Chevy Racing–IndyCar–Phoenix Test

FEBRUARY 11, 2017

AVONDALE, (ARIZ) – Chevrolet drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) got down to business at an open test at Phoenix International Raceway. The April 29, 2017 race at the one-mile track just west of Phoenix, Arizona is the first oval race of the 2017 17-race season.

Making his debut as the full-time driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, JR Hildebrand set an unofficial track record of 19.0401seconds/193.234 mph to sit atop the leaderboard following two days of testing that included two night sessions that gave teams and drivers the opportunity to work in near-race conditions.

Right behind Hildebrand was his boss, Ed Carpenter, in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet with a lap of 19.1223 seconds/192.404 mph.

Josef Newgarden, the newest addition to Team Penske, slotted the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet into third in the order followed closely by teammates Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet and Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.

Series’ champion Simon Pagenaud also notched a top-10 time and speed behind the wheel of the No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.

The newest members of Team Chevy in the VICS, AJ Foyt Racing’s Conor Daly, No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, and Carlos Munoz, No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, had a very productive two-day test as they work to become familiar with the Chevrolet Aero Kit with the 2.2 liter V-6 Chevrolet engine.

The season-opening race will be March 12, 2017 on the Streets of St. Petersburg (Florida) followed by the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 9, 2017. Third on the schedule is the April 23, 2017 race at Barber Motorsports Park.


SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 1 PPG TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: “It was great to be back in the PPG Chevrolet. We’ve had a great test so far. We’ve been able to work on a lot of different things and compile some good data. It was a long offseason but that was good for me, but now I’m ready to go.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: “We’ve accomplished a lot with the Verizon Chevy. The car was good early on yesterday, so that was definitely nice. The transition is going very well, actually. Brian (Campe) is getting used to my terminology and my sensitivities and the other way around. This has been great. We’ve been able to log a lot of track time and work through a ton of things.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: “The Hitachi Chevy felt great. I just love driving that thing. I think we got a lot done so far. Everyone gets caught up in the speeds but testing isn’t always about that which is why I feel really good about the work we’ve got in. Earlier today was really special in being a part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the track renovation. I was honored that they asked me to be involved. It sounds like it will add a lot to the experience here when they’re done.”
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: “The Verizon Chevrolet team has gotten a lot done. I’m really looking forward to getting a quick start this season. Last year I wasn’t able to do that. We’ve been very focused here on getting some things sorted out so that we can get out of the gate fast. We had a little change on the timing stand with Jon Bouslog coming over from the No. 2 car, but that hasn’t really effected anything. The communication is good. The car felt very comfortable.”

ED CARPENTER, NO. 20 FUZZY’S ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET: “It’s a continuation from last year. We had good cars here last year. We were fortunate enough to be part of the tire test team here last fall, in that regard I think we had a little bit of a jump start on this tire. It’s always nice to get that opportunity and we’re thankful for Firestone to do that. Obviously JR hadn’t been here on this tire, but the team has done a good job. We’ve gone through some changes, but the guys have kept their head down. We still have the same goals of competing for race wins, competing for the championship, Indy 500, and this is an important race. It’s the first oval of the year. You want to come and set of set the tone for the ovals here. The guys have been working hard, and it doesn’t really count, doesn’t mean much today, but at the same time it is fun to be up at the top and reward the guys for hard work this off-season

JR HILDEBRAND, NO. 21 FUZZY’S ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET: “We rolled off the truck kind of in the window so it was a lot of just being able to tailor the cars to our individual needs. Those aren’t that different, so both of us are working together with our teams to benefit from each other along the way. That’s all gone smoothly thus far and we’ll get some more race running in this afternoon. I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t feel good going out and putting a couple laps down and doing it to where we felt — they were legit. We’re not just out there toying around. It felt good.”
CONOR DALY, NO. 4 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET: “There’s a lot to learn in the switch in manufacturers so we have to use our time wisely, keep working and evaluating everything with the ABC Supply Chevrolet. We have a lot of work to do but that’s what testing is for so we can go through things and be ready to go for the race.”

CARLOS MUNOZ, NO. 14 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET: “I think we improved the ABC Supply Chevrolet quite a lot from yesterday—especially balance-wise with car. We have more work to do but we’re getting there. It’s our first time with this aero kit so it’s a learning process. I’m happy with the gains we made overnight.”

