Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
May 7, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Everyone, welcome to the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. Obviously, one of the great stories for this month, a father and son duo here who put in a good day's work. It looked like it from our point of view. Marco, you got a lot of laps underneath your belt. Just a little bit slower than your father, who turned in some good laps at 220 plus.
Michael, talk about the day, having Marco out, what it was like.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, it was really a special day for sure. It started out special when we did that lap at the beginning of the day to kick the ceremonies off with my dad on the right side of me, my son on my left. That was pretty special, for sure. Then just got better from there.
We started running, real happy with my car. Got right up to speed, where I wanted to be. Just started with the program. So far, so good. Car feels really good. Very happy with the way I feel in the car. No rust or anything. That's good.
You know, Marco was able to get some speed out of his, too. It was a good day. Got through his rookie stuff, all that. Everything, so far so good.
THE MODERATOR: Michael, I couldn't help but notice when that ceremonial three-car field left and came down, your dad seemed to feel a need to cross that finish line first. Did you let him there?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I let the old man have it (laughter). He was tough. He was actually squeezing me a little bit. I know he wanted it pretty bad (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Marco, congratulations on a great day. It was funny, I was in the trackside cafeteria there. The word came out you passed your rookie test. Everyone went, "Wow, that was pretty quick." Pretty smooth day for you.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I think it started out pretty good. It was easier than I thought to get up to speed. I think at some points I was quicker than they wanted me, but I think I knew if I just showed them that I can handle the speed, that's exactly what they wanted. That's what we did.
Things definitely went well. I was happy when they told me I passed the test. That means now we can start working on the data. I wanted to try to make it as quick as possible so we had more time to really work on the car. I think that happened.
The first run where they turned me loose, I was able to go flat and run around, comfortably flat, you know, move my line around a little bit. We just started working on -- we started to trim once, but we were staying, you know, pretty consistent with downforce. We were just sort of working on pure car comfort. I think we ended up pretty decent.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Marco, during ROP, they say there's a level for the car, it's actually harder to drive at 200 than it is at 210, then it gets harder over 218. How did you feel that in the car? Stability changes depending on the speed?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, this year, I don't know about last year, but this year, I mean, the first run was almost 200 miles an hour. I didn't feel that. I felt, you know, I didn't have to go flat. That was the only good thing in my mind, I don't have to try to go impress anybody.
No, you know, the speeds -- the first run, it was almost unbelievable that I was already there, you know. But then also, you know, it's hard to find that extra little bit. When you get it flat is where, you know, then you just start working on little things here and there.
But I wasn't -- it didn't feel -- to answer your question, a little roundabout here, but it definitely didn't feel harder to drive. It was easier being able to lift than to go flat, for sure.
Q. Mike, does it feel like this two years away never happened? Is it almost as if you were just in the car last week?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, actually it's three years, wasn't it? It was '03. It's '06 now. Yeah, it came right back to me. I was very, very happy. I was a little nervous this morning. After the first run, I was like, oh, feels just like the way I left it. Very happy.
Q. Were you able to detach? You've talked a lot about being in the car is the best way to not have to constantly worry about Marco. Did you ever notice yourself looking in your rearview mirrors saying he's looking pretty good out there?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Actually, I only asked a couple times how he was doing. It was good. I had my own distraction. I knew he was being taken care of by his team. I felt really good, like it wasn't a real distraction. I was a little worried about it, and it's not. That's going to be good for me I think the rest of the month.
Q. Michael, did you get a chance to look at Marco's line? He was way above the white line on the bottom and way far away from the wall, still getting speed. It's a line we haven't seen in a while.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I think he's still looking for it. I don't think he's found the proper line yet. That's just going to take laps around here. We'll talk about it later.
The good part about it is he still had the speed even though it's probably not the perfect line yet. That's a good sign. I think he's been mixing it up all day. I notice he got a lot better near the end of the day than with the beginning.
Q. About the line you were choosing, comment about that, Marco.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Initially, once we got comfortable running flat, we wanted to experiment a little bit running high and low. You know, once we sort of got going, the car was feeling so good where I didn't really have to take it to the wall. You know, sometimes I would feel myself, you know, like I would come out of one, not go to the wall, I'd feel myself choke a little in turn two. I sort of did fix it towards the end of the day.
I'm experimenting. It's my first day out here. I'm just moving it around.
Q. Marco, toward the end of the day, there were I think 2/100ths of a miles an hour separating you. Did you ever think, just a little more, I can be the one on top at the end of the day?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, I kind of knew he was going to trim it anyway and get that little extra bit. Even my engineer was sort of like, Relax, we don't have to trim right now. It's your first day.
No, we sort of lost the balance midday. We had to work. Fortunately we got it back the last run, which is good for me.
Q. Because of the time zone difference, this isn't going to be that big of a deal, Happy Hour is really going to be different weather conditions than we've seen historically here. It's virtually an hour earlier than it's probably been.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Right.
Q. Talk about how that changes the car, changes the driver. On qualifying days, is it advantageous to go out at the end of the day or early?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know actually. I think it may be an advantage to go early because it will be, you know, what does it start, 11:00, so it will be like 10 in the morning last year. I think that's still a good time to go, going at like 4 in the afternoon instead of 5.
I think we definitely discussed that, have been looking at that. It's probably something we'll be experimenting with during the month, or this week, I should say, before qualifying.
Q. What is it like working with Barry again? Could you explain the process? Kim was telling me most of your crew came from in-house; you didn't really have to go outside of the shop to find your over the wall crew. Explain the process of the fifth team.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think the first step was who was your engineer going to be, who was going to run your car. There were two names that popped up right away, Barry and Tony. Luckily for us, they both agreed to it right away. Barry is very excited. Tony took only a day of coaxing, which means he was excited. So that was good. That was a first step.
Next step is finding a chief. Keith Badger - Badger we call him - has been around a long time. He's got a ton of experience. Can't find a better guy to take on that role. Then we had some other guys within the shop. I think we only added like three guys that we needed to get. You know, it shows that we had some pretty good talent still in the shop. I think we put together a real strong team.
Q. Michael, are the shadows different? Like track temp today, did it even start to drop for the day?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: To be honest with you, I don't know. I didn't talk to engineers or anything. I'm sure they're monitoring it. Like I said, those are things that as we get closer to the end of the week, we're really going to be focusing on. It's got to change, it does. The angle of sun and all that is going to affect it. It always has.
It's not by accident that all those speeds come out that last half hour. It's because of the angle of the sun. It's not necessarily just the shadow, it's even in three and four where there is no shadow. But it's just the way the sun's hitting it, the track's not as hot as it was. We'll have to see. I don't have that data yet. I wouldn't tell you anyway if I knew (laughter).
Q. Are you and Marco going to run as many laps all week long as you ran today?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. I think that will probably vary day to day. With Marco, obviously we want to get him as many miles as we can. I think it's going to vary from this week to next week. I think the real miles and stuff is going to come out next week when we have full tanks. Hopefully all our cars are in the field, then we can start working on the race, full-tank running, doing a lot more laps at a time.
Q. Are you planning on putting him in the first day, if you can?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's going to be a very hard task because of the field, the way it is. If we can put all five cars in the first 11, that would be a big day. That's our goal.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on a great first day.
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