Long Beach GP: Saturday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by five of the Firestone Fast Six of the Long Beach Grand Prix tomorrow joined by Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing who qualified fourth. This is the best start for you coming in here to Long Beach. Your previous best start was sixth in 2012. Talk about today's qualifying session?
TAKUMA SATO: Yes, it's a pretty exciting qualifying. We had a little struggle the P3 to get the balance, but it's so close, and it's just a matter of the balance to shifting to accommodate for the red tire for qualifying, and we did. I think we had maybe not enough speed to get on the front row, but I think the team did a tremendous job to prepare the car and to put us in fourth place in the qualifying is obviously the best start for me for Long Beach. Certainly looks like a strong weekend, so I'm very, very pleased about that.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Will Power who will start third or qualified third for tomorrow's race. An impressive stat, Will. You've qualified in the front two rows in six of your last seven races here at Long Beach. So continuing with that momentum, talk about today's qualifying session?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was good, obviously, to get to the Fast Six, and then just how qualifying is at the moment. We got caught out there at the end there. Tim came over the radio and said that you're barely going to make one more lap. I thought he meant fuel, not time, but it was time. So I got to the start of my last lap, and it was checkered flag.
But still I'm happy with third. It's definitely a good starting position, and I look for a good, solid race again tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Mike Conway of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who qualified fifth and is a former winner here on the streets of Long Beach, and Mike is making his first start in the 2013 season this weekend. Mike, talk about getting back in the car for qualifying and advancing to the Firestone Fast Six?
MIKE CONWAY: Yeah, I knew it would be very close obviously from all the times we spent in practice with a tenth could have lost you four or five spots. We had a good one and it was enough for Q1 and Q2, which was a pretty good one. I thought we'd have a bit more in Q3, just tire pressure went a little bit too high and was flying around a bit.
But I'm happy. If you had said we'd start fifth before we came into this weekend, we would have been very happy not being able to drive the first two races. So, yeah, happy and obviously thankful for the opportunity from the Rahal team, and all in all fifth is a pretty good day.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan Hunter Reay of Andretti Autosport qualifying second. It matches the best start here at Long Beach of second that you did in 2010 and 2011, and you've won from the second position. Talk about how important starting from the front row for tomorrow's race and your qualifying session today?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: It definitely stings a little bit here. I lost out on the pole here to Will a couple years ago by probably the same amount, half a tenth. When you come to the pit lane and you think about half a tenth, you can put that together anywhere in your head. So it's pretty frustrating to miss it by that much.
With that said, tomorrow's the only day that counts, and it's a good spot to start in. So we're pretty happy with it. Just really happy with the team. Every time I head out on track, they give me a great car in that DHL/Sun Drop Chevy. So very pleased with that. We're progressing, and hopefully tomorrow we'll come out with a better race car and make it a great show for everybody.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Helio Castroneves who is walking in right now. We appreciate you getting here. Helio's the 2001 winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Helio, we'll start with you. Just talk about today's qualifying?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, we were having a little issue in the first Qually, then we made some adjustments and improved quite a lot, but we still had some issues in the third one. We just decided to make a lot of changes and threw everything there.
Again, it's just a shame. I felt that I had a better car than sixth, top six. I'm not complaining, but I just wanted to be a little bit further forward with our (Indiscernible) and Turbo, which reminds me, "Turbo", the movie out July 17th. So it's going to be a great movie.
But we're excited. To be top six is great. We keep it up with the speeds and tomorrow's going to be an exciting race.
THE MODERATOR: Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing has joined us, our Verizon P1 Award winner. This is Dario's 30th career IndyCar pole. Dario, you've had a lot of success here at Long Beach, but this is your first time qualifying in P1 here. Talk about today's qualifying and getting the pole for tomorrow's race?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, that means a lot. I remember qualifying next to T.K. about 50 years ago here. So, yeah, it's nice to get a pole, particularly after the tough season we've had. Barber qualifying was really a low point. Barber race car was unfortunately a mechanical failure, but the Barber car in qualifying, we really struggled. So to turn it around today, I've got to take my hat off to everybody in the Target team for the hard work they did. I really got the most out of it there.
That last lap just threw caution to the wind in a couple of places and I just got it. So it feels good, especially with a field as tight as it is. It was nice for Honda to get a pole here too.
Q. Great representation between three Hondas and three Chevrolets. Talk a little bit about how that's kind of gotten to be a lot tighter?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Definitely, I think Honda made massive strides. Actually pretty bad there in St. Pete to put a lap together. But I think Honda worked unbelievably hard to close the gap to Chevy, and we've seen it at Barber, and I think we saw it again today. So it's getting closer and closer. It's been a lot of hard work.
