IndyCar-Preseason Test Day 1: Driver Talk

Neely-plus-FranchittiInterviews recorded on the first day of IZOD IndyCar Series testing at Barber Motorsports Park

Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet
OpenPaddock: You were fastest in the morning session today. What have you gathered from the track today?
Will Power: I’ve got unbelievable grip right now. These cars are so…. I’ve never felt so much grip in my life. It’s phenominal! I hope they (the photographers) get some good outside shots because I’m sure these things look so fast in the corners.
OP: What are you looking for in this particular test?
WP:  Well, we’re really looking for things for when we come back here, even though it will be hot. Still, we’ll be looking for stuff for when we actually come to race here because it’s not really representative of many tracks we go to because there’s so much grip and high speed corners.
OP: Now you have definitely been the most successful driver here in Indycar terms, winning two of the three races here. What do you think about your driving style that suits this particular track so well?
WP: It’s got everything really. It’s technical, it requires a lot of commitment. Turn One is a blind turn and then around the back there, these cars have so much grip, so you have massive corner speed. There’s a lot of blind entries. I love it. It’s smooth too. You can’t make mistakes. It’s really one of the nicest tracks we go to as far as road courses.
OP: I have to ask you, did you do much drumming in the offseason?
WP:  I did! Quite a bit, actually. I’m learning “Learning to Fly” by the Foo Fighters right now,off the sheet music. Love it!

Mike Conway, driver of the #16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Open Paddock: Mike, you have a deal to do Long Beach, you’re looking to add some other races. How are you fitting in at Rahal?
Mike Conway: Yeah, great! It’s a great bunch of guys I’m working with. I’ve been with a couple of them before and obviously I know Graham from running Indycar. I know James obviously from England. We ran each step together and it’s great that we’re all teammates. It’s been a productive day really.  Just  about working with the group because this is the crew I’ll be working with at Long Beach. Just getting a good feel for everybody. The car won’t be the same as the tracks are pretty different. We’re just trying to get a good feel for the carand get comfortable and just get as many laps in as we can.
OP: You’ve been near the top of the speed chart all day. How’s the car feeling underneath you today?
MC:  Good! From the outset, the car’s been good and I definitely like this place. The car’s gained speed over the last year on track with the tire combination or whatever’s going on there. It’s really improved.
OP: Anything specific you’re looking to take away from this test, or is it more about logging laps?
MC: Yeah, it’s more about logging laps and learning as much as we can from my teammates and the changes they’re doing, how they like the car, but obviously this is mostly just about getting to work with my engineers and just get dialed in. We home to come away feeling good and be ready as much as I can be for LOng Beach. We’re just trying to come in as prepared as we can be.
OP: Any word on adding more races to your schedule
MC: Right now it’s just Long Beach, but we’re trying to add more, trying to put things together for more. We’ll see how Long Beach goes and keep our fingers crossed.

Ana Beatriz, driver of the #18 Iprianga Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Open Paddock: So this is your first time in the car this year. How was your first session?
Ana Beatriz: Well it was a short morning because of the cold weather. We were hoping to do more laps, but there’s still the afternoon so there’s still time to make sure the car is working properly.
OP: It looks like your deal is for the ovals and Sao Paulo, correct?
AB: We’re still working with my sponsors to make sure it happens, but yes. That’s how it should be.

Dario Franchitti, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Open Paddock: How’d the car feel to you today?
Dario Franchitti: The car’s not bad, it’s really about learning. Not really as much learning stuff for Barber, but for the season as a whole. We spent lots of time making adjustments instead of being on track, but we’re reasonably happy with our day’s work. We would have been pleased to get a second run on new tires,  we only ran one set. It would have been nice to get another run, but we’ll get out there tomorrow and have an extra set of tires to play with.
OP: One common thing I’ve heard a lot of people say is there’s a lot of grip in the track. What do you have to say about that?
DF: Yeah, the guys here at Barber spent a lot of money on a process to have the track polished and ground, and it gave the track a lot of grip. I like it. I like the feeling it gives and it’s going to be really quick  when we bolt red tires on here come race weekend for qualifying. There are going to be some really, really quick lap times set.

