Indy pole winner's press conference
PAT SULLIVAN: Well, Scott Dixon was here, and he will be here shortly. I know what he would say, and he's absolutely correct. It's a team effort to win a pole, a very important accomplishment for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500. By the way, this is the third pole for Chip Ganassi at Indianapolis, also winning with Arie Luyendyk in 1993 and Bruno Junqueira in 2002. I would point out this is the first Indianapolis 500 pole for Scott Dixon.
Chip, a guy who's been fast all month long, and that's a credit for Ricky Davis, Mike Hull, and the strategy it took to get there, that's pretty high drama. Congratulations.
CHIP GANASSI: Thank you. On days like today, it's a real tribute to the team. It takes the hard work that, you know, that nobody realizes that's happening in October, November, December, January, February. A lot of -- still a lot of late nights at that time of the year. A lot of thinking going on, a lot of planning for the year. You know, every team works hard in the offseason to get better, and you're charged with making your team better than the other guys who make their team better. You're talking to your engineers and you're talking to your staff -- let me turn my phone off here.
SULLIVAN: That's fine. I suspect you'll get a few calls tonight.
GANASSI: Yeah, but I just can't tell you how hard the guys work in the offseason. This is what it pays off at. You know, the hours and hours of testing and of, you know, of making a plan and having the courage to stay with the plan. You know, there are a lot of people, and I'm sure Ricky and Mike will tell you, but it takes everybody on this entire team, and sure, they all work for these two guys over here, but it's a lot of hard work on a lot of people's parts. Boy, I'm glad today is over with.
SULLIVAN: I'll bet you are. Again a reminder, gentlemen, this is being beamed not only upstairs but all across the world on the Internet.
Mike, for some reason I've been keeping an eye on you there, and you look to me like a guy who's emotionally drained at the end of this day. It has to be a high emotional drain to go through this whole new process.
MIKE HULL: Well, I think if you peak too early, it's emotionally draining. You know, Chip mentioned it, and I think it's correct. The people, all the people at Chip Ganassi Racing participated today on the racetrack as well as what's happened this year with our IndyCar team. We dedicated ourselves very clearly to try to do what we did today one year ago. Normally at Chip Ganassi Racing we say Sunday is the most important day of the year for us or the most important day of the week. Right now, Saturday is the most important day of the week for us, and now we're going to work for Sunday next.
But we're very proud of everybody that works for us and how dedicated they are and how unselfish they are to help us do what we did today. It's really important to us.
SULLIVAN: If you could help me out by sliding that microphone a little closer to Ricky, we want to get a word with him.
Ricky, I think I don't care if we're talking about the short track level, I don't care if we're talking about superspeedways or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, every racer that stands next to a trophy or trophy queen or gets all the accolades is riding on the back of individuals who spend long, long, long hours trying to unsolve the secrets of going fast. It has to be great sense of gratification for you when you look up at the end of the day at Indianapolis and you see two cars that are in your stable sitting one-two at Indianapolis.
RICKY DAVIS: Yeah, it certainly is. It's what you always -- you come here and you say that and you plan it, and the guys work hard and we work together every day of the week at whatever racetrack it is. We have all the support we have at the shop, and to watch these guys today helped me emotionally through, too, because, you know, I was trying to get wound up about it and how we all work together, and they did exactly what we needed to do. Like Chip said since last October when the season ended, we've done everything correctly and what we've wanted to do and how we've wanted to do it. I wish I could get them all up here to say something, including the guys that work for me in the shop. I really appreciate everything they do for us.
SULLIVAN: We're going to turn it over to questions. They call this guy the Ice Man, and what he's done is very clear. He's come out and done it, and he had a lot of confidence early on, we thought. We know some of the media are on tight deadlines, Scott, so I know a lot of the questions will be about that run.
Q: Scott, if Dan had run quicker than you at 5:45, I'm not sure you would have had time to get back in line, but would you have gotten back in line at that point?
