Chip Ganassi, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Tom Blomqvist, Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
PIT PASS INDY PRESENTED BY PENSKE TRUCK RENTAL– SEASON 3, EPISODE 43 – Chip Ganassi, Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Tom Blomqvist, Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
October 24, 2023
Show host Bruce Martin has a great lineup for Pit Pass Indy Presented by Penske Truck Rental
Martin was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) and has exclusive interviews with Tom Blomqvist and Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing, Linus Lundqvist, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi and Dario Franchitti of Chip Ganassi Racing on this week’s Pit Pass Indy Presented by Penske Truck Rental.
For more INDYCAR coverage, follow Bruce Martin at Twitter at @BruceMartin_500
"Penske" means performance ... and winning
For good reason. Since 1966, Team Penske has won 43 national championships, 17 IndyCar alone. Its 19 Indy 500 victories are a record. And last year, Penske was the first team in history to win both the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series championships in the same season. Those are results that are tough to top.
Speakers: Bruce Martin, Tom Blomqvist, Helio Castroneves, Linus Lundqvist, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi, & Dario Franchitti
This is Roger Penske, and you're listening to Pit Pass Indy, sponsored by Penske Truck Rental.
IndyCar fans, it's time to start your engines. Welcome to Pit Pass Indy, a production of Evergreen Podcasts. I'm your host, Bruce Martin, a journalist who regularly covers the NTT IndyCar Series.
Our goal at Pit Pass Indy is to give racing fans an insider's view of the exciting world of the NTT IndyCar Series in a fast-paced podcast featuring interviews with the biggest names in the sport.
I bring nearly 40 years of experience covering IndyCar and NASCAR, working for such media brands as nbcsports.com, si.com, ESPN Sports Ticker, Sports Illustrated, Autoweek, and Speed Sport.
So, let's drop the green flag on this episode of Pit Pass Indy.
Welcome to this week's edition of Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
On last week's show, we focused on 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports, as he completed his Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program, and ran his first laps in an IndyCar at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But there were three other drivers that also, completed their Indy 500 ROP, and we will hear from all three of them today. Tom Blomqvist passed his ROP for Meyer Shank Racing, as did Chip Ganassi Racing's Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong.
We will hear from all three drivers on this edition of Pit Pass Indy, as well as team owner Chip Ganassi and racing legends, including four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Helio Castroneves, and three time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti.
Pit Pass Indy was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to cover the action. First up is Tom Blomqvist to Meyer Shank Racing in this exclusive interview for Pit Pass Indy.
Basically, your impressions of being able to go around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, wow, it was such a special day for me. Yeah, that was a pretty cool experience, I must admit. Getting those first laps on a few hours ago, damn, it's such a eyeopener.
The first lap, you're like just soaking it all in, and then you got to kind of get down to business and make sure you can get through this rookie orientation test as they call it.
But yeah, I mean, as the runs went on, just damn, it was so much fun. Like that last run there, just flat out there all the way around for like 15 laps was really, really cool. So, damn, I'm really excited to come back here in May to kick the big thing off.
It's going to be my first 500 and my first one I'm coming to is when I'm competing in, so that's going to be pretty wild. But all baby steps. Like there's a long road ahead of us.
I got my first ever experience a few weeks ago at Texas which definitely helps the process coming here. Because in all honesty, this tracks a little bit more straightforward, more natural. But yeah, I mean, such an exciting and fun morning. So, I'm, yeah, really grateful.
The way these cars are designed, they don't really handle very well at slower speeds. So, did you notice that in phase one and phase two?
Yeah, I went out in phase one, I was like, “Oof, that's going to be hard to like compete this, do this.” Obviously, we set the car up a little bit differently and the track's very, very green.
But yeah, it actually did get easier the faster I went. So, that was kind of nice to know because at the beginning I was like, “Oof, yeah, this will be interesting.” But yeah, the car is designed to go at those higher speeds.
In all honestly, you almost produce more downforce. And just focusing on turning points instead of lifting and trying to manage the speed, it definitely makes it a little bit more straightforward.
And how much are you looking forward to when they take the shackles off and let you open it up?
I mean, I couldn't imagine going 10 mile an hour quicker, so that's going to be a whole new ball game. And man, I'm just pumped. It's been a fantastic day. I've really, really enjoyed it.
I grew up watching this guy over here, Helio, climb that fence when I was about seven, eight years old. So, yeah, it's pretty cool to have him giving me some tips and pointers here in my own experience. So, yeah, very cool.
I mean, there's a bit of relief, but obviously, I still anticipated it being something that would get through. Shouldn't be that much of a challenge. At the end of the day, I'm coming here to try and compete for victories in the future. But it's all part of the process.
And I read something this has kind of also been a bit of a tradition. It's been around for a long, long time here. But it's definitely rewarding to know that you can do it, know that it is possible because man, you're going so fast around here.
And I'm just always so fascinated by how your body and how your mind just processes everything and slows things down. At some point you don't feel like you're doing the speed you're doing.
