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Infiniti Pro Series: Freedom 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Freedom 100

Infiniti Pro Series: Freedom 100

Ed Carpenter
Mark Taylor
Cory Witherill
May 18, 2003


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

MODERATOR: We're ready to get started with our post-race press conference for the Freedom 100. We have the winner of the inaugural Freedom 100, Ed Carpenter. We do have the Top 3 joining us. We'll start off with brief comments from each of the Top 3, then open it up for questions to the media. Your winner today is Ed Carpenter. We'll start off with you. First of all, just sum up what this race meant to you by winning it.

ED CARPENTER: It means a lot. Ever since I went in that car, it's just been perfect. We hardly had to make any changes. Seemed like we were chasing the gearbox like everyone else here. We hit it dead on today. And I think that's what got us in the victory circle today.

MODERATOR: When you looked in your rearview mirror, saw the close racing behind, were you glad to see that?

ED CARPENTER: Yes. I mean, Mark definitely had me worried on that restart. I bobbled a little bit and he got a real good run and got by me. I think the gear change we made just let me accelerate the short chute and get a good run on him off two, able to get by him off the backstretch. That opened up Mark for some more racing. I think that's what allowed me to get away. Once I was out of drafting range for them, I think it was going to be hard for him to catch me. I mean, the car was real strong. It's been strong since we got here.

MODERATOR: This is the fifth win for AJ Foyt Racing in the Infiniti Pro Series, but Ed's inaugural win. His best finish going into today was second at Kentucky Speedway last year. Cory, great racing with Mark today. Talk about your race.

CORY WITHERILL: It was close. I mean, we just started the race, you know, continuing from yesterday. Throughout the whole night I just kind of mentally prepared myself, how to get to the front, if I was in certain positions, what would I do. I got to those situations, I already had it planned out what to do, just moved my way up to the front. Once I got there, just tried to maintain my position and stay in the same spot. If I lost it, which I did a couple times, just how to get back up there again.

MODERATOR: Talk about the delay overnight. What goes through a driver's mind, how difficult it is to start a race, then have it stopped, restart the next day.

CORY WITHERILL: For myself, considering I started from the seventh position, to move forward, it was nothing but moving forward because that's all I had to gain. And someone like Ed, it's probably a little bit more stressful because he's on top and all he has to do is go backwards. It was a lot easier for me know. I went out to dinner with Bob Earl, my girlfriend, a few other people. Kind of had a relaxing night, just kind of thought things through. That was it.

MODERATOR: Cory is a previous winner in the series, winning at Nashville in 2002. Third place is Mark Taylor, who won the first two races of this year's season. Mark, you mentioned on the PA about gearing. Talk about the gearing selection.

MARK TAYLOR: Yeah, we had a long top gear and it just meant that we weren't able to stay up front for very long, weren't able to drag it through the corners as much as we wanted to. Although I got passed Ed at the beginning, he was able to get a good run on me coming through. Once he got past, I lost too much momentum to be able to stay behind him. Unfortunately, he got away and ended up fighting for second place. I was trying on the last lap, because I knew if I got past with a couple laps to go, it would be quite easy to repass me. I was trying to do it so he didn't have enough time to get back past me. Unfortunately, for me, Cory did a great job of keeping me behind. I just miss-timed it on the last lap and he was able to keep it out front.

MODERATOR: Ed, about the delay overnight, how difficult on you was it?

ED CARPENTER: It was frustrating. I just kind of took the mentality, once yesterday was over, I just kind of erased it from my mind, went through my whole mental process, just acted like today was a new day and we were starting at lap one, just won the pole or anything else. But it's hard. I mean, we were fast, had the pole. So, I mean, it gave a lot of other guys time to improve their cars. We made some changes, too. I just hope we made the right changes, and we did. So I was really happy for my whole AJ Foyt team. Jack did a great job. The car was perfect today.

Q. This was the fastest track you three have ever raced on. Was there any difficulty for you in getting used to the great speeds here that you'd not seen before?

