Helio Castroneves Tops Speed Charts in Practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of Alabama

Story posted - Apr 05 2013 11:29 PM

Helio Castroneves Tops Speed Charts in Practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 5, 2013) – Today, at the conclusion of the first day of practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of Alabama, Helio Castroneves, No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet, was at the top of the speed charts. His teammate, Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was fifth in the final combined practice run-down.

Castroneves and Power are the only two drivers to have won races, as well as pole positions in the three previous races held at Barber Motorsports Park. Castroneves has one pole and one win at the 2.38-mile, 17-turn track, while Power has two poles and two wins, including the 2012 debut of the Chevrolet IndyCar V6 Direct Injected, Twin Turbocharged engine.

Other Team Chevy drivers turning in times that landed them in the top-10 were: E.J. Viso, No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA Citgo Andretti Autosport HVM Chevrolet – seventh and A.J. Allmendinger, No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet – eighth. The IZOD IndyCar Series will return to the track for a 30-minute practice session at 8:00 a.m. CT Saturday morning in preparation for qualifying that is slated to start at 10:25 a.m. CT.

TEAM CHEVY DRIVER QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 AAA INSURANCE TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET FASTEST IN PRACTICE: HOW MUCH MOMENTUM DOES BEING FASTEST TODAY GIVE YOU GOING INTO TOMORROW? "First it is great to have AAA. I don't know if you guys know it, but AAA and Turbo (the movie) are teaming up together. Which I have to say will probably help a little bit out there. It is great to talk about it so people, when they go out there, even that we go fast with Turbo, to not text and drive and don't talk on the phone. Don't forget to watch it July 17. That is the premier of the movie. I want to make sure you watch it because it is going to be a lot of fun. Be safe when you drive. I think it is better to be lucky than good. Obviously with the yellow at the end, a lot of guys probably didn't put on tires. But the car felt pretty good. The AAA machine felt very strong this morning. Unfortunately, it was a little bit difficult because it seemed that the track has a lot of grip, and when you have an extra set of tire, certainly it helps a little bit. But, at the end of the day, with A.J. (Allmendinger) and Will (Power), we've been actually throwing a lot of different stuff out there, and it seemed to be working. Again, it is just the first day. There were a lot of weepers, if you guys noticed. If you didn't, it feels like that even if it is warmer right now, the weepers are coming out a little bit more, and sometimes when you hit just the line, the car kind of does some weird things. But, I am happy that Chevy is working together. Hopefully we continue the good momentum."

WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, 5TH IN PRACTICE: "We definitely have a bit of work to do with the Verizon car because we're just off the pace a bit. We were running top five all day, but we really had to push to get there. We'll get together tonight and work to figure out how to improve for qualifying tomorrow." E.J. VISO, NO. 5 TEAM

VENEZUELA PDVSA CITGO ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT HVM CHEVROLET, 7TH IN PRACTICE: "Well it's been a pretty good day. We've gone through different car setups, and at the end we believe we found a good scenario to keep working with the car for tomorrow morning's practice before qualifying. The team has done a good job here. I believe we have a good baseline and fundamental setup shared between the four cars. Tomorrow is going to be very interesting, and we can already tell that this race, and this weekend, is going to be based all around tires. Tires is the key word – for good or for bad. We will need to be working very closely with them (tires)."

A.J. ALLMENDINGER, NO. 2 IZOD TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, 8TH IN PRACTICE:HOW MUCH HAS THE TRACK CHANGED CONDITION-WISE FROM THE OPEN TEST IN MARCH TO NOW? "When we got here at the test, for me, I was trying to learn the race track, and it was so cold, there was just a ton of grip out there. I felt like the first session was real slick compared from the test with the GRAND-AM cars here, and the Continental cars here, then obviously with just the rain, and no rubber really being down on the race track. For me, it is just a process. It's just trying to learn how these weekends go. Trying to keep up with the race track as it changes. It's so funny…on the (NASCAR) Cup side of it; you have a set day of it. Friday you work on qualifying. Saturday you work on race set-up. And, Sunday you go race. Here obviously you are working on speed, but there isn't a lot of time to work on race set-up. So I think it is just the process of going through the weekend; figuring out how the weekend goes and how we use our tires; what we are working on. So far, I felt like the first day was good. I think we were ninth and eighth. I think there is still a lot out there in me. The cars are going to be fast. That is the good thing about the Penske organization, especially around this place. Then winning all the races. I know the car is going to be fast. I know the setup is going to be fairly close. It is just about me trying to go out there and figure it out. Figure out what I need in the race car. How I get the speed out of it. I still left a lot out there on that lap that I did. I think tomorrow, the biggest and toughest thing for me is that qualifying lap. Putting those reds (tires) on for the first time, and not having had any practice on them, and just have to go get that lap. It was a solid day so far."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY, NO 1 DHL ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT CHEVROLET, 12TH IN PRACTICE: "I think it was a good solid day for the No. 1 DHL Chevy. I think that we made some good progress this morning. We were very disciplined with the tires this afternoon, not taking a second set, which is why we're down in the charts right now – we never took the second set like most of the rest of the field. I'm feeling pretty good about tomorrow; we need to make a few changes to stay ahead of the track development but other than that… we'll see in the morning. I think we're a top five car right now so I'm happy about that."

