and then we will relay the question and have them answered. Actually, before we start, you wanted to say one thing, Lee, on record before we actually started, and that would be.

LK:
Nothing is the truth that I say, and I'm going on record saying that.

MK:
Nothing is the truth that Lee Kunzman will say today, and he wants that reflected on the record. So that will be reflected. Lee Kunzman is a man who has quite literally seen the very best of racing and the very worse of racing. He has been in the sport now for the better part of four decades, starting as a drag racer.

And as we mentioned, he has experienced the highest highs, he has been in victory lane with this team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway most recently, and the lowest lows, spending a year on his back in the hospital after a couple of severe crashes during his racing career. He has, I think, 30 feature wins to his credit during the course of his career when he was a driver, as far as his open-wheel career goes. He was a drag racer. Raced modifieds, Indy cars, you name it.

He has been the team manager now with Ron Hemelgarn now for these past 18 years, and is really one of the legendary names in racing. It's a pleasure to hand the microphone over the Lee Kunzman. Lee, how about telling us about this operation and how you guys have managed to remain as stable as you have in an otherwise unstable or volatile sport when it comes to personnel?

LK:
Thank you, Mike. Thanks everyone for showing up here at Hemelgarn Racing today. It's a pleasure having you. Basically, our mode of business is to adjust to our finances, which we have had to do quite often when sponsorship wasn't exactly what we needed. So we've tried to tailor our racing budgets and goals to the finance situation where we have to break even here pretty much every year is where we are. So we have to do some adjustment there from year to year based on the sponsorship income, which sometimes makes it difficult. But since IRL was formed, we have been able to have a pretty level program.

Previous to that, there are many years we had to cut back, not run all the CART races at that time and concentrate on the Speedway or two or three CART races. But since IRL has formed, we have been lucky enough to have pretty consistent sponsorship year after year. We have been also fortunate to have pretty much the same people year after year, and they're excellent quality people. Couldn't be more pleased with them. And we run pretty much our program with twelve people directly related to the racecars, one person is responsible for show cars and display cars around the country, then Amber, the secretary, she joined us about four months ago from Pac West, and very pleased with the people.

We run a pretty simple program. Everybody is responsible for their own area. It works out well. They support me and carry me real well. Ron's a race fan, and he loves racing no matter how he talks or whatever, he loves it. He'll be here a long time. He has his days when he gets dejected, or whatever, and wants to go home. But I guess we all do. But you can always bet he will be here the next year.

Our program basically is with Buddy. I think this year at Speedway we will most likely run Buddy, concentrate on Buddy only during the Speedway. There is a possibility we will run a second driver. Right now it's not on the front burner. We're starting the Infiniti Pro Series teams, with two drivers - Cory Witherill and Aaron Fike. We're just planning them, starting to put it together right now, and we anticipate up and running and testing in early May, depending on equipment delivery. But that's our schedule right at the moment.

Also, if Rick [Long] would come up here rather than hide back there, the president of Speedway Engines, they have been a very big influence on our ability to win now and then and run well. Herb Porter was originally the man with Speedway Engines, with Rick working with him. Then Herb passed away. Herb is absolutely a legend around racing. 'Horsepower Herb' - one of my favourite people of all time. Rick now runs the whole ship there at Speedway. He does Panther's engines and our engines, and I think they're the people to beat right now, and have been for the last few years. Done an excellent job, and I'll let him kind of go from there on the engine development and where we are in that program.

Rick Long:
Hello. Good to see everybody here. Great turn out. I am not much of a speaker so you'll have to bear with me on this. But, basically, I guess Speedway Engines started in August of 1996, and we started out with myself and two other employees and Herb. And we've grown to 13 full-time employees now. In fact, I wanted to apologise because one of the things we were trying to do is have the media tour go through our facility this year. And we went through an expansion of our facility this winter and, like everything, was supposed to be done by Christmas at the latest. And it's still not completely done. So everything is kind of in a mess down there. So that's part of the story behind that.

