Q&A w/Dixon, Aleshin, Briscoe, Pagenaud, Newgarden
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by Scott Dixon.
Scott, the first question for everyone, what do you have to do to repeat as champion this year for the fourth time?
SCOTT DIXON: Beat everybody else.
Yeah, you know, stay with the same team, same pretty much combination on my car. There's been a few changes with the 10 car. But big change obviously being engine manufacturer, then T.K. going into the 10, welcoming Briscoe back to the team as well in the No. 8. Lots of changes.
We haven't done a lot of testing, maybe two or three days so far this year. Gone pretty smoothly. Confident in the season.
Personally and for the team, the thing on the 9 car side we need to do a little bit better is start the season off a little bit stronger. Looking for strong results straightaway in St. Pete. Long Beach has been definitely not a great track for results for us in recent history.
I think if we can start strong and carry the momentum through from last year, that will be goal number one.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Scott.
Q. Are you behind in the number of test days you've had compared to other people?
SCOTT DIXON: I think some teams like KV have done quite a few, six or seven days so far. We've done three. Juan obviously got gifted for tests. He's on eight or nine so far.
Yeah, there's other teams. For us we save a fair few for the middle of the season. It's easy to get down the road in conditions that can be 40 degrees cooler than when you actually race.
We've just canceled the Barber test we had set for the 4th of March. We want to make sure we keep developing in the areas we need to from the off-season, then work on the car for setups during the hotter months.
Q. How is the communication different with T.K. than Dario?
SCOTT DIXON: Very different. Some is in Portuguese and then broken English (laughter).
But, no, you know, for him there's lots of change. New team members, new engineer, totally different car setup. The one constant for him was luckily the engine package with Chevrolet.
Dario and I were very similar I think in debriefing and the way that we approached the weekend. Hard to tell with T.K. yet because we haven't worked together that much. But obviously he's a big personality. Fun to have him at the team. Just to see how we work on car setups is yet to be determined.
But he's been quick at the first few tests. It's nice to have a different driver to look at different areas where he may be quick and areas that the team and myself and the other drivers can definitely work on.
Q. Sounds like Dario can be a big benefit to the team in whatever role. You lose a contemporary, a guy who is actually pushing you.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it is a big loss, not just for myself, but I think for the team and also for the series.
The positive side is that he's still going to be involved with the team. He's obviously very talented. He's won a lot races, achieved many things. But when it comes down to the engineering side of it, his approach to a race weekend, I think it's something that will be missed a little bit. Hopefully with his involvement we can keep that going.
As a friend, it's going to be great to have him around. He'll be sorely missed on the track. We'll have to see how big that change is as we get through the year with different drivers and different combinations.
Q. The 9 and the 10 are very formidable, difficult to beat. Does the 9 suffer with Dario not in the 10?
SCOTT DIXON: No, I don't think so. There's many different ways to look at it. I think T.K. is a great driver. He's won a championship. He's won many races. He may be stronger in other areas and maybe a little weaker in others. I think with the team combination, drivers and engineering, we can try to bring that back together and make it a strong 1-2 punch.
I think you will lose some stuff in the respect of losing Dario, but you're also gaining different areas, as well.
Q. Without Dario in the 10 with his hair and teeth, does Scott Dixon finally get to stand alone and the world see the greatness of Scott Dixon?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I don't know. We've all still got Chip at the team, too. T.K. definitely doesn't have the Dario looks. We can talk about his big nose, I guess (laughter).
But, you know, I won't actually go down that road. Dario will still be with the team and taking some of that limelight. I'm perfectly fine with that. Gives him more recreational time away from the track. I'm sure he'll be sucking that up.
Q. Your championship last year, are you feeling like you are cementing your place, climbing up the ladder? Are you carving out your spot in the open-wheel ranks as one of the greatest drivers? Does it even matter to you?
SCOTT DIXON: I love my job. I love racing. I think that's what matters to me. If you can build on those, that's fantastic. I'm not a huge sort of stats guy. I think it's something you can reflect on when you do leave the sport.
