IndyCar MavTV 500 post-race press conference
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Overall champion and oval champion)
Michael Andretti (Team Owner)
Will Power (Road Course champion)
RYAN HUNTER REAY
THE MODERATOR: We are very pleased to be joined by our 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Champion, Ryan Hunter Reay. A quick look at Ryan's stats for the year. Four wins, six podiums, one pole, 153 laps led, and you also won the A.J. Foyt oval title as well. So how does it feel to be the champ?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: This is unbelievable. I can't put it into words the feeling. How hard I had to fight. How we had to fight tonight. How we had to fight at Baltimore. Just this whole thing has not set in yet. I'm still in almost fight mode. We just came back. We really earned this one.
For all the bad luck we had this year, to get it, it feels so good. It feels like we really earned this. We really worked for it. To get it done for Andretti Autosport, DHL, Sun Drop, Circle K, these folks have been behind me. This is a dream come true. This is what I've wanted since I was 6 years old. So it hasn't all set in yet, but, my gosh, amazing.
Q. Ryan, why can't you make things easy on yourself? Why does everything have to be drama?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: I don't know. I don't know. I heard Will was close to hitting me too. Really close, huh? Yeah. Unbelievable. What a race though. I don't know how it seemed to you guys, but, Geez, I was on the edge the entire time just trying to hold on to the car. You're right, nothing can be easy. It was stressful down to the last bit. Then the red flag comes out and I have to sit there and think about it some more while we had a good rhythm going. It was just, man. Still the relief is coming off. I'm still just taking it all in.
This is just amazing, you know. This is what racing is about, what sports are about. I'm going to let this one sit in for a second and really enjoy it.
Q. I know that you were quick to wrap the American flag around you. You're the first driver from the United States to win an IndyCar Series title since Sam Hornish in 2006. How important is that for the series?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: It's important. It's important to me. I'm very proud of my country. I always have been. I've always looked up to the American drivers when I first started this whole deal as a fan of the IndyCar Series, a genuine fan before I raced go karts I followed the American greats. That really appealed to me.
Now here I am on the other side, and I see these kids that are looking up to us drivers. Man, it's so cool being on the other side of it all. I mean, to do this against the Ganassis, and the Penskes, and the talent in the series as even Dario and Will and all these guys have said. I feel like I'm up against the best in the world. It's just amazing to get it done. I'm running out of words to describe it.
Do I get to spray the champagne? I haven't sprayed any champagne.
THE MODERATOR: We'll let you do that.
Q. Do you have any words for Will as a fellow competitor and the fact that he crashed out tonight?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: I think Will's one of the great talents there has been in IndyCar in a very long time. He's one of the best. His talent level, what he does on the track, especially some of these road courses and street circuits some of us haven't seen at all. He certainly would be a deserving champion if he won it.
But we had a breakout year. We really did. We fought for this thing. I certainly feel bad for Will ending up in the wall like that. They got him out there. And trust me I was not happy when I heard we had to finish one more position up because they got him back out. That was a curve ball I wasn't expecting.
But Will coming in runner up quite a few seasons in a row, it's just a matter of time before he wins it with the talent that he has. He's certainly great for IndyCar in many ways.
Q. I'll ask you the same thing I asked Michael and Will. It seemed like the decision at Baltimore to stay on the dry tires was just the crack in the door that you needed to get back into the championship race. How important and how significant was that decision when you look at it and the impact you had on the championship?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: That was massive, for sure. It's things like that where you can come back. Decisions like that that you have to make the right ones. We made the right one. At a time there, we were buried in the field. We had to come through that field, back through it again and get through some pretty fast race cars up front. Pagenaud in Briscoe to win that race, to get it done in the pits, me being overly aggressive and the right strategy call. We did that last weekend, riding that wave of momentum where we can get it done where we least expected and we were struggling this whole week.
