Sunday, May 28

Chevrolet Indycar at Thermal Club - Rinus Veekay

Thursday, Feb 02 267



When you look back at how INDYCAR started for you, where you're at now, one of the up-and-coming drivers that can win races and challenge for the championship, has it happened according to your schedule or faster than you thought it would?


“It's going according to my schedule like I’d hoped it to be. It's gone fast. The whole Road to Indy, I'm in INDYCAR now longer than I've been in the Road to Indy. Pretty crazy. I'm very happy with how it goes. No complaints.”


Last year was an up-and-down year. Not the consistency you wanted. What have you dug into or found this off-season or focused energy on to try to make this year across 17 races more of what you want from a performance standpoint?


“That's definitely something we focused on. We've had great pace at races, but we've been too up and down. With the engineers, we kind of took apart every full race weekend with Practice 1, Practice 2, like everything with the feedback, what I gave. Lap for lap, we looked everything back. We tried to find stuff that should have gone right but didn't go right. Kind of kept going the whole weekend. Sometimes in practice one something happens, that kind of carries over throughout the whole weekend. Sometimes something goes very well in Practice 1, and it carries out throughout the whole weekend. We found a lot of stuff that I could prepare better in some ways. I feel like I can prepare a bit better in some ways. I found ways, different ways, to prepare, so I'm focusing on that now. Also within the team, they found a few things they can improve, so we can start off better.”


You mentioned you have some new people at the team. Can you elaborate on that? How many people did they bring in, what departments, and did you have any influence on that?


“I did not really have an influence on that. Of course, I encouraged the team to get new people, extra people, new minds, new brains in the team. We have a new fueler. We have a new performance engineer. For me, the main people are still the same. I think there's definitely people around that are going to pick up a little bit.”


When you look back at last season, do you feel you drove to pretty much what the maximum of the car gave you? Do you feel you didn't leave anything on the table? Did you feel like there was more you could have done?


“You know, I always try to give it my all. There's been weekends where I've left some on the table. Like Portland, I definitely made a mistake while that was an easy top-10 when we were at that race. There's been a few mistakes that were unnecessary that needed to be filtered out. For me, I think there was a top-eight in the championship that was possible with the car we had last year. I think now it was 12. I think if stuff would have gone my way a little, if I didn't leave some stuff on the table, a top-eight would have been possible.”


You may have an opportunity at Detroit where I think you've done well, changing from Belle Isle to the new course. What can you say about the new course and how you perceive it?


“I think it's going to be interesting for everyone to come to a new track. Definitely downtown is going to be I think a bit more alive. I think the fans, there's going to be a bit more attendance from the fans. I'm curious to see how it's going to go. Of course, I've seen the track from the aerial view. It looks very square. I've been on the track before with a road car. It actually looks very cool. If they change up some patches on the track, I think it's going to be a very cool race.”


What are your goals going into the 2023 season?


“My goals for the 2023 season is getting back to the top step of the podium, winning a race again, hopefully more than one. But ideally just to be more consistent and be closer to top-fives and top-10s all the time so we can be high up in the championship standings at the end of the season.”


Except for the Indy 500, what race are you looking forward to this year?


“St. Petersburg; first race of the season. I'm excited for that.”




You’re looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow?


“It's rare to get to drive our Indy cars now in the off time. These days are really, really important. It's just honestly good from a physical standpoint just to get in the car. We can train all we want, and I've had the most consistent training regime of any off-season thankfully, so it feels good what we've been doing in the gym, but there's nothing like getting in these cars to drive to really prepare yourself for the first race. It's going to be important. Try to do as many laps as possible.”


It is rare for you guys to get on track and do as many laps as possible. It's even more rare to do it at a track you've never been to. What is the challenge going to be like trying to make the most out of this place?