ED CARPENTER: I think Rick Mears said it really well in the drivers' meeting we had yesterday. He was saying this place is so smooth, perfect, the straightaways are so long, you don't really feel the speed until something bad happens. It's definitely fast, but I know last year when we raced at Michigan, the speeds were about the same and we were just right on top of each other, racing side by side nose to tail the whole time. It feels a lot faster when you're in heavy traffic like that than it did today here when you're more strung out.

Q. You turned several laps yesterday faster than when you qualified. How did that come about?

ED CARPENTER: I think the changes we made on the car last night just improved it further than where we were when we qualified. I mean, the car was perfect. I mean, we just couldn't have had it any better. The chassis was perfect. The gearing was perfect. It was a nice day for racing.

Q. Ed, with the frustration yesterday, not being able to complete a green flag lap, to have the very first lap restart get stopped with yellow, how frustrating was that starting to be?

ED CARPENTER: Yeah, it was kind of like deja vu. I was wondering if we were ever going to get the race started. Finally after the next restart, we got going good. I was a little mad for a second when Mark went by my. I was like, "Man, all these restarts are killing me." Just hung in there, got a good run, got it back. I'm just happy to get the race. All that other stuff is behind. I hope everyone is okay that was involved in the crashes.

Q. Cory, I noticed when you were Mark were dueling, you were low, even going through the corners, you very seldom got up to the wall. How were you able to stay so low all the way around?

CORY WITHERILL: We just got the car set up to do it. It's just a matter of having a car that can handle and be able to put it everywhere you can on the track. Each corner, they're almost identical, but there's certain characteristics about it. Just a matter of knowing the corners. Obviously, I have 500 miles of race experience around this place. I had a great car. The team gave me an excellent car that handled well and was pretty fast. It's not a big deal.

Q. Ed, how good an advertisement is doing well here for your IndyCar aspirations? Is it more important to do well here maybe than win the championship?

ED CARPENTER: I don't know. Any time you win a championship, it can do a lot for career. This is definitely a big stage right here in Indianapolis. All the IndyCar owners are right here, they're out on the track right now. It's pretty huge. I want to move up in the IndyCar Series. I think this win has put me one step closer.

Q. Ed, do you have any major plans for IRL series, to accelerate them faster than maybe you planned?

ED CARPENTER: I mean, I would like to do some testing this season. But right now I'm just focusing on the Pro Series. I cut a lot of racing out of my schedule compared to what I had last year just to focus on this series. One race and one pole, it's a thing I didn't do last year. I didn't feel like I'd be able to move to the next level until I started winning where I'm at right now. I'm just going to focus on where I'm at right now. This is one race. We still have nine more to go. I'm just going to do the best I can the rest of this season and see where I am next year.

MODERATOR: Cory and Mark, talk about how important doing well at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is.

MARK TAYLOR: It's an important race. It was good fun. It was important to put on a good show. I felt as long as we all finished and showed how competitive the series is, then we can all gain from that. What happened yesterday was unfortunate, but I think we redeemed ourselves today and were able to put in some decent laps and some decent, close racing, show some respect to each other. I mean, hopefully (inaudible) win the championship, but I'm not sure at the moment.

MODERATOR: Cory.

CORY WITHERILL: Everyone wants to win this race, so it's just a matter of, you know, keeping your momentum going to the end. Still got like another nine more races or so. It's early to say what can happen. Thiago was running second in points, and look what happened to him. Anything can happen and things can change.

ED CARPENTER: I was 15th in points coming into this race, so it's a long season.

Q. Mark, you were disappointed yesterday. Are you much more satisfied today and did that make you drive a little bit more aggressive today than you might have yesterday?

MARK TAYLOR: Well, I feel that it's important for the series to look good. I want to go into the Indy cars next year as much as anyone else does. For that to happen we need to have good races and we need to have close and competitive racing to show we're able to move up. Unfortunately, that didn't happen yesterday. I was very disappointed because we were second on the grid, we had a good chance to have a very good race with Ed. On the bulk of the restarts, I felt we got away fairly cleanly. Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish the lap. It's always disappointing when you get the rain, as well. It was good to be able to run 23 laps, I think it was, under green. We got some very close racing in and I think we showed what the series is able to do.

