Q: Mike, over the last 10 years in terms of qualifying draw, you knew whether you wanted to draw early or draw late based on what time of day you want to try to hit the best weather and the track and the best condition. Tomorrow it's going to be an entirely new ballgame. Do you guys have any feel for what might be a good draw or is that even going to be relevant at all?
HULL: We rely on Mr. Ganassi to take care of that for us. He always draws for us and does a great job for us, and it seems to work out. I think once we know where we stand in the field, because we have three attempts and not one, and we're out there from 11 until 4, you figure there's 12 an hour going through that line, work backward from there and then we'll just determine where we need to be.
I think the rub comes in what Chip referred to. Let's say there's a blast at 20 minutes to 4 and we decide to go re-qualify, we withdraw our time, let's say we're the fastest car and we withdraw our time to be faster so we can cover ourselves for pit selection. If we do that and the guys we're fighting with for the first couple of rows do the same thing sequentially in front of us, then we have to go back to tech – and this was brought up in the meeting yesterday, too. We have a bit of a problem with this because if all of those cars are in tech, they're not going to move them out of the way for you because you're all trying to get back out and the next segment starts 30 minutes later. Try to take your racecar back there, drain it for fuel, go through all the things, make changes, go back in the pit line and not miss your spot in those nine positions. That's where the fun is going to start right there.
GANASSI: Like I said, when it comes, like Mike said, to pit selection, you could have made a run at 11:35 a.m., you could have made a second-place run, let's say, at 11:30 a.m., and you say, “OK, well, I'm going to roll back in line at 3:30 to improve my position.” So you roll back in line at 3:30 and let's just say for a moment that Franchitti's P1 and Dixon is P2. Dixon rolls back in line at 3:30, you know, Franchitti is standing here on the pole like a sitting duck now because Dixon rolls in behind him and doesn't – maybe it's 3:50, let's say, 3:50, and he doesn't have a chance to go back out. So you have a lot of scenarios like that. And certainly if it's within your own team it's one thing, but I would suggest to you that it's going to be among other teams, you know, one or two in particular that if you're out of sequencing in line is going to play a big part in, come race day, just your sequencing in line for qualifying.
It could be at 3:30 tomorrow afternoon, your sequencing in line is going to dictate the outcome of the Indianapolis 500 a week from now. Do you understand that? Do you understand what I am saying? I want to be clear about that. Do you understand what I am saying? Because you're going to end up where your pit selection – Segment 1 is your pit selection – could affect the outcome of the race.
Q: So outside of the cash and the prestige, does that make the significance of that Segment 1 even more significant?
GANASSI: Let me tell you something, three of these guys to the right of me and the guy you're talking to, we're not even thinking about the cash and the prestige tomorrow, we're worried about getting to the front, OK? That's secondary.
Q: Dario and Scott, with the session, you get into the top nine at the end. You know what's on the line, you know you're locked in; top nine is the worst you're going to be. Do you push it past the point you might normally push it? You're pushing as hard as you can but there's always that one moment if I stuff it I'm really in bad trouble here and I'm going to lose my position to be at the back. Does that open it up to where you might take a little more chance, go past that point where you're really comfortable to try to grab the top spot?
FRANCHITTI: I think there's only so far you can push and that's – it's a very, very fine line here at this track.
GANASSI: That's not what you told me at dinner. (Laughter)
FRANCHITTI: There's only so much. Every time you're in qualifying situation, you give it 100 percent. Whatever the car will give you, you do it. It's pretty intense in the cockpit. From my opinion, there's only so much you can do. There's a 100 percent and that's it.
DIXON: Yeah, you know, it's similar. I'm never going to go out there and give it 80 or 90 percent, and then Dario is the same, and I know that the teams we compete against are the same. We always are pushing to the limit. I think if I'm not mistaken, with the top nine if you put in your first attempt, you can go back out without taking your original time out. (Laughter) So you keep your first attempt time. Even if you want to go out and you want to push that little bit more and try and push it past and go further, and you do crash, you're still going to start maybe, you know, if you were second. So I know there going to be lots of teams that push it to the max and go for that pole position, and I don't think this team is going to be any different.
Q: Chip, you've got not only a new format for qualifying, but you've also got a new series sponsor, a new CEO. Talk about the direction this series is headed from an owner standpoint, what your thoughts are on the way the whole series is going.
GANASSI: I think it's on an upswing. Obviously, when you see IZOD doing television commercials during the NFL playoffs in January and that, I thought that was pretty strong. So obviously from that point of view, it's refreshing.
Same with (CEO) Randy Bernard, the guy comes in, takes his time learning things, seems committed, workaholic, working day and night at it, you pick up the cell phone, call him, he picks up his phone, you know, says, "Hey, I'm busy, I'll call you back." He calls you back, he says, you know, "I can meet you, I can't meet you." He seems like a straight shooter who wants to learn the sport, and understands, I think, what the sport needs long term and where we are in the pecking order of sports, and he wants to move the needle. So I think that's good, that's refreshing.
Now, certainly when you have a new series sponsor and a new CEO, you're going to get a little momentum, a little burst of energy here at the start. I hope that they can both maintain their pace and their momentum, so this isn't just a Roman candle, it's a spaceship going to the moon, you know? I'm optimistic right now. I don't see anything yet that tells me it's a Roman candle. So I'm happy.
Q: Chip and Mike, not too many years ago you had a qualifying engine that probably would blow up if it had to go one more lap after it qualified. Are the Honda engines today strong enough to go out and give it everything you've got for maybe two or three chances early and then come right back an hour later and be able to do the same thing?
GANASSI: Well, the short answer is I hope so. We all hope so. I mean, obviously Honda has done a great job, and there have been very few – I can't remember the last time I saw one of their engines fail, so that's good. Having said that, we're going to find out tomorrow if they're up to the task. I sure hope they are, at least the engines we have. I sure hope they're up for it.
HULL: Today, we race the engines based on a mileage number, and their mileage number is based on durability factors that they have that they're able to easily achieve. And you know, if it would have been two or three years ago and there would have been two or three engine manufacturers here, you're absolutely correct. We'd be sweating bullets having to do three attempts or five attempts or whatever it is. Today it's a lot easier process.