It's important to me. It's important to win. It's important to win championships and Indy 500s, fly the flag obviously for the team. But it's not something that I wake up thinking about.
I wake up thinking about that race day and trying to win that race day. I'm not looking for a goal of a certain amount of wins or championships. I've been very lucky with the success we have had as a team. I guess for us, what we try to do is build on that.
Q. Are you surprised to see Juan struggling, not getting up to speed, by his own assessment? It wasn't like riding a bike. He doesn't think he's going to win St. Pete, per se.
SCOTT DIXON: Are you getting unofficial times from somewhere (laughter)?
It's hard to comment on. You don't really know what teams are testing. There's different specs of engines.
Juan I think we all know is a huge talent, and he's won in everything he's raced in, many different formulas. It's a big change, for sure, coming from mostly oval racing, such a big car. It's a different car and the mindsets you get into.
But I think with the team and drivers he's with, it will come along quickly. It's just when it's going to happen, whether it's right out of the box or a few races. He'll definitely be challenging for wins throughout the season.
Q. You and Dario may have been equals, but now you may be considered the team leader. How do you feel about that?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, you know, I think it's hard to sort of answer that. There's never been sort of ones and twos. Dario was definitely looked up to because he was someone that had been in the sport for a while and been very successful.
He definitely pushed me. I think we pushed each other, as well.
You know, I'm not real interested in who is a one or a two or who is leading the team. I think we do it as a team effort. I think each driver on the team is like a quarterback to their own group of guys, and then Chip is the leader of the pack, I guess.
I don't think anything will really change that.
Q. Being a teammate with Charlie, you have a firsthand look of what he deals with his diabetes. What impresses you most about that?
SCOTT DIXON: I guess it's kind of flying under the radar part when he's involved with the team. It's only at lunchtime that you see him break out a needle. He prepares himself so well with his dietary needs or training. He does a first class job on that sort of thing.
He's done a great job in the last year. Even the tests we've had in the pre-season so far, he's definitely upping his game.
When he first started, some people might have written him off. But he's a smart guy. If he can't do it, he'll look and try to achieve it. For him to get a win at a tough road course like Mid-Ohio was huge for him and the team. He's getting stronger and stronger each year.
Q. The St. Pete track has been a thorn in your side with the second-place finishes. If you could pick one thing, what would get you to the top there?
SCOTT DIXON: I think qualifying a little bit better. We've struggled. The last couple years we've struggled out of pre-season development, kind of gone down the long road. Last year was a big showing of that, obviously. I think we qualified 20th or something. To come back with a fifth place was definitely a big race for us.
But I think qualifying. I think it goes back to the pre-season testing. We have to be careful of what roads we go down and what works at a Sebring when it's 40 degrees cooler to what it is when you actually get to the first race.
For me it's preparing a little bit better, maybe not veering off as much as we did last year, try to have a clean race. In the early years we definitely had a few podiums. We've had speed there in the past and I've made my own mistakes, even leading the race.
If we just sort of go in, not put too much pressure on it, start the season strong, we can definitely do that.
Q. You struggled early last year, then where you ended it, where does it rank among your accomplishments in the sport?
SCOTT DIXON: I think the comeback for us as a team was huge. The three in a row with Pocono and Toronto was the start of the swing. The strength that the team had throughout the remainder of the season, with the exception of some of the big ovals where we didn't have the speed. All the road and street courses, we were qualifying in the top three or four every race. For me, I think that was one of the biggest achievements was to keep strong.
I think that's where this team is really good. Even when Dario's championships in the past, they haven't led a whole lot of the season. When it's counted, they've pulled it out or been able to stay more consistent than some of the others.
For me each championship is so different because of the outside obstacles that you have. I think as sort of a pure enjoyment after the year, this one was probably my pick for the favorite.
Q. Is it official now that your number is the 9 and not the 1?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think so. I haven't seen a car with a 1 on it. That's not up to me, that's up to Chip. We could arrive at St. Pete and it could be a 1.
