Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Post-Qualifying Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by several of today's Firestone fast six qualifiers for tomorrow's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach; Ryan Hunter‑Reay of Andretti Autosport, also our defending race winner; Mike Conway, his teammate at Andretti Autosport; Oriol Servia of Newman/Haas Racing and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske.
Ryan, last year you qualified second here and won the race, so clearly starting second suits you well at Long Beach.
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: Yeah, it was good afternoon. It's good to be back in Long Beach. Obviously I like this place. Pretty disappointed about the session with Will getting by by eight hundredths of a second. Kind of seems to tip his way lately. He's the man right now.
But the best thing is it's a repeat of last year; we're starting second, and we won from there last year, so hopefully we can repeat.
The guys can a great job preparing the cars. We've come with a little bit different of a car this year, developed it, and it's worked for us. It's been really good, and happy to see Mike up here, too. So things are heading in the right direction.
THE MODERATOR: For Mike, your best previous starting position here was 16th at Long Beach so you've got to be happy with today's results
MIKE CONWAY: I'm happy considering the last couple days have been difficult trying to get the car dialed in. It just seemed to come together in qualifying, so I'm pretty happy to be in the top three. It kind of wasn't expected coming into it, but yeah, good job by the team over the last couple of days keeping their heads up and pushing hard all the time.
THE MODERATOR: Oriol, this is your second consecutive Firestone fast six appearance this season, so it seems like things are starting to gel with you and Newman/Haas.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, there's no doubt. Everybody is pushing really hard. I mean, somebody could almost say take a year off. It's great, because I'm coming back stronger than ever and the team is in the same place. We're just pushing really hard, and every weekend you see how competitive it is out there. You blink one session, you're 15th. Briscoe himself, he was kind of the man to beat all weekend, and he's 12th.
It just shows you have to keep pushing, and this morning that's what I was doing in practice, and I touched the wall, and quite hard, and the mechanics just were able to fix the car just like ‑‑ I left walking towards qualifying and they were still working on the car fixing it but I had no doubt that the car was going to be perfect. They're just great. They've been great at it for 20 years, and the car was perfect. Third row last weekend, second row this weekend, and just very happy that we keep moving forward.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, Oriol touched on the depth of the field right now is more competitive than ever. How difficult is that making these qualifying sessions?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: It's been incredible. I have to say if you were to tell me today I would be here, I'd say, tell me another joke. It was certainly very tough. I have to thank my ‑‑ well, first of all, the AAA car has been actually difficult. We last raced in Barber where we were hitting from all over the place. But today to be in the top six is very nice.
My engineer did an incredible job. That guy, I told him, go have the rest of the afternoon off, just have a piña colada, relax in the hot tub, because whatever you did, the second qualifying to put me in the top six, I don't know, but it worked.
Certainly I did one of those Justin Wilson moves; every session you're kind of like down there and all of a sudden it comes to qualifying, you're right up there. Kind of very happy today to be honest to be in the top six.
Certainly Will has been incredible. We're going to start calling him Kyle Busch now because the guy is ‑‑ it's amazing.
But it's great to be here. Hopefully tomorrow we change a little bit the luck, and we get a little more gritty.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. As Helio just alluded to, one of those Justin Wilson moves, which you had to get into the Firestone fast six today, that last lap in segment two.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was pretty close. I knew on the previous lap I gave up a little time in turn 10, so if I could repeat the last one and fix that, we'd be right there. Fortunately I was able to pull it off.
Just like Helio, I've got to thank my team and my engineers. I'm sure they'll say hi in the hot tub later. We made a couple of changes for that second segment, and the car just came to life. I found I didn't have to do as much of the work and I could let the car do the work. It was really fun to drive.
Hopefully we can make another step. We overstepped the mark for the fast six and got a little loose, but if we can work that out, we'll have a good race car tomorrow and get the design of the car closer to P‑1.
Q. Oriol, last year you were walking around in the paddock looking for a ride and you're here in the fast six. It's got to make you feel tremendous, and you've been very, very competitive this year. Talk about that.
