‘What They’re Saying’ from Indianapolis 500 Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

‘What They’re Saying’ from Indianapolis 500 Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, 2017 championship leader): “The Menards Chevrolet had great balance again but speed is still a little lacking. I’m not really sure what we are missing, if anything. It’s a mystery of Indianapolis, I guess. Not every day can be your day. We’ll keep our heads down and get it ready to go for the race. It’s a long race and if we get a couple of breaks, there’s no telling what can happen. This team always answers the bell when it needs to. Despite struggling a little this weekend, I have complete confidence in our ability next Sunday.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “They give out points, so you have to focus on where you’re going to start, so we definitely try to get as high as we can. It’s what we had today. We’re more focused on going racing. I’m excited about doing that with the hum Verizon guys. We’ll see what we’ve got next Sunday. We got what we had today. Hopefully, we’ve got a better race car. I think we will. We’ve been working hard at Team Penske. We’ve got great cars. We’ve got to make sure to execute next Sunday.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): (About lack of speed): “I wish I could tell you. I tell you it was a great team effort. Great balance, actually. We are doing everything we can to go has fast as we can. Unfortunately, this place is difficult. It is hard to find the small details, and we always pay attention to the small details, but maybe it is something outside of our control. Other than that, a great team effort. We will keep working hard.” (Do you have anything to tell Will Power when he qualifies?): “No, he’s in a much better way, so I think it will be much better for him.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “To start the day with a 227, I was pretty happy about that. I started losing front grip pretty quickly in Turn 2. For some reason, we were just having to lift there because of a massive push there at the exit. It’s so unexpected. We struggled to get the balance of this car, really, the whole month. That was our most trimmed step we’ve taken all month. We just had to give it a shot. It’s just a shame we couldn’t keep the consistency. It definitely felt a little more on the edge.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): (About how the track changes over the course of four laps): “One lap to the next, one corner to the next, especially with the wind we have right now blowing west to east. It throws you for a little bit of a loop. But the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was really good, very consistent. That was always our strength here. It was our strength last year to get pole. It was our strength yesterday across four laps – not a lot of degradation, and hopefully that helps us out here today. We don’t have the out-and-out pace that we wanted, that we were hoping for. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. But the track throws you for a lot of curve balls over four laps.” (On the hard work of his team): “I’m representing a lot of hard work. That’s what it comes down to. There are so many man hours that have gone into preparing this car and just preparing for this race, in general. It just means so much to everyone on this team, as it does to all these teams. I do feel a tremendous responsibility to when they strap me in to go out there and do them proud.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I think just looking at the results of all three cars, we’ve gained some speed today. We were just working a lot, and the team did a fantastic job. The qualifying is going good so far, but the most important is the race. That’s what we need to work on next.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): “It was a pretty epic first lap. The problem is it’s not about the first lap; it’s about the four. My last two were shocking. I’m pretty frustrated. Deep down, I’m just frustrated at myself. We’ve qualified for the Indy 500. That’s the main thing.” (On his focus on Race Day): “Race Day is the big day. This is an incredible place to come and race. I feel privileged. I’ve done Le Mans, the 24 Hours. I’ve done the Monaco Grand Prix. So who am I to get frustrated? We’re in an awesome place.” (On going into this ‘500’ versus his rookie year): “I’m very, very excited. It’s so easy to get frustrated with that qualifying because I was so fast that first lap. It’s just disappointing that it dropped off so much. I was going to hit the wall on Lap 3 and Lap 4, so I had to bail twice, and it really hurts your average. But on the whole, it was a great experience.