Q. Is it your opinion that you don't want the 1 because of what happened a couple years ago?
SCOTT DIXON: It's not a number. It's a stigma, just a number on the car. I think for us it's more the icon of the No. 9 and being a Target car, much similar to how the people recognize the cars in NASCAR. That's becoming more apparent in IndyCar, as well.
The 9 has been good. It's a team number. If they picked the 1, I wouldn't have a problem with it.
Q. The Daytona 500 is this weekend. With Chip's NASCAR program, has he ever asked you about that?
SCOTT DIXON: We've flirted with the idea of having a test. Last year I was supposed to do a test in New Smyrna. I only drove Jamie's car for a swap thing we did at Barber. Talladega, wasn't much fun driving around by myself. Jamie had a lot of fun at Barber in the IndyCar.
I would love to have a go at a short track or road course. We have to look at schedules. I think even if the Nationwide side, there's some races that don't clash with Mid-Ohio or Road America. I just want to have a go first and see what it's like.
Those guys are very good at what they do, very competitive series. I think it would be a lot of fun to have a go maybe in a Nationwide race. It's not something we talk about a lot. Sort of a once-a-year thing.
Q. So those sort of races would have to happen before the 500 before you go that route?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't see the 500 in my near future. That's for sure.
Q. Carlos was asked about pranks at Andretti. Now that T.K. and Dario are back together, are you worried about anything?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know how that's going to go. It's a good question. I could see it probably starting with me and Dario on T.K. we'll have to see. There's some entertaining things that will happen with truck drivers. I'm sure it will kickoff. I'm sure T.K. will be the instigator of most of them.
THE MODERATOR: With 33 wins, Scott is the active leader in wins. Just ahead of him is Al Unser, Jr. and Bobby Unser.
Q. You had to do a heavy load at the Rolex. How did you think Larson did overall?
SCOTT DIXON: The second stint I didn't really see. I saw the first one. I was just going to bed. There was a problem with the pit speed limiter. When the car actually ran out of fuel, it wasn't actually his fault. When one of those things happens, it tumbles into other things.
The problem is that it's a very tough race for anybody. Even if it was me and I'd never done the 24 before, it's a tough race to go from a race like a Cup car, not have any electronics, understand how things work. It was maybe his fifth road course race ever, we were going into a gun fight with a knife.
It was stacked against him, but for next year it's going to help him with the learning curve. He'll be not much better prepared but understand things better than before.
He did a hell of a job. I think the second stint went fairly well. The first one went fine. You're getting in at night, cold. He was trying to be a little bit cautious. But he did a good job.
Q. Every time I looked up you were driving. Is that exhausting?
SCOTT DIXON: It's fun. The cars are getting a little easier to drive because they've taken the shifter out of it. It's paddles. Physically it's not as demanding as what it used to be.
No, when I'm at a racetrack, I think you should be in the car. I'm always sort of the guy that's pushing to have three guys for the 24 because you're in the car more often. You might as well race if you're there.
Q. Are you going to Sebring?
SCOTT DIXON: I'm going to the test this Friday. I think that's probably going to happen. I hope so.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Scott.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Mikhail Aleshin. Welcome to the IndyCar.
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: As a background, give us a little history of your career so far in Europe and why you sought to come to the IndyCar Series.
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: Well, I've been racing Europe for a while. I started to race in Europe from go-karts in 2000, so 14 years ago. Then I moved to small formulas where I was champion of Italy and second in Germany. Then I moved to World Series by Renault, where I won in 2010 the championship. I was also third in Formula 2 championship in 2009.
I am a part of SMP Racing driver's support program from 2013. Basically in the middle of last year, the middle of the World Series season, we were speaking about my future, what are the solutions. That's how we came to the same idea basically that we need to try to do IndyCar.
I've been racing more or less every open-wheel in Europe. Renault two leaders, GP3, GP2, World Series, Formula One testing several cars.
I think IndyCar is definitely a very important part of the open-wheel racing in the world. I'm really big fan of open-wheel racing, so that's one of the reasons I'm here.
The other thing is it's a big challenge for me to be here because I'm the first Russian driver to compete in IndyCar. For sure, yeah, it's a big challenge. Obviously most of the drivers, they came out from Indy Lights, Mazda, any American category. Most of them know most of the tracks, so there will be some difficulties for me because I don't know any.
Every time I going to come to the track, every time I going to learn just in the practice and go straight to qualifying. Sounds like fun (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: You tested at Sonoma and Sebring. When you do go to the new tracks, are you an individual who can learn these different circuits quickly from your experience in Europe?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: Well, for sure experience racing so many years going to help, definitely. But I think here is a little bit different idea of racing. You have much more street course. In Europe the main street course is Grand Prix Monaco, which we race in GP2, which I did last several years. That's the only street course we have.
The most probably interesting part for me will be races on ovals because that's what I haven't done at all in my life. I just did one test day in Homestead for my rookie test. That was quite interesting actually, quite interesting and exciting.
It's hard to expect something from something what you have never done, but actually it was much better than any of my expectations in the end, the feeling of racing on ovals.
But the thing is, I don't know any of the tracks except Sonoma. I will need to prepare maximum as I can before every race. So use any information the team has from previous years, look any videos from the race previous years and so on.
So I going to do a lot of work off the track to prepare well. I guess the time I will spend for learning, how fast I will learn, that will be the most important part for me this year.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us a little bit about SMP Racing, how you became affiliated with them.
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: SMP Racing is the biggest driver support program in the world really. This is true. It's supports over 30 drivers. The drivers are competing in the most interesting and the most competitive championships in the world like Le Mans series, like Blancpain series, like Formula 3.
The point of the program is to develop the Russian drivers on the top. So this is very ambitious program. I'm really, really happy to be a part of it because also I'm taking part and sharing the experience with some of the young drivers. I think this is very important because when I started my racing career, especially when I came to Europe, there was no one who could ever show me what do I need to do.
Everything what I got through, all the mistakes I done, it was basically just because I had no one to help. I never had any driver coach in my life. It's funny, but it is.
So I would say that I'm really trying to help these young guys, which already you can see the talent. We have drivers from age like nine years old who compete in Russian go-kart championship until like really experienced guys who going to race in Le Mans. So this program is really big.
THE MODERATOR: You have a teammate, Simon Pagenaud, an engineer like Allen McDonald, have those veterans been important for you or do you care to go out on your own pace?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: Here in IndyCar, I going to have a driver coach and a spotter. He's helping me a lot actually. Actually, the team by itself, just all the team. Allen McDonald, my engineer, he's a really experienced man. He spend many years in Formula One, many years in IndyCar, last like maybe 15 years. I'm really happy to work with him. I think we found, yeah, basically one language I would say.
Yes, Simon, I need to admit that he actually help me a lot with getting into the stuff fast, especially when I had my test at Homestead on the oval. He just help me to develop the car and to understand what I need to feel on the track, because obviously oval racing is completely opposite than what I used to do and I don't know how the car need to behave.
Normally I like aggressive car. On ovals, this is not best way. This is just one of the simple things I have learned there. But Simon really helps me a lot, this is true. I really appreciate that.
I actually race with him in Europe as well, might be 10 years ago. He was fast then already. I think basically he's one more example of a driver, if he's fast, he can be fast anywhere at any time.
Q. What is the degree of interest in Russian racing from Russian citizens?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: In the moment before this year, IndyCar was not shown in Russia. This year we going to change the situation in a good way.
People likes racing in Russia. I'm pretty sure it will be popular. Russia is getting bigger and bigger every year in motorsport. Now for last like five years, they built like five or seven good tracks in Russia.
In the end of this year, we're going to have our first Grand Prix, Formula One, in Russia, in Sochi, as you know. I think all these things shows that Russia is interested in motorsport as one of the main sports in the world.
Q. Other than the tracks on which you've tested, have you driven on any of the tracks you're going to race this year?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: I've tested in Sonoma and I tested in Homestead. I don't know how could I forget the name, but the one we test the most. Sebring (laughter).
