Detroit GP: Sunday Press Conference
1st Scott Dixon
2nd Dario Franchitti
3rd Simon Pagenaud
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing who finished second in today's Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
Dario follows up on his win at the 96th Indianapolis 500 with today's second place finish, and advanced 12 spots of his starting position of 14th in today's race. Dario has yet to finish no worse than sixth in six of his seventh starts here, and this is the first back‑to‑back 1, 2, for Team Target.
We'll get started. Dario, I know it was crazy yesterday in qualifying, but, man, you made up some positions today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, I was a little upset, two races in a row that I've been a little upset with qualifying, for very different reasons. I felt that the swap car was good all week, all weekend, but for qualifying, we made a lot of changes.
The fact that the car was able to run the lap times, as sick as I was feeling I was quite surprised. Because up until the race really, I've been behind the car all weekend just being sick with the flu and all that sort of stuff. The fact that the platform was there made it a little more frustrating.
But anyway, we started, we made some passes at the start today. And you know, got into that group, who was obviously saving a lot of fuel. And the group kept going slower and slower and the leaders were getting further and further away, so we had to go off strategy a bit.
Just before I did that, Seb (Bourdais) had I think he had some problem with the engine and over the last corner and basically stopped in the middle of straight when I was right on his gear box and I broke my muffler (ph) ‑‑ not that he did it on purpose, he was obviously having issues. That made it a little more difficult with the understeer in the car.
But then go back out, start pushing, I think we were up to sixth, seventh, or something, and then the Reds came out. That was obviously a long delay, and got to take my hat off to Bud Denker and the Penske organization for fixing the track. That was an amazing turnaround. It was absolutely the right decision by race control to red flag it because unfortunately those strips were rolling up and they were actually thicker on the right side of the car, so when you hit one, you lost the steering or the right end of the car as we saw.
But the track was definitely in a safe condition for those last 15 laps, so that was good. I'm glad we could put on a show for the fans and also for TV, the grace on ABC.
Those last restarts, I was able to get good runs off of the restart, and pass people on the outside. I think two in the first and two in the second restart.
And then I tried to get Dixie (Scott Dixon), but he's been a different class all weekend. And he's a wild little fox there, made some great moves. Those last, however many laps, six, eight laps behind him, that's the hardest I've ever seen somebody drive a car, over the crest in two; I could see about that much air underneath his inside front tire, there were sparks flying off the bottom wall but he was crossed up everywhere. It was a pretty impressive performance.
I felt I had something for him for the first two or three laps ‑‑ well, let me rephrase that. I didn't have something; I felt I could stay with him for the first two or three laps but the car started to understeer more. But definitely his weekend, he deserves this. What a terrific job he's done, and a 1, 2, 3 for Honda. Pretty happy.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Dario. We have also been joined by Simon Pagenaud, who finished third today. Simon finished third here a few years ago at Belle Isle in the American Le Mans Series. Just walk us through today's race.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, it was a tremendous race. We had a really good car. We struggled a little bit at the end of the first stint. We struggled with a right front tire ‑‑ how can I say it, blistering. So it was difficult, but we made it to lap 29.
So the tire was our limitation to pit. But then we went back out on Blacks and still saving heaps of fuel. We were coming back on Reds, which was kind of a joy, and then it came red flag. I thought we had a good race car, a very good race car. I thought I had a little something for Will (Power). Scott was definitely super‑quick but I think I could have stayed with him, maybe (laughing).
But yeah, I was a little disappointed it went red but they had to fix the track, really quick fix. Really impressive job from the organization. When we went back out, it was even better than before. So great job to them.
The second race was exciting, because it had a lot of restarts, and watching Scott was actually quite entertaining. Really thought it gave me first place at some point but it didn't. You know, it was difficult on Black tires, but we managed to finish 1, 2, 3 for Honda, which is a great achievement for the guys. They work 24/7. The guys in California are working on the engine and helping us with the response we needed which we have now. Just very enjoyable to be part of such an organization, and finishing third with those two guys is great today so really happy.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by our race winner, Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. First win of the 2012 season and first career win at Belle Isle. This is the 28th career IndyCar win for Scott, which means you just passed Johnny Rutherford on the all‑time win list. Also, in addition to the bonus point for the pole position at this race, Scott also clinched the two bonus points for laps led so obviously a valuable point today.
Scott, you have a lot of second place finishes this year. Talk about finally getting the first win.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, that was nice. Yeah, I think we probably had 30 second place finishes and then two almost DNF.
It's a nice way to come back. More importantly, I think for Team Target, first time back‑to‑back one, two finishes. It's pretty special. And Dario, man, I really don't know where you came from. Because on the second‑to‑last restart, I'm like, okay, Dario, one back. I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. And I was kind of worried because I knew he was on Reds, and the Blacks were really hard to get going, especially in the cooler conditions. And then after we had a bit of that rain and fog through eight section, I was slipping and sliding, and I definitely thought I had spun. I think I actually took my hands off the wheel one time on seven and luckily it didn't spin out.
It was a fun day. Fun day. Pretty crazy. Not every time you go out you do half the race. I went back to the track, watched the ABC telecast from the truck, had some Frosted Flakes and came back out and did a 15‑lap dash.
