Continued from part 1 HELIO CASTRONEVES ( ...
Continued from part 1
HELIO CASTRONEVES (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): Had a slip-up on the second lap, otherwise we'd be in the second spot right now. You know you can't get greedy. It could always be much worse so we are happy."
(You always seem to do well here): "When you respect this place, even when you know you are in good shape, you receive respect back. Suddenly it is a mutual thing here."
(About making another attempt at the pole?): "We're close right now. I don't think we can get more out of it the way the weather is right now, the way the weather is changing. We're very surprised at the times. I know what happened during the last lap. Had a little trouble and unfortunately had to lift. That's why our average was a little lower than we expected. I believe if we can keep this position we're not going to go out."
(About Danica Patrick): "It's all about history. When I was (trying) win my third one, but unfortunately, didn't make it happen. A lot of people get into it and give me a lot of support because of history. Come on, it would be phenomenal, a woman getting a pole position. I know my buddy (Tony Kanaan) would be very upset. I don't want to destroy that, but that would be great and I've said too much."
DAN WHELDON (#26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(About the run): "Since the start of the month, we just lost a lot of speed, and we have no idea why. Extremely disappointing. The Indy 500 is way too special for me to sit on a time like that, so, yeah, I'll be back out. We need to do whatever we've got to do to try to go quicker because that's an extremely disappointing speed for the team and for the engine manufacturer. The organization that I'm in and having the partnership with Honda, you'd certainly expect more. We have no idea, to tell you the truth, why we're so slow. It's extremely disappointing. The Indianapolis 500 means a great deal to me and to put in that performance is unbelievable. The guys are working hard. I feel bad for them because they've been working left and right. We started out the month with a very fast car, and it's the same car, the same everything."
(Will you go back out?) "The Indy 500 is way too special for me to sit on a time like that. I love this place and I think I can drive around here quickly, and that's not the case right now. My laps were pretty much flat out, but we're just not getting any speeds on the car. Obviously, you've got another couple of attempts to beat it, but I think they just wanted a time in the bank just in case anything happened. Although it's pretty dismal, it is what it is, and we can go out again and try to work on that. I'm normally pretty confident that they can work out what it is, but I don't think anybody really knows why we're so slow. If this was the old format, I can guarantee you I would have waved off after about the first warmup lap. I think it's going to make the field a little bit more competitive because more people can have more attempts, and there's perhaps not the risk factor that there was the last time. I personally believe you've got to stick with the history and tradition of the Indy 500. That's what makes this race so special, and I personally don't agree with some of the changes that they've made. I really liked it t he way it was. I think what you will see is some really close competition, like I'm going to go out again. People are not going sit on their times like they perhaps would have done before. Certainly for me, the pole is pretty special. I mean. this is the 500--The Indy 500 means a lot more to me than the championship. I'm desperate to win it, and I'd love to have my face on that trophy one day. Judging by today's performance, I'm not gonna get the pole, so we'll have to work on race stuff."
BUDDY LAZIER (#95 Panther/Jonathan Byrd's/ESPN 950 AM Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone):
"The wind caught me once in Turn 2. I circled 227 mph as a target but didn't get it. For the conditions, it was a good run. I hate to get greedy, but I wanted a little bit more. The conditions really have a lot to do with it. This is really a rocket ship of a race car. We have a great engineer, Andy Brown, and a great race team. Come Race Day, I think were going to be tough.
(About taking another shot at qualifying?): "We need to talk about that. We wanted to get our cars in (qualified), then sit back to see what the conditions change to. Humidity is a big factor. If it goes way down, then the speeds are going to go way up. I think the whole Panther team has cars that are potential front-row cars, so if the conditions are right, we may go for it. It's up to the team owner. It's kind of fun, it puts a whole new twist in it. With yesterday being rained out, it's 22 cars qualifying vs. 11 cars. It's neat to be able to re-enter a car that has already qualified."
(The Byrds are back. You're back. Things seem to be going pretty well. How does it feel?): "It feels wonderful. I feel like I'm in the best shape in my life. I just love this place. I love Indy car racing. The big payday is just two weeks away, and we're doing a lot of work this week in practice for Race Day. It's all about the 500 miles. But the pole is pretty exciting, too."
VITOR MEIRA (#17 Rahal Letterman Menards Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone):
(About qualifying attempt): "We actually had a very very slight leak, which got a just a touch worse during the attempt."
(What was the problem that pushed you back?): "It was a leak that was nothing. It would have been fine, maybe but we didn't want to take any chances here. We decided to solve everything and come back again."
