Baltimore GP: Sunday Press Conference
Michael Andretti (Team Owner and Race Promoter)
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by two of our podium finishers from the IZOD IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Baltimore, Ryan Briscoe's Team Penske would finished second. Ryan follows up on last week's win and also Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Motorsports finished third.
Simon, talk about today's race and that restart on lap 37 going from sixth to first.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, that was pretty cool. I should thank my fellow competitors for letting me by there. I think I just timed it perfectly and it's one of those deals, sometimes you get a little about the lucky and sometimes you don't. I want to say this time I was just 100% perfect. I went push to pass, went back on the power just before everybody when the green flag was dropped, and I have a good draft.
So I had a lot of speed to go into turn one. Made my way, and, wow, when I was braking in turn one, I'm like, I think I'm P1. And I started to count back, where did I start.
So, yeah, it was cool. It was definitely a great thing. My car was amazing in braking for turn one, so it made things a lot easier for me there and I made quite a few passes.
The day overall was awesome. I think that restart really made our day but we were leading four wide. We had a little problem in the pits which cost us a lead which would have changed the outcome of the race, I believe, because I could have chose my side on the restart and then the whole pace was changing. But it is what it is. I'm very happy.
Third is good today. You always want a little bit more but got to remind myself that it's the first season. But we are knocking on the door, so that's a pretty good feeling.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, another great race for you, you seem to be picking up momentum heading into the final stretch of the season. Talk about the restart with Ryan Hunter.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, interesting race, long one, felt like it was longer than the Indy 500. Tricky conditions. I mean, a couple of restarts there in the wet on slicks. And you know I was impressed how everybody, at least in the top nine, ten, getting through turn one, turn two, without incident, and I think most of the incidents happened behind us.
So it was really tricky out there. And you know, at the end, we opted to pit early and see if we could stretch the fuel, and it worked, really. You know we inherited the lead and ended up having Hunter Reay right behind us where he didn't have to save fuel and the car was really fast.
We started pulling a little bit of gap and then I just started saving harder on the fuel to maintain a two second gap there. The car was really strong today, very happy. I knew we had a strong car. I was disappointed after qualifying where we just didn't get everything out of it. Didn't pass through Q1. And so once we got the lead today it was heads down and just focus, car was fast.
We lost the lead at the end of that restart which I'm yet to review but we were still within the accelerations. I had not accelerated but they waved the green flag. I haven't seen whether they waved it because Hunter Reay accelerated or if he accelerated because they waved the green flag. I didn't see, because I was honestly just waiting for him to pair up because we came off the chicane and he was hanging back.
So I was going slow to file up two by two and then the next thing, they just drove by me and I looked up and the flag was waving green. It was unfortunate. We dropped back to fourth. It's kind of funny, Dixon got me and I out braked him down into turn one and we got third and then I got Simon on the final restart for second and actually had to continue saving fuel on the last lap and it made it difficult to challenge Hunter Reay.
All in all, a good day. Second place is strong and we moved up a couple more spots in the championship and got a good battle with this guy next to me for fifth in the points now.
Q. Beaux stopped in the media center and explained that in the driver's meeting once cars reached the cone zone, anyone could go and didn't have to wait for to you react. He also said that you compared to others chose to start on the outside compared to the inside. So if not looking for contesting who said what but that was his explanation as to why there was no penalty. Is there a minute you didn't go when you reached the first cone?
RYAN BRISCOE: The fact is you're supposed to pair up. He hung back about two car lengths out of the chicane and then he accelerated from two car lengths back before I accelerated and that's not how the restarts work. You come off the last corner, you pair up side by side, and then, within the zone, when the pole sitter, regardless whether he chooses left or right, it doesn't make a difference, when the pole sitter accelerates they wave the green flag. Not when the second place guy accelerates from two car lengths back, which is what happened.
Q. At that point you were push to pass, how big of a handicap was that?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it didn't help. I'm not sure what happened. I haven't talked to the guys yet. I just know they were trying to load them in before the race started and we couldn't get the push to pass loaded into the car. So we started the race with zero and just had to deal with it. There were a couple of times I felt like maybe earlier in the race, it could have made a difference, but for the final result, it probably didn't.
Q. Regardless of when Hunter Reay did or didn't do, when he got to turn one, it didn't look like he was going to make. It did you think he was doomed for the tires and did you back off just to make sure?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I didn't think he would make it. He looked like he was padded he wasn't in good shape when he got into turn one. I tried to cross him there and I planned on passing him in turn three. Once we got through turn two, I was riding his bumper and the car didn't turn, so I almost hit the wall. I had to back off of. It which took away all my chances to recover the lead in turn three. One of those deals I guess. He did a good job anyway.