“Well, I'm trying to think back to I guess the last time we all had to learn a new track. It's probably Nashville. We're going to have to do it again at Detroit, right, because Detroit will be a new one for us this year. We've done it before. But when it comes to Nashville, it was very, very time condensed, then we went racing. This is just two full days of testing. It's hard when it comes to just two full days of testing because obviously some people will adapt to it quicker than others. You might feel like a hero, then the next day you might feel like a zero because some people have caught up. It really kind of funny to see. It's kind of a shame that it's all officially timed and judged upon day one because it could be a complete flip in day two. These days are important because hopefully it is an indication for us on all the permanent road circuits that we go to, right? This is a permanent road circuit that we get to test at which is important for a number of tracks: Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca, Indy GP, all the permanent tracks we go to. Hopefully it's helpful for us in all those scenarios.”


Is it important maybe to stay a little bit measured [at this test]? It's not like any track exactly on the circuit.


“Yeah, and it's a long lap, too. I guess if we're kind of thinking and simulating that it's a minute 44, 43, 42. When it comes to tire stints, as well, we can only really get 18 to 20 laps out of tires. Like, that's not a lot. Hopefully we can use those laps just as efficiently as possible. It doesn't matter to us how fast we go, as long as we get something out of it, right? How do we judge some changes? If that's great for a certain section of the track, that could represent a section of another road track we go to. There's a lot that we can learn, for sure. Realistically we kind of have to keep ourselves in check with our expectations and what we want, make sure that we focus on our test plan, just get through that, and enjoy it, enjoy what we can learn, take a lot from it.”


Go back to 2018. Did you think [100 starts] would be even close to possible?


“It's been cool to be around for nine seasons, but I'm just excited to be here again. This level of continuity is super important, right? We have a great off-season to work together with the team, to work with all of our partners, to really market what we want to market really well this year with BITNILE.COM. We want to be faster at certain places. We've been able to look at all those places all during the off-season, which is really cool. We got to do a lot of simulating days in the end of last season, the beginning of this season. There's a lot of really cool stuff. Even after the Indy 500 last year, there's areas where, like, I obviously have not been as good at qualifying there as my teammates have been, so that's really an area I would like to be better. But, boy, have we been good in those races the last two years. Excited to take that to another level as well. We know our cars, when we show up there, are very, very good. All of it is good. I did not know I would get to this point. I'm 31 years old and I'm still racing Indy cars, which is kind of crazy. I hope to do that for many more years, too.”




Going in with two full-time cars, your oval program, do you have any vision of filling out the rest of those street courses, Beth [Paretta], some other program or driver?


“Not for 2023. We had plans and talks about doing more, but we kind of set a date on the calendar. If we didn't have everything in order from funding and people, the full program in place by a certain date, we wanted to be disciplined and focus on exactly what we're doing. That's the plan. I don't see that changing. Things can always change. If we're going to have growth, my focus is doing that in '24.”


When Rinus [VeeKay] was in here, he mentioned there are some new faces. He said he was asking for extra help on the engineering side. Can you discuss some of that?


“Yeah, we've been really fortunate. We've been able to bring in some new people. We lost a couple. All things considered I would say our turnover was low. For a year and a half, we've been trying to add a couple positions that we didn't have. I think we're happy with the people we've been able to bring in. Some new faces in engineering, some new faces out on the car. Hopefully have a deeper team, a little bit of a restructure at the shop, but minor relative to other teams.”


Any areas you're looking to shore up?


“I really think it's more depth more than a specific area. I think we're not venturing. It's not like we created a new department or project. It's just more depth on the bench, more people working on the projects we already had going and furthering them. Just more depth.”


What are your goals for 2023?


“My number one goal is the same every year, and that's to win the Indianapolis 500, whether it's in my car would be best, or the other team cars. After that, be as competitive as possible, win as many other races as possible, place our cars hopefully in championship contention at Laguna [Seca].


What's your most favorite race, what race are you most looking forward to this year, except for the Indy 500?


“I would say Iowa. I think it's a spectacular event, always has been. Hy-Vee is taking it to another level. I think consistently that's put on some of the most exciting racing on the calendar each and every year. Now it's just an all-around great fan experience as well.”




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