So if I could have got my gloves off, I probably would have chewed all my nails, the ones that I have left. It was a fun day, and just really glad that we finished where we did, and a clean sweep is always nice.
Q. Everybody yesterday said you can't pass on this track. Well, you must have done something because you came from 14th, 15th. How difficult was that?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: All of my passing was really done ‑‑ I think I passed one or two on track, but most of it was done on the start and restarts, and I think I passed two in the pits.
Q. And for you and Dixie, in the championship race, how important is it to keep Will Power off the podium, because you guys are both going to gain some points?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm just doing my best. With yesterday with the start to the season we've had, I'm just doing my best. I'm just getting every place I can.
SCOTT DIXON: You know, there's no doubt that the last two weekends have been a big jump for us obviously in the championship, and I think team morale everything and.
You know, as Dario said, we go into every weekend the same, we try our best and we try to achieve the maximum that we can. I'll continue on and hopefully we can ride a bit of a wave, and Will has still got a fairly decent lead, I think 30 points over me and Dario is really close too, now.
So second and fourth in the championship now for us, we are not out of reach. That's the main thing. We still have a fighting chance and I think between Team Target and Honda, we are definitely going to be pushing as hard as we can.
Q. For Honda to go 1, 2, 3 in Detroit and with the GM headquarters in the back, what statement do you think that makes about Honda racing and how relevant it is?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think it's a testament to everybody that works at Honda on the racing. And it's also you know, the first three races were all Chevy wins. Honda stayed in the game, because they started to work really hard, even though they wore working hard before.
But they found what we needed for us drivers, and I think we can attest here that we really enjoy driving the engine. The engine is behaving really nicely, and it's performing really well. So, 1, 2, 3 is the best reward we can give them here I think.
Q. The race was shortened down to 15 laps after the red flags; how do you prepare for a sprint as opposed to a marathon?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You're not allowed to ‑‑ they allowed us to change tires because of running around behind the caution.
All of those laps, apart from that, there was no adjustments allowed. A lot of the cars had damage on them and we had to just keep going. No adjustments made. It was really just a different mind‑set for the drivers. There's no fuel saving. That didn't become an issue. We were all just flat‑out there.
Q. For each are you, just talk about how wild it was to have concrete and asphalt flying around and if you had experienced anything like that?
SCOTT DIXON: We may have seen a similar one ‑‑ not similar, but on a small scale. You know, it's nothing you can plan for. I feel bad for everybody that organized the event. They are doing their best and they did a hell of a job I think, and one, it's really important for us to be in motor city Detroit with the competition back, and we have great friends here. It was sold out again today.
We have to focus on the positives. That's just out of anybody's control and I can guarantee you, it won't happen again next year. I think with the additions and the changes we are looking to do for next year, as well, are going to be pretty sweet, too.
Big credit to everybody that organized the event. It's been great to be back here and would like to come back here next year.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I agree with Scott, everything he said. I came here as early as 1997, Belle Isle is not in the shape it is now and I think full credit to the city and Roger Penske and his whole organization.
They are pushing so hard. I was at an event last January with Roger and Jackie Stewart and a bunch of the people in Detroit, they are so positive. There are not many cities you come to that has that passion to reinvent itself. It's definitely here.
That was a minor problem today. It was fixed very quickly, and, yeah, it will not happen again, I can guarantee you that. The guys running that are just too smart and too organized. We'll come back next year and go at it again.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think for myself, I feel like it's one of the most enjoyable racetracks we have on the calendar. You really have to push yourself beyond your limits, beyond the car's limit even.
You know, you push, you push, you push, you and find more and more and more. That's definitely why it's so enjoyable.
So I have to say, I hope we come back for many, many years, it's probably the most frustrating racetrack for us drivers, and like Scott said, the fans stayed until the end, which is pretty amazing.
So we have got to thank them for that. Unfortunately, yeah, there was a little bit of an issue, but quick fix and went back out racing, which I think is a great test amount to the series and the organization for the job.
Q. We know Scott had some Frosted Flakes in between the sessions there, but with the weather conditions, really all week long, the track conditions, how taxing is it physically and mentally to have these great stops and starts and preparation time? How have you handled that in these conditions?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I thought the break was great. That was the time to recharge my batteries. Like I said earlier, I had the flu and pretty run down, so I have been behind all weekend and this is a physical track. To me, this is ‑‑ this track is the fastest our cars feel to me. Just things coming at you and how quickly you have to react. It really is a thrill.
So I was thinking about it, the biggest compliment I can pay this guy next to me here is my old buddy, Colin McRae that knew how to drive a car sideways on the limit, and he would have watched that and given you a pat on the back, that was so impressive. That's the biggest compliment I can pay; he was the maddest guy behind the wheel I ever saw.
Yeah, so those breaks were nice and I was happy for it, just to kind of recharge the batteries. Tough to get back focused though to go racing again once you've been kind of out and about and then it started to rain on the parade lap. And then my head is going, hmmm, this is going to be really interesting. And off of turn four, five, six, seven was really slippery. And this man was the first one to catch it every lap. So I was kind of watching to see if he made it through and at what speed, and then follow suit.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on a great race.
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