Indianapolis: Top-three finishers press conference

FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 PRESS CONFERENCE Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 28, 2010, An interview with: Wade Cunningham - Winner Charlie Kimball - 2nd place James Hinchcliffe - 3rd place MODERATOR: Like many of you, I've been around racing a...

FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 PRESS CONFERENCE
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 28, 2010,

An interview with:
Wade Cunningham - Winner
Charlie Kimball - 2nd place
James Hinchcliffe - 3rd place

MODERATOR: Like many of you, I've been around racing a long time, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to discuss the race than it did to actually run it. They're going through all of it and these are two gentlemen who just ran tremendous races, Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe. Charlie, you're the closest, it looked like -- first of all, congratulations, a great race and clearly in terms of entertainment value, one of the best we've had here in Indianapolis.

CHARLIE KIMBALL: Yeah, it was pretty solid all the way through. The weather sort of being a little cooler lent itself to a little more grip, and I think that lent itself to some closer racing. I had a good start. Went to the lead early just to see what my car was going to be like in clean air and then sort of backed off and let Wade run by to see if the two of us could make it a two-car race out front. Then after the yellow, made sure I got a good restart, ran clean. At some points I got shuffled back, I think as far as fourth or fifth, but was just saving the car, working the tools. The 26 Levemir FlexPen car started a little tight and from there I was chasing it all day. I think James can attest to what I had to do in the corners to get the thing to do. I was down on the grass a couple of times and when you're down that low it's a bit of a ride but it was what I had to do to run with Wade. Those last three laps, the car just wasn't quite there, but I gave it all it had.

I've got to give a lot of credit to the guys I was racing with; I mean Wade Cunningham ran clean pretty much all day. His experience really paid off as far as early in the race, managing car, lifting at the right spots so I couldn't get a run. James, I don't know how he could run that high and I'm sure he doesn't know how I could run that low. We ran side by side a through the corners a couple of times. It was clean and all credit to everyone out there. I don't know what it looked like from outside, it sure was a great show in the car.

MODERATOR: It was indeed. James, this discussion of Charlie going in the grass, was this the part of the conversation over here that involved the word, "Dude"?

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Dude, it was unbelievable. (Laughter) When you think how fast we're going through these corners and how on edge these cars are, the fact that he was putting it in the grass over the rumble strips, I'm way up here thinking, "What is he doing down there?" but he was making it work. He ran a really good race, so credit to him.

MODERATOR: But on the same token, you were also, as he noted, running a higher line than most of the rest of the field.

HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah. Well, starting eighth, we knew that we were going to have to get by some guys, so we just sort of knew that we were going to have to have a good car on the high side because guys were going to block the inside. To come from eighth right up to second place pretty early in the race, you know, we had a rocket ship of a car. So huge thanks to Lee Dikstra and the whole TMR crew. It was a lot of fun out there.

Like Charlie said, I hope it was a good race from the outside because in the cars it was wicked. We ran up with Wade there and then we sort of got thrown a curve ball with J.K. coming out of the pits a bunch of laps down. A bit unnecessary because he ended up sort of costing me, he stole the air off the front of my car one lap and I thought I was going into the exit of Turn One, had to lift and gear down and that's when Charlie got by.

It's unfortunate that that happened but we remember these things, it's a long season. (Laughter) It's cool. For us to be on the podium here at Indianapolis is an amazing feeling. I mean, it would have been nice to be a three-car run right at the finish line, for sure, but from where we started, I think we did a good job. We had to drive a little bit harder early on to get those positions but a 40-lap race here when it's this hot, those Firehawks held up really well at the end there. So it was a real pleasure to drive out there today.

KIMBALL: Like James said, I think a lot of credit to the cars and the tires. It was hot and this place is not easy on tires. The test we were going through tires pretty quickly and here 40 laps the thing was, I ran those last two laps full throttle, top speed in a, tow which is a big testament to the tires and the cars. The whole series does a great job and, you know, James mentioned the lap traffic and I didn't mind it being a two-horse race at the end, I didn't mind that he wasn't there, but I agree that it was unnecessary and unfortunate. Having said that, it's a long season.

Q: Can you both talk a little bit about -- you can hear the crowd outside and you had them on your feet, Charlie, when you had them two wide. Can you talk about running the event? And I know it's not the big show but it pumps things up for the Indy Lights series.