But when we started out, we basically had two customers, we had PDM and Hemelgarn Racing. And we kind of focus now on running four or five teams. We maintain engines for four to five teams. That's about the capacity of our staff and our facility. We were always very glad to be associated with Hemelgarn Racing. We had a good relationship and enjoyed a lot of success over the years.

And what can you say about Buddy Lazier? He is probably one of the most enjoyable people to watch during a race that there is in existence. I have always said if they really wanted to put on the best race on television, make Eddie Cheever and Buddy Lazier start last at every race and would probably be the show of the century.

But, anyway, to get into the engine stuff a little bit, we basically will look after between 30 and 40 engines a year, and we roughly will do in the neighbourhood of 150-175 overhauls during a racing season for four to five teams. The amount of overhauls goes up and down a little bit depending on like teams just running Indy or, for example, Hemelgarn may be running a second car at the 500 this year. That kind of varies a lot. We like our teams that are going to run a full season to own six engines, and that -- for like a schedule like this year, that's a pretty economical way to go. A new engine, a brand new Chevrolet out the door at our shop, ranges in the neighbourhood of about $104,000, that's complete, ready to bolt in the car.

LK:
How come ours are $124,000?

RL:
And a routine overhaul during the season runs in the neighbourhood -- I mean, it will be up and down, but a good average number is $20,000 for 550-600 miles. Now, up to this year, we have never -- Speedway Engines has never built designated qualifying engines. All of our engines are built to go out and run 500-600 miles. With the competition level, especially with what Infiniti has done over the last year, I think we're going to be forced into the qualifying engine issues, which is fine. It just requires a fair amount more money from the race teams basically. That -- probably one of the hardest things for us is whether you guys run two cars or one car, and trying to keep up with all of that and the teams, you know, it's always -- it's a guessing game. But, anyway, we based our whole facility -- we do engines for the IRL only.

We do not do any other type of engine work, whether it be Sprints, Midgets, Le Mans-style cars. We kind of like this niche and been reasonably successful at it, and so we kind of stay in this area. We have -- the last two years have really been good. We won the championship with Buddy, and then Panther Racing ran second in the points standings that year. And then, of course, we won the points standings with Hornish, and Buddy ran second in points standings. Kind of one of our biggest issues is we've never won Indianapolis 500. We have run second there three times, and we've always finished in the top three, but we've never won. So that's always -- that's always a big issue for us every year. And we've been working very hard on trying to sort that out for this year. That's about all I have got to say, Lee.

MK:
Rick Long, by the way, is the owner of Speedway Engine Development. Milt Wood is also here with us today. Milt is responsible for track support for the teams that run Speedway Engines, and also responsible for the electronics. In just a couple of minutes, we're going to have him tell us a few more specifics about what makes a Speedway Engine perhaps different from some of the other engines.

We also want to bring up Ron Dawes. Ron is the chief engineer for Hemelgarn Racing, and we'd like to talk to him. You know, Ron, as you're taking your seat, I couldn't help but to be impressed yesterday with Buddy. I was fortunate enough to do a few laps with him in the pace car, and we were talking about it a few minutes ago, we had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 160 miles an hour on the back straight with Buddy, and I'm thinking to myself, you know, gee, you know, I really trust this guy. He's an Indy 500 champion. He obviously knows what he is doing. So I am not worried about the fact that I am doing 160 miles an hour in a passenger car without a helmet or full harness or anything. But at the same time, I thought it's unbelievable the amount of trust that is put in the team by the driver when you give him a racecar to go around the Speedway at an average speed somewhere in the neighbourhood of 230 miles an hour. It's an awesome responsibility to assemble a car on the team, but could you talk a little bit about the team and cohesiveness of Hemelgarn Racing?

Ron Dawes:
The team has been together for -- our team has been together, I guess most of the people, for about six years. So everybody knows everybody. Everybody trusts everybody. That goes along with Buddy. He knows that the car he is getting into is going to be safe and doesn't have to worry about any of those aspects of it. As far as setting the car up, it at times can be a compromise because you know that someone's life is on the line with what you're doing. So that's in the back of your mind all the time. But having worked with him so long, he's got trust in myself and the whole team.

LK:
We've been together like 16 or 17 years, whatever. Probably seems like a real long time for you.

MK:
So the two of you have been together since '87?

LK:
'86, '87, in there.

MK:
So long term. That might be the best theme here, when you guys get involved with each other, it seems to be a long-term relationship. Milt, if you could talk for a second. I know you're going to point out some aspects of the engines, we've got two of them here. Is this one ready to bolt? I notice you have the intakes and everything taped up. Tell us about this engine and what's different about an Aurora Indy V8 and Chevy V8. Rick Voegelin talked a little bit about it, but from the Speedway perspective.

Milt Wood:
Speedway was in business about one year when I joined the company, and I, by far, am the neophyte in the group to racing. My background is in science and technology. But racing is one of the finest business opportunities I have ever been in, and certainly probably wouldn't have that opportunity without the Indy Racing League.

A lot of people have gotten into the business to take care of all aspects of racing. We work with engines. Most of what you see from the outside of the engine comes directly from GM Motor Sports. The cam covers, the heads, the block, these are all the basic engineering aspects of the engine that define its basic performance. And you can see some major changes that were made in the two engines from last year to this year. The entire profile of the cams and the profile of the heads has changed, as Rick pointed out in his presentation, to lighten the engine, lower the centre of gravity. One of the unfortunate weekends that our friends here at Hemelgarn had last year was related to a failure of the coils. These engines have individual plug coils, and in the Aurora engine, the individual plug coils sat right on top of the plugs and they were on their own harness. Well, in one of the races, one of the wires that is exposed to some of the forces of the elements broke, and one of the eight cylinders on the Hemelgarn engine wasn't firing. Buddy doesn't normally need all eight cylinders - he can run with seven - but that day it was kind of embarrassing for us all.

The GM engineers made a change in the engines this year to improve that one weakness. Now -- you want to pull that out, Rick, now all of the coils are mounted on a single coil bar and the coils, the vulnerable part of the coil on the top where the wires can be abraded by the track, dirt, so forth are now protected. This is just one of many improvements that were made in the engine based on the experience with the Aurora engine. As Rick has already pointed out, the Chevy engine is generating more horsepower. It is a lighter weight power plant, but it does build on a lot of the experience that GM had from their original Aurora design. So we're real happy to be working with it and certainly has been doing a great job for us. I know -- I think Mike wanted to get to questions and answers rather than having us talk on. We can talk more of what you're interested in, but any questions you might have we will certainly try and address them.

MK:
So if we could have the four of you here and that's what we will do, just raise your hand and I will repeat the question.

Q:
Really a two-parter, Mike. One what is the Toyota entry coming up. How is that going to affect you guys, if any? And two, is there anybody else on the horizon, maybe rumour-wise that may be coming in?

MK:
The question is how will the entry of Toyota next season affect, I guess, the Chevrolet development. And number two, do you see any other engine manufacturers coming on board in the near future?

RL:
Well, Toyota's program will force GM to step their program up. Basically, as far as Speedway Engine is concerned, that's a good thing because competition drives the bar up, and so we're very positive about it. I mean, sure, Toyota is a very good company and has very strong resources behind us -- behind them, and we will just have to step our resources up to compete and stay competitive with them. And the second question was?

MK:
The other part was Toyota will be the third engine manufacturer on board. Do you foresee any other engine manufacturers coming on board in the near future?

RL:
I mean, it's all strictly rumour. For 100 years Ford and Chevrolet have always had a running gun battle going. I could see some interest from Ford, whether it be may be under another brand name, one of their parent companies -- or one of their other sister companies, or whatever, but I could see. And I don't know if Honda is going to join. I don't think they're going to do anything, to be honest. I think Penske signing with Toyota, that sort of showed maybe Honda doesn't have that much interest anymore. But I would say that's about all you're going to see. But I definitely see something from Ford in the future. It may be 2004, but that's always been a bitter rival between Chevy and Ford.

