IZOD IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT
Topics: Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT
September 1, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with today's post qualifying press conference. Right now we're joined by Dario Franchitti, who qualified fifth. We're also joined by James Hinchcliffe, who qualified sixth. We're also joined by Mike Conway who qualified second. This second-place start matches Mike's best IndyCar qualifying record which he did in Barber in 2010. Mike will have a 10 grid-spot penalty due to an unapproved engine change.
James, we'll start with you. Talk about today's qualifying run.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Good to be back, I guess. Yeah, we've had a bit of a drop in performance. Some of it self-induced, some of it bad luck at a couple places.
It's great to be back here in Baltimore. This event was such a success last year. We were very happy the race could be saved. Andretti Sports Marketing stepped up to help kick it off.
We had an interesting day yesterday dealing with some of the things you deal with in a street circuit. Everybody cooperated and communicated well. That was important. Now we have a racetrack we're close to being able to race on. With the limited practice we had, it was wet this morning, we're pretty pleased with what we came up with.
Back to the start of the year, we make it into the Fast Six, then we are just mystified with the gap to the guys on the second run with red tires. We have to figure out what we're doing wrong in Q3.
Gutted for Ryan, that was an unfortunate run for him in round one. The way the group was stacked in round two, I wasn't sure we were going to be able to make it into Q2. But we did. Then second in Q3. Strong for the Go Daddy guys.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, James just brought up the first group. Can you talk about that as well as the qualifying run.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Obviously it's the luck of the draw with what group you get in. So, yeah, we were happy to get through that first segment there, it was pretty tough.
It's difficult here as bumpy as the place is. Now with this chicane you can gain 3 or 4/10ths by what you do there. It made it pretty daunting just to put a lap together, tough to put a lap together. That was part of the challenge.
No, a typical street course challenge, probably only more so. With the limited track time, we're still learning. It's a challenge for the whole field because of that.
Obviously the chicane on the backstretch needs to be addressed for tomorrow. It's too quick. It's fourth gear right now. I'm taking it fourth gear at some laps. You were 2 or 3/10ths up on me. You may be hitting the train tracks harder than you were yesterday before the chicane.
But, no, that needs to be addressed for tomorrow, needs to be slowed down somehow. Probably move the walls back or something. Hopefully that gets done. If you're following another car into that chicane, you're going to be blinded where the curb is. That could go wrong pretty quickly. Not sure how many cars we've lost yet, but it's been an expensive day for a lot of teams.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, a bit of trouble at the end of qualifying. Can you talk about the highs and lows of today's results.
MIKE CONWAY: Rolled out this morning. The balance was pretty good. Didn't really change anything over the weekend. The car has been pretty much there most of the time. Just kind of working on getting around the track. As Dario said, the challenge of the chicane, just trying to find a little bit more there on the last lap.
But happy obviously to get second, but then with the engine penalty, we're going to be 12th. That's a bit annoying, obviously. Could have been a front-row start. But it is what it is. Same for everyone. It's just going to make our day tomorrow a bit more challenging. We'll see where we stack up on the first few laps on what we're going to do with strategy.
Happy with the car. I don't think any changes in the car.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Mike, you made some changes to your pit crew last weekend. You addressed some issues a few races ago. Obviously you've been coming on strong. Tell me about the transformation of the team lately. You've gone from nowhere to somewhere pretty fast.
MIKE CONWAY: The guys have been working hard all year, trying to iron out any problems we had. We changed a guy on the fuel. Yeah, obviously Craig is a new guy. He's been doing a good job. Obviously we still want to try to improve on everything. The guys changing the wheels are very fast. But there's always room for improvement in a team, and me myself.
The guys have been working hard as always. We've struggled sometimes at some circuits to get the balance as I'd like it. We turn up here this weekend, it's been good from the start. I think all the hard work back at the factory. And winter, working very hard to come back strong next year.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by several more of our drivers. Will Power, our polesitter. We're joined by Scott Dixon, who qualified third. We're also joined by Sebastien Bourdais, who qualified fourth.
Will, let's start with you. An important day in qualifying, the bonus point and front-row starting position. Talk about today's qualifying run.
WILL POWER: It was just minimal time on the track the last couple days. We knew we had a pretty good setup. I was a little worried after practice we were only 15th, only got a couple laps. I was determined to get pole. I needed another point toward the championship, definitely helps. Starting at the front lowers the percentages of getting involved in an incident in the first lap.
Yeah, need to focus ahead now. Got that out of the way. See what we can do tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastien, your second consecutive Firestone Fast Six appearance. Talk about bouncing back from last week at Sonoma.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I wish I wasn't bouncing so much. Would hurt less (laughter).
Yeah, it's a tough break. Obviously Sonoma was looking great. The guys had done an awesome job. The easiest part was left to go because we were on brand-new red tires. I don't know if it's just going off the race line with Josef in the hairpin that caused what happened. For sure when I turned, nothing happened. That was a pretty bad accident where the top didn't stay together and I got a very big hit inside the car.
I'm physically pretty hurt right now. I don't know how it's going to play out for tomorrow. I talked to the boys. They've given me a great car. Hopefully we can put it together tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, limited track time. Talk about being able to maximize the qualifying runs today.
SCOTT DIXON: It was a strange kind of couple of days, I think. We didn't run at all in the first session, a few laps in the second one. This morning we didn't get any laps together.
Car felt decent. We're lacking all-around grip, losing pretty big in the chicane where some people are taking bigger chances than others, I think.
It was a strange first Q1. Obviously good for us. We did one out-lap, were on our second, the red came out. All in all, not a bad day. I think the racecar will be pretty decent. Hopefully they can change some of the parts to the track to make it a little more consistent throughout the race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. (No microphone.)
SCOTT DIXON: I think I probably got to take him out and continue on (laughter).
No, we were obviously going for race wins here. We got to get to the end of the race and keep it clean. The day turned out a little bit better than I thought it was after this morning's practice. That's definitely positive. I think both of us, Dario and I, still have some speed in the car, which is good. Obviously, Will was very fast today.
Yeah, try and keep it clean. Hopefully we're not avoiding any safety trucks at the start and can continue on.
Q. What kind of adjustments can be made to this curb? Does it need to be moved back from the railroad tracks?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Just move the wall in. I would imagine that would slow the entry and the exit down. If you want to race the curbs, that's not something we all want, just close the walls up, it would slow down your entry because of the angle, and the exit.
Q. Did you look at the opening to the left? I assume that's troublesome.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I tried not to. I could see all the swirls on the wall. I think Dallara should sponsor that. I try not to look at stuff like that.
Q. I know the intent of turn one was to have a heavy braking area. With the bumps there, how does that take away from that being a good passing zone?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. I can't say I really tried any other line through there. From memory, the inside was pretty rough anyway.
You know, I think to make this track a really great racing track, if they could reseal the whole front straight, eliminate the chicane, have a smooth surface over the railway tracks there, a smooth entry into one, I think you'd have a really good passing spot there. Whether that's achievable, who knows.
As far as for the race, it's going to be pretty tough.
Q. Other guys want to weigh in on that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I agree with Scott. I think the resurface all the way down the main straight, down into turn four, would be good. The bumps, they do lengthen the braking zone a little bit, so it might help. I don't think many people have gone down inside to see how big the bumps are. That will be the experiment tomorrow at some point.
Q. Will, when they throw a chicane in overnight after the first day, how quick do you guys get that new corner? Is it something that comes fast or do you need five or ten laps?
WILL POWER: I mean, the way they built it, it was very easy to pick up. I suggested that they put tires on the inside so you can't just run over them. You feel obligated, too, because other people are. So you feel like if you want to get through each round, you've got to attack that bloody chicane, take a risk.
It's just a quick thing that was put in. So I don't know, I mean, it's a third-gear corner now. It's not bad. As it stands right now, I think you could go around on someone and they (indiscernible) be passing.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Everything a is risk we do. Hinchcliffe said it's a lottery. When you land, it's a lottery. I think the whole place is a risk. That's more a lottery as to where you land and how you land.
Q. You guys are returning for the second year and you're welcome here to Baltimore. Being back for the second year, is it more of a challenge with the course or because you raced it, it's easier for you?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: No, I think any time you come back to a circuit, it's definitely easier than year one. We had some changes to the track which we had to deal with through turn five then obviously sort of the fluid situation over the train tracks. Even turn five was different today than it was yesterday.
We're always being thrown curve balls. 90% of the track remained unchanged not only from last year to this year but from first practice to qualifying. It's easier than learning a brand-new circuit.
Q. Will, with the possibility of rainfall tomorrow afternoon, how closely are you and your team monitoring it? How do you think rainfall might impact how you race the course?
WILL POWER: Yeah, you know, that usually really mixes up strategies, what tires to be on. We'll take it as it comes. We're aware there's a chance of rain tomorrow. Until it rains here, you don't know it's here.
Q. With the opening that Mike hit and others, Mark Martin last week, do we have to analyze every place there's an opening in the wall? Do you think that needs to be a point of emphasis?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think every time you have to make a quick fix to a situation, like we've had to do this weekend, you can't think about everything that's going to happen, how quick it's going to be through the chicane. The initial time was great, to eliminate that chicane, Craig passing, it didn't work out. After that, you have to switch to Plan B, you can get it right or you can get it wrong.
The way we blend on exit, with the wall coming at you, I think it probably is going to require a bit of thinking overnight.
Q. Will, this is the second race, you're on the pole for the second time. What is it with you and this track? For the rest of you, can you beat him and how without taking him out?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: There goes all my ideas.
WILL POWER: I think we have good cars. Drive for Penske is the biggest thing. Get the best equipment. If you're not on pole or winning, you probably lose your job. You know, it's expected.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone want to jump in on what it takes to beat him?
WILL POWER: Easy. Throw a yellow. It happened last week (laughter). I pit early, get screwed. Pit late, get screwed. What do you do?
Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: I don't win every single race.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think Will does a terrific job, a great job. I think we've proved the last two years he's beatable. He's done a good job, though. I will say that. Damn Aussie.
Q. Mike, you were one of the last ones to not quite get through that chicane very well. What I wanted to ask is when you are driving, did you just hit it wrong? You come off the first curb wrong and you can't help yourself because you're going to hit the wall?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I pretty much hit the first curb wrong, positioned me wrong for the second curb. I tried to take more of it knowing I was going to be in the wrong spot on the exit. Rear-end out, tagged the wall.
It's just one of them corners where you need to get the curbs right every time. You try to save a little bit each time you go in. Looking for a bit too much obviously. It's a shame. Gives the guys a lot more work to do tonight. Obviously happy we're up there.
Q. Coming down to the green flag tomorrow, is the plan to bypass the chicane?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We all nodded.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and wrap things up. Congratulations on a great qualifying run. Best of luck tomorrow.
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