Indy 500: Press conference: Dixon, Wheldon, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: This question is because of the lack of time you guys had on the racetrack. In order for you to prepare for the race, how long do you still have to work on the setup to work with the group? Which are the guys that you...

Continued from part 1

Q: This question is because of the lack of time you guys had on the racetrack. In order for you to prepare for the race, how long do you still have to work on the setup to work with the group? Which are the guys that you trust most to do the setup? Because this series, you depend on other teams to make the setup for the race. Who are the guys you look for when you go back to try to make the setup for the race?

DAN WHELDON: Well you obviously can't control the weather. I think certainly what the engineers do is they try and look and forecast the weather ahead so we know roughly how much track time we have, and that seems to be changing all the time.

But if I understood your question right, I think the main thing is being very disciplined and regimented when you're in the racecar and maximize that time that you have. And it's not about getting -- you have to get your car comfortable for you. And everybody requires something different. That's what you work towards.

In terms of the people that you work with and trust to do that, it's the relationship you have with your engineer and your assistant engineer, and then with the other car on the team, your guys all kind of pool your information and try and see what works and what doesn't. If that works for you, you use it. If not, you don't.

That's where you really have to come together strongly as a team in order to perform well for the race. Because theoretically from what we hear, this could be the last day on the track. Hopefully the weather, we'll get some tomorrow, too. The weather doesn't look good for the weekend. We definitely need to, around 3:00, be reasonable.

Q: When you win a championship early in your career here, much is projected of you that you could win more, you go through a period that you have, if you could talk about your mindset, how you kind of adjust your expectations, where things are for you now. Dan, if you can add to that.

SCOTT DIXON: For us, it was a bit unexpected in 2003. I just made the transition. I wasn't a lover of ovals. To come to a series where that's all you do, it probably was a tough transition. The only thing that made it easy for me was coming with a team that I did. Ganassi was an easy choice because you knew you were going to have a great car.

That season caught us a bit off guard. We had very dominant cars, especially on the short tracks. We won some races. It was a strange season in the fact that we had a lot of mechanicals, but we still came away with it.

Then '04, started off not too bad, then got really bad.

But I think those years you kind of learn a lot. You learn to appreciate the good days a lot more. With racing styles, some of the silly things we used to do for qualifying, trying to improve that, I think has helped us, helped myself, knowledge-wise.

It's motor racing. It's good one day, can be pretty bad the next. You just got to try and ride the waves when they're good and not dwell too much on the times when they're bad. I think for myself, and Dan I think I can speak for as well at the moment, we're pretty lucky with how the team's doing at the moment and the equipment that we have, you know, that you have to strive on it and hopefully make the best of it.

I think the last two years, we came up a little short. I think that makes you more determined. So, yeah, I'm happy at the moment.

DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I think Scott's basically touched on it. As a professional athlete, you're definitely going to have good times in your career and you're going to have, you know, bad times. I think I've been very fortunate to always be in very good cars, what I would call a dismal end to 2007 where we still ended up fourth in the championship. So you can take a little bit of solace from that. But at the end of the day it's still not good.

But, you know, you just have to, like Scott says, appreciate the good times. When they're bad, work real hard to try to get through them as quick as you possibly can, because you're gonna have bad times. Sometimes it's just working for you. Sometimes, no matter what, it doesn't.

I can remember the only time I really listened to the boss last year was in 2007 at Kentucky. He told me, Please don't lead this race. Make sure you save fuel. I'm sitting I think in fourth trying to save fuel. Sure enough, Hornish spins right in front of me when I'm right on his gearbox and I had nowhere to go. It's just one of those things where you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You can't control that, but you've just got to stay strong, believe in yourself and get through those bad times as quick as you can.

Q: Of the new guys, who has stood out and impressed you here? If you could think of any of the new drivers that may be a factor or surprise on race day.

