St. Petersburg GP: Sunday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with today's post race press conference. We are pleased to be joined by Scott Dixon, who finished second today. Scott previously finished second here in 2006, 2007, both times to Helio. Additionally Scott clinched the bonus two points for most laps led today.
Scott, you made up some great ground at the start of the race, led a lot of laps today. Talk about that battle with Helio and especially the pass in turn one around lap 73.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I don't know, the start went pretty good. I think everybody was pretty kind to each other, which was a big shock. Don't think there were any sort of cars coming together, which was a great way to start the race. Everybody dove for the inside, I went to the outside, picked up a couple of cars. Then strategy started to go a bit crazy.
We missed the first one, which I think the 12 car and Dario ended up taking, which were pretty angry on the radio, thinking that was the strategy that was going to win the day. Kind of nice to see when we got out of the yellow at a perfect time which helped us, in the end being on the right strategy.
Yeah, it was a good day. The car was decent. Car was really good for the first couple laps, then sort of about 10 laps in we started losing a lot of grip, couldn't keep the pace of the others.
At the end, Helio beat me out of the pits. I got him back into four and then a couple laps later he got me back into one. Not sure we made the right decision on tires. We went to used reds which we abused pretty badly in qualifying. They didn't seem to have that good of grip.
Helio was a man on a mission. I don't think we had the pace. Probably a little too cautious on turn one where he did go around the outside. I didn't push the envelope too much. I was trying to envision a finish here. So that's the way it went.
He was rocket ship fast and kind of in a class of his own today. That was all we had.
THE MODERATOR: We also have been joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ryan, talk about today's race. During the broadcast we could hear Kyle on the radio pushing for you to save fuel at the end.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it's interesting when you're in a fuel race. It's like fighting with one arm tied behind your back. Guys like Dixon and Franchitti and Helio and stuff like that, they're the best in the business at doing it. It really is an art to actually turn quick laps and save a lot of fuel.
But, yeah, I went through a period there for four or five laps where I was trying really hard to get the number they wanted and it wouldn't just come out of the car. I thought I was going to end up going too slow. But figured it out, then Scott started backing up to me. So we were all saving fuel.
Yeah, it's a good start to the year. Good strategy. I only wish we could have fought at the end, really fought hard, because I think we had a really good car on used tires, old tires. I would have liked to have given that a shot. But it was a race we were running. Auto racing has been like that for many years. It's all part of fuel. Luckily Chevy had some good efficiency in there, as well.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. How important was it to start off the season with a nice, clean race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Extremely important. I know Scott hasn't finished here in quite some time. Last year we were taken out from behind, so...
To really just start the season off on the right foot and log the points early, this race counts as much as the last one. We want a points race this year, we really do. Last year I came out really aggressive. This year I want to come out aggressive, as well, but with the big picture in mind. We want to fight for the championship.
Q. (No microphone.)
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The boys and girls did a good job today. I figured with the long off-season and carbon brakes; it was going to be a brain meltdown at times. At times during those double-file restarts, I was waiting for the thud from behind, but it never really came. That was a very nice surprise.
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's important, especially for us, we've definitely struggled the last few years probably with the first four races.
Obviously you're going to be aggressive and not change your style at all, but you just have to focus on making the right decisions I think throughout the day.
All in all, it was a pretty clean race. I think a few of us touched occasionally. Lap traffic was a bit of a pain at some points. But, yeah, I think it's important to start the season strong.
Ryan hit it on the head. This race pays the same amount of points as the last one. Consistency, if you look backwards with Dario over the last couple of years, that's what's won the championship.
Q. I want to ask you about Dan Wheldon. Obviously his presence was here today. Ryan, after the race you said something about the wound still being open. If you could talk a little bit about that. And, Scott, if you could add your thoughts.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it is. It's only the next race since the tragedy happened in Vegas. It is still wide open, the wound. This is Wheldon's hometown, adopted hometown, I should say, his U.S. hometown.