THE MODERATOR: We’ll keep on rolling with the Verizon IndyCar Series media availabilities. Joined now by three members of Team Penske: Defending champion Simon Pagenaud, newcomer to the team Josef Newgarden and of course, Will Power, of course a Verizon IndyCar Series champion. A stout lineup here.

Simon, we’ll go ahead and start with you as the defending race winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series, oftentimes that can put a lot of pressure on a driver. What are your thoughts heading into the 2017 season?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, it’s back to — we reset it to zero, so here we are, another year. Last year was fantastic, but we have to use what we learned last year to do even better this year. So I’m very excited. It’s the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to actually capitalize on such a great season, so it was a good test today. Just trying to understand everything that we learned during the winter, going slowly test after test, and hopefully we can put the package together and come back and be strong for the race here.

It was interesting, we come here, the track is perfect right now, temperature is not too bad, and we’re going to come back here in — whenever it is, when is it, April?

THE MODERATOR: April 29th.

SIMON PAGENAUD: There you go. And then it’s going to be very greasy, very loose, and it’s going to be very different. So you need to be able to counter effect that. Good time so far. It’s good to be back in Indy cars, too. I haven’t driven since September, so it’s pretty exciting. It’s pretty fast down here.

THE MODERATOR: Topping the time charts for the first session was Josef Newgarden, making his kind of open test debut with Team Penske here. Josef, your impressions so far of not only this first session but also of your introduction to Team Penske?

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, sure. Well, it’s great to be back, like Simon said. I think we were both smiling before we got in the cars because we were so excited to be back at the racetrack just driving Indy cars again, so it’s great to see everyone and get the season started here. You know, this is kind of the start of the season with everyone being here and testing out and getting ready to rock from a month from now.

Yeah, it’s great to be going and fun to be with Team Penske. It’s really been an interesting off-season for me, just I’ve not really wanted an off-season this time around. Normally you like a little bit of a break, but this year I wanted to get going immediately. So it’s been a long wait. But I feel fairly squared away with the new operation and just trying to gel a little bit with the group, the Verizon 2 car team is all new to me, so they’re not new to each other, so there’s great continuity there, but I’m new to the group, so they’re trying to understand me and I’m trying to understand them. I think we had a pretty good start to today. The car was really great off the truck, so we didn’t have to do too much. We just got into our program and had a pretty easy start to the afternoon.

I think we’re just getting better the more time we have together. My engineer is understanding me more and more when I say certain things and describe how I want the car or how much I need of one change. He’s understanding a little bit better what I mean by that. We need more of that time, and I think the more we get, the better we’re going to be, so it’s been good so far.

THE MODERATOR: Joined also by Will Power. I know the start of your season last year was challenging for you with your health and then also missing the first race. What is this new start to the season bringing to you in terms of a refreshing outlook on starting the 2017 season?

WILL POWER: Yeah, definitely I’m hoping it’s going to be better than last year. It’s just good to start another season. I felt like we had a very good year last year, you know, it really went well the second half. Obviously the last few races were pretty disappointing. But we had the pace and won four races, which I was — really didn’t think I would last year.

Yeah, going to build on that. Got a change on the pit stand with Myron Jon Bouslog — I don’t even know how you say his last name. Boss Log. So yeah, getting used to him, and I think, yeah, it’ll be good.

Q. Will, this is your 10th go-around at Indy. You’ve had really good cars there, run well, but just haven’t made it to the victory lane. Are you targeting that more so this year than ever before? Does it become a bigger hurdle for you as the years roll on?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I guess you could say time is running out. You get less and less chances at it every year you go. And it’s tough to win now. It really is. I think in the past if you drove for Penske, you had a pretty high percentage chance that you would win the 500 during your time at that team. Now the field is so competitive, it really is — it can be any one of 20 people. I mean, probably anyone in the whole field could win it. It’s just a different style of racing. It’s about putting yourself in that position for that last lap or last couple of laps to win it.

Yeah, we’ll do our normal thing, work hard during the month, and hopefully have a really good car and have another shot at it.

