Barnhart, Briscoe, Carpenter - IRL teleconference, part 1

Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript Monday, August 3, 2009 An Interview with Brian Barnhart, Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter. MODERATOR: Welcome to today's call. We are joined by three guests today from the Kentucky Speedway Race that...

Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Monday, August 3, 2009

An Interview with Brian Barnhart, Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter.

MODERATOR: Welcome to today's call. We are joined by three guests today from the Kentucky Speedway Race that was just concluded. We have race winner Ryan Briscoe, runner-up Ed Carpenter, and the President of Competition and Operations for the Indy Racing League, Brian Barnhart.

Ryan nipped Ed at the finish line for the win Saturday night with a margin of victory of .0162 of a second. It was the 11th closest finish in IndyCar Series history. It was also the second fastest race in IndyCar Series history with a speed of 200.893 miles an hour.

Now the race at Kentucky also marks the first which teams were given three options to enhance the aero package by providing more down force and also marks the debut of the Honda overtake assist button.

Ryan and Ed, we saw the two of you battling side by side for the final 10 laps of the race with the closest margin between you eight thousandths of a second. Ryan, take us through the closing laps first.

RYAN BRISCOE: It was definitely an exciting one. It was just so exciting, the whole race, really, but especially the last final laps with Ed.

You know, he has done a great job to get out there in front, and I'd fallen back to about eighth position, I think. And I was really working hard. I lost track of how many laps were left.

And then at one point Roger (Penske) came on the radio, told me there were 19 to go. And Ed was still pretty far in front of me. I was like, "We gotta go here."

So I knew I had enough push-to-pass to make up the gap a bit and chose the outside line. I'd been watching where Ed was running. It didn't look like he was going to be very good on the bottom through (Turns) 1 and 2. So I went to the high side. He surprised me. He was able to hold it down there. And from there it was just about who could hang on the longest. And the tires were really consistent.

I think we were both on the button the whole time. And it was just really exciting to nip him at the end.

MODERATOR: Ed, the last 10 laps from your perspective.

ED CARPENTER: Same thing. I saw I had built up a little bit of a gap. We got into some lap traffic, and I managed to pull out at least five car lengths over TK (Tony Kanaan) at the time. And I was kind of happy to see TK running second because I had raced with him earlier in the race and I knew I had a car that I felt I could beat him. And then I saw Ryan get up into second. Then I knew I was going to have a much bigger challenge on my hand because he had run out front more than I had on the night.

And as we got closer to the end he got close and I knew that we were going to have a battle. And like Ryan said, I was running a little bit off the white line. I was a little loose on the bottom. But I made a couple of changes once he got out there to be a little more comfortable so I didn't have to rest down there and I was able to hold the line.

Actually, the first lap he got on the outside of me I pushed up a little bit on (Turns) 3 and 4 and had to crack the throttle and thought for a second he was going to be able to close the door on me. But I kept being able to keep a nose up there to stay two wide there at the end and trying everything I could to figure out a way to beat him to the line because he was nipping me at the line every lap. He knew it. I knew it.

We were both on the overtake button as much as we had left. And I was running him up the track as much as I could without really doing anything that I knew he wouldn't do to me if it was the other way around. So I felt like I raced him as hard as I could without being dirty. And it was close. Just wasn't quite enough.

MODERATOR: Brian, as I mentioned earlier, this marked the debut of three aero options for the remaining 1.5 mile ovals we'll compete at this season. Give us your thought on the first race with the new package.

BRIAN BARNHART: Overall I think I was very pleased with it. It's good to give the team some tools to use and to give them some choices to make. And based on the results from Saturday night, I think you have got to take a little bit into consideration because of the uniqueness of the event. It ended up being a one-day show with one 75-minute session of practice beforehand. No qualifying.

That adds an additional challenge to the teams, obviously. And when we dropped the green, it was pretty evident, because we started without qualifying, we started with the points determining the order.

And it was really evident quickly how good Ed's car was in coming to the front and making the passes. The No. 5 car, KV Racing, Mario Moraes, had a very good car and was heading to the front. Unfortunately he got collected in a pit road incident. But it certainly seemed to enhance the product on the racetrack Saturday night in giving them choices to make and trying to add even more to that with the Honda press-to-pass overtake button, which is not a new concept.

It clearly was -- in Champ Car with the turbo charged engines, it certainly had the ability of having more effect than it does with our normally aspirated engines, but I do have to commend Honda for their work and their desire to help give options and tools to the drivers and the race car as well, because it's not a simple thing to do with a normally aspirated engine.