But I keep saying it, it's just one thing driving around by yourself, but it's comes steady as 33 or 32 other cars that you got to navigate your way through and manage with traffic and all the race craft stuff. So, that's another thing. But just like I said before, just baby steps.
And yeah, very excited and proud to have been able to I mean, Texas, it was very, very valuable for me to get those laps. Just the small things that probably people don't appreciate. Like the way you sit with your head all crypt over the kind of constant loading on the body. Here's obviously a lot less than Texas.
The way the car feels, even like when it pulls you down the straight right to even keep the things straight it doesn't want to go straight because it's designed for the corners.
So, all those little small things, just the constant speed, feathering up, throttle your steering inputs, I kind of figured that out or got an understanding of that Texas.
So, coming here, I was definitely a lot more relaxed than I was having that first go in Texas a few weeks back.
So yeah, I've been very lucky to have these opportunities before next season. So, it's not often that you get an opportunity to come here and let's say off season and get some laps in. So, yeah, very, very grateful.
Some drivers have described the IMS oval as a high-speed road course because of the precision corners. Do you sense that when you were out there?
It’s definitely a lot more natural than Texas, for example. Obviously, that's what I've done before. The corners are very similar. Obviously, each one's got its individual traits and things that you have to kind of understand, which obviously the laps I've been doing is slowly figuring that out.
How the car behaves in the different types of corners because on ovals and it obviously specifically super speedways, the margins are so, so small. Every little bit makes a difference.
But it was more natural, I'd say, oval to drive. And obviously you've got a little bit more time. The straights are longer, the laps twice as long. So, yeah, it's definitely different, but I really, really enjoyed that.
Yeah. How is Helio as a teacher?
I mean, he is always on the phone, so like he's supposed to be helping. No, no, no. He's great. I mean, obviously I mean, yeah, knowing what he is done around here is quite spectacular. So, there's no better guy to have kind of helping me and giving me tips and pointers. So, yeah, I'm excited to be able to pick his brains.
Obviously, I've done the whole rookie thing now. I think now, we've got one more set of tires, so we'll just try and maybe do a little tweaks with the cars have a look at some of the data.
Now, I haven't really had a chance to look at the data or the video since this morning. So, look at some things that I can do differently in terms of the driving and then maybe do a small little changes on the car to get a feel for that before May.
So, it's so valuable this track time here. And yeah, very, very lucky to be able to get it.
I mean, surprising, I think and not really surprising, but like I said before, I'm constantly in awe how at the beginning it feels so goddamn fast.
And by the end your like brain and your mind, everything just kind of slows down to where it becomes you don't realize that you're doing 220 mile an hour when you turn into the first corner sort of thing.
So, that's always surprises me, but in a good way because I'm glad that happens. Or else it'd be pretty, pretty gnarly. But yeah, just I think there's so many different things.
Like your breaks, like obviously you don't need them, but like-
You hope you don't need them.
When you come to pit lane, the way everything feels like I haven't obviously done any of the pit entry, the pit exits properly. Like that's a different ball game because you can win and lose a lot in those phases.
So, there's so many other things that I still haven't kind of attacked in the way. So, May's going to be still huge, huge challenge. But yeah, I mean, I've enjoyed it a lot actually. And I knew I would, but it's been really good so far. So, yeah, I'm very, very lucky.
It's wild because at the beginning when you're not used to it, like you're so tense. You're so like, whoa, you're focusing on like your turning points, your steering inputs, all those things.
And when you're driving at such a high speed, like everything needs to be to precision element of driving is at its utmost importance.
So, I actually like that. But I've just gradually been getting used to the speeds because I've never done it before. I'm never driven at these super high speeds. It takes me time to get there to feel like I'm super confident and comfortable and obviously, I'm still not there.
Like it's not like I'm a veteran here at all. And I've got so, so much to learn.
And not only that, but then understanding the car and the needs of the car, the needs of me, what I'm going to need from the car to help me and feel confident and all those little things. So, it's just such a whole new kind of process for me and something I've never done in my whole race career.
But at the end of the day, it is a race car. It's a steering wheel, four wheels, and it's a challenge that I'm really, really excited for.
I haven't had a chance to speak to him yet today. I've been in the car all morning, but I think what's useful is obviously he's also came from being around the block of being at tour of arguably some of the strongest teams on the grid.
So, I think he can give me a lot of info, any stuff that maybe we don't discuss or that they discuss over there. And he's been very quick here over the last few years as well. So, he really knows how to get around the space quickly.
And yeah, I think I've got a good bunch. And not only that, also like the whole Andretti organization there, the other guys. So, there's a big group of us to pick information from. So, yeah.
Is there a little bit of a bittersweet experience going a Road Atlanta because it's going to be Meyer Shank Racing's last sports car race in IMSA, at least for a while.
And you've had a lot of success with that team, and to know that your IMSA career is taking a new direction, coming to IndyCar, and their IMSA career is basically going to be parked for a while.
