Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. If You Missed It: INDYCAR Conference Call with AJ Allmendinger
2. Veach among finalists for interview with Larry King
1. If You Missed It: INDYCAR Conference Call with AJ Allmendinger: Earlier today, IZOD IndyCar Series driver AJ Allmendinger participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to discuss his series debut at Barber Motorsports Park and preview the April 21 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Selected quotes from the call are below. An MP3 Audio recording of the call is available on http://media.indycar.com
Q. Let’s talk a little bit about the race weekend in Barber. You qualified 10th, didn’t get the result that you had hoped for, but you still have to consider it a good weekend?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Overall, I thought it was pretty good. I felt like I had pretty good pace comparative to everybody there at least. At least I was in the mix of it and felt good just to be closer to Will (Power) and Helio (Castroneves) time‑wise, and felt like I was at least able to bring a little something to the team to try to help everybody in the whole organization.
The result kind of wasn’t what I wanted, but I felt pretty good in the race to have the pace where I did and run inside the top 10 early on. Just kind of part of the learning curve about going through the race strategy and working with Roger (Penske) for the first time and having him call my race and everything that goes with that.
I’m just trying to take the result out of it completely. I felt really good about the weekend. I was nervous about how my fitness would be in the race and I felt really good after the race and during the race. All in all, except for the finish itself, I was pretty happy with the weekend.
Q. Over the weekend it came out that Team Penske would field you at Long Beach. That’s a place that you’re very familiar with from your time in Champ Car. What do you remember about racing at Long Beach, and now that you’ve driven in INDYCAR, what do you expect?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I’m really excited to go to Long Beach. That was always one of my favorite races on the Champ Car schedule, and it’s a good atmosphere. It’s just a place where just the energy level of the crowd, the energy just around the whole event – you feel like you’re at an event, not that you’re just at a race. I’ve always enjoyed that.
I think the layout of the racetrack itself is actually the same as when I used to run it. I won the Toyota Atlantic race there back in 2003, and felt always pretty quick there in Champ Car.
I’m looking forward to it, and to be able to go back and kind of get another race under our belts before Indy is going to be important, and just try to keep getting better. I think obviously the Penske organization, they have a great car on the road course and street course tracks especially. So I’m looking forward to that, and it’s just kind of the same thing, going through the process of the weekend, and hopefully I can get up to speed pretty quick, not having a lot of track time there, and I’ll be studying a lot of data, a lot of video before that.
Q. When you were racing NASCAR fulltime, how much attention were you paying to Indy and what was going on there, and what do you think it’s going to be like to race there in an IndyCar?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I always loved watching INDYCAR. It’s not like I left Champ Car and just forgot about open-wheel racing. I’ve always loved open-wheel racing. I’ve always had friends that have been in the IndyCar Series, so I’ve always kept up with it, and then especially the Indy 500. It’s always fun to watch and see how the process of the weeks go and practice and everything like that. So I was always up to date with it, and obviously when we’re at Charlotte at that point, kind of be able to watch most of the Indy 500 before any kind of sponsor thing started and drivers’ meetings, et cetera, for the 600.
So I’m really looking forward to going there and going through the process and learning. I’ll be definitely nervous going to the track for the first time and rolling out of Gasoline Alley and going down the front straightaway for the first time in the IndyCar. It’s going to be nerve‑racking but exciting at the same time.
From there, it’s just about a process. You get a lot of track time and you don’t have to rush anything, don’t have to go out there and set the world on fire on the first day. Just going through the process of it and getting to the actual race.
Q. You say that you’re still learning the process, the process is still ongoing. What are your realistic expectations for the next couple of races in IndyCar? What are you expecting to learn or hoping to learn?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I guess expectations, that’s a tough thing to try to set for myself because in my heart and in my head I want to go out there and win races. As I stated many times now, I don’t want to waste Roger’s time. I don’t want to waste IZOD’s time, I don’t want to waste anybody’s time at this organization to go out there and just go run around laps and try to learn. I want to go out there and compete right away.
But everybody in the series is so quick, and it’s so competitive. I think the on‑track racing of this series is some of the best that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched open-wheel racing really ever since I was growing up, and I think it’s some of the most competitive racing that it’s ever been.
To try to just get people to understand that and get the outside world that doesn’t know IndyCar racing to understand that and see how competitive and how great this series is ‑‑ you know, going to Long Beach, I just want to keep improving. It’s a track that I know kind of, but it’s been seven years and haven’t been in one of these cars around the place, but at least kind of know the layout of it. My expectations are to go there and just try to keep getting better from where I was at Barber.
And then like I said at Indy, I want to go try to win the race. That’s why I’m there. That’s why Roger hired me is to have the expectations to win. Like I said, the good thing there is you get a lot of time to go out there and learn the racetrack and go through the days of practice and go into qualifying and then get the race setup.
Expectations for me, it kind of changes always throughout a weekend, but I expect to go out there and compete at a high level and hopefully go try to win these races.
2. Veach among finalists for interview with Larry King: Television and radio host Larry King is looking for his next big interview. Forget Matthew McConaughey, Betty White, or even Tim Allen. King and his producers are looking for something different. Perhaps they have found it in 18-year-old Andretti Autosport Firestone Indy Lights driver Zach Veach.
Veach was named a finalist this week by King’s producers to be interviewed on King’s talk show, “Larry King Now” on ORA TV. The 12 finalists are gathering votes for their entries on King’s website with voting open until April 19.
“Larry King is such a big name in the world of interviewers and I can’t image the opportunity to sit across the desk from him and talk about my racing career and efforts against distracted driving and bullying prevention,” Veach said. “I always enjoy talking to journalists and sharing my story and encouraging others to pursue their dreams, too.”
Veach, of Stockdale, Ohio, reached out to King’s producers as part of their “Be Interviewed by the King” contest. As part of his submission, he was to share in 15 seconds or less why King should pick him.
“In my submission, I told Larry that we couldn’t be more different except our willingness to help others,” continued Veach, who would be the second race car driver interviewed on the program following Danica Patrick. “I mean, I’m a race car driver, and he’s a television host. He’s like 80 and I’m not even 20, but I’ve seen how giving he has been and I’d love to share with him how lucky and humbled I feel to be where I’m at.”
As part of the finalist piece, King’s producers asked Veach to submit a final one-minute video, which can be voted for on ora.tv.
The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be televised live at 4 p.m. (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including on Sirius and XM Channels 211 andwww.indycar.com. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Long Beach 100 on April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The race will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. (ET) on April 21, immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast.