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May 30, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Mario is the highest finishing rookie of the race. Congratulations on a fine run.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Thank you. I'm sorry, I was a bit nervous. Clearly when I took the checkered flag, I was in front of Simona. I lifted because of the crash. But I think it's okay. I think it's official now.
I'm very, very happy. I think this place keeps me good memories and still giving me a lot of good emotions. Last year I started 18th on the Lights and finished third. Today I started 27th and finished 13th as best rookie.
I would like to thank my guys, crew, engineer, team owner, sponsors, all of them. It was a very tough day I think to have your first Indy 500 with these temperatures, so many crashes. I had to save a lot of fuel in the end. Simona was saving a lot of fuel as well as a lot of the other guys. It was very, very difficult, but I'm very, very happy to finish at best rookie.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Questions for Mario.
Q. Does anything prepare you for how long this race is? At what point did it set in that you have a long way to go before you get to the end?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, it was very difficult. That was one of the things that I was most scared, like how long it will be, how long it's going to take until the end of the race.
Once you get the momentum going, you are always trying to improve your position, go faster and faster, the race goes like this. I thought it would last a lot, it would be very, very long. But it wasn't. All the time was very focused with my engineers, trying to improve the car, asking about the next pit stops.
The momentum was just taking me throughout the race. I didn't feel that I ran 500 miles. It was quite easy at this point.
Q. You mentioned the temperatures. Did you feel hot in the car? Can you describe were you sweating, you felt warm or what?
MARIO ROMANCINI: For sure, it was very, very hot. Even 20 minutes before the start when we had to go to the grid and wait there, I was feeling how hot it was. It was one of the keys for this race. The setup of the car changes a lot when the track temperature is so high. We started to start with a lot more downforce on the car.
In the beginning, when I was talking my engineers, I was like, Are you sure there's not too much downforce on our car? But it was the right decision because as the temperature came up, we actually needed a lot of downforce, a lot of grip. At the end of the stints, like around lap 28 or 29 of the tires, it was very difficult to keep it flat.
So for sure I think the biggest challenge today was the temperature and staying out of trouble. I've never seen so many crashes in my career.
Q. Having run the Freedom 100 here, you were aware of what the track was like. How did the track change with all these people?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Changes a lot. The grandstands, just by the fact they are packed, seems like the front straight is narrow and everything looks different. There are so many distractions, so it's more difficult to keep your focus on the car in front of you.
As you said, on the Freedom 100, it was good for me to get a feel of how it was to race here at the Speedway. But with this car, I had to learn so many new things during the race. It's a lot faster than the Lights car. You cannot play with your lines because of the marbles. At the end of the race, you really had to be very precise with your lines. The outside, it was very dirty.
So I think I had one of my biggest learning days of my career so far for sure.
Q. You mentioned the crashes. Were any of them close?
MARIO ROMANCINI: One of the first ones I think was Junqueira on turn two. I almost caught him. He crashed, his car came to the left side of the track. I had to try to avoid it. It was really close.
I'm glad we were able to stay out of the trouble. We finished the race. Of course, I'm very, very happy to be the best rookie. But when we started the race, we just had in mind, Let's finish the race, and we did it.
Q. Would you describe this as a strange race, given all the crashes, having to conserve fuel at the end, kind of a choppy race?
MARIO ROMANCINI: Yeah, I don't know if it's strange because when we look to oval racing, there's always a lot of crashes. But for sure for me it was something new 'cause in Kansas was my first oval race and I didn't have to save much fuel there. It wasn't so long as this one. We didn't have so many crashes.
As I said before, I think I learned a lot today. I learned so many new things that I will be able to use for Texas, for Iowa, for the next oval races. It will be really good for me.
THE MODERATOR: Mario, thank you very much for coming in. Congratulations.
MARIO ROMANCINI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Alex. Talk about your day.
ALEX LLOYD: What a day. I knew we had a good car. You know, I was optimistic before the race because I knew we worked basically solidly all month on race setup. People say, Your speeds are okay, you made it in the field, that's a great job. I knew we were certainly a lot quicker than where we qualified. I knew our biggest fortÃ© would be racing.
We were conservative with our setup. We started our first run of the day and had a good car. From that moment we never really tried to reinvent the wheel. Kept tweaking on it, playing with it, worked on our racecars, didn't try to take downforce off. Today we were conservative with downforce. We knew it was hot. Turned out hotter than anybody imagined yesterday by a few degrees. We saw on the grid a few people trimmed out. I thought, from my few years of experience now, that just doesn't seem like the way to go.
So, yeah, I mean, the car was great from the beginning. I knew we had to be patient and work our way through. We did that bit by bit. Great work by the Boy Scouts guys in the pits. Good restarts. My spotter did an excellent job calling it for me. I have to thank the Boy Scouts of America. A lot of key people, individuals, that have come for this event. We've had a stuff start to the year, no doubt about it. I'm glad the fact that Dale Coyne and Gail put me in, getting in these cars, we showed we're a small team, but we can fight with the big guns and go knocking on the door of an Indy 500 win.
Big day for all of us. We're truly thrilled. Maybe better than I even anticipated. If I thought about the perfect day with no mistakes, I thought we could be solidly in the top 10. Great strategy by the guys. Here we are. Pretty amazing day.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Alex, you said the other day you were keen on a top-10 finish. Were you ever close to an accident?
ALEX LLOYD: No, I never had any close moments. Normally in this case there's always some close moments. The first year I didn't finish the race. Second year I did. Had a pretty solid day. There were some pretty close moments.
In this, no major dramas. The car was really that good. We didn't have any dramas. I could be very patient. The accidents come in this racetrack when you're not quick enough and you're trying to hold it flat behind somebody in the dirty air, it washes up. When you're quick enough, you don't need to drive it over the limit, you can just drive it to that limit, things come a lot smoother.
It was a real smooth day for us out there. Nothing major. A couple times I tried to go around the outside and the restart after they swept the track. It was still a few marbles down there. Lost a little bit of grip, a couple of guys went by. But it was a matter of staying patient.
If something happened like that, you got to back out of it, just back out of it. Lose the spots, go work on it again. I think that's what paid off for us today, we didn't get carried away, kept working, kept saving fuel. We saved a lot of fuel.
I figured out a way of how I could save fuel and still get good runs on people at the end. It was lifting a lot going into turns one and three, saving the fuel, but then keeping it hammered through the exit of one, exit of two, and saving through three and four, get a good run out. Meant I could jump some spots while saving fuel. That was really the key for us. We were going to have a pretty good day up until then anyway. When I kind of figured out how to do that, how to get through, that was really where we started to charge through. A couple laps ago I got the green light to go race. That was a nice feeling. All this work, you're so worried if we have to pit now, it's for nothing. But the guys did a great job. They called it perfectly. We had just enough fuel to get ourselves in it pits. That's all we needed. Didn't need any more. That was a great job.
I think just as I got past Dixon on that straight that I passed him, going into turn one, I got, Go, you have the green light, race this thing to the finish. At that point I could shift down a gear, get the car really working. I knew it was hooked up, I could stand on it, chase down as many as I could. It was one of those days where things work out. Went perfect for us. We didn't make any mistakes. Key to this race: Make no mistakes, drive hard.
I tried to find the balance of driving as aggressively as I could and being patient, too. I think we found that pretty well today. That enabled us to make positions when we needed to, enabled us to not take any silly chances, too. Great day for the Boy Scouts guys.
Q. Your IndyCar career has been a little bit of an exercise in frustration for you the last few years. Here you are with a team that doesn't have the resources and you're in the press center. Do you feel vindicated? Are you going to go home tonight and pump your fists a little bit more than you are right now?
ALEX LLOYD: I think I probably am. About 20 laps to go, maybe 15, when we started making some moves, we were coming through pretty quickly, I tell you, I started shouting in my helmet a little bit, C'mon. I was getting excited. I was really pumped up, ready to go. Not the best thing to do when you're trying to save fuel. The guys don't want that. I felt like I figured something out that I could save the fuel, make positions. I was pumped.
Like I say, it's been a tough road since the Indy Lights championship in '07. I've kept my head high and I kept working hard. I think a big part of that is my family. I've got my wife, my two daughters now, which is even more motivation to work hard and get results like this because at the end of the day I've got to figure out how to put food on the table. When you're not getting many drives, it's not the easiest thing in the world.
This is an exciting day for us. I have to thank my mum and my dad, my whole family. I've had a lot of support these last few years and I've needed it. As I said, when you have two young children, you're scrounging around for a drive, after 2007 when everything went perfect, the start of this year, things didn't go as planned for the first few races, you just have to keep digging.
