Marco Andretti Wins the Pole at Auto Club Speedway; Ryan Briscoe Makes it Chevrolet Front Row for Final Race of 2012 Season
FONTANA, Calif. (September 14, 2012) – Marco Andretti, No. 26 Team RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, won the pole for the MAVTV 500, and will lead the 26-car field to the green flag in Saturday night’s IZOD IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway. Andretti’s two-lap cumulative time of 1:06.6455 with an average speed of 216.069 m.p.h. captured the 10th pole of the season for Chevrolet. It is the first pole position this season for Andretti, and his first at the Fontana, California track.
Ryan Briscoe, No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet, turned in the second quickest average speed to make it an all-Chevrolet IndyCar V6 front row. It is the fifth top-two qualifying effort of the season for Briscoe.
Championship contenders Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, qualified third and 17th respectively, but each will be assessed a 10 grid position penalty for unapproved engine changes prior to the start of the 250-lap/500-mile race on the 2.0-mile track.
In total, seven Team Chevy drivers were in the top-10 of the final qualifying order. In addition to Andretti, Briscoe and Power, Chevrolet IndyCar V6 powered drivers Tony Kanaan, JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter and Helio Castroneves landed in the top-10 at the end of the qualifying session.
Josef Newgarden (Honda) and Scott Dixon(Honda) completed the top-five in today’s qualifying.
An interview with:
RYAN HUNTER-REAY, No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
WILL POWER, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet
RYAN BRISCOE, No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet
MARCO ANDRETTI, No. 26 Team RC Cola Andretti
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Ryan, talk about today's qualifying effort.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Today we didn't concentrate at all on qualifying. We went out there kind of not knowing what we had. I was one of the first team cars, had a massive imbalance that they learned from. That's the downside to going first. I knew with the lift I had in qualifying it wasn't going to be a good one. It's a 500-mile race. At the same time you don't want to be buried in traffic either.
All the Andretti cars have been trying different setups. Tonight we'll put that to use, shake it down, get a good feel for it, put it on track for tomorrow night.
A good racecar around here is one that's well-balanced and stays under you over the long run. That's what we're looking for.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by our points leader Will Power.
Will, talk about today's qualifying run.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was very unpredictable. I was the first of my team's cars, too. Wind changes, the whole track changes. I had totally different balance to what I had all weekend. Yeah, I mean, man, I got hard limiter both laps down the back straight on a bump.
Yup, starting grid. Sometimes I'm glad when I start on pole. Every time, if I start on pole, it's bad. Start back in the pack, it's great. Hopefully that's true here (laughter).
So, yeah, it is what it is. It's a 500-mile race. It would have been nice to get the point. Yeah, we'll see tomorrow. Just hang in there, just stay there and hopefully have a shot.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Does it really matter in a race like this if you start in the back or on the pole?
WILL POWER: Honestly, the only thing that it's good for is to maybe be keeping out of if something happens. Apart from that, you can start a lap down, still come back and win the thing. You can be a lap down halfway and still come back and win.
So, yeah, it's not a big deal.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, I agree. I think Will should start a lap down (laughter).
You know, it doesn't matter because it's 500 miles. If you have a well-balanced racecar, it's fine. You don't want to put yourself in a position to be buried in traffic, like I was saying before, have to deal with cars that might have handling issues as well.
It's always better to be up at the front. It's usually drama-free. We'll be looking to get up there as soon as possible.
Q. We like these things when combatants are a little bit nasty with each other. Do you consider yourself friends? Have you done anything together?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I hate him (laughter). I don't show it, but I do hate him.
Yeah, I mean, we both want to beat each other more than anything in the world. That's the biggest thing for me, is I want to win this championship more than anything else.
WILL POWER: Thing is, I don't have to beat him.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Like you said in Baltimore, if I'm next to you, you can just take me out and it's done, right?
WILL POWER: That's right. I'll remember that tomorrow night. Don't squeeze me (laughter).
No, honestly, I've always rated Ryan real highly. It's no surprise that we're fighting it out right now. We've always raced well together. Obviously championship on the line. Both of us want to win it.
Q. Have you done anything together?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, we haven't.
Q. I know you're going to be doing a night race, but so far in the practice and qualifying you've done, can you determine what kind of grip you'll have?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: This track has been changing every session, every lap. With the heat today, we didn't have that yesterday, I mean, this is like Vegas heat. It's just constantly changing.
One thing for sure, it's going to be cooler tonight. I think everybody will get the best read tonight. I think that's when you're going to see who is racy.
Q. Boys, how much work do you have to do tonight for your race setup? How confident are you going into tonight? How much of a question mark do you have?
WILL POWER: Like Ryan said, it's constantly changing. I'm hoping to finish tonight thinking, Okay, we're in good shape. But just based on today alone, after running two days of testing, suddenly everything has changed again.
Yeah, it's 45 minutes. We'll try to make the most of it.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Tonight's going to be important for us, our whole team, because we have to get a good feel for where we are. The fact that it's been changing is really the underlying factor, so...
Q. Will, in case you win the championship, what does it mean for your country? Will you overtake your countryman Mark Webber in popularity?
WILL POWER: It's impossible for me to know. I don't know. I've never even thought about it.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: A lot of happy Aussies, that's for sure. I don't want to hear that.
Q. It's hard to see what it's going to be like to pass here. Do either of you have some kind of sense, having practiced like Wednesday night, if overtaking is going to be a big deal? Is it going to be like the last oval, it's going to take a lot of laps?
WILL POWER: It seemed like if you're struggling, you went backwards real quick. If you had a good car, you were motoring forward.
It being a handling type of race, I think that will be the case. Maybe it will grip up at the end with an hour to go and be quite fierce.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's definitely going to change and throughout the night the track will change as well. Got a good feeling for where I want to run on the track during the race. What worked for me in Iowa I think could work here as well. So hopefully we'll use that.
Q. If you had to give the new car a grade, what would you give it?
WILL POWER: B plus. It's been good. It's been good racing. Definitely the beginning a bit rear heavy, still is. Yeah, I think it's been successful safety-wise, too, with the wheels closed in. I definitely give it thumbs up.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, from where we came from the beginning of the season, from pre-season testing till now, definitely a big improvement.
At first it didn't seem like it had a shot at being a very nice car. Now, yeah, I'm enjoying it, especially on the road and street circuits. It was fun on the short ovals. You know, on the big tracks, we've had some of the best races we've ever had. I think it's maybe an A minus, right in there. I need a little less understeer right now and then I'll give it some more.
Q. Anything else you'd change on the car?
WILL POWER: Carbon gearbox.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The drivers would like more horsepower. We've always wanted that. That's kind of nothing different. Another 100 would be nice.
Q. Comments on Mike Conway's decision?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I look up to Mike. He was somewhere mentally that he didn't want to be. He was man enough to say, Hey, this is not working for me right now.
Instead of going out there and being in a bad place mentally in one of these cars, which is a very dangerous thing to do, these cars are dangerous enough, racing on a track like this is dangerous enough, but to be in a bad place mentally and do it is not right. That's a smart decision from him. If he doesn't feel like it, there's other days to fight this whole thing out. He chose to do that.
I really look up to him for that. Ovals haven't been that nice to him either, you know, especially with Indy.
WILL POWER: I can understand how he feels. If the car's not right around here, you don't even want to be out there. Yeah, that's ballsy to say, Hey, I don't feel comfortable. Full credit to him. Yeah, he's a great driver, too. He's one of the quickest guys on the circuit. It's just the circumstance.
THE MODERATOR: Will, Ryan, thank you so much for your time today. Best of luck tomorrow.
We are now pleased to be joined by Ryan Briscoe who qualified second for tomorrow's race.
Ryan, talk about today's qualifying run.
RYAN BRISCOE: You know, hot and slick. Challenging, for sure. Probably had a little bit of help from Will's run further down the line from me. We adjusted the aero just a little bit based on his run. Still, it was hard.
Yeah, I haven't talked to Marco yet. I don't know where he got that first lap from. We almost got him on consistency, but just missed out.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for Ryan Briscoe.
Q. Talk about, if you can, the challenge of tomorrow night's 500-mile race.
RYAN BRISCOE: It will be exciting. Wednesday night, I don't know who was here, but it was unbelievable. I've never seen so many different racing lines working on a single track, from some cars being on the white line, apexing at the white line, some cars running around the wall up the top, about a hundred feet in between, with any other line working as well.