TAKUMA SATO: Sure, as Dario said, St. Pete, I think we got everything together, and it was obviously a clearly, we need a bit of work on that. And in Barber, we came back, and here we go.
I think in Long Beach last year in terms of the performance was just working under the fuel consumption, et cetera, et cetera. I think this year will be very strong, and to be in a tight field and split with three manufactures in top six, I think that's great racing.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Yeah, it was, I guess at St. Pete it was a little more apparent that Chevy had the first step out of the gate. But at Barber, I could tell that having run with some of the Hondas and showing how fast Dixon was there at the end, it seems to be a pretty close match at Barber and then obviously here as well.
So, as expected, this is going to be how it is all year. We're going to have some surprises here and there, I'm sure where one will outperform the other. But for the most part, as tight as it is now, it's a little bit ridiculous at times, just trying to get the speed out of the car. Because you're, like Dario said, caution to the wind. You have to absolutely risk everything to get that last little bit out of the car. It's that close. It's enjoyable though. It's fun. Stressful, for sure.
Q. Dario, you kind of touched on it briefly already, but based on the way the first two races went or did not go for you, how important was it for you to come out here and get a good qualifying time?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, it's always nice to do a good job in qualifying and qualify on the pole. But like I said, we had such a good car in the race at Barber, we just didn't get to show it. But it's always nice to be fast. There is no doubt. It always helps. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Hopefully, we have a good race car and we have a good race. But at least we've been quick today.
And as I said in the race in Barber, St. Pete, we missed it quite a lot. So it's good. We're definitely going in the right direction and that feels good.
Q. I think we said yesterday tomorrow's race is ten laps shorter. I'll pick on Ryan again. How does that change your strategy?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Five.
Q. Five laps shorter. Will that change your strategy, and if so, how?
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Five laps shorter, I haven't even started talking about that, really. I haven't even thought about it. It will just make it that you can go harder the whole race. You've got five laps less. It's going to be an easy two stops, and we should see everybody going 100%. So there's always the upside to saving a little bit of fuel and having shorter pit stops, so you never get away from that. So should make things a little more interesting.
Q. Helio and Will, talk about A.J. Allmendinger and what it's like to have him on your team and what your expectations are for him tomorrow?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think he's done a really good job so far. Obviously, spending seven years in NASCAR, it's night and day the difference between an IndyCar and a NASCAR. He just missed out. He was on a lap good enough to get through the first round and then the red came out like two corners to go. Yeah, I mean, he's blown away by how competitive it is. He can't believe it from when he was racing Champ Car to now, how many good guys there are.
But he's enjoying it. He's a good driver, he's great to have around, and I think it will be a definite contender after having a bit of mileage under his belt.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Especially the good thing about him is he's always in a good spirit. Every time when you have someone on your team like that, it's always great. It's sometimes too much energy, I think.
WILL POWER: Yeah, you and him in the same place.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Will's suffering, obviously. Will is like I need to get out of here. No, but Will touched on the subject perfect, because seven years in heavy cars, and he was just talking about it. He spent six months and it was extremely hard when he came back because it's so different.
It's a good effort he's doing. Again, he definitely people say that he's not helping us, but he is. Especially here he has some corners that he was really good and he was able to help us out.
Q. Dario, shot some footage of you pretty much sideways out there. Is this the kind of car that you can throw around or you have to throw it around in order to get a lap time up?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, that worked today, so that's what I was doing. I don't like to kind of throw the car around, but this one I'm finding you have to do that more and more. So yeah, I'm definitely going more in that direction. But when the car is good, I can throw it around.
When the car, like we had in St. Pete qualifying, that just wasn't an option or certainly Barber qualifying. So when the car is good, you can throw it around. In the race in Barber I was throwing it around a little bit more.
But I spent a good few years with Jackie Stewart teaching me, and, yeah, I had to get my knuckles wrapped for some of the slides I was pulling today, but it seems to work.
Q. To follow up on that, that's obviously fairly abusive on the tires. Is that going to create tire management even more than usual?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: No, they seemed to be okay in Barber. The Firestone Reds were great even giving them a hard time. I think it's more about the balance of the car, actually, than other factors. I think we certainly in noticed in St. Pete if we missed on the balance, the tires didn't last long. If we got the balance right, the tires were great.
Q. There are three penalties in qualifying today. That's two weeks in a row that race control has come down. Are you expecting that to be the new norm? Is this different or stricter than in the past?
THE MODERATOR: Just so you guys are aware, there was a qualifying interference penalty against the 25 car of Marco Andretti against J.R. Hildebrand, and then Dixon losing his fastest laps for causing the red and a penalty
WILL POWER: Didn't Dixon drive away?
