An interview with: James Hinchliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay
THE MODERATOR: Your first lap of qualifying, we could hear the roar in here. People were excited about your run you and made a great effort to get it done and came up just a little short.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, the smallest of margins. It's heartbreaking in a sense but the end of the day we get to start on the front row for the Indy 500 and that's the coolest thing ever. It's been a huge team effort, you see our cars were second, third and fourth on the grid. The other two drivers that made the show today, it's awesome to see the kind of results that we are getting because these guys have been working so hard.
And having the Go Daddy car in the front row is exciting. Like I said, I'm going to lose a little bit of sleep over how small that margin was to Ryan and to know that we had it for three or four laps, but that's Indy, man. It's a gust of kind; it's a shadow over a corner that changes, and that can sometimes be the difference.
But at the end of the day, it's great result for us.
THE MODERATOR: I do want you to repeat what you said to me when you looked up at the board.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I said, "226.484, those numbers will haunt me for the rest of my life."
Q. I remember a different press conference last year from team Andretti, and you weren't part of that, but you remember it, as well. Are we ready now to say that there is no longer just big two, but perhaps big three with you in that number and with Andretti in that number?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I have a little bit of ways to go before I'm at Ryan and Marco's level. They have both been around longer and are both race winners and I still have to earn those things. It's cool that off the bat I have been able to keep pace with them and compete with them. You've heard it so much from us this year and even especially this month, how well we are working together is awesome. We really are just one unit of three guys rather than three units of single car team sort of thing.
It's just incredible to see three people in such a competitive environment able to work so closely together and share that information and really push each other. I think that's where these results are coming from.
Q. Andretti, Penske, Ganassi
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: There's three Andrettis in the top four, you tell me.
Q. James, since 2009, your sponsor has put a lot of emphasis on the Indianapolis 500. Talk about how it would be to be the driver that gives them the victory here?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't even want to think about it. You start thinking about winning the race, you're not going to win the race; you jinx yourself.
Go Daddy, they have been such an incredible sponsor of this series and they have been so good to me; they have treated me so well in the last six months. It really has been more fun than I ever thought this job could be.
And I just want to give them their first win and if it happens to be at the 500, it makes it exponentially better. But at the end of the day, we want to get into victory lane this year and we want to do it for the team and for myself and like you say, forgo daddy. They have given this sport so much and it's time we gave a little back.
Q. In a lot of ways, you've connected with the fans because you're not afraid to interact with them. You'll walk back to the pits and sign autographs and talk to them before the driver that as we said would get in the and buzz on out of here. How much has that helped with your popularity here?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't know. I'm just me, man. The big thing is I was the kid with the marker and a hero card for a long time. I was on the other side of the fence for a long time, so I know what it means for somebody to stop and sign an autograph. Obviously we are really busy and especially at the racetrack, you're running back trying to get de briefs and stuff.
I get yelled at by my engineers every once in awhile because I'm always the last guy back after a session. It's part of our sport. As much as drivers like to think we are here for us to go racing, we are really here to put on a show for the fans. So it's a small thing for us to do.
Q. Three-1,000ths of a second is literally the speed it takes to blink your eye.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's considerably less than that, actually.
Q. I'll have to check that on Google. As you think about it and go through your run, do you have any idea where you've lost that three 1,000s of a second?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Three 1,000s of a mile an hour, which average over four laps the only reason I kind of know is this because last year I missed out on fastest rookie to J.R. Hildebrand by four 1,000ths of a mile an hour and I can tell you route now, over four laps, ten miles, that's the physical distance that I lost it by. So, yes, I've thought long and hard about how those 10 miles unfolded, and where that could have been. (Laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Before we go forward, let's welcome Ryan Hunter Reay who did a tremendous job getting on the front row. We chatted earlier, we saw you agonize in this press conference room when you had a car that could not find speed and now you have a race car that has lots of speed.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Yeah, and I definitely prefer this side of it. It's a lot more fun this way. It's been a really enjoyable week, and to have it come down to this where we are fighting for the pole and really have a legitimate shot at getting the pole at Indy has been so much fun. It's been all down to the team. This team has worked so hard over 364 days now, just a complete turnaround.
