CHEVROLET IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES
INDYCAR MEDIA DAY TRANSCRIPT – GROUP 3
May 25, 2023
RINUS VEEKAY, NO. 21 CHEVROLET AT ED CARPENTER RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
WHAT’S YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL LIKE COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND?
“I’m very confident. Of course my best starting position yet for the race. But also the car feels really good in race trim, and I think I have just that bit of extra experience to challenge for a race win at the end tomorrow or on Sunday.”
CONOR (DALY) SAID HE THINKS THAT THE TWO OF YOU ARE IN THE GROUP OF LIKE LOW, (SCOTT) DIXON, PATO (O’WARD) AND FELIX (ROSENQVIST). DOES THAT SOUND ABOUT RIGHT?
“I feel like that, too, and how Conor charges forward like he always does in the 500, so we can work together like the other guys do. No, I definitely think we have our stuff together for the race. The team knows what they’re doing. I think the atmosphere in the team is also great.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE CHEVY HAS AN EDGE OVER THE HONDAS?
“I mean, in race trim, I haven’t really felt it. At least we have — we’ve made a big step in qualifying, so that’s very important. It means a lot to Chevy. In the race, I think it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s more driver based. One driver has a better package than the other does.
No, I think there’s a few guys that are going to look out for during the race, but it’s not like I feel an advantage or disadvantage with the Chevy.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE AERO CHANGES? I’VE HEARD DRIVERS TAKE OPINIONS IN 360 DEGREES.
“We get more grip. I think the racing might be a bit closer. Also, so far, we’ve only had one crash on Monday, but so far the whole month has been great.
I think the stability wickers that were put on the car, I think it calmed the car down quite a bit in qual trim. Hopefully that terrible Turn 2 will stop happening this year.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE TIRE WEAR MIGHT BE AN ISSUE FOR SOME PEOPLE? HOW IS YOUR CAR ON THAT?
“I think I’m on the good side of the tire wear. Depends on the track heat, too. I think Sunday, it looks like it’s going to be overcast, not too hot, so I think we’re going to be on the good side of it, but I know some guys, even when I got through tires at the end of a four-lap qual run. I think we have a really good car to save some tires for the end.”
SOME DRIVERS HAVE DIFFERENT APPROACHES ON HOW THEY HANDLE TRACK POSITION. WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WANT TO BE CLOSE TO THE RACE? DO YOU WANT TO BE THE ONE IN FRONT AND DEFEND, OR DO YOU WANT TO BE THE ONE TO GO FOR IT?
“Tough one. It really depends on what position I get in. For the last 10 laps or five laps of the race, I’d like to be first or second at least, have to attack one car or only have to defend one car. But yeah, for me it doesn’t matter. I’m good at defending and attacking. As long as I’m in that shot to win the race.”
HOT OFF THE LINE, ARE YOU GOING TO GO STRAIGHT THROUGH OR SAVE FUEL?
“I think I’m in a position to save fuel and stay behind Alex (Rossi). It’s nice to lead the race, but it’s the nicest in one particular lap. That’s what we go for, and I think saving that fuel might give us the opportunity if the race proceeds that way to go for an Alex Rossi 2016 style strategy.”
INDY 500 FOR YOU HASN’T ALWAYS — YOU’VE HAD SOME TOUGH RESULTS THERE LIKE LAST YEAR, AND YOUR QUALIFYING HASN’T ALWAYS LED YOU UP TO THE TOP. HOW ARE YOU FEELING THIS TIME? DO YOU THINK YOUR BAD LUCK WILL RUN OUT?
“I think so. I feel good this year, and I think I’m more focused than I’ve ever been coming into this race. I’m feeling very confident, so does the team. That will help, and also I think I’m a bit more mature and experienced than last year, and I think that’s what I needed to stay in the race for such a long time and attack at the end.”
THERE USED TO BE THREE 500-MILE RACES IN INDYCAR, BUT THERE’S ONLY ONE 500-MILE RACE, AND YOU HAVE TO WAIT A WHOLE YEAR. I KNOW YOU HAVE THE TEST HERE, BUT HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOU AND THE TEAM WITH ONLY ONE 500-MILE RACE?
“I mean, it’s different than other races. It’s definitely longer. But I mean, I like the challenge. I like what every race has to offer. I like the fast pace of the shorter races, and I like the different way of saving fuel and tires until the last part of the race in 500-mile races now.
Everything has its up and down sides, but this one only has ups.”
YOU’RE STARTING UP TOWARDS THE FRONT THERE; HOW DO YOU THINK THE RACE WILL PLAY OUT? DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE A LOT OF PASSING? DO YOU THINK THERE WON’T BE?
