IRL: Alex Barron teleconference transcript

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript Alex Barron and Greg Ray June 15, 2004 MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome two drivers to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Both of these guys made significant ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
Alex Barron and Greg Ray
June 15, 2004

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome two drivers to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Both of these guys made significant moves through the field on Saturday at the Bombardier 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Joining us to open the call is Alex Barron, who started in the 21st position and finished an impressive third place right behind the leaders in what could arguably be stated as one of the better runs in the last few years we've seen in the IRL. Thanks for joining us today, Alex.

ALEX BARRON: Thank you. Good to be here.

Q: Can you talk about those final few laps? Did you think you actually had a chance, you were right there, but catching those guys, winning it from the last row?

ALEX BARRON: No. We got a couple of positions prior to the last restart, and then we were just trying to hang on to third. We didn't quite have enough speed in order to overtake the first two cars. We were just fortunate enough to have them pull us around the track and try to run some of the lap times that we did. But we were pretty much trying to fight off Sam to hang on to third place.

Q: It seemed like the car got stronger and stronger as the race went on. Did the car start to come to you midway through the race? Was it right there at the end?

ALEX BARRON: Yeah. We kind of predicted that the track was going to slow down a little bit once it got dark, and it did. Our car kind of came to.

But in the middle of the race, we were stuck a little bit because there were a couple of drivers we were dealing with that were pretty hard to get around. We were kind of looking at it like biding our time and trying not to get wrecked. At the end, we were more aggressive and we were just fortunate to be at the right place at the right time when people got checked out.

Q: Alex started in the last row. It's a bit misleading. You didn't qualify that way, but you had something break on your car during your qualifying. What happened there?

ALEX BARRON: I believe it's the drop gear or the ring gear that let go in front of the gear stack. It just basically blew an eight-inch hole out of the bell housing on the back straight, and blew the undertray out, too. It was unfortunate because that happened right after I took the green flag coming down the back straight.

Q: A place like Texas, what you did over the weekend is certainly fitting, but you don't really have to start up front to get to the front there. Were you surprised how you were able to get through the field that quickly?

ALEX BARRON: I knew in traffic we had a really good car. We were really concentrating on that. It was just unfortunate that we had to run in the first session the whole time because it just seemed like all 12 guys or 11 guys that were in the first practice session versus the second always seemed to drop, you know, a minimum of 10 positions once the second session got going. I just think that the majority of the faster cars were in second position. But we knew we had a car in bad air. It was unfortunate we didn't have a good qualifying time. But what we worked on I think paid off in the race, for sure, as far as setup goes.

Q: A bit of a tough start to the season. Is this kind of the momentum or the break you think you needed to get going in the second half of the season?

ALEX BARRON: Gosh, I hope so. It's definitely been pretty rocky. There's just been so many unfortunate things happen. It's put us back. But we seem to always climb to the top once the race gets going. Obviously, that's when it counts. But it just makes for a really long weekend for everybody.

Q: When Buddy Rice won the Indy 500, the first American in a few years, given the IRL's commitment to gain bigger audiences, does this series need a new answer to Dale Earnhardt, Jr., or Tiger Woods, charismatic young American like yourself to jump-start the popularity of open-wheel racing?

ALEX BARRON: I think Buddy winning the Indy 500 definitely has helped that a great deal. You know, it would be nice if we saw more of the Americans up top more often. It's just a matter of just being a race car driver, just as anybody. It's about being at the right place at the right time. It always seems in the off-season it's a guessing game, kind of like what package you should have at the beginning of the season. I think with the three motor manufacturers, things fluctuate quite a bit because it's so competitive. But, you know, again, you just have to keep pushing along and try to get everything worked out, you know, to where you can have consecutive weekends pretty much up in the front. That's what it takes to win a championship. Everybody's always trying to win a race, and sometimes you're put in a position where you're just trying to get a good finish because just the way some of the packages work out, you know, some of the teams and the manufacturers are a bit behind and they're trying to catch up. It's so competitive now, it's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time to take advantage of it.

Q: Do you see yourself or Buddy or Sam Hornish, someone like that? What would it take to break through and become a household name for this sport?

ALEX BARRON: Well, I think Sam has touched on that a great deal, you know, winning two championships and so many races. Again, he was at the right place at the right time. He did really well. I mean, when it was time to step up, he did. Buddy did the same thing at the 500. It was clear that he had an extremely fast car. But, you know, he also got it done when it came down to it. I'm still working to try to get there, and Red Bull Cheever Racing has come a long way since last year, and we're doing everything we can to get in the front. It was just really a good feel to get on the podium for the first time this year with all the bad luck we seemed to have had so far.

Q: It seems like there's fewer Americans maybe in the series now than there were a few years ago. Obviously, you had some time bouncing around between teams last year. Do you think it's tougher for an American to find a ride in the IRL now than before or is it circumstances that led to that sort of balance?