THE MODERATOR: It was a red flag.
Q. (No microphone).
THE MODERATOR: I can add a quick update. I was going to do it at the end of the press conference. I've been informed by race control that the Servia penalty has been rescinded.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: The only thing I can say about that is we have to be consistent. We try to do everything we can to stay away, but sometimes the team puts us in a very tough spot. So it's not the drivers can do so much in those circumstances, especially here that there is not much room to go. So it's mostly about the team. They've got to watch it. No question.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's imperative you get a clean lap. You've got to get a clean lap. And with 12 cars on the track, it kind of closes up and you get that affect from somebody trying to get a clear lap and it shuffles all the way back. So there's always that thing as a driver, do you pull up behind the guy as a penalty or do you back off and lose that lap to try to get a clear lap for the next one?
It's really tough, and I don't think anybody's doing anything on purpose. But when you're the guy whose lap's ruined, you're pissed off, for sure, and it can ruin your whole weekend.
Q. You were penalized at Barber (No microphone).
TAKUMA SATO: It's a difficult one because at that time I wasn't happy, of course. I didn't say I'm happy today, but at least it is consistent well, let's put it this way, the league is trying to be consistent for that. It is a harsh penalty for it, but at least that means race control is looking into it very deeply. Let's just see and try to be patient. Like Dario said, it's a (Indiscernible). I was losing a lap in the last week as well.
Anyway, I think it's really good to see the consistency from the league. The drivers try to make space for each other, and we'll see in the next few races if it's become a tradition just to give the perfect distance to each other, and then I think we'll see less penalized and I think everybody's happy.
Q. Dario, you've been racing for a long time, like you say, and I think this is your 250th.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, but I want to point out Helio's done more races than I have, okay? Just so we're clear.
Q. Maybe I should ask Helio then or both of you can answer. But with the amount of time, like yesterday in practice, the top 24 within 1 second, it's extremely competitive. And we talk about the glory days of IndyCar Racing, that seems to be just as competitive now. You were so far off last time at Barber, what was it that was being able to be turned around that made you so much quicker today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Well, it's fractions of a second. I mean, literally. If you look at the Barber qualifying, a couple of tenths would have put us through. That's it. It's one mistake at one corner. The depth of the field right now is as good as I've ever seen it, and I was lucky enough, as Helio was, to race in the late '90s against some of the best ever and it's bloody hard work. The number at Mid Ohio last year was one tenth between the whole top six. One tenth of a second. That's madness. So, it's certainly keeps things interesting.
Q. There's a lot of talent on the dais right there. Five of you guys have won this race. Amongst yourselves, when you look up and down each other, who is the guy that you're most concerned about this weekend?
WILL POWER: All of them. Every one of them. Not just these guys either. That's the thing. It's everybody.
RYAN HUNTER REAY: Everybody, yeah, I'm a little concerned about Conway though. He waits till ten laps to go and then pulls out something where he's just passing everybody though.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I was one of the guys you drove past. I was like, where the hell did he come from?
Q. Dario, you've accomplished a lot of impressive things in your career. 30 career poles, is that an eye popping number for you?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I wish it was more. You know, that's something that I'm very proud of. On days like today when you get another pole, it always feels good.
Q. A lot of times drivers credit the pole to the crew for the car and making it fast. Is that how you feel about your 30 career poles?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: None of us are going to go quick in a car that's not topnotch. And the Target boys have worked so hard always. In every car I've driven for every different team, the guys work so hard. But digging ourselves out of that hole that we've been in with the bad performance at St. Pete, the slow car in qualifying in Barber, we turned it around for the race, yes. But to come here and the hard work that everybody did, it's nice to pay them back.
Q. Dario and Takuma, I think if I read the chart correctly, you went out on blacks and then changed to Reds the whole session. And if so, why did you go out on blacks at first?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was more of a bank a lap in case there was a yellow that ended the session, so we didn't want to use the set of Reds that we'll possibly use in the race tomorrow. Again, we put more laps on those, so we'll save those for the end of the session. With the new regulations this year and being able to run whatever tires you want in the qualifying session, we took advantage of that and got warmed up a little bit too and ready to go.
TAKUMA SATO: Yeah, I think maybe it's getting more popular and popular. I think (Indiscernible) they're very happy to do that at St. Pete. Everything is to bring the black out and then go to the red. Which is a good thing, it's just a practice. Like Dario said, in case you have a problem with the yellows and you have a red flag, you want to set the time at the beginning, but later on when the track's better, you want it banging on the red tire. But also to keep you warmed up and keep the car warmed up. So it's just a checkup run.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys, on a great qualifying session. Best of luck tomorrow.
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