Long Beach GP Sunday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: I eavesdropped on your conversation coming in here, and I heard you say, I could have won this race.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, Dario clearly won, but still I wasn't aware of really what could have been and what could have happened with being able to win the race. Michael said when I came into the pit that if the yellow would have come out at a slightly different time that we'd have had the lead. So I don't really know how that all would have shaken out exactly.
But the bottom line is we made incredible strides through being sort of calm with the car in the last couple of runs, and just said let's get something comfortable underneath me, and then also with strategy as well. Was Dario the only other one that pitted like I did?
THE MODERATOR: Yes.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, so that's pretty good from the new guy in the pit box, right?
THE MODERATOR: Absolutely. Then you run from 22nd to 4th. I guess you were upset with your qualifying run yesterday and the charge there?
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah, we obviously had our moment in qualifying with spinning out and hitting the wall, and taking out the front wing at the beginning of the qualifying run. After being in the top 10 in the morning practice we thought, "Man, we've got a shot to on move out of our group and see what we can do."
But once we hit the wall and got back out there it's been very easy to tip the car over and make it hard to drive and not very fast. So, what's felt good hasn't been good for a lap time unfortunately, either.
So with those two things combined, it's been a tricky weekend. But the bottom line is that my engineer Eddie put a good car underneath me for the race. And if you're going to get to pick one session, you hope it's the race.
So we'd obviously like to improve qualifying on so we can have a race from the front but all the points are the same in the end when you finish.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, questions, please.
Q. On your way up to the IndyCar Series , you were always a good road racer. Are you a little surprised with the good results on the road circuits have been a little slower coming?
DANICA PATRICK: I'm a little surprised that I can't seem to figure qualifying out. I can't seem to pull the time out of the car when I need to. But to be honest, my race pace from the beginning has never been that bad.
I think that showed again in the race today when probably my favorite part of the race was being able to hang there with Dario. I'm sure he was saving fuel because we were doing the same thing. And he was saving fuel, too.
I think that was good though. I just need to learn. Whether they're holding back, I don't know. I highly doubt it, to be honest, because I have three teammates. But to be able to just have that left in you to know how to get speed out.
But other than that, we've been doing well on road courses. We finished well at Sonoma last year, obviously, Detroit the year before. Couple front row starts in '07. It hasn't been horrible, but, my goodness, if you look at the field now, the whole field is good. So it's really hard.
Q. You were featured prominently in the IndyCar Series spots during the TV broadcast interview clips, showing sort of your determination. I'm wondering if you had any say in what sort of direction those things would go? If you had a chance to see them before they aired and what you thought about them?
DANICA PATRICK: The Go Daddy commercials?
Q. No, the IRL.
THE MODERATOR: It was the VERSUS spot, and at the end you talk about some girls went to proms, I went to the racetrack.
DANICA PATRICK: Right, actually, the way it was done, they had a really sort of young and amazing director come in and investigated a bunch of us drivers. There was a direction that they wanted to take, and wanted to elevate moods a little bit and messages of the drivers but it was really interview-style.
We took a clip of what my answer was and sort of boldly said it or said it individually. That was the interview format. I mean, things are dramatized a little bit. For the most part, it's true. I never went to prom. I went to the racetrack.
I've had guys ask me to prom since then, though. I don't know. (Laughing)
Q. You're talking about the guy on the box there calling your strategy. How has that been working out for you? You seem you've got a little confidence going into Kansas now with the boss calling a little bit of the shots there.
DANICA PATRICK: Well, he's done a good job. Mike is ‑‑ it's his first time. I mean, he's definitely called it from the sidelines a little more so with the radio on his head, making that exact call.
But he's so passionate. He lives it every day of his life, so it's nice to have somebody that's as passionate as you are, and also understands it from a driving perspective. Mike's done a great job.
We were on a great strategy at St. Petersburg, as well. We were on a two‑stopper which was first, second, third, fourth, fifth finished. And so presuming that would have put me in that mix, that would have been another good mix for us. So Mike's done a great job, and I'm sure he'll only continue to improve.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Helio Castroneves. Was last night a normal night before race or did it feel different?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I will be honest. You know that butterfly going on in your stomach before the race? I didn't have it. I slept like a baby. I was tired from practice. I think it was finally sinking in that I was in Long Beach. I woke up really well rested and said, "Wow." I slept with a smile on my face.
But the point is, it was awesome. It was just so great, and day-by-day I think it's going to come back slowly, but I'll be ready, I'll be in the rhythm.
