An interview with Power and Hunter-Reay
Gentlemen, thanks for taking the time to join us today.
For the seventh straight season the IZOD IndyCar Series will be decided in the final race of the season. Will Power leads the points standings by 17 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Will, the last two years you've come second in the championship, so I assume you're hoping the third time is the charm in clinching the championship this season.
WILL POWER: Yes, of course. It's going to be obviously a tough race, 500 miles. I've been in this position for the last two years. We just focus on the job that we have to do to execute on the day. The rest will work itself out. Either we'll be champion or we won't.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about the season so far. You've been fairly consistent, although haven't won since Brazil. Are you a different driver than you were the last two years when you've come in with a chance to win the title?
WILL POWER: I think just naturally the more experience you get, the more knowledge you have about situations, how to react in certain situations, and probably become a better, more experienced driver.
The approach is the same every weekend. You go into the race to win it. Really you go into the race to make the most of every situation as it presents itself.
Yes, I would say I've improved for sure over the last two years, but I don't think my approach is very different.
THE MODERATOR: Let's turn to Ryan Hunter-Reay. It's your first chance at a championship at the highest level of the sport. Do you feel the championship pressure or would you say it's more on Will?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's on both of us, for sure. We have the biggest trophy in the sport on the line, and the championship is what you're always after.
I definitely like the position we're in, chasing. We've been doing that for most of the year. I think we've been getting better at it.
We need to go out and focus on winning. That's really what it's going to be about. 500 miles is a long race. The race that we have in the first 250 is going to be a lot different than we have in the last 250. We could see a lot of comers and goers. It's going to be changing the entire time.
We have to go out there and do what we know how to do, and that's contend for race wins.
THE MODERATOR: A few weeks ago it looked like your championship may be over after you were spun in Sonoma, then you won at Baltimore. Talk about this never-say-die attitude you and the Andretti Motorsports team have.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It hasn't been easy. Right when things looked like they were going exactly our way, other situations would come about, like the situation with Sonoma, then some of the reliability issues we had at Mid-Ohio. These things happen at racing. It's part of it. Will has seen that in his runs for the championship, as well. Right when things start to look like they're heading in the right direction, you could be thrown a curve ball.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions for our two guests, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Q. If you both could give me a couple examples where if you win the championship, this is where you won it, because it's a season-long pursuit, a couple of examples where it went right for you and a couple where it went wrong.
WILL POWER: I think a race like Edmonton was definitely a place where I would say that could have gone either way, pretty badly or very well. It went very well. It was a point I would say potentially could have aided in winning the championship.
Obviously at Indy and Iowa getting taken out, yeah, obviously you can't get much worse than two DNFs. That's it.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I'm second in the championship, obviously. I'd be torn at the short oval events we had at Milwaukee and Iowa. Baltimore was a pretty big deal for us, just getting ourselves back in the championship race, bringing it on to Fontana. I'd probably have to go with Baltimore.
Q. Will, you said this year you've tried to relax and not let things bother you, concentrate on the stuff that matters. That plus going into here the third time with the championship on the line, can you talk a little bit about how that will help you with this final race and dealing with all the pressures. And, Ryan, do you see Will's experience in the final race as a bit of an advantage? Do you have to do something to compensate for the fact he's been there before?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think definitely what Will has been strong at is learning how to race an entire season championship-wise, win the points, when to go for it and when not to. We've seen that year after year being in contention.
When it comes to one race, I don't think there's any advantage to it at all. This is one race. I look at it from the standpoint, just like I looked at Baltimore: we have to win to get ourselves there. It's pretty straightforward for me.
He's done a great job to get himself here. I've certainly learned a lot this year that I'll be able to apply next year in how to really go after a championship.
It's something that you apply over a season. It's more of an endurance stretch rather than looking at it as one 500-mile race.
WILL POWER: I think Ryan is right in this has come down to just one race. Basically either it's your day or it's not. But when you look at the overall season, you just are going to have your ups and downs. It's the downers that you need to make the most of, those days where it's just not looking good, but you get like a sixth place or something is what makes up for a very strong championship.
Obviously, you have to have the speed to win races. You will if you're going to be a championship contender. It's a bad day if it costs you the championship.
At the end of the day, it's always making the most out of every situation, whatever you're given. That's going to be the case on Sunday, as well.
Q. Ryan, is there a point in the race where if you're close to Will, is there a point where you are going to have to decide it's risk-taking time or is it a matter of just letting things fall and hoping it turns out the way you need it to?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, because it's a 500-mile race, we need to make our racecar good throughout the race. When it comes to the end, it's risk-taking time no matter what. We have to go for it. If we're doing anything other than that, we don't deserve it.
Q. I want to talk a little bit about the psychology of winning a championship. For both of you, what qualities do you think make a champion? How do you keep your team focused?
WILL POWER: I mean, the qualities are, if you look at the last three championships of Dario Franchitti, you'd see he wasn't necessarily the most dominant, didn't win the most races, but was the most consistent and kind of made the most of every situation. You know, he's just there every time, no matter what. When it really mattered, he really was there and ready to perform.