A.J. Allmendinger,driver of the #2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet
Open Paddock: How’d it feel to be back in the car today?
A.J. Allmendinger: It’s good. I’ve got a lot of work to do definitely. Definitely a lot of work to do.
OP: You had a little bit of an off at Turn Eight.
AA: Yeah, I had a couple offs. So I’m just trying to find the limits. It’s gonna happen, but luckily the car’s fast, so it’s on me.
OP: That’s a good thing at least.
AA: Yeah, but we got a long way to go.

Marco Andretti, driver of the #25 RC Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
Open Paddock:  Marco, what did you take away from the morning testing session?
Marco Andretti:  Well, actually just kinda learning the new Firestone tire it’s got more grip. Most of us are already faster than track record. It’s got more grip. I myself enjoy that. The more grip, the better, so we’re going to try to chase that now because we had a different approach to testing. The tire kinda threw us for a loop, but it’s been a good thing.
OP: How’s the new driving style working out for you in a more practical application as opposed to being in the simulator?
MA: It’s obviously better than sitting at home, yeh! We definitely need more testing.
OP: What do you want to take away from this test?
MA: We’d like to have a good starting point for a road course setup.

Josef Newgarden, Driver of the #67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda
Open Paddock:  Josef, what have you learned today?
Josef Newgarden:  We’re learning what this new track surface is. I’m sure everyone has already said it, but there’s an increased level of grip out there, and not by a little bit, but by a lot. We’re almost four seconds faster on blacks (Primary tires) which is not a small amount. That’s a huge difference in grip,so it’s pretty wild around this place. It’s already a ballsy circuit. You’ve already gotta have a lot of commitment on the high speed corners. When you add that much grip, it makes it that much further. We’re just learning, trying to change the setup because it’s so much different than last year. Last year you had a certain level of grip, but now I think the car wants something a little different with the track surface change, so it’s interesting.
OP:  How do you feel about your performance today? Is it what you’re looking for?
JN: I think we’re getting there. We just did a new tire run and I think we’re really close. We just need to optimize it. I’m actually struggling with my neck a little bit. I’ve never really had problems with my neck in this car, but there’s so much grip today. It’s a little difficult.  We’re happy with where we’re at and where we want to go, but we’re taking our time. Slow and steady.
OP: Now other than general track time, is there anything specific you’re looking for?
JN: Nothing specific. No, I mean it’s obviously important because we race here. Whenever you test at tracks you race at. I mean, we test at Sebring, but we’re not going to race there. We kinda tune specific to this track. We’re not really looking for generic road course stuff  but things specific to Barber. If anything, that’s what we’re going to focus on all day.
OP: You only ran five laps in the morning session. Was that due to temps or what?
JN:  No, not really. We just struggled to get our stuff together. To be honest, we didn’t really even get a good run in the morning. It wasn’t really high temps anyway, so I don’t think we really lost anything.

Sebastian Saavedra, driver of the #6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet
Open Paddock: Sebastian, what do you hope to take away from this test?
Sebastian Saavedra:   It’s the first contact we have with the full field, so it’s a good chance to see where we’re at. There’s a lot of development still being done from our side. We want to get prepped for what the season’s going to come with.
OP:  IS there anything specific you’re looking for out of your car at this test?
SS:  Again,we come with a lot of things we need to develop. We did the last test at Sonoma. There’s some things from there we’d like to work on here to prove that it can work also here. We really want to see who’s going to be the big competition, so it’s an important test.
OP:  How is the environment different from Andretti Autosport than Dragon Racing?
SS:  Having four other teammates, it’s a bit different. There’s information coming in from everywhere. But here, I’ve made a very good connection with Sebastien Bourdais, a guy that has a lot of experience. What he wanted was for me to make a little pressure and give motivation to beat people. It’s a very good combination; a very good relationship we’re building, so I’m very happy.
OP: What’s going to make a good season in your mind?
SS:  Well it’s my first full season and it’s good in my head that there’s no money issues. Finally I’m able to focus on what I need to focus on instead of worrying about funding.

