Indy 500: Second, third, top rookie press conference, part 1

92nd INDIANAPOLIS 500 SECOND, THIRD, TOP ROOKIE PRESS CONFERENCE Sunday, May 25, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Vitor Meira, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay PAT SULLIVAN: Welcome again to the Economaki Press Conference Center. When we ask...

92nd INDIANAPOLIS 500 SECOND, THIRD, TOP ROOKIE PRESS CONFERENCE
Sunday, May 25, 2008, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Vitor Meira, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay

PAT SULLIVAN: Welcome again to the Economaki Press Conference Center. When we ask questions, we also use the microphone. We'll have a visit from Ryan Hunter-Reay quickly.

Marco Andretti comes in with another quality finish at Indianapolis. Marco, you were pushing at the end and came up short, but it was a really great run.

MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, just to answer everybody's first question, right now I think we made a little bit of a mistake in the middle, which turns out it was a team decision to trim out, and then I ended up they took front wing out but they never got to trim the car. So my stint after that, I had a lot of understeer, and then after that then we trimmed the rear. By that time, we had lost the track position. So we were in fourth trimmed out. So I think it was the right decision if we would have gotten it done properly because we would have been out front in clean air. Turned out it wasn't, so that's that.

Q: Marco, how would you gauge most of the race? There seemed to be periods out there where it was kind of nuts; had a couple of cars crash under caution. Just some nutty things that happened out there. What was your viewpoint of the entire pace of the race?

ANDRETTI: Yeah, it seemed like there was a bit more marbles than usual, so it was really easy to get your right front with understeer. Just touch the marbles with the right front, and it will pancake the car. I think that's where most of the spins were, but it's an easy thing to do, for sure.

Q: Marco, the first question is the where is your hat?

ANDRETTI: Oh, I forgot it. (Laughter)

Q: I guess the second question -- no. Marco, the thing that happened with you and Tony there is you seemed to have a head of steam there. Explain from your vantage point what happened.

ANDRETTI: No, I had a huge run, and I went for it. I kept the car as far bottom of the racetrack as possible. Maybe it was a bit too late, but you hate to see this stuff happening with teammates, but I had a run; I went for it. You don't want to really park the thing because then, because if I wouldn't have went for it, I would have been overtaken and then I would have been in that position, so I had the run and I went for it. Obviously, if a little bit of that is my fault, I feel absolutely horrible, but I was worried about it when it happened, too. I do what I do and all I can do is concentrate on the race at that time.

Q: Did you feel he left you room, though? Did you feel Tony had left you room?

ANDRETTI: Yeah, he was toward the bottom of the racetrack, but I was on the line turning in or pretty darn close. But that's racing. It's going to happen. It's going to happen.

Q: Marco, third place finish, you get in a race and you think you could walk away with a little smile and sometimes it's not -- how do you judge this as a third-place finish?

ANDRETTI: I just think, you know, we just need to look at how we didn't win the race, that's all. That's the only disappointment that's on my face. Obviously, a championship and everything, it's great but, you know, we need to look at how we lost the race, that's all. Then next year not make the same mistake.

Q: Marco, in that last stint, was your car just trimmed out, you couldn't get past Helio or was Helio actually kind of -- did you feel like he was maybe blocking you a little bit?

ANDRETTI: I guess it's not blocking if he doesn't do two moves, but he was pretty far to the bottom of the racetrack. My last run on him I knew was my final chance. I faked to go high, so he didn't block low, and I was able to go low and get him. It's tough, and you really toward the end of the race when everybody is sort of trimmed out, you're not going to be able to pass a car, just drive around the car, especially a Penske at the end of the race on the outside. So that was the only way I was going to get him.

Q: Marco, did you talk to grandpop since the end of the race?

ANDRETTI: Yeah.

Q: Did he have any comments?

ANDRETTI: Yeah, just the same thing, we need to sit back and see if we made a mistake, how we made the mistake and why and just build on that, try to fix it. Like I said, that was the question I tried to put to rest initially because that was the mistake, you know, I thought, we trimmed out. But if we would have trimmed out and stayed at the front, it's the ideal thing to do and it was a team decision. We just ended up going to fourth and making the mistake earlier.

SULLIVAN: Quickly, first of all, welcome to the Economaki Press Center Ryan Hunter-Reay after a tremendous run, congratulations on a fine finish.

Q: Marco, not to harp on this too much, but Tony was highly critical of your move, critical of you after the accident, obviously still upset, but he called it a stupid move. You explained yourself. Was it a stupid move or just unfortunate?

ANDRETTI: I don't know, maybe it was a bit last minute, but I don't know about stupid move. You know, maybe he didn't expect it to be coming, I'll put it that way. But, you know, we didn't touch, I didn't really take his air away, it was just a last-minute thing. You know, he was going in at speed and not able, he must have just got in the marbles. I didn't see a replay yet, but I was as low as I possibly could have been.

Q: Marco, how difficult was it all month to try to find a chink in Scott Dixon's armor? He seemed to be pretty much among the fastest if not the fastest every day, he won the pole and comes out on Race Day and drove a pretty smooth race.

ANDRETTI: No, I agree, and he earned that one, for sure. But I think it was because we made a little mistake. I think with the downforce that I had before we trimmed out, I think Scott would have beat me, but I think maybe would have finished second because I don't think we would have had the speed to stay in front. But, you know, like I said, I was able to overtake him because I could stay flat behind him with the downforce in, but I wasn't going to be able to stay there, I don't think. So, you know.

Q: Ryan, you were aware I guess of all the stuff going on out there, especially involving rookies. Was your team talking to you in the race, keep cool, and how was your approach today and how would you rate your effort?

