Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 6, 2012
ARNI SRIBHEN: Welcome, everybody, to today's IndyCar conference call. We are joined today by a pair of Izod IndyCar Series drivers, Simon Pagenaud, the driver the No.77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda and Charlie Kimball, the driver of the No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda. Guys, thank for taking the time to join us today.
First, Simon is the leading rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series this season. He's a native of France and is currently sixth in the series points standings entering this event at Texas Motor Speedway. Simon scored his second podium finish, third place at Belle Isle, on Sunday, and passed his rookie oval test at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Talk about the season so far. As a rookie has it been what you've expected since the start of the season?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's going even better than I expected, to be honest. I think the team has been quite fantastic, providing me such a good car, and Honda obviously as you know, I've had such a long relationship with Honda, and they're really stepping up their game, which is great to be part of such a development aspect of racing. All in all, I'm really happy where I am at the moment. We are attacking the most difficult part for me with the ovals. It's all going to be about learning and experience building. We are looking forward to it.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Charlie is 11th currently in the Izod IndyCar series points standings after his third straight top‑eight finish at Detroit. Charlie is from Camarillo, California, and had four Top 10 finishes in six starts this season. Charlie, I guess that would come as a surprise to a lot of people at the beginning of the year, three times in the top eight. Talk a little about year two in the Izod IndyCar Series and the differences between this year and last.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the momentum we picked up toward the end of last year, laying the foundation as a team‑‑ last season there was nothing on January 1st, and then we showed up at the first race and had a pretty good result there, began a good season, let's put it that way there, and then built through the momentum all season, and then at the end of the year really started to hit our stride, and that carried into the beginning of this year. And as you said, every time we've seen the checkered flag this year, we've been inside the Top 10, having a couple of mechanical problems at Barber and Long Beach hurt us a little bit in points, but knocking on the door of the Top 10 heading into this difficult stretch, as Simon said, with five straight race weekends, it's nice to have some momentum, especially coming off a very successful month of May with an eighth‑place result and building through the summer and hopefully to continue to move up the points table.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Simon, you get to experience another new experience for IndyCar drivers with your first nighttime oval race at Texas. Are you looking forward to getting on the track and just experiencing driving under the lights at Texas?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I do really look forward to it. I think it's first and foremost, driving on an oval is completely new to me, but I realize that first my rookie test at Texas was a lot of fun. I was just hoping to get some traffic around me and see how it was, and then obviously Indianapolis was quite something as well in my career.
I think Texas, there's not much practice, so obviously the most I can learn, the best for the future. I think as a rookie and I would say as a novice in this season, it's all going to be about learning as much as I can. But under the lights should be a lot of fun for the fans and quite tricky for us, but it should be good fun.
ARNI SRIBHEN: Charlie, I know you've had a camera crew following you. You'll be a featured driver on an episode of IndyCar 36 coming up here in a couple weeks. Does knowing the camera crew is going to be around you for 36 hours at Texas change the way you prepare for the race?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I don't think it changes the way I prepare at all. It adds an element, and I've got to be a little more aware of what's going on. But I think that the nice thing about the IndyCar 36 is that it gives an insight to all the fans and everybody interested in racing to see how we prepare. So ideally we shouldn't change anything when the camera crews are there, so everybody gets an understanding of what really goes on behind the transfer of the doors and the drivers lounge. Hopefully we'll be able to give that insight and also give people a better understanding of what diabetes is for me and what it means to manage it, using all the tools that I have available before I ever get anywhere near stepping in a race car.
Q. Question for Charlie: You had the chance to test here last month. Did you get a chance to run much in traffic, or was most of it in single car runs, and what do you think is going to be the effect of this aero package with this car on this track?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, we did a little bit of both. We ran on our own and doing some Q thins and then in some traffic. The package we ran in traffic had a little more downforce and a little more drag than what we'll be allowed to run this weekend. So I think you'll see some really good racing.
Last year I felt like the races at Milwaukee, Loudon and Iowa, the short ovals, drivers were really having to driver the car and pedal the car, especially halfway through towards the end of the tire and fuel stint, was some of the best IndyCar racing I've seen or been involved in. So I think the aerodynamic package that the IndyCar Series has come up with for Texas will create some great racing this weekend.
Running in traffic with enough downforce to run right behind someone full throttle isn't a huge amount of fun or a big challenge for drivers, but when you have to start pedalling it as the tires go away, that's when you really see cars and drivers come to the fore.
Q. For Simon, getting your first race now on a 1.5‑mile oval, I know Indy and here are two completely different animals, but what's kind of your expectations going into this time of event for the first time?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think the main thing is to take things one step at a time. Obviously it's going to be a huge learning curve for me. But in the meantime, it's still a race car and four corners. I just have to understand what the car does, see what the others are doing in traffic, and try to understand the racetrack. I've been watching Indy, especially with what Dario was doing, how he came back to the front.