Oriol Servia, driver of the #22 Mecum Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet
Open Paddock:  How’s the car today?
Oriol Servia: I’m quite happy actually!
OP: Got a good feel of the car?
OS: I do! In the last test at Sonoma I felt the car made a nice step up in performance and we’re getting there. As long as we’re making progress. Last season we didn’t have enough testing, and then the Lotus thing,  so it’s good. We’re really trying to fine tune things. Now we’re starting to really be closer to where we should be and what counts.
OP: Every driver I’ve talked to today has commented on the grip.
OS: Amazing! It’s fun. A lot of fun. Not only is it fast, but it’s making us have to understand it’s a different tire than usual. As always, they do an excellent job, so it’s good.
OP:  IS there anything specific you’re looking for out of this test?
OS: Yeah. It’s the last test before the season so you really wanna get a grasp on not only being fast here, but it’s important to understand the change. Eventually you’re going to encounter another racetrack with a similar problem, and it’s important to be able to find the solution to it.
OP: So what’s a good season for you?
OS: We just wanna improve. We finished fourth last year at Indy, and we want to win it. We want to be consistent in the Top 5. Last year we weren’t consistent in the Top 5 and we didn’t qualify well, so we want to do better.

Simona de Silvestro,driver of the #78 Nuclear Clean Air KV Racing Technology Chevrolet
Open Paddock: How strange is it to you to have a teammate now?
Simona de Silvestro:  It actually is pretty strange. Everyone always thinks it’s better, but I need a little bit of time to adjust to learn how to work with each other and I think we’ve gotten the hang of that now, but it took us a few tests to get used to each other.
OP: So you’ve upgraded the engine this year. What’s the most notable difference?
SdS:  The first lap I did, it was a pretty crazy difference. I think working with everyone at ILMOR and Chevrolet, they’re very involved. They want to win and that’s the biggest thing, so they’re here to help and make things better. Every time we go on track we’re trying different things. It’s how racing should be. The difference between the Lotus and the Chevys is quite huge. I think  I felt like I was still driving a Formula Atlantic in an IndyCar. It’s fun to have the power now and to be able to push the car to get a lap time out of it.
OP:  This is the first time in awhile that you’ve driven for someone other than HVM. How is it getting used to a new team?
SdS:  I’d been at HVM for three years, so you knew exactly how things were going to work out.  At KV, it just felt like home and my engineer came with me, so that relationship is really good, but we’re trying to learn. Everybody is trying to learn and so far it’s been great. I think we’re really starting to gel together.
OP: How well are you and Tony (Kanaan) working together?
SdS: It’s getting there. We have a little different driving style and so for the first couple of tests we’ve had, we both kinda had to adapt. The good thing is that I can learn things from him and he can learn things from me. I think that’s how a team should be. To get to the top you kinda have to pick things out that the other guy is doing better and improve yourself.  I think that’s great because we’re really pushing each other in that way and that’s a great feeling.
OP: What’s your take on the grip?
SdS: I was actually shocked when I first went out this morning. Usually when you go out here it’s pretty slick, but this morning we went out and it was really cold and there was so much grip, which is cool and how you want to be. I think Firestone brought an awesome tire here which is going to make racing really well.

Takuma Sato, driver of the #14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda
Open Paddock: This is your first season with A.J. How is the relationship working out so far?
Takuma Sato: It’s been great. We spent several days together at a sponsor event. We shared lots of great stories and it;s good. At the first winter test a couple of weeks ago at Sebring,we were very positive. We haven’t gone to the first race yet, but I’m very proud and honored to be one of his drivers.
OP:  I’ve noticed that your driving style and A.J.’s are very similar in being very aggressive. How do you think that has helped build chemistry?
TS:  His driving and his record are just outstanding. Obviously it’s a different generation and a different time, so it’s neat to hear that his aggression is still living here today. His passion is a  big motivator for the team. Hopefully as I drive for him, I can keep that alive.
OP: You guys were blazingly quick coming out of Sebring. How do you think your experience has helped the team come along?
TS:  This is a great, great potential team. We don’t necessarily have the best equipment or the biggest layout in the paddock, but I’ve been with several teams now and I can tell there’s so much potential.


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