2010 INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRESS CONFERENCE
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 30, 2010
An interview with:
Alex Lloyd - 4th finisher
Mario Romancini - Top rookie finisher
THE MODERATOR: Mario is the highest finishing rookie of the race. Congratulations on a fine run.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Thank you. I'm sorry, I was a bit nervous. Clearly when I took the checkered flag, I was in front of Simona. I lifted because of the crash. But I think it's OK. I think it's official now.
I'm very, very happy. I think this place keeps me good memories and still giving me a lot of good emotions. Last year I started 18th on the Lights and finished third. Today I started 27th and finished 13th as best rookie.
I would like to thank my guys, crew, engineer, team owner, sponsors, all of them. It was a very tough day I think to have your first Indy 500 with these temperatures, so many crashes. I had to save a lot of fuel in the end. Simona was saving a lot of fuel as well as a lot of the other guys. It was very, very difficult, but I'm very, very happy to finish at best rookie.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Questions for Mario.
Q: Does anything prepare you for how long this race is? At what point did it set in that you have a long way to go before you get to the end?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, it was very difficult. That was one of the things that I was most scared, like how long it will be, how long it's going to take until the end of the race.
Once you get the momentum going, you are always trying to improve your position, go faster and faster, the race goes like this. I thought it would last a lot, it would be very, very long. But it wasn't. All the time was very focused with my engineers, trying to improve the car, asking about the next pit stops.
The momentum was just taking me throughout the race. I didn't feel that I ran 500 miles. It was quite easy at this point.
Q: You mentioned the temperatures. Did you feel hot in the car? Can you describe were you sweating, you felt warm or what?
MARIO ROMANCINI: For sure, it was very, very hot. Even 20 minutes before the start when we had to go to the grid and wait there, I was feeling how hot it was. It was one of the keys for this race. The setup of the car changes a lot when the track temperature is so high. We started to start with a lot more downforce on the car.
In the beginning, when I was talking my engineers, I was like, Are you sure there's not too much downforce on our car? But it was the right decision because as the temperature came up, we actually needed a lot of downforce, a lot of grip. At the end of the stints, like around lap 28 or 29 of the tires, it was very difficult to keep it flat.
So for sure I think the biggest challenge today was the temperature and staying out of trouble. I've never seen so many crashes in my career.
Q: Having run the Freedom 100 here, you were aware of what the track was like. How did the track change with all these people?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Changes a lot. The grandstands, just by the fact they are packed, seems like the front straight is narrow and everything looks different. There are so many distractions, so it's more difficult to keep your focus on the car in front of you. As you said, on the Freedom 100, it was good for me to get a feel of how it was to race here at the Speedway. But with this car, I had to learn so many new things during the race. It's a lot faster than the Lights car. You cannot play with your lines because of the marbles. At the end of the race, you really had to be very precise with your lines. The outside, it was very dirty.
So I think I had one of my biggest learning days of my career so far for sure.
Q: You mentioned the crashes. Were any of them close?
MARIO ROMANCINI: One of the first ones I think was Junqueira on turn two. I almost caught him. He crashed, his car came to the left side of the track. I had to try to avoid it. It was really close.
I'm glad we were able to stay out of the trouble. We finished the race. Of course, I'm very, very happy to be the best rookie. But when we started the race, we just had in mind, Let's finish the race, and we did it.
Q: Would you describe this as a strange race, given all the crashes, having to conserve fuel at the end, kind of a choppy race?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, I don't know if it's strange because when we look to oval racing, there's always a lot of crashes. But for sure for me it was something new 'cause in Kansas was my first oval race and I didn't have to save much fuel there. It wasn't so long as this one. We didn't have so many crashes.
As I said before, I think I learned a lot today. I learned so many new things that I will be able to use for Texas, for Iowa, for the next oval races. It will be really good for me.
THE MODERATOR: Mario, thank you very much for coming in. Congratulations.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Alex. Talk about your day.
ALEX LLOYD: What a day. I knew we had a good car. You know, I was optimistic before the race because I knew we worked basically solidly all month on race setup. People say, Your speeds are OK, you made it in the field, that's a great job. I knew we were certainly a lot quicker than where we qualified. I knew our biggest forte would be racing.
We were conservative with our setup. We started our first run of the day and had a good car. From that moment we never really tried to reinvent the wheel. Kept tweaking on it, playing with it, worked on our racecars, didn't try to take downforce off. Today we were conservative with downforce. We knew it was hot. Turned out hotter than anybody imagined yesterday by a few degrees. We saw on the grid a few people trimmed out. I thought, from my few years of experience now, that just doesn't seem like the way to go. So, yeah, I mean, the car was great from the beginning. I knew we had to be patient and work our way through. We did that bit by bit. Great work by the Boy Scouts guys in the pits. Good restarts. My spotter did an excellent job calling it for me. I have to thank the Boy Scouts of America. A lot of key people, individuals, that have come for this event. We've had a stuff start to the year, no doubt about it. I'm glad the fact that Dale Coyne and Gail put me in, getting in these cars, we showed we're a small team, but we can fight with the big guns and go knocking on the door of an Indy 500 win.
