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Firestone Indy Lights: Kentucky 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Kentucky 100

Firestone Indy Lights: Kentucky 100

Wade Cunningham
August 1, 2009


SPARTA, KENTUCKY

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our race winner, Wade Cunningham. Wade, tell us about your day out there.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Well, I was actually anxious to get the race going. We'd been sitting around the paddock for two days. I'm sure I'm not the only one just bored out of my mind. I feel really bad for the people that bought tickets to the event and have been sitting there waiting for the track to dry. We all had the same feeling. We had the same feeling as the fans. We just couldn't wait to get out there and race for ourselves and race for them.
But I think the fans got a better race because of the weather. The way they ground the track, just the lack of rubber on it, because they did that, we really had to race with a lot of downforce today, more so than I think we've ever done in the past. That created the close racing we had today.
It was very, very tight. I don't think we've really ever seen, apart from Chicago, cars in rows pushing each other, trying to minimize the aerodynamic effect of the wings. That was tough. That was 15 laps of, you know, trying to control your car in turbulent air with a guy next to you, a guy in front of you, a guy on your diagonal, and a guy behind you.
It was my goal, once I realized that was going nowhere, we were going to be in a stalemate for the next 67 laps, so I pulled out of line, let the outside line actually go. That's when Sebastian got passed and James got to the lead. I think that's really what then generated the rest of the race.
At that point we were kind of more running single file. You could work the line in traffic, hope that someone pulled the wrong gear at the wrong time, had to lift at the wrong time.
So it was just a case of waiting for those kind of things to happen. I think we had a great balance in our car today. We were so, so quick late turn one, into turn two, we were able to run so much lower than the other guys, I was able to pull the next gear, stay low, complete the pass actually on the straight. I did that to Bea and then to James -- sorry to Sebastian and then James.
It was very, very close between Sebastian and myself. I'm sure he got me at the stripe a few laps when we ran side-by-side for about 10 or 12 laps. But I think his fronts went away at the end. He seemed to struggle to hold his line in three and four. You know, he could never get more than halfway up beside me.
So I'm very pleased with the result. Didn't quite know what was going on with the yellow at the end. I saw tire marks across the track, a bit of smoke, but they never put the safety car out. I was told we might be going the next lap, so I just went for it, and no one else did. We went another lap. So I did the same thing again, and that was the checkered flag.
A strange end to the race, but I'm 95% confident that we would have won had we completed the green laps, and just very, very pleased to deliver the hundredth win to myself and the team, and to give Sam his 30th win as an owner in the series.
THE MODERATOR: With what we went through yesterday, having the day off, squeezing everything in in one day, does that change your mindset or does that play tricks with your head or is it you're a racecar driver and you do what you have to do?
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Well, you do what you do. But this morning, that limited practice we did, the track was so green, it was comparable going to Indy for the first time in April. They diamond ground the track. There wasn't a lick of rubber on, and we destroyed a set of tires in the first 40 minutes, and really just struggled with car balance.
So I actually tried to just ignore practice. I assumed that the track would be better because of the IndyCars had run, they do a good job of putting down rubber for us. That was the mindset I had to go into the race with, otherwise I wouldn't have been very quick. I did struggle with oversteer the first few laps, but we dialed it out of the car, and the car was magic.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Seems to me they took a little bit out of the (indiscernible) out of the car? Did that have an effect? Were you able to pass from behind and have a little cleaner air to work with?
WADE CUNNINGHAM: I'm not really sure. It definitely made the lap speeds come down. We were probably in race trim a 10th or so quicker. But I think it just allowed the car in front to be not so much into the right gear. So the guys running out of the gearing after the start/finish line, that's always where the next car could get a run.
I think it improved the racing from that aspect. Maybe it didn't create so much turbulent air and you could see the cars were running very close this race to the outside and actually even behind. You could run very, very close in third place to the leader.
So if that's the kind of racing they're after, and it's exciting, then so be it. But it was very close, very tough today. You know, James, Bea, James Davison, and Sebastian, everyone did a pretty good job of keeping their cars off each other for the most part. When you're running that close, if the wind changes, you're gonna move six inches, and that could be a disaster.
It was definitely an exciting race. But I was much happier being out front.

Q. Driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, AFS and you have been running nose-to-tail, but today was your race. Driving for Sam, that's got to be pretty slick. You have a good battle going. Does Sam line you up and give you a talk before the green flag drops?
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Sam is pretty good. He might do it with the other drivers. But occasionally Sam and I get together, and we might talk about, you know, what to expect on the first lap. But he generally leaves me to it. I think he brought me onboard because he knew what I was capable of on the ovals. I'm glad that I'm delivering.
I gave him Indy. I gave us Indy, or we won it together as a team. That was the first goal. And then that really turned the year around for us. We went to Milwaukee. We did well after missing a practice. Then we went to Iowa. As a team, we destroyed the rest of the field. To come here to the next oval and do it again, it quite could have easily been a Sam Schmidt 1-2-3 again. We were 1-3-4 at one stage. Our team has a great package. I'm thrilled to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Wade.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Thank you.

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