Q&A with Power, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay

An Interview with Will Power

Will Power
Will Power

Q: Will, we've been having all the drivers come in and start by kind of recapping the 2016 season and then what you're looking forward to transitioning into this year.

WILL POWER: All right. I guess starting the first race —

Q: That'll be quick —
WILL POWER: Nothing happened (laughing). Yeah, I mean, it was definitely an interesting season for me. Normally I turn up to the year very fit and ready to go. That was definitely not the case last year. I just kind of wasn't on top of my game, just struggling with some physical stuff like fatigue, and then missing the first race. But I think going into Phoenix, which was really my first race, was more about am I physically fit enough to do this whole race because it's a very physical track, and kind of took that approach on a few races starting from there, which was a very different approach for me, kind of puts you in a position to be a little bit more conservative, and gave me insight into that can be a good thing. You know, and things really started to flow for me after Detroit.

I kind of thought at that point if I want to have a chance of winning the championship, I really need to have a run like Pagenaud had, which I thought was — which was an unbelievable run. I didn't think that was possible. It actually happened, though, started flying well. Yeah, I have to say Pocono was my favorite race of the year, best win. Really enjoyed it, and was starting that three-race run for the championship at the end. But unfortunately the last two races were DNF's. Literally three races' worth of DNF's there in the last three races, so that kind of ruined any chance.

Q: How's your wife and how's fatherhood?
WILL POWER: Yeah, fatherhood is amazing. In the hospital there, when you see your child born, there's nothing that can explain that. That was just an amazing experience. And then you've got to take him home and realize that you don't know what you're doing. All the tips and everything everyone gives you just goes out the window, and you're just trying to keep your head above water, basically. But it's cool.

You've got Liz's mom standing there and (Liz’s) best friend standing there, so they're doing some shift work. It takes a lot of people to look after this little tiny boy. But it's great. Enjoying it a lot. Really am.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Q: Talk about this season.
WILL POWER: This season, we hardly did any testing in the off-season, and not much has changed. The aero freeze, really, we can't do much on that front. I think the manufacturers probably can do a little bit on the engine front. So you're turning up with very similar packages for everywhere this season. So I think it's — yeah, it's going to be about fine-tuning — I think that's what happens in the situation where everyone has the same formula for a few years, for a couple years. It becomes more competitive because everyone has a really — everyone has their good baseline setups. It becomes more about getting the little details right, and I think that's the type of season that it will be.

Q: When you have teammates to the talent level that there are at Penske, how critical is it to start the season off and immediately get on the click, carry that momentum all the way through?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's actually — I feel like whenever you win the first race, it seems to just set something in place to help the crew and the team around on your car with confidence and probably the driver, as well. But I don't necessarily think you have to go out there and win the race. I mean, you can definitely have slow starts, as you've seen Dixon in the past, and come on at the end, and myself last year. It's always — everyone is antsy at the first race to just go out and charge, but I think you've still just got to know that it's — is it 16- or 17-race series? 17-race series, and every race counts the same amount of points apart from Indy and Sonoma.

Q: Is that something you had to learn over the years is to rein yourself back a little bit those first couple races, not be overaggressive?
WILL POWER: Yeah. It's more like — yeah, I think it's more like as far as how hard you push like during practice sessions and qualifying. I think in the race you kind of just through experience know the situation and what it is and how aggressive to be. Yeah, I just think you learn that it's not — you have to do well here or you have to — I think it's a mistake I did last year. I got to the Grand Prix race here at Indianapolis and said, right, I have to win here if I'm going to have a shot at the championship, which was absolutely not true, so I don't think there's any point in the year, apart from the last race, unless you're right on the cusp with two to go or something that you have to do something. I mean, you can only do your best.

Any time you're saying to yourself, I have to do this, you're going to get yourself in trouble I feel like.

Q: Helio was in here just a few minutes ago, obviously one of the older guys out here but fit as ever. Do you see yourself running out here five, six, seven years down the road?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I don't know. It's kind of a see how it goes thing for me. You know, like see how I'm doing and what I feel like. You know, it's impressive how long Helio and TK have done in the series, I think. Yeah, it's amazing that they're still able to go out there and win races and be competitive and championship contenders past 40. It's good to see. It really is.

