CHEVROLET RACING IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES
CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX
STREETS OF BELLE ISLE
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER TRANSCRIPTS
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, NO. 14 ROKIT AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET, CONOR DALY, NO. 20 US ARMY CHEVROLET, FELIX ROSENQVIST, NO. 7 ARROW MCLAREN SP CHEVROLET AND PATO O’WARD, NO.5 ARR0W MCLAREN SP CHEVROLET MET WITH MEDIA VIA ZOON LEADING INTO THE CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX:
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone. After a thrilling Indianapolis 500, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES gets back at it this week for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the doubleheader on the raceway at Belle Isle, the Dual in Detroit. It all begins with practice Friday afternoon.
A gentlemen who have won twice there join us. He’s the four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion, winner of Detroit back in 2015 and 2016, driver of the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing. Good to have Sebastien Bourdais with us.
Seb, been a busy start to the season, three straight weekends, the month of May. How badly did you welcome a weekend off?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I mean, it wasn’t bad at all. Actually I kind of like when we get in the rhythm. For sure for the mechanics and everybody involved getting the week off makes the transition after an exhausting month of May, technical teams, a bit easier. As far as I’m concerned, just ready to go. Yeah, looking forward to getting back to Detroit.
Indy wasn’t there last year but I didn’t miss anything because it didn’t happen last year (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Let’s go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. You have been through sort of the highs, the lows, the ups and downs. Coming out of Indy, as you get into the rest of the schedule, the meat of the schedule, where do you feel the series is, the momentum, how do you feel coming out of Indy the overall goodwill of the series?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think you know obviously we’re all kind of starting to feel like we’re getting some normalcy again in the system, which is great. Having the fans at the Speedway was huge. Thankfully I didn’t have to experience an empty Speedway last year because that looked really, really gloomy. All across the board, it’s one of those things that racing in front of no fans, it’s like why are we even here.
Obviously it was saving grace last year that things can still happen. It can only last for so long. We’re glad things are starting to look up, having that interaction, that emotion connection with the crowd. It’s great that we pretty much going to get the full schedule in, having that again. Really looking forward to it.
I think the series has done a really good job with that. They’ve been juggling through massive hoops left, right and center to get the political sides aligned with the sporting and business side of things. It’s a huge balancing act.
I don’t think we can thank, like Graham was saying, Roger and the entire team on the INDYCAR SERIES side, the Detroit side for putting all the hard work, letting us do our thing, doing it all together.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: As far as we’re concerned, obviously we kind of started pretty well, Barber and St. Pete. We showed pace, we felt good. There was that dismal weekend at Texas. None of our fault, but that definitely set the tone a little bit for a bit of a more conservative 500. When you’ve pretty much already wiped out your crash budget in a matter of 24 hours, I think we all felt very conservative, maybe a little bit too conservative, in quallie trim and everything.
Yeah, I mean, I guess the race was kind of looking all right, nothing special. There were some very strong cars, but not very, very many. We were kind of in the lot of cars like right there in the middle. I think if you look back at the lap charts and everything else, we probably would have finished anywhere from 15 to top 10. We were fighting the stage basically.
Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those where you can rewrite the story. We went for the fuel strategy. There was no yellow, there was no action. The pack split in two. We ended up being hung out. Rossi for sure did a very good job at stringing us out. That was it. It’s just the way it is. It’s one of those 500s. In ’16 what won the race, in this race it was a bad call.
Strategy with Scott, he limped home and finished 18th. We had to take that at the end and that was it. The team tried. We discussed it. At some point we knew there would probably be a call like that where you have to gamble. Either you go for the crazy one or you accept your midfield maybe a little bit better. I think it was going to be a little better than kind of average, but you just don’t know that till you get to the end. We picked that one option and it didn’t work out.
Looking forward, I think we know we’re going to have some ups and downs, some places where we’re strong, some places where we are not. Seems like our street course package is not bad at all. We just got to try and put pieces together for the road courses.
So, yeah, just looking forward to the next ones, keep our heads down. Obviously we’re still trying to figure things out. It’s a relatively new group kind of all working together and trying to make the best of our situation in a very, very competitive field right now. So we knew going in it was going to be hard. For sure the last month or so has not helped our cause. I wouldn’t say it’s really anything that we’ve done wrong, it’s just kind of circumstantial, so…
You just got to stay focused and try and get it done.
Q. In theory you should look more at Detroit like you looked at St. Pete or Barber?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to go into weekends saying, This weekend we’re going to kill it. We don’t know. We obviously hope so, but we can’t know. I haven’t been in Detroit in that car. What that kind of street course philosophy translates into Detroit, I hope it’s going to be great.
Q. Once we get past the big target on the schedule, the Indy 500, how do you guys and your teams refocus and approach the rest of the year, especially if you don’t get a great result there? Maybe kind of refreshing in any sort of way to have that behind you and be able to focus on individual races without having that big race looming in the distance?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, for us, there was, like everybody else, a ton of effort going into it, I feel mostly by going to four cars. That was the big piece that obviously added us a huge amount of preparation and work into it.
As far as our particular effort on the 14 car, we did the best we could, but I don’t feel like we extracted every bit of it, nor did we singly just focus on that one race. I think, like we’ve discussed before, we’ve been trying to rebuild kind of a foundation for the team, trying to get setups figured out, whether being road courses, street courses, ovals, superspeedways. On its own that takes a huge amount of work, whether it be at the simulator or with the guys trying to run concepts.
For us, we take every event one at a time, do the best job we can, and try to identify what the weakness is, build on the strengths, and move on, document it and make sure we come back stronger with the team the next time around. That’s kind of where we’re at.
Q. With Helio’s fourth Indy 500, we’ve heard a lot how Indy 500 victories are perceived in the sport at-large or the driver community. How do you feel a 500 is perceived both on your end or in the paddock in general, 500 versus a series championship?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don’t know. I don’t think I spent any kind of time trying to figure that out. Been lucky enough to win a couple championships and the 500 is missing.
I think there’s no single biggest target or events than the 500 for us. Nothing really comes even close. How it’s perceived in the paddock, I think we kind of know the answer. Outside, who cares at the end of the day? We kind of do it for the fans, for our teams and for ourselves.
I think it’s a huge accomplishment, it’s a huge task. Like most of us I think, or all of us, I was really super happy for Helio. He’s a great figure of the sport. He’s a super likable guy and a very deserving champion. At the end of the day it’s super fitting that he’s the one that gets a fourth win on that thing.
Yeah, as far as us, I mean, of course we’d take the 500 probably over the championship.
Q. Obviously we go to Detroit this weekend. The first time we’re using the aeroscreen on a street circuit in Detroit. I watched an onboard with you yesterday, Graham. The circuit is bumpy. Is there any way you guys prepare differently going into the track because the track is so bumpy and you’re going to be using the aeroscreen for the first time?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, no, I think like Graham was saying, setup-wise obviously you adjust the car whichever way. I think the tire evolution is probably just as challenging as the aeroscreen, the way you use the tire. Firestone is coming up with small variations and things, mixing things up because some chemicals get banned, whatever else. At the end of the day there’s not a weekend that resembles the other. That’s why when you look at the gaps, as tight as the field is, a tiny little difference, then it shuffles the whole order. You’re talking about a 10th, two or three maximum, and you’re at the front or the back of the pack and your weekend looks very, very different.
