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97th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference - Fast Nine

THE MODERATOR: I think this is a pretty good indication that there's a lot of pressure that goes with this shootout, and I would imagine it's pretty darned difficult to hang it out for a second time, but what these gentlemen do know is that they are in prime position, they're the top three rows for the 97th running of the “500” so they're in good position. They might not be as happy as they might be, but it's still a good run. Let's open it right up to any questions that you might have for any of them. We bring second and third in next and then we'll bring the polesitter in next.

Q: Are any of you completely thrilled with your second run or completely disappointed?

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER: I'm completely disappointed.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Thrilled. I deal with this all day, too. For the record, I was being facetious. I am very disappointed with my run, also.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I'm surprised you even know what that means.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Let's put it this way. I was like thrilled to get into the Fast Nine. I had a really stressful day sitting there on the bubble. I didn't like the bubble. The bubble is not fun.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: You've never been on the bubble bubble. I was happy to be there, but then when we did there I wasn't particularly proud of that. We can do better. We're going to do better. There's a race coming up next week, you know that? We're going to try and do better there.

Q: AJ, tell me, how did it go?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I was pretty thrilled with it. I was OK. I thought the first lap I was pretty happy with, and then I progressively got slower each lap and kind of lost    I lost more than I thought I would, actually.

Q: What were you thinking when you were losing speed?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I've got to beat E.J. I've got Hinch covered. I was like, ‘I've got him covered, no problem.’ I just got the car too much understeer. But overall with the day I was pretty pleased.

Q: We did some have some situations where some second and third laps were way different, not just a little bit. Is that just the result of knowing that you're going to have to try something different, a different line or just the car going away? Why the dramatic difference in some laps as we went along?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I had a big moment.

Q: We need to hear about the big moment.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Come on, Bert.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, James likes to call me Bert now.

Q: What was your moment?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I got really loose into (Turn) 3. I had to catch it and there was a lift accompanied with it, which killed the lap.

MODERATOR: That's all it takes.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: We were kind of rolling the dice. I was telling these guys, the sweat on an oval especially, the sweat on a race suit, there's a direct correlation   

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I have no idea what you're talking about.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The looser you are, the more you sweat.

MODERATOR: Association is not causation. That's the problem we have here.

Q: I can't think of four guys who have been kicked in the butt more than you guys have in the last couple, three, four years. I mean, I remember when you were the odd men out, E. J., I remember you at California not looking real happy, and   

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER: What are you talking about? I've always been solid. No problems there.

Q: But here you are.

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER: Here we are.

Q: You want to wax philosophical so I have something to write, please?

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER: Sure. What was the question? Was it a question or just the fact that we've been kicked in the gonads a couple times?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: For me, I'm thrilled to be here. I'm thrilled to be here, I'm thrilled to be next to these guys. No, it's I really enjoyed this week and this press conference is just the cherry on top, so I'm happy that Roger has given me a chance.

Q: What can you guys bring to the party? I know this qualification is session is hard, there's a lot of pressure in it. Tell us about your experience.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: My experience? It wasn't a this is the Indianapolis 500. We just took a chance. We want to go for it, and we went for it. Obviously a lot of people did the same, and you've got to hold on for four laps. It was very hard. We just wanted to make sure that at the least    sometimes it pays off. In the past it paid off, today it did not. It was very hard to keep four laps together, but hey, it's not where you start, it's where you finish.

Q: How about you, Will?

WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, I was going to go with more downforce level than I did this morning, but Castroneves decided to go all the way. I was flat the whole time you weren't. Why did you do that? (Laughter.)

But yeah, it was good. We took everything off and went for it, definitely starting the last lap I really did not want to do it, it was so bloody yeah. Even the last two corners, you're like, ‘Man, I don't know whether this thing is going to stick.’ But good fun, and it's good to be starting on the second row, and we'll see what we can do.

Q: Seriously, this is a lot of pressure on you guys, no question about it. It's hard to qualify and then you turn around and try to do it again to get the pole position, which is a big prize, and I would imagine it is a really an intense moment for you to go out again.

E.J. VISO: Yeah, it is. The first time we went a little bit conservative, at least on my side. I was pushing my engineer, ‘Come on, let's go a bit more, a bit more.’ Anyway, I think it happens the way it should have happened. The second round was fun. Definitely the car was extremely lively to be driving it. The rear was always wanting to go, but save for those laps.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: For me the first round was more nerve-racking than the second. I had never done that before, gone out there in four laps and made it count, especially after the rain and being one of the early cars out for me was more nerve-racking, and once I got in the top nine, yeah, I had hoped maybe some miracle would happen and we'd find that speed to get the pole, but for me I was just playing with house money at that point. I was just happy to be in the top nine, and whatever we got from there. I was going to start no worse than I was already starting in the third row. The second round for me was the car was a little bit harder to drive, but emotions were a little bit easier.