Q. Josef, has your confidence increased more with oval racing after having won at Iowa, and it’s not that important today, but you topped off the practice charts, or do you already feel comfortable racing at tracks like Phoenix or Iowa?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, I think I felt really comfortable last year, and that probably — that comfort went up really aggressively in 2015. I thought we had a really good year on the ovals, and certainly last year I thought we had an opportunity to win at a couple other ovals. I think Indianapolis was tough for us, but we had a shot at winning it. Just from a confidence standpoint, I’ve always felt good with where I’ve been out on the ovals. I thought we had great efforts with ECR last year and I felt amazing after today. It’s pretty early to predict for this year. I think we need a little bit more time on the Team Penske side for me in the car, because we’ve got an amazing group as these guys can attest to, and I feel confident we can come out of the gate really strong and challenge for victories here at Phoenix, Iowa again, hopefully the Indianapolis 500. I think that’s probably the No. 1 ticket on our list is being successful with the Verizon No. 2 car at Indianapolis, so hopefully we’ll have a good month of May there, and that’s what we’re targeting for.

Q. Josef, what have been the biggest two or three changes in your life since joining Team Penske, and have you been to the Penske Racing Museum here in Phoenix, and if so, what did you think?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I have been to the museum. If you have a moment, I would go check it out. It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of great race cars in there. I got to go there a couple months back. We had a sponsor summit, so I got to meet a lot the partners with Team Penske and also see the museum, which was great.

You know, I don’t have three big changes, but I can tell you, moving is not fun. I don’t ever want to move — I’m probably going to move again in my life, but I don’t want to do it, so I don’t know when it’s going to come up again. I hope it’s a long time from now. Simon knows the drill. He did it, too, and it’s a big life change. You realize you have more stuff than you need. Like where did all this stuff accumulate — and where did it come from? You see things that you don’t remember from years back that you have. So I’ve gotten rid of a lot of items that I had. So that was a big life change was doing that, and actually moving to Charlotte reminds me a lot more of where I grew up. I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, originally, and I think Charlotte is a pretty similar environment to that.

It’s tough leaving Indianapolis because that was my home for five years, but at the same time, I feel almost more at home in the Charlotte area.

That was a big change.

Other than that, I don’t know if I’ve had any other big changes. Being with Team Penske has been pretty cool. Everyone says what’s the coolest thing you’ve done there so far, and pretty much every day there’s something cool happening that you didn’t know about. It’s a fascinating group. There’s a lot to it, a lot of depth. I’m still figuring it all out. I’ve got more time to figure everything out I feel like with the group.

Q. Simon, ordinarily we see you run the Rolex 24 in the off-season, but you didn’t do that this year. Was there ever an idea of doing that or did you want to focus exclusively on Indy car and not have any other racing over the winter?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it’s been a busy winter with the championship and all the appearances everywhere in the world. It was good for me to get some time off, stay with my family. That’s something I really needed. And rest, as well, quite frankly. Physically rough season last year, too. So it was good to get some time off and recharge the batteries.

I went to Daytona, but for the first time I went as a spectator and actually enjoyed it very much. It was the first time I ever watched a race with my boss there, so that was actually very cool. I might do it again some day. But I’d rather drive. But this year I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do for my program and for being pretty focused with Penske at attacking another title. So yeah.

Q. Josef, you’re now with Team Penske, so you came from a good place where you thought you were going to do well. Now you’re in a team that expects you to do well. How do you process that as far as your expectations for what you’re trying to do this year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I’ve had that question a little bit over the off-season. But to me, this is the way I feel about it: At ECR I felt like there was a lot of pressure to do well just because any group that you’re with, everyone is working hard on the team and you want to deliver for the people on the team, whether it’s your guys working on the car, it’s the managers, it’s the team owners, it’s the partners within the group. So I don’t think that’s going to change much. That expectation to do well and to put your best foot forward and show that you’re working hard and doing everything that you can as a driver to help the team, that expectation doesn’t change, whether it’s with — honestly, with Team Penske, there’s an expectation there to succeed, like you said, because of the history of the team and certainly the preparation and everything you get from the team.

But I don’t think it’s different than what I felt in the past. I think that expectation is always there regardless of what team you’re with.

There’s certainly a — there’s a different feeling that you get when you walk into the factory at Team Penske, if you will. It’s not a race shop, it’s a factory for sure, and you see all the heritage and all the success that they’ve had there. So there’s a different feeling from that aspect. But the pressure to do well and to show that you’re not leaving any stone unturned, I don’t think that’s going to change, so I haven’t felt a difference from that standpoint so far.

Q. Will and Simon, talk a bit about bringing Josef into the fold, being that essentially last year’s Josef was the fly in the Team Penske soup when it came to the championship.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I actually don’t understand the question.