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Man, I'm so relieved. This is a great finish for us. I drove so hard today. This year I think means a lot more to the rookie, Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year battle than in a bunch of years, maybe 12 years. There has been some great drivers come through the rookies, but it's been very slim in the past year. This is 11 drivers, very talented field. Man, this is a great field to be on top of. I drove my heart out all day, and the team, we made the car better and better. Hideki kept blocking me there at the end, and I had the fire in my eyes to get bring him. I wasn't going to let the race finish with that kid in front of me, that's for sure. (Laughter)

Q: Ryan, a year ago you were a Champ Car castoff, you were looking for a ride in NASCAR. You were hoping Robby Gordon was going to put something together for you. How much does that mean to you?

HUNTER-REAY: It's huge. One year ago I was walking around the NASCAR paddock, now I'm sitting here at the Indy 500 press room talking about being rookie of the year. It's huge. I mean, that's how racing is, but you've got to be ready when the opportunity comes, and I was, and I've been working well with this team, they've been working well with me. It's a great bunch of guys, and I think there's going to be much better things to come this year. With that said, we were punching above our weight. I'm not under any disillusions that we're going to be fighting Penske, AGR and Ganassi every weekend. They're in a league of their own at the moment. Another thing is congratulations to Scott Dixon. It's nice to see the fastest car win the race.

Q: Ryan, how much did it kind of help that you were able to have seven races with this team and in this car last year. How much redemption do you feel the way things didn't turn out as planned on Pole Day and you had the second week where the car seemed like it was getting slower rather than faster?

HUNTER-REAY: I've learned a lot of lessons this month. One thing, for sure, at the Indianapolis 500 qualifying doesn't make all that much a difference unless you're on the front row. We fought our way through it, passed cars the whole day. It was pretty cool, cool to be a part of. I learned a lot about the track. I can't tell you how different it is when the car has a bunch of push on it on cold tires in traffic. It's difficult. We're definitely earning our money at that point.

Q: What about having seven races last year, how much did that help you prepare for top rookie?

HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, for sure. I mean, running with these guys, you know, I mean they know what they're doing on these ovals and know how to keep the momentum up. It's tight, tight competition out there, and that was great to get that under my belt last year. That was the whole point of it was for me to get in the car to be ready to go for 2008. We've run a lot better than our results in 2008, also. So it's nice to have a good result in there. Sixth place is a good result for Team Ethanol, the best Indy 500 for ethanol.

Q: Ryan, you moved up very well some through passes, some through good pit work. What was the key to getting, to moving up those 14 places?

HUNTER-REAY: Like you just said, hit it on the head. The pass on the track, pass in the pit lane. Some cars that were in front of us but slower than us, we got around in the pit lane, which was very nice. Each time I came in, one of those nuisance cars in front of us we'd seem to get around, and then I'd pick off two in a stint. So it was pretty cool. We did it all as planned, you know. I left a margin. That's about it, you know. (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: Real quickly, Marco, we're going to let Marco go. Marco, congratulations on a great run and thanks for coming in.

HUNTER-REAY: I can't believe this month is over, man.

SULLIVAN: Other questions for Ryan Hunter-Reay?

Q: Were you a little bit surprised that, I mean the Newman/Haas rookies had been pretty decent all month and they were among the first rookies to crash. Were you a little bit surprised by that? Because Justin Wilson was expected to be a guy that could put on a pretty good showing here and, of course, Graham Rahal showing what he's done all year.

Yeah. No, I wasn't surprised at all. In these IndyCar races, it's funny how it works, qualify 14th at Homestead or 13th at Homestead, 10 laps later guys that had been rock stars all weekend in practice are now behind me. It happens that way. Qualifying and practice you get a lot of hype from it, but it doesn't give you a good feel where the car is going to be in the race. Another thing I can't tell you how difficult it is out there when you have a little bit of inaccuracy in the car, push, loose, something like in the marbles, you're doing 230 miles an hour, and you make a mistake by about a foot on an apex or on a turn-in and you're in the marbles and you've got a lift and it was tight out there. 500 miles -- felt like we just did a thousand.

Q: That's what I was going to ask you about the marbles. Ryan, what did you learn about that today? I mean, obviously some other rookies had problems with that.

HUNTER-REAY: My car was working low, so thankfully, and my spotters were on top of their game telling me, 'Hey, don't go high, cars keep crashing high, don't even get near the marbles.' So I kept the car on the bottom, almost apexed on the curbs, I was so low. You have to be careful of that. Scheckter wadded up a pretty good race car here a couple years ago doing that. So I watched all my tape like a quarterback for a Super Bowl. I watched years and years of Indianapolis 500s and prepared and watched other guys' mistakes, and I learned from it.

Q: Have you talked to your marketing folks yet and how this is going to help your program and where do you go from here?

HUNTER-REAY: I don't know, I'm just happy to bring the car home as top rookie and amongst the drivers we did, you know. P6, like I said, we're punching above our weight and to give this result to Ethanol, they certainly deserve it. They deserve a win, and hopefully we can do that this year. I certainly believe we can, given some luck. What was nice about today is we didn't have any luck. We didn't have bad luck, we didn't have good luck, we just had no luck, and that's what I need.

Q: Ryan, a couple of times I think when you got Hideki, you were an inch or two away from the front straight away wall on the inside. What was in your mind?

HUNTER-REAY: That's hairy; it looks like there's no room. You're sitting so low you can only see the tops of the tires pretty much, he's here, here are the tires. And he's blocking. I can't tell you how bad that pissed me off. I was methodical about it, and I set him up and I found where his weaknesses were and the amount of relief when I passed him, you know, was huge. I wanted to throw a No. 1 sign out the door when I did. (Laughter)

But I couldn't do that.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Robby Gordon , Scott Dixon , Graham Rahal , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Marco Andretti , Vitor Meira