Obviously we going to race in Sonoma. Yeah, that's about it. That's only track I know at the moment. Actually, I quite enjoy. It's a great track. A lot of ups and downs, great blind corners. I like this stuff really. It makes racing interesting.
In Europe now you don't have a lot of tracks like this anymore. There's a lot of safety issues. Now many tracks in Europe it's impossible to crash, to get the wall. This is good and bad. Obviously good for safety, but when you drive a car, I think if you do mistake, you need to pay for this.
Q. Could you talk about when this deal came together, if you've moved to the United States, where you plan on living.
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: As I've said, we had the important conversation with SMP Racing in the middle of last year. That's when we finally decided what we want to do this year. From then we started to work on getting here.
Basically I think we end up signing end of November. I might be mistake, but it was announced. Yeah, that's when we start working already seriously, when I start working in the team. That's when I came for my first test in Sebring for first time.
I going to spend all my time in U.S. definitely during the season. As you know, the season is so tight. I think there is no reason for me to leave U.S. at this time because the jetlag, in Moscow it's nine hours difference. I think if you want to be successful, if you want to be in shape, you shouldn't leave. That's what I going to do. I going to stay in Indy all the year between races.
Q. With St. Petersburg you'll have a difference. Aside from Monaco, have you ever driven anything with barriers on the outside?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: Some years ago we had a race in the center of Moscow. When I started to do my open-wheel career, I did race in Russia as well, Formula 3. I was the youngest driver in Formula 3. I was 14 years old this time.
We had a track, yeah, as I said, just in the center of Moscow. There was even no barriers, as I remember. There was only trees, yeah. That was kind of tough. That was great experience. So you guys here have some safety definitely compared to that. But beside that I didn't drive any street course.
Monaco I drive maybe seven years, so I know the track well. I quite like it. Also for the reason because you do mistake, you're finished. You crash the car. I think that's how racing should be.
Q. What are some of the eye-opening experiences you've had since you've been behind the wheel?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: The question was about the actual car, right?
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: I think most of the cars which was manufactured by Dallara is very good. It was my experience. I can say this. The cars that we have here in IndyCar, it's not exception, it's a good car.
The main difference for me when I sit behind the steering wheel in Sebring is the size. The car is different than I used to, it's bigger. But apart from that, I wouldn't say that I find something completely different than what I used to.
As I said, I used to big cars with big engines. I drive them for a long time already. So, yeah, carbon brakes, nothing new. But I enjoyed a lot the oval test because that was something that I was not expecting that I would like it so much.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
MIKHAIL ALESHIN: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Ryan Briscoe.
How is it being a new dad?
RYAN BRISCOE: She's doing great. She's 10 weeks old now. No complaints. It's all good.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan recently tested out on the West Coast. Tell us a little bit about that experience and what you can take away from going back into St. Petersburg.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, good, really good. Any track time has been big for us with our crew. We've put together a new team to run the fourth car at Ganassi. Got a few familiar faces there, but a lot of new guys as well.
For Eric Cowdin, who is my engineer this year, we worked together for a few years at Penske. We're both new, getting back integrated into Chip Ganassi Racing. A bit to learn for both of us. A few new mechanics and stuff.
The testing has been great, getting everybody working together, trying to get into a bit of a flow as we get closer to the first race. We're testing one more time at Barber before the first race. Really there's not a whole lot of track time.
We did Fontana last week on Monday, then to Sonoma on Wednesday. We got a lot of good data points from the oval to the road course, lots of good laps, lots of good information from the engine side.
All in all, it was really successful. For me, great to be getting the seat time. Feels good.
THE MODERATOR: You also participated in the Rolex 24. A little bit about that experience because it was a brand-new car you were driving.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I'm doing Daytona and I'll be doing the Sebring 12 hours as well with Corvette Racing. It's an awesome car. I've never raced GTs before, so I was a bit apprehensive going in.
The thing drives unbelievable. It really drives more like a sports car. Good downforce, lots of fun. From here I'll be heading down to Sebring for testing this week. Anytime at the racetrack is good fun for me.
