By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor RacinToday.com
Posted January 11, 2015 - The Ford EcoBoost-powered Rileys of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates have been posting competitive times during the Roar Before the 24 Tudor United SportsCar Championship test session at Daytona International Speedway this weekend.
Two of the the team’s cars have been on the track and are scheduled to run in the upcoming Rolex 24 at DIS. Driving those cars will be some of the biggest stars in American racing.
The following is a Q and A with drivers of the two cars:
No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Target Riley (Scott Pruett/Joey Hand/Charlie Kimball/Sage Karam)
SCOTT PRUETT: TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR. “I just couldn’t be more proud of all my guys. Everything they did last year at the start of the year to Sebring, then everything we learned all season long. All the development of the Ford EcoBoost engine and the driveability and maximizing fuel economy and all of those things we learned, this is the way we’re used to coming to this track. We unload, we work on the car, we run and run and run and run. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now.”
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO GET BACK IN YOUR CAR AFTER A BREAK? DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO YOUR SECOND HOME, OR LIKE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL? “Second home. More than anything. Everybody looks forward to coming back here. You can’t wait until the end of the year, then you can’t wait for Daytona to come around. This kicks off everything. This kicks off all of motorsports. Everybody wants to be here. Every driver wants to be here. You see a bunch of guys coming over from Europe to be part of it. Everybody’s just excited to get here.
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN JOEY HAND THAT MAKES YOU CONFIDENT ABOUT HIM? “He’s incredibly talented. He lives across town from me. We grew up together, somewhat, even though I’m a bit older than him. He’s just a great talent. He’s a wheel man, he knows how to get it done. He’s just coming off of a stint in Europe in DTM, now going back to the US. It’s even more fun, I think for both of us, the fact that two American drivers will be with an American manufacturer.”
JOEY HAND: “Today, coming out of the box we struggled a little bit with the car and the handling. It’s interesting to see how the car migrates through the temperatures. This morning was a little cool and this afternoon it was warmer, then tonight, this is kind of what we had yesterday. The car was definitely better in the night for us than it was during the day, but it’s still not where we were yesterday. I think we’ll take a look at it and maybe go back to where we were yesterday. It’s part of Daytona. You have to chase the race set-up and find whatever you can find that makes it easier to drive faster at the same time. Daytona under the lights is cool. This is just a little taste of what you see during the 24 Hours at night, because during the race you have a Ferris wheel and fireworks going off and all sorts of stuff. It’s always cool to see the big ‘Daytona’ lit up on the front stretch and turn some laps.”
SAGE KARAM: YOU’RE GETTING MORE TIME IN THE PROTOTYPE UNDER THE LIGHTS, WHICH IS SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T HAVE LAST YEAR OUTSIDE OF THE ROLEX 24.
“I think everything’s a little bit better this year. We’re all a bit more prepared and we learned a lot from last year. I’m thinking we’ll see more consistency this year at the Rolex. I’m looking forward to it. Driving under the lights is completely different than driving in the day time, so it’s good to get 10-15 laps in tonight. We take all that data and we’ll learn from it tonight.
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING DURING LAST YEAR’S ROLEX THAT WILL HELP YOU PREPARE FOR THIS YEAR’S RACE? “You definitely learn every time you’re in a race car. To have the experience of running it last year, I got to see things that I didn’t know I’d be seeing, or I saw things that I thought I would see. You take all those experiences and you carry them over to this year. Last year was big for me to run. The first year I was more nervous. This year I’m more excited.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL: “It’s really fun to be back in the Daytona prototype. Working with all the Ford EcoBoost guys is always fun. It’s a nice opportunity to get your teammates working together and knock the rust off at the start of the year. Overall, I think the car is pretty good. We have a little bit more work to do on it, but it’ll be nice to come into the race weekend with a pretty solid foundation.”
No. 02 Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley (Scott Dixon/Tony Kanaan/Kyle Larson/Jamie McMurray)
KYLE LARSON: YOU HAVEN’T HAD MUCH SEAT TIME IN THE PROTOTYPE, YET SEEMED TO ADAPT IMMEDIATELY. “I’ve probably been in the Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley more today than I had all last year. I feel like I’m getting the hang of it this time around. I was running competitive lap times. This year I’ve been having a lot more fun. I got in yesterday and I was still kind of slow and frustrated, but today I felt pretty good, especially during the last two practice sessions. When you feel good, you’re having fun, so I’m actually pretty excited about the Rolex 24.”
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING DURING LAST YEAR’S ROLEX 24 THAT WILL HELP YOU PREPARE FOR THIS YEAR’S RACE? “To relax. Last year I was pretty stressed out because I felt like I was the worst guy on the team by a lot, so I didn’t want to wreck. This year I feel like we’re all pretty competitive. As a team of four, I feel like we’re all pretty close, so I’ll just go into this year a little more relaxed.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY: WITH ONE DAY LEFT OF THE ROAR, DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE LEARNED EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO BEFORE THE ROLEX 24? “I think there’s still a little more to learn. We’re still doing a little work on the daytime set-up. It just doesn’t quite have the grip. It’s odd, because coming from NASCAR, typically when the sun comes out you get more grip. But I know we have a really good team and they have time to fix that before the race. I feel like we have our car set up a lot better for the night, which is good.”
YOU HAVE GREAT CHEMISTRY AMONG THE FOUR OF YOU. TALK ABOUT WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES YOU STAND OUT: “I think probably the biggest thing we have going for us is we’re not racing for any points. When I look at the 01, I can see how important it is to Scott (Pruett) and Joey (Hand) to set their car up perfectly for the full season. That’s how they make their living. It’s a different situation for them than the four guys that are in the 02 car. We’re here to win and have a good time. It’s a really fun group of people for me to get to be around. This is probably my favorite race all year long.”