GoPro GP of Sonoma Saturday Press Conference
Will Power, Team Penske - Polesitter
Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske – Second
Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon Racing – Third
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske – Fourth
Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing – Fifth
Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing – Sixth
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our Fast Six qualifiers for tomorrow's GoPro Indy: Ryan Briscoe, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti.
Sebastien, we'll start with you. Talk about today's qualifying run for you and the team. And obviously a great effort, best out of the season for you guys.
Sebastien BOURDAIS: We came a long ways, obviously, from the start of the season with all the struggles we had to go through.
So the last few events you see have been getting better and better and the team has done a great job, and we definitely feel that we have a much better idea of what we need on the car and where we are at. We tested twice here, and it's definitely helped us quite a bit.
We never can find any revelations on the car, but we keep chipping away and finding little stuff. And one after the other, you get closer to these guys. It's not easy. I think everybody, most everybody in the field feels like the guys at Penske have got it all figured out, and they've been dominating all weekend so far.
And I don't know what it's going to take. But we've done a pretty good lap. Hats off to the guys at Dragon. And that TrueCar/MacAfee Chevy was really good today. So hopefully we can make it stick tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, another front row start for you here. Talk about today's qualifying. Obviously as Sebastien said, are we looking at another Penske weekend?
RYAN BRISCOE: We've definitely unloaded strong. The car's been good since practice yesterday, and you just sort of adjust for the wind really, has the biggest impact on the balance around this place, and it's pretty tough.
But qualifying was solid. I just didn't quite get enough out of the first lap in Q3. And it's tough when you're on used tires to know exactly where the grip's going to be. And, yes, I was able to push a bit harder on the second lap and sort of repeat the time again. But the tires were starting to go away.
But great job by Will. Really proud of the whole team. I mean, they prepare our cars so well. And Chevrolet has as well got a fresh engine this weekend, feeling strong and looking forward to the race tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, for you, another great qualifying effort here. If you can talk about today's run. As Ryan alluded to, the conditions of being really windy out there.
SCOTT DIXON: Yes, definitely tough. I think I've never got knocked out of Q1. I think I was following (Mike) Conway. In every corner in front of me he was running off the track and putting dirt everywhere.
That was a little frustrating. And I don't know, today, it seems like in the mornings the wind direction is the opposite way to how it was for qualifying our car. Balance is pretty decent. We can run fairly quick.
But as the conditions changed and we struggled a little bit more, I don't know, we're kind of dumbfounded a little bit. We're just missing a little bit in just about every corner there's a couple of areas that are a little larger than others.
But the cars balance well. We just don't seem to have the grip of the speed that we need to right at the moment. A little bit of work to do. But race conditions I think will be good.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, your fourth consecutive appearance here.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, very much similar to Scott, really. Our car has got a couple of imbalances. Couple points in the track, a little bit of oversteer. And so we tried we tried a bit of a move there to try the used blacks instead of the used reds. It didn't really pay off for us. I don't think we are much worse off than we would have been. So a bit of work to do overnight to improve the Target cars and see what we can do tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Will, we'll start with you getting that pole and bonus point in the championship battle. And more important the starting position in tomorrow's race.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I had a feeling between Briscoe and myself, it was going to be a good battle. He was really quick. But ultimately he was if he hadn't made that mistake on the last corner he probably would have been on pole.
But I think it's been a good track for us. Ultimately, I would say, it's been a good track for Penske. I think that we have consistent cars here, and I can see the race is going to be pretty wide open with the way the windows work out, extending the race by ten laps.
So there will probably be more passing, too. So expect a lot of action. Hopefully not with me.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, what is it about Sonoma that suits you so well?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: This place is awesome. This up and down elevation is really fun. Certainly Team Penske knows the way around here. I think in the past, with three cars, we really trained a lot.
Yesterday unfortunately we found something in the car that was really different, and I felt we did not have the performance that we had in the test a week ago.
And today was just continuing a little bit of that. But I'm happy. The conditions, the way the car, my car was running, my Penske Truck Rental car was running, it was a little bit uneasy. Especially through the crest of the hills, it was very, very difficult. So fourth actually I felt really good. We think we can win the race from there. And we just got to keep consistent out there when we go in tomorrow for the race.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q: Will, how were you able to save your tires throughout qualifying?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think I did one less lap than Ryan. Depends on how you push on. But at the end of the day you gotta get through each round.
And most of the races this year you don't have the luxury of pitting early. But here we had a slight advantage, Ryan and myself. So we could do less laps on our tires. We kind of took advantage of that, which probably helped us in the Fast Six.
Q: The good news for you guys still in the championship is you're starting in the Fast Six, but you've lost a point to Will Power. At this stage of the season how valuable is every point getting?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Extremely. Every point counts. (To Bourdais): Sorry man. You’re not there. (Laughter).
