DAN WHELDON ( ...
DAN WHELDON (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It was just a lot of hard work and effort by everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and that is a relatively good run."
(You have never started on the pole here. How important would that be for you?): "The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest race in the world, and I would certainly take the race win over the pole, but, at the end of the day, it is something to be proud of. I have been fortune enough to win a championship and a Indianapolis 500, I won Honda's first race in Japan, so the pole would be nice, but I am not taking the pole if it takes away from the race stuff. I would much rather win the race."
(Do you think you got everything out of the car?): "I don't think we got everything, but the car was definitely fast. The guys have worked really hard to give Scott (Dixon) and I really fast cars. We have been close to pole in the past at Indianapolis, leading into Pole Day, but when it has become Pole Da y we have not been so competitive. It is good to show we are competitive."
(Is it any sweeter that you bumped Danica Patrick from the pole? ): "For my boss it is absolutely sweeter. He likes it when we do that; he likes the story lines. It is really competitive this month. Forget the No. 7, just group everybody together. It's really, really tight. So it is good the guys have worked hard and given us good cars, but at the end of the day, the pole would be nice, but it is the race win to have to aim for."
(Would you pull out that run and try it again?): "I absolutely would, but it doesn't say Target Dan Wheldon Racing on the side, it says Target Chip Ganassi Racing, so that is the boss' call."
HIDEKI MUTOH (#27 Formula Dream Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(About first experience qualifying at Indianapolis): "It was awesome."
(What kind of advise did you get from your teammates about qualifying?): "Just flat out for four laps."
(Do you enjoy this qualifying format?): "Just try to finish in the top 11; that is my goal for today."
(How much have learned from your teammates this month?): "We have been different with setup on the car, so it is hard to say. They tell me how to go, where to turn into the corner, that kind of thing. That was very helpful."
MARIO MORAES (#19 The SONNY Car Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It's my first time here. This event is different than any other event that I have ever competed in. Looking forward to qualifying in the top 22 this weekend."
(Any thoughts on running at an oval?): "The first time you look at it, I thought it might be a bit boring. But I was wrong. You are inside the oval, it is very hard to do, very hard to do right, yet at the same time very fun."
(What did you get out of your first qualifying experience?): "We had some problems in corners one and two. We plan to fix that by removing some downforce to catch some speed."
(How would you describe what qualifying is like here?): "We didn't work so much on the track because we had two days raining. It is my first time here in Indianapolis. I think we did pretty well."
(How is the team's morale after your mechanic was injured yesterday?): "I have not seen him yet. I plan on heading to the hospital later today to see how he is doing. It's not good to see your crew member hurt. Everybody on our team needs to be focused. Focus on the race and qualify the best we can. We do not think he will be back for this race, but we will find out today. We work so well as a team. All of us on the team wish Chuck a quick recovery."
GRAHAM RAHAL (#06 Hole in the Wall Camps Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I think that's the quickest we've run so far. Overall we're pretty happy. I think that ultimately if we could get a little more pace out of it, it would be good."
(What's it like for a 19-year-old to come and put a car in at Indy?): "Well, it's pretty cool, but don't jinx me. We're not in it completely, yet. There's still a little ways to go, but it's cool to be out here."
(You've been coming here a long time. Were you nervous today going into qualifying?): "You know, I don't think so. I thought I'd be more nervous. I was pretty happy with the car. We weren't quite as quick as we thought we would be."
(On qualifying at Indy): "You've got a bigger crowd here on qualifying day than you do on a race day anywhere else. Overall, it's a different feeling. Certainly there's more pressure but at the end of the day I try to be cool, go out there and just get it done."
VITOR MEIRA (#4 Delphi National Guard Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I think the Delphi/National Guard car as a little more in it, but our goal is to stay top 11. We are right were we thought we would be. We are happy mainly because we struggled so much last year. It was a very tough month for us. I mentioned several times that I got five years older last May, so it's the beginning of the turnaround for us. Now we have very good partners in Delphi and National Guard, so we can see the light."
(On what has changed since last year): "Our new partners allow us to go search for personnel or test days. For the first time in two years that I have been here at Panther, we went to the wind tunnel. Compared to a Penske or a Ganassi that has their programs 24/7, that makes a big difference. We only had four days this year, but we are catching up. It's those small things that don't really look like much, but at a place like here it makes a difference."
(On team resources focused on one car, instead of two): "That just helps me, but it's good to have two cars on a team. You learn more. But last year we just didn't see things that came, coming. John (Barnes, Panther co-owner) was the first guy who went after National Guard. He was the first one to believe and the one who has believed the most. If the team is doing good, the biggest reason why is him."
