Mid-Ohio Indy Sunday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our third-place finisher, Dario Franchitti. Dario, tell us about the run out there today. Looked like it was kind of hot.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it was pretty hot. I was just asking in the elevator whether it was as hot outside of the car as it was in. It was baking in there.
We made a good start and managed to get past three cars, I think. I think we ended up third or fourth and were able to stay there for a while. At that point the car was pretty good on the reds actually. Not too bad. The reds went a lot further than I thought they would. They were really consistent. So that was working pretty well.
Went on the blacks, and I wasn't really happy with the balance on my car at all. It's the same problem we struggled with in Edmonton and the road courses. We've got it figured out on the street courses; we just don't have it figured out on the road courses yet for my driving style. Obviously Scott (Dixon) has it figured out but his driving style is almost 180 from mine.
The strategy I think was pretty good. We went as long as we could on fuel. Graham (Rahal) passed me on a restart. I made a mistake. He got back around me. We were going much longer on fuel so it wasn't an issue. Then towards the end we came out of the last pit stop, Ryan (Briscoe) and I were kind of synchronized pit stops there. Heading out, I could see he had the reds on. I pushed as hard as I could. He took off for a while, and I started to gain on him as his tires went off. I was trying to find a way by, but I couldn't do it. So that was it. That was my day.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our second-place finisher, Ryan Briscoe. Talk about your run out there today.
RYAN BRISCOE: It was OK. We just didn't have the speed really. That was it. We were struggling a little bit with the balance. I just couldn't attack the corner as aggressively as I would like. If I went in deep, I'd get loose on the entry and understeer through the middle. It was a lot of hard work out there.
Justin (Wilson) got by me early on, I was just holding off Scott. I could see he was fast because a couple of times I put in a fast lap time and he would still be right there. He just wouldn't back off. I knew he was going to be very fast out there today. He got us in the pit stops. He went a lap further in the first stint. Then we were just sort of running our own race.
That middle stint was really good. I felt like at the end of it I was a bit quicker than Justin (Wilson). Then I don't know what happened to him. But as Dario explained, we sort of came out together at the end of that last pit stop. I had the reds. I thought they were going to be the better choice. I thought they were going to hang on until the end of the race with 20 laps to go. They were dynamite out of the pits. First sort of four laps were really good. Like a light switch, I blistered the right front tire. The lap time dropped off about a second. I was pretty scared, we still had 15 laps to go or something. I thought this is going to be terrible if it keep dropping off.
I was able to maintain a decent lap time. It stayed consistent. Not as fast as the black tire, but it was consistent enough where I could hold off Dario and use the 'push to pass' button down the back straight, keep him behind me where the passing zones were and defend that second spot.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Ryan, pretty unusual in this series to finish second but have no sight of the guy that wins the race. 29 seconds ahead. How unusual is that? How dominant was Dixon today?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, no doubt he was strong. I heard him saying he could just put the car anywhere. He just had one of those cars. I think a bit like the car I had here last year, I had one of those days last year. I could do anything with it, be aggressive and the car would stick.
I think it's one of those tracks. You can find that setup where the car's really good, it's very fast. But if you're off a little bit, it's daunting. There are some fast corners, there are some curbs. If it's not right, you pay for it. It was just one of those days.
Q. Ryan, during the last stage of the race, Dario came closer. How difficult was it to stay focused on your race and did you become very nervous?
RYAN BRISCOE: My only concern was my tire really. I knew I could sort of hold a lap time. I had the button to press sort the down into the most likely braking zone, Turn 4. I knew if I would stay constant, didn't make mistakes, I would be able to hold off Dario. That's all I focused on.
Q. Dario, a day of perspective with Dixon moving past Hornish for the IndyCar Series era. You also have a nice battle for active drivers, Helio (Castroneves), you, and Dixon, all with close on career wins in Indy car racing history. Dixon kind of gets overshadowed for some reason. Soon may break out of that. Talk about how great he's been over this stretch.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, no doubt. I think we both got 21. How many has Helio got?
THE MODERATOR: 22.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Helio's got 22? Damn, pretty good (laughter).
