S. Dixon, D. Franchitti, M. Hull, C. Kimball, G. Rahal
MODERATOR: We certainly have an all-star lineup with Ganassi Racing. Mike, your team has had great success here at Indianapolis. Looking to my left, if I were you, great chance of having good success again.
MIKE HULL: I don't know how to measure success. Maybe we've said it in here before, I don't know. What we do at Chip Ganassi Racing, I think we do a really good job of accentuating the fact we have to get the most out of today. That creates the consistency with all the people that work for us, all the team people, everybody that works, the consistency of our sponsorship as you can see has gone on for a long, long time. It's built this culture that allows us to be successful. I think what you see in front of you are four race drivers that represent us. They're our quarterbacks. They're the guys that get out there and get it done for us. But what they truly represent is everybody that works together to make it happen. Certainly you want results and expectation to cross over at the right time at the Indy 500. So we hope that works out for us.
MODERATOR: Dario, I take a look at the last several years for you. You had a Hall of Fame kind of résumé of going back half a dozen years ago, and it got better and better with each and every turn. Talk about your car, your chances to pick up number three.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It would be lovely to pick up number three. We're still working to try to get the car where we want it, all the different conditions, still learning this new DW12, what it likes in race conditions. That's all going to change again today. We're going to put the engine up to 140, and we'll see what that does getting ready for qualifying tomorrow. We've got one day to do it in. We'll see what we can do for qualifying, then we'll get back to focusing on the race, trying to win another one. But it's a very stout field, including the boys to my left here. Our job is to try to put the Target car in Victory Lane, especially this year with Target's 50th anniversary. They're changing the car number to 50 to celebrate that.
MODERATOR: Scott, I talked to several drivers this year that said developing a new car is really fun for a race driver. Do you feel that way?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, definitely. I think for our team we were definitely deeply involved in that with the addition of Honda. It was exciting to have an offseason where you were testing a lot. In season, you only get six days of testing. I think I did that probably in the first month with the new car. It was nice to be at the track, developing a new product. I think for all of us it was exciting. We had a car that pretty much was stagnant for six or eight years, depending on which car you were with at the time. For me it's a change of times, it's a new car, it requires different things. I think also for the teams, it's exciting trying to develop something different and start from scratch and try and make gains. All in all, it's been a fun offseason. We've had some good results, but not great results. We definitely are looking to improve that. I think here in this month would be a great time to do it.
MODERATOR: It was a brisk day when I came into the press room and announced this opportunity for you a couple of winters to go. I would think this is the year now where everything would be a lot more comfortable for you.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: We're definitely coming into the month understanding what's going on a lot more. All these guys told me last year I didn't know anything. It wasn't this year until I really understood what they meant. Coming off of last year into this year, I have such a better understanding of what's happening. As a team, I think we're starting to jell together, the four of us. I've really benefited from that, the experience sitting to my right and left, drawing on that, has shortened the learning curve as much as possible. It's really steep as strong as the field is this year. Also with the engine competition, it's nice to be able to learn from these guys and continue to work with Honda as a partner and build toward future success, start that process now this year.
MODERATOR: Graham, we always have press conferences at the end of the day. When you show up at one of them, it means that things are going pretty good. You've made an appearance down on the first floor this year.
GRAHAM RAHAL: It's been a great month for us, great week, for the Service Central guys. When we showed up, we thought we were competitive. The one thing this year is there's so much uncertainty. As far as Dario was saying, today is a whole new day compared to yesterday. We worked hard to put ourselves in that position. There's several teams that have multiple cars. We have four guys here that are all working toward the same goal. Yesterday we worked well together on improving the race cars. I think we made some huge steps. Overall it's gone really well, really one minor hiccup, and we've moved on from that. The car has been extremely fast. I have high expectations, as I do every year. Coming off third last year, I feel there's a better understanding of how to compete here and race this race. You understand when I started 29th last year, you think that's the death sentence. But you can make up so much time and space here so quickly. We know if we can start up front, we can compete. That's what we're here today. I think the four guys sitting up here are going to have a good chance to win this race. Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole, we've done a really good job building toward that. I hope things keep going the way they are because things are going well, and we're looking forward to today. We're going to turn up the boost a little bit, trim her out, see what they can do.
MODERATOR: Questions for the group.
Q: Dario, Danica put such a spin on this series. There were pluses and minuses for you guys. What is it like not having that going on here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't understand the question (laughter).
Q: What is the impact of not having that person that brought in non-sports publications?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: There's been no impact for me. I don't know about any of the other guys up here. There's been no impact. It's not affecting me on or off the track, no.
Q: Mike, it seems this year, last year was the inaugural run for the west side team. It seems like you are working the Target guys and the west side guys more. Is there a competitiveness or more integration? How would you react to that?
MIKE HULL: Whew! I think Charlie said it well. What happens when you work together is you grow together. That's what we did. That's what we've done. We've grown together to learn from each other. The advantage that we have is the fact that we're a cohesive group of people. No matter what people on the outside want to try to stir up, internally we work really well together. I think we probably represent four different drive styles here. People may not realize that on the outside, but what we have in common is the information that all four drivers provide to each other. On any given day, particularly at Indianapolis, in order to achieve success, as was brought up earlier at Indianapolis, you have to chase the grip level on the racetrack every day. If Dario as three other people that can look him in the eye and say, "This is what the grip is doing today," he and his engineer and his guys can really push hard. Then from that point forward, whether it be in the timing stand looking at somebody else while they're running on the racetrack with live telemetry, or whether it be in a verbal conversation in the engineering office. That's the advantage that we have as a team and the fact that we work together as a team. I think that's where we are today. If we had a bigger roof, everybody would be under one roof, to be honest. We don't have a large enough roof at present to make that happen.
Q: Mike, can you talk a little bit about the fact that you have had so much success the last two or three years, and this has been a struggle so far with the new package. What do you do with the adjustments? For the drivers, looking forward, is this a way to push the restart button and get it going again?
MIKE HULL: You can pull the covers over your head or go to work every day. That's kind of the choice you have. We chose the latter. We work hard every day. We accept success, and we accept failure. They're equal to us. We learn from both of them. We're learning a lot, like everybody else is. We've had success. We'd rather have, as Dario said, a lot more success than we've had. It's disappointing when we don't truly succeed. It's very disappointing to us. So we're working hard to rectify that, and we'll be there.
Q: Dario and Scott, today being a little bit more boosted, for lack of a better term, how will you file that away and be able to make use of it after today and tomorrow? Passing this year, how much more difficult or easier will it be in your eyes?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think the boost thing is only relevant for today and tomorrow. It would be lovely to keep it, especially if everybody had to go back to 130, but unfortunately that's not going to happen. If anything, you learn today and tomorrow. There's probably not a lot of carryover to the race stuff. You might learn a couple of things with the setup, but I would say everything today and tomorrow is more specific to those two days.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, no, I totally agree. These next two days are our focus by itself. I think over the last sort of four or five days, we've been focusing mostly on the race setup, what we're going to be able to do with the 130 boost. Today will be interesting. I think it's going to be challenging in its own right. I think it's challenging because it's something different. Most of the week has been pretty much the same thing, trying to fix the same problem. I think we could potentially have different problems in the next couple days. As far as the racing and passing, it seems like you can come from a long way back. I don't think we're going to see the race spread out like it tends to sometimes, especially with the slower cars toward the back end of the group. It seems easy to suck up and get close. The passing has been pretty good. Once you get eight cars deep, mid sort of pack, it's very turbulent. You use a lot of downforce. It's very hard to get a run. I think you're going to see a lot, a lot of passing this year.