Q. Between driving for Chip and Roger, is there any thoughts of running both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500?
RYAN BRISCOE: I've never really put any effort into talking to anyone about doing that, so not really.
I don't have any experience driving stock cars. I think it's a cool idea, but it takes a lot of effort from the team's standpoint as well to make that happen. They probably look more towards guys that have won those races to begin with if someone's going to do it. So, yeah.
Q. What are your thoughts about how this month of May looks to you? Two races, two thought processes.
RYAN BRISCOE: I think it's going to be good 'cause I like the fact that we're extending the month of May. I think it's going to be an exciting way to open up the month of May with a big event. Something new for a lot of fans that will be there that maybe just go to the Indy 500 every year, haven't seen what we actually do most of the time throughout the year, which is road course racing.
I think being able to showcase our diversity as a series on one venue, in one place, I think that's going to be great for the series and great for a lot of the fans as well.
I can't wait to drive the track. I did the testing back in November. We drove a couple of variations of the circuit going both ways down the straight, and the track will be different again to improve the racing.
I think it's going to be great. It's going to be a quick turnaround from race day to opening day for the oval the next day. It will be a refocus like you're going to a new place because your mindset changes completely.
I'm hoping it's a success. I think it's a great idea. I'm hoping the fans really take to it.
Q. You spent most of your career with Penske or Ganassi. You have to play a role as a driver when you have big owners. How does Kanaan fit into a Chip world?
RYAN BRISCOE: Tony? He's driven for big teams, too. I don't know. Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm just getting to know Tony really.
I think Chip knows Tony pretty well before just hiring him, so he's pretty comfortable with him. They almost signed a few years ago, as well. I guess time will tell. He's definitely a fun character to have around. He's always a lot of fun. He's aggressive. He's definitely got a unique driving style that I've picked up on the last couple tests, which is interesting to look at and learn from as well.
I'm looking forward to working with him. How he's going to fit in? He has his own style, so I think he'll fit in the way he always does. I think he'll be good.
Q. You've had an interesting view at Scott Dixon. What makes him so successful?
RYAN BRISCOE: I think he's just solid, man, like a rock. Even-keeled. He just gets the job done. Definitely having the continuity he's had through highs and lows, he's just been there the whole time. When he's had those bad days, he doesn't say bad things about the team. He just gets down to work and works really hard behind the scenes without publicizing it so much. I think that's what he's good at.
He's a phenomenal driver. He's fast, he's consistent. He's just the same every year. You can always count on him going for a championship again.
THE MODERATOR: Last year you had a few races in IndyCar, injured your wrist, came back. Coming back for a full season, tell us your thoughts about that.
RYAN BRISCOE: It's like everything I wanted after I didn't get a full-time ride last year has sort of come true now. It's really the perfect scenario. Last year we sort of got to a point around this time where I was like, Full-time ride is not looking good, but that's all right, we'll focus on doing something for the Indy 500, I'll keep my racing up by doing the sports cars.
I didn't think I would do as many IndyCar races as I ended up doing. The end goal was I want to get back to IndyCar and have a full-time ride in 2014. I thought my best way of doing that was to do the sports cars last year, then work hard from that point on being here now.
It's crazy. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get here. Had a great run with Chip at the 500 last year. John Barnes gave me the opportunity with his team at the races that I could do, which was tough because I was racing the IndyCar one weekend, then I couldn't do the next race because I was racing the sports car, then I could do the next race which was an oval. It was just all over the place. It was really hard to get that focus.
In the series that's so competitive, you need that consistency to be competitive. But in saying that, things have worked out. I was there on the race weekends, keeping my face in front of the teams, everybody that needed to see me.
Anyway, things have worked out. I'm really excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge chance to run with Chip this year. We're working really hard on being strong. I'm working hard on being on top of my game and hopefully competitive.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We have Simon Pagenaud.
You've talked about consistency in qualifying, et cetera. Your thoughts about 2014. What specifically needs to be stepped up?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think 2014 is about to be an incredible year. I'm very excited about it. I know everybody's working really hard, every team, every driver, so the level is going to be even higher than it is last year.
