Iracingone On One:/I Stephan Gregoire

Stephan Gregoire is the driver of Dick Simon’s No. 7 G Force-Oldsmobile in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Gregoire finished the 2000 season, his second with Simon, 14th in the IRNLS point standings. His best career finish is a second at Pikes Peak in 1997. The Frenchman has been with the IRNLS since its debut in 1996 and has competed in 41 of 43 races.

RacingOne: You had an up-and-down season. How would you rate your year?

Gregoire: It was not a fantastic year for us. It started very good, because in Orlando and Phoenix for the open tests, we were fastest. Everything looked very well. Then if you remember in Orlando they cancelled the qualifying because it was raining, where I was leading the practice. I was fastest. During the race we had a problem with the battery. And then in Phoenix I was leading. Al Unser Jr. and I were fighting each other. We were on a different sequence than the other teams, and we were actually on the bad sequence. So, we got screwed in the pits. We ended up eighth and Al Unser Jr. was ninth, but otherwise we would have been able to win the race. Then in Indy we finished eighth. That was pretty good. Before Indy we were in Las Vegas and crashed. The engine blew and that sent me into the wall. It’s been an up-and-down type of deal. At the end of the year in Texas I was hoping to do a decent race. We were ready for a good show-up, I think. We had many problems. The brake line blew. I had no brakes, no clutch, nothing. I had to come in to fix it. I mean, it’s easy to say that, but we’ve had a run of bad luck.

RacingOne: Did your season make you lose faith in yourself or the team?

Gregoire: I decided to stay with the team because I believe we have a good team. And I believe in being with the same people year after year because people get to know each other better. I’m very happy to be with Dick Simon. This is one of the biggest names in racing. I believe he deserves to win Indy more than anybody else. He’s paid his dues. I would love to be the driver to win with him. We have a very good team, good people, a very good atmosphere, everybody likes to work with each other. We all need to make sure we win. So that’s what we’re working on.

RacingOne: Have you had a chance to visit Chicagoland Speedway while you’re in town?

Gregoire: No. I only read about it and watched it on TV and the Internet. I heard from Scott Sharp especially that it was a very nice track. I think we’ll have very good racing here. It’s good to be in Chicago and in the Chicago area. I think we’ll have a lot of people come to the race. It’s exciting, it’s good.

RacingOne: You’ve been with the IRNLS since the very beginning. How did the 2000 season compare to the past seasons?

Gregoire: The 2000 season was not the best in my opinion because there were too many gaps between races. We had 11 races in 1998. Next year, 2001, I’m sure will be the best one. We start in March. Starting in January was really a problem for us. That was the problem. I like the race track but I didn’t like the date. Now we start in March and that’s very good. We end up in Texas in September. It will be much more concentrated, much more exciting, not only for the people watching us, but also for us as drivers and teams. It’s gonna be great. I think it’s really going to be a big step forward next for the IRL, for sure.

RacingOne: What about the level competition on the track?

Gregoire: The competition is tough. There’s a lot of competition. That’s one good thing about the IRL. It’s one of the toughest series. I think we probably have the best racing. You never know who’s going to win the race. It’s really hard to say. I think we have a very good product. It’s tough to win, even if you have a top team. A good example this year is Kelley Racing. Kelley Racing is one of the very top teams, and they haven’t done great this year. Scott Sharp I think finished fifth, that’s very decent. But, what I mean is you don’t have to have a huge team to win. And that’s so good. Because I know with my team I know we can go next year and win races. We just have to prove it.

RacingOne: You’ve been close before.

Gregoire: Oh yes. I have good people with me. I strongly believe I can win races, definitely no question about that. But in racing you have to have everything together. You know how it works. It’s not only the driver, it’s not only the mechanic, it’s the team. Especially on long races like Indy, luck is very important and to be able to stay out of trouble when there is an accident. You have to have some luck, that’s for sure.

RacingOne: Of all the new tracks you’re going to be going to next year, which ones are you looking forward to the most?

Gregoire: I prefer the flat tracks. I’m very honest. Miami or even St. Louis. I heard St. Louis is even better because you have two different corners. One is kind of tight and the other one is kind of open. I think that’s going to be pretty good. I’m looking forward to that. Every time you go to a new track it’s exciting. I’ll be excited to be here just because it’s a new track. And it’s always good to discover something new.

RacingOne: Can you talk about some of the young drivers in the IRNLS right now?

Gregoire: Well, we have one, especially, who is doing very good and is also a girl -- Sarah Fisher. She’s really amazing. The young drives have been doing a very good job. I don’t consider myself to be very old, but Sarah is only 19 (now 20). She’s amazing. As long as they have proved to do good in what they’ve done before, I don’t see any problem. A good race car driver in a midget, no question he’ll be a good race car driver in an Indy car. I don’t like to see people who have not proved anything, because it can be dangerous. People come from nowhere and you don’t know who they are. Sarah Fisher, I had seen her in a midget race one day in Winchester, Ind. Amazing, she was amazing. I mean the track is dangerous because if you crash you have the trees. She was spectacular, I couldn’t believe it. When I heard Sarah Fisher was coming to Indy car, no problem. I knew she was going to do good. She’s a very good race car driver. And you have other good ones, like Sam Hornish, Airton Dare, of course, no question. I think we have a bunch of good drivers. That’s good for competition. That’s what we need. I’m very happy about that.

RacingOne: Do you ever see yourself with a teammate at Dick Simon Racing?

Gregoire: Yes. If we have a teammate it can help because you can share information, sometimes. Some teammates don’t like to share information. I’m very open-minded, but for that to happen you have to have a strong program financially. I’ve been talking to Dick a lot about that. I said: ‘If we have a teammate, no problem, but make sure it doesn’t eat up our program.’ It’s better to have one program that is strong than to have two weak ones. I know Mexmil really wants to have another driver on the team because that gives you more luck maybe. If one guy is having problems, maybe the other will have better luck. I don’t mind. That’s no problem.

RacingOne: It seems the IRNLS got a lot more positive press this year. As a driver do you feel the momentum of the league picking up?

Gregoire: As a driver, I don’t get the critics, directly. If there is somebody who’s really feeling the difference, it’s Tony George, because he was the target. At the time, there were critics all over, in the media, and that was not very good. I think he’s the one that must feel a big difference. As a driver, I never felt any problems. People have never been mean. It was kind of disappointing to read bad article all the time about the series. But I’m a driver, I don’t feel a big difference really.

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