Yeah. I mean, it's obviously a great shame. We've been on the grid, achieved so many great things over the past two years. So, obviously, yeah, I mean, new challenges for me personally.
But yeah, I'm definitely sad to see the guys not on the grid next year but they'll be back. It's kind of the sports car stuff's in the DNA of this team as well. So, they'll be back and not too worried about that.
And hopefully, I'm also still kind of hanging around and competing in some of those blue ribbon races. Because that's still a huge passion of mine.
Helio’s got three Rolex Daytona's, and I've only got two, so I need to try and catch him. But yeah, sports car's, it's played a big role in my career to this day, even got me to this point. So, yeah, I'd love to keep that going.
And wrapping up here with Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Schnick Racing, what does the Indianapolis 500 mean to you?
Hmm, that's a great … I actually haven't thought about that answer. And I think it's an answer that deserves a lot of thought. And this place is so rich in history. It's got this immense aura about it when you walk in.
I can only imagine what it feels like with 350, 400,000 people here. And yeah, I mean, wow, I'm living a dream. Like I said before, I grew up watching this race. And to be able to compete in it is simply incredible. And I'm, yeah, very, very grateful for where I've managed to get myself in my career.
Tom Blomqvist, congratulations on getting through ROP as quick as you did. Good luck in your IMSA finale, and also, good luck next season, your rookie season in the NTT IndyCar Series. And thank you for joining us today on Pit Pass Indy.
Thank you very much. Pleasure.
Helio Castroneves is now an ownership partner at Meyer Shank Racing, and also, serves as an advisor to the team. One of only four drivers that have won the Indianapolis 500 four times in his career.
Pit Pass Indy caught up with Castroneves at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this exclusive interview.
So, since you're now a teacher, how do you think of your student, Tom Blomqvist in Indy ROP?
Look, it brings me memories from my rookie orientation as well. And I had incredible guys, talking about Al Sr. and John Rutherford back then, even Eddie Cheever was around.
So, yeah, it was the phase, you got to be patient. He was actually plenty patient at the moment, and he did what he needs to do until when he got to flat out and he felt home. So, that's good.
People sometimes get anxious to get to the point and sometimes say, “You got to go flat out,” but you don't know how to get there. I just mentioned to few corners that he should start first until he feels comfortable.
And that's what he did. He start using those places that for me, worked and I believe it worked with him as well, and turned out to be a great way. I can't tell you. You got to pay me to tell you do that.
I don't want to pay you.
Tom has experience, believe it or not. He is not a rookie. I feel that's helps tremendous, especially in the series, so competitive. He does have the talent that … sorry, the base that he started was with very impressive pedigree, let's put this way in Europe.
And I feel when you have that kind of comparison, I mean, no question, he didn't have the opportunity back then and have a second time. So, I'm always believing a second time, second chance.
But at this point, this is his first time. So, Mike and I, and the … he proved in sports car how fast he is. And these days to be to adapt quick, it's extremely important. And that's sports car. It is.
So, he will be definitely learning a lot, but showing a lot too. Crazy. And the feedback you hear talking about the car. And once you’re a race car driver, you're able to give a great feedback, which helps the engineers to get to the perfect setup.
As far as yourself, are you adapting into this role of being a teacher?
I am not. I saw my name up there. I was like, “Hey, that means I can do some laps.” Look, it's being interesting for sure. I still feel very much that should be behind the wheel. But I'll go with the flow.
It's a learning curve aspect. I think life you adapt in some circumstances. But I am enjoyed, and again, very grateful for Mike's, Jim and the entire Liberty group to be able to open up this chapter and channel for me to keep it going.
No disrespect, but for the last couple of years, this has been a veteran-based team with yourself, who's the driver, and Simon Pagenaud. Now, the team's getting a little younger. Felix is in the prime of his career, probably, but Tom's new, he's got a lot of racing and experience.
But the team is now, working with some inexperienced drivers. Not saying Felix is inexperienced, but it's a little bit different dynamic than when it was you and Simon. How do you view that as far as the entire team?
Well, and that's one of the reason that we have one driver that's coming fresh from another team able to hopefully give some of the knowledge those teams have.
And Tom is perfect because he's fresh. There is no bad habits, there is no … it's actually starting all over again. And you can have the best of the worlds which I like it. I like it because you're going to …
But in the same time, Tom is not as I feel that as rookie in racing, that, “Oh, I got to prove this or that.” So, I feel that it's going to be a good combination. I like it. That's why we have them.
And as a driver who's spent time with Meyer Shank Racing in the IMSA program, is there a bit of sadness this weekend in the fact that this is going to be the last run of the sports car, at least for a while?
Yeah, extremely sad. Particularly for us, won the Daytona 24 Hour this year, now, to be able to defend next year.
And for Mike especially, I mean, his probably foundation was through sports car.
But as you mentioned, I don't think it's over. I've seen, and I actually leave it with Team Penske, when they used to be in sports car left for a while, now they're back again. So, I believe that's what's going to happen with MSR as well.