“I think there will be a lot of passing. With the extra downforce we have now, I think that will be the case, but also, yeah, really depends. I think there will be a lot of passing from P5 and back. I think the top 5 are kind of going to be saving fuel, saving tires for the end, and not taking much risk just to stay in contention.”
HAS THERE BEEN A LOT OF TIRE DEG? HAVE YOU NOTICED A LOT OF TIRE DEG?
“Some guys do. There is some tire deg, but I think we are on the good side of the deg. I’m feeling pretty good in that case.”
MARCO WAS SAYING THAT HE WISHES THERE WAS MORE TIRE DEG.
“I mean, this place is already tricky enough. More tire deg, I mean, it will give different strategies to different — there’s going to be more excitement, I think, in that way, but also I cannot imagine having tires go off like Iowa on this track because that would be terrifying. I mean, we’re going at such high speeds and we have such little downforce, and if we go sideways once, there’s zero air on the wings.
I’m fine the way it is.”
SEEING THE CRASH ON MONDAY, DOES THAT GIVE YOU ANY CONCERNS, MAKE YOU MORE SCARED?
“I mean, we are still racing, and there’s been a new head rest that’s introduced to create more safety. A hit like that, there’s a SAFER barrier. Stefan is a tall guy, too. I think that might be one of the problems there.
I think if Takuma (Sato) was in the car, it might have ended differently.
It’s part of the job. That’s what makes it even cooler to get through the whole race and actually qualify up front, too. I mean, the risk makes it cool, yeah.”
DO YOU HAVE ALREADY A PLAN FOR HOW DO YOU WANT TO GO — DO YOU HAVE A PROCESS THAT YOU WANT?
“I think I can come up with a thousand different scenarios and they’re not going to happen. That’s how tricky this race is. But I have a plan of just making sure I’m in the top 5, 6 all the way through the race, and whenever the fuel save goes out the window and we go, we turn up that switch, I’m up there with the fast guys.
I want to contend for that win, and to finish first, you’ve first got to finish, so that is for me something very important to stay in that front group.”
ON GETTING THE INDY 500 WIN…
“It’s a dream come true to be in INDYCAR. To already have a win under my belt, a few podiums and now qualifying like this in Indianapolis is just very special, and hopefully we can translate it into something even more crazy, and that’s an Indy 500 win.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI, NO. 14 CHEVROLET AT AJ FOYT RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU’D BE WORKING WITH MIKE (CANNON) AGAIN?
“Well, I had actually told Mike, talked to Mike before I made my decision because he’s one of the people that I really trust in the paddock, so I just wanted to talk him through my options and listen to his feedback, and once his contract was up and he could start negotiating because I knew he was on for a year with Ganassi, once he was up I was calling him quite a bit just trying to get a feel for what he was going to do. Yeah, it was nice to convince him to come to Foyt with Larry’s help, of course, and I kind of knew in December that I think all of that was going to go our way.”
YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT THIS IS YOUR BEST START HERE. HOW DO YOU HOLD YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND WISHES AGAINST 200 LAPS OF RACING?
“I don’t really think it changes at all. I think it’s one of those things where it’s nice I get to start a race and not have to pass a ton of cars, but I’m basically in the same spot that I would have liked to have gotten to by like lap 50, let’s say. I’m just starting there.
So all I have to do is basically just kind of maintain, just run around. It’s just going to be — I’m hoping for a very boring race for myself up until probably the last stint or two.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE BY THE END OF THE DAY YOU’RE GOING TO BE ONE OF THOSE GUYS WHO’S MADE THE RIGHT DECISIONS TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE THREE CARS? IT’S ALL DOWN TO ABOUT THREE CARS THAT ARE REALLY READY TO BATTLE IT OUT FOR THE WIN?
“I’d say right now there’s six cars that could probably win this race if everything goes the correct way. Now, the order of which those six finish, if you take a look at last year’s race, you have the man that never makes a mistake made a mistake, the 10 car under what I’ve probably never seen as worse circumstances for a yellow, timely yellow.
So it’s just anything. I’m kind of expecting something to happen to us, as I am everybody else. That’s what 500 miles does. There’s no way that — you could be the fastest car on track, and I think my boss has proved this the best in the ’70s, he finished second, third, second. You could have this race going all day long and still not win this race. I’ve already sat in that seat once at Gateway.”
ALL THOSE LITTLE DECISIONS THAT GO INTO MAKING YOUR CAR ONE OF THE TOP CARS AT THE END OF THE DAY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE TOTALLY PREPARED TO —
“Yeah, we’re definitely one of the best cars. We’re probably one of the best racers. Just assuming that I do my job, we have clean pit stops, I don’t speed, I don’t make any mistakes on track, I keep my nose clean and I keep everything calm, cool and collected like I have done for the last four years, we’ll be there in the end.
My philosophy of this race is it’s just like any other race. You can always come back from somewhere here. It’s not special. You have to finish this one, and if you’re there, you are there to win it.”