I didn't say it much to the media because I didn't want anybody to know how bad we were struggling, but it was bad. Tonight we put it together, and it was amazing. The past week has been one of the most craziest weeks in my life.
Q. Michael mentioned that this year the team was stronger, you, James and Marco. You guys are such good friends. I know I've talked to some of your teammates, and this year was different for you guys. Talk about your relationship.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: We have a great relationship and we really use each other's setups a lot. They're interchangeable, especially on the ovals. We test a lot. We throw a lot of things at the cars to find answers. James found something, I found something, and that's what we did tonight when it mattered most. We put together the best bits that everybody had, and poof, that was the first time I had driven that car and trust me, it's different. It was different from what I had the rest of the weekend.
So I really got into a rhythm with it as the race went on. I learned a lot about what I had and made the most of it, guys did a great job in the pits, and came home champions, it's amazing.
Q. Ryan, on those last restarts they're telling you you've got to hold your position. We don't know if Tony's going to help you. You've got to stay focused. What's that like for you in the car? On that one restart, I think you got two positions there, and that was the one they were really seeming to be building you up and talking you up. Did you just go for it? If you could, talk us through that.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Yeah, the later stage of the race we were adding front wing. That was our goal tonight. Make sure we have a car where we can add front wing the whole night. If that happens, we were going to be competitive. That's what we were doing the whole night.
It started to get loose those last couple restarts, but once we started to get in that range where the championship's on the line, the nerves in the car you have to talk yourself down all the time. You have to focus on hitting your marks and every lap we're doing 210, 220 miles an hour out there. It happens fast. If you have a lapse of judgment even by a little bit, you could end up in the wall.
But that was the most pressure I've ever had in my life the past 20 laps of that race. Then the red happened and we had to sit there and think about it. I went into those restarts going for broke like we did at Baltimore. We have to be able to finish in the Top 4 or 5 was my thought. I knew I had to make up the spots early because we were not that great in the long run. But I had to get those guys behind me and hold them up.
Q. In the closing laps you kind of had a needless battle going on there with Sato. Was that you couldn't let yourself let up?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Well, the thing I thought about that was, hey, if we have two cars side by side, the car behind is not going to be able to follow that close because you're taking up two lanes. So, yeah, it wasn't the most comfortable thing to do. Sato was racing tough there.
I was comfortable on the high line, so I sat up there on the high line. He was down. I was just praying, please, please, you know, let's have some lane integrity here and get through this thing. It was a lot of fun all night long. Lot of nerves this whole week, the championship on the line. You try to stay cool, put on your game face. But underneath it all it's the biggest opportunity of your life. It's what you've been working on for, you know, 20 years to be at this point, and it all comes down to a weekend.
I'm just so glad that we're past it now and sitting here talking about it.
Q. Five years ago you have to admit your career wasn't doing very well. In retrospect, is this hard to imagine?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Yes and no. I always believed that if I got the right opportunity and worked hard enough that I could be in this position or I could be in the position to win races. But then you go from winning races to competing for a championship, and that comes with another level of consistency. And I've been saying it. That comes from the continuity and a team that believes in you, and a group like we have in the 28 car where things are working. And you build on that year after year. That's why we're in this position now. So just never give up. That's how it's always been for me on and off the track. It's really nice to have this now to make that all come to fruition.
Q. Going back in your early career, you were driving what quote unquote was considered a show car. How did you psych yourself up to keep going, keep going, and get to this point?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Well, in '06 all of '06 and most of '07, I didn't have anything. I didn't have any ride. I kept at it. Made sure I was at the racetrack. Putting a good face on. Telling everybody that would listen that I'm ready to go if you want to drop me in the seat.
I talked to Bobby Rahal early in '06 and early in '07, and told him if you ever need somebody last minute to jump in and go, go, go, I'm there finish you, man. And I got the call middle of the way through '07 through the '07 season, and I really credit Bobby for that. I do. He brought me back into IndyCar Racing.
