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An Interview with Chris Festa

Tuesday Mar 22, 2005

 

(COURTESY INDY RACING LEAGUE)

 

CHRIS FESTA, THE 19-YEAR-OLD DRIVER FOR SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS IN THE MENARDS INFINITI PRO SERIES, WAS GUEST ON THE IRL MEDIA TELECONFERENCE TUESDAY. FESTA, WHO COUNTS TRAVIS GREGG AND JAIME CAMARA AMONG HIS TEAMMATES, DRIVES THE #19 SPACEPAK, CARECENTRIC, SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS ENTRY.

 

FESTA LIVES IN ATLANTA, GA., AND IS A FRESHMAN AT FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY.

 

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much and welcome, everyone to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Joining us today from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series is Chris Festa, who last Saturday in Phoenix captured a career-best second place finish in the Phoenix 100, The Indy Racing League enters the road and street course phase for the first time next week, and Chris joins us to talk about his experiences. He ran a Fran-Am car in 2003 at St. Petersburg and joins Jeff Simmons as the only two Pro Series drivers to have competed on the streets of St. Pete.

           

Chris, St. Pete right around the corner is certainly coming up and we'll be turning right soon enough with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series cars, but you guys actually get a chance to do that before St. Pete when later they week on Thursday you'll practice at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday. Give us your thoughts about racing the street course over here at Indy.

 

CHRIS FESTA: "The road course in Indy is definitely a cool one, and the Formula 1 cars go there, so that just makes it a cool track in general. But it will be cool to see what these cars can do on that track since we'll be racing there later this year and get a handle on the gearing and the handling for this car so when we roll it off the trailer when we get there for the race, we have a good baseline set up to start with."

 

Q. And we mentioned a little bit earlier in the call that you joined Jeff Simmons on as the only two guys in the Pro Series who have raced in St. Pete. Actually there's three Indy Car series guys, two guys and a lady, Darren Manning Patrick Carpentier, Danica Patrick. Give us your thoughts about the first time the IRL turns right.

 

CHRIS FESTA: "That street course is a little bit better than most in my opinion because it's a little bit wider, and you've got some longer straights than most street courses, so you can be a little bit more aggressive and race a little bit more. But it's also a lot smoother than most street courses, so it's much more road course like than it is actual street course. So that will be good from a fan perspective because they'll be able to see a lot more racing going on and a lot more aggressive driving, I guess could you say. But it will be a good one also, because it's a fun track for the drivers to drive, as well."

 

Q. Let's talk about Phoenix last week. I know you're one of our better-rounded road course racers, so you've gotten used to ovals here a little bit and obviously picked it up fairly quickly and finished a career-best second. Give us your thoughts about that run last week.

 

CHRIS FESTA: "That run was a little interesting. There was a lot of carnage going on, especially at the beginning, just cars dropping out like flies. Once we got going, the car that we had was pretty good, and we could just keep pace with (race winner) Jon Herb and could just not get up quite close enough to make a move on him. We definitely worked the car a little bit, see what we can do when maybe we get to Milwaukee or Pikes Peak or something like that. So it was definitely a learning experience for us, and it will pay off dividends when we get to the other short ovals."

 

Q. Clearly the short ovals, you picked up on those fairly quickly. I know you're looking forward to going to St. Pete, but do you like racing the ovals?

 

CHRIS FESTA: "Yeah, I do especially the superspeedways because they are so close for long, it's really hard for people to check out, and you just run by yourself on those. You know, running with four cars around you for 75 laps is a lot different than anything you ever get on a road course, and it was a new experience for me, and I had a lot of fun with that at Homestead."

 

Q. Being a three-car team, three drivers, is it a hindrance or a help?

 

CHRIS FESTA: "Oh, it's definitely a help. The three of us work really well together, and we're all very different. We all three have very different skills, so we can learn from each other's talents and mistakes and work together as a team to really progress up the line the way Jaime (Camara) and Travis (Gregg) did at Homestead."

           

Unfortunately, I had a mishap earlier in the weekend which kept me from being up there with them. We do things like that all the time. We plan on working together most of the time in the race and then racing against each other toward the end of the race.

 

Q. What will it mean to you personally to race twice, as it is, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

           

CHRIS FESTA: "Oh, that will be a cool thing for us. We'll be the first series to race there twice ever in history, so that will be a cool thing for us and also do be able one on the road course, which the Formula One cars run, and one on the regular 500 track. It's just really cool, they are both completely different, and yet with the same prestige Indianapolis has. That will be a great thing for all of us."

 

Q. Coming from a road racing background the way you do, why did you decide it come into the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and what your goals down the road?

           

CHRIS FESTA: "I decided to come to the Menards Infiniti Pro Series because there seems to be -- the IRL seems to be much stronger right now than Champ Car and there's a lot more opportunities there. The IRL is making the transition to doing more road course racing which is, like you said, my background, and I wanted to get more oval experience just because it's good experience to have.

            "So to come to the Infiniti Pro Series, it gives me the opportunity to maybe still look at Champ Car if I have to, but more importantly, look at the IRL (IndyCar Series), which is where I'm planning to go in the future, hopefully next year provided I do well enough this year and get ready."

 

Q. Then the objective of working with the primarily oval series is something that you're into now, that you've done, the superspeedways and you've done PIR?

           

CHRIS FESTA: "Yes."

           

Q. Real quick, are you in school or not at Florida State?

           

CHRIS FESTA: "I am in school at Florida State."

 

Q.  And your major is?

           

CHRIS FESTA: "Marketing."

           

Q. And what year are you?

           

CHRIS FESTA: "I'm a freshman."

           

Q. What are your goals for this season coming into the Pro Series?  The last couple years, the Futaba Freedom 100 is clearly a race that the Pro Series guys circle on their calendar, but there are some big races this year, including that road course at Indianapolis. So some of your goals heading into this year?

 

CHRIS FESTA: "My goals are to learn as much as I can so that I can apply everything I learned in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in the (IndyCar Series) when the time comes for me to move up there. And also, just to win some races along the way and have some fun. This is what I'm supposed to be doing is having fun, so I'll do that and I'll take it seriously and do the best I can."

 

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