Homestead post-race press conference
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Oriol Servia, who I've been told is now called the transition driver. But you're the top finishing transition driver who finished 12th in tonight's race. Oriol, talk a little bit about the race tonight.
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, it was a long race, a long day at the office, which has good and bad things. Good because we definitely wanted to do the full race and gather as much data and information of the car and the ovals as we could. But it was long because we were so slow. It's so much longer than a 500-mile race I ever done.
But anyway, the car went well until the end, which was our first goal. For some laps, we had some decent speed actually. On every stint after 10 laps or so, the tires were starting to lose their edge; we were lacking a lot of grip, we were slow, and all over the place. It wasn't that much fun. But, you know, it's part of the business and we'll get better.
I mean, we've been better every time we go out, so we can expect that. I know I have a great team behind me and we'll show our potential very soon.
THE MODERATOR: Looking forward to St. Pete next week? You're pretty good on the road courses.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, I'm excited about going to St. Pete. I think there's a little bit too high expectations for the transition guys just because it's our kind of track. At the end of the day, we're still fighting these big teams that know this car for five years. We're still quite a bit behind. The lap times we did at Sebring, what we learned in the car was very promising. At least we know in a street race, when we go soft at the front what it means to a car. Still we're here kind of guessing a lot.
But it was fun. Yeah, looking forward to next weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Did you learn a lot tonight you might be able to use in future oval races this season?
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, I learned a lot. About the car, I learn how -- what happens when you have five cars in front of you in a superspeedway and you have no downforce, these kind of scary feelings. I think there's going to be plenty of those this season.
It was good fun and I can only imagine when we're up to speed how fun it's going to be.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.
Q. Oriol, aside from car issues, were you able to pick up any tips from some of the regulars in this series? Did you observe them as they were running away?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, the truth is they were flying so fast around me, I didn't have much time to play with them. Every stint for four or five laps, I thought I had a little bit of speed that was going to make me able to follow them close. But not really. Not really. I was just, you know, lucky to be able to keep one line and keep my car there.
Q. How much different are these cars, the IndyCars, than the ones you drove last year? Is there a big difference both handling and suspension-wise, so forth?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, I can compare in Sebring. I would say performance-wise, you know, we drove the Lola two years ago, then we went to the Panoz. So the same step forward more or less that the Panoz was to the Lola. I would say this is backwards to the Lola. Same kind of car, same tires, but just, you know, less downforce, less power and heavier.
That's basically it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Oriol.
ORIOL SERVIA: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by Marco Andretti, who finished second in tonight's race.
In your third IndyCar season, a pretty distinguished good opener for you this year.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Definitely. The goal at first was just to finish this darn thing. But, you know, we knew the result wouldn't be that bad. We've been really working in the off-season to get a car that works for me at this track. I think we did. It was a lot of tough luck for some other guys. I feel bad for T.K.
But we're thinking points this year. To be honest, that's right where we need to be. So we'll see.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Dan Wheldon, who finished third tonight. Dan is the winner of the last three races here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
So you're not really a stranger to doing well here. Talk us through your race.
DAN WHELDON: Well, the little rookie -- he's not a rookie any more. He's well experienced now. He's a veteran. I was following him for a lot of it.
But, you know, I think it's a tremendous team effort from everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. I was able to get up front pretty quickly, which was good. Actually on a long run, seemed to be very, very competitive. Just in that last stop, I lost a little bit of time. Unfortunately, that was kind of it. I gained one place because of Tony's unfortunate situation.
But, you know, obviously pleased with the job that the team did. Sorry I wrecked the car yesterday. But, you know, good points at the first race is something you can build on. The last few years when I've won the first race, I haven't done particularly well in the championship. Maybe this is a good omen.
THE MODERATOR: A couple of comments from both drivers on the significance of this race tonight.
DAN WHELDON: Can we ask Marco about his 21st birthday (laughter)?
THE MODERATOR: Happy birthday.
DAN WHELDON: I will give out his phone number shortly afterwards.
THE MODERATOR: So this is a historic night. Talk us through tonight and your feelings about the significance of this race.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, it's definitely special. It's cool to see all the best drivers under one roof and the series combined. Now we just go from here. Tonight was, for myself and the team, like I said, right where we need to be because in our mind we're thinking championship. This is actually, for the team and definitely myself, as we saw in the last two years, a very difficult race. Definitely happy to be second.
THE MODERATOR: And Dan?
DAN WHELDON: Well, what was the question again?
THE MODERATOR: The significance of the race tonight.
DAN WHELDON: Yeah, you know, I think first and foremost the way that this unification happened, you should certainly give a lot of credit to Tony George, Kevin Kalkhoven and Brian Barnhart because I think it's been orchestrated in a very respectful manner to all parties.
Obviously it's last minute for some of the teams coming over to the IndyCar Series. And I think certainly you can see with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing, KV Racing, we were trying to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible. I think, the way those guys performed was admirable. You could certainly see towards the end of the race that their pace had certainly picked up. So that was pretty impressive. I'm sure they're going to be fantastic at the road courses. You can't be shortsighted and think it's all going to be one way. I think certainly we can think of their method of thinking on the road courses because they're very familiar with the road courses.
I think all in all, it was a great race for open-wheel racing. I think everybody showed a lot of respect between one another. I think that will be good to build on.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take a couple of questions.
Q. Marco, I don't remember your exact quote about last year, but it was something about your car scared you basically. How much pleasure are you getting coming out of here with a second-place finish at a track that's been tough for you and the team?
DAN WHELDON: You should have seen some of the girls at his party, that would have scared you (laughter). I must be getting old.
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, I mean, you get that sense of a little bit of an accomplishment because, you know, we worked. Right after Chicago last year, I was ready to go into this race. So a little bit of redeeming to do, which all year I have that to do. You know, a little bit to prove still.
I really think not a bad job. I mean, coming from last year, like I said, our first goal was just to try to finish this race. Like I said, in the off-season we worked very hard, my engineer and I, the whole team, to try to come up with a setup that works here.
It looks like we did. The car was very good, very stable. It had some speed. So that's what we want.
Q. Dan, turns out that not only did your team finish 1 and 3, but your subsidiary team was the top transitional team with Oriol finishing 12th. Could you comment on that? You had to pass all these other guys to finish third. Could you critique the transitional guys?
DAN WHELDON: I mean, it's obviously very difficult to critique them. To be fair, I think you'd be doing an injustice to critique them because they're very new to this style of racing.
But I think drawing a positive from that, it shows where you've got new blood coming in, how difficult this style of racing is. It certainly looks very easy from your couch. But I think it definitely goes to show that the people involved are highly talented.
But I think what you've seen with these guys coming over is how talented they really are, and they're ability to learn very quickly. I saw Oriol Servia, who does happen to be driving for KV Racing, kind of is like our sister team, and towards the end of the race he seemed to be running a very good pace. So, you know, I think from that standpoint, like I say, I think this race was for them to be able to build on. I think they did a very, very good job.
But in terms of critiquing them, I think if you were to put a new Pro Series team together and to do a race in the IndyCar Series for the first time, I'm not sure that they would perform because I think a lot of those guys performed admirably, I really do.
In terms of coming through the field, obviously Chip wasn't happy that I had to start where I did because of what happened yesterday. But, again, you could tell that you were racing against people that are very talented and certainly are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant future.
I think every one of those guys should be very proud. We're going to have to keep working because I'm sure what's great about this merger is the fact you're going to get new methods of thinking, you're going to get new blood. So I think anybody that's currently in the IRL and the IndyCar Series for a long time, if they don't continue to build on what they know, the other guys are going to catch them pretty quick.
It's going to be a great series. I really think in time this series is going to be very strong, I really do, because there's some great names. Not everybody knows these names right now, but I'm sure in the future everybody will.
Q. Dan, yesterday after you hit the wall and the car came to a stop, you got out remarkably unscathed and you kept looking around the back. Did something appear to you to break?
DAN WHELDON: The only thing that broke I think was my concentration because I couldn't catch it. So maybe I am getting old (laughter).
But, no, the biggest thing for me, it's always easy to say now, but judging by the segment times I had on my dash, that was going to be a monster lap. I'm sure the other three would have been pretty good, too. I was looking at the back of the car praying to God that I would be able to use it today. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
I think that goes to show the preparation that the team does. They wanted to make sure that we scored good points early on in the season.
Q. Marco, take us through that pass early in the race when you took the lead. Six inches on either side of the car and the wall over in turn four, take us through that.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, no, I had my eyes closed so I don't really remember either (laughter).
No, that was Scott Dixon that saved both of us really because at that point, if I had gotten out of it, my car was coming around, too. I had to just -- you know, I had to pass him on the high side. He wiggled all the way up. I wiggled with him. He got it up before we both hit the wall.
You know, it's one of those that you got to realize how fortunate you are and you move on.
Q. Last year the car was miserable. This year you have a car that can win the race. Talk about the dramatic difference in how everything has worked out for you.
MARCO ANDRETTI: We were working in the off-season. We were working right after this race last year because obviously we're competitive, we couldn't have been more disappointed after last year. So we just went to work all last year. I think we weren't going to be bad as Chicago actually if the suspension wouldn't have broke.
So by the end of last year, I think we kind of got our confidence back in the ovals and were, like I said earlier, I think right after Chicago last year, I was ready to try to come redeem myself here this year.
Even in the whole off-season, the testing, we were able to make it work.
Q. Any disappointment to lead 85 laps and still not get the victory?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Well, I mean, like I said, I'm a competitor so you want to win races. After my luck at this place the last couple years, I'll take second place.
Q. A stat flashed across the TV. You had more laps today than all of last year. How does that make you feel?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, good. I don't know. I mean, you know, like I say, we're not messing around this year. We've done a lot of work, like I said before. We're ready to go. I gained my confidence back on the ovals, which was our definite weak spot to start. And we're hopefully going to be strong next weekend, as are a lot of other people.
We just need to bring our A game, as I my engineer would say, every event.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations and thanks for coming in.
DAN WHELDON: Thank you.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Scott Dixon, the winner of tonight's race. Scott, you started on the pole. Chip Ganassi went two for two today. Wins No. 91 and 92. I heard you said if anybody was going to beat your teammate Dan Wheldon, it was going to be you.
SCOTT DIXON: I said it should only be fair if somebody else wins it. He's taken three.
Yeah, today was a tough race. I think early on we thought we had a pretty good car. We opted to go a little lighter on downforce than some of the others on the grid. In those longer stints, it started to hurt us. We couldn't keep the car on the bottom or the middle, to be honest. I tried running high where the other guys were. I couldn't keep the car down, especially in (Turns) 3 and 4. (Turns) 1 and 2, I didn't have a problem.
That was a big problem in traffic. There's a lot of guys sitting on the bottom. I couldn't get on the top because I didn't have enough grip.
On short stints and new rubber, our car was very fast. We were lucky that we had two stints there right at the end that we didn't have to use the tires up too much, and we hung in there. I think the track had probably got a little grip from cooling off and things like that, and our speed was definitely a bit better than the others.
You know, T.K. (Tony Kanaan) had a great pit stop there, I think that's what enabled him to jump us a little bit. We were catching him pretty quick, I think a mile an hour, two miles an hour a lap. So, what did we have, eight or nine laps to go. It would have been very close even if he didn't have that incident. It was damn shame to see him have such a silly little incident to take him out of the race.
If we can have days where we didn't really have the best car and come away with maximum points, that's a big deal for us and the championship.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about the significance of tonight's race, historical value of the merged series, comment on the respectfulness out there today of some of the transition drivers.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, the guys that came in from Champ Car were fantastic out there. They gave everybody tons of room. I didn't really have a problem with anybody. You know, I'm sure there were some others that did. But the problem I had I think with a couple of the guys that we run with week in and week out. (Indiscernible) out there, you know, at Turn 2 on the last couple laps with (Vitor) Meira.
I think being the inaugural merge or the unification of the two is great to win. But to be honest, we haven't really given them a fair shot at it. They've had to try and come around quick, get cars together.
I think next year it's going to be the real championship of the unification. Those guys can have strong showings at different places throughout the year. But to be fair, they haven't had much time to prepare.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions.
Q. Scott, it's the first race of the season. A lot of people may look at it and say it came to you, but yet you were up there at the front all day. After the year you had last year, do you feel like you've come into this season as the man to beat for the title?
SCOTT DIXON: Finishing second, with Dario leaving, you'd sort of think that. I think every year there's a crop of five, six, or seven of us that have a great shot at it. And I think you saw all of us racing at the top tonight. It's going to be a tough championship. T.K. Marco, Dan - Dan did a hell of a race, coming from the back of the field. I think looking at the pylon thing there, you know, within 20 laps in the race, the guy was on the thing, then he goes to fifth spot. He did a great job. To keep it tidy, I think his car wasn't that great at the end of the race.
But, you know, it's going to be a tough championship. But every year I think any driver, you ask them, those top spots, they'd like to think they're the man to beat.
Q. When we talked at the end of last year you said one of the things you targeted to improve this year was the way you started the season. Obviously this is the best possible way. How satisfying is it to come out of here with a win as you did during your championship campaign?
SCOTT DIXON: I think Homestead definitely helps. You know, it puts you off to a great start. It's a tough place to race. Not a place I've done particularly well since it changed to the banked oval. I loved it when it was a flat circuit or a flat track.
But for our campaign for 2008, that was exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to come out of the blocks fast and hard. Today's race was a day of actually just keeping up there. I don't think we had a car that was enjoyable to drive throughout the race. But we had to fight on. The guys in the pit, strategy-wise and pit stops, I think definitely pulled me along tonight.
But, you know, that's how we got to win championships. You know, as I keep saying, for a bad day, we still come away with maximum points. That's what we've got to do. We've got to hit the start hard and gain as many points as possible, because I think last year that's how we lost it.
Q. We've already heard Marco's version of this. Take us through the pass in Turn 4.
SCOTT DIXON: I think I had my eyes closed on that one. He said that, too (laughter)? I was getting ready to let go of the wheel on that one, man. I just heard, Outside, outside, outside. I was getting so close to the wall. I'm like, There's got to be no room left. I kept lifting my car. I was so loose on new tires. I didn't want to turn the wheel because as soon as I would turn the wheel to the left, I was going to spin out and probably take both of us out as well.
But that was a real tight move and I'm glad we both made it through that successfully.
Q. He actually credited you with great driving. Did you trust him?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, you know, Marco and I on and off the track are great friends. Respect him tremendously. He's a great driver. I know he's had some bad runs in the past, but he's going to be the man to fight for the championship, one of the them, for sure.
Q. Do you think you might have had anything for T.K. had he not been what we call Duno'd?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it would have been close. I'm pretty sure there was about eight laps to go when that happened. We were catching him at a fair rate. Whether we had enough to get by him, I don't know. But our car definitely on newer tires and early on in race stints was quicker than his.
But he did a great job of getting that extra time in and out of the pits. I think he must have had a really hard in-lap. I think a lot of us, especially at this track at Homestead, are a bit sketchy on pit entry. It's very slippery. It's an easy way to lose your day.
Q. You've won here before. Now you have two here. Dan has three. What does Ganassi have with this racetrack?
SCOTT DIXON: I don't know. Dan, to be honest, in this new configuration has carried me along big time. He's got a great feel for this place. I don't know. My first couple years, I really struggled on this banked circuit they've got here just with the seams, trying to run where you need to run, and how you set up the car for it. To be honest, I think Dan's been a big help for me.
I'd like to think adding him to the team was the big help for me. Early on when the track was different, you know, that suited me a lot better. But the way that guy can run a loose car around here has definitely helped me a lot.
THE MODERATOR: I heard they're going to ban you from the track for winning too many times.
SCOTT DIXON: Not me.
Q. I'm surprised nobody mentioned it, but getting married is a good thing? Married men have all the good luck, right?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, you know, there's an easy scenario for that one. That wedding was damn expensive and I've got to start paying for it somehow (laughter).
Q. Moving on to St. Petersburg next week. You're a very good road racing driver. What is your forecast on that, how well you think you can do? Do you think we might start seeing some of the guys like Justin Wilson and some of the Champ Car guys leap to the front a little bit?
SCOTT DIXON: I hope we do. It's going to be another race where all of us are sort of just feeling it out again, I think. Obviously the field that we had there last year, we've been there, we know the circuit, some of those guys have been there before when Champ Car used to race there, so they're not going to be too green on it.
But they've still got new cars. We had new cars on the road courses last year with running the Dallara for the first time. We learned a lot.
So, you know, I think you will see some of them come to the front, for sure. But, you know, if they don't, you definitely can't be too hard on them because they haven't had the cars long. It's going to be, as I said, a lot of shockers. There's going to be a lot of guys that you didn't think were going to be up there and are. The shootout or getting to the top six is definitely going to be very tough.
Q. Do you really think it will probably be Kansas or Indy before we really start seeing the new teams really start to make an impact?
SCOTT DIXON: I think you're going to see it at Indy. There's a lot of track time, a lot of time for people to sort of get a rhythm going, trying to work on these cars, figure things out. There's a lot of time there. You can go back, sit down, look at the data, go over it, talk between your teammates. Race weekends like this, you know, look at yesterday, we had two practice sessions, a qualifying, then you sit around all day today and do nothing before the race. It's very tough to try to sort a car out.
By the month of May, you're going to start to see those guys start to excel.
Q. You're the first driver to win a race of the unification. How will you look back on this and what do you think the significance is?
SCOTT DIXON: It's great to look at going, probably, in the record books at being the first to win the reunification. But, as I said before, I think it's hard to look at it that way because, you know, we haven't really given the other guys a fair shot. They've really had a tough time coming in and trying to learn as quickly as possible.
I think next year's going to be the year.
Q. Looking forward to St. Petersburg. We're going to have seven more cars or eight more cars. How big a factor are you expecting that to be in the race?
SCOTT DIXON: In the race, probably not so much. You know, it's a pretty long circuit there. I think qualifying, trying to pick your time, trying to get to that top six is going to be the tough part. You have a lot more scenarios of being trapped in traffic on a quick lap or trying to get around people when you're trying to lay down that big lap to try to break into those times.
On a road course, I think, you know, that circuit especially, there's a lot of passing opportunities. When people are off the pace that much, where you're lapping them on a road course, you don't really have too much problem getting by them. It may cause an incident or two just when you're racing with somebody closely and you get checked up. But I think it's more the issue of trying to find a clear lap for a good qualifying time.
Q. For a while, as fast as T.K. was running under caution, were you beginning to be fearful if the race doesn't get started he ends up winning the race on three wheels?
SCOTT DIXON: No. They were going to clean the mess up way too quick, I think. But I didn't even know he hit the guy until Mike (Hull) came on my radio and said, 'Don't get too close to T.K. because his wheel's bent.' I went to the outside and I could actually see his wheel was bent.
I was actually happy we had the yellow because I think we had enough speed to get by him. It was unfortunate for him. No, I knew there was definitely too much time for him to sit out there and keep going around.
Q. Six years ago you came here as a brand-new driver to the IndyCar Series with Chip. You won this race. You were very much in the same position as a lot of these guys making the transition over. What was it like to be a new guy but a driver who has had success in another place, but to suddenly be surrounded by a bunch of guys that you don't know, a bunch of media people you've not dealt with, and to be the new guy on the block? This is your sixth year in the series.
SCOTT DIXON: I'm feeling old.
Q. You know what I'm saying? You were in their shoes six years ago tonight.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think it was a different scenario back then. We were coming in with a big team. I was a nobody. To be honest, you know, the media wasn't really interested in me. I had a quite easy sort of go at it. I kind of just laid under a rug and sort of snapped up towards the end. It was interesting.
But for us, even still, we had a whole winter to test that car, get it right. That track was a lot different. I think if the track was similar to what it was back then, there would have been some guys that would have done a lot better. This style of racing is very different from anything. The old circuit, you could actually treat the corners a bit like a road course. You had to get good power down because you would spin the wheels. This place you're flat out, trying to carry momentum.
It's a tough place. You're coming into a lot of people that you've never known before, situations that you've never been in. But, you know, the only way you can look at it, it's a very, very steep learning curve.
Those guys have been around for a while. I was teammates with Oriol Servia my last year in CART, for at least three races at PacWest. You know, you got guys like Justin Wilson. They've been around. There's guys, they know the sport very well. A lot of the teams and a lot of the people that are involved from a team sort of background, you know, which definitely makes it a little easier.
But it's tough, very tough - not just for them but for their teams as well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming in. Congratulations. Good luck this season.
SCOTT DIXON: Thank you very much.
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