MK:
Rick, you mentioned that you guys service five teams right now. Could you tell us -- we know Hemelgarn, we know Panther. Who are the other three teams?

RL:
Hemelgarn, Panther, Sam Schmidt Racing, which is Anthony Lazarro, and Ricky Treadway, and probably the big one, which is just the month of May deal, we have an association with Team Green. Those are the five.

MK:
All right. Questions?

Q:
What does Speedway actually do to the base?

MK:
The question is what modifications does the Speedway Engine Development make, which of you want to handle that one, to the standard package? We will start with you and go to Milt.

RL:
Basically, we work on reliability side. That's number one area that we work on. And the rules, to a certain degree, are limited to cylinder head modification. You can do very little there. But as far as valve train, cam shafts, piston, reciprocating weight, internal parts in the engine, that stuff is pretty wide open. So, in other words, we have our own package, like a crankshaft, connecting rods and piston. We have a specific package, like we actually have two piston manufacturers. We own the rights to the piston forging dies. So, in other words, those particular pistons that we run only -- they have to come through Speedway Engines before anywhere else. There's some performance and those areas.

Then one of the biggest things we always worked on the hardest is our track support and strength of our track support people and being able to address issues at the racetrack, whether it's fuel mileage, or the big thing now, of course, the IRL rev limiter, what's called a soft rev limiter. A lot of times at Fontana you could hear that well there. You hear the car in the front straightaway, engine sounds like a song, that would be the soft rev limiter trying to keep the engine out of the IRL rev limiter. That's been one of the issues in the last year to really make a big difference between the top six or seven guys versus the back six or seven guys. And a lot of it has to do with the relationship between the engine people, the track support people and the race team and then the gearing of the engine. That's very critical nowadays.

That's some of the big stuff. I mean, we actually take a little bit different approach. We sacrifice a little bit of fuel mileage for performance. Like at Fontana there's no doubt about it, Penske cars had extremely good fuel mileage. They also drafted each other all day long. Where our cars with Hemelgarn and Panther went okay. Lets get up there. Cars good enough, let's lead the race. Lets go on.

LK:
They did.

RL:
But anyway. So in that respect, we've kind of taken a little bit different approach, and any more, a lot of the races are somewhat dependent on tires. Your pit stops are decided around your tires basically. And so we worry a little less about fuel mileage than we probably should, I guess.

Q:
That soft limiter, is that an electronic thing? Is there a simple explanation? I don't want my head to hurt after you tell me about it. Is there a simple explanation?

MK:
The question is, could you explain what a soft limiter is?

MW:
One of the things that has made the IRL successful is the fact that there are some very specific guidelines regarding the operation of the engine, which is, in turn, playback to the fact that the engine is not as expensive as it might otherwise be. The rev limiter, in order to turn the engine faster, you have to have more and more costly components. So we limit the revs to 10,700. And when he gets to 10,700, the engine essentially shuts off, but it will turn back on again as soon as the RPMs drop. That's a very abrupt change. And the abruptness of that change upsets the balance of the car. It certainly is hard on the engine and a lot of the internal engine components.

So what we do with the soft rev limiter is as we get closer and closer to 10,700 RMPs, we begin gradually robbing the engine of certain cylinders. So by the time you get to 10,700, we shut the engine off completely. On the way up, we're shutting off one, two or three cylinders. That makes it softer. Feels softer to the driver. But it's something that the engine builders are totally responsible for. GM provides us with the black box that runs the engine. But the way in which we use that is a part of what makes what Speedway Engines does different than perhaps somebody else. We primarily rely on Ron at the track to tell us what he wants. We try and be a part of the team at the track. And Ronnie will tell us the type of interaction he would like to have the engine have with the car, and we go off of his lead. One of the cardinal rules is you don't do anything without telling Ronnie what you're doing first. That's what we try and do. We try and blend into the operation of the team.

