IRL: Michigan: Top-three race finishers press conference, part II

IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 400 Michigan International Speedway July 27, 2003 ALEX BARRON MO NUNN SAM HORNISH JR. TOMAS SCHECKTER Q: You referred to the spin as a 'hiccup.' How lucky a moment is that for a driver? ALEX BARRON: Well,...

IRL IndyCar Series
Firestone Indy 400
Michigan International Speedway
July 27, 2003

ALEX BARRON MO NUNN SAM HORNISH JR. TOMAS SCHECKTER

Q: You referred to the spin as a 'hiccup.' How lucky a moment is that for a driver?

ALEX BARRON: Well, some drivers will say they're fully skilled, and they pulled it all off on their own. There's a lot of luck involved. A little bit of skill. You know, the car has to start rotating around where you can say sometimes when it's rotating, there's nothing you can do about it because of the turning radius of the car. The cars are very stiff. You know, there was a lot of luck involved in that. We were just enough to bring it back around. It fired right back up when I left the clutch out. Fired right back up, downshifted, took off. We were lucky enough not to bend anything.

Q: Coming out of (Turn) 4, what had to happen? You said you timed it. Sam said earlier that you timed it just right. Could you explain what exactly you meant there?

ALEX BARRON: Well, going into (Turn) 1, I wanted to be far enough back to where I was behind him coming off of (Turn) 2. That way, I had the slipstream in order to get a jump down the back straight. I had momentum going into (Turn) 3, so I could carry the speed through (Turns) 3 and 4. That way coming off of (Turn) 4, if you stay tight with the other driver, which I feel really comfortable with Sam doing, came down the front straight, we just inched forward enough to win the race. A little bit of doubt that that was going to work, but that was our only chance to do it. Again, if the start/finish would have been three-quarters more of the length of the straightaway, there would have been a different outcome. We did that four laps previous, and it worked. We just gave it a shot.

Q: Alex, coming out of Turn 4 at this track, will that be pretty special for you, the spinout and the big move both in the general same vicinity?

ALEX BARRON: Yeah, I mean, today the car was so good, we were just in a zone, really. You know, we were just really fast, just looking forward, trying to pick up spots on the track. Seems like we ran side by side with Sam for about 4000 laps. We just had a solid car. We just did everything we could to try to get it running the last lap. We were fortunate enough that it worked out.

Q: Tomas Scheckter was saying there was a massive amount of stress out there in the fight at the end of the race, he was literally exhausted. How much stress is there when you're out there in order to do that type of racing on the edge?

ALEX BARRON: Well, the only stress I had, besides the fact I spun, was my water bottle didn't work halfway through the race (laughter). You know, I was get a little bit thirsty near the end. It wasn't a big deal. All the drivers we run with here that were in the front, you know, are very talented. Again, running with Sam, we ran neck and neck, lap after lap. It was very comfortable. It was just a strategic and timing issue. We were just fortunate to come out ahead.

Q: Because the hiccup happened so quickly, tell us where you thought you were and how the contact occurred.

ALEX BARRON: Well, Turn 4 flattens off on the exit. You're going to have a little bit of understeer right there. I think, you know, every driver that's come through there all weekend knows that's going to happen. I tried to keep my line down low, but it seemed like Scheckter came down just enough to where it just rubbed my right front. You know, when you got locked in the steering to stay low, you touch like that, it just spun the car around. You know, it just happened. That's the way it goes. I didn't know how it was going to turn out from then on out. Like I said, the car didn't get damaged. We were able to move forward from there.

Q: Is that a little scary?

ALEX BARRON: I wasn't really scared because we were spinning away from the wall. I was more worried of the fact that we could damage the car and then such a great day could turn into a disaster. The car started to come back around the front straight. First thing you're thinking is, 'Sharp is coming down.' I thought maybe he was going to come into me. Then I turned it back, counter-steered, rolled forward, put it back in gear, and it fired right up. Again, the car took off, went yellow, we pitted, right back in the game.

