SCOTT SHARP ( ...
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Patron Sharp Rahal Letterman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"We're in pretty good. We almost got in last night. This was just a great run by the Patron team. The track's really good, but the car's just perfect. Like I've said all along coming here, we probably wouldn't win the qualifying battle, but we might have a really good chance to win the main battle; the 500 miles. We continue to get the car better and better every day, and that's what you've got to do."
(Were the conditions just that much better today?): "The conditions were much better, no doubt. We've made some good progress with the car, as well. You know, it is what it is. I've told the guys I've started on the pole, front row, second row and third row. That doesn't matter. It's how good your car is in race trim. We're going to work hard next week, continue what we've learned, and I think we'll be in good shape."
(Talk about this new qualifications system. Do you like it?): "I will say, it added a lot of excitement yesterday, and I think qualifying needed that. There was just too much where people could put a time in and just sit on it. You need incentive to go back out there and try to bump up whatever position you were in. I thought it was pretty good."
(What can we expect from you guys the rest of the day?): "We going to hopefully try to get out and get our first full-tank race run in. But hopefully we're not going to qualify again."
JEFF SIMMONS (#17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(Yesterday you came close; today it looks pretty solidly in. Are you happy with it?) "Pretty happy. We wanted to be quickest today, to get the little bonus that you get. But we are happy to get into the show. We made a lot of progress. Really, everyone on Team Ethanol Rahal/Letterman Racing had done a great job. Scott's (Sharp) car is pretty solid, too. We both have a pretty good starting position for the race. The rest of the week we'll be working on race setup. We'll try to work together some and figure out how to make our cars work better in traffic because once all 33 cars are on the track at the same time, you're pretty much never alone."
(How did the track feel out there today, compared to yesterday?) "The track is really good; I think it's better than yesterday. Right now, the wind is not as much as factor today. Really, it's more of a crosswind right now. It makes the car more consistent all the way around."
(What was the worst part yesterday out on track? A number of drivers had trouble with Turn 1): "Yes, Turn 1 because the wind was really pushing me out there. For our car, we had a big push down there, loose in Turn 3. That's what we were trying to balance yesterday. Today the car was much more consistent all the way around. We could just go out there and pick the right line." (When you have a shadow over in Turn 1 at the end of the day, does that really help grip in that turn?) "I think it helps some. The track temps go down a bit. Yesterday the track had gotten fairly high and gets a little greasy. That shade helps out."
DAVEY HAMILTON (#02 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It's the best. I can't really believe it's happening, to be honest with you. I honestly didn't really think I had the opportunity to come back and do this. I kept fighting and fighting, and got Hewlett-Packard to believe in me and believe in my story."
(About the emotions of qualifying): "I was a bit nervous, to be honest with you. It's been six years since I'd been in that line. We had a great race car, but you never know until you get out there. Vision Racing has done such a great job giving me a good car all week. I think every time I've been out there I've been flat out, so the car has been great."
(About how the car handled): "(With) the car, we've been working on race setup all week from the suspension to everything. It's just race stuff. The other guys have some things for qualifying. I didn't really need that. I didn't want it. I just wanted to get used to the race car and fine-tune that thing. I tell you what, I was a little surprised we ran 222 (mph). I thought we could sneak into it, but I still looking for a high 221 (mph)."
(About what Tony George said to him): "There's a lot of emotions going on here. It was about the third day of about two years of hospital stays, he (Tony George) was in there, and he knows the story and knows what I've went through. The whole team realizes it, and I think they've seen it in person and seen it first-hand. It's so emotional for all of us just to know it was a tough road. It was a tough road for all of us. They've been supportive all the way."
(About whether he thought he'd make it back): "Not at that time. At that time, I was still worried about having legs and hoping I would walk again. As time (passes) and you wish on something and you get it, then you want more. That's kind of where I was. First it was to save my legs, then to walk and get stronger. It was a four-year process doing that. The last two years I've been ready, but it's been hard getting the funding and the proper situation. It was an emoti onal roller coaster, that's for sure."