Q: While you were taking pictures out there of us, Helio was telling us that his doctor gave him a physical yesterday and told him he was as healthy as a 19 year old. You may have to step up a little bit.
WILL POWER: Yeah, he looks like it, apart from the hairline and all that. (Laughter.) Wrinkles, gray.

Q: With a young driver like Newgarden coming in, you were the young guy when you came into the team, how does that change the chemistry among all four of you, and do you think you're going to have to work a lot harder now that he's there and eager?
WILL POWER: No, I think you're already doing everything you can to be competitive. I think he's going to be very strong. He's a young guy. He's fast, so he's got the energy. And you know, he hasn't been in a team like this before in a situation where he has three other teammates that are very competitive and experienced. You know, I think he'll learn some stuff off each of us like we will learn off him.

It definitely creates a very strong combination of drivers, though, within Penske. It really does.

Q: You've been obviously very competitive in the old race across the street, but I know that is really high up on your list to try and accomplish. What's it going to take for you to win the 500 this year?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's good for the day. You've got to do all the homework and the hard work to be competitive and then put yourself in that position. I've won two 500-mile races in the last couple years, and I've just got to get this one. That'll do it. Yeah, just one more.

Q: How is Liz?
WILL POWER: Yeah, she's doing well. Yeah, she's had a few issues with infection and stuff.

Q: A little more complicated than the normal —
WILL POWER: It was definitely, yeah, definitely more complicated. Definitely had some issues that we're trying to resolve now, hopefully without surgery. We'll see.

Q: Are you feeling better at this point than you were last year?
WILL POWER: Yeah, fitness wise, definitely. Definitely fitter. So yeah.

Q: Has that been something you've had to get adjusted to, different diet or different workout routine? Is that something that took a little bit to come to the realization that I have to do something different?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I had to, yeah, definitely work on the diet stuff and then just have like a month rest this year when I finished the season, doing nothing but relaxing and getting myself energized and then back into it and being very smart about my exercising, not pushing too hard, too far, where you fatigue yourself.

Q: Did you have some sort of food allergy they found?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I was tested for a lot of stuff, actually. Dairy was one of them, one of the issues, and there's a few other things in there that was not good that I was allergic to. Yeah, food was a part of it, and then pushing your body too hard was a part of it in the off-season last year, you know, before Christmas.

Q: Have you learned how to put together cribs and baby furniture and all that?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I did. I put the crib together, and I've been getting pretty good at without the instructions putting together little, what do you call them, bassinets.

Q: Have you been perfecting the diaper pit stop?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I'm actually getting good at it.

Q: What's the time on that?
WILL POWER: All I can say is the pee-pee tepee does not work. That thing just falls off all the time. It's like a bad design. You may as well just lay a towel over it. But yeah, I've been caught out a couple times there. It's like dropping a wheel nut. It's like, oh, God, again, no. But yeah, you get good at it. Lift the legs up, put it under there, tabs. Yeah. Yeah, it's unbelievable, such a little thing needs so much maintenance. It's unbelievable. There's nothing else on earth that requires so much attention at a young age.

An Interview with Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden

Q: Let's talk about, first of all, if you can maybe kind of recap your 2016 season and then talk about obviously what took place in the off-season and what you're looking forward to in 2017.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Sure. So we had a great — we had a really great 2016 season, and it's going to be an interesting transition for me going to Team Penske now. I think in some aspects, it's a difficult move because I really enjoyed my time and I'm going to miss my time at ECR. I built a really strong foundation there with the people and with Ed, and even in the past with Sarah and Andy and Wink and Libba. It's a tough transition, but at the same time, I'm excited about it because from what I've seen over the last four or five months at Team Penske, I think it's going to be a really, really fun experience to try something new to work in a different environment, to learn a different environment, and then try and make the most of that. I'm very excited about 2017. I'm not sure how it's going to pan out yet. I think it's hard to predict, but I think we're going to have a pretty good going.