Q: I want an example of the differences between the drivers. What does Dario do that Charlie doesn't do or Scott? A little example in racing and driving.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Taking the throttle pedal out of Graham's car and putting a switch there.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Dix can drive as loose as you've ever seen.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think we all do different things in different parts, especially around Indianapolis. Especially with the steering, where we put the steering, how we put them into the lines we run, the setup we like in the car. I think we all do subtly different things.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, I think maybe here not as much, but especially on a road and street circuit. I think during the course of the weekend, you see all our driving styles take pieces from each other and evolve toward taking the best out of each other to come up with the quickest whole package.
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's amazing. When you look at the overlays, they're so different and still achieve the same time. I think even on an oval, Milwaukee, Dario was quicker by two 10th in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I was quicker in (Turns) 3 and 4 doing the same time. Totally different ways of achieving it. It's fun. It's exciting. For me being at Ganassi for so many years, having so many teammates, it's nice to have a stable one thing. But see different styles of achieving and getting around it, it's pretty cool.
Q: With Rubens coming to his first oval here, if you were going to talk to him and give him one tip of advice on how to run ovals, what are the big key things you have to focus onto make it work here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He came around the bus two nights ago for a chat, brought chocolate with him, which was a good start (laughter). Scott and I both followed him and ran with him, what day would that have been, Tuesday, and just some of the stuff that he was doing. He was crossing way below the white line, middle of corner. Said, "Hey, you can't do that, this is what this is happening, having a chat." He's so experienced, has such a good feel for the car, such a good driver. You just give him a little bit of advice that we've all had to have here at some point or other, and off he goes. He's absolutely world-class. I think, Alesi, as well, the engine is slow, but that has to do with the engine in the back. He's got the thing trimmed out. He drives the car very well around here. It's a shame he's not got more power to be up where he should be.
Q: Dario and Scott, this is the first time this car is going to go 500 miles. Talk about what your concerns are.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Hopefully going to go 500 miles (laughter). No, I mean, it's a completely new package. So we hope we know where the weak areas are. We've definitely, throughout testing and throughout the races, found out the areas we have defects. The engine manufacturers are pushing very hard, too, Honda, Chevy and Lotus. I think that's one thing people were shocked with this year when there were some engine issues. We got used to running with the Honda engine, it being 100 percent reliable. Now everyone is pushing the envelope, there's going to be some failures. We hope we'll be in good shape to run the 500 miles.
SCOTT DIXON: I agree. It's always hard with the new car. I think we were still having some small issues or mechanical failures from the old car. That was after many years. I think it's always the small niggly things that annoy you the most. If you're pushing it, trying to get the most out of it, something breaks, that happens. If it's a sensor that goes out, affects your race, it's disappointing. I think we've been lucky with low attrition rates over the past years, and the reliability, especially from Honda, teams working out the Dallara previously. I think the car has been pretty good so far, well-built, hopefully we don't have too many issues.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think to echo what both Scott and Dario said, for the first year, it's obviously well-built because we've had very, very limited problems. I have a huge amount of confidence in the whole Chip Ganassi Racing organization that they're going to see problems before they develop into issues, on track at least. They'll fix them before we even get to the racetrack. That's the key. That's where being part of this organization is a huge advantage, is they'll fix things before they're problems.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I think that's probably the biggest thing is what Charlie said. At this team, with all of us, with Chip Ganassi Racing, the one thing we can all be confident in is that our cars are going to be built to the highest standard and quality. You got to have the confidence in your guys, and we do. Really for us we'll get out there, drive as hard as we can. As Scott said, if it's something small that breaks, it annoys you. But if it's something that's out of your control because you're pushing hard, trying to win, these things happen. It's so new. The amount of issues we've had over the year are probably pretty limited. I think a lot of people after testing thought we would go in the first race and five cars would finish. Really, it's been a lot better than that. I've been quite impressed with it. I know our cars are going to be built to the highest standard, and we'll get out there and race hard. If something happens that's out of your control, that's not your problem. As Chip says, you do the obvious things right. If it's in our control, we have to make sure we cover our bases, and I think we'll do that.
Q: With all the adjustments you have to make today with the additional boost, trimming out for qualifying tomorrow, everybody has been out there in these big super packs, massive tow starting developing, how can you develop reliable data? How do you time it?
SCOTT DIXON: I think you'll see that change a bit today. At least I won't be looking for big packs when I'm all trimmed out. I think you're going to see some people still do that. Occasionally you get a lucky run where you come up behind a pack, tow up, get some big speeds, which all of us up here will take the opportunity. But today you'll see a little more strung out, people not looking for packs, looking to get some good aero data. Preferably, I think for us, we'll be looking to run by ourselves. Ideally, you want nobody on track. Seems with this car, another car on track, it could be on the opposite side of the track, you pick up a tow, speed, it seem as bit false. I will try to stay clear of that today. Maybe at the end sort of throw in a lucky one.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Like Dixon said, you want to stay clear. If nothing else, you don't want to fool yourself. You can get a tow from so far back. The other day I was actually running behind Scott, I was coming out of (Turn) 2, I could barely see his car go to the exit of (Turn) 3, still the car gets a little bit of a tow. You really want to make sure when you go in tomorrow that your expectations are correct. You don't want to think you're going to do a certain speed, you get out there and you don't. So you want to get out there and run clear. I think it's more important maybe today than it has been in previous years because in previous years, we knew when we went out there in qualifying setup, it was probably going to be pretty close, so much experience in that car. Today is going to be the first time we try it. Boost, it's going to be important to get clear running to see what you got.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you so much for coming in. Appreciate it.
R. Briscoe, H. Castroneves, T. Cindric, R. Mears, R. Penske, W. Power
MODERATOR: We have available to you the record of Team Penske in the Indianapolis 500. Many of you are quite aware of this, but it is really remarkable. Fifteen victories, 10 different winning drivers, 16 pole positions. It's a story of excellence. Mr. Penske, sometimes when you see a record like this, you wonder if it could become blasé to have success here. I never get that sense from you.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think every year we start over. There's no question. I think the fact that the commitment by the team, and I've said it here before, we probably have over 600 years of experience in the garage area this week and next week getting ready for the race, that makes the difference. It's the people. We've had the best drivers, certainly the continuity of the crew, Tim leading the whole group of drivers, also the team members that makes a big difference. It's like we've never been here before when we come back, other than the experience. I think this year with the cars being new, they seem to be very reliable. The guys seem to be able to drive at high speeds. We'll see what happens when the boost goes up. I think it's going to be an exciting race, and you're not going to be able to make mistakes.
MODERATOR: Obviously, a guy who has negotiated the traffic to win four Indianapolis 500s with us, although traffic apparently on the grounds proved to be a little bit of a challenge today. We're glad to have with us Rick Mears. Tim Cindric, a long relationship obviously with Mr. Penske. A new car. Most drivers describe it as sort of fun. Is that how you would characterize it?
TIM CINDRIC: I think the challenge is something that I welcome in a lot of ways. These guys, we continue to learn what happens every day. I don't think we're going to know how the race plays out until we race it. So many variables. You see it in terms of the engine and reliability, as Roger mentioned. A lot of these guys haven't experienced an engine failure in an IndyCar. When you think back to the days of wondering whether you're going to make it through four laps or not, there might be a little bit of that going on tomorrow.
MODERATOR: Rick, you've been through the development of a new race car. You've seen the ups and downs, what seemed to have all the right ingredients. What is it like for a driver?
