* Persistent lightning storms forces Verizon Indy Car Series to cancel qualifying
* Field for the inaugural INDY Grand Prix of Louisiana set by entrant points following St. Petersburg race
* Team Chevy drivers occupy seven of top-10 starters for the 75-lap/205.5-mile race on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn permanent road course
AVONDALE, LOUISIANA (April 11, 2015) – Team Chevy’s Juan Pablo Montoya will lead the field to the green flag for the Verizon IndyCar Series inaugural race at NOLA Motorsports Park. Severe lightning storms delayed the start of and eventually canceled qualifying for the INDY Grand Prix of Louisiana that resulted in the Series setting the starting field by entrant points after the St. Petersburg race.
Starting alongside the driver of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is teammate and defending IndyCar champion Will Power, No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
The remainder of the top-10 starters, are Tony Kanaan, No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet starts 3rd; Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet rolls off 4th; Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet will start 5th and Sebastien Bourdais, No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cig – KVSH Chevrolet starts 6th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Honda) – 7th; Jack Hawksworth (Honda) – 8th; Luca Filippi, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing-9th and Marco Andrettii (Honda) 10th.
The Verizon IndyCar Series Warmup: 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Sunday, April 12. The
green flag for the race will fly at approximately 2:45 p.m ET. Race TV/Radio: 2:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network, Sirius 213/XM 209, indycar.com live timing and scoring)
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 2 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, STARTS ON POLE: “We were lucky, but at the same time that’s why you need the points, when you have days like this, it will pay off. ”
WILL POWER, NO. 1 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, STARTS 2ND:
“You hate to start an inaugural race with a rain-shortened qualifying session, but you have to give credit to INDYCAR. They did everything they could to get qualifying in. I was fairly happy with the Verizon Chevy in the wet and would’ve liked to finish all the rounds. We will start the race from a great spot, though, and we will deal with whatever Mother Nature throws our way tomorrow.”
TONY KANAAN, NO. 10 NTT DATE CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 3RD: “The No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet has just been so good all weekend here and it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to continue with qualifying to see what it could do in the rain. I’ve had some luck in the past driving in the rain on race day and I expect that’s probably what it will look like tomorrow, so I’m ready to go. We’ll still start third tomorrow which isn’t bad at all, but I really wanted that pole position here and I felt like we had a really good shot at it.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, STARTS 4TH: THIS HAS BEEN A VERY FRUSTRATING RACE WEEKEND FOR YOU, WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING? “It was wet. So we had issues with the dry and in wet. The team is doing a phenomenal job. The Hitachi car was actually very consistent, but unfortunately it was consistent in the back. The good news is, it sounds like the race is going to be wet and we have some stuff we could have done. For me, I couldn’t see very well. I was actually following Juan Pablo (Montoya) until he spun out and I said OH, no man, you were my reference. It is just one of those things. We have two of our boys in the hunt. Roger will have to throw very good strategy on Sunday and see what happens.”
SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 22 PENSKE TRUCK RENTAL CHEVROLET, STARTS 5TH: “I really hate it for the fans that came out today because they didn’t get a chance to see a full qualifying session. Once the lightening came it was pretty apparent that we wouldn’t get back out as it was really starting to rain at that time. If we race in the rain tomorrow I feel really good about my Penske Truck Rental Chevy, based on how it drove today. We still have a few things we can do to better prepare for the wet. We’ll do our best to control the things that are in our control.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, NO. 11 TEAM MISTIC E-CIGS – KVSH RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 6TH
LUCA FILIPPI, NO. 20 FUZZY’S VODKA CFH RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 9TH: “Again the result of St. Petersburg and starting the season well becomes even more important. Regarding today, I think the right call was to do what they did and cancel the rest of the session. From my point of view we have a good car on the wet, so if tomorrowe have a wet race, I am confident and looking forward to having a good race.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 67 HARTMAN OIL CFH RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 12TH : “It’s a shame we couldn’t run the whole session, this is actually a very fun track in the rain. There’s just some drainage issues. It’s a little difficult with the pooling of water in areas, so you get some hydroplaning. I think our car was great. We’ve had good cars here since rolling off the truck and I think they were good in the rain. If it rains tomorrow, we would be alright as we were pretty quick. It’s just a matter if we would be able to make the race work with the drainage. But hopefully we don’t get any rain tomorrow and it just makes it a lot easier on everyone. I think we’re in a good position to try and attack and get a good result tomorrow.”