Q: Alex, Sam has won so many of these close races from the outside. Last season, particularly, the outside line was always the line to have. Were you surprised that he gave up? He stayed glued to the inside the entire time you were trying to take him on the outside. Were you surprised?

ALEX BARRON: No. I mean, the Ganassi cars, everybody was running low when they were in front. A little bit faster when you're up about mid-track. The problem is, somebody can get underneath you. If they come underneath you, they take the air out on the exit, you lose your momentum. Shorter distance on the inside. The cars have, you know, pretty good grip. Everybody was pretty much doing it. Everybody was making every try to pass on the outside.

Q: It doesn't seem like you can win a close one on the inside. What is your reason for that?

ALEX BARRON: Horsepower. Definitely horsepower.

Q: When Hornish was driving off in the sunset, he had close to an eight-second lead. Were you beginning to think, 'They gave them a little bit too much of a break,' as a Toyota driver?

ALEX BARRON: Who was that?

Q: Hornish, eight seconds ahead.

ALEX BARRON: Did you say the Cosworth? Did I misunderstand?

Q: Do you think they gave him a break.

ALEX BARRON: I get it. Sorry. I'm a little slow. Yeah, I mean, I was running with him for 20 laps straight. Like five laps from the end, I don't know if the funny button got pushed or what, but he took off. He had a little bit more power. I was talking on the radio saying, 'Something happened. The engine changed note, and he's pulling forward a little bit.' I didn't know what it was. I didn't have one of those, so I was a little bit worried (laughter). He seemed to come back the last two laps. He seemed to come back somewhere to what my speed was, then he just got a good run.

Q: What are you doing to stay on top of your game? You were out of the series the first part of the season, you've come back in real strong.

ALEX BARRON: Well, I think a big part of that was Roger Penske gave me a few test days. He had me do some testing at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway. I drove in Japan for him. That's one thing: when you drive for Roger, you drive a lot of laps. I think he was a big key for getting up to speed quick when I got the call from Mo Nunn. And there he is.

MODERATOR: Questions for Mo Nunn.

Q: When Hornish checked out, he looked like he was going to drive off into the sunset. Were you beginning to think as a Toyota owner, 'They got a little bit too much of a break there?'

MO NUNN: Well, obviously the engine is very strong. Yeah, he was running away. But if you do make a break, it's very difficult to catch back up. We were watching his fuel consumption. It was pretty heavy. We kind of had probably six gallons of fuel advantage over him. Depending how the yellows were going to work out, if there were any or not, I think if it had been all green, I don't think -- he would have had to make one more stop than us.

Q: Can you talk about the way Alex responded from the spin? He admitted he was pretty angry.

MO NUNN: I haven't got over the shock yet. I saw another car going off to the wall. I thought, 'Oh, here we go again.' But, no, the little hair I got left went from silver to white. He collected it very well. I was quite relieved. I know from when I drove, that can find you quite a bit of time. When you do something like that, you get angry, more aggressive.

Q: Alex has proven to be IndyCar Series' best utility player. Do you think he's finally earned a position in the starting lineup?

MO NUNN: I haven't known him very long. He should be a regular driver from what we've seen so far, when he's raced for us. And, he's American. Yeah, it's obviously good for the series. Felipe (Giaffone) called right away and said, 'Do I still have a drive?'

Q: Alex, you mentioned the change in the sound of Sam's engine. We noticed there were at least two or three drivers shifting going into (Turn) 1, off of (Turn) 2. Did you have your car geared where you were doing any shifting at all?

ALEX BARRON: I don't know if I could tell you or not.

Q: Sure, you can.

ALEX BARRON: We were shifting sometimes. I don't know if he was shifting, I don't think that's what I was hearing, the note change of his engine. Usually it's timing. When timing gets put in the engine, the engine note becomes raspier and louder. That's what I heard. Again, it seemed like he had a little bit more power. Two laps from the end, it seemed like it came back to where we were. About five laps from the end, it definitely picked up a little bit.

MODERATOR: As a final note, today's Toyota victory is its seventh in the last eight IndyCar Series events, its eighth total win this season.

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Roger Penske , Mo Nunn