Plenty of room. Big, long, fast track. Challenging start with the sun in your eyes for about 30 minutes probably. Then the sun comes down. We're watching the track temperatures, they drop really dramatically as soon as the sun goes behind the grandstands. All of a sudden the car comes to life. You can get a lot more aggressive out there.
I mean, great formula. We're racing hard, but we're not pack racing. I think it's more exciting than any oval racing we would have seen last year.
Q. Ryan, Wednesday night after the test Dario said you won the bravery award for trying the highest of high lines.
RYAN BRISCOE: Didn't work in the end (laughter).
Q. Do you go into the race Saturday night knowing you're prepared to use any line necessary or do you try to stick to a more simple game plan?
RYAN BRISCOE: I think it was a great test. We did use every inch of the road. It was interesting how high you could go. Helio was the first guy to do it actually. On our first long run, I was out there behind him. He's in front. He's running up the top. There's dust coming off the back of his car. I couldn't concentrate. I'm doing the normal line. I'm driving like this. All I could do in the middle of the corner is look at him. He's up there, dirt coming out the back of the car. I know he's going to spin.
It worked. So I started trying it. It was interesting. I don't know if it's the quickest way around, but it's an option. You guys will see it come into play tomorrow night.
Q. Ryan, according to our handy cheat sheet, you could actually finish fourth in the championship, which would be a pretty great result for the season. It seems from what I know going through the last two years, you've been the third driver on Team Penske and the sponsorship came together sometime after the season has ended, then you had a secure position. Do you think you're going to be staying next year?
RYAN BRISCOE: I couldn't tell you right now. I certainly do hope to be top five at the end of the tomorrow night in the points.
THE MODERATOR: We'll wrap things up with Ryan. Congratulations on the great qualifying effort.
We are now joined by our polesitter, Marco Andretti.
Marco, talk about today's qualifying run and that impressive first lap.
MARCO ANDRETTI: I had my mind made up that I was going flat. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. I even talked about it with my engineer. If I do a lazy lift, we're not going to have a chance for the pole.
So, you know, I just went for it on lap one. She hung in there. But then lap two, I committed again to being flat. I had an even bigger lift. I should have, hindsight lap two, just done a lazy life, just committed to lifting. Instead I committed to going flat and had to bail out big-time. That almost caught me out with Ryan. I was worried about that.
I've been on the outside looking in on that hundredth of a mile an hour for the pole. I was on the good side of that today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Marco.
Q. This isn't the year obviously that you've wanted. Where did things get off to a bad start? Do you feel at any point that you turned a corner? Can you take any solace in going out strong?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Oh, yeah. We're definitely showing up here to win. I know my teammate's in the championship. We're going to help him if we're around him on the track by not interfering, but this is going to race like a high-speed short oval. There's not much I can do drafting-wise to actually help him. I'm not going to hurt him or Will. I'm going to be out to try to win the race, end on a good note to carry some momentum into the off-season it is my been street courses.
My road courses I'm fine. It's the street courses that have been killing me. It's inspired me to work harder off track, really try to find what I need at those places in the setup. We'll be working hard on that in the off-season.
But it's so close. I mean, if you're on the outside of those 2/10ths, you're 16th where I've been hanging out lately. It's frustrating. We need to look at that. If we do, we can be the one contending for the championship next year, no question.
Q. When did you last change an engine?
MARCO ANDRETTI: It would have been I want to say Baltimore. I've been lucky with the penalties, yeah. I had to take the penalty when every Chevy did at Long Beach. But I've been pretty lucky.
Q. Is that the only penalty you've had?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I'm not sure. I think so. Yeah, so credit to my guys.
Q. I know we've talked about this isn't necessarily the season you wanted. Talk about the year Andretti Autosport is having.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, it's definitely credit to the team and how hard they've been working. It's finally paying off. We're finally on the upper side of this hundredth of a second. Like I said, it not a lot of time.
Yeah, Ryan came out swinging. He's proven himself on the streets. He's become more of a well-rounded driver this year. That's all you have to do, is just be consistently up there.
As for me, we still had a chance at winning the Indy 500 this year. I felt like I gave up Iowa, as well. But those are the ovals. I know where I need to work.
THE MODERATOR: We'll wrap things up. Thank you so much.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thank you.
Source: Team Chevy Racing