On Thursday afternoon, Indy 500 drivers met with the media and answered questions ranging from: peanuts or plain, blonde or brunette, and more than a few about racing.
Here are some of my favorite quips:
Tony Kanaan on returning to the Indy 500 a winner:
Kanaan says when he first drove in to the track and saw the big banner with his face on it he thought, “This is my place.”
“When I’m having a bad day…I just go on YouTube and I google my name. And I put that last lap (on) and it changes my day every time.”
Pippa Mann on being the only female driver this year and driving a pink car:
“When I first started racing when I was 13, I refused to have pink anywhere. I wouldn’t have it on my race helmet, I wouldn’t have it on my Go Kart or my suit, because it was too girly. And I’m still not sure how I would feel about running pink just because I’m a girl, but to run it for Susan G. Komen – it’s been a truly incredible experience and I’m really proud to have been a part of putting this partnership together.”
“It’s gone from something I didn’t want to do, to a badge of honor.”
Graham Rahal on dating another driver (NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force):
“It’s good and bad. It’s difficult because we’re always on the road, chasing each other, trying to find out how to manage a relationship. But at the same time…we both understand the pressure of a racing family and the name.”
Takuma Sato on the special helmet he had designed for this year’s race, which will be auctioned off to raise money for tsunami relief in Japan:
“Recovery is a very slow process. It could be a half century minimum and it could be centuries.”
Marco Andretti on his famous family and when he first realized his legacy:
“Right around when I started getting into Go Karts. I’d get in a Go Kart and there’s so many cameras around me and I’m like, ‘I just want to go drive.’”
“Once I got into IndyCars and knowing the competition they were up against and thrived in, you have the utmost respect for them.”
“We’re ready to win here, that’s all I can say.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay on the race that can change your life and your career:
“It’s the greatest race in the world. It’s the one I grew up watching before watching them all.”
Scott Dixon on adjusting to the elements during qualifications:
“The hard thing about this year was that day one of qualifying, you had as many attempts as you wanted. But Sunday, you had one attempt.”
Martin Plowman on his first Indy 500 experience:
“I think the thing that’s surprised me the most was just how quick these cars go. I mean, I’ve driven around here at 190 miles per hour, but you throw in an extra 40 miles per hour and your eyes bulge (out). It takes you a while to adjust to that kind of speed.”
JR Hildebrand on his 2011 race, when he led the last lap and hit the wall:
“I want to be the guy who had to go through that, and had to deal with all the aftermath, and get asked all the questions, and then went out and stomped it and won the thing.”
James Hinchcliffe on the possibility of Mario Andretti driving (and possibly qualifying) his car after he was diagnosed with a concussion:
“I feel like if someone’s got to jump in your car, the person you would be most ok with that being would be Mario Andretti.”
Juan Pablo Montoya on his IndyCar return:
“I think this year, the series is cultivating a lot of people. A lot of people are paying attention to the series. And that makes it really exciting.”
Sage Karam on missing his senior prom to race in the Indy 500, then having his first slow dance in front of TV cameras after his team staged a surprise prom in the garage:
“I think I killed it.”
“I was almost as nervous as starting a race.”
Simon Pagenaud on the success he’s had this year:
“The biggest thing is, we’re having fun doing this. And I think it makes it sweeter. It makes it enjoyable. I can’t believe the smile on my mechanic’s face when they work on the car. It’s just incredible to see the momentum we have on the team and the dynamic.”
Josef Newgarden on launching #TodayIHelped:
Newgarden met homeless Kevin Bruce (23) downtown and took him to dinner at Chipotle without telling him who he was.
“I wasn’t going to say anything, and then someone was like, ‘Hey, good luck in the 500!’”
Then he posted it on Instagram, (which isn’t something he’d normally do).
“I’ve always wanted to do a project that could become cool and trendy. And I thought, maybe a hashtag project like, #TodayIHelped.”
“It’s just about simple gestures that you do, it doesn’t have to be something specific.”
Newgarden plans to grow his cause with a website. In the meantime, tag your good deeds with #TodayIHelped.
Will Power on being voted one of the funniest drivers by his peers:
“Oh, ok. Well, that’s good. I need to be one of the fastest though.”
And when asked to say something funny:
“It’s too close to the Indy 500, you get too anxious. You can’t be funny. You enjoy nothing. Music’s no good. Nothing’s good. When you’re done, especially if you won, everything’s good.”
“I’ll definitely be funny if I win it.”
And I’ll hold him to it.
Good luck to these drivers and all of this year’s Indy 500 racers. I’d pick a favorite, but after talking to them…it’s way too hard.
When I hear “Ladies and gentlemen…start your engines,” I’ll just cheer for all of them.
It won’t be long now.