I definitely will. I like to keep it sharp. I like to keep it running. Remember I still doing the Indy 500, so it's always good to be behind the wheel. I'm probably going to do SRX as well, but it's always good to …
Plus, like I said, I won the last three races on straight on that place in Daytona. So, it would've be nice to do it again.
Never had a chance to ask you this, but you became famous for climbing the fence after winning the Indy 500. What was your thought when you saw Josef Newgarden go under the fence after he won the Indy 500?
Yeah, I saw he came out of the car, where is he going? And when he went under the fence, I'm like, “I think that's a rookie mistake.” He should celebrate by climbing the fence. But look, it was fun. A lot of people enjoy it, which I think that's what it should be. That's the way it should be.
And every victory, doesn't matter who it is, it shows that how hard it is to get there, and you need to express emotions in a good way.
Do you remember your first time coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
Yeah, I do. First, I felt this from TV, the track looks narrow than what it was. The place was huge coming through to the tunnel. I didn't see the racetrack. I saw everything.
And yeah, I believe it was in October as well, when we were with in Treadway team and first laps around, I was very, very intimidated by the place. And then I realized that I couldn't go up more than 200 miles an hour. And I was like, “How this guy going 220?” This is very difficult.
We realized the fax back then was fax machine, and we had an issue with the setup, we fixed it. Ah, okay. But it was good. It was good because it shows me these place, you got to respect.
Well, the good news is there’s enough experienced people around here today, and the weather helps so much to provide this sort of safety net. And he felt, as you can see, he come out, he is like showing really excited to be able to finish the test and now continue moving on.
If you were to pick one, who was your favorite teammate?
Wow, several. Yeah, no, I became good friend with Gil de Ferran. That was sort of my I learned a lot from him my beginning of Penske days. We're still friends to this day, so, if I have to pick one.
But I had a tremendous. Ryan Briscoe was another fantastic guy, that is still like him very much. Will was another guy, Simon. It's hard to just pick one. I always got along well with my teammates.
Even Sam Hornish that we have lot of competitions prior to be teammates and inside the team. In the end, we end up sort of like in good terms with each other, which I like that.
So, all of them, I didn't have any … Geo was when I was young. I never won a race, or I never … and he's sort of like was battling for championships. I finally, I said, “I got to follow this guy. I got to learn from this guy.” And he definitely put me on the right path.
And here's another one that's a little bit different topic, but since 2020, the only oval race here in 2021, 2022, and 2023 was the Indianapolis 500. Next year, the Brickyard 400 is going to return on the oval. What are your thoughts on that?
Oh, I didn't know that. I think honestly it should be ovals. This place is legit. And you can ask probably the Cup guys. They want to be the same scenario as the Indy 500. But great, if they are doing that, yeah, maybe I can have a ride for that.
And also, another former teammate of yours-
Which I did, by the way, on IROC. I did. And I remember have Dale Jarrett, man, impressive. He was by this much every lap in the wall, and I couldn't pass him. But yeah, it'll be fun.
Another former teammate of yours that's having a lot of success in NASCAR is A. J. Allmendinger. He won this past weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval. And what's it like to see the rejuvenation of his career in NASCAR Cup?
Incredible because of his background. Started the IndyCar and went to the Cup, came back to IndyCar with RP, went back to Cup, was out for a while, and then back again.
So, well, first of all, it shows that a talent guy. Obviously, Mike liked him very much that he gave him a chance on the sports car many times.
And yeah, he is the type of guy, energetic, talent. I was very, very happy for him. And yeah, I'm sure this is not the last win you're going to see from him.
Are you disappointed that Texas Motor Speedway will not be on the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series schedule?
Yes, shame. I very much like that place. Obviously, for obvious reason. And not sure what happened, if it was poor management or not able to …
The race is entertainment, no question. I don't think just because they made the change on the track, lost a little bit, but still, we will be able to continue making progress in being competitive like it was.
But I guess got to wait and see. Milwaukee's back, how many years Milwaukee's been out of the scene. So, I do believe sometimes it's good to take one step back to move two forward.
Well, Roger Penske pretty much said he expects it back in 2025.
He said it, I believe him. By the way, like I said, he's still able to do it. I think if you make some change on the car and if you race at night, you'll get back that place like that.
Have you had a chance to talk to Simon recently?
I've texted him. I text several times. I haven't heard back from him except texting, so I guess he's still going strong. But I'll call him after we talk right now.
Sounds like a good idea. And Helio, good luck adapting to your role as a teacher here at Meyer Shank Castroneves Racing. Although your name isn't exactly on the title yet. Thank you for joining us today on Pit Pass Indy.
Thank you, Bruce. Appreciate it.
We will be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
Hey everybody, this is Josef Newgarden, winner of the 107th Indianapolis 500, and you're listening to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Welcome back to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Two drivers from Chip Ganassi Racing passed their rookie test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and are cleared to compete with the veterans at next year's Indy 500 Open Test in April.