SIMON PAGENAUD: He was the fly in the middle of the Penske drivers. Now he’s with us.

WILL POWER: It’s great to have him on board, honestly. He was definitely the quickest guy out there that wasn’t in Team Penske. To have him on board obviously brings a lot to the team. Yeah, I think his oval game is really strong, and I think that will help us, and he will absolutely be a championship contender. It will be a good inner battle, I think, within the team, and I want to be the one that comes out on top.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it’s great to have him on board, obviously. Josef deserves this chance. He’s shown so much success and so much strength. Obviously when you do such a good job, you should get an opportunity like he did with Penske. Super happy for him because I know how he feels, and that’s the dream of every driver, to get in this situation.

Now it’s going to be his time, but yeah, like Will said, he’s a pro on the oval, and that’s probably going to be very interesting for us to see how he does it. We’re going to take that from you, I hope.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, we’ll all get better.

SIMON PAGENAUD: That’s the game, and that’s what’s really cool about our lineup. The four of us always push each other hard, so it’s going to be exciting.

Q. Josef, if you could just look back for a second instead of looking forward, your team at Ed Carpenter Racing, it was always kind of known as the little team that could, and how do you assess that operation and where it is as you left it? It’s still a very competitive team. Ed does a lot with very little, so how do you feel about your time at Ed Carpenter Racing and the way that team is set up for the future?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, hey, look, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not easy to leave Ed Carpenter Racing. I know everyone thinks it’s a slam dunk if you get an opportunity with Team Penske. But they’re a great INDYCAR team. They’ve got a lot of great partners. They’ve got a lot of great people working there. And you can see — it’s only one session, this is preseason testing so you can’t read too much into the times — but they’re going to be just as strong as they were last year, and they’ll be a great opponent to us here at Team Penske. I think if you’re looking for how they’re going to be, they’re going to be just as strong. I think JR is going to do a great job. I’m actually really interested to see how JR does. I’m really happy for him that he’s back in the series. I think he worked really hard to get another shot with a great team like ECR, so you’re going to see much of the same from them. They’re going to be a very challenging opponent for us. But here at Team Penske I’ve already noticed where their strength is, and a lot of it comes from these guys that they have in the cars. They have amazing drivers, and they all work together to try and bring the whole team up each weekend, and that’s a pretty hard thing to topple, so I’m hoping that’s going to be a strength that I find as an advantage this year.

Q. Will, take a look at the leaderboard there just at the names that are up there of the drivers. There’s not any surprise person that we didn’t hear of for five years and showed up to get a ride this year. This driver is not there, and you mentioned Josef deserves this opportunity at Team Penske. It seems that’s happening more at INDYCAR now. Can you talk about the field?
WILL POWER: Yeah, when you look at the field, every single driver on that board can win a race in the right situation. Yeah, and the continuity is really good. There was a few years there where almost the whole field would change every year. The majority of the field.

I think that makes the competition tougher because everyone gets more accustomed to the cars and tracks and the whole system, and it’s great to be involved with it. It really is. It’s great to be a part of that competition and create a situation where these drivers become household names, as they should. I think continuity provides that, and I think INDYCAR is definitely heading in the right direction.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. We appreciate your time.

THE MODERATOR: And we’ll bring up our representatives from Ed Carpenter Racing, team owner-driver Ed Carpenter and full-time newcomer JR Hildebrand. Ed, some impressive results in the first session. I know obviously it’s just a couple hours of running, but your thoughts from the first session of testing?

ED CARPENTER: Yeah, it was a good start to the test. We had good cars here last year, and Josef (Newgarden) and I both qualified well and both were a factor in the race. I made a mistake in the race, otherwise I think we probably would have been on the podium. Coming here, we did a tire test here in the offseason, so we felt pretty good about where we were as a team coming in here, which I think is good for JR, too, coming in, to make that transition back to full-time guy a little easier, going into a place where, like Tony (Kanaan) was just complaining about, Chevy does have a good package here, and we’re thankful for that.

But it’s a good place for us to start. We have a good handle on this track, and hopefully we can keep it rolling.

THE MODERATOR: I know that you in particular have a bit of a history with this track, spending some time here with your family as you were growing up. What does this track mean to you in the fact that it’s such a historical part of Indy car and now we’re back here for the second year in a row?