There are some very, very key moments in the weekend that make it a great or good or a bad or terrible one (smiling). I think you just have to be open-minded, you have to get a look at optimizing everything. You know if you don’t execute, then it’s not going to be a fun experience.
The aeroscreen safety-wise, particularly for the ovals and the superspeedways, just a single biggest investment for sure is concerned as far as safety is concerned. For me for sure on the street courses I sometimes wish the screen wasn’t there because I feel like it’s making things extremely difficult and uncomfortable in the car. I think it’s just one very tough compromise, right? You just add that big safety piece on an existing car that really wasn’t designed for anything like this, how you manage the airflow and everything around.
For sure when it gets hot and humid, particularly on street courses, the body temperature inside the 120 degree cockpit gets pretty critical. Yeah, it’s never really a fun last 10, 15 laps of those races. Doing it twice in a weekend, I think that dehydration level is going to be tough. Probably not the best suited for that because I don’t deal super, super well with dehydration.
But it is the challenge, that’s for everybody. We’ll just have to add it to the numerous list that composes Detroit, I guess.
Q. Sebastien, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe we saw some drivers running like a type of an air hose on the front of the helmet. Is that something that we might see drivers use moving forward to help keep them cool?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, basically that was a Speedway thing. Some guys instead of having the piping kind of get dangled somewhat in the more turbulent airflow towards the top, you could see the hose down and kept it out of the way so you had that duct that was for some guys just the front duct, which definitely doesn’t cool your head as much, it just gives you air. For some it was also rerouted to the top, so it was front and top. Instead of coming from the top down, it was bottom going up and top. So there were different options.
All of those for the Speedway came out just for aerodynamic and drag concerns. There was no added cooling or benefit to it. It was actually probably a bit of a loss. But when you’re going around at 200 something miles an hour, you don’t have any issues with airflow. The cockpit doesn’t get too hot, unless it’s a hundred something degrees outside.
Q. Seb, with your amount of experience winning championships, races, how do you deal with setbacks or disappointments? Is there anything you do in particular with a new team to help raise the morale?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I mean, it’s always tough, right? We had some very positive dynamic. We talked about it. It’s like I was saying, it doesn’t take much to kind of embellish that or drag it down pretty rapidly.
For sure unfortunately the last few weeks between Texas and a not-so-great Indy GP, then a disappointing 500, sets you back no matter which way you look at it and present it.
I think the guys are mostly pretty excited anyways this year to just see some light and be like, We knew going in that it wasn’t going to be easy every weekend, we’re just going to capitalize on the good weekends and enjoy them as much as we can.
Yeah, we had pace. We probably didn’t capitalize on those pace moments as much as we wanted to to turn it into results both at Barber and St. Pete. Really feel like we haven’t put together a weekend yet. Hopefully it’s coming for Detroit.
Q. Obviously we’re heading into Detroit. You mentioned it’s probably going to be pretty hot, the track will be quite physical. How do you deal with the bumps of Detroit? Anything in particular that you actually put into the car to protect the knees and elbows? Anything different you do for Detroit compared for other races?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I’ll just add something for the people. I think the series and the people don’t always understand how typically difficult the 500 stretch is. We on the team side to keep everybody onboard is extremely challenging. It’s not abnormal to lose a guy during the 500 week, to lose a couple between the 500 and the next one.
Definitely having a little break between the 500 and Detroit I think helps to kind of break that and not feel like you’re running everybody to the ground and lose people. It’s hard to find quality people these days, and you don’t want to lose them.
THE MODERATOR: Forecast for this weekend sunny and temperature in the low 80s in Detroit, for what it’s worth.
Q. Seb, you said after Texas you had to be a little conservative in May. Is that something you guys are going to have to do moving forward or are you going to be able to sort of go a little bit more all out?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I mean, I think it’s very much of a superspeedway concern, right? There is rarely small crashes on speedways. If you go on the trim and you miss, I guess I can speak for that, been there, done that, consequences can be quite high on the body, but certainly on the car. Very easy to throw one in the Dumpster after that. It’s very expensive.
I don’t say we were consciously careful or taking a very conservative approach. But at the end of the day when you look at your trim list, you may take smaller steps just because the doubt sets in a little bit more and you just don’t feel like you want to take any chances with that.
Indy has that weird feel about it. You always feel like you got tons of time and then time runs out. That was on a very straightforward weekend where things were fine, no rain delay or anything like that. I think we just kind of — it just kind of happened.
Going forward, no, I think for road and street courses you just do your thing. Sometimes bad stuff happens. But there’s no particular conservative approach moving forwards.
Q. Knowing how you performed at Barber and St. Pete, what is your mindset for the rest of the season? What do you think you can accomplish with this team?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Nothing really different than going in the season. I think we feel like we will have shots at doing some good things. There clearly are some things we still haven’t figured out. We’re hoping to make a significant step forwards at the GP. Obviously we probably didn’t get the best chance at it having that electrical issue on the first practice, not running a single lap. Obviously there are guys that those things happen to them, too, with Alex, and they bounce back, still had a very solid weekend.
We still don’t quite understand everything and we got some work to do. Yeah, no particular target. Just really try to go through the weekend doing the best we can and feeling that we’re not leaving stuff on the table. That’s the mojo really that we’re in.
Q. Helio is supposed to debut in SRX this week, which is supposed to be a series for retired guys. He won the Indy 500 for the fourth time two weeks ago. Do you think he should be in INDYCAR full-time?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think Helio should do whatever Helio wants to do.
Q. Helio wants to be in INDYCAR full-time. He said that.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: If he wants to go back full-time in INDYCAR, he definitely should. I feel like if anything, obviously I feel like he’s been kind of pushed to kind of end his INDYCAR career.
Still as we speak, obviously he was finishing second in the championship how many times, fighting for poles, fighting for wins, being a dominant force on speedways and superspeedways and qualifying, just putting some massive commitment laps, being like, Hey, I may be aging but I’m still there.
I really feel like that’s the only thing that I I’ve regretted for him, that it didn’t end on his terms. He was definitely not showing a slowing down phase. Yeah, I think if that’s what he wants to do, that’s what he should do.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, at the same time ending your career in INDYCAR on a four thing in Indy…
Q. You’re going to be in Detroit this weekend, the Motor City, with the rich automotive tradition. What does it mean to you to win in Detroit and how important do you think racing in Detroit is? How important do you think it is on the INDYCAR schedule to have Detroit on it?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I can answer that on the Chevy side for us. It’s huge. There’s Indy and then there’s Detroit. That’s the list of priorities. For sure everybody gets the message. One of the main reasons why we have the Detroit Grand Prix is thanks obviously to the support of Roger and his team, but also the support they get from Chevy in general.
Yeah, I mean, there’s no denying that this is a clear goal on the corporate side and the manufacturing side. Yeah, we were lucky enough to put two on the board for Chevy back in ’15 and ’16. Yeah, love to do it again. For us it’s kind of another race, but we know it means a lot more if we get it done.
