Thursday, June 1, 2023

Santino Ferrucci Shares How He Almost Won It All For AJ Foyt Racing At INDY500

More than 200,000 people line the streets of #DowntownIndy to celebrate the return of Indy’s biggest celebration before the #Indy500 ... the 67th AES 500 Festival Parade welcomes then P4 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge qualifyer Santino Ferrucci and guests. Image Credit: FB/META Contribution (2023)

Santino Ferrucci Shares How He Almost Won It All For AJ Foyt Racing At INDY500 

During the NTT INDYCAR ZOOM Call video news conference on May 31, Santino Ferrucci of AJ Foyt Racing discussed his impressive performance in the 107th Indianapolis 500 and shared his thoughts on the upcoming Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. 

Driving the No. 14 AJ FOYT RACING/SEXTON PROPERTIES Chevrolet, Ferrucci secured a career-best third-place finish in the Indianapolis 500, which took place on May 28. He expressed confidence in his chances of winning the race and claimed that he was a serious contender for the victory most all race long. 

In addition to discussing his Indianapolis 500 performance, Ferrucci addressed a rumor regarding his pit stop during the race. He clarified that the speculation about the team owner, 88-year-old A.J. Foyt, being slightly over the wall and stabilizing a tire during his pit stop was false.

Edmund Jenks - Motorsports Journal - BEGIN
Q. In the Indy 500 if that last accident didn't happen behind you, you were about to swoop past the two cars in front of you, with as many laps were left, what was your thinking? How do you think you would have been able to fare?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, we'll go back. Say it stays green. Newgarden had one of the faster cars. I was two-wide going into one. I wasn't going to pinch Ericsson and crash with Ericsson. I was going to actually lift and give him the place because I wanted to be behind him into two, get the run outs of two because we were really good there, or wait one more lap and get the run out of two.

My intention was to lead. The reason being because I passed Ericsson earlier in the race and I led and I knew he couldn't pass us. Like, I knew our car just had the raw speed, with the downforce level that we had, to just lead and run away. Yeah, that was my thinking right there.

Had it stayed green, would he have been able to pass us in the end of stint? Again, I don't know. It would have been an interesting shot if he could. But from what I saw early in the race, especially on the end of a stint when the tires are old, our car was one of the best cars from lap 20 to lap 33.

No, I was getting ready to lift into two to give him the lead back to take it again and try to lead it till the end.

Edmund Jenks - Motorsports Journal 
Q. Given the race dynamics, you had the confidence, the car, the measure of the drivers, you felt you would have had a measure of the race?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yes, yes, 100%.

Edmund Jenks - Motorsports Journal
Q. Did you know you had an extra crew member over the wall? If you look behind me, you'll see the finger is pointing directly at A.J. Foyt over the wall, touching a tire.


Edmund Jenks - Motorsports Journal
Q. It isn't?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: That is Craig Baranouski, team manager. Trust me, they look exactly the same.

Yeah, I'm sure if you blow back up that picture, you'll see A.J. sitting in his chair with the headset on 100%.

AJ Foyt Racing issues a confirming direct statement after this interchange with Santino Ferrucci on an image captured during the INDY500 broadcast that had some people thinking they saw AJ Foyt himself helping during a Ferucci pitstop, as reported by Asher Fair of Beyond The Flag.

AJ Foyt Racing As Quoted:
“This is not our usual post, but this photo has been circulating with speculation that A.J. is leaning over the wall and helping with the inside front tire. That is not true. Despite A.J.’s reputation for working on his own cars, it is Craig Baranouski who’s pictured here assisting with the tire on the stop. Hope this helps clear up any confusion/rumors.”

NTT INDYCAR SERIES News Conference - Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Santino Ferrucci - Press Conference (click image to launch ZOOM Call Video)

THE MODERATOR: Just days after the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, don't blame our guest today if he's still smiling, if he's not mowing his yard, that is, Santino Ferrucci. Great month, actually for the entire AJ Foyt Racing team, culminating for Santino, a career-best third-place finish on Sunday, heads to Detroit this week, site of his NTT INDYCAR Series debut back in 2018, and if that wasn't enough, he'll start his 50th INDYCAR race. It's also your birthday, right, Santino?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: There's a lot going on today between the 50th start this weekend, the good finish, my birthday. My hands are gross. I'm mowing and doing yard work because I'm only home for one day before I turn around and go out to Detroit, so excuse me for being really sweaty. It's like 100 degrees over here in Texas.

THE MODERATOR: Driver of the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Sexton Properties Chevrolet joins us today. A few days to chill, or if you're not chilling you're doing your yard work. I'm sure you're still excited about everything coming out of the 500.

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, of course. I mean, it's one of those things to where I'm very happy with how everything went. We had a hell of a month. Couldn't have asked for a better day at the end, but also it could have been a hell of a lot worse, all things considered. So just very thankful for that.

I think it's pretty clear that we'll win that race one of these days. Yeah, excited to be home for a brisk 24 hours to mow my field, and then back to Detroit.

Q. Looking ahead to Detroit, obviously you've got some fond memories there, making your first start back in 2018, new circuit, a lot of different features to it. What are your thoughts heading into Detroit?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, I mean, honestly, hats off to the entire Detroit GP team, Bud Denker. That place looks phenomenal. We went in the wintertime to go check it out. I just got a picture of pit lane. Super excited for everything. Very happy to be going 200 miles an hour down Jefferson. I probably will buy a mouth guard at Dick's Sporting Goods before I head over there because it was still bumpy in the Tahoe that we took a hot lap in, so I can't imagine what it's going to be like in the INDYCAR.

Q. Obviously no one has driven the Detroit course yet, but have you had a chance to get in it on like a simulator? Do you have any thoughts on the layout and what it might race like?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: So we're actually one of the few teams that we don't have the simulator, just because it's so allotted to some of the top teams and they book their days out in advance. I actually won't be able to see it virtually or run it until we go to practice on Friday.

But having taken some laps there in the Tahoe, was definitely a lot of fun. They do have a much better suspension than the INDYCAR, though, and heated seats when we were there, so it was really nice.

Really looking forward to being back in Detroit. I am going to miss Belle Isle. That place has always been very special and very good to me, so kind of bummed I didn't get a shot to win that race again this year because we've been really close with Rahal in the past years and with Coyne before that.

Yeah, just have to make it happen on the new track.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on the split pit lane and how that might work?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I'm actually really excited. I think it's one of those things to where it's already chaotic enough in an INDYCAR to have the pit lane in Detroit the way it was, so to split it, it's going to be -- I think Max Papis is going to have a really rough two weeks with going from the 500 now to Detroit with the zero contact rule in pit lane. That one might have to get waived a little bit.

Outside of the INDY500, Santino Ferrucci second driving strength is considered to be street courses. Going into a new course for every driver with wide track surface, Ferrucci feels his chances are good at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2023)

Q. Obviously everybody talks about the Indy 500 hangover that can happen sometimes. You had a terrific month of May. Have you guys talked about that or has the team had any pep talks or sort of hey, how do we regroup and face the final 11 races this season?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I have to laugh because we were talking about the Detroit GP before we even ran the 500. Everything that we did leading into Indy, all that preparation was already done, so all we really did was drive the car and manipulate things. We actually had a really stressful Friday, which kind of put us -- wasn't great, but obviously Sunday being good, I've already sent in all my reports to the team. I have their reports.

No, I don't know, it's a really long week for me just because you have the 500, then you have everything to pack up and leave, because I don't live in Indy, then the banquet, and then I had to drive home 12 hours yesterday with my dogs. Then on top of that, getting home, birthday, having to basically cycle, reset and then jump on a flight early tomorrow morning.

