Detroit GP: Friday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with today's post qualifying press conferences. We will start with James Jakes who qualified fourth. This is a career-best qualifying result for James.
James, talk about today's qualifying.
JAMES JAKES: Yeah, obviously it was pretty tough out there with the conditions. I think the biggest key was staying patient. We were out in the first group, of the first 12. It was quite a bit wetter, you just had to make sure you had a clear lap at the end of the session with a couple of minutes to go to maximize the potential out of the car. I think we did that.
Been pretty happy with the pace all weekend, especially in practice this morning. But the balance on the reds changed quite a bit. Still got a little bit of work to do. Obviously with the weather coming in, what they're forecasting tomorrow, starting up as high as you can is going to be key. We got a great position.
THE MODERATOR: He's also been joined by Mike Conway.
Mike, talk about today's qualifying.
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, obviously with the drying in our session, it was a case you got to get that time in. The tires just start to go off really quick. I did one time, tried to back off, go for another one. That was enough to put me through.
Obviously the other two after that were still tricky. Drying conditions, and in the end there, tires got pretty hot. But, yeah, to be third straight back in the car again is good.
Thank you to Dale Coyne for making this possible and all the guys on the team.
THE MODERATOR: Our IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified fifth.
Ryan, walk us through your qualifying run today.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it with the rain, the drying track. It keeps you nervous, keeps us on your toes. You're always searching every lap for that 10th of a second, which is a lot of fun in these cars.
I don't know where the speed went that last round because in the top 12 we were 80.2, then only 2/10ths quicker in the Fast Six.
A little disappointed with it. But we're in the Fast Six. We're starting up front. We should be able to go have a good day.
Unfortunately, Mike Conway is here crashing the Fast Six party again.
MIKE CONWAY: Sorry, man (laughter).
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Never count him out.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by E.J. Viso, who will start in second place.
E.J., talk about today's qualifying.
E.J. VISO: Pretty much mirroring what the other guys said. This is a busy track. They keep us busy. This qualifying was fun. One of the sessions was a fully wet session, then the second one was damp, then the third one was fully dry.
Team gives us a pretty competitive car. Little by little things are coming together. I'm excited to be once again in the front row. Congratulations to my friend Mike Conway who did a great job.
MIKE CONWAY: Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Guys, how unique is that between now and the race that you just qualified for you're going to be on the track qualifying for another race the next day?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I don't want to sound like Debby Downer, but the rules don't make any sense, with you getting locked into one group, all the odds getting locked into group one.
Yeah, very strange for sure. But you kind of roll with it and get going. It's all part of it.
MIKE CONWAY: I think it's funny. If you're lined up on that side, that would make a lot more sense.
E.J. VISO: It rains a little bit for one group, then not for the other, you're going to be screwed because the rules are not written the most clever way.
Q. Mike, you come and go in this series. You turn up, you win races. Today you've qualified third. How difficult is that, particularly for a smaller team? And what was the track surface like out there, particularly the new section?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I mean, obvious not easy jumping in and getting the job done.
I think obviously Justin has done a great job with the car over the year. It felt good. It's definitely a handful around here. Yeah, no, just felt comfortable as soon as I got in. If you can just get up to speed really fast knowing everything is all good, makes your job a lot easier.
Yeah, didn't have too much time to prepare for this one and the last one. But still happy with third and I hope we can do well in the race.
JAMES JAKES: It's fun to drive. It slows a lot better than the old one used to do. When you go down into three, four, five, six, it's fun. The asphalt and concrete, you get a balance shift mid entry to the corner. A big thank you to the Penske organization for doing such a great job here, making it so fun to drive.
E.J. VISO: I think this Grand Prix every time is getting stronger. The changes they've been doing, for sure they needed to do changes for this car on the tarmac and the asphalt joints. They did a great job. It definitely keeps us very busy due to all the grip changes. It's fun. It's the same for everyone.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Big thanks to Mr. Penske and his group for extending the track back to the way it used to be when CART was here.
E.J. VISO: I think Helio didn't like it (laughter).
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's definitely fun. It's violent in the car, but it certainly improved a lot with the new pavement.
THE MODERATOR: We also have Alex Tagliani joining us. He qualified sixth.
Alex, your second consecutive top-six qualifying result. Walk us through today's qualifying session.
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, it's really nice to be back in the front. Obviously we struggled a little bit with the new tires this year, from the beginning of the year. We worked a lot. The team worked a lot. Kind of nervous at the beginning to unload the car, being a one-car team. We unload and the car was really fast. Really happy about that. The team did a great job.
Qualifying, car was really good. Made some changes. Got really greedy at the end. We knew we had a chance at the pole. We kind of messed up the car a bit. It was really unfortunate because the car is really fast. Hopefully we can make it up in the race.
Q. Can you tell us more, Ryan, about calling it violent? Also how key is positioning here in terms of qualifying?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, in the car it's extremely bumpy, low level the grip because it is a new surface. You're constantly sawing at the wheel in there. It's really busy, especially once the rubber gets washed away with a little bit of rain. The balance you just had changes.