He's just a great champion of our sport. I know every driver in the series wants to be like him in many ways. We all emulate him. Yeah, we love the Wheldons, and today he was there with us in every way, so...
We wish we could have him back. He was great for our sport in so many ways. But that's just life, not fair.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think it is still so fresh. I think in some ways it's almost fitting the first race was in St. Pete, not that you'd ever want it to happen. If you could turn back time and change things, you certainly would.
For me personally, I just miss the guy. It sucks not to be able to turn around and see him coming through a door with those bright white teeth sort of smiling at you.
It's tough to deal with. I think it's nice to see Holly here this weekend, have her support, for a lot of the guys and teams, she knows a lot of people. So, yeah, it just sucks. It just plain sucks.
Q. Was it harder than you thought it would be to do the race today or about what you expected? Maybe, if you could react to Helio's celebration.
SCOTT DIXON: I didn't see Helio. I saw him pull off, and figured he did that for a reason.
Q. Was it harder than you thought it might be?
SCOTT DIXON: I think at some points. I think it's different for everybody, as well. Even last night when I went to dinner, myself, Emma, Stefan, Holly, there's reflection when you look back and talk about the good times, times you've eaten at that restaurant we were at.
I think it's important to keep the memory alive and reminisce about what a great guy he was. I think it's important.
I think it's tough. It has been tough this weekend. In some ways it's kind of nice to be fairly busy. When you're in the car, you're focused so much on what you're trying to do, making sure you don't crash in the next corner. You know, definitely thinking about the situation and him a lot.
Q. Ryan, did you see the celebration?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I didn't. I saw him stopping there. I remembered, yeah, at that point that that was the corner where the tribute was made. Really seeing Susie and the boys last week that just tore it all wide open again. It was great to see them. Reality set in, too.
This is his track. He's won here. Like Scott said, it sucks not having him. He was great for our sport. He absolutely should still be on track and fighting for race wins.
But I think in a way it makes us all stronger, too.
Q. This may be the most naïve question ever. Passing was at such a premium. Why was that?
SCOTT DIXON: Are you saying there was a lot of passing or not a lot? I thought there was quite a bit of passing, first part of the race.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Where did you start from?
SCOTT DIXON: I started in seventh, got to the lead, and then got passed. That is eight spots right there.
Q. (No microphone.
SCOTT DIXON: Don't blame us. Blame the TV (laughter).
You know, I thought the racing was good. I think at the end it was just the style of racing. You see it across the board. Once a fuel race starts to happen, it turns into more of a rhythm as opposed to pushing a car to its limits. You're trying to save. That's why the last 30 laps went green, no real accidents.
I was thinking we were going to have at least one restart in that last window, but everybody was focused on trying to save fuel.
The first part the race was good, mixed up really well, people were trying to pass.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think had it not been a fuel race at the end, you would have seen a lot more action. The way the yellows fell, the way it was, the amount of laps that are here, it just happened to be a fuel race at the end. Otherwise I think it would have been pretty action-packed, especially with the reds falling off.
Q. I know this track may not be the best test of it, but I was wondering if you think the Honda and the Chevy are pretty well-matched and if you saw any engine with one advantage over the other.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I know this guy, I had a good run on him once, I'm going to get him, Chevy power, and it never happened, so...
It was pretty evenly matched on that side of it, I thought. I had no idea what downforce he was running.
SCOTT DIXON: Sure Chevy didn't want to hear that.
We have some work to do in some areas that we know we need to definitely achieve. But all in all I think we have a good package at the moment. Honda is a great outfit and a great company. We'll be able to fight back in the certain areas that we need.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Certainly Chevy has shown they're strong, so hopefully we'll keep that going. They've been towards the top, occupying the top, most of the top five. Yeah, being a Chevy driver, hopefully that continues.
Q. There's a lot of talk going into the race about brakes. How did they end up working out? Glazing issues was the rumor. Trouble heating them up, but if you heated them too much, they would lock up. Did that come to fruition during the event?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I didn't have any issues.
