An interview with Richard Antinucci Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Starting the call with us is IndyCar Series...
An interview with Richard Antinucci
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Starting the call with us is IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves, and Nashville Super Speedway president Cliff Hawks, and in a few minutes we'll be joined by Firestone Indy Lights driver Richard Antinucci.
We are joined now by Richard Antinucci. Richard is in his second season in Firestone Indy Lights, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. After competing only on road courses last season and recording wins at Infineon and Mid-Ohio, he is in a full year this year. He won at St. Petersburg and Watkins Glen last weekend and leads the Firestone Indy Lights points standings.
Congratulations on the victory last week especially. How tough was it to come from fifth to first on a track like Watkins Glen?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: First of all, thanks a lot.
Well, it was difficult for sure, but you know, the grid reversal represents the slowest in theory on a normal, natural result of the top six starting in first place for Race 2, and the fastest guy starting at the latter end of it.
So in theory and in practice, both (Raphael) Matos and myself were probably the fastest, in that order, him being the quickest and me being second-quickest. So we moved through the field relatively easy due to our pace, our extra pace that we had on the guys who were starting up front.
The grid reversal managed to make the championship and the racing more exciting, and I think it did so. We got some nice passes, and I think without the yellows, we would have moved to within five laps and that's just how it is. It was pretty good, pretty smooth. If I had Matos' pole sitter to try to pass, that would be a whole different issue. He's fast and he's got the speed to defend himself, and I actually tried to pull away.
THE MODERATOR: We're coming back to Mid-Ohio in a couple of weeks, site of your first victory last year, was that when things really started clicking for you guys last year?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: Actually it clicked just before then at the race at Watkins Glen. Having done only a part-time schedule last year, only the road courses, we attended five racing weekends instead of the 12.
So we went to Watkins Glen having never tested there. We were actually six seconds off the pace in the first test; we chipped away. We ended up the week being one of the quickest cars on the track, and I was stuck behind traffic but I managed to pass (Hidkei) Mutoh in the race and it was a good representation of a quick car and a quick driver package. We managed to pass him and stay in front and finish fifth from eighth in the field.
What we understood was a lot of how to run the car quickly and to get the best out of the engine, running it in the torque and the power band all the time. We chose the right gears, and then we applied that philosophy in Mid-Ohio, and it just clicked from the word go.
THE MODERATOR: Now this year, you have the lead in the championship, four of the final races this season are on road courses; do you feel like that puts you in the driver's seat for the championship?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: No, you know, looking race-by-race, I've won Cup races before, big titles like a world championship, one-off event or two events. I've never won a long-distance championship - I've never done it, but I've watched people do it before, and they take it race-by-race and be as humble as they can. I have no choice but to be humble because I'm not exactly running away with a 200-point lead.
So I have to see every new oval as a new event for me. And also the road courses, you can't just take it for granted. We have tough competition, and Raphael Matos is considered one of the best open-wheel racers in the whole continent. He's also one of the best I've ever raced against. I have a lot of respect for him. He's very fast. We managed to go head-to-head last weekend and gain a lot of points. We do seem to be a bit stronger than the others, but that can change every weekend. I think Franck Perera and Jonny Reid are also an excellent challenge, and my teammates can be fast.
So, you know, given the right circumstances, hopefully we'll get a lot of points out of those next four or five races on the road courses. But to prove to the IndyCar Series people, I'd love to get a win on an oval as well.
THE MODERATOR: My next question, this has been your first year racing on ovals, tell us about how that adaptation gone for you.
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: First of all it's an excellent experience. When you're struggling on ovals with your car balance, it's a terrible feeling because you're trying to stay within the walls and you're kind of like a sitting duck, hard to defend yourself.
It's as if you are on one big corner, and if you have an imbalance it really comes out strong and true quickly; whereas on a road course, you can mask that, you have lefts and rights and different characteristics on the track, so you can break up the rhythm.
On ovals you struggle more.
Basically we have had two top-twos and three top-10s and then two top-16s. So 13th and 16th is not exactly my cup of tea and it's not what I race for, neither is ninth place. But Homestead, the season-opener, we led most of the laps, finished second. Frustrating to finish second, actually, in those circumstances, but we'll take it. Indy we caught up at the end and almost won the show but we did get second.
On two big representative ovals, we did well, and on three others we've struggled. So it's been up and down, and I'd really like to make that whole curve more consistent.
THE MODERATOR: Driving for Sam Schmidt, he's a guy that's had a series of champions come through his team. Can you maybe take us back to last season and how much did you get to know Sam while racing against him, and then what led you to joining his team during the off-season?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: Well, we probably got his attention by winning in Mid-Ohio. We were definitely faster than them there. We were the fastest that weekend. It was a great weekend. We had a mishap in qualifying and went through the field, the fastest car, pulled away three seconds in seven laps or something, and we had almost half a second up and Alex Lloyd was the dominator until then. We proved we were probably as quick as him or quicker on the road courses when we went to Sonoma. Qualified on the pole comfortably and he won the first race, and we charged from seventh and won the second.
After that, he just came and spoke to me, after things were done, the season was over, and we just had a talk. And yeah, I think we have a lot of respect for each other, and he's given me a great opportunity. Through him, Lucas Oil and Lifelock, they have given me a great deal. They have brought people forward from that (No.) 7 car, and I just hope to continue that trend.
THE MODERATOR: What types of things does Sam do to help develop drivers like yourself? He's somewhat of a hands-on owner. Is he there for advice, or what are the things that you've gained from him?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: Absolutely. First of all, he's a very intelligent person. He thinks a lot and he listens to anyone; he has time for anyone. So in my case, he's also a big fan of mine. I'm racing for his car, and I am one of his products this year. He and I get along very well. I think already last year I felt comfortable speaking to him. He's won races on ovals and he has a lot of good advice, and he's also seen a lot of drivers do the right things and then do the wrong things, so he can definitely give you advice.
He's not one to force you to do something or to force advice on you. He'll just let it out there and if you want it, pick it up. But I definitely go out of my way to speak to him and to learn. He's made me a better driver this season and prepared myself for better first-case scenarios, coming up to do ovals, for example, preparing me on what to expect and stuff, and it's worked out well so far.
Q: Is every race like a roller coaster ride of emotions and sensations, or has it become routine to you after finishing up your rookie year?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: Well, I've never gotten used to the butterflies or whatever it is and expectations for the weekend. I try to perform and as flatly and not be as emotional as possible, but inside is not what you show on the outside. And hopefully, with experience, not just last year racing in the Indy Lights, but having raced since 2000 in motorsport - cars and stuff, you tend to become -- to perform more consistently.
But the emotions inside, I feel adrenaline every time. It's like you don't get used to it and you're like, damn, this makes me get old. So I always have those emotions and there's always turmoil, but just try to bunch it up all together and get the best out of it without showing those emotions.
Q: Also, do you feel that the ability for race car drivers, do you think the ability to adjust and to adapt is probably the best skill that you could have or that any driver could have?
RICHARD ANTINUCCI: I think that is the best skill, you get to a new track, learn it as quickly as you can, and be on the pace as soon as you can.
Also I think the IndyCar Series is one of the best championships in the world for that, too, because they throw short ovals at you, long ovals, speedways and street circuits and road courses. There are not many series out there that have such a great mix. So it does put the driver and his adaptation skills to the test.
THE MODERATOR: Richard, want to thank you again for joining us and wish you the best of luck this coming weekend.