Q: You just moved your stuff to North Carolina, correct?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I did, yeah. Man, that was a chore. I don't ever want to move state to state again. I had more stuff than I realized. I don't know where people accumulate all this stuff from. I had way more clothes — I need to go to goodwill and give some clothes away because I have way too much clothes, but it was a chore, so I finally got in last week and I feel like I'm going to be moving for the next couple — two to three weeks before we get everything done, but at least I'm located down there now, which I feel good about.

Q: Does it kind of put a bow on your commitment to this new team, this new move and everything for you?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah. I think you have to. I mean, whenever you move organizations, you really have to be close to the group, particularly in the beginning, but I think overall, wherever you're working, I think you want to have access to the team, you want to have access to the people and vice versa. You want them to have access to you whenever they need you. It's pretty critical, I think, to be close to the organization. And yeah, I guess you could look at it that way, kind of puts a bow on the transition. I think it definitely solidifies it a lot more for me. I feel more transitioned now that I'm down there.

Q: Helio talked back in Miami about how quickly you've caught on speed-wise at the tests, when you jumped in his car and what have you. That said, we saw Simon struggle his first year a little bit at Penske but he had speed. What is the anticipation leading up to this year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, you know, Simon is an interesting case because if you look back at it, Simon didn't actually have that terrible of a year in a lot of respects. The results weren't what they wanted. They'd finished outside the top 10 in the championship. When you look at it just from those particular numbers, then it wasn't a good season.

But from a speed standpoint, Simon didn't struggle the first year. It wasn't like he struggled for speed, so that wasn't the missing ingredient. So I'm hoping that's not a problem in the transition. I don't foresee it being a problem. You know, whatever else was a missing link, everyone has a different case, so in Simon's, for instance, they had to build a new team. He's talked about the difficulty of them having to add a team, different people. Sure, he brought over Bretzman, his engineer, so that was his continuity for him, but there were some other elements that weren't continuity. So that's his own case.

With me, it's going to be a different ball of wax. I've got an existing team I'm going to start working with on the 2 car program. They've been there and they've been in place for a while, so that shouldn't be as big of a shuffle from the team side. It's going to be more me learning how the team operates, gelling with my engineer very quickly. That's going to be the biggest difference for me is a new engineer, and then we'll see how it pans out.

But I think if there was anything to learn from Simon's, the team is kind of prepared to not let that happen again. You know, I guess to answer your question, it's hard to predict how it's going to go. I mean, I don't think anyone could predict how Simon's season went. Simon could have had a great first season, and it ended up working out in the second one. But for us is it going to work out in the first season? I don't know. I think all signs point that we could have a very good start to the season.

Q: Brian (Campe) will be your engineer?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: He is, yeah.

Q: And Myron (Jon Bouslog) is your strategist?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know how the — I know Brian is my engineer for sure. We've been working together for the last four months. The rest of the team as far as all the crew, the strategist, I don't know if any of that is set in stone. I haven't been told that. I think they're still working everything out on all four cars, so if there's any changes to come still, they haven't released that yet, so I don't even know myself.

Q: What has surprised you or impressed you the most in your short time with the Penske organization?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think it's probably the working environment. I honestly was not sure what that environment would be like from the outside, and that's not a negative statement. I think there's a perception from the outside that everyone is very buttoned up, they have the black pants, everyone looks very crisp and clean. You know, maybe a little stiff from the outside. You get that kind of impression, not in a bad way, it's just you just don't know how everyone interacts together.

But when you get inside and you get to work closely with everyone, you very quickly realize how good of a working environment it is. It's really, really solid. I mean, everyone has great chemistry for the most part. I think everyone has a great attitude. I mean, you talk to anyone within the team, you need anything done from anybody, they're happy to do it. They want to do it. They want to make anything better for anyone within the team, whether it's a driver or it's another mechanic or it's another engineer. Everyone is willing to help out, and I thought that was just very shocking to me how well the environment was to work in.

It also excited me because it was kind of fun to go there. It's fun to go to the shop. It's fun to hang out. It's fun to go to the racetrack. We're very serious about what we do, but at the same time we have such a good working environment that it seems like it can breed a lot of success because of that.

Q: Any rookie hazing or anything? Do you have to carry Helio's helmet around or anything like that?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I think probably the first thing was last night. It said on the sheet to wear black pants and a white polo, and I was the only guy that showed up in black pants and a white polo for a function that we were at. I was like, what the heck, guys, it said it on the sheet; why aren't we all wearing this.

