Indy 500 Front Row Starters Press Conference

Drivers

Polesitter Ed Carpenter
Polesitter Ed Carpenter

1st – Ed Carpenter (Chevy)
2nd – Simon Pagenaud (Chevy)
3rd – Will Power (Chevy)

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: If I have my specifics correct, in the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, only 10 drivers have won the pole at least three times.

ED CARPENTER: Am I one of 10 or 11 now? It's still pretty cool.

THE MODERATOR: It's not very many. You said this was a pretty easy one, though. I thought that was interesting.

ED CARPENTER: It's never easy qualifying here, but it was — that was on the radio mostly. It was a compliment to my team. Every other pole I've won here, at least one of the laps, I was right-hand down loose on the last lap, and the balance was just perfect for all four laps. So that's what I meant by it was easy, just the balance was perfect, but it's still never easy doing what we do. But they certainly gave me a great car today.

THE MODERATOR: I heard the big roar when the 230 went up on the board —

ED CARPENTER: It may have came from inside the car because I don't know that I was expecting to see that, either, but the 20 car had a lot of speed in it, and we still had a long ways to go at that point. I had seen other guys drop off a lot, especially guys picking up understeer in the middle of the run, so we were able to put down four pretty consistent laps for the time of day. It was a lot of fun.

THE MODERATOR: It continues to get sweeter competing here, doesn't it?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I mean, obviously I don't want to just be considered a guy that can win poles here. I think we always work hard on our race cars, but we really put in a lot of work this last week, especially with the weather approaching, not knowing how many days we were going to get. I truly am focused on the race, which we always are. I just keep getting in the situation where my team gives me really fast cars, and when you're in a position to go compete for poles, it's hard to not do it.

Really excited for Sunday. I think this new car, it does race a little different than the other cars, and clean air maybe is a little more important than it has been in the past, so definitely feel fortunate to be in this position coming up for next week.

Q. Ed, you talked about the balance that your car had. We hear a lot about the smallest detail that you need to get to hit that sweet spot that your car needs to have. Where did that process start for your team today, and how did your team find that sweet spot?
ED CARPENTER: Well, so it really goes back to Thursday in a way because we started doing — we didn't do any qual times until Thursday, and the car wasn't very well balanced, so we kind of had a think about it, came back with something different for Friday. It was much, much better. Felt pretty good Friday night.

Obviously we didn't practice yesterday, so the only run I did was the qualifying run, and we missed on the balance a little bit. So I had a pretty big handful, but it was so quick. The fourth lap obviously fell off, but knowing the situation, I wanted to just make sure we were in the top nine, and we looked over everything from last night, made a few minor adjustments, and it came right to us.

Q. I know at the test when I talked to you about managing all three cars, you said this was the one month out of the year where you take orders from Tim Broyles —
ED CARPENTER: Really Colleen and my wife Heather, they're the real bosses of the whole thing.

Q. But to know that the whole three-car effort was in the Fast Nine, that has to make you especially satisfied with this pole.
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I'm super proud of the team. It's one thing to build a fast car here. It's a whole 'nother to build three fast cars, especially one of them not being a full-time crew. So the effort that Tim and the whole team put together to have everybody prepared and giving myself, Spencer, Danica all really good cars and equal chances to be in the Fast Nine and go compete for a pole, that's all you can ask for as a driver and as a team owner. Really blessed to have great people in our organization.

Q. Ed, this is your third pole. I think you finished 11th last year and the three previous years down in the late 20s and 30s. How much do you think about that all the time?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, you think about it a lot. I've been around here long enough, different things happen. You never know how many more opportunities you're going to get. I've been in this position three times now. '13 we didn't really manage the race, and our strategy going into it wasn't as strong as it could have been, being in that position for the first time.

Probably if — we came back in 2014, ran a really strong race up until the point that we weren't in the race anymore and were really well positioned for the last 20-some laps.

2015 was just a bad year for us. We didn't have our stuff together. As you see, Indy can do that to you. It's never automatic. It takes hard work and things change year after year. History shows that even the best of teams have tough days here.

'16 we had good cars, just can't remember, I had something happen in that race. Something.

But just hoping that things go well for all 500 miles. We certainly have a car that's fast enough to run up front, and the way it's been driving all week, I feel like we have a good enough handling car on long runs to be in a good position to be a factor if we can go out and execute on a sound strategy.

Q. Ed, how are things?
ED CARPENTER: Things are good.

Q. You brought in Allen McDonald to the engineering team this year. You're working with him. He's obviously known to provide fast cars around this place and other ovals. Is that part of why you brought him in, and what's it been like working with him?
ED CARPENTER: Well, it's been great working with Allen, who we call Big Buddy because he calls everyone Big Buddy. I've known for a really long time, and he's a super nice guy. We had some turnover during the past couple years. Lost a guy, really good engineer to Andretti Autosport. We brought in another guy that we thought was going to be with us for a while from sports cars; he wanted to go back to sports cars, so we found ourselves in a position to be looking for another race engineer again. And right about that time, Allen became available with Sam Schmidt making major changes over there. It was just perfect timing for us.

