Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 11, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We have several guests joining us, starting the call with us today is Vision Racing driver, Ed Carpenter, and in a few minutes we'll be joined by KV Racing Technology driver, Will Power.
Good afternoon, Ed. Thanks for joining us. Ed is in his fifth full season in the IndyCar Series season and fourth driving for Vision Racing and currently ranks ninth in points. You've had some pretty good results it so far this season, are you happy with how things have gone?
ED CARPENTER: I'm happy with our performance of the race cars we've had on track. To be honest with you, we should have a couple more Top-5 finishes than what we do. You know, we've had some bad things happen to us so far this season, races at Milwaukee and got caught up in an accident and could have had a better result than what we ended up with in Kansas having someone stopping in our pit.
We're having a great year and really competitive on track. We just need to catch a break on some of these things and see if we can't find ourselves into victory lane or at least on the podium.
THE MODERATOR: Yeah, that's where my next question was going to lead. You've been running up front a couple of times, some of those things out of your control and out of the team's control but what is it for a team, Vision is a great example, but there's others we can probably lump in there as well; but for a team like Vision, what is the next step to really get over the hump and get some podium finishes and even victories?
ED CARPENTER: Well, at Texas -- (indiscernible) -- had other things, not catching breaks, but we were close to getting over the hump. We need a race where we don't have to overcome any adversity or make up for anything that happens, and as soon as we have one of those races where everything just kind of goes our way, I think, you know, we should be in position to -- I should at least in position to fight for a win, where mostly this year I've just been fighting for a Top-5.
So you know, we are right about there. I have kind of always said, you just have to be running Top-5, and if you are in the Top-5 long enough, you are going to get a victory. So that's consistently where we've been. We just haven't been able to put it all together, where it was our own doing or other factors in the race.
THE MODERATOR: The team also made some personnel changes really right before the Indianapolis 500. Can you tell us about some of the new people on board, and/or new responsibilities that people were already with the team have, and has it been difficult to kind of adjust midstream to changes like that?
ED CARPENTER: It's never easy. You know, Larry Curry, he was with us from when we started the team in 2005, and some things didn't happen this year and just decided to make a couple changes. We actually didn't bring anybody new in. We had people in house that we fell were ready to step up and take on more responsibility and Kevin Page is now our team manager.
We have a couple of holes to fill from how we reshuffled some people around, but we're just trying to find the right person or people that to bring in to fill some of these holes we've got versus just going out and getting someone right away.
Since we were in a three-car team last year and went back to a two-car team this year, we had some extra people working at the shop and stuff like that that we're able to bring back on the road again and fill some of these holes temporarily.
So we are in pretty good shape, but it was a big change going into the month of May. But at the same time, the month of May gave us so much time to get acclimated to something being different that by the time the month of May was over, I think we were right back on stride.
THE MODERATOR: Milwaukee where we were a couple weekends ago was surprisingly incident-free, at least to what people predicted might happen with 27 cars on a short track like that. We've got two more short ovals ahead, Iowa and Richmond. Tell us a little bit about each of those tracks. Obviously they are very different from one another, and even from Milwaukee in some respects.
What do you expect at the places like that with 27 cars instead of 20 like we've seen in the past?
ED CARPENTER: Well, Ohio, it's only an eighth of a mile, but at the same time, the only thing that's short track about it is we are running our short track aero specifications. Other than that, you know, it races more like the race we just had at Texas. It's going to be fast and a lot of two-wide racing.
So there's probably going to be more opportunity for accidents at Iowa than what we just had at Michigan -- or at Milwaukee, excuse me.
Then we go on to Richmond, and Richmond has always been an exciting race. It's a racetrack where if you have a good car, you're going to work your way to the front and if you have a bad car, you're going to fall to the back.
The thing with short-track racing in our series right now is there's 27 really good cars. You know, with all of the new teams and new drivers we have in the series, they are all great teams and great drivers and then you go to these short tracks, compared to a place like Texas, it puts everyone on a little bit more of a level playing ground, even if with them not having as much time in the car. So I think you're going to see super-competitive races at Iowa and especially Richmond.
THE MODERATOR: We've got an off-weekend ahead, first one since mid April, and it also happens to be Father's Day weekend, and your first year obviously to celebrate that as a father yourself. Any special plans for this coming weekend?
ED CARPENTER: Just working. My best friend and I are trying to finish up our house and going to be putting on the market that we bought just as an investment. Got to do some work in the backyard there and getting it close to being ready to go. And it's an off-weekend but probably going to be working harder this weekend than when I'm actually doing my real job, and that's racing.
Q. How are you preparing mentally and physically for the six upcoming races in a row?
ED CARPENTER: You know, physically, our season now, we're in the car so much that I think that the best thing for being ready to drive physically is having more time in the car. I'm not worried about the physical strategy, even though the next two races, Iowa and Richmond are the two most physical tracks, but I think after we get past those two we'll be past the most physical part of our schedule.
Mentally, I like getting in these long stretches of races. My background was Sprint car racing and stuff like that, so I was used to running 70, 80 races a year. With us not even running 20, you know, six-race stretch, it isn't that big of a deal for me. I'd prefer to get into a better rhythm, and so I'm actually looking forward to it.
