IZOD IndyCar Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Topics: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
April 14, 2012
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: We will get started with our Fast Six qualifiers. We are pleased to be joined by James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosports, who qualified sixth. He qualified 11th in 2011 and also won the Firestone Indy Lights here in 2010. James is the only driver this season to appear in all three Firestone Fast Six sessions.
We have been joined by Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing who qualified fourth and will start from the front row tomorrow. Dario's best start was in 2009, and this is Dario's first appearance in the Firestone Fast Six six.
We are joined by EJ Viso of KB Racing who qualified fifth.
EJ, we'll start with you, talk about today's qualifying session.
EJ VISO: Well, coming from a pretty good performance‑wise, start of the season, we definitely had this ball rolling. We are very proud to be part of all of Chevy's hard work that we have been doing with the team and we have been pretty strong as a team. Here we are, very strong since the first practice session, even if it was a little bit down.
Qualifying went great. Pretty much everything that we planned, happened. Fortunately, maybe it was more on my side, I had a little bit of time that could have put me closer to the front. Last corner, just left it out there.
Here we are, very long race. Fortunately we are not going to be starting in that position and qualify. We need to change the engines, all of the Chevy guys. But this is how it is. This is a team work, and we win as a team and we lose as a team. So looking forward to this race very much.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, interesting situation for you qualifying fourth, but you'll start from the front row tomorrow. Just walk us through qualifying today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's been a lot better qualifying than St. Pete and Barber, especially Barber. It was really straightforward actually.
You know, the Target car felt pretty good in both sessions. Made some adjustments between the first session and the second. Going into the Firestone Fast Six, we knew that we were going to be starting on the pole, regardless of what time we did, but we kind of wanted to earn it.
We didn't quite‑‑ you know, we didn't quite have it in the car. So we'll go back to tomorrow and we'll go and see what happens from there.
THE MODERATOR: James, you had a nice bounceback from this morning where you had a little incident in practice and were able to advance to your third Firestone Fast Six, talk about qualifying.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, thanks for reminding me about this morning. Like you say, a nice bounceback. We had an issue on lap two, driver error. Didn't get a whole lot of useful running out of practice, and went into qualifying not quite sure what to expect.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's okay, nobody did.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: But big thanks to the Go Daddy boys, because they were really bolting the thing back together as we were rolling out for qualifying, and Q1, pretty straightforward. Q2, we had a lap that would have put us comfortably into the Fast Six and then had a little grum (ph) and that cost us some time and traffic.
So sort of went for it on my last lap, and had a pretty phenomenal smoke show on turn one with both fronts flapped up, and still managed to finish the lap and just sneak into the Fast Six.
But unfortunately because of the way tireswe need for the race ‑‑ had to run those again in the Fast Six and they had flat slots right down ‑‑ indiscernible ‑‑ down either side. I was a little handicapped going in, so we did what we could. Still a good bounceback.
Happy to be in the Fast Six again. As EJ alluded to, we are not going to be starting there and I think it's going to be an interesting afternoon and hopefully the Chevy guys can get back up to the front by the time the checkered flag falls.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Ryan Hunter‑Reay of Andretti Autosports who qualified third, and the 2010 race winner here, starting from the front row that year.
Another strong, qualifying effort for you at Long Beach. Walk us through today's qualifying Fast Six session.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: How's it going. EJ always has me cracking up.
THE MODERATOR: Fast Six, tell us how it was.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: It was okay. I expected a little bit more grip out there today, but with only one session and two laps at a time here and there, it was tough to really know what we wanted from the car.
It was the same for everybody, though. And just tired of being‑‑ tired of being that couple hundredths off to the Penske guys here. It's been three years in a row now.
Definitely wanted the pole, despite the penalty that we are going to take. I thought today was as good of a chance as I've ever had. We are going to start 13th, I believe‑‑ how many cars are being penalized? (Laughter).
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Math ‑‑ figuring out who is starting where. (Laughter).
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Who is starting sixth?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: I have no idea who is starting sixth.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Who is going first? (Laughter).
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: So, yeah, it was a good day. But we wanted it a lot more today. We are pretty pumped about that.
