CHANGES TO THE AERO MAP OF THE CAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE RACE FOR PASSING – IS IT GOING TO BE HARD?
“I read Pato’s (O’Ward) comments last week. He says things aggressively, which is good, I like that. And I think he was pretty accurate. It seemed like at first in the test, the passing and racing – you could run a little bit closer. But I don’t know if that’s actually what it’s going to be like. I think the first two cars can pass each other every straight if they wanted to. But if you’re the third car back, fourth car back, it is really, really hard.. it doesn’t matter how good you feel or how heroic you are. If you look in practice, you had two Ganassi cars and then all of a sudden, you’d have a Foyt car or whoever – it didn’t matter who it was, the line doesn’t change until something else happens. So I think the most interesting thing will be the end of the stint because cars seem to be burning off tires more than others and that will be the most interesting part. I think like lap 18 to 28 of the stint is going to be more telling than the beginning. It will be exciting for the first couple of laps, and then I think you’re going to see a lull. And then it could be like people have vibrations so bad they can’t see or they’re like burning off the tire. You always get vibrations here because the tires get old and you’re pushing them to the limit. It’s not a Firestone problem.. I think we’re pushing the cars faster than we’ve gone in the last literally 30 years – 1996 or whatever it is. So I think that’s the thing.”
IF YOU’RE COMING TO THE WHITE FLAG, WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE SITTING?
“Yeah, you want to be second (laughs). But it depends on the raw speed. I would say that if you can follow really close in (turn) four, maybe you can make that move before the start-finish. It depends how well you toe-up. Some cars toe-up better than others. Like I’d see some cars that really have to pop late, but if you can stay really locked-in behind the car in front of you, you can probably make a move before the start-finish.
Yeah, it just depends on everything, but I would rather be second – well no, I’d rather be first heading into (turn) three on the last lap. But definitely make the move before you get there.
Hypothetically, I’d like to lead all of the time (laughs). I think the goal is just to lead whenever you can, especially on that last stint. Anything can happen, as you said. People are literally going to have to be on the verge of crashing to make a pass because you just have to trust that if you can get a little bit of air to that left-front corner of the wing, you’re going to get a little bit of grip and enough to launch yourself around the car in front of you.”
“That’s actually interesting.. I hadn’t really thought about that. I think no matter what, everybody’s going to be aggressive here. It doesn’t matter if this race is worth a million points or zero points – you’ll still be fighting for everything that you’ve got. I don’t think anybody is thinking championship here.”
DOES YOUR RACECAR FEEL MORE LIKE IT DID IN 2021 OR 2022?
“Oh man, 2021 is hard to beat. That car was a really, really good one. I would say I would feel more confident this year than I did last year, and last year I ended up being pretty good. I think we just have to end up using the last two weeks of experience and kind of just formulate the right situation. We have a few things we want to run through at Carb Day, too. There is more aero stuff that you can do.. I mean there’s a lot more aero stuff that you can do, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what is enough grip, but also not dragging. You really have to be able to create a run. One run could change your whole race – like if you happen to get by someone that is really struggling to hold everyone up. But yeah, we’ll see.”
WHAT’S YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL RIGHT NOW?
“Honestly, I would say we’re in a region of four to six cars that have been probably quite strong every day of practice, when it comes to running in race trim. Like if I’m going to list them, it’s Pato (O’Ward), Felix (Rosenqvist), (Scott) Dixon, (Alex) Palou and I would say me and Rinus (VeeKay) are probably in that arena, too. Ed (Carpenter) hasn’t been bad, as well. Other than that, I haven’t seen a ton of cars – like Josef (Newgarden) looked like he was having a difficult time. He was pitted right in front of me on Monday. But those guys always show up.. it’s not like they’re not going to be good.
But those are the cars I’ve seen, more often than not, look like they’re quite strong. We’ll see.. we’ll see. But I definitely don’t feel like we’re not in the game, like when it comes to cycling our way forward. We have good tire life. We have not struggling with burning tires off. I would say we’re in better shape than a lot of other people when it comes to tire life.”
THE NAMES YOU MENTIONED, A LOT OF CHEVY’S IN THERE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE CHEVY HAS BROUGHT AN IMPROVED PACKAGE FROM LAST YEAR?
“Yeah, Chevy has done a great job. Both manufacturers, when you look at it, I think this year is closer than ever. Yeah, there’s a Honda on the pole, but there’s two Chevy’s on the front row, as well. I would say this year, more than ever, you don’t really know. Last year, it was like – alright, it looked like one was stronger than the other. But Chevy has done a great job I would say at getting us right into the game. They want to win this race I think more than anyone, too. It’s going to be cool.”