THE MODERATOR: I feel like this was good therapy for you. Am I right on that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, talking, getting it out of your system. Thank you!
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. He received some of the biggest cheers at the Speedway when he took the lead for the first time in the Indianapolis 500. All told he led 40 laps, which ties him with the legendary Jackie Stewart on the all-time laps led list. Jackie did that 1966, so a few years ago. He returns to Detroit this weekend for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. One big lead-in for Conor Daly, who joins us this afternoon.
Bouncing back from the 500, did you appreciate a week off, maybe like some others did?
CONOR DALY: Yeah, it was very weird, but it was nice. Nice to have some time off. I got a text from Marco Andretti, he was like, Hey, let’s go to Florida.
I said, Okay, let’s go to Florida for a couple days.
Ended up at with the Bitcoin conference with my team here on Saturday. It was a great experience. Nice to have a bit of time off. Ever since the 500 finished, I was dying to get back in the car, like really badly. I can’t wait to get going. I love Detroit, so I’m excited for it.
THE MODERATOR: Proof again you just never know where life will lead if you’re Conor Daly. End up in Florida.
CONOR DALY: Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Heading back to Detroit, you haven’t raced since 2017, certainly had that podium finish in ’16. How well do you like the street course up there?
CONOR DALY: It’s one of my favorite tracks, even 2015 there in the Arrow machine for Hinch after he had the mix-up with the wall at Indy. That was one of my most fun weekends, still to this day. In the rain, leading the race there up against those guys as a complete and utter rookie. I love the track. Love the race weekend. I think it’s done so well.
Especially we’re a Chevy team, so very excited to be in the backyard there, which is really, really cool. It’s weird to think it was so long ago since I raced there. There’s a couple other places we’re going to go this year that are probably the same way.
It’s going to be cool to get back there and let her rip, see what we can do. Hopefully the stuff we learned from the Indy GP, the progress we made with our car carries over to Detroit.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. What did it feel like to lead (indiscernible).
CONOR DALY: Uh-oh.
THE MODERATOR: We lost you.
CONOR DALY: You must be parked under a bridge.
THE MODERATOR: I’m going to finish that question. I think I may know where she was going with that.
What was it like to lead laps? Now you’re there.
Q. What did it feel like to lead and to hear that crowd?
CONOR DALY: Well, I couldn’t hear anything, so I was just listening to my engineer and my strategist Ben. He’s like, Well, we got to make some fuel now.
I said, All right, here we go.
It was nice. But honestly the coolest thing was seeing all the Internet stuff afterwards. Actually just last night for some reason I hadn’t gone through like the posts that I’d been tagged in on Instagram. I started going through them all. There were a ton of videos from race day. It’s just wild to see.
I’ve been to the Indy 500 before. I’ve cheered for moments like that before where, like, you just — I don’t know, it’s electrifying. That’s kind of like why we do it. You don’t appreciate it at the time. You’re in the car, you’re doing the business, you’re working. It was the coolest thing ever to see that video.
Even when I was in Miami, it’s really funny, people that I knew that I never thought would have watched the race, it’s like, We saw you leading the race on Sunday.
I didn’t even know you knew there was an event happening.
It was like, Marshmallow’s tour manager. Sweet, man. I appreciate that. You know what I mean? Really, really cool to see that. I think this year’s Indy 500 did such a great job reaching so many people. The ratings were fantastic. It was cool. I mean, it still is cool. Can’t think about that any more, we got a race ahead of us.
Q. How do you feel about the series? It goes up and down, the highs and the lows. How do you feel about where the series is right now with the buzz surrounding it?
CONOR DALY: I think it’s awesome. Even down to the Bitcoin conference over the weekend, a lot of energy, a lot of people that came up to us and said, Hey, we watched the Indy 500 for the first time in a long time. We watched the Indy 500 because of you guys. That’s really awesome. A lot of high-energy folks down there. A lot of great stuff going on.
Hopefully the Indy 500, what we just did, all the excitement, the people that were there, the big TikTokers that were there, there was so much coolness that kind of felt like we had missed that for so long because of 2020 and all that stuff. Realistically 2019 was awesome. It’s still the Indy 500. I think after a year like 2020 you kind of needed that massive hype to come back. It did. It was super cool.
We obviously hope that at least a lot of those people realize, Hey, we’re going to have some pretty high-intensity action here at Detroit, too. Our favorite marketing partners Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean will be back in action, as well. Can’t wait for those guys to be back there also.
Q. You got Romain out of his bus. Appears he lives in the infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He also has been embraced by this community. How have you found he is enjoying this new American series, his time in Indianapolis, his move to this new form of racing?
CONOR DALY: Well, it’s funny. I think talking to him, the biggest thing that I notice is that he hates watching. He’s like, I can’t wait to get back in it. You know what I mean? I think there was something, the Indy 500 did look pretty cool. I was like, Yeah, man, it’s pretty cool. Maybe you should try it out some time.
Who knows what will happen there. But he’s a good dude. I think he’s enjoying it. He’s embracing it as much as possible, which is really, really cool. Yeah, I mean, I think a guy like that has accomplished a lot. I think he’s a very respectable and talented driver that we know about. Obviously I saw him coming through the ranks when I was younger as well. He’s won a lot of races, been successful. Formula 1 was a tough ride for him at the end.
I truly believe that he’s just excited to be back competing at the front in INDYCAR. INDYCAR is a great place to compete no matter where you come from in your racing background.
Q. How long do you think he can live in the infield at IMS?
CONOR DALY: I don’t know. He asked for Doug’s number last night. I don’t know if he’s trying to rent a spot in there or what. I know he has a key to the place because he’s been using the gym, riding his bike there. That’s the first time I’ve heard a driver being given the key to the racetrack to just live there.
THE MODERATOR: A quick aside. Do you remember the first driver you got up and cheered after he was leading, he or she, maybe the most recent driver that you’re up in the stands watching? It’s got to be weird to know someone out there is now doing that for you.
CONOR DALY: I don’t know. Like, Scott Goodyear maybe back in the day. The old Panther Racing days when Doug Boles was involved with Panther Racing. I always wore my Pennzoil shirt. I had a crew shirt that was seven sizes too big for me. Showed up to Victory Lane with Gil de Ferran still with all my Pennzoil gear on. Something like that.
I was an underdog guy. I don’t know if Alex Barron ever took the lead at Indy, but I always cheered for Alex. I was a big Alex Barron fan when he was doing well. A lot of interesting cheers for sure.
Q. How do you handle this hangover from the three weeks you spent at home? Does it vary between the results that you have in the race, something from 2015 or ’19 with different results? Do you just want to get back in the car right away?
CONOR DALY: I think getting back in the car right away is super. That’s what you want. I think a little bit of time to reset, rest the body a little bit. Our body goes through a lot for those three weeks. It’s something that I think a good reset kind of basically just — we got back into the gym, started grinding it out again, get a little bit of time to work on things for Detroit. It’s super important. Without a doubt it’s going to be the physically most difficult weekend of the year.