ORIOL SERVIA: It does. I mean, in a way last year somehow I didn't lose hope and faith that the right thing was going to happen, and I have to thank, again, Carl and Bernie Haas for committing to me over the winter before we even had Telemundo. My luck was that they had a bad season last year and we wanted to try to get Newman/Haas back to the front, and the last time we were together that's where we were. We both knew that we could do the job. At the same time, we didn't know how close to the front we were going to be.
I think everybody would be happy to see less red sitting here, not because we don't like the red cars, but the last few years they've been dominating in these type of tracks, and I think it's great to have all these colors sitting here. I think it's great to be bringing Telemundo blue.
Q. Talking about depth of the field, how surprised are you guys that not one but both of the Target cars didn't make the fast six?
JUSTIN WILSON: I think everyone is surprised. They're always so strong, so I'm not sure what happened, if they got held up. It just shows you, you can't miss a beat. You've got to get everything perfect to make it through, and you look at the competition, it goes all the way down. There is no field fillers out there; it's hard core, and you've got to step up, and when it comes to these qualifying sessions, it's all or nothing. You've got to use every bit of road and you've got to get the car perfect.
Q. Any discussions about any nuances to the start tomorrow?
RYAN HUNTER‑REAY: No, there haven't been any real discussions. I think everyone is worried it could turn into something big.
JUSTIN WILSON: The difficult part is working out when the acceleration line should be in play, how big a zone is it to make it. Brian met with Dario, Ryan Briscoe, myself and Tony, and we talked about all the pros and cons of every situation. So I think we came up with an idea. We were going to think about it some more, and then meet up again tomorrow morning and see if we could finalize it.
Q. What is it?
JUSTIN WILSON: It's top secret. I can't tell you that. (Laughter.)
It's always a trade‑off of exactly what is ‑‑ how soon to go, because everyone believes ‑‑ I think everyone sat up here believes that the sooner you go, the more spread out and the more chance of making it through turn 1. But then obviously the compromise is it doesn't look quite as good, so you can't go too soon. It's trying to predict how many cars you can get lined up at a certain point and what's acceptable and what's not. No one wants the team owners to spend $2 million at turn 1, so it's a fine line.
Q. Along those same lines, on the start tomorrow, based on what's happened at St. Pete and Barber, the green flag has been thrown so many hundred feet from the start finish line, and it looks to me like there's a big Toyota bridge that would block the view of the drivers. In the past it seems like when the pole sitter came out of the hairpin, the last turn, just bonsaied down. I assume that's not going to happen now; everybody is going to go two by two; but I'm wondering if you're going to be able to see the green flag.
JUSTIN WILSON: I think the question is how many drivers actually look at the green flag. We all look at the car in front. When the car in front is going, we're going, as well. That's pretty much it. I think seeing the green flag is not really an issue. The team radio tells us it's green. We can't overtake until we get to the start line, so you're trying to judge everything off that start line, and you know where that is. I don't think visibility will be an issue.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined now by our pole sitter, Will Power of Team Penske. This is Will's third consecutive pole at Long Beach and also his third consecutive pole of the season. Will, if you would, walk us through today's qualifying session.
WILL POWER: Yeah, that was definitely a tough one. I think Ryan had me there right till the end. He had a left going that was pretty quick. I think he might have blown the last sector, but worked very hard for that. I know how fast Hunter‑Reay is around here from the race last year. He's bloody hard to beat.
You know, it's going to be a tough day tomorrow, but qualifying today I think we put ourselves in the best possible position.
Q. Will, you won here in 2008 in the Champ Car finale not on the pole; you win the pole the last two years but don't win. How important is it to you and/or what would it mean to you to win here in the IRL?
WILL POWER: Yeah, it would mean a lot, actually. It's one of my favorite tracks. I love it around here. I've been trying to win it for the last couple of years, you know, just sort of there knocking on the door. But as you know, in racing everything has to go right on the day, absolutely everything. I think that that's what we've got to do tomorrow. We've got to do very similar to Barber and just put the whole thing together.