ORIOL SERVIA, NO. 22 CHARTER PANTHER DRYER & REINBOLD RACING CHEVROLET, 13th IN PRACTICE: "I'm actually very pleased. We woke up the car - it's a lot more alive. I'm much happier than after the first session. We did our best lap on old tires. When we put on the sticker tires, the red flag came out so we didn't get a lap in. It's always a question mark how much we would improve on new tires, but everyone improved quite a bit. The pace we had on old tires was encouraging. I think we're on a good path, we just need to fine-tune it a little bit and the Charter car should be in good shape."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, NO. 27 GODADDY.COM ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT CHEVROLET, 15TH IN PRACTICE: "Today did not go as planned, but you get these days in racing. We had a couple of things go wrong in the first session, and the way the yellow fell in the second (session) we didn't really get a proper run all day. I think we can get the Go Daddy car up there tomorrow when it counts. I think it'll be a challenge, but that's what they pay us the big bucks for."

TONY KANAAN, NO. 11 HYDROXYCUT KV RACING TECHNOLOGY SH RACING CHEVROLET, 16th IN PRACTICE: "The track is much slicker now than it was during our open test about a month ago, which made our work cut out during these two sessions. We did some changes to car and got it going our way by the second session, but there is still a lot of work to do for tomorrow before we get to qualifying."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO, NO. 78 NUCLEAR ENTERGY AREVA KV RACING TECHNOLOGY CHEVROLET, 17th IN PRACTICE: "The day was alright. I think we need to tweak a couple of things a bit. It's definitely a little different from the open test, but I think we should be alright. We haven't gotten a lap in this afternoon so we have to work on that to get the gap tomorrow and get it in. I really think we should be alright. Hopefully we'll qualify up front and have a good race from there."

MARCO ANDRETTI, NO. 25 RC COLA ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT CHEVROLET, 19TH IN PRACTICE: "Not the greatest end of day result for the RC Cola car. Right now we have some room for improvement, but I feel that we will be in good shape by Sunday. We didn't get a chance to do a run on new tires so we still have some unanswered questions. We've had positive results here in the past so I'm confident that we can get where we need to be."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, NO. 7 MCAFEE DRAGON RACING CHEVROLET, 20TH IN PRACTICE: "It was a very interesting day, we tried something completely different than we tried in the test a few weeks ago and got the same read. Coming out of the second practice we were not able to use new tires due to a red flag, but if we had we should have seen the results we are looking for. We still have some work to do, but we should see better results in the #7 McAfee car tomorrow."

JR HILDEBRAND, NO. 4 NATIONAL GUARD PANTHER RACING CHEVROLET, 23RD IN PRACTICE: "The fact we didn't throw a new set of tires on the National Guard Chevy at the end of the session today obviously has a significant effect on where we were at (on the speed chart). Another piece of that is that the track gets better as it cools off here and we were one of the first cars to go out when we did our fastest lap. That all aside, the track is significantly different from when we tested here, and we're still trying to get everything dialed in. Between myself and Oriol (Servia) we both made some changes that we'll all end up going to when we roll out in the morning."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA, NO. 6 TRUECAR DRAGON RACING CHEVROLET, 24th IN PRACTICE: "It's been a tough day for the whole Dragon Racing team, we were expecting so much more after finding a strong pace in St. Pete. We know what we need to work on and we know what we need to bring tomorrow. It's a matter of confidence and we have it, it's just a matter of small things we need to fix. We need to keep focused and bring that #6 True Car tomorrow in a positive way as we did in St. Pete."

