Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
April 27, 2011
PAUL KELLY: Welcome to the IZOD IndyCar Series teleconference for this week's race, which takes place this Sunday, May 1st at noon eastern time on Versus. It is in Sao Paulo Brazil. Our guest today are Andretti Motorsport drivers Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Marco is 15th in the points standings after three races this season. Ryan is 22nd in the standings.
Marco and Ryan, thanks for joining us.
Those numbers that I just gave out, they probably make you wince a bit, but they're probably two of the more deceiving numbers in the IndyCar Series this year. You have been quick and competitive, but just had a lot of circumstances and incidents.
Marco, you had a good, solid finish, a fourth at Barber when you got to the line. How do you enter this race? You've been quick. Is it a matter of everything coming together for you this weekend in Brazil?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, for sure. For me I guess right now it's just about trying to get my mojo back. I'm sure Ryan, too. Ryan, in particular, has been very quick on the street courses. Mike as well.
I actually have to hand it to my teammates. They're the ones that give me the confidence going into Brazil. Ryan was very competitive last year there. We know that luckily we can share setups with him. Hopefully we can roll off strong.
I have no doubt that I can match my data up against Ryan. I think if I figure out how to beat my teammates, I can win this race.
PAUL KELLY: Ryan, how about you? Do you see it the same way? You see Mike pull off a sweet victory at Long Beach, recovery from the injuries, the way he came up through the field. You have been quick throughout all three races this season. Do you have the same kind of feeling: If I can put it all together, it's going to happen?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely. Like Marco said, it's not through a lack of pace through the team. We've been very quick as a team. In my case, taken out from behind in St. Pete, then got into it with Briscoe at Barber, then mechanical with 10 laps to go while running second at Long Beach.
It's just one of those things. It's three races that haven't gone our way. Like Marco said, we're working well together. We have the right cars on road and street courses. At Barber we turned our weekend around on race day. I have to credit Marco for that on the setup. Took his stuff and went for it on race day. It just turned my weekend around until the penalty, unfortunately.
It's just kind of the way the season has been. So hopefully, for me, get the season started in Brazil. As Marco said, if we just concentrate on our teammates and working well together, pushing each other, we could be up at the top, up at the front. That's what we'll keep doing.
PAUL KELLY: Marco and Ryan did have some good news this week. Sundrop Citrus Soda has come onboard for a full year of sponsorship. That's good news for you guys.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Very good. I have to thank the Dr. Pepper, Snapple group for supporting the team. They're on the side of Marco's car, my car. It's huge. I think we're going to get some great results for them this year. Both Marco and myself, we're going to get some really good results. Hopefully that will start in Brazil.
PAUL KELLY: Let's open it up for questions.
Q. Do you prefer oval or street or does it make any difference to you?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, I mean, I always have a similar answer to this question. I've taken a liking to both. I've grown up doing road tracks and stuff like that. But it can be a very fun day when the car's working on the oval, too.
My answer would be just wherever the car is working. For me there's no place for Indianapolis to drive.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Absolutely, similar answer for me. The beautiful thing about IndyCar is the mix-up, the switch between street course, road course, short ovals, superspeedway, constantly having to switch between them. Like Marco said, if you're quick on a superspeedway, that's what you like doing at the moment. If you're quick on street courses, that's what you like doing. It's all about where you find that sweet spot. Like IndyCar, like no other series in the world, switching it up.
Q. Does that present a lot of problems when you switch it back and forth?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Not really, not for us. Being greedy, it would be nice to go one oval, one street, one oval, one street. For the guys and stuff back at the shop that are converting the cars, it could take some time.
I think that's why whoever is crowned champion at the end of the year is very deserving in this series. Like Ryan said, it's very diverse. It's whoever can adapt the quickest.
Q. I understand the course has been repaved from last year. They've made some changes as far as more runoff areas. How difficult was this course last year as far as bone and teeth rattling? Do you expect it to be much better this year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, to me, I mean, Friday we're going to get hopefully a walk-around and we'll get to see the changes and stuff like that.
But I think, yeah, it was pretty challenging having the front straightaway, I guess you would call it, totally blind almost, really like fifth-gear wheel spin. We were still getting wheel spin right before going to the brakes. That for me was fun. It was enjoyable.