ED CARPENTER: Yeah, it’s great to be back here. I grew up pretty much all my spring breaks growing up as a kid were coming out to the Copper World Classic and Indy car race here. So through the very end of the 80s and pretty much all of the 90s I was either coming here to watch the Indy car race or then participate in the Copper World Classic in the USAC series, so I spent a lot of time out here when I was young to not come at all really from 2006 until last year. Really, really happy to be back at this racetrack, and I’m really excited about the changes that they’ve announced that they’re making. Their renderings look really cool. It’s great to see racetracks across the U.S. investing in facilities and making it better for the fans.

THE MODERATOR: What has JR’s addition full time to the team brought to Ed Carpenter Racing?

ED CARPENTER: It’s obviously something we’ve talked about a lot, and everyone wants to talk about all the change we’ve had this off-season, but in a lot of ways, I don’t really feel like it’s that much change, because JR has been a part of this team the past three years, even though he hasn’t been in the car as much as we wanted, he was still kind of in tune with what we were doing all the time, communicating with myself, Josef, the engineers. So it’s not your typical like new driver coming into a team. He’s pretty familiar with how we operate, and with most of the key people. We’ve had couple changes in engineering, so that’s really where the biggest change is at is getting those relationships built and familiarity with the car and driver.

But it feels good. We’ve worked together the past three years at Indy, and obviously JR helped us a lot more last year with some testing. It’s just nice to finally be able to give him an opportunity to be back full-time IndyCar racing.

THE MODERATOR: JR, I know during your term as a part-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver, you busy yourself with STEM programs, education programs, kind of furthering the education of the sport, but how great does it feel to be back full time in a Verizon IndyCar Series car?

JR HILDEBRAND: Yeah, it’s great. You definitely — it starts to hit you like this time of year that it’s like, oh, we’re going to St. Pete and I’m going to race. It’s like, we’re not just going to hang out. So it’s definitely a different level of commitment but something that I’ve been used to before, and I think as Ed was alluding to just being around and being up to speed basically on kind of what the team has done, how they do things, personnel, all that kind of stuff, you know, it feels like a pretty easy transition to be making. We’ve got some challenges ahead of us. I think to be totally prepped and on the same page and ready to rock and roll when it starts to really matter, but that’s what tests like this are great for. I mean, I think a lot of guys are kind of sitting around like, oh, man, it’s too bad we don’t have a few more sets of tires and can do a little bit more running.

We’ve got two whole days here. Honestly for us I think it’s great because it gives us that little bit of extra time to kind of make sure that we’re just hitting our marks along the way, and as Ed said, here at Phoenix in particular, you know, I had every confidence getting in the car first session that we were going to start in the window. It’s just about I think all of us together being smart about how we approach it, and for me it’s an awesome sort of little change of pace to be back at it full-time.

THE MODERATOR: Did anything stick out to you from the first session or things that you’ll start trying in the night session when the conditions are more like what they’ll be for the race on April 29th?

JR HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I mean, I think here the race itself is such a — can be such a difficult thing to sort of plan for where everybody — I think it’s a little bit of an unknown for everybody in terms of how you’re going to approach it, what downforce level everybody is going to be on, what is the competition level between Hondas and Chevys and on either side of that, how are people approaching that looking at the race. So I think you’ll see a lot more cars on track out there together trying to figure that out, running in traffic in the evening sessions in particular.

But you know, I think for us, it’s kind of, like I was saying earlier, just about starting to build the communication, working with the new engineers on the team or on the 21 car, and I feel great about the couple of guys that have been brought in, Justin Taylor and Dan Hobbs. But we’re all just kind of getting familiar with each other at the same time. You know, definitely a nice way to be able to do that when we know that we’ve got a good package to start with.

Q. Physically how was the drive? You did over 50 laps, 61 laps, I think. How was it, and how was that broken down?
JR HILDEBRAND: Yeah, so we haven’t done any like true long runs or anything yet, so that’s probably more when we’ll know what it feels like. But I’ve been training with St. Vincent’s Sports Performance out of Indianapolis, which is where Ed and Josef and a bunch of — I trained there the tail end of racing full-time and even quite a while after that. In terms of my sort of preseason prep, everything that I can — could have been doing up until this point, feel really good about that and know that it’s comparative to what other guys that have been racing full-time have been doing from terms of their physical prep in the car.

You know, I’m sure — we’re doing a day at Sonoma on Tuesday. I’m sure the neck will be a little stiff, first time on the road course for sure. But I think we’ll — I’ll have a better answer to that probably the end of the day tomorrow after we’ve done some longer runs.

