Indy Pro Series: Road Runner 100
Topics: Road Runner 100
June 2, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much.
We bring in Alex Lloyd, Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver, winner of the Roadrunner 100. He's now won the first five races of the 2007 Indy Pro Series season. In that stretch, he's led 159 consecutive laps.
Alex, congratulations. Talk about, if you would, just the roll you're on and what this means to be a record-setter here in the Indy Pro Series.
ALEX LLOYD: It's crazy really. It really is. I mean, I've always set high expectations for myself. That's one of the things I did before this year, is I set very high goals. But winning the first five in a row was not something I even thought about.
I mean, for me it's just been great. I've had such a great car all year. I've got such a great team in Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Lucas Oil behind me. It makes my job a lot easier to know every time I get in the car, the car is going to be great and I'm going to have the best car out there. It really does help me.
You know, this year we've just got everything together. I think as a driver I've really taken the next step. Of course, as always, there's more you can improve, but I think I've taken a big leap from last year. I've come together with the best team. They've got a lot of momentum. Now we're building this momentum. It's just getting great.
It's certainly not easy, though. I mean, every race has been so difficult. The last two weeks have been really tough. But, you know, all credit to the team. We got it done when we needed to. We weren't quickest at every session. We weren't quickest this morning. But when we needed to get it right we got it. In the race, tough race, but we did the job we needed to do. We got a gap. You know, it was difficult, but we managed to pull it off. It's thrilling, it really is. It's just been a completely unbelievable start for me.
The run is obviously going to end at some point, but I'm going to maybe sure I can lead that for as long as possible because I'm enjoying this too much to let it go right now.
THE MODERATOR: The race got off to a rough start there, a couple cautions early. Was it hard to get into a rhythm at all?
ALEX LLOYD: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, we got so few laps in at the beginning under green that it kind of felt like it just hadn't started. We were just waiting for the proper start really because we had a few corners and it went yellow again, so I couldn't really get a read on where we were with the car, how we were going to be.
When we did go green, and it stayed green for a fair while, we just had a great car straight out of the box, and we managed to pull away at a very quick rate. Then people started coming back to me as I started to struggle a little bit in the middle. We were probably a similar speed if not slightly slower than Mike behind.
But all credit to the team. When we had the yellow at the end, that actually helped me. The tires cooled down a little bit. I came back out. It was like the first lap again. The car was great.
We had such a good run in the middle that it really gave me time to perfect the car and adjust the settings to try and get it to where I was happy with for that end, the last 10-lap shootout. We did that right, and we had the best car at the end. That was what was very important.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. You pointed out when you needed the speed you got it. Two practices in the morning, you didn't have anywhere near that speed. Where did they find the speed?
ALEX LLOYD: Well, we were fourth in session one. We weren't particularly pleased with the car, but I was happy with the speed we did because I knew there was a lot more to come out of it. Actually session two I think we were nearly half a second quicker than anyone else. I knew at that point we had the car right. I mean, it still wasn't perfect, but I knew we were pretty close. So I knew if we could just get a steady lap in qualifying, that would probably be enough for the pole.
As it happened, we actually gave away 3/10ths in qualifying through the wrong gear choice, which is partly my fault. It was great to get the pole, but it was kind of frustrating because we left a lot on the table. I think that pace showed at the beginning of the race.
You know, we were great in the test here nearly a month ago. I was very, very confident coming into this race. The conditions are always changing so we started the day and we had to adjust a little bit. You know, it's a long day. You can't make a mistake in a day where you're practicing, qualifying and racing. We made sure we took it little bit easy in the practice session and even a little bit easy in qualifying because you can't throw it into the wall. There is no time to get the car back together. So you really just have to hold back throughout the whole day.
I don't think there was really one lap today where I felt like I gave it 110% because it's just one of those days that you can't afford to. You've always got to hold that little bit back to make sure that you have the car going on all four wheels and running smoothly at the finish.
Q. Not that you ever want to see a big crash like you saw at the start, but when you lose a third of the field on lap one, you're going to spend as much of your day getting through lapped cars, did that make your job easier?
