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INDYCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 11, 2014
THE MODERATOR: Well, this is an audition for Riverdance and right now I'm not quite sure how you're doing it‑‑ good lap, 223 and change, last time I looked up there.¬† You generally know how strong you went, but the real litmus test is how you felt about it.
WILL POWER:¬† Yeah, apart from the speed, it's great, to be at the top of the speed charts, but the car felt really good, too, today and we got to do quite a few laps, try to get the mileage up.¬† You know, just anticipating that it might be wet the next couple of days.¬† Yeah, you can't‑‑ it's only practice, first day, always handy to be at the top.
THE MODERATOR:¬† You're a professional, obviously, and do this for a living, but was it weird at all when you first got out after having competed yesterday?
WILL POWER:¬† It was just weird waking up the day after a race and having to get straight back into the car and on a different style of track.¬† But you know, as soon as I finished up today, like as soon as I got into it today, I just felt normal again, back‑to‑back, focus on the 500 and get the most out of the car.¬† Can't believe we actually raced yesterday, had totally forgotten about it.
Q.¬† So it was weird switching from the two cars, but did it take very long?¬† And were you in the same car as you were yesterday?
WILL POWER:¬† No, we were in a different car.¬† No, it didn't take long.¬† It's such a different discipline.¬† The oval is so different from the road course, tires are different.¬† Just get back into the swing of the oval feel, basically.
Q.¬† We didn't get to have you in yesterday, but you and Dixon had the moment in turn three and four.¬† Can you explain what happened there and just was he pushing too hard to get inside?
WILL POWER:¬† Yeah, he went‑‑ he went for a move up his side and hit me and spun.¬† I mean, I didn't see.¬† I felt it, felt someone hit me.¬† Obviously come around the next lap, and he's bumped (ph) ‑‑ yeah, he had a much better view than I.¬† Hit my back wheel.¬† Yeah, it's a tough place to pass.
Q.¬† When I saw it, I thought to myself‑‑ that guy cannot get a break at this racetrack, speaking of you.¬† Do you ever have that thought about particular racetracks, and do you know if I always go here, I have success here or I have some tough luck a time or two here?
WILL POWER:¬† Yeah, I would say that about this place.
But although, I would say that my performance in 2009 to finish fifth with Penske kind of gave me a chance to be full time there.¬† I think Roger saw that, running five seconds.
I think it's really time to have a good Indy 500 finish, I really do.¬† I think after what's happened over the last few years, it's time to have a good finish, which is a win.
Q.¬† You won the last 500 at Fontana, how much confidence does that give you?
WILL POWER:¬† Yeah, it just was a great off‑season, obviously water under the bridge.¬† Since then, we have four races, all preseason testing.¬† Just, man, you know, it's just more experience.¬† Obviously it does a lot better for your confidence than not finishing or having a bad day.
Q.¬† Do you just throw everything away and start from scratch, or is there anything that you can pull from what you've done or is it just a completely different experience?
WILL POWER:¬† It's the first oval that we do all year.¬† So you've been in road course mode and you get to the oval, and it's a lot different, and the way you race around here is a lot different with the drafting and pretty close quarters all the time.
So, you know, you could say that, yeah, you're starting kind of‑‑ this is the start of the oval season when you start.¬† Obviously Brad's obviously got three years with this car, so quite a bit of data to go off, but it's a slightly different tire, too.
Q.¬† What is your plan when you do get on the track?¬† Is it more race training earlier in the week or qualifying later?
WILL POWER:¬† Yeah, actually we did a bit of race work today, just anticipating the rain here.
I think it's important to get some race stuff in, because you get to the end of the week and you get to thinking about qualifying, which pays big points, too.¬† So you have to be pretty honest with that.¬† But the whole race does pay massive points, double points.¬† Honestly, I think it's way too far but it is what it is right now.
Q.¬† Saturday also pays some pretty good points.¬† Right now you have a one‑point lead over Ryan Hunter‑Reay, but come Saturday, if you're the fastest on Saturday, you'll get 33 points if he has an issue and Sam gets ten points and all of a sudden your lead increases.¬† What do you think of the whole point structure for qualifying here?¬† There's a lot of points available for that.
WILL POWER:¬† Yeah, it's a big deal.¬† Although, it's a very‑‑ you know, between points, it's not a big spread.¬† So generally all the guys who are in the championship are in good teams and up front anyway in qualifying.
So I expect‑‑ I expect maybe to gain five points or something if you happen to be on the pole.¬† But like I say, who knows what can happen.
