INDIANAPOLIS – Ed Carpenter set the pace on the opening day of practice for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Two Chevrolet IndyCar V6 powered drivers passed their Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) and are now eligible to practice and qualify for the Indianapolis 500. A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel of the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet, and Carlos Muñoz, driving No. 26 Unistraw Andretti Autosport Chevrolet both passed the three phases of the ROP with ease this afternoon clearing the way for the pair to continue preparations for Pole Day on Saturday, May 18, 2013.
Practice will continue Sunday, May 12, 2013, from noon to 6:00 p.m. EDT.
CHEVROLET DRIVER QUOTES – OPENING DAY OF PRACTICE AND ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM:
ED CARPENTER, NO. 20 FUZZY’S ULTRA PREMIUM VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET: IS IT AMAZING TO YOU THAT YOU ARE PREPARING FOR YOUR 10TH INDIANAPOLIS 500? “My sister reminded me that it’s been a decade since I won the Indy Lights race here, the first Freedom 100. That seems crazy. It seems even crazier that this will be, hopefully, my 10th 500 start. I consider myself pretty lucky to have made so many of these.”
ARE YOU READY TO GET BACK AT IT THIS YEAR AFTER WHEN YOU HAD A GOOD CAR IN THE RACE? “To be honest, when I think back to the last month of May, we had a good race, and a good car in the race. But really I have bad memories from last May because we really struggled a lot.
We came in unprepared, and we were lucky to get it sorted out by race day and have a chance to have a good finish. But even then, we still didn’t get a good finish. I think we were 17th so it didn’t really matter that we were running up front. The whole team was really determined to come in prepared this year, and they’ve done that.
I am really proud of the work they’ve put in this off season. We ran well in the race, but you have to look at the whole month of May, and we under performed. It wasn’t a month that I was proud of even though we had good moments in the race.”
YOU ARE EXCEPTIONAL ON OVALS, DO YOU FEEL AT ALL LIKE YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THE 500? “I felt like we were going to be strong coming in just because we’ve learned a lot since we were here last year, and the team’s worked really hard. You always have confidence when you win races. It was good to finish last year with a win; it did a lot for the team. Gave the whole team motivation to keep pushing over the off season. Hopefully we can continue having a good month, and be there when it counts.”
A.J. ALLMENDINGER, NO. 2 IZOD TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: ON HIS FIRST LAPS OF INDIANAPOLIS 500 ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM: “I went down the back straightaway the first lap thinking to myself this is pretty sweet; I’m driving a Penske car on the backstretch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
That was an awesome feeling. From there, it was good. Just getting comfortable. Just trying to drive the race track without being too tense and anything like that. Overall I felt pretty good. The car is really balanced; I felt like I could take out some more downforce out of it and not completely scare myself right away.
I have to thank Helio (Castroneves, Team Penske teammate) just a ton because his going out there and shaking the car down and just talking to me just made me a lot more calm than I would have been without him. A guy with his experience, his background, three victories, I trust what he says. It helped me out so much just to start off with.
It’s awesome to have such great teammates here between him and Will (Power, Team Penske teammate). Now I can go sleep on that, and take in my first day at Indy, have the car roll back to the pits and be really happy about it.”
DID YOUR COMFORT LEVEL GET BETTER AS YOU WENT THROUGH 40, 50, 60 LAPS? “It’s kind of the way this rookie program is. At first I wondered why we started out off so slow. It’s good, because you can kind of get the feel of it. You don’t have to go out and run 216 (mph) the first lap and feel like you are here.
You can slowly progress, feel the race track, get the line down. I still have a lot of work to do line wise, but overall, it felt like I was pretty comfortable and I could go out there and run 218.000 (mph), 218.100 (mph) consistently and feel like I was wide open. I will have to go look at the data. My mind told me I was wide open.
I don’t know if my foot completely stayed down, but it was a really good day. I was so nervous. I mean, the last two weeks I have been pacing; I was stress eating before I go in the car so the belts were a little tight. I was nervous, so it went as good as I could have hoped. Actually, it went better.”
