Infineon: Sunday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined in the interview room by second-place finisher, Ryan Briscoe. This is Ryan's seventh second-place finish of the year, but it does give him the points lead by four points. Tell us a little bit about how your race went today.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it was tough. I couldn't do anything behind Dario. It was really difficult. I was really surprised. My strategy going into the race was I'll stay on his rear wing, save fuel, go a lap further than him, and beat him because I was going a lap further. And he went a lap further than me. It kind of surprised me.
So I think we need to look at maybe what we can do differently at this track, whether it's gear ratios, that's my first guess, something. I thought I was getting pretty good fuel mileage. He just went further. I think that was key today. Behind him, I was pressuring him, doing what I could, but he wouldn't budge, he wouldn't make mistakes. When he started having a bit of trouble on the black tires, I was having trouble on the black tires as well. We both had our issues at the same time of the race.
Maybe if we'd have done a slightly different tire strategy or something. Yeah, it was just tough. We just sort of followed him all day, tried to stay as close as I could, pressure him into a mistake. But second place, it was just one of those days.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You said you couldn't tell if he made any bobbles. Any one time where you were thinking maybe you had a chance on him? Did you use all your 'push to pass'?
RYAN BRISCOE: No, I didn't use it all. There were a couple of times. Obviously when you catch lap traffic, that's usually the best opportunity to try to make a move. But he was pretty smart about it, set up his moves on the lap traffic to where I didn't have an opportunity to pass him as well.
He did a good job there. As I said, he had a couple lockups on the black tires. But at the same time I was struggling, too, couldn't make any advantage. Wasn't an opportunity where I could really make a difference.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our third-place finisher, Mike Conway. This is Mike's career-best finish and his first podium finish. Mike, tell us how your race went today.
MIKE CONWAY: Thank you. Started off a bit rocky. Into the first corner, I was gaining a few positions on the left-hand side, then I got a hit from behind and punched my rear tire. It was a tough race, to come all the way from the back. But the car was working well. Just a shame we didn't get it right in qualifying. We have just changed a few things overnight, got it right in warm-up. Yeah, it was just working well all the race. Big thank you to all the Dreyer & Reinbold guys.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Ryan, it's very hard to pass in this race. Is it too hard to pass?
RYAN BRISCOE: I mean, it's hard. It's not an easy track, but it's very hard to pass. I don't know, if you got a good car. I saw my car was fifth on the last restart and ended up third. It can be done. I think on any track, when the competition is so close, it's really hard to make the difference.
But it is for sure one of the harder tracks. Just lacking a very long straightaway where you can get beside somebody.
Q. Ryan, is it almost kind of mind-boggling in some ways that nobody can hold onto the points lead for more than a race?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's incredible. What is it 13 lead changes in 14 races. I don't know. I've never heard of anything like it before. Hopefully I can change that now (laughter).
Q. If you have the lead after Motegi, you're going to have two or three weeks to think about it. Are you almost going to be scared going into Homestead having the points lead?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, maybe, if we keep this up. You don't want to be leading going into the last race. I mean, I don't look at it that way. I'm going to try to hang onto the lead, do what I can. It's just been circumstance where the results have been turning around every time. We can't hang onto it.
But I like the next three races. I think we're going to be very competitive. The car's been good at all the mile-and-a-half ovals this year. I really love the track in Japan. I haven't had the best success there yet, but I really enjoy the circuit. I'm looking forward to going there.
We just got to stay focused. It's going to be tough these last three drawn out as they are. Going to be a time to really stay focused.
Q. Mike, because of your background, you had to feel like this is the type of course you were going to get your career best on. Does this track remind you of any of the courses you've raced on throughout your career?
MIKE CONWAY: It's where I had my first IndyCar test a year ago. Probably one of the circuits I got the most mileage on here in America. I do like these types of circuits. All the road courses, street courses, I like. It's where I've come from, my background obviously.
Yeah, the result came this weekend. I think some results should have come before that, but just some bad luck and my mistakes as well, which have stopped that.
The ovals coming up, I still look forward to them. I do like the challenge of them. It was a bit harder to get the speed on them sometimes.
It's quite unique with the amount of elevation changes you have. I've not been to Laguna Seca. That's got some corkscrew things, elevation changes. I've not been there. But, yeah, it's quite unique.
Q. Ryan, the radio broadcast had a comment, when you and Helio (Castroneves) were chasing Dario, wonder if there's team orders. Obviously there weren't any team orders at lap 22 or so.
RYAN BRISCOE: I'm not sure. I wasn't expecting Helio to make a bonsai move, that's for sure. But I wasn't just going to sit back. I'm sure if I was just going to start rolling into corners, he'd drive around me.
At one point I saw he missed his braking into the hairpin. Make sure he doesn't run up the back of me. But, no, I think he's smart. I don't know what happened at the end. I saw he pitted a lap before me. I saw him in my mirrors. I saw he wasn't. I'm not sure what happened before he ended up off the track.
