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Quotes from Indy Qualifying.....Busch learns what it takes to drive a real race car
KURT BUSCH (No. 26 Suretone Honda): (About his first run): “I’ve qualified Pro Stocks on the quarter-mile; I’ve done the longest track on the NASCAR circuit (Talladega) but to do four laps here on a 2.5-mile track, that’s a 10-mile run. That’s the longest I’ve had to focus for a qualifying run. Just the shear excitement of trusting a car with downforce going down into Turn 1 at 230 is indescribable. Those four laps felt like one; 230 is a totally different game. I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be; the moment of Indy can kind of overtake you. It was a very solid run; I was hoping for more. I didn’t keep up with the adjustments in the car. Those guys at Andretti Auto sport have given me a great car. I have to head to Charlotte by 3 p.m. I’ve got to be able to start the Charlotte race – there’s a million bucks down there.  It’s been an experience, the month of May in an Indy car. It’s really hard to digest at all. The chance to qualify is one thing but to do it in an Andretti car is another. The qualifying run I made felt very comfortable, maybe that’s why it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Maybe I was conservative with the car instead of edgy. I have to thank Andretti Autosport and Suretone for making all this happen; those guys have been great to partner up with and run a big advertising campaign around the Indy 500. We’re going to try and make it to Charlotte in time for the drivers’ meeting tonight. It’s nice that NASCAR has allowed my car to be practiced (by Parker Kligerman).”

(About second run): “The Andretti team has taken the steps to help me get to a comfortable place to be able to go out there. We could have camped on our 12th-place run from our earlier outing and been back out here tomorrow. But why not go for it? We didn’t have to withdraw our time, so why not go for it and try to get into that final group. I gave my heart a run at it. If we end up outside of the Top Nine I know I gave it my all and that was really a neat experience – not to withdraw the time, but go to up against the car and myself to pick up speed. The way you have to challenge a track for a NASCAR run is you have the most downforce and the car is going to be the most at its grip level. Here at Indy you take all the grip away and you take all the downforce – you make the car as uncomfortable as you can make it. And then they tack on three extra laps, so you’re doing 10 miles. So I’ve qualified a Pro Stock car a quarter-mile at a time, I’ve qualified a stock car for 15 years – qualifying at Indy you have to do it over 10 miles and you have to do it in the most unnerving conditions with the car; the car is not ready to go 230 (mph) but you have to handle it.”

JACQUES VILLENEUVE (No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was nice and easy. We didn’t trim the car. We concentrated on the race setup. We didn’t have time to trim the car down, so we didn’t take any risk. The car was quite fast without being trimmed, so we’re actually quite happy.” (Comparing today to his qualifying in 1995) “The ’95 car was edgy. I wasn’t flat out on the four laps. There was more horsepower so you were a little bit more on the ragged edge. Now, it’s more of a question of momentum. The speeds are similar but it drives differently. I love driving at these speeds, that’s what I was born to do.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Hydroxycut/Mistic KVSH Racing): “It was a clean run for four laps; pretty solid. But I struggled quite a bit in Lap 3 and 4. Coming off of (Turn) 2 is the tailwind. I guess I could have been a little bit more aggressive. But the bottom line, you got on new tires; perfect track. It was a 228.7 and it’s just not good enough to make the Fast Nine. We can’t really trim the car much more than that, so I think the Mistic/Hydroxycut machine is just going to call it a day and come back tomorrow and just try to figure something out for tomorrow.”