Q. Could you comment on the state of the track at the start with the rain? What did you guys see and how did that impact?
RYAN BRISCOE: It was tough. It never actually rained everywhere on the track and it's not that big a track. So it was tricky. Even in the rain, the concrete had decent grip. It was surprising.
Certainly it got really wet around turn 12 and through that chicane at one point. It was really slick. It was just really tough conditions. It was tough to gamble; do you come in and take tires or not. Most cars went for wets for maybe not a full green and everyone went back to slicks because it dried. Tricky conditions, tough for the strategists and tough for us to decide. Certainly gave us a handful to drive out there.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It was very tricky out there. It was very wet from turn ten to turn one. On slicks, it was tricky but still the grip was decent everywhere, everywhere on the racetrack and when we switched to rain, I thought, I think I've got less grip.
So it was really strange of a situation and Ryan just said also it was a big gamble. If someone would have stayed on the slick because of the yellow and all that, I think he would have kept the lead or get in the lead.
Q. Did you get a chance to address the restart procedure whether you would go through the chicane rather than straddle it?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, we did. Actually Beau last year was looking after that. They straddled the chicane. The problem is when you get ten rows back or seven or eight did you race here last year the cars that were further back, they would end up because the leaders would accelerate, the rear cars would be going across the railroad tracks really fast, straddling a chicane and then getting all out of shape over the railroad tracks so we just decided, as we did last year, to go through the chicane single file and pair up after that.
Q. With practice, going through the course yesterday and now the race today, where would you say that the hardest turns were or the difficulties on the track were?
RYAN BRISCOE: Obviously the final chicane on the front stretch, it's tricky, it's fast and you get a bit airborne and sort of land on the railroad tracks and there's a high risk factor there.
We saw a lot of accidents in qualifying. It's one of the trickiest parts but there were a couple of places and it's just the whole track, you've got different surfaces, lots of bumps in the braking for one and three and then you've got really smooth Tarmac from turn four all the way around to turn 12. So you know, it's just a tricky track. And it's got its difficulties. You just deal with it.
Q. Win last week, second this week, with your plans up in the air for next year, how much do you think this good end will help you or do you think your resume should speak for itself?
RYAN BRISCOE: I don't know. I mean, you know, certainly results are always good, and doesn't hurt. So you know, we are just I've just got my head down here trying to finish strong, as I have done all year long, I feel like, finally, we have had despite the restart, we fill finished second and we had some good results at the end where at the beginning of the season we would qualify at the front and just couldn't do a thing right to get a podium finish. So it's nice to finally be moving up the points. Getting good results, and for sure, it not going to hurt moving forward.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Michael Andretti. Congratulations on a great weekend, successful event and you guys found yourself back in victory lane at a very crucial time in the championship battle. Talk about the race, especially with Hunter Reay.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It has been a crazy weekend and want to thank everybody from Baltimore for coming out and supporting the event. I think it went off really well and proud of our whole team that we put together to run the race. There was not a glitch the whole weekend. They did an awesome job. Just wanted to say that.
The race, yeah, it was crazy. You know, especially when the rain came out and you know we took a little bit of a gamble but we thought that, you know, most likely, because it's so bad, but yet we saw that the rain was going to stop.
So we thought if we could get through one restart and basically get to three or four corners, because we thought there was going to be another yellow right away, let's just go for it and we told Ryan, just keep it on the track, don't try to beat anybody but just keep it on the track and I think if we do that, it's going to go yellow again and then it's going to have time to dry out. That's actually what happened.
So it's nice when the plan comes together. It was that, and I think that was a difference in the race for sure because that gave us a track position from then on and then it came down to Ryan, really, in the end. Just he had two really difficult, you know, challenges, which were those two restarts and he did them flawlessly and that's what won the race then.
Q. From a race promoter's standpoint, you had about 100 days to put this thing together
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You can't even do a wedding in a hundred days.
Q. Yeah. And practice got off to a flying start. Were there times where you probably asked yourself on Friday or Friday evening, it's like how challenging was becoming for you?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was, you know, me personally, it was not me, it was on our guys. They busted their butts. I can't tell you how many man hours were spent, especially the last two weeks, just burning the midnight oil. They were literally up all night and they are the ones that did. It they pulled it off and they did a great job.