ALEX LLOYD: Not really. During the middle of the race, I was happy to come up on traffic because I always thought I've got a bit of a lead. If I can get by some cars and hopefully have a lot of traffic that I can get through, if a yellow comes out, there's going to be cars between me and the second place. I thought that's really going to be a key thing.
It didn't quite work to plan. The yellow at the end, we had one car. It's a lot better than none. But I was hoping that we'd have maybe two or three cars. So for me at that point, I kind of got a bit of a lull in the track where I wasn't getting up to much traffic.
It's 50/50 'cause some guys are very, very difficult to pass. I mean, they were blocking me a little bit. I feel like at the moment I've got a little bit of a target on my back. Some of the championship competitors I was coming to lap were certainly not making it easy for me, which is understandable. So those guys, you don't want to come across because a big lead can get taken away very quickly. On the other hand, if a guy is making it nice and easy for you, it's nice because you have that cushion of cars.
It's 50/50, but for sure with some of the slower guys I enjoyed coming up to them because I knew I could get past them easily and it would just be that extra car to give me a cushion.
Q. In three of your five wins this year, you've led every lap. Would you in any way prefer to have someone up there that you're fighting with for the lead, a car as fast as you, as opposed to simply working on slower cars to lap?
ALEX LLOYD: Well, you know, it's a little bit of a difficult question because sometimes, sure, it's so much fun in racing to have a close battle and to come out on top and to beat the guys on the last lap or something like that. That was something I really was disappointed at Homestead. With the wrecks we had and the bad accidents, obviously the race was shortened. I felt like it was going to be a great battle with me and Chris. But at the same time I felt like I had the best car. I felt like I could win the race on a last-lap move, which would have been fantastic.
On days like today, I was glad that we didn't because, you know, in the middle of the race, I wasn't that comfortable with the car. We were making a lot of adjustments. I had a few big moments where the back came out. At that point I just wanted to keep going and just not have somebody pressurizing me so I could hold back a little bit.
At the end we were fine and it was a pretty good battle. But we had the pace at the end there. I think as a driver, we're still looking at the championship here. This is certainly in my mind now, you know, yes, we want to keep winning races, of course we do, but at the same time we have to win this championship. Our two goals were Indy and the championship. We've won Indy. To win the championship, I just want to keep winning races. If I can make that as easy for myself as possible by having a comfortable gap and being able to keep that gap and not have somebody pressuring me at the end of the race, I'll take that because it makes my job in trying to close this championship a little bit easier.
Q. You've now won on every type of course except a natural road course. Do you take any satisfaction in that?
ALEX LLOYD: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I won the normal road courses last year. I've won plenty of races on road courses in my career before back in Europe. I knew I could do that. But, of course, when you come over from England, having never raced on an oval before, never even seen an oval before last year, you have that little bit of concern in you, how will you adapt. I know I could go around an oval quickly. As a road course driver, it's a relatively easy transition. But racing and winning on an oval is a completely different thing.
So for me it was great to get that win at Homestead, even better to win at Indy because it being Indy. To get a race win there is something very special.
But this race is a very important one because a short oval is really very much driver-related because you're not flat out all the way around, you don't just have your foot flat to the floor and you're really relying on how good your car is. On a short track, you've got to drive the thing. You've got to have that car just on the limit of grip, and it can go wrong very easily on a short track.
So for me to have won on this and have been so quick as we have been all day in the race and in qualifying, it makes me feel very happy to know that we've accomplished all the different tracks that we could this year, and all the tracks over the last two years, every type of track, we've managed to win on. For me as a driver, that's a very pleasing thing.
Q. In the last 11 events, the Pro Series and IndyCar Series sanctioned by the IRL, drivers from the UK have won nine times and have finished second in the other two. Was this a wave that you saw coming? Right now Brits are just winning everything.
ALEX LLOYD: Well, the reason I'm over here or a big reason I'm over here is because of Dan Wheldon and Dario and having seen what they've been doing and winning races. I saw this as a great path for my career.
I think for sure, I mean, it was never something I decided I'll come over here because it's going to be easier, the competition's going to be weaker, because it certainly isn't - by no means.