And I think it's something that can be continued to be developed and be an important part of our racing, whether it's on an oval or a road course. So I think combined with the aero and the push-to-pass button, I think it's pretty good. I think when we get on a road course, the red tire/black tire issue from the Firestone, primary and alternates combined with press-to-pass can make for an improved product on the road courses as well.

MODERATOR: You brought it up. But looking ahead this week at Mid-Ohio, what do you think the overtake assist button on a natural touring road course will do? Where do you think teams will use it more? On straights?

BRIAN BARNHART: Again, I think it's just another tool that the driver can be thinking about in the car. Another challenge for the team from a gearing standpoint to make sure you've got it to maximize its benefit for you. So the team's got to be smart about their gearing and their planning for it. And the driver's got to have some strategy as to when to be pushing the button and how many pushes to leave with it, where to use it on the race track so they do it. And of course its effect is dictated by what fuel setting you're in, because it's somewhere between five and 20 horsepower depending on your fuel mapping.

So I think it can be an interesting aspect. As I said, combining with the Firestone reds and blacks, it should help on a road course as well.

MODERATOR: All right. For both drivers, obviously with the rule changes from the other night, do you think there was one change to the rules more than the other options that made a difference in the racing? And then can you explain what your teams did Saturday night with the options?

RYAN BRISCOE: I think from one race, it's hard to tell exactly. I think we're going to have to sort of wait and see over the course of a couple more ovals.

But to me it felt like with the changes, maybe the vertical wickers, that might have been the biggest change. I'm not sure felt like I could be more aggressive if the car crossed my nose, it didn't affect my balance as much as it felt like it had in the past. And it enabled all of us, I think, to drive a little bit more aggressively, stick our nose underneath other cars, knowing that the group was still going to be there.

But it's always going to be a package deal. I think the Firestones at Kentucky were a great tire. Very consistent and good grip.

The push-to-pass was great. As Brian touched on I think it's something that Honda will be able to develop even more in the future. Maybe if we get to a point where it's even more than five horsepower, I think they'll put on an even bigger show.

At the moment I think most of it is for saving them really for the final 20 laps of the race. And when we're all using it at the same time, it's hard to make a difference and really see how much of a gain it is.

But early in the race I used it in the first to try to pass (Scott) Dixon. And it gave a little bit of a boost, enough where I was able to get side by side with him. But after 12 seconds it would run out.

And if I wasn't on the inside of him, it was difficult to complete the pass. But it certainly enabled me to put the pressure on him a bit. So all in all I think it was positive, and hopefully we can put on some more races like we saw this weekend.

MODERATOR: If you can, can you comment on which options your team used Saturday night?

RYAN BRISCOE: I can't exactly. I think we ran a similar downforce level to last year. But the biggest thing was the wickers.

MODERATOR: Ed, what about you? Do you have an opinion as to which of the rule changes made any difference?

ED CARPENTER: I agree with a lot of what Ryan said. Speaking to vertical wickers that we took off, to me I felt that was the biggest difference. The car was definitely more stable in dirty air, following people. I felt it was a little less turbulent. And you didn't feel as much of the wash off the cars in front.

It made the car more consistent and did give you more confidence to get your nose a lot closer to a guy in front of you.

I felt like we were able to use the draft through the corner to time a pass on the straightaway a little bit better than we could with those wickers on there.

But really it's hard to really single one of the changes out. They were all done together, and I think they have an effect as a group of changes, not just one change.

But I do like the fact that we have options. I mean, not every car ran all the options that we had. There were a couple of different strategies going on out there with the options people chose. And that's probably the thing I like the most. And Brian touched on giving us more tools to have in our arsenal. It's never been spec racing, but we're getting more closer to spec racing. And I think this shows a good argument not to a site car because we do need the differences to enhance the competition.

MODERATOR: Questions?

Q: Ryan, with this push-to-pass button on the road course this weekend at Mid-Ohio, with that combined with the option tire, alternate, whatever they're calling it, the reds, the blacks, all that, how confusing is it going to get strategy-wise, and will the push-to-pass button really be as helpful at Mid-Ohio as it was on an oval?

