IRL: Indy 500: Qualifying format press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 TOM ANDERSON (Co-owner and managing director, Fernandez Racing): "The driver was definitely the center before, but now there's an added situation for them. All of them understand bumping, but if you qualify second, and you...

Continued from part 1

TOM ANDERSON (Co-owner and managing director, Fernandez Racing):
"The driver was definitely the center before, but now there's an added situation for them. All of them understand bumping, but if you qualify second, and you think you're better than the pole, do you withdraw a qualified second car and go back for the pole? That opportunity is there now. I think you could see that. These rules allow that come Saturday."

Q: What will we see on Saturday?

ANDERSON: "I think the thing that's going to happen, depending on weather and the 6 p.m. gun is we've all seen strange things happen. The 11th qualified car on Saturday could have a relatively slow time. He could also be the first car bumped come the fourth day of qualifying. The big thing here that everyone here is going to be fighting for on Sunday is that no one wants to be 23rd. You want to get in the first weekend of qualifying. That 22nd spot is going to be very important Sunday night. You want to work on race setup. There's in tremendous drama added to the format this year."

Q: How different is the car that you race and the one you qualify?

ANDERSON: "Technically, the car's setup quite different. To get a car from qualifying trim to race trim is probably two-to-three hour job because the specification of parts. It's easy to go from one to another."

Q: What's the difference between this year and years previous?

ANDERSON: "This time of the week, we're normally looking at the pole. This year, we're also looking at 11th. There's quite a concern. Friday night, when we do the calculations, it's going to be what's it going to be to get the pole and what's going to be 11th. I'm like Mike (Hull). I have three drivers in three different positions. So you have to look at both sides of the scales."

TIM CINDRIC (President, Marlboro Team Penske):

Q: Does the new format allow you to really focus on a pole run on Pole Day now?

CINDRIC: "I think it is pretty dynamic. The whole thing has four or five variables, some of them were here before, some of them weren't here before. The draw is something that definitely plays into your strategy depending on where your car is for a particular draw. The weather can have a lot to do with what to do in terms of qualifying days like it has in the past. What the teams are going to be faced with come Friday night is what is realistic for your individual situation. Are you going for the front row? Or are you going for the elite 11? Those are decisions that we are going to have to make on Friday night and Saturday morning.

As Tom (Anderson) said, egos always get involved in this game. If you look back to the year that Tom Sneva had run a 200-mph lap, you saw that some guys made the right choice. (Jim) McGee will tell you how he went for too much and had to go the next day. You have seen things play out where a team withdraws a car and goes for the pole at the end of the day. That same situation can happen and is probably more likely to happen than in the past. It has a lot to do with being practical to what your individual situation is."

Q: How important is it to be in the top 11 on day one? How greedy would you be to take a car back out there to get into the top 11?

CINDRIC: "I think everyone here knows that if you are in the top 11 you sleep a lot better on Saturday night. There is pride that is in there, but the bottom line is getting yourself in position to win the race. Most of the winners come from the top three or four rows. It certainly puts you in a much better position at the start so that you can get to the end."

Q: About withdrawing a time..

CINDRIC: "Any time you withdraw a time, it is a tough decision to make. I've had to do that myself. To have to talk to Brian and tell him that you are taking your time off the board is a tough decision to make whether you are eighth, seventh, second, third. It has a lot to do with the run you made. Was that run the best you could do or is there more that you hoped for. It's a risk-reward type of program here. Any time you take a time off of the board, you have to know that anything can happen. It all comes down to what is realistic for your situation and being part of that top 11."

MIKE HULL (Team managing director, Target Chip Ganassi Racing):
"We've talked about it a lot, to be very honest. The last three or four weeks we've devoted some time to it, Chip (Ganassi) and the engineers, the managers. We talked about it. There's a lot of things that can happen. Probably the thing that we have to be very careful about and mindful of, even before qualifying begins, is the 35-tire rule. If you think about what a team is going to have to do to qualify for the Indy 500 -- normally, what you do if you're not quite fast enough or you want to be faster is you always wait for the racetrack to re-open, and then you go out and make sure you're right. That's a set of tires. It might be two sets of tires. You get in line, that's another set of tires. You might have already made an attempt. That's another set of tires.

So on the first day, you have an allotment of 35 sets of tires for the entire month, which to most people seems like an enormous pile of tires, you've used a good percentage of your tires just trying to get into the race, and you might not get in the first day. If you're not lucky enough to be one of the chosen 11 on the first day and you've got to start that process all over again for the second day, then you're into another five or six sets of tires at minimum. Not only on Race Day, you want to have a minimum of 10 or 12 sets of tires to support your effort for a 500-mile event.

That's why this thing is really difficult to totally understand the scope of what we're trying to do here. If you're like Tom (Anderson) down there with Hondas, you're going to get in. Some of us, like Tim (Cindric) and us, we're thinking about what it is we've got to do with what we've got with tire allotment to do the best job to peak at exactly the right time and not screw up our chance on Race Day. That's really what this is all about for us."

Q: About going back out late in the day to get into the top 11.

HULL: "I think you have to be, at Indianapolis greed is never your friend here, to begin with. I think practicality and honesty and self-evaluation is what gets you in the race and helps you win the race, and that's really what we're talking about. Maybe that's the basis of your question. It's very important to analyze where you are. In our case as a team, we have one driver who has never been here before. For him to go through the qualifying process is going to be a massive, pressure-filled situation for him. In his case, we're going to make an attempt so that when he's ready to make an attempt, if the first one doesn't work for him, he'll be solid, and he'll be able to do it. The other two guys are going do it, because they want to read the racetrack, because that's how you get in the race.

For us, I think the most important thing to do is to consider that there are two things that are important here in being at the front at the end of a 500-mile race. One is what Tim referred to in qualifying in the first three rows. Yeah, there have been winners come from there, but the second thing that you're qualifying for in this format is pit selection. If you're 10th, but that time ends up in pit selection putting you 20th in pit selection, you're going to reconsider that situation, because being toward pit out or being away from the drama that's created from pit in to pit center is something that's going to be critical in your decision-making process as you take that qualifying lap or whether you pull out and go again. So unless you're on the front row, unless you're in the first three, four, five, six spots, I think you're going to think about that."

Q: About possible pole speeds on Saturday.

HULL: "We learned last year that Buddy Rice surprised us. That's probably a good lesson for non-tow laps during the week. Our guys from that have paid more attention to, these days we've got guys who specialize in specialized software, and we've got somebody who has worked for us all week long, or up to this point anyway, on non-tow laps. If you did the same, which is easy to do these days with the IRL Timing & Scoring program, if you just use that as a baseline, you'd be surprised at what you may see there. That's probably what you really need to look at as a legitimate answer as to what people might do on Saturday."

Q: About tire wear and durability.

HULL: "In terms of qualifying you would prefer not to make another qualifying attempt on the tires, but what Firestone has done a fantastic job of since we started with Firestone in 1996 really is work on not only durability but not having the performance of the tire degrade through the run. If you watch guys run out here, if you sat out there with a clipboard and watched the tires like the IRL, they monitor the tires every day by bar-coding and scanning what goes on, the performance of the tire doesn't really come off. We've run our tires, and I'm sure these guys have done the same, over 40 laps, and the performance hasn't really fallen off on the tires. That is something that they constantly work on. It'd be great if we could just have 35 sets of stickers and do nothing but qualify, but we can't do that here."

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tom Sneva , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing