IZOD IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500
Topics: Indianapolis 500
May 21, 2011
Q. Dan, tell us about your day, the Shootout, et cetera.
DAN WHELDON: I think for me it's just very good to be back in the race car. I've had my four-race hiatus, vacation, whatever you want to call it. But it's obviously phenomenal to be back, especially at Indianapolis.
I think that Bryan Herta and Steve Newey put together a fantastic group of guys with Bryan Herta Autosport. They've got a great group of people that have worked incredibly hard. We're obviously on a partial-month program, but I think as you can see, certainly the car was competitive enough to compete for the pole. Unfortunately we were a little bit off on that fast nine, but it was -- it's a testament to the team's effort.
You know, actually it probably would have been a little bit higher up if I had listened to Bryan but I really wanted to go for the pole, and I perhaps trimmed the car up a little bit too much. It's been a fantastic day. I think everybody on the team should be proud. I think William Rast will be proud of us.
But it's fantastic because we have a collaboration with Sam Schmidt Motorsport, and for Alex Tagliani to get the pole, it goes to show that it's really been a good program and obviously talent is incredibly strong, too. I think for the most part it was a very good day, and I'm looking forward to the race.
Q. Are all the guys in the team new to you?
DAN WHELDON: That's a good question. I briefly worked with the engineer that's engineering my car, Todd Malloy, when I first signed for Andretti Green racing, which it was back then. But for the most part it's obviously a new team to me.
Bryan has been a teammate and a close friend, so the relationship is a little bit different now. I probably can't play as many practical jokes on him as we perhaps used to because he's the boss. But I touched on it earlier today; he is a man of his word, which is very rare these days. I had some good opportunities for this race. There was a fair few options, and when I spoke to Bryan, I said, Bryan, you know how important this race is to me. It's potentially my only race that I'm going to do all year; can you give me a fast enough race car? And he said, I'll absolutely make sure that you have one.
There's not a lot of people out there that I would trust. But it's been phenomenal to be in his team. I think it goes to show the kind of person he is when you look at the group of people that are working for him, and just very proud to be part of it. I think in the time that I've had off, that certainly has made me realize how much I love motor racing. It's made me realize how much I want to be a full-time participant in the IndyCar Series. I'm just enjoying it very, very much.
Q. Dan, you're sort of in the elite around here now at Indianapolis. Who in the younger drivers might you have talked to or mentored or answered questions for in say this month or last year?
DAN WHELDON: Who would I have mentored?
Q. Who might you have talked to or given advice how to run here?
DAN WHELDON: You know, honestly I got given an opportunity a long time ago by Michael Andretti, and through that opportunity it's -- you know, and even, I think, what my parents have instilled in me and I think my wife and I have the same values, I'd like to help anybody that wants help. Certainly the younger guys -- like I said, I was given an opportunity to move into IndyCars. I've been given many opportunities that have helped me progress through the motor ranks. So for me I'm prepared to help because I've been given that same opportunity, and I think as somebody that's more experienced now, I'm not going to say older but more experienced, I feel it's kind of my responsibility to give back. So you know, that's something that I'd be very willing to do.
Obviously Bryan has an Indy Lights driver that obviously we're going to start working hard on him. He was very quick in the test so he could probably teach me a thing or two around here. But it's one of those things where if somebody wants help and is prepared to listen and value your help, then I'm prepared to give it to anybody.
Q. I asked Ed Carpenter the same question. What do you make of the fact that you look at the fast nine, you've got no Andretti, you've got one Penske, don't have the usual suspects, got some of the smaller teams. Who do we read into that?
DAN WHELDON: I think it's Indianapolis. You know, it's incredibly competitive, and it can change. And I think obviously people value Indianapolis so much that they'll put so much effort into that one particular program, into that one race, that it does kind of stir things up a little bit. And I think the big thing that you see is there's a lot of testing restrictions, and with that said, you typically see only the big teams practice.
Well, at Indianapolis, I think even the smaller teams get to at least have some time on track to perfect their cars, and so it makes the field incredibly close. We've been using the same car now for a little while. Obviously Honda provide very, very equal engines, you've got the same consistent Firestone tire. With that said, it just gives people time.
But Indianapolis, the field is always a little bit jumbled, but typically the same people end up in the front end of the race, bar two or three. It'll be an interesting race. From the race running that I've done I think it's going to be difficult to overtake, so it's truly going to be very interesting.
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