Big day for all of us. We're truly thrilled. Maybe better than I even anticipated. If I thought about the perfect day with no mistakes, I thought we could be solidly in the top 10. Great strategy by the guys. Here we are. Pretty amazing day.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q: Alex, you said the other day you were keen on a top 10 finish. Were you ever close to an accident?
ALEX LLOYD: No, I never had any close moments. Normally in this case there's always some close moments. The first year I didn't finish the race. Second year I did. Had a pretty solid day. There were some pretty close moments.
In this, no major dramas. The car was really that good. We didn't have any dramas. I could be very patient. The accidents come in this racetrack when you're not quick enough and you're trying to hold it flat behind somebody in the dirty air, it washes up. When you're quick enough, you don't need to drive it over the limit, you can just drive it to that limit, things come a lot smoother.
It was a real smooth day for us out there. Nothing major. A couple times I tried to go around the outside and the restart after they swept the track. It was still a few marbles down there. Lost a little bit of grip, a couple of guys went by. But it was a matter of staying patient.
If something happened like that, you got to back out of it, just back out of it. Lose the spots, go work on it again. I think that's what paid off for us today, we didn't get carried away, kept working, kept saving fuel. We saved a lot of fuel.
I figured out a way of how I could save fuel and still get good runs on people at the end. It was lifting a lot going into turns one and three, saving the fuel, but then keeping it hammered through the exit of one, exit of two, and saving through three and four, get a good run out. Meant I could jump some spots while saving fuel. That was really the key for us. We were going to have a pretty good day up until then anyway. When I kind of figured out how to do that, how to get through, that was really where we started to charge through. A couple laps ago I got the green light to go race. That was a nice feeling. All this work, you're so worried if we have to pit now, it's for nothing. But the guys did a great job. They called it perfectly. We had just enough fuel to get ourselves in it pits. That's all we needed. Didn't need any more. That was a great job.
I think just as I got past Dixon on that straight that I passed him, going into turn one, I got, Go, you have the green light, race this thing to the finish. At that point I could shift down a gear, get the car really working. I knew it was hooked up, I could stand on it, chase down as many as I could. It was one of those days where things work out. Went perfect for us. We didn't make any mistakes. Key to this race: Make no mistakes, drive hard.
I tried to find the balance of driving as aggressively as I could and being patient, too. I think we found that pretty well today. That enabled us to make positions when we needed to, enabled us to not take any silly chances, too. Great day for the Boy Scouts guys.
Q: Your IndyCar career has been a little bit of an exercise in frustration for you the last few years. Here you are with a team that doesn't have the resources and you're in the press center. Do you feel vindicated? Are you going to go home tonight and pump your fists a little bit more than you are right now?
ALEX LLOYD: I think I probably am. About 20 laps to go, maybe 15, when we started making some moves, we were coming through pretty quickly, I tell you, I started shouting in my helmet a little bit, C'mon. I was getting excited. I was really pumped up, ready to go. Not the best thing to do when you're trying to save fuel. The guys don't want that. I felt like I figured something out that I could save the fuel, make positions. I was pumped.
Like I say, it's been a tough road since the Indy Lights championship in '07. I've kept my head high and I kept working hard. I think a big part of that is my family. I've got my wife, my two daughters now, which is even more motivation to work hard and get results like this because at the end of the day I've got to figure out how to put food on the table. When you're not getting many drives, it's not the easiest thing in the world.
This is an exciting day for us. I have to thank my mum and my dad, my whole family. I've had a lot of support these last few years and I've needed it. As I said, when you have two young children, you're scrounging around for a drive, after 2007 when everything went perfect, the start of this year, things didn't go as planned for the first few races, you just have to keep digging. They try and teach in the Scouts, never give up, all these great morals. It's kind of pretty fitting today that that's what we've been through as a family the last couple years. Now we're here on the podium of the Indy 500. It's a great feeling. Again, I just got to thank Gail and Dale Coyne for giving me this opportunity. Haven't done many races the last couple years. Three IndyCar races in two years. There's a lot of other guys out there he could have picked over me, guys with more experience. But he didn't. He picked me. I'm thrilled to be able to deliver him a result of the biggest race in the world.
Q: When you took off and owned the Firestone Indy Lights Series, I know you had in mind the next step is right there. Did you ever have doubts that people thought it was luck what you did in Indy Lights in 2007? Did you doubt yourself?
ALEX LLOYD: I didn't doubt myself. You always have your up and down points. That's where family come back in to pick you back up. If I was doing this on my own, probably would have had some tough moments. But at the end of the day it's about bouncing back from those tough moments.
I've been working as hard as I can possibly work. I just figured, if I keep working, if I do everything to the best of my ability, I know I can do the job. I just need that opportunity. The opportunity came this year. Today we really had a great car. The guys worked so hard since Kansas we struggled. We didn't have our best car. We realized that we needed to step up our game.
But the difference in two, three weeks' time is unbelievable. You know, I think it's going to take a little while to sink in, how this race has gone. You wouldn't have predicted it given the start to the year that we had. I knew the quality of people we had on the team, the motivation we have, you can achieve a lot of things with willpower. The Boy Scouts, we have millions of scouts out there, 50 million alumni cheering us on. I can feel that excitement from all the Boy Scouts, all the people I've met over the last few months. That definitely helps motivate me, motivates the whole team to produce a result like this.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
ALEX LLOYD: Thank you.