Q. Can you talk about being the first Chevy driver to win the championship since 2002?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Wow. That's true. Chevy has been awesome the whole year from start to finish. They've given us the power to win this championship and tonight the engine was so hot. The temperatures were hot. Everybody was having overheating problems. We came in and we stopped in the pit lane and the temperatures were through the roof. I mean, way over operating range, and still had all the power we needed to go win it in the reliability. So Chevy has done a magnificent job, and I couldn't be happier to win for an American brand.
Q. Kind of a follow up on an earlier question, after the Rahal situation, then in '09, you don't have a ride. Tony George comes through and gets you a ride at Vision Racing. Halfway through the year you end up with A.J. Foyt. So there were some struggles there during that period of time. Also last year at Indy when you didn't make the race, you know, the tough decision was made to go over to Foyt with the DHL and partner with them and take over Bruno's ride. I remember at the time you were saying this is a decision about keeping the doors open in the future. How key and crucial was that to get you to where you're at today?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Like I said, this team has been behind me and the sponsors as well. You see the same sponsors on the car now. Through success comes support, and that's important. You have to be winning races, I think. You have to be showing promise and winning races to keep the support and to keep your job, really. But you're right. In '09, that was for sure rough. I found myself just trying as hard as possible to punch above my weight, and I got a few looks from Michael.
I certainly enjoyed that year though, driving for Tony. I learned a lot from A.J. He's a great individual. I can't say enough about him. I feel honored and lucky to have driven for him.
Q. Because of that support, the decision to return with Michael when there were guys out there like Roger Penske who were interested in hiring you?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Yeah, the situation really comes down to team. It comes down to the people around you. It's a people's sport. You know, the drivers are out there with the helmet on, their names on the side of the car, but it is a group effort.
Certainly, I was really flattered with the interest that came from the wins and everything else. But I'm definitely happy where I am. Happy to be a champion and looking forward to what lies ahead.
Q. Concerning this year and mid November as you probably know we have for many years since the first time again a U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Is this maybe something you're interested in? Are you going yourself to have a look if there is a possibility in long or short term future to switch over to Formula 1?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Well, I'm not sure if I'm going to the race, but DH L I think has a suite there, so I may go by. I'd love to go by and look at it. But I'm happy right here in IndyCar. This is home, and this is what I've always wanted to do.
Q. You know you've actually picked up two trophies tonight. What do you think about getting the A.J. Foyt Trophy for oval racing?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: It means a lot to have a trophy with A.J.'s name on it. The oval side of it is a big part of IndyCar Racing. It certainly means a lot to me to be the oval champion. We worked hard this year. We won half the oval races, well, except for tonight. We definitely had a great year. It's always been important to me to really sharpen up my oval game even though I had won early in my career at ovals, at an oval at Milwaukee, particularly.
But it really sometimes I was known as the road course guy. You know, you bounce back and forth on what you get labeled on. But it's tough to succeed at ovals. They really are. I have a lot of respect for them. Now I've definitely got my sights set on Indy.
Q. You seemed really loose yesterday during the post qualifying press conference. What affect did having reached an agreement with Michael before today's race have on your performance?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: It really didn't. I was just very focused on this race. I've just been ready to go. I knew it was down to us. We were in the position there was more pressure on Will, absolutely. We were in the position to hunt for this championship and to get it and to grab it. We knew what we had to do. We had to go run up front. We did at the right time. So that's why I was loose.
We were second. We were the car chasing the lead car. It's a more comfortable position to be in. Absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: We're now pleased to be joined by Michael Andretti of Andretti Autosport. This is Michael's fourth IndyCar Championship as a team owner. He won the championship in 2007 with Dario Franchitti, 2005 with Dan Wheldon and 2004 with Tony Kanaan. Not only team owner tonight, but race strategist. Talk about the race with Ryan?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It was a crazy, crazy night. And that's exactly what we told him going into the race, this is going to be a crazy race. It actually played out exactly the way I thought it would because we knew it was going to be tough. Especially in the beginning, and we knew it was going to be a race of survival.