So I've been watching the race from last year's, and it's definitely a great show. As Charlie said, it's going to be a lot about pedaling the car this year, so it should be a little bit more rewarding for the drivers. So we'll see.
I think there's different grooves you can use at Texas, which I think is great for the fans and also for us, gives us different opportunities and different ways to set the car up.
I think finishing the race is very important for my learning curve in the future.
Q. Simon, first of all, you talked about passing your rookie test, the rookie oval test at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Talk about how comfortable you are with this racetrack.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I really liked it, actually it was kind of impressive to begin with when I first looked into the track. It looked pretty banked to me, which was the first time I walked into a racetrack with so much banking. But as I was driving I felt more and more comfortable. We got the car a little bit freer and freer every run, and I really started to enjoy it by the end of the day.
I think obviously I didn't run in traffic, so that's going to be the tough part, but maybe if I decide I want to enjoy it, maybe it's going to be enjoyable. That's how I tackle it.
Q. Charlie, you mentioned your momentum earlier. Talk about how you can keep that momentum and carry it into this last stretch here.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think heading into the next three weekends with three different types of ovals, you have to just continue to be smart and make good choices, both on setup and on the track during the race. I think Detroit was a good example and a good reminder to me that no matter where you start the race, you don't exactly know how it's going to go and where you're going to end up. We started on the 10th row and ended up finishing eighth. And that played out by just racing smart, racing clean, paying attention to and focusing on our own race as far as fuel mileage and pit stops and tire strategy, and that's the same thing heading into these three weekends. If we can maximize our package, then that'll continue to give us really good results.
Q. Charlie, one of your peers, Oriol Servia, took some shots at TMS and Eddie Gossage this week. I know you don't speak for him, but do you share his sentiments or do you like coming to this place?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think the racing lends itself to be really good at Texas. We had a great race there last year, and I think the aero package that IndyCar has come up with will create some really good racing this weekend. As you said, I can't really speak for Oriol. He's got his own opinions. We each have our own opinions, and I think that IndyCar, Texas Motor Speedway and the drivers have gotten together and come up with an opportunity for us to put on a great motor race for the spectators, and that's the important thing to remember is without the fans in the stands we don't have a job.
It's great for us to be able to go down and put on a good show for those fans.
Q. Simon, I know you said that driving a race car on an oval is one thing but racing a race car on an oval is another. What exactly do you have to learn about racing a car on an oval to be successful at Texas?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think the best example is to look at what Dario does. I think he's the master of it, and Scott, as well. I think you can obviously have a fast car in quali, but the biggest thing is to be able to have a good race. You saw last year some guys running really little downforce, because they start at the front, but you really need to stay out front if you start with low downforce.
If you start at the back, then you need more downforce.
This is very important. This is basically what you need to understand with your engineer, what you need, and it's a constant discussion with the team and the engineer before the race and during the race on what you need to do. Before you experience it you don't really know what to do, and before Indy I had no idea.
I'm learning slowly but trying to do it smartly with my engineers. I'm learning what I'm going to need, and it's actually very interesting. It's a complete different mindset to road course, and I enjoy the new challenge of it.
Q. And then Charlie, obviously with teammates like Scott and Dario and Graham you can kind of get lost in the attention that those guys bring, but with the results, what do you think you need to break into the top 5 at races, and can you do it at Texas?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, hopefully. The plan is to keep this momentum up. The thing about consistently finishing inside the Top 10 is you set yourself up for a move into the top 5, and once you're in the top 5, then you've got a shot at the podium, and from there a race win is available. It's just a question of making sure that we keep that momentum going, keep getting good results, and setting ourselves up, giving ourselves the opportunity to take advantage of any chances to move into the top 5.
I like to joke that points mean prizes, and during the season it's more about finishing well and finishing than it is about going for that one top 5, that one podium or that one shot at a win.
Outside of the Indianapolis 500 probably, the races are secondary to the championship.
Q. Target Ganassi, or Ganassi overall, and Penske have won the last seven here. They've won all six this year. Is there a rivalry between the two teams and the two organizations?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Well, I think as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing you've got a rivalry with the whole rest of the field. I don't know that there's any additional angst against the Penske organization. Obviously we have a lot of respect, I think as a team, for what they do on and off the track, and I feel like it's reciprocated. So I don't know that there's a significant rivalry between the two teams as much as it is Chip Ganassi Racing wanting to win and beat everybody, not just Penske.
Q. But it makes y'all better, though, that desire to‑‑ just Chip Ganassi wanting to win and beat everybody? It's a positive pressure, I guess, so to speak?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Absolutely. It's a great motivation and continues to drive us forward as an organization, and as a team we work well together to push all four of us forward. Chip has always said ideally he wants us to finish one‑two‑three‑four, and whatever order within that, that's between us to figure out. But if we finish one‑two‑three‑four, then he's done his job.
ARNI SRIBHEN: We wish you the best of luck this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
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