RICK MEARS: That's a big part of the challenge. Like Tim was saying, a lot of guys haven't experienced a blown engine. This is something we used to do every year, just part of the process. The teams that keep their heads down, do the hard work, put in the hours, time, the best job, they gain the advantage. That's part of the whole system, the way it works. I've always welcomed the challenge because that's how you get better. You work harder and you try to get an advantage. That's just the name of the game.
MODERATOR: Ryan, you've had a lot of challenges coming into the month of May.
RYAN BRISCOE: I feel we're going in with a good shot this year. The competition is going to be tough. As Roger was saying, experience means a lot around here. I've definitely learnt a lot over the last few years. Practice has been awesome. I don't feel in the past years we've learnt so much going into qualifying, but even just doing as many preparation for the races as we've done this week. It's been really good of getting a good understanding of how the car is going to handle in traffic. Everyone has been running in big groups. It's felt really good. I think race day is all about executing and not making mistakes. That's what it's going to take to win.
MODERATOR: Helio, after getting shut out in 2011, unusual occurrence, you started the year in great fashion, you've come to a place where you've won three times. You have to be pretty confident.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Absolutely. The car, the team, everybody has been doing a great job the whole season long. Certainly the offseason, Team Penske, they did their homework. We seem to fit really well with this car. Right now it's the first oval which everybody is facing, which is a challenge. But in the end of the day, as Ryan is saying, we never had this kind of scenario, a lot of groups running together. I think everybody wants to learn together how the car is going to hold in a big pack. I feel confident at this point. Today we're going to have another challenge, which is more power because of the turbo and the rules they allow us to have. As Rick says, you are always learning, getting better. It's great to have two teammates here giving more information so you can adapt and grow faster.
MODERATOR: Will Power, you've been so close to an IZOD IndyCar Series championship. You've been spectacular in the early going. Obviously you want to keep that streak rolling.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's definitely been a perfect start as far as the team goes, also on my side to win three in a row. We've been in this position the last two years, we've had strong starts. We don't need to sit back and relax. We're very focused on this race, put a lot of emphasis on it because we all want to win here. I think it's going to be a pretty crazy race just based on how much drafting or how much of a hole this thing punches in the air. I think it will be great for the fans. We've had a very good last few days. I think we've got a pretty good race setup. We'll see today when we get the more boost how we are in qualifying trim.
MODERATOR: Questions for the group.
Q: Roger, I think also the season is quite young. Are you thinking of planning to build your own aero parts for next year's cars?
ROGER PENSKE: I think each one of the manufacturers, both Honda and Chevrolet, are committed to doing aero packages. We obviously will be recipients of the Chevrolet package. I think that's going to be interesting. I'm really happy the series made the decision to have new cars and engines this year, then we can have the aero kits for 2015, which will be another exciting time for the fans. We didn't know what we had in cars and engines until now. The aero kits will be an added advantage for the sport and interest as we go into 2013.
Q: Roger, talk about the overall amount of changes. Do you feel the series is making a forward march this year?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think overall, from the standpoint of the series, I like the new cars. Obviously it's a challenge getting these cars reliable. We've been fortunate to have success with the four wins. I'm very happy with what Chevrolet has been able to do in conjunction with Ilmor and putting the package together. Because basically they started with a clean sheet of paper 14 months ago. To have a competitive engine now is excellent. My big concern is the integrity of how we interpret the rules as we go forward. I wasn't happy with this whole turbocharger situation over the last couple of weeks because we have rules that are set, we operate under those, then they get changed. Hopefully this will be a lesson for the league, and they'll understand that we've got to have discipline at all levels. We put so much into this. This is a game of inches. A change here or there makes a huge difference. That's my only disappointment. I think the series is great. We got great young drivers. Twenty-six, 27 cars showing up for the races is tremendous. I think the interest in the races, going to some of these new places, you saw St. Pete, Barber was a success, great run in Brazil, for me we're looking forward to everybody coming to Detroit in a city that needs something. I think the series has great momentum.
Q: Roger, your thoughts on the Penske/Ganassi rivalry?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, we seem to always be racing each other. But I think we have to step back a second. I think there's some awful good teams out there in and out, certainly with Andretti, KV, Sarah Fisher, how quickly they've run here at the Speedway. You got to beat everybody that's out there. You look at the record book, I think there's wins on our side, there's wins on their side. They're going to be tough in this race, and they focus on Indianapolis, as we do. It's going to be very interesting. To me, I'm thinking about the other 30 cars that we got to work on, not just their four cars.
Q: Roger, going back to the state of the series a little bit. We've kind of gotten away from our heritage of oval track racing probably because of the sheer cost. We're getting into more street and road-course racing. Is this a good direction for the sport?
ROGER PENSKE: I think we need a mix of road courses and ovals. Primarily we've been able to generate a lot of interest with the city street races because you've got cities and economic development groups within the states wanting to have what they call "big events." I think that's proven to be successful. The other thing is that most of the tracks that are available as ovals are too fast. What we want to try to do is run on these mile ovals. I remember when we first came here, we had to run at Phoenix and Trenton before we could even get on the track here. I hope the league works out some way we can have a good balance between oval and road courses. Today, as long as we have the Indy 500, at least 40 percent ovals, it would be a pretty good mix. We're bringing some new fans in when we can go in these cities. In Baltimore I saw it, a lot of people bringing their young kids in, where we didn't have much of this at the ovals.
Q: Given today and tomorrow, different than what you dealt with the past week, do we begin to get a handle on how fast you can go tomorrow?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We are all in the same boats here. We thinking it's going to be about 4 to 5 miles an hour faster. All this week been working on the race car and a little bit on the qualifying. We got to make sure that we got to be able to do four laps consecutive. Not only one lap and the other ones falling down. It's the same for everyone. But we think it's going to create more exciting for everyone, especially for the fans, the numbers is certainly going to increase. I feel it's a new challenge again.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, I think so far this week the best speeds alone have been high 19. You can't really tell if people have trimmed out all the way or not. But expecting 5 miles an hour, we're probably going to see speeds in the mid 220s. People are going to start pushing it more, there's going to be higher demand on the tires because of the higher speeds. As confident as everyone has been leading up to today, we're just going to have to use a little bit of caution going into today and understand what it's going to take to be fast and consistent like Helio said.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, we've actually run at similar speeds to what this horsepower will give us when we're running alone just in the draft. I think you can gain five to eight miles an hour heading into a corner. I think we kind of know what to expect. But as everyone trims out, you're going to get tire degradation over the laps. It should make it more exciting. We're ready for it. Like Helio said, we're all in the same boat.
Q: Will, everybody knows that experience is a premium here. You've had a number of months of May under your belt now. What is the most valuable things you've learned about running this place?
WILL POWER: There's so many things. I think just with the team and myself, I know the first year I ran here, we were trimming out, running multiple laps on tires. I learned my lesson. I hit the wall because we had 16-lap tires and we trimmed out in qualifying trim. That was a big lesson. You could only do one run, put those new tires aside. Every year you come here, you just learn more and more and more. I have to say this year, I feel so comfortable in the car. I understand what I want from the car. I can give the feedback to the engineer, you know, exactly the way, the direction we need to go in. I feel that on all the ovals. Same as the Texas test. It just comes with experience.