They try and teach in the Scouts, never give up, all these great morals. It's kind of pretty fitting today that that's what we've been through as a family the last couple years. Now we're here on the podium of the Indy 500. It's a great feeling. Again, I just got to thank Gail and Dale Coyne for giving me this opportunity. Haven't done many races the last couple years. Three IndyCar races in two years. There's a lot of other guys out there he could have picked over me, guys with more experience. But he didn't. He picked me. I'm thrilled to be able to deliver him a result of the biggest race in the world.
Q. When you took off and owned the Firestone Indy Lights Series, I know you had in mind the next step is right there. Did you ever have doubts that people thought it was luck what you did in Indy Lights in 2007? Did you doubt yourself?
ALEX LLOYD: I didn't doubt myself. You always have your up-and-down points. That's where family come back in to pick you back up. If I was doing this on my own, probably would have had some tough moments. But at the end of the day it's about bouncing back from those tough moments.
I've been working as hard as I can possibly work. I just figured, if I keep working, if I do everything to the best of my ability, I know I can do the job. I just need that opportunity. The opportunity came this year. Today we really had a great car. The guys worked so hard since Kansas we struggled. We didn't have our best car. We realized that we needed to step up our game.
But the difference in two, three weeks' time is unbelievable. You know, I think it's going to take a little while to sink in, how this race has gone. You wouldn't have predicted it given the start to the year that we had. I knew the quality of people we had on the team, the motivation we have, you can achieve a lot of things with willpower. The Boy Scouts, we have millions of scouts out there, 50 million alumni cheering us on. I can feel that excitement from all the Boy Scouts, all the people I've met over the last few months. That definitely helps motivate me, motivates the whole team to produce a result like this.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
ALEX LLOYD: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Interesting to be up there in a nice spot, Dan.
DAN WHELDON: To tell you the truth, I first and foremost want to thank the National Guard for giving me the privilege and honor to drive their racecar, which obviously Panther Racing allow. It's incredibly rewarding when you hear a lot of the stories about what the soldiers do. It kind of blows your mind. But when you meet people that are on the line fighting for us to allow us to run this country freely is for me an honor.
Hopefully I put a great smile on their face, the troops overseas, obviously the people that are based in the U.S. But we came up a little short, but it was a fantastic result. I think the Indianapolis 500 was big this year. I got to thank Izod for that, too. I think they've done a phenomenal job of bringing a lot of different mainstream media to this event. I was downtown Indianapolis with my wife and son last night. We kind of got caught up in the chaos because there was Vanity Fair parties, GQ parties. It's great to be part of the IndyCar Series right now. For me personally, this event has always been the greatest event in the world. It's essential the biggest sporting event in the world. I'm very proud to be part of it.
Second two years in a row is not good. I have to make sure I improve that one more spot next year. It was a good race. I think everybody at Panther Racing did a phenomenal job. I perhaps should not have been so disciplined. Back in the day, I probably would have ignored some of the instructions I got on those last five laps. As I've got older, I think I'm a bit better behaved.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Dan, how did you conserve fuel to get to the end? How did you conserve fuel and use your 'push to pass' button?
DAN WHELDON: I was out of 'push to passes'. That's why it took me long to pass Tomas Scheckter than I would have liked. It was funny. My engineer, David, I should apologize to his wife, because I've been calling him disgraceful hours during the night with ideas and stuff like that. I have to say, if anybody knows my wife, she's the best wife out there. But to put up with me during this month and have a 16-month-old running around has been quite an experience for us. I know she's back there. But her putting up with me this month is hard.
But we had a little story during the Long Beach race that he told me. I had an idea that he was telling me what we call a fib in England, which is a lie, which way you want to look at it. When it went green for that last stint, he told me I was good to go. I had that feeling he was telling a little story then.
I took it upon myself to save fuel early on in that stint. I was lifting through the middle of every corner at one point just to kind of set myself up for the end. I was still able to run a relatively good pace doing that once I got past Scheckter.
It allowed me to basically maintain that pace right up until the end of the race where a lot of the other cars dropped off. But, you know, it's definitely a team effort. I think, you know, the strategy that the team called, they always do a great job of that. They could have crumbled under the pressure. This is a big event. It's particularly big when you have the National Guard on the side of your car. They pulled through and did a great job.