SCOTT DIXON: Mine in the race were fine. I think we've had plenty of inconsistency with the brakes from the supplier. That's a totally different subject.
Q. Ryan, the Chevy teams are all screaming about keeping the revs up under yellow because of a voltage issue. Did you experience that?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I had the, Save fuel, save fuel, save fuel. I'm putting around in sixth gear under yellow. They said, Okay, we need to be in first gear from now on. Things were revved up completely. Didn't feel good at all. We had to do it to charge the battery.
It's something they're hopefully going to have changed for the next race.
Q. Talk about the car on the flat track of a street course here compared to what you're going to have next week at Birmingham.
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it is a totally different circuit. It's hard to know, you know, sort of based off what's happened in testing. Things change. Obviously the track will be a lot different, tires a lot different from what we tested last time we were there.
I think we will be a little better suited there. I think we have a better package for a course like that. You'll see that mix. Some cars will be better at this track than next week's.
I don't know. You know, it's still a bit of an unknown till you get there and you see how qualifying sort of rolls out.
Q. Ryan, I believe you said on Friday that today would be the first test session of racing this car out here against other cars. With that concluded, how well do you think it did?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: With the car, the engine, or the combination?
Q. The whole thing.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: The whole thing. I learned quite a bit about it in the race. It's certainly going to help for my next race. The team did, as well. Fuel mileage. We learned about the battery charging issue, you know. There are many things we need to fix just for next week to get it all right.
That's a good thing. That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to learn, finish, head on to Barber.
Q. Do you think you'll be able to be more aggressive from race to race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think there was aggressiveness today, everybody just used their heads. Scott was certainly aggressive and pulled off some moves today, so that was certainly good.
Q. Scott, you were talking about your set of reds, used reds, going off. Was that in the last segment?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, last stint. I think I abused them way too much in qualifying. You know, we kind of knew that was going to be a possibility. My balance changed a lot. I had a lot more understeer on the last stint there, the second time I was on reds.
It wasn't horrible. But I think if we had actually run blacks, it might have been a better option, new ones.
Q. Can you address the track conditions after the rain overnight? When you get a situation like that where the rubber gets washed away, is that more of a factor on a street course or road course than it would be on an oval?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It certainly is a factor, it washes the rubber away. We'll put the rubber down pretty quick, especially at a place like this. To me the only difference that it rained overnight, we didn't get a warm-up to try some things we wanted to try. That was the only difference to our day. Not a big deal. We put the rubber down pretty quick. 26 of these going around, it happens pretty quick.
Q. You said this was a learning experience for the car, the engine, things like that. What did you learn about how race control is going to call the races? Seemed to me like it was the referees in a basketball game letting the guys play and not calling ticky-tacky fouls all the time.
SCOTT DIXON: I think the racing was pretty good, but it was more on the fact that guys were good to each other. I protected my line a couple of times. The last time I did it, it didn't really work out with me because Helio got around the outside.
Yeah, you know, I think there were other instances in the race that maybe could have called for an infraction or a penalty. I haven't seen the race. I know what I did, the people I was around. But it seemed to be pretty good.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it was good. After almost seven years of a no-blocking rule, because I came from CART and Champ Car, straight into IndyCar where they had the no-blocking rule, it's definitely different. Takes a second to get used to.
When Scott defended one time, Oh, yeah, he can do that. Forgot about that.
Q. After what obviously has been a difficult few months, coming back here, everything that has been going on, is there any sense at all there's some closure now to Dan Wheldon, that you can move on now, that this race is behind you, back to work in the cars now?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: He's the defending Indy 500 champ. He's a champion in our sport. I don't think it's going to go away. I mean, he's going to be on every ticket at Indy this year, and rightfully so. Like I said, a great champion of our sport.
We don't want to forget about him, but it's going to constantly be there, as well.
Q. I meant from an emotional standpoint. Obviously you never forget it, but can you get back to work a little bit easier now?