Q. JR, how did your testing development work last year keep your racing sharp and knowing that you weren’t just prepping but you wound up having the couple of months you were filling in for Josef?
JR HILDEBRAND: Yeah, it helped a lot for me, both the diversion at this of tracks and situations that were a part of that. I’d been used to running as a GP and obviously on the speedway, but running at Iowa, running at Road America and then again at Mid-Ohio, you definitely — those are all places where you’re doing something fairly different, and so for me to have that added familiarity with the types of things, particularly, that Josef was looking for in the race car, somebody who clearly had been finding what he was looking for, knew what he was looking for and was making good on that on the track, you know, that was really valuable for me, actually, to be coming into this year and have a little bit more of a sense of what’s fast, what’s not, what do I need for the car to be able to do and have started that process ahead of time.

Definitely one of the more significant differences between now and when I was racing full time last is just that we’re in the full aero kit program now. I think that that definitely helped me, and I think will continue to be something that helps going forward.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate your time.

THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by the driver of the Nos. 20 and 21 Ed Carpenter Chevrolets, Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand. I think both of your times are actually above our track record here at Phoenix Raceway. It’s not official, obviously, since we were here practicing, but Ed, where do you think your team is finding the speed?

ED CARPENTER: You know, it’s a continuation from last year. We had good cars here last year. I think JR was the only one faster. 19.09, I think. It’s fine. It’s an open test. It’s a continuation from last year. We had good cars. We were fortunate enough to be part of the tire test team here last fall, so you know, in that regard I think we had a little bit of a jump start on this tire, maybe relative to some of the other guys. So that’s always nice to get that opportunity. We’re thankful for Firestone to do that.

So we had been here on this tire. Obviously JR hadn’t, but the team has done a good job. We’ve gone through some changes, but the guys have kept their head down. We still have the same goals of competing for race wins, competing for the championship, Indy 500, and this is an important race. It’s the first oval of the year. You want to come and set of set the tone for the ovals here just as St. Pete is important to kick off the season and set the tone for the road and street courses. The guys have been working hard, and it doesn’t really count, doesn’t mean much today, but at the same time it is fun to be up at the top and reward the guys for hard work this off-season.

THE MODERATOR: JR, this is quite a different oval than the oval you’ve been running the past several years, but how has that rhythm come back to you and your thoughts from that first session?

JR HILDEBRAND: Yeah, I think being able to jump in at Iowa this last year was really helpful for me coming here, just to have a little bit of a — Phoenix is different, but it’s more similar to Iowa than it used to be I think in a lot of ways, and not just giving me a chance to get on the short oval aero package and kind of understand what the team’s setup kind of dynamic is, I guess. Definitely helped for me to just get up so speed more quickly that I had that little bit of familiarity with it.

You know, like Ed sort of mentioned, like we rolled off the truck kind of as we would say just in the window, so it was a lot of just being able to — what we’ve been doing is sort of tailoring the cars to our individual needs, and those aren’t that different, so both of us sort of then working together with our teams to benefit from each other along the way. So that’s all gone smoothly thus far, and we’ll get some more race running in this afternoon and hopefully start off the races — coming back here in a month or two.

Q. I know it’s only testing, but if you look at those times in a just a test session, imagine how quick you’d be if you hadn’t — not been a full-time driver the last four years. What is it? You’ve just jumped into this thing and it’s like you’ve never missed a beat.
JR HILDEBRAND: I don’t know, I think that everything is pretty — at the end of the day it has a lot to do with how well the team is prepped for coming here and the amount of information that I sort of have at your disposal to get out and go do it. With the different tire comes a completely different feel sometimes to how the track works.

I think you could make a case at least for coming in sort of fresh, that there are some advantages to that, just that I don’t have any preconceived ideas about what’s going to happen or how the car is going to feel necessarily.

But yeah, I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t feel good going out and putting a couple laps down and doing it to where we felt — they were legit. We’re not just out there toying around. It felt good.

Q. Ed, how do you manage with such a limited tire set for a test like this where you only have six sets over two days? When do you figure is a better time to run in that case?
ED CARPENTER: Yeah, that’s why you see some people — everybody is on a little bit different program. I didn’t run many laps today. JR had some electrical issues last night, so they had a little more tires to use this morning. We kind of went through the same kind of qualifying prep program, which a lot of people seemed to be doing today, and then he was able to get on with kind of some race running general car stuff after that where we were just waiting and saving the tires we have left for tonight.