Q. The situation with Graham Rahal early in the race, do you think it was worth for him to get a drive-through?
DAN WHELDON: I can guarantee you Robin Miller from SPEED thought it was my fault. He's his number one fan.
No, it was totally out of order. He put me on the grass at over 220 miles an hour. He totally deserved I think that penalty. I think the rules are in place. I think Brian Barnhart does a phenomenal job. It's tough for him because he's got to allow the drivers to race, but you've got to be able to put on a show.
At the end of the day, if you want to block somebody intentionally, you can very much do that, but it gets incredibly dangerous. When you do that, somebody's going to get hurt.
So I think everybody knew clearly going into this race what defined blocking. He didn't adhere to that rule. He got the right penalty. That's no laughing joke. I have to say that here in my first year I did the same, got punished for it. I'd like to think I'm one of the cleaner guys out there and learned from that. Obviously as a veteran of the series, I've been around a lot longer than people like Marco, I don't want to say veteran, but it's one of those things you need to adhere by the rules and set an example.
Q. You've had incredible success at this Speedway, a win, two seconds. What is it about this track that suits your driving style?
DAN WHELDON: You know, I think it's the fact that I bug my engineer at all hours of the morning. You know, I've been blessed when I've come to this track. I've driven here for Andretti Green Racing, which is now Andretti Autosports, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and now Panther Racing. Everything organization, although they're different, they all bring great racecars to Indianapolis. When you're in that position, particularly I really felt that this year. Qualifying didn't go according to plan, but every day and after qualifying we were on track we were very competitive. When you have the opportunity to win, you've got to put every effort into it because you might not get that.
I'd like to think I have a very good feel for the racecar. I'm sure that the engineering staff would say I'm incredibly demanding. It's on races like this where if you're detail orientated, methodical, you can prepare what is a very good racecar. It doesn't matter where you start, you can get to the front. You have to have the whole team, too. Again, the team did phenomenal pit stops. They had a great strategy. I believe myself and my engineer work well to the point of being able to get, you know, good racecars. It certainly pays off, especially at a track like this.
Q. Dan, when it was coming maybe 10 laps to go, reminiscent of the old Andretti Green team with Dario out front, you and Tony. Did you have any thoughts about going back to those days?
DAN WHELDON: No. The only thing I thought is, I'm going to catch these guys. I have Packy Wheeler as my spotter, primary spotter. He knows my mentality. I think Marco gave it away a little bit that he was struggling on fuel. I saw him let Tony by. I knew both those cars were going to struggle because I thought they were pretty much on the same strategy.
Dario, I didn't know. But I was confident of the fact that I saved quite a lot of fuel early on in that stint. It's very difficult when you're in that situation, you know, when your engineer or your strategist tells you you're okay to the end. What I always do is I look at the number of laps to go and look at how much fuel is left in the tank. That wasn't adding up when he first told me I was clear.
In that situation, you have to be disciplined. There's always the hope of a yellow. But the way this race played out, the way the races have played out during this year, there's been a lot of green stops. That's when I took it upon myself to save the fuel early. If you try and save it right at the end, it's very, very difficult. I knew because of that I was in a pretty good position.
I was hungry to win, but the team were getting on my butt about saving fuel those last three laps. Maybe if I was young like Rahal and Marco Andretti, myself back in the day, I would have totally ignored them, tried to run Dario down when I saw him slowing down. I knew it was close. Just one of those things.
You know, that's all I thought about. I live in the present. I didn't think of those days. We have a great team at Panther Racing. I think as everybody can see, we're continually getting better. The team work incredibly hard. If you look at the No. 20 car, that was competitive all month. I told Eddie he's not allowed to leave, he's got to come back for more races. The team do a good job. Very happy the position I'm in right now. Just would like to win this race again.
Q. A little bit of elaboration on the last lap. From above things looked chaotic. What were you thinking the last lap and whether you could get to the finish line? Were you wondering about the caution benefitting you then?
DAN WHELDON: You know, on the last lap, I was thinking, I can see Dario struggling. I could tell he was hanging on. Like I say, I could tell by the pace he was running at the start of the stint that he was going to be even closer than I was. The downforce levels all the same, what have you. I knew he was going to be struggling. My spotter was telling me, Let's go run him down. The team were telling me to really bring it home.