Our first guest is a true rookie in IndyCar. It's 2022 Indy NXT champion, Linus Lundqvist, who will race full-time in IndyCar for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2024.
Here is my exclusive interview with Lundqvist from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
So, then obviously teammates with Scott Dixon and Alex Palou, et cetera. It's incredible. So, yeah, it's a good access to have as a rookie.
It's incredible because walking in here always feels very special. And even with empty grandstands, you feel very, very special and fortunate to be in this position. So, I can only imagine what it's like to be here when all the grandstands are full and there's 300,000 people here.
Linus, as far as the ROP, your first laps out there, a lot of drivers always say that they can never forget what it's like the first time they hit the track here. What was it like for you?
I can only agree with those words. I mean, it's so special because it's a place where so many years you sit on the sideline watching this race, dreaming about driving around it.
So, now, to finally be able to do it together with making my first outing for Chip Ganassi Racing, it's very, very special. And yeah, I feel very fortunate to be in this position. And I thoroughly enjoyed today.
And a lot of drivers always say it's the phase one laps that are the hardest because you have to drive it slower than the car wants to go. Did you experience that?
I mean, I don't know, maybe it's only Chip Ganassi Racing, but my car was pretty good, even at those speeds. But the faster you go, the more fun you had.
And I can tell you at the end, when you finish all the phases and they kind of let you run whatever tires you have left, that was probably the most fun I've had in a very, very long time.
So, yeah, excited to be back here in May when the grandstands will be full and it's not just teams here. I don't want to imagine that, honestly, at the moment because I thought turn one felt tight now. But yeah, it's one of those where you just have to build it up.
And even like throughout the day, my first lap, I'm not even sure if I made it over 200 and that felt like, “Damn, I can't really go much faster.” And then at the end of the day, you end up at 220 and you still felt fine.
So, I'm looking forward to that. It's going to be fun. But mostly I'm looking forward to the race itself. I mean, that's where most of the fun comes.
Yeah, it's difficult because I didn't really know what to expect when I did Texas and then I did Texas, and it felt just fast. So, that was kind of my anticipation for this as well. But it feels fast in a different way because you have longer straits and a little bit more rest time, and sometimes a little bit too much time to actually think about what's going on in the car.
But that's what makes this place so special as well, because you go into the finite of details, that makes a huge difference. That's one of the fun things that we got into at least a little bit now towards the end, is that introduce a couple of settings that you wouldn't really have felt anywhere else, but for this place.
No, we had a tire failure which wasn't great, I'm not going to lie. It was a little bit scary. But the boys got it all sorted, so we just put on a new set of tires and then we didn't have any issues the rest of the-
After you got through ROP, did you almost say, “Hey man, give me more tires. I don't want to come in yet.”
Oh, hell yeah. I think we all did that. We're just like, “We don't want to stop running.” And yeah, it's fun. And especially when like you notice the difference when you throw in a new set and you're just like, “Oh, only three tires. Can we have like five or six? That'll be pretty cool.”
And then when you come back here in May, I don't know how many they have, if it's 24 or 28, whatever, it's for the month. So, that feels a little bit better.
Compared to race weekend, pretty same-
Only came here in August.
Yeah, pretty similar, I would say. All of the emotions that you just described. Excitement, not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous. But now, it's just happy because it's very, very cool. It's going to take a long time for my smile and happiness to leave. But it's been a very, very cool day.
And like I said, it was difficult to know what to expect, but I'm definitely leaving here a little bit more confident coming May.
If things had worked out differently, you may have been here this year with a different team. Do you ever sit back and say everything worked out the way it was supposed to work out?
Yeah. Well, patience definitely pays off in my story. And my last three months basically was my whole life changed after that.
And I could never have guessed that at the beginning of the year, but if somebody told me that, “Hey, if you sit out for most part of 2023 and then you end up at Ganassi for 24,” I would take that deal for sure. So, and it ended up in a very good place.
I have plenty of things to learn, that's for sure. But that's what's so great about being in a team like this. Not only do you have drivers like Scott Dixon and Alex Palou to kinda lean on, but just the experience from the engineers and having Dario as a guide, it's invaluable.
So, as a rookie coming here in May, I'm going to be well prepared, I think. Don't crash. That's the most important advice anybody can give a racing driver, I think. But apart from that, it's just like, take your time, build up.
And that's what the ROP is for as well, not to stress or trying to make the speed come on lap one, it's just take your time, get comfortable, because when things goes wrong, this place bites.
Oh, it just he doesn't drive the car, but he helps you and guides you in the right direction. Just like, “This is good, this is bad. Try this, try that.” So, it just, like a lot of comfort for the driver.
And he has so much experience and so much knowledge. So, you just want to continue to ask him questions until he asks you to leave or something else. But yeah, it's just good to have especially as a rookie coming into this championship.
Have you gotten a chance to drive this car yet with the HybridAssist on it?