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 68 SFHR/RW Motorsports): “That wasn’t as good as we wanted. We lost some speed and we lost the balance. I guess we have some good data to look at. Josef (Newgarden) seems to be quicker than us. Hopefully we can come up with some plan for this afternoon and maybe try again. Hopefully, we can find what it takes. I think we’ll see some guys go back out. The reward in points is so important for the championship.” (On the variable conditions): “When you have this sort of run, you’re scratching your head and you’re wondering. But I think we have something we can fall back on.”
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SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): (About his first run): “It was an average run. I think we were a little bit neutral and started sliding the rear a bit coming from Lap 2 and onwards. The speed just wasn’t there anyways. After Ed (Carpenter’s) run we have to find a good mile and one-half or a little more. We’re trimmed out more than what they are. It’s not about how trim you are; it’s all about the whole package together. We’ll go back out. With warmer conditions later we may see some bigger speeds.” (About Tony Kanaan as teammate): “It never hurts to have last year’s Indy 500 champion alongside you. We’re trying to work as hard together as we can. He has a lot of good experience. Hopefully we can get our package running and increase the speeds here.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “The car was good, just a little slow. It felt pretty good. We would like to have a little more speed to be honest, but we have all day to find it. That’s what I like about this new procedure. It’s fun (post qualifying), all these pictures, after qualifying. You always feel that you’re giving the people something special. “

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): “I just gotta be grateful to even be able to come out here and qualify the car. Just being here is great. A week ago today I was on a stretcher and didn’t know my own name. So we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. So much credit to everyone who’s helped me out over the last week. To get here is all the medical staff’s doing but to go that fast, that’s the team - those little practices we had to get those cars going fast and EJ (Viso) stepping in for more me. This weekend is so important to us. Those four flying laps around this place are so special. So to be able to do it at all and go as quick as we did is awesome. This new qualifying format has thrown a couple of curve balls to everybody. Hopefully we can go out there and tune a little bit, because we’re going to need a little bit more tomorrow to catch Ed (Carpenter). It’s going to be tough. When you get to this downforce level, things start to get really sensitive; really sketchy. But as long as the weather’s good and we get a good run at it today and tune on it, hopefully it will be alright.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske): “Well, it was good. The weather is perfect. It couldn’t be better. The weather is helping so much; everyone is comfortable with their car. The car was actually solid. We just didn’t quite put up the speed we were expecting. But the Pennzoil car looks good. That’s what it’s all about. Now, we need a little more speed so we can secure the top nine. It’s so on the limit. You can see the times are so close. One small detail can make a big difference.”

PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “We were hoping for a little bit better (speed) out there. I struggled to get any heat in the tires on that run. We’ll go back to the garage and work on the car. I think we’ll be faster later.”

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I thought it was a decent run, but there is still something left in the car. I hope we can get another chance later today to improve on it.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Honda):  “It felt amazing. It’s an amazing feeling. That’s my first qualifying on an oval and it’s the Indy 500 – that’s good. Obviously, we had some issues during the qualifying but I think for my first time it was good. I didn’t have a lot of possibility to drive and test the setup because of the weather was not so good, so it was difficult but it was good.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): “We kind of got behind working on the race car a lot and we lost (Friday). When we got done with that and got out of the garage, it started to rain. We’re a little bit behind, but I’d say our run was clean.  Was it the quickest run? No. Is there more in the car? Yes, we just have to get it handling a little better. Overall, I’d say we’ve done a good job. Right now I’d say we’re in mid-pack, but a lot of good guys have gone. I think I had the fastest warm-up speed, but maybe I pushed too hard in warming up and killed the front tires a little bit.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It felt solid. I just need a bit more speed. We’re going to go back and work pretty hard and see what we can do to go faster. I’m pretty sure we’ll go back out again. I think it (the new qualifying format) is going to be great. It’s going to roll all the way into tomorrow. It’s going to keep the excitement going all weekend for the fans. I think as the day rolls on today, it’s going to just keep getting stronger and stronger. It should be fun.”