I think the week off is going to help all the drivers, going to help everyone. But, yeah, mentally I’m ready to go again, ready to get back right into it. Just, yeah, ready to rock.
Q. Is the physical aspect of Detroit maybe why it kind of suits you a little bit better? A track where you have had some of the better results.
CONOR DALY: You know what, I think it’s just the nature of the track honestly. I love street courses. Always have in the past in my career. I’m just happy to get back there.
It’s an interesting strategic game there, as well, which I think is cool. It’s tough for people. I like places like that.
Q. Two vastly types of tracks, big oval in Indianapolis, then this tight, hard-to-pass street circuit. Can momentum really carry over from one event to the next?
CONOR DALY: I mean, yes, mentally. I think physically, yeah, because we just did a lot of time in the car. Our bodies are ready for this long weekend.
But realistically what I look forward to most is the progress we made at the Indy GP. That’s what I’m most excited about. That is such a short weekend, you get right into oval stuff. We made a lot of progress there. I’m excited to see if we can continue that for another good run at Detroit.
It will be good to just get back out there and start turning right again.
Q. We know how good your team has been on the big ovals. Now it’s up there with Rinus on the street courses and road courses, and yourself. How far away do you see your team from being able to be one of the ones that’s always going to be a constant threat?
CONOR DALY: I think for years I’ve been talking about creating continuity. I think we see right now what continuity is doing for this whole group, both Rinus and I. We get better. Your goal as a driver is to improve constantly, work with your team to just keep building that pyramid up, keep going.
Rinus is doing that. I think I’m doing that. I don’t think we’ve been able to obviously translate to results yet for several things that have been out of our control obviously. But we’re in the fight rather than a lot of the races last year we were nowhere even near the talk of anything. But now we’re putting ourselves up there.
I think it just takes time for me, for sure. I think this car, without a doubt, has been very, very challenging for me to get to grips with with all the new additions from 2020 with the aeroscreen and everything like that. But we are getting there, I think. We want to continue to be able to use that information, continue to be able to work with our engineers here, to be fighting in the top 10 every single weekend, but not only there, fighting for the Fast Six qualifying sports, fighting for wins. Rinus has a win now. I also want to be joining him in that category.
Q. Three races over the next eight-day period. How much does this really test the driver’s physical and mental ability?
CONOR DALY: It’s going to be great. That’s what we do. It’s why we make the moderately sized monies. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait for Detroit. I can’t wait for Road America. An incredible race.
Yeah, I mean, it’s summertime. It’s time to get outside and go to some motor racing events. I’m excited to see our fans as well at all these different places.
Q. Back in the 20 this weekend. Much better shape as far as leader circle, team money, positioning. As an entrant does that change the way you approach the race weekend knowing a mistake isn’t going to necessarily cost Ed and the team some money?
CONOR DALY: No, I don’t think so. I mean, still pretty early on for that type of discussion. But, yeah, I mean, I think either way, even when we were thinking about it last year at the final two races or whatever, you still go into it with the same thought process, right? There’s no change in that. We’re just going out to try to be the best we can be.
We want to get trophies. We want to be at the front. I think this team can do it. I think that’s our goal now. I’m excited for it.
Q. You said you struggled with this car in 2020. What has been the hardest thing for you to get used to or adapt to?
CONOR DALY: Yeah, for me, it has been the difference in the balance between the car on the primary tire to the red tire. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to narrow that gap between how the car feels when we change tires and race pace.
I think race pace-wise our car on heavy fuel has been a challenge for me. I think we’ve been narrowing that gap. I think we’ve been getting better in race pace conditions.
But, yeah, the car does a lot of things. Instead of just one problem, there’s three problems handling-wise. As a driver, it becomes difficult. There’s a lot of information coming in when you go through the entry phase of the corner, the center of the corner, the exit of the corner. Instead of having one problem, we have apex understeer, you could be loose in, apex understeer, loose off. You’re like, Well, all right, we got a lot of things to fix.
It’s a matter of just narrowing things down and finding a better window of operation. The car has a very narrow window right now. I think we see that a lot. The entire field is within 8/10ths of a second. That narrow window it’s like 2/10ths or 3/10ths of a second. If you’re on the right side of those two 10ths, that’s the goal.
Yeah, it’s just been tough for us to kind of narrow that window down but I think we’re definitely getting there.
Q. Back to Indy. Could you just give us an idea of what was running through your mind when you hit that wheel, the kind of safety of the car?
CONOR DALY: The funny thing is we were in the office yesterday here at the shop. We were looking at the video. There was also, like, tire smoke. We were trying to figure out…
My engineer thought it hit the front so hard that the rear tires actually spun, but it wasn’t. It was me locking the front tires because I literally — I can see every moment in my brain. All slow motion. Graham is in the wall, I’m going low following the car right in front of me. There’s a lot of smoke. There’s more smoke ground level when you’re in the car driving for several laps, a lot of debris on the screen. I’m like, All right, here we go. Boom. I’m like, Whoa, what the heck was that? Like literally had no sight of it at all.
So, yeah, as soon as it hit, I didn’t even know what I hit, to be honest. Had not a clue. Obviously since it didn’t necessarily rip the left front off the car, I was like, I think we’re okay. I don’t know what it was.
So, yeah, obviously a lot of people have come up to me, Oh, man, if that was two feet higher. You didn’t have the aeroscreen…
I was like, You know what, you’re right.
Yeah, I mean, racing is a game of those situations. There’s a lot of times where people look back, they’re like, Well, if it went like this, it could have happened this way.
You’re like, Hey, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here, all safe. All good.
Our front wing was not safe. It was one of those things I remember every second of it. From then on it just became a decision of do we sacrifice all of our track position that we’ve gained or do we see if this will work. At that point I think the gamble was right. You’re screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t, you know what I mean?
As we saw, there were no more yellows. It would have been really hard to make that jump in strategy. Every situation there’s a hundred different outcomes. I think we tried our best. We kept peeling rear wing out of it because the front adjustor was broken. We tried to do the best we could for the situation we were in. It is what it is. On to the next one.
Q. If we think about the laps you led at Indy, you spoke about the momentum coming up for the next few races, how important do you feel that kind of thing is for your career, kind of building momentum? Is leading that many laps at Indy something you can build into working on your future in INDYCAR?
CONOR DALY: I certainly hope so. All you can do is keep putting stats like that in the stat column. Leading a lot of laps at Indy is great. Leading the most laps at Indy is cool. I was like, Hey, that’s something I guess.
But, yeah, I mean, realistically no one cares about that when you really look at the results, right? We finished 13th. Thankfully you all know. We watched, we participated. People who watched, they know, which is really cool.
Yeah, I think it helps. I think at Indy I’ve struggled for sure in different situations with different just kind of scenarios. I really do enjoy racing there. Like I love the racing atmosphere, the style on track, how you get forward, how you make moves. Now I have that experience up front.
It’s a very different experience if you’re in the top four cars, very, very different. It’s much easier than I expected. But it’s nice because people are thinking, Hey, we want to just be here for the last 20 laps. You know what I mean?
Getting through that center part of the race becomes, I don’t know, more efficient. You’re not being an idiot, you know what I mean? Neither was Rinus, neither was Colton or Pato or Helio. Everyone, they’re thinking. I like that. I like being a part of that group.
Q. We’ve talked this season about the ups and downs you’ve experienced. Now that you’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on being able to lead the most laps among with the unfortunate tire incident from Graham that hurt your race day, what ultimately a week and a half later do you come away from this race thinking about the most? Was it the positives or opportunity you maybe lost from something so flukey?
CONOR DALY: I think honestly I try to look at it pretty positively. Our incredible Indy 500 race car is sitting in the shop. All you got to do is replace the front wing and that thing is going to be ready to go next year. I’m hoping by the end of the year we can just put these pieces back together.
I really enjoy working with this race team. I think they’ve done a great job. We’re in a great spot now. Ed was obviously very fast. Rinus was very fast. Everyone has been fast. That’s something that’s really encouraging.
I just want to come back again next year. Someone said to me last night, they were like, I think you can win this thing now.
You always go into it hoping you can do that, right? We’re not competing to finish eighth, right? To be up there and to kind of have that experience at the front now, you’re like, That’s a part of the experience that I did not have in the past. I had never been leading. I had never been in the top three. I was fifth or fourth in 2019. It’s a little bit different.
You just want to be able to use that. So for me the goal is to continue to execute every weekend, make no mistakes, and when the results come, that’s going to be a product of all of our guys doing the best job that they can do alongside of me doing the best job that I can do.
I think that’s so far we’ve proven to have some speed. We want to obviously make sure that the results and the attention we got from our partner with the U.S. Air Force is strong enough to continue in 2022.
Q. Being in a position where you’re running a full schedule for the second year in a row, weathering the ups and downs from that full schedule, have you gone through maybe what you would characterize learning more about yourself when you’re in the car more often, dealing with all these unique in-race circumstances? Do you feel over the last two months like you’ve learned more about yourself and who you are as a driver that maybe you didn’t already know before the season started?
CONOR DALY: I think really nothing surprises me any more. I would say that would probably be the top thing on the list.
I mean, I’ve learned a lot about myself I guess. I think I’ve also tried to do a lot of work on my own brain, which I think has been helpful because a lot of the stuff, when you look at a year going into it, none of this crazy stuff is going to happen, it’s just going to be great, every race is going to be great.
All this crazy stuff has happened, and you can’t change your attitude. You have to go into Detroit, It’s going to be great, it’s going to be perfect, we’re going to execute.
But the crazy part about racing is there are so many of those factors that are outside your control. I think without a doubt our sport is leaps and bounds above any other sport when it comes to other things that affect the athlete or the pilot of the vehicle, right?
The NBA Finals, if you’re not shooting the ball right, guess what, you’re not going to score points, not going to win the game. If I’m having my best day, get hit by something in the sky, I don’t know, something happens.
We’re just going to keep going at it every weekend, trying to be the best we can be. I feel really good about myself and my team, yeah. That’s the goal, is to just be happy and be ready to execute every weekend.
Q. With Helio winning a fourth 500, we’ve heard a lot of folks comparing how they view winning a 500 versus winning a series championship, how the importance compares to themselves versus how they view someone else who has one 500 versus one series championship. How do you reflect on the value of those two prizes in the series?
CONOR DALY: I mean, that’s an interesting question. I think the 500 will always be the iconic event. I think my own personal view is I would rather win an Indy 500 than the championship, right? I think that’s just something that is for me just of the icon no matter what. Even during the days of the split, right, there was still the Indy 500. You wanted to be there. Everyone wanted to win the Indy 500.
I think something that’s crazy is like Josef Newgarden is a two-time INDYCAR champion. Incredible. How does this guy not have an Indy 500 yet? It’s so hard to win. Josef is so good. I spent a lot of time racing with him in the last stint. You know what, it’s not our day today. It’s tough. He’s been at the front so many times. It was like Tony Kanaan, took him a million times to do it. Tony Kanaan got himself one.
That event is so difficult to win that the championship is a long journey you have to go through to get the championship. The 500, it’s like on that day you got to be the best. That’s I think what makes it so challenging.
Q. You seem to be confident heading into Belle Isle. When is the last time you felt this confident heading into a race weekend?
CONOR DALY: I don’t know. I mean, I always try to be confident. I think there’s a lot higher energy now because of all the kind of good stuff that has been going on with our team, which is really, really cool.
But, yeah, I mean, I would say my confidence level probably 2019 Indy 500, I was like very confident. I was like, Hey, this is going to be a good one. That’s just one race.
2020 was tough for me, for sure. 2020 at Gateway I was pretty confident. We had some tough times there. Yeah, it’s one of those things where I just feel good about our program.
You know what? You never know what could happen this weekend. We got two races, which is fantastic, at one of my favorite tracks. I think it’s a great chance to get points and a great chance to load up the old Chevy Tahoe with trophies and drive it back to Indianapolis.
Q. You’ve driven a lot of different cars. You’ve always out-driven the equipment. Now is there a little extra pressure with a car that you know is more than capable? There’s pressure driving a car that is capable of winning or podiums at least.
CONOR DALY: No. I think the only pressure is just on yourself to continue to fine-tune everything. I think we know that we’ve got some good stuff right now. I think there’s no pressure. You’re just happy, right? You know, We’re going to be able to do the job.
Even Scott Dixon will show up to a race weekend and have — they’re going to have probably a great situation, but Scott Dixon shows up and has to put in a lot of work to get either a race win or get to the front. It’s the same on us.
We’ve got cars, we’ve got great cars. Scott Dixon qualified 17th for the Indy GP. Got a good car, though. That’s the level we’re competing at now. I don’t know what he qualified there. The level we’re competing at now is all of the cars are pretty good. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning them for your driver, for your situation, for the tire, for the day.
Q. Belle Isle has the tight first corner. Is qualifying even more important this weekend knowing how aggressive people can be trying to make up spots?
CONOR DALY: For sure. I think the qualifying format, it’s fun. I think the two sessions or whatever with the Fast 12, it’s going to be cool. I think it’s going to be a good situation. Qualifying is super important. You definitely don’t want to be outside the top 12, I can promise you that. It becomes much harder when you qualify outside of the top 12 and the top six. It challenging are more frivolously presented to you when you start in the back.
THE MODERATOR: So far no mention of the mullet. I think it might be mullet driven. Just a thought.
CONOR DALY: That’s not true (laughter). Boy, is it getting aggressive.
Q. How long is the mullet going to last?
CONOR DALY: It’s selling a lot of merch. If it’s selling merch it’s going to stay. It’s positive.
Q. How difficult has it been this season switching between two teams? What has been the main challenge for yourself, if there are any?
CONOR DALY: Well, I mean, with this year being so few ovals, it’s only going to happen one other time, right? I hope so. Yeah, I mean, like Texas was tough because we didn’t get to test there. Everything happened so fast. We were sad. We were disappointed. We thought we had a really strong run there the year before. I really like working with those guys.
But, yeah, realistically I’m so much more in-house at ECR this year because of the fact there’s only one oval left, sadly. I wish there were about 10 left.