It's kind of nonstop, so getting sleep is tough, but it's a lot of fun, and I like the energy of go, go, go, and I'm pretty sure the team does, too, at this point, and continuing that momentum.

We feel really confident with what we're gaining on our road and street course cars. We're almost there, so hopefully we'll continue being competitive inside the top 10.

Q. When I talked to you after the race Sunday, you were pretty sad. A lot of times people with a third-place finish in the Indy 500, you'd be pretty happy about that, but to be that close, how long did it take for you to kind of go from sad back to looking at the big picture?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I was happy about -- once we got into the press conference I was in a much better mood. I wouldn't necessarily call the emotion sad. It wasn't just like one particular thing when I got out of the car, and as everybody saw on national television I was basically crying. It's just one of those competitor things in you that there was so much riding on that race, and it was going so well up until that -- it finished really well.

When you have that kind of -- it wasn't just pressure to perform but emotional pressure to just be there and to know that we probably had that race won, had it gone yellow two seconds later, it's just kind of heartbreaking. But still, at the end of the day, you come home in third, to join Helio and one other driver, I believe it's Henry Fultz or Henry Hines, in five for five of your first five starts in top 10s, and then you really start to look at what you've accomplished at the 500 in your first five starts with four different teams and what you did with A.J. Foyt -- what we've done at AJ Foyt Racing, who hasn't had a podium or top 3 since the year 2000 at the speedway.

You know, there's so many positives, and that day could have been so much worse. We had so many close calls between pit lane and some of the crashes on track that at the end of the day I was just really, really happy to -- I went to bed that night knowing that I did the best I could, the team did the best they could, and that's the track.

Q. Do you believe you were more negatively impacted by that last red than Marcus because everybody says first and second can fight for the win, but third really can't?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: No. So the way that everything played out, the way that INDYCAR finished under green was 100 percent correct for the fans. It didn't affect anything for me. What affected me wasn't the red, it was the yellow.

So the second it went yellow, had it gone yellow two seconds later had they waited, which you can't wait when you're crashing, so there's nothing you can do, I was in third, I was about six inches behind Newgarden, and that's very clear in the video.

So at the end of the day, nothing changed for me. The fact that they actually went red and restarted the race gave me that opportunity to win again. I just didn't have a great restart because it's chaotic when you just go -- you've got to also remember there's no restart zone. At that point when you're going green for one lap, it was really cool to see the shootout, I'm not going to lie, but you know that they're going green, so you were literally at the hands of the leader on a completely random -- you could start going into 3 in the middle of 3 and 4 out of 4. He could start the race whenever he wanted to start the race instead of in the zone, so it was completely unpredictable.

He just had a really good jump, and I just -- I did not, so it took me out of the -- that's what took me out of the win at the end of the race. It had nothing to do with INDYCAR or the red in my opinion.

Q. Also, what was A.J. like after the race? He had a smile on his face for the whole month, considering the beginning of the month was one of the saddest months of his life, but between what you did and Benjamin Peterson, he was smiling all month at Indy. What was he like after the race?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I think he was really proud. There's truly two people that understood my emotions and felt my emotions on Sunday. A.J. was one, and Michael Cannon was the other. If you look at some of the photos from that day, you can kind of see it in my eyes, just -- you really have to have it in your hands and then lose it in your hands to kind of understand that feeling of when you work that hard. So you have to understand you're coming from a team with two cars, a budget that's a quarter of the size of Penske and Ganassi, and that's all month long. We wanted it probably that much more than everybody else that day.

To come up that short, A.J.'s finished second and third on dominant days in the '70s, and he talked about those races, where we had the car to win. We were by far the best car at the end of that race. Once the Team McLarens were out of it and the 10 car and the 21 had the incident in pit lane, that left us.

We were the car to win, and yeah, just sitting third knowing there's nothing you can do, after all that hard work, yeah, it's a feeling that very few people would understand.

But he was incredibly proud of I think what the organization accomplished. I'm very proud of Larry and what Larry has done with the team because Larry has had control of this team since 2007, and to see him get his first podium as a team boss and team owner at the speedway was huge.

I think everybody was incredibly proud of what we've accomplished.

Q. You were just talking about the unpredictability of those restarts. Do you think it would benefit if IMS had a restart zone like we see in NASCAR, and also, what do you think about the guys using the pit lane entry as they were coming up to the green and the checkered? Do you think using that's a little bit dangerous with the pit attenuator in play there?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah. Well, the restart zones, we do have one. It's not necessarily as clearly marked as NASCAR, so it's not terrible. It's just the way that they start the race, if the Hondas are starting it slower, the Chevies needed to start it a little faster, so the fact that Marcus started it slower, it was obviously huge to his advantage, and you saw that when he left.

As far as using the pit lane and using it towards the attenuator. I'll be perfectly honest, that's a driver's choice there. I wouldn't call a rule on it for track limits. At the end of the day they're going to risk their life if something happens and they hit it. That's on them.

I didn't personally go down there. I would be really nervous cutting the car down that low with that much momentum if something were to happen because you'd look like an absolute more on if you wrecked trying to go below the attenuator to break the draft. But their cars were really good.

No, you're going to do anything you can to win that race. I'm honestly surprised that it finished the way it did. Josef had a fantastic run at it, too, and Marcus was able to completely clear him before going into 2, which is good.

Q. Going to Detroit, obviously your last street race on Long Beach was pretty stout. With cannon coming across from Ganassi on your road and street program, where do you see you're at with stuff like damper programs and stuff like that? Do you feel you're getting stronger?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: So our damper program, to be honest, is about a decade behind. We are slowly working towards improving it. If you look everywhere we've started, we've been about two seconds off the pace, closed the gap off to a couple of 10ths.

The issue that we have is the way that we can move forward in a timely fashion. So we are building what we can at the shop, adjusting, adjusting, adjusting, playing catch-up at the track until we run out of adjustment.

Long Beach we had a great race car, but we didn't really have anything better than I believe we finished 11th. We didn't really have anything better than that.

Moving forward, I think that we're building off of that slowly. We obviously need to qualify the car. We haven't qualified in the last two races because of electrical issues. So not great. Doesn't help when you're fighting in the midfield that's as competitive as it is.

We will get there. I'll say with the 500 being done, all of our attention will now be on the road course and street course program. Michael has been working diligently with a couple of the other engineers on making sure that the 500 was going to be as sound as it was. That just shows what we were able to do with a couple of months of preparation.

I'm excited to see what we have now, knowing that we're going to take that car, put a cover on it, full focus on everything else this year.

Q. Any good overtaking spots on this track?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Jefferson is going to be very interesting. They still needed to rework it. They needed to rework the track again after they go through winter because the winters are really rough. But it was rather bumpy. It will be kind of interesting to see the lines.

The straight is longer than the one at the GP. The GP, you do have a lot of passing at the end of that straight going into the hairpin or the first turn. I think, yes, it will provide for some great racing. I hope we have a great strategy race like we did on Belle Isle. I think that was our best street course race as far as entertainment goes. I'm hoping the new Detroit track lives up to that.

Q. I was talking to Larry just ahead of the Indy 500. He was saying how he's really enjoyed having Michael join the organization. What do you think his contribution has been so far? What do you think he can do going on for the rest of the season, including helping you guys in Detroit?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, so the way that Michael puts it, it's called Racing 101 in his eyes. It's basically a way to organize things.

The setups on these cars throughout the paddock are almost all the same. Everybody is similar as far as diffs, geometry, roll centers, ride high, aero. So there's nothing special going on there.