SCOTT DIXON: Might want to ask Chip that question. (Laughter)
I don't think I would have had a choice. You know, at that point, you know, I think Dan, he had a clear run at trying to go at it. They had been working at the car. We had made a couple attempts earlier than that on-track testing the car for another qualifying attempt. We hadn't really found much more. So, you know, at that point I don't think it would have been a clear run for us. And to go and knock your teammate at that point, you know, for what we could have lost and maybe wrecking a car and not qualifying would have been a lot bigger. So, yeah, I don't think I would have even got my helmet on if Chip had something to do with it.
Q: For Scott and Chip. Obviously Dan Wheldon took a run at you, but in the last hour there were very few challenges to the pole. Castroneves never came back out. Danica never came back out. Why do you think that was?
GANASSI: Well, you know, I think you have a lot of things going on out there. Mike can speak to this probably better than me. You have weather conditions changing. You have to realize when you get up above the 223 mark in these cars, I don't know if that's it, maybe 224, you get up above that, you're really looking at little things like the sun going behind a cloud and cool, moist air shot through here about 2 or 3:00 this afternoon, and then about 4 to 4:30 it heated up again and started to cool off again at 5 and it had a locality to do with it. You had a little wind change, the wind started going a different direction, that can throw any team for a loop when that happens.
You had a lot of people that could look like they could do one lap up there, but to do four of them is, you know, is a tall order.
Q: The conditions were OK for Dan's take to go after the pole.
GANASSI: Right, and I think, you know, when you ask would Scott have gone back out, that's all how you are in the line there at the end of the day. You're in that line protecting your position. You know, you're in a defensive mode in that line as well as an offensive mode. So you have to protect -- we were there protecting our position. You know, we came into the month saying we wanted to be on the front row, but we also came into the month, you know, both drivers were adamant about wanting to be a part of this new qualifying procedure and wanted to be a part of a shot at the pole. You know, fortunately our cars were good enough to do that. I mean, it's not a lot of fun when your cars aren't good enough to do that.
But today we were fortunate that they were. And you know, when you've got great guys like these two guys pushing the pedals, it makes it that much easier. They work together, they're part of the team and they say, hey -- believe me, it's a conversation. Do we want to roll the dice? Yes, no, what do you think? It's a lot of emotion, a lot of feel. You know, you can take the -- you throw out the textbook today.
Q: Scott, just real simply, what does that pole position mean to you?
DIXON: It hasn't really sunk in yet. It means a lot. You know, it's not just for me, though. I think a lot of it, and I think Chip and probably Mike and Ricky have touched on it already, but it's the hard work that goes into it. Indy for our team, I think, you know, our development and working toward this race started well early in the winter. I think Chip and Mike and all the guys in the team are adamant on putting up a strong fight for this year's '500.' You know, all the time that they put in back at the workshop and the guys that a lot of time you don't even see at the track, it's a lot of effort from them. And from me a lot of thanks goes to them. I think they're the guys that definitely helped us along the way and we just put the pieces together today and came away with it. But for me I think amongst the drivers it means a lot. If you talk to any of the drivers out there, they know how on the limit you are, and for a general person I don't think that they realize that s
Q: Yeah, congratulations to all of you. Earlier I think it was -- it may have been Mike who talked about making a plan and having the courage to stick to it. Obviously this week probably didn't unfold as everybody wanted it to with all the bad weather, which probably required a little bit of adjustment on the fly, and then as Chip said, you know, you throw out the rule book today in terms of how you go about it. So can you talk about, A, sticking to the plan, but obviously at the same time being able to, you know, to adjust to changing circumstances on the fly?
HULL: I'll try to -- go ahead. I'll try to answer the question.