WHO ARE THE SIX?
“The Fast Six. My opinion, cars that I’ve already been around and practiced with, yeah, those guys look good. Like the Fast 12 was tough and it was tight. The Fast Six, man, I mean, some good cars.”
GOOD IN RACE TRIM, THOUGH?
“Even in race trim, yeah.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SEVENTH FASTEST, ROSSI?
“Fast Six is where it’s at. That’s all I’m going to say. He couldn’t pass us and we were the lead car and we were on pretty old tires, so I felt good about that, knowing it’s a McLaren. Pato ran me down right outside of 2, like right off of 2. We didn’t even hit the grass line yet.
I think that he’s not quite as comfortable as his teammate.
But yeah, I do know that, or at least I can see that.”
IT SEEMS LIKE THE CONSENSUS IS THAT THE FIRST ONE, TWO, MAYBE THREE CARS ARE GOING TO BE SWAPPING POSITIONS PRETTY DARNED OFTEN THROUGHOUT THE RACE BUT THEN FIFTH AND FARTHER ON BACK IT’S GOING TO BE HARDER TO PULL OUT. IS THAT KIND OF WHAT YOU’VE FELT, AS WELL?
“Well, it’s really hard to say, to be perfectly honest. You don’t really know what people have for fuel and for tires. When I was third in line I was able to pass, but I was also — the way that we were on fuel with tires, I’m not going to say that we were the best, but we were definitely not the worst, and when we put stickers on, I went to the back of the pack and I was passing cars all the way from the tail of the train.
So I felt good about my car in traffic. I think I can pass from a few back if I get it right. Like I said, I don’t think there’s a lot of people that can do that right now.
But I do think it’s going to be more racy this year than it has been the last two.”
YOU LIKE THE AERODYNAMIC CHANGES, THE SETUP PACKAGE?
“Yeah, I think that the series has actually done a really good job with the new pieces. They’ve done a good job with a little bit more adjustability for everybody because you’re now allowed to remove certain pieces and have certain configurations that are more efficient for downforce and drag.
So I think the car is the best it’s been in a while. I’d still like to see it better. I think there’s definitely ways that we can make that happen, but they don’t want pack racing, and I guess I’m okay with that because I’ve never raced in pack racing, so I can’t comment.”
HOW DO YOU MANAGE — OKAY, YOU’RE SAYING YOU WANT TO BE THERE AT THE END, THERE’S GOING TO BE OPPORTUNITIES PASSING AND STUFF RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THAT EARLY IN THE RACE, LIKE THE RISK TAKING AND WHEN TO BE CONSERVATIVE OR NOT?
“I think if there’s a pass given to you, say you’re running fifth in the train, fourth makes a mistake and you can pass him easily, you’re going to take that pass. Same thing if you’re second and you’re going back and forth with the leader and you’re leapfrogging in a sense, I think it depends on fuel. There’s definitely going to be a point on Sunday where I probably would like to lead just to get a sense of what we’re like leading. If I get that opportunity, yeah, if I can get into the lead I will gladly lead.
You just have to be able to watch, your spotters have to watch, but at the end of the day, yeah, you’re kind of playing a game of chess, so not only do you have to run the race when you’re up front but you have to make notes of what everybody can do up front and kind of keep that in the back of your head for when you do get to the end, so you’ve got to be thinking about everything strategic.”
WHEN YOU’VE WON RACES BEFORE, DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT (INDISCERNIBLE)?
“I have won a lot of races before, too, so I like that spot a lot. Trust me, I was a little upset to not get pole, and that’s on me. And again, not be on the front row. We’ve got next year. But starting fourth, yeah, I like that a lot. I feel good about it. I feel really good about it.”
YOU MENTIONED LAST WEEK, YOU COULDN’T BE AS AGGRESSIVE AS YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED WITH THE TEAM. HOW DO YOU BALANCE WITH SUCH A GOOD CAR THIS YEAR NOT BEING OVERLY AGGRESSIVE WITH THIS CAR TRYING TO GET TO THAT FINAL STINT?
“Well, last year was a different position because I was kind of fighting for my life and career to survive. This year I’m just not. I’m just not in that position to where I feel really comfortable with where I’m at, feel comfortable with where my career is heading and the direction, especially with this team.
The pressure is different. It’s not the same type of pressure. It’s one of those that’s fight or flight, so you have to make smart decisions, and you have to finish, versus here, you have to make smart decisions, yet you can actually go for winning this race. If we’re second going into the last lap and I make an attempt for the lead and we don’t make it, I’m going to sleep just fine Sunday night because there’s nothing worse than finishing second not knowing that there was a gap that you didn’t go for. That would crush me, and I think it would crush our team.