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 AFS KVAFS Racing Chevrolet): “It’s hard to believe that this is the same car that was involved in the big accident last weekend. I am so proud of the KV AFS Racing guys; they did an amazing job putting the car back together in two days. We lost a lot of time on track, but we are here and the car feels good. To be at the same pace as my teammates with a car that is not fully build for this event is a great feeling.  We haven’t focused so much time on the qualifying trim, so I know we have a good race car and now we focus on the race next weekend.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): (About his first run): “I think it was a decent first stab, but I’m not sure it will hold up for the (Fast Nine). That might be a bubble time.” (On running a lap over 232 miles per hour in morning practice): “That lap felt awesome, but it doesn’t really tell the story for me right now.” (How long do you sit and wait before you potentially make another run?): “We need to make the appropriate change and make sure the car is well rubbed on and ready to go. We don’t want to rush anything. But as soon as we’re ready I’m ready.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): “We were the first one to go out on track. It went pretty well, I think. We’re happy with the car. It seems pretty fast. So we will see. It’s a long day. This year we have more opportunities to be in the Fast Nine. It’s really good. We will see when we’re going to go (back) out.” (What did you learn from your experience last year?): “I learned a lot. Last year I was pretty nervous before qualifying. This year I knew what to do with gears. The car was good. It helps you a lot when the car is good. It’s nice to start the race in the front, but I think qualifying is just five percent of the race or less.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “It’s better to stay inside the Fast Nine than slip out of it. I think, for us, we would like to be higher up that order. There are more points today the higher up you are in the order. The main thing though is just staying in it. We want to be in the points race for tomorrow for the Top Nine shootout. Other than that, it was a pretty solid run. It just wasn’t quite enough in my opinion. We needed to do a little bit more. I think we can do more. It’s not bad considering our morning. We didn’t have the best morning but I definitely had faith that we had a fast car yesterday so I was glad to see we had a good run for the whole crew.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge Honda): “I was disappointed when I hit the wall, but it was harder on the team than me. When the car was ready it was a matter of strapping up to get it done. The crew did a fantastic job. I had a good day (qualifying). It was pretty decent; I’d like to think we’re in good shape. We’re strong, how strong I don’t know. The weather (last week) wasn’t good. The condition this morning (practice) was cold. (First 500) It’s been crazy. We’ve been up and down all week. We have an absolutely fantastic car. I came in here and crashed the car in practice; that was a bad day. We finished the week today.  I’m sure everyone was giving it full gas this morning (qualifying).”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’m really happy with it. I think the team’s done a great job of preparing the car for qualifying. Honda’s come out really fighting. I’m very proud of what of what they’ve brought to the table. I’m very proud of the team for putting a car under me like that. Hopefully we can make this a great Indy 500; one to remember.” (On not having a lot of time on the track this week): “You just really have to look at it from the perspective that it’s the same for everybody. Everybody’s in the same boat you are. Sometimes you want to be out there pounding around, getting some information. But it’s the same for everybody, and we came prepared for qualifying. But today’s going to be challenging to even get in the Fast Nine.”

MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 41 ABC Supply/ A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Just sitting on the grid getting ready to go out, I was pretty calm leading up to it. But when I was sitting there on deck, my heart rate went up to 170 because of all the emotion. From five years old, you live for this moment.
And when you're sitting there you think, ‘Holy crap. This is happening.’ It was very exciting. The first green lap going into turn one was a pretty emotional moment - being wide open and seeing what the car has." (About his run): “The qualifying run itself was OK. The first three laps were decent. I think we got the most out of it. Then the fourth lap into turn one I got a bit of a bobble. The car got a little bit loose on me and we tracked it up to the wall. I stayed in it, but unfortunately that killed some of the momentum which really hurt me. I don't think it would have been a lot better, but if we need to, there's still a lot more speed to come. We're still on the conservative side. There's not a need to take a big risk today. We're keeping something in the pocket. If we need to, we can roll the dice tomorrow." (About long-term or short term plan with IndyCar?): "This is a good opportunity for me to show what I can do. I'm very lucky to be here. A few months ago, I was sitting at home with nothing going on. I had a great season with sports cars last year, but after this month I'm not sure. I think I impressed the team and impressed the sponsors with the GP, and hopefully I can carry on and do a good job at the 500, but of course it's down to sponsorship. There are definitely things in the pipeline, but there's nothing I can say right now.
I hope to do the best job I can and then get an opportunity if it comes." (Do you have an idea of what a more aggressive set up will feel like?): "We're still a bit on the loose side, so it's hard to say what a car will do between 228 and 230. In Indy Lights I've been on both sides of the fence. I've been given a car which was maybe not as quick as it could be but was scary to drive, and I've driven a car that was on pole and felt like a breeze. It was just an easy run. All I can do is figure out what I need from the car and give my best feedback to the team and then we'll work on getting some drag out of the car." (How does it feel to go around this place with all the fans here?) "It's great. I definitely feed off this energy. I'm not foreign to big events. Last year at Le Mans there were close to 300,000 people, and I'm not someone who gets intimidated by that. Put me on a stage speaking to 50 people and I'd get scared, but put me in a race car in front of 150,000 and I thrive on that." (You've worked five years for this one moment to have four flying laps. What did it feel like?): "It's like all good things. It never lasts as long as you think it will."

