Detroit: Post-Race press conference
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Okay, we're joined by our 5th place finisher in today's race, Scott Dixon, the Championship points leader heading into the season finale next week. Scott currently has 606 Championship points; 30 points up on Helio Castroneves. Scott will win the Championship with a finish of 8th place or better next week in Chicagoland.
Scott, your run out there today, if you would, talk about the race?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I don't think it was much of a race, to be honest. It was pretty pitiful. I don't know, the car was clearly quicker than anybody's. We were saving a ton of fuel up front and sort of having a merry old day, and that changed pretty quickly.
We left with a half tank after that caution. I think I was probably the only person or maybe a couple of others. It's just a hard situation when you're in that point when nobody else pits and you have a lot of slower guys that pitted early on and have a lot of fuel and you have to try to pass them.
That was pretty much the race. Then from that point on, we were just trying to pull up there.
Q. Why did you decide to pit so early?
SCOTT DIXON: I didn't decide it.
Q. In the morning practice session, you go out have a very fast time, and somebody else passes you like four other drivers. Each time you would come out and kick it up again, every time someone was faster. Were you trying to send a message to them that I'm quicker?
SCOTT DIXON: You mean this morning in practice?
Q. This morning in practice.
SCOTT DIXON: This morning we just did a couple of quick laps, and then we leaned it out and did sort of lean running. And the guys that went quicker actually put tires on. So there were four or five guys that put tires on toward the end of the warm‑up. And we were just sort of saving fuel. I think we ended up saving some on the car. It's still decent. But we don't race that way, so we don't practice that way.
Q. Second week in a row you're not happy. Helio's not happy with the way things turned out. Does it baffle you a little bit that things are kind of the strategy doesn't seem to be going the way it should?
SCOTT DIXON: No, it's not calls or anything. We win as a team; we lose as a team. But I think, you know, my anger or whatever is just from frustration.
I think we clearly had the quickest car today. Nobody was going to touch us, and still we ended up fifth. So I think that's disappointing. I think that's what makes it tough to deal with.
So for the moment, yeah, we weren't the quickest car. We maybe had a top 5 at best, in the 6th position. But I think when you lose like that, it's very tough.
Q. How close were you on fuel at the end, and would you have had to make another pit stop had the race gone the full distance rather than the time distance?
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it's hard to tell with yellows. We were definitely I think we still had another three or four laps to go. We thought we were a little bit closer and then they shortened the race by a couple of laps, I think. And we didn't seem to have a problem there.
But I think most that were sitting behind us, they were all trying to save fuel. I think everybody was in that same boat, which was kind of lucky for us, because we couldn't push it towards the end. So that definitely helps. It always depends on how the race goes. If we had another yellow, it would have been fine. If not, it would have been tough.
Q. When you got bogged there in the back 20 laps in, were you thinking, oh, man, here we go again like Sonoma? What did you do to just keep your cool as you sat back there in traffic throughout much of the race?
SCOTT DIXON: I had already seen that movie, man, and it's not a good movie to watch. It's unfortunately fresh in my mind.
You know, it's tough. We passed two or three people. (Alex) Tagliani was very tough to pass, and those are the guys that obviously they're going a long distance. At some point you think you're going to be maybe 20 laps behind them, so it's very tough to dive in there, especially when you're fighting for a championship, too. You have a lot of things you have to sort of balance out.
It's not a pretty picture. Especially when the leaders at that point sort of go out, pull a big lead. Come in, pit, get fresher tires and more fuel than you. It's pretty frustrating.
Q. I'm sure you're aware by now what happened with Helio. In your five years in the IRL, have you ever seen that call made like that?
SCOTT DIXON: I remember a black flag at the 500 a few years ago, so I've been in that situation before. I don't know the ins and outs of it. But it's always a tough thing. I can't really comment on that. I think when you're in that position and you think it's a wrong call, it's tough to deal with. Unfortunately, you can't do much about it.
THE MODERATOR: Scott, we appreciate your time.
Now our second place finisher, Helio Castroneves. Helio, if you would, talk about your run out there today?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Ok. Let's go. What a race, wow. What a great strategy. The car was awesome. I was pushing a lot, exactly like Sonoma. We're doing everything we could. Everything we could within our control we do to win this race.
From my point of view, it's a situation that is very unusual. But it was awesome. I was taking the best out of myself. When you drive like that under pressure, I don't know, I really was going for it.
With the lap times close to qualifying times at that point, the track wasn't as good as before, but I was having a lot of fun. Great pit stops, great calls. I was very proud of the whole organization.
Q. As Justin was pushing you and so forth before the blocking incident happened, it looked like you were actually working pretty hard with the car. It looked a little bit loose. Well, afterwards when Justin went by, what was the status of the handling? What were you dealing with at that stage of the game?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It was very interesting that situation, because when you slow down and come back again, the restart; it looks like on the high‑speed section I was really comfortable, no problem. But on the slow corners, the front of the car was really, I don't know, I think the temperature on the tires was getting a little bit hard to get up. And I was just trying to not make any mistakes.