Q: Helio, as a driver, what do you attribute the lack of incidents this month at Indy? Do you feel drivers are being more cautious?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think it's a lot of little things together. Yes, drivers are being a little more cautious because not knowing very well the car, you want to make sure you understand the car, as well. Because of the speeds we're achieving, normally used to be here 10 miles an hour faster, right now we're slower. You tend to try to trim too much, but the car maybe is not there. There is a lot of little things that I believe making to everybody be on the safe side. But, again, don't get me wrong, when you go out there, it's still very tough to go out there in the pack and trying to pass. It looks like you can be a little more closer. The guy that actually leading the pack might be a sitting duck, you know, because you are able to pass because the turbulence is not as bad as the other one. As saying that, I feel those little things, it prevent people to go overboard and over the limit. But, again, today change a little bit the game and see what happens.
Q: Helio, did you run with the Handford device at Michigan?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes.
Q: We're talking about the tow here. If it's similar, will we see what we saw at Michigan?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think it's not going to be that dramatic because the wind we had was incredible. The car not only lose a little bit of downforce, the guys leading just have to stay in line because you would go inside, outside. The force was too big. But at this point, it's not as bad as that, especially being here with not such a big banking, you able to attack, but in a safe way. I feel when you second, third, fourth, fifth, that scenario become a little more difficult for you to keep passing people. To be honest, the guy that is leading, first and second guy, those are the ones that might be in a good way to make a move or pass someone else.
Q: Will, Ryan and Helio, a lot of the guys have been talking so far about the way this super tow works in this car. How is that going to affect, as far as the fans and for you guys, the actual pass? Is there going to be a lot of chop passes? What have you been seeing so far this week?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I see that's what it's going to be. I see people get half a run. When you pull out, you're back in all the air. It really slows you up. Yes, you're right. I can see in the race, it's going to be a lot closer throughout the field, and there's going to be a lot of these chop moves. At the end of the day I think the drivers have to use common sense here and give each other room and understand the situation with the car and try to make it a tough race. It is the Indy 500. But just be smart about it in the early laps of the race until we understand how it works.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, I think you're right. You always got to, probably more this year than ever, be aware of your surroundings. It's going to be crucial. Practice is always a little bit worse than the race, I find. Practice is very unpredictable. Guys are not always just focused on going forward, they're often focused on going backward to get big lap times. It's always hard to get a true read from practice as to how it's going to be in the race. For sure, we are pulling up a little bit more in the draft. You pull out. Sometimes it's hard to keep that momentum going because of the drag. But, yeah, definitely having a win is going to be important.
Q: Rick Mears, did you try the new Indy car yourself so far, and if so, what is your opinion?
RICK MEARS: No, I haven't, and I'm not going to, but my opinion is it's great. I've had all the fun I can handle.
Q: Helio, and maybe Roger, how important is it to win the pole in itself and perhaps for publicity?
ROGER PENSKE: I think the pole is an important part of the Indianapolis 500. I think the charge for the pole I think the top nine is exciting. That's a great element. You asked about what has IRL has done to make the series better. I think that's exciting for TV, the way they've set it up. The first 24 are in for the first day. Those are certainly good. Certainly we'd love to start on the pole. I think it's going to be interesting tomorrow to see who will be the fastest. It could be time of day. It could be a lot of things that make a difference. But I think the pole is important. It gives you that momentum for the team, certainly for the sponsors, a continuity for the week before the race is very positive for any team that has that opportunity to sit on the pole.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: For a driver, people don't realize how incredible it is to go out there and run four laps at the limit. I mean, you are talking about on the limit. When you make it, it's awesome. My big hero right here, Rick Mears, says there's two types of racing, the Indy 500 and the Pole Day. It's true. You really take the maximum that you can get from your setup, from your guys, engineers and the team, you know, and push it to the limit. It's quite tough, especially now when they added the top nine, then when you got to do it again, it becomes even more difficult. But, again, when you achieve what you want, it's the best feeling in the world.
Q: Roger and Tim, can you talk about Will's development as an oval driver, some of the benchmarks you've seen that have indicated his progress?
TIM CINDRIC: We noticed he's away from the other guys. Got to keep him close after last year (laughter). No, I think he showed us at Texas last year he's always been a good road racer, but he hasn't shown on the oval. I feel like watching him the last two years, him here, there's not a lot of people here realize he was among the top three cars here the last two years in the race, and we let him down. I think it's up to us to execute for him. I think we missed a couple opportunities. But I think he's shown he's more than ready to win this race. He's certainly ready to be there. No matter what happens this month, you kind of have a hangover the next month one way or the other. You either win here or you don't. We're focused on this, and then we'll get back to the championship.
ROGER PENSKE: I feel the same that Tim does. I think basically we had some pit issues last couple years. Will was running up front. I think the Texas win was a good one because that's a place you have to be on top of the car all day long. I think with the support of Helio and Ryan, who have had lots of experience here, the ironic thing these guys sit face to face every day after practice and talk about every foot of this racetrack, what their cars are doing. They're very open. It's complete transparency. So to me, they're all getting that same information. I know that Will is taking it in, grinding it up in his own mind what he has to do on the track. Then we have Rick, Will can talk to him about things that he's feeling on the racetrack, and that makes a big difference, too. So, again, I talk about this experience level that the team has. We're trying to continue to cultivate that and spread that across all three drivers. At the end of the day, our goal is to have one of these guys in the winner's circle. If one wins, the team wins, and that's the most important thing.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming in. We appreciate it.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING
T. Anderson, M. Jourdain Jr., M. Lanigan, J. O'Connell, B. Rahal, T. Sato
MODERATOR: We'll welcome Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. We have Mike Lanigan, Takuma Sato. Great to have Michel Jourdain Jr. back. Bobby, you've won as an owner and a driver, which is quite a rare accomplishment. The feelings that go into both and your feelings about this upcoming Indianapolis 500.
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, first it's great being back here for the month of May, getting prepared for this great race. I think we've got two real good opportunities to win it again. Winning it as a driver obviously was very thrilling for me, particularly given the state of Jim Trueman's health at the time, the sadness that sort of came with that seven or eight days later. To win it, it changes your life forever as a driver, both personally and professionally. Winning it as an owner doesn't quite have that same effect. I think even though as a driver you recognize there's a lot of pieces that have to be put together in order to win the race, as an owner you get a much greater appreciation. Drivers have to be a little bit selfish, frankly, to be good. So, yeah, you give it lip service, but you really don't know. When you're on owner, you know, you're writing the checks, dealing with all the personnel issues. You understand how difficult it is to win. Different feelings. But very rewarding. For me to be one of three to have done both in the history of the Speedway, I can take a great deal of pride in that. Especially when the other two are A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones. That's pretty good company.
MODERATOR: It's interesting. We were looking over some notes. Mike Lanigan, we're with Walter Payton and Dale Coyne, Carl Haas, Paul Newman, now Bobby and Dave.
BOBBY RAHAL: He finally got it right (laughter).
MIKE LANIGAN: I've been involved since 1992 as an active sponsor, then got involved in the ownership side. Bobby is right, I finally partnered up with the best-looking guy at the track, gets the cheapest haircut, too (laughter). No, it was always a pleasure to be here with Walter Payton. Paul Newman was here a lot previous in '96. It was my honor to be with him in May of '08 before he passed away. We had Graham Rahal, who had a great month, but we had some bad luck, which happens on Sunday here in the month of May. But it is a pleasure to be with Bob and David, here with Takuma and Michel. I'm proud to be associated with the Rahal Letterman name. Thank you very much for being with us today.
Q: Takuma, have you found your way to the donuts now?
TAKUMA SATO: Yeah, I supposed to bring, but never had a chance. Finally this morning, with help from Michel. I feel kind of relief.