We had a car that was not so good in the beginning, and every pit stop we just kept making it better and better and better. We made it good enough to get the job done to get in there and to be able to fight with at least getting in the Top 5. Because at that point, that's what we needed, and Ryan did one hell of a job, I can tell you. He drove his butt off when he needed to. He got this thing done.
Just really proud of him and the whole DHL/Sun Drop Team. It was a really tough championship. Hat's off to the Penske guys. They made our lives more miserable. Did a heck of a job to repair that car and get it out there. We knew exactly what they were doing. We were like they want to get ahead of Viso, and we have to finish one more spot up, and that's exactly what they did. At that time it was like, oh, boy, this is going to be really tough. But we got it done. So it feels really good.
Q. Even after Will crashed, the reality set in that now Ryan's still got to finish pretty high up in order to clinch it. How kind of excruciating was that, especially because there was a period there where he was having trouble getting into the Top 10, but it was before mid point of the race.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, exactly, but we felt we had a car we can adjust. The first thing we said is if we can take front wing on this thing after the first pit stop, we'll have a car we can work with at least to get up there, and that is exactly what we did.
So for a pit stop we made it better and better and better. So after first or second stop, I thought, I think we've got a car that we can get it up there if we just keep pushing and we needed some luck along the way. We needed the yellows to come out when they did. That helped a lot. That bunched us up and allowed Ryan to get a good restart and put himself up in a position to be in the Top 5. So it takes all of that. It was a nerve racking day.
Q. Michael, talking to your three drivers this year at the different races in Sonoma, all three of them saying they had a different kind of relationship this year and really helped each other can you talk about that a little bit?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, we talk about the team effort. It's not just the yellow team, it's all the way through. Everybody worked really hard together and worked together, and it started with the drivers. Those three are friends, and they get along and they help each other. When everybody on the team sees that sort of camaraderie, it just trickles down all the way through the team.
That's the reason why we've got the results this year, and I really believe that. It's really exciting for us that we're going to be able to keep it together and hopefully win some more of these things.
Q. Can you pretty much talk us through the last couple of laps after the red flag? First of all, seeing how Ryan was driving at his best, were there any moments where you told him, okay, play it safe or just drive your heart out? Can you talk us through those moments?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, there in the last couple laps we saw he was battling with Sato and actually going into that corner in the last lap we said just let Sato go, because we're okay because, you know, all you have to do is finish right behind him and we're good. And we had a gap behind us. Right after I said that, everybody started screaming. I'm like what happened because I wasn't looking at the monitor. And I heard, you know, that Sato hit the wall and didn't hit us and we won.
Q. Can you give me your thoughts on this being the first full IndyCar season in a long time without the presence of Carl Haas?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, both Paul and Carl are really missed. They were a big part of my career and my life. Just had an incredible team. They were incredible guys, and we definitely missed not having them around.
Q. It's a common red flag situation which is confusing for me. It's not a clear chapter, but when the situation turns up if the red flag shown or a yellow flag, I saw you were not very happy with the situation with the red flag?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I really wasn't. It's never been done before, and we're the guinea pigs for it. So it was a little disappointing, but it ended up being okay in the end.
Q. I saw you out at practice, and I brought this up to you, but I want to bring it up in front of everybody else. At the end of Baltimore, you projected that Ryan Hunter Reay would win. And I saw you predicted that Ryan Hunter Reay would win back in the Long Beach Grand Prix. When are you going to Vegas next?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, it's just you just feel it. There are just some things that you just feel. And I felt like after Baltimore, we got back in control of our own destiny to a certain point. Where now we knew, okay, we win and we could finish out in the top three. It made it a lot more realistic that we can do this.
It ended up different. I was hoping that we'd be winning and Will finished fourth. But when Will did crash, it opened up the opportunity for us. But like I said, at that point, we knew we had a lot of hard working too, but it opened it up, gave us a target, and we went for it.