(On if racing is more engineering now than driving): "No, it's always been this way. When qualifying at Michigan, it doesn't have much to do with the driver. When it comes to qualifying here, and the race, and then at the road courses, and street courses and short ovals, it's much more. It's still very much a human sport."
(On chance of rain Sunday): "That's why we are so much happier being in fifth or 11th if we qualify today. We'll have a week more than everybody else. We'll have a lot of time to work on what really matters, while in the meantime people are going to have to keep working on qualifying."
(On how ex perience helps on Pole Day): "It's knowing what to expect. I! t's help s knowing what to do at what time, whether that is pulling out of line or just knowing what you are going to get when you go out there."
DANICA PATRICK (#7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I was a little bit worried going in (to the qualifying run) just wondering what was going to come of it because I hadn't done a full qualifying simulation. So that was a little bit intimidating. We obviously have a pretty quick car. It was nice to start off qualifying like this. My run wasn't perfect and the last two laps fell off for a reason, and we need to fix that. There's more speed in this car, unfortunately and fortunately. I'd love to say that this is the end of the road for qualifying for today but I don't think it is. It's called happy hour because everybody goes quicker. It's going to be about keeping an eye on the weather, keeping your car balanced and getting in line at the right time. It's good so far, though."
(Do you go into qualifying any differently now that you've had a win?): "No, I still need to go out there and be a great driver and keep everyone happy, which mostly is myself. I still do all the same things, it's just nice to say I have a win."
(About qualifying in the new format): "These are not super easy ... This track is very difficult when the car is not balanced right. It's intimidating, it's scary, it's difficult. We run on such an edge here. When you tip over that edge, it's very difficult. I'm telling you, I was on the edge. So hopefully we can tune that in a little bit and make the car a little more comfortable, and I think it will go quicker. You have to put it in your head that you're going to go out and you're going to do you two, maybe three attempts, and you need to work really hard on your first attempt, but you're probably going to have to go out again. You have to go in with that gameplan. It's a guessing game, and all we can do is give ourselves a good race car as early as possible so we're confident to get in line whenever we need to. The person who goes out at 5:45 is probably going to have one of the best times."
(When Wheldon bumped her from the pole): "Oh, my God. That's ridiculous. Oh, Dan."
(About what it would mean to win the pole here): "Getting a pole here is like winning a race somewhere else. It's really something you work hard for as a driver and a team. It would be like a second victory to get a pole here, which is what we're going for, and Dan is making that difficult right now. So we're going to have to do some work."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (#2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"We feel that we have a little more speed. For some reason or another, I just seem to be 10th or 11th every single year I've been here, no matter how quick we are in practice. I think we have to just go back and work on it and get prepared for some more a little bit later. I like to go fast. In the end, I can't really go slow in that car. To be honest, this is the most stressful day, but I've got to be positive. This Symantec crew has just done an incredible job. Just coming out with a car from fresh, and now we're fighting to keep in the top 11 spots. We seem to find a setup fairly quickly, but we still would've liked to test some stuff that we didn't get to, but it's the same for everyone. I think we're a little smudged because we're not with the same team, so it's a little bit starting from scratch, but we'll be good. I would really like to get qualifying over with today because it is the most stressful day, but w e'll see what we can do. Race Day is less stressful than today because the car is so on the edge. It's a big day for everybody. Great for the fans, great for the drivers, and that's what we get paid today. I'm going to turn into a fan a little later just to see who's in the front row. We just want to get locked in. It going to be full warfare this afternoon."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I had chills going down my back before I went out, and then when I found out how the car was handling, it went to frustration pretty quick. These cars, with the aerodynamics on them, it's hard to predict where they'll go. Someone like Danica (Patrick) nailed it and probably went quicker than she did this morning, and we went the other way. That's unfortunate, but that's racing. The good thing here is that we can throw that lap out and go for another one. We certainly have a better car than that. I don't know what happened from this morning to now. The car just wouldn't turn. I was trying to knock down the fence in every corner because of front grip. That was a horrible lap. It's just one of those things. Vitor (Meira) just went out and went pretty quick and usually we're right there with him, so it's just one of those things. That's how racing goes, but we'll figure it out. It's the month of May; it's a lot of hype, and it's worth it. It's Indy. It's history. It's awesome. I love it. I'm just taking it all in, but at the same time, I'm not just happy to be here. I need to go fast and have a good car and be competitive. Other than that, I'm not happy. Right now, we're not competitive. It's American history, an American tradition, the Indy 500, and I'm an American kid. There's a couple of us out there this weekend, and we definitely have the support of the fans."