Yeah, Dixie, he's been on it. Today was a great performance by him. Really, really impressive. We tested here a couple weeks ago. I was trying some of the stuff on the car that I know makes it quick around here. Scott would try it. He would go, "Oh, yeah, I like that." I'm thinking, "Damn. I'm struggling with my one (laughter)."
But Ryan said it best. When you get to this place and you get in a rhythm with that car, you can do exactly what you want with it, you do a performance like Scott did today, it was dominant and very impressive. Yeah, he's tough to beat as my teammate.
Q. Is there a sense there's a new leader in the clubhouse, that this is going down to the wire? How daunting is that to know that this points race may go down to the wire?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I figured it was going to go down to the wire from the first race. I didn't know whether I'd be part of that fight. I figured it was going to go down to the wire.
You got to expect that. It looks almost like a three-horse race now. I think Helio dropped some points again today. For me personally, we have to start finishing in front of Ryan and Scott, otherwise it's getting more and more difficult every week. We've got to do that.
But you can only do your best every week. The whole team is doing their best. We just, as I said earlier, need to figure out these road courses with the Target team for my driving style and that will definitely give us a leg up, I think.
Q. You raced against both Scott and Sam. What are their similarities, what are their differences?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Very different drivers. For me Scott, I've watched him get better in all the different disciplines. He can win on any type of track. And Sam is a fantastic oval driver, but really struggled on the road courses. But he was getting better before he left for NASCAR. But he really struggled.
So I think that's the big difference between the two. They're both great drivers.
Q. Ryan, can you talk about the points race with four to go, where you see it, particularly with the races left.
THE MODERATOR: It's a 20-point differential between first and third. Third closest in league history with four races left.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, that says it all. It's tough. What is it, 13 changes of the championship lead this year? It's quite incredible.
So, it's probably going to be like that to the end. I'm really excited to be in the championship. It's the first time for me in the IndyCar Series. It's been a fantastic year. I feel as though I'm still learning. It's just been a great experience, and a huge opportunity from Team Penske and everything.
So I'm excited. Like the next four tracks we're going to. It's going to be exciting.
Q. Dario, you keep talking about the difference in driving style between you and Scott. How different are you and in what areas?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: That's a top secret thing (laughter).
Scottie likes a bit of oversteer. He doesn't mind the back of the car sliding around quite a lot. I like the back of the car to be quite secure, where Scottie is happy with it dancing around. The more oversteer, the better for him, I think.
Q. Dario, we can see the cloud that's over you. I know you've been frustrated on the natural terrain courses. Going into Infineon, what is the situation going to be in the shop this week as you prepare for this race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Scott is testing Sonoma on Thursday. I did a lot of the early season testing. This time it's Scott's turn to test Sonoma. I'm going to go over and watch and try to get him to try some things that might benefit me a little bit if I twist his arm.
But we know what we got to fix. We just got to put our finger on exactly what it is and how we go about it and that will be it.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, Ryan, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our race winner, Scott Dixon, his 20th win in the IndyCar Series, surpassing Sam Hornish, Jr.'s career record. Scott now also has 21 career open wheel victories, 19th on the all-time list, tied with his teammate, Dario Franchitti. With his win today, Scott moved into the points lead with 460, three points ahead of Ryan Briscoe. This is the 12th time in 13 races the points lead has changed after a race.
Scott, talk about your run out there today.
SCOTT DIXON: The Target car was great from the get-go. The start was clean. I think that was worrying a few people I think with what was going to go on there. It was good to see everybody kept it tidy.
Pretty much from that part there, once Justin got a break on Ryan, you could kind of see that Ryan was maybe a little bit in trouble or just not as quick as we thought he was going to be early on in the race. I made a couple of runs or attempts, but he was really good power down, especially out of the keyhole. It was tough to get close to him to try to make a move down the backstraight.
We saved a ton of fuel, went a lap longer and jumped him in the pits. Obviously then caught up to Justin. Justin then, because he pitted three or four laps ahead of us, had to save more fuel on that one stint. That's why I think we were able to catch him so quickly, then able to pass him down the straights. Then obviously with the mix with Milka (Duno) between (Turns) 4, 5 and 6 made it pretty exciting.
Once the car got to the front, got some clean air, it was really good.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. The historical perspective of passing Sam Hornish. For years he was considered to be Mr. IRL. I guess that title now goes to you.