It's the first time — we haven't had much time to interact to be honest. Yesterday the first time we've been together, all four of us, since October when we tested last at Road America. I think everyone has been so busy. Will has been busy with the birth of his child. Helio has been all over the place. Simon has been all over the place. He's been in France. I've been busy with the move and trying to transition. We've not really had a lot of time to spend together yet. That's probably going to start happening in February more.

Q: You talked about the question of going to Team Penske and the process there. What does Josef Newgarden bring to the team?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think from my side, I bring a different perspective. My perspective is probably similar to what Simon brought in his time. We were in similar situations I would say in that we were predominantly a one-car team for the last four or five years, and with that comes a unique learning environment. You kind of learn your own way of how you want to do things. I've learned through my own experiences how I want certain things in the car, how I approach a race weekend, and I've learned that with the ECR group, the SFHR group, the CFH group, whatever you want to name them, it's all pretty much the same group. But I've learned that in a one-car environment for the most part, and so when you go to Team Penske, they have an environment where it's very team-inspired. Everyone works together. I think that's what their strength is.

But now when I come in, I might look at something completely different than they've ever looked at it, and vice versa, they've looked at things differently than I've ever looked at it and are exposed to things I've never seen before. But it's always enlightening. It's always refreshing for either the team side or the driver side to see a different perspective on whether it's the way you run a race weekend, the way you run a session, the way you communicate or the way you like to drive the race car or the way you prefer the setup of the car.

I think I'm going to bring that difference and that unique experience as they're going to bring to me. It's going to be the same thing.

Q: I know you probably haven't, other than testing, really haven't measured yourself up against the other three drivers in the same equipment. What are you thinking? Who's going to be the toughest competitor on the team? Obviously you're going to want to beat all of them, but what do you expect for yourself going forward?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: They're all pretty tough, to be honest. You can't just say, oh, Simon is going to be the toughest guy to beat or Will. When we were at the Road America test in October was the first time I drove the car and I drove with all the other guys, and even Helio was — the first time I seen their data, it was kind of cool because it was like you're allowed to go in and sit down and look at the laptop and see what everyone just did. And that's fun. That's really fun to get to do that for the first time.

So you look at like Helio's stuff, and there was one corner where Helio just did something like stupid looking, but it was fast, and it was like faster than all of us, and you're like, well, why does that work. So it's surprising. Well, he just did something that I've never seen before, and it was very fast in a certain corner. So I think it's hard to say it's going to be one or the other. Helio has his strengths, Will has his strengths, Simon has his strengths and I have mine.

With that series, everything shuffles around so quickly. Helio could have a bad year but the next year he could just catch on fire and everything go his way. I think they're all going to be very, very tough. I think it's hard to predict who's going to be the best. If anything that's a positive. I think they're all very, very good and they're very open about communicating, which is going to make us as a team very, very strong. I think it's what's made them strong as a team in the past. They just have very good driver, very good engineers. They all communicate. They all push in the same direction, and that just keeps like raising the bar. Someone does this and someone does that, and the next guy does this, and all of a sudden you're up here. So that's kind of where they find their strength, I find.

Q: Is there any pressure on you going into the season, like a lot of expectations that people have?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Sure. I've got no excuses. This is my sixth year. I've been around quite a while. I'm not a rookie by any stretch. You know, I'll be in the best equipment from what everyone considers, and I've got a good team. There's not a lot of variables for me. Brian is a variable. The new working environment is. But on the whole, I should be pretty much ready to rock and go. If I'm not getting the job done, then I'll have to figure it out pretty quick.

So I think there's pressure there, yeah, which is okay. That's how it works.

Q: How big of a culture shock has it been going from a single car team with a part-time, shuffling drivers between ovals and road courses to now all of a sudden having three teammates and the stuff that Penske has?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think what I have to be careful of is that you can't get distracted by all the information. So there's so much more information now. It's like when you have a cable plugged into your laptop. You just turn that cable into like a super cable, and there's like four times, five times as much information coming in, and I'm used to working with a certain set of information. Now I have so much of it to look at. It's easy to get distracted by that and start looking at too much and trying to change too much. What I have to do is I know what has made me successful in the past. I know where my strengths are. I know what works for me at certain tracks. I know how I like to approach a race weekend. I need to keep doing all that. It's not like that has to change.