We’ve got this situation where we’ve got a great team here and we’re going to work on it. The teams have been great. Transferring my seat back and forth has been super easy. We’re Team Chevy teams, as well. That’s really, really helpful.
Yes, it is weird. It’s awkward. I would love it to be just one team, one situation. But, hey, we’re making the best of it.
Q. From your perspective, how much progress has been made at ECR from 2020 to 2021?
CONOR DALY: Realistically I think leaps and bounds. Massive, massive amounts of progress. Certainly for me personally because I kind of know, obviously not going to give away everything we’re doing, but I know that Rinus and I drive different cars, very different cars. A lot of the times we just haven’t been able to get what I needed out of it. It’s much easier for Rinus. He’s obviously very, very quick, very, very talented. His operational window I think for getting the best out of the car is a little bit wider than mine. There’s no denying that.
But what we found at the Indy GP, I think we were able to do a great job in executing and qualifying. I think we still have a lot to learn because that was obviously my first Fast Six. I think there’s a way we can improve our running there if we make it there again.
Yeah, obviously we had a great race pace, too. Even after our car, we figured it out, got back on track a million laps down, we were pretty quick honestly. We knew we could compete race pace-wise as well. Now the matter is getting through the first corner. That would be lovely. Then just continuing on from there, seeing what we can do.
Q. Everybody mentions the physical demands of Detroit. How do you go about training for a weekend like this and how different is that training compared to other weekends?
CONOR DALY: I mean, the funny thing is there’s not enough time to do enough training for it, right? We trained last week. We trained this morning, twice a day yesterday. I’m flying to the simulator tonight. We’re on the simulator tomorrow all day, which will be good to get things going there.
Yeah, I think this weekend we try out the cool suit as well, the cool shirt that some guys were wearing in St. Pete which hopefully will help us temperature-wise in the car. Yeah, there’s a lot we got to try this weekend. We’re certainly ready for it.
But I think having the week off, it was definitely important for the body to really cool down after three weeks in a row, and literally the most days in a row in the car that we have all year long.
Q. You mentioned the team continuing to make improvements. What do you feel you need to continue to work on?
CONOR DALY: I think just, like, continuing down the road that we’re going. The road that we’re going is a positive road. I still would like to have a little bit more confidence on full fuel loads when we leave the pits. I think that’s something that we’re continuously improving on.
But other than that, we want to be just consistently improving on our race pace. I think race pace is going to be super important. I think that’s probably the goal.
Q. The experience of driving or racing with all of this new race young guns that we have compared to racing in the same Indianapolis 500 with Helio Castroneves, veterans and rookies, how was that?
CONOR DALY: That’s a great question. It’s really interesting racing with Helio. On the one restart where we restarted third, Helio is sliding up the outside, pushing hard, pulling off moves that you’d expect from a young rookie. That’s kind of a level that we’re at. Everyone is so good. The young guys are really good.
I think Rinus for sure, my teammate, showed a lot of maturity at the front. Colton as well. Those guys we know are very good. Obviously proven winners. Then you look at a guy like Juan Pablo Montoya who really I think had a tough month. On track when we were practicing, Man, that guy is having a tough day. The guy finishes in the top 10, has a solid race.
The experience that they have is so helpful. I’m gaining that experience every year. I can understand now, Here is where you put it into play, here is where it’s helping you. I think every year the field gets tighter, obviously the closest, fastest field in history this year. I think we’re going to keep seeing that because the level of driving right now is very, very high.
THE MODERATOR: Six races, six different winners.
CONOR DALY: Let’s make it seven (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: He could be at a pool right now, on a slip and slide, doing something out in the backyard, he could be doing any number of things right now, but young Asher has joined us to wrap things up. All yours from Asher’s Racing Channel.
ASHER: I’m just coming in to do this then go back out with my friend. It’s been a while since you or anyone has ever been to Belle Isle. This is the first time with the aeroscreen. Do you feel you are kind of starting over learning in Belle Isle since no one has done it with the aeroscreen setup?
CONOR DALY: Great question. I think there will be some elements that might be surprising. We’ve only got one practice. Everyone’s going to be thrashing, absolutely thrashing in that first practice because you got to run the primaries, you got to run the red tires. We’re going to be all over the map on trying to get setup information for not only qualifying but our race setup as well. It’s going to be very, very hectic.
I think there will be some differences. Having run at St. Pete, having run at the Indy GP, having done some testing at Sebring obviously pre-season, we have some information to go off of. Obviously we have the simulator tomorrow, as well. It is something we used very effectively before the Indy GP. I hope it will be just at effective for the Detroit weekend this weekend.
ASHER: Thank you, Conor.
THE MODERATOR: What is the rest of your afternoon holding, from 2:00 on?
ASHER: So I have a little track I made around my neighborhood. Me and my friend Jacob are going to ride around.
THE MODERATOR: Sounds like fun. Thank you, Asher.
THE MODERATOR: You could be hanging out with Asher the rest of the day, Conor.
CONOR DALY: I got to go do laundry and go to Charlotte. That’s way more fun (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for doing this. Have fun on the sim tomorrow. Look forward to seeing you and the team in Detroit.
CONOR DALY: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
FELIX ROSENQVIST AND PATO O’WARD:
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to another NTT INDYCAR SERIES videoconference. Today we are joined by two drivers from Arrow McLaren SP, Pato O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 Chevy, and Felix Rosenqvist, driver of the No. 7 Chevy. Both raced in Detroit in ’19.
Obviously we weren’t there last year, so gentlemen, I’ll just start with a quick one. How excited are you to get back to the Streets of Belle Isle this weekend? Pato, why don’t you go first.
PATO O’WARD: I’m super excited. I think Detroit has a lot of character. It’s a track that I’ve honestly really enjoyed going to in the past. I’ve raced there in prototypes, I raced there in INDYCAR in 2019. I’m looking forward to going back. I think — honestly it’s one of the weeks that I was pretty bummed about missing last year. I know it’s very big for team Chevy, so hopefully we can get them a couple wins there. That would be great.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah, I agree. I really enjoy Detroit. I think street tracks in general is always a favorite for me, so yeah, coming back will be fun. It’s complete opposite from Indy. It’s way more bumpy. Yeah, it’s very different from everything, to be honest. Yeah, I think we have a good shot to swing around the season a little bit after a tough start with a double-header if we have some good momentum on the first day. Hopefully we can get on a bit of a roll there.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go to Road America after that, so three races in about eight days. Last year at Road America in the second race you guys had a great battle. Felix, you ended up getting your first win in the INDYCAR Series. Talk about go to Road America next week.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah, that’ll be fun. There’s been a lot of talk about that race since me and Pato became teammates. Same there, I think it’s just a lovely track. It’s probably one of the coolest tracks in the world. It’s beautiful scenery. It’s a great track for racing. There’s always good races there, and personally it’s probably the track I’ve been most successful in INDYCAR every time I’ve been there. So yeah, that will be great. Hopefully we’ll have the same showdown as last year with me and Pato.
Q. Obviously we’re going to Detroit for the first time with the aeroscreen. What sort of effect do you think that’s going to have on the performance of the car given the fact that the track is so bumpy?
