Inaugural Freedom 100 Front Row Press Conference May 16, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Ed Carpenter, Mark Taylor MIKE KING: Congratulations to Ed Carpenter, our pole sitter for the Freedom 100, and to Mark Taylor who will start on the...
Inaugural Freedom 100 Front Row Press Conference
May 16, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Ed Carpenter, Mark Taylor
MIKE KING: Congratulations to Ed Carpenter, our pole sitter for the Freedom 100, and to Mark Taylor who will start on the outside of the front row. In case you did not get their times: Ed, first lap 188.612; second lap 188.368 for an average of 188.490; Mark, 187.960, 188.165 for a two-lap average of 188.062. Ed, let's start with you. What's it like to be on pole at the Speedway?
ED CARPENTER: It's great. Mark had me nervous for a second. He went out right before me and he was the first person to put up a big number. I was hoping -- I figured that I would be running right about exactly where he was. So he put the heat on, and I didn't know what my times were in the car. I couldn't hear jack going down the backstretch either. So I didn't know until I got in the pit lane and saw the pylon. It was a big relief.
KING: Mark, what about you? Outside the front row is not too shabby in your first start here. In fact, there are some drivers who say they prefer to be on the outside starting a race here as opposed to the inside. What do you think?
MARK TAYLOR: We'll find out I think tomorrow. But it's great to be on the front row. Anywhere in the top five I would have been happy with. It just shows what Panther can do. They can make the car really good and make it easy for me in qualifying. To be able to put those kind of numbers up, we were able to go quicker and quicker each time we went out. I would have to be happy with this.
KING: Talk, if you would, about the final practice session and any changes that the crews might have made. I would say well over half, maybe a dozen of the 19 cars that were set to qualify were all over the rev limiter during their runs. Ronnie Johncox, I talked to him and said, "I needed a fifth-and-a-half gear." He said he was on the limiter in five, couldn't pull in six. Ed, did you guys make any changes to the car or did you just happen to hit it just right?
CARPENTER: We had that problem everyone was having yesterday in practice. We made a couple changes with the gearbox, and we got it right where we wanted it, and I was able to be just off the rev limiter right where it needs to be for the engine to work most efficiently and get maximum power out of it. So I don't know, my guys did a great job, and it was a beautiful day and got the pole.
KING: Mark, what about you, any changes this morning?
TAYLOR: This morning, the wind wasn't playing quite as much, and we were like everybody else, too small a gear. If we had the chance to run again, we would have done something completely differently and probably been able to maybe even put it on pole. But there you go, that's the way it goes. With the way the wind is, you just ended up almost hitting the limiter as you're crossing the start/finish line coming down the front straight, so you have to back off the power so you're not hitting the limiter. Otherwise, you'll just destroy the momentum and you'll end up -- a lot of people did it, they ended up doing 184, 185, just because they were hitting the limiter.
KING: I want to remind everyone that Ed Carpenter drives the Foyt Racing Futaba-sponsored Dallara, and Mark Taylor drives the Panther Racing Fulmar-sponsored Dallara. Questions for our front row?
Q: Ed, it's been felt by a number of people that a guy that's good in a non-wing sprint car, non-wing midget that you have to throw around, radical turns, radical corrections, is not going to do well in a car in a series where precision and gentility is required. Is that a correct observation? If so, how difficult was the change?
CARPENTER: It's a difficult change only because it's two completely different style of cars. Midgets and sprint cars, the engine is up in front of you, and there's no downforce. I think that's the reason why we slide around a lot more. I think there's a lot of great race car drivers in the USAC ranks, and all they need to do is get an opportunity to get to the Pro Series or IRL to show what they can do. I think that the racing is so close in USAC and competitive that it's actually a very good training ground for the IRL and the Infiniti Pro Series just because how close we race, and it's so competitive. They're all great race car drivers; there's just an adjustment period learning this new type of rear-engine car with the downforce. It's like a whole different world, and you just have to get adapted to it. But I think USAC breeds great race car drivers and will continue to do so.
KING: Let me ask the both of you. Are you happy you only have to wait -- well, we'll be throwing the green flag in about 24-and-a-half hours. Are you glad you only have to wait one day now to race?