SCOTT DIXON, NO. 9 BRITA CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 15TH: It’s really a shame we didn’t get qualifying in today. The weather just hasn’t been cooperative for us this weekend here at NOLA. Our Brita car was fast though. We paced the practice session and were in a position to advance in the limited qualifying session we ran so I guess we did the best we could today. Hopefully the weather is better for tomorrow and we can get the race in for the fans.”
SAGE KARAM, NO. 8 COMFORT REVOLUTION/BIG MACHINE RECORDS CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 19TH: “I thought the COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records car was good today. We had a great practice session finishing P5 and I was excited for qualifying. With the rain we obviously didn’t get to show what the car was capable of but I guess the silver lining was that we know we have a fast car. We’ll just have to use that speed tomorrow, pass some cars, be patient with traffic and have a good result.”
STEFANO COLETTI NO. 4 VARIABLE BORE RAMS – KVRT CHEVROLET, STARTS 20TH
CHARLIE KIMBALL, NO. 83 NOVOLOG FLEXPEN CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, STARTS 21ST: “I’m mostly disappointed for the fans that we couldn’t make it all the way through qualifying. NOLA Motorsports Park has done such a great job of making sure they’re putting on a good event for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Team Chevy aero kits ran really well in the rain and we had great grip. There were some puddles where we were hydroplaning, but any time you get cars this fast on a wet surface that’ll happen. Overall I was happy with the car and Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s unfortunate that we have to start on entrant points, but if there’s one thing my team does well it’s fighting back to overcome obstacles.”
POLE SITTER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
An interview with:
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 2 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET
THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with today’s postqualifying press conference. We’re pleased to be joined by Juan Pablo Montoya driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for Team Penske. Juan, it’s been a pretty wet track throughout the past couple of days. But tell us a little about starting from the front and being able to continue your strong start to the season?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Oh, I mean, we were lucky, but at the same time that’s why you need the points, when you have days like this, it will pay off. You know, we try something a little different for qualifying, and we made a mistake there with the setup, but it is what it is.
I think our car was actually pretty good. I didn’t get to run the entire practice session in the morning. Like I put new tires on my fast lap I got you know, the red flag came out, and on the lap I was actually up to the point I was running I was on pace with Simon, and Simon was T3 or whatever he was, so I thought we had a pretty good car.
You know, I still feel like to win the race I feel like we need a tenth or two to be a little quicker. Going to make some changes for tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens with the weather now. That is the big question mark. I think IndyCar did a great job today making an effort to run the qualifying. I think that was a ballsy call, and I think that’s what it takes. I think it was great.
To be honest with you, after I spun, when they were bringing me back and they found more water already from those two minutes, it was incredible how much more water was sitting. I don’t know how much this is going to last, and it kind of gave me a bit of a smile, but it is what it is.
THE MODERATOR: It seemed like the track time might give you a little more confidence knowing Team Penske was so strong in St. Petersberg and does seem so strong above the other teams. Would you say that’s true?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think on the street courses we definitely seem to have the upper hand. For some reason we’ve been really strong. We’ve been really good in all the testing. This is the only place we didn’t do a lot of I mean, we tested with the old car, and it was tough the rest of the year. So I think everybody was getting used to it. And we came here the first day with the aero kit. I think personally we’re a little behind from where we needed to be. But, hey, it is what it is.