It's whoever is going to adapt the quickest. Yeah, it's challenging, but it's part of the game.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it's a new circuit this time around. They've really repaved a lot of it, done away with some curbs. It was new last year. I think it will be pretty new again this year. It's going to keep us on our toes being that it's a two-day weekend, practice, practice, qualify, race. It's going to happen quick and we're going to have to adapt.
Q. What is the comfort level of going to Brazil? Obviously a long trip, foreign country, not as free to get around and do things. What is that experience like?
MARCO ANDRETTI: For me, I mean, we can go to the most boring place in the world or the coolest place in the world, but for me I'm worried about being at the race. It's not like we can really enjoy it anyway.
I think for the fans, they're very educated over there and passionate and we can appreciate that for sure.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Pretty quick race weekend. We get down there, stay at a hotel inside the track. We're non-stop the whole time, then we're out. Whereas Japan, we're there for a week. It's a little bit different when we head over to Japan versus Brazil. We don't get to enjoy Brazil very much when we're down there.
Q. Andretti Motorsports bounced back this year. This year everybody has been competitive, all four cars, already got a race win. What has been the difference between the last year and this year? Was there a significant change in the off-season, a change in approach, new driver lineup? What do you see as the improvement, Marco?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, I don't know. I think we're definitely gelling as far as the four of us go. From the 26 side, my street course game was really lacking last year. That's something we really focused on in the off-season. Really it's just about finding cars that work for us. I think we've just been rolling off with sensible setups. We're not reinventing the wheel.
Having Ryan there last year and Mike this year, it's upped our game primarily on the street courses, which is where we were lacking. So hopefully we can just be a bit more well-rounded as far as the championship goes. So far so good.
Q. Ryan, how about you?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Sensible setups is key. It's really going with what works, the basics. The guys did a great job in the off-season making sure details were taken care of. It's my second year at the team. I've got to go back with the same engineer and crew, work with them the second time around. I'm really enjoying that side of it.
We're working well together. It's early in the season. We still have the bulk of it. You see a team's strength when you're switching from a road to a street to an oval. We have that coming up soon. I think we're going to be strong at Indy. That's where our focus is. We certainly want to win Brazil, but Indy is the big one that matters to so many of us. We're hoping this year we'll get back to where this team belongs at Indy, which is winners, Victory Circle.
Q. What is your reaction to your teammate getting his first victory at Long Beach? Mike came back from a lot of difficulty. How satisfying was it for you to see him score so early?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I mean, for me, I never doubted Mike or his talents. We knew as soon as he got into a good ride, he was going to be able to show himself. He did it earlier than I expected, so that's good. If it wasn't going to be me, why not?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, absolutely. To see a teammate, especially after what he's gone through, it's special for me as well. I ran out of fuel. He went flying over me and into the fence. I went and visited him in the hospital after that. To see him come from where he was to where he is now, to win at Long Beach, it's pretty special. The added bonus, it's a win for the team. That just makes the team stronger and more confident.
It's a good thing early in the season. I'm definitely happy for Mike. Marco is, as well.
Q. How amped are you getting to Indy, the 100th anniversary?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I look forward to May every year. Right after the checkered flag last year, I wanted to have another shot at it.
You know, I think, like Ryan said, I'm really optimistic for the team. Hopefully we can roll off there with a bit more speed than last year. I think that would be the goal. We've had decent, comfortable racecars, but we've been just a little bit short on speed, comparing myself to Dario last year.
I think if we can find that, we've been working very hard on that, have a lot of ideas, hopefully that replicates on the racetrack. I think if it does, we're going to be a force to be reckoned with.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The team has paid some pretty close attention to Indy in the off-season. I think that's going to show. I'm not predicting anything, calling anything out. It's just that I'm really looking forward to returning with this team to Indy. It will be my first time returning with the same team, which is going to be huge for me personally, the confidence in the car, the people I'm working with. Looking forward to it, looking forward to enjoying it all.
Indy is such a special place. It demands a lot of respect. When things go right, nothing else feels better. That's what we're going to try to do.
Q. Marco, sometimes the old adage about Indy is that it takes a little while to gain the experience to be fast and successful there. You've knocked that trend right out. From the very first year you got there, you have been competitive, fast, right up there for the victory. Especially coming from a road racing background, why does that place suit you so well?