No, I have not. A lot of the other drivers have, and I'm going to be watching here tomorrow, and Friday as well. And hopefully I'll get a chance to do that by the end of the year, but we'll see.
Marcus Armstrong of New Zealand competed on the road and street courses on the IndyCar schedule in 2023. Next season, he will run the entire schedule, including the ovals.
Here is what Armstrong had to say after his Indy 500 rookie test in this Pit Pass Indy exclusive.
You're through ROP. How was it, was it a surprise?
No, I don't think it was a surprise at all. I thought it was actually quite difficult to do phase one, if anything. Because having to predict the lap speed is not easy, especially when I don't really have a reference of what's fast or slow. So, I thought it was actually difficult to stay at that pace initially.
And then as we progressively got faster yeah, I had good confidence right from the beginning. It's obviously a very good car and we had tons of stability in the car, and it gave me a lot of confidence and I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to this place.
This was my first time driving around here around that way. And I mean, it was perfect, really. It's really nice conditions and cold. Yeah, it's great. I think I've enjoyed it a whole lot more than I expected. Not saying that I didn't expect to enjoy it, but I think the intensity of it is pretty special.
And watching on boards and watching it on TV is one thing, but actually feeling how the car moves and how the wind affects you and the tiny, tiny details of this place and Texas, has given me so much enjoyment.
And since I first drove at Texas, actually, I've been pretty fascinated by watching old videos. So, just because now, I sort of know what to expect in a way. So, I've enjoyed it a lot.
Honestly, it's my job to drive a car as fast as it can go. And today was reasonably easy, let's say. It was flat out. The conditions are suitable, we weren't taking any risks on area level or anything.
But when the time comes and we're looking for the ultimate lap time, I'm ready for it and just going to maximize what I have.
Honestly, I felt pretty comfortable straight away. I would say here, like phase three, for example, as soon as I could go flat, I was flat and it wasn't necessarily difficult. And I had a ton of confidence as well, but that's also because of how rock solid this car is around here.
So, yeah, it's also helpful to have Dario here and also, chatting a lot to Scott. And I can imagine if Scott came here and did this day, he would've been flat on the out lap. So, just got to remember that and keep your foot pinned.
Dario likes to go into his details about where he is turning in and all this and that, which is all well and good if you know what to expect. But last night I had no idea what to expect. So, I've never driven around here.
It met my expectations pretty similarly because yeah, I mean, the car was very predictable. It didn't do anything crazy. The conditions were good and yeah, I know that the car can do it, so you just got to trust the car and do it.
It's certainly helpful. I've thought about it quite a bit, if I didn't have the reference of these guys telling me that this will be like that and that will be like this, then the learning process would be a lot longer. So, having them certainly shortens it up, but it's also very instinctual as well.
This has been described as a four-corner high speed road course because of the precision of the four turns. Did you see it that way? Did you feel it that way? Because it is different than any other oval.
Yeah, four corners, they all feel pretty different especially with the wind, even though it's fairly low
But yeah, I can understand how a month round here it is going to be difficult to sort of know what you're looking for and to try and be productive and for qualy or the race, because I'm sure with a month around here with different conditions constantly, you can probably chase your tail a bit.
So, I'm going to be working hard with my engineers and team to understand what I need to do to maximize the month of testing.
When before I went to Long Beach, for example, I knew what to expect because I've driven on a street circuit before and I've driven in IndyCar. So, I can sort of try and sort of make it up in my mind of how it's going to be.
Driving on an oval, you don't know where you're going to turn in. You don't know how it's going to feel, how the weight transfer is going to going to be. So, it was part of the learning process and I got to say it was very good.
We'll be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
Hi, I am Scott McLaughlin, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Chevy, and you're listening to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Welcome back to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Chip Ganassi won his 15th NTT IndyCar Series Championship in 2023 with Alex Palou. Ganassi hopes to win another Indianapolis 500 in 2024 and will have a five-driver lineup competing in the big race on Memorial Day weekend next May.
I caught up with Ganassi to reflect on his Indy 500 ROP way back in 1982, and to talk about his prospects for 2024 in this Pit Pass Indy exclusive interview.
It's always an honor to have our next guest, it's team owner, Chip Ganassi.
Chip, we at Indianapolis, 500 rookie orientation. And you had two of your drivers, Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist go through their ROP today and successfully pass.
41 years ago, you went through your ROP and in a lot of ways, hasn't the program changed a little bit from what you had to go through? It was a little bit more strict back in your day.
It certainly was more strict. It was something that yeah, I remember you had to have veterans sign off on your license. After you drove, you had to have veterans actually watch, observe you. And then they had to sign off on your driving.
And I remember some of the guys that signed off on me, and actually one of them was the guy just happened to be here that day was Parnelli. And so, that was kind of interesting. And I think Rutherford was one of the guys that signed off for me and Mario.
And were you a little intimidated by the program and also, making sure that the veterans didn't exnate you from your ROP?
I wasn't a little intimidated, I was a lot intimidated. Yeah, it was a pretty intimidating place in those days.