Q:
Do each of your customers get the same engine?

MK:
Does each Speedway Engine customer get the same Speedway Engine.

RL:
Yes. It's amazing. We kind of have a standing joke around the shop sometimes that, oh, we better take and switch the number on this engine, this engine is a good one. I mean, but no, all of our customers do get exactly the same engine. There is no proprietary stuff between teams. The only thing that will vary is one particular team may want a little bit different fuel mileage combination or a little bit different pit lane speed, or like Milt was just saying, a little bit different soft rev limit. We stress very hard that we keep that with that team.

For example, the Panther Racing soft rev limit combination which we developed with both Hemelgarn and Panther, Buddy does not like it, so Buddy's is completely different than what Sam Hornish's is. That's a personal preference of the driver. That's the big differences there. It's kind of ironic because there's been a few times where some people have given me kind of a rough way to go on that -- just what you're asking, but how come Hornish is getting the better stuff, or how come Hemelgarn is getting the better stuff. It's kind of funny, we have two shop engines, Speedway Engine has two shop engines, Hemelgarn run them, Panther run them. We've actually taken the shop engines before, gone out of one car that just went 225, and went into another car where it only went 218. But there is -- they are the same product. We do not offer anybody anything any different. If that answers your questions.

Q:
Lee, there has been a lot of focus on teams running the 500 only, cherry picking the race, today John Barnes says that's really not much different when Andy and Colon ran because he said a lot of USAP guys did it. Do you view it that way, or see it a little bit different?

MK:
The question is, there are teams that will only run the 500 this year. With that being the case, is it really any different now than it was several years ago when there were several teams that ran the only 500?

LK:
I don't personally like when people do that. I like to see them support the whole year. Certainly it has been that way for as long as I can remember. Let's face it, that's where the money is. That's where the publicity is. That's where you've got to go to grab it. You can't beat the 500. That's why CART has a problem. I think it's been proven over and over there's nothing like it and you can find sponsor money so much easier for the 500 than you can for the whole series for the whole year. It's happening. It's going to happen, as far as I can tell, in our future. I would like to see it limited a little bit to help the people that support the yearly -- all the races throughout the year.

I don't know how you put a handicap on it or how you help the people that do support the other races. But it's very difficult to say you can make the race and you can't because you support us the rest of the year. I don't know quite how you do that. it's the fastest 33 cars, or couple years ago fastest 35, as I remember. And so that's what -- when we added the other two cars, it was 35 of the fastest 33. I think it's going to continue to happen. I would like to see the people support the series all year long and don't make the race get some advantages somewhere or financial support, so they can continue. I think that's the big thing is try to help them with their financial thing.

Q:
Lee, you had said earlier that this team needs to at least break even each year. What's a typical budget to run up front in the IRL now and how does that compare too 1996?

LK:
Well, I think the big thing here, Dave, is of course it's going to be a lot higher now 15 races versus seven was it, or whatever we had. The cost per race I'm going to guess has gone up in the neighbourhood on a per race basis about double to six years. To be up front in IRL, like Panther or us, or somebody like that, you're going to spend 5-6 million a year, not counting your capital compensation, such as your facility, fixed assets. It's about a 5-6 million end of program which is going to keep going up every year. No way to contain it. Hopefully IRL will be able to control it to some degree and not let it escalate to the point where corporations just can't afford to do it. I think the point we're looking at is about 7-8 million a year. Over and above that, we've eliminated just about any corporation that can market their programs accordingly.

Q:
For this gentleman, how do you support the race teams when they're away from Indy, say, Fontana or Homestead, you've got five teams that you're supporting, do you have backup engines or truckload of them? That's one question. The other one is you say the engines are built for at least 500-600 miles. If you go 800, do they turn to mush? What happens if you go --

MK:
So you want to -- basically to define track support and what happens to an engine after it's maxed out on its mileage.

