IRL Weekly Teleconference Feb. 3, 2004 Red Bull Cheever Racing's Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter and Eddie Cheever Part 1 of 2 MODERATOR: Alex, what are your impressions of the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead. ALEX BARRON: I think it's quite ...
IRL Weekly Teleconference
Feb. 3, 2004
Red Bull Cheever Racing's Alex Barron, Ed Carpenter and Eddie Cheever
Part 1 of 2
MODERATOR: Alex, what are your impressions of the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead.
ALEX BARRON: I think it's quite different than last year. Speeds were quite higher, but with high banking I think you will see a lot more of two people running side-by-side, possibly three at times, and I think it will cause for a better race when we go back there at end of February.
MODERATOR: What areas do you plan to work on before the season opening on Feb. 29, and will you be testing at Phoenix next week.
ALEX BARRON: Yeah, we go there, I think we test Wednesday, Thursday of next week. And we're just trying to get everything together to do the best we can for when the season starts. But so far it's gone fairly well, and I think that we've still got a lot of work to do, but everybody is working really hard to get ready for next week.
MODERATOR: Ed, you are the rookie of the group, though you ran three IRL IndyCar series races in 2003. What are some areas you have gained some experience working with this team and Eddie Cheever?
ED CARPENTER: It's the most organized team I've been with yet in my career. So it's been a lot easier to learn, being in a structured environment, working with the engineering group that they have put in place here, and Alex. Also, I'm just learning more and more about the cars, obviously. I have a lot to learn being a rookie. So just learning general knowledge about the cars and changes we need to make when the car is doing certain things are the areas I've been learning the most and need to continue to learn.
MODERATOR: How about your first impressions of the first test at Homestead-Miami, and what do you look forward to in the first race going back there with the variable banking?
ED CARPENTER: I think the track did a nice job with all of the changes. I wasn't sure what to expect going in there with the mile-and-a half configuration high-banked. I was afraid it was going to be like some of the others, the Chicagos and Kansases, but actually it was still somewhat challenging. The margin of getting your car working well isn't quite as big as some of the tracks, so I thought it was a fun challenge. The test went well for me. It was the first time I got to work with my group of guys on the No. 52 car, so I was glad to get the chemistry started there and get something started to carry on to Phoenix.
MODERATOR: Is there anything in particular at Phoenix that you and Alex need to work on aside from communication with the crews and the like?
ED CARPENTER: I think the biggest thing is it's a different aero package than what we just tested at Miami. With the limited testing this season, we just have to take advantage of all of the track time we get and gather as much data as we can and gather as much data about this car configuration. We have to be as efficient at this test and learn as much as we can about the chassis.
ALEX BARRON: I think when we go to Phoenix, it being a one-mile oval with the new aero package that's put on the car, we'll get a lot of data. Some of the references that we get, we'll go back and analyze when we get back to the shop and try to adjust accordingly. But, so far, everything has gone really well and the difference between the mile-and-a-half, and the one mile I think is considerably different. We just have to see how it plays out when we get there.
Q: Alex, when you drove at Homestead, exactly how different was that racetrack and what will it do for the opening race?
ALEX BARRON: Well, I think the higher bank than last year caused for closer racing for sure. It will be harder for a car to be in the lead and pull away. But the track is pretty flat on the bottom and the banking ramps up quite quickly. So probably you'll see a lot of overtaking on the low and the high line. I think with that going on, a lot of the cars that start in the back of the field probably will be able to move forward, which will make it more exciting at the end of the day.
Q: As a driver, do you like it better?
ALEX BARRON: Yeah, I do. I think with the wind conditions that we are driving in will probably simulate somewhat what we're going to deal with when we go back there. At the end of the movement too, when it heats up, it seems to change, also. When we get there, we will have to re-evaluate again and see what we have to do to make the changes for the heat.
Q: And for you, Mr. Carpenter, when you drove with traffic, and I think this was this your first time in a full IRL car?
ED CARPENTER: No. I ran three races last season. I have limited experience but this is my first time in the new 2004 chassis and everything.
Q: Explain the differences for you as a rookie.
