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A Conversation With ... Dan Wheldon, Alex Lloyd and Mario Romancini

THE MODERATOR: Mario is the highest finishing rookie of the race. Congratulations on a fine run.

MARIO ROMANCINI: Thank you. I'm sorry, I was a bit nervous. Clearly when I took the checkered flag, I was in front of Simona. I lifted because of the crash. But I think it's OK. I think it's official now.

I'm very, very happy. I think this place keeps me good memories and still giving me a lot of good emotions. Last year I started 18th on the Lights and finished third. Today I started 27th and finished 13th as best rookie.

I would like to thank my guys, crew, engineer, team owner, sponsors, all of them. It was a very tough day I think to have your first Indy 500 with these temperatures, so many crashes. I had to save a lot of fuel in the end. Simona was saving a lot of fuel as well as a lot of the other guys. It was very, very difficult, but I'm very, very happy to finish at best rookie.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Questions for Mario.

Q. Does anything prepare you for how long this race is? At what point did it set in that you have a long way to go before you get to the end?

MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, it was very difficult. That was one of the things that I was most scared, like how long it will be, how long it's going to take until the end of the race.

Once you get the momentum going, you are always trying to improve your position, go faster and faster, the race goes like this. I thought it would last a lot, it would be very, very long. But it wasn't. All the time was very focused with my engineers, trying to improve the car, asking about the next pit stops.

The momentum was just taking me throughout the race. I didn't feel that I ran 500 miles. It was quite easy at this point.

Q. You mentioned the temperatures. Did you feel hot in the car? Can you describe were you sweating, you felt warm or what?

MARIO ROMANCINI: For sure, it was very, very hot. Even 20 minutes before the start when we had to go to the grid and wait there, I was feeling how hot it was. It was one of the keys for this race. The setup of the car changes a lot when the track temperature is so high. We started to start with a lot more downforce on the car.

In the beginning, when I was talking my engineers, I was like, Are you sure there's not too much downforce on our car? But it was the right decision because as the temperature came up, we actually needed a lot of downforce, a lot of grip. At the end of the stints, like around lap 28 or 29 of the tires, it was very difficult to keep it flat.

So for sure I think the biggest challenge today was the temperature and staying out of trouble. I've never seen so many crashes in my career.

Q. Having run the Freedom 100 here, you were aware of what the track was like. How did the track change with all these people?

MARIO ROMANCINI: Changes a lot. The grandstands, just by the fact they are packed, seems like the front straight is narrow and everything looks different. There are so many distractions, so it's more difficult to keep your focus on the car in front of you.

As you said, on the Freedom 100, it was good for me to get a feel of how it was to race here at the Speedway. But with this car, I had to learn so many new things during the race. It's a lot faster than the Lights car. You cannot play with your lines because of the marbles. At the end of the race, you really had to be very precise with your lines. The outside, it was very dirty.

So I think I had one of my biggest learning days of my career so far for sure.

Q. You mentioned the crashes. Were any of them close?

MARIO ROMANCINI: One of the first ones I think was Junqueira on turn two. I almost caught him. He crashed, his car came to the left side of the track. I had to try to avoid it. It was really close.

I'm glad we were able to stay out of the trouble. We finished the race. Of course, I'm very, very happy to be the best rookie. But when we started the race, we just had in mind, Let's finish the race, and we did it.

Q. Would you describe this as a strange race, given all the crashes, having to conserve fuel at the end, kind of a choppy race?

MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, I don't know if it's strange because when we look to oval racing, there's always a lot of crashes. But for sure for me it was something new 'cause in Kansas was my first oval race and I didn't have to save much fuel there. It wasn't so long as this one. We didn't have so many crashes.

As I said before, I think I learned a lot today. I learned so many new things that I will be able to use for Texas, for Iowa, for the next oval races. It will be really good for me.

THE MODERATOR: Mario, thank you very much for coming in. Congratulations.


THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Alex. Talk about your day.

ALEX LLOYD: What a day. I knew we had a good car. You know, I was optimistic before the race because I knew we worked basically solidly all month on race setup. People say, Your speeds are OK, you made it in the field, that's a great job. I knew we were certainly a lot quicker than where we qualified. I knew our biggest forté would be racing.

We were conservative with our setup. We started our first run of the day and had a good car. From that moment we never really tried to reinvent the wheel. Kept tweaking on it, playing with it, worked on our racecars, didn't try to take downforce off. Today we were conservative with downforce. We knew it was hot. Turned out hotter than anybody imagined yesterday by a few degrees. We saw on the grid a few people trimmed out. I thought, from my few years of experience now, that just doesn't seem like the way to go.

So, yeah, I mean, the car was great from the beginning. I knew we had to be patient and work our way through. We did that bit by bit. Great work by the Boy Scouts guys in the pits. Good restarts. My spotter did an excellent job calling it for me. I have to thank the Boy Scouts of America. A lot of key people, individuals, that have come for this event. We've had a stuff start to the year, no doubt about it. I'm glad the fact that Dale Coyne and Gail put me in, getting in these cars, we showed we're a small team, but we can fight with the big guns and go knocking on the door of an Indy 500 win.

Big day for all of us. We're truly thrilled. Maybe better than I even anticipated. If I thought about the perfect day with no mistakes, I thought we could be solidly in the top 10. Great strategy by the guys. Here we are. Pretty amazing day.


Q. Alex, you said the other day you were keen on a top 10 finish. Were you ever close to an accident?

ALEX LLOYD: No, I never had any close moments. Normally in this case there's always some close moments. The first year I didn't finish the race. Second year I did. Had a pretty solid day. There were some pretty close moments.

In this, no major dramas. The car was really that good. We didn't have any dramas. I could be very patient. The accidents come in this racetrack when you're not quick enough and you're trying to hold it flat behind somebody in the dirty air, it washes up. When you're quick enough, you don't need to drive it over the limit, you can just drive it to that limit, things come a lot smoother.

It was a real smooth day for us out there. Nothing major. A couple times I tried to go around the outside and the restart after they swept the track. It was still a few marbles down there. Lost a little bit of grip, a couple of guys went by. But it was a matter of staying patient.

If something happened like that, you got to back out of it, just back out of it. Lose the spots, go work on it again. I think that's what paid off for us today, we didn't get carried away, kept working, kept saving fuel. We saved a lot of fuel.<>

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