Q. This morning didn't seem like you could really get a rhythm going in practice because there was so many people‑‑ in the fence. How uncertain was it going into the qualifying sessions?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Massive, I would say, we had both sessions rained out yesterday. We didn't do more than two consecutive laps this morning, one of which was an out lap. So yeah, I think our guys obviously did a good job coming out with the setup. It worked well, because the new car is obviously vastly different from the old one.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: It was really tough. You couldn't get too greedy with the cars for qualifying. You didn't know how progressive you could get with the setups. I think everybody played it a little bit save that first round. Yeah, what a strange weekend so far and it's going to get even stranger tomorrow with the penalties.
Q. For any of the Chevy guys, did you change any of your?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Engines? Yes. (Laughter).
Q. Chevy guys, I heard you guys changed your engines. No, did you change any of your strategy in the Fast Six because you knew that you were not going to start there?
EJ VISO: Well, I think sometimes you think of what's better, you starting in the Top‑6 or wasting an extra set of tires to take you farther in the qualifying or keeping them for the race.
I was going to go to the Q2 with the old set of tires, but we decided track position is always good to find, so we went for the second set.
So, yeah, I think each race has its strategy and obviously due to the circumstances, that's what we went for.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: I think track position is so big here that we all decided to push for it. The wild card is going to be ugly.
EJ VISO: Especially you mentioned, now the pits are always open.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: So Marco is the guy that sort of rolled the dice there and he qualified on Black. He started further backqualifying, probably next to last. But he has a bunch of tires to play with tomorrow. So it will be interesting to see how that one sort of works out for him.
Q. We didn't have a NASA computer in the media center but we figured Josef Newgarden will start alongside you; any concerns about having a rookie start on a track like this?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No. Joseph, he's been a driver‑‑ every time he's been in the car this year, he'll be fine.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: He's getting better. That's the annoying bit.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, exactly. (Laughter). Believe me, we have proven time and time again, whether you are a rookie or a veteran, you can screw it up just as well. (Laughter) No, we'll try to get through turn one tomorrow ahead of the pack.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Where did he qualify?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: AKA, T‑2.
Q. Question, Dario, being most experienced here at this track, how much did the track change during the entire qualifying session as far as rubber and grip coming in, and did wind or weather affect that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It normally changes a lot anyway with all of the rubber going down because of the Firestone Reds. But I think it probably changed more than in years past because there was the green track, there was no rubber.
Yeah, as the session went on, as different sessions went on, it definitely changed more than I've seen here in the past.
THE MODERATOR: I have to excuse James, he has an engagement at four o'clock.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Wow. Congratulations.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, she's a great girl, met her on Thursday, love at first sight. What can I say. Congratulations, to that guy, and whoever he is. Thanks very much.
THE MODERATOR: We'll keep going with other qualifiers, as well as pole sitter Ryan Briscoe. Ryan, third consecutive pole of the season for Team Penske, your first here at Long Beach, 12th career. Talk about talking that T1 position today in qualifying.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, feels good. Trouble‑free run, no mistakes. I felt like the car was just really nice. You know, as I did more laps on the used Reds, I felt like the balance was improving for me.
Actually I wanted to just keep improving lap time. Just proud of my guys. We've been working on the car, we have not had much practice this weekend, so when we unload and we have got fast cars, it shows the preparation that happens back home.
You know, so proud of Team Penske; proud of Hitachi. We have got a lot of guests here this weekend as well, and they are a great partners for us. Want to thank everyone there.
Q. Ryan, I don't know any other way to ask this, but how much does this really bite, you win the pole and you're going to start 11th.
RYAN BRISCOE: You know, we just have to go with it. You've got to trust Chevrolet's judgment in this position, and you know, the important thing is we know we have got fast cars. It is tough trying to pass, but the first thing is having the fast car and the only fact, the decision is made to make sure that we have reliable engines.
So, you know, I 100% support them in it, and we are doing the best of a situation. We just have to see what we can make of it tomorrow in the race.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined now by Will Power of Team Penske who qualified second. Will has started from the pole here the past three events at Long Beach. Will, if you can, walk us through qualifying today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was a good battle in the Fast Six for sure. That was everything I had laid down on a mega lap. Obviously, you know, qualifying was important, because we didn't want to end up like 15th, 16th. I think from 12th‑‑ (laughter). I was 9th last week.