THE MODERATOR: Welcome back to the Economaki Press Conference Center. Two gentlemen that will be a part of the front row, that always makes for a good qualifying effort, that's still a great starting spot, particularly when you're a rookie like Carlos and Marco who's been strong all year long. Marco, given the week there was a chance that you would be making a legitimate run for the pole, came up short but you're definitely on the pole.

MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, definitely pleased. Extremely proud of my team. Five out of the top nine is just an incredible achievement. That has to be some kind of a record. I don't think there's been five cars on one team let alone in the top nine. Chevrolet, what a statement. I'm definitely proud of them.
But as for the RC car, after my first run this afternoon, I wouldn't say my pole hopes were totally dashed but they diminished a little bit, and I knew if we just went the conservative route that we'd be on the first two rows anyway.

For once, it bit Penske getting a little greedy. Normally it works out for them, so we'll take that.

THE MODERATOR: So I would assume that your main adversary going in was Ed Carpenter.

MARCO ANDRETTI: Definitely, we knew he was faster, but those laps were really stout. We didn't see that kind of pace out of him earlier, but I think he went for a trim and he balanced the car, so it rewarded him, where the other guys    the Penskes had more of a dropoff. We were lucky that happened, and it bumped me back to the front row. If we're not going to be on pole, it's an incredible honor to be on the front row at Indianapolis, especially for a rookie.

THE MODERATOR: You did pretty good here your rookie year here by the way, but a great week for you capped by a front row starting position. Congratulations, Carlos.

CARLOS MUÑOZ: Yeah, right now I don't have too many words to describe how happy I am, just a rookie to be in the front row, just a dream. I was like crossing my fingers that it rained that we can stay in the front row. I was happy with the car in the first qualifying, but we did a couple of changes and it worked out. We were really fast as Marco said. We didn't expect Carpenter to go so fast. He just did really good laps out there. I can't say anything – just front row is perfect for the race. I have my teammate just on the side of me, I have great people around me with a lot of experience. It's a 500-mile race, and I'm in the middle of the field with some little problems down there.

Q: Marco, I know how much you appreciate this place, this race, but how much do you think Ed appreciates winning the pole for the Indy 500?

MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I was genuinely happy for him as a friend. If it wasn't going to be us or Carlos at that point. So obviously his history and his family, it's an awesome achievement for him, so congratulations to him.

Q: Carlos, this is for you. Does starting on the front row do anything for your confidence level not only for the race but for the Freedom 100 since I think you're the only driver here competing in both?

CARLOS MUÑOZ: Yeah, for sure. I have a lot of confidence. Last year my first race, I did second place. We were really quick also in Indy Lights. I have a great car and fought for the win. It's going to be tough doing 600 miles in one weekend, but I think we have perfect cars in both Indy Lights and IndyCar, so I'm going to be hopefully in the front row in both categories.

Q: Do you think it'll feel like you're sort of walking in the Indy Lights or having this kind of speed?

CARLOS MUÑOZ: Yeah, for sure, it's going to be different. I'm going to go back to my old lady who I like a lot. As I said, you have to adapt pretty quickly to each car you go. I know how Indy Lights feels. For sure it's going to be different to shift here and the steering wheel and the horsepower and everything. But as I said, my main goal before coming here was to win the Indy Lights championship, and also I have to be focused now this week on Thursday and Wednesday on the Indy Lights program.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. 97th pole for the Indianapolis 500, Ed, I can't believe it.

ED CARPENTER: Yeah, I told you in here after the first round I wasn't sure we'd be able to do a 229 and we did two of them, and that was the key in the shootout. A lot of fun. I knew we had a shot at it, but the field is so tight and Chevy brought such a great engine, and I wouldn't have been surprised if we were outside the top 10, too.

It's an honor to win this pole because it is a really competitive field.

This is a good start. I want to make sure we keep the team focused. I hope this is part one of a really magical month, and we're here for race day. This is awesome, and it's bigger than our wins and it's huge for the team, huge for Fuzzy's Vodka. It's definitely a landmark day, but I don't want to get overly focused on this because we have a lot of work to do yet.