HINCHCLIFFE: The crowd is fantastic. This is far and above what we saw here last year. Last year my motor blew on lap 1, so I didn't get a chance to race here. This is sort of my first race, and to do it, to finish the distance, to see the crowd; and, like I said, if we gave them a good show, that's all the better because we had a blast out there. It's so cool to see sort of the revival of this event, the revival of Indy car and Indy Lights. I mean, this series is going up. The Speedway is in a great position to just be the hallmark event of the year on the racing calendar again. So to be a part of it, it's just awesome.

KIMBALL: Following up what James said, the fans are fantastic. I was at breakfast this morning, and I heard a table next to me talking about the fact they never come out for the 500 but they always come out for Carb Day because of the concert and the race. People call the 500 the big show, but with the 40 laps we just ran as hard as we ran them, I'd venture that we put on a better show.

HINCHCLIFFE: We're the main show. They're a follow-up act, and they're cool with that. (Laughter)

KIMBALL: I mean, we came first, and in racing, first is always the most important, right?

HINCHCLIFFE: If you're not first, you're last. Somebody told me that, I think it was Ricky Bobby. (Laughter)

Q: Charlie, will you talk about running two wide with Wade? It doesn't seem like you're supposed to be able to do that here.

KIMBALL: They say that but I'm not so much for people telling me I can't do anything. It was good. I trust him. He and I train together and I figured that if it came down to it and we had an issue, we could work it out competing in the gym.

It was good. The car would stick. I had a lot of trust, a lot of confidence in the car. It's the best oval car I've ever raced and I knew that with his experience, his being a one-time thing, yes, he didn't have anything to lose but he had everything to gain as well. He was racing for the race win and would race me cleanly.

Q: Easy question: Blood sugar before and after.

KIMBALL: It was dead flat actually. Hold on, I can tell you the exact number if you want. I got in the car at 180 and got out at 182.

Q: That's pretty good.

KIMBALL: For 45 laps solid sort of tweaked my insulin regime.

Q: (Inaudible).

KIMBALL: Yeah, I obviously didn't work hard enough if that's the case.

HINCHCLIFFE: It's because of the exceptional training we receive at Pit Fit Training.

KIMBALL: Exactly.

HINCHCLIFFE: Shameless plug.

KIMBALL: As Hinch said, you know, all three of us, Wade, Jim Hinchcliffe and myself all train up at Pit Fit with Jim Leo. Racing an oval is not quite as physical as a road course, that sort of affects it less. Having said that, I think it's more emotional and mental draining. So I'll sleep well for that tonight for sure.

MODERATOR: Other questions?

Q: To both you guys, Cunningham has won it three times now, and I think that's good and I think it's bad. Could you comment on the good and the bad? Because this is a developmental series and the idea is for you guys to be able to move up. Not knocking the accomplishment but you want to see you guys go up to the big show, right?

KIMBALL: It's true. I know that Wade sort of feels like probably -- well, feels like to me he came in and cherry-picked in the championship. But fair enough, he got it done on Race Day. That's the most important point is he won the race. Having said that, it is a lot about momentum. It's a learning series, and I probably learned more by finishing second than I would have by winning. And come Iowa, I'm going to want to win that much more. So it is good and bad for the series. At the end of the day we put on a great show, we had a good result, we can go home happy and move on to the next one and take the championship lead hopefully.

HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, and just sort of like he said, the fact that he's been here and done if three times, he obviously has this place sort of figured out. To not see him even get a shot to make the 500 is a bit tragic. I hope that the seems are paying attention and maybe next year he gets that break because he really deserves it.

As Charlie said, I think we learn a lot running behind him because he's done five or six, I think this is his sixth race here and this is sort of my first because I didn't turn a single racing lap last year. I learned a ton and he was odds-on favorite coming in, returning to the team he went with last year and the guy has already won it twice. I think he's proved his worth especially around the Speedway, and I hope it works out for him in the future.

His on track speaks for itself, especially at this place. @!KIMBALL: We're talking about you.

HINCHCLIFFE: In a terribly negative way.

MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we'll let you go. By the way, guys, next time when you come back, try to bring a little personality next time, OK?