Yeah, you can modify certain things here and there, but I don't want to go making wholesale changes the way I drive IndyCars or the way I race in IndyCar. I think if you start doing that, that's when you get lost pretty quickly. I just need to stay in my lane and stay true to what I know, and then modify little bits and pieces as time goes on where I can find improvements. But not overthink it is probably what I'm going to try and do.

Q: Do you have the ability to let it sink in going into the Indy 500 with Penske, the winningest team there?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Dude, it's all cool. Every day is cool with this group. Every day there's something cool that goes on. When it first — when I first went down there and got to meet the whole team and I got introduced to the shop, it was very overwhelming because most of the shop was there for the introduction, and they have 425 plus employees. So it's just very overwhelming and kind of emotional just because of the magnitude of it.

But then it's every day, they're like, oh, no, we do it like this or we'll sort that out for you, we'll get this done. It's literally every day they're doing something that I might need or was thinking of, and it just happens, and you're like, wow, that is so cool the way this works out here.

So I guess to get to your point, yeah, the 500 is going to be very special, but I'm already like feeling that every month and every day. Like that just has never been a moment where it's not been cool with what we do and how we do it. Yeah, I'm sure it's going to be super special for the 500, but I don't think I'm going to feel that until we get inside the gates in May.

Q: You had the opportunity last week up at the North America international auto show in Detroit to sit at the roundtable with Jay Frye where the concepts for the new car were unveiled. Give us your thoughts on that and the way things at IndyCar are going.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I thought Detroit was very fascinating for what they showed and what they tried to tell everyone with where their head is at, what their ideas are for the next year and the next five years, and a lot of you guys were there in the show getting to see that firsthand.

I just think, to me, it's very encouraging. I actually love getting to listen to Jay. I like Jay a lot. I really like the management of IndyCar. I like all the leadership. I like the entire team that's working collectively to try and push this sport forward and try and create a map and a plan for the future.

Personally when it just comes to the car and you see the renderings and kind of their ideology of where they're going, they're doing a great job of trying to please everyone, and you can't please everyone. It's just not going to happen. There's too many hurdles that people don't know about or don't actually see when you try and make every little request possible. You know, they're not going to be able to satisfy every request.

But I think what they're doing is they're globally trying to hit most of the marks for whether it's the fans, the drivers, the teams, the partners, and I think they're doing it pretty gracefully. So I'm excited. I think the common kit is going to be cool. 2017 is still going to be a great season. Yeah, 2018 is going to be fun to get to, but I don't think that makes 2017 like a wash and we don't need to pay attention to it. I think it's still going to be a great, exciting season. But I'm excited for '18. I'm excited for the common kit. I think that'll be cool, and that will open up some doors and maybe provide a future path for more manufacturers like Jay had stated, and then just getting further down the road, how do we plan for the next car. That takes a lot of time, and they're planning for it and they're trying to make that happen as soon as they can, but it's going to take three to five years before we get there, and when we get to that point, I think there's going to be some really innovative and really exciting things to come for IndyCar.

An Interview with Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay

Q. Ryan, let's start off, go back in the memory banks and kind of recap what you felt about your 2016 season and then transition into what you're looking forward to this year.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: 2016 I think was just a season of missed opportunities, especially when I look at the big one that got away, which was the Indy 500. I knew after halfway through that race that I had a car to win it, it was just a matter of getting to that sprint, to that fight at the end. And then Pocono, again, same situation, 500-mile race, very similar circumstances. Those were two wins I feel like got away.

If we'd have been there at the shootout at the end, I think we would have had a good shot at either of them.

Other than that, I think it was a season of struggles on the street courses for Andretti Autosport as a whole. We have been going back to look at that and we're going to bring some changes in this year. We've obviously had some personnel changes at Andretti Autosport, and we've also had a directional change on the way we're going to approach street circuits.

Beyond that, we started out the season third at St. Pete, had some good fights here and there. Phoenix is another one that got away, probably should have been a podium had we not missed the yellows there. But really the big ones I think about is Indy and Pocono. Those were two that — it being my first ever season not winning a race with a full-time program. Those two hurt when I think about them.

Q. Does that make you even hungrier, more motivated for the season?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. I'm always so motivated no matter what when I get in the race car. That's how I've always been my whole career just because I've always had to get in and prove myself to keep my ride. I have a lot of stability now with DHL. Obviously this is a great, great partner. It's great for the series. I have four years left on my deal right now, and that stability within IndyCar, so big thanks to DHL and Andretti Autosport on that.

Q. You guys in the past were really good on street courses. What changed?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, it was really post aero kit is when it kind of went south for us. Our mechanical package really suited the DW12. We figured it out, we nailed it, we were fast on street courses. With the new aero load, the different package with the aero kit, it kind of rendered some of our street course packages useless, our street course setups, and we had to start reinventing the wheel basically, start all over again, and that's been a process where we've been a few steps behind, no doubt.

With that in mind, we've had a couple good street course races. You know, we finished on the podium at two last year, but it's not enough. That's something that we need to get on top of, and I am really looking forward to the universal kit in '18. I feel like going back to an aero package that brings the entire field back to where we were with the DW12 and having the engine manufacturer competition be the highlight, I think that is something I'm definitely looking forward to.

Q. I know that some people at your team have said despite the fact that Takuma has been known to crash a lot, he has speed and he has the technical understanding of the car and that that can really help the rest of the drivers. What do you see the addition of Takuma from a technical standpoint doing for the team?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I'm looking forward to working with him. I mean, I think it's a situation where any time you have a new driver in that has speed and has a certain idea of what they want from the race car, you want to pull what you can from that and work as a team. But like you said, when Takuma is on with the right setup and the car is good and the way he needs it, he's one of the fastest on any given day.

So that's something that I'm interested in seeing, and hopefully it'll up all of our games together and we can push forward.

Q. You talked about last year and some of the frustrations you guys had on the street courses. Obviously they're not changing the cars this year, so it's going to be doubly hard to make up ground. Is this kind of a treading water year waiting for 2018 or do you think you can make up some of the gap this year?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, I don't want to make it seem like it's a lame duck year for us. This is something that we can progress on. We know the areas we need to improve in, and we've been focusing on that this off-season. I think we can improve there. There's no reason why we can't, and there's no excuse not to, so that's something that we're very focused on, and I feel like we have a great opportunity to win four or five races this season, hopefully more. But it's something where we're going to have to go out and prove it. Street courses are a big part of this series. I think our superspeedway package has shown it's been strong. One other area that really threw us for a loop last year is we've always been very, very strong at Iowa, and it was just completely turned on its head for us last year. So that's a big head scratcher for us, and we have some ideas on where we need to improve there. We'll be testing there, so hopefully we'll have an opportunity to right that.

Q. Do you want to go into some of the personnel changes, the changes you guys have made internally this year and if there are any direct implications for your car itself and where you see that happening?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, sure. Not to go into too much detail, but obviously Eric Bretzman has been brought over from Ganassi's NASCAR program as technical director. We have Jeremy, I forgot his last name, is going to be Alexander Rossi's engineer. He's coming over from Josef Newgarden's car at Ed Carpenter Racing, and we have also made some changes just on the 28 car, for instance. My team manager basically has been promoted, so he might be on another car this year. We're moving some crew members around, things like that are happening.

My goal is to really make for stability on the 28 car because we do have four seasons ahead of us, and that's something that we had the stability side of it, something we had in our most successful years, 2012 through '14. We had the same guys working together.

Hopefully we can accomplish that, but in this industry, people are always moving around, and you're just trying to keep them in the same spot for as long as possible.

Q. You talked about stability. Crazy last four or five weeks in racing with losing two incredible drivers, Nico Rosberg retires and Carl Edwards either steps away or retires. What do you think what you hear about guys that young stepping out of this thing?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You know, the Rosberg situation I really can't understand. I think he's in one of the most — one of the best seats in the world. When you're in that position, you only live once, and me personally, my personality, I couldn't let that up, no way. And racing is what I love to do, so I've been doing it since I was 12 years old. I still have that desire for it, and it never gets old to me. It's always evolving, and I'm always hungry. I couldn't see retiring early.