ED CARPENTER, NO. 33 CHEVROLET AT ED CARPENTER RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR MONTH HAS BEEN GOING?
“I think it’s been a pretty successful month, so far. I didn’t qualify ultimately as high as I had hoped, but at the same time I’ve been really happy with the racecar the whole time I’ve been here. I think the race runs have been strong. Looking forward to Sunday. Obviously, I have a bit of work to do from 13th to get up into the lead group, but I believe I have the car and team to do it.”
LOOKING BACK AT YOUR FIRST YEAR, WHAT WAS THAT ‘WELCOME TO THE INDY 500’ MOMENT?
“I think the first one is always the big one. You don’t know what to expect the whole way through – from the qualifying format, through the race. My first one was tough, too; we had a rain delay in the middle of it and I didn’t last too long after the rain delay. It’s great to get the first one out of the way. You learn things the whole way through. It’s a hard month, it’s a grind going through qualifying and even race week when we’re not in the car and on the track as much there are still so many things going on. When you’re young and haven’t experienced that you have to figure out how to manage your time and how to manage your energy and focus because things ramp up and ramp down and we’re pulled in a lot of different directions. I think the older you get you learn how to manage all that beyond just knowing what you need out of your racecar on the days you are in it.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT RINUS (VEEKAY) MANAGING TO PUT THE CAR ON THE FRONT ROW?
“He has always been comfortable here. I think his driving style suits the track really well. To be fast here, whether you have a fast car or now, you have to be willing to put it to the limit, and he certainly puts himself in the right head space and has the ability to do that. I’m really proud to have him as part of the team.”
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH HIM ABOUT THE START OF THE RACE?
“Not necessarily about the start. He’s been up in that area, so he knows what it’s going to be like. All of our conversations, whether it’s between teammates or the whole engineering room, has been what we need out of the cars. We have two hours tomorrow to zero in on those last little adjustments.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR RACECAR FOR THIS SUNDAY?
“I feel strong. I feel we’ve made improvements from last year beyond just the improvements the series gave us with extra downforce. I think we were OK last year. I think we could have been better; we maybe didn’t make the best decisions going into the race. I think we’ve taken a pretty decent step forward this year. Our cars were pretty similar in ’21 and ’22, and I think we’ve found some things and all three of us a pretty confident. Looking forward to Sunday to see if that holds true and how we stack up with the competition.”
YOU’VE COME CLOSE TO WINNING; WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN?
“We’ve led a lot of laps here; I’ve finished second and top five a couple of times. It’s just a very hard race to win. I think we have all the tools to do it with Chevrolet, we have a great partner in Bitnile.com that gives us everything we need, so it’s just going to come down to execution from myself and our other drivers and the pit crew. I think we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been, and we have a great opportunity in front of us.”
ANY CLUES YET ON FUEL MILEAGE FROM YOUR RACE RUNS AND WILL IT BE A FACTOR?
“It’s always a factor. We know where we are, but I don’t know if you truly know where everyone is at until race day and see what people are doing. I know we’re going to have what we need to get the job done. Chevrolet has brought a lot this month. I think they took a pretty good step forward in all aspects of the engine – from power to economy – so I’m looking forward to it.”
WHERE ARE YOU ON THE RACE CAR COMPARED TO 2021 AND 2022? IN 2021, YOU WERE HAPPY, LAST YEAR, LESS SO.
“I think we were okay last year. I think we probably could’ve been better. We could’ve just maybe didn’t make the best decisions going into the race. I think we’ve taken a pretty decent step forward this year. Our cars were pretty similar in 2021 and 2022, kind of year over year, and I think we kind of found some things. That’s probably the most different our race package has been in the past couple of years, and all three of us feel pretty confident that we’ve made improvements. Looking forward to Sunday to see if that holds true and how we stack up to the competition.”
AS A DRIVER, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW AERO CHANGES?
“I mean, I think it’s good. It’s interesting. I don’t think there is total consensus across the field which is cool. That’s the nice thing about having options. From practice on Monday, I think there is still people trying to come to a final conclusion on how they want to run their car. I think we are pretty confident with the configuration that we will be in. It just now comes down to the exact amount of downforce that we’ll choose for the day given what the temperature and conditions, the track temp, etc. I think INDYCAR made the right choice in bringing us some more options. I think it’s going to be good for the show.”