I couldn't wait to work with a guy like Allen. He had worked with one of the greatest drivers in the sport ever, in my opinion, Dario Franchitti, and they had a lot of success together, so I was really eager to work with him and try to learn from him to see what I could do to become a better driver myself, with all the really good drivers that he had worked with in the past. He and Matt had worked together previously and had a good relationship. Tim and Allen had worked together previously, so there was already a lot of chemistry there, and it's been a lot of fun. We're certainly having a good week.

Q. Spencer has been with ECR for a while, but he's never had a chance to run at Indy. With the P6 today, can you talk about his growth since going with him full-time?
ED CARPENTER: I mean, I think it was probably a surprise to some when we decided to put Spencer in the car full-time, but he started racing part-time with us two years ago. This is his third year. He's the real deal. He's a talented driver, and guys need opportunity and time to grow, and that's what we're trying to give him. And he's making me look good right now with a good performance. I think it's helpful that he's been here two years. I mean, he's learned a lot. He hasn't been in the best situation. He's made some mistakes and been through some hard times. But he comes in, he's finished both 500-mile races he's been in, so hopefully we can keep that streak going. But he knows how to drive the car. He's fast. So really proud of what he did this weekend as well as Danica.

Q. Next week will be an international crowd that will come in here from all over to watch the race. The pole weekend seems to be an Indiana crowd, people that are able to drive in for the day, a lot of people from Indianapolis, and you were easily the most popular driver in qualifications. How does it feel to have that kind of community support? You're kind of like their hometown hero here.
ED CARPENTER: It feels great. I think I've been around long enough that — I've been here long enough to build a fan base, and I love this town, and my wife and I Heather try to do as much as we can in the community, whether it's — Heather does a ton at our kids' schools, and we love this community and love being a part of it, so it's nice to feel the support for us during the month of May and having the town behind us.

Q. I live in the town of Speedway; how beneficial is our community and Indianapolis to your winning?
ED CARPENTER: I don't know. I mean, obviously it would be a whole lot of fun. But I guess until I'm in that situation, it's hard to totally answer that question. But I certainly love racing here and love the support that I get from the local community.

Simon Pagenaud

Press Conference

Simon Pagenaud - middle of front row
Simon Pagenaud – middle of front row

THE MODERATOR: Simon Pagenaud who will start second in next weekend's Indianapolis 500. Simon, congratulations. Are you happy with how things went today in qualifying and where your teammates ended up, as well?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, hell, of course I'm happy. You could say I'm the first loser, but I'm still happy. I think it's a phenomenal job from Chevrolet, first of all. What an incredible return — they turned the table. It's incredible compared to last year, the improvement that was made. I can't say — I can't thank them enough for the progress and the hard work that they put in this winter. It's been incredible.

Being able to overtake like that, another manufacturer by two steps, it's phenomenal. Thanks to them, and obviously I think the prep that Team Penske put in is phenomenal. As you look at all four cars, the performance is almost equal, and I don't think you can say that of a lot of teams on the paddock.

Everything went well. We just didn't have the 230 that Ed put down. Congratulations to them for such a great job. It is what it is. We're starting in a really, really good position. I'm really happy for John Menard, as well. His support here is tremendous, so he's going to be, I'm sure, very happy tonight.

Q. This qualifying format, it's so much like a race weekend in itself, so much attention is put on qualifying well for the race next weekend. Is it hard to shift gears and realize, okay, now that I've just gotten past this, now I have to prepare for what's really important?
SIMON PAGENAUD: At the beginning of the race we worked on race setup only, and it was good, and then we shifted to qualifying setup before Fast Friday because we were worried about rain, possible rain, which didn't happen. So we've had time to prepare for qually for sure. And now it's definitely — tonight we're going to have to switch our mind back to race pace and try to make the car as good as possible in traffic.

The advantage is we're starting up front, and I think that's the ideal position for a good race and executing. Obviously pit stops are going to be very important, but when you start up front here, it makes a big difference, like you could see when I run up front in 2015. So I think it's a really, really promising situation.

Q. I know that you're focused on your effort and on your teammates' effort, but as a competitor, how much respect level can you have for Ed Carpenter because every year he comes to the Indianapolis 500 and he's among the fastest guys? He's now a three-time pole winner here.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, great job to that team. They understand this place very well. They obviously know how to get speed out of his cars, and they definitely understand something great. Congratulations. That's all I can say. I only know what we do and how much we've been working on it ourselves. Looking at it from the outside, it's sometimes unfair, so I just focus on our deal and I can say when we've done a good job, and I appreciate that.