DARREN MANNING (#14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"We've just been making so many baby steps with the setup. I just wish we had this car yesterday, and then we would have been in the show. I think we're happy with the qualifying attempt." (How's your month been overall?): "It's been good. We didn't get out until late, because this is a totally brand-new car. It's a fast car. We spent a lot of time back at the workshop for two or three months really rubbing on the bodywork, the fit of the suspension and everything, which is the attention to detail that you really have to do nowadays. I'm happy. If you've got a comfortable car out there at Indianapolis in qualifying for 10 miles, you're not going fast enough. So you kind of hold your breath for as long as you can and hang on to the thing. You don't like doing that too often."
(Yesterday you said you missed on the gear. Did you hit it today?): "Yeah, we definitely got a lot better today. The wind caught us out, but I think it caught everybody out yesterday. I think we pretty much optimized it."
(Are you excited about this?): "I wasn't excited about having to get up and do qualifying again on the second day. I guess what really makes it exciting again is Bump Day yesterday. We were really desperately trying to get in the show, and we just barely missed out."
(You were going to take the day off today?) "Hell, yeah, I was. We were: going to do race setup stuff. :
(On working with A.J. Foyt): "It's pretty interesting, to say the least."
BUDDY LAZIER (#99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(About the struggles of only running the Indianapolis 500): "It's a huge learning curve just to get caught up, but they are doing a great job. You can only expect so much in three days. We're learning in one day what most teams are taking weeks to get to. We're really close, and I think come Race Day that's what we are really focused on. We know we didn't put much into qualifying. If we need to, we know we can go run a 222 (mph lap), and maybe we'll do it at the end of the day. The car is a good race car, and that's what is important."
(About why he came back): "I came back in 2005, and that led to a full-time program. Obviously, I'm looking to rebuild a get a full-time program going. It is so much about the team."
KOSUKE MATSUURA (#55 Panasonic Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"Of course, we should have been in the top 11. I was thinking 10th, 11th, nothing different."
(About new qualifying system): "It is exciting. Of course, we wanted to be in the top 11. The past three years, I get in the top 11, and the second day was my day off, and today I had to work. The car was pretty happy today, a little slower than the Rahal guys, but pretty reasonable. But this is a completely different thing, so we need to work on the car to get more."
MARTY ROTH (#25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It is a beautiful day here; we are not just fast enough. We are going to get ready. I have two more shots at it, so we will get ready and try it out in a few of our practice runs that we get today, and hopefully we will move it up." (Regarding new qualifying format): "I love it. So exciting to watch it yesterday. Today we hope to get in the next 11, so we see how it goes."
JON HERB (#19 Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It felt good. The car has been pushing a little bit. We're a little bit off of where we need to be, but it felt pretty good. We have spent our time here trying to get comfortable, and we had a little problem in the practice days, so we weren't able to work on getting all the speed we wanted to. I wanted to be a lot faster at this time, but we will be able to get more if we need it."
VITOR MEIRA (#4 Delphi Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It feels good to get done with qualifying. Now let's go race. I think we have the car secure enough to go and race. Forget about qualifying and to go to what matters."
(About the race): "Historically, not only with me but even with previous drivers, Delphi Panther Racing has been really strong during the race. The mistake we did last year we focused a lot on qualifying and did not pay much attention to the race. We thought what we did for qualifying would work, and it didn't. So we are trying to learn from our mistakes, and I think the Delphi Panther car will be good."
(About how the car felt during qualifying): "If it feels solid during qualifying, for sure, you are going to be slow. It wasn't very solid, but we have to find a little more speed for qualifying for next year, not this year."
AL UNSER JR. (#50 AJ Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
(About the qualifying run): "We're awfully close to the bottom there and come 5, 6, we could be back out here. Like Ed Carpenter said yesterday, I'm not taking off my uniform. We'll see what happens. A.J. seems to be pretty confident that will hold, but it's so close. I've been in this spot before. We're going to pay very close attention to what these guys behind me do because I think it's too close. We put four good laps together. Now we just need to get some downforce on it and see how it reacts to that. There was definitely no white-knuckling in the qualifying run, and I ain't gonna have it there, either. We tried a little bit less wing this morning, and it makes the back end a little bit too light for my comfort, and so we put it back in there and we were searching for more speed and I just wasn't confident enough in everything to put that much on the line for 1 or 2 mile an hour when the best we can do is 12th today. Like my dad said, two, three, four cars in front of you, where you start ain't gonna make any difference. I got a ton of people in front of me already. We'll get it in the show, get comfortable with it."