Q. You said to the TV guys that your muscles were sore? Is that from yesterday or just from rustiness?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No, I think it was more my butt, so basically ‑‑
Q. Thanks for sharing.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm sorry. But if you know, you move a lot, you put a lot of pressure on the brakes and throttle to keep moving your feet quite a lot. You stay in one position, and you don't move at all the arms and this area.
It's kind of like a little cramp. It's typical when you have sore muscles. I actually was enjoying it. It was nice to have back this kind of soreness, and the neck as well from the G‑force, all the normal things.
Remember, it has been six months and I ran for an hour and a half yesterday, and this place is very bumpy. ‑‑ so it was a good feeling, I have to say.
Q. You also said that your water broke, your water bottle broke?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, actually you have holes right here in the helmet, and somehow from inside it escaped. And I just felt it about halfway through the race. I felt really cold in my chest. I'm like, "I'm not sweating. What's going on here? Oh, that feels good."
And I realized it's the worst thing, because anything to distract you in this place is very bad. I did face that challenge today, but it didn't bother me.
I wasn't very thirsty. I thought I would be really tired, really thirsty, but, hey, I'm back in the game and I'm happy about that.
Q. Helio, if you could contrast your happiness to be back in the car? Now think of what Will Power's going to have to be doing next Sunday when he has to get out of the car. Tim said they're going to plan A, so he's not going to be racing at Kansas. Can you just kind of maybe see as well as he's done as high as he is in the points, have a little empathy for him as a teammate?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't know what the plan is. I heard Roger (Penske) and (Tim) Cindric talking about it again. Will Power, he proves he's a fantastic driver, and that's not going to change.
The way the circumstances came in, it was very difficult for everybody, including him. I'm kind of like happy and not happy. It's mixed feelings for both of us.
He's a good guy, but at the end of the day, I love racing, and I want to be back in racing. And now it was great for Team Penske. They found him a car, found him another ride, and he proved that he was fast.
So he did a fantastic job today. But I'm sure if there was something that Penske Racing can do, they will do. From now on, I don't know. I'm just happy to be back in the No. 3 car.
Q. How did you find racing on the Reds and Blacks? And how did they help you with the strategy?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: When I started the race, it's good when you keep one tire, but it's not very good when you jump to a different tire and you've got to change. There are a lot of variables now. It's not so much like it used to be last year.
At least last year you had the same tires and everything. You know what your car is going to do every lap. Because the Red tire seems to have a little more grip and go off later on, it's hard to push too hard in the beginning or you might have trouble.
For me, I was more discussing about what the car was doing. It was the first time I was able to find it on the line here. It was good with every lap to learn a little more about the track and get comfortable with the car, with the rim. But an interesting scenario now. I think tomorrow or in the next few days ‑‑ isn't the oval the Red tires as well or not? The ovals?
THE MODERATOR: No, no.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: So next race in the Reds I'll probably understand a little bit. But today, it was a great learning process for me. I'm very glad that I was able to score some points.
Q. Do you find the fact that you found another line, what line did you find and how did it work for you?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Remember, one and a half hours is a little bit hard after six months for you to understand everything. And I knew that would happen. But it was good to see other drivers doing that.
So at least I knew what my car could do. And the lines that were there were changing because of this scenario that I just told you.
It was very interesting, the car, the tires handling in some areas. I actually talked a lot today on the radio. Telling them how the car was handling so on the next road course we can fix some of those things. But that dang yellow, I'm still upset a little bit about it. It would have been a great finish, but 7th is still very good.
Q. It had to really make you feel good with the crowd reaction that you've got and people welcoming you back. You've spent a few months busy. Were you able to work out at all? Did you get a chance to get to a gym or have time to do any pretraining?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I remember Wednesday my trainer called me, and I was avoiding him quite a lot. Not because I didn't want to, but my head basically wasn't very much in racing. I was just avoiding everything. Maybe that's the way I'm trying to be positive.
But then on Wednesday he said, "I'm going wherever you are, and I'm going to train you." And as soon as I finished he's like, "Man, you're ready." And with that, I'm like, "OK, I know what I can do." My only problem was my head and he said he could fix it. And he did.
Yesterday and today, it was a great feeling to be back in the race rhythm. It was awesome, a great feeling. And the crowd again was fantastic.
Q. Since 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, has everything been a complete blur?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: A complete?
Q. Blur. It all happened so fast. Is it all just blurring?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think it will sink in when I go back home. The first reaction on Friday, I don't even know the time, was that I just want to get out of there. I just wanted to come here to Long Beach and see all my friends, colleagues, and you guys. Believe it or not, I want to really be talking here. And you know me, I like to talk.