(Do you like this different way of qualifying?): "Yes, I like it. Right now I like it. If I was on pole, I would have to say a big NO. We get another chance if we decide to. The weather is changing again. The wind is going to change. So we have to look into it. It all depends on the forecast."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#5 Investment Properties Of America Panoz/Honda/Firestone):
"It went better than I thought; I didn't think we'd get 225 (mph). We just didn't have enough time on the car this year. With a new car and a new team, it's just tough. It takes time. We couldn't catch (teammates) Kosuke (Matsuura) or Scott (Sharp) in that respect. We're satisfied. We're solid on the grid, and I don't think there will be a problem if we bump out, so we'll just focus on the month and try to have a strong car. It feels very good to be back in a race car. It feels very positive. Very positive after being in Mexico, in the NASCAR car. It's like, 'Whoa, this thing is fast!' I think we're fine in the field, though. I don't think we want to go back out. We don't want to risk, maybe crashing the car. Unless the conditions change a lot. We know we don't have a shot at the pole, so we don't want to be in the position of maybe putting the car in the wall. It's not really worth it. We've got the car on the grid, so we're just going to focus on the race and watch for who gets the pole."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):
(About new qualifying format): "I am liking it a little bit better than the old one. We knew we had good car. We just missed a little bit on whatever the first qualifying run we did, gearing or whatever it happened to be. We are just really happy with what we just got out of the car right there. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep it for the first two rows. There are still quite a few of guys that could go and be fast. I don't think we will be going out there and trying that again. I don't know if we are going to take our third attempt."
(About decision to re-qualify): "We were just looking at it. We were like, 'If we can get up to 226.5 mph average, that is going to move us up to, I think at that time, it was inside the top six or fifth.' That is a big amount for what we had to gain. We had a lot to gain, and we only had a little bit of time that we really needed to get up there. It was a lot of reward that we had to get and not much as far as risk. After our first run, we were like, 'We may be out there running again.' We wanted to make sure that it was not raining. It actually brightened up for a little bit. We were like, 'Hey, this is going to be good for us, we're going to get out there and get some practice in.' These guys just did an awesome job at getting the car turned around and everything. From the time we came in off the track to the time we went out, I don't know, like five or six minutes for our qualifying run. I was fresh in the car and ready to go."
(About his last two laps being slower): "I think the wind started picking up a little bit, and we got too much push. We knew that we were going to get some push, but we wanted to go back out there and run. It looks like it could rain right now, we wanted to make sure that we got back out on the track and got that run. We knew that it might not be the optimum and might not be the pole run, but we can go out there and qualify ourselves up quite a bit."
SCOTT DIXON (#9T Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone):
"It is not bad. We just took a bit of the front grip out of the car just to make sure we could make a good run. It was a little bit too far. We had quite a bit of understeer. We ended up going all the way to the left on the weight jack(er) and a lot stiffer on the rear. It was bad just to get the thing to steer on the last couple laps. At least it was a good, solid effort. The guys have been struggling big time this couple of weeks, so it was good to get it in for Team Target."
(About his year): "I don't know. You seem to go up and down, up and down. It seems like we are right on the fence. They're making the car pretty good; then it is not so good. I can definitely see that we are trying."
(About qualifying): "It's not quite what we were expecting this morning. It was a little bit of a tailspin. We had a lot of understeer and couldn't even go around the track flat."
(About team's preparations after first attempt): "I think most of the time, it's getting a little more confidence after you have a loose car or if you crash to that extent. You sort of go back a couple of steps and make sure that the car has got some understeer in it, and then start working forward again. That's what we had to do. It doesn't take too long. It's a little hard out there when there are people jumping in line and the track is closing again and things like that. It takes a little bit of time. We were trimming out again and trying to jump a few more spots and we sort of sent ourselves in another tailspin. We just started being conservative and put a car in there considering we do not have a 'T' car."
(About struggling lately): "I think if we could point things out, then it would probably make things a lot more easier and we should know what to fix. We are trying everything. All of us are definitely putting it on the line as you can see with the occasional crashes that we do have. It is not something that we like to do, but we are working as hard as we can. There might be a couple key things to get on top of and move ahead, but we don't know what exactly it is at the moment."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (#3T Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone):
"Obviously, I'm not happy with the result, at least I can sleep nice tonight. I had to try. When we did a (practice) run, we did like 227 (mph) and then 228 (mph) all of a sudden. I said, 'I think we're gonna be close, but hey, it's worth a shot.' Suddenly, I tried and I was a little disappointed, obviously, but I would not sleep tonight if I had not tried. Roger (Penske) came to see me and said, 'What do you want to do?' Right there in the middle of the signing thing! He said, 'It's your decision.' Great! It's my decision! So, I said, 'Hey, I want to try. I have to try.' That was a good decision. We only lost one position, so it's not going to hurt. I tell you they say drama is in NASCAR, I guess drama is here. I mean, this is drama."