Mike is just trying to bring in some of his knowledge obviously from years past. Obviously having worked with him before, the thing with dampers is that every place is very different, every place has there own custom way of doing things and getting things done.

Mike is just trying to work out with my race engineer how to best get the dampers to suit the car for my driving style. We are getting closer every time we get to the track. I'm just excited to hopefully be able to show if we do get it right what we can do on a road and street course.

Q. A.J. referred to you as the funny looking kid. Off the track, you're a rising start, be the next big thing. Tell us what you're doing to try to handle the pressures of being a celebrity off the track?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I wouldn't necessarily call myself a celebrity off the track.

What's cool with driving for A.J., driving the 14, one of the things I really appreciate Larry for doing this is letting me be myself. I get to kind of be who I want to be, completely unfiltered, just enjoy my life and enjoy being a race car driver, which is a lot of fun.

With that obviously driving the 14 has actually made me more popular than I was expecting because we're also doing really well. I just want to make A.J. happy. I just also really want to get this program going for Larry.

We're as much friends as he is my boss. We're just having a great time. We love being there. Just as long as we're having fun, I think we'll be competitive as well, just kind of that mental adage: we don't feel like we're really working even though we're one of the hardest-working teams on the grid.

Q. You talked about the finish of the race, the red flag, you took the white flag, then race for the victory. You talked about NASCAR with the green-white-checkered. Indy races by the miles. What would your thoughts be if that race would have ended under a green-white-checkered?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I don't know. I mean, that's kind of funny to say Indy races under miles, because so does NASCAR, and NASCAR does green-white-checkered. Sometimes they don't finish under 600 miles, sometimes it's 620 miles. That would change up the strategy, because you would have a lot of fuel saving things 'cause the cars are so much more calculated than the NASCAR where you fill the tank, send it, you're normally fine at the end of the race.

We're calculated to run out at exactly 500 miles. It would change the dynamic of the race completely if you did something like that.

Would it be fun? Yeah. Would it be strange? Very. I think it could also be kind of dangerous because our tires wear fast. Every time we pull our tires when we were at the end of a stint, they were basically toast, zero wear left, almost on the cords. If you're going on extra 10 laps per se on these old tires, you risk so much more than what the reward is.

I think it would be fun to do at a track like Iowa 'cause it's a short track, not necessarily Indy.

THE MODERATOR: How much land are we talking that you're mowing here?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Only a third of an acre on a push mower, though. Very old school. My fiancée thought I was crazy when I bought this thing at Home Depot. You're going to mow the lawn once and pay somebody to do it. Nope, I'm sticking to it. Very committed.

Street courses may be the key for Santino Ferrucci and Rookie - who was also named INDY500 Rookie Of The Year qualifying P11 and finishing P21 - Benjamin Pederson's success through the rest of 2923. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2023)

Q. You are good on road courses. You say the team is now truly focused on the balance of the season. Do both you and Ben feel the same about going into this next weekend here?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, I mean, I don't know what we're going to get. We're making another adjustment into the correct direction. It's not like we're going back to Indy GP just yet where we have an idea how to change the car.

We are heading in the direction that we want to. Whether we get there when we roll out or we get there throughout the weekend is going to be kind of up to us to push the engineers in the right direction.

Also you don't really know what you're getting with the street course because it is kind of new for everybody. It's a hard one.

But I do feel more confident and comfortable going into this road course than I have St. Pete and Long Beach.

Q. I would like to ask you about your race, very good race. How do you rate your race and your team on a scale of 1 to 10 and why?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Oh, man, honestly it was a 9.5. You're just missing the win with the rings. Everybody performed flawlessly all month long. We were fast come Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Friday we had a hiccup, which was interesting, but we recovered really well going into Sunday.

Even the way we picked our race downforce, ran the race, I mean, all the way from the safe on the last pit stop with catching the tire before it rolled out into pit lane, all those things, you're looking at a well-strategized basically perfectly executed 500 run with the exception of the last red flag.

It's very hard to say that there's much that I would have changed throughout that month.

Q. What is more important to you, this third place on the 500 or win another race of the calendar?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: The third at this 500 was really important to me. I think it was my first INDYCAR podium. It was something that we really needed to see for the sponsors, for ABC, for Homes For Troops. It's really hard to knock this finishing in the top three of this race for anything else.

Obviously still elusive to my first win. Would have been pretty cool to happen at the Speedway to have my first win in the series there of all places. I think we definitely will have opportunities to win some races later this year, especially races like Iowa and Gateway because I do think we have a solid oval program.

Yeah, no, hopefully I get that checked off the list as well. That third at Indy is going to be something I cherish for a long time.

Q. You mentioned A.J. was maybe one of a couple people that understood what you were going through after the race. What did he say to you? Did he have any really wise words for you?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I mean, he just said he was really proud of me, really happy with what we accomplished. He said third is honestly not that bad in the big picture of things. Having himself finishing third numerous times, second, I think he knows that I'll win this race, and he knows that I work really hard.

It's just one of those things, basically you did everything you could. I drove one hell of a race. It's a lot to be positive on. There's nothing to be disappointed about. To just move on forward, we got the rest of the season, come back next year and attempt to do it again.

Q. Anything could have happened. Third is not bad.


Q. By association a lot of people put A.J. Foyt and Tony Stewart in kind of the same conversation. Did Tony before the race or after the race reach out to you to say anything about the race?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Funny enough, his dad. I'm actually pretty close to his dad, too. Tony is probably pretty busy with the Coke 600 and all that. I know he watched. I actually do need to reach out to him and see what he's doing.

I grew up watching him, idolizing him. Because A.J. is a little bit pre my time. Just to carry on that 14, I don't want to say it's that persona that comes with it because I am myself and my own person, but I do think I fit the 14 very well.

I'm still missing a few race wins and championships, but I'm sure we'll get there.

Q. I want to talk about this track. You mentioned nobody has raced on it. You mentioned you have no sim experience on this. What differences are you expecting heading into this weekend compared to Belle Isle? Is there any differences you're expecting from looking at the track layout?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, I think this track is actually going to run a little bit more like Long Beach in a sense than Belle Isle. Belle Isle is challenging because it was multiple different types of pavement, concrete, old stuff, new stuff. It was like a blend of everything. Versus this track, they repaved most of the city, changed everything.

This is actually a pretty wide street course, believe it or not. This is going to be really fast. Might run more like a race that was pre my time in this series, might run more like Baltimore or Houston.

I'm excited for the dual pit lane. I haven't seen that before. I think that will really change things up. I just hope we get the race distance right with the strategy. I trust Firestone to do the right thing with the tires so we have some tire deg as well, which is kind of huge.

There's so many unknowns going into this event, the one thing we know will be different is pits.

Q. As a driver, you try to focus on yourself heading into a weekend. Will you be keeping an eye on the INDY NXT to get an idea how the track races?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Yeah, we'll probably definitely watch the series that are with us that weekend to get an idea because you'll be able to see the bumps. Those cars are sports cars. The INDY NXT series are low cars. It's just one of those things that where our tire compounds are so different to everybody else, it will be unique in a sense.

It will be cool to see how people are passing each other.

Q. It looks like a fast layout. Are you expecting a fuel saving race this weekend or do you think it's going to be a flat-out race from start to finish?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: I actually don't know. I think it can go either way. To be honest with you, when we ran Nashville, Nashville was just such a chaotic race for everybody because it was a new track, but also it's almost like really (indiscernible) type of how small that track is for our cars. They didn't make that mistake with Detroit. It's wide open, a massive track.