Q: We already have taken some photos of your helmet, which is very special. Tell us about it.
TAKUMA SATO: OK. Obviously after the 11th of March last year, we did a Japan campaign. This is a special helmet that I just received last night, a charity. The family, Matsumotosan family designed this beautiful design. This cherry blossom become icon. The reason is before March, the 11th of March, this cherry blossom was covered by sea water by tsunami. After that it bloom. That become a big hope for the older Japanese people because they couldn't believe the tree was underwater, but it bloom beautifully. This becomes my helmet for the special "500." I'm going to wear this for the race and qualifying. After that, I'm going to put this for the charity auction and it goes with the Japan campaign charity.
Q: Talk about your year thus far, your season.
TAKUMA SATO: Season been really good. I'm very, very happy. Obviously the new team, new package, everything for this year. But it's been really good experience last few season. Really felt comfortable. Of course, Bobby's operation is fantastic. They bring everything together. As a new team, OK, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is a historical winning team. For this Indy challenge this year, it's like rebuild the things. It just fantastic. We have such a strong engineering, great mechanics. Even though one-car team, we've been performing outstanding. I'm really, really happy. Of course now we have Michel. The team operation is really good. I'm very excited to be back in the "500" with Bobby.
Q: Michel, you've had your best result in open-wheel racing with Team Rahal. Interesting how this project came together for you and how this fits with your professional goals.
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR.: I'm happy to be back. I came to the Vegas race last year. Called me to go to Indy to see all our own friends. To me, I didn't think I wasn't going to be back into Indy cars ever again, I've been away so long. We spoke in Vegas. Maybe Indy, maybe we can try to do Indy. Thinking about it, it's a race where you can come back and come back, you have a lot of time to build up speed and confidence. That's what we've been trying to do all this week. For me, it's fantastic to be of course driving an Indy car, to be at the Indy Motor Speedway, to do the Indy 500. To be with this team, for me it was very important part of a project because I feel like a family. Not everybody on the team was here when I was here, but there's a lot of faces. The new people, the people that was not here then, have welcomed me so good. Everybody, like Takuma said, engineering team is fantastic. Takuma, he's a great guy. I feel like I have a very good new friend. He has helped me a lot getting up to speed. I have learned a lot from him. He's very, very fast. I think he will do very good tomorrow and in the race, and hopefully we can do good, too.
Q: Jay O'Connell, the drivers we've spoken to in the press room say it's fun to develop the new car. How about for you? What's been the challenge of this new car?
JAY O'CONNELL: The new car has been a welcome challenge after running the old car for so many years. It's great to have a new set of compromises, a new set of parts to work around, and to work with the drivers how to get the best out of it.
Q: Tom Anderson, you had a different sort of task. You had to help move the race team to Indianapolis and then get the team to jell. What kind of a challenge does that present?
TOM ANDERSON: I think you have to look at it as an expansion team. Bobby, Scott Roembke, Steve Dickson put a tremendous team together over on the ALMS side. So there was a lot of backup. So assembling a new group, being able to have a bullpen, shall we say, to draw from made the job quite tolerable. Success has come fairly quickly for the expansion team.
Q: The horsepower, Jay.
JAY O'CONNELL: For today, you mean? The increased horsepower is going to be a good challenge. Everyone has been doing their simulation, but we're looking for at least a couple miles an hour faster today. So I know Takuma and Michel are looking forward to trying that, too. I just wanted to say we've really been lucky to add Gerry Hughes to our organization, who has worked with Takuma before, with Bobby and I in Formula One, then we have Bruno, who engineered Oriol Servia to second on the grid last year and sixth overall. So it's really helped us on the engineering side.
MODERATOR: Questions for the group.
Q: Michel, if I remember correctly, when you left the open-wheel business in America, at that time Champ Car was still existing. You did some touring in Europe. Coming back to open-wheel, how difficult was it to adapt to open-wheel racing again?
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR.: I've been NASCAR, doing other cars with rallying. I don't know how to describe how difficult it has been to adapt to the car again. What we just did is to try to take it very little by little, to make sure I kept my confidence, felt good all the time. People ask me what's the difference to this car to the other cars. It's been so long, to tell you true difference is hard. I wanted to start from scratch. I have some ideas from before that I have to delete, and that's not easy. It's been about confidence. To tell you truth, I thought it was going to be in a way harder. So because of that we've been trying to make sure that we stay all the time in the right path, go little by little, by myself, on traffic. Even for qualifying we haven't done pretty much nothing because we want to make sure we have the car under me and I get confidence all the time.
Q: Bob, just wanted to ask, you were at the forefront of bringing Danica in. What is the impact of not having her here, pluses and minuses?
BOBBY RAHAL: I'm not sure how this is all going to get written, but at least we get to focus on the racing now and the people who are here, who are damn good drivers. Danica did great things for this series, but I think oftentimes perhaps at the expense of the series. It was a ying and a yang. The other drivers that were here didn't get the attention they should have gotten. Now we get to get back to what it's all about, which is great racing. Maybe we don't have that great personality, which now NASCAR has, whether it's Earnhardt or herself. Now it's all about the racing, which to me is what it all should have been about in the first place. People will say the racing is not as good as it was in the heyday of CART. I totally disagree. I think the driver level today is as good or greater than it was during the height of IndyCar racing late '90s, early 2000s. We get to focus on a new car, new engines. Chevrolet is back. There's a lot of stories that are very important. In the end, I wish her well. Obviously, I brought her into this series. Now, as it should be, it's all about the racing.
Q: Do you have to avoid getting overconfident with the extra power you're going to have which you won't have on Race Day and will there be passing opportunities in this race that maybe we haven't seen in the last few years?
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR.: Yes, I think today and tomorrow, whatever we learn, we have to forget. Today and tomorrow is totally different day with the extra power. I don't think anybody will be doing traffic runs or anything. You just have a qualifying setup and then we erase everything after tomorrow, on Sunday. About passing, I think there will be a lot of passing. You know, I mean, some guys have figured out the race setup, running in traffic really good. I feel on my side I'm not 100 percent there. I think I'm better than a lot of guys, not as good as some other guys. I think Takuma is better in a way, the experience in running in these things … It's something that for me I was used to running superspeedways, I had so much more power that the driving was so different in traffic. That's something that I've been trying to get used to. I will have 500 miles to learn and hopefully master, you know. But I think passing will be good.
Q: Tom, what is involved in switching from the change in boost? If you guys go out, get satisfied with your qualifying setup, can you go back quickly to the lower boost to just work on race setup?
TOM ANDERSON: You know what, I'm going to defer that question down to the other end. That's more of Jay and his technical group.
JAY O'CONNELL: Basically the changeover is pretty straightforward for Honda. The changed the engine calibration and they had us change the waste-gate springs. A little bit of hardware change, mostly software change. We can switch back and forth. Assuming everything goes well tomorrow like we expect, we should be back 130 kilopascals race boost on Sunday to do some race running.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, gentlemen, for coming in.
Marco Andretti, A. Beatriz, J. Hinchcliffe, R. Hunter-Reay, S. Saavedra
MODERATOR: We have Andretti Autosport with us, a talented group. The good news for this team is we've seen several of them already in the press conference center. First of all, congratulations. Awfully good month thus far. Marco, you've been in a couple times this month. Appears you have a pretty good race car.