Q. You have no control over the weather, but it’s got to be something you think about when you’re doing the race setups and debriefs with the team. So how does that kind of change the whole thing when you meet with the team tomorrow?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, at the moment you’ve got to look at the two things. Okay, if it’s dry, where are we going to run? And if it’s wet, where are we going to run? You have to look at the two scenarios. If it’s dry, we’re going to go with this. And we’re going to try to run here, here and here. And if it’s wet, then you’ve just got to wait to see what the weather does, and how much rain are we going to get tonight? Are we going to have a warmup tomorrow? There are a lot of unknowns.
The hard thing is we keep going every time back to a green racetrack. Every time we’ve run there is a green racetrack. So the track hasn’t really rolled. So the question is, okay, we kind of know what it’s going to do from testing, but is it going to really evolve enough? We have a lot of entry issues with my car, for example, that we know when it rubbers up, they’re going to go away. But every time we go out there, the first time we’re like hanging on for dear life.
Q. How well did the track drain water? Did you see any trouble spots developing?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: There is, I think turn 9, the fast chicane, the rightleft, and that lefthander there is going to be a lot of standing water there. I’m sure there are a couple more spots. I mean, I think five was a little bit, six. The new asphalt on six was slippery, but it’s not standing water, so it doesn’t matter. There are a couple of apex’s where there is lots.
But the thing is if we can keep running, it’s okay. Once you stop, you’re done. I mean, the first group was lucky enough to run when it wasn’t too wet. I mean, it was wet, but there was not so much standing water they could actually start clearing the water. The car starts clearing water, and you start seeing the two like you go into the corners and that’s awesome. You’re looking for the two groups where you want to run the front tires. When that goes away, then you’re in trouble.
Q. Juan, I know you’re more worried about your car, but this is the first time you’ve been here. Can you express a little bit of the disappointment from the fans standpoint? The people that came out here today?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, it is what it is. We all want to have a beautiful sunny day, we do. But that is the only thing we can’t control is weather, you know? I think the event has been pretty good. To tell you the truth, I’ve watched a couple of races, that little Miata race, that was pretty cool. You look at that last lap, I mean, they were going at it. I mean, I was entertained watching it.
People see the cars and trucks all days. It was weird we were sitting just waiting for it to run. I mean IndyCar made a big effort even yesterday to try to clean the track, and they went too far, and they went, oh. So, we told them, hey, try to dry it more so we can run, and they did.
We were not even sure if we were going to run. I told the guys, IndyCar made the effort, we should make the effort, and we all ran and it was good. I mean, we’re here to put a show and make a good show for the fans, and I think we have done that. Are we disappointed with the weather? Yeah, everybody is. But you can’t control that, you know what I mean? A week ago we knew it was going to be raining or ten days ago. Tomorrow supposedly it looks a little better than it used to be. But it looks better because it’s not a hundred percent chance of rain. It’s like 60 or 70, so that’s better.
Q. You can run in the rain, but how much rain can you run in and feel comfortable that you’ve put on a competitive race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don’t think anybody knows that. Because there was a lot of rain in that second session, and the problem with the rain is it’s when you have thunder, like today. You can’t control that. But, I mean, I think you can run in more water than they think they can. It would be really slow, but everybody will be really slow.
I mean, if you know there is a big puddle and you need to slow down, if not you’re going to aquaplane, well, then you slow down. You know what I mean? You’ve just got to know how far you can go.
Q. Are there any benefits that you can see with your driving style racing in the rain, if that is the case? Is?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Normally I’m really good in the rain. Today we struggled, but, I mean, it is what it is. You know, we kind of think we know what happened, and we made a change on the basis of what happened. How you’re thinking it’s going to be good here, and it wasn’t. But, you know, I’m a big boy. I’ll take it as it is. What can you do? It is what it is.
