IZOD IndyCar Series: Cafés do Brasil Indy 300
Topics: Cafés do Brasil Indy 300
October 2, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the 2010 Rookie of the Year, Alex Lloyd, of Dale Coyne Racing. Alex is the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion. His best finish this season was 4th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Alex, you've been working since 2008 to run a full season here at the IZod IndyCar Series. And now to do it and earn Rookie of the Year honors has to be rewarding.
ALEX LLOYD: It's 2007 with the lost time that I ran a full season up until this year. And you look now at 2010, that was three years ago.
And it's tough. It was a tough couple of years. And you spend two years out of a car, practically, other than running the Indy 500, and this race last year, so three races in two years, it was tough. And certainly coming back at the beginning of the year, you have a lot of rust that you've got to knock off.
Everyone talks about a little bit of rust, couple of months, had two years to knock off. So with that you have your ups and downs. But it was great that I got the opportunity from Dale and Gale Coyne and Boy Scouts of America. That was a big thing for me, and really a life line, because, like I said, two years out of the sport, it's hard to get back in sometimes with three years out.
So we came into this year, or I did, with two big goals. One was a good run at Indy 500. Biggest race in the world. Having raced there two years before, and I knew hopefully my experience would help there and we could have a good run. Second was Rookie of the Year, and we got that today. Certainly there's some points in the year that was disappointing and we didn't get what we hoped out of it.
But that's a rookie campaign for you. And it's working with new guys. Obviously last year the team lost just that and Bill Pappas, their engineer and driver, so we're working with a lot of new people, new engineering, everything like that, and a new driver.
So it was -- you've got to blend together and get everything working right. And we did that. And we had some good races this year, some very good races, and we've had some races that could have been very good. Chicago, we had a gear box problem. We've had a couple of things on the ovals the last few races that have really cost us some top 10 finishes. And that's been frustrating.
But we've kept ourselves going and kept focusing the last few races on Rookie of the Year. That's come up. That's certainly a great thing for myself and the whole team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Alex?
Q. Take us through, again, the turning point of the season. I know Indy was a big part of it. What made that special, just the practice time?
ALEX LLOYD: Yeah, I think partly. We started off the year. And we really struggled. I mean, we struggled much more than we expected to. We came to Kansas, and we struggled at Kansas.
We sat together by the truck after that race, we said: This year it's going to be tough to qualify for Indianapolis, let alone race at the front. So we've really got to use the two weeks we have at that point after Kansas before the start of Indy to try to work out a few things with the car and make it a little faster and then use the testing.
Because when you're a small team, there's no testing during the year, effectively. So you're racing against guys with huge budgets and wind tunnel programs and all these kind of things.
When you're a little guy, it's very tough. Indy, here you've got two weeks of practice to try and catch that up a little bit. And that's invaluable. It was certainly one of our things that we thought we have to capitalize on that. And we played Indy very conservative in terms of qualifying.
We stayed in race prep basically the whole month. And we sacrificed qualifying for that. But it really paid off by having a great race car in the race.
That was the turning point for us. We came into that month, and all of a sudden, from the very first lap at Indy, the car, we could tell immediately that the car was quicker and we made some good improvements.
And then from then, obviously, we followed it up with a great race at Texas. And some good ups and downs, some good races since then and also some downs. Certainly areas we need to work on.
And the benefit, obviously, the road courses were a bit of an Achilles heel for us. But the last couple of races at Mid-Ohio and 10th place at Sonoma, we were getting there during the weekend. We were starting to figure things out.
That was the encouraging thing. Obviously you like to figure it out sooner, and you like to be there from the very first race, but when it's a rookie campaign, you guys, all working together, sometimes that just doesn't happen without a lot of testing. It wasn't too many years ago where rookies have done a Full season's worth of testing before the first race. Now it's not like that.
When you've got a lot of rookies like myself, Simona, and Bertrand and stuff, and we're in the small teams, we need that testing. We don't have the budget of the Ganassis and Penskes. So it makes it tough. But it's rewarding when you can come away with some good results.
Q. Just how rewarding is it considering all the hills and valleys?
ALEX LLOYD: It's very rewarding. Like I said, it was a big goal going in. And there's been some points in the year. Obviously I think, honestly I think we've been on the team pulling our hair out, trying to figure out what on earth is going on. And we sit down and we figure things out. That's been the good thing. We've seen improvements. If we haven't started off the weekend right, we've ended it right.
And that was a pretty clear indication today. We started off yesterday in the practice session, and we were nowhere. We really, really struggled. At the beginning of the race, God, we dropped to 25th in the first 10. We were absolutely nowhere. But we kept digging at it. We kept working. We kept trying to figure out -- the guys did a great job in the pits in terms of tweaking the car to get it faster, and then we end up finishing 12th and we move ourselves forward, and we have a pretty good race car at the end.
And that's been the way this race played out. It's been the way our whole season has played out. Some weekends -- we started it competitive, Texas, from the very first lap, and we ended up having, obviously, a very strong week there. On others, we started off struggling and maybe we haven't quite found it by the race.
Sometimes we have found it. It's been up and down, but it's a rookie campaign. For me, two years out of the sport, effectively, new engine, working with new engineers this year and not the engineers the team had last year.
So it's to be expected. You have your ups and downs, but that's what you have to deal with. And the trick is to keep pushing through. And I think if we can hopefully try and do this again next year, then that would be -- we can learn from all those ups and downs and the things we've learned this year, and I think we could have a very strong campaign to try and put it into the top 10 in the points, which would be obviously a good achievement for all of us.
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