ROGER (PENSKE) WAS THERE ON PIT LANE WITH YOU; WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU? “He just told me good job. His opinion means more than anybody’s to me. To have him on the radio telling me good job every lap; keep doing the same things; things like that – like I said that’s more meaningful than anything out there.
I’m the reason he took a chance on me, and I feel that is so important to have him see me through it on my first day was important. I told him to go win tonight (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington (SC) Raceway).”
EVEN AFTER 60 LAPS, DO YOU STILL HAVE TO TELL YOURSELF TO KEEP IT GOING IN TURN ONE? NOT TO LIFT? “The biggest thing for me and you hear everybody tell you, Helio, all the experienced guys especially – Rick Mears – you can’t let your guard down around here.
Just because for four laps in a row you went wide open, you think okay, I’ve got this. You can’t relax. A couple of times down the back straightaway, I kind of caught myself like oh okay. Then all of a sudden that corner comes up quick, and you’re like…
It’s just the way this place is; that’s what makes it so special. You have got to give it its respect every lap. Not when you show up. Not on qualify. Not on the race. Every lap you have got to show respect. It was pretty special.”
HOW NICE IS IT TO FINALLY BE HERE; FINALLY BE IN THE CAR? “It’s amazing. And, obviously the first couple of races – at Barber and at Long Beach – were leading up to this. Last week I was okay; stressing a little bit, watching video and thinking okay that looks pretty simple, I’ve got that. You get here, and (Tim) Cindric did the worst thing to me, and he knew it. He made me stand right between the wall (and the track) and watch Helio come by the first time.
I was like ‘oh man’; my heart was beating fast. I had to go back and start eating again and was like ‘oh man, that’s fast down the straightaway. To finally get that under my belt… There was nothing really to prove today except to myself that I could go out there and at least be comfortable.
The big thing is, and I’ve been told this by many people and I have to keep it in mind every day – this is a process. It’s about taking it one day at a time, one step at a time. That’s all I can do. You have to do that, it is such a long week.”
WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS HELIO HAS BEEN TELLING YOU? “Everything. Helio’s been telling me how to get around this place. What to expect. The line to run. Just to respect the place. Everything about this place. What it means; what he has been through. It’s meant a lot for him to help me.
You know, he could have easily just went and drove the car and said it was fine and walked away and focused on his program. But he’s here, talking to me. When we are back in the pits and he is showing me, teaching me and just talking to me. My teammates here, Will and Helio, they’ve been amazing since I showed up, and I feel very fortunate to have them.”
YOU MENTIONED THIS EARLIER, BUT HOW MUCH OF A PRIVILEGE IS IT TO BE IN A PENSKE CAR AT INDIANAPOLIS? “I think more than anything, I think that is what kind of hit me going to the back straight. Yes, I’m in an IndyCar at Indy, but this is Roger Penske’s car. To have IZOD on the side of it; they were on pole last year.
There is a lot of history and tradition. That was special, but I know the moment that when we walk out of Gasoline Alley on race day, and they introduce me as part of the field, and especially as a part of Roger Penske’s organization, a Penske driver, that is when it is really going to hit me.”
ON CONTINUING TO ADD INDYCAR RACES TO HIS SCHEDULE: “Roger knows my situation. I told him anytime he wants me to drive I’m driving, so he keeps offering me races and I’m not going to turn them down and I’m not going to keep asking me why either. You just don’t do that.
I just say, ‘Yes sir, I’ll be at the next race, thank you.’ I’m looking forward to Detroit. I don’t see me doing a lot of the oval races once the ovals take over, you know, obviously I’m not running for points and there’s more risk there than reward at times on an oval. I’ll run whenever he wants me to run.”
ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A CUP CAR AND AN INDY CAR: “They told me I wasn’t allowed to hit the brakes at the end of the straightaway. Believe me, first lap at the end of the straightaway my foot went and I thought ‘No no, don’t do that,’ and the line and everything is just so different.
