Alex Lloyd was a key part of the Bump Day dramatics at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, as he bumped his way back into the field with a spectacular run that broke with the pattern by seeing him turn faster laps as he went on, before dipping slightly on the fourth and final lap. Afterward, he and car owner Dale Coyne met with the media to discuss his run.
Q: Alex, when the heat was on, boy, did you deliver a scintillating series of laps. Congratulations.
ALEX LLOYD: Yeah, thank you. I mean, it's been probably one of the most stressful weekends I think I've had in my career. I remember we had to qualify on Bump Day last year. I remember that being pretty stressful, and I didn't want anything to do with it this year. Fortunately, last year we got in comfortably on Bump Day; we had the speed. This year, since Fast Friday we've lost a mile an hour each day. Honestly, I was pretty worried. I think we all were.
I think the chances of us making the show seemed pretty low. We came back out this afternoon with a completely different setup on it. Went out there, did a run, 222.7, aborted the next lap because we were about to hit the wall. There's no way I could have driven another lap.
When we got out for that final run, I mean the guys didn't have time to do much to the car. We had a couple tire pressure adjustments, trying to get the thing that it would get a little bit more grip in it. On the warm-up lap, we nearly lost it because we didn't have the grip in the tires at that point, that's what we were going for. But I had to lift so badly in (Turn) 3, I thought, "There's no way we can do this now." I saw the time for the first lap and thought, "You know what? Maybe, maybe." At that point I'm holding it flat, or I'm in the wall. There's not going to be a lift. The only lift that I am going to be doing is when I'm backward flying into the SAFER Barrier. So it was all or nothing – and that's what Indy's about.
You know, it's just all credit to the guys. They work so hard and it's a never-give-up attitude that I think we all have, and we all kept the faith, what little of it was left at the end there. But we didn't stop believing. We had a tough run there, not just the fact of trying to hold it off the wall for those four laps, the oil temperature went sky high and on the third lap the engine was vibrating so much, by the fourth lap I couldn't see where I was going. I was absolutely convinced the thing was going to blow up. I thought there's no way this thing will last. I've never felt this way; I was looking in the mirror to see if I could see smoke. But it held on, and we made it happen.
When I saw the crew guys' faces when I pulled up and you see not just what it means for myself but what it means for the whole team, for the crew guys, for their families, all the effort they put in all year long, for Dale over there, it felt better than finishing fourth place.
Q: Dale, when I was watching it, I was thinking to myself, "Alex is going to put this thing in the field or he's going to put it in the fence." Race drivers are a different breed, and this was a moment of that. Did you have the same sense?
DALE COYNE: I think that last run was all Alex. We didn't have a car that was perfect here. You know, we had times when we were good, but when it counted, we weren't that good. But that run was all Alex. The car we gave him, he said, "This is it, it's time to go," and he got the job done. He did a great job last year, finished third, arguably fourth, if I said it right, but no, we're proud of what this kid can do. We're pleased to be in this position right now.
Q: Alex, you had to have a huge range of emotion throughout the day. Not just those last four minutes. What was it like at quarter to three when it's raining, were you thinking at that point, "Maybe I don't have to worry anymore today"?
AL: No, my attitude since the moment we finished that first run, we're going to have to go back out there. I saw the rain, saw it was going to pass, knew it was going to dry quickly, knew Danica was going to have the speed to get in. We made a decision during that break when we knew it was going to rain for a bit to change the setup completely and go back to where we have been quickest during this week and just see. Because we somehow lost speed the last couple of days from being pretty good on Fast Friday.
We changed everything, went back, and probably I wasn't too stressed at that point. At that point it's still business. It's not crunch time. We went out and did a run, 222.7, as I said before, and that was it. Then you're starting to get – it's not a panic; you don't get in that situation. You can't let yourself panic. But there's a realization at that point, "Hey, we might not make this field." Then we found out, when we pulled out of line, we found we only had the one run left. That was it, this was our attempt. At that point you get to a point where it's all or nothing, you're going to give it every last bit you have.
The one thing I learned that I thought I had already figured out in my three years of racing this race, I honestly believed that I knew what Indy meant, what it means to race this race and go through some of the emotions you do. This to me is why I'm over in America, why I want to race IndyCar. Every race is important, but Indy is what gets me up in the morning. All of a sudden when you have that realization that we might not actually make this race, and when we actually crossed the line and knew that I was safe, the feeling was beyond anything I've ever felt in my career. And it just shows what this race actually means, how special it is just to be a part of, to qualify 31st.
I mean, it's not a good qualifying position, but to just be a part of it, to get ourselves in the show, for myself, for Dale, for the crew, as I said, for all their families, there's nothing like it. I mean, it's a very sweet end to a very difficult weekend.
But we're in, and we're looking forward to getting this thing in race trim, going out there next Sunday. We had a difficult qualifying last year, and the race went pretty good. So I don't think you should count us out for next Sunday just yet. We're going to work hard. We showed we can work hard and pull things out of the bag, and that's what we plan to do next Sunday.
Q: Dale, your thoughts about it?
COYNE: I'm pretty pleased. We knew how tough the field was going to be this year. I really can't say enough about Alex, but I think for James [Jakes] this is the first – there aren't very many drivers who come here and this is the first oval they see. The whole world knows who Scott Speed is, but this is a tough place to conquer mentally. He didn't make the show, but I think he did a good job. Never been on an oval, never run Indy Lights on an oval, and I don't know when that's happened. I know he's bummed right now, but he shouldn't be. He should be holding his head up high for coming here and going as well as he has.
We've done some things this winter with our team and engineering staff, I think that's going to bode very, very well for the future. We're excited about next year having a chassis that's going to be on a par level to start with. I think that's going to be good for us and we're already planning toward that.
Alex is good. He gave great input back to the engineers, and I think a lot of things happened in the last 48 hours when it comes to engineering, but his input was great and worked out good here at the end. He's right: This place gets you going. It's days like this, you know, the Andrettis, their two winners are going home. We've seen it before with Penske and Rahal. So you realize how hard it is to get in this race sometimes, and this race can get in your head. But that's what makes it great, with the pressure of what this is. It gets us all up in the morning and keeps us up at night.