Obviously we’re happy to be quick right now, but the important thing is being good and having a really comfortable — relatively quick car for long runs tonight, so we wanted to make sure we had enough tires to give ourselves the opportunity to improve enough to leave here — the goal leaving these tests, you want to leave feeling like you’ve got a car capable of winning, and that’s when you feel like you’ve had a good test.

We’ve got a little work to do for that, but I think, like JR said, we were pretty close to being in the window of where we want to be when we got here, and now we’re just trying to find little things here and there to make it better.

Q. When you’re in the car, can you actually feel the difference between doing a 193 lap and say a 198, or are you relying entirely on what you see on the dash unit?
JR HILDEBRAND: I mean, you definitely — you also kind of know your gear strategy and all that kind of stuff, so just knowing where you’re at in the RPM band and kind of feeling where you’ve got that punch coming off the corners and where you’re — in some ways that’s still a data thing, because you’re watching it and you have lights and all that kind of stuff, but you can feel that type of stuff. If you’re, as we would say — you can feel it when you’re sort of on the pipe, you know. Like going through 3 and 4, if you had a good run through there and you’re coming off the corner like with some gusto, like you definitely know that.

It tends to be the difference. The sort of macro differences here are are you having to lift or are you not, but even within that little range, if you’ve got the balance you’re looking for, you can definitely tell you’re cranking.

ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I kind of feel like once you get under a 19.5 you can tell the difference from that from a 19.8. It’s asking more of everything, and you can feel that through the tires and even your body. Whether you’re talking a 19.0 or a 19.3, you’re hauling it either way.

Q. For JR, since you haven’t been full-time in IndyCar the last couple years, have you been doing a lot of sports car racing?
JR HILDEBRAND: No, I have not. I’ve been hanging out with these guys (Ed Carpenter Racing) trying to get back to being full-time in IndyCar. No, I’ve sort of bounced around and been plenty busy away from racing full-time in the IndyCar Series, but in all honesty, I’ve sort of chosen to diversify what I’ve been trying to do. That’s been equally just for my own sanity, like walking around, going to racetracks, banging on people’s doors can drive you up a wall. The sports car thing is honestly a little tough these days just because of how we get ranked as IndyCar drivers in the sort of pro-am category like that doesn’t really work in our favor. Since GRAND-AM and IMSA have combined, there’s just kind of fewer of the prototype drives and the GTLM, which is an amazing category, there’s a lot of factory guys there. It’s a little bit of a tricky thing to work your way into, particularly if it’s a part-time thing, I’ve found. And I know walking around the paddock, there are some other guys who have had sort of a like experience with that.

You know, been keeping busy. Was fortunate, obviously, to drive a little bit more than expected last year, testing for Josef, but in terms of the kind of full-time driving, this will be a fairly relative like uptick for me this year.

Q. I think ECR has hired Justin Taylor over from sports car racing, from Audi, and how does that translate for an engineer who’s been in sports cars to come into an IndyCar situation and try and help you — I don’t know if he’s working with you?
JR HILDEBRAND: Yeah, he is. Justin is my primary engineer this year. It’s been great working with him so far. He and I have got along really well right from the beginning. I’m living out in Boulder, he’s from Denver originally, he’s an American guy. It’s been cool working with him, just kind of off the bat, I guess. There are definitely some differences, but I think as Ed would, I’m sure, back me up on this, having guys come in that have had the level of success that he has at teams like that, despite the fact that the teams are very different. The kind of organizational structure of a huge factory team like the Audi LMP1 program, and running in Le Mans, running in the WEC is quite different than a lot of things we do here. He brings kind of a fresh perspective on things, which I think is something that’s good and keeps all of us honest in terms of just the normal way that we go about thinking about what we’re doing. There have been some things that have been an adjustment already, I’m sure, for him. Like we were — yesterday like nobody went out for the first half an hour or something of running, and he was just sitting there like what in the hell are we all doing here. If that was a sports car practice session we’d be bashing into each other going off the pit lane, you know.

But it feels like he’s having fun with it. Obviously he’s got a great team to work with to get up to speed in situations like this, which frankly like — this is our first time on track working together. His first time ever running a car on an oval. A little bit of a baptism of fire.

The support that we have from the group around us is definitely, I think, making that a relatively straightforward transition.