Indy 500: Front row press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Helio, you had about an hour and 40 minutes after your qualifying run to wait, and that's pretty long on Bump Day. FRANCHITTI: I had six hours or something. CASTRONEVES: I was actually, you know, remember this guy...

Continued from part 1

Q: Helio, you had about an hour and 40 minutes after your qualifying run to wait, and that's pretty long on Bump Day.

FRANCHITTI: I had six hours or something.

CASTRONEVES: I was actually, you know, remember this guy here and was it in '07? I remember this guy sitting the whole day there, and I said I think it was a little too early. Unfortunately --

FRANCHITTI: Right at the end, thanks.

CASTRONEVES: It was a little too early, an hour and 40 minutes, as you said. But somehow the track seems to be getting a little bit faster. You can see other people getting better all the time. So I'm like, 'Hey, if it's getting better, the track, we've still got another chance to go out and try again.' So I was very confident, as well, and I was very confident that Ryan would throw very good laps out there. But it didn't happen that way, so he made me make an easy decision. At the end of the day we didn't have enough time to do it, so we just decided to pull out and let -- I think Justin was the last guy on the racetrack. I'm not sure what happened.

SULLIVAN: Other questions?

Q: Do you guys like this format? This qualifying format.

CASTRONEVES: I do. I think it's great because, you know, you can work on the car, you can go back, you have another chance. I mean, obviously talking about way back, you had -- it basically makes you like not go and try again because it's safe to be there instead of done for the day. So I think it's pretty exciting for everybody.

FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I think for the fans, definitely adds drama to the whole thing, and that was what it was designed for. We do our best to play within the new rules and try and improve and improve, but I think ultimately the fans get a much more full day of excitement. That was the whole plan.

SULLIVAN: Other questions? Wait a minute, we haven't preapproved your question. I'm teasing, go ahead.

Q: You're really rolling the dice if you pull out at 5:40, even though you may be third, you've been part of the show all day, but things could happen where you're all of a sudden not in the top 11, but is there anything you have to say about that? Maybe having the top five all going for it at the end something like that?

BRISCOE: I think Brian does a really good job with it, and he keeps an eye on who is getting in line, you know. And if there's a 12th-place car getting in line and there are cars that are clearly not going to be able to have a shot getting in or whatever, he says he's able to manipulate the line so it keeps the spectacle going. I don't know if that's actually happened, but I think it's good, you know. And as we're all getting experience with it, it seems to be getting more and more exciting as the years go on.

SULLIVAN: But one of the questions I hear a lot in the press area is some people are mystified that more attempts aren't made. In other words, you've got three shots, and why aren't those being used earlier? I don't know, I'm not thinking about it very much but other journalists are always saying, "Why don't they go out again?" as Bruce has said on that one.

Q: Saying a lot of people but not --

FRANCHITTI: Stop arguing, Bruce. Behave. You do that to me. (Laughter) The score is one all. (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: What do you think, though?

FRANCHITTI: What was the question?

SULLIVAN: A lot of times in the press room people are saying: "Why aren't they going out again? They've got three shots. Why not?"

FRANCHITTI: Look, in our position yesterday we went out and we did our run and we practiced and we practiced again and again, and we didn't have that -- we weren't convinced we were going to be able to run a four-lap average faster than we posted, so there was no point in going out there. Had we had one more run, we might have taken an attempt. We lined up and it was kind of more of a -- I think that was Chip throwing the dice. If Ryan and Helio, you know, they were ahead of us, anyway, but if other people had bumped us off the front row we might have had a gamble at it, but we weren't convinced we could run that four-lap average faster.

CASTRONEVES: And guys, you've got to remember, even when we're not attempting to go out there, we're practicing like in the limit, you know. So even though we're not taking a chance for the qualifying, we're taking a chance practicing. We're pushing to the limit. To run here four laps on the knife's edge, it's extremely hard. So it's not like so easy, come on, just go out there and try again. I wish it would be like that, but it's extremely hard for us to keep trying and trying to make a decision to go out there and try.