I think it's going to be a fantastic race. I don't know if fuel saving is going to play a part. That's kind of like INDYCAR, cars are running for a number. That's kind of what made Detroit an interesting fuel race. If you can make the alternate tire last, and if you can make it in two stops, but you're making a pretty hefty fuel number.

I'll be curious to see what we get for mileage and what we predict. Then again it's always different, we don't know the track, but it should be a lot of fun.

Q. Podium is a pretty big landmark in your INDYCAR career. Looking back, how much do you feel you've progressed as a driver? Do you think each time you changed teams has helped you learn different things off people?

SANTINO FERRUCCI: Europe, they don't change the car. You show up in a team, Hey, go drive this. We'll change the front sway bar a little bit. They don't adapt. It was tough for me as a driver because I like a very loose race car.

No, going through all the different teams in INDYCAR has definitely helped me. Being part-time for a couple years definitely hurt a little bit compared to some of the full-time drivers having progressed. We were really starting to become a good racer during the Rahal year.

I think things were starting to click for me in my third season. To have another full-time season, it was a bit off the back foot to start, but I'm definitely getting back to where I was really comfortable like I was in '21. I'm driving a lot better.

I think I make a lot of good decisions on track, too, to finish these races. My rookie year, I did have three fourth-place finishes. I've been really close to the podium a bunch of times. So to finally check that off the list, especially at the Indy Speedway, it was huge. Next one is the win for me.

Continuing on the trajectory that I am, I'll definitely be able to accomplish that this year. Just hoping to be in the right place at the right time because it's just one of those things where the series is so competitive that even though we're really good at the 500, we ran up front all day, you still don't win the race. You have to remember you have to do the same type of race at every other track because they're all very long, they're all very tough, and there's always about 10 or 12 cars that can show up to win.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

This weekend's first time downtown street course race, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, marks the balance of what is now an eleven race championship season and the world begins anew for many drivers ... but the spotlight will be clearly focused on the fortunes of Santino Ferrucci in the No. 14 and Benjamin Pederson in the No. 55 both powered by the naming sponsor Chevrolet of AJ Foyt Racing as led by Technical Director Michael Cannon.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which will be held on the streets of downtown Detroit, marks the return of NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing to the city after a hiatus since 1991 - on a completely new temporary circuit. The event will be broadcast on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 4, with a simulstream available on Peacock. Fans can also follow the race through various radio coverage options, including the INDYCAR Radio Network, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 160, and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85. Additionally, live coverage will be accessible on and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.

... notes from The EDJE


TAGS: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, INDY500, Santino Ferrucci, Michael Cannon, AJ Foyt Racing, Craig Baranouski, ZOOM Call, NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Chevrolet, The EDJE

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Month Of May Has Honda Driver Katherine Legge Involved In A Major Balancing Act

British born driver Katherine Legge will be pulling double duty in the month of May driving in her season commitment in sportscars for Gradient Racing with an added task of taking on the 2023 "Greatest Spectacle In Racing" with Rahal Letterman Lanigan at IMS. Here Katherine attends a luncheon at the Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach with AJ Foyt Racing's Santino Ferrucci looking on. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2023)

Month Of May Has Honda Driver Katherine Legge Involved In A Major Balancing Act

During a  ZOOM Call with the members of the Motorsports Press, Katherine Legge, co-driver with Sheena Monk of the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3, was captured leaving her orientation meetings with Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) engineers at the new RLL home facility located in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was preparing to drive a fourth car for the team, powered by Honda engines, to run in the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Next weekend she will be in the Monterey Bay area to drive in the WeatherTech Championship's fourth race of the IMSA sportscar season - Motul Course de Monterey Powered By Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. A race that is scheduled to be run for 2 hours and 40 minutes on the famed 2.238 mile, 11 turn road course challenge this Sunday, May 14, 2023.

In the course of a ZOOM Call that included fellow GTD Class racer Trent Hindman, co-driver of the No. 77 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and GTP Class racers GTP Class Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 Connor De Phillippi, co-driver of the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8, 

Katherine Legge ZOOM Call Intro Walk From RLL Indianapolis

Katherine shared just how many differences and changes to her life as a driver, brand representative, and team member across the two major North American racing series and sanctioning bodies. 

Not too much of a tall order for the Guildford, Surrey, England born racer who last ran in her third attempt of the INDY 500 about one decade ago. Said Katherine of this other driving duty for this month of May, "Racing at Indy with an INDY 500-winning team and with Honda is an amazing opportunity and one I am very grateful for and intend to make the most of."

Motorsports Journal was able to ask questions of the gathered drivers and we pick up the IMSA WeatherTech Championship initiated ZOOM Call at 21:20 of a 47:00 minute session.

The first question had to do with the track dynamic differences in racing with the new GTP Class hybrid cars on the track - what were the recognized differences?

Some of the most interesting information that Ms. Legge shared was the differences in the button location of communications and pitstops on the steering wheels of the WeatherTech Championship GTD Class Acura sportscar and the Dallara DW12 Honda-Powered NTT INDYCAR - they are in the completely reversed positions - this will be fun.

Since the advent of AI and its use in crafting the responses to questions posed in articles, ChatGPT (no, not GTP) was used to find out what this tool had to produce on the following set-up query:

WeatherTech Sportscar Championship GTP and GTD Class cars release from pitlane for the first practice session at the 48th Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2023) 

User - from the text placed at the description of the posted ZOOM Call Video

Motul Course de Monterey Powered By Hyundai N Driver Preview Interview 

The fourth race of the season and the last race that will feature professional race cars on the worn pavement surface that gave the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca some of its personality. Many drivers observed that the low-grip nature of the track surface had the track be one that favored drivers over the technical set-up of the race car, a little like racing go-karts as opposed to working a race as though it was a video game.

In this ZOOM Call interview session, drivers from the new GTP Class and the GTD Class share their thoughts before the race weekend - May 12-14, 2023.

GTP Class
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06
Connor De Phillippi, co-driver of the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8

GTD Class
Katherine Legge, co-driver of the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3
Trent Hindman, co-driver of the No. 77 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R

These select drivers answer questions from the press to preview the upcoming Motul Course de Monterey Powered By Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, May 12-14, 2023. NBC’s live coverage of the 2h40m race begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Press: What are your thoughts on the upcoming race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, particularly with it being the last race featuring professional race cars on the current track surface?

Ricky Taylor: Laguna Seca is always a special track for me, and it's sad to see the current track surface go. But I'm looking forward to making the most of the last opportunity to race on it with the Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06. The low-grip surface can be a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity for drivers to shine, so it should be an exciting race.

Connor De Phillippi: It's definitely going to be bittersweet racing on the old track surface for the last time, but I'm excited to see how our BMW M Hybrid V8 performs on it. Laguna Seca is a classic circuit, and it always provides a unique challenge, so I'm looking forward to the weekend.

Katherine Legge: I'm thrilled to be racing at Laguna Seca again, and it's always a special track for me. It's a shame to see the current surface go, but I'm excited to see what the future holds. As for the race itself, the low-grip nature of the track can be tricky, but the Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 should be up to the challenge.

Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R as it swings through Turn2 on the way to the Fountain Turn at the Long Beach Grand Prix temporary street course during the 48th Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2023)

Trent Hindman: I always enjoy racing at Laguna Seca, and I'm looking forward to the weekend. The Porsche 911 GT3 R is well-suited to the track, and I'm confident that we'll be competitive. The low-grip surface can be a challenge, but it's one that we're ready to tackle.

Press: What do you think are the strengths of your race car for this track?