I think that Sunday if we’re in that position — if you’re running third or fourth, yeah, you’re not risk championship, good points, all of the above. The only time that that’s okay to risk is when you’re running second and it’s there for the taking. That’s the only time. That’s the only time it makes sense.”
WOULD YOU SAY THAT THIS TEAM FEELS MORE LIKE A HOME THAN THE OTHER PLACES YOU’VE BEEN SO FAR IN YOUR CAREER?
“Yeah. This has definitely been — it’s been a very different type of relationship for me and Larry. We were at the Kentucky Derby to start the month off. It was 72 hours of nothing but alcohol and betting. It was so much fun. It was so cool. I’ve never started off a May like that before, and I will tell you that there is no better way to kick off the month of May than the derby. I think that’s going to have to start to become tradition, considering how we’re running.”
I HAVEN’T LOOKED UP YOUR ODDS FOR SUNDAY. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE BY CHANCE?
“I do know that they are significantly better now, according to a couple of my friends that did put some money down on me that said, we can cash out now and make a lot of money. I was like, hold on a little bit here, let’s see how we do on Sunday.
No, I think it’s cool to be the underdog, and for us to be as competitive as we’ve been all week, to know that, I think we’ve opened everybody’s eyes. I think everybody has opened their eyes to the 14 car, that we’re here to win this thing.”
HOW DO YOU THINK THE RACE IS GOING TO GO ON SUNDAY AS FAR AS PASSING?
“I think it’ll be pretty good. I think it’ll be better than most years. Cars are pretty planted this year in my opinion. I don’t know, I think we might have a pretty green race like we did in 21, which will make things interesting.”
RC ENERSON, No. 50 CHEVROLET AT ABEL MOTORSPORTS, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE THIS YEAR?
“The car feels the same as it did before. When you’re by yourself in qualifying trim, it just feels super planted. Every time we trim out more and more it keeps creating speed even though we’re trimming past what other people are running at. I don’t know if it’s a floor thing or a chassis that’s better mechanically, but it’s felt really comfortable. The real speed gain was through uprights, gearbox, all these things that help free the car up on a speedway that we finally had the time to prep for. My lap one of ROP, which I thought was going to be well below 205 just because I was so tense in the car – I had been out of it for a year and a half, so everything feels weird – I crossed the line and I was 211. I didn’t even touch full throttle yet. That’s already a good sign. It was really confidence-inspiring to see the car with that kind of speed. By that point on I knew we had an amazing chance to be locked in on Saturday.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COMPETING IN THE INDY 500, WHICH HAS BEEN YOUR GOAL?
“It’s still sinking in for me. Every day you wake up in the driver lot and I cannot believe that we’re in the race. Somebody did research and after this 500 there have only been 790-something people that have ever done the race. To be part of that is something special. I’m just excited to get going on Sunday.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO PREP FOR SUNDAY IN PRACTICE TOMORROW?
“I think mine is going to be tools in traffic. There are so many tools now at my disposal. There is so much you’re changing lap to lap depending on how far you are from the car in front of you. Friday we’ll just have a chance to work with the tools and get more comfortable in the car. Pit stops, I don’t think we’re too worried. Our goal is to not rush anything. Just nice, steady, no-mistake pit stops. Making sure I’m not locking up any tires going into the pit box. I think Sunday is going to be the biggest learning curve because everybody is going to be on the same set of tires, fuel load instead of the craziness that you see on Monday and Friday where you have people coming out of the pits some on new tires, full tanks of fuel and some are on second-run tires.”
YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD MORE SPEED IF YOU NEEDED IN QUALIFYING?
“I think we had more speed, but we didn’t really want to risk having to go lane two for another run. Our goal is to be in the race and figure things out throughout the race. There is so much that can happen over 500 miles that I don’t think it matters too much where you start. It helps being up front but strategy can play into it so much, fuel mileage, yellows. We’re pretty confident in ourselves.”
CAN YOU GET TOP 15?
“I think for a top 15 we’d need a little luck. And luck comes down to strategy. If we hit the right fuel window with the proper yellow you can get shuffled up. The original plan is start the race, keep everything clean, run at a leaner fuel map and hang out with the pack. It’s a really long race and my longest race. I’m just excited to be doing it.”
BENJAMIN PEDERSEN, NO. 55 CHEVROLET AT AJ FOYT RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
AJ FOYT IS HERE AND THE CROWDS ARE BUILDING UP. ARE YOU GETTING THE REAL SENSE OF WHAT THE FOYT TEAM IS NOW THAT YOU ARE HERE?
