Detroit GP Friday Press Conference

Simon Pagenaud
Simon Pagenaud

Drivers
Simon Pagenaud
Helio Castroneves
Juan Pablo Montoya
Scott Dixon

THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead with our Verizon IndyCar Series post-qualifying press conference. Joined now by our pole winner Simon Pagenaud, driving the No. 22 Penske Chevrolet. Simon, congratulations. First of all, I believe your third pole of the season so far in 2016. Obviously a lot of really great success for you this season. Coming off of Indy, how great does it feel to pick up where you left off on the road and street courses?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it's — well, I mean, Indy was obviously a bit of a disappointment with the mechanical issue we suffered about halfway through the race. We felt like we had a car to fight at least for — contend for the fight at the end, so yeah, it was unfortunate for sure, but I'm glad we're back on top here, and our form — I knew the car would be good here because of the way it was in Long Beach. Just great that we could extract the lap time out of it. Obviously there was a bit of strategy on our side with the Firestone tires. We chose to go on the black Firestone tires, and they're working really well for us, and it paid off. So I'm really, really delighted.

THE MODERATOR: Even though you didn't set the track record, your teammate Helio did. A lot of fast times out there today. What would you attribute to such a decent breaking of the track record?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SIMON PAGENAUD: I think the aero kits are showing their relevance at this time. We could see it at the 500, as well. Obviously there's quite a bit of difference between the Honda package and the Chevy package, and I think right now it's becoming interesting. We see some evolution on front wing on our side on the Chevy side, for example, but I think the whole package is just getting stronger every year. You know, we get more horsepower from the engines. We get more downforce from the aero kit, and also last year was the first year where they had concrete here, so it was brand new, a bit dusty, now it's washed off and is obviously more grip on the racetrack, so that's why we went faster.

Q: Simon, obviously a huge strategic play to get the pole on the blacks. How the heck are you going to translate that? You've got an extra set of reds available compared to everyone else?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, certainly it's going to be very important for the race. We know the red Firestone tires have a tendency to degrade a lot here because of the concrete and the way that the concrete is. But it was interesting to see that our car was so well-balanced on the black Firestone tires. I just felt like I could extract myself — I could extract more out of myself on the blacks. There was more of a comfort zone, and that's why I picked that set of tires. But I think it's going to be a big advantage tomorrow indeed.

Q: You had a fast car last week but lost a cylinder, still had a decent finish, but yet with the double points, everybody else kind of closed the gap on you. Was that the one thing that you took away from there as kind of a big disappointment was your points edge getting eaten into?

SIMON PAGENAUD: It was the only race I didn't care about points. What I wanted was to go out and try to win it. I was actually quite pleased that we only lost 20 points quite frankly. Dixon didn't have the best day. Neither did Montoya. So I thought we got pretty lucky. We don't need to have too many bad weekends. I knew we were going to have bad weekends because you can't have a perfect weekend every day, but unfortunately it was the 500, but you know, what I'm contend with is that we showed again that we're very strong on these kind of tracks, and I think next year we can be back and hope to contend for the win again.

Q: How is the track conditions, and I know there are bumps out there, a lot of suspension transfer, et cetera, but how did you feel?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Great. Personally we put a lot of effort into the suspension at Team Penske, and the car feels really nice. Obviously it's bumpy, but we all know that this place is bumpy, and that's what personally I really enjoy. I think it's got a lot of character, this track, and when you're able to brake a little deeper on the bumps than another driver, it creates good diversity and challenge, as well. I don't dislike it, I really don't. I think it shows the best cars and also the best drivers. I really like this track. There's a really high commitment level. You don't really have time to breathe. Leaving Indianapolis, I'll tell you, this was a bit of a shock to the body today, but a lot of fun.

Q: We had the long month at Indianapolis and now we've got a double-header here and Texas next week, so that's three races in 13 days after the month of May. Not so much for you guys, but how difficult is this period of the schedule for your crews?