MARCO ANDRETTI: We've been working on exactly that. We were able to pick up a tow and stay flat in a lot of traffic. We're able to do some decent times. Obviously, today that time will get slaughtered. Hopefully we can do it again. It's been a lot of fun working with the four of them. I think we could simulate our own race. It's been fun also because you know every time the five of us roll out, the big time of the day is going up, whether by one of us or somebody trying to tag along with us. We've been really working on that. Obviously, today and tomorrow is qualifying. I think a couple of them have a really good shot at front row, if not the pole. I'll just be happy if I'm in the top 10. If I could start in the top 10, I'd be pleased. From there we can definitely win the race.
MODERATOR: We have a limited timeframe so we'll take some questions.
Q: Marco, what about today? How much different will it be out there?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. I mean, it depends if it's 2 miles an hour or 7, which we're hearing a bit of both. I think if it's 2 miles an hour, I don't know if we'll feel it that much. If it's 7, we're going to have to work on finding mechanical grip, trying to make the cars a bit more comfortable. But it's the same for everybody. We're just going to have to be the ones who adapt better.
Q: When you have gotten the Andretti freight train out there, have you already pretty much done the majority of your race and setup work prior to Sunday?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think me, right now it's between two different setups for me. I have one or two changes in my head to try. I think if we had to race right now, we'd be tough to beat. If one of these two changes work, we'd be really tough to beat.
Q: Marco, do you feel you can win the pole this year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: We'll have to see. We've been rubbing on this thing. We didn't roll out yesterday. We've been working on every little detail. You never know. Maybe the turbo can wake my car up. It's been off the pace a little bit, even to my teammates'. Overall, our team still has decent pace. But, yeah, I'm off my teammates right now a little bit. I'll be flat.
Q: Your impressions of the month so far, starting with Sebastian.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: For sure, it's been a very exciting month so far, mostly being able to work with four experienced drivers. You can actually take advantage of trying to develop this car. Being a new car, being a new engine, it's a great position for me because we are, I'll say, starting from zero. It makes me not be so behind from the others. But it's been great so far. I think we've managed to get a very quick car as well as a very strong race car. Being able to have four other drivers that try different stuff at the same time, we have gone through lots of lists and found very interesting stuff. So it has been a matter of development. Being part of that development, it's very fun in having this new car. But exciting. We'll see what's going to happen today in Fast Friday. Of course, having a little bit more power, it's going to be interesting to see. As Marco said, we're blind. We don't know how much it's going to be different. We're looking forward to keep doing a good job.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think Marco hit it on the head. I'm going to put it down to the teams working the offseason. Last year was a kick in the rear end for us. The guys have come out working hard making these cars fast. Open communication in the room. That's just been a lot of fun. No egos are in the way. Everybody has the end goal in mind, which has helped this month. Allowed us to get down to business and really make strides. It's been a lot of fun, and now comes the important bit. We need to get qualifying sorted, work a little bit more on our race car on Sunday. If all goes as it looks right now, we'll have some of the biggest threats out there on race day. Hopefully we'll be contending for that race win, all of us, there at the end. That would be the ideal situation. It's just been a lot of fun. I've really enjoyed it so far. Hopefully it continues that way.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: The points have been hit on. The guys have done a tremendous amount of work to get the cars ready for the Speedway. The teamwork, the team, you've been hearing a lot from us not only this month, all season long, this is not some company line we're spewing, we're working together and you've seen the results. It's been awesome. To come here with five cars now, sticking to the program that we laid out before the month even started, I've been super-impressed that we've managed to do that. Normally you make a plan on a race weekend, within about 15 minutes of the first practice, you've deviated off it. We've remained on target. Today it's like Opening Day all over again with the extra boost. There's going to be some more questions to be asked and answers for today and tomorrow. I think we have pretty quick cars in race trim, and we're sitting in a pretty good position for this weekend and next.
ANA BEATRIZ: It's been a great month, great experience to be with Andretti, and with the help of Conquest. It's tough a little bit because the crew is new, so we're getting there. Great to have fast teammates that were able to push us up. Even we are trying to find the speed in the car, they were developing the setup. I think yesterday was a great job of the team. I think we found some speed. Was a relief. But glad that we had a great communication. Everybody is helping each other. So I'm pretty confident. Today is going to be another day, different day, more power. It's going to be interesting to see how the car feels like. But having five cars again, a lot of things going on, I think it's going to help us find the best way for qualifying. I'm pretty confident. Sunday again running in traffic, give us more confidence with traffic, tune the car a little bit here and there. I think we're all confident and happy. Hopefully we stay like this.
Q: Marco, I'm sure you hear a few stories from your dad and grandpa about being here for weeks and weeks. Talk about the shorter format for Indy, whether you'd like to see it longer or you're used to it.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I'd be in a race car, especially this place every day, if they let me. I absolutely love driving here. I love just being here. But, yeah, I mean, I don't know, nowadays we have these things so dialed in so quick. Famous last words. We were able to get the hold of things so quick. Not just our team, but the caliber of teams and drivers out there. Literally, we can have a three-day weekend here and still be pretty quick. Obviously when we were good the other day, we wished we would have raced the other day. It's a roller coaster. You have to be mentally prepared for that. When you're on top one day, it's literally like starting over, and you just have to be ready for it. It would have been fun to do an extra week here or so. But it is what it is. It's fun.
Q: How is the information sharing? Are your setups totally different or can you share some information? Ana, what is the situation for Indianapolis, a couple races after Indy?
ANA BEATRIZ: First, communication has been pretty good. It's an open book out there. Setup-wise and drivers-wise, we always talking and sharing ideas. That's great. Regarding the future, I think that was a fantastic opportunity for me to be in a team like Andretti. Of course, we'll be working to do more races. We don't know yet, but that's where the focus is 2013. We are already working on this.
Q: For anybody. With the car, obviously we've seen a lot of race trim sessions going on this week. What do you expect in the race? Is it going to be a lot of cars staying together in the draft, tire fall-off? How do you expect a run to go?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think the race is going to be a lot of fun. I think it's going to be a lot of good-handling cars in the beginning of stints, fuel run, when the tires are new. Then I think you'll see the handling and balances come halfway to three-quarters of the way. I think that's where you'll see the race contenders shining at that point. These cars do draft a lot more than they have in the past. You're going to be pulled up into the mix, which I think is going to create a better race in a lot of ways. I still think there's going to be some fall-off there. We've seen watching in practice; there's quite a few guys in there that can run when the tires are good, but when the tires fall off, it's getting a little hairy for them. So far we've made our race cars really good on old tires.
Q: Pretty much every day this week, we've had 30-plus cars out there. It's been difficult to get any single car out there in clean air. How do you need to do what you need to do in clean air to get a decent qualifying setup?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's discipline. If you have to sit in the car for a half-hour before you go out, you have to do the best you can to get a true read. You can go out trimmed out and try to put out a big-time, but not me (laughter). To get a true read, obviously you have to be alone, so you just do the best you can. That's all.
Q: James, back to the question of the draft. The cars close very quickly. Will that change now with the new boost? Will you close even faster?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's a bit irrelevant because we're not going to have that boost on Race Day. Today everybody's focus is to qualifying with the more boost, Pole Day coming up. So I think it will be easier to get a little bit of clear track space. You're not going to see guys out there purposely running in packs for 30 laps. You're going to see guys going out there for four laps and parking it. In terms of how the cars will race with the extra boost, it's not really a factor. As Ryan was saying, the draft is much bigger, especially the last sort of like five, six car lengths, it's like it gets an afterburner and really sucks you up, but lures you into a sense of 'I don't have quite enough to make a move.' Then you get extra boost; it's last-minute dive-out passes on (Turns) 1 and 3 that we're going to have to look for on Race Day.
