This month's questions are answered by FAZZT Race Team's Chief Operating Officer, Rob Edwards, chief race engineer Allen McDonald and driver Alex Tagliani.
Rob, how do you rate the FAZZT Race Team's first performance at Indy? And is there anything you wish you'd done differently that might have improved your result?
Rob E. replies: Up until race day I would have given the entire team an A. Both the engineering and the preparation were first class. We were OK in the race for the first 42 laps but on the restart on lap 43 Alex got pushed up into the gray by a lapped car and went from third to eighth. Once the car was back in the pack we were never as strong the rest of the race. I wish that the sponsorship for Bruno's car had materialized as promised, because that would have reduced the stress and workload on the entire team and increased our chances for a better result in the race for both cars.
Rob, at Texas, you got Tag into the lead. How many yellow laps would you have needed for him to stay there? Also, why was your car off the pace in qualifying and yet was able to hang ahead of a Penske during the race? What did you discover overnight?
Rob E. replies: We would have needed 10 laps of yellow, Steve, right on the edge of the average length of nine laps earlier in the race. For the extra lap we would have had to roll the dice! The good news is that we do know why we were off the pace in qualifying; the bad news is that, unfortunately, I cannot say! I'm just happy that we found it.
Alex, for once all your optimism before a season starts has come true. You've still got it, and the team is everything you hoped it would be. Do you think you can win a race this year and break the Penske/Ganassi domination like Justin Wilson did with Dale Coyne last year and Ryan Hunter-Reay has done with Andretti Autosport? If so, what circuits do you expect to be strongest on?
Alex T. replies: We have been able already to out-qualify and be in front of some big teams in a pure speed situation. I think as a first-year team together and considering the time to prepare before the first race, it's been amazing. To make it all happen in the race we will have to get everything right, from the beginning to the end. We have a fast car, so it's coming. We just have to continue to keep our heads down.
Alex, what do you eat on a race weekend, and how different is it from what you eat normally? What do you consider good “brain food” and “energy food”? And do you ever allow yourself to relax and enjoy a beer or a glass of wine after a race?
Alex T. replies: Well Marissa, I eat brown rice on race weekends, and in the morning oatmeal with frozen blueberries. And – very rarely – I would drink wine, only on special occasions. But I would have a Cinzano on the rocks (red vermouth). It's quite sweet.
This is a general question – but you're the only team that has an open forum like this for fans to ask! So…why do you think there were so many mistakes in the pits at Texas? Are there too many cars for the pit lane so everyone's cramped together?
Well done and good luck on the road and street courses – especially in Canada.
Rob E replies: I think the Ask FAZZT forum is a great idea, too, Dylan. My thanks to Jana Watt at FAZZT and David Malsher at RACER for putting it together. The racing is so competitive this year that, especially on ovals, the races are often won (or lost) in the pits and that is why at Kansas, Indianapolis and Texas there have been so many mistakes in pit lane. The current aero rules place a premium on running in the lead pack. Even a fast car can struggle when it is behind a group of other cars. We could only run 16th to 20th in the first part of the race at Texas, but when Alex was in front he was quite comfortable for 33 laps before we had to pit.
Indy qualifying was amazing! Congratulations. However, a lot of people say it's such a unique place and it has no bearing on the IndyCar Series' other ovals. Is this true? Or can we expect more good showings from No. 77 on the more typical ovals like Chicago and Homestead?
Allen M. replies: Hi William. I think Indianapolis is the most difficult oval that we visit, because it requires that you get all of the aspects of car preparation and setup just right. The basic car has to be fast, if it's not you're in for a tough month! And the setup has to be good – you need to be able to take out downforce (and drag) and have enough balance and grip to stay flat and not lose speed sliding around. So, I think it was pretty encouraging that we had a decent car for qualifying and I think that should give us optimism for the other speedways. But...we have to make sure that we stay on top of the setup, as we saw in Texas qualifying – if you miss on that you're going to struggle no matter how well prepared the car is.
How many tire compounds does Firestone have for wet conditions? And do they bring different ones for road and street circuits?
Allen M. replies: Hi Kathy. Firestone Racing brings just one rain tire compound, it is the same for all road and street courses. I had to double check that with my friends at Firestone because I was surprised; the tire always seems to work well, wherever we are. In fact, that must be the only consistent thing about running in the wet; setting the correct tire pressures and deciding the setup changes is always a headache, as is the fact that the track conditions change every lap!
A question for Alex. Will you welcome the chance to drive a turbocharged car with more power in 2012? Does it suit your style better or worse than the normally aspirated V8s of current IndyCar? In Champ Car, did you left-foot brake to keep the turbo spooled up with your right foot in tighter corners? I'm guessing you did, because of all the karting that gave you lots of practice left-foot braking.
Alex T. replies: Yes, I've had a lot of success on road courses and street courses with turbocharged engines, but it has nothing to do with left-foot braking – under braking you're not on the gas, when you let the car roll in the corner you're not on the gas, and when it's time to get out of the corner you're not on the brake. Left-foot braking helps with timing between full throttle, and full brake, meaning there is no delay. Right-foot braking is too slow to do both pedals. What you're talking about is in a specific instance – for example, Road America's carousel – where it's better to stay flat and give a little tap on the brake to plant the nose going in, then lifting when you run a turbocharged engine. And yes, karting helped.Thank you for your entries, and apologies if yours wasn't one of the ones included. Keep sending your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will publish the best of them next month.