ED CARPENTER, NO. 20 FUZZY'S PREMIUM VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET, 25TH IN PRACTICE: "Both sessions were a little weird today. The track had some weepers and, actually, the weepers were worse in the second practice. That is a little strange. The track has changed from the test last week. We did learn some good things this afternoon. We closed the gap a little on the leaders. We need to get more. We had a mistake on the new tire run, so I think we'll be faster with the new setup. I think we can do better on Saturday. We were moving in a better direction with the car now. This place is a hard track, and you tell it with everybody. Someone will get a good lap and then fall off the next one."

POST PRACTICE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:

HELIO CASTRONEVES AND A.J. ALLMENDINGER:

HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 AAA INSURANCE TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET FASTEST IN PRACTICE:

HOW MUCH MOMENTUM DOES BEING FASTEST TODAY GIVE YOU GOING INTO TOMORROW? "First it is great to have AAA. I don't know if you guys know it, but AAA and Turbo (the movie) are teaming up together. Which I have to say will probably help a little bit out there. It is great to talk about it so people, when they go out there, even that we go fast with Turbo, to not text and drive and don't talk on the phone. Don't forget to watch it July 17. That is the premier of the movie. I want to make sure you watch it because it is going to be a lot of fun. Be safe when you drive. I think it is better to be lucky than good. Obviously with the yellow at the end, a lot of guys probably didn't put on tires. But the car felt pretty good. The AAA machine felt very strong this morning. Unfortunately, it was a little bit difficult because it seemed that the track has a lot of grip, and when you have an extra set of tire, certainly it helps a little bit. But, at the end of the day, with A.J. (Allmendinger) and Will (Power), we've been actually throwing a lot of different stuff out there, and it seemed to be working. Again, it is just the first day. There were a lot of weepers, if you guys noticed. If you didn't, it feels like that even if it is warmer right now, the weepers are coming out a little bit more, and sometimes when you hit just the line, the car kind of does some weird things. But, I am happy that Chevy is working together. Hopefully we continue the good momentum."

HOW IS YOUR FEEL FROM PRACTICE TODAY GOING INTO QUALIFYING TOMORROW? "I feel good. I feel like we have a great car; a great team. We've showed that in the last three years. We just have to go out there realistic. I do feel like a lot of guys out there did not have the opportunity to put tires on. I feel like tomorrow will go fast, the track is going to get fast, especially with the red tires. Plus the way the track is going. I feel good. I feel definitely pumped for tomorrow. So hopefully we can put AAA in same spot we put it today."

HAS ANYTHING A.J. HAS ASKED YOU SURPRISED YOU? "Absolutely not. You know, like I said before. If we put everybody in this chair, I guarantee you he is going to be the fastest guy out there, because he can jump in every kind of cars, and do really well. Right now. I have to give him credit, because to go there and only have a few tests in the car, and already start running there in the top-10, in this competitive series, that just shows he is here for a reason. For us, in fact the first session, he was able to, we were discussing a lot of things, and I was able to make some adjust in the car related to what he felt, because I didn't have the opportunity to have two sets of tires in the morning. So, yes, he does help. And every time somebody out there especially with his caliber, it is always good to have more information."

A.J. ALLMENDINGER, NO. 2 IZOD TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, 8TH IN PRACTICE:
HOW MUCH HAS THE TRACK CHANGED CONDITION-WISE FROM THE OPEN TEST IN MARCH TO NOW? "When we got here at the test, for me, I was trying to learn the race track, and it was so cold, there was just a ton of grip out there. I felt like the first session was real slick compared from the test with the GRAND-AM cars here, and the Continental cars here, then obviously with just the rain, and no rubber really being down on the race track. For me, it is just a process. It's just trying to learn how these weekends go. Trying to keep up with the race track as it changes. It's so funny…on the (NASCAR) Cup side of it; you have a set day of it. Friday you work on qualifying. Saturday you work on race set-up. And, Sunday you go race. Here obviously you are working on speed, but there isn't a lot of time to work on race set-up. So I think it is just the process of going through the weekend; figuring out how the weekend goes and how we use our tires; what we are working on. So far, I felt like the first day was good. I think we were ninth and eighth. I think there is still a lot out there in me. The cars are going to be fast. That is the good thing about the Penske organization, especially around this place. Then winning all the races. I know the car is going to be fast. I know the setup is going to be fairly close. It is just about me trying to go out there and figure it out. Figure out what I need in the race car. How I get the speed out of it. I still left a lot out there on that lap that I did. I think tomorrow, the biggest and toughest thing for me is that qualifying lap. Putting those reds (tires) on for the first time, and not having had any practice on them, and just have to go get that lap. It was a solid day so far."