Q. You qualified on the front row in 2015 with a newer aero kit, now you're dealing with the universal aero kit for 2018. What kind of pressures have you had to deal with knowing that it was an entirely new body style both times, yet you got onto the front row both times?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I'm sorry, I don't understand the question.

Q. The pressure today was the same as in 2015 when we had an entirely new package to deal with, a new body style and a bunch of new things to deal with, with a new team, as well, in Team Penske?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I think it's a similar situation. I think each year you find yourself in different modes. Last year we didn't have a shot at the pole. The other years I've always pretty much been in the Fast Nine most of the time. But this year we had a real shot. I think '15 we would have had a shot, too, if we didn't have the rule change at the end right before qualifying because we had a really fast car, but today I really thought we had a shot.

Last night we looked at everything with our mechanics to try to find speed on the head mats, on the mirrors, trying to lower my seat. We did all sorts of things to try to gain anything out of it. It was a good group effort, and that's when — when you do well like this, it's fun.

Q. Can you flash back to yesterday's run for a second because I think there was rain at the end of your run? How was that to finish?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Stressful. I was finishing my run, I could see some drops, and I was praying for the yellow not to come out, and with the luck I've had this year, I was like, the yellow for sure is coming out before. The moment I cross that finish the yellow is going to come out, my laps are going to be canceled. But with the power of positive thinking, that didn't happen. It was fantastic. I just had like a really good run, and I knew that we would be in the Fast Nine if we could just finish. So yeah, it was — I guess it was a blessing.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you very much.

Will Power

Press Conference

Will Power - outside of front row
Will Power – outside of front row

THE MODERATOR: Will, first of all, congratulations, a front row start for you heading into next weekend's race. How pleased are you with your performance today?

WILL POWER: Yeah, we went out and practiced after making a big change overnight, and it was completely wrong and the car was just — like I lost all my confidence because I was having so many moments, and so we had to go back on that and just kind of take — return the car to the way it was, and it did. Car was pretty stuck, could have trimmed out more. There was no way I was ever going to do the speed that Ed does. Like it's just impossible.

Q. Do you ever think back and wonder if say you'd gone out in the conditions that Helio went out yesterday you might have had a better idea, been a little bit higher up into the field, which maybe would have given you guys a little different outlook, approach, platform for today, or do you just take it as it came?
WILL POWER: I mean, yeah, there's nothing you can do about — yeah, yesterday, the conditions were very different. Yeah, it would have been better to go out at the end. There's no question. The track was a little cooler. If we would have known the time, I'd say we probably would have trimmed, just taken the risk, and you would have been like, well, that's such a big number we've got to do something. Yeah, it always helps to get information.

Q. You've appeared in every Fast Lane Shootout that they've had here at the speedway. How has participating in that changed for you through the years? More pressure, less pressure?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it just depends on how the car is. Like when it was — yeah, last year it was just terrible because you could trim the car so much, it was so on edge. After practice today, I was pretty nervous because the car was pretty edgy, but it was pretty stuck. So you never know. But if it's a situation where the car is just stuck, it makes it more comfortable. Yeah, when you're not sure around this place, it can be really daunting.

Q. Will, you said you were just never going to be able to put the speeds up that Ed was. Can you tell us more about that and why not?
WILL POWER: Yeah, no, I don't think so. I mean, I don't know what else I could take off the car that would make a mile-an-hour. Yeah, I mean, Ed has got something good going there, and obviously doing a good job over the four laps. But yeah, I would have said two days ago for sure because I did a 29.7 by myself, and I don't know what happened. Like I kind of — it's just a strange place like that. I don't know if it's gusts of wind or what it is. It's the smallest of details matter at that speed with the aero. Yeah, you get a five-mile-an-hour gust of wind and you're going to go pretty — it makes a big difference. I saw that with Helio. You look at the data, his speed yesterday was all from a gust of wind on the back of the straight, or just a tower wind. That's not what made Ed fast. He had a very good car and did a great job. Yeah, we just have to focus on the race now. I think we've got very fast race cars.

Q. Speaking of which, the only thing missing from your career is an Indy 500 victory. You're real positive with the new car how it's going to drive in the race, so what's your outlook?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think it's going to be good — I think it'll be good racing at the front. You know, like top three will be switching positions constantly. If it's a really hot day like this, I think you'll see people spread out a bit more, but you can't help that. But at the front, there's no way, like there's such a big draft. Like no one is ever going to drive away. Like there will be the switching of leads like it always is.

Yeah, I've been through a lot of different setups, so I've got a very good idea of what makes the car work and what doesn't, how it is in big traffic, how it is in light traffic. We'll have a good think about it, get some miles tomorrow, and make the best, most tunable car during the race because you've got to be able to work on it as you go along. Obviously the wind changes, the track gets hotter and such.

THE MODERATOR: Will, congratulations. Thank you very much.

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