ED CARPENTER: Just as a rookie there's a lot of things that I have to learn. It's my first time at this racetrack and in Indy car. Granted, it's a new track, so it's everyone's first time there. I was just looking to go into that test and getting comfortable and getting acclimated with my crew. We have new engineers. Eddie has done a great job of upgrading the team through the winter.
Q: Do you find a lack of power on the new-sized motor from last year?
ALEX BARRON: Well, I don't think there's much of a lack of power. The biggest difference is the snorkel and the slot in the air box. But the engine manufacturers developed the engine so quickly and moved forward that I think they have made up most of it. When we go to the 3.0-liter in Indy, I think there will be a considerable drop in power. But, again, engine manufacturers catch up so fast. It's hard to say exactly what it will be at when we get to Indianapolis.
Q: Do you find the soft wall that they have got at Homestead is going to be an advantage to you guys or not?
ED CARPENTER: I don't ever really put much emphasis on focusing on the wall. On the other hand, it is nice going into a track where you know they are doing everything they can to improve the facility safety-wise. So it's not something that I think about, and it's comforting to know that they do have the safety barriers.
Q: You have both alluded to the changes and the upgrades that Eddie has made on the team. Are there specific people who have been added to the team who are really making a difference for both of you?
ALEX BARRON: I think so. I think more than anything that they are running two cars now at Cheever Racing. A lot of the key players that are on the team, we have two very good engineers. One is very new with Stefan Dwornik. We have got some good data guys and we have a lot of really good mechanics. Everybody has just worked so hard to make everything gel. I think that's come together pretty good, but we've still got a ways to go. Everybody is trying to work together really positively. I think going back there we are still going to have to concentrate very hard on getting a good race car. A lot of the teams have tested quite a bit more than we have. But I think with the guys that we have, we seem to work fairly efficiently and we are looking forward to going to Phoenix to get a better reference on what we need to do.
Q: What about the difference in the car for this year. It seems like Dallara did a lot more homework on Panoz G Force even though they were the champs last year, most of the Dallara were defunct for this testing session. Of course, we know that testing doesn't mean anything once you get to a real race, but how happy are you with the new chassis?
ALEX BARRON: Well, I think Dallara did a great job with the new rule, the hole in the air box and everything. They have done a lot of research and done a good job in working with that. It's working good now, but everything changes come Indy. So we will have to re-evaluate that in May. Right now, I am happy with the work they have done in the off-season.
Q: Ed, I wanted to ask you, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, did it prepare you to make this step, did what you learn there. Was it helpful in taking this step up?
ED CARPENTER: I think so. There's no series that can fully prepare you. I think you can either do it or you can't. The thing that the series does do is take some of the learning curve out of it, make it so it's not so steep. So I'm happy with the two years of experience I got out of the Infiniti Pro. I learned a lot and it's giving me a good baseline to come to the IndyCar Series with Team Cheever.
Q: Why do you think there's only, what, less than five or six cars, less than 10, certainly, that showed up at the early season testing?
ED CARPENTER: I was kind of disappointed to see that but I'm sure that they will have 10 to 12 cars at the first race. I talked to the people in the series and they are confident they will have 10 to 12 cars. So it's a new series and it's struggling right now, but I think they are doing all of right things to make it a successful series so we'll just see what happens.
Q: What are you looking for -- what's going to satisfy you and what's going to disappoint you about -- this coming season?
ED CARPENTER: Well, we have a lot of goals. One of my top goals is winning the Rookie of the Year award and just putting ourselves in position to win races and ultimately be in the championship hunt come at the end of the season.
MODERATOR: Alex , the Dallara, will it be different at Phoenix than Homestead, tighter radiuses, one-mile track, will you have to get the feel for everything almost new again?
ALEX BARRON: I think the track being a one-mile oval is quite a bit different than Homestead. Handling will play a big part there also. But I think that like Ed was saying, Dallara has done so much development in the off-season, I think that the car is working exceptionally well. G Force, I'm sure is developing everything they can, too, in order to be competitive. So it's hard to say what's going to happen here at the test. And whatever goes on there, I'm sure that both manufacturers will push hard in order to do some things for the race when they go back to Miami at the end of the month.
Q: Alex, you have had two strong runs at the Indy 500, would you kind of reflect on those two years and then kind of how you think that experience will help you as you go into your third year?