So for six months, I was not able to talk. That was a lot of torture. I'm happy to be here talking to you guys.
Q. You've talked about wanting to put this whole idea behind you understandably. How long do you think that will take? Will you ever really be able to do that?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I don't think I'll ever forget. I said that the other day. When I look at that scar, it's going to make me appreciate things I never appreciated in the past. I do believe I am a better person today. And I just want to continue racing. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Will Power. Will, a second place run out there for you. Your best ever finish while in the IndyCar Series. Talk about your run out there today.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was good. It was the very sort of the result that I needed. We didn't have communication. I couldn't hear them on the radio, so we were using the (pit) boards, but the guys did a great job.
The power was good throughout the race. I was saving some serious fuel at the end. I wasn't sure whether I could make it because we didn't have the communication working on my dash. But we had a really good result with the Verizon Wireless 12 car.
THE MODERATOR: Did the heat play a factor out there today?
WILL POWER: No, I was fine. I really felt fit. It didn't affect me at all.
Q. You mentioned that you had no radio and no telemetry; is that correct, in the car?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it was just a small wiring problem. We brought the car here and it's just a little issue. So it wasn't a big deal. We used the board, and I could just hear the radio in a small section of the front straight. You know, we got it done, we got what we needed done.
Q. So you worked pit board only?
WILL POWER: Pit board, and a small bit of radio. I couldn't talk back, but I could hear.
Q. Ever see a guy so happy to finish 7th? And how are your feelings? You have to have mixed emotions today. You left here second place, and now you've got to wait a couple of weeks to get in the car?
WILL POWER: I'm just happy to be given an opportunity, especially with this team, Team Penske's very special. To run the Indy 500 with these guys is going to be great. It's going to give me a good opportunity to run right up in the front. They've had a lot of success there, as you know. So I'm looking forward to the month of May.
Q. What was your mindset coming into this weekend? And what was your focal point at the start of the race?
WILL POWER: Coming into the weekend I was aware that possibly Helio could return, because his case was coming to an end. So halfway through Friday I was told that Helio was coming back, and we'd be going to a third car.
But I remained focused the whole time. Each session I just took it as it came. I did the best job possible. You know, if you keep working hard, you have a bit of good luck.
Q. Can you talk us through the sequence of events when I guess it was Dario and Rafa (Matos) got past you down at the far end of the racetrack. Did it have anything to do with Mike Conway being in the tires in turn one? Just can you take us through that whole thing?
WILL POWER: Like I said, I could hear the radio on a small section of the strait. I heard, "Full course yellow, Turn 1." And I just said, we turned the fuel mixture lean and backed off. And then suddenly two cars off the apex come cruising past me, and I realized that it wasn't.
Then a couple of corners later it was a full course yellow. And I had no radio communication, so am I supposed to pass these cars back? Was it a full course yellow? It was a little confusing. But I think we jumped them in the pits anyway, because the crew did a really good job. They were really quick.
Q. What was it like working with Nigel Beresford and John Erickson? Those guys, Erickson has a long history in NASCAR, and Nigel's been with Roger for a long time. What was it like working with those guys?
WILL POWER: Yeah, really good, considering the short timeframe to form a relationship with those guys. It was great. It was like we've been together forever. We just come qualifying we all had our plan worked out. The car was good, and you know, it was ‑‑ you couldn't ask. I mean, that was the thing with this team. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. They always come up with the goods.
Q. Will, I noticed that as you passed by your pit area under yellow, you were doing a lot of pointing and a lot of gesturing.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I was trying to tell them to keep the board out because I couldn't hear. When I pitted they said can you hear me? And I could hear them because the communication was good. So I was trying to tell them I can't hear, so keep the board out. Just keep me aware.
Q. So the board, like I noticed on one side it said in, is that your signal to then to tell you when to come in.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I believe on one of the stops I saw a lap countdown, I saw In.
Q. Because they set up a couple of times and changed their mind it looked like.
Q. Since you're not going to be racing until Indy now, what are you going to be doing next week?
WILL POWER: I don't know. I'm not a very good spectator. I don't know if I can handle standing on the side of the track watching everyone else race. It will be tough. I'm just happy to have the opportunity.
Q. You beat Dario for the pole yesterday, but today it seemed Dario had the right set‑up and your car didn't seem to be able to keep pace there at the end. Is it because of fuel?
WILL POWER: It was because of fuel. Believe me, mate, I was saving like you would not believe and driving as hard as I could through the corners to make up for it. I was on full lean.