RYAN BRISCOE: Well, it might get a little confusing, but I'm sure we'll be able to handle it. You know, I'm curious to see how effective the push-to-pass button will be. I don't think we'll feel the horsepower at all. But we will feel the 200 RPMs which is kind of maybe the opposite to what we were getting in Kentucky, because it was so difficult to time the push-to-pass right where you would be able to pull the engines 10.5. I would be curious to see Honda's data and see how many people actually ran it up to 10.5. I think it was going to be pretty tough.

But at the road course, going up through the gears, you know, coming off the second gate corner and going straight up sixth gear and when we're pulling 10.5 on every gear change, I think that's definitely going to show a boost, a bit of extra speed.

The alternate, the standard tire, that's always a tough one. We don't always know how that's going to be until really after warm-up and even after the race, because we really don't get an opportunity to test the red tire before qualifying.

And then until after warm-up, we don't have a chance to do any long runs. So, again, I think it's all adding some extra excitement and I think in Edmonton I was the only car at the front running on the option tire at the end of the race.

Unfortunately, I had a slightly bent rear suspension, wasn't able to take full advantage of it. But it looks like at a couple of races, Watkins Glen, probably Edmonton, the red tire clearly has been faster, more consistent. Some other tracks, like Toronto, the red tire fell off very quick.

And so it really had to be a challenge to the whole team and driving style and everything as to what we do in the race.

Q: As far as natural terrain road courses go, how does Mid-Ohio compare in terms of ability to pass? Is it more difficult to pass there than at Watkins Glen or at Infineon? Is it challenging? And where are the places that are conducive to passing?

RYAN BRISCOE: Mid-Ohio is fairly challenging to pass at. But you've got the long back straight down the hill. Long enough straight where you can get a flip stream and duck inside going there into Turn 4 I think it is.

But it's a pretty fast corner. It's a very late-breaking corner as well. So you really need to be committed to make a safe pass down there. I'm sure with this push-to-pass button, if you can trick someone and use it without them defending with it, I think that's going to help a lot.

Q: If I could ask Ed a question real quick. Talk about your progress on street and road courses. I'm sure there's a lot there that you want to improve upon. How well do you feel prepared for Mid-Ohio?

ED CARPENTER: Definitely going to Mid-Ohio, it's a place I have more experience at. It's been challenging going to some new circuits that I've never seen before.

But all in all I feel like I'm getting better. Probably not getting better at the, quick enough races, maybe what I would like. But it's been a challenge being back to a one-car team, but when you look at where I was in 2005 on these tracks to now I've closed the gap quite a bit. There's still work to be done.

We showed the other night on the oval we can run up front. Not to that point on the road courses, but I think if we do execute and I run a mistake-free race, I think we're capable of finishing in the top 10 on the road and street courses. We just haven't put it together yet this year. The other night we put ourselves in a better position to have a chance to get back into the top 10 in points. But to do that I'm going to need to get some better results on these next two road courses. And I think we're capable of doing it. We're definitely putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform better and just have to answer the bell.

Q: Ryan, you're going into this thing in the points lead now. Last year you were just looking for a big finish at Mid-Ohio. Now you're leading the points in one of the great points races ever. Number one, how does that change maybe your approach to the weekend? I know you're going to say it probably doesn't. You're going to go for the win. But does it make a difference when you're leading the points? And number two, like Bruce was asking, with all these new factors being thrown in, do you have to step back a little bit and really figure out this weekend what you want to use, what you don't want to use, you know what I mean, in terms of new tricks?

RYAN BRISCOE: For me, firstly, it's very exciting to be in this title hunt and going for a championship. It has been an exciting one. It seems like all of us at the front there have trouble hanging on to the points lead. So that's going to be the first goal and really the guys are watching Dixon and (Dario) Franchitti. I want to be in front of those guys and that's the number one goal.

Obviously wins are huge. You get big points bonus for getting a win. But we really need to try to finish on the podium every race here until the end of the year. And that's going to be the big goal and trying to be in front of those guys.

I mean, with all these options we've got, it's not that much when you think about it. On the ovals, it's really -- we practice and we make a decision on what down force level we want.

On the road course, we've got the option tire, which is a big challenge. It's pretty complicated. And then the push-to-pass. That's just going to be a tool for us drivers and try not to be too greedy early on. But there are times in the race where it's important to try to make a pass.

And with 20 times we can hit the button, I think we just need to be smart about it. And try to time it right to either defend or to attack, and hopefully it's going to help put on a very good show. If it's going to come down to who can use it best.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Kanaan , Ryan Briscoe , Mario Moraes , Brian Barnhart , Ed Carpenter
Teams HART