Q. First stop you all changed tires. Helio was quite quick. He caught you. Did that give you any kind of a pause for concern being so quick?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, a little bit. I believe he was on the option tire at the time. You know, apart from the pressure, really gave us a good indication that that was the tire we needed to go to finish the race on. It was clear at that point how much quicker the red tire was. It was hard. Both Dario and I were sort of hanging on at the end of that stint on the harder tire. It was pretty slippery. But it's just a tough place to pass on. Even though Helio was quite a lot quicker and caught us up, it never really looked like he could be right there in the braking zone.
Q. Mike, have you gotten frustrated in the season? You've been quick almost all the time. Something happens generally not your fault. Finally get a result where you should have been four or five times this year.
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, a little bit. It's hard when you don't get the results. Each weekend is a new weekend. I just keep pushing and focusing on that weekend. It's great to finally get the result. It's great to get my first podium. The team hasn't had a podium since you when you were at Watkins Glen. Great result for them. I'm just happy that we got it now, and it's the last road course of the year, great way to finish it.
Q. Mike, the first turn of the race, all the stuff was going on, you were probably right in the middle of it. What was your view of it and how did you feel about it?
MIKE CONWAY: Everyone kept kind of choking up on the inside. I went to the outside into two. I was kind of gaining positions. I think someone hit the back of Hideki (Mutoh) because he slowed down on the inside. It looked like I was going to get around him. I just got hit from behind. I don't know who it was. Whoever was behind me at that point just nailed me from behind.
It was annoying. Luckily we got back through the field.
Q. Ryan, with the championship at stake, the three tracks coming up are somewhat different, I would think Chicagoland is going to be like Kentucky, maybe very exciting, would you compare that to the way Motegi and Homestead compare?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, they're all unique circuits in their own. Chicago is obviously going to be Texas, Kentucky style race. Lots of two, three-wide. You can find yourself between first and 10th in a heartbeat. It's going to be tough racing. Especially with the aero changes we saw come onboard in Kentucky, it's going to be allow everybody to be very aggressive and run nose-to-tail very closely. It was already like that last year, so even more so this year I'm predicting.
Motegi is a unique one-and-a-half-mile oval circuit, just very open one and two corners, closed three and four. It's a great track. You never know what the weather is going to be like, cold, hot.
And Homestead, you know, we've run there a lot. We ended up quickest in the open test this year down there. It's a tricky circuit. Also there it depends a lot on the temperature of the circuit as to how slick it gets. It's often very windy as well.
Each circuit has its own challenges, I think, and we'll just take them one at a time.
Q. Mike, did you find you used the 'push to pass' more offensively or defensively?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I used it more when I was trying to overtake people. I only used it once when I think Oriol (Servia) got close to me one time coming out of Turn 11. That was probably the only time I used it defensively. The rest was trying to overtake people and move forward.
It doesn't make a huge difference, but it definitely makes enough for you to get that little bit of an edge, to get your nose up the inside.
Q. You said you didn't use all of your 'push to pass'. Do you have any idea how many you had left?
RYAN BRISCOE: Probably got seven or eight left. I was sort of waiting for the right opportunities. Then we had the yellow at the end of the race, which sort of took away a few laps of usage there.
But I used it a bit at the end. As Mike said, it doesn't do a whole lot. You want to use it maybe when you can make a pass or something. It's just I didn't find myself 15 times today getting right there where it was going to make enough of a difference to make a move.
Q. Mike, the question was asked of Ryan earlier. You made quite a few passes in this race. What do you think about this course? Is it too difficult to pass?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, as Ryan said, most courses it can be hard everywhere because everyone is so close, the competition is so high. People rarely make mistakes. When they do, you can capitalize on them. But you have to wait for a mistake. You could be waiting all day and not get one.
There are some places if you're a lot faster than someone, then you can really force a move. But, you know, you really rely on people to make mistakes. That's like any circuit really. It's tough anywhere. It's been tough all year. You can make it. Sometimes you have to risk a little bit. But, you know, that's racing, I suppose.
Q. Mike, you mentioned the next three races are ovals, which you haven't had a lot of experience on. Do you enjoy racing ovals as well?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I'm comfortable with the car on the ovals. I think I need to find a little bit more speed on the mile-and-a-half's, which is the next few that are coming up. It might be tough for us the rest of the year. The team is working hard to try to find some more speed in the car and trying some different setup things. Hopefully we can finish the year good.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Congratulations.
We have been joined by race winner Dario Franchitti. This is Dario's first win at Infineon Raceway and his fourth win of the season, the 12th of his IndyCar Series career, and 22nd of his open-wheel career. Pretty exciting day for you. Tell us a little bit about it.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: What can I tell you? The pole position yesterday really set up today. It allowed us to go and control the race. It was important to get a good start. We seemed to be good on starts and restarts today. The Target car was very good on red tires. We kind of controlled the pace from the front and saved a lot of fuel. It was kind of a decision of do you push hard and try and build a gap or do you save fuel and just kind of control. We decided to save fuel and control the pace.
The Firestone reds were pretty much as good on the last lap as the first. We managed to go one lap longer than Ryan, and that allowed us to gain a gap on that first stop. That transferred into the second stop as well. That gave us an advantage. Car wasn't so good on the black tires. But back on the reds again, we actually used a set of used Firestone reds the last 20 laps. The car was great. We were just controlling the pace. The Target boys in the pits did a great job.