It happened before, actually. I think one of the restarts when I took the lead and Justin was behind me, so it was pretty similar. But, of course, on the last one I was thinking pretty easy because I knew I didn't have to pit anymore.
So when he came out of the corner and I looked, he was pulling already. I was like, "Oh, wait, wait, wait a minute. Not there yet. Let me push because my car's not bad. My car's actually very good." And I knew if I didn't do that, probably he has nothing to lose. He's not battling for the championship. He's just battling for a win.
He just decided to ‑‑ I mean, I think I did enough, you know, to say not now. If you do it again ‑‑ or that's always happened, let's put it this way. But I very surprised with the call.
My opinion on that, I have to say, if you're going to pull a ruse, you've got to start it from the beginning not towards the end.
Since I've been here since 2002, I always did that. And you got a warning, if you do it again, now you're penalized. But it was all of a sudden. Now I've got to give the position for him. I'm like, "Wait a minute." You could see next lap I was already three cars away from him.
So it's not something that we see many, many times. It was just an unusual call. And I really don't know why they did that. I'm very surprised. I don't know if all the teams or people were putting pressure. But Brian (Barnhart) is not the typical guy to receive that.
So you've got to be consistent. You've got to start fresh and not towards the end of the season., especially battling for a championship anyway. That was a very difficult situation.
Q. What was your reaction when you were told you had to give him the position? And was there any lobbying on your part going back to the officials through your crew?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I know Tim (Cindric) too well. We've been together for eight years. And if he's arguing, if he's battling to not make the decision happen, he would not say anything on the radio.
Again, I argued back once, and he said there's not much we can do. Particularly, to be honest, I didn't throw everything away. We still had one more race to go. If I didn't have anything to lose, I would have stayed there. Sorry, appealing in the end, and go to that decision in the end.
So I just said, "Listen, if you want to pass me back, I'll give him the position on the backstretch." And they said they were fine with that.
Q. Helio, so you can't see any justification or the call or reason for the call, or your team can't figure out what the justification was?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I actually would like you guys to ask Brian Barnhart why he did that. What's his decision and why all of a sudden, something like that. If it's personal, well, I wish he'd come to talk to me about it and not retaliate on the racetrack.
But I don't think it's like that. I'm very surprised. I'm very much surprised about this call.
Q. Just at the end you hung on to Justin a bit and then you dropped back. Were you having to conserve fuel or just say fine, this is where I'm at, this is where I'm going to finish?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I was pushing as hard as I could to try to get it back. My car was very good. But because I was so close to him, especially on the high‑speed corners, that happened actually in Mid-Ohio. You start wearing your right front. And the first stop or the first ten (laps), the car was pushing a lot. And the last it was pushing a lot as well. So I don't know if there is something going on with tire pressure or if it's the tires which I doubt about.
But I was pushing as hard as I could. And once it was three to four laps to go, I was thinking I'm likely to make a mistake. And Justin is a first‑class guy. He's a very good race driver. It would be very difficult for him to make a mistake, and that's why I decided to just finish.
Q. You got no warning other than when Tim told you you had to give up the points. How about at the driver's meeting? Was Brian adamant about blocking or anything like that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Honestly, he was talking about blue flag, most of it. I had an incident in Sonoma and that's what he talked about. He always emphasizes it. To be honest, he did not emphasize here. He said here it's very difficult, we're going to be watching all of the cars. It's a difficult track.
Again, he always emphasized every race, not only on the road course, street course, but ovals. And I'm very, very disappointed and very surprised with that.
Q. How long is it going to take to kind of get over this tonight and move on and think about Chicago?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's a good question. Last time it happened to me was 1993 when I was about to win a F3 Championship and the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Argentina guys stopped, and it took me a while.
But I can't. I can't let this bother me for the next race, because we have next weekend. So what are we going to do? Turn the page tonight. I might have to drink some Tequila or something, too (laughing). Easy, hey, hey, I'm just joking, guys.
But definitely tomorrow we'll turn the page and work as hard as we can. Because the good news, we're still battling for the championship. If it's 30 points less or behind, I don't know the math, but I know we're going to have a lot of work again.
So we know what we need to do. We know we're going after a good team. But I trust my guys, I trust my team, and I know we can do it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
We're now joined by race winner, Justin Wilson. Justin, congratulations. Tell us about your run out there today.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was a very interesting day. There was a lot going on. Off the start, we were just trying to max the pace, save fuel and keep up with the guys in front.
Once that yellow came out, everyone was a bit unsure of which was the right way to go. We opted to stay out and it paid off. So I was very is pleased about that. The team's done a fantastic job. So it's great to finally get a win for Newman/Haas/Lanigan. It's amazing.
Q. Where to begin? First of all, this morning you obviously had problems with the steering. You didn't get to run a lot. You said the car was good, but not anything special. Again you missed that time this morning. So again, it's a mark of the team. But just talk about that issue, and did you find in the car you were able to get something for the car that was a little bit better in the race than it had been?
