Rookie Wade Cunningham qualified Sunday at an average speed of 223.258 to start 26th. He is a three-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race here at the Speedway. In 2011, he competed in races at Texas (qualified 8th), Kentucky (finished 7th) and Las Vegas (qualified 12th).
On race strategy: “The first goal is just to finish which is easier said than done. It looks like it’s going to be superhot- mid to high 90s, you lose downforce, you lose tire and mechanical grip at those temperatures, so finishing’s got to be the goal. It’ll be a battle. First we have to keep our nose clean and stay out of trouble. If we can finish, with the resources we have here, the people, the latent speed we’ve had in the car at times, if we do the basics right, there’s no reason why we’re not going to move forward quickly and get a great result.”
On preparation for Race Day’s high temperatures: “I’ve been in Indianapolis since the second week of January and I train every day. We have a heat room at the gym which is part of the training. You have to watch your fluid intake, eat well, sleep well and just be prepared. I’ve been doing all those things so I’ll be prepared for Sunday.”
On change to single file restarts: “I’m not glad about the change. I don’t have some of the other concerns that some drivers have. I thought the double file restarts were great last year on the ovals. I think Indy is wide enough and long enough that if you spaced out the rows evenly, there’s no reason we couldn’t do a double file restart. I think they have to give the leader the opportunity to accelerate when he wants to so you’re not nose to tail getting into turn 1, so there’s some separation and you can find some clean air. We’re professionals so we should be able to organize ourselves side by side heading into turn 1 on a restart when we do three-wide on the initial start. I think we cheat the fans a little by not having double file restarts and if we have them at other tracks, it should be one rule for everything.”
On the how the new cars will race: “I think it will look like an Indy Lights race but with 33 cars -- I honestly do. I don’t think the leader’s going to be able to get away, I think the cars behind will have an advantage as long as they’re not in too much dirty air and I think the middle of the field is just going to be a battle, it’s going to look like a bar fight.”
On the most surprising part of the month: “The pressure, the media commitments, how busy we’ve been, the demands placed on the drivers to promote the event and that kind of stuff. Driving the race car is the easy part, it’s just the noise and the excitement of the event that you get wrapped up in-- that’s been the biggest surprise for me.”
Ray Leto is the chief engineer on The No 41 ECat/ABC Supply Honda this month. Leto worked with Don Halliday, chief engineer of the No. 14 car, from 1989 through 1993 (for Truesports and then Rahal) before moving on to Steve Horne’s team. The last time the two men worked together was in 2007 with driver Jeff Simmons in an Indy only program when Simmons finished 11th. To work Cunningham’s Indy-only program, Leto took time off from TotalSim, the company he and partner Nathan Eagles founded in 2009 that does aerodynamic design work using computational fluid dynamics, specializing in motorsports and ground vehicles.