At times definitely things have to fall your way. There's probably a little bit of a luck involved, as there is in every race and every championship. I think a mindset definitely helps.
Q. Will, are you going to gauge how hard to run by where Ryan is running in the race, in other words, keep him in sight or somewhere around you where you know your 17-point lead will hold up, or are you going to try to go to the front and win the race?
WILL POWER: Well, I will be aware the whole race where he's at, more so the second half of the race. You just make decisions as you go along. You understand the situation and react accordingly.
Q. Ryan, do you look at it as you need to win the race no matter what because you can't control what Will is doing?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, we need to be fighting for the lead the last few stints of the race. That's the key. It comes down to that. If we finish first, second or third, we got a shot at winning this thing. But first is all we're focused on.
We have to be there in that lead group fighting for the lead like we did at Iowa at the end. That's really the objective for us. Anything short of that really isn't going to do it.
Q. Will, with the points cushion that you have, just how conservative do you have to be, especially on things like fuel strategy? Do you just go for it anyway?
WILL POWER: Like I said, in the second half of the race, you'll understand your position and Ryan's position. Strategy's up to Cindric and Dave on the stand. They'll be telling me what I need to do. Like I said, I just drive accordingly. It's as simple as that.
Q. On a slightly different topic. I'd like to know what each of you think of doing double-header races next year.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think it's a really good idea. Get more coverage for the series. Makes financial sense because you're all there anyway. Yeah, I think it's a positive.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think it could work in certain markets. But we have to make sure that we keep the big show, which is the race on Sunday. If we water it down too much, I fear that it could be looked at as a couple heat races.
It's worth experimenting with for sure, but I think we should put our toe in the water before we put our leg in the water.
Q. It's kind of a clichÃ© to say that every point counts in the IndyCar Series. How much emphasis are you going to put on qualifying, since it may be likely you'll both take a grid penalty for an engine change before the race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, we're going to of course do everything we can to get pole. It's another point. It's pretty important this time of the year. Yeah, I mean, we'll just do the normal. We'll do what we can. If we get pole, excellent. If not, just move on to the race.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, absolutely, we need another point badly. We need every point badly.
But I'm not sure what we're doing with the engine situation yet.
Q. You have been testing really hard out at Fontana trying to nail down a good aero package for this race. Do you see this turning out like an Indianapolis 500 with a lot of passing almost at will, or like a Texas race where handling becomes a core element, or a cross between the two?
WILL POWER: Yeah, that's going to be interesting. As it cools down, we're going to gain grip. I see it probably a little bit more like Texas. I think Indy was too easy this year. It was just wide open, especially in qualifying. Based on tests, with the bumps and everything, I can't see that.
I think it will be a good race. I think there will be good passing, some cars will go off, some cars will be a bit better. Yeah, probably a bit more like Texas.
Q. Will, what are your plans this weekend with the added pressure of a title? Do you embrace it or is it something you try to keep off your mind or do you basically treat it like another race?
WILL POWER: I'm just treating it like another race. The best mental approach going in is making the most of every situation. And it has been the case in the last three, four races that we've been aware of the guy that we're challenging in the championship. So you kind of base your aggression upon that.
Obviously, if I'm ahead of Ryan in the last quarter of the race, at that point you become very aggressive and you have to go for it in the smartest way possible.
Q. Do you feel the amount of time you have had off in the season is a factor to you and Ryan's inconsistencies? Would you rather race every weekend, like NASCAR does, Tony Stewart goes on a run? Or do you like the schedule where it's at?
WILL POWER: I definitely like the breaks. I like good preparations. I like to have a break, a weekend in between to reset. It's good for me.
Q. Do you feel like that puts you on a level playing field or do you feel the lack of races and experience makes the championship even more wide open?
WILL POWER: I think the formula of cars have changed quite a bit since they last raced here. When they last raced here, they raced pretty open, two- and three-wide.
Track experience always helps. I know when we are testing Helio has a lot of experience. Kind of handy to have Helio help me out there.
Q. Will, you have a couple of teammates to help you out. Ryan also has a couple of teammates to help him out. Is that part of the strategy or is this an idea where you and Ryan just want to fight it out and the rest of the drivers should stay back? Have you talked to the other drivers about how things are going to happen, what kind of involvement, or would you rather they step back and let you fight it out?
WILL POWER: I haven't spoke to any other driver about involvement or helping or so on. How does anybody ever know what the dynamic of the race is going to be. I hope there is none of that. Other drivers understand it's a championship between Ryan and myself. There are other drivers out there who are fighting for third, fourth, fifth, sixth, top-ten positions, so on. Everyone is going to be in their own race.
I hope no one tries to be the hero, I want to help this guy out. It's not very sportsmanship like. I hope everyone understands that, as I understand that other people vying for championships expect for favors.
Q. Will, how do you feel about running a 500-mile race for the championship? Obviously reliability issues and all kinds of things come into play.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's different. Like you say, reliability and all that sort of thing come into play. You could be two laps down early in the race and get that back in the end.
I think, yeah, it will be interesting. It will be what it will be.
THE MODERATOR: As we have no more questions, we will wrap up today's IndyCar conference call, thank everyone for their participation, and wish Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay the best of luck this weekend.
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