“So special. Obviously, I am wearing the AJ Foyt tribute suit from the 80s, which has just been a huge favorite this month. It turned out really cool and the details are tremendous. The whole month has just been so special to be a part of. Super-fast, and we were the fastest rookie of all time for one lap speeds and second fastest on four lap average. And to make it into the Fast 12 for a rookie is a great effort from the whole team. So, yeah, excited to experience Carb Day for the first time ever. Everything this month has been a first for me. Fast Friday was a first, qualifying was a first, so just taking it one day at a time and embracing every tradition. I milked a cow out here.”
YOU BROKE TONY STEWART’S RECORD FOR A ROOKIE FROM 1996. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BREAK RECORDS LIKE THAT AS A ROOKIE?
“It’s been very humbling, and I had no idea that we had achieved it until after I got out of the car and was in a press conference or doing the interviews. When they told me I was like, ‘holy cow’. That is a massive to have a record here in anything. So, just very humbling and special to be a part of.”
WHEN YOU ARE INTERVIEWED BACK HOME DO YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN OVAL RACING VERSUS F1 AND SPORTS CARS?
“I haven’t had to explain too much because most people throughout the world are very familiar with the Indy 500, and they understand it in most regards. Obviously, the caliber of this event is like no other. Its just a really cool experience in being a rookie and being where I am and doing what we have achieved as a team. More of it is just driving for a team like AJ Foyt that is so iconic here and to have two cars in the Fast 12. And bring little touches like the suit as a throwback….I tell you, he definitely has woken up a lot this weekend and his eyes started to not water, but he got emotional when he saw the suit. His smiles on pit lane when we made it into the Fast 12 were just really special to be a part of something like that.”
WHAT IS IT ABOUT SUPERSPEEDWAY RACING THAT IS NATURAL TO YOU AND FITS YOUR DRIVING STYLE?
“Yeah, great question. I think there are two sides of it. On the oval side, my experience from the Indy Lights days, for two years there racing at Gateway and Iowa – definitely helpful. From a speed perspective, I think its very interesting. I am the only rookie that feels……when I did my first race at Texas and first time on track, I think it was like 225 (mph). I came in and they were like, ‘how did it feel?’ and I was like ‘it felt good’. And they were like, ‘it was 225’, and I was like, ‘really?’. I was kind of underwhelmed and it is the same thing here. As soon as we turned the boost up you can feel it on Fast Friday, but I have never had a sensation in this car, and maybe it’s because it makes so much grip, of being like ‘holy cow, its moving’. I haven’t experienced that once. So yes, I just find it very natural and oval racing is very feeling based and I am a very feeling-oriented driver. More than most people. So, it just makes sense to me.”
CALLUM ILOTT, NO. 77 CHEVROLET AT JUNCOS HOLLINGER RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
DO YOU FEEL LIKE WHILE SOME GUYS ARE GOING TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE AT THE START THAT YOU MIGHT TAKE A MORE CONSERVATIVE APPROACH?
“Obviously starting 27th there is a rush to get further forward, but you are not going to make ground that quickly. I think there is no reason to take unnecessary risks from that position. But yeah, honestly through the race I will be looking to tune the car with what we can and go from there.”
REGARDING THE DECISION TO NOT CHANGE THE CAR…
“It’s a bit more complicated than that. We changed a lot of things, but not the chassis. We changed a lot of things from the previous car in the open test and there were some things that made more sense. What could have been statistically more of a problem, the chassis was brand new and was the stiffest chassis we had. So, on that side, there was no real issue visually and shouldn’t have had a problem. But with these things, it can be anything on that. Then it becomes a little bit too late. Because what we understood is that it was going to take a lot longer to change the chassis. But the guys did such a good job, that wasn’t the case, because it got changed very quickly. But the fact that I was going to miss a bit of the testing to change the chassis, the idea that there were other things to change along the way, that affected the decision. And we all sat there and there were all these reasons, and I agreed to these reasons, but yes, in hindsight we should have changed the chassis before we arrived. Or even the Wednesday night we had the rain days as well. It’s tough because you run out of time and the pressure increases.”
WHAT IS THE BEST SCENARIO FOR WHERE YOU ARE STARTING AT AND FOR THIS CAR LIKE IF IT GETS HOT AND SLICK?
“I cool personally. Cool would give me the most downforce and confidence in the car. As the setup of the car is much like it was last year, we struggled when it was warmer, and it sent the car a bit outside of the window and we couldn’t really figure out how to get it back into that window. So, I think the cooler side would be better.”
ARE YOU GOING TO BE TESTING SOME NEW THINGS ON CARB DAY FOR SUNDAY?
“Yeah, I think that is normally the goal. Once we get the car in the window, we will be testing some things to make it better and more efficient.”
ARE YOU PREPARING LIKE SOMETHING MIGHT HAPPEN IN FRONT, SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE A PROBLEM?
“Something always happens in this race. You just don’t know how many or how big. Of course you have to, but that is the thing about staying in the race. Staying in the race and getting something that works and something you can work with is massively important.”