PATO O’WARD: It’s probably going to plow more than what it used to, plowing meaning just a bunch of understeer. Historically the track just keeps getting bumpier and bumpier and bumpier every year, so I feel like this year will be more of a change than what we have felt from year to year in the past because there’s been two winters on it already from the last time we were there.
I think it’ll be interesting. Not quite sure what to expect based on aeroscreen stuff. Like I said, I just think it’ll probably tend to go a little bit more to understeer. It’ll definitely work the front axle a lot harder. Yeah, I just think that’s something we have to work around with the team and try to really maximize.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: I think tracks like this have been less affected by the aeroscreen. When we came to St. Pete for the first time, it seemed like we were going pretty quick still. It seems like the faster the track and the higher speed corners are really affected worse by aeroscreen than like the long corners, and on a street track you generally just have 90-degree corners and you don’t really load up the car very long anywhere. I don’t think it’s going to be a massive difference to be honest. I think it’s going to be pretty good.
Q. Pato, I think I understand what Juan Pablo said about the problems with — not the problems, the setup on the car, about it’s a little hard to pick up speed and handle in this kind of track, in the conditions you already told us. What do you think we can expect from you this weekend?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, yeah, our car, it’s tended to be very quick in certain places. In other places we got destroyed, not just the No. 5 car but I think we were all just very slow in certain tracks. There’s definitely been just a lot of analysis to try and really see what went wrong because we’ve been strong some places but we’ve been very out of consistency in others, and we need to fix that. It’s such a competitive series where you just can’t have any more of those very tough weekends.
You know, hopefully we’ll expect a good couple races this weekend. I think we all enjoy going to Detroit. It’s a fun track. I think the car has been strong there in the past. I’ve never driven our specific car there, but we have a relatively hard car to drive, not just in qualifying to extract a time but during the races and everything. So I think it’s just up to us to try and maximize what we have and try to make it as consistent as we can. We know what we were missing in St. Pete, which is a street course, so hopefully we have made improvements to be stronger here.
But I’m going into it knowing that we can make some really good stuff happen.
Q. Just looking at the extended weather forecast for Saturday, Sunday, looks like upper 80s, sunny. Anything you guys can do beforehand to prepare for two races in conditions like that? What can you do Saturday night to recover as quickly as possible?
PATO O’WARD: Probably an ice bath on Saturday. I’m assuming the team is taking our ice baths, so for me that’s usually kind of the little extra bit of help that —
Q. Does that just bring your core body temperature down?
PATO O’WARD: Man, it helps you — it kind of like neutralizes your fatigue, and it kind of like brings your muscles back to life a little bit. So yeah, that’s what I do in double-header weekends.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: You need to focus on your nutrition just to not have two long breaks between eating and sleeping, drinking a lot. As Pato said, an ice bath is a pretty good way to recover the body. Tried it in St. Pete for the first time and it was surprising effective actually after warmup. Yeah, at some point it’s going to suck for everyone. It’s going to be warm and tough, as it always is, even on a single race weekend.
But yeah, it’s cool to have a challenge, I think. St. Pete was very tough for a lot of drivers, I think, and this will probably be maybe a little bit worse, I don’t know.
I think a lot of people have played around with different cooling solutions now, as well. There’s some guys that are using cooling suits and you have like this scoop you can put on top of the aeroscreen. Yeah, there’s some different solutions out there now, so we’ll see what people do.
Q. Pato, last year I know Dixon kind of ran away with things but you were still in a championship fight towards the end. Is there anything you learned from that experience last year now that we’re pretty much coming up to the midway point of the season that can help you this year?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, what I learned was that you have to beat the master of consistency at his own game in order to win the championship. I think that’s the best way to put it. We just need to outscore him as much as we can every weekend. I think that’s the best thing we can do in order to have a shot at the championship at Long Beach.
Man, it’s so tight this year that I feel like the field is stacked. It’s full of many very talented drivers. I don’t think it’s ever been harder. I don’t think it’s ever been this competitive from a driver’s standpoint. This is a true driver’s championship. I don’t think there’s anything harder in the world.
Whoever is most consistent and most consistently in the podiums and in the top 5s is going to take it at the end of the year.
Q. It seems like right now you’ve got the two Ganassi guys in front of you and that’s it, and you’ve got a teammate there that was driving that same car last year and teammates with Scott. Is there anything, Felix, you can help Pato, any inside info you can give him? And Pato, do you lean on Felix as we get towards the end of the year now, a little bit of insight inside the Ganassi camp?
PATO O’WARD: I feel like every year is a little bit different. Obviously we can’t plan a championship, but I mean, I feel like Felix and I both know that to win a championship in INDYCAR is just consistency. I don’t think it’s something that’s mysterious or hidden. I don’t know if Felix has any input to it, but I think it’s just about maximizing what you have and trying to maximize points every single weekend and not having crappy weekends. We’ve already had two.
The Ganassi camp has been strong at every single racetrack. They’re bound to have at least one bad weekend, so we need to make sure we capitalize on that.
Q. That’s got to be more like driving style, knowing what Scott likes, knowing where he likes to run, knowing where he doesn’t like to run. Is there anything Felix can help if you’re battling with Scott, anything of that nature? Felix, is there anything you learned from him last year that you can help Pato out with?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Well, I felt with Scott the thing is pretty much what Pato said. There’s nothing magic. He’s just very good everywhere, and he has a lot of weekends where he finished like seventh or eighth and there’s not really a lot of talk about it. But he will have a problem in the beginning of the race, maybe it’ll be like a lap down or something, and then he’ll end up finishing top 10. I think that’s his strength.
When you have weekends when you win, that’s easy. But those weekends are the important ones for the championship.
I think also he’s good at making a car for himself that is very consistent, and maybe not the fastest car, like he’s not so often on the pole, but he will always have a car that kind of works everywhere. He has a good way of just making it good enough to be up there every weekend.
I think that’s one of his big strengths, as well.
Q. Felix, you were talking about switching teams, how difficult it was to get used to McLaren there. We got some good tracks for you coming up. You won your first race at Road America, almost won your first race at Mid-Ohio. You go back to Indy again on a road course. Is this a stretch you feel like you guys can get used to each other, put it all together and push forward from this point forward?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Well, I definitely hope so. It’s been a funny year because since I started at INDYCAR my weakness has been the ovals, and this year even if the results hasn’t been there on the ovals, we’ve been so fast and competitive on every oval. Both Texas races we were pretty much in condition tension for the win in both of those, and even in Indy we were — I don’t really think — maybe we had a top 3 car for sure. Yeah, that’s not enough. Obviously you need the results.
But it’s been interesting how the ovals have actually become like my strong suit now, and we still need to find more consistency, more — find the car more to my liking on the road courses. But I think as you say it’s good to come back to places you’re more familiar with, Road America, Mid-Ohio, all those places, and hopefully it can kind of click there and you can end up the season with being strong on both road courses and ovals. That would be a great way to sort of end up the last half of the season.