Like I said there was really no glitches, that I heard of, anyway, and that to me says job well done from that standpoint. And so I'm really proud of that.
Q. We heard you say on the television, we are going to win this thing. Do you feel like you've got, heaven forbid, a Penske car right where you want it going into a big oval race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think we got them worried and we should have them worried if he's not. I think we are really looking forward to it. We did exactly what we needed to do coming into this weekend. We had two weekends of really bad luck; had we not had those two weekends of bad luck, we would be cruising in Fontana.
But this is a tough time and they are going to dig deep and that's what we did; Ryan dug deep. And we are making it a show in Fontana, and that's what it's all about. We are excited about it and we feel very good that, you know, we are going to be a factor there in the end.
Q. Is the big three back?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Big three, teams? Well, yeah, I think we are there. I think we have showed it all year long.
Yeah, I'm so proud of everybody on this team and how hard we have worked to get back to beating Penske and Ganassi, and you know, it's you know, everybody worked to get here and to stay here is tough. You can never give up, and we are not.
If we don't win this championship, better believe it, we are going to be all ready and armed to do it next year. But I think we really have a good shot at winning it this year.
Q. We have two weeks to speculate what might happen at Fontana, but do you feel that Ryan's record on big ovals compared to Will's record on big ovals, that he's got an advantage?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I hope so. Ryan, that's the thing about Ryan, he can win on any type of racetrack and that's what is great to have him on your racing team.
Yeah, for sure, Ryan is going to be a factor there. You know, don't count Will out. He's a real competitor. He's a great driver. But obviously he doesn't have the experience, quite as much experience as what Ryan does, especially on this track that we are going to. I'm not even sure if Will ever ran on a track like that before.
So hopefully that will help us out a little bit.
Q. Things seemed to go smoother with the promotion of the race in general; did you learn lessons from last year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: A little bit. There were some things that we did listen to people from last year, like some of the problems they were having like with moving pedestrian traffic and people once they got inside the racetrack, they didn't know where to go and things like that.
So we really tried to improve on those sort of things. But I think really in the end, the biggest difference was just the people that we had and all of the procedures that we had. I think that's what really made the difference and made it run so smoothly this year.
Q. As a Baltimore resident I cannot thank you enough for the miracle you guys put on here. Four months ago, we thought this is never going to be. And how you did it, I don't know but thank you from all of us.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you. We did it because we have great people and also I think you've got to give a lot of credit to two guys that really stepped it up for your city, and that is JP Grant and Greg O'Neill. Those guys stepped it up for you guys. Without them, this was not going to happen. So it's nice of you to say that to us but we have got to give them a lot of credit, as well.
Q. When you were standing on pit road today when they sang the National Anthem and looking out, did you have the same feeling? Were the people there that you expected to see?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, I think it ended up being pretty good. I haven't seen final numbers and all that, but my guys and stuff were saying it was pretty good.
So you know, I think could it have been better, probably but I think Mother Nature didn't help thus weekend with that rain yesterday and the rain today and the threat of rain today, I think maybe have kept some people back. But I think overall was still a successful event.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Will Power of Team Penske who leads the IZOD IndyCar Series Championship Series points standings by 17 points as we head into the season finale at Fontana in two weekends. Walk us through your race today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was just, the weather, you just can't it's just hard to make the decision which way to go there. Yeah, so basically, there's a bit of confusion on the radio. I said I'll pit and then I said I'll wait one lap and in the meantime Tim was saying pit. I think we were talking at the same time and he told me to pit and we missed that; I think that would have helped a lot. It's just unfortunate.
But yeah, it's every weekend, we are the quickest. Every weekend we are not just the quickest, but by a bunch, and circumstances seem to prevent us from winning.
So that can become frustrating when you're the quickest guy in town. When you look at the last three races and even when you look at the run total leading, Edmonton we were the quickest and got the engine change and got back to third, so was a good day anyway. Mid Ohio, pole, quickest again, lots in the pits. Sonoma, lost it on the yellow. And today lost it with the weather. (Laughter).
But then again you look at it, it's all good points though. It's all good points. Keep getting points but not to get those wins, if we would have thought winning three races in the beginning of the year in a row and not to win another one, we never would have thought that.
But, we are here and we are a 17 point lead and it's yeah. It's going to be interesting, 500 mile race. Maybe it will be the first, last race that I finish, because every year, I get crashed out. So I'm determined this time to just finish the last race and finish it as the leader of the championship.