Q: The wind was terrible yesterday. It was one of the windiest days I've seen at the Speedway. Was it better or worse at different times of the day? And where on the racetrack was it giving you the most trouble? Because it was a tailwind in the south end and a headwind in the north.

CASTRONEVES: It wasn't the worst day. 2003 I think it was the worst day we had here, I remember that very vividly. But I have to say it was definitely hurting a lot and a lot in Turn 2 at least in my car, for example.

FRANCHITTI: Mine, too.

CASTRONEVES: But again, it seems that toward the end of the day the sun is coming out, the temperature is getting better. And remember, when you have three -- same tires, three cars the same, everything the same, it tends toward the end of the day, if the weather helps, everybody is going to go faster. So it's one of those things that you've got to manage well, you've got to try to find the great spots and hopefully the engineers find out where to go with the setup of the car.

But the point is you've got to go, you've got to go. If the wind is strong, there's nothing you can do, it's qualifying day, you've got to try to put a lap out there.

Q: Dario, how much were you able to follow the saga of TK throughout the last couple of days. Especially, yesterday was a pretty weird day for him.

FRANCHITTI: Yeah, you've got my cell phone here, got a couple of text from TK over the last couple of days. Yeah, he wasn't having a good day and they were swapping cars, and he has that one that looks like Frankenstein with the different paint jobs on it. It's typical with the AGR people; he's sitting outside row two, kept his streak alive of always qualifying in the top two rows here. I guess he had a tough month, and the speed wasn't in that particular car is what it looks like. They swapped the cars, and you see the result. That's bloody impressive.

I mean, it's kind of difficult now with TK being on different teams, we don't talk about technical stuff anymore, and we don't really talk about the business end of racing anymore as we used to. But from the outside, that's what it looks like.

Q: Also, do you think Graham has made a lot of improvement on the ovals the last year, and how big a factor do you think those guys could be on Race Day?

FRANCHITTI: I think it will be a big factor. I think absolutely. Never count out the Newman/Haas guys, and Graham is obviously learning a lot. If he gets his pit entry sorted out, he will be pretty impressive, I think.

CASTRONEVES: I think the same thing. They've proved the ovals to be very fast. Coming here I thought it would be the team surprising a lot of people. And again, they just show again that they are, they're good. So Graham already have one race under his belt and so obviously going to continue getting more experience, but he definitely improve a lot.

Q: With so much practice remaining on this month, how far can you think ahead in terms of strategy or now that you all have your positions, can you already start thinking about what you want to do in the race?

CASTRONEVES: That's the beauty of qualifying the first day. So now we don't need to worry about anything else other than the race. The strategy, I mean you've got to put all the plans out there. If you're leading, if you're in the traffic, and whatever happens, you know. But that's why it's very important to be on the racetrack because always when the weather change and things like that, you at least know what your car is going to do. So just hope that you have the most consistent car through all the situation, and with that you've got your race pretty -- the strategy is pretty set.

Q: Dario?

FRANCHITTI: Helio touched on it. We've got today and the next week, next Saturday and Sunday, as well, we can think about race cars rather than trying to get cars in the show. For me now it's about making a good race car, making a car that's got good balance in traffic and good grip level and speed and trying to get it working in all weather conditions. I think we're all doing the same thing.

BRISCOE: Yeah, I think, you know, it's the weather conditions, the wind direction can change how a car feels around here, so even if you're not making big setup changes every day, just getting out there and experiencing the different conditions just to be better prepared on Race Day because we don't know what it's going to be like on Race Day. It could be exactly like today, so it could be good to get out there and just turn some laps and make some notes for how the car is with this temperature, with this wind direction. And you just try to do that every day. It's just all about trying to make the tires last, be consistent, have a good balance on full tanks, and it really is just a nice feeling to have qualifying out of the way and forget about that now, put some downforce in it, and let's go racing.