SCOTT DIXON: It doesn't change your work ethic or the way you approach a weekend. It's always in the back of your mind. I don't think that's going to change.
As Ryan touched on, he was a great champion. The memories are always going to be there. But as far as work ethic and the way you approach things, you might have a few more questions this weekend than what you do for the rest of the year. Indy I'm sure is going to be tough, as well, for a lot of people.
But, no, it's not going to change anything in the way you remember him and who he was.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, Ryan, thank you so much for joining us today.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the race winner, Helio Castroneves. This is Helio's 26th IndyCar career win. Obviously last year we saw a streak of consecutive seasons with a win come to an end, yet here we are starting off the year with you in Victory Lane. Talk about today's race and obviously the emotional celebration in turn 10 afterwards.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: First I want to thank our sponsors, Shell, Pennzoil, IZOD, Verizon and AAA. With all those guys to stick around, I wouldn't be able to be here. Chevy did a great job to keep everything under control.
We did have some issues in the beginning that we have to raise the revs so we can have the battery or something like that. But, to be honest, it didn't upset us. It makes our temperature and engine very nice. Somehow everything went really smooth.
Certainly the start of the race I just want to make sure I did not have the same problem than last year. I wanted to be cool. I think these cars, with the brakes, seem to be better, or they start to be a little faster. I think it was nicer.
Plus I guess everybody was kind of take it easy, first race of the season. Other than that, I was just taking my time, let everything cool down. I lost some spots, but I wasn't worried at all.
We just waited for the game. When the yellow came, we just decided to play a different strategy compared to Will, then a different strategy compared to Ryan.
We gambled, but with a safe zone, and to be honest it paid off. Other than that, everything was really smooth. I got to thank again my boys this weekend. They did a helluva job. This is just what we need to start a great season until the end.
THE MODERATOR: Can you touch on the celebration at the end.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly, I have to be honest. I want to just change the corner. I remember I used to stop in turn one and celebrate. This time I said I'm going to do something else, in a different corner. I saw turn 10. I don't know, I didn't plan. As soon as I kind of like celebrate, I look and I saw Dan's sign. It's amazing. I said it before, I say it now, and you can never question God's mystery.
It was a perfect fit for this race, a perfect way to start the season. Again, I want to thank the fans because without the fans giving their great support and great vibe during the entire weekend, it would be very difficult to do what we love, to entertain everyone and be happy. Without that, it would be hard.
I wish everybody continue praying for his family, to be strong. Obviously Dan will always be missed.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Can you talk about the pass of Dixon? Last year was your worst year in IndyCar. Can you talk about how important it is for you to come out strong early in season, kind of get things rolling for you again?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'll start with the second.
It's always important to start strong in the championship. For us, certainly it's even more because of the season that we had last year.
For me, having my guys, the entire crew, believing in me and never give up, it just prove this is a great group of guys. That's what we need. We need exactly everybody saying, we know what we can do. Today we were just able to do that with all the scenarios that we had, with the strategy we play out, it was great.
Now, talking about the past, I came out really in a risk chance in front of Scott. He was very good. I was still with the cold tires. He was very good to keep right behind me. The rules today, you're not allowed to move and try to block or defend your position because that is considered blocking. I think everybody understand that now - at least I do. So nothing I could do. He passed me clean, fair and square.
Now I took advantage. I think it was traffic in the middle, in the mix, and I was able to get a great run on Dixon. I thought, Okay, he's not going to make it easy for me. I remember last year, things didn't go well. He shows me another direction, which is fine. I decided to go to the outside, and I brake as deep as I can where everybody brake. That was awesome, because the car sticks. I'm like, Yes, I made it!
As soon as I turned, I kept going. I took advantage of the tires because I knew the red tires were very good in the beginning. They said I'm okay on the fuel. I was just pushing, pushing. I keep going away, going away. I'm like, Are you guys sure? Yes, you're fine; you can save a little bit of fuel. I'm like, Wait a minute, I'm okay, not okay?