(Are you happy with the result?): "With the result? I don't think so, but I'm happy with me. No doubt about it, it was a tough call and at the last minute. I guess it makes it fun for the fans, but whew, thank God we made it. Qualifying is one thing, and the race is another thing. Now it's over. The first race is over. Let's put it this way and now we're going to focus on the real deal."
(Was the T-car in line as insurance?): "Exactly. Makes sure that if something happened during our run, not a crash, but just like a wiggle or a lift-off or a problem, we wanted to make sure that everything is covered, and that's why it took so long to go out there. Thank God we didn't need that."
(What would it mean to win number three?): "If we believe in numbers, so far everything works to myself. I turned 30, my car is number 3, and I'm going for my third. So hopefully, it's gonna happen."
JEFF BUCKNUM (#44 Investment Properties Of America Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"We just needed to get in that top 22, so we could just take this next week and concentrate on the race car. I guess it made it pretty exciting to have yesterday washed out and not get any practice time for me, which I only had one day (of practice) before this. And that is just a testament to the crew and the Honda engines, which clearly have an advantage. But now that we are in, we're in, and that is it. We will get to concentrate this next week on the race car, which, to be honest with you, that was pretty much race trim right there doing 221 (mph) no problem. We already have a good race car."
(About possibility of getting bumped on Day 4:) "No, this isn't the most cars ever trying to qualify for the Indy 500 this year. There's only so many cars that are going to try, and there's just a few that have the speed that we have with the Hondas."
(About getting into field): "It is super satisfying I have to say. I knew that we would be in this field. Coming in at the last minute like that was a little nervous for me. Although, it didn't really hit me at first because I didn't realize how close the time was at first. We'd just done a practice time that was actually right around where we were qualifying at. I just had to keep reminding myself that it is just another four practice laps, just keep that in my mind. Fortunately, it went really good and we just had a setup and turned out the car just enough to get in that top 22."
(About difficulty with past week): "It made it really easy, I guess. I was listening to Sebastien Bourdais say, 'Man, we got a break yesterday' from the rain. I'm thinking: 'What are you talking about? I got breaks all the time.' It was very comforting with the team, even with the sitting around. Dennis Reinbold and Robbie Buhl obviously have been here just so many times. The engineers, Ben (Bretzman), all the guys in the crew, all the way down the board. I'm not even just saying this. They knew how to just talk to me, keep me at ease, and say: 'We are going to be in the field. If it happens today, great. If it doesn't, we have got next week. We are going to be in there.' That was our approach the whole way. At the end there, once you are sitting there and you know that you are going to be the last car out there, you can't help to get a few butterflies. Once you rolled onto the track, as soon as you launched the car up there and got on the track, now you're just driving."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(On decision to withdraw and try again) "Our gamble paid off. Not a lot but we did move up one spot on the pole. Really, that was all the car had. I went flat out. The run before we made one change and made it a little bit worse. Glad we managed to make that last run. Pretty stressful, you hang out on the edge during qualifying. To do that for two and a half times, I'm ready for bed tonight."
(This format where you can go right back out and try it again is great fun for the fans. But I would think for the racer would be would be a great deal of stress?): "The first time I heard about it this is the exact scenario that ran through my head. Then it turns out that way. We took our full allotment run, and we didn't quite have enough for Tony (Kanaan) or whoever might be up against us on the pole."
(How about having your teammate Tony Kanaan get the pole?): "I think he's buying dinner for everyone tonight. I'm happy for him, and he deserves it!"
(About day): "This morning the car was very quick. We went out, the first lap wasn't particularly quick, and then we had a fuel pressure issue, basically we lost all the fuel pressure, so we had to cancel that run. So we came back in, did a bit of practice, and again, the car felt very good. We made one change, went back out and that made the car a little bit too nervous. It was scrubbing speed. So, we came back in. I wasn't too happy, but I was going to take it. Then, I see Michael (Andretti) and Kevin (Savoree) and Kyle (Moyer) and all those guys huddled in the corner, and the next thing the car is headed down pit lane. OK, I guess we're going for another one! By that point, Brian Barnhart was leading the car and he said, 'I know.' It was the third time I've seen him today--The car was good. I think we got the most out of it. I'm reasonably happy. It's a good place to start."
(How did you like getting three shots to qualify today?): "I didn't. I think it's really good for the fans. It's exciting. When they talked about t his new format, in my head, I'm thinking, I could picture myself, 6 o'clock, Pole Day, going on my third run and sure enough. For me, we improved. I think it's a better system. I think it does make for more excitement."
(About the car): "It's high pressure because the car is absolutely on the edge. It's risky. To do it once is hard enough, but to do it three times, it takes a lot out of you, let's put it that way. You have to be inch-perfect. You can run around here and do a half-reasonable lap time, but to be quick you have to be absolutely inch-perfect. One small mistake, and you're going to be in the wall."