Indy Japan 300 post-race press conference
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by third place finisher in the Indy Japan 300 Scott Dixon. We'll ask Scott to give a brief opening statement and then we'll take questions.
SCOTT DIXON: Today the car was real good. Secondly, the guys in the target pits, the No. 9 car, were fantastic. They got into the lead, I think on our first or second portion, and we just ‑‑ they had good strategy all around. The car was real good. It was a whole day of strategy and wondering whether we should save fuel or go fast or let the other guys catch a little bit. It was just one of those days where you pretty much knew you were a sitting duck.
In the end it bit us. I think that back markers definitely had the upper hand on strategy. They knew exactly what it was going to come down to when it went green with about 48 laps to go. So that was a tough one for us, but we still came away with some good points.
THE MODERATOR: Now joined by our second place finisher, Helio Castroneves. We'll ask him for a brief opening statement.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm still in shock, to be honest, but I have no idea what's going on. We had a problem in the pit stop. Looks like I pit a little bit too far and we couldn't put the fuel in the car, so we lost very valuable position. The interesting thing, it probably put us in the position to finish second because it made us fall back probably into seventh place.
As I was running I knew I needed to do some kind of numbers that was really hard to do, and I was trying as much as I can. My car was becoming very difficult to drive, I don't know why.
And after that the battle was to make the numbers, and there must have been about five laps to go, I was really, really saving a lot of fuel, and when Danica passed by I didn't know she was the leader until when I passed the pagoda and checked the numbers, and I noticed that No. 3 was in front of No. 7 until that point, and I realized that I just lost the lead.
In recognition of Danica's talents, she did a good job. She passed me fair and square. I didn't have enough fuel, even if I wanted to, to fight with her, and today I guess it's part of history again. Last race in this car, and now she wins the race.
She was very competitive. Any driver that comes with a good package and a good organization, they can put a good job and they'll be competitive.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Helio or Scott?
Q. You mentioned that halfway through your car was very hard to handle. What happened?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was just becoming a very heavy steering wheel, and as soon as I lost the lead to Scott, probably because I was running in the lead most of the time, and I guess that Helio was getting a little upset. But that was the only thing I assume happened.
Q. Question to the two drivers. At the end you have to control fuel at the end of the race, but how much were you controlling your fuel throughout the race before the end?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Basically I was saving fuel as soon as we started the race, and even after I fight back to about fifth or sixth position I was still saving more than usual because I was getting into best condition towards the end of the race.
SCOTT DIXON: I was in the same situation, really saving fuel from go. I don't think there was much on the first stint. I think Helio was saving a little more. We don't know what mileage anybody was getting.
But then second stint onwards we were running in the leanest mode that we had the whole time. But the speed took a toll more on the MPG than how much you could lean it up. When we were running fast at the front, none of us could save enough fuel to get to the end.
Q. Helio, I'm sure you already covered this, but will you again describe for me the moment when you realized you were second and not first, what went through your mind then?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was just on the front short. When she already passed me, I looked to the pagoda and I saw that No. 3 was ahead of No. 7, and as soon as we crossed the finish line, my number dropped, so I realized that I was in the lead for a short moment but in second at that time. So that's the only time that I knew I was second.
Q. Question to Scott, (indiscernible) like you did in Chicago at this race?
SCOTT DIXON: No, that's the last gamble I wanted to make on that one, but same situation, it turned out to be a fuel race. When you're leading or you're in front of the next competitor that's on the same strategy, you're the sitting duck. Nine times out of ten you're going to lose it. But we did our best today, and I think we had a fast car, and we just came up short, same as Chicago.
Q. For Helio, from the last pit stop, did you start saving your fuel from there, or were you full on and were you expecting to have a last yellow flag and then save fuel?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, first it was a great call by Tim Cindric, the president of our team. We made a pit stop, probably I was in fifth place and just missing two positions because of that problem that we were having in the pits, stopping too long.
But from that point we started seeing the fuel not enough as we would. It took a little bit of time for us to realize that this was going to be a fuel race, and we're probably not going to make it. So when we realized we could, that's where my lap times started falling quite a lot compared to the leaders, and it was a little too late to get a little bit faster and try to win the race.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Scott and Helio. Our race winner, Danica Patrick, will be in momentarily.
Before Danica gets here, just a few facts. She is the first female in major auto sport history to win a race. Open‑wheel racing dates to 1909. This was Danica Patrick's 50th start in the IndyCar Series. Her previous best finish was second place last year at Detroit.
We'll start off with a general comment from Danica and then we'll open it up to Q & A. I don't even know what to ask you. Take us through your day.
DANICA PATRICK: At this point I'm just glad that I don't have to answer the other question again.
THE MODERATOR: I guess we can open it up to questions.
Q. In this race did you do any special training
DANICA PATRICK: No. As drivers we usually train for the season, but not for this specifically. The road courses are more difficult physically, but this is not one of the most physical races of the year.
Q. When did you realize that you had won the race, and how did it feel when you realized it?
DANICA PATRICK: I knew halfway through ‑‑ I kind of knew from the start if we had enough fuel that I was going to have a chance because I was saving fuel from the first lap and nobody else looked like they were. So I knew at that point there was a chance to finish much higher.
But it wasn't until halfway through the stint that I had heard it was Helio and myself, I was either going to be second with the rate that the fuel was going, and it wasn't until I actually passed Helio that I knew ‑‑ I was pretty sure that I was going to win. But there was always that worry that the yellow flag would come out or that I wouldn't be able to catch Helio. But I maintained pretty good speed for how much fuel I was saving.
Q. How did you feel when you realized that you had won the race?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I was excited, obviously. I was pretty excited at the end. I've always said that I wouldn't do this, but on my last lap I was kind of just excited. And then finally when I actually had to talk on my radio, finally the emotion came out. I really couldn't manage any other words than "thank you." And then I was as relieved as I expected I would be years ago, how I knew I would feel when I won my first race.
But I guess over time that feeling has only gotten bigger, and over time I've been asked so many times when I'm going to win my first race, and finally, no more of those questions.
Q. Congratulations. When you pictured your first win, as a child coming up, when you pictured your first IndyCars victory, is this how you expected it would happen, and do you feel overwhelmed right now?
DANICA PATRICK: Gosh, I don't know. I don't know if I really pictured how it would happen, how it would feel. I obviously just knew I'd be relieved. I just hoped and believed when I was young that it would happen and if I had the right opportunity that it could. I just needed the right people to believe in me and give me that chance with a good team and good teammates. So thank you to them; I really enjoy being on their team.
And when it actually happened, I can honestly say that ‑‑ I don't know. It may have been a little anticlimactic. It was kind of like, it happened. Then I was like, yay, did it really happen? I'm first for sure? And then obviously the emotion came out.
Q. If it's not asking too much, share a little bit about what you talked about with your mom and dad and your husband there when they met you at the car.
DANICA PATRICK: It was quick; I wasn't with them a lot of time, but the time that we had, just the hugs and we love you, and congratulations, and a lot of fond words came out of my mouth, and that's about it. I'm sure dad said it was the best day of his life, stuff like that.
Q. It's your 50th race. Did you find is very long or was it quite short? Were you not expecting it yet? And then when did you start crying after the victory?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, it feels like it's taken a long time. You know, it did feel like it was a long time.
I think the hard part for me ‑‑ the good and the bad part was that ‑‑ it was really my first year in 2005 that I qualified on the front row, I was fast, I ended up finishing 4th but that was because a caution came out and the people were running out of fuel and there was a yellow. So I think it was a little bit of a chance my first year here.
And then obviously at the Indy 500, the next race, I almost won that one.
So from my third or fourth race in IndyCar, now we're at 50, I guess that's what someone told me because I don't really think about it, yes, it's been a long time.
I had a lot of opportunities last year that were missed due to bad luck. Yes, a long time coming, thanks. I can only say I'm just glad it's over.
When I go home it's the first thing I do ‑‑ I'm kind of hungry right now. It just hit me right now sitting here, I'm kind of hungry.
But when I get home, I'm a driver and I knew I could win, so I'm relieved, and I don't think it's going to change a lot. This is what I'm supposed to do. I don't think anything is really going to change other than a writer maybe.
Q. You told us that you were saving fuel. Were you saving fuel from the start of the race, and what kind of fuel mixture did you set for the car?
DANICA PATRICK: I think that the first stint of the race, that wasn't a big concern because we knew that there was going to be more fuel for what the tire life would be and there would be plenty of new sets of tires, so we really weren't worried about it on the first stint.
On the next one, again, it wasn't such a big deal, but we were starting to think about it. I know that the last two stints were the ones that I was concerned about, obviously the last one being the most important. But the one before, before they told me to save fuel, even I was starting to turn the fuel mixture down and save and do some other little techniques that help saving fuel. So I was starting to do that.
Again, I wasn't super‑fast doing that. I was losing a little bit of ground, and somebody caught me so I went back to fuel position 1 and tried to keep my position. Track position is also very important, especially in the beginning and midway through the race. So it was the last two stints that I was saving fuel.
You know, basically the team tells me a fuel number that they want me to meet, because that's the way that they calculate how much I'll be using until the end, and that's what I used as my benchmark to save some. It took about two laps to get me to the exact right number because it's always a little bit hard to go slow. But having the big picture in mind was the important part.
Q. When you're facing the men's world, the racing world, not only in Indy but you've been racing with guys for all your life, so did you feel you had a disadvantage, and how did you overcome both of these disadvantages that you might have had?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I think that the disadvantage to overcome was just that I hadn't won. A lot of women hadn't really proved on a consistent basis that they could be a good driver and always run up front. I think there had been times when they had done well but not consistently.
I can't tell you that I blame them for not believing that we could do it. But when you have 100 guys come through, finding one good one, the odds are a lot better than 100 girls since it takes a lot longer for 100 to come through. The odds are against us.
But I grew up with never really using guys as a reference, using drivers as a reference, and if I wasn't fast enough, I wasn't fast enough. That was the most important thing. I didn't think about it like that. I didn't think, oh, I'm the best girl out here today. I grew up with the right attitude to translate into a more competitive world. I thank my family for that.
Thank you, and thank you to all the Japanese fans. I always love coming to Japan.
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