Phoenix IndyCar post-qualifying quotes

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – One of the nice things about oval qualifying in the Verizon IndyCar Series is that you have the post-qualifying media bullpen, and it gives you a shot to touch base with most if not all drivers.

Here, then, are a selection of quotes gathered from the bullpen today – with their qualifying position listed next.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Rev Group Inc. Team Penske Chevrolet (Verizon P1 Award): “It was a moment. It was interesting. It was in turn four actually which was something we never had.  The first lap was really big and I was really happy with the balance of the car. I was very surprised actually that it happened.At the end of the day, the car was strong. The REV Group Chevrolet was really, really strong. Now we have to keep pushing so hopefully we finish at the top.”

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (2nd): “You know, when you’re qualifying at the edge like that, you’re asking everything from the car and from yourself. The way qualifying works on the mile oval, you have to go out there from the first lap as fast as you can to get the tire temperature because the track is so short, and you get a green flag like second time by.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (3rd): “The hard thing is now everyone on new tires. It’s gonna be tough, but we had such a bad first practice. We recovered pretty well.”

Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet (4th): See separate story.

Scott Dixon, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (6th): “It’s definitely changed. There was a big change from this morning ’til now, at least for myself! It’s forever changing, whether it’s the wind altering the car, heat in the track, etc., so it will always be a moving target as such.”

Josef Newgarden, No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet (7th): “Ed was ahead of me by a place. I think for both of us, we felt we’d be pole contenders. I think we were. We missed it just slightly. But we’ve got fast race cars. No concern there. We just didn’t get what we needed in qualifying. Would have liked a higher starting position. Race trim we should be good. Going off that should be strong and make something happen.”

Max Chilton, No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (8th): See separate story.

Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (9th): “Too much push. We just didn’t get the balance right. There really isn’t much more to say. We just did two laps. But I’m feeling good and we work on what we need for tomorrow night.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 DHL Honda (12th): “It’s really tough to say and the reason I say that, for many years at Iowa, following practice, we couldn’t pass. But Iowa… is a two-groove race track. I hope there’s tire fall off. It could be semi-processional for a bit.”

Mikhail Aleshin, No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (13th): “It was OK. The thing is, I feel comfortable in the car and the team and first oval after this crash. For me, it is important we start from a good position and continue working the same direction.”

Alexander Rossi, No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda (14th): “It was not good. I’m pretty disappointed with it, but we’ll see why it was. I wouldn’t say I was concerned (about downforce levels), but it wasn’t where it needed to be from a balance standpoint. I just feel we should have done a better job.”

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 11 Team Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet (15th): “It was bad. We just unloaded a tiny bit different from the test, and couldn’t get it in the zone. We tried something a little different for qualifying with a small adjustment and why we couldn’t make it work. It was not a good run at all. We unloaded off, and with the crashes, there wasn’t enough time to get it right.”

Luca Filippi, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda (16th): “It felt very fast! Even if there a few faster guys than us, we felt good out there. First time with proper quali run, by myself, two laps, that’s new. The way you approach the first flying lap, to bring tup the tires is new. I like it. We had some margin with the car because we didn’t want to take a risk.”

Jack Hawksworth, No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda (17th): “I’d felt comfortable, we were just slow at the test. We split the program this morning with (Sato) to go qualifying and me race. I’d found a happy place. We were not very fast, so we had the incident at the end of test. It’s very easy to tip the car, that’s what happened this morning. Not an easy track, it just takes one change.”

Conor Daly, No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda (18th):  “I mean… it’s really difficult to get up to speed that quick. We are so on the edge. We’re having to play it too safe. The competition can occupy all top 10 spots. It shows there’s a difference between two manufacturers. For me, our speed was more down to me. It was tough to get up to speed. My bad. We just wanted to be well qualified. But a wreck is the last thing we need. It was the first time I’d been in this format. You take the green quite quickly. It’s usually on lap 4 or 5.”

Graham Rahal, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (19th): “All day we’ve been really loose. Extremely loose. I don’t know where to go with it. We were so strong in the test. Mechanically our plan was to not change much. I’ve been sideways more times today than I’ve been on an oval in years. I didn’t expect this at all! We got a hint of some Honda aero keys late in the game. We got stuck in a tail spin. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)