JAMES DAVISON (No. 33 KVRT/Always Evolving Racing Chevrolet): “It (the car) was quite stuck. We can certainly afford to trim a little more wing out of it but we’re just progressively getting up to speed. Each time I go out in the car is another step forward in the experience for me since we’re such a budget restricted program. We just got started on Thursday. We went into this morning with just rookie orientation under our belt. We have realistic expectations for qualifying and we’re just focusing on the race. We have only so many engine miles we can use up until Race Day and we’re here to use them wisely to make sure the car is a good race car.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “Every day you come out you want to be the best you can be. It’s always fun being quickest at Indy. You get into these two days and you can’t really think about the race or work on your race car. If you’ve got a fast car like the Fuzzy’s guys, to me, you try to do the best you can with it. But it’s going to be a long day.  That’s the thing I don’t like about going out so early. It’s a really stressful day watching what everyone else is going to do. There are a lot of good cars here. We didn’t go out this morning but we’re very competitive. I thought I was worried about three or four cars going into today, but after this morning I’m a little nervous about everyone who’s here. The talent of the teams and drivers in this series right now is crazy.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “(When you went out what was the number you had in mind?): “After this morning’s practice session, which was very cold and pretty quick because all the air was moving because of a couple cars running together, so we hit 230 miles an hour which was a very impressive lap. But knowing that you are going to be by yourself in qualifying, I thought a high number of 228 would be the lap but then other people were doing 229s and 230 which was very impressive. I wasn’t sure I could do the same, but I just felt that without knowing anything. The car was pretty good on the first lap, and then on the second lap it was kind of in happy place, but by the third and fourth laps, it was getting a little loose, the car was losing the rear grip. There’s definitely room to improve if we can get it right, but otherwise it is pretty much what we expected. If the conditions allow, we would probably break through to 229 but it didn’t happen. As I said there is some room to improve because the balance shift was quite big over the course of the four laps. I’m looking forward to looking at the data with the engineers to see if there is any sign that we can improve in the evening when it’s cooling down, it might be busier, but I think we will try it.” (Evolve as a driver since 2012 Indy 500?) “I really enjoyed running that race, leading the 500 for the first time in my life, the day was very special for us and Bobby gave me a great chance to race together. We were building up the team, the team was just reborn. There were a lot of fresh faces as well as a lot of longtime faces in the Rahal team too, so it was the second generation for the Rahal team in the IndyCar Series. I had a brand new race engineer for the States that I brought from Europe—in Formula 1, he was my race engineer. We had a lot to be done and we gained a lot of new experience. I might be very aggressive but what do you need from a race driver, right? After that race, A.J. gave me a great opportunity to race with his team and we achieved good results over the last one and a half seasons. The team is still moving forward and building up. Every time I jump in the car I feel I learn something. That is the name of the sport. Everybody’s improving.” (Build on what you learned out there?) “This was the first time we took off the rear wing to this level so it was definitely good experience to go through the qualifying segment for the four laps. We’ll look over the data now and see where we can improve.” (How long to figure out if you will go back out there?) “As soon as we can figure out what we can improve in terms of the grip and the consistency and try to minimize the balance shift, we will go but we need to wait a little bit.” (Do you think it will be really busy later today with cars trying to improve their time?)  “Yes because unlike normal Indy 500 qualifying, this gives championship points today so I am expecting it to get quite busy in the end.”