Q. I know sometimes this is a question you don't normally like to answer, but this first American IndyCar Series champion since Sam Hornish in 2006. How important is that to have that for this series?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it's great when an American beats the best in the world, and that's what happened. That's what make it's mean something. If it was just All Americans out there, then it doesn't mean as much. But when an American can beat all these other great drivers from different countries, it's a great thing. So I'm very proud to be an American. I'm very proud of Ryan, so it's a good feeling.
Q. Back in 2007 when Franchitti won the title with you and you picked up the wins at Michigan or Kentucky. How much is different or similar compared to this year?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Yeah, this was a little different. Dario jumped out to an early lead in the championship. So it came to the point where we almost gave it away in the end. So it was a little different. Whereas here, we were pursuing most of the time. You know, we got to the point where we had a nice lead and we lost it again. Then we just put our heads down and got it back in the last two races. It was a little different.
I've got to say that this is probably the sweetest one of all. To come back through the adversity that the team has gone through the last few years and to bring it back and be back on top just makes me feel so good and so proud of everybody here at the Andretti team.
Q. Following up on that, this is the first time since 2007 and Dario's championship and the intervening five years. What's happened within the team to get you here this season?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, there was a change in ownership where I took full control. So things changed there. Then there was a rebuilding process, because there were a lot of things that needed to be changed, and these are things that you just don't do overnight. We did it. We built, slowly did it, and just constantly trying to make the right personnel changes. Putting people in the right spots.
Middle of last year I think we got it right. At that point we felt like, you know what, we're getting our mojo back and we're going to be a real contender next year.
Then to bring James into the mix just reinforced it even more. From then on we felt like right before the season it was like we have a real legitimate shot to win this championship with one of these three guys. Ryan is the guy that came out of it and did a hell of a job.
Q. I know it's hard to pick a single moment over a 15 race schedule that was the key. But it seemed like your decision at Baltimore to stay on the dry tires when Will decided to go with the wets, that created the crack in the door that Ryan needed to get back and win this championship.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I'm not going to take all the credit. We have great guys on our timing stand. It wasn't just me making the decision. We talked it over and that's what we came up with. Yeah, that was the moment, and we knew it. I told Ryan, I'm like we're going to win this race if you keep it on the island just for these two laps while it dries out. Ryan did exactly that, and that's what happened.
Q. I understand that Ryan's the first Chevy driver to win the championship since 2002. Can you talk about what it means for them?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Chevy has been a great partner. We evaluated which way to go at the beginning of the year or the end of last year. We just felt like they were really strong company, and they're really serious about winning. Ilmor, who we worked with for a long time does a great job. So we felt confident that we were going to make the right decision to go with Chevrolet. Obviously, I think in the end it shows that we did.
Q. You've mentioned the rebuilding process you've had the last few years. How much are you looking forward to 2013 having the same driver lineup for the first time in a few years?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Very excited about that. Continuity means a lot. Also, what excites me even more is I think there is a lot more room for improvement within the team. I think there are still things that we want to do a little bit better, and we all know it, and we all know what we need to do. So I think we can be even stronger next year.
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by Will Power of Team Penske who finished second in the championship points for the 2012 season. Looking at the numbers, they were impressive. Six podiums, five poles, 294 laps led. You know, talk about tonight's race. You had an incident. You guys worked on the car, got back out there, and got the two points you needed. But obviously a tough position for you guys.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's definitely frustrating, but when I look at it three years in a row I convincingly won the road course championship, and it's very obvious that the ovals, I just don't know why I can't put my finger on one particular thing that I don't do right.
But tonight it was just catching a seam and really caught me just unbelievable. Just really caught me out. I just did not expect that to happen.
So I feel bad for the team. I really do. I feel bad for my guys to be three years in a row so close, and you see the effort that they put in just to get me out to do 12 more laps in such a short space for a completely wrecked car.