Q. Your frustration levels here, how do you manage that between here and Fontana? Do you let this bleed off or do you let the frustration stay there to keep you motivated?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's really just, need to forget about this, and not you know, if we thought three races to go we would have a 17 point lead, we would actually be pretty happy, so it not that bad. Everyone's just looking at what the potential was, and the potential was potentially, winning the last three races.
So you know, it's actually not bad. Good news is, if I take Hunter Reay out in the last race, we crash out together, I win. So let's go side by side. (Laughter). Good job, man. Had a feeling you would come back (off mic).
RYAN HUNTER REAY: On the restart thing, every time I came out of the chicane the flagger was sitting there getting ready to wave it and they were waving it right as the first row paired up, they were waving it, especially later in the race. And I knew that. I came out of the chicane and got right next to Briscoe, and boom, the green was out and I think he was looking out his peripheral at me and waiting for me the flag was green.
Definitely jumped out and I'm happy about it. But you know, it sucked for him for sure. I don't know what happened behind me today but I want to commend the drivers that were running up front. We were wheel to wheel the whole time, really late passes but everything was clean.
One of those restarts I almost didn't come out of turn one. That was really close. But that's what I had to do to keep the guys behind me. On the double file restarts, you're just a sitting duck when you're starting up front. When you have a single file restart, the leader has the advantage because he can jump whenever he wants to.
But on the double file deals, everybody behind you, knows when you're going and they are going to be drafting you. So you're pretty much a sitting duck.
What a day for Andretti Autosports. It's an Andretti Sports Marketing event, and we need to do it now, for sure. Can only imagine what if; we need to do it. We need to go do it at Fontana. I think we are going to have a great car there.
Q. The one thing that Briscoe complained most about was that you never got paired up. Did you think you got side by side with him for the restart?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: We are not going to go through my data but you can see in my data that I lifted off and then my back right, so I came next to him, listed up and went right back to.
It might have seemed like one motion to him because granted he's waiting for me to catch up to him so I could see how he would think that but I came off the throttle to wait for a moment. I was just staring at the starter and not even looking at him because I knew how early they were throwing it.
Yeah, I got the best of that. That's where Simon went from 7th to whatever, or 6th to first on one of those. He just came out of the chicane and went and I said, okay, I'm going to start doing that now.
Q. What did you think about the way the starter was flowing the green flag? Aren't they supposed to wait until at least a few of you are out of the chicane before they lined up properly?
WILL POWER: Basically a leader has a zone to go from a first cone there's a cone distance, and if the leader has not gone by the last cone, the green is thrown. That's why it was absurd what happened, how it was happening.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: I liked it, though.
WILL POWER: I think Pagenaud did, too. I didn't see the cones much.
Q. Talk about how formidable your foes are.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Will and I were talking about it the other day, the bad luck I've had the past couple of races; this guy knows the bad luck, too. I mean, he was leading Kentucky when he was fighting Dario last year last year, right? Man, it seems like a long time ago when he had an incident in pit lane while dominating the race and got taken out of contention.
You know, so he kind of feels how I felt at Sonoma. You know, I it's tough. That's how racing is. So many factors play into it.
And Will is absolutely, you know, one of the best drivers that's been in IndyCar in a very long time but I really believe in my team and I believe when it comes to race day, we may not be the highest qualifiers all the time but the guys do an awesome job on stops and you know I'm a 110 percent every lap.
It's a great group of drivers. The Top 10 in this series, I couldn't say enough about them.
WILL POWER: I've always rated him very highly. It was a matter of time before he got in a good team situation where he could win consistently and be up there consistently, so I expected it. He's probably the best all around driver in the series because he wins at every discipline.
So, yeah, he's a very tough competitor and yeah, we understand, we both understand the bad luck thing. It can be so cruel; what happened to him last week, to be sitting to have done such a good job and be taken out on the last restart, you know, it just like you said, at Kentucky last year that sort of thing, but that is racing.
That's the guy who has the least amount of those sort of days wins the championship. And that's just how it goes. You can be as upset as you want at the time and say it not fair and bad luck and all this, but at the end of the day it kind of all works itself out by the end.
Q. Have you raced at California? Have you tested?
WILL POWER: No.
Q. Not driven a lap?
WILL POWER: Never, no. We have two tests before we go. We'll get to understand.
Q. Going from being dry and then wet and some guys didn't switch out like Will's guys waited to switch out the tires and going through the course, what was the most difficulty today?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: I can't describe how nerve racking that is when it rains on a street circuit and you're on slicks and you know the championship is on the line; and if you get through this thing, you're going to have a great race.