There’s little nuances at the track that are the same in a Cup car to an Indy car, just grip level and off each corner the feeling that you have about how the grip level kind of gains and releases, but in general the line of the racetrack is way different. The Cup cars, you turn in early especially into [Turns] 1 and 3, and you really get close to the rumble strips or when you’re on track or even on the rumble strips at times, and in these cars you don’t want to get anywhere close to that.
For me that’s the biggest thing, just trying to get the line down. I feel like [Turns] 2 and 4 the lines are more similar in a Cup car than in an Indy car, but 1 and 3 they’re so different, and just trying to work on that. I still probably have a ways to go of being consistent and hitting the same mark every time and knowing what that mark is, but it’s a lot different. It’s like starting over.”
CARLOS MUÑOZ, NO. 26 UNISTRAW ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT CHEVROLET: ON TODAY’S ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM: "Today's rookie orientation went really well, I passed all of three of the phases and got some good laps in. It was not that much different then driving in Firestone Indy Lights, but it just took me a few laps to adapt to the track and new No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet.
I'm very happy with today, my teammates, James (Hinchcliffe) and Marco (Andretti), supported me throughout each of the phases and gave me some good tips. I feel really good going into the rest of this week's practices, but it's still a long couple weeks so we just need to take it step-by-step."
TALK AB0UT YOUR EXPERIENCE ON YOUR FIRST DAY IN THE IZOD INDYCAR SERIES HERE AT INDIANAPOLIS: “It was awesome! I tested at the beginning of the month in Indy Lights. My first lap was really special. I remember when I was in Colombia when (Juan Pablo) Montoya this race was really special for me.
Right now I am in the same spot as him at the 500 in an IndyCar with a really good team. It is really special, but totally different from the Indy Lights. The speed just goes more fast. The car reacts different. Each time I was on the track, I was feeling stronger and stronger and getting more comfortable with the car, I knew what to do. I had a little bit of tow in that time, but apart from that, I’m really happy. There is still a long, long, long way to go. This is just the beginning.”
IS THERE ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN INDYCAR AND INDY LIGHTS CAR? “No, for sure, totally different set-up wise. This car reacts more. The steering wheel way is totally different. It is more or less the same line out there as Indy Lights, just faster.”
WHAT IS YOUR PLAN AS THE WEEK GOES ON? “I think what I have to work on the most is with a lot of guys on the track. That is the most difficult part. I have teammates to work with. I have four teammates I can trust. Our plan for the week is for sure to be running all together to see how comfortable I am and prove the car. It is a long week. We will do some qualifying for sure. Some qualifying simulation. But the thing we will have to focus on the most will be the race.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO 3 SHELL V-POWER PENNZOIL ULTRA TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: ON OPENING DAY OF PRACTICE: "It felt really good to be back in the Shell Pennzoil Chevrolet here at Indy, always a special feeling when you take the track for the first time.
We were able to shakedown the No. 2 IZOD car for AJ and do the same for our car which is what we wanted to accomplish. AJ did a great job today, it was really fun being a part of the Rookie Orientation process with him, and I look forward to having him as a teammate here."
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET: ON OPENING DAY OF PRACTICE: "It was a good opening day for the Verizon team, we were able to shakedown the car and everything feels good. It's obviously a long couple weeks and we are taking this step by step to be where we need to be for the race."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO, NO. 78 NUCLEAR ENTERGY AREVA KV RACING TECHNOLOGY CHEVROLET: ON OPENING DAY PRACTICE: “Well you know, it’s pretty exciting to get back on track here at Indy. We always look forward to coming here, for us as a team and especially for me personally.
Last year was a very long year and a really long month of May. Now to go out there and to feel the speed, it’s much more fun. The team has been working really hard on our Nuclear Clean Air Energy Indy car and I think it should be good. We still have a lot of things to go through, but it was nice to get back in the saddle. We’ll keep working hard from today on and hopefully have a really good month.”