Seven of the thirteen 2014 IndyCar drivers testing at Sonoma Raceway Wednesday did a short Media Blitz during the lunch break.
As always, besides taking selfies and passing them around, they had things to say; and in this case everyone seemed happy, especially the returning JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, who seemed the most relaxed and comfortable that I’ve ever seen. He couldn’t stop smiling. What a concept!
Left to Right: Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, and Charlie Kimball.
Left to Right: Helio Castroneves, Will Power, and Juan Pablo Montoya.
RYAN BRISCOE/Ganassi Racing/Chevrolet: He’s running the 2013 Chevrolet motor, did a a few laps, with set-up changes. “I’m getting good feedback from my two teammates with the 2014 motor.”
Regarding his opinion on IndyCar Racing, Briscoe said “It is the best competition anywhere in the world and it’s exciting to be part of it. And Montoya coming back is a huge testament to where IndyCar is going. There are a lot of positives. We have a long way to go to get ourselves in front of the public eye; but it is definitely worth watching, exciting.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/Team Penske/Chevrolet said: “It’s hard to really judge where I was last time. I was really comfortable right off today. Happy. Relaxed. Excited.” His comparison in driving Sonoma Raceway in a NASCAR Sprint Cup car versus an IndyCar – “We(IndyCar) go three miles longer with the same lap time. I’ve never been a big fan of this place in a stock car. It’s all about pedaling with IndyCar, it’s how brave are you.” When asked how brave, JPM said “I’m feeling pretty brave.”
“The decision (to come back to IndyCar from NASCAR) was simple. It’s all about being in a winning car. In stock cars Ganassi (Chip Ganassi-JPM’s NASCAR team) was not as successful as in IndyCar. It was a struggle. A lot of people would choose Roger (Roger Penske, Team Owner of Penske Racing.)”
“Overtaking and out-braking are all part of the process to get there. I feel really comfortable. If you do a good job, you think of more things you never thought of before. Awesome, competitive, close cars in IndyCar, where you race on all kinds of tracks. The most fun I ever had racing was IndyCar cars back in the day and this was the right time to do it.”
Castroneves said: “So far, the car pretty fast. We’re still trying things normally not done on race weekends, when we massage the car. We want to focus on much data as possible.”
Last year Castroneves was the IndyCar runner-up, decided at the season’s finale race at Fontana. “I’ve hit the Reset Button. Time to start the season and to refocus on this year after last year. It’s over, we’ve got to move on and forget about it. For us in terms of performance and capability of the entire team – we’re continuing to do the same thing. We showed a lot of potential(last year) with an internal young group of guys. All these details get better. This year feels even better. I wouldn’t change. I’ll continue to charge as hard as I can.”
“I gotta try some of those crazy things which might work very well. There are fewer cars and a lot of variables at a test, so it’s good to try different things. Collect data and it will work out in the future.”
“Right now the IndyCar series is going through a process. With Derrick (DERRICK WALKER-IndyCar President and Director of Competition) taking over the series, all the drivers have a sense of leadership which is good, I believe with drivers working together. Overall as a series everyone is working together to get better. It’s even more competitive this year. IndyCar is heading in the right direction.”
TONY KANAAN/Ganassi Racing/Chevrolet: “This is a new experience. They (his teammates) reminded me that this car started on the pole here last year. This track its very good for testing. In one day you can get so different scenarios (wind, sun, clouds, heat, cold, etc.) which can be translated for race weekends. We’re not concerned about lap times, although we want to be fast.
I’m happy. It’s nice to be back in the road course. I just left Fontana. I’ve had success here.”
“I kinda like this type of pressure. It pumps me to go come to the race track. I worked hard last year with Jimmy (JIMMY VASSER, Team Owner of KV Racing Technology just trying to survive. It’s nice to wake up and have a better peace of mind and just think of the race car.”
“I agree with Helio regarding IndyCar. It was always changing rules in the past and not always communicating to the teams. We have consistency now. We work with them with some of our opinions – feedback from race drivers. It’s headed in the right direction. I don’t think we’ll be as big as we want to be, but we’re better than last March.”
“To make IndyCar better? We’re making a lot of changes. Not one change will make it. It’s promotion, getting product out there, adapt to what fans like to see – double file restarts, standing starts, what fans like. We need more than a year to judge how effective are the changes. The Big Boys (NASCAR) made changes and I can’t understand the Chase at all now.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL/Ganassi Racing/Chevrolet: “The team is integrating now with Dario (retired Ganassi driver, DARIO FRANCHITTI) as mentor and advisor, which has been very helpful. It’s a good indication of things to come.”
“It’s new with Chevrolet. It’s been an easy transition, easier than I expected. It’s been awesome working with Pratt Miller and Ilmor. From their side, they’ve made it painless on us.”
“Honda is making changes as well – it sounds different, more of a whine off the bottom end. The biggest things for us are some changes to car setup. Some of that is from tire evolution and the race tracks.”
“It’s good having Ryan (BRISCOE) – all four of us, all four trucks lined up together. Even with a different engine; it’s still an integration process, but there’s lots of continuity there, with some changes internally.”
WILL POWER/Team Penske/Chevrolet: “I struggled here a lot here last year. We definitely need to have a look at our setup. We’re not competitive enough right now, so we’re going through different items to see what stuff is going to help.”
“Sonoma is quite a a technical track; Turns Three and Three A are commitment for sure. It’s the hardest track on the schedule if you can’t get it right. It’s hard to put a good lap together. It’s easy to lock up and has low grip. It’s painful and so hard to get balance.”
“The cars haven’t changed this year, but next year come the big changes. We are looking for a bit more out of our cars. We worked with the dampers and stuff in the off season with the hope that will help.”
SCOTT DIXON/Ganassi Racing/Chevrolet: “It’s good to be in a warm place. It’s been a steep learning curve for us, with pressure. It’s gone fairly smoothly. I locked up pretty good on my second lap, and not easy to run twenty laps on square tires. I hope they’ll give me new ones this afternoon
“It’s a change of pace for us going from Honda to Chevrolet. It drives a lot different. The engine manufacturers are coming from two different points, but are coming together at the end.”
“It has helped us to develop in some areas with the switch. It’s been an easy transition. We have personal relationship with new people, after being with Honda since 2006. It’s been pretty good. There are always area we can improve. Chevrolet has interested, smart people who want to win races and have won a lot of races.”
“This year there have been lots of changes for me, especially with Dario not driving. We had a great five to six years together. Chip has kept him. Dario’s smart and sees things and relays it in a useful manner. We’ve lost him as a driver, but gained him as a person good to lean on, who pulls out information for us. Our tests off season went good and pretty smoothly too.”
“It’s hard to tell just yet how it’s going with Tony (Kanaan), too early to tell on how our different styles will mesh. He comes from a different team setup and racing. Dario and I were quite the same in some areas, and different in others. I picked his brain, which was helpful.
The weather started out sunny, before becoming cloudy in the afternoon. But it was a dry and mild 60 degrees F, with not much wind. No flags by which to measure the velocity. There were no incidents.