Q. What do you attribute to Vision's upward spiral this year? They are doing so much better than years past.
ED CARPENTER: Really, I can't put my finger on one thing but like I mentioned earlier in the teleconference, last year we were a three-car team and now we're a two-car team, and I think that allowed us to move some people around a little bit and get better people in the right positions, just because we were not as watered down from a personnel standpoint.
We did make a couple changes in the off-season, but I don't think that's all of it. I think a lot of it has to do with just having more people in the right positions and the fact that this is our fourth year of the team in business, and the core group of guys that we have running the team and leading the team have been there with us from the start.
You know, I think there's a lot to say -- a lot to be said for continuity, and you're competing with Penske Racing and Ganassi Racing and Andretti Green Racing, and those teams have been around for a long time, and their leadership and premieres of the team have been with the team for a long time.
So to me, continuity is very important. I think it's a matter of all the years, everything we've been doing over the years coming together with the continuity and hard work. It's not that we've really changed much.
Q. What do you expect with the new qualifying format taking place in Richmond this year?
ED CARPENTER: It's going to be interesting because Richmond has probably been one of the harder places to qualify in the past where pretty much if you're going to qualify up front, you kind of have to hold your breath and get a lap in flat without lifting off the throttle. Now with four laps, I don't know that anybody is going to be able to go four laps flat this year.
So, it's going to be interesting. With this new format, it's been challenging and exciting. The one thing I will say about it is we will probably have more accidents this year in qualifying than we have in the last three years combined. It's a much harder format, and Richmond is definitely going to be a challenge.
Q. What do you feel it's going to be like with even more traffic, there's going to be a lot of cars on the shortest track and some of the drivers haven't even seen the tracks. How do you feel that's going to be?
ED CARPENTER: It's going to be crowded. Richmond is the shortest track we go to. Pit lane is going to be extremely crowded and there's going to be just constant traffic. It's not going to be quite as bad as when the NEXTEL Cup roles into town but at the same time we are running lap times around 16 seconds. It's going to be a lot of activity. I hope a lot of people come out and watch us. We usually have a good crowd out there. It's my second favorite event, next to Indy, so I'm looking forward to getting into town.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for joining us, we appreciate that. Enjoy the off-weekend and good luck the rest of the way
We are joined now by Will Power. Good afternoon, Will.
WILL POWER: Good afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for taking the time to join us. Will is a rookie in the IndyCar Series following two full seasons in Champ Car where he earned two victories. This season he finished 8th at St. Petersburg and won the Champ Car finale at Long Beach. Coming off a third a place finish in Texas and ranks 11th in points. You and your teammate, Oriol Servia, are the top-tanked drivers who have come over from Champ Car. Can you talk about the season so far and how your comfort level is increasing both with the Dallara-Honda package and racing on ovals?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing this year for me was just the areo on (ph) the car really helped me. Then went to Milwaukee, seemed a lot slower and you had a lot more grip. So I really enjoyed Milwaukee. I also enjoyed Indy. Even when I went to Texas, I felt very comfortable as soon as I went out.
So, we are progressing. The team is really progressing well with development and I'm progressing as a driver. So it's all coming together now. We seem to be qualifying a little bit higher, and sort of working out well in each of the races, as well.
We are looking forward to the second half of the season to be honest because you have a mixture of short ovals and road courses and I think that's going to help us in the points for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Our next two races are short ovals, Iowa and Richmond. What have you heard about each of those places and what kind of racing do you expect to see there?
WILL POWER: Well, you know, at Iowa, I can see that it's a short-banked oval, and I'm not sure that you are flat all the way around during the race, but it looks like it's good racing because you can run high and low. But also, it can catch you out. Until I go there, I won't really know, but I'm looking forward to it because you're running maximum downforce.
THE MODERATOR: You hinted that the second half of the season could play into your favor with more road courses and street courses coming in. Maybe expand a little bit upon that. What kind of opportunity do you think that presents to you in regards to moving up in the points and what kind of finishes do you anticipate?
WILL POWER: Well, it's not just road courses and street courses that we need to get our points on, and in this series, unless you're in the Top-5, really, you're not getting big points. You can finish -- I finished 13th and I think Oriol finished 25th last weekend, and I only got five more points than him. But if you win a race, you get a big chunk of points. You get 50 points.
So it's important for us to do well there, and we can do well there. So you know, I will be putting 100% effort into that, and you know, we can get some really good points back and that will allow us to finish in the Top-10, if not higher. So from that standpoint, the second half of the season does look good for us.
THE MODERATOR: Knowing where you are now and what's left in the season, two questions for you. At the beginning of the season, what would you have said your expectations were for overall, maybe where you would be in the points standings, and then secondly, knowing where you are now and knowing what the second half has to bring, is there a goal on where you think you should be by the end?
WILL POWER: Well, I think, I mean, the season, I thought if I finished in the Top-10, that's really good. But also, the Rookie of the Year would be a really big deal for me, and you know, I think that there's a couple of guys that are going to be really tough to beat, and obviously Newton is one of them, because he's on a very good team with a lot of experience on ovals and on the road courses.