Q. Mark, Ed, can you describe the lap where you took the lead from him, then he got it back from you. That was pivotal.

MARK TAYLOR: On the restart, I just had a little bit better gearing from that slow a speed and was just able to get through the acceleration a bit better. And the slight tow that you have at that speed, I was just able to go past him down the inside into one. You can probably answer the rest of that.

ED CARPENTER: I mean, he definitely had me a little worried. I hadn't really raced with many people since we've been here. I ran by myself in most of the practice sessions. I knew the gear change we made last night was going to help if I got behind someone. We had the tall gear in the final practice and it made it difficult to pass. I just tried to tuck in as quick as I could behind him and started to set up for a pass. I knew we were close to the 20-lap mark, and the car was still (inaudible), and I think there was a chance of rain. I just wanted to get back by him as quick as I could. I didn't want to wait around until it did start raining again. Like I said, the car was just so good, I was able to get a good run at Mark down the backstretch and get by him.

Q. Ed, could you talk about giving your team owner something positive in what has been a dismal month?

ED CARPENTER: AJ Foyt Racing, I've done my share of things to put him in a bad mood. I've been trying to make up for that here (laughter). I mean, this is Indy. It's such a long month, you're going to have ups and downs. Doesn't matter what team you are. You've seen Roger Penske come in, miss the show. I mean, everyone has bad times. I think we're going through a growing pain in our team. Anthony, he did a very good job. He's got a lot to learn. He's 18 years old. I mean, I would have a hard time if I was 18 being in his shoes, and I think he's doing a good job of dealing with everything. See what happens. It's a 500-mile race. I think there's a lot he can learn in the race. I'm happy to give the team a shot in the arm with this win today. Hopefully it can carry over to the IndyCar side.

Q. Mark, what was your thinking when you started to see Ed pull away from you?

MARK TAYLOR: I don't think I can repeat what I was thinking (laughter). I was desperate to try and keep the tow. I thought I had it, but he was just able to get far enough away for me not to get a tow and drop back into the hands of the pack. From that point I knew that he had the win there. If he didn't make a mistake, if he ran cleanly, we weren't going to catch him. It was just a case of trying to fight for second. All I have to say is I'm sorry to the Panther guys. They gave me a car that was able to win and I wasn't able to do it today. Two out of three, it's a good result for anybody. Maybe in a couple of months I'll look back on it and it will just be a little mark on the score sheet, as it were, I can forget how big this race really was.

Q. Mark, when you and Cory were going at it and Cory dropped down low in the chutes, it appeared you never tried that line. Would your car just not handle that way?

MARK TAYLOR: You tend to lose the front end if you sit right behind someone. What I was trying to do was get a decent run down the back straight and be able to carry the speed through the corner. I didn't need the tow and I didn't need to sit straight behind him through turns three and four to be able to keep the run going. The thought was to get the tow through four and pull out and pull alongside and get it out of line. Unfortunately, nothing like that happened. It's a learning thing. I knew it would be tough to do it. That's not the way to do it. I'll go back, think about it some more, maybe try it again at some point.

Q. Ed, is this kind of like your backyard? How much of a home away from home is this place? How many years have you been hanging out around here?

ED CARPENTER: I've been here since I was eight. I'm on the grounds pretty much a couple times a week, I'd say. My house is about a block and a half down 25th Street. I at least see this place every day when I was going to school. I drive right past here. There isn't a day go by that this track isn't in my sight or in my mind. It's nice to finally be racing here, to get a win, have the kind of weekend we had. It's just great.

Q. Do you think you're going to have to fight your mom for this trophy, considering what it means to everybody involved?

ED CARPENTER: I don't think it will be much of a fight. She'll have it (laughter).

Q. Ed, at the kick-off lunch in the beginning of May you talked about the challenges of an economics final that you were preparing for. What was more difficult, that final or the 40 laps around here?

ED CARPENTER: By far the international economics. That was hanging over my head. That was a tough final. I'm glad to have all that school stuff behind me, now I can just focus on racing. It's what I love. It's what I want to keep doing. It's nice.

MODERATOR: Congratulations. Great race today. Thank you.



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