Q. A lot of these fans were witnessing qualifying openwheel sessions for the first time. The very first time this Session 1 came around the turns and they saw the unbelievable rain from the water on the track. The question I kept hearing over and over was how can you see?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You don’t.
Q. That is my question. The visibility, how do you see?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Normally there are a lot of reference points, and you normally look to the side of the track. Instead of forward, you guide yourself from the side. But that’s kind of normal in an openwheel. That’s nothing. The hard thing is it’s hard because you haven’t driven enough on the wet. You don’t know where the markers are, and you don’t know if the guy in qualifying that first stop, did the guy lift it or keep it wide open? If he lifted and you’re going wide open, you’re going to have a massive so you kind of the first time you go, oh, and everybody does it. When I was in Formula 1, I remember the style was like that when you went to the top of the hill, and after a rooster and the long strait in the wet, or the old Hockenheim, those long straits. I remember once in Hockenheim in the Junior Formula, like 3,000 in the Junior Formula, I went to the grass to avoid somebody, and I started 14th. When I made it back to the track out of the corner because I went like 300 yards in the grass, and I was P2. So how that happened, I don’t know. I didn’t hit anything.
But it is what it is. You know what I mean? You learn. But this place is pretty open. With the wind, it clears pretty fast.
Q. Juan, with the introduction of the aero kits and all the undertray changes they made, was the spray any better, any worse, no difference?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I would think it’s probably less because the parts are bigger, but it’s massive. Doesn’t matter.
Q. Juan, we heard some talk about there be a threestop race. With the rain coming and the cars being slower, do you see it changing to a twostop race or will it still be three?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I have no idea, because the fuel mileage gets a lot better in the rain. So milliondollar question. To be honest with you, I haven’t really paid attention to that yet. We’ll look at that tomorrow morning while we’re out there after this.
Q. Tomorrow you’re going to start alongside your teammate who is usually very fast here.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I don’t know, we haven’t raced here.
Q. True. Can you use your push to pass on the start?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We all do. Like every restart we’re like honestly, you’re waiting, as soon as you get wide open, you think, oh, and get on it and keep going, you know? It is what it is. That’s kind of normal. Like every time you’ve got a long strait.
Q. (No Microphone)?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You can get even more than several. Think about it, it’s wider. It’s pretty wide. I mean, the track is wide, plus that extra space behind the curve, so it’s really you have some wide to really wide.
Q. How is the visibility in the rain different on a permanent road course compared to a street course since the walls are much tighter?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: In street courses the speeds are so much slower, the water it’s not as bad. You saw it get a little on the strait but it’s not as bad because, I mean, you’re going to slow. Like Toronto last year in the long strait you couldn’t see anything. Like zero. You go wide open, and you’re just going through the gears, just, hmmhmm. Now I think I’ll start getting on the gas maybe here. That’s how you do it. At least this is how I do it.
Q. Do you think that not just you, but maybe Team Penske as a whole got a bit of a break based on how the other cars were practicing?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, I mean, but it’s the way the rules are. You know, they give you the rules to play with, and that’s what it is. Were we strong enough to be up there? I don’t know. I think in the drive we would have been okay. Were we dominant? No. But I think Simon looked really good. Will looked really good, and I thought I had probably close to the same pace as Will.
But that is what it is. It’s the rules that we play with. If we would have struggled on some speed, then we would have started in the back. Sometimes it goes your way. Sometimes it goes against you. Look, Dixon’s been really quick, and where is he starting? There you go. He was going to start where I was supposed to start, but we swapped. Thanks. We did.
Q. Who do you consider the best drivers in the series in wet conditions?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It changes. I think I’m really good in the wet. I think Bourdais is really good in the wet. I think Will some days when things click for Will, he’s really, really good. But when it doesn’t click, it’s not. I mean, there is not a happy medium. Helio is really good in the wet, but we were really good here when we came to test the first day with the aero kit, we were really happy and our balance is nowhere near what we had before.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck tomorrow. Thank you.