JUSTIN WILSON: The benefit of having a two‑car team. Graham (Rahal) did a similar change to what we did overnight and didn't like it, so we both went back. Without having Graham as a teammate, there's no way we would have had that information. So it's just a team effort. Knowing what steps to make and we calculated it best to go back to what we know as opposed to take that risk and running something we're not sure about.
The car was good. It just got better and better. The more tire rubber that went down, the better it got, and the more the car floats. So I was very pleased with the way my car was working.
And I figured once we went a lap further than Oriol Servia on that first stop, we figured, "OK. The car's not that bad. We've got something we can race with."
Q. You had been hounding Helio there for a while. And when the key moment happened when they called him for blocking, how did it look from your view point?
JUSTIN WILSON: Obviously there are two sides to every story. From my position he slid a little bit through (Turns) 10, 11, and 12. When he went into (Turn) 12 on the brake he overshot. I went back to the inside and got some great traction. And before we even got to full power, was inching alongside him. I thought well, this is pretty straightforward.
By the time we hit the brakes, I'm going to be axle to axle. I'm on the inside, it's a clear cut. I was surprised he came over, and then he came over more, and he came over more to the point I had to back out, even brake.
It was pretty severe. I was upset on the radio, and complaining to my team. They said, "Calm down. IndyCar had seen it and they knew how bad it was, and they're going to make a call." And that's what happened. So I think that was going to be one of the key maneuvers of the race, and it didn't happen. So they figured that deserved a penalty.
Q. Can you share with us any conversation with Helio afterwards on the victory stand or anything, any comments?
JUSTIN WILSON: No. He obviously said he was shocked that he got the call. But, you know, I wasn't so shocked (laughing). There are two sides to every incident. It's just racing, you know.
If I was in his position and you so desperately want to win for the championship, then maybe I would have done the same thing. The outcome would have been the same. So you just have to do what you feel is right in that split second.
I'm not trying to get in the way of the championship, but I'm trying to win out there. And people come to see a race. They don't want to just see guys driving around. So that was my opportunity to race, and I was pretty frustrated it didn't actually get to a proper overtaking maneuver.
Q. With so much at stake for the championship, are you surprised that the call was made?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was a little bit surprising. But, in my mind, it was so clear and so obvious that I think something had to be done.
I was very pleased. I knew in my eyes I had to make a decided move. I didn't want to get tangled up with Helio. I don't want to get in the middle of the Championship battle. So I knew I had to be very decisive when I did make my move.
Q. It's been a transition here for Newman/Haas/Lanigan, in a lot of ways, too. There are a lot of new faces on the team and stuff like that. Can you talk about how it means to win for Carl and Paul and Mike as well?
JUSTIN WILSON: It's fantastic. I said out there on the podium, this is definitely the highlight of my career. To win a race for Newman/Haas/Lanigan racing, we've got three fantastic owners who all add something to the team in their own unique way. And I'm very privileged to be driving for them.
So it means a lot to win for McDonald's, and to get this first victory in our first season of IndyCar Series racing when times have been so difficult.
We've had so much happen this year. There's been a lot of occasions where I felt we were in contention for at least a podium if not a win and things haven't gone our way.
It's tough to keep going and saying, "That's racing, that's racing." But you've got to keep picking yourself up and moving on. I'm very happy to have finally got a win this year and keep my streak going of winning at least one race every season.
Q. We talked to Helio earlier that it seemed on the restarts for his car wasn't as good as yours on the first few laps after the restart. There was an earlier restart where you were right on him for I don't know, four or five laps and he was able to pull away. Can you sort of talk about that from your perspective?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I was a little bit surprised. He was struggling on the restarts and so was I. We were running the first laps after it went green we were five seconds off our pace. Then it was 4, then it was 3. It just took a long time to get back up to speed.
I relaxed a little bit once I saw he was struggling as much as I was, and I just tried to work the situation. I was all over him a couple of times. You know, it's just very difficult out there.
Once the tire pressures come up, you've got the grip and he was fast, and I had to save fuel. So we pitted quite early on the last stop. It was just outside our window because the team saw some debris on the front straight. So that put the pressure on knowing that we'd given up I don't know, 5, 10 laps of fuel. I'm not sure how much further we had to go.
But we had given up a lot of fuel running and went out and had to save a lot of fuel. I didn't think it was going to be possible. Fortunately, that yellow came out and allowed me to run hard again. I got the call seven laps from the end that I could go flat out, and that's when I decided to push hard.
Q. I know it's been quite a while since Paul Newman has been around. How do you feel being able to give him a victory at this stage of the fight?
JUSTIN WILSON: It's something I really wanted to do. Paul is a great part of the team. He calls me after every single race, and he passes on his regards to how well we've done or how unlucky we've been.
It's great to finally be able to repay his comments and nice words. So, like I said earlier, it's just fantastic to be driving for this team.
THE MODERATOR: Justin, thank you very much. Congratulations.
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article