(About returning to Indy 500): "We love what we're doing, and when we're not doing it, we miss it extremely. It's great to be back in Indy. When you qualify for Indy, it's a special thing. When you do good, you can't wait to get back. And when you do bad, you can't wait to go back."
(About driving for A.J. Foyt): "A.J. has been super with me. It's been great. He is the big guy -- no matter what anybody says, he is the king. At Indianapolis, there are certain people that you'd be honored to drive for, and A.J. Foyt is one of those people. And I'm just tickled to death to be able to drive his 50 car for his 50th anniversary, and I'm the 50th driver he's ever had. All the 50s are lining up. In another five years, I'll be 50, and hopefully I'll still be driving. Everything they say about A.J., his temper and everything, it ain't true. He's b een super with me. If someone gets a little sideways in the garage, he just sets them straight, that's all. So far, I've been watching my Ps and Qs to where I'm not getting sideways."
(How are you doing?) "I'm doing very well. Everything is good. We're in Indy and so far we're in the show, and that's the best thing that can happen for me. Goes from all the bad to all the good and back again, and the Indy 500 is what we all dream about winning and being in."
(Have you ever thought about having your family start a team?): "No, not really. My family really doesn't get along with each other that well."
(About the new qualifying format): "You're either fast or you're not, and yesterday we weren't, so we could be a part of all that."
A.J. FOYT IV (#22 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It's great to be back, definitely. With the (qualifying) time, you always wish you were a little bit better and a little bit quicker, but we'll just take it and put it safely in the field. I qualified with some good cars around me. I'm just so glad qualifying is definitely over with, and we're getting ready to do some race stuff on Wednesday. We'll put some downforce on that thing and get ready to run 500 miles."
(How's the team dynamic working with Vision Racing , obviously getting bumped yesterday by your teammate? I'm sure you guys are working together a lot. Do you enjoy being a part of this team?): "Yeah, all teams work out of the same little hut we got over there in the garages. We all share all of our information. We do whatever we can to help each other out. It's been great. Davey (Hamilton) has been great. I've known him for a long time, and he drove for my grandfather. I really trust whatever he says, for sure. It's great to have him onboard, too. It's going to be a special race for him, so I'm glad to be on his same team. All the drivers work really well together."
(Obviously your grandfather (A.J. Foyt) and your team owner (Tony George) are pretty close. Is there any sharing or discussions going on between the two teams?): "Well, if you're ever in the garage, you'll see me in both garages quite a bit. I get all my business done with my guys, and I always go check on my grandfather. He always asks what's going on. I ask him what's going on. If I need any kind of advice from him, he's always willing to give it to me."
(A.J., given all your travels through here and NASCAR and back, do you feel that maybe this is your last chance. You're a very young guy. Have you looked at it like your running out of chances or you need to do something to prove that you belong in the series?): "Yeah, I definitely think so. I'm only 22 years old, but I've been in for four years. I haven't had the results I totally wanted. So, going to NASCAR and that falling thro ugh and nothing happening that was said was going to happen, it's just so great that I got the opportunity from Tony George to really come back here and prove that I can be driving these cars. I think we've done a great job with our new team this year. I just really owe it all to Tony for giving me this opportunity and this chance."
(Regarding his relationship with his grandfather, A.J. Foyt): "We're on the best terms I think we've ever been on. You know, I don't care if you work for your grandfather or father in a lawn mowing service, you're always going to be butting heads more than if you just worked for somebody you're not related to. We're on great terms. It's great to have him as a grandfather. It's great back in the IRL spending a lot more time with him. I missed him last year."
(Do you feel a little bit re-born this year?): "It's like a fresh start. We never really got accomplished what we wanted to when I drove for my grandfather. I'm not blaming it on nobody; it just never really got accomplished. I'm just thankful to AGR (Andretti Green Racing) they gave me that opportunity at the end of the year last year (substituting for Dario Franchitti) and to get to go out there and drive a great car and to run all day and finish the race. I think that really helped me out with getting a ride with Tony and this Vision Racing team. I've had as much fun this year I think I've ever had in any kind of racing."
Continued in part 2