Given that those little details can decide the outcome of the race, if Chip Ganassi Racing is not on the front row of the grid at Indy, that's no indication they're not going to be on the pace come race day, correct?
MH: The Indianapolis 500 is always two races: the race for pole and the race for 500 miles. Chip Ganassi Racing has been successful there if you define success as being on pole and winning the race. But by comparison to some of the other teams that have been there – the things that George Bignotti achieved as a chief mechanic [seven Indy 500 wins], the things that Penske Racing has done there over the years [15 wins] – what we've done is only scratching the surface of that. We're not going to feel very good for 24 hours after qualifying if we don't have at least one car on that front row, but we'll bounce back and we'll race. But I think the race for pole this year is going to be a lot of fun, and we want to be in that segment too.
RACER: Looking beyond Indy, will the Kansas race performance have a bearing on other circuits like Iowa?
MH: The way the season is broken down, we went through four road or street tracks, and Tony Cotman deserves a lot of credit for the track in Sao Paulo: he created a street course where there was actually passing! The reason was, instead of a standard 1.8-mile course, it was a 2.5-mile layout that was designed with passing in mind. That's what we used to do at Surfers Paradise. That should be the template for all future racetracks: there was added length to create passing zones, and the corner before the main straight was fast enough so that there could be a double pass on the straightaway.
But that was the exception. The fact is, the nature of road and street courses is that there is a limited amount of passing, so the first track after Brazil where we saw passing was Kansas. It was overshadowed by the fact that Dixon ran at the front all day, but there was still a lot of racing going on behind him. Oval racing should allow people to pass on the racetrack and, although Scott made it a sleeper at the front, it was exciting all the way farther down, and I think you'll see something similar at Texas, Iowa, Chicago and Homestead later in the year. That's why we need to mind our Ps and Qs on the road and street courses to remain in contention and then take advantage of the passing on the ovals.
RACER: Given Kansas, it must be encouraging to Ganassi to know the season ends with four consecutive ovals.
MH: Well I think it's encouraging in that it reminds us we're headed in the right direction with our team. Indy car racing is about the fastest cars and the fastest drivers and that's what you clearly see on ovals, particularly in person. If an audience member has never been to an Indy car race, the first one they go to should be an oval, because they'll stand back when they see the speeds of the cars exiting the fourth turn and coming past the start-finish line. They will not believe the speeds they're seeing. Someone visiting the Indy 500 for the first time should walk over to the exit of Turn 2, or walk to the short chute between 1 and 2 and watch what happens. If they're not turned onto the IndyCar Series by watching that…well, they're on Valium. That's what makes guys like us want to be involved in the sport – the sheer speed.
RACER: But I assume you are expecting your guys to be in contention on the road and street courses, too, right? Scott and Dario have pretty good track records there!
MH: Right. When I look in the dictionary under “S” for the definition of “street racing,” Dario's picture's right there. He gets up for street races, the team gets up with him, and he just understands the nature of driving over bumps more than any other guy we've been around. As a result, Scott has risen to the occasion and run really well on those courses. It's not that he didn't before, but there's no question that Dario's input has really helped us as a team on street courses, showing us how much better we can be as a team on bumpy circuits. I won't say how old he is, but he drives like a 20-year-old but one who has a lot of experience. Some purists in Indy car racing get upside down about the fact that, as well as ovals, we also race on road and street tracks, but actually that's what makes Indy car racing unique and also displays the overall talent of racecar drivers.