That's the hardest I've driven. The car was there. If we were able to go full bridge, we would have been on it.
Q. Are you free to talk to anybody else? Or are you locked into waiting for Penske if something else opens up, or another team opens you up, can you go with them or are you bound by any sort of contract?
WILL POWER: No, I'm with Penske. I'm not really looking anywhere else. I'm very focused on the Indy 500. And for the team, I want to remain with them for the rest of my career.
THE MODERATOR: Joined by race winner, Dario Franchitti. Give us your take on today?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I had to get up early this morning, I know that. Warm‑up was early. In fact, we were sitting in this very room at 8:00 o'clock this morning. I was half asleep.
What can I say? I made a terrible start. I made a good start in St. Pete, and as good as that was, this was bad. Will just timed it perfectly and I didn't. Justin (Wilson) and (Raphael) Matos got past me, and I was lucky I got past both of those guys again during the run, so I knew that the Target car was quick.
We were running second to Will. And the Firestone Reds, the performance was good. The car felt really good. The guys pitted me early, because the last two races we felt we had a car to win, and we waited to pit, and the yellow came out and caught us.
So we pitted early today. That caught us track position ahead of Will. And that second stint was really saving fuel. Got me to save fuel, so I was doing my best saving fuel during the lap times.
People say you're saving fuel you are driving slowly. Trust me, you're not. You're braking later and carrying more speed through the corner to make up for your lack of speed on the strait where you're trying to save the fuel.
So that second was difficult. Then we did that last stop, and I was pulling away from I think it was Danica. And then she pitted and Will was behind me, and I was managing to pull away from him while still saving fuel.
Got a reasonable gap there, and (Mario) Moraes came out of the pits right in front of me and didn't seem too keen to let me pass, even though he was a lap down. You could see he was all arms and elbows and then he stuck it in the fence, full course yellow and that was the end of my lead.
So that last restart we were able to get on it again, pull away, and the Target car, the pace was great all day from the car. It allowed me to drive exactly as I wanted to. Yeah, we saw the result. So it was good. Great to finally win here in Long Beach.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dario.
Q. Can you talk about the irony of having finished second twice to Ganassi cars here in Long Beach, and now coming back to win as a member of Ganassi?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, the Target cars do have a great history here. Jimmy (Vasser) won in '96, and '97, and (Juan Pablo) Montoya in '99. I finished second to (Alex) Zanardi in '98, and Montoya in '99.
So I remember distinctly following that Target on the rear wing. So nice to be another other end of that today and get the job done. It really feels good to win here back in IndyCar Series, in the unified series, in front of a great crowd who were they were loving the race, and loving the whole weekend.
You know, to race in this series and the competition level has gone up even since 2007, so, yeah. It felt good. I'm trying to continue what my teammate Scott (Dixon) did last year. He obviously did a fabulous job. He's having some pretty crap luck these first two races today. I mean to get spun like that was pretty terrible. So I expect him to be back and up front next week.
Q. Were you aware that Will was having radio problems? I said he had the car to get you, but he was saving fuel.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, yeah. I was aware he had radio problems because I could see them with the chalk board. But let me say, I'll give you an idea, at one point they came on the radio and said what is the car doing, what changes do you want? I said I'm not pushing the car hard enough to know what the car is going to do on the limit. That tells the story.
You know, if I had to go, trust me, there were another couple of seconds in that car, but I didn't have to go. I was saving fuel.
Q. During your TV interview, I believe Chip said he was exorcizing a lot of demons. What did he mean by that and could you expand on that a little bit?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think you have to ask Chip what he means by that. I've got an idea. We both went through a pretty tough time last year. We committed to go over to NASCAR together, and we couldn't find a sponsor.
And for both of us that was very tough to swallow because we're used to such success. And Chip lost an awful lot of money last year. And I lost my driving. Bunch of people lost their job. So I don't think it was easy on anybody. So I think that's what my take on it is. But to know exactly, you'll have to ask Chip.
Q. What were track conditions like out there this afternoon? And how does the Long Beach course compare to the other Indy track courses around the country?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The track condition was obviously, very, very warm. As far as the track conditions, that was pretty good. Obviously, the track was bumpy as most street courses are. Yeah, it can be treacherous if you make a mistake, like I saw yesterday morning.
So normal Long Beach for me. That's the one thing about the Long Beach course, you can pass here if your car's good enough. Sometimes that's maybe not the case on a street course. But yeah, it's a great track.