I mean, and the other thing you had to keep in mind, in 1982, I want to say, there were over 60 car driver combinations. And so, you were pretty out on the edge of the envelope there.
Do you recall how long it took for you to get through every phase?
I don't, as a matter of fact. I mean, I think I did it one day, or I think I had to come back the next day and do something only because I think in the middle of the day, I recall we had a motor thing or something. And so, we had to come back the next day and finish the last piece of it or something.
And your rookie test, was that done with the machinist union team?
No, no, no, no, no, no. My rookie thing was done with Jack Rhodes.
Right. From Columbus, Indiana.
But as far though, as you think back 41 years, how much this has changed. Now, we're here in October, and pretty much it seems like a lot of the drivers breeze through it these days. What do you see as being the biggest reason why it has changed so much?
Well, I think it has a lot to do with it's a single chassis series. So, there's a lot of information out there about the car from different people. There's a lot of trade craft out there that's sort of everybody knows, if you will.
And so, I think that has a lot to do with that. I think the engines are a lot more durable, they're better.
Back in those days, in ‘82 you had engines blowing up left and right and I mean, the cars were not as developed in those days. There weren't engineers running around. A couple teams had engineers. That was it.
So, I guess the veteran observers today was you and Dario Franchitti.
It was good. Yeah, Dario and I did … ironically, we were discussing some of the lines there into turn one. So, that seems to have not changed since 1982.
To have two of your drivers in ROP and they both got through very well. Linus had a tire issue earlier in the day, but he got through that okay. How would you assess the way the day went from Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong?
Yeah. All as advertised and both did solid jobs and did everything we wanted him to do and more.
Just wrapping up with Chip Ganassi, the winning team owner of Alex Palou. He's going to be back on the track for the hybrid testing. And how do you see that program going along and the steps that have been made for IndyCar to enter the HybridAssist device that'll be added to the cars in 2024?
Yeah, we have a little bit of hybrid experience with the LMDH car, and I would say it's probably paralleling that program. You have a lot of what I would call teething issues that there's sort of one time issues that everybody you have one time and then it's over with.
And so, you go through a lot of that anytime you have some new component like that on the car. And I think it'll probably be ready for next year. But yeah, it’s all waiting and seeing with anticipation.
Well, good luck with that. And thank you for joining us on Pit Pass Indy.
Thank you. Thank you, Bruce.
We will be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
This is Will Power of Team Penske, and you are listening to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Welcome back to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
We wrap up today's episode with one of the all-time greats in IndyCar. It's four-time IndyCar Series Champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti of Scotland. He remains a key member of Chip Ganassi Racing as a driver, coach, and consultant.
I caught up with Franchitti after Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong completed their Indy 500 rookie test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this exclusive Pit Pass Indy interview.
Joining us now, on Pit Pass Indy is the great Dario Franchitti.
Dario, we're here at Indianapolis 500 rookie testing of which two of your drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing went through it today. It was Linus Lundqvist and Marcus Armstrong.
You being one of the key team advisors at Chip Ganassi Racing, how did you assess the way they pretty much breezed through it?
Yeah, they did a great job today. The team showed up with good cars, which makes things a little bit easier, let's be honest. But both them did a fantastic job, did exactly what they were asked to do through the three stages of rookie orientation.
And they finished it early enough. We had tires left and they got to do some laps and make some changes, understand a little bit how the conditions changed as it warms up here at the Speedway. Made some changes on the cars to give them an education going into May.
So, really a good day for us. We've still got to do rookie orientation, Kyffin Simpson. And that will happen next year. So, three rookies next year. It's going to be a busy month in May when you consider the Scott Dixon as well as Alex Palou. But yeah, good start to everything
Marcus was saying last night, you were giving him some tips and some key points and places to look at, and he said, without having any background reference, he really didn't know what you were talking about until he actually got on the track.
But how valuable is it when you have a rookie going out there for veterans such as yourself to be able to give them a little bit of an idea what to expect?
Oh, I hope very valuable, but you have to ask those guys that. And no, when you can help shortcut situations, especially here at the Speedway where experience is hard one. When you can do that, it's very helpful.
And last night, Marcus, Linus, and I had dinner. Kyffin’s already down at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans. So, but we had dinner and just went through different things I could sort of help with just to give them some experience going into today, as you say, when they get on track, first of all.
And so, it's not completely new because on a day like today, everything, the experience comes as a surprise to them. You don't really want surprises at 225 miles an hour.
Now, as I recall, your rookie season here at the Indianapolis 500, I mean, you were already a CART star when you came over, but that was still back in the day when you had some crafty veteran drivers as observers that you had to make sure when you did your ROP that they didn't see anything to discredit you over.
I didn't do it because I'd raced I don’t know how many, five-
You got the waiver.
I got the waiver. There was a bunch of us got the waiver because we'd done so many 500-mile races and at the time, cars that were a lot quicker than the cars we were racing here.