ALEX BARRON: Well, 2002, my first year, went very well. We were there, a little bit underpowered with our motor package. We had good fuel mileage and ran strong. Ended up fourth and got Rookie of the Year there. In 2003, it was kind of a last-minute deal driving the car for at Mo Nunn Racing. We had to qualify in the second weekend and went really well, and then we moved up and drove on consistently during the event. The experience that I had there, now I think that it's sufficient enough that if we do our homework and if we get a good car for the race there on Sunday, I think that we've got a good shot at trying to go for the win.
Q: I'd like to ask Ed, you talk about the Menards Infiniti Pro Series giving you a baseline for the IndyCar Series, talk about the adjustment that there is coming from one series to the next, what kind of an adjustment you've had to make.
ED CARPENTER: Well, obviously the speed is a lot faster, a lot more power in the IndyCar Series. The biggest thing is there a lot more ways to tune and adjust the handling in Indy cars. So I'm just getting up to speed with all of the things we are allowed to do with the rule package and keep improving my feedback just to help the engineering group more.
Q: Alex, what is the big difference this year now that you've got a full-time ride, as opposed to last year? Is it much more comfortable this year to start knowing that you're going to be with Team Cheever?
ALEX BARRON: I think more than anything it's stability, knowing that the chemistry that you build on will be there throughout the year. It's tough when you go from team to team, working with a set of guys and different team owners and everything that you build on, you lose and then you have to start all over when you go to the next team. I think when you start the year strong and you have that going for you, you can build on it and just make it better and better every week.
Q: Alex, the testing rules now in the IRL makes it tough for smaller teams to have enough time to gather data during a test session. Do you think it's an unfair advantage between maybe having the more cars, the merrier?
ALEX BARRON: I think so. I think having two cars is definitely better than having one. There will be a lot of simulation off the track also, but if you have references from two cars from just physically running the cars and going along with the simulation, I think it all plays a big part in how you develop the car.
Q: Drivers like different set ups. Is there a problem between taking data and applying it between the two cars?
ALEX BARRON: I think so far we have seemed to have liked very similar cars. We have only done limited testing but everything has gone pretty similar from one car to the next.
Q: Have you found it comfortable or can you find the time to maybe help or mentor Ed to make the step into the faster Indy cars?
ALEX BARRON: We work together as teammates very well on and off the track, and I think that he's learned a great deal as of now. But he's going about it the right way and being teammates and working with Eddie, he has a lot of experience, a lot of input and with the three of us together. I think it's going to be strong and with IRL. You need to be strong every weekend and you have to keep pushing, and any time you slack off, the other teams seem to move forward, and you have to make sure you are there every weekend in order to go for the championship.
Q: I know he's on the line now, but did he come from the Infiniti Pro with strong enough skills to be successful this year?
ED CARPENTER: I think so. I don't think I would be here if that wasn't the case. So I'm just looking forward to the opportunity I have here and making the best of it and working with the team and Alex and Eddie and learn everything I can to be successful as a driver and as a team.
Q: Alex, let me put you on the spot. Let's assume Ed is not on the line. Did he learn enough from the Infiniti Pro Series it make this transition?
ALEX BARRON: Definitely, I think just looking at the three races he did last year with PDM he had good results. Especially coming from Sprint cars with so much power and so much car control that he definitely has the credentials to get in. It's all of the little things that you have to learn that are really tough, but the only way you can do that is trial and error. I definitely think he's prepared to try to go after the Rookie of the Year.
Q: Alex, you were talking about Indy here awhile ago, but you went from 25th to sixth and then 26th to fourth. This year, with a team -- you have a team capable of qualifying up high and you'll have the background of a few races. How will that change the way you'll approach the 500?
ALEX BARRON: Well, I think being at Indy, you have to approach it one day at a time. I remember in 2003, just the qualifying session with the wind and the cold temperatures, it kind of threw everybody for a loop. The two years that I've been there, it changes from day-to-day and some of the experience that I've learned with the other teams, I think that will carry over. But there's a lot of variables that go there on race day, a lot of things happen and you've just got to make sure you get a good foundation with a solid race car for the whole 500 miles.