WILL POWER (#8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"Yeah, it wasn't quick enough. We've got to find a good half-mile-an-hour to contend for that 11th spot. I'm not sure we can get that today. We'll go back, have a look at the data and see. But, it was an easy run for me, so maybe we could trim out a bit. I think you need to be a little bit on edge around here to be fast. We had a little bit of push. We'll go back to the drawing board, have a look at the setup and see where we are."
(Regarding the pressure of qualifying at Indianapolis): "It was too easy for me. We're not trimmed out enough. I think we're a fair way off, to be honest. If we're too far off, we'll come back and try it tomorrow."
(On Indy overall): "It's great. I can't believe this crowd. I can't way to see Race Day."
TOWNSEND BELL (#99 Dreyer & Reinbold William Rast Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It was way less than what we thought we'd be. The car was sliding around a bit too much. When it's sliding, it just gets slower each lap. It is what it is. We're definitely trying to make a stab at that 11th spot. We just have to find more speed."
(How does it feel to be back?): "It's great to be back. I last ran here in 2006. What a track and such a great atmosphere. It's the place to be in May."
ED CARPENTER (#20 Menards/Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It's not bad. I kind of felt like coming into today that we were going to have to be over 224 to feel good about staying in the top 11. I think it is slowing down for the most part. We might be OK. You just don't know what other guys are going to do. You don't know who is going to get bumped out. I think I can go faster if I have to. I really don't want to (laughter). If I have to go back to work today, then I'll be ready to do it."
(About pulling out of the qualifying line): "Yeah, we did. I wasn't very happy. I think I could have probably gone a little faster in my original spot because the wind picked up. One of the mechanics saw something on the rear bar. It was more of a safety thing. I probably could have ran. At that point in the day, we decided to err on the side of caution and go to the back of the line and get it fixed right. When I looked upset, that was why. We practiced at 9 this morning, so as so on as practice is over, you're sitting on pins and needles waiting to go out. I'm the next car out, and they come on the radio saying we had to pull out of line. I'm like, 'What?' It is not what you wanted to hear. You're charged up ready to go, so it is a pretty big letdown. It wasn't that I was angry. I just needed to go back, sit in the office and start the whole mental process over."
(About the changes to the team): "I think there are things we would have been dealing with either way. The thing we do have at Vision Racing is a bunch of good people and professionals. I don't think any of them will let it distract them from what we are here to do in the month of May. Keven (Kukulewicz) has been doing a good job. It looks like Larry (Curry) has been doing a good job at Roth Racing. I think Larry will do a great job for Marty (Roth), and I think Keven will do a great job for us. I don't think it has been a distraction. I think it has been positive for everybody."
(About coming back to IMS as a new dad): "I think Makenna made us a bit! faster. I don't know the science behind it. You get asked that question a lot. Everybody assumes (having a baby) slows you down. She's been to every race besides Japan. I've been racing well everywhere. She's been on pit lane for all my qualifying attempts in the U.S., and she has fallen asleep every time. That could be why I'm going faster because I'm boring her, not going fast enough. She might be telling me to pick up the pace. If she is anything like her mom, then she will be telling me how to drive, I'm sure."
MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 Team Indiana Jones presented by Blockbuster Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It was a pretty easy four laps. That's why we're a bit disappointed with the speed. I think we need to get back and analyze things to see how we can improve."
(About the difference between last year and this year): "Nothing. Maybe a little bit of luck. There were a couple driver errors, which is a bummer for points. There is no confidence lost. Indianapolis is a championship of its own, so we'll give it a go."
(About car handling): "Downforce was pretty much there as far as trimming. We really need to figure it out, because as far as the team I'm pretty much the lowest."
(About the pressure from his family's history): "I don't even think about that. I'm not going to win the race to be popular. I'm going to win the race to win the race. I don't want to do it because my grandfather did it. Obviously, it is the biggest race in the world. It is very special to me. My family has had a lot of bad luck at this place. They dominated to some points. Even my rookie year, (the win) was just taken away from me. I want to win because of that and not because I have to."
(About answering questions regarding his family): "That's something I have dealt with since day one. For example, I'm disappointed now because I'm slow and not because my family would have done better. I want to win this race for myself. From here on out, if the pole is out of sight, then we need to begin working on race setup because this is what we came here to do."
(About the rivalry with Graham Rahal): "If they want to make it look good, then they can do that. There is definitely not any animosity between us or anything like that. I'm not going out here to beat Graham Rahal. I want to win the race. He's a very talented individual. He's definitely going to be giving us a run for the money soon. He already did at St. Pete."
Continued in part 2