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s an emotional place. We didn’t do the practices this morning; we sat those out. So the first time you get in the car is actually when you have to get the job done. The conditions changed; the wind direction was such a big deal. I had to breathe in a couple of times in Turn 2. It was trimmed out. Yesterday in the qualifying line, I was thinking they trimmed too much out. It’s nerve-wracking. When you’re sitting, ready to go out and someone puts up a big time, hearing the crowd after the run was epic. It’s always a good feeling to be here at Indianapolis. When you win the pole, it’s not the race win, but obviously it’s big on its own. The race is the big one. As you mature, you start to appreciate the history here. I feel very blessed and privileged to have won here once. I come back every year and try to duplicate that. Hopefully we can get a multiple.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): “We tried to match what we had yesterday for the weather, We overshot a little bit, and that didn’t work out for us. We always adjust. I can’t really tell you what it is, but we definitely adjusted a few things. We split the strategy between the 9 (Dixon) and the 10 (Kanaan). The 10 didn’t go so well, so we’re hoping the 9 will go well for us. Either we get it right or we get it wrong, and it was in the middle. But we can win from there.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet):  “I just got a little loose. I exited Turn 1. It was a shame, because we had a decent run going. It might have been high-20s, which from Friday, I would’ve been all right with after that crash. All that matters is we’re in the race, and I was able to save the car there in Turn 1. I’ve got to thank the guys. They’ve worked a lot of long hours to get me back out here.” (Comfort level for the race): “We look forward to getting back out on Monday, putting some downforce back on the car and getting back into race running.” (On the save in Turn 1): “It was definitely a little more eventful than I thought it was going to be, but I was able to have a quick little save. It might have looked a little worse than it was in the car. After Friday, I was happy to just take it easy for the rest of that last lap and bring the car home.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Verizon Chevy felt really good again today. We don’t have quite enough speed, but that’s not the whole equation here. It’s a finicky place that always has a surprise or two. I feel good about our reliability and durability for a long race. Those things are part of it, too. To win the race; you have to finish the race. We’ll work on some race trim tomorrow and Friday and we’ll all find out what’s going to happen in a week.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Things have not been smooth. The weather has not helped us at all. We are just struggling with qualifying, and it has been tough for us. We can’t get the balance and haven’t found the speed or mechanical grip. We wanted to pick up a mile an hour or a half mile and hour, and we picked up a half mile an hour. You know, the guys did a great job because I think the conditions were a little bit worse today than yesterday. It is the afternoon: The temperature is rising, and there is wind. But this is Indy: If you have a good car, you can come from the back.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda):  “We tried to run just a hair less downforce than Oriol (Servia). It seemed like my front tires were going off really aggressively but also the rear. I was really loose in (Turn) 4 the whole run. So we just had to work the tools a little too much. I wish the car had started kind of a little more in the zone, and then we could have maintained it. But I was sliding a ton, so I’m glad that’s over.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Manitowoc Honda): (About conditions): “They were better for me. Yesterday we knew we had to take some risks to try to make it into the top nine. So when you risk, well, that’s the definition, you risk, and we just missed it, Today we nailed it. The car was on rails, perfect, and pretty fast. Exactly what you need for May 28.” (About emotions after qualifying): “Yes, because yesterday everyone was a bit down. We thought we could run for the pole, and the conditions were the same for everyone, but we were just surprised. I can’t wait to move forward.”