CARPENTER: Yeah. I'm going to be antsy waiting around for it tomorrow. I can't imagine what it's like for Helio having to wait the rest of the month to get his shot. Yeah, it's nice. Kind of got a momentum and just carry it into the next day.
KING: Mark, what about you?
TAYLOR: Just enjoying the month for the moment. I think after tomorrow, if the way if finishes now, once it's lost forever, so just enjoy the moment as you can. Work on the car later on today, we don't have much time to think about it. So we'll just get on with it.
Q: You guys want to work out right now who gets to go first when the flag drops? Just to make sure we're on the same page. You're the pole sitter, so, Mark, you'll let him go, right?
TAYLOR: Oh, of course.
CARPENTER: I wish it was that easy. (Laughter)
KING: If the two of you could, Ed, you're off to -- you had a good year last year, finished top three in points, came very close to winning some races, had some great battles. This year's start for you, I know, has been almost nightmarish. Mark, you're on the exact opposite end of the spectrum where you're two and oh, and everything has gone right to the point that in that Homestead race you actually turned your car off during the race and were able to flip the switch and get the car restarted and still win. Talk about the season up to this point. Ed, let's start with you in terms of what you want to forget and how this could change everything.
CARPENTER: I'm not going to lie, the first two races have been -- they couldn't have gone much worse. I was making mistakes. The team made a couple mistakes. I mean just nothing seemed to go right. The one bright thing I had in my future was coming to Indianapolis. I think myself and the team, including -- I mean, we were determined to turn it around here, and they've done a lot of work on the car. It's back in great shape. I was mentally focused and ready to come here and get a good result. Hopefully we can carry it on through tomorrow.
KING: Mark, you on the other hand, there's been no hitch in your giddy-up, everything has been great so far?
TAYLOR: Absolutely, and it's down to the Panther team. They've been able to get the car absolutely perfect every time we've gone out in qualifying and in the racing so far. It has been fairly easy for me, but it's been because of a little bit of luck and with the car working so well. We felt unstoppable, especially at Phoenix. We were able to prove it that way. Here it's slightly different, slightly different track, and we're still learning with the car. We're not disappointed by any means, but we're going to be working 110 percent to try to win the race tomorrow.
Q: Ed, you've been coming to the track here for a long time. What are your first memories of A.J. Foyt?
CARPENTER: Oh, man, I don't know. To be honest with you, I don't really have many memories of A.J. I want to say he was out of his prime kind of when I started really paying attention. I really, I remember the first time he retired, I guess, it was a special day, and that's probably the thing that sticks out at me the most. I was more interested in Al Unser Jr. and guys like that when I was getting interested in it.
Q: What about working with A.J.?
CARPENTER: It's great. I mean, this whole winter after we announced I was going to race for him, all I heard was: "Oh, you're going to get schooled. A.J., he's going to kick you," or whatever, you know. So I mean it's great. It's a lot of fun. He's a good person, and I'm learning a lot from him, and it's a lot of fun.
Q: For both of you guys, how radically are the changes that you've made from the time you took it off the trailer until the time that you were able to run flat out? From that time, how much did you have to change the race car?
CARPENTER: With my car, we've actually -- we had a really good test here in April. We've hardly made any changes to the chassis. We've done some stuff with the gearbox, and I think that's been the biggest thing to work on. But the biggest thing has just been getting aerodynamically clean and getting rid of as much drag as we can without adjusting the wings, which isn't an easy thing to do. Chassis-wise, it's been as good as I got it off the trailer, we haven't hardly had to do anything.
TAYLOR: Yeah, the same. With the test that we had, everyone was able to run a long time. We knew what the place was going to be like, we knew what changes we were going to have to make. Maybe slight little changes with the drag and everything trying to reduce as much drag as possible. Other than that, it's just from day to day with the weather, trying to adjust for the weather.
Q: Now that you're both qualified and there is a practice today before the race, will you change the cars in any way to be able to run now in traffic and get drafting and so forth?
CARPENTER: I think we'll have to make some slight changes just because when you -- obviously, we have as little downforce as we can get right now. So if you get in a situation where you have to run right underneath someone to get a good draft, I think you need a little more downforce. So I don't know, we'll go out in this final practice and see. I honestly haven't ran in much traffic. I've been running by myself as much as I can just to work to sit where I am right now. So that's what the final practice is for. Tonight we'll figure out how much we have to do.
