IndyCar Barber Friday Press Conference
1st RYAN HUNTER-REAY
2nd SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Ryan, fastest in both practice sessions today. How was the track?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Track was good. This is quite a bit hotter than we're used to at Barber. Throwing all the teams for a bit of a loop, which I think is a good thing, because we test here quite often. Test in the off-season. Definitely can't get enough of Barber, but it's definitely good to have some different track conditions around.
THE MODERATOR: How will Andretti Motorsports prepare for qualifying tomorrow?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's going to be maybe a little bit hotter. Ambient is going up, track temp will be going up. We'll look at what we did last year for qualifying and hopefully be able to predict where the track is going to be.
The Andretti Autosport cars are great right now. I think we're getting pretty close to where we need to be with them. We're not quite there yet, but I expect to see all four of them pretty quick tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Q. (No microphone.)
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's racing. It's over. It's not the first time; won't be the last. The most unfortunate thing is Josef Newgarden would have had to come in for another set of tires anyway. They put the wrong set of tires on.
But I feel terrible the way it ended because really we had a car that sat on pole, we led all the way through the race, and unfortunately our teammate got caught up in it, too. He wasn't the one that I was trying to pass, but he got caught up in it.
I spoke to Josef about it. We're all good on it. Everybody is good on it. Spoke to the stewards about it, too. They saw it as a racing incident. I'm the car making the pass, so it's down to me in the end.
Q. (No microphone.)
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I told him what I thought about that. I told him to get in line.
Q. A question about Long Beach, not specifically about your incident, but generally. A lot of guys have said they're having problems working out where the limit is in terms of acceptability under the self-policing rules. Is it something you need a few races to sort out?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think all the drivers are under the agreement that it is much better than where we were a few years ago where there was penalties every three or four laps coming down on the drivers. I grew up a fan of the CART IndyCar Series, and you didn't see drivers going in the pits all the time for penalties.
With that said, I think there needs to be a line drawn at some point. I think the car passing, this is basically everybody's understanding as well, I think everybody agrees with this, the car passing has to at least get its nosecone halfway up on the car that it's trying to pass. At that point there's some responsibility shared between either driver. I think that's the key really. You can't have an attempted pass where the nosecone of the car trying to overtake never even gets near the side of the other car.
When you're dealing with that, it makes it pretty clear.
Q. I know you only get one good lap on the reds here at Barber. Any idea what this new compound of reds is going to do tomorrow or are you flying blind?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: With the changing track conditions, the blacks being different than last year, the black Firestone tires being different than last year, the reds being different, it's kind of a moving target, which makes it fun. You don't know what to expect.
Like I said, we'll go back and look at what we did last year, hopefully predict it, nail the target, be the ones to put that DHL Honda up front.
That's the beauty of qualifying in this series right now as tough as it is. You need to get it down. You need to get the setup nailed. You have to put in the perfect lap and be on the correct tire strategy as well.
Q. I know you joke when you say you told James to get in line. What is that meeting like on Monday?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's heat of the moment. We're out there. We don't get timeouts like in football where you get to bring it back down or anything like that. We're constantly at 9/10th, 10/10ths the whole time. Your mind, the mental focus that you're putting into your craft at that point. Then all of a sudden if you're out of the race, you come off that, you're in the heat of the moment for another hour after that. It stays up.
Plenty of times in my career I've said some things right coming out of the car, there's a microphone right in your face, absolutely.
He's bummed that he got caught up in it. To be fair, he wasn't the one that the maneuver was tried upon. Will got through there, so I don't know.
Q. Is Michael hands on or hands off on that sort of deal?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: He's hands off. Michael is a racer. We're all racers. That's the thing. I've never been the guy that's going to sit back and cruise home for a second place. I'll go for it.
Q. (No microphone.)
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I'm really excited about it. It's a new racetrack. It's a proper racetrack. The best part about it is it's inside the world's greatest racetrack. Putting a top-notch road course, probably what is going to be America's best road course, inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, letting a bunch of IndyCar drivers go at it is awesome. I feel like a kid. It's great. Can't wait to try it out.
It's a clean sheet of paper for everyone. So hopefully the race will show that way as well. We're all starting from scratch there.