Q.¬† And also, were you surprised at how brutal yesterday's race ended up being, on equipment, on drivers, a lot of things?
WILL POWER:¬† It was a surprise.¬† It was aggressive.¬† Yeah, it wasa lot of ‑‑ yeah, I couldn't believe it, some of those restarts.¬† I actually had a drive (ph) penalty, so I just backed off and watched one of them, and sure enough the car goes flying into the wall and bits of debris going everywhere.
It just seems to get rougher and rougher in IndyCar all the time.¬† Like it's just becoming‑‑ I can't tell you how many times I was hit yesterday, like side to side, and you kind of‑‑ the cars are almost too strong now.¬† Man, we bang off each other a lot.¬† But it's made for some good racing, but I just don't want it to become dangerous.
THE MODERATOR:¬† You've been sitting here watching other people race, had to feel good to get in the car.
ED CARPENTER:¬† Yeah, I've been looking forward to it.¬† Obviously like I said, I don't think it would have mattered, really, if I had been running all the races up to this point.
The start of the month of May is always special and it's always exciting to get it started, so happy that we had weather that cooperated today and let us run all day.
THE MODERATOR:¬† By the way, your crew was working to get Mike back into action, really didyeoman's work.¬† I was back there watching.
ED CARPENTER:¬† They did a good job yesterday, and J.R.s guys for the 21 car were back kind of just working on the speedway cars, and I think everybody in the garage jumped in and got us back out.
Sometimes you do that and it's not really worth it, but we picked up five spots and that kept us‑‑ we dropped from fifth to sixth in points instead of seventh, and we are that much further ahead of eighth, still.¬† So I'm glad that we've put in the effort.¬†
Q.¬† In terms of the pole run last year, which was so spectacular, and I know it was a highlight in your career, do you build on that here or is it just the race that you think about and how you improve the actual‑‑ running the 500‑mile?
ED CARPENTER:¬† I always focus on the race, but I think after last year, the excitement of winning the pole, and then the disappointment of finishing tenth in the race with what was a fast car I think has made us even more focused on making sure we're‑‑ I don't want to say more prepared, because I think we are prepared for the race.
But just more focused on getting the right amount of race running each day and running in enough different types of conditions, and not necessarily maybe worrying about qualifying quite as much.
I tend to worry about speed a lot, which makes me want to work on going fast.¬† So trying to not‑‑ trying to not think that way as much this year, but at the same time, I think that the team has built a couple fast cars, and feel pretty good about where we are at the end of the first day.
Q.¬† You've been out of the car I think since Fontana, or maybe you've had a couple refresher or test days.¬† How hard is it for you to get back in since you've been the sidelined person?
ED CARPENTER:¬† I don't know that it's any different for me than guys coming from the GP yesterday to this.¬† It's so different.¬† The car feels so different from road course spec to oval spec.
I don't think that I was at a disadvantage at all.¬† I've done as much oval testing since the last race at Fontana as anybody.¬† You know, we did two days at Texas and two days at Fontana.¬† So I don't really‑‑ I didn't feel any rest.¬† I'm always so excited to get back out on this track, you know, so just glad being here.
Q.¬† After being in the timing stand for the first four races, do you almost feel like, it's my turn?
ED CARPENTER:¬† Yeah, I feel like I'm back home.¬† I don't know what I'm doing on the timing stand all the time.¬† I'm just trying to stay out of the way and I probably talk more than I should.¬† But the guys on the team do a great job and they don't‑‑ I think I'm a better asset to them in the car than I am standing up on the timing stand.
So I'm happy to be getting sweaty again.
Q.¬† You made the comment during the TV broadcast yesterday that the standing starts were yet another‑‑ with the incident there.¬† Can you talk a bit about what that has done, whether you think it should be changed?¬† There is also the issues on a couple restarts, as well.
ED CARPENTER:¬† Well, the restarts are a separate issue.¬† But I think when I look at the standing starts and the series, I can think of maybe two where every car went off the grid.¬† So I just don't think that we have all the pieces of technology that we need to do the standing starts.
It's not that I'm against standing starts, but you've got Juan Montoya stalling, who has probably done more standing starts than anyone in the field with all the years he ran in Formula1.¬† They don't go off well.
They are exciting when they work, but I think maybe we've had only one or two where everyone's went.¬† Luckily I stalled on one of them, Charlie stalled on one.¬† This just happened to be a race where guys stalled up front and it made it even worse.