AGUSTIN CANAPINO, NO. 78 CHEVROLET AT JUNCOS HOLLINGER RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
HOW’S YOUR CAR FOR THE RACE?
“At the moment, really good honestly. We had a decent qualifying. Maybe we could do better because our car is good. Maybe further up than 20th. We didn’t have big problems, but it wasn’t perfect. I think we have a car to do a decent race. Of course it’s my first Indy 500. It’s a long race and a difficult race. We will do our best to finish the race in the best position possible.”
ARE THERE STILL PEOPLE IN ARGENTINA WHO STILL TALK ABOUT JUAN MANUEL FANGIO?
“Yes, of course. In Argentina, he is our hero. He is our best driver in history. In my case, it’s a weird situation because I always drove touring cars. Now I have this opportunity and of course there is a huge difference. It is a big step but I am here trying to do my best.”
GRAHAM RAHAL, NO. 24 CHEVROLET AT DREYER & REINBOLD RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT — I REFLECT ON SOME THINGS WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU SAID HAVE BEEN MOST OF MY RACING CAREER WITH MY FATHER, AND I ALSO HAVE THIS SENSE OR THIS QUESTION FOR ME, WHAT WILL BE TO RACING IN ANOTHER TEAM WITH A DIFFERENT PERSON. I RELATE COMPLETELY WITH THAT FEELING. DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S — I DON’T KNOW, THE ENERGY, WHAT DO YOU FEEL NOW?
“You know, it is certainly very different for me, even just doing 10 minutes out there. It’s a different — sitting in the car, seeing new faces. Obviously, the engine is different. The brakes feel different. The way the button — everything feels different. The buttons for your thumbs through the gloves is different. There’s a lot that goes into that.
Look, as I said, I don’t want to overshadow what I think Stef has done and done very well at the last couple of weeks to get this team and the car to where it’s at. I also know Ryan has done an exceptional job, and having known Dennis for a long time and Don Cusick, who’s obviously put together the package to be here, it just felt right for me to step out.
When the call first came, I won’t say that there wasn’t a part of me that thought it wasn’t right and that I was just going to accept that I wasn’t racing and I was going to move forward and move into kind of a different phase in my mental process and the way the rest of my week was going to be, but as I said the other day and I still mean it, that this felt like the right opportunity for me to do something, as well.
So ultimately, I decided to jump back in, and yes, it is exciting to try something different. So we’ll see how the weekend goes.
But so far, I’ve been very impressed. Not surprised but impressed with Dreyer & Reinbold and everything that they’ve done. I’ve been very impressed with Chase. I think Chase does an excellent job to rally the entire team. Paddy-O is the chief on the car. He and I worked together at Ganassi. So a lot of familiar faces there, two. Obviously the two engineers, Jeff on my car and Todd both worked at Rahal for a long time. Those are familiar faces.
As I said out there, when you’re around as long as I’ve been around, there’s most of the same guys all the time. But yes, it’s exciting for me to try something different.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANT IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE SOMETHING?
“No, I don’t look at it that way. I’m here to fill a big void for the weekend, and ultimately next week we return right back home and go race at Detroit. My job is to do Stef and to do Care Keepers and all the partners on this car, to do them proud and try to put together a great run and to go forward in the race.
These guys have done a great job. You remember Santino last year in this car was up front with 50 to go, so I feel — I’m excited. I do think it’ll be pretty strong.”
YOU SAID THE CAR, EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. DO YOU FEEL PERSONALLY A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HONDA AND CHEVY ENGINE —
“With all due respect for the situation, I really don’t want to comment on any of that. Clearly they’re going to be different. They’re different manufacturers and all of that. But as I said before, to respect both manufacturers, I appreciate both of them giving me a chance to be here, and I certainly don’t want to get into much of that.”
GOING BACK TO THE QUALIFYING SITUATION AND ALL THE PROBLEMS, COULD YOU IDENTIFY TOGETHER WITH YOUR ENGINEER WHAT WAS THE MAIN PROBLEM?
“You know, we weren’t fast enough, period, all week. As I said –”
BUT THERE MUST BE A REASON.
“If you can figure it out, let me know. Because if we knew, we would have fixed it. That’s been our problem. It’s not a problem of today. Last year we had two cars in the last row at RLL, so it’s not a problem of today, it’s a problem of the last few years, and even in 2021, Dad keeps saying to me, well, 2021 you should have won the race. Yeah, but I still started 24th. I wasn’t fast.”
A FEW DRIVERS SAID THE CARS ARE VERY WEATHER SENSITIVE —
“The cars are very weather sensitive and the cars are very wind sensitive. The cars are very ride height sensitive. They’re very — John and were talking about this. The cars of 10 years ago were so much easier to drive. These cars are not easy at all. I know it looks that way. It’s not. These cars have become animals to understand because of the mass and so many other things, but to understand what it takes to be good and how to care for the tire and all these things, so they are very sensitive to everything.