It's tough to stay after, that's for sure. Yeah, it's going to be tough to pass, it always is on street circuits. Optimistic we can get more passing done in turn three, with the difference between red and black tires, the alternates and primaries.
We now have two passing zones instead of just one.
THE MODERATOR: We are now pleased to be joined by our polesitter, Dario Franchitti. This is his 31st career IndyCar pole.
Dario, walk us through qualifying today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I'll start at the beginning of the day because four laps into practice this morning, I got caught out, the brakes were heating up, didn't catch the car fast enough when it sort of turned about 90 right into the wall going into I think turn eight. I just wasn't fast enough to catch it. Took the right front corner off.
The Target boys had a busy morning rebuilding the car. So I really had no experience of the track really apart from what I had when he last raced here, that layout.
I'm sitting in the car, it starts raining. I'm like, Okay, this is going to be really interesting. Managed to get through that. The second session was drying. Got through that one.
At the end I had no expectation. 10-spot grid penalty, just went out and pushed as hard as I could every lap. Through turn eight the last lap I got crossed up in the middle, almost hit the wall, lost a bit of time. Ultimately it was good enough. Got to thank the Target boys for turning the car.
I'm delighted to have gotten the pole here, especially after this morning.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Dario.
Q. What will the style of racing be like in the Saturday race considering you're going to have to use the same car on Sunday? Do you think guys might be a little more careful in the race on Saturday?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Doubtful. Very doubtful. These things can be rebuilt quite quickly. I think both races will be aggressive.
This track, I heard Ryan say it, by its nature requires quite an aggressive style all the time. You're really on edge the whole way round. So I don't see one race being more aggressive than the other. I think they're both going to be pretty full on.
Q. You qualified for a race. You are going to have to have another qualification session for another race.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I haven't thought about that too much. Yeah, obviously that's something new. A little confusing I think for everybody.
Yeah, we'll see what we can do tomorrow. It's a different format of qualifying tomorrow, as well.
Again, really proud of the job the whole team did there to get that pole. Feeling pretty good about that. Looking forward to racing again on this format of track. I think for several reasons we had to use the small layout. Roger Penske and Bud and Charles got back to the extended layout. It's a lot of hard work gone into this venue. It's really cool to work with a promoter that you point something out on the track walk and it's literally done an hour later. You get a phone call, Mate, sorry about that. It's really been cool.
Q. The areas that did come up last year have been repaired, the track extended. Did you find anything weird out there today or is it all good?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Changing conditions with the wet to start with, some standing water in several points, then just the different grip levels and different surfaces as it dries out. Typical street court stuff really.
Bud is here. How many millions did you spend resurfacing this joint (laughter)? There you go, $2 million. It's bloody impressive, and there's more improvements on the way. We should be racing here. It's the Motor City, isn't it?
Q. How different was your car from the first round of qualifying going into the final round? Were you able to adapt?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Crashing on the standing water first, finding where the grip was, where the grip wasn't. Each lap it got a little bit different. First lap a lot of standing water. Amazing how much standing water these cars clear.
Last lap in P1 was a little ruined, Charlie spun in exit one. Actually, it was turn two. Wasn't there anymore, but I slowed down, so it kind of ruined two. He was limping back to the pits and I had to pass him. Ruined that lap.
Just finding the limit in the changeable conditions. Second practice track was drying. The guys made a good tactical call to see exactly how the track had changed from our first run, how it changed through group two with Dixie and all those guys.
The last one, I would say it was fully dry, but pretty slippery with no rubber down. The car obviously was good enough in all of them, but it's a handful. It's all arms and elbows. That's not my traditional style. Just channeling my inner Colin McRae.
Q. Did you get any advanced notification when Helio spun in the second session and it went yellow, then red?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: On the radio I got that there was a yellow in three, but the car is not on the racing line, it's off to one side, isn't a factor. We didn't know what was going to happen. Then the red came out after that, yeah.
I think it could have got pretty interesting there had it run the whole session.
Q. As you said before, this being Motor City, as a member of the Honda contingent, how do you feel about coming in here in a Chevrolet race in Detroit having a chance to take some of their glory away from them?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think the Chevy guys did a brilliant job last year winning the championship. Also last week at Indianapolis they won it.
As Honda we came and won Indy, came in here with a one, two, three. We love that competition with them. When they win a Honda race, they're the first ones... It's a fierce rivalry, but very respectful.
We would love nothing better than to win here on Saturday and Sunday at their home race. At the same time very thankful for the fact they're supporting the championship as Honda did. We're lucky to have two such committed manufacturers.
Q. Given you were nowhere last Sunday, now you're looming larger-than-life, did Honda step it up?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: There's a combination of many factors. Some were definitely at our door as far as the Target team, aero setup, we didn't get it right. Honda was at a disadvantage last week at Indy. We were just never in the hunt.
It's a much different track here. Kind of like Brazil was different. Street course tire, mechanical thing, the engines, a lot different. I'm glad we're up front there.
But last week, as I say, yeah, we weren't happy. We were not happy in any way, shape or form with our performance.
But that's what it takes to win a race or certainly a championship. You've got to be strong on all these types of tracks and you've got to have perfect days, and we didn't.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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