I knew it was 20 laps to go. It's a long, long way. I've got to save a little bit of tires. That's what I did. Yellow never came. There was a little scenario with Andretti two laps to go. I did not understand what's going on. But after that, I made the move, I was just taking it very, very easy, make sure we have a great result this first race of the season.
Q. You had your daughter on the podium. Is that the first time she's been at one of your race wins?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. First time was in Barber in 2010. This is her second time. But now she's a little older. If I have an opportunity to bring her around, I definitely want to do it.
Q. What was that like with the emotion of the day, knowing you were in turn 10, Dan's widow and his kids?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Good question. Today we all have kids, most of us that's been here for a while. Certainly what happened to Dan, we always thinking about his family, his two kids and wife?
So, yes, for me it is emotional. Especially when I came here in spring training, Sebastian gave me a big hug, I didn't know if he was mixing me with his dad or why. I was very touched by it.
I want to spend as much time as possible as I can bring my family around because these are moments which are forever. Hopefully when she's bigger, she'll be proud of her dad to bring her to winner's circle. I just want to do that.
Q. Helio, when you stopped and climbed, did you climb a different fence and then you went over so you did two climbs today?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes. Because the sign was on the other side of the road. The fans were on the exit of turn 10. The sign was on the inside. So that's why I went over there, with the fans, to celebrate. That's why it's so much fun. When I looked around, the sign was shiny and bright to me. I was a little concerned to cross the track. I asked the safety guys. They said, No, no, you can do it. So it felt great.
Q. How big is this really? Last year wasn't just a little bit of an off year for you; it was a very uncharacteristic year for you, the results. Talk about how important this really is for your confidence.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: For our group, it's important. We never lost confidence. We never stopped believing. Especially this off-season, with the tests that we've been doing, we've been up there in testing, helping each other, so we never stopped believing.
It's important for us as a group to know that we can do it. Last year, unfortunately because of many issues, some of them were mine, some of them were bad luck, some of them were because of the new rules we have with the double-file restarts. I have to say I did not felt comfortable at that point.
I think now at this point with new car, new engine, it gives you a fresh start.
As of right now, obviously a fantastic feeling. Again, I never stopped believing. Trying to search for answer, to be honest, it would be hard. You have to work to get the results that you want. As I said, everything played very well together. The yellow played in our favor. But at the end of the day we have to make a pass, many pass, to go for it. I'm happy one pass was important enough to be here today.
Q. You talked about everything involving the climb except for when you got to the top. Was it more emotional than you thought? Were there tears? You appeared to say a prayer when you got to the bottom.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That is exactly right. You know me very well. You guys know I'm a very emotional person. But as soon as I got there, you know, I felt very touched. Again, seeing his name there, certainly what happened last year, we still hurt, but we got to keep moving on. That's life.
I did think about my family, as well. That's why there was a little more emotion. That's why it was good.
Q. Helio, every driver out there is out there to start their season for their own success. How important was it for the series to get off with a nice, clean race, move away from everything that has been going on?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I believe was crucial. We got new cars, new manufacturers obviously. We have a new person in charge, some new rules. I mean, there are so many new things. We didn't know until the first race when we learn a lot, believe it or not. Everybody learn today a lot.
Maybe in some part of the race, it was not much passing, but in some others it was a lot of passing. I guess the cars were able to hold well. I don't know what happened, there were accidents around the track or not. The last 25 laps I was praying for nothing happen.
But I thought was very good. I thought was clean. The cars looked great. Speed-wise, Will broke the track record, so sure the car is good. I believe was extremely important.
Give great credit for everyone out there watching us to go back and watch again.
Q. Could you talk about the emotions and thought processes of leaving here today as opposed to this race a year ago, which started disastrously from the outset.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly it's gratifying. It's awesome. I will sleep like an angel tonight, or like a baby, like my little girl.
