Duno gets help from Pancho Carter Indy car veteran Pancho Carter, who has spotted and acted as driver coach for many drivers, is playing that same role for IndyCar Series rookie Milka Duno, who will make her series debut Sunday.
PANCHO CARTER: "Basically what I do is a spotter role. In addition to that, I try to instruct the driver. I've worked with (Sam) Hornish and (Dan) Wheldon and quite a few other drivers. More with Milka, our procedures are a little bit different that what she's used to, so we're working basically with her on that. I was here for the (rookie) test, worked with her on her line, the fast line, what happens during the race as far as people passing her, what you need to do if you're going to overtake a car. Basically all the things that drivers in the league have experienced and know. Just trying to bring her up to speed a bit faster and guide her in the right direction and give her some insight in how she can improve her performance.
"It's a role I fell into when Panther hired me a few years ago. I started spotting for Scott Goodyear when we still had him, and then we got Sam Hornish and kind of brought him along, worked with him for three years. And then we had Dan Wheldon for a couple of races. It's turned into something I do quite a bit. I'm doing a couple of Indy Pro Series drivers also, and I was at Indy for that test working with Mike Potekhen and Ken Losch with Apex Racing. It's fun. I can relate a lot of my experiences to them, and I think a lot of the time it helps. A lot of the times, the engineer and the driver have trouble drawing information out. Sometimes I can talk on driver's terms with the drivers, and all of a sudden we get the input that we want and start heading the right direction."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske): "I had eight races in the IndyCar Series before I worked with Pancho. Pancho was super about trying to teach me whatever he could. I think a little bit of it was trying to maintain my calmness and keeping me focused all the time on the right things, not getting worried about anything that was happening wrong out there. He was very even-keel most of the time about what he had to say on the radio. He didn't really get bent out of shape or fly off the handle or anything like that.
"Pancho's been through all those experiences. If I had it do over again and would've had the opportunity to work with Pancho right off the bat, I think I probably would've won a couple more races. The best thing that you can do is get a way to get experience. If it's actually you experiencing it or somebody else being able to give you some forethought as to what you might experience and how you might get through it easier would be awesome."
(About making his first IndyCar Series start): "I was in a sink or swim situation. I didn't have anything else going. If that didn't work out, I probably was done, so there were a lot of nerves. But, by the time I got the opportunity with Panther, I knew I had a full season as long as I didn't make any mistakes that I had a lot of time to show what I was capable of. I would have to see that she's probably in a little bit better position than I was at that point. It's still always hard because it's something new. You don't know how it's going to work out. You can plan and try and work real hard to make things happen right, but you're never sure if you're going to do all the right things. Chance are you're probably not, but how quickly you learn is how people regard you."
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "When I was with Panther Racing, Pancho helped me. He was primarily on Sam's car, but during tests he would speak to me on the radio about my line and stuff like that. He's a guy that's very experienced and been around. It's amazing when you're up at the top, you get a good view of different lines. When you're in the race car, having that view from the top can speed up your learning process. He was great from there. The guy's a straight shooter. He tells you exactly how it is, so it's good from that standpoint.
In trying to speed up Milka's development, it would be great to have a driver who is relatively up to date with these cars, because it's very difficult out there. Some of these tracks that we race at are very comfortable flat out on your own, but in the race that changes."
(About making his first IndyCar Series start): "It's different. When you want to be an Indy Car driver, you want to be there for a long time, and you feel like you have to prove a lot to everybody and you feel like you have to prove to yourself that you can do it. Not always are you going to get an opportunity. I created an opportunity for myself, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that but also to try and show other people that I could do it."