Unbelievable emotions in the car, just trying to tip toe through some of those corners. But these cars are very stiffly strung and they are 700 horsepower, and putting that down on a city street when it's wet is one of the tougher things in racing I think. I'm just glad I got through that. That was very nerve racking. I enjoy racing in the wet but I prefer rain tires when it's wet for sure.
It was good but we made it happen. We thought that it was just going to sprinkle and that I would have to live through a little bit of a wet track and hopefully that sprinkle would end, and it did. We never came in for rain tires, I think that was absolutely critical to our win today.
Q. Although after the race on pit lane, Will kind of criticized the restart thinking that you may have jumped the restart; he admitted at the end that given the circumstances he would have done exactly the same thing. When you know the race victory is on the line and your championship could be on the line that was pretty much the only move that you could make.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Well, that and everybody had been jumping me. So it's like, I don't know, what am I going to do. I just came down there, and I feel for Briscoe's situation, because he's the leader.
But the rule is that when the green flag is waving, and that's what I was looking at. This is a rare circumstance. Usually you're cued up on the other guy next to you or in front of you depending where you are on the grid. But I knew they were going pretty early on the restarts.
And that's not a criticism to IndyCar. The problem is, if you go too much later than that you have everybody come through the chicane, and then the first five rows stack up and then you have 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, all of them are coming through in third gear on the chicane. And they just never lift the whole time and never get a run on anyone else and you have a huge accordion effect.
Before we criticize IndyCar on throwing an early restart or an early green, you need to look at all the factors involved. Certainly I had my eyes glued on the starter and that inside was going to be mine, no matter what. I was not going to let that up, because I knew Pagenaud was coming. My tires by the end of the race were square. I looked up so many times going into turn one.
Q. Michael ended up making a brilliant strategy call in terms of what tires to take. Were you following his call and didn't think about the ramifications or did you think that if this doesn't payoff, you might be screwed?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: You never like being out there in the wet on slicks. Especially through the fifth gear, turn 11, when that's wet, oh, my, that was crazy.
But you know, he said let's just see he said to me, he said we are going for the championship. If we are going to do, it let's do it. Coming in fourth or fifth is not going to do anything for us.
I really look up to that. That's a pretty brave move and it worked out. I had to keep the thing off the walls as long as it was drying and when it started drying, I had a big smile on my face for sure.
Q. If you were to step back and sit where we are sitting and you think how this went today, would you say, no way, this really can't happen; would you almost describe it as an unbelievable day?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: It is, man, I'm so happy to be a part of it. So cool. It is really it is an unbelievable day. We had one thing we could do to keep this championship and that's win, and we did that.
Now we get to go to Fontana, which is an absolute crapshoot. It's wide open and anybody's race. Granted the usual suspects, Ganassi and Penske, usually are very strong on ovals, especially the Super Speedways. Too bad we are not going to a short oval right now.
We are going to go and test, and I have not done a lot of testing in Super Speedways in the past before the races so this is going to be a unique opportunity. Like I said I believe in what these guys can do, and you're right, though, it's an amazing day. Couldn't write the script any better other than finishing in Sonoma.
Q. Points have shrunk between you and Will. Do you go into the next race solely concentrating on the next race or all or nothing?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: The championship was on the line today and that's really the only thing I'm fixated on winning. This is all I've worked for my entire life and to come this close, I haven't been nervous at all or anything. I've just been enjoying it and driving 110 percent and really getting along with the cars and feel like I'm in rhythm with the car.
Hopefully we'll have that at Fontana, too. I'm enjoying it. I'm glad I don't feel really nervous between races or on the race weekend. Haven't had any of that. We have been keeping it light and having fun.
Q. Speaking of storybook endings, you have not had an easy career, you have lived through teams that dissolved, teams that fell apart and didn't have it together and now this year is the magic year. Do you at some times have to wake up in the middle of the night and think, my gosh, it's all happening and if so, how do you keep that emotion in check?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: I'm certainly very thankful for all of the opportunities that I've been given in my life and racing. I've had the opportunity to drive a lot of different formulas and a lot of different race cars.
Just like life in general, the more you put in, the more you get out of it. Every day I show up on the job, I have a beautiful Indy Car sitting there waiting for me, and that's my job to drive it, I mean, how cool is that. That's awesome, awesome. Couldn't think of anything better.
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