HINCHCLIFFE: Sorry about that, I just wasn't in the mood. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: Third time for you, Wade, fifth time for Sam Schmidt. I have to tell you, we all got a bit of a chuckle, you're in the car, you know what's going on, but you're pumping that fist there and I'm going, man, I hope he didn't pump that fist too soon. Charlie was closing a little bit, but you knew you had it.

WADE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, absolutely. In a race like that, you remember the closing speeds of the cars behind you pretty well. You know, there was no way he was going to get by unless the car miraculously cut out. If it had done that, I wouldn't feel too bad about celebrating early. But I made sure I was in a straight line. I was tempted in Turn Four to wave, but I didn't.

No, it was awesome.

MODERATOR: You get an opportunity to run this race, you might as well win it.

CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely, I've had nothing going all year. I've been working trying to put stuff together for Indy car, but it's been a long road and it's tough, it's tough for everyone. But Sam and Tim Neff, we first spoke about roughly in Alabama, the idea was floated, "Do you want to come back?" and of course I wanted to. If I wasn't going to be racing anything, at least I could come back to Indy, it's a track I love, a track that I hope can define my career. I know it has so far.

So to get the opportunity to come back with Sam and Doug (Zister), my engineer who I won both of the Freedoms with. It was too good an offer to turn down. I was really, really disappointed yesterday not getting pole. I felt that if I had done things differently, we could have. Not being in a car, it's tough to keep focused at a big race like this, and I'm not race fit at the moment like I would have been last year. So, you know, it's tough, tough last night, I was wiped out at the end of the day. I knew we had a good car and Doug and I spoke for hours, we were actually the two last people to leave the track last night, and obviously the results speak for itself.

MODERATOR: Sure did and it was a tremendous race, too, by the way. Questions?

Q: With this being your third win, does this track suit your driving style, that's why you've been successful? Whenever you've been here you've always been up front one way or the other.

CUNNINGHAM: I love oval race, it's a very fine balance between getting there and then getting to the limit. I think it's honestly from my days of European karting on super-high-grip tracks that you learn that feeling. When I came over, I felt comfortable right away on ovals and especially here at such a great track. All four corners are different, the conditions change and the car changes so much more than Kentucky or Chicago or at the other mile and a halfs. So when you get here, it's like you get to do four road course corners over and over again and the smallest amount of change in line or what you're doing inside the car makes a big difference on the track and that's what I enjoy. I enjoy making the difference. You know, whether I was in an AFS car or the Schmidt car or a Brian Stewart car, I've always done well here. I'm just thankful to Sam for giving me the opportunity to come back this year.

Q: Wade, anytime from the moment you've won to being here right now, where a thought might have popped in your head, well, maybe this time, maybe this time will get me over the hump, maybe this time to get me the little extra nudge to get up to Indy car?

CUNNINGHAM: Not at all, because at the end of the day there's still no budget. There's not many teams that have the opportunity to pick a driver who they truly believe in; and with the testing rules the way they are, it's safer for a team to run with a good, solid driver who's not going to stick the car in the fence. I had a conversation with Mike Hull a couple years ago, and he said they used to do 30,000 miles of testing with a driver before they put them in a Champ Car back in the mid '90s, and with the rules today, you just can't do that anymore. So you're learning on the job, which can be an expensive proposition. So I'm here because I want to get to Indy car and I'm trying to prove myself. And I know that the biggest contributing factor to getting me there is me going out and selling myself.

Q: Take us through that, when you and Charlie were two-wide there and passing on the high side and come back on the low side, take us through that whole run.

CUNNINGHAM: The tone was set I think on the first restart when Charlie drafted me around the outside into (Turn) 1 and right at the apex he came down to the pole line and cut my air off and it really put a bug in me and frustrated me. From that point on I wasn't going to be much of a gentleman and I was going to drive as hard as I could every lap, every corner, and fight for the track position every lap, which sometimes you don't need to do, but I was willing to from then on. So when I got the chance to draft by Charlie going down the back straight into (Turn) 3, I hung on the outside and I pinched him low and he had to lift; and then we ran side by side all through (Turn) 4 and up the main straight and kind of into (Turn) 1 and (Turn) 2 again. As soon as I hit clear in the exit of (Turn) 2, I came down and took the inside. Really from that time on I knew that he didn't have a car strong enough to run in the draft very well; and as long as I protected the bottom, he was never going to get by.

MODERATOR: Other questions? Wade, congratulations.

CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.

-source: ims

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Series INDYLIGHTS