Only 2 rookies in this year's Indy 500
Only two rookies are contending for this year's Indy 500, Milka Duno and Phil Giebler, both road racers. They met the media today at the Indy Speedway.
MILKA DUNO (No. 23 CITGO Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I enjoy every single event, every moment here in Indianapolis. It was someplace I always wanted to be here from a long time ago. Everything is such a big surprise. I can't explain with words how I feel here, how I feel to be part of the Indy 500. I know it's going to be a very tough race. Yesterday I was practicing with my car. The car was not good, but my engineer was working with the car. At the end, we got a better car. I have a confidence in my team. He (engineer) has experience to give me a good car in the race. I try to do the race for all my fans. It's incredible, so many fans I have here, and I appreciate it very much. I appreciate the chance to race in the United States. It's a really, really nice feeling for me. I was, two days ago, for more than four hours in front of my garage signing autographs on Community Day. More than four hours, just in front of the garage. The children I enjoy so much, the people who are coming with the schools."
(About pre-race nerves): "I think there's a little tension. But I know how to focus just before the start of the race. I know how to put away the feelings that can make you a little nervous. It's normal. It's a big race. It's a race that I always wanted to be here from a long time ago."
(Comparing Grand Am car to IndyCar Series car): "The Daytona Prototype is very tough and a very difficult car to drive. It's very heavy and has no aerodynamics. At Homestead or Daytona when you're on the banking, you feel the car moving and you say, 'Oh, whoa.' You have to be brave to go flat with this kind of car because you have no air, no aerodynamics. An open-wheel car is lighter, you have more downforce, and it's a little more easy on the banking. At the same time, you are going so fast that it's difficult. The speed is 200, 220 here. It's very tough. These cars you go so fast, everything is so light, and you have to be so sensitive. You have no margin here. Maybe with a road course or with the other car (Daytona Prototype), you can have a little margin for a mistake. But here, no. You have to be even more concentrated, so much focus. Mentally, you feel so much more exhausted with this car than with the other. Physical, maybe the other. But this one, mentally so much, it's a very big effort."
(About fans' response to you on Miller Lite Carb Day): "It's difficult because we need time for concentration because we need time to focus to get ready to be in the car. But at the same time, it's something I must handle because my sponsor here, they are part of the Indy 500. It's difficult because I need at least 15 minutes, 10 minutes, to go away and concentrate on my process for going inside the car. I try to handle that because it's bigger here."
(About fans' response this month): "My fans say so many nice things to me. I appreciate it so much. I have such a big surprise here with my fans. It was normal for me to have fans in Grand Am because I raced there for three years, but here this is my second event, my first time at Indy. I say thanks so much for the support for me. It's extra motivation. The only reason (I have so many fans) is because I am the same Milka every place, and maybe the people feel that, feel that I am so friendly with them from here, from inside. I am the same Milka everywhere. Maybe this is the big difference."
(What has been your rookie moment this month?): "I was feeling like a rookie last Friday (May 11 practice crash). A rookie mistake, but I learned from that. Even the greatest drivers, like Helio Castroneves, somebody said his first time here he had a contact, also, no? It can happen to everyone. I am a rookie. I'm learning; I made a mistake. I don't want to remember it, but it was a mistake. I think it's very important that people are going to remember these two rookies, that we had the same incidents, but we had the capacity to recover, as a team and as a driver. My guys and his guys did a fantastic job getting the car ready, and with so much tension, both of us qualified. The capacity to recover, in the biggest race in the world. Everybody was, 'Look at the rookie, look at the rookie.' But the rookies qualified."
(Best advice about the race): "I have received so much advice, but everyone talk about the same: We're starting in the back, we have all the air from the others. We have to be so careful for the first few laps until the moment that everyone starts to separate. It's going to be a very hard moment. I'm happy to be a part of the grid."
PHIL GIEBLER (No. 31 Ethos Fuel Reformulator Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It's a dream come true to put your name on a trophy like this and go down in the record books. It's something I definitely set a goal for it at the beginning of the month, and as soon as I got word I was going to do the race. So it definitely means a lot to me, and I'll do my best to put the car forward as far as I can and hopefully get to a position where as long as I do my job and everything's good, we'll walk away with some more awards."
(About pre-race nerves): "I'm feeling pretty good. I think as the race goes, I'm approaching it as just another race. I'm pretty far back. I've never really started on the back row like that, so it's going to be a new thing for me. I've had a lot of help. I've talked to a lot of people. It's like driving through a hurricane, I hear. It's something I'm trying to prepare for. I think keeping cool is definitely my approach. More outside of the race, there's a lot of stuff going on. So you're just trying to focus on the race. Once you get down to the grid, it's put the foot down and concentrate, focus and go for it."
(What has been your rookie moment this month?): "Obviously, mine (crash) was a little more obvious, in qualifying on the last lap. It's one of those things. You have to go out and learn. But also being in this environment, not only the racing environment, but being my first race in the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500, it's like, 'Wow.' There's so much stuff going on, and you really don't get a break the whole week. I'm just trying to get through it and focus on the race. I'm always trying to get through that stuff. All the time, Jaques (Lazier) reminds me that I'm the rookie. He's picking on me. It's good. I'm definitely taking in these moments and trying to embrace them. You only get to do them once."
(Best advice about the race): "I guess the biggest one is to make sure you make it to the last half of the race and get through the first part. The start of the race is going to be the most critical and the most dangerous, especially starting in the back like I am. There's a lot of things thrown at you, and you never know what is going to happen. So just keep a cool head."