But yeah, so I'm sure like everyone said, we have to make the best out of the situation and see where we end up. It's days like tomorrow that will be really important for the championship, and you know, just to get as many points as possible and not end up not finishing. So just got to focus hard on strategy and get the most out of the race.
Q. This is for Ryan, both Ryans. There have been some interesting views from in‑car camera angles, and one is over the steering wheel. It looks like the drivers are really sawing a lot, like you're going over a lot of bumps and doing a lot of corrections. And then there's another view from the rear tire, which seems like pretty much I think it's Ryan Hunter‑Reay's rear tire that is on the right rear, and that tire keeps bumping up in the air a lot. Just wondering, is the track as rough as it is?
EJ VISO: Too many curves. Giving my secrets away.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: It is, this place is really bumpy and this car feels like it has a lot more kickback in the steering wheel than the old car. It's really heavy, the steering and the kickback and everything else. Every bump, you feel in your hands a lot more.
So that's why you're seeing that. But this track is inherently bumpy. So you're going to see lot of action on the right rear and left rear. But that's why you are seeing that with the steering. You'll see that a lot tomorrow, too. It's just the nature of the beast.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I think it's cool, I think we were carrying four cameras on our cars each this weekend. It gives everyone a good view of all of the different dynamics going on. One is how physical it is, you see that through the wheel. Every bump, you sort of feel that through the steering wheel, and you need to be fit you and need to be strong; part of IndyCar racing.
Q. With so many of the fast cars starting from like 11th position on, can you kind of take a guess as to what kind of a race we are going to see tomorrow?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I mean, we'll have to look at if it's going to be two‑start or three‑start. That's there's a pretty good chance it could be a two‑start race. That might affect how aggressive people run or how much people might want to save fuel at times. I think it will depend a lot on when the cautions fall.
There are a lot of things that could happen tomorrow. You know, pits remaining open. There are a lot of unknowns, but I think the important thing is you're going to want a fast car. I think as tires go off, you can pass around this place. It's tough, though. It's tough. You just need to be consistent and have good pit stops.
I think as Will said, from where we are, we just need to do our best, and come out of this weekend with good points.
Q. For any of the drivers, as I was photographing right near the Firestone bridge, you make the hard right just before the hairpin. I noticed halfway through the morning session, cars were getting really squirrely in there. Is that due to bumps or was there something on the track, because everybody coming through there about the second half of the session seemed to get really squirrely.
EJ VISO: Yeah, that's the second‑fastest straight of the track and we are going pretty fast in six year. It's pretty bumpy, as well, so the car is pretty much on the limit. It is in that corner specifically is where I lost my great lap in qualifying. It is a very challenging one, come from a very fast straight, and then it's very hard braking where you pretty much lose a lot of the vision (ph); it's very bumpy. As you go through the bumps, obviously the car is getting upset.
So, yeah, every time‑‑ I'm sure that in the later part of qualifying, I'm sure that you will see the cars even more on the limit; yeah, everybody pushing very hard.
Q. For any of you Chevy guys‑‑ Will, pay attention. (Laughter)?
WILL POWER: Discussing the lap.
Q. Where it's very difficult to pass, and most drivers say turn one is about the only really good passing point. And with so many guys in there, are we going to see a lot of places where you guys are going to attempt a pass that we have never really seen here before?
WILL POWER: There will be a lot of crashing if that's the case. One good thing about these carsis you probably ‑‑ inaudible. What's that? (Laughter). There might be a lot of that, you never know.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Yeah, there are some really good blockers tomorrow. A lot of blocking tomorrow. You're going to have to be ‑‑ it's going to be one of those deals where you set up the pass and let them block the inside and you have to get them outside on the way out.
Yeah, we are going to have to get pretty creative for sure.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. We'll see. We'll see.
Q. (Off mic).
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: I like going into the hairpin. I'm only joking.
EJ VISO: I think to the 90‑degree corner, pretty much after the long straight‑‑ to go back into the back straight, that back corner before that is pretty bumpy. So sometimes you mess it up. I think driving in front is a mistake. You have a pretty good chance of going for it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and wrap things up with our Firestone Fast Six drivers. Congratulations on a great qualifying effort.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|