Q: Ryan, does that scare you with the drivers whose tires drop off?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, well, in order to get that moment that James is talking about where the car really sucks up, you have to somewhat be on the throttle on the corner following them. You have to have a good run to the corner. You can't be pedaling it through there, or you'll drop back. There's a bigger penalty for a lift in traffic. You'll drop back further. There's ups and downs. They're different angles to look at it. I think it's going to be a real exciting race. I think we're in for something that we haven't seen in a while. There's going to be a lot of passing here at Indy.
Q: Sebastian, you're going to be a busy guy this weekend. What is that going to be like?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It's going to be exciting, for sure. Racing day, 600 miles of Indianapolis. This is something we're trying to keep focused because for sure we don't want to get both races involved with each other. We want the Freedom 100 to be separate, well-made project, as well as the Indy 500. The Freedom 100 is important to me knowing that I'm leading the Indy Lights championship. I need the points, need to focus on getting the points, focusing on the big screen, which is the championship at this point. In the Indy 500, we've been doing a great job, expectations go high. But you need to keep your feet in the ground, understanding that it is a unique opportunity to be with AFS Racing and Andretti Autosport. It's a unique opportunity to enjoy and try to take advantage of this great opportunity and sit in a good way.
Q: There's a lot of talk about the switch to Honda with their boost situation. Do you still feel underpowered?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't think we've ever been underpowered. We've had four poles and four wins. We've been quick on our own, quick if in the pack. We can't change other people's programs. We're working harder than ever to stay on top because that's where we've been.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming in. We really appreciate it.
KV RACING TECHNOLOGY
E.J. Viso, No. 5 CITGO | PDVSA Chevrolet
Rubens Barrichello, No. 8 NO. 8 BMC | EMBRASE Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, No. 11 ITAIPAVA | GEICO | MOUSER Electronics Chevrolet
Jimmy Vasser, co-owner of KV Racing Technology
Mark Johnson, general manager of KV Racing Technology
THE MODERATOR: We have our fine folks with us from KV Racing Technology. Delighted to have you all.
Jimmy, we'll start with you. Welcome back to Indianapolis. It's delightful to have you here. You have a good driver lineup obviously.
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah. First of all, welcome and thanks to the media for showing up for our little conference here to talk a little bit about the race.
What a special place it is. You never forget how special the place is really, really how difficult it is. We learn time and time again that this place, when everything is going right, is the easiest and the nicest, everything is smooth. It just seems like everything is very quiet.
But then when the boogeyman creeps into your garage, like he does from time to time, it can be the most difficult and heart-wrenching and brain-draining thing that you go through.
It's been quite some time that we've had all-clear days, beautiful days. The wind shifts around and we find it to be tricky at times with high track temperatures. But with a lot of extra time on the track like we've had, you know, you try a lot of things and you lose your way. Thankfully with the great group of guys we have on the team, you find your way back.
We've kind of been on a rollercoaster ride this week. We feel like we found our true north again and we're really excited for Fast Friday. Everybody is excited and anticipating what the new boost levels are going to bring. We're very confident with our Chevrolet horsepower and proud to be proud of the Chevy Bowtie team.
THE MODERATOR: Mark, quite an undertaking to come to Indianapolis. You have a great slate of drivers, a lot of demands that go on with a relatively new racecar. First time on the oval this year. Talk about the month so far.
MARK JOHNSON: Well, I think Jimmy said it best. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. We have the spectrum covered here. We have one of the most experienced veterans in the field in Tony, we have one of the least experienced drivers in the field in Rubens, and E.J. falls in the middle.
Obviously we've been very fortunate with the weather, specifically in Rubens' case, which has allowed him more track time. Tony and E.J. have both been able to experiment with a lot of different things, while Rubens has been moving forward in his own direction. It's been great to work with all three guys. It's a team effort as we go back and forth on team setups.
As Jimmy said, true north. All three guys are close on their setups. We've been fortunate in the sense we've been able to test quite a bit this year. We're becoming more and more familiar with the car. But it's definitely different than what we're used to dealing with, the old tried and true Dallara. We learn more every day. We learn just what the window is that we have to be in, and it's very narrow.
We still learn every day. I think everyone in the paddock is still learning every day. The car is proving out to be good on the ovals. We had our doubts at the beginning, but I think all the teams have worked through it very well. We're looking forward to getting it going. I think we're going to be good this afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Rubens, we've known for many years about your relationship with Tony Kanaan, his work to get you over here and racing in our series. Have you woke up any morning and asked yourself the question, How did I let Tony talk me into doing this?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Many times, especially when the car was not good. I said, What are you going to do for me now (laughter)?
It's funny, I've been doing things and changing teams in my career, but it has been pretty much the same thing. What you learn, you just go through, it's a different car, you just make things.
Yesterday we were having a conversation. Mark was talking to my engineer Eddie. Said, We are three attempts for qualifying.
I said, What? Do we really?
I'm really a rookie here. I never expect that you have three attempts. I just thought you go to qualify and that was it, then you can test the whole day.
It's only the beginning for me. It's a new experience. Like Mark said, I've been fortunate to running on such a good weather. I'm enjoying. I'm better every day I run. Every day there's something you learn more. It's been very good to run in traffic this last couple days.
Today obviously all we want to do is run by ourselves and see how quick the car is.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, you've often done heavy lifting for your team in terms of sorting out racecars, being a veteran that some can rely on. It has to be an interesting situation when one of your pupils is one of the most famous racecar drivers in the world in Rubens. What is that like?
TONY KANAAN: It's cool. Finally after 21 years of friendship I can teach him something because it was always the other way around. I get a kick out of that.
Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes we have our moments between each other, as well. It's been a different experience.
I think at this point of our careers, if you had asked both of us if this would be happening, we would have said, No way. The proof to that was back in '05. I wore his helmet to this race, and on the same day he wore my helmet at Monaco, because we said, I'm never going to make it there; he probably never going to make it here. So here we go, this is his second race here actually.
It's been fun. Obviously there is a lot of pressure on our team now. We grow quite fast between the names, the sponsors, and everybody is expecting a lot of things. So do we. We're working on it.
THE MODERATOR: E.J., you have the most fresh experience of being a rookie here. Now you've been here a few years. What are you learning so far this month of May? E.J. VISO: Well, definitely as Rubens mentioned, it reminded me a couple years ago when I first came, again everything was fresh and new. It's very different. Indy 500, this whole race, this whole month, it's really extreme. Every day is a different day. One day you can have a great car, the next day it can be terrible, everybody is upset inside the crew, the drivers and everyone. And then the next day it gets back good again.
It's just a race that I think the experience is what makes the biggest difference from a driver. So it's understanding when to take some risks, when to don't do any of that, how to communicate with the engineers. Sometimes you are saying that the car is terrible, but the actual car is pretty good, but probably the weather conditions are playing against you. You need to understand all those things.
Probably after these few years that I've been racing here, that is what has made the biggest difference coming into this year.
A lot of things, as Tony said, has changed inside the team. Plenty of new people. The only same things in the team is the owners and Tony and me. Other than that, there's a lot of new faces there. I building the changes we've done have been positive. Things are clicking very good. I'm very happy with how things are coming along this year. We're expecting to have a good 500 miles.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Rubens, for many years you were part of Formula One. Sometimes fans and media have difficult access. When you're coming now from Formula One to the IndyCar world where everything is open, fans have much access, everyone is friendly, was this a big culture shock for you?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, I honestly don't think that it's a good thing to compare both worlds. They are very different. The best example that I gave I think to you guys was my very first day when I went to Sebring. I got there and there was some mechanics.