But in lieu of that, you see like in Fast Six or top 12 qualifying, those teams could match their best pace of the morning, right, when they had the top 12 practice. We went out, we were 1.6 miles an hour slower, and I wish we knew.”
YOU HAVE TO WORK TO LOOK FOR A SOLUTION.
“I think we know. I think on that side we know.”
IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE A DIFFERENT MENTALITY OF HOW YOU APPROACH THE RACE IN THIS CAR THAN YOU WOULD HAVE?
“For sure, yeah. Unfortunately, like Christian, I was of the frame of mind Monday afternoon that — like in that practice session, I bounced between the three cars to give input. I was in the frame of mind that that was now my role is to help, but now my role is to go beat them, so it changed like that. There’s no doubt I feel excited by the opportunity. I know they’ve had very strong cars.
But the mentality is different. My job is turn from maybe a team leader to a guy that wants to go win this thing again. Not that that ever went away, but clearly I have a chance now whereas I didn’t Monday afternoon, so it is different for sure.”
HAVE THE LAST TWO DAYS BEEN A SCRAMBLE FOR THE LITTLE DETAILS, EVERYTHING FROM SEAT FIT TO FIRE SUIT DETAILS, ALL THAT STUFF?
“You know, everybody at Dreyer & Reinbold and their partnership with Cusick Motorsports, everything so far has been really good, actually. It is very weird, and they will tell you that. I certainly know as little about my car and the engine as I’ve ever known about anything I’ve driven in my entire life, but it’s a race car, and ultimately you’re going to go out there tomorrow and try to get it better and try to go perform on Sunday.
I think they did a great job. The steering wheel had a couple suggestions, hey, let’s put — the wheel was never going to be identical to mine, but hey, let’s put this button over here, just to try to stop me from making an error. Like for instance, their pit line speed button was right where my radio button is roughly. I certainly don’t want to hit those inadvertently. We did a few things like that, but the seat fit went really well. I thank the guys at RLL, too, like Josh. I know how hard this time is for them. But Josh and Sean Ford and those guys brought over right away, brought over my pedal faces, brought over my seat, gave them measurements for my steering wheel spacer, did a lot to make the transition a heck of a lot easier.”
IS IT ENOUGH THAT YOU’RE GOING TO FEEL COMFORTABLE IN THE RACE?
“Yeah, I already felt comfortable there. I don’t foresee — the only thing I can’t do is change the steering wheel. So what I’m used to is going to be different than what I’m going to get. But we’ll make it work.”
I’M SURE IN PRACTICE, THE MONTH THEY HAD THAT CAR READY FOR STEF, HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO DIVE INTO SIMILARITIES BETWEEN WHAT THAT CAR HAD TO WHAT YOU LIKE? I KNOW YOU HAVEN’T BEEN ON TRACK –
“Honestly, I don’t know anything.”
IS THERE ANY INPUT YOU CAN HAVE —
“I’ve asked some questions, but in respect to the situation, it’s not appropriate for me to push any harder. That’s why that 15 minutes was important. Yeah, I don’t necessarily need to go do a 30-minute session on my own and run around out there, but I did want to feel, how does the car turn into the corner. Some guys like it when you release the steering wheel the car naturally tracks into the corner on its own. I don’t. I’m a road racer at heart from my past, so I’ve never liked that. Some guys like it very right hand down. I remember Dan Wheldon, watching him, his steering wheel down the straight was like this, and when he’d get in the corner it was straight. That visually messed with me a lot, so I never liked that. But maybe Stef did.
So you’re trying to understand some of that, but that’s why I think that 15 minutes right there was important, and it really all felt very similar, steering weight, caster wise, all that stuff. Very close.”
IS THERE ANY BENEFIT TO THE FACT THAT IT IS SIMPLE BECAUSE THERE’S LESS INFORMATION AND LESS THINGS, IF THAT MAKES ANY SENSE?
“As I kind of said, in some ways it is nice that my job is to go out there and perform. I don’t have a whole lot else to do than that. Just focus on when I get in, is it comfortable for me, is it not, where is the car, how does it feel. And go race.”
HOW INTEGRAL IS IT TO HAVE LIKE A SOLID CHASSIS FOR THE 500 BECAUSE FOR A WHILE I GATHER YOU WERE DEALING WITH A MUCH OLDER CHASSIS THAT’S DONE WELL IN THE PAST.
“Yeah, it has done well. I was joking earlier that I’ve had like 10 drivers come up and tell me they drove this chassis, so she’s been used up a little bit.
But the truth is, same at RLL, we’ve got chassis 23 running around out here. That thing has been running around — I think I won Mid-Ohio in 2015 in that car, and that thing has been run around for a million years.