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I think it's — since we haven't really lifted the throttle since — I believe since Barber. Even after Barber they had to work. We went testing, went to Texas for testing, and my guys haven't had much time at home. I think — I was talking to my crew chief yesterday, and I think he went home half a day since Barber. Yeah, it's a little tough on them. Obviously for us drivers, we have all the comfort that we need. You can rest more than they do. But certainly for them, knowing that they also do the pit stops and they've got to stay fit is really difficult. I try not to bring them too many donuts, but I try to treat them as well as I can.

Q: A few years ago you got your first win here in an IndyCar. What did that win mean for you and going forward how it propelled you from there?

SIMON PAGENAUD: What did it mean to get a win here? Well, you know, it was — at the time I was just getting to IndyCar, it was certainly a big step in my career. You always want to unlock that door and win your first win in a major series like the Verizon IndyCar Series. I think it allowed me to believe even more in myself and keep working on my race craft. That was a big step.You know, obviously we all knew that I could win in sports car but we didn't know that I could win in an open-wheel car. So it was a big step forward, and now more and more I'm gaining more and more confidence every time. It's a good time in a career. It's a really good time, and I think that's what every driver is really — they want to get to that level at some point, so I really, really enjoy this time of my career right now.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Juan Montoya, driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. Juan will be starting third in tomorrow's race after qualifying in the Fast Six with a lap time of 1:15.5659 seconds. Juan, if you'd just tell us a little bit about the qualifying session today.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was really good to be honest with you. Our Verizon Chevy has been pretty good. We actually struggled a lot this morning. You look at how fast our teammates were, I was like 13th or 15th this morning, so we pretty much changed everything on the car, and it worked well. I mean, we felt we needed to do a lot of changes, and it worked pretty well.

The car in black tires didn't drive that well, but on reds it did, so it was good. I was actually surprised to see Simon, how well he did on those blacks.

THE MODERATOR: So Penske is one, two, three starting tomorrow. Obviously you guys are doing something right. Is there going to be a lot of sharing of information here in the debrief?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We do share a lot. I mean, it's good because, yes, I struggled, but my teammates were really quick, so it's easy to see how the car is set up, what are they doing. You can look at their videos and see where are they going and what's going on. It's easy to learn and figure out what you need, and it paid off. I was actually surprised I qualified third. I was hoping I wouldn't be out in the first group, put it that way.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]THE MODERATOR: Why do you say that?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Because I was 13th this morning. And when you normally wholesale the car like that, you normally screw it up more, but we nailed it, so it was good.

THE MODERATOR: On the far left we're joined by Scott Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion. Scott will start sixth tomorrow after a lap in the Fast Six of 1:16.4613 seconds. Scott, I know you were a little disappointed with the result there in the Fast Six. What happened?

SCOTT DIXON: I don't really know. I don't know if we got the tires on the wrong way or what, because we only had one fast lap on that sit, and yeah, it was kind of strange. Our car was really fast on blacks. We didn't use a new set of blacks in qual, and I feel like we could have run much faster times on my used blacks. So it was really bizarre. I don't know, we did the one fast lap on that one set of reds, and the car was horrible. I don't know. Excited for tomorrow. I know the car is obviously going to be really good on black tires, and they seem to be lasting really well. We've had good speed in both sessions today. It's just kind of when it counted there in Q3, we just had nothing, and then we had a throttle sensor fail, too, so the last two laps we couldn't get full throttle. I don't know, we'll see what happens tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR:Helio Castroneves will start second after a lap of 1:14.9285 seconds. Helio set the track record in segment 2 of qualifying at 1:14.6899. Helio, I know you really wanted the pole. Talk us through your qualifying today.

Helio Castroneves
Helio Castroneves

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, I set the records on the wrong session. But great job, Hitachi boys. The car was really, really strong out of the box, out of the truck basically it was really strong. When we did the fast lap, we didn't know what to do about the blacks, and at the end of the day, we picked a choice, and I think we were so close. I wish they would have told me — sometimes they talk a lot and sometimes they don't say enough, and I wish they would tell me, just squeeze a little bit more, even if I have to finish with three wheels, I would go for it. But it was a great job, one, two, three for Penske here in Detroit, Roger is super proud, super happy, and for us, we couldn't be more happier to be honest to give that Roger. Hopefully tomorrow we finish with a win, as well.