Sebastien BOURDAIS: That's what I was going to say. For me it doesn't really change anything.
HELIO CASTRONEVES : It's really important. That's why we need tomorrow is it's going to be extending the race. Might have a different strategy. So people from the back might end up benefitting them. But I feel especially on this stage we want to be close to those guys and that's what we need to do tomorrow.
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's ruined all our chances, to be honest (laughter).
WILL POWER: I hope so. I really do (laughter).
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it is a point. But I think there's plenty of times when you can look back after a championship run of where you lost points and where you should have been more consistent and things like that. But if it comes down to that, I wouldn't place it or misplace for being the deciding factor. More than likely place it on Milwaukee. (Laughter).
Q: With respect to the recent track changes, what two or three things would you tell the fans to watch for tomorrow?
RYAN BRISCOE: I think the changes, I think it's probably going to open up a bit more passing opportunities mostly in Turn 7 mostly. (Turn) 11 is risky. It's very narrow down into there. It could be tempting at times but it's still difficult to be right on someone's tail getting down there.
But who knows, later in the race, but definitely (Turn) 7 I think is going to be an exciting place to watch the race from.
Q: Seb, talk a little bit about being one of the smallest teams yet the past few rounds you've been rather effective in terms of speed with minimal testing?
Sebastien BOURDAIS: No, it's just very proud. Obviously really happy to finally get our stuff together and be able to challenge the top guys.
That's the reason why we race. And it took us more time than we would have liked to get it figured out. But better late than never. We hope to build on the momentum and hopefully we'll have another good weekend in Baltimore.
Q: Does the pit lane separation over here, that line, is that difficult to see, because there's been a lot of penalties just in practice. Is that a concern in the race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The issue is you're looking to the right of the apex, you're not looking to the left. It's very easy see, where are you looking.
SCOTT DIXON: I've been looking over there.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Should be a pole mate. There was cats eyes there but I think they've all been knocked off. Nothing to tell you. At least Long Beach, Turn 1, there's the cats eyes. If you touch those, you know better. It's proven to be a little bit of a challenge sometimes.
Q: Ryan, you're starting in the front row and you've got two contenders for the championship with Will and Helio. So in the past there hasn't been any team orders, but what's your strategy for tomorrow?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, we'll try not to crash into each other, that's for sure. But how much how much? No. We'll race smart out there.
And certainly it's a long race. I want to win the race as much as anybody. And it means a lot to me as well. So we'll see how it plays out.
Q: Will, another small victory for you here today. But you've been getting a lot of success here. But one of your first or second times here wasn't so great. And you had to go to the hospital with a bad crash and everything. How did you sort of overcome that and get back to where you are now?
WILL POWER: Alcohol. (Laughter).
No, actually quite the opposite. Just a recovery process you've got to go through and something like that happens, and just gotta build up your back again.
Certainly had to build up the confidence when you have a crash like that, you start thinking will you ever be as good again. I came back, I was actually better. So it's all good.
Q. (Any fear?)
WILL POWER: There was. But every time I got over that bloody (Turn) 3 A I still don't think the lights are good enough there. I think it should be something as you actually enter into the complex. But it's yeah. I mean, man, when you go over the crest there someone's sitting there you're going to hit them hard. And I did.
Q: For all of the drivers, in the past it's been very difficult to pass here at Sonoma. And now with the change, is this going to change the strategy that you have before all you had to do was worry about keeping someone behind you and there was a premium on qualifying. Now it's more opportunity to pass. That's got to open things up and probably have to spend a little bit of time or more time looking in your mirrors than you did before?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think on re starts in (Turn) 7 there's no question it's going to be mixed up going into there. It's definitely a wider entry and more tempting for someone to make a move. But you're allowed to block now.
So that kind of helps the guy in front. We'll see, we've been to tracks where we thought that there would be no passing, and there's been heated passing. So if the car's been good and I expect there will be tomorrow.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Are you sure you're allowed to block sometimes because I’m not sure about that? (Laughter)
WILL POWER: You can't move, pal. Don't move. (Laughter).
Q: I'm a little confused about what you can do in terms of blocking. Are you just allowed to because the last time I asked that no one could answer me.
DARIO FRANCHITTTI: I think it's been pretty consistent since about Indy, I think. You can move over. You can have a preemptive move. You can't move in reaction to the car behind you. You can move before. But if you move to the inside you've got to stay in the inside. You can't then come back over to take the corner.
Q: So you have to anticipate what the guy behind you is going to do?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. You can't move in reaction to the car behind.
Q: The push to pass, there's now three and a half second delay, is that going to work here?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know what's happening with that. The push to pass where are we?
THE MODERATOR: Status quo.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Three and a half seconds. Oh joy. (Laughter).
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