I think it's a combination of we've got some very talented British drivers in the IndyCar Series obviously that have been around for a while. They're in top teams, and they're really getting the job done.
I don't think there's really any correlation between why they're British. I just think it's they're good drivers in great cars. I just think this series has a lot of depth. And it is great to hear that the British drivers are doing so well. For sure, I think that helps me because, I mean, trying to look to step up into the IndyCar Series, guys are always looking for the next Dan Wheldon or the next Dario Franchitti, wondering where they're going to come from. There's certainly a link there. It doesn't really matter, 'cause it all comes down to driving, but there's certainly a link.
I think, though, you'll find more British drivers coming over here just because every British driver that comes over here comes back and says what a fantastic place it is to race, what a great place it is to live, to compete, how much better it is than Europe, which is something I said. I couldn't believe from the first race. I absolutely loved it over here and said I'm not going back to Europe if you paid me millions and millions of dollars. I don't want to go back there. I enjoy it too much here. So I think you're going to find an increase.
Look at the Indy Pro Series this year and the IndyCar Series, we have guys from all over the world coming to compete in it. It's just a great testimony to how good the Indy Pro Series is and how far that's come and of course how good the IndyCar Series is.
Q. How many races do you think you can string together? Do you think about that?
ALEX LLOYD: I think we can string all of them. I mean, I'm not saying that's going to happen, but I know that every race we can we're going to turn up, we're going to be in with a shot at winning, in with a shot of getting the pole. If you're in with a chance, and you've got a car that's going to be quick enough and as a driver you feel comfortable enough. Momentum is a great thing. We've really got that on our side. We know how to win this year. We know how to get it done. There's no pressure on doing that. I think if you've got that on your side, you can keep winning. We could keep doing it and we could win all of them.
Being realistic, that probably isn't going to happen. This streak will come to an end at some point. But if we keep going the way we are, I can promise you one thing, we're going to be working even harder. We'll be working as if we finished last in every race. For myself as a driver to improve my fitness, to try and learn from any possible mistakes I've made over the last five races and see how I can improve, and the team as well. They've given me a great car, but we can go that little bit more, we can push that bit harder and make that car that little bit better. That's what we're going to be doing.
I think each race that we come to we should be that little bit stronger. We'll certainly be in a position to win them all. Whether or not we can do it, we'll have to wait and see.
Q. There's a $3 bounty on you. One of those dollars is yours and one is Mike Potekhen's. Does that make you nervous?
ALEX LLOYD: The one thing that I have to speak, I think it was Arni who set up this bounty and I have to speak to him. I was thinking about this. All these other guys, if somebody beats me, they get their hands on $3. What do I get if I continue to win? I haven't quite worked that one out yet (laughter). I'll have to speak to Arni about seeing that.
You know, it's just great to have done what we've done so far. We're going to be trying very hard to keep it going. The fact that we've got a little bounty on ourselves just adds to the pressure and adds to the fun.
Q. Have you started fielding any calls from IndyCar Series teams? Do you have an agent? How does that process happen?
ALEX LLOYD: At the moment I haven't got an agent. It's something that I'd like to try and do on my own, if possible. I think the great thing with the Indy Pro Series is we run with the IndyCar Series throughout the year so we're bumping into the important people all the time weekend on weekend. I live in Indy, so I'm close by to where it all happens. I can make those contacts myself.
I mean, I have contact with a few IndyCar team owners. There's certainly some promising talks. It's obviously very, very early days right now. We're going to be probably delving into that a little bit more now the month of May's over. Of course, every IndyCar team is concentrating on that.
So for me the next few weeks and months, we'll be working very hard on that because I think we're at a time now where I need to start trying to push and try and get some doors open and see if I can get something closed out very quickly. There's always a couple of races in the IndyCar Series that we don't compete at in the Indy Pro Series that we don't venture to. And for me if I could get a chance in some of those races that don't clash, that would be a dream come true. I'll be certainly working hard for that.
THE MODERATOR: Alex, thank you. Congratulations.
ALEX LLOYD: Thank you very much.
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