RL:
Basically, all of our teams have at least six engines in that neighbourhood. So like while they are at Fontana, for example, they have a motor in each car -- an engine in each car, and they'll have, say, two spares in their transporter, and then there will be like an engine or two back at the shop being overhauled and freshened up for after Fontana. We keep a strong rotation going from race to race. And as far as each one of our teams has at least one person from our shop that's assigned to them. And like for example, Brian, which is one of our guys, he is not here, Brian is with Hemelgarn. So whenever Hemelgarn -- whenever they're on the road, whether testing, racing, whatever, Brian is with Hemelgarn Racing as a representative from Speedway Engines. And so each one of our teams has a representative with them all the time.

And then as far as the engines, they don't turn to mush or whatever, but what we find is usually the neighbourhood of 500-550 miles the power will sag off a little bit. And what I mean by that is, they'll be down ten horsepower from what they were at 200 miles or so. And the other thing is, one of our constant issues is always valves, valve springs and then like pistons. That's when it become as problem after about 500 or 600 miles now. If, say, for example, the Indy 500, two years ago I think it was, I think we had 80-some laps of yellow or something like that. So at the end of the race, did the motor really have 500 miles on it? No, it had 500 miles of running, but it really only had 380 miles of hard running or 350 miles of hard running. So that isn't a problem to take a motor like that and say Hemelgarn Racing wants to go test at Fontana and run it another 200 or 300 miles. We actually do that quite a bit.

Hemelgarn and Panther and -- for race weekends they always want to keep their stuff as fresh as possible, so 99% of the time we will put a fresh motor in for the race and run. In fact, a lot of times -- in fact, with you guys at Fontana there unfortunately the accident happened on Sunday morning with Buddy, but that motor was a fresh motor for practice and qualifying that morning and they were going to run it the whole rest of weekend just the motor was slightly damaged on that crash. So it goes back to the intent of 500-600 miles is where we like to run the things. And after that, we like to overhaul them, which mainly is because of pistons and valve springs are the big issue. Does that answer?

MK:
Milt had something he wanted to add.

MW:
Just to kind of give you an add, in the course of 500 miles at the speeds these engines turn, these cylinder will fire about 6 million times in the course of 500 miles. The individual pistons will actually travel up and down 2000 miles in order to move the car 500 miles. So you are asking all of the components to perform at their peak for that length of time. As you get close to the end, you would like to get it back to the shop and take a look at it and see how they're doing.

Q:
Oldsmobile changed to Chevrolet. Had Oldsmobile continued on would that engine now look like what is now the Chevrolet? Certainly Chevrolet didn't say let's start from scratch, build a whole new engine. Would it have evolved what it is today had it remained Oldsmobile?

MK:
The question is, GM made the change, as far as engine supplier, from Oldsmobile to Chevy. The question is had Oldsmobile stayed in the game, would the new generation Oldsmobile engine have looked like the Chevrolet engine?

MW:
I think earlier on Rick addressed the issues. This is a transition engine. The actual original Oldsmobile engine started out at four litre engine then modified to 3.5 litre engine. Then subsequently was upgraded to the Chevrolet engine. So what the marketing is would be if whose names appear on the outside would be kind of out of our purview to say. There is a continuity between the product we started out with and the product we have. These are just bridged products to the product that will be introduced next year.

Q:
The last week or two there has been a lot of discussion about the league limiting the number of chassis builders. What about engines, will we ever -- do you have any concern as Toyota comes and possibly Ford and so on, that we take the field and we divide it into two views per team to make it feasible?

MK:
The question is about limiting the number of chassis builders and number of chassis provided per team.

Q:
The question is similar to the discussion we're having about chassis right now about limiting because the pool is only so large they couldn't support six or seven manufacturers. As an engine builder, are you concerned about too many brands some day coming in?