DAN WHELDON: You know, with these guys, you can't discount any of them. The craziest by far is Ernesto Viso, I think his name is. Dude, he looks nuts. You can tell he hasn't hit the wall yet. When he hits the wall, you'll know, because he'll pull out slowly from the car in front, move back nicely. You can tell he hasn't hit yet. You can tell the guys that haven't hit hard. Scott (Goodyear), you can relate. In 2003, I came out the box swinging. Then you hit the wall and you just start to calm down a little bit, then you start to hit the wall a bit more, then you really start to calm down. You realize it's not a nice feeling.

He seems to be the most aggressive.

I personally think the one that seems very calculated and pretty quick is Will Power. From what I understand, I don't think he particularly likes the ovals. Just looking at him from a style standpoint, I got a feeling that he could potentially be the best. But obviously you got to get your head around liking these places.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I tend to agree. Viso is pretty crazy. You know, I think it's the guys that did well over there, if you look at it. Power, he's got good car control, definitely thinks about things a little more than maybe some of the others.

I think the other one is probably Justin Wilson. Seems very, very good, as well. You know, as Dan said, it's the 500, anything can pop out. You have to realize those guys have had a tough time in the transition. For them to do it, it's going to be a lot of hard work for them. But there's definitely a lot of capable guys that have made the move.

DAN WHELDON: It would be unfair to judge those guys' performance right now because certainly the weather has not helped them. You're talking about people that are incredibly talented. So judging them on their performance at this point is totally, totally unfair because I think give them some more races, more importantly, give their teams a few races. It's very hard to drive a car that people are still learning with. A lot of this oval stuff is mental, it's confidence. If you can see that your team is struggling to find their way a little bit, not even struggling, but just slow to find their way, that's gonna make the driver slow, too, in terms of confidence. So that will take time.

But there's some real good guys there. That's why I think the IndyCar Series is going to develop into something very interesting, not only for fans but for sponsors and people from the outside looking in, potentially that could come into this series.

THE MODERATOR: FYI, Will says he loves Indy and Milwaukee, and he doesn't like the mile-and-a-half ovals.

Scott, we know where Dan stands on the Indy 500, how much it means to him. Is this race a special race for you?

SCOTT DIXON: It's a special race for everybody. I think you'd be kidding yourself if it wasn't. I think it's the history. It's the tradition. You're doing the same thing that almost, what, a hundred years now they were doing the same. It's a month long. I think the best part for the drivers is you're in the car so often. The hardest part of the whole thing is you work so much for that one day and it comes down to that one day. If you come away with less than winning the race, you're pretty disappointed.

I think this place touches everybody. Especially when you walk out on race day, as a driver, it's very special.

Q: Dan, you were just talking about the transition to ovals. What really goes into adjusting from road to ovals? How do you discipline yourself? I'm asking that more as a cautionary tale for the Champ Car guys coming over here trying to adjust to Indy, some of the mile-and-a-half tracks.

DAN WHELDON: With the ovals, a lot of it's the package. I've been very lucky, like I say. I talk about it a lot, but I've always been in very competitive teams. When you can jump in good equipment, it certainly makes the driver's life easier. Even when you're struggling and you can still do a reasonable time, that confidence is big.

So I think a lot of it comes down to the teams just getting the cars up to speed. Then once that's the case, you know, then the driver has to fine tune that. But as a driver, you know, what's very important on these ovals is to make sure that you're not just -- like these one-and-a-half-mile tracks are very easy to ride around on. They are very easy flat out on your own. It's getting the car right for the race. As a driver, you have to be very disciplined. Even if there's not much on-track activity, there's not many cars on track, you have to give and relay feedback to the team for them to give you a car that is going to be in traffic. Even if there's not traffic, you have to make sure you can say, You know what, I don't think this is right. Put 12 cars in front of me, this is not going to work.

It's about not being lazy in situations that you can be and just trying to develop the car as much as I possibly can in those situations. Once it's reasonable and you're running up front, then it comes down to how prepared you are to hang it out on the line.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

DAN WHELDON: Because of the weather this year, I think all of you should push Brian Barnhart on opening the tracks on the day it's off, Monday and Tuesday. We vote you should keep the track open.

THE MODERATOR: We like cars on the track.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Will Power , Brian Barnhart , Ernesto Viso