Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Marco Andretti, A.J. Foyt IV, Graham Rahal and J.R. Hildebrand teleconference
2. Firestone Freedom 100 preview press conference
3. Firestone Indy Lights drivers return to action
1. Marco Andretti, A.J. Foyt IV, Graham Rahal and J.R. Hildebrand teleconference: IndyCar Series drivers Marco Andretti, A.J. Foyt IV and Graham Rahal, and Firestone Indy Lights driver J.R. Hildebrand were guests on today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today's teleconference.
Q: It seems like the IndyCar Series is having a perfect storm. Graham won. Danica (Patrick) won earlier in the year. There's enthusiasm in the series. Does it feel like IndyCar is getting back to, getting what they lost the last 12 years?
GRAHAM RAHAL (19:00): Yeah, I think it's getting back there. It's not going to happen overnight. We can't expect it to happen by tomorrow or anything. But it's going to take a couple of years. But as we touched on earlier, with Marco, A.J., myself, obviously Danica and Helio's (Castroneves) success off the track, I think there's a lot of reasons for IndyCar fans to be enthusiastic about where this is heading.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Same thing. I definitely felt the buzz, and I'm kind of getting a sense of that old feeling back as far as crowds go and just the feel for things. I think it has changed already. And like Graham says, it's not going to happen right away. But I don't see why not in three years we can get back to where we had it in the heyday, if not better. So much is happening. Even with Graham's win, it was huge. A lot of cool stuff is happening.
Q: We've got this new generation of drivers with you and Marco and Graham. Of those guys, of the three of you, you were the first one on the scene in the IndyCar Series when you debuted back in 2003. What was the pressure like for you when you came in in 2003, and has that changed at all now that you're also having an Andretti and a Rahal on the track with you?
A.J. FOYT (22:00): No, I don't think it changes. I think we all kind of feel the same amount of pressure. We all have a lot to live up to. I think it's a little bit less pressure now that I'm driving for another team. Now he (A.J. Foyt) can just be my grandfather now instead of my owner now, too, makes it a lot easier.
Q: Do you think racing in the shadows of the IndyCar Series helps you a great deal with any learning curves you face?
J.R. HILDEBRAND (6:30): That's why we race in the Firestone Indy Light Series, because we can be out in front of the IndyCar Series crowd every time we race. Those are where all of us - that's certainly where I'm aspiring to get to. I think that's pretty much where everybody else in the series is aspiring to get to. So to be able to be at the track, to get the inside scoop of what's going on, to be able to show what we can do in front of the team owners and managers and whatnot of the IndyCar Series is exactly where I want to be, and that's why Firestone Indy Lights became the clear choice for a series to be in this year.
2. Firestone Freedom 100 preview press conference: Firestone Indy Lights drivers Dillon Battistini, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Raphael Matos participated in a press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to preview the Firestone Freedom 100.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today's press conference.
Q:Are you following in the footsteps of other Englishmen that have found this circuit or the American way of getting to IndyCar a pretty good way to go?
DILLON BATTISTINI: Yeah, you could say that. Some of the guys that are in IndyCar now I used to race in karts, like Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson. Darren Manning I raced in karts, as well. I'm kind of following them. We all started at the same time, but I had a bit of a hollow period where I struggled to find money earlier in my career, so now I'm playing catch-up a bit. But I'm nearly there now.
Q:The opening laps have been pretty interesting here the last few years. A lot of guys really going for it. Do you expect the same type of start? Any advice to some of the newcomers?
ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I won't give too much advice (laughter). I know I'm going to be going for it. The first few laps here are really important because I think around this place, depending on what kind of aero you're running, it's hard to pass. You need to take advantage of the starts and restarts. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of moving around. Hopefully we qualify first and second and we won't have to deal with that.
Q. How encouraged are you that Hideki (Mutoh) and Alex Lloyd have moved up into the 500 field this year?
RAPHAEL MATOS: I have a fairly close relationship with Hideki because I'm always there listening to him. I'm always talking to him about the car. As a matter of fact, Hideki's engineer from last year, he's my engineer this year. So there's a lot of information we had from last year from Hideki.
Hideki, for sure he's doing a great job. He's the best rookie out there right now. I think Alex is doing a great job as well. I raced against Alex in 2006 in St. Pete. He's a very tough guy. I think both guys are doing a great job.
3. Firestone Indy Lights drivers return to action: Firestone Indy Lights teams and drivers return to action at the world's biggest racing stage - the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Twenty-seven drivers are entered in the sixth Firestone Freedom 100. Practice and SWE Pole Qualifying are scheduled for May 22, with the 40-lap race on the historic 2.5-mile oval slated for May 23.
The record field features three more cars than last year's race and includes 2006 race winner Wade Cunningham and Jeff Simmons, who also will compete in the 92nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.
J.R. Hildebrand, the series points leader following his first career victory at Kansas Speedway in late April, carries the most momentum into the event.
"Being a points leader coming in, you're able to come in with some confidence," said Hildebrand, who drives the No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing entry. "The team is able to come in with some confidence. We had a really good test here back in March, so I'm really looking forward to it.
"(Indianapolis) is a place like no other. And just being able to get out on track and in the practice session that we had here a little over a month ago, that really hit in a big way, I think, to all the competitors, particularly the ones that hadn't been here before, myself included. And so it's going to be a big race and a big weekend for us."
Other drivers entered include Sean Guthrie, son of three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Jim Guthrie, Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, and Al Unser III, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser and son of two-time winner Al Unser Jr.
"I finished third here in 2004 with (Sam) Schmidt (Motorsports)," Luyendyk said. "I think the AFS/Andretti (Green Racing) guys have a better car. Hopefully, we can stick it up front and lead all day on Friday. That would definitely take off a lot of pressure. Looking just to do my best."
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 23 with the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition as part of ESPN2's Miller Lite Carb Day coverage beginning at 11 a.m. on May 23. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network at 12:15 p.m.