ALEX BARRON: Well, it's so hard to read that because so much of it is out of your control, you know. The way the careers go, there's just a lot of drivers, they're at the right place at the right time, and they shine. But I'm a firm believer in just keeping my head down and working with the people I'm around. Sooner or later you'll get there. I've had times where I've been able to drive cars like this weekend that were very quick, and we were able to make the best out of it.

Q: You said that Buddy Rice's victory could make a difference. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? Will it open more doors? Do you think this gives young Americans lower down on the rungs of the ladder more inspiration?

ALEX BARRON: I always kind of look at it from the car owners' side. A lot of the car owners, they think in different ways. A lot of them, it's where they come from and the way they evaluate drivers themselves. Again, it's so hard to read into that because you can't tell at all times what people are thinking. All you can do is, you know, take advantage of where you're at and try to do the best you can with what you got, you know, try to progress whatever you're doing within the team to make gains. You know, it was good. In a way, it was really good for me to see Buddy win the Indy 500 because he came up the same way I had. He was actually on two or three teams on the junior level that I was on, raced with him in karting. In a lot of ways, it does help me, too.

Q: It gives credence to coming through the ladder system.

ALEX BARRON: Yeah. Again, he was in an extremely quick car, and, you know, like his qualifying run, he got everything out of it. In the race, he put his head down and took the quick car to the front and pretty much dominated the race. You just need to be ready when you get the call with the right package and do the best with it. But with what you have and what you're working with, you know, we're still trying to develop everything we have here. And we're making gains on it. So when you get it right, then you know why you're quick. I think that's very important, when you get that opportunity.

Q: The question earlier was presented regarding, would this race be a springboard for the team. What was said among the team after the race was over? Could you feel a different spirit?

ALEX BARRON: Yeah, I could. I think everybody was extremely happy just because we were pretty optimistic when you're starting pretty much dead last. That was a pretty big kick in the side when the gearbox let go in qualifying. It was something that was totally unexpected. It was just pretty much a part that failed and we didn't really have much control over it. Again, you know, we kept our heads down and going back at night after qualifying and being dead last, thinking, ^ÑWow, took the green flag, everything was just right with the car, balance and gearing, and not able to put a time in.^Ò It's hard to dig out of that. All you can do is just keep pushing forward. The team, especially Eddie (Cheever Jr.), he's pushing extremely hard for further development of the team. You know, we have a lot of key people in the right spots right now. We just need to keep doing what we're doing.

Q: Richmond, how difficult will that be for you guys?

ALEX BARRON: Well, I just heard a little bit about it. I've raced there in the past, obviously. I know they repaved it. I think the Gs are up to like 5.3 in the corners. That's close to being flat out if not flat out. If it's smooth, I think it will be easier in setting the car up. It's one of those racetracks where you're always turning, and there's a lot of things that happen extremely quick, and restarts always play a big part, as well as pit stops. I think track position is key for sure there.

Q: Paul Gentilozzi said recently that the average open-wheel racing fan would rather see road courses and less ovals. In fact, they're voting with their wallets by not attending IRL races at ovals. Could you comment on that?

ALEX BARRON: I've only heard a little bit about that. It's a conversation that's been going on within the IRL. I think a lot of what's going on is people that are running the IRL right now, I know they've had a lot of meetings, and I see us going to road courses real soon. Being back in the day, racing in CART, I remember going to Long Beach, going to the Canadian races, Elkhart Lake, Mid-Ohio, and I see that coming here soon. Which events they are, I don't know. But I think street racing in itself is just great for the fans, and it brings out a lot of spectators. I see that coming in the IRL. I know that they're evaluating that, and they're expecting to have that happen here in the near future.

Q: How many things are you going to attempt to accomplish at Milwaukee? What do you expect as far as the IndyCar Series cars at that track? How important is this test for you guys?

ALEX BARRON: Racing there before, I've run like superspeedway downforce and then road course downforce there. I've won races there. I know a lot about the place. But, again, I haven't been there for a few years. I imagine if it hasn't been repaved since '96, it's pretty bumpy. There's just going to be a lot of development that we'll try to achieve, if the weather holds out for us, in a two-take test. I'll be testing, as well as Ed (Carpenter). We'll try to figure out as much as we can in a short amount of time. I know that track, the way it's configured, in the race setup is going to be key just because you do so many laps there on a tire stint that if the cars go off, you definitely fall back. I think that's because the track is so flat.

Q: Given past experience there, is there any track at all in the series circuit right now that would compare? Does Phoenix as a one-mile oval compare at all to the Milwaukee layout?