SCOTT DIXON: You know, unfortunately Sam's not still here to defend that. That's the sad side of it. Obviously it's a fantastic milestone for myself and obviously for the team. I've achieved all of those wins with Target. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible.
To finally be labeled that, I think in this series is a big deal to me, a big deal to the team. But it's going to be tough to hang on to that. I think Helio is pretty close. He's at, what, 16 or so. Maybe a couple others are on 14 or 15. To keep that going, I'm definitely going to have to keep racing for a lot more years. If I got to 25, 30 or 35, that would be pretty cool.
Q. You obviously saw Milka. Justin said she didn't play a factor as far as what happened with him. Were you setting it up to use her, so to speak?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I know what you mean. I think whenever you see traffic coming up, of course you're going to push a little bit harder and try to get as close as possible. I think at that point we did have a really big run on Wilson. He was saving fuel. I was able to run full rich. I could push the button. We had probably three, four, five more miles an hour on the straight. Going into Turn 4, I think we were already past him before we ran into Milka.
She made it exciting for another couple of corners, but that was about it.
Q. You mentioned yesterday how this is kind of a weird season, that nobody really wants to be in the lead. With the performance like this, do you think what you did today can give you a little bit of momentum advantage going ahead?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, maybe if we had three or four races at Mid-Ohio to go, you'd be pretty happy about that. Obviously there's a good mix with some road courses and ovals coming up. I think Sonoma is going to be another tough one, especially for us. We had a rough race there last year. I think finished out of the top 12. That was difficult.
We'll just have to see how it goes. We've got a test there this week. But, you know, even with the championship, nobody wanting to lead it, you know, you still look they three guys that finished on the podium today, it's the three leaders of the championship. It's going to come down to the wire. Penske definitely aren't going to let up. My teammate Dario isn't going to let up either. He's in the same equipment, so that makes it even tougher.
Whether we see a runaway start the next couple races, who knows? Penske is going to be extremely tough to beat at Sonoma.
Q. Did the 'push to pass' help you today? How did that work?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it did in a few circumstances. I never really used it when I was racing against somebody. That was probably full fuel or a different strategy. It does help. There's no doubt that it helps. The extra rpm definitely helps the gear shifts. Obviously the added power, you probably come to the end of the back straight two, three, four miles an hour quicker, which definitely make a pass a little bit easier.
How different that would be with two people racing on the same strategy, the same speed, I'm not sure.
Q. The way this points lead has changed after each race, is it almost the guy that's second going into Homestead?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't really care for leading the championship now. The only time you want to lead it is at the end. If you can get a runaway now and start building some points on those guys, that's going to be important. But definitely, as you said, I think in the last how many ever races the lead has been changing a ton between the three or four of us.
I can see that happening all down to the wire. I'll happily be second going into Homestead.
Q. Nobody is saying this was easy today, but you made it look that way. Was this one of those days when you hit the ball right down the middle? Did it feel smooth and good?
SCOTT DIXON: It did feel smooth and good (laughter). The car was just really good. It's normally very hard to keep close to a car in front of you when you're on the same strategy and running for the same pit windows. As we did with Briscoe, we were running leaner than them and sticking on the gearbox. It was fun.
You don't get cars like this too often or days that go this smoothly. Today I think midway through the race you're waiting for a yellow to come out at the wrong time and a strategy to kind of screw it up. The last time I had a dominant car like this, purely on a street course or road course, was Detroit last year. With strategy there, we just got hung out. It was nice to see where the yellows and things fell. But it still didn't hurt us too much.
Q. Heading to Infineon, that race last year was one you climbed out of the car pretty upset. Do you almost kind of feel like you want to go out there and prove a point in two weeks?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, we haven't got anything to lose. Hopefully we're racing with the same people. If you're going push it, you might be able to get a little bit added out of it.
Last year we got into the stupid scenario of racing and looking at points, racing for a championship, as opposed to just keeping them race by race. The championship decisions I think come in the car when you might be diving underneath somebody, trying to figure out whether that's going to be a crash car or a car that's going to get to the front.
Sonoma and Detroit, there's a few places towards the end of the season where we as a team, myself included, the way even cautions fell, helped us out there. I think this year we're just definitely going to go race by race and try to clean up.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, thank you very much.
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