Q. I wonder if you felt the same issues that Pato had at St. Pete or if there’s a common understanding across the team of what the problem was there or were you feeling something maybe a bit different.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: I think we had a similar feedback. I think Pato was able to get some more speed out of the car in qualifying, and I got a little bit more out of it than the race, but we both struggled with the same stuff. I think we had a lot of deg, we had a lot of understeer in the race. It just wasn’t really fast to be honest. There wasn’t really any point in that race, even in the GP, it was kind of a different story at Indy GP, but it was the same, we weren’t really having like super bad races but we still ended up nowhere because we didn’t have the pace.
Yeah, I think our feedback is — what we — I think Pato is more — he’s able to drive around a loose car very well, but what we actually feel in the car and what we want from the car is kind of similar, to be honest. The feedback is very similar.
Q. How do you kind of reflect on your first part of the season here because I guess we can look back and say that there’s been a few missed opportunities and maybe some bad luck and maybe some guys who probably could have finished a few places higher but you’re third in the championship. How do you reflect on that? Is that a missed opportunity that you’re not higher or is it lucky you’re not further down?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, good point. I feel like we missed an opportunity in Barber. I actually feel that we should have won that race. We had all the pace. I don’t think anybody was faster than us. We just were on the wrong strategy.
I think we saved what we could in terms of what we went with strategy-wise and tire and everything.
But man, we had two road course races where we absolutely got destroyed, and we’ve honestly already used up our kind of jail-free cards of the season of having a bad weekend, and we can’t afford to have any more of those because that really takes a toll in the championship.
If we would have had like solid top 7, top 6 finishes in St. Pete and Indy road course, we should have been in the lead in the championship, but we haven’t capitalized on that, and that is something that — I don’t want to look back at the end of the year and look at those two races and say, oh, this cost us a championship. We just need to work a little bit harder to be extra consistent from now on.
But we’ve had some great races. We had great superspeedway races in both Texas and Indy. We’ve been strong. But we have been weak at road courses, specifically street courses, and we need to find a way to maximize what we have there because that will really hurt us in the end.
Q. I don’t know if you’ve had talks with Sam or Zak about a contract extension for 2022?
PATO O’WARD: So my — I’m actually locked in until 2022. Not sure about Felix.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: I have another year.
Q. The media has compared you with Helio Castroneves. What is your feeling about racing next to him during the Indianapolis 500?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, many people have told me. Man, it’s very humbling, honestly. Helio is a driver that I really admire. I’m a big fan of Helio. What he has accomplished in his career is — it’s in the history books. It’s very special.
I was really, really happy for him to get his fourth win.
Q. You are currently in third place. What do you have to do to make it to the championship?
PATO O’WARD: I need to win more races and be as consistent as I can.
Q. As you might know, back in the days, F1 and INDYCAR used to run on the downtown streets of Detroit. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with that track or have seen old footage of it. If you are, do you guys think, man, I really would have liked to have given that track a go, or are you happy to run on Belle Isle these days?
PATO O’WARD: I did hear that we had, back in the day, downtown Detroit. Honestly, for me I think both is really cool. I haven’t really had a chance to see the circuit layout of downtown Detroit, but I think Belle Isle is cool.
I think honestly any street — kind of like any street characteristic type track is really cool. So yeah, I don’t really have a preference whether it’s there or Belle Isle.
I’m assuming they’re doing it in Belle Isle because of traffic.
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah, I remember my manager actually raced there in F1. I don’t think he raced in INDYCAR — I’ve seen it on TV, and it’s definitely more smooth, more round corners. Belle Isle is very sharp and edgy. Everything. It’s like a very rough track. That one looked way more smoother.
But I think the one we race on is really cool. It’s very unique, and it’s probably the most bumpy track that anyone races on at the moment. I think there were some worse ones back in the day like Baltimore or something like that, with railroad tracks and stuff. But yeah, I think it’s cool. I think that’s what makes INDYCAR what it is, that you have the 500, which is super smooth, and then the next weekend you race, and yeah, you spend more time in the air than on the ground.
Q. Is the team searching for some answers or some clues in order to find a better way to correct the function on your car to find a way to challenge Ganassi?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah, I mean, obviously when I came over there was a lot of questions what they were doing technically and things like that. I think it’s a dangerous route, though. Obviously we looked at things, and we always tried to improve, and anything you can get from a competitor, it’s obviously a good thing. But the problem is if you copy what someone else is doing, the problem then is that they are going to take a leap. Every year people are getting better and better, so if we would do the same that Ganassi did last year on Detroit or St. Pete or whatever, you’re never going to beat them because they’re going to be better.
I think we have very different philosophies, but I truly believe that our team is super capable. It’s a very good organization, a lot of smart people. INDYCAR is tough because you don’t really have any testing. That’s the big thing. We have a whole season, we have like two, three days of testing, and it’s very hard to actually try anything without guessing.
So pretty much every time you show up to a race weekend you pretty much have to guess and try something, and if it works, you stay with it, and then maybe you have time for one more change and then you’re going into qualifying or the race and then the weekend is over, and then you have to do it the next year.
If you have like a bad track where you have a bad trend going on, it takes a lot of time to turn it around if you don’t have the balls to really make a big swing, but normally the big swings never work because it’s more guessing than actually working from what you come up with as a team.
Yeah, I’m sure as Pato will say, we know these issues, but we should also be very pleased with the pace we had on all the ovals so far. We were super fast in Barber. I think the fastest car by far. And we had two tough weekends, but that happens. I’m sure we’ll turn it around soon.
Q. Felix, I saw you were at raceway park earlier in the kart. I actually do go-karting and that’s where I race. How did that go in the rain?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah, that’s correct. I’m actually here still right now.
Q. Wait, where are you there?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: There’s a bunch of go-karts here. I just took a break. I’m driving here. It’s fun. It’s quite different to be out driving a go-kart in the wet. I think it’s a good way to kind of shake off the oval a little bit before Detroit, and yeah, just back to the roots of it a little bit. It’s always fun to do go-karting and be in the place where you used to be when I was your age.
Q. For both of you, with only getting one practice for the Detroit race, Belle Isle, how do you go about into re-learning a track like Belle Isle? Do you get into the sim seat a lot, just still remember it every once in a while?
FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah, that’s pretty much the only way we can practice. We do the simulator. I did it last week and Pato, as well. We probably spent a day there each, just do laps and try things. It’s not the most accurate thing, but you do what you can do, and it’s kind of enough to get you in the rhythm a little bit of that track.
But for the rest you just have to use the time you have on track really efficiently. You have to make every lap count. You can’t really afford to have any bad runs or mistakes or things like that. You need the practice as much that weekend as qualifying and the race because it’s so limited.
So yeah, we just have to be — we have to nail it when we get there.
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, same from my side. I feel like knowing the track is probably the easiest part, I think what we’re really leaning on is that we have to arrive and we have to be good out of the gates. Whoever is strongest off of the truck is going to be probably in the best position to qualify well and then race well.
Hopefully everything that we have done pre-event will pay off, and yeah, we’ll see. It’s a track that we enjoy, and we’ve been there before, so I don’t think that not being there in two years is going to be much of an issue. I just think if we roll off well, we should be in good shape.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us today. We appreciate you being here.
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