As a driver you know that during the winter. It's about finding what you can improve of yourself to come back and be stronger, what to do to basically be faster is the key.
The race team, on their side, is working at adjusting the chassis with the new Honda twin turbo engine. We think and we have gained power. It's a matter of adjusting that power delivery to the rear tires.
So it's been interesting to be able to develop the engine with Honda. I'm very glad to be part of it. Very proud actually. I think we're about ready for the start of the season.
The last two tests have been good in Sonoma and Sebring. We've been more competitive than we've never been in Sonoma, so I think that's a good point. We just need to tick some boxes before the season starts.
I feel a lot more confident, a lot more one with my car than I was last year.
THE MODERATOR: Your relationship with both with Honda Performance Development, American Honda, and the Acura programs dating back to the ALMS days, talk about that relationship and how it's given you opportunities and affected how you view the series you run in.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I think I've been very lucky and very grateful toward Honda for the opportunity I've been given. When I was in Champ Car 2007, there was a decision that needed to be made on my career whether I was going to stay in sports car or try IndyCar for the rest of my career. The truth is I had no opportunities in IndyCar at the time. I turned towards sports car with Gil de Ferran and I had a great opportunity with Acura. They really that helped me develop as a racecar driver on the technical side of things. Sports car is an all open book. There's so much you can do working on the engine, working on tires, working on the aerodynamics. Being a teammate with Gil was a big page of my book. He was a teacher explaining me everything he's seen in his career.
Then Honda was a great help because they hired me to be on that program and they kept me on that program for many years until 2010. When I told them at the end of 2010 that I would be interested going IndyCar racing, it took a year and a half and they made it happen.
Obviously we needed some help with Sam. Sam made it happen and here we are. I'm just very proud to be part of that development program. I mean, I love all the technical aspects of racing. So being involved in engine development is something I'm really into. It gets me a thrill about the sport.
I think IndyCar is where I want to be for the rest of my career, to be honest. I love the series. I love the competition. I love the venues. I love the Indy 500. I want to excel at it. I want to be better and win races and win championships.
THE MODERATOR: You made the first test of the twin turbo engine for Honda at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Is there a point where you can now look at that and see what type of progress it has made?
SIMON PAGENAUD: There's only so much I can say, you can imagine. But it has been interesting. It's been very interesting to go through the steps of development.
Obviously as a driver what you focus on the most is drivability. You want to make the engine easy to drive and competitive at the same time. We've been working on making that possible. Obviously tuning up the turbos was different than tuning up the single turbo. That's something we've been very diligent and understanding.
We worked on that. It was interesting. It certainly evolved at every test we've gone through, which is thrilling from a driver point of view.
Reliability has been, I mean, awesome. We haven't had any issue, so I guess that's a really good sign.
Q. Looking at the statistics of your own career, you've improved. The wins haven't come in bulk yet. From your perspective, what do you have to do to make that jump to champion?
SIMON PAGENAUD: From my standpoint, you need to look at who I was fighting against last year, for example, how many years I was here. That was only my second year. Then oval racing, which I'm still learning about.
Obviously I'd be happy to win 10 races a year, but nobody has done it so far in the last two years. I think the level of competition is so high, there's so many factors that come in during a race, it's not comparable to Formula One, it's a different kind of racing.
There are so much strategy going on, there are so much restarts, so many things that come into play. It's what's interesting about IndyCar.
From my standpoint, I can always be more focused. I can extract more out of myself by doing that and understanding myself more. I think I can still react better in some situations. That's what I'm working on.
I can't say too much because Briscoe is here (laughter).
But, no, mentally certainly I realize as an athlete, not just as a driver, there's a lot of things that your brain doesn't allow you to do, and my goal is to just open those doors and make it happen in any situation.
Q. You'll have a new teammate this year. Talk about how that all fits together with the team working as one unit. Will it change on the track having new people?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't know. I know my relationship with Mikhail started off really well. We've been able to establish great trust. I think that's what Dario and Scott Dixon used to do really well. I think that should be the example. Mikhail has experience. He's been driving in Formula One. He brings a lot of fresh blood and other experiences, which is always good to hear.