Q. You've always said that you wanted to try the opportunity last year of trying to drive in NASCAR. So you got to do that. But do you think what could you have achieved if you stayed here? And maybe you could have had two championships?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You know, it's difficult to say. By the end of '07, the reason I went to NASCAR wasn't anything to do with IndyCar. And I said at the time, it was like I need to do something else.
I've been doing this a long time, and I need to try something else. I needed a break. I didn't expect to be coming back. I'm bloody glad I'm back, obviously. But that year away showed me what I'm missing. With the unification as well, it all added up.
So I think had I stayed, I'm not sure what job I would have been able to do. So things worked out really well. I couldn't believe it when Chip middle of last year started talking about coming back to drive the IndyCar, and here we are.
Q. Did this weekend feel like the good old days of the Long Beach Grand Prix?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yes, it did. I went out for a dinner a couple of times during the weekend, and the buzz I keep talking about it, it was amazing. And the stands are getting bigger here again, and the fans are loving that we're loving being here. The teams and the drivers are loving being back. To have that unified series and everything together, it's cool.
Q. We've had the two street races to start the season, and you've come away with the championship lead. But there are new faces up front. You've seen Graham Rahal, Viso, and guys like that. How do you think going to five or six races in a row is going to affect the complexion of the championship?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know, John, to be honest. I think if we've seen one thing from those first two races like you said, it's been jumbled up, the order. And you've seen some of the young guys coming in and really putting pressure on it.
That's one of the things I was talking about. The competition level is just ratcheted up again this year. You know, obviously, historically on the ovals, the target cars, the AGR cars and Penske cars have been strong. But other people are figuring it out.
So I really don't know. I hope the Target cars going to walk away with it. We'll be up front fighting it out for the winds, but we'll see.
Q. Given that competition and the year off, did you in your heart believe you were going to be this competitive two races into the year?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: You can always hope, can't you? I'm not a person to go in there in my mind and say I'm going to kick everybody's ass. That's not the way I do it. I go in there and do my best. And I don't try to put any expectations on it, because that's when you set yourself up for a fall. You just go in and do your best. And that's the way I've always gone about it, really.
Q. What is this deal with Tony? Are you concerned if next week if he wins you may have to get on a razor?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: He keeps changing the rules.
Tony concocted this bet in his head last week. It was kind of confusing. But the story is whoever won first, if I won first, Tony had to grow his hair long. Had Tony won first, he would have had to ‑‑ I would have had to shave my head.
So even I'm confused. Now Tony's saying if I win in Kansas next week I don't have to grow my hair long, you have to shave yours. Well, he's changing it.
What I want to see is Tony with an afro, I've seen photos. Tony's mom showed me pictures of him as a kid. And he had this huge afro. It's going to be pretty cool.
Q. Describe the performance of your car on the Reds and the Blacks today? There seems to be quite a transitional difference in the way the car performs?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: To give you the history of that, when we went to St. Pete the Red alternate tire and primary tire were very, very close in performance level, grip level and durability.
And then Firestone said that they were going to spread out this week. They were going to have a bigger difference between the two tires and you could definitely see that.
Yesterday, in qualifying, it reminds me of the good old days because those red tires had so much bloody grip, it was great. And the race was exactly as Firestone said it would be. Reds had a higher performance initially, which dropped off. The Blacks were just a little bit less performance, but consistent throughout the whole run.
I figure I could have done two stints on the second set, I figured I could have run another stint. And balance‑wise, very similar.
Q. Do you think the vast experience you had in open wheel helped you transition back this successfully so soon from NASCAR?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Say that again, I'm sorry, I didn't hear
Q. Do you think the experience that you've had in open wheel helped you transition back so successfully from NASCAR in open wheel and winning today already?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I do think so. I think experience helped. Back in 2003 when I broke my back in a bike accident I was out for eight months. And it was actually easier to get back in the car then because I hadn't driven anything in the interim.
But definitely the first couple of tests, going to Australia for the championship race, that was me getting back used to it.
Q. I'm wondering if you and Tony are mellowing off the track. Because I remember when he was on live TV, you sawed his carbon fiber bicycle in two. And it just escalating and escalating. So you're down to hair now. Are you guys mellowing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I don't know. As I said, it was Tony's idea. I found out when I read it on SpeedTV.com. I thought, "Oh, God, here we go."
You forget leading up to that he smashed a bunch of cream pies in my face on TV. That's what prompted me to saw his bike in half.
Yeah, I don't know. Let's be honest, we're all big kids, aren't we? So it could head that way pretty quickly.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate your time.
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