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 AFS Chevrolet): “We made some changes from yesterday to get a little more speed from the car. This morning in practice the car balance was sketchy, but we were doing high 227’s, so I was expecting 228 in qualifying. When I saw the first lap, I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty from there on. We just lost the balance. I think the temperature was a bit higher and that effected the car. At that point, we were trying to battle the Foyt guys and since that was not going to be the case, we decided to just bring it home.” 

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “It was a great run again today. The car was a bit loose. I think we struggled; I could really feel the wind gusting at the end there. I guess the heat made the car a bit more difficult to drive. This morning in practice, we rolled out, we did four laps and said, ‘Let’s park it,’ because we had the perfect car. Nonetheless, it was a great job by the guys. We made some changes from yesterday. Thanks to the team – Dale (Coyne) and the engineers. It was a tough day yesterday, but the team spirits are so strong. It’s great to be a part of this team.” (About emotions of this weekend): “With racing, it’s always up and down all the time, but especially around here. It’s a place you’ve got to treat with so much respect. Any small mistake, any small difference, can cost you a huge amount. I’m proud we’re representing this team, and hopefully we can take it further forward in the race.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I heard the crowd, and I knew (Dixon’s time) was going to be a big number. Like yesterday, if you’d have told me we’d average what I did, I would’ve thought it would be the pole. Even what (Ryan) Hunter-Reay did, his time, I thought that wouldn’t get beat. I’m happy for the team. We’ve got a car on the front row, a car on the second row. Fuzzy’s Vodka keeps providing for us; the team keeps providing for me. It’s nice to have a Chevy on the front row. When I saw Dixon’s time, I knew it would be difficult to beat. It was actually better than I thought it was going to be from watching the earlier runs and watching JR’s run. We had a little more balance than him going into it, and we were waiting to see if that was the way to go, and it was. That’s all she had. I was flat. If we would’ve trimmed any more than that, we would’ve started slowing down. I’m content. Would it have been fun to win a third pole? Yes. At the same time, to be on the middle of the front row with two former 500 champions, hopefully, I can convert from the front row this time and claim a 500-mile victory.” (On the speeds posted this year): “I think it’s awesome. Driving cars fast around here is what this place is all about. I’m excited to see what the car next year is going to do. I hope it’s not a drop-off. You hear the crowd when they see those numbers, and I get as excited as they do. I think it’s awesome that we’re pushing that speed back up, and I hope it continues.”

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet):  “Our run was good. I feel like we got almost as much out of it as we could. We had a little bobble on the last lap. Really happy for the ECR guys. Our best starting position this year in what’s been a very challenging couple of days. Really happy for our team to get a couple of bowties up there. We’re really looking forward to the race. As we’ve seen, if you look at the statistics, it doesn’t really matter where you start, but you always prefer to be in the top couple of rows.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy has been really strong. I thought we had a good car. Yesterday we were the second car out and, you know, when they use the jet dryers all that oil is still on the track. The first one or two cars really pay the price. Today it’s the same freakin’ car – we haven’t changed anything.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR Mecum Auctions Chevrolet): “The car was really good. It was better than yesterday’s car. We didn’t really change much overnight. There was a practice session this morning we didn’t go out for because the track was too good. We didn’t want that to trick us. I think a lot of these guys went out this morning, and they’re kind of paying for it now because the track’s kind of gotten worse. We kind of stayed with our same setup. The car was really good. That was the first time I think I’ve ever done a lap at 230 on my own. The team is really stoked about that. I’m really stoked about that. I didn’t expect that at all. Hopefully we can nab a few guys here and get a nice qualifying position. Now I’m just focused on the race.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “We were pushing so hard – Lap 3 and 4 were so on edge and I brushed the wall, but held on. I’m very happy to be in the second row, obviously, the front row would be nicer but this was a great team effort. I am very happy with where we are staring. (The race) will be a different scenario than qualifying but I think we have a strong car in the race situation and hopefully we can prove that.

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): “(The second lap of the run) is going to haunt me. On Lap 1 you have the new tires so you don’t know what the car is going to do on Lap 2, so I adjusted from there. I had to react whereas everyone else that goes after me will be able to react on my second lap and make the necessary adjustments. That’s where I’m bummed, but that’s what we get for going first – we should have done better yesterday. Wanted to be further up and go for the pole, but I’m really just focused on winning this race… and it’s been done from further back than eighth.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was a wild ride. Testament to the team that put a good car together; it’s been that way for a good week and one-half. We just had a bad draw in qualifying, going early when the sun was out yesterday compared to a lot of guys who made it into the Fast Nine later in the day with the clouds came out. It’s fine; it’s Indianapolis, and the only thing that counts is next Sunday. Just some setup changes, a different approach. We did our homework on that one. It was close. That was not a nice four laps; it was on edge. Big time, white knuckle, I’m just catching my breath now.”

FERNANDO ALONSO (No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda): “I think today the car was better than yesterday with the balance after the malfunction in this morning’s practice. Unfortunately on Lap 2, we had an overboost problem in the last corner so hitting the brakes out of the corner, I think I lost a little bit of speed into the main straight. But it’s the way it is – nothing you can change now. The guys had to change the engine in record time, in an hour and a half. I’m happy to be here qualifying. I think we could have easily been fighting for the pole today if we didn’t have that problem. At the end of the day, as long as you secure the top nine, it doesn’t really make a huge difference for the race.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet): “Extremely happy to say that we will be competing in our first Indianapolis 500. It’s official now after successfully qualifying. Still fighting little gremlins from our incident on Friday. The car balance just doesn’t seem right for how the car was. My crew is working really hard to see what issues still lie there. But they’ve been doing a great job all week, working really hard. I have full confidence in them that they will get the Indy Women in Tech Championship car out there good as new on Monday for race practice. I know our race car is a lot more competitive than our qualifying car. I’m really excited to see what we can do, and I’ll be charging to the front come next Sunday.”

BUDDY LAZIER (No. 44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Chevrolet):  “We feel really good about what we’ve done in a short amount of time. Obviously, we’d like to go a little quicker, but I think we all want to go a little quicker. Since we started on Friday, we’ve just been moving forward every session, gaining and gaining. We ran quicker this morning, so I had high hopes, but that was all she had. Every session, we’re gaining more and more comfort on the car. We haven’t strayed from having a race car. We’re here to race. We put just a little bit of qualifying on it. We should be much better on Race Day. This is really special to be in the ‘500.’ We love this place. For me, especially, 20 starts is an important milestone. I hate doing it like this, sort of last minute. Now we would like to make another run when we have a shot to win. This is what I love to do and enjoy being here.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda): “It was a bit more exciting than I wanted it to be. The bottom just got away a little bit, and I got free going in. I obviously grazed the wall there. Honestly, I’m just glad we were able to get to the end of that run. I don’t think I was doing anything different than anyone else would have done. I just tried to push as hard as I could, and I actually collected the wall again. I’m just a little confused, really, why our balance went badly wrong. This morning we went like 230 on our own, so obviously a drop in performance there. Anyway, that’s qualifying done, and now we have to worry about tomorrow and try to get a good race car and race forward. We’ll just focus forward now.”

PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda): “Yesterday, we had a little bit of an issue out there on the qualifying run, so today we made some pretty big changes. I was happy straight away this morning. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to risk trying to trim the car out. I’m very satisfied with the fact that it did all four laps the same. I feel like I have a great race car underneath me. I’m pretty content right now. I wish the speed was higher, but I’m content.”

JAY HOWARD (No. 77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda): “It goes back to the same thing over and over since I got here – the Schmidt Peterson crew is such an awesome team. It truly is a team effort. They never panicked and did their homework, never panicked. We knew we lost a little bit of speed from yesterday. Stay calm, let’s look over the data, go over the facts and look at what we need to do. We got some of the pace back; we’re happy campers. Maybe we’ll pick up another mile and hour. This place is my first love. It is every bit as special as when I first came here.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): “It’s frankly disappointing. We had a strong car yesterday. There was a little bit left in it, and overall today, I don’t know if it was the wind or the conditions, we just didn’t quite get it right. But I knew that I had to take care of the car a little bit. All of these guys (the pit crew) have been working so hard all month long on the race car. We’ve got a really good race car. After I tagged the wall in (Turn) 2, I was listening to every little tremor and wiggle – making sure that it wasn’t going to step out and go bad on me. I was just fighting the wind. It’s a shame. These guys deserve better. Honestly, I think yesterday we deserved to put it in the Fast Nine. That’s the trouble with how the format is, we got it closer to right yesterday and got it further from right today. But part of that was us going for 10th.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet): “We made it through qualifying. I definitely felt like the Harding Racing No. 88 car was a 229 car for qualifying but I don’t think we were expecting the change in track conditions and it just caught us out on the wrong turn. I just couldn’t stay in it or put down some good laps. At least, not as good as I would’ve liked to. We’ve worked with our car, we’ve worked through our program and we’re looking forward to our first Indy 500 as a team.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda, 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner): “Scott (Dixon) had an amazing run, he deserves (pole position). But we’re starting on the Front Row and that is great for the team. The NAPA boys did a great job today with the car. From here we focus on race running, we have Monday and Friday to run yet and then we will see what we’ve got on Sunday.”