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 6 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “It felt pretty good. The balance was great. The Robert Graham car looked great on track. It was not super quick but it was well balanced. We did as much as we could. I’ll have to go back and think about it. Our team will study the data. Our teammates are running right now. Right now, Bourdais isn’t any quicker. So, we’ll see. Maybe wait on a little better track condition. It’s Indianapolis so it’s all the little things and sometimes you need a little luck on your side.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “We have to go back and just check everything out and see if we can find any more speed with the car. It felt really good. Big thanks to the team and all the hard work that they did. The car was good.  It was perfect for what we had in the car. Obviously we want to break into that Fast Nine. We’ll see once everyone goes through the (qualifying) line to see what kind of speed we need to find. I am sure everyone is playing that game. I think we got everything we could out of that run, but there is another step we could take (with the car). It’s risk vs. reward and we just need to balance that out.  Just have to see where we are and what it will take to get into that fast nine.” (Is this new format, with two days of qualifying, does that change the approach?): “The biggest factor has been the weather and how little running we’ve had this week. Today was my first day with the extra boost.  You have to work it out as far as what you can get away with in terms of downforce. We were pretty aggressive. But everyone is in the same boat. The speeds are higher, but everyone is doing the same thing. We’ll go back to the garage and regroup and think about what we can achieve today.” (What’s the mindset, Justin, do you think we will see you out again?): “I’m not sure; I think we will have to speak with the boss man Dale (Coyne) himself to see if we will take another shot. I’ll also have to speak with the engineers to see what else we could do to find a bit more speed. I am happy with the Boy Scouts of America car—the gearing was perfect and the car handled well, so the car felt great. So maybe we will take it one more step and have a go, but will just have to see what kind of appetite everyone has for that.” (Do you think that going from the Grand Prix road course last weekend to doing this today speaks to the versatility of the Indy Car drivers?): “Absolutely. That’s what we are all about in the Verizon IndyCar Series—racing on every type of race track, whether that is the short ovals, the street circuits, big tracks like here (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and Texas, and the road courses. You’ve got to be good on all of them to win this championship and that’s what we are all trying to achieve.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 22 Comfort Revolution/Brantley Gilbert Chevrolet): “Today was great. We qualified and made the show. We’re in the Indianapolis 500, which has been a dream of mine as long as I can remember. To finally accomplish that is an incredible feeling for me and also my family, because we’ve worked so hard for it. As far as the car is concerned, it’s great as well. Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing put a really good car together for me. We know it’s not today that counts, but tomorrow and next Sunday. Hopefully tomorrow we can find another couple tenths in the Comfort Revolution/Brantley Gilbert car, and try to qualify towards the front. Right now we’re sitting about mid-pack, which I can work with, but if we can get up to tenth, it’ll be a whole lot easier on me, and we’ll have a lot more fun with that, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Preferred Freezer/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): (About first qualifying run): “I think it was a pretty good run. I had to be pretty quick on the adjustments in the car to try to squeeze a little bit more speed out of it on a couple of laps, which was working well, but on that last lap I lost a little speed so we'll just have to go back through the data and see where that was. It's a long day here today, so we'll see how things shake out after everyone's had a run. We would've liked to have pulled a little bit more speed out of our run, but obviously Ed (Carpenter) has some speed in his car. So we'll go back and take a look at where the differences are between the two of our runs and go from there." (About getting Indy deal with ECR settled so early): “That helped a lot. I've been with the team since St. Pete at the beginning of the year so it's not like I'm just jumping in with a whole new group of guys. I've been around, plus I know a lot of these guys from other experiences so I think that definitely gives us a leg up on the other one-car programs here this month." (About the differences in average qualifying speed between ECR entries): “It's not a lot of lap time. The cars are very close together, so maybe there's a little bit of time lost in shifting, or not shifting, warm-up laps, and those kinds of things. With how close everyone is, you're getting into the nitty gritty little bits of detail to determine what's going on." (About working with ECR engineers and crew to analyze data from qualifying run): “For Ed and me, it's a very transparent relationship so that makes it easier in a situation like this to really figure it out. Especially with Ed being as quick as he is, I doubt that we'll really be in a position to bump him out. So we'll see what things look like in a bit."

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