I thank my crew, as well. It's very important. It's gratifying for the entire Team Penske. I don't know what the other guys finished today. But certainly the whole entire work we did through the off-season is paying off. Especially last year, had a horrible season to start in this scenario. It's great. I have no doubt Ryan and Will going to join me also. I'm going to continue pushing, as well. That's why we're competitors.
But it's a great boost for the next race, to go out there and repeat what we can do. Even sometimes you don't start in the front, sometimes you start in the top six or something like that, and it just proves that if you're in the right place at the right time, it certainly will help you.
I never had any doubt. I always kept cool. It's a fantastic thing today.
Q. If Dan Wheldon were still here, how do you think he would have liked today? What would he have said to you after it was over?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, that's a tough question. I'm sure he would be the same as us as a driver. Love to be here enjoying this place, especially where he called the place home. So I'm sure there was a lot of things similar to every driver, you know.
That's why it's hard for everyone, not only for us drivers, but the fan as well. We just got to keep working so that we don't have the issues that we have last year.
Q. On your last segment when you passed Scott for the lead, can you talk a little bit about what you saw that made that pass the best pass for you? And also what tires did you have? Did you have new reds or scuffed reds?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a good question. I don't know if they were new reds. I don't think so because the new reds we normally use in the beginning of the race.
I think what happened is as soon as I make the move; I just want to take advantage of the tires in that scenario. But I wasn't actually pushing to the limit. I was pushing but in a conservative way.
I noticed that he was staying behind. I thought he was saving fuel. Then my crew said, you’re fine with the fuel. I'm, All right, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. I tried to keep the same average lap time what I was doing. That average, I was saving a little bit fuel and I was also open up the gap.
Once I opened up about seven seconds, I decided to take it easier in case a yellow came up, I would have enough tires to go and battle for the win.
Inside the car I was playing my own strategy. In the end of the day, thank God, we didn't have to.
Q. What is your daughter's name and how old is she?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Mikaella. She's two years and three months.
Q. So many drivers say, yes, maybe after you lost Dan that you kind of managed to put it in a side compartment. How therapeutic has been the racing as far as closure?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: This car we had today, unfortunately it came just a little too late. If we did have this car in the last race of the season, I believe Dan would be here.
We have to remember, racing is still a dangerous sport. That's the sad part of it. But we know that. As a driver, we know that. We don't thinking about that, but we know that.
So we got to keep thinking in what we love, which is drive the car, enjoy this feeling that I'm feeling right now, achieve a great result. When you do a pass like I did over there, those things are priceless. You can't describe. Even though you know the sport, there is a dangerous side of it.
So we always try to make it better, and that's why today this car, it is better. But we always got to remember, unfortunately there's still the risk involved. All our families know about the risk. It's tough for them, but that's life.
Q. You had a little contact with Carpenter. What happened there?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I could see he was struggling with the tires. I saw Scott pass by. I saw Hunter-Reay pass by. I was making my move to go on the straightaway to pass by. But he really slow down. I mean, I was kind of like, Nobody said he was going to pit, nobody gave me a signal. If he was pitting, I thought something happened because he slowed down in the area we actually accelerate.
When I saw that, I'm like, you got to be kidding me. That's the last thing I needed, you know, break my car, be in trouble. I'm like, Please, why happen to me, why didn't happen to the other guys?
But it's a shame. I never had intention to touch. Thank God nothing happened to my car. Unfortunate for him it didn't come out the same way.
Q. On the teleconference you were eager and looking forward to coming to St. Petersburg. Did you foresee good results or did you just want to get the new season going?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, I felt great starting here. I felt good. I was focused. I had the butterflies in my stomach, which is a good sign. But they were flying in formation, they weren't like crazy butterflies. Everything was under control.
I think when you kind of feel that way, good things gonna happen. If the game plays in your hand, you might end up in a good position. Today is exactly what happened. We were consistent, we were fast, good strategy, cautious. We have all these ingredients together, and it was a perfect race.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, congratulations on a great win.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you.
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