I cannot thank them enough for giving me such a fast race car. We let Briscoe have it today but hopefully next week we'll go out and go two better and win this thing.
Man, what a deal today. I thought that last lap, that last outing when we did the 226.5 or whatever, the car felt the best I've ever had it and I thought maybe, just maybe, we could stay at 226.5 or maybe go quicker. I wasn't breathing much, I was just holding my breath and making sure everything was perfect and the car was having every bit of room it wanted. That's what Indy is about, enjoying that. It's good to be here.
Q. James, you're lighthearted and everything, how does your personality change when you slip into the cockpit and take off on a run like that?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I try to have a lot of fun outside the car, because let's face it, I've got the coolest job in the world. So it's pretty easy to enjoy it. I think some people get kind of lost in it and they don't enjoy it in the moment and we are here for such a short period of time, it would be a shame to not enjoy the time you're given.
But at the end of the day, I take my job very seriously and I take the racing very seriously. Yeah, there is, there's a switch, once the helmet goes on and the visor goes down, the lighthearted, jovial character sort of disappears a little bit and you have to get down to business.
So it's something I've worked on a little bit. I've worked with a sports psychologist for a number of years when I was younger to learn how to flick that switch and get that job done what I had to.
Q. Can you talk about the warmup lap? Was it 227, was that right?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah (sighing). Let's talk about that.
Q. Did that warmup lap maybe cost you the pole?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, probably. The thing is, I mean, I did nothing different than I have ever other qualifying attempt and every other qualifying simulation throughout practice, the exact same routine and I've never had a warmup lap quicker than my first flyer. The car just seems to wind p around here and I just haven't seen it.
I did everything exactly the same, and when I saw that 227 in the warmup, I thought, all right, this will do, because it's probably going to go quicker. And it didn't. It didn't go quicker. It went a fraction slower on the first flyer and that definitely concerned me a little bit because we have seen the tires fall off a little bit as the run goes on.
Man, yeah, that's why we went back out. We thought if we had a little bit of a slower warmup lap, we would have a little bit more in the tank to do it but unfortunately it just wasn't in the cards today.
Q. This is a question for both of you. Most of the drivers saw their times fall way off from the first run to the second run, or in a couple of cases, the third run. Both of you were able to keep your speed or increase your speed. How much did the car change from the first run in the last 90 minutes to the second, and then also, how are you guys able to keep the speed up when a lot of other drivers couldn't?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: I don't know, that's a good question. I don't know.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: We could tell you but we would have to kill you.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: When we are out there on a hot racetrack, hopefully that means we are going to do the same thing next week.
We kept making changes to the 28 car, and we were trying anything we could to get it going. We knew we needed a pretty calm wind to make it happen. If you have a headwind or a tailwind here, you're going to be fighting it one way or the other.
So to have it pretty calm would be critical and we were sitting there staring at the flags hoping we would get it right. But it was definitely a balance improvement when we went out and I think that was down to the changes we made. I definitely have to thank the crew and team for that.
As we have been saying all month, the team work has been awesome. We have been interchangeable, different set ups moving around, different changes, one guy finds something that works and we plug it right on our car and vice versa; the way it should be. It's been a very efficient process.
Q. When all of the Turbogate stuff was going on, was either one of you worried about how good Chevrolet would be here?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Of course you're worried. Honda is a very able engine manufacturer. They know how to win races and any time they can add anything, you're thinking, oh, boy, what's it going to be like, you know. But Chevy has done a tremendous job.
Q. And if you would both answer this, do you have a better race car or a better qualifying car?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Tell you in eight days.
I mean, I think we made a lot of good progress with the race car being able to have a team of five cars and go out there and sort of orchestrate a little bit of a mini race was awesome, and then tremendously beneficial.
Again it just goes back to what Ryan was saying about the team work, and people will try and crash our party and we didn't like that.
But I think we are in a pretty good position, and it really just is going to come down it's a long race. It's a lot of clean pit stops and a lot of good strategy calls it's going to take to win it but we have race cars as good as our qualifying cars.