Q. About Kurt Busch coming in joining the team for the month of May. What does he need to do during all the practice sessions to prepare himself for the race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think it's great what Kurt is doing. I wish we could have more opportunities to go the other way, too. I'd love to get some NASCAR drivers in on some street circuits, too. I think that would be awesome.
For Kurt to do what he's doing, it takes a lot of guts to do that. Jump out of a Cup car, practice, get on a plane, go back, get back into a Cup car. I look up to him for that.
I think he's going to have to approach it from a learning perspective, looking at it with fresh eyes. He's going to have to put everything he knows about a Cup car out of his mind for Indy.
I met him right after he won the championship actually. He's just really a down-to-earth, nice guy. I expect it to go very, very smoothly with him. We'll be an open book for him. I think it's going to be tough at times. It won't be tough necessarily in the first few days of practice, but once you get 33 cars out there with lower downforce levels, that's when that place becomes real small real quick.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, thank you for coming in and good luck in qualifying tomorrow.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll welcome up Sebastien Bourdais, who was second fastest in today's overall practice sessions.
Sebastien, you have two practice sessions under your belt today, a fairly cool day as compared to race conditions. What are you expecting from qualifying tomorrow?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I think everybody's trying to guess what the race is going to be like. We know actually from 2012 how slick this place can be when it gets hot, how much tire degradation can be here. We come here and test for two days, it's drizzling, British weather, in the 50s, no wind. The track is awesome and the car feels great, it's super fast.
You come back, the track is 125 degrees, it's gusty. You're like, Is it the same car? You're going two seconds slower and you're P1. Okay, that's interesting.
I think we could very well see actually a weekend where the times plateau maybe tomorrow morning. Track temp might be just about as hot as it was tomorrow afternoon as it was at 10 a.m. this morning if the sun beats on the track from the sunset to the end of the day. Yeah, I don't know.
It's very difficult to anticipate what's going to happen, but I think the track might not pick up any speed at all. It's getting very slick out there. During the session it felt like the track didn't pick up very much. So we'll see what happens.
THE MODERATOR: You're driving the No. 11 car this year. How would you rate the season so far entering the third round?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm very happy with the team. I'm not so happy with myself, obviously. Made a lot of mistakes. St. Pete was a very small one, but that put us in a ditch. Obviously the one lap we could finish the race on a two-stop strategy with closed pits, which threw everything in the garbage, which was a shame, because it was a good recovery.
Long Beach, we had a great weekend going until the out-lap after the first pit stop. Just need to get my game together, maybe try a little less hard. Maybe I want it too much and I'm trying too hard.
It's definitely a very good feeling, though, for Mistic and Hydroxycut. Week in and week out we seem to have the pace to be at the front contending. I guess it's easier to fix than that looking for pace and hoping that the next weekend will be better. You can always try and run a clean race and a clean weekend rather than look for a second a lap.
There's plenty of pace in that car. Again, today it felt really good. Just going to clean up the game and hopefully we get a weekend all together.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, after Long Beach, I know KV is not going to like it, but I felt like I was as stupid at 35 as I was at 23.
These kind of mistakes, I don't make many of them. When you do, it really hurts. It's gutting. You try really, really hard to build a group. I really feel like we actually built something really nice, have really good chemistry. It came in a rather short period of time, which it's quite satisfying.
When you arrive in a new team, people are kind of doing their job, they're being professional about it. But then comes the next step where everybody feels like there is actually something that's coming together.
When that kind of happens, I want it so bad for myself and for the guys around me, as well, that maybe I get carried away a little bit. I've never been known for being a cold-blood driver, I guess. It's served me more than it hurt me. When I get all pumped up like that, I usually become pretty unstoppable.
Yeah, I mean, sometimes when you go over the line, you just make that tiny little mistake that costs a lot. Sometimes you get away with it. For the first two races, it didn't happen, you know. That's what I kept on telling to people at Daytona, that pit entry. People saw it as brilliance. I saw it as stupidity.
It looks cool when it goes well. When it goes wrong, all goes to crap pretty quick.
We're all racecar drivers. Sometimes you just got to dial it down a little bit to get your act together. Hopefully it's a good weekend now.