ALEX BARRON: No, I don't think so. Phoenix, both sides of the track are extremely different. It's a lot higher banking. Milwaukee is so flat. There's a lot of ways to set a car up for turning points. It changes a lot because the radius of the corner is so long and it's so round, there's no banking to ramp up on, and car setup I think is quite different.

Q: Any idea what makes Milwaukee a favorite to drivers? A couple of years ago, before Milwaukee was added to the schedule, if you went down pit lane and asked drivers if there was an oval they wanted to see added to the schedule, almost to a man the guys would all say Milwaukee. What is it about that track that makes it so popular among drivers?

ALEX BARRON: I think probably the biggest thing is because of the history there. There's been so many cars I think that have unexpectedly won just because they were so good in the race. Fuel strategy is a big part there because it's a mile oval. But I would say mostly it's because of the history there. When you get a good car in the race, you can make up a few positions on the end of a fuel stint because the cars go off as far as grip.

Q: Your relationship with Eddie Cheever, obviously he's had quite a few drivers in the last couple years. If you could elaborate on your relationship with Eddie.

ALEX BARRON: I hear that quite a bit actually. I don't understand what has happened in the past. I mean, Eddie's relationship as far as team owner with myself being a driver, I mean, you can't ask for a guy that pushes any harder. I think that's what it takes. When you're at the track and you're working, you need to work hard and look in the right direction. He has so much experience that his insight within the team, it goes a long way. And everything that we communicate about seems to progress in every way with Max Jones and all the engineers and all the mechanics of what we're trying to do to make the team better.

Q: Richmond was repaved. When Toyota tested here, there were a few laps below 16 seconds, quicker than the pole speed. What kind of effect do you think the increased speeds will have on the racing itself?

ALEX BARRON: I think if they've taken some of the bumps out, chassis setup will be quite different. We've been running these titanium pegs on the bottom of our cars on the last few races. I think they're going to take those off and we're going to run the cars quite lower there. I'm really surprised they're going under 16 seconds with a three-liter engine because, you know, obviously it's less power. That just shows the track must be extremely quick compared to what it was years prior.

Q: When you hear speeds like that, obviously that can mean a race pace above 170 on a three-quarter mile oval. Do you have any apprehension going that fast on that short a circuit?

ALEX BARRON: No, I don't. I just think it makes it that much more exciting. I just hope that we can go ahead and get two lines on the track so when cars slow down a little bit, coming up on lap traffic, things happen so fast there, you just need to have at least two lines going around the track, otherwise it causes for a chain reaction. With these three-liter engines, as we saw in Texas, you definitely don't want to lift. Being on a smaller track, the revs are going to go down quickly. A big factor in the race.

Q: Has that been the case in the past, two lanes of racing there?

ALEX BARRON: Richmond, usually a lane and a half. The car that's running low, if it's running a little bit high above the white line, it's extremely hard to pass. But coming off of turn four, it opens up a bit. You know, guys get good runs. But restarts have always been the biggest deal there for overtaking, for sure.

Q: The three-liter engine, you said you were surprised. That's pretty much cut speeds at every other track this year, right?

ALEX BARRON: Extremely. Shoot, at Texas, I think it was almost like 15 miles an hour. It's a pretty big deal, for sure.

Q: Eddie Cheever is sticking with the Chevy engine. Honda has won all but one race so far this year. Do you think Chevy has anything for Honda and Toyota in the coming races?

ALEX BARRON: I do. I know that they're developing a great deal right now, just as the other engine manufacturers. I think here in the near future, we're going to see some gains. It's just a matter of catching up with Honda, you know, before it gets too late in the season. I do know they have all the resources working extremely hard, and they^Òve got their head down. There's communication between the teams and Chevrolet right now, everybody's very dedicated. Hopefully we'll see that in the near future. But we're in communication with them pretty much every day. I know they're doing everything they can.

Q: Ed Carpenter seems to have had even worse luck than you so far this season. Is there anything you can do to help him?

ALEX BARRON: Well, I haven't seen the video of the last race. Overall, my weekend was extremely up and down, as well as Indy. I was just fortunate to have the race work out in my favor. You know, overall, he's done an outstanding job. He was actually quicker than the 51 car pretty much every session. He was in the second group and got to run with a lot of the fast guys. He did a lot of development in the car with his new engineer, Iain (Watt). I think we've increased our development of chassis setup. You know, some of the things that go on in the race, I think a lot of the guys were just very fortunate to stay out of some of the mess. There were a few times where I actually got clipped from behind and I didn't get taken out. So that race was a bit of like Russian roulette the way it was going on. I'm just happy to see that nobody got hurt.

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. We will see you next weekend down in Richmond. Congrats on a great run in Texas.

ALEX BARRON: Thank you.


Greg Ray teleconference

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Alex Barron , Paul Gentilozzi , Buddy Rice , Max Jones , Ed Carpenter , Sam Hornis