I didn't know anyone there. I saw there was a cameraman filming inside the cockpit. I went to run into the truck. I said, Who is responsible here? They said it was Tom. I asked Tom, There's a cameraman filming the car here. He said, That's normal here (laughter).
It's something that is a different thing. You know, I appreciate both ways. Formula One, you have different cars from each team, and they want to protect their rights in what they develop. That's the way it goes, as well, so…
Q. Rubens, I was a little surprised that your very first oval experience was at Texas Motor Speedway. That might have been because of the advantage of open testing there. Can you talk a little bit about your expectation when you first see the oval with the banking? Did it help you come here to Indianapolis and run here on an oval?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I think it did. I think it did. Just with some of the feelings that I never had. The feelings such as you have to hang onto the car going to the straight because it pulls to the left. When you go for the brakes for the first time, they're cold. I never had that experience.
Texas was in a way, everything was in a rush because you don't have time to relax. They tell me eye-wise it's even worse in that respect, just going around and around and around.
Here it's more flowing, you have more time to think about the line you're going to take. You can see, although the speeds are higher, with the spotter, they talk to you the way it is. You can see a little bit in the mirrors. You decide whether you're going to take the corner or not.
But in Texas it's really close, really close. I was telling that at the beginning. I wasn't able to follow one line. I was doing one and a half lines just because I wasn't good enough. I couldn't hold one line. To run with a car like that, with a car beside you, it's quite tricky.
But it's been a different experience. Now that I've been here almost for a week now, I've been enjoying very much. It's very, very different. I haven't seen a car that doesn't have one corner very much the same as another corner. It's just tricky. I've been trying to learn as rapid as I could.
Q. Tony and E.J., the new IndyCar, my wife described it as sexy. Do you like the new car? Do you like the direction that the league is going in with these new cars and packages?
TONY KANAAN: Definitely. I think in the beginning when we first got them, it was all black, it kind of looked weird to me. After we put some paint on it, it looks pretty good.
I support the series on their decisions. I believe that, despite all the criticism, we did the right thing. It proves that we changed the new cars and we still have 33 cars here, which in this economy to me, it's remarkable.
Yeah, I'm happy. I think the car looks better when it's fast. So hopefully doesn't matter, we used to say in the pits, The faster you go, the more beautiful you look. So that's the goal.
E.J. VISO: Well, definitely the car was a little bit of a shock, when everybody saw it the first time. But as of now, everybody is used to it. The car, I think the movement when everything start happening, everybody start calling each other crazy. As of today, I need to say that everything is going a lot smoother than what we all thought.
The speeds we're achieving our first year here with these cars, they're already in the 224s on themselves, you know.
Tony and me, we want to jump in the car. We seen the lap times. All these new things is very important for the sport, for the IndyCar, for all the sponsors, drivers coming from Europe. IndyCar is growing definitely.
I'm very excited to be part of it. Sexy? I think it is (laughter). It has a big ass.
Q. Rubens, you came from Ferrari. What can you tell to the Ferrari and Formula One fans how to enjoy a huge race like the Indy 500?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, I don't know. It's the culture of racing, you know. The Italians, they like when there is an Italian racing. If there is no Italian racing, that's very difficult for them to turn the TV on and check it out.
It's just different. I don't know. I've been a fan of the sport for many years. For me, a happy Sunday means sitting on the sofa with the kids and watching racing, whatever racing it is. I'm pretty sure that many, like me, doing that.
But if somebody just like races that it's street circuit, road circuit, you got to bring them here for them to see what a good show it is. I've been here in '93, and I watch the race myself. It was fantastic.
I mean, I've always thought maybe one day, who knows, I would at least like to try that. But for someone that never saw that, you know, they think it's pretty easy just going for four corners. I tell you, it's the most difficult four corners in my life. It's different.
Q. E.J., in the last race of Formula One, Pastor Maldonado won, a Venezuelan won. Is that pressure for you here in the Indy 500? Is it a huge responsibility with the fans in Venezuela? They may be expecting a huge result for you like Pastor?
E.J. VISO: Expectations is always a relative word. All I can say is I'm giving my best no matter what another driver is doing from my same country. He did definitely a great job in that race. Free of mistakes, fast in practices, he was on pole and won the race. He is on top of the game.
Regarding me, I'm here doing the same that he's doing. Is a big team effort. I can tell you these guys next to me, and me, we working very hard to win this race. If it happens, it's more than welcome. If it doesn't, I don't want to even think about it. It's welcome, too, because really what matters is what we're doing. All this effort.
Regarding the fans, yeah, racing in Venezuela hasn't been that big as probably here in the States or in Europe, but it's growing with my participation here in the IndyCar, with Pastor in Formula One. The racing is growing and picking up a lot of fans. It's great to be around the world carrying my country's flag, for sure.
Q. Rubens, can you talk about the physical comparison or difference between driving this car around an oval versus the Formula One car, the demands it places on your body, if there are any differences.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: It's very different from the point that in here, you have the support for your neck. I don't think you would be physically capable of doing the whole distance without having something to support your neck.
But then you say, It makes it easy. But I've been starting to feel some pain on my shoulder because the neck is like this the whole time. It goes straight. But then I'm actually not touching my shoulder back to the seat because you're just like that the whole time.
It's all about finesse. You got to be precise with everything. There is some differences.
I would say the car, when we had the first four races, was much tougher than it is here, because obviously you have to drive with, like I said, some finesse. But there are some differences, yeah.
Q. Jimmy, do you ever get the itch to get back out there and have you snuck a few laps in one of your cars?
JIMMY VASSER: The itch? The itch, yeah, I don't think it ever goes away, especially watching them out there. But when I saw the boogeyman come in the garage this week, I said, No, no, I'm not going out there.
But even as a race driver, you never get it out of your system. I haven't driven the car since last race, 2008 at Long Beach. But I've got some historic cars that are ready to go. I haven't dusted them off yet. I'm sure the day will come and I'll get out there and play around a little bit.
But, you know, my racing days are behind me. I realize that.
Q. Tony, after all the travails here, all the things you've gone through here in May, what is the approach? Do you come in here and say, This is the year? How do you do it psychologically?
TONY KANAAN: It's another year. That's all I got to say. Somebody made a comment the other day, it was actually a comment from a fan, but they said, Do you realize you got more famous in Indy because you didn't win the 500 than actually you had won? Mentioned a couple names that people I don't want to put on the spot that they won the 500 and they don't remember them.
I take the good things out of it. I don't think this place owes me anything. I don't put an extra pressure on myself. As we know for a fact, this race, you don't know who is going to win it until who crosses the finish line.
Psychologically, I just come here and enjoy. I enjoy how many fans I have, how many people say, This is the year, you're the one that deserves this and that. I'll take that as a positive energy for me. I wake up every day and I go do my work.
If it comes to me, fine. If it doesn't, I'll keep trying.
Q. Jimmy, the boost is going up. Do you think maybe it can have an effect on the ability of the engine, or no danger that the engine gets in trouble?
JIMMY VASSER: There must be some danger, otherwise the manufacturers would be comfortable with running that boost level for the whole 1800 miles. I know the engine wasn't designed around those parameters. They're comfortable enough to run it today and for qualifying to make it more exciting.
But I think that there is some reservations about doing this. We're interested today the Chevy, it looked like at the lower boost levels, the Honda might have had an advantage on the Chevrolet. Hopefully with the higher boost levels, it will be a little more equal or an advantage for Chevrolet.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming in.