Ricky Taylor: The Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 has great handling, which should be a big advantage on the low-grip surface. We also have a strong engine, so we should be able to make up any ground we lose in the corners on the straights.

Connor De Phillippi: The BMW M Hybrid V8 has excellent traction and stability, which should serve us well at Laguna Seca. We also have a lot of power, so we should be able to make up time on the straights.

Katherine Legge: The Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 has great balance and stability, which should be a big asset on the low-grip surface. We also have a lot of experience racing at Laguna Seca, so we should be able to use that to our advantage.

Trent Hindman: The Porsche 911 GT3 R is well-suited to the technical demands of Laguna Seca. We have great handling and braking, which should allow us to make up time in the corners. We also have a strong engine, which should help us on the straights.

Press: How do you plan to approach this race, and what are your goals for the weekend?

Ricky Taylor: Our goal is always to win, and we'll be pushing hard to make that happen. But we also need to be smart and make sure we maximize our points haul. It's a long season, and every point counts, so we need to be consistent.

Connor De Phillippi: Our goal is to have a strong weekend and be in the mix for the win. We'll be looking to qualify well and put ourselves in a good position for the race. But we also need to be mindful of the championship and make sure we score as many points as possible.

Katherine Legge: Our goal is to be competitive and fight for the win. We know we have a strong car and a great team, so we're confident that we can be in the mix

So, there it is ... a recorded questions & answers report via a posted ZOOM Call Video and a faked up set of responses via Artificial Intelligence - all most informative and interesting but one would be smart to listen to actual answers to actual questions posed in the embedded video above. 

Ahhhhhh, the analog life. Can not run merit-based racing competitions without it - no shortcuts here.

,,, notes from The EDJE


TAGS: ZOOM Call, Artificial Intelligence, Motul Course de Monterey Powered By Hyundai N, Honda Acura, BMW, Porsche, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, The EDJE

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Alexander Rossi As Two-Time Winner Previews The 2023 Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach

During Content Days where the NTT INDYCAR SERIES sets up to capture photo and video content for the series to use throughout the year, on the web and broadcast production, Alexander Rossi spends about 20 minutes with the gathered Press in attendance at the Palm Springs Convention Center where he was introduced for the first time in an Arrow McLaren colors fire suit. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks

Alexander Rossi As Two-Time Winner Previews The 2023 Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach

Alexander Rossi, the first year driver of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, is one of two California natives (the other is former teammate Andretti Autosport's Colton Herta) who are expected to compete in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16. 

Rossi is a two-time winner (and a two-time NTT P1 Pole Award winner) on the streets of Long Beach, achieving both marks in 2018 and 2019. 

We are pleased to spend some time with former Formula 1 aspirant and 2016 INDY 500 winner, his first win in an INDYCAR ... Alexander Rossi.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES News Conference - Alexander Rossi
Preview On Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody. Glad you're here. Another race week here in 2023. 2023 resumes this Sunday on the beautiful streets of Long Beach for another edition of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of the longest running races on the schedule outside of, of course, the Indy 500.

Few have had the type of success that Alexander Rossi has had on the streets of Long Beach. Back-to-back wins, back-to-back poles, 2018 and 2019. Driver of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet joins us today after a visit to the White House and the annual Easter egg hunt yesterday.

I got to ask you about the Easter egg hunt. How cool was that?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: It was awesome, man. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. When the opportunity presented itself to go to the White House, like why wouldn't you? I had also never been to D.C. before, so I got kind of spoiled on my first trip there.

No, just an amazing event for not only INDYCAR to be there but for all of some 30,000 kids that got the opportunity to kind of learn about their favorite sports and kind of the physical and mental aspect that it takes to get into that sport.

We were sandwiched between the NFL and the MLB, so pretty great company for INDYCAR to be around. I think it was a pretty amazing activation that we had in terms of having the show car there, Jim Leo from PitFit Training there, a little bit of a glimpse into what it's like. I think we definitely created some new race fans. It was really exciting to be a part of.

THE MODERATOR: You're from California, won a couple times at Long Beach. How much are you looking forward to leading Arrow McLaren there this coming weekend?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, man. I say it all the time, outside the Indy 500 I think this is one of our flagship races if not the flagship race. It's always such an amazing event from not only an entertainment on-and-off-the-track standpoint but a turnout standpoint. The fans there are passionate, they're incredibly knowledgeable about the sport, there's obviously a huge amount of history that exists with that city and that track.

Jim Michaelian and his whole group do an amazing job for us every year. Real excited to get back there. As you mentioned, we've had some success there in the past. With the new team and the momentum that the Arrow McLaren group has at the moment, we're very much looking forward to the weekend.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Could you give us an idea of how different you feel the setups are between St. Pete and Long Beach, how much confidence you take from the pace you had in St. Pete, whether you think that's going to apply to Long Beach.

ALEXANDER ROSSI: They are different. I think St. Pete's borderline getting to the point where it's almost a road course, it's so smooth and the grip level is what it is. I think you definitely take a little bit of a different approach there than you do other street courses.

Yeah, there are obviously some similarities. I think as a whole, obviously I didn't drive the car last year, but I think the team has taken a step forward in terms of the street course program. I think Chevrolet has made monumental steps, especially coming from 2021, their evolution of '22, then again a step this year.

I think it's going to be the normal competitive obviously qualifying and race. I think your normal participants are going to be fighting for pole. It's going to take perfect execution from everyone and exciting to see how it shakes out.

Q. What is your level of excitement being inside the team? You've had two races under your belt, where is your mind at? How do you feel with this team settling in now?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, for sure we're two races, but also only two races, right? It's still early days.

I think the entire atmosphere and the positivity within the team is obvious from the outside. I think the cohesiveness that they were able to keep and also the continuity of adding a third car, the people we've talked about many times, it's a testament to everyone there from the top all the way to the bottom.

It's a real privilege and joy to be part of that team every single week. I think we're only going to get stronger as time goes on.

Q. You mentioned Chevy feel good on a street course. Is it a different feel inside the car, torque? What is different coming from a Honda to Chevrolet now?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: I mean, again, I can't speak for what it was like. I think they had a huge focus on the bottom-end drivability side of things. Even when it was a challenge, they were still obviously very successful. Even when it was difficult in '21, they were still winning races.

Again, it's very hard to have that big of a difference when the engine architecture is similar or the same, and the rules have been around for so long, everyone kind of follows to the same point.

But, yes, there are still subtle differences. It's kind of about maximizing the strengths and weaknesses of each engine, right? Honda might go about that a different way than Chevy does. For us as drivers, me making the transition from one to the other, you've got to understand the areas that the Chevy is working in a better range, and you got to focus on those areas to make sure you maximize the performance available.

Q. What about street course races makes you jump to another level? Do you treat these races differently?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: I won Pocono, and that's not a really big race (laughter). Pretty random actually.

It's obviously cool to be able to have success in those types of races. But, no, it's all the same. If you're fortunate enough to get it right on that day, it's cool.

Alexander Rossi rides around Thermal during the Open Winter Test in his new colors ride provided by Arrow McLaren with Chevrolet power. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2023)

Q. How crucial in INDYCAR, seems like milliseconds separate a gap from first to 10th, is pit selection? This week you're pitting third. Do you have any input? Is there a study behind that?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, it really depends on the track. For example, Long Beach, you want to be towards the front. I assume everyone knows, but if you don't know, it goes in order of qualifying. For example, Felix got to pick first at Long Beach based on Texas, then down the qualifying order.