Q. You had two little offs earlier in the first session. What sort of things were you fighting early on that had you running off the track?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it was two different incidents. The first one, I was looking for the poles which were supposed to be there and they were not. I turned in a bit early. When I realized they were not there, I kind of sit a little lower than I used to, and, yeah, I was looking for the poles going into the quick chicane. All of a sudden I realized there were none, I was on top of the curb, tires up in the air. That was a bit of a wake-up.
The second one, I was just trying to carry a bit more speed. Like I said, the conditions from the test have changed dramatically. There was a tailwind going in there. The car picked up too much speed. I grabbed the exit curb, sent the car sideways. That wasn't a big scare, but just basically trying to readjust to a two-second-a-lap difference from when we came here last and the first few laps.
Q. I think there's this perception that you're a road and street specialist, which you are. But you have a lot of experience on the ovals, too. When you put that next to the fact that you're with the team that won the Indy 500, how comfortable do you feel heading into Indianapolis and your chances to go out there and try to repeat for the team?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, quite honestly it means so much for the team and everybody's waiting for them around the corner. Incidentally, people are going to be looking for me, as well, around the corner. There's not going to be any excuses when you're in a car that won the 500 the year before and it's the same package.
But quite honestly, as far as I'm concerned, I haven't really put my head into the 500 yet. Coming into a new team, having to make a lot of changes to the team's history in terms of setup and things, I'm a pretty particular driver as far as what I like around for the car and everything. We definitely drew a line from what was done last year to where we are right now.
So I am really focused on that and trying to maximize the package. I actually don't think I have a lot of experience. I did more ovals last year than I'd done in my entire career prior. It's definitely good that I finally got a full season with the whole perspective and I'm not going to show up to Texas and Iowa and a couple of places where I never been before.
These oval weekends go so fast. A part of Indy where you have all this preparation. You get to Iowa and Texas, all these places, you have two sessions, qualifying, and the race is over. You're like, Okay, I was just starting to have some fun, you know.
Kind of looking forward to Indy. But I haven't really put my mind into it yet. For sure, it's a place that we're being patient and methodical. The team is going to be obviously able to provide me with a lot of feedback from what's been successful in the past. I'm sure we'll have a pretty solid baseline set up to work with. It's always a little different depending on conditions and tires, this and that. I'm hopeful it will be a smooth month of May.
Q. From the first session to the second session, what changes did you have to make to the car's setup that got you to P2 in this session?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Not so much actually. Just put in more than one lap time essentially, which is what I did in the previous session. The car was pretty good. It was pretty tricky. I was trying just things to replicate what I had been doing in prepractice here. It was way too much, so I dialed it down a little bit.
Yeah, we made a couple of changes, but nothing dramatic. Also because if you make big changes between P1 and P2 and the track picks up 25 degrees, you never know what did what. You kind of try and keep it simple these race weekends where you don't make dramatic changes unless you feel you're in the woods. We didn't feel that way. The baseline was actually pretty good.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's tricky because the limit is way earlier than you were expecting it because the grip is much lower. Like I said, when you're two seconds slower, all of a sudden you brake earlier, you can't carry as much speed, you lock wheels front or rear depending on what's going on. You just got to be counting things down a little bit, and patience I think.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm not sure I want to answer that.
I think we need to see where we're at. I didn't see anything wrong with the old track. Obviously the IMS guys thought different. We'll just give it a fair shot and see how that shakes out. They sure spent a lot of money for that so it better be good.
Q. A technical question. This pit entry is one of the toughest ones on the circuit. There's guys almost hitting that wall every time. How hard is that going to be on hot tires come Sunday to get onto pit lane?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, if it's a green first stint, you don't want to be the first one pitting, let's put it that way. You're going through loads of marbles. It can catch you off pretty easily.
It's also true, if you run wide on exit or anything, it's a tricky corner. The tires, you're going right, right, right, right for a long time. By the time you get to the end there, you have to get into pit lane, you're crossing a sea of marbles.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I personally like to have the pit speed limit before the lap because it's pretty unnecessary to take the chance. But it is what it is. You just need to make sure that you don't compromise your race in pit lane.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck in qualifying tomorrow.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Thank you.
Feedback can be sent to email@example.com
Go to our forums to discuss this article