RL:
Sure, no doubt about it. Speedway Engines is set up basically to maintain engines for four or five race teams, and if all of a sudden the day does come where there's only two or three GM teams, then, that -- it's a little bit hard for us with the staffing and the way we're set up nowadays to survive on that. So without some factory support. That is, you know, that is a good question because that also -- that gets into a situation where like Toyota or whoever it may be, throws all of their resources at one or two teams and that's it, and that's -- I don't think that is very good for the sport, but that's my personal opinion. I don't know how you can stop it from happening. I have no idea how you can do that. It's kind of like limiting the number of chassis manufacturers. I don't know how you can do that 100%. I mean, it can be done, but I don't know what the legal ramifications of it are, really.

Q:
A follow-up to that. So what if Toyota comes to you tomorrow and says, hey, we're going to pay you whatever it takes and we want you to build engines for two teams.

MK:
So you're asking if Toyota offers factory support to Speedway Engines, are you going to consider making the transition from Chevy to Toyota?

RL:
Right now Speedway Engines has aligned themselves with General Motors or Chevrolet through 2003.

Q:
So you have a contract?

RL:
To a certain degree with them, yes. That is also Hemelgarn and Panther also do, too, with Chevrolet through 2003. It's kind of interesting you ask that because a couple of the manufacturers had talked to us. But we've been -- we've enjoyed, and I can't say enough about all of the people that work for us or whatever, but we've enjoyed all the relationships with GM, Hemelgarn and Panther and so on. We've had a great time. Hopefully we can continue on with our success.

MK:
Rick, to follow-up on that, given that, doesn't the league, though, have in place a situation that would prevent Toyota from being able to supply just two teams with engines? Won't Toyota or any other engine manufacturer who comes on board be required to service X percentage of teams that would come to them wanting their engine?

RL:
Sure. That is the case for sure. I don't remember the exact number without getting the rule book out, but I think they have to supply up to 40 per cent of the field, something like that.

MK:
I think it's 30.

RL:
Which is a good thing. But it goes back to the same old thing. It's like two years ago with the Infinity program, you know, they basically had one team and that was Cheever's, and now, of course, they've gathered more, which is good for all of us. If we were in a position where we only had one team, then that would be tough. It would be tough for Speedway Engines to survive.

Q:
I don't think you ought to underestimate two things with Toyota, that's money and political clout.

RL:
You're exactly right. I mean, they definitely have a tremendous facility.

Q:
They're going to change the IRL. They already have.

RL:
To a certain degree for sure.

MK:
Now, Lee, you said well. Are you agreeing with him or disagreeing?

LK:
I definitely agree. There is no question about it. It's going to depend upon the rules committee to a large degree to keep it on a balanced level legal playing field or level playing field. Sure business is business and Toyota take is exactly what you said, they're going to throw everything they have at it and it's going to have to be regulated to some degree or the deepest pockets are going to survive and be the most competitive. The rules committee is going to play an important part there and GM is keeping them honest every day. So I guess that's what we're doing is keeping everybody honest and making sure we hold up our end and don't let anybody run away from us. But they're going to be tough. You're absolutely right on that. With the Penske program, they're going to pull all the tricks out of the hat bank, you can bet on that. They're already rolling. We don't want to sleep any.

Q:
Question on the engines. Is there an optimum mileage that they perform better at any other mile?

MK:
The question is about the range of performance. Is there an optimum range of performance on a given engine in terms of the way it's prepared?

RL:
Yeah, actually there is. It's kind of interesting because we've worked very hard to make this happen a little bit quicker and it doesn't work this way, but actually after about 150 miles, the Chevys or the Oldsmobiles between 150 and 400 miles, they perform their best. And we've tried everything possible to thinking in the future for like qualifying engines where you just want to put a maximum of 150 miles on it, and that's it. And we haven't been able to get there. Time and time again we have done a lot of tunnel testing and from a fresh rebuild until about 150 miles, then they're just so-so. After about 150 miles, they start to come to life and that's why a lot of times, like I was saying earlier, we will take and put the race motor in to practice and qualify with Hemelgarn and Panther like they run on Saturday and race on Sunday, because when it comes down to race day, it's usually running its best. We haven't figured out why yet.