TAYLOR: Woody, my engineer, he'll be looking through it all at the moment, and I'll go back and talk about the way the qualifying went and talk about the way this morning went. I'm sure there will be some changes in there. We've got tonight to be able to work through it.
Q: This is for both of you guys. Can you just take us a little bit through each of your qualifying sessions, how the car ran, what the whole overall experience was in qualifying a car here?
CARPENTER: I guess I'll start. Like I said, I was feeling pretty confident. We had a really good practice session this morning and Mark went out right before me. Up to the point where he went out and ran some numbers, I was feeling pretty confident. After he went out, I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me because it wasn't going to be easy to go quicker than what he had gone. I knew, both my laps, I was just trying to scrub as little speed as possible and just keep as much momentum as I could. So I knew it was going to be close and go down to the wire. I'm just happy we were able to pull it off.
TAYLOR: Yeah, just trying to keep it smooth, trying not to scrub as much speed off. The way the car was, you're just trying to almost forget about how the car is feeling and just make sure that you can keep your hands as steady as possible through the corners. I was surprised with the speed that I was able to get up to. I didn't know what Ed was going to do. He obviously had a really good time this morning and a very legitimate time. So it caught us off guard a little bit, but we had a feeling that he might be doing that.
Q: In other forms of racing and at other tracks, we often hear that there's no place for a passing opportunity. I'm interested to know what your views are of the cars here and this track vis-a-vis passing.
CARPENTER: I don't think there's many tracks the Indy Racing League goes to where there's a problem with passing. So far in the Pro Series and IRL, they seem to put on great shows wherever they're at. I don't think it will be any different here. I think the Pro Series cars here at Indy will actually have a little more racing room than Indy cars do. So it should be a good show tomorrow.
Q: What about racing in an event with several total strangers and other cars on the track, is that a matter of concern?
CARPENTER: I mean, there are a lot of guys in the series I haven't been able to race with this year. But any time you're racing cars, you have to put a lot of trust in the people that are around you and hope they're going to do the smart thing. That's one positive starting up front: You don't have to deal with as many people, hopefully, unless you get into a lot of lapped traffic. But hopefully I won't have to worry about a lot of the people behind me tomorrow.
KING: Ed, I know you haven't been on pole this season. Did you win a pole last year?
CARPENTER: No, this is my first.
KING: This is your first career pole.
KING: Not bad.
CARPENTER: Good place to get in.
KING: Yeah. Any other questions?
Q: Are you still lined up to drive the Silver Crown race, too?
CARPENTER: Yeah, I'll be at IRP on the 22nd of May. I'll be out driving the Hoffman entry No. 69. So it's a great team I have for that series, also. Hopefully we can continue a good month out at IRP.
KING: But you won't be on the dirt the next night?
CARPENTER: No, I guess I can say I'm partially retired from the dirt. I don't know when I'll be able to get to do it again. So that's part of it, though.
KING: That's a race you nearly won last year or the year before when you cut a tire late while you were leading?
CARPENTER: I think it was two years ago.
KING: Do you miss the dirt?
CARPENTER: Oh, yeah, it's a lot of fun. I mean I'm happy to be where I'm at now and focusing only on this. But I have a lot of friends who race on dirt still. When I go out to watch them, I definitely miss it, and if there's a car for me to jump into, I'd probably be in it.
KING: Mark, I'm curious, have you ever seen a Silver Crown car or a car on dirt other than maybe a kart years ago?
TAYLOR: No is the answer. I was able to see them at Phoenix but nothing on dirt. Had the -- well, there was going to be an opportunity to see them in Indy but, unfortunately, it started to have a big thunderstorm that night and so I wasn't able to go. Hopefully I'll be able to go and see something soon. I hear they're really good fun, and I'm sure it will be a good show to watch.
KING: And I know your parents have made the trip and are here. So a proud day, I'm sure. Ed, I know your folks are proud of you as equally. For those of you who don't know, Ed is, of course, an Indianapolis native and Mark is from England, Wimbledon, England. So quite an interesting contrast in our front row. Any other questions? Any other questions? Gentlemen, congratulations. Look forward to the race tomorrow.