But more of the ones we've done or not, cars haven't gone, and I don't think that we all just don't know what we're doing.¬† It's really hard to do with the way the system is that we have.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Kurt, great to have you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, rather than the heat of summer.¬† Over 30 laps and 220 miles an hour, so from our perspective looked like a pretty productive session for you.¬† How about your take on it?
KURT BUSCH:¬† Yeah, it was a nice rookie day to go and play in traffic.¬† When your parents tell you to go out as a kid and play in traffic, they try to get rid of you.¬† The Andretti Autosport guys said, it's time to ramp up where we are with your level; and that's to get into some dirty air and feel the car behind other cars.
So today was a nice shakedown.¬† And then the second run out was a baseline run, and then the third time out was to follow around Ryan Hunter‑Reay, a champion.¬† That's helping me.¬† It's really nice to have his lead.¬† Carlos Munoz was in our pack, as well as E.J. Viso.¬† It's nice to have the teammates looking back in their mirrors for me and to help out.
And so our car definitely changed.¬† The attitude and dirty air, it's exciting because every corner is different.¬† And you have to remember where each of those moments from the lap before; and then continue to gain more information and digest what just happened in the next lap.
And things are moving quickly at 220, and it's‑‑ you know, it's just a few cars.¬† So I know there's going to be more dirty air and there's going to be tougher conditions, and then as we advance through the week, you know, just each day, just kind of check off the list and get further into more detail with the team.
Q.¬† Were you doing a meet‑and‑greet in Kansas yesterday, or did you see the standing start for this race, and if so, what were your thoughts?
KURT BUSCH:¬† I missed the standing start, but then I did see a replay of it.¬† I'm not one to really give my opinion on the sport of IndyCar and the entertainment side and how it looked.
As the Indianapolis Grand Prix, I thought it was a great genuine idea.¬† The concept was there.¬† If I just had to give one recommendation, I would just say spread the cars out a little further.¬† If you got on pole, you deserved to be up front; and the cars should be separated by a larger distance, back to second, back to third, fourth, and then all the way back.
To me it sounds like it's a tough balance of getting the clutch and the gear right and trying to launch with an acceleration, and you know, the standing start, when it's something different and it's something challenging, it's always a hold‑your‑breath moment.¬† Same as me driving around in the pack; hold your breath, here he goes again.
Q.¬† How different is the air?¬† How different is the sense of a draft when you're here?
KURT BUSCH:¬† Best way to explain it is it's time ten, the amount of draft that you feel versus a stock car, which means I can easily catch the guy in front of me.
The flipside to that is these cars have less horsepower, so if you ease off the gas, it really kills your momentum.¬† So it's almost a balance of running it like a Nationwide horsepower, but then the dirty air is times ten on how quickly you can catch a guy if you have a run on him.
So a lot to digest and then you have less horsepower to cover up any of your mistakes.
Q.¬† How do they respond to you down in NASCAR land that you're coming up here and doing this?¬† And considering the history that back in the 70s, there were several NASCAR drivers that tried it.
KURT BUSCH:¬† Overall, it's been a grand reception here in the IndyCar paddock, which is nice.¬† It's a warm welcome.
There's also the guys on the NASCAR guys that have shown interest on‑‑ go on up there, see what you can do, we're wishing you the best. ¬†Not necessarily show those guys up, but just give it a good run.¬† It's great to talk with guys like Gordon about it, Jeff Gordon.¬† Carl Edwards is interested about it.¬† And Marcos Ambrose came over, he was asking me questions on the open‑wheel side of things, because Marcos before he was an Australian V8 Supercar champion, drove a lot of open‑wheel cars.
So it's just interesting to have the camaraderie and talk back and forth.¬† Even a legend in my mind stopped in the garage stall back in the concrete jungle ‑‑ what's it back there, the paddock?¬† I think it's the paddock back there.¬† It was Gil de Ferran, and it was nice to see Gil come by and shake my hand and wish me the best.¬†
Q.¬† Any additional pressure, the fact that you've been a champion of your series; that you've been the No.1 guy in NASCAR, and you come and do something that's a bit of a risk, it seems to me.¬† I think most people would admire it, but do you go, gosh, I really have to do reasonably well here.
KURT BUSCH:¬† It is a challenge to come into a foreign area of motorsport with a Gold Medal so to speak.
Winning the NASCAR championship years ago was something very special.¬† It was a childhood dream and I spent every day of my life focused on stock cars.
