Q and A with Helio Castroneves
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity, it's the beginning of the season and it's great to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Helio is driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet for Team Penske. It's the 14th season he has driven an Indy car for Roger Penske and his team. Helio finished fourth last year in the IZOD IndyCar Series with two wins, one of them coming at St. Petersburg, which starts the season next week.
I know you and the rest of the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers just wrapped up a test at Barber Motorsports Park, did those two days in the car make you want next week to come even faster?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh man, first it was good to be back in the race car after such a long offseason for us. I think everybody has the same feeling of finally being in the car, which is a shame, because now we are ready to go for the race. You see people getting ready, preparing themselves and it's just becoming very rushed, especially when you have all of six months off.
So you look at it like that, it's like I don't have enough time, but that's the way it is. But I am very excited to go to St. Pete next week and defend my win from last year.
Q. You have three wins at St. Petersburg. You've won in 2006 and 2007, and again as we mentioned last year in 2012. What is it about the streets of St. Petersburg that suits your driving style so well, and why do you like that course so much?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The atmosphere is great. The fans are awesome. The weather is beautiful. It's the first race of the season. When you put everything together, you just are super excited to be back in the race car and ready to go.
So it's a place where everything starts, a special place to start the season that you can see it's going to be very exciting.
Q. Can you talk a little about last year's race, obviously the first race with the new, as it was last year, the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series chassis, and winning that race and then going to climb the fence at the Dan Wheldon Way sign in honor of Dan.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly the end was awesome, but the beginning of the race was actually pretty good. We started in sixth place and we just managed to stay out of trouble. As soon as some of the leaders made a pit stop, we decided to stay out, and from there on, it was just a matter of keep going and over the pits.
We were able to come back in second place behind the Ganassi guys, Scott Dixon, and we were able to make a great move on the outside, turn one, and passed for the win. So we were extremely excited and happy to start the season like that.
The celebration was even better, having the Dan Wheldon sign in respect over there, and to celebrate, it was a memorable coincidence and it was just really great, great to remember him the way he lived, and not what happened the year before. So it was a very emotional, crazy win.
Q. What do you think is different at the start of this season hand last year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You know, what is different in the car? What is different in?
Q. Basically the car.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The car, I believe it's small details, very similar overall but all details.
Remember we are not allowed to make any progress in terms of suspension or aerodynamics or anything. The Firestone tires made a huge improvement on the tires. We saw that from the test in Alabama, which we are two seconds faster or three seconds faster than the pole position. We believe that's going to carry to the rest of the street courses.
Engineâ€‘wise, I feel that Honda and Chevy are making it very competitive, and I believe they improved, as well. We definitely felt that when we jumped in car and also did a lap time.
So those little bits, unfortunately the fans cannot see it, but they are going to see it and it's going to be much faster.
Q. Do you think the car will be faster this year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think the car will be faster this year, maybe on the ovals â€‘â€‘ or even the ovals, because the power and the tires are a little bit better, I guarantee that it's going to go faster. So right now, I think the street course, it feels that it's going to be fast.
Q. You're going for your fourth Indianapolis 500 win this year and I know winning Indy is very special, but can you compare that to trying to win your first IZOD IndyCar Series for Roger?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: We want to win races and we want to win championships. It's clichĂ© as it sounds, obviously you want to win for the team, especially for Roger. I know we are capable and we have great equipment and a great group of guys. It's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The important thing, for sure, it's something that I believe and a lot of fans, would like to see that. And I do want to see that and now we have a competitor with Dario, which is great, for who is going to get the wine, hopefully with the help of my spotter, we are going to win that race.
Q. How hard is it to win an Indy 500?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, it's a lot of factors. Last year was a big battle. I remember qualifying, Chevy dominated and the race, Honda dominated. It was a matter of unfortunately a different changing of the rules in the middle of the season, which was a little bit â€‘â€‘ something we did not expect. But it was great, even with that, you saw an amazing competitive crazy race, and fortunately we were able to finish in the Topâ€‘10. You have to have the package right, and the information for the team is perfect. We just have to make it happen. Hopefully if we don't have any more surprises in terms of rules change and things like that, I do believe we are going to be very competitive this year.
Q. Now, you will have an additional team member at Indianapolis this year. Does that make a difference in how your team will operate?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, A.J. (Allmendinger) for just the second day in the Indy car after seven years, is doing superb. A great guy, great atmosphere inside the team. We had three good guys with Ryan Briscoe (last year), but A.J. has been in the (Penske) organization before, so he kind of understood the kind of environment that we are.
So A.J., I feel is going to help us, because we have one more car, it's one more (set of) data that you can actually improve, especially on the ovals. So I think that it's going to be great, and we just have to keep going.
THE MODERATOR: We will thank Helio for his time and conclude today's IndyCar conference call.
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