But everybody has their own reasons, and maybe Nico felt burned out, wanted to end on top rather than fizzling out or something like that.

And Carl, I don't know, I don't understand, but he does have a family and the NASCAR schedule is very grueling. The IndyCar schedule is great. And it's something where maybe he just wanted to focus on family and feels like he's gotten what he needs to out of racing.

But no, for me, I'm just so — I feel so appreciative and so lucky to be in the position that I am where I have the next four years where I can concentrate on that stability and building a program that gets us back to a championship.

Q. So we'll see you for the next four years at least?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely, absolutely.

Q. What have you been doing for fun this off-season?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Oh, man. It's tough just keeping up with the kids. We have three of them that are so close in age, and that has been the biggest challenge, really. It's just been keeping up with them. It's been fun, but it's going to get easier. It's going to get a bit easier as they grow up a bit. But between testing the Daytona 24 and the NSX, we've done two tests in that now, we have Race of Champions coming up, sponsor appearances, there hasn't been a whole lot of time off. But over the Christmas break I got some time off, and it was nice. I'm definitely ready to get back to racing starting this weekend at Race of Champions, and then the following weekend in the NSX at Daytona.

Q. You went to Homestead in November; what about that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I went to Homestead. Stopped by Homestead real quick for the NASCAR race. My oldest son is —

Q. Up in the air.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, I don't think of that as Homestead because we were over the keys the whole time. The Thunderbirds, the ride of a lifetime, and I had no idea what to expect, but I feel like I would have done something like that had I never been a race car driver because I absolutely loved every bit of it. It was phenomenal. And we're looking to maybe do something based around St. Pete doing an IndyCar versus Thunderbird race. That's in the works.

Q. I was just wondering if you're pleased with the direction of the series as a whole and what growth you anticipate?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I am pleased with the direction of the series as a whole. I think our on-track product is great. I think it has been. I think it's going to become even better in 2018. We just have to concentrate and focus moving forward on bringing in new — our younger fan base. I think that's something that right now, for kids, everything is immediate, instant, and there needs to be something they can latch on to, the same thing that made me latch on to IndyCar when I was a kid, which was I saw the guys driving these cars that just sounded amazing, looked amazing. They were awe inspiring, and I thought of the guys in the cars as heroes, and we need to tap that.

I think it's possible, it's just a matter of getting the right formula together to do it.

But I think the direction is great. I'm really looking forward to seeing the 2018 car. Hopefully we can nail that design. Hopefully we can make it — we're still working with the same chassis, the same tub, but hopefully we can make it something that when you look at it, you're like, wow, that's a race car.

So that's what I'm looking forward to, and really willing to work with the series in any way possible to make that next step in bringing in the younger fan base.

Q. You mentioned Iowa was a big disappointment, you weren't strong there like you had been in the past. Was there a difference in the way the car performed say this past Iowa and the year before? Is it something to do with just missing the setup or was it the aero kits, or what was different?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You know, there were some bumps that were new there. I really don't know, but in the past I knew exactly where to put the car, what I could do with the wheel over the bumps, what I could get away with, and the car would be forgiving in some ways at Iowa in the past. This time every bump I went over, it was trying to turn around. It was almost terrifying to drive because it was a matter of time before something bad was going to happen. I can't say I was overly disappointed when the engine expired. (Laughter.)

Q. Ganassi to Honda, is it going to have any impact on the Andretti program or the overall balance of the series itself?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think it's good for the manufacturer battle. I think it evens things out a bit. But I'm not sure how that's going to play out. I really haven't seen anything firsthand where anything has changed. I can't really get a feel for that yet, and I'm certainly interested to see where that's going. We're going to have more competition for being top Honda, no doubt, but I can't really get a sense yet for how that's going to have an impact on our program or the Honda front.

Q. Is there any data sharing between the Honda teams?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, very basic stuff. Very basic stuff. There's not a whole lot of data sharing in that way. I mean, big-ticket items that we can find on power gains, on power application, especially on street circuits, and maybe some big-ticket items on aero, but no, when you're fine tuning the car and aero or power plant side of it, those are usually kept to the individual team.

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