When you race in one series for many years, you tend to forget what's outside, what's good about the outside world. So he brings that. He's very down to business, very professional. I think he's a great addition to the team.
I think we both understand to make ourselves better, we need to make our cars better together, and that will elevate the team, therefore that can elevate us. We both understand the same thing, which I think is a big plus and will certainly help us this year.
As for the others, I don't know. We'll see on the racetrack.
THE MODERATOR: Simon Pagenaud, thank you.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Thank you.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Josef Newgarden.
First time on the track in the off-season yesterday?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: First time this year. We tested right before Christmas. It's good. I'm glad we got some test days. Pretty limited now in IndyCar racing. You have to be pretty on it if you have test days. If you have two days to run a car, you need to have a pretty good plan.
We've done a lot of homework this off-season. We've been getting after it. Hopefully we're going to be set for the year.
THE MODERATOR: Your year last year did well in certain places. Obviously could have done well in certain places by your own estimation. Your thoughts about 2014 and where you need to improve?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Last year we were just too slow. Honestly, that was our biggest problem. We were slow. It's attributed to a lot of things. We've got to do a better job with our homework. We have to do a better job with communication. There's a lot of things I've been learning as a young driver.
That's the difficulty in open-wheel racing now and racing across the board. For a young driver that comes in, it's difficult to figure things out quick enough. That's because there's not a lot of tools nowadays. You don't have as many test days. You don't understand everything before you're racing an event.
Nowadays it's just really hard to figure things out with a limited budget, limited resources. We have some of those issues we deal with on our team, but we try to make the most out of what we have, we try to make a little go further.
Two years into it, I think we made a good progression from 2012 to '13. 2012 we had flashes of brilliance. We were actually faster in 2012 than 2013. Couldn't finish races. I struggled to finish races.
Moving into 2013, we were able to finish races but weren't as quick as we were in 2012. That ended up biting us.
I was happy with our progress from year one to year two. Moving into year three, we have to have a fast car and be able to finish races well, call good races, have good pit stops. I've got to keep it out of the fence, keep it from getting tangled up. Everything has to kind of come together for year three.
If we do that, I think it's realistic that we could be a top 10 championship car. I think that's a realistic goal for us to set. There's always possibilities we could do better than that. I think being inside the top 10 for a championship is a great aspiration for all of us. I believe we can do that.
We've done a lot of homework. A lot of hard work has been put in, as everybody does in the series. We've particularly put in a lot of work on our car. Each specific department has been looked at. Dampers, aerodynamics, all the relationships between the geometry, how they relate to the chassis stiffness. We've gone over everything and tried to do our homework as best as possible. Now we're trying to do testing to confirm anything.
With a little bit of luck, we can have better speed this year and put ourselves in good positions to finish well.
THE MODERATOR: When you mention looking at every aspect of the car, promoted an engineer to be your race engineer. Can you talk a little bit about that.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: My engineer went away after last year. He went to go to James Hinchcliffe's car, which is pretty awesome. I love Hinchcliffe and my engineer I had, Nathan. They're going to be a formidable team this year. We promoted our assistant engineer to assist me. His name is Jeremy Milless. If there's anything that Jeremy has been doing this year is putting everything he has as an engineer into the program. He's done everything in the book to do a great job and find every little thing and detail in this car.
It's cool. Jeremy has never actually been a primary engineer of a racecar. I feel like he's had a lot of opinions and views to do a racecar. It's his opportunity to put that into full effect.
It's been fun because he's had a ton of energy over the last three, four months. It energizes everybody when you have an engineer that's fresh and wanting to improve. He's like leading a charge almost.
I'm really excited about it. He's done a great job. We have a couple other great people in. He has a new assistant engineer underneath him who came from Panther Racing. We have some backup there also. There's a lot of good people in the mix. We've hired in some new mechanics, other key essential people. I'm excited. I think we've got great things ahead for 2014.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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