I thought that was going to be the opportunity where I might be able to pick him off. That's all I was focused on. Then obviously when the yellow come out, I knew obviously Dario was safe. It was one of those things.
I have to say often when the yellow comes out, it's kind of one of those chances for a breather. That wasn't the case on this last one because you still had to make sure you save fuel to get around to the flag. Yeah, at that point there was not much I could do other than just conserve when the yellow came out and kind of push Dario a little bit to see if he did run out, but he made it past the line.
Q. How do you keep track of your own fuel with the guys around you, still concentrate on the racetrack? How hard is that?
DAN WHELDON: You get used to it. You know, it's part of this race. What makes this race so fantastic is everything that goes into it. You know, you see the team effort. But it's the families of these team members. These mechanics, they're in this garage at 6:00 in the morning. They're here till 10:00 at night. It's all the details.
As you do more laps around here, as you get more confident in yourself, understand how races play out through strategy, but also through historical data, you know there's things that you have to keep an eye on. Around here, that's certainly one of them.
Typically towards the end, you know towards the end of a stint the car goes out a little bit. I have to say the Firestones were very good this year. But it's management. That is one of the things that makes this race great. You drive a hundred percent all the time, but you've got to keep up with the controls in the cockpit. You've got to maintain good fuel mileage at a high pace.
This track, if you can do that, you're good at that, it makes a difference. I have to give credit as well to Honda. Honda have been very, very impressive. I've been with them since end of 2002. Again, these motors are turning some rpms and some speeds. At the speeds we do, they get great fuel mileage and you never see them break down. Proud to be associated with them. They did a very good job.
Q. In all the preparation work the week before, very cool weather, then you drive in 85 degrees, the track very hot, how hard is it to prepare a car with so little time?
DAN WHELDON: You know, that's a good question. I mean, you call it the month of May, but now it's the two weeks of May. You know, we really didn't have any very hot conditions. Obviously, the teams, and the National Guard help us, by trying to track the conditions for key moments of the month of May, like qualifying and obviously the race. We knew it was going to be very hot. That's why we ran a ton on Sunday to have an idea of what we needed from the racecar.
When I get in the racecar, typically a lot of the tracks I know the feel I want to get, particularly for the longer events. I knew I wanted, and we were able to get pretty close to that, on the Sunday. There were definitely some things I wanted to try. We did a little bit more running than we would have perhaps liked on Carb Day. On Carb Day I think some of the guys on the team will say this, I'm never one to say the car is perfect, I always want more. I was probably down playing how good I thought the car was. It's just making sure you have that feel. It was definitely the feel I needed today, certainly the last three or four stints.
Q. If there hadn't been a yellow, could you have caught Dario?
DAN WHELDON: He was definitely slowing down. It's always very difficult to answer a question like that. He said he did burn out softer and stuff like that. I guess you'll never know. But I'll be interested to see how much fuel was in both cars after they come out of tech. I would definitely say we were closing him down at a high rate. Like I say, it's very difficult to answer that one.
Q. You and this team make no bones about your desire to win the Indy 500. Even though this is a runner-up finish, these are solid points. Based on your experience, how do you balance those two emotions out, coming up short here but also recognizing it's a good day for the championship?
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, I mean, it's a good day. But I can tell you, if I have to race till I'm 86 years old, I'm going to race till I win another Indianapolis 500. It's an amazing event. It truly is. Yeah, we have Texas coming up. But, honestly, it's important after a race like this, it would be perhaps different if you win, but after this event you download the readings of the racecar with the engineer just to make sure you have a good baseline to start from next year, or if we test in the winter, then you focus about the next race coming up, Texas.
I think we're in pretty good shape for that race. So we'll be able to download probably more than we would have normally for this race and not Texas. It's one of those things. It's such a great race. It's disappointing not to win. But, like I say, the team did perform very, very well. Anytime you can finish second in the Indianapolis 500 is a good event.
Am I a hundred percent happy? No. Especially as I feel I could have gone a little bit quicker those last few laps had I perhaps not been as disciplined as I was. But nonetheless, we got a good result and we'll carry that momentum to Texas and hopefully that will propel us to a great second half of the season in the championship.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming in, Dan. Congratulations.
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