I think one of the reasons Scott's on the pole is because Floyd Ganassi drew a really low number for Scott. That what determined when Scott would be back in the pit lane for us to practice. Because, as you said, we had a clear plan. We knew that one attempt was not going to get it done unlike in the past. We've already -- we had rehearsed this 11 deal, this 11-guy deal, eleven-person deal I should say -- (Laughter) -- and so we came this year to be aggressive for the first time. Truly Chip Ganassi Racing came here today to be aggressive with the format. We tried last year, but we didn't do a good enough job of it. We studied this thing and tried to understand it. When Scott went out this afternoon for his second run, we fully assumed that that was going to be good enough to get us back where we wanted to be for the next run. But as Chip alluded to, the weather changed at 3:30 this afternoon, the wind was going directly down the back straightaway. At 4:30, it was a crosswind.
That's why Helio and Tony and even Scott and some of the other people, when they went out had a tough time trying to get to the speed that Scott had. The second thing that we really worked on from the very beginning, although track time was very limited, we worked on no matter what the speed was on a given day or at a given moment, we worked on trying to be consistent with that speed, because we felt if we were consistent for warm-up lap and four laps, that we could tune the car for the conditions. So when we rolled out today, that's exactly what we worked on. It worked this time. (Laughter)
So we're very proud of everybody on the team because it did. Every person participated in what we did today that works for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Q: Chip, yesterday we sat in the same room and heard Scott tell us that as the week went on and got closer to Pole Day, you would get more and more conservative and that he didn't think you'd do anything crazy like pull out a car that qualified really well and make another run at it. What happened? (Laughter)
GANASSI: Well, you know, drivers think they know you, I guess. (Laughter)
DIXON: Come on.
GANASSI: That's why they're driving the car. (Laughter) No, that was a joke.
Believe me, the fact of the matter is when your cars are good and your drivers are good, it's easy to make calls that other people think take, you know, a lot of courage or big balls, whatever you want to call it. It's easy to make those calls when you have great cars and great drivers and a great team behind them. For me, you know, it's -- we've been playing poker here for a lot of years and, you know, sometimes you're holding all the aces and sometimes you're bluffing. Just so happened today we had a good hand and we had all the aces today, I guess, you know.
SULLIVAN: Got about four minutes because there's some obligations for the team.
Q: Scott, can you describe the difference between years when you come here and, you know, you're hoping for something decent but not really sure you can attain it on a day like today?
DIXON: You know, I guess it's similar in the fact that you've still got the same, you know, the same people involved, the same pieces for the puzzle. It's just years, you know, as Chip just said previously, we maybe didn't have everything put together. You're still out there, you're still on the edge, you're still trying to go for that quick lap. But I guess today was a lot different because I think even on an average lap for us, we still had the field covered and I think that just shows how strong the team was today. We could make runs today where we didn't think it was quite right but we could still be quicker than anybody else that tried to go out there. For a driver to know that you've got the equipment behind you and go out there and do it and you've got a clear shot between yourself and your teammate, that's a pretty nice feeling.
Q: With about 40 minutes left there was a wreck with Ryan Hunter-Reay, does that change strategy at all as well with how teams go out with what you guys do?
GANASSI: Absolutely. Mike can probably tell you better than me because you know how long it takes for each car to go through the 10-lap run or, you know, what time it takes, how many cars are in the line. You know, if it's six minutes a car, five cars, that's 30 minutes.
HULL: We truly thought there would be two races today for those 11 spots. There was going to be a race for the front row and there was going to be a race for the last row. And so we thought that there was going to be a massive queue starting at about 4:45, which it never really happened for the last row of today's grid for ninth, 10th and 11th. We thought if we get ourselves up to the front with good times, we're somewhat covered here. So we kind of panicked a little bit in a way or freaked out a little bit because we're thinking none of these guys that can run 223 and a half that would want to get in today are flooding the line. So it kind of put us off a little bit from the plan we had. We had to kind of redirect ourselves and refocus just a little bit to make sure that it wasn't so much that Dan was going to be faster than Scott, we were really concerned about the guys that could get us, Helio, Tony, Danica, Marco, Ryan Briscoe. Those, we thought all of those people potentially were front row people and it just didn't materialize.
So we're happy about that.
SULLIVAN: You should be. I understand you've got some other commitments. Congratulations. By the way, Bob, Helio Castroneves came in and said we don't have anything for them. (Laughter)
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