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02/09 2016

Phoenix International Raceway Transcript Verizon IndyCar Testing Session Feb. 8, 2016

 Hélio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Verizon Indy Car for Team Penske

On coming back to Phoenix…

“To be honest, it’s great to be back here in Phoenix. It’s fantastic. The last time I was here was in 2006, or the last time we raced here, but it’s great to be back. Look at this weather – it’s awesome. I always like Phoenix. Phoenix actually was the first visit in America when I came to test for Tasman Motorsports in 1995, so I really enjoy it here.”

On the speed of the track…

“Let me tell you, we are going around at the moment out on 20 seconds on the splits and wow, it’s fast. And we’re just testing. I guarantee you when we start really putting the right things together, this is really going to be an amazing place. To go around 20 seconds in a mile here, it’s pretty fast. It feels great. The new change probably helped a little bit to go even faster, because in the past Turn 1 used to be a little bit sharper and now the outside is open. So it’s kind of cool and man, this is great.”

On what new fans to open-wheel racing can expect to see at the Phoenix Grand Prix…

“What people don’t realize is that we have a phenomenal product, phenomenal race. The technology – we’re talking about going around 180-185 mph on the straightaway. On the corner speed, it’s about 177 mph, so we only lose like 3 mph in the corner, so that shows how fast we are going at this place. Those wings that you see on our cars are just like airplane wings, except upside down, so when you’re going faster it pushes the car into the ground to create more grip. So that’s why when you see people kind of behind each other lose a little bit of the downforce, but then you have to find a way to pass, so it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun. Trust me, it’s going to be amazing.”

On what the race will be like under the lights…

“That’s the cool thing about it. Obviously the heat here…the sun is awesome, but it can be very tough on the equipment and the drivers. So going under the lights, it’s actually going to help not only the equipment and the drivers, but the fans as well. It’s going to be cool. Everyone knows the weather here can be chilly in the evenings, so that’s going to help even more to speed things up.”

On how fan friendly the drivers are…

“I’m from Brazil and I’m still a fan of a lot of sports and I know what it means – a picture or an autograph. I cherish that and when I was young, I remember having those things. So I really understand when a fan comes over and has a picture with you, they are going to really keep this memory. It’s nice to be accessible. Sometimes we’re busy, but it’s nice to give them that kind of feeling of getting some souvenir, some sort of memory from the drivers when we leave this place.”

On his Indy 500 wins and how the addition of Phoenix helps him prepare…

“I’m very fortunate and honored to have won three Indianapolis 500 races and Phoenix is going to be the first oval of the season so it’s going to be a good preparation for when we go to Indianapolis we can get the fourth.”

Simon Pagenaud, driver of the No. 22 Indy Car for Team Penske

On what it’s like to be in Phoenix…

“I’m super excited. It’s super exciting to go to new tracks. Every year we have a similar schedule, so an opportunity to go to a new track is exciting for me when we’re driving and to meet new fans as well.”

On what fans who have never seen an IndyCar race can expect…

“Well I like to compare it to airplanes – it’s an airplane race. Especially here, it’s so fast. It’s a short track, so our cars cover the lap in about 20 seconds and we’re close to 200 mph. It’s incredible. These cars are just riveted to the track and we can probably run side-by-side in some areas of the track, so it should be good racing.”

On what the race will be like under the lights…

“I think it is even more spectacular at night. You get to see the sparks coming out from the race car, you get to see cars going faster actually because the air is more dense at night. So it’s actually better for us and it’s cooler, so it’s better for the fans as well.”

On his thoughts of the track…

“Well Turn 1 is banked and Turn 3 and 4 are flat, so it’s very different feeling. Turn 1 has a lot of g-force – probably up to 5 g’s and you feel everything inside your body gets squished onto the right side of the car, even your head on the headrest is squished. It’s quite an intriguing feeling, but you’re just going as fast as you can and it feels like you’re inside of a washing machine really.”

On the addition of Phoenix to the schedule before the Indianapolis 500…

“I think it is so different it’s difficult to compare it to Indy. It’s a complete opposite oval, it’s a different driving style, it’s a different wing configuration on the car so to me, in my opinion, it’s a different kind of racing. I love them both. That’s what I love about IndyCar is the opportunity to race on road course, street course, and short ovals like Phoenix and Indianapolis.”

Will Power, driver of the No. 3 Indy Car for Team Penske

On what makes him smile about coming out to Phoenix…

“Catcus, cacti…is that what you call it? I think it’s pretty cool seeing these barren hills with the cactus on them. Makes me want to go for a bit of a hike and check it out.”

On what he thinks of the track…

“I’ve never been here before. It’s a very smooth track. I think it’s cool the series is coming back here – it’s a lot of history. They’ve been coming to this track for a long time. I think it will be a good race. We’ve just got to get the package right and it will be really exciting for the fans.”

On what the history of PIR means to him…

“It has a lot of history and that’s what IndyCar needs is to go to places that have that history and kind of rebuild the fan base again. I really think they will get a big crowd out here. I think fans are interested to see what these cars are like on the track and how fast they are compared to NASCAR. They are a lot faster which I think fans will enjoy.”

On what new fans can expect who’ve never been to an IndyCar race…

“I think if anyone has watched the races on TV, you should expect a very close race, a lot of action. It’s cool because they can walk around the Pits and check out these cars that have a lot of technology. You’ve got the aero kits – Honda and Chevy are very different. I know I was intrigued when I got to walk through an IndyCar paddock when I was a kid. I was just amazed at the cars and I think that’s what fans will experience here.”

On how much he takes pride in being fan friendly…

“We are very accessible to the fans. We have autograph sessions, and fans are allowed in the paddock. It’s important to be fan friendly. It’s important for the fans to walk through the paddock, see the drivers, go to autograph sessions, check out the cars. That’s what IndyCar is all about.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 20 Indy Car for Team Penske

On what he likes about coming to Phoenix…

“Phoenix is very different – it’s a cool place, a cool race track. I did a lot of racing here in Cup cars. My first actual oval experience back in an IndyCar was at this track two years ago. It’s funny because the memory of two years ago to now is very different. Now it’s not a big deal. You go wide open, flat all the way around and we’re going seven or eight seconds quicker than a Cup car. It’s kind of insane.”

On what sticks out to him since his last time on the track…

“Turn 1 is very tight, but at the same time you can still run flat out through there, so it’s quite a challenge.”

On how running well in Phoenix sets up for the Indy 500…

“It’s nice, actually, because it’s the first time we’re going to have an oval before going to Indy so I think that’s going to definitely be a plus just to get you in the groove of racing in an oval, because the first time we’ve been doing it, it’s been at Indy so it takes you a long time to get comfortable. So leaving here, it’s definitely going to be a plus.”

On the importance of putting Phoenix on the IndyCar schedule…

“I think it’s a good place for IndyCar. It’s a great race track where you have a lot of history of IndyCar. It probably has more IndyCar history than NASCAR history, so it’s nice to be back.”

On what fans who have never been to an IndyCar race can expect…

“I think people don’t realize how fast we go. To be honest with you, a Cup car I think races here in about 28 or 29-second lap times and we’re doing low 20s. It’s insane how fast it is, so it should be a great race. I think we’ll see more when we come to the Open Test.” 

Ed Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Indy Car for Ed Carpenter Racing

On what he likes about coming to Phoenix…
“I think I first came here in 1990 and this was our Spring Break every year in the IndyCar race and then I started running the Copper World 1999-2003 and then IndyCar in 2004-2005, so I grew up coming to this race track on Spring Break. It just feels good to be back. A lot’s changed around here in the area, but at the same time, I remember a lot of the things too, so I’m excited to be back. I have been excited as soon as I knew they were talking about it. It’s a good day today to get back onto the track. The configuration has changed and the asphalt is different than when we were here, so it’s good to get a feel for how the track has changed because it has changed quite a bit.”

On the excitement of adding Phoenix to the IndyCar schedule…
“There is a ton of IndyCar history here and a lot of history personally here. Spending time out here as a kid, I remember sitting on top of the suites in Turn 1 watching Mario (Andretti) race here, so there’s a lot of memories coming here.”