For Long Beach it's important to be in the front in terms of pit selection just so that when you're leaving to go to practice, qualifying sims, whatever, you have as much clear track in front of you as possible.

For the ovals it's a pretty big advantage to have an open in just because of the way the cross weight is set up, you can carry more speed into the pit box. On a track where we have a lot of cars and a small pit lane, at Mid-Ohio or Toronto, an open in or open out is kind of the preferred choice. You'll see guys, even if they qualify third, they'll choose the 15th box because it's an open in or open out.

Indy is a little bit similar, but there's the added superstition that goes into that. There's metrics that are run on these pit boxes historically have been the most successful. There's really no rhyme or reason to it other than odds. That's kind of what goes into it.

It's a little bit of everything.

Q. You have teammates around you, is there a reason you guys chose between Dixie and Josef?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: No, I mean, I think that was the order of qualifying. It went Felix, Scott, me, Josef, which just shows how important track position is.

Again, track position is that important that we all wanted to be up front. It's the order of qualifying.

Q. What do you put down to your success in Long Beach? Do you think the track suits your driving style or just a track you enjoy?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: I don't know. I don't have an answer for you. I think for me it's always an exciting event there in Laguna. It's a home race in the sense that I'm from California. I always have a lot of friends and family turn out that come. I think everyone kind of gets a little bit of a subconscious boost and a little bit extra motivation. We hear Josef talk all the time about how much he'd love to win Nashville, his home race. That sort of exists.

Beyond that, I've been fortunate to have good cars there and it's a track that suits my driving style. It's pretty medium- to high-speed corners. There's only one and the fountain that are slow-speed corners, so you can make time up from that standpoint.

Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit of everything. If I had an answer for you, I'd probably win every race. I don't think it comes down to just one thing. It's a combination of things that work out ending up to be in your favor.

Q. Do you think traffic is going to be a big issue?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: At this point with the grid size we have, it's an issue every weekend, aside from really Road America or Road America (laughter). That's just the nature of it. It's the same for everyone. You manage it as best you can.

For sure at some point throughout the weekend you're going to get caught up in it. Everyone is. You just hope it's not on a super critical part of the session.

Q. Qualifying is important at almost every race, but it seems like the leader is really favored at Long Beach. Does that make Saturday's qualifications one of the more important ones of the season?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, for sure. I think you're right: every qualifying is very critical, but especially Long Beach because the way it works out, it's a two-stop race, pretty straightforward two-stop race.

There's not many yellows. It's a pretty clean race, historically speaking. The leader doesn't really get hung out by a close pit situation type of thing.

Yeah, I mean, it's very important to start in the top two or three I think if you're going to want to try to win that race.

Q. A couple of the wins you had there, once you were out front, it was smooth sailing. Before you caught the end of the field, did it feel like you were on a qualifying run?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, it's an easy two-stop race. Everyone is kind of flat out from the drop of the green. The tire life is usually pretty good there. There's not a whole lot of strategy or saving, like, different fuel. Everyone does the same thing, so you can push pretty hard from the green.

Q. As far as the vibe, it's one of a kind, southern California, fans turn out for it. Celebrities, glitz, glamour. Is it always one of those where you're not only excited about racing but just excited to be there?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, 100% right. It's an awesome event. It's one of those ones where you feel kind of like a Super Hero when you get to go do driver introductions. It's annoying sometimes how busy pit lane is, but that's just a testament to the excitement and energy that exists at that track.

It's certainly one that we try and model as many of our street courses after it. I think St. Pete comes close. Nashville comes close. I think Detroit this year is going to be phenomenal.

Yes, the pedigree it has in terms of its history, just the location, all of the extracurricular activities that you can find throughout the weekend just makes it pretty unique.

Q. Next week you switch gears and it's the two-day open test for the Indy 500. How important is it to have everything sorted before you hit the track in May?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, it's hugely important. That's a really good time to really understand. Everyone has been working on their speedway cars probably since June 1st of last year. It's such small details that add up to make a really big difference at Indy.

April is a good opportunity for you to get an understanding of what your car is lacking, and also the areas where it's strong. Then you have a couple weeks. It's not much time. You have a couple weeks to really dive into why maybe there's a deficit to a teammate or to another car, whatever, and resolve that.

It's a great test for us as drivers. Great test for the team. Then obviously it's great to get fans out there and start to see cars on track at the greatest track in the world.

Q. You've talked about Long Beach being an easy two-stopper. For you as a driver, it must be better than the fuel-saving races.

ALEXANDER ROSSI: I kind of am of the opinion that we could make Long Beach a little bit longer so you have the two options. Some of our best races are when you have guys on a fuel save two-stop, other guys on a flat-out three-stop race trying to make up that pit lane difference.

It's been this length for a long time. It's put on some great shows. Colton, I think it was '21 or '20, where he started 14th and ended up winning, no yellows to help him.

If you have a strong car, like always in INDYCAR, you can usually have a pretty good result. But yes, in the perfect world we'd probably extend it a little bit, but that's for people that are paid more than me, so we'll leave it to them.

Q. You are in your eighth season of INDYCAR. Is it something you could imagine when you came back from Europe into INDYCAR? Maybe something that surpasses your wildest dreams?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, I certainly didn't realize that I would have the longevity that I've had so far. Obviously very thankful for that. It doesn't feel like eight years, but there you go.

Yeah, I mean, obviously I think it surprised everyone. I talked about it at length. Surprised everyone, including myself, the fact that we were able to do what we did in 2016 at the 500. Yeah, I've been very fortunate to have the amount of time in the series that I have had.

There's still a lot of things left that I'd like to accomplish. That's really all we're focusing on right now.

Q. With the variety of cars that run at Long Beach, how does it impact on how the track rubbers in for the INDYCAR guys?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, that's a good question.

Last year was a weird one. They put a sealant down, the city did. The track grip was, like, insane from lap one of practice one. The other running of the other cars didn't really change anything because the grip level started incredibly high anyways. Pole was a new record, crazy fast all weekend.

Usually it's a really beneficial thing because it starts out as a very low grip, green surface, because it hasn't been use as a racetrack in a year. Having all the different stuff, especially IMSA on track, really speeds up the evolution of the track.

I don't know what it's going to be like this year, if that sealant will still have that effect or if it's worn off after California got pummeled with rain for seemingly five months. I don't know. We'll have to see. Usually it's a good thing in terms of getting the cars up to speed.

Q. Looking more towards the month of May, you've come from a team that's run four or five cars at the 500, you mentioned McLaren have geared up to take on your car. Going into Indy with four cars, do you feel the team is in a good position to be able to cope with the number of cars they're now running?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, 100%. We have a lot of people, like, a significant amount of people. I don't think that's any concern of anyone.

Obviously numbers aren't everything. You got to make sure that they're the right people in the right positions. I think the team has done a very good job. We have access to a lot of people from the McLaren F1 side of things in terms of testing, so they're very skilled mechanics. I think Tony is in great hands.

Yeah, I don't foresee it being any issue whatsoever.

Q. Since McLaren joined INDYCAR in 2020, I think this is the best car we seen they give to you. How important it is for the sport of the season have this Long Beach race which you actually won twice, how important is it to have the Long Beach Grand Prix as opportunity to get into the championship mix?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, every race is important. But, yes, obviously you highlight the tracks that you've been historically good at, either for yourself or team perspective. It was a missed opportunity for two of the cars in Texas with very fast race cars not ending up getting a result.

I think you're correct in saying that the program that the team has this year and the performance of the cars has been really strong through the first two races. There's no reason to not think that that won't continue.