Q: Was there a different strategy for the second run than the first run? Did you worry about the first two laps more or something like that?

ED CARPENTER: Well, in the first one I definitely took too hard of a warm up lap and started to use up the tires a little bit. It really came down to strategy on how much downforce we ran in the shootout. We don't run this time of day on the track. Normally we're off the track by 6, and when we finished the first round of qualifying we felt like we were too light on downforce and we were planning on putting some more on for the shootout, and then we were sitting there and started thinking about what the track is like at 6 every day when we finish, and doing the math on what time I would be going out around 6:45, so that's 45 minutes after we normally get done, and the track temp is going to be coming down. We chose to stay where we were in the first round. We really hardly changed the car at all.

And then the Penske cars appeared to get even more aggressive and take more downforce off, and I think that was a mistake. That's what we were hoping for going into it, that someone was going to overstep it. We didn't want to be too conservative, but we were hoping that someone was going to go too far. Luckily we had the speed in the Fuzzy's Vodka machine to be quicker than the Andretti cars, but it was an awesome shootout. It was fun. Chevy Shootout I think it's called this year, right?

Q: You're carrying the banner for the open-wheel nation. I want to know from your standpoint what does the series have to do to attract more guys like yourself to have more open-wheel drivers in the series?

ED CARPENTER: I wish there was an easy answer to that. This was always where I wanted to be, and I think a lot of guys still dream of coming here, but a lot of guys dream to go to NASCAR, too. There's easier avenues from USAC to NASCAR right now, and I hoped that was something that would change. Bryan Clauson got a chance here last year and did a good job, and he was out there for this year and a lot of people wanted us to put him in the second car. It just wasn't the right car, but I would certainly like to see more guys from USAC and where I came from doing it here because it's good preparation and it's great racing and great drivers. But I don't know what that answer is. I think I would have to start with more of them actually really wanting to do it and chasing it.

Q: What goes through your mind on that fourth lap when you can see Will losing speed?

ED CARPENTER: I kind of knew in the first lap to be honest after seeing what Helio and AJ had done I figured he would fall off too much to maintain the average that we had. But you never know, Penske has pulled out so many poles at this place that you can't count him out. After I saw Helio do his run and fall off the way he fell off, I felt like we were going to be in pretty good shape. I'm just really proud of the guys on the team for making the right call.

Q: How far back does your memory of this place go? What do you first remember about it and did you ever allow yourself to dream of a moment like this?

ED CARPENTER: You know, I've been in positions to qualify in the top 10, but this was my first year where we had a chance at pole and I thought and really believed we had a chance at pole. We were aggressive all day long and a little too aggressive in the first round, but to answer the first part of your question, I remember watching Rick Mears qualify here in '91 from the Turn 2 suites, and that's my first memory of qualifications here.

But I told the guys before our first segment today and before the shootout that I'd be much more mad if we went conservative and didn't take a shot at it than if we took a big shot at it and missed. They made the right calls. I'm really proud of them.

Q: The fact that this place means so much to you might not mean anything when you're running that repeat run, but now that it's over and you've got it, do you let it sink in tonight maybe?

ED CARPENTER: A little bit, but I love the race a whole lot more than qualifying, and I really want to send a message and make sure I lead by example to the team and make sure we don't forget why we're really here. This is fun and it's huge for our team. I don't want to think that it's not. But the pole won't mean much if we don't go out and perform on race day.

I love it here. I love racing here. I love going fast here. It's cool to see the speeds climbing again. But this track and race means a lot to the other 32 guys that are going to start the race, too. I don't think it's just special to me.

Q: Talking about just how special it is, how much do you enjoy that the fans really embrace you as the local guy?

ED CARPENTER: It's really fun. I've lived here since I was 8 years old, went to school at Butler University and probably will never leave. It gives me confidence knowing people are behind you, and I'm blessed to have a great family. A lot of them are here. Unfortunately my parents and sister are up in South Bend because Lauren graduates from Notre Dame tomorrow, which is awesome, so it's a big weekend for our whole family.
 

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97th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference - Fast Nine
 
97th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference - Fast Nine
THE MODERATOR: I think this is a pretty good indication that there's a lot of pressure that goes with this shootout, and I would imagine it's pretty darned difficult to hang it out for a second time, but what these gentlemen do know is that they are in prime position, they're the top three rows for the 97th running of the “500” so they're in good position. They might not be as happy as they might be, but it's still a good run. Let's open it right up to any questions that you might have for any of them. We bring second and third in next and then we'll bring the polesitter in next.
Read More
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