So I think he's going to be the main competition there. And you've got some guys like Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson who are also right there.
So, you know, if I can win the Rookie of the Year, I'll be really happy. If I finish in the Top-10, that's really good, too. I'm just focusing on every single event, every individual event to get the best result possible and learn as much as I can.
THE MODERATOR: A rare off-weekend coming up, and with six races ahead, what kind of plans do you have this weekend to relax?
WILL POWER: Just get back into fitness. You know, it's pretty tough when you're on the road to eat well and have a good fitness routine where you get up every day and get into a good pattern.
So for me, I'm just going to -- I'll be working hard at the Jim before I leave for Iowa.
Q. Texas described this track as really fun, so what made it enjoyable for you?
WILL POWER: Well, Texas, it's got such high banking and progressive banking so that you can run side-by-side. So the racing, it's fun, but can be daunting at times. You know, it's a unique track. There's nowhere else that you can run as fast and run as close side-by-side with people.
So I think from a fan's point of view, it's probably the best racing they will see on a mile-and-a-half oval all year.
Q. June is the month of short-track racing for the Indy Car Series, first Milwaukee and then Iowa and Richmond. You've had a strong qualifying run at Milwaukee, so what do you feel about the short ovals suits your driving style best?
WILL POWER: Well, it's not only the driving style. It's also the fact that you're running maximum downforce. I think where these other guys have got us is all of the wind power and wheel bearings, coatings from the gear box and all of those little things that add up to the mile-and-a-half or two-mile-an-hour they have over us on the faster ovals.
But when you're running maximum downforce that doesn't count. It more about the car balance and that's the reason that we can run up front and obviously shorter ovals helps me a little bit, too, because I raced in Milwaukee once in 2006, and I really enjoy running around short ovals, because when you have got full downforce, it's a lot like a road course and you go take a couple of racing lines, and you forget all about -- just holding it flat and just running the car as free as possible.
Q. What is lacking to see you guys run in the Top-5 like you mentioned?
WILL POWER: You're talking about the mile-and-a-half ovals?
Q. Yeah, overall on some of the longer ovals, too, yeah.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's mainly the longer ovals. I think that we can be competitive ask run in the Top-5 on the shorter ovals.
It's just that we are running with five years behind and we're about probably $30 million worth of development behind, but we are catching very quickly. To qualify eighth at Texas was really good for us. So we're finding the speed.
It's just a whole lot of little things to be honest. Every time we go to a new oval, we've got a new bit that we put on the car that we found that everyone else is running, all of these fronts-runners are running.
That's going to continue all the way into next year, and beyond, and to be honest, I think it will continue until a new car comes out, because I don't think we can actually catch up to what all of the development that these guys have done. That's just the way it is.
But you know, I'm starting to love it. It's so competitive and you've got so many cars on the grid.
Q. Is it something where obviously the Champ Car teams are at a disadvantage, like you said, on the larger ovals; are the IRL teams at the same disadvantage when they come to road courses?
WILL POWER: I don't think so. I think maybe a little bit when we go to tracks like Edmonton or the Gold Coast race. Obviously they have been to St. Pete. They would have been to Watkins Glen. They have been to all of these circuits we are going to, so they have some good data there.
I think they are right on top of it. I'm sort of worried, we have not done a road course yet so, we don't know whether we are going to be behind like we are on these big ovals or not, and I think that we will be pretty close there. I don't think that we have any big advantage there at all.
I don't think we have any advantage to be honest, because you know, we haven't got any idea of gears and any of that sort of stuff.
Yeah, I mean, it's a lot different. We haven't had five years of development with this car on road courses, so we are still behind there.
Q. And one final question. You think that it's going to be about equal for both sides, Champ Car and IRL teams at the moderate to shorter ovals we are coming up to like Richmond?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I don't know, because we don't know until we get there, it's like Milwaukee, and we are not sure where we would be at, and you know, we were pretty far out of the window when we got there, so you know, we didn't take as long to get on top of things.
So until we go there, I don't know, but I suspect that we should be able to qualify somewhere there in the Top-10.
Q. What's been the most difficult thing switching from Champ Car over to the IndyCar Series for you?
WILL POWER: Well, I don't think there's one specific thing. I think it's a number of things. Obviously one is being so far behind in development. Two is having to learn how to drive on ovals well and learn what the cars feel like to get the most out of it.
You know, basically that's it, and it's just a progression now. I'm learning; the team's learning. We're getting development done and progressing forward. You know, I was really happy, in the last two ovals, Milwaukee and Texas I'm really happy because I'm starting to understand what the car should feel like and I'm getting the right feedback we need to get the car to run well. We need to work more on having a consistent car throughout the race.
Q. What's your most favorite, is it still road courses, or are you starting to get the feel for the ovals?
WILL POWER: I'm starting to get the feel for the ovals. Obviously I really enjoy road courses because I've had so much experience on them and I really know what I want and how to get the most out of the car.
In a year after this season, I think I'll understand the ovals a lot more and come back next year very competitive. But I still enjoy the road courses the most.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks again for taking the time to join us this afternoon. We appreciate it, and good luck.
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