On his thoughts of the track…
“There’s definitely a lot more grip than what was here before. The dogleg is definitely different. We haven’t done a whole lot of traffic running yet, so it’s hard to say how that’s going to be, but I can see where we can develop two grooves down in Turns 1 and 2, possibly 3 and 4 as well. It’s fast; it’s definitely faster than the last time I was here. We’re still learning. The conditions are pretty nice, the track temp is still coming up, and so as all those things get more difficult. When we come back it’s going to be hotter, so I think it’s going to keep getting harder as we come back.”

On what to expect for someone who has never been to an IndyCar race…
“It’s going to be fast. I think when we come back here, we’re going to be under 20-second lap times for the race. It’s going to be quicker than…unless you were here a long, long time ago, for modern fans who are used to watching the NASCAR races around here, stuff is going to be happening a whole lot faster.”

On what the Phoenix Grand Prix race will be like under the lights…
“IndyCar is really fast at night, so we’re going to be especially fast here.”

On racing a short oval before going to race in the Indianapolis 500…
“Before we were coming here, we weren’t running any ovals before Indy so I see it as a good thing. Traditionally over the years, it’s a little different now I feel like, but a lot of people used to come test here to get ready for Indy. For a race setup, in the past, historically they have been very similar mechanically from here to Indy. We’ll see if that translates still, but it’s still a great tune up.”

Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 67 Indy Car for Ed Carpenter Racing

On what it feels like to come to Phoenix…

“Phoenix is great; this weather is warm and welcoming after coming from Indianapolis, so it’s a good place for us to come test. It’s a unique challenge for me – I have always loved short ovals like this place.  It has a little bit more banking than what we were used to at Milwaukee. It’s kind of like a hybrid for me between Iowa and Milwaukee, the two tracks are super short ovals.  But it’s fantastic; it’s a great place. A lot of people love living here and you guys have an awesome facility.”

On his overall thoughts of the track…

“The grip around Phoenix is really high. It’s a pretty serious track. You have to be very committed with this Indy Car around here. We are flat out running 180 down the front straightaway, so it’s pretty flat out. Pretty high commitment – if you’re not on the thing standing on the gas, it’s going to be hard to do a lap time around here that’s competitive at least with the other guys.  That’s the first thing I noticed when we haven’t been in the car for three or four months in the off season, you get here for the test session and it really throws you in the deep end. To get back into an Indy Car for the first time, you always feel quick after a winter break, but I think this place kind of extenuated that speed a little bit.  So you definitely notice it. People are going to see some speed and some serious lap times. For Phoenix specifically, you’re going to be under 20 seconds for qualifying and probably right at 20 for the race. I don’t think you’re going to get anything better than the Indy Car.”

On what new fans can expect to see when they are only used to seeing NASCAR…

“Phoenix is new for me; I don’t have as much experience around this place. Open wheel has been gone from this track for ten years, so I’m kind of new…new to the series, so from that respect, I wasn’t here ten years ago.  What fans are going to see if they haven’t seen Indy Cars before, first off, the speed. There is no other race car you’re going to see go around here flat out with the amount of horsepower that we have and certainly the weight of our racecars is pretty light. There’s a lot of grip from aero and they’re flat out around this place. I don’t know that you will see that with anything else. Compared to NASCAR, I think that’s the coolest part about it. They are like jet fighters these Indy cars, they are as fast as they are going to get and they are as light as can be and they really know how to turn a lap time.  So that, that you notice it immediately. Under the lights, that will extenuate that even more.  I have always loved a night race – to me it’s always felt faster, it’s more fun to be a part of and the atmosphere is normally a little more exciting. You get to see the speed aspect for sure and you get to see guys that are fully committed and if they mess up, you know if you mess up these cars are easy to get out from under you. You know you might see guys pounding the wall here and there, as well, if they don’t get it right.  I certainly hope you’re going to see a lot of racing too.”

 On how much more spectacular racing under the lights…

“Running under the lights has always been cool to me at any racetrack. I’d run every race under the lights if I could. It always adds a cool element to the mix. I’ve always liked night races.  It accentuates the speed, they look cooler, they look sexier under the lights. You’re probably going to see sparks coming out from under the cars when the bottom section scrapes. A lot of times we scrape the bottom on the ground depending on what skids you’re running. Depending on what material you’re running under the car, a lot of times you’ll see sparks under the car. I hope we get that and a little two-wide action is always good to see. There will be a lot of good sparks and a lot of good ambiance just being under the lights.”