This moment here isa ‑‑ it reminds me of my childhood on I had a chance do run an open‑wheel car with Davey Hamilton, a Supermodified guy from the West Coast.¬† He was trying to get me in a midget to go run a dirt track race.¬† And that same week, I raced a late model and won my first‑ever late model race and headed the stock car route.
And so this is a circle back around to that open‑wheel moment where I saw that fork in the road and said, you know, would I have loved to have run some USAC and Silver cars and Silver Crown, and I guess I just came back to the top and started at the Indianapolis 500 (laughter) with the list amount of experience, because I probably embarrassed myself more so at the lower ranks.
It's a unique opportunity to race with Andretti, to have him there and talking with Mario this morning.¬† It's not like I'm putting my career or my credentials on the line to prove anything.¬† This is a moment to check off something on the bucket list, but also to challenge myself to see where I can end up in this open‑wheel rank at one of the most difficult races in the world.
Q.¬† When you won in Martinsville last month, was that more of a relief going into this month with the new NASCAR rules and you have that win and you can concentrate more on here this month?
KURT BUSCH:¬† Yeah, that was huge.¬† You know, we all hoped and thought we would have a better start to our season on the Haas Automation Chevy and the NASCAR World mand it has not been a good start.¬† We've been hot or we've been ice cold.
You know, Kansas last night was ice cold again.¬† So it's great to have that win, to have that security.¬† We've got ten winners already, though, and there's only 16 slots for winners.
So with Gordon leading the points and having the win, that's 16 guys, 16 winners will get in.¬† We have to get our act together if we want to compete.¬† This Charlotte/Indy double will give be tough to give it full focus, but once I get to Dover the first of June, we're going to be all over that 41 car.
Q.¬† Do you see any professional envy from some of the Cup guys over there that you're getting to do this?¬† And there's a lot of guys who would love to have the opportunity to try it themselves but because of their team commitments or sponsor commitments or things of that nature, they just can't really do it.
KURT BUSCH:¬† I tell you, it's a lot of work behind the scenes to orchestrate a couple of contracts that run at the same time in motorsports.¬† Sponsors have conflicting objectives.
The open‑wheel world, I would have loved to have been in a Chevrolet and on the NASCAR side of things; that's what I do 99 percent of the time.¬† And I'm glad that Chevrolet shared their enthusiasm for motorsports like I do, to be able to race for Andretti Autosport, because they switched to Honda last fall.
So it's very difficult, and I'm very proud to have put this situation together.¬† It's been a lot of work behind the scenes and it's not often you have an Andretti Autosport car to go win the Indy 500 with and to have a Stewart‑Haas Chevrolet to try to go win the Coke 600 in the same day.
Q.¬† But you have guys, big‑name drivers who tell you, man, wish I could drive that.
KURT BUSCH:¬† Yeah, more to your question, sorry.¬† It is difficult and to arrange it all.
I haven't really felt the jealousy‑‑ Tony, of course, he's pointing me on my back; good luck, I'm jealous, I want to go do it, and it's great to have him as a team owner to respect what has to happen in the double.
The guys that are interested, like you're saying.¬† Maybe Jeff Gordon, why he's talking to me, why he's gaining a little bit more interest is because of he would love to have a shot at doing it, being the Indiana native that it is.¬† Edwards, he'll drive anything.¬† Ambrose, he'll drive anything.¬† So I can kind of see it but I haven't really felt it.
Q.¬† You said last month that you were going to reach out to Hornish since you helped him on the NASCAR side and maybe you would reach out to him to help you here.¬† Have you done that yet?
KURT BUSCH:¬† Haven't quite talked to Hornish yet.¬† I have got Robby Gordon to call.¬† And Hornish, it's just neat to bump into somebody different every day and just talk with them about certain things that I have seen in the car and felt.
So I want to get a little further along.¬† Sam is an Indy 500 champion, and the information that he'll have is that top level; I'm not top level yet.
Q.¬† You mentioned earlier your early interest in midgets and USAC and stuff.¬† Has Tony put a bug in your ear; if you want to try it, I've got a couple cars.
KURT BUSCH:¬† My quick answer to that is I've seen a lot of Motocross guys recently, and they say, with age, you get a cage.¬† So maybe with my fender world I grew up in, I don't need to go fenderless.
It's very fun in motorsports to be able to bounce back and forth and drive different cars, but at a certain point, you have to keep the focus to a minimum and maybe that time has passed for me.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Always delighted to see you in the heat of the summer but we just thrilled to have you here in May.
KURT BUSCH:¬† Thank you.¬† It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm just back to being a student and it's a whole different world when you're a student.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports