Mid-Ohio Pole Fast 6 transcript
An interview with Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon
THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and start the Firestone Fast Six post qualifying press conference. We are joined by Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal.
For Justin, this is his third front row start of the season. His last front row start was in Watkins Glen. Justin, tell us about your run out there today.
JUSTIN WILSON: Thanks. Yeah, the car had been running well all day. It was just fun to drive. I was really enjoying it.
We managed to save a set of reds in the second session of qualifying. We just used the used reds. They were pretty quick, even on the second run. I was panicking at that point. I was a little bit nervous. My engineer Bill (Pappas) and Dale (Coyne) were saying, "Oh, no, it will be fine, we've got to do this. It will be OK." I left the pits shaking my head, "This is not going to go well."
The competition level is so high. There are so many guys that can go out and do the job. The car was good again. We got through. Unfortunately, I missed it by a couple hundredths of a second and I'm pretty disappointed in that. I know where it was on the track; just got a little carried away in a couple of places. That's how it is. You can't go back and fix it. We'll look forward to the race.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, your comments on the run out there today.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think for the McDonald's team, it was a pretty good day. Obviously this being the home race, we wanted to be competitive here. Knowing a lot of these guys had tested here, and we didn't, we felt we were at a bit of a disadvantage to start right away.
I mean, the car came out of the box feeling pretty good yesterday and felt competitive. Then this morning again felt really good. So we haven't made too many changes, to be honest. Then this afternoon we were really just trying to maximize the tires. The very first run of the first segment, the car didn't feel very good. Once we put the reds on, it kind of came to life. We kind of tuned with that.
Unfortunately, as Justin said, a couple guys got through to the last segment with new reds. Although the second outing on the reds was still pretty good, just didn't seem to be quite enough. At the end, I could feel it was starting to go a little bit. I was just trying to hang on and get a good lap in there. Just I guess missed out on third, barely.
But, you know, that's how it goes. As Justin said, it's been so competitive this year. I think we're pretty happy just to be in the Firestone Fast Six yet again.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Graham, wasn't like the hardest laps you had to run in the first session when you were outside the top six? You had to push it pretty hard to get back up there.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, yeah, I mean, those seemed to be pretty hard laps. On the black tires, the car felt diabolical. I don't really know why. It felt good this morning on them. We just weren't able to maximize it. Then we were trying to run kind of a shorter first run, first outing on those, then go to the reds. We just never got all of it out on the blacks. Then basically when we went to the reds, it was good. I didn't really have to push all that hard.
I don't know. To do as many fast laps as we have to do in this qualifying, I mean, no matter where you are, it's tough. Every single lap is a tough one. And this track invites a lot of mistakes because you have to push hard to go fast in a lot of areas, so it's easy to mess up.
Q. You look at the top six. You are kind of the flies in the ointment of the championship race. How does that change the way you attack it tomorrow knowing they're going for a championship along with a race victory?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think, to be honest, we're not in the championship fight, but we're awfully close to fifth, so that's our goal. I'm sure the same is for Justin, because he's right behind me. Then Danica (Patrick), she's about 40 points ahead. But, you know, I mean, we showed last weekend we can compete on the ovals, as well.
I think no matter what, we've got to push our hardest the rest of the year, try to get as many points as we can. I don't think fifth is out of reach if we have several good races in the end here.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, we're going to be pushing hard, trying to get another victory. That's our goal. We want to win races. We're getting stronger on the ovals. Fifth might be a bit of a stretch for us, but I think we're aiming high. We want to get -- we want to move forward in the championship. We lost two positions in the last race with that failure. That was costly. But we're just going to keep pushing and do everything we can and maximize what we can do.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our other Firestone Fast Six participants. Starting third, Scott Dixon. Scott, talk about your run out there today.
SCOTT DIXON: The Target car was pretty good. We were consistently close to the top if not on top. I think out there on full today was probably time management. I think we set the overall fastest time of the day. But obviously starting third, we set it in Q2, which is not so good.
I think we got the car to do it. It's quick in enough. It's going to be tough to pass probably tomorrow. Hopefully the 'push to pass' helps a little.
But, you know, obviously with Justin and Ryan, it's going to be tough to beat. We'll see what happens. All in all, pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Dario Franchitti, starting sixth. Dario is the only driver this year who has participated in all of our Firestone Fast Six events. Dario, your run out there today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, we were OK with the Target car. Scott and I have vastly different driving styles. We like different things from the car. I'm not quite as happy with the car. It seemed okay in Q2 on the second set of reds. But when we had to run on the used tires, I was really struggling with it and made one mistake on my best lap. But it still wasn't really enough to move me much up.
I think race-wise we've got not a bad car. It seems to be OK on the blacks. We'll be out there trying our best tomorrow, trying to make things happen.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our fifth-place starter, Helio Castroneves. Helio, your run out there today.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it was interesting. We were actually good on black tires. We felt the car was strong. Then qualifying 2, we did have a little faster car on the reds. We tried to do something, not run too hard on the second reds. Unfortunately, here, the tire management was the key to be in the front row.
But, hey, I start second here many, many times. When I start on the pole position, I'm not winning the race. Hopefully see if we try to make a pass. It will be a tough race. You can see the guys here, everybody close by to teach other. It will be an interesting race. It will be a lot of fun hopefully.
THE MODERATOR: Now also our pole winner for today, Ryan Briscoe. Ryan last started on the pole at Watkins Glen. Ryan, your run out there today.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thanks. As Helio said, I think it really came down to the tire management. I think we had the luckier group today. We were able to save tires through the first qualifying run. I was saved by the yellow at the end. Got a little bit of heat in the first set of my red tires, I would have posted a fast lap on them in Q2, save a new set for the fast six.
The car has been getting a little bit better. It's been kind of tricky getting used to the circuit conditions. But, you know, I was pretty happy with the car today.
Q. After this weekend, there are only four races left, about two months to complete them. Do you have too much time to think about the championship?
RYAN BRISCOE: Do you want to answer it, Scott (laughter)? What are you asking?
Q. Two months before the season is over. You have so much time, do you actually start to overthink?
RYAN BRISCOE: We'll try not to overthink. I don't think any of us up the front really need to change too much what we've been doing. It's just been a tough battle. You know, we just need to keep focused. That's going to be key. You know, keep pushing.
SCOTT DIXON: You know, it's been kind of a strange season I think. Dario and I were talking about it before qualifying. Normally at this point you've had a guy that's kind of tried to break away, led a lot of races, won a lot of races, and had a big points lead. You got to try to work on trying to catch him.
It almost seems like nobody wants to lead the championship this year. We've been bouncing back between the three or four of us quite often throughout. Now I really think you need to go for consistency. It's coming down to the wire.
But it's nothing different for IndyCar racing. It's always three, four, five people to have a chance of taking the championship with a race to go. So it's going to be pretty interesting this year.
I don't think it's really good to concentrate too much on the championship. We tried doing that last year going into races thinking, "We really only need to earn this amount of points." We almost lost it last year. We're going to keep going and winning races.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, before we were just trying to make sure we did a solid job and keep improving. Every time we improved, that was a good result for us. It didn't necessarily show in the results, but we knew ourselves that we were making improvements with the car and the team.
Once we got that win, now we're focused on trying to win again. We want to go out there and be strong again tomorrow. I think we've got the car to do that. As well on the ovals, we'll keep trying to improve that. From where we started when I first tested with the team at Homestead at the start of the year to how the car was at Kentucky last week, it's a vast improvement. You know, it's a lot more enjoyable to drive. I feel like we're starting to get into the position where we can actually race.
Might not be able to challenge for that top six or seven right now, but we'll get there because we put in some good foundations and are improving the whole package.
Q. With the forecast for higher temperatures tomorrow, will the softer red tires last an entire stint?
JUSTIN WILSON: Here you go, Ryan.
RYAN BRISCOE: I have no idea at the moment. I think it's going to be as usual. The reds will come in quick. We'll sort of test in warm-up probably, put some more laps on them, get a better feel for how they'll last. Usually the reds have been lasting pretty good. Even in I think it was Toronto where we didn't think they were going to last, they went off, but they weren't disastrous. I think they'll be a bit better here.
Q. Do you expect a free-for-all going into the first turn tomorrow? Championship is on the line. Two guys wanting to get another victory. What do you anticipate that first turn?
RYAN BRISCOE: I don't know what you can predict. Starting from the pole, I'm going to take the left side into Turn 1, try to get through as quick as possible. You know, hopefully hang on to the lead.
We have the backstraight, thanks (laughter). I'm going to start on the right-hand side (laughter).
Q. The first turn tomorrow is critical (indiscernible).
SCOTT DIXON: I don't think it any different from any other race we're in. If you can try to improve, that's the best time to do it. That and restarts is the best time to try and make a jump. Most of us are smart enough to get through the corner. Obviously, what, a year ago or two years ago, it was a pretty spectacular start here. The AGR cars, they could still prove to have a good start.
Q. Is there a big advantage to you, the 'push to pass'?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We're not allowed to try it until tomorrow morning.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
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