Q: Now that this is out of the way and we have a couple of days off, we know you're going to cook tomorrow. Anything the other two of you do to decompress on your days off when you actually have some down time?

BRISCOE: I'm going home for a couple of days. So just go to North Carolina and chill out for a couple of days, and I'll come back Wednesday and get ready to hit the track again.

FRANCHITTI: I'm kind of undecided right now. Probably go back to Nashville. That looks like the plan.

SULLIVAN: Anything else?

CASTRONEVES: I'm going to cook.

BRISCOE: What are you cooking? I might stay.

CASTRONEVES: I don't know, I don't eat steak, but I'll probably have a big chicken. (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: Bruce has his final question.

Q: After the comment you made last night, I hope it's not Shake 'N Bake. (Laughter)

Anyway, when Rick Mears retired at 41, it was kind of surprising he retired that young. A lot of guys in IndyCars race well into their 50s like Mario and Big Al and Johnny Rutherford and A.J. You know, Mark Martin has won twice now at 50. How long do you think an IndyCar driver's career is going to be? I don't know how long you guys want to drive, but --

BRISCOE: These guys are pretty old.

Q: -- but do you kind of see this being a much younger sport than it really used to be?

CASTRONEVES: Certainly we're here on the front row, so we're not giving anything for the younger guys.

Q: You're not 50 yet, either.

CASTRONEVES: True. But as you said, I don't know, ovals is a lot different than, you know, road course, I would say. It's a lot more experience and more about the feeling in the cars. That's why Mario Andretti, who else? Rick and so many other drivers, Emerson, Al Unser, they race into -- even Michael, I know 40 years old. So I don't see, if you've still got it, if you're still feeling that you're a competitor, competitive and keep going, I don't want to stop; I want to keep going.

FRANCHITTI: I think for me it's an enjoyment thing now. When I looked back, I saw when Gil retired when he was 35, won his last race, I thought that seemed pretty cool, seemed like a nice way to do it. But with going to NASCAR for a year, I decided I really wanted to come back and do this, I still want to race; I still want to drive IndyCars, and that year away really made me appreciate how much I enjoyed doing it, how I enjoyed all the disciplines of it, whether street courses, road courses, especially here at Indianapolis. I love driving the cars. I think as long as I'm enjoying it and competitive, then I'll keep doing it. I have no idea what that's going to look like.

Q: But having raced with Mark, how impressed are you? He's now won twice.

FRANCHITTI: Mark Martin? Just look at Mark. He is very, very fit, first of all. He's a very smart driver. I think he's an amazing driver. When you follow him, you're thinking how the hell is he hanging on to that car, it's so loose. He's a very, very talented guy. I've learned a lot from him, both sitting and talking to him and following him on the track. He's one of the cool guys. I'm not surprised at all he's having the success, not only winning races but pole positions, too. He's on it, man.

CASTRONEVES: I had a great experience in IROC going to Richmond, right at the start of the race, I was inside, and he's outside. I'm like no worries, I'm going to brake deep and that's no problem. I brake, and this guy, he kept going. I'm like, 'You've got to be kidding.' (Laughter) I cannot believe he just did that. And it's amazing. I always told him that: 'I can't believe it; I want to be like you one day. I want to be racing still.' It's just incredible to me, as Dario said, he's a very smart driver, and he's been proving it.

SULLIVAN: What about you, Ryan? Talking about the career and you look out, your reflections and thoughts on that.

BRISCOE: I hope to race for the rest of my life. So I don't know, I think you've got to keep fit, you've got to keep focused, keep motivated. You're only as old as you feel.

SULLIVAN: Other questions?

Well, on that note I'll be down in pit area looking for a ride. Thanks. (Laughter)

-credit: ims

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Mark Martin , Johnny Rutherford