MK:
Kind of a breaking in stage. We've got time for one more because it's coming up on 2:00 we will have time to one-on-ones.

Q:
This is kind of a subjective question based on your experience with Herb Porter. But how does what you do now differ much from what Herb was doing back in the '70s, in terms of building in the off-season and the Chevy or the program, was there more latitude in choice of piston valves and rods and so on more than there is now?

MK:
The question is what does Rick and Speedway Engine Development do now that's either the same or different from what Herb Porter did when he was developing engines 30 years ago?

RL:
Actually, there's probably a lot more latitude now than there was back then, because the thing that we have going right now, which is very beneficial to us, is like for example Ilmor, for example, they have their own machine shop. They can make a lot of internal pieces in their own house. We don't have that because there's so many good companies, small companies, machine shop companies or outside vendors that we can depend on to make that part, and it keeps our overhead down in that sense.

And like back in the days of Herbie with Offy, when I first started working for him, you didn't have near the luxury of different piston manufacturers. You maybe had three or four piston manufacturers in the United States, I mean racing components - I'm not talking about passenger car top-quality components. Where now there's 100 of them. And we just have chose to align ourselves with two different particular companies in that area.

Where years ago with Herbie, it would have been better off for them to have a machine shop or own a machine shop and keep everything in house because there just wasn't all the luxuries of small businesses around like you have nowadays. So in that sense, it's easier for us, and I think like I was saying about Ilmor, very, very good company but so many good outside vendors nowadays and manufacturers. Like we have the minimal amount of machinery in our facility because we have a shop just right down the street here, two doors down probably, one of the better machine shops in the United States. They do stuff for TRD, Ilmor, do stuff for us, do stuff for a lot of the good Sprint car world guys. We can walk in the door there say, hey, we want 500 of these parts, give them a drawing and blueprint and walk out the door a week later with the part. That's a tremendous luxury that they didn't have in the '70s, let's say, and everything was especially designed and purpose built and, I guess, good old American businesses competitiveness of the businesses has really added a lot to it nowadays. Does that answer your question?

MK:
That's going to be about it. Before we say good-bye, Rick, you've got four full-time IRL teams and Team Green you're doing the month of May. How many teams could you have if you serviced everyone who wanted a Speedway Engine? How many teams do you figure you could have running your engines?

LK:
Let's hear this.

RL:
Honestly, probably -- honest numbers, probably seven or eight. We just do not have the capacity to do that. I can't say enough -- and that's what I apologise for everybody not being able to be down in our facility. I have got a great group of people goes along kind of what somewhat of Hemelgarn. We've done nothing but expand in employees. I have lost one employee, one person in the five and a half years that we've been in business. We've just expanded with employees. And we got a good tight group and everybody gets along well. That's been one of our strengths in our success to be honest. Everybody gets along well and works together and is very competitive.

And I kind of like, especially after some the stuff that's happened in the last four or five years in the IRL, where teams or engine builders will say they have two customers and then they have some success and all of a sudden they get six customers and then they lose all the reliability and have a lot of problems. I like to keep it a little bit more under control where we can continue to offer a good product and reasonably inexpensive and consistent. That's one of our big deals.

And if we wanted to go straight for the money, we probably would have taken on more work. My ultimate goal - and Speedway Engine's ultimate goal - is to win Indianapolis 500. We want to win more championships. Want to do a lot of things. One of the interesting statistics, thanks to Hemelgarn and Panther, is last season we won 58 percent of the races. There was only one race all year long where one of our cars didn't finish in the top three. That's a pretty good statistic. Something I'm am very proud of. I don't know how we can ever top it to be honest about it.

MK:
Rick, Milt, Ron, Lee, thanks very much. Ron, particularly for the hospitality. Thank you all for attending. Thank you for your coverage of the world fastest series. We will see you at the track.