Q: Whoever wants to answer, it's kind of a strange weekend in the fact that it's a double-header, but also two completely different types of qualifying sessions for each race. What are your thoughts on that? They've been doing it that way the last couple years, but having the regular street course session like we had today, and then on Sunday it's just kind of an abbreviated 15 minutes at a pop?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, basically we try, always try, and I think the promoters obviously want to have Friday to — it's free for everyone to come, and they want to give a little bit more entertainment. It's always good to try something, and at the end of the day, we've just got to keep going, and hopefully for good weather, and see what happens.

Q: Helio, were you aware that you set a course record out there, and if so — it's interesting because you set it in the 12 and then it doesn't carry over to help you get the pole. Is that an interesting little quirk?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, like I said, I was supposed to do that track record on the last one, not the first one. But at the end of the day, you don't pick and choose. You do your best, and unfortunately the last one we just — my car somehow feels very good on the blacks and not so much comfortable — we tried Q1 and I was struggling a little bit, and then Q2 was just absolutely awesome, and we were debating what to do, and we decided to just go with the red, and maybe it wasn't the right choice, but it is what it is. At least starting the front row is always good, so we'll go get them tomorrow.

Q: Is the track tougher than it was last year? Has it become bumpier? A few people are not seeming to be too happy about it.
CARLOS MUNOZ: I think it's a little bit bumpier some parts of the track for sure from last year, front stretch is a little bit more bump than used to, but it's the same for everyone, right, so you have to adjust the car for it, and unfortunately it's a bit more bumpy.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Montoya and I think it's fantastic. It shouldn't change a bit. Actually it should get more bumpier.

Juan Montoya
Juan Montoya

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: There is probably, what — I think there's like three or four bumps they need to fix. Everything else is really good. I think the track has got a lot of character. One-two segments, the last two corners, there's really good character that makes it really tough. Every corner the grip level changes so you've got to be on your toes all the time. You've got to brake over bumps. It makes it really interesting. Yeah, there's a couple bumps, one past pit entrance and a couple on the back straight that are a little too big. Apart from that it's fine, I think. Was Marco complaining?

Q: Helio, at the Angie's List Grand Prix when the race was over, you made the comment that Roger was giving you so many reports you really didn't want him to tell you. But now are you going to go back and tell him that he didn't give you enough information about qualifying?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I'm not going to say anything. He does a very good job, let me tell you. I think the drivers complain more sometimes than they need to, so I will not say anything.

Q: Now, as far as the bumps out on this track, Hinch said that you're in the air part of the time. You know, is this something that in terms of trying to actually drive through the track itself, are there times when you hit so hard that you could have a headache or you're banging yourself around in the car, maybe lose your foot off the brake or the throttle? How difficult is it?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, that's the character of this place, and it is. It can happen to me. It can happen to anybody here, especially when the tires start degrading a little bit, and you might all of a sudden not expect or hit the bump in a wrong spot. It's the same for everyone, you know, and whoever makes probably less mistakes is probably going to be in good shape.

Q: Helio, does it seem like it's been 16, 17 years since you climbed the fence here?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: No. It feels like yesterday. It's so funny, it's so awesome to see the fence bringing over memories like that, and it just gives you a little more extra. That's why as frustrating as the race — when we didn't get the pole position, because this place is really, really cool.

But it feels like it was yesterday.

Q: Mr. Montoya, do you think if they fixed the bits of this track at its worst, would you like to see the event back here next year?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: What do you mean at its worst?

Q: You mentioned bits of the track like the bumps that are —
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: There's two bumps, three in the back straight, one here. It's four bumps.

Q: Otherwise it's good?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah.

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