Once you get a good one, it’s good.
It’s a little bit different, I think, from what I’m understanding just on its strength and stuff like that, but there’s no issues at all with it. I think the guys have done an amazing job to prep that thing in a short period of time.
As I said, tomorrow we’ll go out there and see how it is.”
THE PIT STOP COMPETITION, DOES THAT GIVE YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH THIS NEW CREW?
“For sure, and it’s very different the way that they do a lot of stuff is very different, so I’m excited for that. We were talking about it coming over here, but I’ve only ever had the sign board on my nose cone, only, for 16 years. They do it off the left front tire, which a lot of people are doing nowadays. I’ve just never done it. To get more repetition and reps with that is important.
But it’ll be nice, and those guys have done a great job. You look at historically, I think they were in the finals three years in a row, so they do a good job, and I’m excited. First round I think we got, what, Will Power, so not an ideal pick for round one, but we’ll see how it goes.”
DO YOU GET TO PRACTICE BEFORE TOMORROW –
“Just practice at Carb Day. The downside, the pit stop competition for a smaller team, and again, they’ve done great, but for a Dreyer & Reinbold is — most of the other teams will use backup cars, square cambers and set up like a road course car so it’s easier to stop, easier to do stuff. Clearly we’re going to be using the race car. But there’s no problem with that. We’re excited.”
A FEW YEARS AGO I REMEMBER SEEING YOU AND COURTNEY LEAVING A SOCIAL EVENT OVER AT DALLARA AND SHE WAS DRIVING THE VETTE, YOU WERE DRIVING THE ACURA. WILL YOU BE ABLE TO SIT IN THE SAME CAR THIS YEAR, TAKE HER CAR?
“Yeah, she said — well, my father-in-law called me right away and of course his first comment was about being a part of the Chevy family now.
My wife is like, oh, now I can wear my Team Chevy hat. I said, look, just pause for a minute. Again, in the spirit of relationship, I’ve had a wonderful relationship with Honda for 16, 17 years. I certainly don’t see that changing.”
A TECHNICAL QUESTION. EVERYBODY HAS GOT A DALLARA. YOU REMEMBER THE YEARS DRIVERS BROUGHT THEIR SEATS WITH THEM —
DID THEY HAVE TO EXTEND YOUR WHEEL BASE?
“No, no. No, pretty much most teams I think run long wheel base here, but we can run any really. Not a whole lot put a seat in. Dr. Trammell, who’s done amazing work, the foam inserts have to be the same in every car, and then the seat basically sits inside of that foam. They’re all very, very close. Move the pedals a little bit, get the steering wheel up and down closer to you, whatever you want, the headrest is the same minus a little pad. It’s nice.”
SO YOU HAD NO PROBLEM SWITCHING?
“Not that. I think we had one seatbelt adjustment, just to tighten things up a little bit. That’s it.”
YOU AND STEF BEING TALLER DRIVERS, DOES THAT GIVE YOU ANY PAUSE, THE SAFETY OF THE CAR?
“No, it doesn’t. But right away, I knew when I saw the accident, I said to the guys on my pit stand that I was worried about his low back because unfortunately being a taller driver, as Justin Wilson once told me, being tall in this sport, you’re never going to be comfortable, and it’s true.
I knew when I saw what happened, I was worried right away about a compression just because you lack so much support in your low back, and to get low enough or to get to where they want you in the car, you end up rounding your back a lot, pushing yourself forward, and it just creates a very weak point. But look, I don’t know that that’s ever going to change. That’s the reality of it.
I think the position that we’re in now with the chassis, this chassis hasn’t changed in a long time. I don’t know when it will next.
When they do another car, it would be nice if they just made our life a little bit easier and made the thing a little bit bigger because there’s no reason they can’t. But we did that back in 2007 with the Panoz. The Panoz is very roomy. Justin was the mold, and it worked well. So I’m hoping the next one, the next time around, they take that into consideration.”
I SEE YOU’VE GOT SOME OF YOUR SPONSORS ON YOUR SUIT.
“Yeah, United Rentals and Fifth Third Bank will be with us. I don’t know what deal Dad worked out. I’ll let him speak to that. I don’t think it was any — well, I don’t believe there was any monetary. It was more just hey, do you want Graham, and here’s what we need.
But those guys, Dad and Dennis Reinbold are pros. They’ve been in this a long time, and Don Cusick was a part of it, and it literally happened in like five minutes. I was very, very surprised.
As I’ve said all along, I’m very grateful. I’m very grateful to Honda and to Chevrolet for making it happen because I didn’t see this — legitimately I almost didn’t answer the phone because I thought it was just going to be wasting Dennis’s time, so to be here is a big surprise.”
IT’S A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO SHINE.
“You know, it