I don't know what to say. I feel sorry for Penske Racing to end up in this position again because of one of my mistakes.
Q. (No microphone) in Baltimore, the decision to go to the wet tires, did that give Ryan the crack he needed to get back into this championship?
WILL POWER: It's just multiple things. If you look at it, three ovals I crashed out of is a massive hit on points. All of those other things, sixth place in Baltimore is a good finish. If you look at your worst results of the year, my worst with three DNFs there, definitely a big hits on points.
You can't just look at the last three races and say if this had happened, it's over a whole season that you win a championship, and that was proven tonight.
Q. Will, there were at least two other drivers that got caught up by that very scene this week, so you were by no means the first person. Do you let this sink in? Do you let this take set that you have a deficiency on the ovals or do you realize it's happened to others and that's just how it went?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I wish I had done it earlier in the weekend. I wish I had done it in the two full days of testing just once. I usually wait until the race to make a mistake on an oval. I just, you know, on the oval front, I just don't know what to look at. If I go through the oval season this year, Conway crashed in front of me. Iowa, E.J. had a misunderstanding with the spotter. He was there, and we touched, I got spun out and that was that. Milwaukee was just we kind of went back, had a bad stop, and then here a mistake of my own.
I can't put my finger on what. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? What? Yeah.
Q. How did the car feel after it came back out?
WILL POWER: She was pretty that was like I was very, very tense on the wheel. That's why I said I can't do more than five laps in this thing not because it was actually pretty square, just a couple of other things. We could have gotten that thing back to where it was with the set up check. We didn't put it on the scale.
It was just a bit of cross weight, bit of turn and we would have fixed the thing. But as it stood, it was definitely a loose car. I thought I was going to crash again.
Q. How aware were you of the situations playing out that could have won you a championship? At the end, were you aware of Helio taking fresh tires and really trying to gamble to get up there?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I thought at first, that gamble I was like, oh, what are you doing man? And then suddenly here comes Castroneves. But Sato caused the yellow, but you put yourself in that position to rely on someone having a bad day, it's just you really need to be there. I really just it's the last race of every year for me. It's very strange.
Q. You're pretty intense and very committed to this, but yet your spirits seemed kind of good tonight. I'm wondering how hard you're going to take this going forward, and how hard are you taking it now? Have you come to peace with it?
WILL POWER: Well, I've done it for two years in a row, so I've kind of learned how to cope with it. Well, I think the way it's worked out in the last couple of years is what's going to happen is going to happen. Then I still look at tonight and think I definitely could have prevented that one.
Yeah. No use in dwelling on it. Racing is tough. IndyCar in particular is tough. It's easy to go and point fingers and all that as why we didn't win, but at the end of the day, Hunter Reay did a very solid job. Won more races than anyone. Won on ovals, road courses, and he's definitely a deserving champion. There is no question.
Q. Will, can you say something before you crashed, talk about the condition of the track? Was there a difference between qualifying and practice starting here in the early evening and later in the night?
WILL POWER: Actually, the track was coming in real nicely. Our car was quick, really quick. So it was rubbering up, getting cooler. It was getting grippy as you could see the good racing at the end. It was at its peak of grip and everything. Yeah, I think they've got the down force level right. They really did. It's been good racing.
Q. Is this the toughest championship to win in racing because of all the different disciplines that you have to master?
WILL POWER: For me, it is, definitely. I mean, for me ovals aren't what I ever thought I'd do. I was never that keen on them. Obviously, road course racing for the road course championship, I think we would have won it with three races to go every year.
But, you know I started to enjoy ovals more this year just for the fact that they put the drivers in the drivers hands more, like at Texas and here, and taking the down force off. I definitely didn't enjoy it when it was pack racing. I just thought it was crazy, insane type of racing. It makes more sense the way we do it now.
Q. Every year it comes down to the last laps.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it's funny. It is. I don't know. It's good for IndyCar.
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