MARCO ANDRETTI: That's a good question. One thing about that place, as a rookie, I'd rather be going to Indianapolis than a two-day weekend at Brazil. There's a bit more time there to kind of find your way, stuff like that.
Having said that, the race is a lot different than most of the month. I don't know. I mean, I can't say what it is. I have to credit the team and say I think we've had decent racecars underneath us. That's a big part of it because we can't carry cars that don't work there.
Having said that, there's been times when even my teammates have been frustrated throughout the month. You almost have to sit them down and say, All right, guys, we can win this race. I think Indy, it's easy to get caught up in speeds, the Penskes and Ganassis are so much quicker. But the race is so much different than outright pace. Even if we're down on the speed charts at some point, I'm always a bit more confident than maybe others because I know the race is going to play out a lot different.
Q. Marco, you mentioned the word 'confidence.' What is your confidence level right now? Do you feel you can really compete and turn things on here getting into the biggest month of the year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: You're only as good as your last race. At the same time I think whenever you start to doubt yourself, you might as well not even show up for the next one.
I'm definitely confident. I think we can definitely make something happen in Brazil. Never got a chance last year. Matos and I got into it at qualifying, we were out right at the start. I really enjoy the circuit. I think our cars are going to be pretty competitive there. Hopefully we can put our money where our mouth is when we show up.
I'm definitely confident. I don't see a weak spot in the schedule for us. If we just do everything right the rest of the year, I think we can be there week in and week out.
Q. With this being the 100th anniversary of Indy, all the hoopla, are you extra excited about it? It's a celebration. Your thoughts on being part of such a prominent racing family that's embedded in Indy tradition.
MARCO ANDRETTI: That means everything to me, tradition. That's what that place is built on. I don't know, I mean, I'm looking forward to it. That place means so much to our family. Actually the pace car is a pace car that was in 1969 when my grandfather won and stuff like that.
To win this one would just be unreal. Words couldn't express what it would mean. Actually, I haven't said this to anybody, but I'm doing a helmet. It's going to be kind of like my paint scheme. But in the stripe that I run, I'm going to have old portraits and photos of Ray Harroun, my family, the four of them walking down Gasoline Alley, and us in '06. We're really looking forward to it. It's a big race for us.
Q. You're going to have more cars entered this year, 80 plus cars. Probably got a shorter time in which to qualify and practice. How does that relate to you guys?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. I mean, I think the approach for us is going to be similar. I'm hoping we're not going to be in that last third qualifying and stuff like that, but you never know. I know my focus is solely on the race. When there's so many entries, it's going to be that competitive, it might change your mindset a bit as far as qualifying is a bit more important now. On the street circuits we sneeze, we're 16th. I think it's really important to have everything in line.
Hopefully, like I said, we can roll off with some speed. If we do, it shouldn't be a problem.
Q. I'm sure there's going to be a lot more fans, a lot of things going on for the anniversary. Will that get you pumped up more?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Sure. That's why we're out there, for the fans.
Q. Marco, I'm doing a story about Dario Franchitti, a former teammate. Can you tell me what about him you admired when he won the championship, what he's done since coming back and winning two more? What makes him a champion?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think experience. He really knows what he wants from a car and he goes out and he gets it. I think that's a big part of it. He's like a big inspiration as far as my career goes. I'm in my sixth year already. We haven't made a lot happen. As frustrating as it's been, it's very comparable to Dario's career. Once he started hitting on it, the guy's been unbeatable.
I think I really look up to that. Since '07, he just has been on fire ever since. He's one that I've always looked up to. You know every weekend, regardless of the type of circuit it is, he's going to be one of the ones to beat. That's why he's been winning championships like crazy.
Yeah, I think it's just knowing what he wants from the car. You get that just from experience.
Q. The fact he was able to come back from NASCAR and even be better, is that a testament to his fortitude or will to win?
MARCO ANDRETTI: For sure. Absolutely. Like I said, he's a fierce competitor. NASCAR to me, from Indy to NASCAR is like from baseball to basketball, if you ask me, it's so different. To come back and settle right in, it really is like riding a bike for him.
It's cool to see, except he's beating me, so that's no fun.
PAUL KELLY: With that, we will conclude the call. Marco, thanks for joining us. Thanks for being a workhorse here the last few minutes after we lost Ryan. We wish you and the entire Andretti Motorsports team luck in Sao Paulo.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thanks for having me.
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