Yeah, we're excited about Long Beach. We feel very confident in what we have, what we can do there. It's just about hoping a couple things go your way and you can come out of there with a strong result.

Q. How are things with Kyle after the Texas incident?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: I mean, that's a long time ago now. So it's all behind us.

Q. This is the first full season you've been competing against Pato. Now you're in the same team. How impressed are you by his ability and speed? Do you think he's right now the toughest driver to beat in INDYCAR?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, I think everyone's been impressed with Pato since day one that he came into the series. I think his speed was obvious. Obviously he's very exciting to watch from his in-car videos. I think his nickname is the Ninja or whatever.

He's very good. I didn't have to be on his team to realize that. I think the three of us are pushing each other very hard. It's important that we have three cars kind of at the front every single weekend. That's the goal of the team. That's what McLaren as a brand expects and demands from us.

Quite honestly, Pato, you could argue, he maybe should have two wins to start the year. He's done a very, very good job. It's going to be a fun remaining 15 races with him and everyone else.

Everyone at this level is pretty good. I think you can pick 10 guys that are hard to beat every single weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Are you worried about Kanaan and Pato together during the month of May? They're pretty similar, aren't they?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: I don't think anyone's really the same as Pato. He's very unique (smiling).

Yeah, I mean, they're both South American, highly energized and excited about seemingly everything (smiling).

Q. You've driven for the greatest names in all of motorsports. You're considered one of the best race car drivers on the planet. Can you put into words what it means to race for Arrow McLaren?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: First of all, thank you (smiling).

It's amazing. This year is the 60th anniversary of McLaren being founded as a race team. To be able to kind of be a part of that and be in history at one point a part of all of the great drivers that have gotten the opportunity to drive for this brand, it's something very, very special. It's something that I don't take lightly. I take a lot of pride in. It certainly forces all of us that kind of wear (indiscernible) to elevate ourselves on and off the track.

It's an honor, but obviously there's responsibility that comes along with it.

Q. As a race car driver, how do you feel ending a race under caution?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: It's a tough one. I think INDYCAR does races on distance. I think that is an important thing to remember, especially when you're comparing it to other championships. You can't necessarily, because of the circumstance, just change the distance of a race because you want to see a certain finish.

I think INDYCAR in the past has done a really good job at red flagging races when there is enough laps, once the cleanup is over, to kind of go through the restart process, whatever the correct terminology for that is.

For example, at Texas, it was one lap. Even if they red flagged it, there wasn't enough laps left to get the field around and do a restart. That was a tough situation. I think obviously everyone would have liked to see it go green to the finish. Pato would obviously have liked that as well. It wasn't meant to be. That's just racing sometimes.

Q. How are you feeling from the mileage you've done on the new tires? Does the info you get from the tires get shared within the team or do you provide some feedback to the manufacturer, as well?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: So all of the above. At the end of every weekend we kind of have a debrief, every driver and team I believe has a debrief with Firestone, kind of going through the pros and cons of the primary and the alternate, what needs to be adjusted for the future. I think they take that into account, not for 2023, but certainly for 2024.

Yeah, I mean, using the tires in practice, there's usually a pretty big grip increase that comes on the alternate that you got to make an adjustment to the balance of the car so you can't just go out with the same race car, put softer tires on, expect to maximize it. You've got to change something. Usually you're trying to figure out how big the offset needs to be.

I think Firestone has done an amazing job in the sense that we have a sustainable tire that really produces the same level of performance as a non-sustainable tire. I think that was proved in Nashville last year, and that's why we're using them on all the street courses this year. I think it's a huge step for INDYCAR, huge step for Firestone, something we should all be very proud to be a part of.

Q. You have been successful at Long Beach with Andretti. With McLaren, how do you feel with a new team for this weekend?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: We're still learning as we go at this point. Yeah, I mean, I think based on St. Pete, I think based on the fact that I think Felix was in the top six in qualifying last year, their cars are good.

Certainly there is a step we need to make to be as strong as Andretti or Penske I think on the street courses in general. But I think we're close. I think we have just as good of a shot as anyone this weekend.

Q. You've been with Formula 1 before. You know what it's like to travel internationally with a team. How do you feel about INDYCAR going to Argentina and how will it benefit INDYCAR as a whole to go international?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Yeah, I mean, I think as drivers we all would love to see not only international races but still an expanded calendar, right? I think certainly the interest that exists from Argentina, as you mentioned, obviously from Mexico, makes a very strong case to have races in a place like that.

But there's a lot of factors other than just wanting to do it, right? I actually was talking about this with someone earlier today, talking about adding a race that we used to go to in the States. It's like you can talk and dream and think it's going to be this great idea, but you got to actually go out there and buy tickets, show up. You can't just say it's a great idea.

I think there is momentum building. I think there is an interest that exists that we certainly are looking to exploit, but there's a lot of different factors that go into it.

I look forward to seeing how it goes. But certainly Argentina and Mexico with the interest we've seen there in the past 12 months, it's certainly on the top of the list.

Q. Have you had any sort of change of opinion in terms of pit lane incident in Texas, how that played out? You made it clear you thought it was Kyle's fault.

ALEXANDER ROSSI: No change of opinion. I think hopefully we can, as a series, learn about communication and continuity, just take lessons from it. It's a shame to have situations exist and not really learn anything from it.

It's something that we all talked about at length. At the end of the day it's history now. We just got to make sure going forward everyone is on the same page.

Q. Looking back at St. Pete, there was a couple of incidents where cars were airborne. Going into another street course, do you think the street courses could be widened or changed in any way to avoid situations where cars have nowhere to go but up?

ALEXANDER ROSSI: That's a good question, good observation. Obviously there's airborne cars in Texas, too.

But, yeah, I think racing is dangerous. I think INDYCAR has done a really good job at putting driver safety, team safety at the forefront of what they do.

I think we've all seen the images of - who was the red car - Benjamin, we've seen the images of his car, kind of all the impact marks that went up the aeroscreen.

Everyone, despite the magnitude of that incident, walked away totally fine. I think that just goes to show that these cars are safe and the advancements that we've made have not been for nothing.

But, yeah, racing is always going to have risk to it. That's just a part of life. Everything you do has risk. I think you're always looking at ways to make it safer, but I certainly don't think there's any issues with street courses, and I don't expect that to be a normal thing going forward.

THE MODERATOR: Alex, safe travels.

ALEXANDER ROSSI: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it. We'll see you out there.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

Also, in the same years he posted P1 Poles and race wins at Long Beach, 2018 and 2019, Alexander Rossi finished second and third in the championship. 

He won eight races from 2016 but has not won a race since the GALLAGHER GRAND PRIX on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Rossi, with the support from Chevrolet and a new team that has heritage from Formula 1, has the base and place to start anew - all are hoping that a third time at winning Long Beach will be his new Championship lucky charm.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Alexander Rossi, Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Arrow McLaren, Chevrolet, The EDJE

Monday, April 10, 2023

Rites Of Spring 2023 Open Up For Three Classes Of IMSA At Long Beach Grand Prix

GTD PRO and GTD class cars as they enter Turn 6 onto Turn 7 and Turn 8 section along Pine Avenue after the short chute straightaway next to the Carousel at the Pike Outlets during the 47th Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach. This section may become one of the more critical sections given GTD platform racecraft dynamics of having to compete with a totally new Prototype Hybrid car weaving itself through your race. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2022)

Rites Of Spring 2023 Open Up For Three Classes Of IMSA At Long Beach Grand Prix

One week before the cars and teams competing in the 48th Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach need to be placed in the paddock next to Shoreline Drive, four drivers from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Grand Touring Prototype (GTP), GT Daytona (GTD), and GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class designations participated in a ZOOM Call conference with members of the Press.

This street race scheduled to be run for a 100 minute sprint on the famed Long Beach 1.968 mile course (or 73 laps as attained in 2022). The previous two races run this season were endurance races run in Florida - Race 1, Rolex 24 At Daytona and Race 2, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring - comprised 36 hours of timed racing ... a different kettle of fish especially since all 5 classes were represented.

To be clear, as it relates to the performance type of cars competing within the concrete canyons of the street circuit that is Long Beach, the GTD and GTD PRO class cars are set up through the same specifications and BoP (balance of power) applications in the rules. 

In terms of information and anticipated track activity throughout the sprint race, there are two functional classes with the GTP (prototype) being the most dynamic and high-powered racing sport cars beginning here in 2023 using a two power plant hybrid (ICE & Electric) propulsion against the GTD cars with minor changes governing the ICE (internal combustion engine) powered sports cars over last year.

Zoom Media Interview - Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Driver Preview

GTP class
Renger van der Zande, co-driver of the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06

GTD PRO class
Jordan Taylor, co-driver of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD

GTD class
Bill Auberlen, co-driver of the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3

- here is what transpired in total.

A total of 28 cars are entered in the three competing classes: eight in GTP, five in GTD PRO and 15 in GTD. Practice and qualifying take place Friday, April 14. The race airs live on USA Network and IMSA Radio at 2 p.m. PT Saturday, April 15.

  • Spectacular GTP Season Continues: The new Grand Touring Prototype class that debuted this year, featuring hybrid-electrified entries from four manufacturers, enters Long Beach with two races under its belt. Thus far, Acura and Cadillac have each won one race with BMW and Porsche in hot pursuit. Cadillac is seeking to continue a run that has seen it win the past five Long Beach races overall and in the top prototype class.
  • The Long and Short of It: After opening the season with the two longest races of the year (Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring), the WeatherTech Championship shifts gears to the shortest race on the schedule – just 100 minutes at Long Beach. How will teams and drivers adapt to a true sprint race?
  • Sprint Cup Season Commences: The Long Beach race also serves as the first of seven events that make up the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup for the GTD class. Points earned in these non-endurance races count toward both the overall season championship and the Sprint Cup crown.
  • Once, Twice, Three Times a Winner? Paul Miller Racing and co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow are seeking a rare three-peat of Long Beach victories in the GTD class. They won in 2021 driving a Lamborghini Huracán and last year in a BMW M4 GT3. The team is also fresh off a victory last month at Sebring.
Who’s Hot?
  • GTD PRO Mercedes and Lexus: Only two teams have finished on the podium in the first two races of 2023, and both compete in the GTD PRO class. The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 topped the class at the Rolex 24 and finished third at Sebring. The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 placed third at Daytona and second at Sebring.
  • Inception Racing: Embarking on its first full-season GTD effort, the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 hasn’t won yet this season but successive finishes of third and fourth have put drivers Brendan Iribe and Frederik Schandorff in the class points lead heading into Long Beach.
Who’s Good Here?
  • Cadillac and Action Express: The manufacturer rides a five-race Long Beach prototype winning streak into race weekend. Three of those (2018, ’19 and ’21) came via Action Express Racing, whose No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-Series.R also took the GTP and overall victory last month at Sebring. Co-drivers Alexander Sims and Pipo Derani are the GTP championship leaders after two races.
  • Taylor Brothers: Jordan and Ricky Taylor teamed to win three consecutive Long Beach races from 2015-17 in the Prototype class when they drove for their father’s team, but neither has added a victory since. Ricky co-pilots the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 GTP with Filipe Albuquerque this year, with Jordan sharing the No. 3 Corvette C8.R GTD with Antonio Garcia in GTD PRO.
Motorsports Journal's Edmund Jenks was curious about the dynamics of having a totally new Prototype car to be racing with these previous two endurance races and how this may work out at Long Beach.

Motorsports Journal: Have you noticed any difference with the new hybrid GTP cars with the way they race around you or approach you, compared to the DPi prototypes in previous seasons?

Jordan Taylor - No. 3 Corvette Racing/Mobil 1 (Corvette C8.R GTD): It’s much different. The way they make speed seems different. They come by you a bit quicker on the straights and then their cornering speeds – especially in the medium-speed corners – is quite a bit lower than back in the DPi days. At Sebring, I had a BMW come by me and it must have been on a double-stint on the tires. It passed me into 15 and was so slow at apex that I was actually able to drive back around him. It’s a much different car, it seems, for them to learn and adapt to. It makes the style of racing a bit different because now in GT, we know that they struggle on second-stint tires and it will put us in a position to probably want to be a little more defensive in those sorts of spots to not lose laptime when they go by us. It’s definitely a learning process. They come by you a lot quicker in the straights like at Daytona before the Kink and out of the Kink. They’d arrive much quicker and when you wouldn’t expect it from years past in a DPi. When we go to different tracks, it’s going to be learning where those places are, and where they can get by us and where they can’t compared to what it was like back in DPi.

Bill Auberlen - No. 97 Turner Motorsport McIntosh (BMW M4 GT3): They (GTP cars) are so slow in the corners. I was very surprised. The old cars (DPi) used to corner like they were on rails, and would go around you in the middle of corners and put you in a bad position. Now they (GTP cars) never pass you in corners because they have their hands full as it is. When they’re on a second stint with the tires, they’re slower than us in the corners and hold us up. They go blasting by you on the straights where you want them to pass, but once you get past the brake zone they tuck in behind you and wait until the next straight to blast by you again. It makes them a lot easier to interact with (than previous DPi prototypes).

Renger van der Zande - No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac Racing V-Series.R: I feel it’s hard to overtake. The speeds are higher but we have to brake a bit earlier and the weight is higher as well. The minimum speed [in the corner] is quite a lot lower so you cannot really rely on. Let’s break super late and dive bomb someone. I think if you dive bomb someone you’re going straight ... you’re going to miss the corner. I think with the DPi you could actually overtake someone on track because you had a bit more downforce, you had a bit more minimum speed and grip to get away with a mistake. With these cars, it seems like if you try to outbrake, you actually are going outbrake yourself and going off the track, so you have to be a bit more careful.

Ricky Taylor - No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06: It is nice to be able to clear everybody in the straight, although the closing speed is so high that there becomes a level of commitment when you’re going down the straight and [the GT cars] are in their own battle. You have to pick a side to go, and especially when there are Ams [Amateurs] in the car ... do they see you, do they not … you’re trying to read body language from a much further distance and then commit to one side, because the penalty of picking the wrong side and having to lift and and move across is actually higher. (From Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport website: Starting the sprint race portion of the season is exciting. We get to go to another new track with the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06, so it will be interesting how the new GTP cars adapt to the first street course of the year. Being the shortest race of the year, we can transition our energy from purely reliability to hopefully a bit more risk-taking for Acura’s home race in Long Beach.)

After racing in the two longest events on the calendar at Daytona and Sebring, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has something entirely different coming up next weekend. The Long Beach race is notoriously difficult and hard on cars with the 100-minute sprint race length where the dynamics between the new GTP platform and the GTD platform may decide just who wins their class by end-of-day Saturday at the 48th Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach rites of spring motorsports event.

... notes from The EDJE


TAGS: 2023. 48th Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Long Beach Grand Prix, IMSA, GTP, GTD PRO, GTD, Corvette Racing, Cadillac Racing, WTRAndretti, Auberlen, Taylor, van der Zande, The EDJE