WHAT IS THE CONTRAST IN MINDSET FROM WHEN YOU WERE IN TESTING TO NOW WHEN YOU ARE HERE TO COMPETE? "You aren't out there running a lot of laps, but it's still the same mindset for me. It's just trying to get comfortable in this car. After seven years I kind of hoped it was kind of like riding a bike, and coming back I would get on it and learn how to do it again. Kind of feels like a unicycle right now. I'm still like hanging on and trying to figure out what I am doing out there. In a way, for me, the mindset is it is time to go get ready, but at the same point, it's just still about trying to get laps in this car, and take it all in. Get more comfortable. I feel like every time I'm in the car, I get a little more comfortable. It's not like seven years ago where it all comes naturally. It is a lot of work. It is a fun challenge; but it is a tough challenge. These guys and girls in this series, it's incredible how tough it is. Some things I was just trying to tell people back on the Cup side of it…I kind of laughed; they asked me what I thought. How many cars? What-26? What do you think, top-five? It's just trying to let them know, there are no hacks in the series. It's 26 fast race cars. It's just about trying to market this, and tell these people that don't know about this series, about how fast and how good these guys are. You take guys like Helio (Castroneves) and Tag (Alex Tagliani) that have been in this series for so long and still have so much speed; and then somebody like Tristan (Vautier) that is a rookie and is just so fast. It's a challenge, but I'm enjoying it. I'm having fun. I feel like I get a little bit better in the car every time I'm in it, but I still have a ways to go."

WERE YOU NERVOUS COMING HERE TODAY? "I thought I was going to throw-up right before the first session.
HELIO INTERJECTS; "What was the word you were telling me? Queasy?" I was queasy.
HELIO: "Queasy, that's right. I learned a new one." You know, I'm nervous. There's a realistic expectation that I hold for myself. Then there's an expectation that I hope. Yes, I'd love to go out there and win the race, but realistically, that is a lofty goal to try to have. But at the same time, I don't want to waste Roger's (Penske) time. I don't want to waste IZOD's time, or anyone who is working on this race car. Or, Helio and Will's time trying to help me out. I want to go out there and at least be competitive and be right in the fold of it. As that happens, kind of see how the races play out and get used to that. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I want to go out there and be competitive in this Series. I'm always going to have nerves. I'm going to have nerves going into qualifying because I've never done it before. Or, haven't done it in seven years. I'm definitely going to have a lot of nerves going into Sunday before the race. They are good nerves though, I enjoy them."

DID YOU WORK ON ANY SIMULATION OR ANYTHING AFTER THE OPEN TEST BEFORE THIS WEEKEND? "No, no more than just staring at date constantly, watching video, talking to Helio and Will. Even doing that test at Texas last week, just being in a car, and going that fast. I've never been on a mile-and-a-half or a two-mile oval in an Indy car. Getting used to that speed. It is all the little things that help. It isn't just one thing. Trying to be at the gym as much as possible. Just keep working physically to be ready; being home and working mentally to try and just learn where I was weak, and trying to get better. Because as I said, there isn't a lot of time here once you get here. It surprised me when I saw the schedule just how little time that you get once you get here. There is nothing major, just daily trying to be ready to go. I look at that I can do this back and forth between Cup and IndyCar having not done this for seven years; and people will question whether "he" can do it, or is it even smart to try to do it. It is a challenge, and I look at now this is probably my final chance to get to do something like this. If I turn it into something, then fantastic. I hope I do. But at least if I give everything I have mentally, physically and emotionally; put everything I have into it – if it's good enough, then great. If not, at least I can go home and be happy with myself when I look in the mirror knowing I did everything I could, and that is what I'm trying to do."

WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE TO BE ON THE (INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR) SPEEDWAY IN AN INDYCAR FOR THE FIRST TIME? "For me, to be there, especially with Roger Penske, and the Penske organization, it is a dream come true! I always wanted, and just never got the chance with Champ Car and the split. It's just like anything. It is a new challenge to try to get used to it. They've already told me I can brake at the end of the straightaway, they said I am just going to be really slow if I do, like I used to in a Cup car. The good thing about Indy is the fact that you get so much time. You don't need to go out there and rush it. I feel very fortunate to have guys like Helio and Rick Mears that will be there to kind of coach me along. Helio is a great teammate and the person that he is, he is going to fly there next week to just help me out. He doesn't have to, but he's willing to do that. So I will have a lot of great coaching to try and get up to speed, but it will be pretty cool to roll out of Gasoline Alley and get in the car."

 
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