Firestone Indy Lights: Grand Prix of Long Beach
Topics: Grand Prix of Long Beach
April 18, 2010
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Charlie Kimball of AFS Racing and Andretti Autosports, and J.K. Vernay. Two quick notes: J.K. finished second as well last week at Barber. Additionally, this is his third consecutive podium finish.
Charlie, can you talk about the finish in front of a hometown crowd. I understand friends and family out there cheering you on?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: Absolutely. I think we had 75 people in the grandstands between turns five and six. I could see them on the parade laps so I knew they were there, I was pretty sure I could hear them as well. At the end of the race, with the podium finish, it meant a lot. I get to see them cheering and gave them a wave as I went by.
I think a few of them, a good 20 of them sprinted as fast as they could the mile down over to the podium to be there. So it's pretty special, obviously, coming off Alabama. It was a good result down there.
We had had the pace for the win down there, and we were definitely right up front today. I think the three of us on the podium were trading fastest laps every lap back and forth, back and forth. I don't think the gap was any bigger than a second and a half or two seconds between myself and James. I don't think it was any bigger than two seconds behind J.K. at any spot.
Tough race, but the 26 Levemir Flex Pen car was quick from start to finish. And I think we were quick right after the restarts and deep into the green flag runs. It was the middle stints that the car wasn't as good as Hinch's.
So we'll have to go back and look at that and learn. Going to Indianapolis next, so I can't wait to get this car on the oval, because it's been quick all year.
THE MODERATOR: For J.K., this is your third Firestone Indy Lights career start and you find yourself on the podium again. Can you talk about this experience?
J.K. VERNAY: Well, the race was quite difficult for me today. The problem was not today, the problem was yesterday when it comes from my laps because I did difficulty under yellow. So if I started P-1 today for the race.
I think also James and Charlie were really fast today. It was very difficult for me to stay behind him this afternoon. So I just tried everything to stay behind. It was very difficult. Charlie was a bit faster than me.
I think for the championship, we have to be at the start if we want to the win the championship. So it's not so bad. I did three races, three podiums, so I can be happy for sure.
I wanted to win, but when you cannot win, and you're fastest like that, you have to get the points for the challenges.
Q. Charlie, you have a lot of restarts, did you ever think I have a chance? It never seemed like you were able to get much going?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think I said on the radio to the team when that last yellow came out for the tires in the corner. I said we keep getting closer. Give me one more shot, one more shot.
All credit to James. He was just that little bit better out of the hair-pin. My brakes went away a little bit towards the end of the race, so I couldn't be confident throwing the car up the inside of James in turn one, which is where the pass was going to happen. That was the only chance I had.
I was getting closer, and I was getting closer, but he never made a mistake big enough for me to capitalize on. I was pressuring him all race. To be honest, he soaked it up well. I threw everything and the kitchen sink at him, and he just took it.
I'm very happy with second. I think with the restarts, there's always the opportunity to slap the wall on the hair-pin coming out trying a little too hard. Again, I'm sort of playing the championship game just like J.K. talked about.
Second, I made up five of the 33 points to J.K., and I think Hinch is now 13 back from me. So it's going to be tight for the rest of the season.
Q. What does it mean to take second here?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: It means a lot. I grew up coming to this race. I would come down with my dad when he was working and spend the day in the paddock and collect autographs.
And now Friday afternoon when I'm sitting in the autograph session and seeing those little kids come up to get my autograph, it was really special to be able to put it on the podium.
It would have been nice to be on the top step, however, on the podium is a great result from where I was last year to where I am this year. I feel very lucky. I have great partners in Novo Nordisk, Calavo and Dexcom that's here in San Diego. So it's neat to be able to represent them so well in their backyard and my own as well.
Q. As you started talking about thinking about Indy. What happens tomorrow morning? Do you wake up after the last month or so with road courses, road courses, road courses, and what do you do mentally to say, okay, now I'm set up for a different type of race?
J.K. VERNAY: I think for me it will be different than Charlie, because Charlie did one year last year. He has a lot more experience than me. So I don't know exactly for him.
For me it will be a completely new thing. I have a lot to learn to work with really hard with my engineers. They'll tell me lots of things about the ovals because it's completely different.
I did one test already, but without traffic. I think with the traffic to work with a spotter, and to have three cars on the side it's completely different.
So just I think I would work really hard during May before Indy, and we'll see. We are focused on the oval. The two next races are ovals, so we'll see.
Q. (No microphone).
J.K. VERNAY: Sorry?
Q. (No microphone)?
J.K. VERNAY: No.
CHARLIE KIMBALL: You'll learn. You'll learn really quick on the oval. As far as I'm concerned I think that I'm going to definitely enjoy this for a couple of days because we have a lot time off. I left my travel schedule, and the race has been very busy. I'm looking forward to a couple of days off.
We have about a month before we go to testing there. I'm going to be able to really focus on some training.
As J.K. said, we have two ovals coming up, so we're really focused on that now. We can take my experience last year, and the team's great car from last year and leverage that into a result. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to have a shot at winning. For me, it's probably as important as this race is because it's the biggest race of the year.
There are a few races that I highlighted with the team that I'd like to podium and do well at this year. Long Beach is one of them, Indy is another. So, yes, we'll take a couple days off, but then it's back to the grindstone and pushing forward.
Q. You were able to pass J.K. on the first lap, and yesterday you were talking about how the goal from the start was to keep it to your advantage and maybe disadvantage to J.K. So with your start, what was the challenge for you?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think it was a bit of a challenge for me because we talked in the drivers' meeting, and all the drivers had agreed, at least from my understanding that we'd pair up through the last section and drop into single file around the hair-pin. So (Indiscernible) didn't, and ran into me as we came out of the hair-pin.
So I caught the car, and ran the whole race afraid that the right suspension was going to break because it pitched me up into the air. So I wasn't focused completely on the start coming out of the hair-pin.
But when it settled back down and I got to power, the way the run happened, I snuck up right behind James. And coming down Shoreline, he kept the thing lit and I tucked up under him.
If you can trust the driver in front of you, I think that racing with James last year, we built a rapport that I knew when he braked, I could stay with him and try to box out the outside line. It worked. It takes years of practice to get there for sure.
J.K. VERNAY: In some place my steps was not so good. Barber was a bit better, but not so good. I think this track was pretty good. I had less wind than James, so I was able to be straight on the first corner, but outside was difficult.
So Charlie was aggressive on the first corner also on the championship. So I don't have to take too many risks. I think just finish three is always better than to finish without. So I know Charlie wants to overtake me.
And after the race -- but no, I improve my start. I did some running starts in A-1. I did a race in A-1 in 2007 with France. So I have very experience. Not like these guys, but I'm still learning.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Congratulations.
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