But I will say that Paul Tracy and I tested here early in the year. It was nice and cool conditions like today. And we thought, “Oh, this is easy.” Well, I certainly did. Paul had been here a bunch, but I thought, “Oh, it's easy.”
And I came back, it was 20, 30 degrees warmer and it was windy and I crashed a car coming off a turn one because it was a lot more difficult. This track is the most difficult because of the conditions, because of the tightrope that you walk every corner as a driver. So, anytime you get on the track as we did today, is good.
You told me a story way back when about how when you first arrived, you probably didn't think of the Indianapolis 500 the way you should have, but then one day the light bulb went off over your head and you fell in love with the place. What was the light bulb moment for you?
I think the light bulb moment was that first combination. Yeah, was it a light bulb moment, probably not. The combination of that first race, seeing this place full in 2002, coming back here in ‘03 when I couldn't race because I'd broken my back on a motorbike.
And then the final piece of that puzzle was having Dan Wheldon as a teammate because Dan loved this place so much, and that enthusiasm and love for it was infectious and that dragged me along a bit to start with. And then I just started to understand it and get it, realize how difficult the race was and I mean, fell in love with it.
When you think of next year's rookie class, you've got two pretty good rookies on your team. Marcus will be an Indy 500 rookie, so he'll be eligible for Rookie of the Year.
And you got Linus Lundqvist, Tom Blomqvist is going to be with Meyer Shank Racing. But you've got this kid that's going to test here tomorrow that's already a 2021 NASCAR Cup series champion, Kyle Larson. Kid can win in anything.
How intrigued are you by those drivers in next year's Indianapolis 500?
When you add Kyffin to that to that mix, it is an intriguing field. There's experience from all types of racing throughout the world. And I mean, Kyle Larson, as you say, can win anything.
When he was racing for us in Cup with Ganassi, when he first showed up at Daytona, the 24 Hour, and we saw his talent on full display very, very quickly, and it is so impressive, and he can adapt very, very quickly.
So, he'll face the challenges that anybody faces here at Indianapolis and IndyCar, but that level of talent is certainly going to help him.
Did you have any idea that Chip was going to field five cars in 2024?
No, we talked about the four drivers we were going to have and then it was like, “Hey, we're doing five.” It's like, wow, I mean, five and three rookies. I was like, “Thank you.”
So, it's going to be a very busy year for everybody involved in the team having extra trucks, modified trucks, new technology to be able to oversee five cars at once. So, yeah, it'll be busy, but it'll be worth it.
How do you compartmentalize and make sure that you're there for each driver, for whatever they have to ask?
That's part of that technology. You've got those three rookies, but you can't forget Palou and even Scott Dixon as much experience as he's got, there's still times where hopefully can add value and if he's not getting the appropriate amount of attention, he'll certainly let me know.
And that becomes that's one of those things that being best friends. You can give each other a hard time. But yeah, it'll be busy, but I'm looking forward to it.
And finally, the season had ended a month ago today, as a matter of fact, or a month ago yesterday. The 2023 season ended in Monterey, but yet here we are at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and in a lot of ways with an IndyCar team, there's always another goal, another challenge, and another thing to accomplish. And today was that.
Tomorrow will be hybrid testing. You'll probably be out here for some of that.
So, the off season really isn't a time for people to go on vacation. It's a time to roll up your sleeves and go to work.
Yeah. The lessons you learn in the season, you make the gains in the off season. There's no off time for this. I'm just looking into this room of engineers here. And then the mechanics, everybody that builds the cars back at the shop, nobody gets time off. And that's part of it. You've got to love what you do.
And then as you say, hybrid stuff, I mean, Marcus Armstrong did 900 miles at Sebring of hybrid testing. Palou's going to do some tomorrow. So, Dixon's done a load of it too. But we're playing a racing car, so anytime you can do it, it's fun.
Well, it's certainly fun and it's always fun to talk to you. Dario Franchitti, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver, and a four-time IndyCar Series champion, congratulations on your great accomplishments, a hall of fame career, and thank you for joining us today on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
And that puts a checkered flag on this edition of Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
We want to thank our guests, Tom Blomqvist and Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank Racing; Linus Lundqvist, Marcus Armstrong, Chip Ganassi, and Dario Franchitti of Chip Ganassi Racing for joining us on today's podcast to speak about their efforts in the 108th Indianapolis 500 in 2024.
Along with loyal listeners like you, our guests helped make Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental, your path to victory lane for all things IndyCar.
And because of our guests and listeners, Pit Pass Indy is proud to be the winner of The Best Podcast by the National Motorsports Press Association.
For more IndyCar coverage, follow me at Twitter @BruceMartin (one-word, uppercase B, uppercase M) _500.
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thanks to our production team. Executive producers are Brigid Coyne and Gerardo Orlando. Recordings and edits were done by me, Bruce Martin, and final mixing was done by Dave Douglas. Learn more at evergreenpodcasts.com.
Until next time, be sure to keep it out of the wall.