Basic strategy. There were no yellows at the wrong time. We had windows, and we used them as long as we could each time. It was a great day. I guess it wasn't too eventful for everybody. I was just trying to be inch perfect, not make any mistakes and keep everybody in the rearview mirror.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. In a race like this, how much are you relying on your spotters to see what's behind you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: My spotter, Scott (Harner), really on starts and restarts he tells me what's going on. If I'm passing someone, someone is passing me, coming out of the pits, he would say Briscoe is at the start/finish line, give me some idea. If you want to find out where Ryan was, it wasn't too difficult. Look in the mirror. There was that big red and white car.
I was just driving my own race, though, not getting too caught up in what was going on behind me, again, not trying to make a mistake.
Q. In '07 you pretty much kind of were in first place for much of the season when you won your championship. Same with Scott last year. This year nobody seems to want to hang onto the points lead. Is this the most bizarre points race you've seen?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think everybody wants to. We just can't seem to string it together. It's so difficult with the competition level. Scott had a braking issue yesterday in qualifying that really hampered him. That put him back to 10th on the grid. We saw what the result of that was, getting caught up in that first-lap problem.
But without that, I'm sure Scott would have been right there. So it's just so competitive that you can't afford mistakes. We've all made them this year. At some point we've all made mistakes. Actually we've all had bad luck as well. When you get the chance, you got to score the points.
Q. With Briscoe in your mirrors most of the time, was there any point in the race where you thought you overbraked, he might get past you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The only time was when the 23 car was cruising around in turn eight. The speed differential was such, a flat chicane there, the speed differential must have been 40 miles an hour. So I had to back off and time the pass so Ryan wouldn't get a run on me. If I'd have gone steaming up there, he would have got running past me. That was the one real worrying point.
I guess at the end of the second run, just before the second pit stop, somebody dropped a bunch of stuff down in Turn 9, made it quite difficult to brake and to stop there. I had a couple of moments there where I almost outbraked myself. Apart from that, it was OK.
Q. A lot of incidents, stuff on the track. Was that the only problem you had with dirt and so forth on the track?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, that was the only problem. The track was very dusty offline. So when I went offline to pass the 23, it was quite difficult. One of the problems, northern California, gorgeous weather, there's not much grass, gets quite dusty. The wind blows it on the track. A lot of people drive off as well. We saw, it makes the track very, very slippery. That was a bit of a problem. It's a problem in the carrousel a couple of times, as well.
Luckily I wasn't at (inaudible), so I didn't encounter too many problems with it.
Q. With 12 to go with that wing, no one called a yellow. You were dodging to get away from that.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The first lap I was. After we've all been through it once, we all know where it is. I was actually using it as a clicking point after that (laughter). After that, it was fine. Yeah, no, I thought that was okay.
Q. You said qualifying was demanding physically. How do you feel now?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It wasn't that physical of a race. Ryan and I were talking on the podium. In years past, it was a lot more physical. But it really wasn't so difficult today. I really wasn't feeling it was that tough in the car. That was good. But definitely this is a physical track. But today wasn't quite as bad.
I think the more road and street courses the IndyCar Series has as well, we build that race fitness. Doesn't matter how much we train in the gym, there's no substitute for getting out there and doing laps in conditions like this. Next year we're going to do even more road and street courses. That's cool.
Q. If my memory is correct, you haven't raced at Chicagoland since you won the title there in '07. What is it going to be like going back there?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I definitely have good memories from there. And Scott after last year. We're going to have to go there. The Target team is going to have to do a better job than we did at Kentucky. We didn't have good cars at Kentucky. We'll need to work on that. And we are working on it.
We'll see what happens. I'm looking forward at this point. I'm not really looking back to what happened then. My focus is definitely these last three races. I drove the Nationwide car there at night last year. It's a cool place to race at night. So I'm looking forward to that.
Q. We asked Ryan and Mike the same question. I expect your answer will be a little different. Is this track almost too hard to pass on?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it is a bit. There's maybe something to be done with turn seven, making it even tighter using the really tight thing, maybe a Long Beach-type hairpin or something, more runoff in turn 11 so we could use the proper last hairpin. But we'd have to have some runoff. Seventy miles per hour with no runoff, which is not acceptable. That would definitely produce some overtaking, I think.
It would be nice to do something for that. When you see the stands, they were pretty full today. A really good crowd. We want to put on the best show possible. I mean, obviously today was perfect for me.
Q. Last year you had your NASCAR experiment. You've come back and been right in the fray in the championship hunt, right back where you were in '07. Is there anything different in your overall approach?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't think so. No, just doing it the same way I always did. Yeah, you know, I think to be sitting here at this point with four wins, thinking about the ones we gave away, rather than thinking, Oh, my God, we got four wins. Thinking Indy we were good, Kansas we were good, Richmond. So thinking about having that mindset, it shows where we are as a team and where my mind is, as well.
You know, it's been a great year so as far. Having a teammate like Scott, just every week, man, if you're just a little bit off, he's making you look foolish. He definitely keeps me honest.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Thank you. Thanks, everybody.
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