ARE CHEVY AND HONDA CLOSE TO THE SAME HERE?
“It seems pretty close. I think Chevrolet has done a fantastic job this year. We won’t truly know, well we’ll maybe get a sense tomorrow, but on race day, qualifying specs and race specs are a little different, and everyone’s just now putting their race engines in. To be determined exactly who’s got an edge come Sunday.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY, NO. 23 CHEVROLET AT DREYER & REINBOLD RACING, Indy 500 Media Availability Transcript:
WHAT HAS GRAHAM (RAHAL) BROUGHT TO THE TABLE ON SUCH SHORT NOTICE?
“He’s a pro, right. He knows what he’s doing. He’s one of the best INDYCAR drivers out there, and he’s current. He’s got a great relationship with the Wilson family; good relationship with Dennis Reinbold and the team. He’s one of my good friends. I think when you put all the factors together, it was the perfect fit to fill in for Stefan (Wilson).”
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE BACK AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
“It’s great to be back – it’s awesome, love it. Loving every day on track. It’s been a lot of fun with the team and I really enjoy it. It’s a smaller program than I’m used to; a smaller effort than I’m used to. It’s really interesting to see the difference with a team that focuses just on Indy, as opposed to the other programs that are really in the midst of a grind – a full season grind. It’s a quite a bit different atmosphere. Everybody has big smiles on their faces when they show up to work in the morning and that’s important.”
CAN YOU RELAY A LITTLE BIT OF THE EMOTIONS THAT GRAHAM (RAHAL) WENT THROUGH BECAUSE YOU WENT THROUGH THAT YOURSELF BACK IN 2010 OR 2011, WHEN YOU DIDN’T GET IN?
“Yeah, its tough because you’re basically going to another garage, right. In that scenario in ’11, I was on my way home. The team called up and basically the partners said – why are we in INDYCAR if we’re not going to be in the biggest race. So I certainly understood that. But it wasn’t straightforward. You have to go into another team’s garage – get in there and meet all new people. Everything is new – a different car, different steering wheel. It’s a lot to get done within a short amount of time. It’s anything but straightforward.”
FROM GRAHAM’S (RAHAL) POSITION, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PROCESS OF CHANGING MANUFACTURERS AND CHANGING TEAMS?
“I just made kind of a similar switch, right. I was with Honda for many years and now I’m back with Chevy. I won the championship with Chevy, so I’ve got a great relationship with them. Really happy to be back with them.
I can give him some tips on the nuances of the drivability of the Chevy versus a Honda. Some of the details of pit lane – launching out of the pit box is a little bit different. So just helping him get up to speed on that stuff so it’s not a surprise. But Graham (Rahal) is a pro, he knows what to do. It’s an INDYCAR and he knows his way around this place, around IMS. Like I said earlier, I spent some time with him, discussing what I thought would be the major points that would help him get acclimated quicker. I’m an open book to anything that he needs. I think he’s going to like the car.”
WHAT’S THE FEELING FROM THE TIME THAT YOU WERE OUT OF THE SERIES TO NOW. ARE YOU FEELING BACK HOME?
“Yeah, I was here last year in a consulting role and I really enjoyed it. After being in INDYCAR, generally let’s call it, for 20 years, it was nice to take a step back for a moment and try some new things. I raced in IMSA and I did SRX, as well. To be at this event last year, from the outside looking in so to speak, I think it was good for me in a lot of ways. Like I’ve said before, it allowed me to come back a bit reenergized and focused. Getting some perspective is sometimes important on that. We’re so deep in the trenches at times when you go from year-to-year-to-year, especially for me in the same program for 12 years and more than half of my career. But yeah, it was good to take a step back for a second and just kind of look at everything. I got to do a lot of things with my kids that I would have never had the opportunity to do, like coaching their sports teams and things like that. Being there for them – they’re at such an impressionable age, so that’s very important. I wouldn’t have done anything different.”
YOU SAID THE TEAM WILL TELL HIM TO GO TO ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR?
“Correct. He’s not getting a lot of information.
Basically, it one is a different map based on fuel, maybe drivability, all this other stuff. The extent of the information that he’s being given is – we are going to tell you which map to go into and that’s all the information you’re getting.
And I get it. I mean he’s coming over for one weekend and next weekend, he’s going to be back with the competition again, which is Honda. I get it – it’s a sensitive situation and big props to both manufacturers for making it happen because quite honestly, that seems like that might have been the biggest hurdle.”