Race Car Drivers vs The Media

A recent article in Nuvo Newsweekly asked several IndyCar drivers 20 questions about how quickly they do various things, from hot laps and pit stops to fixing a meal and getting in and out of their fire suit. But the question that elicited the most surprising answers was: What’s the fastest you’ve ever gotten out of a media interview?

If you saw video from Community Day when they flew to locations across the country to promote the Indy 500, the drivers might have appeared to be enjoying themselves. But there is a reason that autograph sessions at each track and Media Day interviews at IMS are mandatory. Far too often, a driver would rather be doing anything other than talking to the media.

Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden, the two Team Penske drivers who participated in this survey, declined to respond to that question, but other drivers were surprisingly candid about their dislike of this part of their job.

Gabby Chaves (Harding Racing) said the fastest he got out of a media interview was “right away.”

Ed Jones (Dale Coyne Racing) was more precise when he said “5 seconds.” Charlie Kimball (Chip Ganassi Racing Teams) stays slightly longer – 30 seconds – but only because he is forced. “I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” he said.

Female drivers are no less impatient about media interviews than their male rivals. Pippa Mann (Dale Coyne Racing) admits she has left an interview within minutes.

Mikhail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) stated that he leaves quickly “when I’m asked silly questions.” This retort brings to mind a famous Tony Stewart quote frequently overheard during press conferences: “That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard!” Maybe Aleshin and Stewart aren’t familiar with the old adage that there are no stupid questions.

Tony Kanaan (Chip Ganassi Racing Teams), whom the fans often rank as the series’ most popular driver, confesses to having left after one question.

But perhaps the most unexpected answers come from Ganassi teammates Max Chilton, who “just walked out,” and this year’s Indy 500 pole sitter and Taco Bell robbery victim Scott Dixon, who simply “didn’t show up.”

Media coverage is important to sponsors and promoters, so a driver who shrugs off opportunities for free ink may face consequences.

The bright spot in an otherwise media-shy IndyCar paddock came from Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Racing), who said, “Never. I don’t get out of media interviews.” It’s worth pointing out that his responses to the other questions were much more detailed and elaborate than the answers provided by the other drivers.